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  1. Overview of the presentation • Project background • Findings • Putting a VLE in place • Articulating designs • Integrating VLE and non-VLE designs • Selection and use of different tools • Conclusions • Teachers, learners, VLEs and institutions • Some time for discussion hopefully

  2. Definitions of design for learning …designing, planning, orchestrating and supporting learning activities as part of a learning session or programme. …plan out in systematic form; intend or have as a purpose; execute in an artistic or highly skilled manner; an iterative conversation with your materials …

  3. Background: scope and focus Blended / f2f 10 UK institutions • HE • FE • ACL Focus on 3 VLEs • Moodle (6) • Blackboard (2) • WebCT (2) The institutions teaching learning support VLE

  4. Background: participants Kurt Ozzy Laurie Luca Jed Lila Olly Ian Downs College (Moodle) Kathy Lake University (Moodle) Pete Ike Kitty Rick Zoe Ben Petra Della Rachel Bart Hill College (Moodle) Babak Valley College (Moodle) Island College (WebCT) Colin KEY Studying with Ina Uplands University (Blackboard) Learner Tutor Fred E-learning lead & tutor E-learning lead Brett Tim Paul Cliff College (Blackboard) Mike Luke Dave Forest College (Moodle) Chris Bill Bay College (Moodle) River University (WebCT) Interview participants

  5. Findings: learning technology contacts Putting a VLE in place

  6. Awareness Playtime Piloting Formalisation Status quo An overview of VLE adoption FlexibilityControlCostRiskPedagogyPeersUsability Deciding on a VLE Procurement Stages of adoption (Some skipped playtime) Replacement

  7. Contrast between Moodle and commercial systems • Commercial VLEs high-risk (costs) and so laborious to select • Examples of two-year tendering process • Moodle low-risk, ‘sneaked in’ • “We’d come up with some open source software and why didn’t we use it in the meantime?” • “Senior management are aware of it but happy to let us get on with it because there have been no major resource implications so far.” • “…came out of the closet spectacularly…” • Implications for institutional support and resourcing • Institutional policy makers may ignore other costs and consequences of VLEs

  8. A preoccupation with operational issues • Overall, operational (institutional, technical and administrative) issues dominated ELL responses • E.g. flexibility, cost, control, risk, usability, the neighbours • We classified response codes into 2 categories • 40 were operational, 26 educational – i.e. slightly more than 1/3 were directly to do with designing for learning • Grappling with operational issues diverts energies from educational ones • Such as design for learning

  9. Findings: learning technology contacts Articulating designs

  10. Whether and how to articulate • All teachers design for learning • But designs are rarely fully articulated on the VLE • Even designs for VLE-based learning may not be represented on the VLE itself • VLE often looks like a load of stuff without rationale • Course areas are highly personal - inscrutable if viewed in isolation • Designs can only be observed in the relationships between elements of learning and teaching • On a VLE: order, timing, layout, formatting, commentary flagging of gaps • Design and representation are not the same thing

  11. Overarching designs are dispersed across different representations • We hoped to explore design practice through the VLE area • VLE representations tend to be partial & fragmented – not a unified design • A f2f / blended course or module is spread over different representations • The VLE area, as design product, is of limited use in exploring design practice

  12. Findings: learning technology contacts Integrating VLE and non-VLE designs

  13. Integrating practices within the study • Some very creative manoeuvring • To keep learners participating in all areas • Consequently, design adapted ‘on the fly’ • Flexibility was an original selling point of VLEs… • … which also means an open-ended design process • Designs are continually being evolved - often in tiny, incremental stages • Teachers talked about running designs, not about designs or the process of designing • So what is “the” design we should be studying? • A process, not a single artefact

  14. Design blindness • Some teachers were unable to think of ways to preserve new practice if the VLE were withdrawn • Changes in practice associated with the tool itself rather than a new way of doing things • Integration a strength, but pedagogy ‘hidden’ by VLE • “Design blindness” • This suggests that the reflexivity which a new tool is said to inject into practice may be short-lived • (Though some teachers had good awareness)

  15. Agile adoption • The interview question “Did the VLE tools influence your designs?” divided participants intriguingly: • “Not at all … I do it my own way, however I want to do it..nothing in here makes me do things in a different way.” • “It was shaped… but it was a good fit.“ • “Yes, because there were things we can’t do” • “Totally – I think this interface … is much better…” • Perceived dichotomy between technocentric and learner-centric practice • ‘Agile adopters’ integrate both • they are aware of their learners, their subject area and the potential of different technologies

  16. Findings: learning technology contacts Selection and use of different tools

  17. Why are some Moodle’s most distinctive tools little used? • E.g.Wiki, Glossary, Workshop • There is little time available for innovation • Tutors have little protected time to design, police, scaffold and assess online activities • Diverting learners’ self-study time into highly interactive online learning has implications • Institutions are built round traditional learning • No frameworks exist for assessing new forms, • Participation is notoriously low for unassessed activities • Complexity of the tools can put people off • The tools emphasise process but blended courses offer ample f2f opportunities to acquire these skills

  18. Case studies Conclusions and implications

  19. Overview of design for learning in VLEs VLE (a representation) straight into Tutors design continually & incrementally as and maybe Content & activities Relationships but may not make that design explicit eg sequence, order, explanation eg time, maintenance, complexity, keeping flexible, infrastructure, simply no need because of context

  20. Conclusions • Teachers • Have little time - opportunistic about what and when they represent • Don’t delegate design, aren’t sharing designs (are sharing ideas and inspiration) • Consider practice as highly personal • Evolve their designs gradually and in response to feedback • Are concerned with quality, which may hinder experiments • Learners • Have to negotiate two designs on the VLE – the VLE’s and their tutor’s – as well as designs represented elsewhere • Are not all digital natives (kit or skills) • Aren’t necessarily prepared for online interactivity

  21. Conclusions (cont’d) • Different VLEs • Are used fairly similarly to serve files, bulletins and for communication • Moodle’s constructivist tools generally little used • Commercial VLEs have v. different procurement processes • Institutions • Have a more top-down approach where VLE is commercial • Aren’t yet prepared for online social-constructivism • Currently rely on enthusiasts’ extra effort and sticking out of necks • May not understand that VLEs cost more than a license

  22. Acknowledgements & further info • Helen Beetham, JISC • Martin Oliver, IoE • Liz Masterman, University of Oxford • Sarah Knight, JISC • All the participants. • The report: • • Email me or Martin: •,