A five stage model for using the VLE

VLEs have a huge range of functionality, a lot of criticism often laid against the VLE is that some users are not aware of those functions.

There is often too much information about the VLE for new users who may not understand many of the concepts or have the skills to fully utilise the functionality of the VLE.

Stage One

Upload to the VLE the course resources, handouts, assignments, scheme of work and links.

Now this is something that is often laid against VLEs as why they don’t work as they are merely used as respositories of materials. However practitioners who are unfamiliar with the VLE often need a starting point. To throw the full functionality of the VLE at a practitioner who may be apprehensive about using the VLE and unsure of the benefits, is similar to throwing a learner driver onto a Formula One racetrack!

Stage Two

Add more content try and put up new content at least weekly.

So then you’ll get asked what content should you put up. Well a lot depends on how the practitioner delivers learning, but could include:

  • All the pages from IWB sessions from the classroom;
  • Videos, either embedded, or uploaded, very easy to embed videos from services such as YouTube or Vimeo;
  • Links to e-Books in the virtual library or online libraries;
  • Audio recordings, these could be by learners or by practitioners, an overview of the lesson, topic or subject;
  • Learning objects from Jorum or the NLN.
  • Images and photographs.
  • RSS feeds that learners could subscribe to.
  • Photographs of paper based exercises, if you for example use flip charts for brainstorming sessions, taking photographs of them with digital cameras and uploading those images can make it easier for learners to remember what they did.
  • Don’t forget text!

Stage Three

Add interactivity to the course through the use of quizzes and feedback. Quizzes are often part of the core VLE system, sometimes external quizzes can be uploaded.

Stage Four

Add engagement by learners through the use of discussion forums. Online discussions can engage learners in a variety of learning activities.

Stage Five


By stage five usage of the VLE will be pretty much embedded into the delivery of the course. It will be much easier for the practitioner to offer the course through a blended approach and be more able to deliver learning in times of closure (say through snow).

14 Responses to A five stage model for using the VLE

  1. Good post James, thanks for this.

    Despite all our best efforts there will always be some who only see the VLE at Stage One; the repository for information, resources, handouts, guides, etc … and this (in their mind) qualifies them to think of it as eLearning (well, it is ‘e’ isn’t it).

    All the best, David

  2. Clare says:

    Applying this to our VLE I think I’d be tempted to swap stages three & four. It’s often easier to get the students involved than to get the teaching staff thinking interactively.

  3. […] a short synopsis of what they can do with VLEs listen to the second half of it, where he outlines a five stage plan for using a VLE. The message coming out of this is that let’s not get too hung up on what a VLE is, but more […]

  4. Dai Barnes says:

    This is helpful James.

    From my experience though I think I would get the students involved earlier. Recently I have taken a copy of all SIMS data for classes and created meta-courses enrolling the teachers and pupils into courses. If you take the interactive stuff as a starting point with an easy quiz creator like hot potatoes and then use forums etc, it takes the pain out of it for teachers and pupils. They see their courses and are already enrolled. The conversations and quizzes can continue outside of lessons. Easy homeworks that self-mark and grades are stored. That kind of thing. It does get more complicated though, when needing to have one course for multiple classes and wanting to refresh courses at the start of each academic year. That’s why meta-courses are necessary.

    If starting again I would find an alternative solution for distributing documents and use the VLE to bring the learners together around learning activities. The danger of a file dump is too great IMO.

  5. […] staff engagement with the VLE A couple of months ago on the blog I posted a five stage model for using the VLE. There is often too much information about the VLE for new users who may not understand many of the […]

  6. […] process approach to building an effective VLE from James Clay’s e-Learning Stuff blog – https://elearningstuff.wordpress.com/2010/03/20/a-five-stage-model-for-using-the-vle/ – and all credit for that idea should go to […]

  7. loujak78 says:

    This is an interesting post, with big similarities to my 5-step model developed & published in 2008 (blog post here: http://bit.ly/98Is6h) which aims to help individuals and staff developers increase the value (through interactivity) of a VLE course, small steps at a time. It would be good to know what you think.

    • James Clay says:

      I haven’t seen your model until now thanks for posting the link. My model is based on work I did on VLEs back in the early 2000s when I was at the WCC. Back then I wrote a VLE Strategy for the FE colleges from which this model is based. It is also based on the experiences at Gloucestershire College that I joined back in 2006.

      Your model and similar ones I have also seen show that there is mileage in these models.

      The next question is how do we successfully implement these models in institutions? We have used an organic process in the past, not really sustainable across all staff in the college.

  8. […] VLE Bronze, Silver and Gold standards. In many ways their standards are similar in concept to the five stage VLE model I put forward in an earlier blog post. One aspect of their model I did like, was that you only […]

  9. LearningTechie says:

    Sorry but I disagree with the first stage/step of this (and David Sugden’s and Louise Jakobsen’s) VLE model:
    Uploading documents should never be the beginning. My experience is that, in the long term, it leads to frustration both for teachers because it causes them more workload and also for those eLearning staff who are desperately trying to get educators to see beyond their physical filing cabinets and see the ‘e’ in eLearning not as an abbreviation for ‘extra’ but for

    I’ve rambled about my experience, practice and views in more detail at


  10. […] use of VLEs (aka LMS e.g. Moodle, Blackboard etc). Essentially, it appears that a group of folk (James Clay, David Sugden, and Louise Jakobsen) have proposed some models about how to get academics using the […]

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