The Role of VLEs in the Online Delivery of Staff Development
Our discussion of course structures, matching environment to educational need etc. should make it clear that no single solution would fit all. Unfortunately, economic pressures (and other logistical considerations) will often dictate that (at least where the decision is made at an institutional level), a single solution will be chosen. In fact it is likely that where an institution chooses a single VLE to underpin delivery of student learning, that same VLE will be used for the delivery of staff development - however inappropriate it is. Making recommendations is therefore only useful in a very abstract sense, and it makes sense to take a more open (and pragmatic view), rather than look for ideal scenarios. What follows are general recommendations:
  1. IF YOU CAN, Make a Classroom, not a Library or a Lecture Hall When delivering learning materials, you should always keep in mind that a textbook (or stapled photocopy) is better than a linked set of web pages: they can be rolled up and read on the bus, you can make notes in the margin, and you can read them again and again at no cost. Similarly, it is better to use a familiar medium such as a video or tape cassette than to provide non-interactive multimedia which might take time to download or not play on some computers.
  2. Match the course structure and mode of delivery to the level and objectives of the course - don't put in a discussion forum because the learning environment offers it. If you feel the course content justifies the use of a discussion forum, make sure that you can devote the time and effort to managing that discussion. Make sure that participants are clear as to the objectives of the forum and make sure that they understand what is expected of them.
  3. Exploit the Flexibility of the Medium - for web based delivery, think in webs! If you are going to utilise a linear structure, think seriously about why you want to deliver online. More complex structures for learning materials cater to diverse learning styles, encourage exploratory learning and can be easily extended to provide more resources. Think of how your users will access the materials and make sure that you design the materials accordingly - providing alternative materials as necessary. You will have to make sure that your materials are 'accessible' anyway.
  4. Take the Benefits of the Technology but Don't Overplay Them - there is nothing worse than technology for technology sake. But remember, using technology to deliver learning can be incredibly powerful where appropriate. If the circumstances are right, exploit the medium.
  5. Consider the Motivation of your Learners If you teach online you must be careful to assess the motivation of your learners, and to design your course accordingly. online learners will need mpre support (and attention). If possible, construct courses such that learners can support each other, rather than everything relying on the tutor (which can make for rather un-motivating learning.
  6. Make the Learner the Centre - By making the learner the focus of the course rather than the materials, you encourage a more active approach. Learners will appreciate the importance of their effort to their learning.
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Last updated by Colin Milligan, 22nd November 1999
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