In the UK, (around 2005) the DCSF (Department for Children, Schools and Families) under a Labour Government, stipulated that all learners should have an online space by September 2008. What was not stated clearly at the time, was whether this space should simply be somewhere to store personal information or whether it should be a complete virtual learning environment (VLE) with its associated tools and functionality. Later, the DCSF added that all English state schools should fully integrate a VLE into their teaching and learning by 2010 – thus becoming a Managed Learning Environment (MLE). This also became a component of many BSF (Building Schools for the Future) projects. However, since 2010, the change of Government (to a Coalition of Lib Dems and Conservatives) and the change back to the DfE (Department for Education), elearning has not been promoted as a strong requirement. Instead, many schools have developed their own uses for the technologies available in a more piecemeal manner.

BBC MicroWhen the BBC Micro Computer was introduced into schools, back in the 1980s, although it was rolled out under the auspices of developing computer literacy and information technology skills, many wondered what they were supposed to do with it! Traditionally, education has developed solutions to solve existing problems; introducing the computer was effectively saying – ‘here’s a computer… now find something to use it for!’

Elearning has this same quality about it. The notion of being able to deliver course content online, at any time of day or night, all year around, seems very attractive… but where is this philosophy going to be most valuable and best implemented?

If you are based in a regular classroom situation, why would you want to be doing lessons online? In Australia, elearning technology at various levels of sophistication, has been used for many years to reach young people living in remote areas – miles from any local schools. In the USA and UK, Universities became the main users of the technology and Higher Education has generally led the way since the 1990s. Whilst schools have got to grips with computers, projectors and to some extent, interactive whiteboards, many have yet to fully embrace all that elearning technology can offer. Terry Freedman commented on an Ofsted Report of January 2009, on the use of VLEs:

“For the most part, they’re not being used in a way that makes the most of their potential […] where they are being used at all, of course.

“A big factor in their success is the enthusiasm of the subject teacher […] and the senior leadership team.

It takes resources to develop the VLE and its use.”

In the UK, I personally do not see this situation changing much for some time. Having said this, some Universities have started to use MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) to widen their opportunity access. However, the success rate of those enroling is about 10%. I suspect a prime reason for this is the lack of immediately available peer and tutor support that would normally be available in a more physically social context.

In the UK, the BSF (Building Schools for the Future) project in collaboration with PfS (Partnerships for Schools) had the opportunity to introduce radical reforms in many areas. However, the new coalition Government (in 2010) decided to stop BSF from continuing. Young people would have been able to extend their formal learning activities beyond the confines of their school walls and with this flexibility comes a real opportunity to develop elearning in a much more practical and useful way. Additionally, the elearning tools would gradually give access to parents/carers so that they could follow the progress of their children and participate more fully with their education.

Coming back to the present, (post 2012) and with the development of new applications and open source software, learners can now develop their own content in many different ways and there is no reason why this should not be developed into 2-way learning contributions and a way to promote more collaboration between schools. The increased availability and capabilities of ‘smart phone’ and similar technologies is also widening the opportunities for expanding participation.

girl by windowheadacheSome of the real challenges currently faced by educational establishments are…

“How do we implement successful and useful elearning in our organisation?”

“What do we need and where do we go for help and information?”

“How do we future-proof ourselves against new Government directives and ever-changing educational needs?

This site (eLC) hopes to help you address these questions.