Headlines: January 13th, 2009

Schools, colleges and other learning providers have been slow to take up the use of Virtual Learning Environments, according to OFSTED. It says that although the schemes are in the early stages of their development their success depends on the enthusiasm of teachers and learners.

The report, “Virtual learning environments: an evaluation of their development in a sample of educational settings”, finds that the concept of Virtual Learning Environments currently represents only a small aspect of learning. It says the systems allow learners and staff access to learning materials through specially designed computer systems with notes and handouts, practice tests, presentations, video clips and links to useful Internet being commonly available.

The report is based on a survey in a range of settings, including schools, colleges, work-based learning and adult and community learning centres. More than three quarters of those that did have a VLE showed aspects that were good but none had a system that covered every subject area comprehensively. The report finds that colleges are making most use of VLEs and primary schools the least.

It also reveals that the best virtual systems depend on an enthusiastic teacher, trainer or manager to develop materials and to encourage use of the system by learners and staff. A good grasp of information technology is not critical to a good VLE but they flourish where skilled and confident teachers and tutors regard them as an extension of their normal work.

OFSTED wants the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the and the Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills to continue to guide the development of electronically based learning materials and it calls on the Learning and Skills Council and its successor organisations to maintain the funding of work-based learning e-learning and VLE developments.