The Use Of Virtual Learning Environment In Education
A virtual learning environment (VLE) is not a new phenomenon in education. A lot of schools and universities have already implemented such kind of software. Some large enterprises also have their own VLEs to teach newcomers just at the very beginning of their working experience and improve their qualification later on. So, what is a VLE?
We define a virtual learning environment as an online platform that allows replacing the educational processes from classrooms to the Internet.
In this blog post, we will mention the core features of VLEs as well as their pros and cons.
Virtual Learning Environment Advantages And Disadvantages
First, let us disclose in more detail the virtual education meaning. While the set of features differs from one VLE solution to another, the core functionality basically allows the following:
- Planning and management of lessons and other activities;
- Access to digital learning materials: texts, videos, images, podcasts, etc.;
- Group discussions and one-on-one chats with a teacher;
- Submitting homework and other tasks;
- Grading, tracking students’ performance, providing feedback;
- Holding live lessons.
Such a computer-aided approach reveals new opportunities for students, teachers, and administration as well as brings some challenges. Let us take a look at both pros and cons, and find the most beneficial way to utilize a virtual learning environment.
Advantages of virtual learning environment
The reason to implement any new technology is making something better, simpler, faster. The VLE implementation makes no exception. So, let us begin with the benefits of a virtual learning environment.
With the help of VLE, the educational process becomes more flexible, especially in terms of time. Having permanent and free access to all the learning materials, students can easily align their studies with other plans and activities. So, it gets simpler to continue education even having a full-time job or an infant demanding much time and attention.
In addition to that students are free to work at their own pace. Everyone can read the texts and watch the videos as many times as they need to understand the topic, while fast learners do not have to wait for the rest of the group to move further.
Since learning can be done online, there is no need for attending classrooms. This makes high-quality education available for disabled people as well as for those living in remote areas or even on other continents. The virtual learning system also facilitates a non-stop educational process as one can continue studies even on vacation, business trip or lying in bed with a cold.
Another significant benefit provided by VLE implementation is that getting a degree even at top universities becomes cheaper because there is no need for paying campus fees. The situation is even better for foreigners since they do not have to spend large sums of money on moving to another country.
Virtual learning environments help teachers to plan lessons, manage administrative work, track students’ performance, activity, and level of engagement as well as provide additional materials and support for those who need that. With VLE it is also easier to analyze the efficiency of the current curriculum and to update it if needed.
The virtual learning environment is friendly to experiments with formats of content and new approaches. It empowers educational roadmap with online tests and quizzes, videos and podcasts. Mixing different activities allows better students’ engagement and adding more gamification to the learning process.
Disadvantages of virtual learning environment
As we know, the coin has two sides. So does the virtual learning environment. Along with significant benefits, there is a list of drawbacks to consider when implementing a VLE solution.
The flexibility of a virtual learning environment can turn out to be a problem for people with a lack of self-discipline or with weak motivation (like some pupils at school). Without permanent control and strict deadlines, it is hard for them to stay concentrated and study effectively. In addition to that, VLE opens more opportunities to cheat since no one sees if you are using another device while having an online test or actually doing everything yourself. So, self-discipline and high motivation get crucial.
Not all learning activities can be done online: you cannot conduct a sophisticated chemical experiment in your bedroom or train dentist skills without special equipment. This makes some courses and degrees either too theoretical for further usage or available only within the traditional learning system.
One more limitation here is delayed answers. Studying in the classroom, you can ask any question and get an immediate teacher’s answer while online education implies time flexibility for everyone, including teachers.
Even though VLE systems provide a lot of tools to facilitate communication — chats, group discussions, live lessons — they cannot allow the same level of engagement as face-to-face conversations. This not only discourages warm relations and mutual assistance in a particular group but also prevents students from developing communicative and conflict-solving skills they will need in real life.
The implementation of the virtual learning environment requires time and money investments from the educational institution. The VLE system has to be either chosen from the existing solutions or developed from scratch, the staff has to adapt to new ways of the learning process organization.
From the students’ perspective, there is also a place for significant investment. In the USA and Europe, we are used to having personal computers and permanent internet access but there are still a lot of countries where people cannot afford a laptop or have too poor telecommunication services.
Pros and cons: conclusion
Let us now sum up the most significant pros and cons.
How to reap the maximum benefits of VLE?
The list of significant advantages of virtual learning environment is followed by a range of disadvantages. But there is a perfect way to avoid difficulties — mixing online and traditional education. Blended together, they provide students and teachers only with their best features making the learning process as effective as it can be:
- Student-to-teacher and student-to-student communication remains live, hence, more effective and involving;
- The learning process is empowered with interactive online activities and additional materials to deepen knowledge;
- Students can get more individual curriculum according to their learning pace and interests;
- Tasks can be submitted and commented online;
- It is easier to catch up in case of illness, travel or any other reason to miss classes;
- Teachers get computer-aided assistance in planning lessons and managing all the related activities;
- Speaking of schools, parents can be more aware of their child’s performance and more engaged in the educational process.
In case a virtual learning environment is used by an enterprise to teach employees, it is also possible to reap only the benefits of this system by combining online education and live communication with mentors and colleagues.
The Bottom Line
In case you want to implement the virtual learning environment in your organization, there are two scenarios to choose from:
- Look through the existing VLE solutions and select the one providing the functionality you require. You can also make a short-list of several options and ask providers for a trial period. That will take some time but will help to make the best possible choice.
- You can find a software development company and create a custom VLE. Such an approach demands more time and money investments but in the end, you will get a solution that meets the needs and goals of your company better than any other ready-made system.
If you are ready to go with the second scenario, SCAND is here to help. We have proven expertise in developing scalable, robust and reliable solutions for the education industry and always ready to face new challenges. Feel free to ask any questions!