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Marco Koene

E-learning.

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Perhaps they mean Virtual Learning Environment? If that is the case I agree that schools can do better without. It cost a lot of money and you can achieve the same in using your own intranet and soem additional website.

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Perhaps they mean Virtual Learning Environment? If that is the case I agree that schools can do better without. It cost a lot of money and you can achieve the same in using your own intranet and soem additional website.

I assumed it meant Virtual Learning Environment, such as Blackboard and WebCT -and I agree with Marco! VLEs in a school situation are a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Universities and larger businesses can probably afford to set them up and maintain them. What schools need are more websites that offer quality, downloadable resources that can be used in the classroom, e.g. on an interactive whiteboard or as interactive learning material in a computer lab.

My subject area is MFL. Do we really want to set up whole university courses in VLEs? Do we really want to deprive young people of the valuable experience of leaving home, studying and socialising with their peers, joining societies, going to clubs and parties, travelling, and falling in love? Do we really want to breed a generation of screen-gazing zombies? And who is going to employ someone who has obtained an e-languages degree? Most employers expect a languages graduate to have had many hours of face-to-face contact with native speakers and, preferably, to have spent a substantial period of residence abroad. See David Noble's excellent series of articles:

Noble D. (1997-2001) "Distance Education on the Web", a series of five articles: http://communication.ucsd.edu/dl

Noble writes:

In his classic 1959 study of diploma mills for the American Council on Education, Robert Reid described the typical diploma mill as having the following characteristics: "no classrooms," "faculties are often untrained or nonexistent," and "the officers are unethical self-seekers whose qualifications are no better than their offerings." It is an apt description of the digital diploma mills now in the making. Quality higher education will not disappear entirely, but it will soon become the exclusive preserve of the privileged, available only to children of the rich and the powerful. For the rest of us a dismal new era of higher education has dawned. In ten years, we will look upon the wired remains of our once great democratic higher education system and wonder how we let it happen. That is, unless we decide now not to let it happen.
(Part I of the above series)

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I didn't know what a VLE was either and I found this information on the JISC website JISC - VLE information

The principal components of a VLE are:

mapping of the curriculum into elements (or ‘chunks’) that can be assessed and recorded

tracking of student activity and achievement against these elements

support of online learning, including access to learning resources, assessment and guidance

online tutor support

peer group support

general communications, including email, group discussion and web access

links to other systems, both in-house and externally

Virtual Learning Environments may be used to support a range of learning contexts, ranging from conventional, classroom delivery to off-line, distance learning and on-line learning.

For example, a VLE will need to record certain basic information about students, irrespective of the learning context, including:

registration details

course details

course pre-requisites

qualification aims

(notional) study time

tracking information - typically involves completed elements, test results and whether the student has passed or failed

Looking at these lists it seems that many of us are already doing most of this already using simple systems already present in schools a colleges. I can't see anything which couldn't be done using Blackboard, and most of it could be done much more simply using MS Office tools. It seems like the educational equivalent of a "home entertainment system" which just bundles everything together.

Sometimes distance learning is an excellent way to share ideas and learn without having to waste time travelling. These types of software could help a tutor to deliver a course to people spread across the world but not in a school or college.

Have I missed the point of VLEs? Does anyone see a real advantage in them?

Refering back to the original question

What I would like for this topic is a discussion on the use of the various environments (which one is good and why) and to esthablish some form of defenition of e-learning. Of course any other thought on the topic are more than welcome. 

I would be very interested to read views, and examples, of how e-learning might improve student's learning experience. I'd like to think beyond the website of worksheets if we can. Could peer-to-peer technology help teachers share resources more effectively. How is e-learning helping students to become better prepared for their lives. What are the best innovative ways educators have started using the technology currently available. What are the "competences" which can be well taught using e-learning? Is there any research to show topics that e-learning is definately not good for? (mmm.....perhaps conversational German for example....althought using a little headset and a platform called Interwise I took part in a live discussion with group of teachers in 7 countries from the comfort of my own desk, quite successfully as part of eSchola 2002...so I'm not entirely sure about that.) ;)

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Sometimes distance learning is an excellent way to share ideas and learn without having to waste time travelling. These types of software could help a tutor to deliver a course to people spread across the world but not in a school or college.

Of course! And, as I have argued in another part of this forum, the British Open University has an excellent track record in delivering distance learning, my wife Sally being a prime example of a "failed" school leaver who ended up with a good OU degree comprising elements of English Literature, Sociology, History and Philosophy.

I am puzzled by the way in which some universities are setting up VLEs and what they aim to achieve. A group of German universities have set up a VLE for students of linguistics - students who are physically present at the universities in question, so I am not sure what real advantages such a VLE offers. Professor Dieter Wolff talked about the VLE in his EUROCALL 2003 keynote (http://www.eurocall-languages.org). If I remember correctly, Dieter indicated that many students liked the idea of being to access all the teaching materials in one place, but many said that they would prefer to be able to print out the materials rather than read them on screen. A substantial number, however, said that they preferred the spontaneity of debate that arose in a normal classroom and the ability to question their tutors on the spot. Dieter Wolff writes in his abstract:

My conclusion will be that in order to be efficient web-based courses should be blended or hybrid: apart from virtual modules they should also include face-to-face interaction. Our data seem to indicate that the degree of face-to-face interaction necessary to make a web-based course efficient can be seen as related to the specific content and also to the learning aims of the course.

You can learn German via the Web. I am a former teacher of German and recently contributed to the BBC German Steps course at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/german/lj

And, of course, you can converse via the Web with native speakers in other countries in synchronous mode using a variety of different audio and videoconferencing systems or in asynchronous mode using Wimba (http://www.wimba.com). But even the BBC could not come up with a solution to the problem of recording and playing back one's own voice in a Web environment - it's extremely useful to hear how one really sounds - so in German Steps we ended up inviting the learner to speak to the screen without the possibility of recording and playing back - which is a standard feature of most multimedia CD-ROMs for language learners, e.g. Eurotalk's "Talk Now" series and Auralog's "Talk to Me" and "Tell Me More" series.

Nothing, however, can replace the experience of learning the language in the country where it is spoken, enjoying the local food, wine and beer, and chatting with the locals - and this is exactly what I am going to do as from Sat 10 Jan, when I set off for two weeks'skiing in the Austrian Tyrol. This is therefore my last message for a while...

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Have I missed the point of VLEs? Does anyone see a real advantage in them?

No, well perhaps one.

At this moment my school is adopting the idea natural learning. Within this concept we have abolished subjects as a whole. In short; students do something we call achievements. During one of those achievements the students uses every necessary skill to complete and pass the achievement. If knowledge is necessary the student will go and look for it because the students experiences the need for that knowledge.

For this argument it is important to note that if you have no subject the old-style grade system is no longer useful. Therefore we needed to come up with something completely different. We called it a portfolio.

Perhaps, and this is a big perhaps, a vle can play a role in this. Eg as a online portfolio or storage system. As i am writing this i realise that my original point still stands, all this can also be achieved by using intranet and websites!

But it sure makes the organizing easier! ;)

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My school participated in a trial run of one VLE model two years ago. 3 of us, all of whom run websites, went on a 5 day course learning how to set things up, create activities that were compatible etc. The only advantage any of us could see in the software when compared to activities already online, was that scores were recorded and could be manipulated in a variety of ways. However the time taken to set up these activities was much greater than it would be to create a decent decision making game, investigation lesson or series of tasks with open ended outcomes. The marking facility could only test recall of knowledge. Fine for revision purposes but hardly what is needed in day to day teaching and learning. In short, the VLE was an extremely expensive waste of money. None of the learning functions of this model were any better than things that can be found online free of charge and the recording systems were little better than those available on things such as mygradebook.com. Also, it was an extremely complicated system, the vast majority of our staff, who are fairly well versed in ICT things, couldn't understand the lesson creating tools, nor did they have the time to create.

The only benefit that we have seen from this form of E Learning has been with our Post 16 students. We have a joint Sixth form with another local school and the communication tools make life a lot easier. That said, it was obvious that this function could be fulfilled free of charge via e-mail lists provided by smartgroups.com or yahoogroups and the message board facility seemed a rather silly expense given that there are umpteen free providers of forums: invisionfree.com being the free version of the software powering this forum.

The authorities would be much better off creating LEA sites that guided teachers to available online resources and lessons, had central message boards and forums that could be used for collaborative projects and central e-mailing systems so that staff across an authority could communicate. If advisors collected materisls from schools there would then be a central spo from which people could grab resources. Cheap, saves time, enables online collaboration with neighbouring schools and doesn't waste time or money on pointless thrills that benefit nobody. All you'd have to do is teach people how to log on...

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The authorities would be much better off creating LEA sites that guided teachers to available online resources and lessons, had central message boards and forums that could be used for collaborative projects and central e-mailing systems so that staff across an authority could communicate.

That sounds a lot like an EUN community. I have been using two myself and from an administrator viewpoint it works. Yes i know that the software they used to use was archaic, but this has changed recently!

One question; what does LEA stand for?

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The only advantage any of us could see in the software when compared to activities already online, was that scores were recorded and could be manipulated in a variety of ways

In the Netherlands we have a program called Wintoets that can achieve just that!

Wintoets homepage

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The authorities would be much better off creating LEA sites that guided teachers to available online resources and lessons, had central message boards and forums that could be used for collaborative projects and central e-mailing systems so that staff across an authority could communicate.

That sounds a lot like an EUN community. I have been using two myself and from an administrator viewpoint it works. Yes i know that the software they used to use was archaic, but this has changed recently!

One question; what does LEA stand for?

LEA - Local Education Authority

Just a thought - given the international flavour of the forum, would it be worth having a guide to educational terminology somewhere on the forum? Many of the things that teachers take for granted are unique to one countries education system afterall.

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First, I'll introduce myself, I'm Eric Perlberg and I'm the Director of ASW2, the first UK school to offer A levels entirely online and soon we'll be offering the IB online. I was a classroom teacher for 30 years (USA, Switzerland, UK) previous to starting and directing the ASW2 project (short for A School Without Walls, a term coined by the radical educator Ivan Illich). The project has been totally funded by Southbank International School in London.

E-learning has the power to really radically alter the ways we learn. But not in the way generally talked about in the media (replacing teachers, boring, mechanistic style programmed learning, etc). For starters, you might want to read work done by the Pew Symposia on learner centered programmes based on high-quality, interactive learningware, asynchronous and synchronous conversations, and individualized mentoring available here (http://www.center.rpi.edu/PewSym/Mono4.html) . These ideas lie at the heart of ASW2.

Additionally, for certain population groups interactive (ie with a tutor) e-learning would bring a big improvement for example

1) students who have severe restricted mobility issues like hospitalised students and prisoners

2) students who are statistically low in number and geographically dispersed like high maths students and "gifted and talented"

3) students in very remote areas

4) young professionals who are constantly on the move like youth league football players

5) mature students who work but want to learn (we get a lot of these at ASW2)

6) in certain cases, where there are teacher shortages, an online class is far better than no instruction at all. And I don't want to imply that online learning is not as good as face to face learning because for motivated students, it is and there's a growing body of research to support this.

Equally, blended learning or the use of elearning tools in the context of traditional classrooms can also be very useful (and remember, we don't need a computer for every student in every classroom, more and more students these days already have a computer at home)

1) streaming videos of, for example, science demonstrations or working through maths algorythms available over the internet could be accessed by students who were absent on the day they were demonstrated or taught or used for revision

2) databanks of lessons on syllabus topics geared for different ability levels, available online could support what teachers have taught during the day when students are struggling with their homework

3) uni students could be enlisted to support secondary students over online discussion boards during homework hours solving several problems at the same time (eg the current debate about uni top up fees)

4) resources for such regular activities as filling out UCAS forms or activities we never get time to teach like time management, study skills etc could be online and be used to support the regular curriculum

Edited to activate hyperlink

Edited by Richard Jones-Nerzic

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E-learning has the power to really radically alter the ways we learn. But not in the way generally talked about in the media (replacing teachers, boring, mechanistic style programmed learning, etc).

I agree entirely. It also has the potential to radicalise the way we teach. However, this is not guaranteed. The history of innovation shows that the early pioneers play an important role in shaping the way it develops. So far, too much of what sells itself as education on the net is just a reflection of what goes on in the traditional classroom. If we are not careful, this will become entrenched and it will make it more difficult for the real innovators to change what goes on in our educational institutions.

The key to this is that those involved in e-learning ask the right questions. I fear that the question that most people are asking is: “how do I use this new technology to deliver what I do in the classroom at the moment”. Instead we should be asking: “what do I really want to be encouraging my students to be learning”. The follow up question is “how can I use the technology to make this possible”.

So far several things have exciting me about e-learning. One of these concerns the development of online simulations. (I will write about this in more detail later). Another one is the way that students can become producers as well as consumers of educational resources (another topic I will return to later).

The third development is the use of forum software to encourage students to debate important issues. Recently I was involved with teachers in France, England and Bermuda in creating a debate about child labour in the 19th century and in the forms that it takes today. Although I never met the students face to face, it was clear from the postings that were taking place, substantial learning was taking place.

Our planned International Student Debate will follow a similar pattern. I am convinced that everybody who witnesses these future debate will be impressed by the learning that takes place. It might not necessary improve their national exam grades (although I suspect it might) but it will play an important role in their development as world citizens.

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=116

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