Does learning happen on a VLE?

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.

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3 Responses to Does learning happen on a VLE?

  1. AJ Cann says:

    The point of this statement is that VLEs were (mis)sold in some cases as “the solution” = buy one and the learning would just magically happen. Sadly, some colleagues still seem to think this is the case. OK, this seems ridiculous, but humans have believed lots of ridiculous things over the years.

  2. Nick Sharratt says:

    Hmm, when I read the title, I was already planning my reply using the counter question “does learning happen in books?” too 🙂

    I think the answer to both questions is “not if they’re not used” though, which I think has been the problem with VLEs for many who either refuse to engage with exploiting the opportunities or mistakenly think the VLE will do the teaching for them.

    Ultimately, the only place learning happens is in the minds of learners – the trick is how to stimulate that happening, and the VLE is one tool that can certainly do that if used with skill and imagination.

  3. Alan is right – VLEs were missold to institutions on the promise that all users would be able to use it for effective learning. Many of the students I talk to can’t stand it, and tend to avoid it as much as they can. ‘It’s boring’ and ‘it’s difficult to navigate’ are just two of the recurring complaints I get from students.

    Academic staff don’t like it either – it takes a lot more time and effort to create content that is interactive – most tend to pay lip service and ‘shovel’ their f2f content, slides, lecture notes etc, across and the VLE becomes crowded with content that is past it’s sell by date or irrelevant to learning mediated through technology.

    We won’t ditch the VLE, and it’s not dead – but it is undead – a tool that is rapidly declining in popularity and relevancy. It has some uses, and Nick Sharratt will outline these in Wolverhampton, but we need to move on now and begin to explore how we can use the tools out there that will liberate students and transform the learning experience.

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