Virtual Learning Environments

What is a virtual learning environment?

A virtual learning environment, or VLE, is a set of digital tools or applications that allow a teacher to deliver an online course. Online learning has become more popular as teaching and learning have moved into the digital space. A virtual learning environment is essential to facilitate learning online. The virtual learning environment consists of a standard set of resource types to structure and manage an online course. These resources can be course content such as text, images and videos, assessment components to deliver quizzes, longer-form assessment, a forum or discussion space to allow for peer-to-peer learning, and collaboration tools to allow for group work. Not all of these resources are in every course – the teacher can decide to activate specific resources as needed, based on course content, the audience and their teaching approach. Administration tools, available only to the course creator, include options to structure the course content and data tracking of students, such as engagement with the assessment’s scope and results. Virtual learning environments can be used in schools, colleges or universities and for workplace training.

Purpose of a virtual learning environment

The primary purpose of a virtual learning environment is to deliver online learning to students successfully. However, if we look at the purpose of the virtual learning environment from the teachers’ point of view, we can identify some key elements. These include:

  • a tool to structure educational content in a logical flow
  • the ability to add several different media types to one course
  • support for setting up assessment components
  • tools for managing student access and communication
  • data tracking and analysis on student performance and engagement

What is the difference between a learning management system or a virtual learning environment?

A good question indeed. Most people may be familiar with learning management systems (or LMS) as these have been around for many years. Popular learning management systems include the open-source Moodle and Blackboard. These both have virtual learning environments as part of their offerings. Are you confused yet? The main difference between learning management systems and virtual learning environments is that the learning management system has many administrative features to record student data and progress across a course or courses. However, the primary function of a virtual learning environment is to deliver course content and facilitate student interaction with the teacher.

Is virtual learning good or bad?

The short answer is neither. Some people tend to vilify technology in education, but technology fulfils specific education needs based on certain circumstances.

Benefits of virtual learning

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