Why should you consider implementing a VLE? SharePoint in Education e-learning series post 4
Posts so far in this series
Post 1 What is a VLE?
Having covered the main features of a VLE this leaves us with the question- why should an educational institution consider implementing a VLE? If you are seeking executive approval to implement a VLE there are 6 key arguments you can make:
Please not the first 2 arguments relate largely to further and higher education
It makes sense to start with money as this is most likely to get attention from an executive sponsor, especially in the challenging financial context. On the one side there will be an IT investment which may be considerable but this will be small in comparison with the impact on your most expensive resources which are tutors and buildings. Once a VLE is implemented it is possible to run elements of you course at distance and with students working both independently and collaboratively online. Many colleges already run e learning days when students work at home and the reduction in the cost of staffing and use of buildings will be considerable.
Following on from the positive impact on cost is the potential for greater flexibility with resources. This does not always have to be in terms of reduction in teaching staff and buildings. It is also possible to increase the number of learners in the institution and the pressure on university places is one example of where a VLE could be beneficial. The ability to increase course provision and at the same time maintain the physical resource will allow educational institutions to more efficiently use resources to their maximum effect.
Can educational institutions really justify learners coming on to campus for 1 or two lessons? This was very much my experience in the 90s where I was splitting a dozen lectures and seminars over an entire week. With the use of a VLE institutions can rationalise attendance at lectures and seminars so that learners are best using their time. This need not be a reduction in teaching time but simply allocating specific days for specific students to attend on site. The VLE can then provide a vital communication tool to keep learners connected with other learners and tutors. In a school setting a VLE becomes almost essential in a vocational setting. Continually moving learners around different educational sites is highly inefficient and the ability for learners to receive some or all of the learning at their base is a valuable resource.
Alongside the financial arguments there are also 3 educational arguments for a VLE
Access to resources
The ability to study anytime and anywhere is a significant benefit gained through the adoption of a VLE. All physical resources are scarce but by providing learning materials online students can access the same resource as frequently and flexibly as they like. All learners work best in differing environments and at different times so by allowing greater access to learning resources the likely impact is improved outcomes.
As well as giving greater access to resource the nature of resources within a VLE is likely to have an impact on learning. Access to online learning is often more of a kinesthetic experience with the learner navigating through the resources which involves them feeling more engaged in the learning. As well as this if a VLE contains both communication tools, rich media and simulations the learner is likely to feel more involved and stimulated to learn. A VLE will undoubtedly incorporate a greater range of learning styles and need not replace other essential face to face learning.
Perhaps the most compelling argument for implementing a VLE is the changing nature of learners. As I have often commented the learners I first taught 10 years ago needed to be shown how to use word. Those I was teaching 5 years ago needed to be taught how to use Movie Maker. Those I teach now need to be taught…. nothing! Although this is an exaggeration it is undoubtedly the case that we are now seeing the emergence of digital natives in our schools and educational institutions. In this context it is not so much a case of why have a VLE as can you really run a course without some online learning elements for today’s digital learners?