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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