Thursday, June 7, 2012

What do students think of Virtual Learning Environments

Students want lecturers to make more and better usage of their Virtual Learning Environments (Blackboard, Moodle and so forth), and say that using VLE's helps them to learn. Those are two of the many, many findings presented by a project I'm involved with at EdTech 2012 last week. The presentation, with audio, is embedded above. Pop on your headphones and have a listen as you read.

The project looks at how students really use and feel about virtual learning environments. What's unique about it is the scale. I kicked it off here in Cork in 2008, and four years later it's still running across a dozen institutions in Ireland, using a common survey instrument to give us a dataset that allows us to unpick differences in student attitudes between different institutions, VLE systems and demographic groups. It's a big dataset, and we're only scratching the surface.

This is the first time we've been able to do time comparison between institutions in the 2008/09 and 2011/12 groups. Damien Raftery talks about those results from about 7'14 in. It's really interesting to see patterns emerge over time, as VLE usage seems to climb an S curve over time, and student usage patterns evolve over time since '08, as economies crashes, tablets launched and broadband cover improved.

It's an entirely open, grassroots project. We have a big, highly engaged team, but get no grants and have no project leader, and we like it that way. The work gets done because the findings are genuinely useful for people figuring out how to move forward with their own VLE's. Everyone contributes according to their interests and skills. New institutions are always welcome, whether you just want to use the survey instrument, pool data, or get involved on the analysis side. Over the summer, we'll be kicking off a staff survey instrument to complement the student perspective, and hopefully we'll start getting into system metrics next year to help address the limitations of survey data. If you want more information, there's a paper on AISHE-J (old data, but useful nevertheless) and all going well a chapter coming down the pipeline in EDIN's Emerging Issues III late in the year, or just get in touch with me, or any of the authors.

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