I am still surprised by how many practitioners don’t even consider asking and listening to their learners about how the VLE could support them in their studies.
I remember a conversation from a few years ago with an HE institution and they said that something like 70-80% of the calls to their VLE support line were from learners having problems finding content on their VLE. The reason they couldn’t find the content, was because it wasn’t there. The students were using the VLE with some of their lecturers and made (what they perceived) to be a valid assumption that other lecturers would use the VLE in the same way. They weren’t and as a result, difficulties in finding the content and the calls to the VLE support line. Imagine also how many learners who were having the same problem and didn’t call the support line.
These learners wanted to use the VLE, they had an idea of how they wanted to use the VLE and were not able to use the VLE in the way they wanted as some of the staff had decided not to use the VLE in a consistent way as their colleagues were.
The lesson to learn is that consistency is not only important for learners, but listening to what learners were asking and wanting is also important.
One of our business staff decided that he should ask the learners how they wanted to use the VLE. What came out of the exercise were some really interesting observations from the learners about how they wanted to use the VLE. As a result the business team decided to change the way in which they used the VLE across all their courses.
One of the challenges for learners is understanding the functionality of the VLE, but the question we should be asking them is not what functions they want to use on the VLE, but what their needs are, and using the VLE to meet those needs if appropriate.
So we should never be asking our learners, “do you want to use a wiki on the VLE?” More we should be asking “what do you find difficult, where do you need help?” and then using the VLE to solve those problems.
At the end of the day, learners should inform practitioners about how they want to use the VLE and not lead how it should be used. They however shouldn’t be ignored. Where we can let them inform, but also be aware that the learners are there to learn and using the VLE to enable them to learn to new things and new ways of doing them is also valuable.
So are you asking your learners?