Over the last two days we have been looking at the ideas behind VLEs and MLEs with the following posts if you want to catch up.
Post 1 What is a VLE?
This leads us to the idea of a Learning Platform- what is it? I have a third diagram to illustrate what a Learning Platform is which has be generously provided by my good friend Alex Pearce.
Looking at the diagram you can see that a Learning Platform contains a VLE and you may think it is actually no different from an MLE. All the interoperability of an MLE is in evidence here with the various databases connecting up but a Learning Platform moves beyond and MLE in three ways.
Surfacing of information
The real beauty of a Learning Platform which I think many people have missed is the ability to surface vast amounts of data from disparate sources. Again you may think this is simply what an MLE will do but the crucial difference is the end user experience where they view and use all data within the Learning Platform. Whereas many educationalists saw the Learning Platform as being a feature rich resource it is simply a platform on which to create feature rich functionality. The key here is the potential for integration and as one end user once described, ‘a one stop shop for everything I need to do’.
Metadata and Taxonomy
Another key distinction for a Learning Platform can be seen in the green and blue wrappers around the diagram. The real power of a Learning Platform is the ability to collect, sort, index and aggregate data. Although people get hung up about what metadata is it can simply be described as the contextual information about your SharePoint content which can inform us about the subject, audience, author and intent of the data. In an educational context this is one of the most underused features of a Learning Platform but the ability to create metadata and integrate multiple sources of external data becomes a killer feature when you can….
One of the biggest challenges within an institution is the fine line between being data rich and having data overload. The final wrapper in a Learning Platform is the ability to search all of your content whether native to SharePoint or from an external database. Once your SharePoint content is tagged with metadata this of course becomes even more powerful and indexing within documents allows for a very powerful search experience.