Web2 course M10: Virtual Learning Environments

This is a reflection post as part of a Professional Development course our school is undertaking.

In this module, participants were encouraged to consider tools to design Virtual Learning Environments.

Web based instruction has been a popular educational delivery option in many sectors of society. Given its growing use and potential however, it is important to understand if this delivery option is effective; as well as the contextual, pedagogical, and theoretical approaches that augment its effectiveness. The use of the www in the delivery of education does not necessarily equal effective activities or quality instruction for students. The development and advancement of technologies has brought the increased expectation of technology should be used in education. This is where Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs), Learning Management Systems (LMSs) or Content Management Systems (CMSs) have been implemented by educators in a way of responding to the change of trends in education in recent times.

Below are 5 tools that can be used to design online learning:

Wikispaces: A great tool for it’s ability to let users edit, build and comment upon changes to pages and content on a simple structure.

Google Sites: is a lot like wikispaces, although it does have a wider range of widgets…and of course, googly integration into its other services (for eg. Google Groups for setting up discussion forms).

Nings: Nings are a lot more social, and allows spaces to be designed so users can contribute to personal and shared contributions.

Edmodo: Like Nings, interaction is social. Files, assignments and libraries can be shared and accessed easily.

Moodle: Open source software that requires web hosting, but a fully fledged LMS that quite a few university institutions are using it as their platform.

This year I have had great success in using Wikispaces with our students in our 1:1 laptop program. First, let me begin by explain where we have come from.

For teachers in the catholic system here in Victoria, you might be familiar with the online system SINA and MyInternet. Since I graduated 7 years ago, MyInternet was already in schools. It was slow, unintuitive, and handled like a shopping trolley. Nothing much has changed to this day in 2013, and this is what schools are given to use (and we are still waiting for the implementation of ICON, based on the DEECD’s Ultranet system; which promises to be somewhat better than MyInternet).

So, with the introduction of widespread laptop access this year, it was imperative that our VLE be based on something robust, quick, easy to edit and post content, and relatively easy for staff and students to navigate. I would say wikispaces has fulfilled this purpose perfectly. At the moment we are using it in a very transmissive way, in that, teachers upload links, lessons, files, and activities onto the wiki, and then we access them as a class, group, or individual. Having a reliable and easy to use platform has made our teaching and learning with the laptops very effective.

Personally, I have noticed that my teaching has changed in how I design lessons and resources for the IWB. For example, our students have a sequence of lessons to complete in order to earn their “Laptop Learner’s License” as part of our 1:1 program. The lessons are described on a full page, complete with learning intentions, success criteria, and instructions to specific learning activities which sometimes include links to images, media, and external links. The lessons have been designed so that if students are away and miss a lesson, or if the lesson is incomplete, they can complete the lesson at their own pace in their own time. Writing the instructions and designing the lesson so students can independently go through the lesson process with minimal need for adult intervention has been challenging! I think this is a good thing, as it forces us to ensure that lesson’s are clear and they have an explicit purpose, including an objectives and assessment means. Not to mention that it is available for everyone to access in one central location!

Which platform are you using for your VLE?

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