With more and more organisations embracing virtual learning, the e-learning industry continues to grow and adapt to suit the evolving needs of learners and teachers. One of the more recent developments in the industry is the establishment and use of a virtual learning environment.
Virtual learning environment defined
A virtual learning environment (VLE) is a space that uses e-learning software to not only replicate the physical classroom setting but also further enhance it by using powerful tools and systems to make the learning experience richer.
An online learning platform in its most basic form is used to house online courses/documents which can be accessed by students and teachers. This basic use of the platform offers little interactivity for learners other than a means for simply completing the online learning course material. For teachers, it serves as no more than a course management system. Most organisations using an online learning platform will, of course, use their platform’s more advanced features, particularly if they’re using a modern learning management system (LMS).
The purpose of a VLE is to enhance both offline and online learning by creating a more engaging, dynamic and interactive user experience. This may include areas such as online activities, communication and collaboration, assessments and reporting functions. In order to better understand how to deliver a VLE, let’s further explore some of the components that go into creating it.
What is included in a virtual learning environment?
Learning from and engaging with peers is proven to increase learner engagement and retention rates. However, online learning has been criticised for limiting interaction between students/trainees in comparison with face-to-face learning in a classroom setting. Creating a VLE means communication amongst learners is made easy with social features as it not only looks to replicate the peer-to-peer learning found in a classroom setting but further enhances it with advanced technology.
Teachers and students may use integrations such as Microsoft teams to engage in virtual training sessions, Q&A sessions, or seminar style discussion sessions. Learning and engagement can also take place using functions such as discussion forums, message boards, by commenting on learning content or direct messaging. If a learner is finding the subject matter of a course difficult, they can easily turn to their peers for help through real time communication.
To facilitate this, you may want to implement a learning experience platform (LXP) such as Totara Engage, which has the software and social features necessary to create a dynamic working environment.
Just as social features establish a sense of community in a virtual learning environment, they can also be used to create a collaborative learning space.
One way to achieve this is to encourage feedback from users. Acquired through polls, feedback forms, and discussion boards, user feedback can be used by admins and teachers to improve the learning experience. Learners are more likely to be engaged with the platform if they have the option to contribute to its development and improvements.
In order to create the rich, lively and effective learning experience that makes up a VLE, you need to ensure that lessons are engaging, with plenty of variety to keep learners interested.
If you’re using a feature-rich LMS to facilitate your VLE, you can easily deliver a wide range of lesson styles and content types, making the most of various media formats such as video clips, audio, images etc. along with the traditional lecture style teaching format or text in the guise of blended learning courses.
An easy way to deliver a variety of lesson styles whilst maintaining structure is to use the microlearning technique. Microlearning typically consists of short, concise lessons that usually take under 10/15minutes to consume. For example, you may choose to set out a course using a 10-minute video, followed by a short reading section, followed by a 15-minute audio clip, and so on. Learners can consume these shorter lessons at their own pace with the breathing space to understand the subject matter without feeling overwhelmed by huge amounts of information.
Boost engagement even further by introducing gamification to your VLE. This consists of game-style lessons and online games such as matching the word to the definition or guided simulation. Gamification delivers the level of interactivity that is expected in a VLE.
Real-time assessment and reporting
A vital part of creating an effective VLE is monitoring the progress of learners. A VLE should feel alive, with continuous activity and interaction amongst users. If a learner is completing online lessons with little to no feedback or input from teachers/trainers, it can feel isolating particularly if a learner is struggling with course content.
Using analytics and reporting tools in an LMS or performance management platform, administrators can see the progress of a learner in real-time by looking at areas such as completion rates, pass marks, log-in frequency, time spent on individual lessons and more. Teachers or trainers can use this data to support learners with continuous feedback, offering additional training sessions if needed or praising achievement and highlighting those who are excelling. Without a virtual learning environment, this type of in depth, frequent reporting is much harder to achieve when relying on offline assessments or lesson completion.
Creating a virtual learning environment
In order to create an effective VLE that is capable of catering to the increasingly diverse requirements of the modern learner, you’ll need a robust, feature-rich and intuitive system (or multiple systems working together). It will need to be capable of tying in all of the desired components that create a VLE such as social features, performance management tools and content management.
You may also want to consider a system that is compatible with mobile learning to ensure that learners can complete lessons anywhere, at any time from a range of devices.
One of the easiest ways to facilitate a VLE is to use a talent experience platform (TXP) which seamlessly houses a range of e-learning tools all ‘under one roof’ in an integrated platform. At Hubken, we offer the Totara TXP which consists of the full suite of Totara products including an LMS, LXP, and Performance Management platform. Get in touch with one of our TXP experts to learn how our solution can help you create your ideal VLE.
As a Totara Platinum Alliance Partner and Moodle expert, we design and deliver high quality e-learning solutions for leading UK businesses and organisations, building lasting relationships so that they can realise the full potential of their learning and development projects.
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