100 ways to use a VLE – #28 Classroom Study Task

September 10, 2010

There are various ways to set a task for a lesson in a classroom. You can do it verbally, which means that most people will forget what they need to do by the time you have stopped talking! You can do it on the whiteboard, but this could mean wiping off valuable notes that others need. You could do it through Powerpoint (or similar) but this does mean that the amount of information you can display is limited. You could always give out a printed handout with the task on, this does mean using paper and restricts you to mostly black and white and if you have the budget colour; of course no media such as video or sound.

Using the VLE to “host” the task allows the learner to have access to the task itself as well as any resources (such as video, images, text or audio) needed to complete the activity.

You can also use the VLE itself to be used to submit the responses or answers to the activity. You could use the assignment module or even a discussion forum.

It wouldn’t be necessary for some activities for all learners to have access to a computer, one laptop per group for example. Though if it is an individual task then one computer per learner may make sense. The task could also be completed by remote learners or those on placement or in the workplace.

Learners can then always at a later date refer back to the task if they need to, for example to help them complete an assignment or for revision purposes.

Of course also by placing the task on the VLE it makes it much easier to use the same task the following year or making a copy for another group.

100 ways to use a VLE – #12 Keeping a teaching journal

September 3, 2010

We never have enough time.

Teaching is a challenging profession and speaking to many teachers and lecturers one of the key issues that comes up again and again is time, or more specifically the lack of time.

I have talked about time before on this blog back in 2007. There are many productivity tips out there on the web, but one way to save time is to stop reinventing the wheel. Once you have been teaching for a while it has to be said that you will be teaching stuff you have been teaching before.

Even when qualifications change, or we have a change to syllabus, most of what we teach doesn’t change.

Before I did all this e-learning stuff I was a business studies teacher. When I started working in FE, my students were doing the BTEC National in Business Studies, we then moved to the AGNVQ in Business before moving back to (a different it has to be said) BTEC National in Business. Through those changes, though the qualification changed and the syllabuses were different, the topics and subjects were basically the same with marginal differences. So despite changes, much of what I taught was the same from year to year.

For example, demand and supply analysis is pretty much the same now as it was then and ten years previous to that!

What made life easier for me was keeping a teaching journal of what I was teaching, what worked well and what didn’t. This was a practice I picked up undertaking my PGCE and FAETC. So where is that journal now? Probably thrown away! It was in a lever arch file I left at City of Bristol College when I left there in 2000. Someone who could use that content now won’t be able to access it. Nor can I use it now either.

By using the VLE as a store for my teaching journal, I could have kept copies of my notes, resources, reflections on practice all in one place. I could have referred back to it as and when I needed to. If I wanted to I could much more easily share that content with other practitioners in my teaching department. They could add their own commentary and notes if they used my stuff. If I ever moved on, the valuable content would still be there on the VLE and of course as it was in a digital format I could take a copy with me.

There are other online places to store a teaching journal, a blog for example, however the VLE with its range of functions can allow the teaching journal to be much more than just a reflective blog. You could use image galleries, voting, forums, etc… as part of the journal.

Maintaining a teaching journal makes a lot of sense for teachers, there are many places to keep that journal, on the VLE can be a possibility that shouldn’t be ignored.

Photo source.

VLE Standards at Weston College

August 30, 2010

I have written before on this blog about the way in which Weston College is using VLE standards to improve the use of the VLE by staff at the college and increasing use of the VLE by learners.

There is a now a case study on Weston College on the Excellence Gateway.

Through the development of a set of standards, Weston College has improved the quality of its Moodle virtual learning environment (VLE) course provision.

Weston College has had a VLE since 2003. In August 2007 it went live with Moodle as its preferred VLE, developed, hosted and supported in-house. In the first year of cross-college deployment, Moodle was well adopted without any particular pressure on staff to achieve specific targets. The new system, in comparison to its former VLE, was seen as intuitive and there was a general level of enthusiasm from staff to receive staff training. ILT enthusiasts were used as champions of the new VLE, developing and sharing good practice. A student and staff Resources User Group was established to feedback on the new VLE and guide its early development.

The VLE standards were devised to set a minimum expectation for online provision to ensure that all learners on full-time courses had a corresponding VLE course. The aim of the standards was to provide and facilitate exemplary course provision through dynamic materials and e-learning resources.

The standards are graded into three categories, which are:

  • Gold
  • Silver
  • Bronze.

Every course must be at Bronze standard and yearly targets are set for the achievement of Silver/Gold standard courses.

Read the full case study.

100 ways to use a VLE – #92 Making choices

August 27, 2010

Sometimes you need learners to make a choice. A choice about which module they want to do. A choice about which area they want to study for a project. A choice about where they want to go on a field trip.

We often ask learners to make a choice. Traditionally we have probably used paper to make and collate choices.

The VLE can be used to both offer the learners a choice, but also to record their choices.

Quick and easy you can create a series of choices.

Once learners have made their choices you have quick and easy access to the results.

100 ways to use a VLE – #10 Gradebook

August 20, 2010

Keeping track of student assessment can be an administrative problem for some practitioners. Who has done what and what they got needs to be recorded so that the practitioner has a fair idea of the progress learners are making on the programme.

Obviously this can be done on paper, on a spreadsheet or a piece of dedicated gradebook software.

You can also use the VLE as a gradebook. Used in conjunction with an assignment submission and assessment system it will allow the practitioner to know easily who has submitted a piece of work, what grade they got, revisit the feedback given and check the status of any referral work.

This data can then be exported and imported into any proprietary gradebook system the institution may have.

Another advantage of using the VLE is that the information is very easily accessible by the learner, so that they can see their grades.

Photo source.

100 ways to use a VLE – #98 Embedding RSS feeds into the VLE

August 13, 2010

Keeping the content on the VLE current, topical and updated can be a real challenge for many practitioners. It can be both time consuming and if you are new to adding regular additional content to the VLE it can be easily forgotten that you said to yourself that you would regularly add content.

Of course for virtually all subjects there are loads of other people out there creating new, current and topical content. On blogs and news sites, lots of relevant and interesting content is being created.

The key is to ensure that the learners are made aware of that content quickly and easily.

You can of course copy and paste links and content into the VLE, but this has to be done manually and sometimes you are busy or just plain forget…

So that’s where RSS comes in.

What’s RSS?

Really Simple Syndication!

What’s Really Simple Syndication?

I knew you might ask me that!

The simple explanation is that RSS allows for content to be easily used and shared (syndicated) onto other web sites automatically. As that content is updated, the RSS ensures that the updated content is made available on the other web sites.

When content sites (like the BBC) update their content, they update their RSS feed. This feed can then be “added” to the VLE ensuring that when the content (and the RSS feed) is updated, the content on the VLE is automatically updated.

So by adding RSS feeds into the VLE, you can easily add new and exciting content into the VLE that update automatically without either the practitioners or learners needing to do anything.

I should point out that a few learners may want to subscribe to the RSS feed direct using a browser or feed reader. They may for example have a feed reader on their iPad or other mobile device.

So how do you add an RSS Feed into the VLE?

Well different VLEs do it in different ways. On Moodle the easiest way is via the Remote RSS Feeds Block.

This then allows you to add an RSS feed (like the feed from this blog) into the VLE.

The next question is I know, how do you know where the RSS feed is?

Well the address for the feeds will look something like this.


As you can see it’s not just news and blogs that have RSS feeds, you can also find RSS feeds for services like Screenr, Flickr and Audioboo.

So when you visit a page with an RSS feed on most modern browsers they will have an RSS icon.

Click the RSS icon to see the feed. Another way of describing an RSS feed is as content without the formatting.

In this example the feed is in the address bar.

Copy that into the Add a news feed URL field on the VLE.

This will allow you to embed the RSS feed into the VLE.

What’s nice about the Moodle Embed RSS block is that you can add multiple feeds into a single block.

Adding an RSS feed to the VLE can be for many practitioners quite a complex and challenging task, mainly as it can be difficult for many of them to understand what RSS is and means. However once you get past that hurdle it is then a quick and easy way to add current and topical content to your course on the VLE automatically.

Photo source.

100 ways to use a VLE – #77 Learner Voice

August 6, 2010

One of the things that the VLE can be used for is to capture the learner voice.

During inspection, Ofsted will look for evidence that providers have a learner involvement strategy and can show how learners are influencing the improvement of provision.


It provides an ideal location for learners to involve themselves in providing feedback and commentary on the provision in the college.

There are various tools that can be used for this, there could be an open discussion forum that allows learners to discuss the college and the provision. Though care must be taken in order for this open forum not to be abused and if moderation does take place that it is open and fair.

A closed discussion forum can also be useful in allowing evidence of discussion and feedback in one place. Within this kind of forum the only people who can see the discussion would be the learner and the college.

A further method of using the VLE would be to use something like the Feedback block on Moodle that allows users of the VLE to provide either a poll of some kind or more detailed feedback on the provision in the college.

The VLE will never be the only way in which colleges can capture the learner voice, however as one mechanism among many it can be useful tool.