A response to ‘What does your VLE say about your institution?’

In response to “What does your VLE say about your institution?” on the TALL blog at Oxford University – they pose the statement:

The evolution of an institution’s VLE is the narrative of that institution’s attitude towards, and relationship with, learning technologies.”

To me, VLE design usually falls into two categories: 1) an open source solution, such as Moodle/Sakai, and 2) bespoke applications, usually written in house.

Out the box, OSS solutions often don’t fufil the required criteria from a VLE: they all require customisation, setting permissions/roles, branding etc. Even then, the chances of them doing what you want them to do without a fair bit of work is fairly slim.

It’s a classic – “here’s a potential solution, how can we manipulate it to our needs to solve our problem” – approach.

From the other end, bespoke solutions reverse this thinking  – “we have a problem, how do we solve it, let’s make a solution specific to our needs.”

The latter approach usually requires more money, but can ultimately save time and effort by not trying to manipulate an existing system – to me this shows a more mature approach to online learning: a badly configured OSS solution (such as found in the majority of Schools – less so in Higher Edu) just represent either underinvestment, or a lack of knowledge in what is required from a website, let alone a fully fledged VLE.

I do believe VLEs are pretty much representative of an institution’s relationship & attitude to online learning (and indeed the web as a whole), but a good VLE deployment requires more than just good intentions, and needs investment, and more importantly – continual development – which is where most of them fall short.

  • Sara Tindall

    Tom, I really like your summary of the solutions and challenges that bespoke and open source solutions present institutions looking to design an effective VLE. Your closing statement makes a really important point:

    “a good VLE deployment requires more than just good intentions, and needs investment, and more importantly – continual development – which is where most of them fall short.”

    In educators (we all hope!) are continuously refining their material in the light of new developments in their field and responding to the learning needs of their students. VLEs, if they are to be an effective teaching and learning tool, need to be just as mobile.

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