What does your VLE say about your institution?

Last Thursday I was at a seminar that looked at innovation in academic practice by exploring the disruptive effects of social media. The speaker took us through current conceptualisations of how people learn in higher education and made the case for social media as being well suited for supporting these approaches to learning. He went on to argue that social media had the potential to be a disruptive technology in teaching and learning in higher education, which means it could transform current practice.

The speaker touched on VLEs (virtual learning environments) in higher education, making the case that they were not a disruptive technology as they relied on proprietary systems and were silo-like in their design. This sparked an interesting debate as two of my fellow attendees were part of the team that runs the University of Oxford’s VLE. As I listened to the speaker’s experience of VLEs and the developments described by my fellow attendees, I was struck by this thought:

The evolution of an institution’s VLE is the narrative of that institution’s attitude towards, and relationship with, learning technologies.  

I shared my observation and, for a beautiful moment, held the room in my thrall. The speaker was so moved he exclaimed: “That’s fascinating, please send me the URL for that!” Caught up in the moment, I cited my source with an accuracy that was perhaps a little misplaced: “I made it up just now in my head”. It may be one thing to gain the respect of your peers, but I’m pretty sure maintaining it doesn’t involve this degree of candour. (Although the speaker was kind enough to send me a LinkedIn request an hour after the event so my outburst wasn’t a total disaster.)

Now that my idea is on the Internet, it has become more true 🙂 My next priority is to find out who else has thought this thought. As I am no longer in my early twenties, I am happy to accept that I can’t have been the first to make this observation. So, anyone know of any work out there that looks at VLEs in this way?

2 Responses to “What does your VLE say about your institution?”

  1. Tom King Says:

    I started a comment, but it got a bit long, so made it into a post: please see: http://www.oxalto.co.uk/2013/01/a-reponse-to-what-does-your-vle-say-about-your-institution/

  2. tindalls Says:

    Tom, I really like your summary of the solutions and challenges that bespoke and open source solutions present institutions looking to design an effective VLE. Your closing statement makes a really important point:

    “a good VLE deployment requires more than just good intentions, and needs investment, and more importantly – continual development – which is where most of them fall short.”

    In educators (we all hope!) are continuously refining their material in the light of new developments in their field and responding to the learning needs of their students. VLEs, if they are to be an effective teaching and learning tool, need to be just as mobile.