This is an archive of the 2013 version of ocTEL.

Learning Platforms #ocTEL 5.2

Reflection on learning platforms

What is your current virtual learning environment or the main technology you use?

Blackboard – institutional VLE.

How does it differ from the ocTEL platform? What learning styles does it afford that ocTEL cannot? Where is it restrictive?

It’s a closed system in several respects: users must log in to access the system. To get log in details users (except in special circumstances) must be registered staff or students at the university. It is also internally closed – users only have access to certain areas of the system – the modules and programmes that they are enrolled on.

Is it ‘open’ in the sense that you can develop or configure tools that fit your pedagogy (e.g. the learning styles above), or does it command a certain pedagogy?

In some respects – there are a range of tools, and with a little imagination these can be configured to suit your needs. However there are limits, especially in relation to connecting to tools or resources outside of the system.

We use it to try and deliver teaching that it social and autonomous, as well as collaborative, but the tools are sometimes barriers to this. An example – discussion forums (never quite good enough whatever the platform!) are of necessity within individual modules. It can take several clicks to get to the appropriate place, only to find no one has added anything new. There is a subscribe option, which will send an email. But this opt in rather than opt out. The RSS feed option has been disabled institution wide. Blackboard are apparently working on bringing this kind of content to the front page (MyBlackboard) but it remains to be seen if and when we will have access to this functionality. Participating in ocTEL has brought it home how important it is that discussions are easily accessible in the times when you have a spare five minutes to contribute. Any barriers here reduce engagement and interaction.

What are the wider implications of enforced platforms and technologies for higher education?

Benefits: Downsides:
Centralised support Rigidity
Stability Slow to respond to drivers for change
Security One size fits all
Shared expertise Closed system
Consistency of student experience Harder to innovate
Integration with student information management systems If not good, can be off putting to staff and students
Quality assurance

How can your learning platform promote inclusion?

It offers a safe and secure space for students to interact. Whilst perhaps not as user friendly or intuitive as Facebook etc. it is private, non-commercial, and guided.


Teaching Fellow and Online Learning Specialist at the University of Leeds

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