Virtual Learning Environments


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Pedagogical Design

The core activity of the project is the
creation and maintenance of a reflective Blog as part of a course group
project. Additionally a variety of mobile friendly web 2 tools are used in
conjunction with the smartphone. The trials investigate how the smartphone can
be used to enhance almost any aspect of the course. The project uses the
smartphone and Personal Computers for the following activities (see the
following table illustrating the alignment of these activities with the
projects underlying social constructivist pedagogy):

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Visit Portfolio development Moodle 2.0

(Reference:Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Moodle Course Management System  with a navigation system and online community building tools.
Moodle Course Management System with a navigation system and online community building tools.
Moodle Course Management System with a navigation system and online community building tools.

A virtual learning environment (VLE) is a software system designed to help teachers by facilitating the management of educational courses for their students, especially by helping teachers and learners with course administration. The system can often track the learners' progress, which can be monitored by both teachers and learners. While frequently thought of as primarily tools for distance education, they are most often used to supplement the face-2-face classroom..


Virtual Managed Learning Environment with chat, messaging, course creation and management tools
CyberExtension Virtual Managed Learning Environment  with chat, messaging, course creation and management tools
CyberExtension Virtual Managed Learning Environment with chat, messaging, course creation and management tools

These systems usually run on servers, to serve the course to students Multimedia and/or web pages.
In 'Virtually There' a book and DVD pack distributed freely to schools by the Yorkshire and Humber Grid for Learning Foundation (YHGfL) Professor Stephen Heppell writes in the foreword: "Learning is breaking out of the narrow boxes that it was trapped in during the 20th century; teachers' professionalism, reflection and ingenuity are leading learning to places that genuinely excite this new generation of connected young school students - and their teachers too. VLEs are helping to make sure that their learning is not confined to a particular building, or restricted to any single location or moment."
Components of these systems usually include templates for content pages, discussion forums, chat, quizzes and exercises such as multiple-choice, true/false and one-word-answer. Teachers fill in these templates and then release them for learners to use. New features in these systems include blogs and RSS. Services generally provided include access control, provision of e-learning content, communication tools, and administration of the user groups.

Personal Learning Environments

PLE's are a shift from the island paradigm of the LMS technique to understanding the web as a door, a portal to learning opportunities.
The keyword web 2.0 makes it possible: Moving away from standard learning management systems (“one for all” technique) to personalised learning environments (“one for me” technique) consisting of snips, bits and pieces, collections of tools and services which are bundled to individual and/ or shared landscapes of knowledge, experiences and contacts.
See also PLE's versus VLE's ....

Visit ePortfolio PLE vs LMS

Personal Learning Environments PLE's a system that helps learners take control of and manage their own learning. This includes providing support for learners to set their own learning goals, manage their learning, manage both content and process, and communicate with others in the process of learning. (Wikipaedia ref:)


1 Similar terms* 2 Facilities* 3 Popularity* 4 Transferring course content* 5 Systems available* 6 List of some virtual learning environments

Similar terms

A VLE is a computer program that facilitates computerized learning or e-learning. Such e-learning systems are sometimes also called Learning Management System (LMS), Course Management System (CMS), Learning Content Management System (LCMS), Managed Learning Environment (MLE), Learning Support System (LSS) or Learning Platform (LP); it is education via computer-mediated communication (CMC) or Online Education.
A more correct term may be a virtual environment for learning, rather than virtual learning environment. This removes any ambiguities and identifies that it is the environment which is virtual and not the learning.
In the United States, CMS and LMS are the more common terms, however LMS is more frequently associated with software for managing corporate training programs rather than courses in traditional education institutions.
In the United Kingdom and many European countries the terms VLE and MLE are favored; however, it is important to realize that these are two very different things. A VLE can be considered a subsystem of an MLE, whereas MLE refers to the wider infrastructure of information systems in an organization that support and enable electronic learning on a wider scale. In fact a rather pedantic reading of the term MLE could be extended to encompass the physical environment in which learning takes place (i.e. a school). Also the use of VLE avoids confusion with the use of LMS to mean "Library Management System" (which is more commonly referred to as Integrated Library System, or ILS, in the United States).
Becta, in the UK, have coined the term learning platform to cover both MLE and VLE as used in the schools sector. 'The term learning platform describes a broad range of ICT systems used to deliver and support learning. Through a learning platform, hardware, software and supporting services are brought together to enable more effective ways of working within and outside the classroom. At the heart of any learning platform is the concept of a personalized online learning space for the pupil. This space should offer teachers and pupils access to stored work, e-learning resources, communication and collaboration with peers, and the facility to track progress.' – DfES Making IT Personal leaflet, March 2006.
Greenhead College is one notable user of the VLE system, where it is used extensively by both students and members of staff, and this was noted by Becta in an awards ceremony. Another user of VLE is Woodhouse College


A VLE should make it possible for a course designer to present to students, through a single, consistent, and intuitive interface, all the components required for a course of education or training. Although logically it is not a requirement, in practice VLEs always make extensive use of computers and the Internet. A VLE should implement all the following elements:
  • The syllabus for the course
  • Administrative information including the location of sessions, details of pre-requisites and co-requisites, credit information, and how to get help
  • A notice board for up-to-date course information
  • Student registration and tracking facilities, if necessary with payment options
  • Basic teaching materials. These may be the complete content of the course, if the VLE is being used in a distance learning context, or copies of visual aids used in lectures or other classes where it is being used to support a campus-based course.
  • Additional resources, including reading materials, and links to outside resources in libraries and on the Internet.
WebCT Learning Management System  with a navigation menu and icons giving access to automated tools and content pages.
WebCT Learning Management System with a navigation menu and icons giving access to automated tools and content pages.
external image magnify-clip.pngWebCT Learning Management System with a navigation menu and icons giving access to automated tools and content pages.
Edumate Student Learning and Management System  showing the main learning interface.
Edumate Student Learning and Management System showing the main learning interface.
external image magnify-clip.pngEdumate Student Learning and Management System showing the main learning interface.
  • Production of documentation and statistics on the course in the format required for institutional administration and quality control
  • All these facilities should be capable of being hyperlinked together
  • Easy authoring tools for creating the necessary documents including the insertion of hyperlinks - though it is acceptable (arguably, preferable) for the VLE to be designed so that standard word processors or other office software can be used for authoring.
In addition, the VLE should be capable of supporting numerous courses, so that students and instructors in a given institution (and, indeed, across institutions) experience a consistent interface when moving from one course to another.


Open University Support System
Open University Support System
external image magnify-clip.pngOpen University Support System
Universities and other institutions of higher education are increasingly turning to VLEs in order to:
  • Economize on the time of teaching staff, especially when they are also involved in research and administration. The extent of the economy over traditional "talk-and-chalk" teaching is not yet clear, but using a VLE almost certainly absorbs less instructor time (and requires less expertise, while producing a more professional result) than creating a home-grown website for a course. (Many users of VLE's would dispute the above statement.)
  • Provide a service for students who increasingly look to the internet as the natural medium for finding information and resources.
  • Ensure that quality control requirements are met by providing a standard vehicle for collecting the required information
  • Facilitate the integration of distance and campus-based learning. or of learning on different campuses.
In the UK schools are being encouraged to make use of Learning Platforms. The DfES in the UK government has published an eStrategy[1] outlining priorities that include every learner in schools having access to an online learning space and e-portfolio.[2]

Transferring course content

Most VLEs support Shareable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) as a standard way to upload, launch and track courses. There are no commonly used standards that define how the learner's performance within a course should be transferred from one VLE to another.
Some institutions have attempted to combat this problem by agreeing in collaborative to share common platforms. Use of open source VLEs such as Moodle (moodle is also referred to as a CMS or Course Management System) have more recently enabled institutions to share content more easily. For the schools sector in the UK the DfES via Becta has defined a Learning Platform "conformance framework" to encourage interoperability.[3]

Systems available

For those wishing to deliver e-learning there are many free open source and proprietary VLEs available for use. On-demand e-learning services are also a popular choice because they can be deployed in minutes and don't require instructors & institutions to run their own servers.
Many VLEs are placed on a web server. In a typical VLE there are one or more programs or languages that provides the user (Teacher-Student) interface, and which interacts with a database. For example, a VLE might use PHP as its web language/program, with MySQL as a database.
VLEs are increasingly found in new niches. These include new emerging technologies, as well as specialized markets. A VLE can be deployed on a USB drive as a child, which synchronizes from time to time with its web based parent. VLEs can be used for training or in something as specialized as to meet ISO 9000 certification requirements.
One extremely ambitious VLE project takes the "virtual" part of Virtual Learning Environments very seriously: Sloodle [1]. Sloodle is a merge of Second Life, with its virtual reality, and Moodle, with its course management system. While early in development, this approach hints at new options for enabling learning in a social, immersive, and interactive way.
A 3D virtual learning environment called Edusim brings a lessons driven 3D virtual environment to the classroom interactive whiteboard surface allowing the direct manipulation of 3D virtual objects.

List of some virtual learning environments

Learning management systems

Course management systems

Omnium elearning

SAKAI ......................................................a Collaborative Learning Environment (CLE)


Example of an Institutional Approach
Ref: Newport Beach, CA Dec 2007

STRUCTURE — hybrid model based on Apache; institutionally-based; active collaboration between academic institutions, commercial enterprises, other open-source initiatives & standards bodies drives innovation.
LEADERSHIP — provided by recognized community leaders & Sakai Foundation staff.
PROJECTS — staffed by volunteers who work for organizations with an interest in Sakai.
SUSTAINABILITY — institutional & organizational commitments of human & financial capital underwrite Sakai’s development model & help ensure a sustainable community.

Listen to Sakai Overview

This video gives an overview of the Sakai Collaborative and Learning Environment (CLE) product, how Sakai is used in in teaching, learning, collaboration, and portfolios, how the Sakai community works, how Sakai works to improve interoperability through standards, and some technical detail about Sakai.

Virtual learning environment

Other descriptions

  • Apex Learning - K-12 online course service and AP test study
  • ATutor - LCMS
  • Blackboard - a family of software applications designed to enhance teaching and learning
  • Dokeos - elearning and course management web application
  • FirstClass - messaging and communications solution
  • Sakai Project - Collaboration and Learning Environment
  • WebCT - (Now a part of Blackboard) software applications designed to enhance teaching and learning

See also


  1. ^ eStrategy
  2. ^ e-portfolio
  3. ^

Further reading

  • Jenkins, M, T. Browne and R. Walker (2005). VLE Surveys: A longitudinal perspective between March 2001, March 2003 and March 2005 for higher education in the United Kingdom. UCISA. Retrieved August 8, 2007 from
  • Morgan, G. (2003). Faculty Use of Course Management Systems. 2, Retrieved November 27, 2005, from
  • Paulsen, M. F. 2003. Online Education and Learning Management Systems - Global Elearning in a Scandinavian Perspective. Oslo: NKI Forlaget.
  • Heppell, S. (2007). Virtually There : Learning Platforms - YHGfL/Cleveratom ISBN 987-0-9556006-0-9 vironments