The VLE is dead. Long live the VLE.

Martin Weller blogs today that the VLE/LMS is dead. He states some of the pros and cons of VLEs but he feels ultimately that there will be a shift away from VLEs to “loosely coupled, freely available third party systems”.

The model Martin describes of “loosely coupled teaching” was tried by Canadian schoolteacher Clarence Fisher who blogged about small pieces in November last year and had serious concerns about this approach:

The kids need to remember URLs, passwords, and how to navigate through different interfaces. They need to remember how to run WordPress, make a photostream in Flickr, add blogs to their aggregator, and format a wiki.

While this is what we all do as adults, I want to ensure that their focus remains on the learning that is possible using these tools, not the frustration of forgetting how to accomplish a specific task.

I worry about the number of small pieces we have joined together…….

Now some of the problems such as authentication may diminish thanks to initiatives such as OpenSocial from Google. However despite the clear attractions of Facebook etc I’m coming to the conclusion that institutions such as the OU are going to need some kind of a VLE/LMS indefinitely as a way of organising students into groups on discreet courses etc (see earlier posting) – and maintaining a core of functionality which our tutors can work with and we can support, particularly when the functionality is required for assessment purposes.

The small pieces model may work for IT literate teachers or lecturers with relatively small groups of students and in an informal learning context but is still highly problematic for the facilitation of distance higher education at scale. However it is possible that the VLE will evolve into more of a management information system, working away in the background, with its information exportable to a variety of other systems under the control of students who wish to view it in environments they prefer.

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