Reviewing the VLE

One of the hot topics at this year’s ALT was “the VLE is dead debate”. Following on from this, ALT with colleagues at the University of Bradford have set up a new Learning Environments Review SIG (LERSIG) which has just had its inaugural meeting. Today’s event “reviewing the VLE: sharing experiences” brought together about 60 people in total (online via Elluminate and physically at the University of Bradford).

The morning was given over to presentations from representatives from five institutions (Nottingham Trent, City, LSE, UCL and York) who have/are in the process of changing their VLE. The afternoon was discussion/group work. As I was participating remotely (and like everyone else, multitasking) I didn’t join in the discussion session. However there were a number of key elements that did come through.

The early incarnations of VLEs may well be dead, but the notion and need for some kind of learning environment is still very much alive. The HE community is, I think, much becoming much clearer about articulating requirements from all the technologies (not just the VLE) used in institutions to support teaching and learning. A number of questions were raised about the use of portals and using other ‘non-traditional’ VLE systems for teaching and learning purposes. What also came through loudly today was the recognition that user requirements and continual user involvement in the change process are key to making successful transitions in technology use.

Currently, many institutions in the UK are in the process of reviewing their technology provision, and it would appear a growing number are migration from proprietary systems to open source platforms. There seems to be quite a bit of moving from BlackBoard to Moodle for example. There was some discussion around the lack of take up of Sakai in the UK. From participants it would seem that at the moment the overhead and support for Sakai is higher and less supported than Moodle. Most of the big implementations are within more research led institutions and perhaps not as well developed for a more teaching and learning focus. However, there was a recognition that this could well change and that looking at the “broader framework” is key for future developments so that new elements can be added to existing systems. This is where I would see the developments we discussed at the composing your learning environment session at the recent CETIS conference would be of relevance to this group.

What came through strongly from today’s meeting was that there is an appetite to share experiences of these processes. Stakeholder engagement is also key and again sharing strategies for engaging the key people (staff and students) emerged as another key area for sharing experiences. The SIG is in the process of setting up an online community where experiences, case studies etc can be shared. You can join the SIG at their crowdvine site.

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