Effectiveness Of A Virtual Learning Environment Education Essay

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Before considering literature relevant to the specific research questions, it seems appropriate to provide a perspective on literature pertaining to Virtual Learning Environment (VLE's) and knowledge management in general. So here are some key sources I have reviewed and analysed and will be utilising in my dissertation.

Within my investigation I would like to research areas such as the use of a VLE combined with a more 'active' pedagogical approach, the possibility to collaborate and give independence to learners, I believe a mixture of knowledge management and VLE's could provide me with a basis for improving the management input into VLE's.

What this project will highlight is the current stature of VLE's in a working environment such as Further Education (FE).FE has been my choice because of my interest in the teaching profession which will be my goal after completing this university degree. My subjected framework is called 'Moodle' (Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment) and is a course management system (CMS) used in most FE colleges. The report will highlight ways in which IT Management and knowledge management can help increase a VLE's stature.

The background of the project is to analyse and review the effectiveness of current VLE usage and any management issues relating to VLE's, in turn the report will provide recommendations for improvement.

Aims and Objectives

The aim of my project is to identify how the Virtual Learning Environment is managed within the Further Education sector and produce recommendations for further improvements.

I have five main objectives which are as follows -

To produce a literature review of VLE's

To analyse management of the VLE within the FE environment

To explore technical issues

To produce recommendations of improvement

To critically evaluate my project process and produc

Initial Literature Review

VLE's are the focus of a rapidly expanding field of academic research. From my knowledge and initial research into exploring these frameworks, this field at present must use: studies from within Further Education (FE) sector and FE VLE management. From this knowledge the following five key texts are what I have chosen to be my initial starting source for research.

Key source 1

My first key text is 'Current trends in educational technology research: The study of learning environments' by Winn, W (2008) this book sees this distinction as evolutionary, in that today's VLE's have grown out of carefully designed instruction and interactive simulations. From a psychological standpoint, earlier computer assisted learning sat well with Piagetian behaviorist perspectives, whereas the utilisation of networked communication tools place VLE's more comfortably within a Vygotskian view of the social nature of learning Vygotsky's theory is divided into 6 main strategies, which can be used in the process of learning at school. One way of teaching is by using children's zone of proximal development. Teaching should begin toward the zone's upper limit, so that the child can reach the goal with help and move to a higher level of skill and knowledge. Enough assistance should be offered. The question "What can I do to help you?" has to be asked, or simply the child's intentions and attempts should be observed, so that the child can get enough support in a smooth way. When children hesitate, they have to be offered encouragement. Encouragement should be offered in such a way that the child can practice their skill. Another teaching strategy is to use more skilled peers as teachers. It is important to remember though that teachers can be more skilled than children. The third strategy is to monitor and encourage children's use of private speech. The fourth strategy is to effectively assess the child's zone of proximal development. Standardised tests are not the best way to assess children's learning. Another good strategy is to place instruction in a meaningful context. This means to use less abstract presentations of material but to let students experience more real world setting. The last strategy is to transform the classroom with Vygotskian ideas. I believe this theory plays a major part in the production of VLE's content because just having a VLE is not suffice, the knowledge of how to mould children around a VLE is of most importance therefore Vygotsky's theory needs to be assessed also.

Winn (2008) also shows the emphasis on a social constructivist paradigm common to much work on VLE's. The more traditional emphasis is perhaps clearer within Learning Content Management Systems (LCMS), which provide the ability to store, assemble and deliver personalised learning content in the form of learning objects, and this understanding might perhaps underpin the attention given to personalised content and adaptive learning design apparent in some of Becta's (2009) functional requirements for learning platforms

Key source 2

Another key text I have found to be quite useful is ' VLE's: Beyond the fringe and into the mainstream' which has been written by Minshull, G (2008), this book seems to have some very good opposing views from Winn, W (2008) as to the validity of using VLE's in education. The book suggests that VLE's are commonly used to provide a meta-environment, integrating a rich mix of online resources. This is a common way for online courses to be created and gives the teacher the role of 'knowledge broker' (Minshull 2008) which is important due to the enormous amount and varying quality of information available to the learner and because "The process of seeking information may distract learners from their primary goal of problem solving" Minshull 2008.

I believe this book will create some very good arguments into the use of VLE's in today's curriculum but to further my understanding of how VLE's are actively managed i looked into the research area of knowledge management which will be mentioned in key text source 3. Another caption that captured me into choosing this book is a quote I read suggesting "Most of the current generation of VLE's are not designed to support learning changes but to deliver distance learning courses to university students" (Minshull 2008, pg 25).

At first glance the previous quote will deliver another query as that it seems odd that apparently Becta's (2009) list of functional requirements has been drafted with relatively little consultation with schools, teachers or learners according to Minshull 2008.

Key source 3

The field of knowledge management is of great importance in industry and business generally, in part because technological economies are increasingly knowledge based but also through a growing realisation that intellectual capital is the key driver in organisational success (Sallis & Jones 2002, p1). This is a key driver for my choice of this literature 'Knowledge management in education: enhancing learning and education' Sallis, E & Jones, G (2002). There is also a realisation that an organisation's management is the locus of much of its knowledge, and the field has matured alongside advances in technological potential.

This book also looks at techniques of management as education is surely all about transmitting and/or cultivating knowledge. This book states it has relevant literature focusing on those aspects of knowledge management in schools that might be best facilitated through use of a VLE, and thus also draws on research into school management information systems. This would be a key source to my understanding of VLE management. Making teacher's working knowledge readily accessible in this way and then allowing others to adapt it to their own context.

Although it is important to avoid information overload I believe such techniques as described in the overview of Hargreaves (1998) could facilitate better informed decision making for management, customer relationship management, and pupil support. This is perhaps because they do not capture the knowledge or information that teachers and managers actually use in their daily lives.

Key source 4

The use of management information systems (MIS) will have a key role in my dissertation so I have chosen this book to reflect upon 'The future of school information systems: Information technology in education management' written by Smith, D & Wild, P (2008). The abstract reading of this text book looks toward the integration of MIS software which would seem to be important in ensuring the greatest benefit of VLE's from a knowledge management perspective and the greater relevance of MIS to classroom practice.

I believe there may be further potential for VLE's to support knowledge creation and organisational learning. From reading the abstract of Hargreaves (1998) the author sees knowledge creation as rooted in interactive learning and believes that factors, which a VLE might promote, such as placing value on task related expertise among staff rather than organisational status and a willingness to tinker and experiment with new ideas in an ad-hoc way.

Key source 5

I think a major key source in my dissertation will be the online website of Becta (British Educational Communications and Technology Agency), Becta (2009) give a more (perhaps overly) detailed functional specification from an institutional or system wide perspective, grouping requirements into four broad categories of content management, curriculum mapping and planning, learner engagement and administration, and tools and services.

I believe Becta 2009 and Minshull 2008 will provide lists of the potential advantages for institutions and for students that VLE adoption offers. Some perceptions of a VLE are seen as having the potential to raise pupil attainment, such as the ability to catch up on missed classes, instant feedback on assessment and cross institutional working.

One key advantage is the opportunity to provide access to the institution's curriculum from outside its boundaries either for pupils completing homework, those not able to attend college, those attending other institutions particularly in the case of Higher Education distance learning students. This can be seen as an aspect of knowledge management, furthermore staff access to the VLE from home could provide opportunities for more flexible working arrangements.

Overview of key sources

From the choice of the above key texts and many more i believe there will be sufficient evidence that correctly implemented and managed VLE's could provide much of the infrastructure to advancements in support knowledge management in education and without it, colleges and universities cannot truly become the learning organisations that are essential to schooling for tomorrow. Thus, the first goal of this study is to ascertain the extent to which VLE's are providing this support for knowledge management within schools.


At this early point in the research of my project i can only foresee to use a structured interview with the IT manager at the college of my choice, to provide me with an overview of the use of VLE's and their management in an FE environment. I believe once my approach to the IT manager has been conducted, further methods may need to be utilized in order to gain the necessary knowledge needed to complete my report.

Interim deliverables and results

If the project would have included some questioning of individual people or questionnaires then an ethical approval form would have been needed to be completed by a certain deadline as these forms take a long time to get approved and would have hindered the investigation into my chosen title. By the sixteenth of October 2009 an official PR02 form was needed to be submitted to gain a pass or fail in order to begin the project. This form held details such as the project title, project aims and objectives and previous course details so they could be analysed and reviewed to consider if enough pre-requisites were gained to enable the continuation of the final project.

The first report of the project hand in date is the thirteenth of November 2009. I am confident enough to begin my final project with the research material I have discovered. The deadline for the final report and the project management report is the twenty third of April 2010 where so far my work is on schedule. The deadline for the viva is May 2010 where I am confident enough I will continue on my so far successful project timeline (Gantt chart) and succeed to present a masterful report.

Initial Gantt Chart Plan


British Educational Communications and Technology Agency. (2009). Learning Platform Functional Requirements. Available: http://www.becta.org.uk/. Last accessed 27/10/09.

Dillon, P (1998) Teaching and learning with telematics: an overview of the literature,

Journal of information technology for teacher education 7

European Schoolnet (EUN) (2008) Virtual learning environments for European schools, Brussels, European Schoolnet

Hargreaves, D H (1998) Creative professionalism: the role of teachers in the Knowledge Society, London, Demos.

Minshull, G (2008) VLE's: Beyond the fringe and into the mainstream, Coventry, Becta

Sallis, E & Jones, G (2002) Knowledge management in education: enhancing learning and education London, Kogan Page

Smith, D & Wild, P (2008) The future of school information systems, in Visscher, A J, Wild, P, Fung, A C (eds) Information technology in education management, Dordrecht, Kluwer

Winn, W (2008) Research into practice: Current trends in educational technology research: The study of learning environments, Educational psychology review 14.