Until recently I was working in an institution where a top-down decision was made to compel almost all teachers (all those teaching courses at a certain level and above) to meet a minimum standard of use of the VLE (aka CMS). Understandably this created some resentment or tension - often not based on the perceived value of doing so, so much as the time factor and ICT literacy / training issues.

I currently work in an institution where some departments extensively use the VLE, and some barely at all, and in the main, individual teachers decide to use it, or not. Fine, you might say, just the ones who are interested will use it - it's certainly easier to work with people who want to be helped.

Put this way: should using the VLE be compulsory? I am inclined to say... well... no.

On the other hand, if we ask: is e-learning just an optional extra? Or do we think this is an essential requirement of studying in the 00s? I would say it's essential.

I'm not trying to oversimplify this question by collapsing 'VLE' into 'e-learning' - I know there are other forms of e-learning that go on. (Arguably mostly by people who already have their course online to some degree, but that aside...)

I'm interested to know what people think about whether making it compulsory to use the VLE, at least at certain levels or for certain programmes, is a good thing, or a bit too big brotherish. Have you worked in both types of institution?

cheers - Leo

Tags: CMS, VLE, e-learning

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This is a good question. Would I hire a surgeon who didn't know how to read an X-ray? Or hire a mechanic who didn't know how to use a timing light?

Technology is a major tool of the educational trade nowadays. Perhaps instead of making it mandatory, per se, administrators could simply refuse to hire new personnel without the knowledge and proven skills to use it. Promotions should be based on competence.

For certain programs, such as advanced courses, I think VLE is not an unreasonable expectation. I also think that an institution with such high expectations should have training made available as well as fostering a collaborative environment where people can share expertise in generating quality content. Not everyone is going to be equally proficient in all areas. Some are inherently going to be better at lay out and design while others will be better at generating content while still other team members are proficient with assessment technologies. I think feeling like you have to do it all yourself is what kills enthusiasm for this type of learning and teaching.

Anything that is mandated is going rankle some/many folks. Sorta depends on what kind of institution you're talking about. If it's higher ed, then academic freedom is a bigger thing in most colleges than it is in K-12 or business. It's not a question of the merits of online learning. That's pretty much a given these days. What you're talking about is the Big Brother thing in which the administration mandates how you teach. Some of that already happens - e.g., textbook selection in K-12 and teaching methods in higher ed - e.g., U of Phoenix's approach to make teaching "consistent" using one online approach. Besides the type of institution involved, there other variable of interest is whether instructors have a choice or not in how they teach. If they don't, then whether or not online learning is used is pretty much moot. If there is choice and the administration is perceived as shoving online learning done your throat, that's something else. There can be incentives and support to use online learning to convert faculty or there can be a mandate (stated or not officially) to use it or else.
As with some of the other replies I think that it is a question of balance. For ease of communication and administration of teaching & learning a common use of a VLE is valuable to everyone involved. Training and support are critical to its success and far too often overlooked or paid too little attention.

The key question is one of balance. How do educators continue to deliver innovation and creativity?

In my opinion it is essential that teachers have the ability to access and use the right tools if they wish. For example is the use of Second Life, U-Tube or Audacity acceptable within your own school? or does the school "limit" access and encourage activity only within the bounds of the VLE?

If it is the latter then it will always fail.

VLE suppliers (commercial or open source) can never innovate and change as fast as the Web.

So to answer your question - yes it is a good thing to have a single VLE used by everyone across the institution but not if it constrains innovation and creativity and access to other tools outside the VLE.

Good luck

Perhaps we should start by asking "Why use a VLE?". A quota-driven 'use it because it's there' approach (or worse, 'use it because it's Talmos and we paid £35,000 ($70,000) for it') is unlikely to enhance childrens' learning.

School-wide use of any system needs to be linked to a measurable goal, and there must be consensus that the goal is worthwhile. Was this condition fulfilled in your first school? If so, what was the goal?
The V in VLE is a bone of contention - At our institution we have recently acquired what could be described as a VLE but I prefer to think of it as a Learning Platform (as it combines the functionality of a VLE but also converses with our MIS)

I think that as we move further into the Technological century we must embrace ICT rich pedagogy - our subjects would be left behind without it. The virtual element of a VLE suggests that in someway any learning that occurs on it is subsiduary to face to face (chalk and talk) methods, it is simply not real. At the end of the day it is a LEARNING ENVIRONMENT which has extensive teaching and learning benefits which are not always accessible in a 'traditional' classroom setting. These benefits should be the focus of your approach to increasing the use of your VLE.

One method that I have employed is to have the use of the Learning Platform/VLE embedded in other aspects of the institution's development (it is vital that the institution views the VLE as a vehicle for improvement and therefore is part of the Development Plans). By only posting important information on the VLE and nowhere else it has forced even the most fanatical techno luddites into logging on. First step complete albeit a very small one. The next steps of fully integrating the VLE demand a lot of work and are centred on the 'this will make your teaching more rewarding' approach. loads of CPD continuous training.

Should we make VLE use compulsory? No, better to get staff to want to use it for themselves than to force a change without due care.

It is a thin line you will walk.




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