6 Nov 2007 ............... Length about 900 words (6,000 bytes).
(Document started on 5 Nov 2007.)
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VLEs: best and worst features
Department of Psychology,
University of Glasgow.
Having all material protected. Even with guest logins unrestricted, this
still means Google can't find it, and others feel unwelcome and may not enter.
However this means a student can't find it using normal internet access and
Google: instead they must go to a meeting and write down without error the
URL. So immediately VLEs are in practice only accessible to those who attend
F2F meetings and lose the normal benefits and convenience of the internet.
Colleagues can't view the material without special effort, prospective
students can't see it, etc. In reality, only a tiny part of a course really
needs protection (e.g. individuals' marks): the design is the inverse of what
Hiding course info from prospective students, from those with glitches in
their signups, from colleagues
Above all, from Google so even legit students can't easily find it.
Basically, all courses have public and private aspects, so cannot have all the
course info in one place, and VLEs thus fail in their primary idea of a single
tool for putting on a course.
Restructuring them so that default is visible to the world, and page
by page access control. Only hide a few things e.g. grades; and write access
For students, should support them having one place to login for
several courses; and a single feed combining notices/msgs from all these.
Hides bboards; prevents the serendipity of Ruskin getting Grayling joining in.
[dougiamas reply: but you could invite grayling. A truly T-centric reply]
One stop place for students for all course docs.
In a talk, Martin Dougiamas listed the following approximate sequence in which
teachers (academics) typically started to use different types of activity
(feature) in Moodle (and no doubt this applies to other VLEs too).
The conventional negative spin on this is "Isn't it awful, you introduce a VLE
and staff just use it to dump their slides on it". (This ignores the fact
that most students welcome this if, as often, they weren't getting access to
the slides before.)
However a positive spin could be: "In the medium term, most HE staff are going
to move through this developmental progression, and end up at the top end: far
beyond where most were before in their teaching. So VLEs are a slow but
powerful scaffolding that is improving teaching practices in HE."
- Put up the handouts
- Add a passive Forum
- Add Quizzes, Assignments (reduce management)
- Use Lesson, Wiki, Glossary, Database maybe
- Use the Forum seriously and actively
- Combine the activities into sequences
- Think more deeply about learning activities / design
- Use the Survey module, Workshop maybe
- Sharing ideas, active research, reflection
What most of us most immediately recognise here, is that the first thing staff
do is dump their slides on line: requires no real work.
Next, we see forums created but no student activity on them.
But next again (maybe a year or two later) staff discover how to stimulate
Further on in the sequence, I can see echos of issues I've seen
elsewhere: for instance going beyond isolated learning activities and thinking
about piecing them together so that one leads to another (e.g. write your
first draft of an assignment, students read each others', give each other
comments, revise their own).
And at the advanced end (the bottom), I see forms of "contingent teaching"
where what the teacher picks up from the class changes what they do. Here (in
Moodle) it is about using the Survey to get feedback on student views and ways
of learning, just as Just In Time Teaching uses student answers to a
quiz to determine what the next class will address.
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