Virtual learning environment
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) is a software system designed to facilitate teachers in the management of educational courses for their students, especially by helping teachers and learners with course administration. The system can often track the learners' progress, which can be monitored by both teachers and learners. While often thought of as primarily tools for distance education, they are most often used to supplement the face-to-face classroom.
These systems usually run on servers, using one or more databases and a programming or scripting language such as PHP to serve the course to students as internet pages.
Components of these systems usually include templates for content pages, discussion forums, chat, quizzes and exercises such as multiple-choice, true/false and one-word-answer. Teachers fill in these templates and then release them for learners to use. New features in these systems include blogs and RSS. Services generally provided include access control, provision of e-learning content, communication tools, and administration of the user groups.
It is a computer program that facilitates computerised learning or e-learning. Such e-learning systems are sometimes also called Learning Management System (LMS), Course Management System (CMS), Managed Learning Environment (MLE), Learning Support System (LSS) or Learning Platform (LP), it is education via computer-mediated communication (CMC) or Online Education.
In the United Kingdom and many European countries the terms VLE and MLE are favoured. Becta in the UK have coined the term LP to cover both MLE and VLE as used in the schools sector. In the United States, CMS and LMS are the more common terms, however LMS is more frequently associated with software for managing corporate training programs rather than courses in traditional education institutions.
A VLE should make it possible for a course designer to present to students, through a single, consistent, and intuitive interface, all the components required for a course of education or training. Although logically it is not a requirement, in practice VLEs always make extensive use of computers and the Internet. A VLE should implement all the following elements:
- The syllabus for the course
- Administrative information including the location of sessions, details of pre-requisites and co-requisites, credit information, and how to get help
- A noticeboard for up-to-date course information
- Student registration and tracking facilities, if necessary with payment options
- Basic teaching materials. These may be the complete content of the course, if the VLE is being used in a distance learning context, or copies of visual aids used in lectures or other classes where it is being used to support a campus-based course.
- Additional resources, including reading materials, and links to outside resources in libraries and on the Internet.
- Self-assessment quizzes which can be scored automatically
- Formal assessment procedures
- Electronic communication support including e-mail, threaded discussions and a chat room, with or without a moderator
- Differential access rights for instructors and students
- Production of documentation and statistics on the course in the format required for institutional administration and quality control
- All these facilities should be capable of being hyperlinked together
- Easy authoring tools for creating the necessary documents including the insertion of hyperlinks - though it is acceptable (arguably, preferable) for the VLE to be designed so that standard word processors or other office software can be used for authoring.
In addition, the VLE should be capable of supporting numerous courses, so that students and instructors in a given institution (and, indeed, across institutions) experience a consistent interface when moving from one course to another.
Universities and other institutions of higher education are increasingly turning to VLEs in order to:
- Economise on the time of teaching staff, especially when they are also involved in research and administration. The extent of the economy over traditional "talk-and-chalk" teaching is not yet clear, but using a VLE almost certainly absorbs less instructor time (and requires less expertise, while producing a more professional result) than creating a home-grown website for a course.
- Provide a service for students who increasingly look to the internet as the natural medium for finding information and resources.
- Ensure that quality control requirements are met by providing a standard vehicle for collecting the required information
- Facilitate the integration of distance and campus-based learning. or of learning on different campuses.
In the UK 11-16 schools are being encouraged to make use of Learning Platforms. The DfES in the UK government has published an eStrategy outlining priorities that include every learner in schools having access to an online learning space and e-portfolio.