The Role of VLEs in the Online Delivery of Staff Development

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Delivering Staff Development Online
Within the Information Community, there is a move towards greater formalisation of staff skills. This formalisation will include standardisation of qualifications and widespread re-use (through sharing) of learning and training materials. It is anticipated that the Internet will be used extensively for delivery and administration of these courses. Such an approach, combining the use of new technologies and network delivery is ideally suited to permit flexible provision and also establish distributed learner communities to support the learning process. In the context of staff development, such a combination provides:

  • Flexibility: allowing material to be delivered on demand, enabling learning independent of time or location constraints,
  • Economy of Scale: allowing delivery of learning programmes which might not have been possible within smaller institutions, especially those specialising in a single field such as art colleges,
  • Extensibility: allowing the development of banks of modular materials for curricula, which can be tailored to specific staff needs over a specific period of time,
  • Collaborative opportunity: extending the scope for collaboration (and sharing) with other staff in similar positions at different institutions, enhancing the learning experience,
  • Standardisation: enabling the adoption of recognised qualifications across the sector.

Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) offer an integrated solution to managing online learning, providing a delivery mechanism, learner tracking, assessment and access to resources. Although some VLEs can be restrictive, if used effectively, they can provide a familiar, but functional environment for the user. As a unified environment, a VLE is simple and efficient to manage and therefore attractive to the administrator.

Choice of Virtual Learning Environment is critical. Some learning environments are perfect for delivering learning material, but do little to encourage communication and collaborative working which is vital to professional development where the emphasis is on learning by reflection on practice (both one's own and one's peers) rather than learning facts from an electronic textbook.

Presentation Outline
This presentation will:

  • discuss some of the issues involved in delivering staff development online (quality, flexibility, economy, standardisation, peer-learning.),
  • look at the advantages and disadvantages of online delivery (integration with IT-related work practises, isolation, motivation),
  • highlight some special factors which are relevant to the IS community (use of jiscmail, existing paper materials),
  • summarise the features of commercially available virtual/managed learning environments (emphasising role in training),
  • consider the role of the learning community in online learning/training, and the possibilities offered (peer-learning, portfolios, assessment of work done).

The presentation can be opened from here or downloaded as a zip file from here. Finally, a HTML version with extra notes is available here: 140301text.html
Colin Milligan - ICBL, Heriot-Watt University -
last updated 25/04/2001