Virtual learning environments (VLEs): an evaluation of their development in a sample of educational settings

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Nick Gadfield HMI presentation


  • 1. Virtual learning environments (VLEs): an evaluation of their development in a sample of educational settings Nick Gadfield HMI 5 March 2009
  • 2. Background to the survey
    • Remote communication is by any standards a growing, more routine part of life and possibly learning
    • We wanted to see how VLEs how were developing as part of this change
    • Between January and May 2008 inspectors visited 18 colleges, six primary and two secondary schools, three work-based learning providers, three adult and community learning providers and one local authority
    • Inspectors also were given access to remotely review five college and four school virtual learning environments without visiting the establishments
  • 3. What is a VLE?
    • A range of definitions and names
    • We took the use of computers to allow remote access to learning
    • Or VLEs could be also/part of (each with their own definition!)
      • Learning management system (LMS)
      • Course Management System (CMS)
      • Learning Content Management System (LCMS),
      • Managed Learning Environment (MLE),
      • Learning Support System (LSS)
      • Online Learning Centre (OLC)
      • Learning Platform (LP)
      • Education via computer-mediated (CMC)
      • Online Education
  • 4. Methodology
    • Selection was a mix of those where reports had commented on the use of a VLE and some at random.
      • Between September 2005 and December 2007 Ofsted carried out over 17,000 routine school inspections. In only 39 of the reports (0.2%) was there a mention of the use of a VLE or similar system.
      • Comments were more frequent in reports on colleges (20%) and other settings
    • Visits were one day, one inspector, based on a structured approach but open to reviewing initiatives
  • 5. Visits
    • We appreciated the welcome and help we got
    • In nearly every visit there were impressive individuals or managers who were enthusiastic about VLEs
    • However, we did not find any one institution that had a fully comprehensive and well used VLE
  • 6. Key findings
    • VLEs were still at an early stage of development
    • VLEs were most effective in institutions where staff were increasingly using technology to improve learning in the classroom or workshop
    • There was no correlation between effective VLEs and a particular subject area
    • Better providers had support from individual VLE/ILT champions whole provider training not as effective
  • 7. Key Findings
    • The best VLEs had strong support from senior managers with good resources for development and maintenance
    • Learners content, rather than enthusiastic to use VLEs; regular use for communication (assignments in/back, notices) and in bursts for projects
    • The self-assessment of VLEs and their impact on learning was underdeveloped
      • Quality assurance may be a future issue
    • Systems costs were not seen as a major issue by colleges, and to a lesser degree by other providers
      • But staff time to create and upload material was a concern
  • 8. Key findings
    • VLEs mainly accessed on-site by college students and school pupils; more remote access in adult and community learning
    • Work-based learning providers saw particular potential, but development of material was a concern
    • Very little use of VLE for shared learning across providers (only one example of Diploma work seen)
  • 9. Suggestions for Further Developments
    • More central guidance on, or provision of, common course materials
    • Continuing (LSC) funding for work-based learning developments
    • Providers to
      • Continue developments, with help to individual staff (training and time) and learners
      • Routinely review the effectiveness of their systems
      • Set up quality assurance arrangements
      • Work jointly on VLEs where appropriate (diplomas?)
  • 10. Finally
    • Again a thank you to the staff and learners in all the providers visited or contacted for their help
    • Questions?
      • Including the question not posed in the report will VLEs every really take off in institutions where learners do physically attend??


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