The Role of Virtual Learning Environments in the Online Delivery of Staff Development

Report 2: Delivering Staff and Professional Development Using Virtual Learning Environments

Colin Milligan
Institute for Computer Based Learning, Heriot-Watt University, Riccarton, Edinburgh EH14-4AS
October 1999


0 Overview
There is a critical need for large-scale staff and professional development in the UK Higher Education sector, as identified by the Dearing report and others. The Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (ILT) has been established as the professional body for higher education staff involved in teaching and learning. Staff will gain membership of ILT through development of portfolios of their teaching practice and through accredited training and development courses. In future, it is expected that all new lecturing staff will be required to undergo some accredited training in order to complete their probation (this might be linked to associate membership of the ILT). Greater formalisation of Teaching and Learning skills will require an expansion in staff and professional development provision at HE institutions. Such large-scale professional development would benefit from a wider range of delivery strategies, which are effective, flexible and efficient. Online delivery of staff and professional development offers a solution that provides the flexibility and scalability required. Online delivery can complement face-to-face delivery or may entirely replace it.

Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) offer an integrated solution to managing online learning, providing a delivery mechanism, student 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 administer and therefore attractive to the provider.

Careful implementation of communications technologies can help to create and encourage communities of staff undertaking development at different institutions. Such practitioner networks may prove to be invaluable for the sharing of good practice and peer learning which will be central to high quality development.

1 Background
2 Online Education
3 Delivering Learning Online
4 Discussion
5 References

Colin Milligan, ICBL, November 1999 - JTAP-573
Comments to - - © Heriot-Watt University 1998