Effective use of virtual learning environments (VLEs) Under Development

This infoKit was first published in 2004 and is currently being updated.

Back in 2004 when we wrote this infoKit, we defined a VLE as – ‘A Virtual Learning Environment is a collection of integrated tools enabling the management of online learning, providing a delivery mechanism, student tracking, assessment and access to resources’. These integrated tools may be one product (eg BlackBoard, Moodle) or an integrated set of individual, perhaps open-source, tools.

This definition still holds true with most education providers using a ‘product’ for example Blackboard or Moodle with Web2.0 tools being used to supplement the functionality offered by these systems, but these are often not truly integrated.

Although written a few years ago, most of the advice and guidance remains sound. Of course the screenshots are out of date! There are many excellent current examples of elearning and etutoring and it is anticipated that these will be used to update this resource in the near future.

The infoKit aims to enable tutors to make informed decisions, based on sound educational principles, about the use of technology in their teaching and their students’ learning when using a VLE. After having used the materials we hope that tutors will be able to:

  • Demonstrate a working understanding of strategies of use for e-learning for meeting a range of pedagogical, practical and social needs within courses of study
  • Work comfortably with the e-learning resources available within their own institutions including an institutional VLE
  • Identify opportunities and recognise limitations for the use of VLEs for teaching and the support of learning
  • Feel sufficiently confident to provide and support virtual learning activities within their course programmes
  • Reflect upon and develop their own professional practice through the use of e-learning resources.

The infoKit has been written as a series of sections comprising in-depth resources and case studies drawn from both further and higher education which emphasise the underpinning pedagogy in the use of e-learning. There are extensive links between the sections and to other infoKits on the JISC infoNet website. We have sought to synthesise key readings and research and to present this in a practical and easy to navigate format with links to additional sources for further exploration.

Throughout the Kit there are references to different VLEs which were available at the time of writing through the tertiary sectors in the UK. However, the aim of the infoKit is to go beyond a simple demonstration of hardware and software, and the basics of how to operate these, but to focus on why use VLEs and in what circumstances. Presenting such information in the abstract makes it harder both to absorb and recall, and also means that it is less likely to be brought to mind at the point of need. Therefore throughout we provide links to a range of case studies and examples of good practice to help tutors engage in the whole process of using a VLE to provide a more effective learning environment.

Published: 23 February 2004 | Last updated: 27 November 2012