Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Learning Technologies - Where Do I Start?

copyright Danny Monaghan 2012
At a recent conference, I was delivering a presentation with Chris Stokes about how you can make group work more effective using technology. It was a good session, with lots of questions at the end, but one question put to me stood out; that person said ‘it’s all very well looking at all these different technologies, but if I want to get someone who has never used technology in their teaching before developing their use of it, where do I tell them to start?’ My answer to that was ‘The VLE’.

Why start with the VLE?

The reasoning behind directing a newcomer to technology towards a VLE (whatever flavour you have access to) is not complicated, but in many ways that is the point. KISS is paramount to new users of technology in L&T. The last thing you want to do is put hurdles to jump in front of someone dipping their toe in the water for the first time (that’s too many analogies for one sentence - no more, I promise).

Of course, there is the question...

Why use a VLE at all?

  1. It’s an excellent place to develop the curriculum and learning activities.
  2. It’s available to all staff and students, anytime, anyplace, anywhere.
  3. It’s easy to deliver information to a large number of people.
  4. Group work and assessment can be easily facilitated.
  5. Students’ progress is easier to follow.
  6. It can free up some of your time to spend more in other areas of your teaching.
  7. It can increase retention levels, decrease failure rate and increase performance of students.
  8. Students can learn at their own pace.
  9. It can help with course administration, for example student submission and feedback.
But all this can be done without using a VLE, so...

Why does the VLE make it simple?
  1. It gives you a range of tools that can deliver results in one place. The tools may not be the best example of type, but they are all available to you without having to research, evaluate and pull together a number of different tools from different locations.
  2. It’s familiar to your students. Because everyone is using the same system, students will know where to find content, how to use the system and where to get help and support. This means the system becomes a background to the real work, which is developing their learning.
  3. It is integrated into your institution. You don’t have to worry about manual enrollment of staff and students, or getting your these people to enrol themselves, on to lots of different services. This can often be a barrier to success because it’s another password to remember and another location to go to.
  4. It’s supported by the institution - if there’s a problem with the VLE, someone is there to help sort it out. If you’re not sure how to do something, there’s a reliable source of help and advice available.
In addition, there are a couple of other things that can influence where you chose to build your online learning environment, and not just for newcomers to e-learning. A VLE also means:
  • The data is safe. This is the often overlooked aspect of using external services. You are responsible for backing up the data. If you are using, for example, an external wiki for students to work on, you need to keep a copy of that work for a number of years, so it can be referenced if needed. Different HEI’s will have different policies on this, for example here at Sheffield we keep archives of our VLE (MOLE) courses for at least seven years.
  • You don’t need to worry about legalese. Have you read the T&C’s? Some external services have T&C’s that can be worrying for students IP and copyright, and it is often very difficult to properly understand just what all the legal jargon means. Your VLE data belongs to your institution, which will almost certainly have suitable IP and copyright on your students work. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to think about copyright and IP for material you are using though, that’s a different thing entirely.
So starting out in e-learning? The VLE is a great place to begin.


1 comment:

  1. Nice post.Thank you for taking the time to publish this information very useful!I’m still waiting for some interesting thoughts from your side in your next post thank



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