This work is concerned with the evolution of blended learning supports for university students in moving from early Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) platforms and supports that were designed and facilitated by academics to those platforms designed commercially (particularly Blackboard) and developed using a mixture of commercial, collaborative and e-learning supports. The chapter is an examination of a range of issues including production of learning resources and student learning approaches. It concludes by highlighting the importance of innovation and variety in the learning blend with increased reliance on digital collections and for learning approaches student experiences were evaluated as positive when undergoing problem-based approaches and were seen as stimulated to engage with e-learning materials based on the structure and operation of action learning sets.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Blended Learning: is a set of learning supports provided by academics and their universities that provide for a strategic mix tailored to the subject of study. This mix may include core learning materials; software; event-based activities; tailored learning approaches (problem-based, action learning, distance learning, activity-based learning), on-line conferencing; classroom teaching; workplace learning.
Action Learning: is a process of disciplined small group discussion where each group member gets a period of strictly bounded time to discuss and present their company issues; the focus is on action and group members act as consultants. Action learning is learning from experience. The subject material is preferably always live and highly relevant to all concerned. A group agrees to meet over a period of time, they may come from the same type of organisation. The length of a session depends on the group size (the ideal size denoted by researchers is seven)
Problem-Based Learning: is centred around a problem, a query or puzzle that the learner wishes to solve. The approach uses stimulus material to prompt student discussion and problem solving. That is usually reflective of professional practice. Critical thinking is encouraged by providing students only limited resources to help them develop resolutions to the problem in question, having students work cooperatively in small groups, in and out of class. The approach enables students to identify their learning needs and the appropriate set of solution resources. The approach also encourages students to self-evaluate and self-validate their learning processes by reapplying the new technical knowledge and problem solving approaches to other problems in the field.
Blackboard: is a virtual learning environment that you can access on and off a campus.
In-House Model of Resource Provision: is one based on traditional web-based supports where the core subject specific learning materials and blend is accepted (within institutions) and designed, written or reviewed with peers inside the same institution or possibly external reviewers.
Commercial VLE: is a commercially produced Virtual Learning Environment that is sold to universities or organisations under license, to host web-based learning materials. Access to the VLE materials is usually via passwords held by university employees/students or organizational employees.
Hybrid Model of Resource Provision: is one based on traditional web-based supports but where the core subject specific learning materials and blend is developed by a range of institutions, widely accepted (across institutions) and designed, written or reviewed with cross institutional peer reviewing.
Virtual Learning Environment: is a system that supports a range of learning contexts, ranging from conventional, classroom implementation to off-line, distance learning and online learning.