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This new approach increases student engagement in and out of the classroom, creates new opportunities for student collaboration and enhances the flow of communication with tutors, teachers, parents and peers. From a technical point of view, there

has been a great effort in the last few years in designing more user-friendly and easy to use interfaces, centred on students’ needs. Also, with the wide adoption of managed hosting services, learning systems are now available in the cloud. This drastically reduces cost for schools, enabling them to allocate resources to designing more efficient learning programmes without the burden of IT procurement and maintenance.

Q: What’s the next step for VLEs? Liz Sproat: One of the key areas to watch will be the split between the monolithic VLE products that provide a full service VLE experience and the increasing trend of app developers augmenting other platforms. At the full service end of the market, we’re seeing some trends towards technology integrations in which student information system, content management systems and VLEs merge together. At the same time, as the app

provide essential communication, collaboration, content creation and now assignment features. In addition, many of our schools are seeing real impact on student engagement, motivation and learning outcomes which is really at the heart of what technology should provide. Simon Hay: Yes, we have noticed an increase of VLE users. 1:1 iPad or BYOD roll-outs in schools have all contributed towards this increase, partly because they need a glue that keeps it all together. Additionally, the old breed of the VLEs has come and gone and learning platforms such as Firefly offer something much more centred around learning; they are also much more user friendly and making the most of mobile technology. The new VLEs also give opportunities to involved parents in the interaction between teachers and students. Mathew Small: We are seeing an increased interest for VLE among UK schools, both public and private. First and foremost this is because schools now recognise the pedagogical value of an enhanced learning that includes online resources, multimedia documents, remote or differed access to lessons.

development world grows ever more strongly, we’re seeing some amazing apps that provide new functionality that may or may not have once been part of a traditional VLE. Some great examples include: Hapara, Edmodo, Doctopus, and gScholar. All of these can be used alongside Google Apps for Education to enhance the experience. We’re also seeing an increasing trend, mentioned earlier, towards cloud-based technologies. Simon Hay: Becoming more and more integrated in everyday learning through mobile devices. Continued development of parent engagement. Mathew Small: To be successful, VLEs need to be centred on students and their learning needs. That’s why at Blackboard our product developers work closely with schools around the world to collect feedback and suggestions to incorporate in our solutions. VLEs are also becoming more

immersive; students are able to create their own online profiles and interact with peers like they do on social networks. Older students can easily create their own portfolios, buy books related to courses, get in touch with business for internships and much more. This is already a reality and it is happening now. ET

Student focus: does the campus VLE help or hinder?

By Jared Stein, Vice President of Research and Education at Canvas by Instructure

As I’ve begun reading more books about personal learning, I’ve noticed that successful people share traits like focus, goal-seting, and persistence. Steve Jobs put it best when he said: “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are.” With that in mind, let’s examine the importance of focus and how technology can either hinder or support this critical skill. Focus isn’t just choosing one thing,

it’s choosing to abandon everything else. Doing so frees up our time, energy, and perhaps most importantly, our atention on the one thing we most want to achieve. In education, the VLE is a flexible tool

for the instructor that allows learning to happen outside the constraints of a physical classroom. For example:

Digitisation of materials provides greater reusability. Communication leverages text, audio, and video to facilitate rich feedback and deeper dialogue. Mobile access encourages learners to engage more frequently Data provides insight into the effectiveness of learning design and can help predict student performance based on past behaviour.

If developed the right way, the VLE streamlines workflows by bringing a variety of tools into a single, easy- to-use experience that is simple and virtually invisible to the learner; compatible with other tools; and able to foster changes in habits without disrupting flow. Historically, educators have viewed

the VLE as burdensome because legacy systems have been hard to learn, unreliable, and disconnected from the technologies and services educators interact with every day. The Canvas VLE confronted that legacy by creating a user experience that provides the maximum benefit for the least amount of effort, so teachers and students can focus on the interactions that lead most directly to learning.

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