The second mini-assignment was on The Future of VLEs. This was very timely as my colleague, Albin Wallace, had just completed and published some work looking at the way the VLE was being adopted across our schools. The following article highlights the findings and the areas we are looking to develop.
The impact of the VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) within the United Church Schools Trust / United Learning Trust, highlighting key areas for development. The future of the VLE is a topic high on the priority list for my organisation, ( UCST / ULT). Whilst there is debate over the requirement for a school to have a VLE (Edugeek Discussion Forum, 2010) and over the format that a VLE may take (OFSTED, 2009, p. 8), this assignment is written from the standpoint that our schools are provided with a ‘managed learning platform’. “We needed a learning platform that could help our teachers do more in the time they have. It had to give teachers and students access to the curriculum outside school hours and also give our students a virtual space where they could personalise and extend their learning,” explains Dr. Albin Wallace, Group Director of ICT and e-Learning at UCST. (Its Learning, 2011) A VLE may carry out varying functions, depending on the software selected and the way that it is managed. It is beyond the scope of this assignment to look at the full range of affordances. Our VLE provides course areas, a calendar, a pupil portfolio area, a project area for collaborative working and access to SCORM content. As an organisation, we have recently carried out research, examining the way the VLE is currently being used which gives us some direction for the future. This was disseminated via a webinar, delivered on 1st November 2011 (Wallace, 2011). There is a great deal to discuss in the research, so I have drawn out only the areas for future attention. More pupils used the VLE in year nine than in any other year. This is in contrast to the report by OFSTED (2009), which found that ‘In Secondary schools, the effective use of VLEs increased with the age of the students.’ In the future, we need to examine why there is little use in the upper years. Almost half those who answered used the VLE once a week and this tended to be at school. This finding is the same as that stated in OFSTED (2009) which reported that ‘the main use of a VLE by students was on site, albeit out of lessons’. There are issues to address here about accessibility of the VLE from home and also how pupils can use the VLE on mobile devices. Seventy-two per cent of pupils used the VLE for ICT – twice as many as for any other school subject. This usage is consistent with the findings of OFSTED (2009) which stated that ‘the main factor behind a successful VLE was the enthusiasm of individual teachers or trainers and often linked with their good use of technology to improve learning in the classroom’. There is a need to break down the concept that the VLE is ‘IT’ and it would be useful to conduct further analysis to find out how to support other subject areas. Finally, a key area for development is the use of a VLE by a parent or carer. It was found that parents were not routinely involved in the way pupils engaged with the VLE. This is a complex area, as discussed in Selwyn, Banaji, Hadjithoma-Garstka & Clark (2011). It has not been possible to link the impact of the VLE with learning outcomes, although grades have improved in all schools where the VLE has been implemented. This may be an area for further research.
Its Learning. (2011, December 22). United Church Schools Trust / United Learning Trust. Retrieved December 22, 2011, from Its Learning: http://www.itslearning.eu/UCST OFSTED. (2009).
Virtual learning environments: an evaluation of their development in a sample of educational settings. London: OFSTED.
Selwyn, N., Banaji, S., Hadjithoma-Garstka, C., & Clark, W. (2011). Providing a platform for parents? Exploring the nature of parental engagement with school Learning Platforms. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 314-323.
Various. (2010, June 10). Now BECTA has gone, do we NEED to have a VLE? Retrieved Dec 28, 2011, from Edugeek: http://www.edugeek.net/forums/virtual-learning-platforms/57713-now-becta-has-gone-do-we-need-have-vle-remote-desktop-services-instead.html
Wallace, A. (2011, November 1). How to succeed with learning platforms – new research into the student’s perspective. Retrieved December 25, 2011, from its learning: http://www.itslearning.eu/free-webinar-albin-wallace