Reviewing the VLE

One of the hot topics at this year’s ALT was “the VLE is dead debate”. Following on from this, ALT with colleagues at the University of Bradford have set up a new Learning Environments Review SIG (LERSIG) which has just had its inaugural meeting. Today’s event “reviewing the VLE: sharing experiences” brought together about 60 people in total (online via Elluminate and physically at the University of Bradford).

The morning was given over to presentations from representatives from five institutions (Nottingham Trent, City, LSE, UCL and York) who have/are in the process of changing their VLE. The afternoon was discussion/group work. As I was participating remotely (and like everyone else, multitasking) I didn’t join in the discussion session. However there were a number of key elements that did come through.

The early incarnations of VLEs may well be dead, but the notion and need for some kind of learning environment is still very much alive. The HE community is, I think, much becoming much clearer about articulating requirements from all the technologies (not just the VLE) used in institutions to support teaching and learning. A number of questions were raised about the use of portals and using other ‘non-traditional’ VLE systems for teaching and learning purposes. What also came through loudly today was the recognition that user requirements and continual user involvement in the change process are key to making successful transitions in technology use.

Currently, many institutions in the UK are in the process of reviewing their technology provision, and it would appear a growing number are migration from proprietary systems to open source platforms. There seems to be quite a bit of moving from BlackBoard to Moodle for example. There was some discussion around the lack of take up of Sakai in the UK. From participants it would seem that at the moment the overhead and support for Sakai is higher and less supported than Moodle. Most of the big implementations are within more research led institutions and perhaps not as well developed for a more teaching and learning focus. However, there was a recognition that this could well change and that looking at the “broader framework” is key for future developments so that new elements can be added to existing systems. This is where I would see the developments we discussed at the composing your learning environment session at the recent CETIS conference would be of relevance to this group.

What came through strongly from today’s meeting was that there is an appetite to share experiences of these processes. Stakeholder engagement is also key and again sharing strategies for engaging the key people (staff and students) emerged as another key area for sharing experiences. The SIG is in the process of setting up an online community where experiences, case studies etc can be shared. You can join the SIG at their crowdvine site.

Expert expectations of IMS LD systems – pre-publication report now available

As part of the iCOPER project, an IMS Learning Design Expert Workshop was held at the University of Vienna on November 20 & 21, 2008. The methodology and findings from the workshop have been written up in a paper which will be published (April 2010) in the International Journal of Emerging Technologies (iJET) . A pre-publication version of the report is now available from D-Space.

The report focuses on the outcomes of group working around two key issues – usability and the lifecycle of a unit of learning. The proposed solutions regarding the usability and utility problem were to investigate how teachers’ and learners’ representations of a learning design can be brought together, and to set up a research program to identify how teachers cognitively proceed when designing courses, and to map this knowledge to IMS LD. In regard to the life cycle of a unit of learning problem, the group suggested a system that continually exchanges information between runtime and editing systems so that units of learning can be updated accordingly.

UKOER session at LAMS 2009 Conference

The 2009 International LAMS Conference is being held today in Sydney. The focus of the conference is on Open Education, “looking at technologies, applications and approaches that support sharing, collaboration and open access to knowledge and resources. What are the differing implications for individuals and organisations?”.

Although very tempting, going to Sydney for a day wasn’t really possible. However the conference organisers have kindly allowed David Kernohan (JISC Programme Manager) and me to do a remote presentation on the current UKOER programme. The presentation gives an overview of the programme, some of the emerging issues (tecnhnical and cultural) which are coming through now projects are at the halfway point of this funding cycle. The presentation can be viewed here.