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E-learning, pedagogy and Learning environments

How to buy a Virtual Learning Environment

Many institutions are buying VLEs based primarily on a technical evaluation. This  briefing paper argues that buying a VLE is as important decision as buying a major new building.  The major difference is in the capital cost, but the impact of selecting a particular VLE will be significant across all areas of the college and in the way in which teaching and learning are undertaken.  It is therefore essential that the selection of VLE and the way it is implemented are in close accordance with the colleges strategic plan.  The paper will go on to discuss some of the key things which need to  be taken into consideration when selecting and implementing a VLE and point at some of the sources of information for these.  While quite old the arguments are still valid now.

The paper led to An informal debate with Rachel Ellaway  on the virtues of custom versus generic VLEs

e-learning, b*****-learning and f*****-learning or what is wrong with e-learning

This brief paper looks at the way that some of the issues around e-learning, in particular that the  creation of a divide between e-learning and learning is itself a problem.

“I would like to introduce the concept of b-learning.  This is a special form of learning, greatly inferior to the real thing but offering greater flexibility to the student and teacher.   It allows students to undertake their work in any location, but loses any immediacy from working with tutor or lecturer or even peers.  Fortunately we now understand b-learning well enough to integrate it into the curriculum in a way which enhances rather than detracts from the learning process.  However this took many years.  So what is this b-learning?”

Towards an effective framework for the evaluation of e-learning

This report proposes a model for the whole life-cycle of e-learning, from the formation of initial ideas  through planning, development, delivery, review, revision and so on until the course is terminated,  that explicitly supports evaluation.  One aim is to identify the critical points for evaluation.  By  critical points, we mean those which can have the desired impact on quality enhancement. The  reason to focus on evaluation in developing a life cycle model is that there are good reasons why  the evaluation process should drive the development of any e-learning product.

The report looks briefly at what models currently exist for e-learning and then propose a model which encompasses the whole e-learning life cycle from selecting what courses to develop through the approval and development processes, on to delivery of the courses and then to their review and updating or closure.

Why Personal Learning Environments?

This paper looks at some of the drivers behind Personal Learning Environments (PLE), and what their implications are.  This is followed by a brief discussion of the learning environment as it currently stands and how I believe that it will change over the next 5 or so years.  The conclusion that I arrive at is that PLEs are at best a temporary phenomenon as what we are aiming at is a personal environment covering work, leisure and learning and that there is a need to be able to integrate all these better.  Within this environment there will be some specifically educational tools.  It concludes with a discussion of the characteristics needed for a PLE.

Ubiquitous and mobile Computing

Ubiquitous computing can be defined simply as all staff and students having networked computers  at all times that they are studying, allowing them access to communication, office productivity and  (re)search tools.

Ubiquitous computing makes a significant difference precisely because the tools are available whenever they are wanted by the student.  When only 50 or 60% of a class can read a teacher cannot use hand-outs, cannot write things on the board or ask for written work without thinking of an alternative for those who cannot read.  The same is currently true of computing.  The teacher or lecturer has to consider whether or not the class will be able to access computers to do the work, what effect that will have on those who do not have their own computer and so on.  When you know that all the students have a computer available whenever they want then everything changes.  New forms of teaching can emerge which use ubiquitous computing in the same way that new forms of teaching emerged when writing became ubiquitous.

Three papers outlining the issues are available:

A briefing paper outlining the key issues  for ubiquitous computing in education

A briefing paper on the  policy issues around ubiquitous computing

A paper setting out the terms of reference, remit and membership of the national policy forum  on ubiquitous computing.

Closely related to ubiquitous computing is the idea of mobile computing, whereby the computer  (laptop, PDA or smartphone) can be used anywhere including on the move.  A discussion paper on  the issues is available  here.

Technology choices for an MLE

This was written as part of the JISC Infokit Creating a Managed Learning Environment (MLE) which explores many of the issues involved in their creation including sections on

The Technology choices section looks at the technology options available for implementing an MLE.  The choices made here will  have a long term impact on the MLE as no technology or system will support everything that you  might wish to do at an affordable cost.

It is assumed by that by this stage the requirements have already been established for the MLE,  and you are now looking at the technologies and processes that are needed to support this.  It is  likely that not all your requirements will be fully met whatever technology is chosen so that you  may hae to re-visit the requirements or re-consider priorities.

This has been archived on this web site, and will continue to be available here as well as on the JISC Infonet site