It is important to consider that VLEs, like Moodle, are not a neutral environment. Research by Rubin et al (2010), and Maltby & Mackie (2009) states that how we design and use our VLE sends students a strong message about what the unit area values in terms of teaching and learning. It helps to shape where teaching and learning happens.
How you design your Moodle areas will influence the behaviour of your students and how frequently they will interact with it.
It is important to consider what sort of message your Moodle area is sending to your students. Is it supporting, or even enabling, desirable behaviours? Does it reflect your teaching and learning values?
How do you use yours?
I’ve been doing a bit of research recently into how Moodle and other VLEs are being used. Research has shown that many VLEs, across the board, are content driven environments used to support traditional lecture models of teaching. Moodle, and other VLEs, are being used as a storage device for files (Baker & Grossman, 2013; Blin, 2008; Maltby & Mackie, 2009). It is difficult to say that this use of a VLE represents a truly ‘blended learning environment’, as is the aim in my institution.
These environments provide students with content interaction only, in that they have access to lecture notes and readings but interactions between students or staff are not fostered or encouraged within the VLE. This is important as in online courses, VLEs that encourage student-to-staff and student-to-student interactions have been shown to have a positive correlation between the use of a VLE and student attainment. However, where the interactions are predominantly student to content, the same positive correlation has not been found (Agudo-Peregrina et al 2014).
What do they want?
Students’ expectations of Moodle are fairly modest. Generally they are looking for areas that are easy to navigate, have relevant and timely content and responsive staff (Naveh et al, 2012). It is also interesting to note that students perceptions of good pratice are shaped by the areas that they are exposed to. If a student is sees something that they like being used in one Moodle area, they are more likely to request it to be used in another (Henderson et al, 2015). This has important implications for programme teams, and I recommend that you approach your Moodle design as a team to try and create a consistent experience for students across a programme and also to share good practice between colleagues.
Look at it as a student
Have a critical look at your Moodle area and try to view it through the eyes of your students. What message does your Moodle area send to students as to what you value? Does your Moodle area reflect your approaches to teaching and learning? How does it sit within the Moodle areas across the programme? Consider ways in which you could align your Moodle area to your pedagogical principles.
Moodle has the potential to be much more than a content repository!
This blog post from York St John University explores a Moodle designer tool created by the Institute of Education.
Agudo-Peregrina, A., Iglesias-Pradas, S., Conde-Gonzalez, M. & Hernandez-Garcia, A. 2014, Can we predict success from log data in VLEs? Classification of interactions for learning analytics and their relation with performance in VLE-supported F2F and online learning, Computers in Human Behaviour, vol. 31, no. 1, pp. 542-550
Barker, J. & Gossman, P. (2013) The Learning Impact of a Virtual Learning Environment: Students’ views. Teacher Education Network Journal (TEAN), 5 (2). pp. 19-38
Blin, F. & Munro, M. 2008, Why hasn’t technology disrupted academics’ teaching practices? Understanding resistance to change through the lens of activity theory, Computers & Education, vol. 50, no. 2, pp. 475-490.
Henderson, M., Selwyn, N. and Aston, R (2015) What works and why? Student perceptions of ‘useful’ digital technology in university teaching and learning. Studies in Higher Education, DOI: 10.1080/03075079.2015.1007946
Maltby, A. & Mackie, S. 2009, Virtual Learning Environments–Help or Hindrance for the “Disengaged” Student?”, ALT-J: Research in Learning Technology, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 49.
Naveh, G., Tubin, D and Pliskin, N (2012) Student satisfaction with learning management systems: a lens of critical success factors. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 21(3), 337-350.
Rubin, B., Fernandes, R., Avgerinou, M.D. & Moore, J. 2010, The effect of learning management systems on student and faculty outcomes, The Internet and Higher Education, vol. 13, no. 1, pp. 82-83.