So, we have reached the final part in this ‘e-learning resources’ series. Here we will be looking at VLE’s, with my concluding comments and a further reading section with plenty of links to keep you going for a while.
Onwards to the final leg …
Unlike the other options above VLE’s (or virtual learning environments) really should have their own devoted article (or collection of) as there are so many different aspects of VLE’s to discuss. Therefore, I have chosen to only give a very brief overview of what a VLE is and two options for VLE’s: Moodle (free) and BlackBoard (not-so-free).
A VLE is a website in a box which has been specifically written to handle and manage students learning. I have seen it used from primary schools all the way through to universities therefore there is massive scope to its implementation. Basically, VLE’s are very modular pieces of software allowing them to be tailored to a varying range of institutions. Some of the many modules include things such as blogs, wiki’s and forums (as we have discussed earlier) but have testing suites, essay submission forms and a plethora of other uses.
As the range of functions increases so does the ease of use and administration. I do not know of a site where you can get a ‘free’ VLE account unlike all of the above. VLE’s can be rather time consuming at both the install level and general administration so you tend to find that an institution will have one which is run by the IT staff and other departments can have ‘areas’ or ‘courses’ on this installation.
If your college does have a VLE make use of it – they’re a great way to centralise information and allow the student a little freedom over their learning. The initial learning curve with VLE’s may be a rather steep one and actually getting around to putting course materials may be time consuming initially, but the outcome is a one-stop-shop for your students where they can access notes, test themselves, hand in their coursework and chat in the community forums.
Echoing what I said in the introduction to this piece there is no solution that will keep everybody happy; we all want different things to what out students will demand off us, the college technicians will want and demand control of others. The best way of learning what’s what, and researching what solution, if any, is the most appropriate for your individual needs is to get your hands dirty, play around, let your students loose on it and see what happens.
My final and most important message, or final thought if you will, is this: in the time it’s taken me to write this article a lot of what I have said and comment upon with be defunct. Okay, maybe a slight exaggeration, however it is vital that you keep up with what’s going on in the field of internet and web based resources or you will find yourself behind and playing a difficult ‘catch-up’ game. Personally I find that the best source of information, and criticism, about new resources comes directly from those who we are trying to teach: our students.
- How to use weblogs safely in schools: http://schools.becta.org.uk
- What is a wiki? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki
Psychology Related Blogs:
- BPS Research Digest: http://bps-research-digest
- MindHacks: http://www.mindhacks.com/
- PsyBlog: http://www.spring.org.uk/
- Psychology and Crime Blog: http://crimepsychblog.com/
- The Situationist: http://thesituationist.wordpres
- World of Psychology: http://psychcentral.com/
And if that’s not enough: information on accessing blog feeds and newsreaders and the PsychBLOG guide to blogs.
- phpBB Forum: http://www.phpbb.com
- Moodle VLE: http://www.moodle.org
- WordPress: http://www.wordpress.com and http://www.wordpress.org
- Blogger: http://www.blogger.com
- Wikimedia: http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki
And for a list of many more blogs, VLE’s, wiki’s and other content management solutions see: http://www.opensourcecms.com/
Dougiamas, M. and Taylor, P.C. (2003) Moodle: Using Learning Communities to Create an Open Source Course Management System. Proceedings of the EDMEDIA 2003 Conference, Honolulu, Hawaii.
This full series is available as a PDF document in the 4teachers area of the ‘shared files’ for easier reading and printing. :)