The Future of the Virtual Learning Environment

vle logoVLEs or environments have been at the forefront of provision for the first part of the 21st century in the guise of Webct, Blackboard and Moodle just to name a few, and have formed the back bone of institutional ‘Learning Management Systems’ (LMS).

Their promotion to common place to a certain extent was initiated by the Dearing Report (1997) in which was stated and goes on later to recommend “The use of new technologies for and teaching is still at a developmental stage but we expect that students will soon need their own portable computers as a means of access to information and for learning via a network.”

Recent developments led by the government agency for Information and Communication Technology (BECTA now defunct)  specified certain requirements for the VLE’s which must be implemented in schools in the beginning of the new 2008/2009 academic year this consolidating the VLE as the preferred educational learning management system (LMS) within the e-learning environment with the VLE becoming “almost ubiquitous in both Higher and Further Education (Stiles, 2007)

In more recent times however the dominance of the VLE and its possible future role or indeed “survival” as been put into question. This was best illustrated by the ALT-C Conference (2009) entitled “Is the VLE Dead?” during which some panel members argue that many VLEs are not fit for purpose  and  VLEs provide a negative experience and believing that the VLE is dead and that personal learning environments (PLE) is the solution and institutionalized VLEs  are slow to respond to change.

At the same conference other members of the panel sort to defend the VLE so indirect contrast Wheeler’s, James Clay argues that “the VLE is not a dead concept, but a starting point of the journey” and Clay consolidates this in his BlogSpot (Clay, 2009) by stating that he believes “most learners do not know how to use web 2.0 technology effectively” this being the basis of a PLE, and “it is not dead yet!”.

In a more recent blog post Wheeler concludes “All things considered, it is inevitable that the personal web will win in a straight fight against the traditional VLE, and the VLE has had its day”

Arguments against the effectiveness and longevity of the VLE had been bandied around almost since their incarnation; in fact Pierre Dillenbourg in his TECFA study of VLEs stated “Will VLEs improve education? Potentially yes but probably not” (Dillenbourg, 2000)

In conclusion what I believe is needed is a structured and intuitive system, flexible in its use and useable by the students and personalisation is the key but embedded with in VLE structure. VLEs have the capacity within the formal structure to personalize learning by embedding social and collaborative learning with use of for example Twitter and Wikis to mention a few.

VLEs also have the capacity to continue to play a part in the transformation of education, but there may be need to move away from the institutionalized format of present; in turn making the VLE a more flexible concept of personal learning embedding web 2.0 method such as twitter, blogs, and mobile learning to take them away from the rigid institutional format offering flexibility for the student and tutor alike summarised in the (Bloxham & al, 2007)statement

“it  may be the case that the VLE will succeed when they entirely disappear- when they become transparent and forgettable a task as a user picking up a pen”


Belshaw, D., 2008. What is a VLE?. [Online] Available at:
[Accessed 1 October 2012].

Bloxham & al, e., 2007. Summary Report on the UKCLE/BILETA VLE Project. Journal of Information Law and Technology, p. 8.

Clay, J. (., 2009. The VLE is dead . [Online Video].. [Online] Available at:
[Accessed 5 October 2012].

Clay, J., 2009. Its not dead yet. [Online] Available at:
[Accessed 1 October 2012].

Dillenbourg, P., 2000. Virtual Learning Environments, Geneva: TEFCA.

Sepion, M., 2012. FOTE Future of Technology in Education ‘THE VLE IS DEAD, LONG LIVE THE VLE!’. [Online] Available at:
[Accessed 5 October 2012].

Stiles, M., 2007. Death of the VLE?: A challenge to a new orthodoxy.. Serials, pp. 31-36.

Vogel, M. & Oliver, M., 2006. Designing for learning in Virtual Learning Environments – insider perspectives, London: Centre for Excellence in Learning Technology.



Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)