Report

“The current state of affairs with regard to

virtual and managed learning environments

              in UK schoo...
Contents

Introduction.............................................................................................3
   So...
Introduction
Some Background             Learning Platforms or Managed Learning Environments are not new. For some 25 year...
given to the suppliers by Becta. The technical specifications given to potential suppliers gave a
                        ...
Where VLEs have been installed there is a disturbingly wide range of satisfaction/ dissatisfaction
                       ...
professionalism as teachers does not leave them any choice but to explore with pupils
                                what...
requirements” hardly meets the administrative costs of the schools, LAs and RBCs. The actual
             amount of cash, ...
talk of accessing a learning environment which will enable an up-skilling of the workforce and
             allowing child...
could very well be extending the use of Secondary schools’ VLE servers to host local Primary
                    schools.
...
Barriers to Usage: The most significant barrier to usage is the failure to find the right
              combination of Lea...
available through Creative Commons and SCORM-compliance is not always readily
                         discoverable. Despi...
Appendix-1 list of Learning Platform Services Framework suppliers
         Becta
                 Name of VLE / MLE       ...
Appendix-2 Extracts from Becta re Learning Platforms

Funding for your learning platform [Dec 2006]
(http://localauthoriti...
Specifications
Framework suppliers must meet Becta’s standards and specifications, which support the aims of the national
...
Appendix-4 Analyses of Data from October 2007 Research
Copy of On-Line Questionnaire - The Status of VLEs in Schools


Sta...
Appendix-5 Charts of statistical Analyses

1. Percentages of schools with/without VLES:

                                S...
2. Home ownership of PCs:

                                           % Home ownership of PCs
       100


        90     ...
4. The physical location of the VLE Server(s)

                                              % locations of VLE servers


...
6. What level of influence did/will groups have in the choice of VLE?

                                                   ...
8. Schools’ familiarity with using an Intranet as number of years before installing a VLE

                             % ...
Bibliography
Attwell, G, 2007. Social software and web.2: a challenge to the future of schooling? – European seminar, Apri...
Cameron, K, 2005. Laws of Identity [Available at:
http://www.identityblog.com/stories/2005/05/13/TheLawsOfIdentity.pdf , T...
DfES 2005. Learning Platforms, Secondary – Making IT personal, [Available at www.teachernet.gov.uk
Accessed at March 2007]...
Harrison, C, et al. 2004. Use of ICT and its relationship with performance in examinations: a comparison of
the lmpaCT2 pr...
Macdonald, J., 2003. Assessing online collaborative learning: process and product. Computers & Education.
40(4), pp.377-39...
Peters, O., 2000. Digital Learning Environments: New Possibilities and Opportunities. International Review of
Research in ...
Swaak, J., et al, 2004. The effects of discovery learning and expository instruction on the acquisition of
definitional an...
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VLEs Bill Tagg Report

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Following my research into VLEs, 2007-2008, I published this document. Research was funded by a Naace/Becta 'Bill Tagg Bursary'

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VLEs Bill Tagg Report

  1. 1. Report “The current state of affairs with regard to virtual and managed learning environments in UK schools.” Funded by The Bill Tagg Bursary (Presented to Naace/Becta) This report is based on initial research September – November 2007 and continued thereafter. Prepared by R J Tolley (Maximise ICT Ltd) 31/07/08
  2. 2. Contents Introduction.............................................................................................3 Some Background .................................................................................................................................................3 Initial findings ........................................................................................................................................................3 Progress over the last six months ............................................................................................................................5 Issues affecting change ..........................................................................................................................................6 Some Conclusions .................................................................................................................................................9 Quality control of the questionnaires ...................................................................................................................... 11 Appendix-1 list of Learning Platform Services Framework suppliers ....12 Appendix-2 Extracts from Becta re Learning Platforms........................13 Funding for your learning platform [Dec 2006].......................................................................................................13 What are procurement frameworks? ......................................................................................................................13 Specifications ..................................................................................................................................................14 Best value.......................................................................................................................................................14 Appendix-3 Statement on BSF from 10 Downing Street ......................14 What is Building Schools for the Future? (Tony Blair March 2007) .........................................................................14 Appendix-4 Analyses of Data from October 2007 Research ................15 Copy of On-Line Questionnaire - The Status of VLEs in Schools ............................................................................15 Appendix-5 Charts of statistical Analyses ............................................16 1. Percentages of schools with/without VLES:........................................................................................................16 2. Home ownership of PCs: .................................................................................................................................17 3. Home accessions of the VLE............................................................................................................................17 4. The physical location of the VLE Server(s).........................................................................................................18 5. Percentage of Identified Named Suppliers: ........................................................................................................18 6. What level of influence did/will groups have in the choice of VLE?........................................................................19 7. Do you have an e-Portfolio system up-and-running? ...........................................................................................19 8. Schools’ familiarity with using an Intranet as number of years before installing a VLE ........................................... 20 9. Schools’ relative Intranet usage before installing Moodle.................................................................................... 20 Bibliography..........................................................................................21 R J Tolley Report Completed July 2008 Page 2 of 27
  3. 3. Introduction Some Background Learning Platforms or Managed Learning Environments are not new. For some 25 years schools have had their ‘Networks’ of computers even before web-based technologies became popular in schools. These, for some time were called ‘Intranets’ and along with the improvement due to the introduction of ISDN, we then had, for a short time what were called ‘Extranets’ or ‘closed Intranets with secure remote access’. All of these, including the use of free-standing machines, have been referred to by Becta as a school’s Learning Platform. Latterly, for several years, schools have supplemented their MLEs with websites able to provide more general information to teachers, pupils, parents and other interested parties. Concurrent to the above developments, it should be noted that quite independently schools’ administration service providers had been steadily been developing their MIS systems for schools. Way back in 1981 information was being passed to LAs via TTNS or Prestel and then via ISDN and now broadband. These data- transmissions have evolved to include aspects of funding, requisitions, staffing, pupil data etc. For many years, due to the obduracy or caution of office administrators, the MIS and the learning platform have been kept rigidly apart. The notion of teachers actually downloading lists of pupils’ names or performance data or SEN notes was incomprehensible. Admittedly, the most common MIS tool, SIMS was quite arcane and took some time to adapt to the more common MS Windows format, overtaken, in the writer’s opinion, by CMIS in the last 4-5 years. Becta’s emerging understanding of the above, along with the individual progression of a few education infrastructure specialists, such as RM, Viglen and a variety of smaller companies, has therefore produced a plethora of versions of what a VLE might be. It is interesting to note that even some of the latest software providers whose work might have been based on supplying administrative systems to schools still have a somewhat parochial approach to what a Learning Platform might be and how it is used. Initial findings Where progress has been made in the introduction of a VLE into schools it has been generally down to the interest and enthusiasm of individuals rather than any clear sense of leadership Leaderless, ‘from above’. In only a few schools have I discovered a ‘whole-team’ consensus or motivation without a for their VLE. Vision the people RBCs are all very different in their approaches. Some, like the Northern Grid for Learning appear perish. to have worked well with schools but others appear not to have made any significant contribution to the initiative. Similarly many Local Authorities appear not to have shown clear leadership generally due to a very limited ICT team having too many day-to-day pressures to see the bigger picture. A few Local Authorities (LAs) have made corporate decisions about the establishment and ‘Everyone delivery of an LA-wide platform but even here the actual take-up by schools has been did that which was inconsistent. Some, for instance, have made unilateral decisions for Moodle but with little right in his reference as to how the Primary schools would fare. own eyes’. The most significant factor in this national debacle is the limited and now outdated guidance R J Tolley Report Completed July 2008 Page 3 of 27
  4. 4. given to the suppliers by Becta. The technical specifications given to potential suppliers gave a very free hand for them to interpret solutions as they wished. I wrote to Becta early last year asking if they were able to issue a set of clearer definitions in relation to Learning Platforms, MLEs and VLEs. At that time their reply was that as individual suppliers had embedded their own terms it was then too late to “claw back and redefine terminology”. Despite the long-held frustrations by suppliers and end-users alike, I understand that Becta may not be issuing a second set of Technical Requirements but might issue a set of Functional Requirements. Again, in speaking to the representatives of the approved suppliers it was obvious that few really understood teaching and learning in the light of potential VLE access. Furthermore, teachers (particularly those at the chalk face) have very little perception of how a VLE could impact on their work and thus have very little ability to ask the right questions of VLE suppliers. Generally teachers have not been involved in the procurement process, rarely have parents been involved, and the actual end-users, the pupils have had no say at all. (See Appendix-2) In ‘casual’ conversations with teachers, very few have admitted that they knew about Becta’s Technicians are requirement that all schools should have a VLE in place by Spring of this year. Several not fully aware respondents to my survey last Autumn stated that they were in no position to even consider of teaching and learning theory installing a VLE due to the lack of direction by the Local Authority. and teachers not aware of Having attended Becta’s meeting with software suppliers last year, following the meetings of the the full potential Information Authority and as a member of The Suppliers Association for Learning and of the VLE. Few teachers Technology Interoperability in Schools (SALTIS), I have been following the debates on know of Becta’s interoperability for some time. Issues of interoperability and the agreement on whether a advice. SCORM standard is required continue to rage. Some commentators have said that it might be 5-10 years before full interoperability is established – if at all. Of course a further concern is that of the costs involved in establishing interoperability. Of the schools that have installed VLEs about 50% claim to have gone for the ‘non-Becta- approved’ Moodle solutions (see Appendix-1) often created by individual enthusiasts. Here there is also the question of sustainability and the degree to which a ‘one-man’ solution can meet the full range of educational requirements. My overall observation is that most commercial solutions and those of the DIY-Moodle brigade have modelled their solutions on prevalent university practice and only a few have really A one-size- attempted to meet the needs of younger children in schools or those not of the top academic fits-all policy may not be quartile. Of particular concern to me is the number of LAs that have gone for sophisticated helping Moodle-type of solutions, probably designed by ‘techies’, which have no appeal to the Primary most Primary sector or those who may be less-able. schools.. As far as the VLE interface is concerned there is a whole range of visual designs ranging from the somewhat technical interfaces of Moodle, Winvision, FirstClass or WebCT through to the more limited but child focussed offerings such as StudyWiz or Kowari. Some LAs have recognised this and are in the process of developing their own systems which appear to address all ages. How successful such services will be is yet to be discovered. How individual schools will adapt to a system ‘foisted upon them’ is yet to be assessed. R J Tolley Report Completed July 2008 Page 4 of 27
  5. 5. Where VLEs have been installed there is a disturbingly wide range of satisfaction/ dissatisfaction indications relating to all areas including installation, training, functionality and content. Despite the expenses involved, I have reason to believe that many schools, dissatisfied with current products, may look to procuring from other suppliers. It was noticeable from the initial research that where schools had established a true VLE in response to Becta’s requirements it was generally the case that the school was already using a successful Learning Platform or Intranet for between 5 – 9 years previously. In such cases it was easier to bring the whole staff up to date with the strategies for remote access and the use of assessment tools etc. Progress over the Visiting schools over the last six months has revealed only minor changes in the situation. last six months Some schools have very sophisticated installations well used by all staff, pupils and some parents. They are significant leading edge institutions. Many schools may have a VLE installed and used to varying degrees by staff but pupils see no difference compared to their previous intranet and website services. In these scenarios children are often unaware of the potential ability to access their work remotely. Still, months after Becta’s Spring 2008 deadline, many schools do not have a VLE up and running. Teachers are still saying that they cannot see the point of a VLE (or MLE) over their present intranet. It is my opinion that many teachers have not received sufficient leadership ‘from the top’ by senior staff who have the vision, technical understanding and abilities to engage staff in ‘whole- school adoption. Where that vision is difficult to generate, alternative approaches can be used. I have advised: “ Don’t throw all the learning technologies at teachers who are not ready, but start on the simple things first, like daily notices, registration, timetables etc. Once teachers have got used to logging on as a matter of habit then they will get round to using the technologies for more educational things like asking for resources, using assessment packages etc. This is a long-term view rather than selling all the bells and whistles in one go.” Implementation strategies One consultant working with a large number of schools has also recognised this situation and require delicate handling of all suggests a ‘softly, softly’ approach to helping staff to engage with their VLE: concerned, including “ We tend not to put pressure on teachers to introduce use of the digital environment into administrators, their classroom practice when launching the digital environment (because the teachers teachers, parents and are teaching very well in their non-digital ways), but once forced onto the environment even the pupils. for lots of information, communication and collaboration purposes, their personal realisation of the power and impact of the environment kicks in, and their R J Tolley Report Completed July 2008 Page 5 of 27
  6. 6. professionalism as teachers does not leave them any choice but to explore with pupils what they themselves are finding liberating and empowering - so the introduction of use of the digital environment (and all the associated issues of digital content and digital tools) just naturally gets introduced - with a lot of peer support from other teachers who are likewise discovering the benefits - leading to a massive attitude and practice change.” If a general insecurity about using the VLE is one issue, then several further issues must be overcome. Generally, teachers and pupils alike will expect to find the same resources as they have been previously using. This, in itself, can take many hundreds of hours. In one school that I worked in we employed a ‘sandwich-year’ Teacher-Trainee student for the full year in migrating copies of existing resources onto the new system. This, however, raises another issue, that of teaching and learning strategies and the appropriate use of the technologies. It is my chief concern that many of the resources of the ‘old regime’ do not lend themselves to the ownership of learning. The didactic styles of the 19th century do not New wine into old wine-skins adapt well to the 21st century. A wider range of resources, ‘learning maps’, a recognition of is not good Multiple Intelligences or the 12 Learning Styles and, most significantly, collaborative tools and e- practice New Portfolios are still often beyond the comprehension of many teachers. technologies are an The VLE suppliers are extremely inconsistent insofar as to what content is delivered. There is opportunity for no guarantee that so-called SCORM content provided within one platform will work successfully new teaching and learning if the school decides to migrate to another vendor. strategies. The availability of appropriate resources is another major concern. Many well-developed resources (such as LearnPremium) cost several thousand pounds per year. The new version of ‘BiteSize’ promises to revolutionise on-line revision. However, teachers appear to be increasingly wanting products ‘for free’ and this raises another issue. In essence, the shareability of resources, designed, developed and refined over years raises issues of ‘ownership’ or ‘Intellectual Property Rights’. Some authors have volunteered their work as ‘Creative Commons’ with a variety of limitations. Another approach has been by Gary Clawson of the NWLG who has set up the National Digital Resource Bank (NDRB) through NEN. The NDRB has 110 LAs who are members. Out of these about half are delivering shareable resources to a common pool which are then tagged and made SCORM compliant. Issues affecting There are a number of convergent issues all of which are affecting change: change 1. The ‘Technology Movement’: Perhaps, foremost, was the CTC movement, started some 20 years ago and the subsequent establishment of Technology and Community Schools. This recognised the place of Technology as enhancing education and subsequent examination results were impressive. Expectations to ‘disseminate and replicate’ good practice have been varied, sometimes creating excellent nation-wide staff-training facilities and yet at other times creating vicious jealousies. 2. Access to funding: Perhaps the greatest generator of change is the actual financial support for the initiative. Becta’s announcement of a £41M grant to Local Authorities “to help meet these R J Tolley Report Completed July 2008 Page 6 of 27
  7. 7. requirements” hardly meets the administrative costs of the schools, LAs and RBCs. The actual amount of cash, as a one-off payment, that comes to each individual school is in actual fact a mere pittance at £1,640 or £5.00 per child. The drive, therefore, for PFI funding is clearly understood if any real developments in VLEs are to take place. (See Appendix-2 for some of Becta’s announcements.) 3. The Ownership of Learning: has, for some time, worried educators as to how personalised or differentiated learning would actually work. Expectations for quality formative feedback, independent learning and intelligent assessment tools have been high on the wish-list of many school agendas. Much good INSET has been provided over the years and yet it is not until the technologies have arrived that such things have been reasonably possible. 4. Low-cost Technologies: are beginning to have a dramatic change: Twenty years ago, when I proposed installing fibre-optic cabling in a school the price was prohibitive, now it is common. The dramatic drop in the price of PCs, partly fuelled by the import of the ‘sub-£200’ notebook, the ability to configure workstations to one’s own specifications, wireless connectivity, the availability of a whole range of low-cost ‘hand-held’ devices all have made computing ubiquitous. 5. Low-cost software: Along with the emergence of low-cost hardware has also developed the concept of Open Standards Software and also Social Software. These two aspects of software have enabled the cheap range of hardware to be used by pupils at home without resorting to piracy. Again, Social Software has also encouraged users to develop their communication skills far more than any other ‘carrot’ to encourage students, for instance, to do their homework. 6. Rival Suppliers: My recent survey identified some 35 VLE suppliers which is a massive increase over the original 10 accredited by Becta or the choice of two (RM and Viglen) that were initially available for schools. This proliferation of suppliers may be over-saturating a limited market but there is a place for niche delivery for some sectors. Recognising the limited funds available (see point 2) I would suspect that the increased competition may only lead to confusion and dissatisfaction and thus inevitable loss of investment and embarrassment for decision- makers. 7. MIS Support: Only since the safe ‘bridging’ of VLEs and Administration networks has it been possible for teachers’ dreams to become true. The whole concept of pupil-data access is now a reality. Through the school’s MIS, appropriate pupil-data can now be accessed by all staff in the classroom, staffroom or at home. Attendance registers, marks books, assessments and reports can all be made available. For some staff this might have been a whole sea-change in their practice but discovering the benefits of Write Once Read Many has now become a real accelerant to record keeping and the more efficient use of information. 8. The Digital Divide: has been well-recognised for a number of years. However, it is only recently that it has been possible to provide funding the support of deprived learners, to access the hard-to-reach and communities which might feel excluded from mainstream education. Furthermore, there are many very strong drivers, such as the Leitch Review, the Lisbon Treaty, Freedom’s Orphans, Every Child Matters and the Gilbert Review to name just a few. All of these R J Tolley Report Completed July 2008 Page 7 of 27
  8. 8. talk of accessing a learning environment which will enable an up-skilling of the workforce and allowing children to develop to their full potential. 9. Home Access: The ability for any parent to see how their child is performing, to check out data on absences, school meals or even detentions is something that the Government has promised. Pupils will also be able to access their own work area from home and continue with their schoolwork without the usual complaint that their USB memory-stick is full or lost. But, more than the above, the Learning Platform can become a place of pride or a celebration of one’s learning. This, of course, does again demand high quality access, 24/7/365. 10. The 14-19 Diploma: allows a new type of learning which will enable young people to obtain a high quality and relevant qualification. It develops generic skills of team-working, collaboration and communication and requires good levels of ICT competency. One particular aspect of the Diploma, which is different to traditional schooling, is the necessity to work in different locations with a range of instructors, supervisors and validating staff. The Diploma, therefore, requires a very efficient ICT system based not only on a reliable VLE but also on the interoperability of systems. The Diplomas MUST work and thus VLE funding will have to be forthcoming. 11. Lifelong Learning: Not only is there significant pressure upon the relatively narrow 14-19 sector, there is an increased pressure to develop access for Lifelong Learners. Unfortunately much of the thinking about Lifelong Learning has been centred upon FE and HE institutions and students who may be more academically inclined. However, as NIACE is keen to point out, there is a vast body of other learners who want increased access to ICT-based courses. Similarly, the Leitch review is demanding a significant up-skilling of industry’s weak underbelly of under-skilled workers, those who wish to return to work, and those that need re-training. This could significantly increase the demand for access to VLEs not only in schools but also libraries and community premises etc. Perhaps this is an area for a niche market for suppliers? 12. BSF and PFIs: Funding for the building of new, custom-designed schools is not new. The CTC movement proved that well-designed, well equipped schools did marvels for self-esteem, attendance and examination results. I have observed this in one PFI school re-build programme where both parts of the old building along with parts of the new were being used by the same pupils day after day. When in the new building there was an air of calm, pupils walked on the correct side of the corridor and lessons were enjoyed. Staff felt that they were in a comfortable and well-organised environment. The same children, often with the same staff, when working in the old building were unsettled and inattentive to say the least and little learning got done. Generally, the BSF programme has given both staff and pupils the feeling of a new start. Senior staff and project designers have been able to make new learning approaches a reality. Shared work areas, glass walls, flexible classroom layouts, break-out areas etc have all played their part. However, perhaps most significantly, school designers have been able to make proper recognition of the part ICT will play in all learning scenarios. Many schools are anticipating installing equipment which will make 1 : 2 or even 1:1 pupil : computer ratios a reality. Although the BSF funding is primarily aimed at Secondary schools, it is envisaged that much stronger links will be established with local Primary feeder schools and one aspect of such links R J Tolley Report Completed July 2008 Page 8 of 27
  9. 9. could very well be extending the use of Secondary schools’ VLE servers to host local Primary schools. As far as BSF is concerned, the significant funding of some £45Bn should encourage schools that have not yet established their VLEs to spend significantly in this direction. There is, however, significant pressure upon schools to reform policies in exchange for the new-builds. Some Conclusions Market Share: The analysis of the relative market share is somewhat disturbing and needs refinement through a much more robust survey mechanism. As of last Autumn (including some expectations of installations early this year) the market share was identified, as on Appendix-6/ chart #5. Here, as is often claimed possibly by the enthusiasts, Moodle stands out at circa 50%. This is not altogether a surprise when whole Authorities have opted for a Moodle solution. Patterns of Adoption: There is no clear pattern of adoption, although, of those who responded, Secondary schools are generally more enthusiastic about adopting VLEs at 87% as opposed to 42% in Primary schools. My observations led me to believe that quite a number of Primary schools still have no network (and in some cases do not see the point of a VLE) but rely on stand-alone laptops. Secondly, there appears to be no correlation between previous schools’ experiences of using an Intranet before adoption of a VLE (Appendix-6 chart #8 ) It is significant that the largest proportion of those adopting a VLE have not previously used an Intranet. Funding Arrangements: The funding arrangements according to Becta (Appendix-2) refers to a relatively small sum as a once-off payment of £41m shared throughout all Secondary schools. This, I calculate, is the equivalent of £1.640 per school, ie half the price of a server or per capita equivalent to £5.00 per child. I note elsewhere that these costs will hardly cover administrative expenses. The BSF announcement from 10 Downing street (Appendix-3) gives cause for more encouragement if the installation of a VLE is considered part of the new build and infrastructure services. Talking to various staff, I understand that many schools are only looking at the installation of a VLE as a replacement or upgrade to existing intranet services. I am not in a position to delve further into the financial transactions of RBCs or LAs. Selection Criteria: The selection criteria vary greatly from school to school, often depending more on previous bad experiences. However, it has also been my experience that schools will often stick with a known supplier. I list criteria from my own experience and anecdotal evidences in a possible order of priority: 1. User-friendliness – is the interface appropriate for the age and abilities of the pupils? 2. Support Service – access to on-line or telephone support (hours not days or weeks)? 3. MIS Compatibility – Some VLEs may only work with particular MIS applications; 4. Cost Implications (1) – new servers, software licensing, e-security, technical training; 5. Cost implications (2) – significant PDP for new teaching and learning strategies; 6. Ease of Uploading – existing and new resources take significant time to collate etc (1 year?) 7. Network Management – the increased activity over the VLE will require 24/7/365 policies. R J Tolley Report Completed July 2008 Page 9 of 27
  10. 10. Barriers to Usage: The most significant barrier to usage is the failure to find the right combination of Leadership and Vision. “Without a vision the people perish.” Is relevant here. School Leadership in this case requires three things, 1. reasonable technical ability – so as not to be hoodwinked by salesmen or technical staff; 2. a good understanding of the new teaching & learning strategies; 3. charismatic leadership, management and communication skills. Functionalities: The VLE has a very wide range of functionalities. Primarily a VLE should: 1. Provide a secure workspace for every user with remote access; 2. Include sophisticated filtering and monitoring of all work-flows; 3. Integrate seamlessly with the MIS services; 4. Provide formative and summative feedback through assessment tools linked to MIS; 5. And thus provide on-line, any-time access of appropriate information by parents/carers; 6. Permit configuration of the user interface according to age and ability of the pupils; 7. Allow appropriate staff to easily upload new resources with SCORM compliance; 8. Allow access to appropriate Web2.0 files and collaboration tools; 9. Allow connectivity to numerous ‘hand-held’ devices; 10. Link to an e-Portfolio – preferably externally hosted (for portability or ‘transition’). Unmet Needs: 1. There is a serious need for staff development. The classic syndrome still exists in many schools which are in the process of understanding their VLE: they are still using their old resources to underpin old didactic teaching styles. As long as this remains, the purpose and thus the motivation for using the VLE will not adapt to new teaching and learning styles. 2. The consequence of the above is that, whilst bound to the preparation and presentation of existing courses of study staff have no time to give to the development of new courses of study which include modern learning strategies including the ‘ownership of learning’. 3. Another aspect of training is in the enablement of teaching staff to upload their own resources. Strictly this is a responsibility of Learning Assistants but in the first instance teachers will need to understand the processes involved. 4. There is an urgent and specific need to establish good VLE interoperability particularly between institutions delivering the 14-19 Diplomas. Perhaps one ‘work-around’ solution would be to use an externally hosted e-Portfolio such as eFolio. 5. Only a handful of VLEs presently available are anywhere near the addressing the requirement to ‘mature’ with the user. The interface for, say, a nervous 11 yr-old should not be the same as that used by the same 18 yr-old student. Similarly, where VLEs are supplied throughout the Authority, it seems unreasonable for that same interface to be used by the 5 yr-old as for the 6th-form student. 6. The issues of ‘content’ need to be resolved. Commercial ‘ready made’ content, impressive as it may be, is often not easily adaptable to individual lesson plans. However, ‘free’ content R J Tolley Report Completed July 2008 Page 10 of 27
  11. 11. available through Creative Commons and SCORM-compliance is not always readily discoverable. Despite the arguments against re-purposing others’ works, there is an urgent need to build upon the impressive works of NEN and the NDRB (National Digital Resources Bank) 7. Now that people are beginning to understand the range of facilities that a VLE can offer, and the very wide range of suppliers (See Appendix-1) a serious effort should be made to categorise the range of services of each, possibly as a database, with free to access videos and tutorials. Presently the processes of gaining this information is a complex, time- consuming and fraught with repeated logins and passwords. 8. Another major problem is caused by Becta’s refusal to clarify the fundamental differences between a ‘personalised online learning space’, a ‘Learning Platform’, a ‘personalised learning environment’, a ‘virtual learning environment’, and an e-Portfolio. Until such time as there is agreement on terminology there will never be any possibility for the categorisation as above. 9. Perhaps the most significant barrier to progress is that cause by the ‘digital divide’. Until such time as the Home Access Programme addresses the needs of the ‘have-nots’, the ‘hard to reach’, those in hospital- or home education programmes, travellers’ children and those in custody there is a problem. Teachers cannot be expected to develop new Teaching & Learning resources, knowing that a significant proportion of children would not have access to the newly developed materials. Quality control of The questions were carefully prepared to avoid ambiguity or confusion (and despite guidance on the questionnaires preparation before accessing the questionnaire) it soon became apparent that several respondents attempted and gave up, not having appropriate information immediately to hand. There was also the issue of my two questionnaires (LAs and Schools) cross-referencing responses in order to ascertain some level of quality control. Of some 177 responses to the questionnaire to schools only about half were completed to any significant degree and even then, responsible and named officers did not always know the names of their suppliers or the names of products used. Few schools are willing to stand as ‘Case Studies’ as they are presently still implementing at this time. Even the better schools are still awaiting the next mind-blowing implementation. R J Tolley Report Completed July 2008 Page 11 of 27
  12. 12. Appendix-1 list of Learning Platform Services Framework suppliers Becta Name of VLE / MLE Website address Approved Alpha Learning - Engage http://www.alphalearning.co.uk/  Assimilate (Ramsys) http://www.ramesys.com/default.aspx  Azzuri (Talmos) http://www.azzurrieducation.com/index.html Blackboard http://www.blackboard.com/us/index.bbb Digital Brain http://corporate.digitalbrain.com/web/digitalbrain/about eCognition (Moodle) http://ecognition.co.uk Ecto http://www.ectolearning.com/ecto2/Default.aspx EdLine http://www.edline.com/ Edu2.0 http://www.edu20.org/ eZeSchools http://www.ezeschools.com/ Engage (Hebron) http://www.hebron.co.uk/ FirstClass http://www.firstclass.com/ FrogTeacher http://www.frogteacher.com/  Fronter http://fronter.co.uk/uk/ iSAMS http://www.isams.co.uk/  Kalaidos (RM) http://www.learningplatform.rm.com/ Kowari http://www.kowari.co.uk/index.php Learnwise (Capita Sims) http://www.capitaes.co.uk/SIMS/gatewaydemo/index.asp LP+ http://www.lpplus.com/contacts.shtml Merlin (SWGfL) http://www.swgfl.org.uk/services/learning_platforms/ Moodle http://moodle.org/ NorTLE http://www.northumberlandvtle.net/  Netmedia http://www.netmedia-ed.co.uk/ Pteppic (Moodle) http://www.pteppic.net/ Sakai http://sakaiproject.org/ Scholaris http://www.scholaris-explorer.org/scholaris/ http://www.computertalk.co.uk/services/scholaris.htm SchoolAnywhere http://www.schoolanywhere.co.uk/ (Moodle) Schoolextranet http://www.schoolextranet.com/ Schoolsmaster n/a – please advise  Serco http://www.sercolearning.com/ SharePoint http://www.microsoft.com/sharepoint/default.mspx  StudyWiz http://www.europe.studywiz.com/  Uniservity http://www.uniservity.com/  Viglen (It’s Learning ) http://www.itsolutions.no/ Virtual-Workspace http://www.virtual-workspace.com/ WebCT See Blackboard NB Pearson, formerly listed, is now part of the Uniservity group – thus 9 suppliers in all. R J Tolley Report Completed July 2008 Page 12 of 27
  13. 13. Appendix-2 Extracts from Becta re Learning Platforms Funding for your learning platform [Dec 2006] (http://localauthorities.becta.org.uk/index.php?section=pf&catcode=ls_pict_06&rid=12892) The Government's e-strategy sets the expectation that: by spring 2008 every pupil should have access to a personalised online learning space with the potential to support an e-portfolio by 2010 every school should have integrated learning and management systems (a comprehensive suite of learning platform technologies). To help meet these requirements, the DCSF is allocating £41 million to local authorities under Standards Fund Grant 121a. The provision of a personalised online learning space for every pupil is the minimum requirement, and the DCSF advises local authorities to consult with their schools' forum or equivalent body and target the funding to achieve maximum impact. The procurement approach is for local authorities and/or regional broadband consortia (RBCs) to form collaborative arrangements that will meet national framework agreements. Becta's Learning Platform Services Framework offers a list of approved suppliers to provide a learning platform for schools. Local authorities are expected to assist schools in purchasing infrastructure services, consultancy services, software licensing, interactive whiteboards, internet safety provision and learning services. Provision within and between local authorities and/or RBCs is variable, so the DCSF expects local authorities and RBCs to choose the most appropriate next steps in line with the national targets for provision in 2008 and 2010. Where the functionality to provide an online learning space for every pupil does not exist, it is expected that the local authority (working in association with the RBC where appropriate) will ensure that this level of provision and the associated access is available by 2008. Where the functionality is provided but coverage or potential for access from outside school does not match the requirements, it is expected that the local authority (and where appropriate, working in association with the RBC) will ensure that appropriate access is available by 2008. In all circumstances, but in particular where the functionality and potential for external access is provided, local authorities should consider carefully the next steps for working towards the 2010 target. In this situation, the Learning Platform Services Framework provides a vehicle for procurement of more comprehensive services. For further information on Standards Fund Grant 121a, see Teachernet. Further information on the School Standards Grant 2006-08 (SSG) and SSG (Personalisation) Conditions and Calculators is also available on Teachernet. What are procurement frameworks? http://localauthorities.becta.org.uk/index.php?section=pf&catcode=ls_pict_01 EU regulations govern public procurement. Procurement frameworks enable local authorities and schools to buy goods and/or services above the EU procurement threshold value (£139,893) from approved suppliers with levels of service, defined to meet the needs of education. Becta has established a range of procurement frameworks for education that comply with EU regulations. These provide a simple way for you to purchase the best value and most appropriate ICT products and services, without having to conduct a full EU procurement process. Becta has already conducted the EU tender process; all you have to do is run a mini competition between the suppliers on the framework. R J Tolley Report Completed July 2008 Page 13 of 27
  14. 14. Specifications Framework suppliers must meet Becta’s standards and specifications, which support the aims of the national digital infrastructure. These specifications will provide more efficient and sustainable technologies for your authority and schools. The functional specifications will be useful when you are planning area-wide technology implementation. There are specifications for institutional infrastructure, learning platforms, information management and connectivity. Best value Becta recommends that purchasing should not be done by individual schools, but by a larger organisation, such as a local authority. Purchases can then be aggregated to achieve economies of scale along with better terms and levels of service. Appendix-3 Statement on BSF from 10 Downing Street (http://www.number10.gov.uk/output/Page11310.asp) What is Building Schools for the Future? (Tony Blair March 2007) Building Schools for the Future is an unprecedented, once-in-a-generation £45billion programme to rebuild or refurbish every single secondary school in England over 15 years. The first full BSF secondary schools are due to open in September 2007. The Government is committed to devolve significant funds - about £3 billion in 2005-06 - to local authorities and schools to spend on maintaining and improving their school buildings. But it also wants to promote a step-change in the quality of provision. That is the focus of Building Schools for the Future (BSF). "This is an opportunity to revolutionise education by harnessing the best of the public and private sectors. We are investing in the future of our children and in the future of the country." BSF aims to ensure that secondary pupils learn in 21st-century facilities. Investment will be rolled out to every part of England over 15 waves, subject to future public spending decisions. By 2011, every authority in England will have received funding to renew at least the schools in greatest need - many will have major rebuilding and remodelling projects and the remainder will have received resources through the Academies programme or Targeted Capital Fund By 2016, major rebuilding and remodelling projects will have started in every area BSF is just part of a massive capital investment addressing decades of under-investment - rising from less than £700 million in 1997 to £5.9 billion this year and £8 billion in 2010. Since 1998, 836 schools have been built including 334 complete new campuses. These projects have been funded by a total private sector investment of almost £4 billion. Another 700 schools have either been refurbished or rebuilt through money allocated via targeted capital programmes over the last five years. Extract from 2004 on Academies: (http://www.number10.gov.uk/output/page5352.asp) "Through the 'Building Schools for the Future' programme... we intend to build such schools nationwide. Every school up to a good standard, and very many of the exemplary quality we see today," said Mr Blair. Under the plan, LEAs will be asked to match the investment from the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) fund with the need for reform. Every local authority will be invited to consider the scope for independent academies in their area. The new academies will be funded directly from the BSF investment. Academies are schools run on independent lines, but forge strong partnerships with the community. They are targeted on areas where, for whatever reason, traditional school management has not succeeded. "Academies are radical public service reform in action," said the Prime Minister. "Where the challenge is greatest, reform must be boldest - and academies embody that principle." R J Tolley Report Completed July 2008 Page 14 of 27
  15. 15. Appendix-4 Analyses of Data from October 2007 Research Copy of On-Line Questionnaire - The Status of VLEs in Schools Status as at October 2007: Q. 1. Please enter your school's full name: Q.1b and Local Authority. Q. 2. Please provide your name/post for verification purposes: * Q. 3. Please give an e-mail address where we may contact you, if follow-up is needed: Q. 4. Which education sector best describes your school? * Q. 5. Number on roll Q. 6. Does your school have a VLE with opportunity for remote access by pupils? * End Users: Q. 7. What percentage of families have a computer at home? Q. 8. What percentage of pupils remotely access the school's VLE regularly? Q. 9. What percentage of pupils remotely access the school's VLE occasionally? Q. 10. Do PARENTS have their own login ID with read-only access to their child's work? Q.11. What percentage of PARENTS use remote access to view their child's work/ progress/ attendance etc? Q. 12. Have you used a whole-school parental AUDIT to support the above responses? * Q. 13. What percentage of TEACHERS regularly use remote access to prepare or mark students' work etc? Installation: (Q. 14. As your school presently has no VLE please indicate when a VLE might be installed) (Q. 15. As you have no VLE installed please identify the approximate strength of barriers to implementation) Q. 16. Where is your VLE server located? (or will be located?) Q. 17. Please enter the name of your Supplier, Authority, 'Self' or not known. Q. 18. Please enter the name of the VLE used eg FirstClass, Moodle etc or not known. Q. 19. What level of influence did/will groups have in the choice of VLE? Q. 20. Do you have an e-Portfolio system up-and-running? Content: Q. 21. Before the introduction of your VLE, for how many years have you had a functioning Learning Platform or Intranet? Q. 22. What proportion of subjects/departments have materials on the VLE? (For Primary Schools please substitute 'whole school' for 'departments') Q. 23. What proportion of staff have had training in transporting/uploading curriculum materials onto the VLE? Q. 24. How many hours per week are spent in managing/uploading curriculum materials? Give total hours for all groups except 'Teachers' - please give average. Q. 25. How much 'Interactive' software is used regularly on your VLE? R J Tolley Report Completed July 2008 Page 15 of 27
  16. 16. Appendix-5 Charts of statistical Analyses 1. Percentages of schools with/without VLES: Secondary Schools that have a VLE 13% Have aVLE No VLE 87% Primary (inc Middle) & Special Schools 42% Have aVLE No VLE 58% NB Despite the very positive outlook that this might show for Secondary schools questions must be asked about the actual access that both pupils and parents have and to what purposes. Further analyses follow later. R J Tolley Report Completed July 2008 Page 16 of 27
  17. 17. 2. Home ownership of PCs: % Home ownership of PCs 100 90 86 80 70 65 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 Primary Secondary 3. Home accessions of the VLE % Remote (home) Accessions by users 50 47 45 44 40 40 35 33 32 30 25 Regularly Occasionally 20 15 10 5 0 Primary Secondary Teachers NB The accessions by teachers is somewhat disconcerting when the range is so very wide. Some schools claiming 100% of teachers regularly gaining remote access down to 10% or even 0% in some cases. R J Tolley Report Completed July 2008 Page 17 of 27
  18. 18. 4. The physical location of the VLE Server(s) % locations of VLE servers 7% Supplier 30% LA centre School Cluster 58% 5% 5. Percentage of Identified Named Suppliers: % of Identified Named Suppliers 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 Class Server Fronter Kaleidos Moodle SharePoint Studywiz Uniservity NB The large proportion of Moodle systems is probably due to DIY enthusiast ‘early starters’. Significant players in the field such as FrogTeacher or Viglen’s It’s Learning are notably missing. R J Tolley Report Completed July 2008 Page 18 of 27
  19. 19. 6. What level of influence did/will groups have in the choice of VLE? % influence in selecting a VLE 12% 21% 5% Local Authority SL/MT teachers parents pupils 30% 32% NB Parents, as suppliers of Home PCs and thus one of the major drivers of VLE access, were the least consulted. 7. Do you have an e-Portfolio system up-and-running? Status of e-Portfolios in schools 40 35 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 g o s t it d ng ing up oli n ste ou ati sti ri s tf ro ue or Te tig ab ilia -g -P eq es ar nd ht fam re sr ye inv ug pa ou er tho ts me tly gu nd en ing en so lly Te tud ttin us es ea or Se f/s Pr e f tr ar led f No sta nts tal me Ins de So stu st Mo R J Tolley Report Completed July 2008 Page 19 of 27
  20. 20. 8. Schools’ familiarity with using an Intranet as number of years before installing a VLE % of Schools and years using an Intranet before installing the VLE 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 Yrs 0 Yrs 1 Yrs 2 Yrs 3 Yrs 4 Yrs 5 Yrs 6 Yrs 7 Yrs 8 Yrs 9 Yrs 10 NB No statistical correlation. Significance only in ‘new-starts’ 9. Schools’ relative Intranet usage before installing Moodle Relationship between previous years using an Intranet and installing Moodle 6 5 4 3 2 1 0 Yrs 0 Yrs 1 Yrs 2 Yrs 3 Yrs 4 Yrs 5 Yrs 6 Yrs 7 Yrs 8 Yrs 9 Yrs 10 NB No statistical correlation R J Tolley Report Completed July 2008 Page 20 of 27
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