Weblog by Stanley Portier focused on topics, trends and events in the field of educational technology.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Beyond the VLE
Last week I visited the third SURF conference titled 'Beyond the VLE'. Some of the issues brought up were a follow up of the the Personal Learning Environment as presented by Scott Wilson at the second edition of this conference in 2006. An additional issue that was explicitly mentioned in the presentation of Nico Juist (Hogeschool INHOLLAND) is that we should also take into account the technical 'infrastructure' a student already has when he enrolls for a study program. His bag is not only filled with (note)books, but also with virtual things like a MSN, Skype, Google docs, a Hyves profile, and last but not least an impressive 5Gb mail account on e.g. Gmail. However, when a student enrolls we tend to prescribe a whole range of ICT facilities that can or need to be used as a facilitator for his work as a student. But does the student really need it? For example Hogeschool Zuyd made a clear choice in relation to an instant messaging function: students may need it for their group work, and if so, they can organise it by themselves. Many VLE's offer a (most times) limited chat function, but in daily practice students tend to use MSN. They're used to it, and it contains all their relevant contacts. So why bother to offer an instant messaging service? The same rationale may apply for offering an e-mail account. Why? To have an addiotional e-mail address that won't be used (or only for auto-forward purposes) and has a limited mailbox site of 200Mb? The discussion comes down to the fundamental question what we want to facilitate as an organisation. In addition to the PLE paradigm isn't it much more powerful when a student can create his own portal page, including those components ('web parts') that he needs. If for example Netvibes is your default carrier, you can organise a lot of things only by developing the right RSS-feeds for the user. He is responsible what he wants to see, where he wants to see it and how he wants to see it. I'm afraid it will take a real paradigm revolution before educational institutes will go this far. Many things of our current organisation are based on a sense of control: we want to monitor what happens and what students are doing. In a 'free' PLE format we feel that we loose this sense of control. Can we deal with that? Well think about this: there is already a lot of virtual communication and collaboration going on that we don't know about. It's naive to think that all learning and organisation processes happen inside the virtual walls of our institutional systems.
My current job position is senior consultant e-learning at Stoas Learning in Wageningen (NL). My background is in educational psychology, with an emphasis on using ICT in education. In the past 20 years I had job positions at the University of Nijmegen (PhD research), The Dutch Open University, SPC Group, TIP Connect, ROC Midden Nederland and the University of Twente. Since 2002 I also own my private consultancy company called YASM.