I have often thought of the VLE as a portal for learners to discover new things, undertake activities, assess their learning, communication, interact, create, understand, apply analyse and evaluate.
The web, of which the VLE generally is part of and connected to has a wealth of knowledge, information and content waiting to be discovered and used.
In terms of discovery adding an URL or web link to a course on your VLE, will allow learners to make that journey to support their learning.
However one of the very advantages of the web, putting in a link, is also one of the key disadvantages. A link placed on its own lacks context and direction.
Now in some cases this may be sufficient, think of a reading list of useful websites.
However even then providing guidance to learners about not only why they should be browsing to those links but also what they should do on those web pages is important if the learners are going to get some value from them.
We sometimes think providing a reading list of books is useful for learners, but unless they have the necessary study skills to make use of those books they may find they either don’t find them useful, spend too much wasteful time looking through the books or not making the most of what could be a real valuable resource.
Likewise with a series of web links, without the digital literacy skills to deal with the content on those web pages then learners will not get the real value from those pages that they could and should.
Similarly just pasting a link into your course on the VLE without context or guidance may result in the learners not using the link or if they do browse to the web page not understand what they should do there or how to use that web page. Of course there are exceptions and sometimes it will be very self-explanatory, but generally it won’t be.
For some links, rather than adding them as they are to the VLE, it would make more sense to add them to a “page” with extra content, or maybe even more logical to put the link into a forum post with the context and suggested activity. A forum would then allow learners to ask questions about the link, or post their reflective thoughts about the link.
The VLE can be a fantastic repository of content and learning activities, sometimes though using the wealth of stuff on the web means adding links. Adding context to links is an important part to ensure that those links enhance and enrich learning and don’t just confuse the learners.