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Virtual Learning Environments
In today’s society it is increasingly evident that education and in particular students are using more digital platforms and technologies as tools for learning. In order for educational systems to adapt to these differing learning styles and modern trends it is necessary for these systems to look at different teaching pedagogies. Over the past few years there has been a significant increase in the number of educational establishments who have taken on board a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) in addition to the traditional learning environment to assist students with their learning and adopt a more modern teaching pedagogy.
A VLE works through the Internet, providing an online platform for education. It provides a variety of tools with which both teachers and students can use for instruction and learning. Some of the key benefits of using a VLE include:
1. Administration: Educators can track student engagement in learning; a VLE can monitor the learners’ progress, provide valuable feedback and group students into collaborative learning areas.
2. Reflection and Discussion: Learners can develop collaborative peer learning areas by using forums, discussion boards and peer-to-peer critiques. Students have the ability to self evaluate and reflect on their own work and others, thus developing metacognitive or ‘learn to learn’ skills.
3. Assessment: Learners can self-mark and complete online quizzes, tests, educators can post online assignments for students to complete and, once completed, they can collate them through the VLE.
4. Support: Learners are provided with links to specific web sites to assist with extension activities. Help forums and Wikis can be developed and are available to students at all times.
5. Access: Learners are encouraged to access the VLE at anytime; 24 hours a day from any location, provided there is Internet access. This provides the opportunity for distance learning and enables the learners to take more control over their own learning.
Modern advances in technology have given the opportunity for educational establishments to facilitate VLEs and develop virtual personal learning areas through the use of e-portfolios. This means greater learning for all students by providing better opportunities for personal learning and differentiation.
There is also evidence to suggest that combining both a virtual learning platform with current teaching pedagogies (such as Assessment For Learning techniques) develops cognitive learning in that the learner takes on a more active role in the acquisition of knowledge. A VLE provides opportunity for a greater level of student centered learning as it enables the learners to discover knowledge on their own and at their own pace. For example students can access “WebQuests” through a Virtual Learning Environment. A WebQuest is an inquiry-oriented lesson format in which most or all the information that learners work with comes from the web. Educators can create the WebQuest tailored specifically for a particular group of learners and ensure that the content is secure and engaging. Once completed, learners can upload their assignment through the VLE for evaluation by the educator.
In a recent publication, the UK inspection agency said that “Virtual Learning Environments enhance learning, giving learners the opportunity to reinforce aspects of their work as well as the chance to catch up on missed material” (Virtual learning environments: an evaluation of their development in a sample of educational settings. OFSTED 2009). At Nexus, we are confident that our use of KnowledgeNET will provide an additional flexible learning resource that will help to enrich the curriculum for all age groups and improve the overall learning experience. Learners will be given the freedom to learn, when, where and how they choose, through active learning beyond the traditional classroom environment, including the involvement of parents and experts from the wider community.
written by Steven David Pearce 23/1/2010