Does your school provide a VLE or a MLE for students? Do you know the difference? Before reading part of the current WikiPedia article for “Virtual learning environment” I didn’t. According to the article:

A virtual learning environment (VLE) is a software system designed to support teaching and learning in an educational setting, as distinct from a Managed Learning Environment (MLE) where the focus is on management. A VLE will normally work over the Internet and provide a collection of tools such as those for assessment (particularly of types that can be marked automatically, such as multiple choice), communication, uploading of content, return of students work, peer assessment, administration of student groups, collecting and organising student grades, questionnaires, tracking tools, and similar. New features in these systems include wikis, blogs and RSS. While originally created for distance education, VLEs are now most often used to supplement the face-2-face classroom, commonly known as Blended Learning.

Ah yes, blended learning. Blended learning to provide differentiated instruction and differentiated assessment is a bandwagon (or Mardi Gras float) ALL educators in the 21st century should be on!

Rose Bowl Parade float

I’ve heard the term LMS (learning management system) used more in the context of distributed learning than VLE here in the United States, but I think I like the term VLE better. With LMS, the concept of more CONTROL seems inherent in the word “management. VLE seems to connate more autonomy and self-direction for learners, which I think is vital. Words matter. I like the term VLE.

New series of questions for your school board president:

How is our school district providing a virtual learning environment (VLE) for all our students, so their learning can be extended beyond the traditional “boundaries of the bell?”

Here’s some pseudocode to describe how this conversation might take place:

You: ask above question
IF
BoardPresident response = “We are using Moodle in all classes starting in grade 4 since we have 1:1 learning environments in all schools”
SAY “Great!”

IF
BoardPresident response = “We are using [solution X] to provide VLE access for students and teachers.”
ASK “How are teachers and students being supported in their use of the VLE?”

IF
BoardPresident response = “What is a virtual learning environment?”
REFERENCE the Wikipedia entry for VLE for speaking points

ELSE
ASK “What is the best way to stimulate conversations in our school district about the benefits of a virtual learning environment?”

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5 Responses to VLE versus MLE

  1. Chris says:

    I am very curious about your last question.

    “What is the best way to stimulate conversations in our school district about the benefits of a virtual learning environment?”

    As the point person for our 9-12 1:1 initiative, I am constantly frustrated by the fact that my teachers feel so overwhelmed by curriculum writing, pedagogical study, etc…that the VLE seems a leap that some are not ready to take.

    Is this a question of time management and prioritization of learning culture?

  2. jimc137 says:

    There is not a school in our district that has either a VLE or a MLE. Mention MOODLE and they assume a fancy crossbreeding of dogs. Is seems that static webpages and online grade viewing is the limit of our districts vision. The computer lab in the library was made into an office and storage room. If students want to access the 15 computers in the library they have to skip lunch. Wikispaces and Google apps is our only hope.

  3. Wesley Fryer says:

    jimc137: There are definitely more things in which we can place our hope than just wikispaces and Google apps! I would encourage you to explore, if you are not already, the power and potential of digital storytelling to help students demonstrate their understanding and mastery of concepts as well as skills. When we talk about the VISION people have or do not have for computer and technology use, I think that vision is most tangibly expanded and stretched when people have REAL experiences seeing others use technology in transformative ways, and when those people use technology themselves in transformative ways. Check out the videos in our growing Celebrate Oklahoma Voices Ning. As the teachers in our statewide digital storytelling project return to their own school districts and help students create AND LOCALLY SHARE digital stories like these, I think the vision of others in their schools and communities will expand about the transformative potential of digital technologies. I personally place a great deal of hope in the power of positive, constructive digital storytelling to change our schools and expand people’s perceptions of teaching and learning in the 21st century.

  4. Wesley Fryer says:

    Chris: I think this discussion of a VLE is a conversation about how we “do” school. I think the VLE should be the centerpiece of how we create and share meaningful tasks as well as content connections for students in our schools, at least from 4th grade on. The questions a VLE can help answer is: How do I share assignments with students? How do students turn in their work? How do students engage in virtual conversations and discussions which extend those we have started face-to-face in class? How do students work collaboratively to create documents and projects, in a safe wiki environment? I think VLEs can help teachers fundamentally change the way they look at the learning process and their interactions with students, understanding and operationalizing the goals of blended learning.

  5. Rodd Lucier says:

    Taking most teachers (and administrators) where they are, I think we are far better to introduce e-tools as parallels to common practices. In this case, the well-known term ‘portfolio assessment’ is a nice bridge to discussions about how educators might use online environments to develop ‘electronic portfolios’.

    I really think the glut of web language (VLE, MLE, LMS, wiki, blog, RSS…) is serving to increase the divide among variously techno-literate educators .

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