CETIS – VLE session

November 25, 2008

Phil Barker’s session [live blogged – needs cleaning]
on The Learning Content Management

Why do we still have VLEs? What is the reason that we use such systems rather than something focussed on content managment. This might just be a way of labelling but for OpenLearn where we adopted Moodle it did have an effect. On the plus side it meant that we led with a system that could support the individual learner and had tools that could support collaboration. On the minus it meant that tools that dealt with the sharing and management of content were not a strong as they might be. In terms of positioning OpenLearn using Moodle has been very helpful but now we have the content itself there is a good argument for providing a more managed environment.

In this session there are echoes of my own past – Phil Barker, Stephen Vickers & Richard irby are all ex Heriot-Watt people as am I.

Stephen is now at Edinburgh University and described the work he is doing to assess how they should/could adapt to a future VLE if they move from their current use of WebCT. He had analysed the way tools were used on WbCT and found that many were using simple tools with something under 10% using the novel and innovative tools.
Comments on strengths often referred to integration with other tools rather than the VLE itself. Weaknesses also tended to not be about functionality but instead user interface and reliability.
The key lesson then is reliability and workflow (marking) are concerns along with notification, content management, collaboration (between systems – perhaps interoperability ratehr than collaboration) and empowering student learning. One item was also the opening up of access to content – avoiding the VLE becoming a silo for content.

List of roles of VLE:
Roles and permissions
Group tool
Conditional release
Combining tools in learning sequences [Learning Design!]
Work management tools
Tracking student activity
SDK for integrating with other systems.

Other things are then added on beyond that.

Richard Kirby – CAPDM talking about single source publishing.

Capdm is a model as a design and information model. Capture/Author/Publish/Deliver/Manage
Single approach to store everything in XML (Docbook) with extension. Added a question format (pre -QTI but similar). Capture from Word but also author directly into XML aware editor.
This is similar to the process that OpenLearn has followed, however the OU adopted its own schema. I have wondered whether the Docbook format would be an alternative or mappable from the OUXML schema. Not sure but could be worth investigating?
Richard also described some neat features such as automated table of contents that could be used to keep track of e.g. learning outcomes. MSWord documents can be converted with “80%” accuracy. The content is then managed through RCS version control with linked multi-lingual versions to help pass information efficiently to the translators.

Sarah Currier from Intrallect covered the repository aspect. A run through of the features that are offered perhaps shows how a move to a repository approach could bring the availability to a lot of tools. Comment that there needs to be a person who will take responsibility for the repository aspect of a service including the metadata side. Sarah also pointed out that repository based initiatives needed institutional support as well as project support.

Mark Stiles took a broader view – pointing out the eLearning is now deprecated. His personal history showed mix of success and that full use of VLEs remains the excpetation (as reported in UCISA surveys. His current view is that learners will opt out unless we can provide something better or be prepared to “let go”.

Current work is using the Hive repository with XCRI not just for content but also to bring in validation comments and course descriptions. Approach to allow different solutions and sustain innovation.

Tony Hirst,
Showed figure:ground as an analogy for how people react to Web2.0 (the classic vase or two faces). Medium:Context is Marshall McLuhan’s take on this. Equally for the PLE – it is not just the media it is the context.
Personal – Institutional
Portable – Monolithic
Social – Privare
Lesson – Course

There are lots of tools – cannot tailor to all of these but need to be aware of them (not know them in depth). Do not see it as institution against the student. Key to working with all these tools though is RSS as a way to move content around. An even easier version is the embed code (e.g of the slides on slideshare such as Tony’s own talk – BUT this tends to be stripped out.

As an example he talked about Jim Green’s wordpress_mu use to provide easy learner blogs and republishing. This also interoperates with MediaWiki to pick up best http://tinyurl.com/6s92gw

VLE to SLE (S=Social, Syndicated, Scruffy)


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