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Andy asks:

Once a teacher knows how to use the VLE have they cracked e-learning?

It depends on what you mean by e-learning. To most people e-learning is associated with online and/or distance learning, but our Department for Education and Skills (DfES) says something quite different. I have recently been employed as a consultant by the Standards Unit of the DfES to assist with the production of a so-called "E-learning Toolkit" for language teachers in adult education. It consists of a CD-ROM and an accompanying book. The DfES's definition of e-learning that we have to work with is a catch-all defintion, ranging from using a word-processor for producing printed handouts to a full-blown VLE. A large part of the E-learning Toolkit focuses on the imaginative use of a word-processor and producing PowerPoint presentations for use on an interactive whiteboard. We hardly mention VLEs - which are rarely accessible to teachers in adult education, many of whom teach just a couple of evening classes each week in church halls and school classrooms in the twilight hours. There is just a short definition of a VLE in the Glossary. We do, however, say quite a bit about Web resources in general. The E-Learning Toolkit Glossary contains the following definition of e-learning, as approved by the DfES:

"E-learning is learning facilitated and supported through the use of information and communications technology. It may involve the use of, for example, computers, interactive whiteboards, digital cameras, the internet, the college intranet, virtual learning environments and electronic communication tools such as email, discussion boards, chat facilities and video conferencing.

The DfES consultative document ‘Towards a unified e-learning strategy’, says the following:

‘E-learning exploits interactive technologies and communication systems to improve the learning experience. It has the potential to transform the way we teach and learn across the board… It cannot replace teachers and lecturers, but alongside existing methods it can enhance the quality and reach of their teaching.’ " DfES, 2003

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Well I will continue to nag them about guest access because Andy is right about that (now there's a phrase I don't often use!)

I will post on here as soon as I get it.

Any restrictive system has the advantage that novices can use it easily (we are all novices) and then get irritated with the restrictions and seek to remove them. Since it is open source it is not beyond the bounds of possibility to mould it closer to the heart's desire after all.

http://literacy.wsgfl.org.uk/login/index.php does use a guest login and provides an example of what can be done.

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Well I will continue to nag them about guest access because Andy is right about that (now there's a phrase I don't often use!)

Thank you comrade :lol:

I hear that by 2008 the government are going to require all schools to provide for their pupils remote access to their school work. This could be achieved through an extranet like Moodle or any of the other commercial tools for the job.

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  • 2 months later...

In the past “Virtual Learning Environments” were regarded with suspicion by teachers as a sci fi concept in which teachers are replaced with computers. After attending Moodlemoot ’06 at the Open University, I can honestly say that Moodle is actually whatever the teacher wants it to be.

The course seminars included teachers from diverse disciplines from Science to English to Music and of course ICT who all used Moodle to teach in the way which suited them.

Although the system is based on a social constructivist model of education, teachers frequently start out using it to replicate traditional classroom activities like essay-writing, feedback and redrafting or quizzes/tests with the slight difference that these are self-marking and pupils get instant feedback. Teachers only then go on to some of the more unusual features of Moodle like Wikis, blogs, asynchronous discussion groups and podcasting.

And because it is Open Source free software, teachers can contribute to the future design of Moodle without some acquisitive corporations we could mention seeking to block them under the pretext of “business secrets”.

Moodle is now used by over 100000 registered users, including the Open University. It is free to download and use and many schools and local authorities who have poured hundreds of thousands of pounds into the coffers of Microsoft are keen to find free software.

If you want to find out more there is a website which talks about the conference and demonstrates the program at the same time. It is called http://moodlemoot.org/ and all of the conference is available as audio or video files. I recommend the audio file because the video quality will depend on the quality of your computer.

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There is an active group of teachers of foreign languages who use Moodle - although it should be emphasised that most of them are EFL/ESOL teachers rather than teachers of French, German Spanish, Japanese, Chinese etc.

EUROCALL conferences in recent years have featured Moodle presentations and workshops. There will will be Moodle presentations at this year's EUROCALL conference in Granada, Spain.


There is an active Moodle for Language Teaching forum is at


However, I must say that I am disappointed with what I have seen so far in VLEs, especially for foreign languages. A good deal of the learning materials are hardly an advance on the multiple-choice and gap-filling quizzes that we were producing on the BBC Micro in the 1980s. But just because these quizzes are on the Web they are greeted with more enthusiasm than they deserve. Creating good learning materials in a VLE is just as difficult as creating good materials in an offline environment, using established authoring tools, with the added problem that we (as teachers of foreign languages) still haven't cracked the problem of setting up interactive pronunciation and oral role-play exercises (e.g. as found in the EuroTalk and Auralog series of CD-ROMs), i.e. listen / respond / playback activities. Read the Moodle forum correspondence on the above page and you'll see that this topic keeps coming up and no one appears to have offered a foolproof solution.

The Open University has it's own VLE, Lyceum, which is used for audio conferencing with registered OU students. It seems to work well. See:

Hampel R. & Hauck M. (2004) "Towards an effective use of audio conferencing in distance language courses", Language Learning and Technology 8, 1: 66-82. Available at: http://llt.msu.edu/vol8num1/hampel/default.html

The OU, of course, uses online deilvery only as a backup to the materials it delivers by other means - which is probably the most sensible approach.

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I hear that by 2008 the government are going to require all schools to provide for their pupils remote access to their school work. This could be achieved through an extranet like Moodle or any of the other commercial tools for the job.

Yes this is to be a requirement.

Alas it seems that for many the preferred option is a Micro$oft derivative (free for the first year blah blah cf British Gas) so the tie-in to that particular corporation gets larger, and once there hard-pressed school budgets will be required to find something like £10,000pa (depending on whose estimates you hear) to fund said arrangement.

As far as Moodle etc go, it is fairly user-friendly and a half-way house between Teacher-developed websites and no ICT. All VLE's are limited in this way and of course, as Andy has regularly said above, a means to hide info behind a password. It is worth remembering that schools want this protection in the present conditions for a variety of understandable (if flawed) reasons. This is less to do with intellectual property rights than it is to do with paranoia about internet abuse. Ideally we'd all like to have a series of websites that the VLEs 'point to' that we could all share (amongst ourselves and amongst our students).

For some teachers, who have the necessary skills, this is possible. Sadly, for the majority putting a word document on a VLE for students to download and/or interact with is still quite a challenge. In this context, a VLE can provide a useful stepping stone. The difficulty is moving teachers from this stone to a more effective (global?) place from which to organise ICT-related learning.

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  • 3 months later...

This is my fourth year that I've been teaching with moodle. My network manager had the foresight to realise its potential.

We started all our courses with enrolment keys/passwords in the thought that that was the best way. Over time, we realised it was a false economy - we kept having to share/enrol interested parties to show what we were doing. The site is now key-free (near enough) www.qehs.net/moodle

Only times it needs a key is if you have a chat/forum that lets guests in. Choas prevails if you don't (and the students use it like an inhouse MSN!) We have nothing (much) to hide.

we use journals as blogs - just for student and teacher. THe kids love them (better than a MS Word diary etc. Great for detailing coursework development/issues etc. Reflecting on lessons learnt etc etc. Working really well (years 9 - 11).

As others say, kids love it, technophobe teachers can master the basics, it is free and the support network is immense - who can knock free upgrades for life?

I liked it so much I've set up my own 'teachers of ICT' support forum using it - probably not the best tool, but it is so easy to use and no problems (so far). I got bored with their being little or no support for AQA/Edexcel/KS3 work - the only UK board who did anything were OCR.

Check it out - www.eboardtalk.net

Edited by Oliver Williams
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It looks like I'll be including Moodle in the package of course materials in the spring. I'm attracted to the idea of being able to upload podcasts easily, and we're using a plug-in called Gong, which allows for audio inputs to a discussion forum. If I can think of a good way it can be used, I'll use that too.

If you want to take a look at the skeleton course I've put together so far (no time …), you can go to http://moodle.hbv.hik.se and take a look at the course called English 1-10p, a1 Spring Term 2007. There's a guest access and the key is ENG107.

I'm still no fan of LMSs, but I'm adding Moodle to the repertoire this spring as an experiment, to see if Moodle can be used in collaboration with all the other teacher and student inputs on the course.

BTW, we're hosting an interesting talk in a couple of weeks time about what comes after LMSs. Here's the blurb:

Nästa föreläsning:

29 nov

Thinking beyond the LMS

Michael Hotrum (University of Alberta, Canada) talks about communities and ideas about the future of LMSs

Time: 16.30-18.00 (Central European Time - one hour ahead of UK time)

Place: Högskolan i Kalmar, Distance Studio, Library

and Marratech (http://artemis.hik.se:8080 in the virtual room ”Chico”).

Societal needs are changing, education is evolving and student needs are changing. But the architecture and pedagogy of the LMS - the traditional distance education technology - is still confined to the paradigm of the electronic classroom. This session will examine where we are, propose where we should be as providers of distance education, and suggest how the LMS must change. We will identify the opportunities afforded by educational social software, how it can be used to expand the pedagogy of the LMS, and how it is now being used to design and deliver learning outside the walls of the traditional classroom paradigm.

Visit Michaels blog at http://choicelearning.blogspot.com


Marratech is a desktop video conference system. In order to participate, you'll need to download the client software from http://www.marratech.com

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