Does learning happen on a VLE?

December 3, 2009

I have had quite a few people comment and say that learning doesn’t happen on a VLE and that it is merely a glorified content repository. Now I am sure in many institutions that this is certainly the case.

However in the same way that learning sometimes does and sometimes doesn’t happen in a physical environment. I should note that the classroom is not the only physical learning environment that learning can take place in. Physical learning environments can be classrooms, the home, workshops, salons, kitchens, work places or in the field (you know literally in a field). Before you make the blanket comment learning doesn’t happen on a VLE, how do we know that learning takes place in a physical learning environment? The environment is either conducive to learning or not conducive. We carry out checks on learning and assess that learning has happened. These happen in physical learning environments and can happen in VLEs too. You can check by using the same checks and assessments you would use to check for learning in other environments. You can also use new and innovative checks and assessment methods using technology too.

There is no way that we can categorically say that learning can not happen on a VLE. If we do then we must also say that learning can not happen on the internet period.

So then have I seen learning happen on a VLE?

Well yes. In the same way I have seen learning take place with Web 2.0 tools and services.

I have seen some fantastic work with the use of audio and video on the VLE combined with a VLE discussion forum.

I have seen learning happen with wikis on the VLE. Just because the functionality of the wiki or discussion forum in a VLE may not match those found elsewhere on the web, doesn’t mean they should be dismissed. Simple tools do not mean simple learning; though it should be said that complex tools doesn’t mean complex learning either. These are tools and regardless of their simplicity or complexity, they can be used for learning.

We mustn’t forget that the VLE is generally rarely used in isolation, it is used to enhance and enrich all kinds of learning. When a VLE is dismissed because it is just used as a repository I wonder what these people think of libraries and books. Libraries are repositories of knowledge and information, do we dismiss them? No we do not. But in the same way that Libraries work best when learner are guided by information professionals, their peers and their teachers; VLEs also work better when learner are guided by information professionals, their peers and their teachers.

So does learning happen on the VLE?

Of course it does.

Join the debate in Wolverhampton on the 16th December 2009.