Category Archives: vle

Day 28: Golden edtech oldies

From 2006.

Mobile Learning on a VLE?

Wouldn’t it be nice if all learners in an educational environment had access to a wireless laptop and free wireless access to their digital resources at a time and place to suit their needs.

The reality is that learners don’t always have access to what we as practitioners would like them to have.

However, they do have access to some mobile digital devices which could be used, these include mobile phones, iPods, mp3 players, portable video players, PSPs… These devices are used extensively for entertainment, but rarely used for learning.

However, though many of these have limited web access, most are unsuitable for viewing traditional webpages, can not access a VLE or e-learning content, and often can’t read PDFs, Word Documents, PowerPoint presentations, or other complex documents.

Virtually all however can read images, short video clips and some have the potential for interactive content.

Most will work fine on buses, trains, planes, cars and even on foot, using a laptop or desktop in this way can be problematic…

The question is how does a practitioner convert and distribute content to their learners in the preferred format easily and quickly?

How can a learner access this content easily and quickly?

How can you ensure that mobile content will enhance the learning experience for learners?

Some devices have communication facilities, e-mail, SMS, MMS, Video, how does the practitioner interact with the potential learning activities which can utilise this functionality?

The WCC core team working with our partner colleges have been investigating the means and mechanisms to ensure that practitioners can both easily work with content for these mobile and portable devices, but also that the learners can access this content.

We shall demonstrate the processes been developed and implemented to allow learners to access their learning content and activities at a time and place to suit their needs.

We shall show how the WCC shared VLE is being used to host this converted content and distributing it to the learners.

There will also be some discussion on the use of similar processes being used for home based digital devices such as DVD players and media streamers.

The submission will be a short paper (webpage format) with examples of content for various mobile devices being made available for download and use.

Though I didn’t post these posts each day in June (and to be honest I didn’t post it each day on the Twitter either) except the final day, I have decided to retrospectively post blog posts about each of the challenges and back date them accordingly. There is sometimes more I want to say on the challenge then you can fit into 140 characters (well 280 these days).

Day 13: Acronyms I could do without

scrabble letters
Image by Bruce Emmerling from Pixabay

This post is part of the #JuneEdTechChallenge series.

Probably the acronym I could do without has to be VLE though LMS comes a close second.

VLE is a virtual learning environment, though these days most people equate the VLE with a specific product such as Blackboard, Canvas or Moodle.

You hear people say things like, our VLE is Blackboard. The concept of the VLE is synonymous with a actual product.

For me thought I always saw the VLE as a concept, an online environment which could encompass a product such as Moodle, but would be supplemented with other functions through tools such as Mahara, WordPress even the Twitter.

The challenge then is if you change your VLE, you need to then start referring to a new product as people will associate the term VLE with the legacy product.

You also have that concept that we don’t have a VLE, we have Moodle.

The other issue I have with the term VLE, is that we don’t refer to the physical learning environment in the same way that we refer to the VLE.

So probably the acronym I could do without is VLE.

Though I didn’t post these posts each day in June (and to be honest I didn’t post it each day on the Twitter either) except the final day, I have decided to retrospectively post blog posts about each of the challenges and back date them accordingly. There is sometimes more I want to say on the challenge then you can fit into 140 characters (well 280 these days).

Day 2: Most used edtech acronym

broken iPhone
Image by InspiredImages from Pixabay

This post is part of the #JuneEdTechChallenge series.

In education we use a lot of acronyms and I don’t always know what they stand for.

I think over time for me probably the most used acronym has to be VLE, Virtual Learning Environment.

Despite only being used for three years MoLeNET features as heavily used on my blog. I did a lot of blogging about mobile learning.

MoLeNET was an acronym for Mobile Learning Network.

Jisc despite what wikipedia and others think is no longer an acronym.

Though I didn’t post these posts each day in June (and to be honest I didn’t post it each day on the Twitter either) except the final day, I have decided to retrospectively post blog posts about each of the challenges and back date them accordingly. There is sometimes more I want to say on the challenge then you can fit into 140 characters (well 280 these days).

Day 1: The VLE in my life…

graveyard
Image by Albrecht Fietz from Pixabay

This post is part of the #JuneEdTechChallenge series.

ALT set a challenge.

Today we are asked about the VLE in my life…

Well it’s dead isn’t it…

At ALT-C 2009 we did a debate called The VLE is Dead.

It was Tuesday 8th September 2009 at 13:40 at Manchester University that The VLE is Dead symposium was kicked off by Josie Frasier.

2009 was also the year that delegates at ALT-C discovered the Twitter! In 2008 there were roughly 300 tweets and about forty people tweeting, in 2009 the amount of tweeting went through the roof!

Most people though remember that year as the year I allegedly said the VLE was dead! We had certainly over the months leading up to the conference trailed the debate with blog posts, tweets and even a trailer.

The debate was huge, with hundreds of people in the room, sitting on the floor, standing by the walls and we also live streamed the debate over the internet (which was quite revolutionary at the time). Overall an amazing experience and an interesting debate that still goes on today.

If you watch the video of the debate and discussion you will see that my view was that the VLE was more of a concept a place where a learner starts their journey and other technologies could be plugged into the institutional VLE to enhance and enrich it.

I still hold that viewpoint that the VLE is a construction of different tools and services. Back in 2009 I thought the VLE would evolve into something at the heart of a student online experience. 

Reality was everyone thought I said the VLE was dead…

My first experience of a VLE, well more of a Learning Management System was First Class back in the late 1990s. I remember the number of red flags that said you had unread messages in the text based discussion forums. I did think it had huge potential.

In 2001 I got a job as Director of the Western Colleges Consortium and part of the role was leading and supporting the use of a shared VLE, TekniCAL’s Virtual Campus. This was an interesting platform, though the best thing that TekniCAL did was create a SCORM authoring tool based on Word. A simple tool which used styles and then you could create interactive and engaging learning content. The challenge with the platform was that the focus of technical development was on the administrator experience and not the student experience, so there was a lot of dissatisfaction from the end users on their user experience.

I then moved jobs and moved VLEs.

In later jobs I had to use Moodle and Moodle was like a breath of fresh air in the VLE space when it was first around. I did get annoyed when people confused free (open source) software with free (as in no cost). Certain skills were required to manage and administer Moodle from a technical perspective. If you didn’t have those then there was potential for things going wrong. 

Over time though Moodle became somewhat clunky and needed a redesign. I did once take an in-depth look at Canvas.

I have never used Blackboard!

In my current role I don’t use a VLE.

So for me the VLE is now dead!

Though I didn’t post these posts each day in June (and to be honest I didn’t post it each day on the Twitter either) except the final day, I have decided to retrospectively post blog posts about each of the challenges and back date them accordingly. There is sometimes more I want to say on the challenge then you can fit into 140 characters (well 280 these days).

DVD pedagogy in a time of digital poverty

DVD
Photo by Phil Hearing on Unsplash

The challenges of digital poverty are making the news, with demands to ensure students have access to devices and connections. What isn’t making the news so much is demands to rethink the curriculum design and delivery so that it is less reliant on high end devices and good broadband!

Could we deliver content and learning via an USB stick or even on DVD?

This tweet by Donald Clark of a suggestion by Leon Cych to use USB flashdrives, reminded me of a presentation I delivered fifteen years ago.

Back in 2006 I was looking at how learners could access learning content despite not having a fancy laptop (or desktop) or even internet connectivity.

I was intrigued about how consumer devices used for entertainment, information and gaming could be used to access learning.

I also did a fair amount of work reflecting on how to convert learning content (from the VLE) to work on a range of devices from the PlayStation Portable (PSP), iPods, mp3 players, as well as devices that usually sat under the television, such as DVD players and media streaming devices.

So for an online conference I prepared a presentation on this subject.

Continue reading DVD pedagogy in a time of digital poverty

Fifty six million articles – Weeknote #98 – 15th January 2021

No travelling for me this week, well that’s no different to any other week these days… Last year around this time on one week I was in London two days and went to Cheltenham as well. It doesn’t look like I will be travelling anywhere for work for months, even for the rest of the year!

Had a number of meetings about ideas for consultancy offers with various institutions, which were interesting.

writing
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Continued to work on the strategy, which is now looking good. It’s not a huge shift from what we had before, but it takes on board the lessons from Jisc’s Learning and Teaching Reimagined programme. It will also lead into some work we are doing on thought leadership. I have to say I am not a fan of the term thought leader, it’s up there with the term social media guru, as something you call yourself, but no one would ever describe you by that term. However the concept of future thinking is something that I think we should do, if people want to call that thought leadership, fine.

Reflecting and thinking about where you see higher education could go in the future, as well as thinking about where they are now can be useful. Sharing those thoughts with others, is more useful. I see these pieces are starting discussions, inspiring people or even making them reflect on their own thinking.

With all the media talk on digital poverty this week, I was reminded that fifteen years ago I wrote an abstract for a conference, the session was called: Mobile Learning on a VLE?

Wouldn’t it be nice if all learners in an educational environment had access to a wireless laptop and free wireless access to their digital resources at a time and place to suit their needs.
comic strip

Wouldn’t it be nice if all learners in an educational environment had access to a wireless laptop and free wireless access to their digital resources at a time and place to suit their needs.

Back in 2006 I was looking at how learners could access learning content despite not having a fancy laptop (or desktop) or even internet connectivity.

I was intrigued about how consumer devices used for entertainment, information and gaming could be used to access learning. Could you format learning activities for the PSP, an iPod, even the humble DVD player?

I even found a video of the presentation, which I have uploaded to the YouTube.

Nothing new really, as the Open University had been sending out VHS cassettes for many years before this.

Wikipedia was twenty years old this week. The first time I wrote about Wikipedia on this blog was back in 2007, when they published their two millionth article. They now have fifty-six million articles. I met Jimmy Wales at Learning without Frontiers ten years ago this week.

I managed to have a few words with Jimmy and wished I could have had a few more, seemed like a really nice and genuine guy.

My colleague Lawrie had a post published on the Advance HE blog Leadership through a digital lens where he reflects on what we have learnt over the past year from having technology front and centre of HE, asking how we ensure that we do not adopt a techno-solutionist approach but look at our goals through a digital lens.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Back from France – Weeknote #75 – 7th August 2020

Monday was my first day back at work after a week on leave, where we went to France for a holiday. It was nice to get away from it all. The situation (at the time) in France was nice and calm. As we now approach the end of the week, it looks like the situation in France is looking worse than when we were there. It was pretty much a last minute affair in booking the holiday, we booked on the Tuesday and went on Sunday. I think if we had decided to go later in the summer, we probably wouldn’t have gone at all. It brings back to the fore the whole challenge of what is, or what isn’t going to happen in the next six to twelve months, or even longer.

After my leave, I was a little anxious when I got to my computer, how many unread e-mails would be in my inbox, but in the end there was just 143. Well there was 143 in the main inbox, there were others in folders that go there with the automatic rules I use for e-mail.

I use the Inbox Zero approach when it comes to e-mail. This means I don’t check my e-mail and see what is there, I read, process and deal with my e-mail. For each e-mail I process them using one of the following five criteria.

    • Delete or Archive
    • Delegate
    • Respond
    • Defer
    • Do

I try to ensure that I only ever read an e-mail once and then it is either deleted or archived having undertaken what was required. Read more about how I process my e-mail.

In the end it didn’t take me long to go through the e-mails (well it is August) and then do the one task that had arisen from them. Most of the e-mails were from mailing lists I am subscribed to, and though I have rules that push JiscMail ones to specific folders, others from vendors and event organisers generally tend to end up in the main inbox.

Microsoft appear to be developing Teams into a VLE with the news that educators can now use SCORM curricula within Microsoft Teams.

Colleges across England can now use SCORM learning materials for their students directly through Microsoft Teams. In a major development for schools, colleges and universities, GO1 have released their app for Microsoft Teams. This will support SCORM, xAPI and other rich learning content packages formats to be accessed within Teams for free. In 2015, more than half of further education institutions across the UK teamed up to form the Blended Learning Consortium. This allows them to pool their money and purchase a higher quality of learning resources than they could develop on their own. These resources are available to participating colleges within Teams via the GO1 app, which supports complex learning formats like SCORM.

Via Lawrie Phipps on the Twitter

Having cancelled Data Matters 2020 due to the covid-19 pandemic, we are now considering our options for 2021. When we cancelled the event, our initial thoughts were to re-schedule to January 2021, which reflected the original date for the 2019 event. However now needing to make decisions, social distancing and the fact that a lot of university staff may not actually want to (or be permitted) to travel to physical events, such as Data Matters. Could we do it online? Well would people be willing to pay for an online event?

It’s interesting to see how things keep changing adding much more to an uncertain future. I wrote a blog post about the continuing uncertainty and what this means for curriculum planning across the university sector.

The plan to use more localised lockdowns to contain the virus reminds us that the situation for many universities will be one of flux, as they or their cohorts of students may need to lockdown, as has happened with Aberdeen. The local lockdown there has resulted in the main university library closing down.

Set in the 23rd Century, Rene Auberjonois playing a Starfleet Colonel trying to convince his superiors of their technological advantage over the Klingons – by using a flip chart! Nice to know that they will still be extensively used in the future.

I published another blog post in my translation series, this time about the humble flip chart.

Spent some time thinking about innovation. We often forget that sometimes people don’t like innovation and innovation doesn’t automatically always mean better. Actually most of the time innovation for a lot of people is rarely better. Sometimes its worse than what was before, most of the time it’s just different. Innovation is defined as new or different, but it isn’t defined as been better that was there was before. I have written about this before last year and it’s something that has been, for most of my careers an important aspect. As we emerge from lockdown, we will need to be innovative in our practices.

The end of the week saw some meetings with my colleagues in my new directorate. Though I have not changed roles, where I sit within Jisc has changed. After sitting in Corporate Services to begin with, I moved (temporarily) into Data and Analytics, but now sit with the HE Directorate.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Lost in translation: mapping your teaching

old map
Image by Dariusz Sankowski from Pixabay

With the rapid change to emergency remote delivery because of the coronavirus pandemic seeing universities being forced to undertake an emergency response to teaching. We saw that many had to quickly and at scale move to remote and online delivery. Many staff were thrown into using online tools such as Zoom and Teams with little time to reflect on how best to use them effectively to support learning.

As we move away from reactionary responses and start the future planning of courses and modules that may be a combination of online, hybrid and blended than we need to ensure that the staff involved in the delivery of learning are able to design and plan for high quality and effective online or hybrid courses. In addition we will need to put contingency plans in case another emergency response is required if there is a second spike in covid-19 infections resulting in a second lockdown.

lecture theatre
Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

I did start to think if mapping could be useful in helping staff plan their future course and curriculum design.

When I was delivering the Jisc Digital Leadership Programme, we used the concept of Visitors and Residents to map behaviours and the tools people used. The Visitors and Residents mapping exercise in the main covers digital communication, collaboration and participation. In 2015 following delivering with Lawrie Phipps, the Jisc Digital Leadership Programme I thought about how we could use a similar concept to map teaching practice and curriculum design. The result of this was a blog post published about how to map the teaching and learning.

This post resonated with quite a few people, such as Sheila MacNeill (than at GCU) and Henry Keil from Harper Adams.

Continue reading Lost in translation: mapping your teaching

Coronavirus: What if this had happened in 2005?

Over on the BBC News Site, Rory Cellan-Jones, their technology correspondent has written an interesting “what if” piece.

But as I spend my day holding video-conferencing sessions with colleagues, FaceTiming my son and granddaughter stuck in a flat across London, and updating my various social networks, one thing strikes me: what if this had happened in 2005, just before the smartphone era began?

It got me thinking along similar lines about what would have happened in education if this had happened in 2005.

Rory does mention education:

With millions of children home from school, online education platforms are feeling the strain. But while there was plenty of talk about “edtech” back in 2005, most of the focus was on improving IT systems within schools rather than introducing remote learning at a time when many children would not have had a computer or a broadband connection at home.

This got me thinking about the services and platforms that we were using back in 2005 and would they have been able to cope with the increased demands that something like coronavirus would have put on them.

We did have VLEs across universities and colleges back in 2005. Many of these systems though were self-hosted in university server rooms, the concept of cloud or hosted services wasn’t really a thing back then.

As most of these learning platforms were under-utilised by staff and students they were often placed on under-powered servers and infrastructure, and very likely would have struggled if they needed to be scaled up to be used by a whole organisation.

We are all probably use to the single sign on and IDP these days, that we may forget back then that this wasn’t the norm. It wasn’t a simple matter of students and staff signing into a learning platform, they needed accounts created to use the learning platform.

Moodle for example was only at version 1.3 way behind where it is now, not just in version number but also functionality.

So who would be creating these accounts and importantly how would you get the information to the students?

The main form of electronic communication across universities and colleges in 2005 was e-mail, however though everyone these days have an e-mail account for their institution, this wasn’t necessarily the case back then. Certainly students weren’t often given institutional e-mail addresses relying on free e-mail services such as hotmail and yahoo. There were still quite a few people using AOL.

Without collaborative tools such as Slack, Teams, you can imagine people’s inboxes suffering from overload (though that may also be happening today as well).

As Rory points out in his article, home broadband connections were not the norm and there is no way you could expect all students to have a connection.

More than half of UK homes had broadband in 2007, with an average connection speed of 4.6 Mbit/s. That means half didn’t and those that did may have had slow connections.

Some people were still on dial-up connections, which tied up the phone line and was much slower than DSL connections.

If this crisis was to happen in 2005, then more use was probably going to be made of postal learning.

Today lots of people are using video conferencing tools such as Zoom and Teams to deliver teaching or for discussion.

Back in 2005 there were tools that could be used to deliver webinars, the precursor to Adobe Connect, Macromedia Breeze 4 was released in July 2003 with version 5 released in May 2005.

ADSL connections were okay for most things, but they were asymmetric, which meant upload speeds were significantly slower than download speeds. This would mean that it would be challenging to stream video from home connections, as well as challenging for people to view multiple video streams.

Today most laptops (if not all) have a built in camera, smartphones have two cameras (one in the front and one at the back). In 2005 a camera was a peripheral that you needed to buy to add to your computer or laptop. So thinking that at least we could stream low quality video would be scuppered by the lack of cameras.

Similar story with microphones as well, just in case you thought you could go audio only…

It’s not surprising that in 2005 most online learning was asynchronous text based, as that worked across most devices and connections of the time.

As for content, today we are awash with content, back in 2005 not so much…

In 2005, Wikipedia became the most popular reference website on the Internet, according to Hitwise, with the English Wikipedia alone exceeding 750,000 articles. Well in 2020 there are in excess of six million articles on the English Wikipedia site.

Much educational content was on CD-ROMs (remember them) and delivering materials online were fraught with challenges.

However at least journals were available online, but again problems with authentication would cause challenges for staff and students trying to access these collections from home.

Today many learners will be accessing their learning via their smartphone. Though there were (expensive) phones that could do the internet stuff back in 2005, those who did have mobile phones used them for calls, SMS text messages and the Snake game!

3G was in its infancy, was not available across the whole of the UK and was very expensive. 4G wouldn’t arrive in the UK until 2012.

Image by David Schwarzenberg from Pixabay
Image by David Schwarzenberg from Pixabay

Though we did have social media in 2005, it wasn’t on the same level as we have now. Today we are connected with others much more easily, our peers, colleagues and our students. We can share things online and feel very connected even though we are physically distant..

In 2005, YouTube was just a month old. Facebook was only opened to the public in September 2006, maybe they would have opened earlier in a crisis, but back in 2005, who had even heard of Facebook? There was no Twitter, no TikTok, no WhatsApp or Instagram.

Even with services such as Friendster and MySpace, though available, they didn’t have the same reach that today’s services have.

If this crisis had happened in 2005, I think that education for most would have been a very lonely affair, with staff and students feeling very disconnected from the whole process of learning. What do you think? What have I missed?

The VLE is still dead… #altc

Arnos Vale

Can you believe it has been ten years since we had The VLE is Dead session at ALT-C.

It was Tuesday 8th September 2009 at 13:40 at Manchester University that The VLE is Dead symposium was kicked off by Josie Frasier.

2009 was also the year that delegates at ALT-C discovered the Twitter! In 2008 there were roughly 300 tweets and about forty people tweeting, in 2009 the amount of tweeting went through the roof!

I personally remember 2009 as the year I won Learning Technologist of the Year. I was well chuffed to receive this prestigious award.

Most people though remember that year as the year I allegedly said the VLE was dead! We had certainly over the months leading up to the conference trailed the debate with blog posts, tweets and even a trailer.

The debate was huge, with hundreds of people in the room, sitting on the floor, standing by the walls and we also live streamed the debate over the internet (which was quite revolutionary at the time). Overall an amazing experience and an interesting debate that still goes on today.

If you watch the video of the debate and discussion you will see that my view was that the VLE was more of a concept a place where a learner starts their journey and other technologies could be plugged into the institutional VLE to enhance and enrich it.

I still hold that viewpoint that the VLE is a construction of different tools and services.

The abstract for the Death of the VLE Symposium was about the future of e-learning.

The future success of e-learning depends on appropriate selection of tools and services. This symposium will propose that the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) as an institutional tool is dead, no more, defunct, expired.

The session was chaired by Josie Fraser and as well as myself, we had three panellists.

There respective viewpoints were described as follows

The first panel member, Graham Attwell, will argue that many VLEs are not fit for purpose, and masquerade as solutions for the management of online learning. Some are little more than glorified e-mail systems. They will argue that VLEs provide a negative experience for learners.

The second member of the panel, Steve Wheeler, believes that the VLE is dead and that the Personal Learning Environment (PLE) is the solution to the needs of diverse learners. PLEs provide opportunities for learners, offering users the ability to develop their own spaces in which to reflect on their learning.

The third panel member, James Clay, however, believes that the VLE is not yet dead as a concept, but can be the starting point of a journey for many learners. Creating an online environment involving multiple tools that provides for an enhanced experience for learners can involve a VLE as a hub or centre.

The fourth panel member, Nick Sharratt, argues for the concept of the institutional VLE as essentially sound. VLEs provide a stable, reliable, self-contained and safe environment in which all teaching and learning activities can be conducted. It provides the best environment for the variety of learners within institutions.

The symposium began with an opportunity for attendees to voice their opinions on the future of the VLE. Each member of the panel then presented their case. The panel, with contributions from the audience, then debated the key issues that arose from the presentations.

So where did the whole concept of the debate come from?

Well it was an idea that had been around for a while

Martin Weller published a blog post in November 2007 “The VLE/LMS Is Dead”

Well there was a paper published a couple of years earlier by Mark Stiles, called “Death of the VLE – a challenge to a new orthodoxy”.

The VLE has become almost ubiquitous in both higher and further education, with the market becoming increasingly ‘mature’. E-learning is a major plank in both national and institutional strategies. But, is the VLE delivering what is needed in a world where flexibility of learning is para- mount, and the lifelong learner is becoming a reality? There are indications that rather than resulting in innovation, the use of VLEs has become fixed in an orthodoxy based on traditional educational approaches. The emergence of new services and tools on the web, developments in interoperability, and changing demands pose significant issues for institutions’ e-learning strategy and policy. Whether the VLE can remain the core of e-learning activity needs to be considered.

A year later, Lawrie Phipps, Dave Cormier and Mark Stiles published a paper in Educational Developments – The Magazine of the Staff and Educational Development Association Ltd (SEDA) entitled “Reflecting on the virtual learning systems – extinction or evolution?”

What is the role of Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) in the modern university? How are students using them? And are they as important as we once thought they would be? These are questions that a lot of people are now asking, given the rapid developments that can be characterised as the read/write web or Web 2.0.

So this wasn’t a new idea, it built on the shoulders of those who went before us.

One aspect of the debate was the publication of blog posts before the conference, the use of Twitter and even trailers…

One of my blog posts from August 2009 gave an insight into my viewpoint.

Using an institutional VLE does not preclude using other Web 2.0 services and tools, on the contrary, a VLE and web tools can be used together. For example this blog has an RSS feed which feeds directly into my institutional VLE.

It was certainly hyped up in a way that I hadn’t seen before at ALT conferences, and to be honest not since either.

Today though I see many people using their blogs and the Twitter to promote their sessions at conferences, so maybe we did start something.

I was planning to run a session at this year’s conference, but alas circumstances were against me, so a follow-up session never materialised.

So ten years later is the VLE dead?

It’s still here and still being used and people are still trying to get people to use it.

Will it still be here in another ten years?

Who knows!