Friday, 28 November 2008

The future of the VLE - The VSE?

I've been dipping in and out of the JISC Emerge online conference as best I can over the last two days. It's great to be involved in these debates with a bunch of people that really know what they are on about.

Today's session was about the future of the Virtual Learning Environment. As the leader of a course that has 'opted out' of the institutional VLE, and built something that serves the needs of our students a lot better, I was heartened to hear other voices questioning the supremacy of the VLE. There were a couple of things that set me thinking. The big one was the connectivist thing about future educational institutions primarily serving the purpose of accreditation. This was echoed by talk of the importance of identity management and interoperability, when a range of technical services are combined by students to enhance learning. Other thoughts I had, but didn't necessarily voice, were around the importance of different sized groupings of learners. My biggest problem with our VLE is the wall that is put around each module. This denies other, in my opinion, more powerful groupings of learners. The one day project with 20 students that are, on that day, interested in learning about solving an advertising brief. The 3 year long grouping of a cohort. The 3 years worth of students on a programme. The trans-institutional and non-institutionalised groups of learners. There are many ways in which we can encourage and permit different sized learning communities, with different membership, but the VLE seems only to permit and encourage one that is based on the module.

Other thoughts: Do we have an ePortfolio tool? I keep calling our Flickr-like VLE alternative an ePortfolio tool, but it's clear that we have something that is quite different to other eportfolios. One term that was mentioned was the VRE - the Virtual Research Environment. Maybe it's that. I always think of it as being like the traditional art school studio learning environment - a space that students and staff occupy, where work is produced and stuck onto the walls, and it is discussed and reflected on. So I might invent a new thing to call our tool - the Virtual Studio Environment, or VSE. It sounds a bit more like an evolution of a VLE, and less confrontational. It also links perfectly with our Open Habitat research, as we are essentially applying the same principal there, but in 3D.

1 comment:

Ray Tolley said...

VLEs or Learning Platforms or probably more correctly called 'Instructional Platforms' have a number of specific functions other than the libertine perceptions of Web2.0 - The two should be able to sit happily side by side.

The VLE is no doubt (or should be) hard-wired to the MIS and assessment systems. However, many institutions (mainly HE) have abused the e-Portfolio concept and have misappropriated it as the content delivery tool and also an assessment tool rather than the VLE.

A good e-Portfolio system should be capable of enabling the collaborative aspects of multi-grouping that you describe and yet link to the VLE as and when required. There is no reason why the e-Portfolio cannot include e-safe web2.0 tools within it.

Unfortunately, most of the popular e-Portfolios presented to HE students do not have the multi-audience capablitiies nor the chameleon-like ability to appear differently to these differing audiences.

No, I think that the VLEs have much to offer, particularly if they include PLEs with all their complex diagnostics etc. As I have often said, "Let the VLE do what it can best do, and let the e-Portfolio do that which it is best at doing."