Category Archives: 100 ways

100 ways to use a VLE – #59 Uploading a Powerpoint Presentation


Probably one of the tools that teachers use “too much” is Powerpoint. As a result I would suspect that there are many VLE courses out there that mainly consist of uploaded Powerpoint presentations.

I do find it interesting how embedded the use of Powerpoint is in education. In the late 1990s I was delivering lots of training sessions on how to use Powerpoint to lots of curriculum staff at the college where I worked. Back then I heard many of the “reasons” (and in many cases the excuses) why the curriculum staff couldn’t use the software, how their learners were different, how it wouldn’t work in their subject. However I did persevere in outlining the potential, the possible benefits and the longer term impact that using a tool such as Powerpoint could bring to teaching and learning.

It was nice a few years later (after I had left the college) to find that the training had had an impact and Powerpoint was well used by the curriculum teams. I was particularly impressed with Hair and Beauty who were not only creating innovative presentations, but were sharing them across the department.

Jump forward ten years and Powerpoint is extremely embedded into most colleges and often not only overused, but badly used. Though of course there are lots of positive and innovative uses of Powerpoint, so mustn’t be too negative about it. It is also often an useful starting point in getting staff to move on in their use of learning technologies.

If you do need to upload a presentation to the VLE, then my preference is to use a service such as Slideshare or Speakerdeck, this converts the presentation, and then allows you to embed the presentation into a label or page on the VLE. Slideshare even allows you to add an mp3 audio soundtrack file to run alongside the presentation. This of course implies that you are using a traditional linear presentation, if you’re not then this is not the road to travel down, as these services break any form of interactivity in a Powerpoint presentation. If you are using an interactive Powerpoint presentation, then it makes much more sense to upload the Powerpoint file, rather than convert it. You are making an assumption that the learner has access to the Powerpoint software. This, in a world of iPads, tablets and Chromebooks isn’t always a given.

Uploading Powerpoint files to a VLE, is most certainly not cutting edge in terms of using learning technologies, many of the people reading this blog probably were doing this back in the early 2000s or even earlier. However experience shows that there are still plenty of curriculum staff out there who don’t have that background or experience and for them uploading of Powerpoint files to the VLE is at the beginning of their journey into using note just the VLE, but learning technologies as well, more effectively to support and enhance learning.

100 ways to use a VLE – #27 Undertaking a Survey


Many curriculum topics ask learners to gather and analyse data. Hospitality and Catering students may want to gather data about spending habits on eating out. Travel and Tourism students may want to gather information on the costs of tickets for attractions, opening times and discounts. Students on a Business Enterprise course may want to gather data on customer habits to help them formulate a business plan.

In addition to learners gathering data for a survey, teachers or other staff in the college may want to get data. We recently gathered information on how learners felt about the VLE and what needed to be done to make it better; we also gathered data on how they felt about tablets and their use in teaching and learning.

There are a fair few ways for learners and staff to gather data for a survey. You can of course collect responses in paper format, enter all the data and then undertake the analysis. Another option would be to use a Google Form and collect the data in that way.

Using the VLE, say for example, through the Feedback Module on Moodle, allows the learners to spread their survey across the complete college community. Once the survey is done there are some analytical tools included in the Feedback Module, or you can download all the data into an Excel file for further analysis. There is an element of consistency too, with learners using the same tool for the data collection and initial analysis.

100 ways to use a VLE – #85 Interactive Whiteboard


One tool which is often used in the physical learning environment is the interactive whiteboard. One tool which is used probably a lot more in a lot of physical learning environments is the traditional whiteboard. Another tool which is well used in training rooms is flip chart paper, even if a lot of the time it is the paper that is used rather than as a flip chart.

Regardless of your feelings about interactive whiteboard, the concept of a large shared working space that learners can contribute to together for writing and drawing is one that is often used in education. It is also a rather challenging concept to embed into online environments.

The easiest solution is to stop thinking about a digital whiteboard, but think about the activity and the learning outcomes and see if a different tool could meet those particular needs. For example a brainstorming activity on the meanings of different words could be undertaken using the Glossary tool in Moodle. A collaborative exercise could be done in a wiki. Drawing a concept map could be done using mind mapping software.

It’s not to say that it’s impossible to use a whiteboard in an online environment, but you would very likely need to link or embed such a tool into the VLE.

Remote delivery solutions such as Adobe Connect and Blackboard Collaborate have a digital whiteboard built in as one of the features. These online whiteboards can be used by the remote delegates to interact with the each other and the teacher. These sessions can often be recorded and then linked to from the VLE to be played back at a later date.

There are various tablet apps, such as Educreations that can be used as a portable digital whiteboard, the final output is saved to the web and can be linked to or embedded into the VLE.

There are other online tools that can be embedded into the VLE, Padlet (the service formerly known as Wallwisher) is an ideal tool that allow multiple users to post comments to a virtual wall.

The whiteboard is a cornerstone of the traditional classroom, as was the blackboard before that, it is a tool that you don’t often see in VLEs, but that’s not to say it isn’t possible to have an interactive whiteboard, just that sometimes you need to think slightly differently.

100 ways to use a VLE – #76 Learner feedback


So how was it for you?

These days if you go to any kind of coffee shop or restaurant, or buy something from a retailer on the high street, get an MOT or your tyres done, the waiter, retailer assistant or mechanic hands you a little card. The card usually offers you the chance to win an iPad, a £100 or something similar, with a web link (sometimes an QR Code) and asks you for feedback on what you’ve just done.

Now it is generally accepted that we should be asking our learners how the lesson they are in went. Asking questions such as “what went well?” and “even better if?” allow practitioners to evaluate the effectiveness of what the learners learnt, and how they learnt it.

There are many ways to do this, post it notes are an obvious one, that can then be stuck next to the door on the way out. We have practitioners using tools such as Wallwisher (now known as Padlet) for a similar virtual type activity.

As you really need to be asking for feedback at each lesson, it makes sense to have a variety of ways to collect and collate feedback. The VLE has a number of tools that can be used to collect this learner feedback.

As might be expected a tool like the Feedback block in module is designed to do just that collect and collate feedback. You can create a series of questions, or even a single question. The key is getting the learners to add their feedback and importantly for the practitioner to reflect on the feedback and ensure it feeds into their future planning.

If there is a quiz tool on the VLE then using an open-ended format quiz will work in a similar manner to the concept of a feedback module. Just make sure that it doesn’t mark the quiz and give the students a score!

Usually the data from quizzes and feedback style modules can be exported as a spreadsheet file for further analysis.

You could use a discussion forum, where this works well is if you want group feedback and for the learners to reflect and discuss their feedback, collaborating together to provide that feedback to the practitioner.

One advantage of the VLE for gathering feedback is that it is recorded and is also accessible in the future. Perfect for analysis feedback over a period of time.

I wouldn’t use the VLE every lesson for feedback, there are many ways of gathering learner feedback, however it is one tool that you can and should use.

100 ways to use a VLE – #97 Visual Discussions

Old Camera

Using forums on a VLE is a great way of providing a place for text based discussions. The asynchronous communication medium offers a very different experience to a face to face discussion in a classroom situation; one that some learners may prefer. I have never thought that online discussion forums replace classroom discussions, no much more they complement what happens in the classroom. Different learners will prefer different discussions, some will enjoy the spontaneity and immediacy of a face to face discussion, others will prefer the reflective thoughtful aspect of a text based asynchronous discussion. Similarly the context may affect the choice by learners, they may prefer face to face for certain topics and textual for others.

It can be easy to focus on text when using online discussions, but it is very easy to use images (even video) in a forum to create a visual discussion.

Images can be used as the stimulus for a discussion or learners can use images for their responses. In a similar manner you could use video.

Video and images can be really useful for those learner for whom writing is a challenge and can make what was a text based discussion an accessible discussion.

Adding images and videos to a text based discussion on the VLE is one way that you can engage learners to make use of one of the more useful and interactive features of the VLE.

100 ways to use a VLE – #45 Adding an URL or a web link

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.

100 ways to use a VLE – #84 Collaborating on a Wiki

Working together in groups is a key part of most organisations, it makes sense from an educational perspective that learners work together on group assignments in preparation for when they will work in teams in the workplace.

The process of working together on a collaborative assignment brings a lot of challenges, one of which is where should learners collaborate when working on a document. There are various public tools such as Google Docs and public wikis that can be used. Most VLEs have a wiki built in to their functionality.

Regardless of which tools is used, the VLE can be the staging post that will allow the learners to jump into their collaborative document. Learners may choose to use the built in wiki, however as a group they may choose to use a tool such as Google Docs or a public wiki such as PBwiki.

Wikis allow multiple learners to work on a single document, you can break the document down into pages with links between the different pages.

Wikis allow learners to work on the document when and where they want to, at a time and place to suit their circumstances.

Wikis can often be edited and worked on using mobile devices, enabling easier access and collaboration when required.

Wikis are often more accessible than working together on a word processed document and will work with screen readers and other assistive technologies.

Unlike simple word processed documents, wikis also enable learners to embed rich media into them. Short video clips can be embedded, as can audio and images. You may also be able to embed other content into them, such as RSS feeds, slides from a service such as SlideShare, pages from other services.

Wikis can contain links, internally and externally to sources and other relevant content.

One nice feature of collaborative tools is the history that is recorded, it outlines not only the changes to the document, but who did what when. This feature can make it much easier to assess the final outcome. Of course when using the wiki within the VLE the assessor will have access to that history, when using other collaborative tools, access may needed to be given to assessor.

At the end of the day, wikis are a powerful tool that allow learners to collaborate together to complete a joint outcome. Whether they use the wiki on the VLE, one that offers familiarity within the interface, or merely use the VLE as a jump off point using an external tool, they provide many learning possibilities and opportunities of working together.

100 ways to use a VLE – #83 In a workshop

Many vocational courses will have practical sessions in workshops, kitchens or salons. In these sessions learners will observe, try and practice real world skills. Learners will often be assessed in these sessions too.

The VLE, often thought of as a tool for remote learning, can be useful in a workshop situation. It can be a source of advice, guidance and support, and as a place to record evidence and assessment. If

Most workshops probably won’t have PCs in them, but as more and more learners have mobile devices to hand and VLEs become more accessible via the mobile browser, it is now easier for learners to access and interact with the V!E than it was a few years ago.

An instructor could demonstrate a skill, record it on video and then upload it to the VLE. Learners could then watch the embedded video, click a link to the video, or download the video; to watch it on their laptop, tablet or phone. So if they need reinforcement of or a replay of a demonstration then they can just get it from the VLE. Uploading to the VLE also means they can get it a later date, in another session, at home or in the workplace.

There may be handouts available for a session, by placing these on the VLE it removes the need to have paper copies, learners can download and print if they prefer paper, likewise they could just read from their device. These could cover the practical aspects of the session or health and safe guidance.

Using cameras or camera phones, learners can record themselves or their peers undertaking practical activities, these can then be uploaded to an e-portfolio linked to the VLE or up to the VLE as an assignment.

There are of course some serious considerations to think about, how would the use of PCs or mobile devices in the workshop impact on safe practice in the workshop? Is there sufficient wireless capacity in the workshop? What about workshops that have an environment that isn’t suitable for standard laptops or mobile devices? There are rugged computing devices available for not nice environments which could be used instead.

A practical or workshop session is an opportunity for learners to gain and practice skills, the VLE can be a core part of the session in providing additional resources, a place for assessment and recording.

100 ways to use a VLE – #40 Field Trip Notes

For many courses, the field trip is a core element. Whether it be Public Service students going to the Lake District, or Archaeology undergraduates going on a dig, or Business learners going to a retail centre.

In the past learners would have made notes in notebooks. These would unlikely to be shared easily. Today the very devices that learners carry normally can be used to capture photographs, video, audio and notes. One aspect of field trips is collating this media so that all the learners on the field trip can see what others captured.

The VLE is an idea place for learners to post their thoughts, images, audio, video and other resources and notes from the trip.

But what if learners want to use pencil and notebooks?

Well I could talk about Tablet PCs, pen computers, however a simple option is for learners to use their notebooks and then to use a digital camera (or mobile phone) to capture those notes and diagrams, the images can then be easily uploaded to the VLE. These handwritten notes can then be shared much more easily with the rest of the group.

We often think of replacing existing processes and methods when talking about using technology, however often technology works best when it is used to enhance and enrich and learners have a choice about the most appropriate technology (traditional or modern) to use. By using technology to enrich an existing process, uploading handwritten notes to the VLE for example, we enable learners to have choices of how they undertake a learning activity, whilst enabling wider access where needed.

100 ways to use a VLE – #96 Offline Assessment

Submitting assignments online through the VLE is a great way for learners to ensure a) that the work submitted is logged, b) it’s unlikely to be lost, c) they can, once graded, refer to the grade and feedback when they want to.

The problem with submitting assignments through the VLE is when the assignment asks for the students to submit a physical thing as their assessed piece of work.

If a learner creates a sculpture for example, or makes a lasagna, welds copper tubing, these things can not be submitted electronically. Submitting a photograph is of course possible, but why? It’s an extra step that isn’t strictly necessary.

Many learners will often do a presentation for an assessment, others will do a live performance or demonstrate a technique. Now yes you could video these “performances”, but video files can be quite big and you not want to upload these to the VLE (especially if you use tape over an SD card).

However it is still useful to grade these offline activities on the VLE to inform the learners how they did and provide feedback. Of course generally that is done anyway, so why put it on the VLE?

One reason is consistency, if other (written) assignments are been uploaded to the VLE then a learner will probably want to at some point know the grades for all their assessed work regardless whether it was a written essay or a live presentation.

Another reason is that one of the key factors that aids retention is ensuring learners know in terms of their assessment what they have done, what they are doing and what they need to do. If they can find all this information in one place rather than using different systems for different assignments using differing forms of assessment then it will make life better for the learner. If feedback and grading on written work is on the VLE, it makes sense then to use the VLE for all assessment whether it be written or another activity.