Don’t kill off the VLE…

Don’t kill off the VLE, for many staff it’s their only option. For some if they didn’t have the VLE they wouldn’t use anything else.

Yes wouldn’t it be wonderful if every practitioner, teacher and lecturer was well informed about the wealth of online tools and resources out on the web. The reality is that they’re not. Just ask yourself what percentage of staff in your college are using Twitter?

The problem with saying that the VLE is dead it assumes that both practitioners and learners will move over to free web tools and services. Now some will, some will thrive on that. This is the reason why others may say that the VLE is dead or should be dead. However I disagree as if you kill off the institutional VLE then a substantial proportion of learners and practitioners will not move onto free tools and services.

For many practitioners the VLE is still an alien beast which they are not familiar with and more importantly not making the best use of. Yes you could argue that this is because the VLE is not fit for purpose and that it is a slow clunking tool that no one wants to use. Lets stop though and ask if this is the case. Isn’t it more likely that the reason some staff don’t use the VLE for enhancing and enriching learning is that they don’t know how to? If they think it is tired and clunky, that assumes that they are comparing it to “snazzy” or “clever” Web 2.0 tools which they are using widely. This is a very small number of practitioners and they are probably using those tools already.

I can’t see practitioners who are not using the VLE, or simply skimming the surface of the functionality of the VLE, making an educated, informed and rational decision about using the VLE. How would they know? How can the decide based on what is probably a cursory glance at at a few features of the VLE without having an understanding of the full and potential benefits of the VLE for their learners.

I have had quite a few people comment and say that learning doesn’t happen on a VLE and that it is merely a glorified content repository. Now I am sure in many institutions that this is certainly the case. However to blame the VLE would be like blaming a classroom for being boring. As anyone who is ever in a classroom soon realises, it is not the environment which matters but what and how you use that environment. A VLE or virtual learning environment is merely replacing or supplementing a physical learning environment. I should note that the classroom is not the only physical learning environment that learning can take place in. Physical learning environments can be classrooms, the home, workshops, salons, kitchens, work places or in the field (you know literally in a field).

If we ensure that practitioners have the right skills, experience and understanding then we can start to ensure that learners have a guided, enhanced and enriched learning experience.

Join the debate in Wolverhampton on the 16th December 2009.

4 thoughts on “Don’t kill off the VLE…”

  1. Following on from your closing comment just wondering if a central issue in this debate is the need for more investment in staff development. The percentage of staff in my institution on Twitter is tiny. @thecleversheep posted a tweet recently which suggested that a pattern was emerging with Twitter increasing the gap between those who are teaching and learning, and those who are just learning. I’m not a big fan of VLEs but I’m wondering if the debate needs to move on to look at how we engage staff in personal development opportunities to enhance teaching and learning on both the physical and online learning environments.

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