Friday, 23 January 2009

@BETT: VLEs and Learning Platforms 1

There has been a huge surge of interest in Virtual Learning Environments and Learning Platforms.
Firstly, what are they?
Wikipedia puts it nicely: 

"A virtual learning environment (VLE) is a software system designed to support teaching and learning in an educational setting, as distinct from a Managed Learning Environment (MLE) where the focus is on management. A VLE will normally work over the Internet and provide a collection of tools such as those for assessment (particularly of types that can be marked automatically, such as multiple choice), communication, uploading of content, return of students' work, peer assessment, administration of student groups, collecting and organizing student grades, questionnaires, tracking tools, etc. New features in these systems include wikisblogsRSS and 3D virtual learning spaces.

While originally created for distance education, VLEs are now most often used to supplement traditional face to face classroom activities, commonly known as Blended Learning."

There is some confusion over terms. In the US it is more usual to refer to this as a Content Management System (CMS) whilst in the UK both VLE and Managed Learning Environment (MLS) are used.

According to Wikipedia, Learning Platform is the generic term coined by Becta:
"Becta, in the UK, have coined the term learning platform to cover both MLE and VLE as used in the schools sector. 'The term learning platform describes a broad range of ICT systems used to deliver and support learning. Through a learning platform, hardware, software and supporting services are brought together to enable more effective ways of working within and outside the classroom. At the heart of any learning platform is the concept of a personalized online learning space for the pupil. This space should offer teachers and pupils access to stored work, e-learning resources, communication and collaboration with peers, and the facility to track progress."

What has spurred this interest in the UK? Legislation.
Here is the extract from the Becta website:

"By Spring 2008 the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) expects your learners to have access to a personal online learning space. In England the local authority has been given the responsibility (and the funding) for ensuring that this initial part of a learning platform is made available to your school.

A personal online learning space forms part of a wider set of technologies called a learning platform. It supports learning by providing access to:

  • tools - for monitoring and assessing, communication and collaboration, eg email, forums wikis, blogs, and for creating, developing and managing digital content
  • an individual area for each learner (and member of staff) where they can store their work and personalise its layout to meet their needs
  • safe and secure, anytime/anywhere access to learning resources.

By March 2010 all schools are expected to be using a learning platform which integrates with a management information system. This will simplify the delivery of your regular data returns with your local authority, as well as enabling seamless student transition, saving time and effort. "

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