Very Little Enthusiasm for VLEs?

A new Ofsted report has looked into the impact of VLEs (Virtual Learning Environments) in England and found that they have been slow to take off, are occasionally used as a dumping ground for course materials and benefits to learners are so far not yet obvious.

Or compare the report as presented in the press release from Ofsted versus how it was reported by the BBC, the Guardian and The Times.

A quick glance at the report shows that Ofsted have not in fact been looking just at the use of VLEs in schools but in …

18 colleges, six primary and two secondary schools, three work-based learning providers, three adult and community learning providers and one local authority. Inspectors also remotely reviewed five college and four school virtual learning environments (VLEs).

… so that is a total of just 12 school VLEs that were viewed by inspectors out of total of 42 that were considered in the writing of this report – as I recall there are about 23,000 schools in England. The report does not seem to give much information on how the institutions and their VLEs were selected, so it is difficult to tell whether any attempts were made to ensure that this is a representative sample.

In terms of finding more comprehensive numbers, the Becta Harnessing Technology schools survey 2008 may provide more enlightenment. While their recent study on the uptake of Web 2.0 technologies in the classroom, re-enforces the lack of enthusiasm for VLEs but highlights some potential for the broader use of technology in the classroom.

Should formal “walled gardens” such as VLEs be encouraged? Or should there be more of an emphasis on just using technology in the classroom? Or does all technology just get in the way of effective teaching?

Some selected readings:

Intute: Social Sciences features more Internet resources on topic of Educational Technology.