Category Archives: vle

The VLE is not dead – Weeknote #167 – 13th May 2022

Image by drippycat from Pixabay

Monday morning, I was off to Queen Mary University of London for their VLE Expo. This was very much a QMUL focussed event, though they had invited a range of VLE vendors. I liked how the focus of the event was about, what do we want to do to achieve our strategic aspirations, how will the VLE help us to do that, and which platform (or platforms) will enable us to do that.

There were some excellent presentations from the academic staff on the different ways in which they were using technology including virtual reality, mixed reality and H5P. I sat on the final panel session answering questions from the floor on a range of issues. A lot of the questions were more about the use of technology for learning and teaching, than VLE specific topics. However, I did get into a few discussions about the VLE on the Twitter as a result of attending the event.

I posted another blog post in my Lost in Translation series this time with a focus on the technical aspects of recording videos or audio files.

Most institutions will (probably) have equipment which staff can use, but if there is a strategic approach to building a sustainable approach to the use of video and audio, then universities will need to reflect if they have sufficient resources to support the increased demand for cameras and microphones.

video recording
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Tuesday I was still in London for a briefing session, well as it happened it got cancelled, so I worked in the office.

Apple have announced that they are going to stop selling the iPod once the current stocks of iPod touch run out. So did you have an iPod and if so which one?

iPod
Photo by Cartoons Plural on Unsplash

Wednesday, I did two all-staff briefings for two directorates on the Jisc HE sector strategy. From the feedback I got they seemed to be well received.

I was reminded on the Twitter about when I took my bike to work. I made a video back then.

Mike Sharples posted an excellent Twitter thread on how AI can be used to write essays. I agree with Mike, if we are setting students assignments that can be answered by AI, are we really helping students learn?

I enjoyed the #LTHEchat on images in presentations in the evening.

These two blog posts from 2005 (and 2007) were very influential on my presentation style: Gates, Jobs, & the Zen aesthetic and Learning from Bill Gates & Steve Jobs. I also posted  a link to a presentation from an internal TEDx event about delivering presentations – A duck goes quack.

Thursday, I made my way to Harwell for a drop in session I was running at the Jisc offices there, alas an accident the closure of the M4 meant I spent nearly four hours sitting the car rather than sitting in a room talking to Jisc staff. In the end I had to abandon my visit to the office.

Friday, I had a scoping call about learning spaces in higher education. Interested in the kinds of learning spaces higher education is using, flexibility, technology and the kinds of activities spaces are being used for.

I found this WonkHE article interesting – Learning design is the key to assuring the quality of modular provision in which Nick Mount talks about building quality assurance into the design of modular programmes and micro-credentials.

Traditional providers can expect to find themselves facing the difficult job of rethinking existing assurance processes that are designed for coherent, longitudinal programmes of study, so that they can accommodate a new pick-and-mix landscape of highly portable and stackable micro-credential learning.

My top tweet this week was this one.

At the QMUL VLE Expo

Choosing a VLE for your university can be a challenge. Everyone has a different opinion, people have different needs, student want an outstanding experience. 

Sometimes just changing the VLE can be a catalyst for change, but you can also lose people who were heavily invested in the existing system.

Today I was at the Queen Mary University of London 2022 VLE Expo conference.

This conference is brought to you by the “SP192 VLE Review” project, one of the strategic projects that work together to deliver the 2030 strategy. The main aim of today’s conference is to gather your views and needs from a future VLE. We will use your contributions and feedback today to help shape a recommendation paper that will be used to decide the direction we will take with our VLE provision.

The university wants to ensure that whichever direction they go, it is  about delivering on their vision.

That is what this day is all about – making sure our Virtual Learning Environment matches our vision and fully supports our students in their journey.

I like how the focus is about, what do we want to do to achieve our strategic aspirations, how will the VLE help us to do that, and which platform (or platforms) will enable us to do that.

Of course the VLE is only part of the solution, knowing how to use the technical functions of the VLE is one thing, knowing how to use the VLE to support and enhance learning is a more challenging problem. Embedding the VLE into the curriculum is also a challenge.

My role in the day was to sit on a panel discussion, The Future of Digital Education, to discuss emerging themes from the day. I hope to address some of the issues with why you need a VLE and then thinking about how you will meet those needs.

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