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Introduction to Virtual Learning Environments

Introduction to VLEs and learning environment
The VLE is an online software tool that provides students with controlled access to learning materials specific to their course. VLEs are used to support today’s learners with a wide range of tools and course-specific content. Making your course easy to navigate by organising content by week, topic, or activity can impact the learner’s experience massively. This can also help to personalise the learning experience for learners. All modules or courses will have their own area, which can be configured and organised by you according to the curriculum design and learning outcomes. Breaking down content and avoiding excessively long pages will keep learners engaged and enthusiastic.
All material on the VLE, including audio, video, images, and links to other sites, is available to view and download 24 hours a day. You can control access to materials by setting milestones in their progress. For learners to make the best of their material, make sure that you provide materials in accessible formats and use common file types so that learners can open them and manipulate them in their own tools. Also remember to be aware of copyright and intellectual property regulations when uploading materials to your VLE. Submitting coursework via the VLE can bring many efficiencies for administrators and is very popular with learners. The VLE is not a passive learning experience. Interactive activities and learner-generated content is a huge part of it.
Whether it be private, shared, or in a collaborative document, it’s important to make clear the importance of self-reflection and privacy settings. You can set an assignment for learners to write a collaborative document using the Wiki tool. These track edits and changes from all participants so you can monitor progress. This type of assessment is real world, authentic and efficient for markers. Practise quizzes such as multiple choice questions can offer instant feedback and scoring. You can also allow learners to retake quizzes after revisiting your course material. Think carefully about the integration of these tools into the curriculum design. Discussion forums can work well but need to be carefully planned, well promoted, and managed.
You need to clearly define the purpose of the discussion forum to your learners and link it to face-to-face activities. For example, you might want to encourage learners to use a discussion forum for FAQs or course queries instead of emailing the tutor. This means that all learners see the responses and encourages more independent learning. A very valuable aspect of VLEs is their ability to provide detailed data about learners’ engagement with materials and activities. This can help you support students who are struggling and flag up issues earlier. You can also monitor learners’ progress with formative and summative activities online. Now, it is over to you.
In the next activity, you will explore your VLE and its tools, and consider ways to make use of these in your context.

In this animated video, we will introduce you to Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) and the tools commonly contained within them.

The video will offer support and advice about how best to organise resources in the VLE and which tools to use, based on your learners’ needs. The video focusses on using interactive tools within the VLE to encourage you to think about ways to enhance your practice. You will also find a series of crib sheets in the Downloads section to help you with this.

Have your say:

Choose one of the VLE tools described and critique it in terms of your own teaching practice. How could you use this approach with your students? What do you think the benefits would be to you and your learners?

If you have used any of these tools or approaches in your practice, why not share your experiences with other participants?

For those of you who would like to see what blended learning could look like in a VLE such as Moodle, we have created a Moodle Hub for Blended Learning Essentials: Getting Started and have begun to create sample learning activities in it. The Moodle Hub is hosted on UCLeXtend and you will need to create an account to see the course.

If you like what you see, and want to use the activities and adapt them to your own context, then you can download each Moodle activity as a back-up file and upload it to your own version of Moodle in your college or organisation. After that, you can edit the activity to replace our content with your own.

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Blended Learning Essentials: Getting Started

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FutureLearn - Learning For Life

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