Virtual Learning Environments

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Research project on the benefits of using a VLE in a primary school

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  • C Goldblatt Virtual Learning Environments February 2012

    Project Report Page 1 of 31

    Virtual Learning Environments

    Investigating the benefits of using a

    managed/Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)

    and evaluate its effectiveness in enhancing the

    learner experience in a primary school setting.

  • C Goldblatt Virtual Learning Environments February 2012

    Project Report Page 2 of 31

    Table of Contents:

    1 INTRODUCTION .............................................................................................................................................................3

    1.1 LEARNING OUTCOMES ........................................................................................................................................................3

    2 VIRTUAL LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS ............................................................................................................................4

    2.1 VLES IN A PRIMARY SCHOOL CONTEXT..................................................................................................................................4

    2.2 BENEFITS OF USING A VLE ...................................................................................................................................................5

    3 METHODOLOGY.............................................................................................................................................................7

    3.1 ANALYSIS OF STATISTICS AND SURVEY RESULTS .........................................................................................................................9

    4 CONCLUSION ...............................................................................................................................................................14

    5 REFERENCES ................................................................................................................................................................16

    6 APPENDICES ................................................................................................................................................................17

    6.1 APPENDIX 1 ETHICS .......................................................................................................................................................17

    6.1.1 Ethics form..............................................................................................................................................................17

    6.1.2 Letter sent to parents to ask permission for survey and statistical analysis ..........................................................18

    6.2 APPENDIX 2 CHILD SURVEY .............................................................................................................................................19

    6.3 APPENDIX 3 SURVEY RESULTS AND STATISTICAL ANALYSIS ......................................................................................................25

    6.4 APPENDIX 4 EXTRACTS FROM THE VLE ..............................................................................................................................30

    6.4.1 Year 1 VLE Forum Favourite Fruits ....................................................................................................................30

    6.4.2 FS2 VLE Forum Number Bonds to 10.................................................................................................................31

  • C Goldblatt Virtual Learning Environments February 2012

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    Project 1 Virtual Learning Environments Investigate the benefits of using a managed/Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)

    and evaluate its effectiveness in enhancing the learner experience.

    1 Introduction

    This report will explore how using a VLE in a primary school can benefit the school, teachers, learners

    and wider school community. It will begin by discussing the varied aims and intentions of using a VLE in

    a primary school and go on to discuss its proven and potential benefits; including how ICT in general can

    benefit and extend the curriculum. Following this, the report will look at how the focus school is

    currently using their VLE, incorporating a comparative analysis of current statistics and survey results

    regarding usage.

    1.1 Learning Outcomes

    Investigate and evaluate the effectiveness of using a VLE to enhance and extend learning

    beyond the classroom in a Primary School.

    Critically appraise how the VLE can benefit students and the wider school community.

    Appraise and evaluate the usage statistics of the VLE to see what effect the confidence and

    capability of a teacher has on the general usage of the VLE by the class.

    Evaluate what material is the most popular/useful/effective and explore how the content could

    be developed further.

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    2 Virtual Learning Environments

    In order to investigate the aims of using a VLE in a primary school setting and how its use can aid

    learning, we must first understand what a VLE is?

    The acronym VLE stands for Virtual Learning Environment. According to Becta (2004), a VLE is a

    software tool which provides a diverse selection of tools that enable learners, staff and other members

    of the school community to interact online. In 2002, Dillenbourg, Schneider and Synteta described a VLE

    as an online space, providing information and social tools, specifically designed to enhance classroom

    learning. Simply put, a VLE is a secure online area where learners and educators can communicate.

    Some people erroneously refer to a VLE as an MLE, a Managed Learning Environment. An MLE takes a

    VLE and a management information system (MIS) and amalgamates them, thus giving a school the

    potential to integrate pupil data, learning resources and assessment data (Becta 2004). In this essay the

    focus will be on using a VLE, not an MLE.

    2.1 VLEs in a Primary School Context

    The majority of learners have access to the internet (and through this the potential to connect to a VLE)

    at home. This is evidenced by the fact that in 2007, 61% of UK households had internet access (Ofsted,

    2009). The Office for National Statistics released a report in 2011 which states that 77% of UK

    households have internet access. This significant increase, over the last four years, indicates an

    enhancement of childrens access to the internet at home.

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    According to Becta (2003), primary school children are spending three times longer using ICT at home

    than they are at school. Although this does not directly refer to childrens use of a computer or the

    internet at home, it does highlight the fact that a large majority of children are regularly exposed to

    some form or another of ICT and are comfortable using it independently. In the words of Green and

    Hannon (2007, p.10), the use of digital technology has been completely normalised by this generation,

    and it is now fully integrated into their daily lives.

    Over the past ten years, schools have been making a big move to upgrade their technological hardware

    but the impact on teaching and learning from this modernisation has not been significant. Schools need

    to be looking at the interests of their students and recognise that nowadays access to knowledge is

    imperative, even more so than hardware. Educators should be looking for ways to connect school based

    learning with their students lives at home. In order to do this effectively, the educators must

    understand what their students are interested in and proficient in doing so that they cultivate new

    information and skills through the existing skill set of the learners. Children are regularly using

    computers, competent at finding information on the internet and are learning new skills all the time.

    (ibid., 2007). If schools do not realise or accept this, they limit their potential to connect with the

    students, parents, governors and wider school community.

    2.2 Benefits of using a VLE

    As mentioned above, a VLE is a software tool which provides a secure web based platform to a school.

    This platform can host many tools which can be used effectively to extend learning beyond the four

    walls of the classroom (Becta 2004).

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    Due to the VLE being web based means pedagogy is consequently more efficient; it allows members of

    the school community easy access to relevant information whenever and wherever necessary.

    (Ainsworth, P and Smith, J. 2008). Other potential benefits of having and using a web based VLE include:

    increased levels of communication with parents through the accessibility of school information and

    potential to increase communication between staff, enabling them to plan collaboratively (Becta, 2003).

    The easy access that a VLE provides to learning resources means that absent students can easily access

    any information they may have missed (Ainsworth et al, 2008), thus encouraging their learning and

    ensuring a consistent flow of information.

    The VLE also provides a multitude of tools that can be enabled or disabled for a school. For example,

    the VLE hosts com