VLEs have been a form of vexation for digital champions here and beyond. Often such entities struggle because they are sold as commercial entities that claim to replace the functional Windows interface with something slower, clunkier and less reliable. For more money.
I wrote a proposed organisation of my old VLE that utilised the best functionality of Windows in some of the proposed aspects of VLE use, namely:
1) File sharing and access was via a Home Access system, whereby students and staff accessed original files. This wasn’t as effective as Dropbox or Google Docs, where multiple can access the same file and edit the original (rather than creating interminable copies…).
2) Course Content (in the form of long term plans) was available on the website. If administrational assistance was able to covert plans to be placed on a VLE, then that’s fine. Otherwise, if the task is to be done once then the website is a more open place for such material to be placed.
The best purpose of a VLE is for the more interactive and SCORM-based content, namely:
1) Interactive quizzes and summative tests. There is a great deal of excellent content, especially for maths and science (and some decent content available for English) from the giants of MyMaths and the behemoths of BoardWorks (who both make each other seem normal size in comparison). As subscription-based access is increasingly common and convenient, I would be tempted to guide people to that option.
There are also other interactive programmes that allow you to create quizzes too, such as Hot Potatoes and those from Active History. These are rather time consuming, and I would rather tweak a quiz to differentiate it than create one from scratch (unless I had the urge!).
2) Discussion boards. Great work has been done, especially by Carol Weale, with interactive forum boards. These are often useful if they are used first in class, with the discussion then carried on at home. An evidenced-based study can be found here: http://www.nate.org.uk/cmsfiles/ict/h2t/13_Wikiteers.pdf
There is an element of wanting students to drive the discussion forward themselves. However, some provisos are needed for a forum board to be effective. Firstly, it either needs to have notifications that tell people when a new post has been made, or some window of opportunity where students are guided to use it in class, and have the confidence that their responses will be seen again.
Hoping that students, or indeed anybody, will usefully discuss on a forum board without such guidance may be foiled by the social conditions that exist around their use. If there is a real-life purpose to log onto a forum board, than that will happen. If there isn’t, then students will not log onto it.
Not every student will log on online: it only takes a select few to do so in order for it to be truly worthy.
More thoughts later.