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VLEs and the democratisation of e-learning. Martin Weller. Outline. Where are we? How did we get here? Where are we going?. Where are we?.

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Vles and the democratisation of e learning l.jpg

VLEs and the democratisation of e-learning

Martin Weller

Outline l.jpg


  • Where are we?

  • How did we get here?

  • Where are we going?

Where are we l.jpg

Where are we?

What is a vle l.jpg

The principal components of a VLE package include curriculum mapping (breaking curriculum into sections that can be assigned and assessed), student tracking, online support for both teacher and student, electronic communication (e-mail, threaded discussions, chat, Web publishing), and Internet links to outside curriculum resources.

What is a VLE?

“the components in which learners and tutors participate in "on-line" interactions of various kinds, including on-line learning

MLE = The whole range of information systems and processes of an institution (including a VLE if appropriate) that contribute directly, or indirectly, to learning and the management of that learning

LMS = “a software application or Web-based technology used to plan, implement, and assess a specific learning process.”

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VLE as toolset

  • Conferencing

  • Content

  • Tracking

  • Assignment handling

  • Assessment

  • Synchronous tools

  • Blogs

  • Wikis

  • Podcasting

  • Social bookmarking

  • Eportfolio

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VLE as pervasive technology

  • 94 percent of American colleges and universities use at least one type of electronic courseware for distance education and/or as a supplement to the traditional classroom

  • Two–thirds of faculty members who initially use an LMS continue to do so for future courses

  • 86% of respondents from UK HE institutions have VLE and 70% of UK FE colleges.

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The VLE choices

  • In-house development

  • Commercial VLE

  • Open Source

  • Service oriented architecture

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Current state of play

  • OECD/OBHE 2004 survey in 13 countries

  • All had VLE

  • 37% have institution-wide VLE

  • 90% expect to have single VLE in next 5 years

  • 52% use commercial system

  • Rest use combination of in-house and open source

  • No institution had just OS

  • 31% had portal

  • 6.6% had CMS

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Expanding HE

  • 1900: 500,000 students globally 2000: 100,000,000

  • 1990s the number of worldwide students grew by around 3.9% a year

  • Rate of increase was markedly greater in the developing world than the developed world.

  • In America, the numbers of students in higher education institutions who are over 24 years old has already overtaken the number which is between 18 and 24

  • The global turnover, in financial terms, of Higher Education = $550 billion per year.

  • The UK government have committed themselves to a target of 50% by 2010. That would imply an increase of around 250,000 students by that time.

  • The Chinese govt. aim for a 15% enrolment rate by 2010 implying around 16 million students.

  • HEFCE:2002 to 2010 there could be an increase in demand of between 180,000 and 250,000 students.

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= A lot of people using the same technology

And using technology for learning is different from other uses

VLE = a proxy for changes in higher education(?)

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Ease of use



Technological flair

critical mass

staff development

academic staff


cottage industry



New tools

New approaches

Democrats vs revolutionaries

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Previous OS VLEs


Commercial VLEs

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How did we get here?

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Plant succession

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Technology succession

“technological environments are not merely passive containers of people but are active processes that reshape people and other technologies alike” (McLuhan 1962)

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That Blackboard patent

  • Why software patents are dangerous

  • You have a system that is organized by courses. The system can be accessed by different users from different computers. Users can access multiple courses and can have different access privileges assigned to each course based on the roles of student, instructor, and/or administrator.

  • An instructor can create and edit pages in a course space.

  • Courses have an announcements page where announcements can be created and edited by the instructor. (Michael Feldstein)

  • Attempt to prevent succession…

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  • Technologies are not developed for use within education

  • There is a move towards socially focused tools and away from content-focused ones

  • Technologies move from niche to mainstream in a short time frame

  • The tools occupy a specific communication niche

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Changing times

  • Nearly all institutions had moved to an institution-wide system.

  • Few institutions operated an in-house solution.

  • The VLEs will be divided equally between commercial and open source solutions.

  • Specialization and localization will occur through the use of services.

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Where are we going?

  • VLE research directions

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Democratisation of the MLE space

  • Feature annexation

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Democratisation of the MLE space 2

  • Feature annexation

  • Competitive systems

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Democratisation of the MLE space 3

  • Feature annexation

  • Competitive systems

  • Different configurations

    • E.g. Portal as central component

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Democratisation of the MLE space 4

  • Feature annexation

  • Competitive systems

  • Different configurations – Portal as VLE

  • Appropriate metaphors

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Web 2.0

Users must be treated as co-developers, … The open source dictum, “release early and release often” in fact has morphed into an even more radical position, “the perpetual beta,” in which the product is developed in the open, with new features slipstreamed in on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis….

  • Both an approach and a set of technologies

  • Web as platform

  • Harnessing collective intelligence

  • Evolutionary development

  • Lightweight programming models

This time, though, the clash isn't between a platform and an application, but between two platforms, each with a radically different business model: On the one side, a single software provider, whose massive installed base and tightly integrated operating system and APIs give control over the programming paradigm; on the other, a system without an owner, tied together by a set of protocols, open standards and agreements for cooperation

“users add value and the technology or site needs to be set up so that it encourages participation”

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VLE 2.0

  • How would a VLE 2.0 be constructed?

  • Service oriented

  • Tools tested and released

  • Standards based

  • Unique configurations

  • Incorporate external tools

  • Localized configurations

  • Personalised

  • What does web 2.0 education feel like?

  • Students as co-creators

  • Reuse

  • Less rigid boundaries

  • Social

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Scott Wilson

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  • A benefit of e-learning

  • Tools that promote it

  • Data mining

  • Creation of suitable content

  • PLEs

  • Privacy

  • Loss of common experience

  • Impact upon behaviour

  • Impact upon pedagogy

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  • Learning objects – creation, impact, success factors, experience

  • Software components

  • Learning designs

  • Granularity of reuse

  • Open content

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Education business models

  • Content as (free) commodity

  • Support models

  • Licensing content

  • Partnerships

  • Accreditation

  • Unbundling of university functions

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E-learning pedagogy

  • Effectiveness, student experience

  • Influence of tools and technology

  • Costs

  • Learning design

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Shifting boundaries

  • Classroom and external

  • Formal and informal

  • Tools and content

  • Between institutions

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Develop a suite of tools that have different affordances


Do we instinctively communicate differently with different technologies?

Can we capture all the affordances in a learning experience?

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Known unknowns

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