Virtual Learning Platforms in Europe: a comparative overview

European Schoolnet has rcently published  compelling report comparing the use and level of developments of VLE in three countries: Great Britain, Spains and Denmark.

For those who don’t want to read the whole report, the main conclusions are:

“Our findings:
As regards the deployment of virtual learning platforms:
• It is gradual, generally slower than expected, and, depending on the case, concerns 40-55% of schools
in the United Kingdom, Andalusia and Catalonia. In Denmark, however, 97% of state schools delivering
compulsory education have a virtual platform.
•I t is usually based on a combination of top-down approaches (those initiated by the responsible authority)
and bottom-up approaches (initiated at the “grass roots” level), with the exception of Andalusia, where the
top-down approach is clearly more pronounced.
• The governance of the process deployed – and of its follow-up after the platforms are operational – is based

in Denmark on very close involvement of stakeholders; elsewhere, it is based on a clear but sometimes
complex division of responsibilities in terms of implementation.
As regards their use:
• Communication between teachers and the management and organisation of school life are the most
advanced uses, as opposed to educational uses, which are considerably less developed, whether in the
United Kingdom, Denmark, Andalusia or Catalonia; active pupil participation remains limited in all countries,
but in Denmark such participation is seen as being supported by the fact that the curriculum encourages
project-based teaching.
•  ommunication with parents has only really been developed in Denmark.
•  dministrative uses are very advanced in the United Kingdom, and are growing in Andalusia; generally this
reflects the need to reduce administrative burdens in areas responsible for a significant number of schools.
Success Factors
In terms of the general approach adopted:
•  onsider the implementation of virtual learning platforms first and foremost as a process (objectives,
strategies, partners, stages, etc.). and not as an essentially technological intervention.
•  rganise active, close participation by the different stakeholders (teachers, local authorities, commercial
publishers of digital educational content, etc.), in ways and with an intensity appropriate to their respective
roles in the virtual learning platform system, from the outset and throughout the process.
•  irect the technology towards educational objectives immediately – from platform design to implementation.
•  ring together the resources and multifaceted expertise required to carry through projects of the scope and
complexity typical of virtual learning platforms.
•  rganise (quasi-) permanent access to ICT equipment at school level, particularly in classrooms rather than
in dedicated laboratories.
In managing the implementation process:
•  e pragmatic and patient at all stages of the process.
•  arry out more or less formalised evaluations, either integrated into the process itself or at regular intervals,
to allow for any necessary adjustments or corrections en route.
•  se virtual platforms to solve recognised problems of organisation or teaching or to simplify unavoidable
In supporting teachers:
•  evelop programmes and actions for training teachers not only in ICT and platform operation, but also in
their pedagogical use, bearing in mind the value of running such courses online.
•  rovide technical support, available during usage time (school hours and even outside these) and capable
of responding quickly and effectively to spare teachers from technical tasks and enable them to concentrate
on pedagogical aspects.

Technologies Handbook updated

The Technologies Handbook has been updated on our handbooks page (also linked on the left menu here) to reflect some recent changes to the Second Life account-creation process – if you are getting ready to use Second Life for the first time, the latest version of the handbook should save you some headaches.

WebCT Outage – update

We have had the following update from Information Services about the planned WebCT outages, which should now avoid the weekends mentioned previously (all times are GMT):

Following our message last week about WebCT being unavailable for two weekends in February, Information Services has agreed to try to maintain service availability at these times.  In order to do this the revised plan is now to take WebCT out of service from 8am-1pm on Wednesday 2 February and again from 8am-1pm on Tuesday 22 February…. We are still finalising the details of these changes, and will contact you again immediately if there are any further changes to this plan.

Computers, Books and Apparatus for Tanzania

I’m in the UK ’til May and am trying to send a container of equipment back to the University where I lecture in Tanzania, East Africa. Do any of you know of anywhere in the UK that is doing a clear-out or replacing outdated equipment (computers less than 7 years old, university level text books, lab apparatus, AV equipment, musical & sports equipment).

For transport reasons I’m looking for quantity in a single location rather than individual items unless your based in the south west. Please email: if you can help.



Getting practical

I’m all excited… this week I’ve launched my first project at work directly influenced by this MSc – I’ve set up discussion boards to engage a learner group (people who are aspiring to be team leaders in our call centre) and to encourage them to keep on learning outside the classroom environment. So far they seem to be up for it, although time will tell of course. The current group will be about 40 people when it’s fully got going. The next challenge will be to extend it to another 140 existing leaders as they go through a leadership development course over the next 12 months.