A couple of days ago I questioned how a big institutional platform like the virtual learning environment (VLE) might be used to drive change. Implicit in this was the assumption that the VLE is an institutional tool, chosen collectively, in contrast to learners each selecting their own tools within their personal learning environment (PLE). When I looked at Blackboard’s new cloud-based VLE which if available to all teachers, I was keen to examine the implications of an institutional tool compared to an externally provided tool, especially when both are essentially the same platform. But it’s also a contribution to choice for teachers: since then, I have discovered another VLE that is already offering this same model of providing course sites to instructors which they can invite their students into (this is Instructure Canvas, which also offers open source or institutionally supported versions).
Reflecting on my previous post, and discussing this with @joenicholls at @thoughtgrazing yesterday, I wondered if the axis of control in how VLEs are selected is shifting. It’s not (directly) the learners making choices here, as it is when they select tools as part of their PLE, but teachers will have the option no longer to rely on institutional provision if they want a virtual environment for their course. Different choices might suit different courses (for example, do you want to be able to publish your course openly, or let students form their own groups, which Canvas can do, or do you want to hold regular virtual seminars, something CourseSites offers?) Given the freedom to choose a platform that best suits their needs, how much impact will an institutional change have anymore? (For example if an institution shifts to Moodle from Blackboard, a teacher could opt to continue to use the Blackboard platform on CourseSites.) And in the light of these choices, what role does an institution need to play not only in complementing these choices but also in guiding teachers and supporting them in understanding the options and implications (for example for backup, resilience, data protection and IPR) to enable them to make the right selection?