Tag Archives: vle is dead

Day 1: The VLE in my life…

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).

Is Teams a VLE? – Weeknote #07 – 18th April 2019


Monday I was off to London for a workshop looking at Education 4.0 as well as a meeting discussing strategy. The workshop was looking at Jisc’s work in the Education 4.0 space and what others are doing in this space.

I published another couple of use cases for the Intelligent Campus blog.

Use Case: Intelligent Catering

Use Case: Intelligent Meetings

Working from home on Tuesday I had a couple of calls, though technical problems with VScene meant I didn’t get into one conference. I have no idea what the problem was, usually I don’t have an issue with VScene.

Wednesday I was into the office for an early meeting to discuss progress and objectives for my new role. I will be continuing some existing objectives on thought leadership (I know, I also hate the term); looking at the learning and research technical career pathway in Jisc; increasing member understanding of Jisc’s learning, teaching and student experience portfolio. In addition I am reviewing the HE and student experience strategy for 2020 onwards. Review our portfolio for the OfS and support a value study at the University of Hertfordshire (I discussed this back in March).

I had similar technical problems with VScene again, I was even using a different computer and browsers.  I think I may have narrowed down the problem to my Bluetooth wireless headset. So next time I am going to use a wired headset and see if that makes a difference.

Had a meeting to discuss some future ideas in a space that is new to me and to Jisc. Where could we apply our work in digital capabilities and analytics in new spaces.

Most of the afternoon I was doing a dry run through the Agile Implementation Workshop I am helping run next week in London. I am talking about reporting and also doing an introductory demo of JIRA.  Sometimes the value of a tool such as JIRA is not the value it adds to the individual using the tool, but the combined and added value you get when everyone in a team uses that tool. Reporting is something else that often is seen as a process between two people, but aggregated reports are valuable to a range of stakeholders in an organisation.

Had an interesting discussion with Lawrie on Thursday morning following a demonstration he had seen the day before.

Microsoft Teams is the digital hub that brings conversations, content, and apps together in one place. Create collaborative classrooms, connect in professional learning communities, and communicate with all staff – all from a single experience in Office 365 Education.

I’ve not looked in detail at all aspects of what makes Teams a possible VLE, though there are some key aspects of Teams that make it appealing as a VLE or LMS. It has all the functions you expect from a VLE or LMS, such as content, communication (individual and group) and assessment. You can connect a wide range of apps to Teams, you like using Twitter for tweetchats, connect it in.

This reminds me of the concept of the VLE I proposed at  the infamous VLE is Dead debate at ALT-C in 2009 (was that really ten years ago now). I saw the VLE still being the centre of the student online learning environment, but other tools and services would plug into it.

Today we have the technology to make that a reality. It can be done with Teams, but similar connectors and connnections exist for tools such as Moodle. From a student perspective, they will be using a tool (and a suite of tools connected to that) they will potentially be using in the future. Yes of course the skills that you gain using tools such as Moodle and Blackboard (and Google Apps) are skills that are transferable, but not everyone sees them in that way, both students and employers.

There are already universities and colleges out in the sector using Teams as their VLE, I am interested in not just who is using Teams as their VLE, but also how they are using it, and how embedded it is into practice.

One thing that I noted was that, it’s all very well having a great tool, it’s quite another thing to understanding and knowing the potential of the functionality of that tool to enhance and enrich the student experience. It’s also another thing to have that functionality exploited by staff and students.

I spent some time setting up a Confluence Site and JIRA project for the Agile Implementation Workshop next week, I didn’t want to do something “not real” so will be using the sites and boards for work I am doing for our Learning & Research Technical Career Pathway.

A shorter week this week, due to the Easter holiday weekend, so also means a later start next week as well.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Merging the Distance

Yesterdays sunrise in Iceland near Bifrost University

One of the interesting talks I listened to at the BETT show was from Bifröst University who had merged their distance online courses with their campus based courses.

From a learner’s perspective they received the “same” experience regardless if they accessed the course online or on campus.

The learner feedback was very positive as it allowed them to pick and choose how they accessed the learning on the course depending on their personal circumstances and context. You can imagine how one week due to snow or holiday they accessed the course online, the following week they were in a face to face session on campus.

In this blog post I am going to look at and discuss some of the technical issues that Bifröst University had to consider and out into place before moving forward on merging online and campus based courses.

Bifröst University in their presentation made some key points on the technical requirements. They needed to have in place a robust IT infrastructure in place to host and distribute the various types of content and video for the courses. They also needed to ensure there was solid scalable WiFi available to all users, taking into account the changing landscape of devices that learners would be using. As well as campus connectivity there is the issue of external internet access and bandwidth, as far as Bifröst University are concerned, they see really essential for learners to have access to high speed internet.

The other main consideration, that Bifröst University mentioned, was the need to have a robust Learning Management System (or VLE) and interesting for this to be backed up by good communication software and group productivity tools.

This is a very similar concept that I have spoken at length about in various bog posts and conference sessions, notably the VLE is Dead debate back in 2009 at the ALT Conference. What I said was that the VLE was an important portal for learners, but that didn’t stop organisations from adding in external tools. These tools could be Google+, Twitter, Google Docs, Office 365, or other communication and productivity tools. The tools that the learners use would then be accessed or linked to from the VLE.

Bifröst University also embraced the concept of BYOD and making sure both learners and teachers understood the limitations of this, but also ensure they re was a willingness to cater for the variety of devices that learners would be using.

One aspect that Bifröst University put a lot of emphasis on was on the importance of training and the large amount of training that would be needed. They certainly understood that even with a so called digital generation there was a need to provide training for learners before the start of the course, and this training would need to be repeated throughout the year. Training sessions were also run for staff at the start of the year, with additional micro sessions run throughout the duration of the course. Bifröst University also made sure they had good support materials for all key systems backed up by a range of guides and handouts.

In a future blog post I will look at the curriculum design implications of merging online and campus based courses.

Photo Credit: Iceland by Jakub on Flickr

e-Learning Stuff – Top Ten Blog Posts of 2011

A somewhat quieter year this year with just over 150 blog posts posted to the blog.

As I did in 2010 and 2009 here are the top ten blog posts according to views for this year.

10. Using the VLE more

This posting was very much an opinion piece on how learning technologists could engage teachers in using the VLE more to support learners. The key behind this quite short post was about moving the responsibility of using the VLE to the practitioner, and their continuing personal development in the use of the VLE.

9. Moodle 2 Teacher’s Guide

This post proved popular and it was an opportunity to remember where I had seen this great guide to Moodle 2, but also embed it into the blog using Issuu.

8. 100 ways to use a VLE – #89 Embedding a Comic Strip

The eighth most popular post this year was from my ongoing series of ways in which to use a VLE. This particular posting was about embedding a comic strip into the VLE using free online services such as Strip Creator and Toonlet.

It is quite a lengthy post and goes into some detail about the tools you can use and how comics can be used within the VLE.

The series itself is quite popular and I am glad to see one of my favourite in the series and one of the more in-depth pieces has made it into the top ten.

7. Paper Camera – iPhone App of the Week

This review of Paper Camera as part of my App of the Week series certainly struck a chord with many who thought the app was excellent.

This really nice image manipulation app creates cartoon or sketch like images from either your photographs, or applies the filter in real time so you can see what your image will look like through the live image from the camera.

The review which included images I had created using the app, demonstrated to readers what the app was capable of, but also some of the limitations. For me I only review apps that I use and think can be of value to my readers (well apart from one or two exceptions where I want to tell people not to buy the app).

6. “The Best Moodle Tools You’ve Never Used”

Tools such as Moodle have a range of functions that I know many of our staff are using, but of course not everyone knows everything. I like this presentation from the Columbian MoodleMoot 2011 by Michelle Moore, in which she explains some of the other functions of Moodle that can be used to enhance and enrich course delivery.

I do like that I can embed presentations such as this into my blog using a service such as Slideshare. It means I can easily share things I have found, but also curate them with other finds for sharing with others.

5. So how are students using mobile phones?

A simple infographic on how US students were using their mobile phones proved popular and demonstrate their is real interest out there about mobile learning and the use of mobile phones for learning.

4. Podcast Workflow

This was probably my favourite post of the year and is also the longest blog post I have ever written at nearly 4000 words! The post outlined how I recorded the e-Learning Stuff podcast and went over the planning, the technical techniques for recording, editing and distribution. It was a post that I had been writing for a year or so, but back in July decided to finish it off and get it published.

3. Tintin – iPhone and iPad App of the Week

So my third most popular post on my e-learning blog is of a review of a game for the iPad… It’s not even a very good review, as at the time of writing that blog post I hadn’t even played the game as I wanted to see the film first! The reason why it is popular is that the blog post had quite a high search engine ranking and people clicked to see what it was about… I expect they were slightly disappointed.

2. Ten ways to use QR Codes

This post was a very reactionary post to all the posts I was seeing at the time about how to use QR Codes.

Sorry, this is not a blog post on ten ways to use QR Codes, but it is a blog post about what you actually can do with QR Codes. There are in fact only five ways to use QR Codes! Once you know what you can do with QR Codes then you can build learning activities round those functions.

Got people thinking.

1. The VLE is Dead – The Movie

So the most viewed post this year was from 2009 and is the video of the VLE is Dead symposium that I was part of at ALT-C 2009. Considering this post was originally published in September 2009, the fact it is my most popular posts demonstrates the enduring substance of that debate. Is the VLE dead? Well the debate isn’t, it’s alive and well.