A collection of VLE or learning ‘bad’ practices, pt.1 – Comments welcome

Naughty Kids

What are your pet-peeves about how your VLE is used – are you the culprit or is this what you see others do? Is it the technology at fault or how we / you / ‘they’ use it?

Come on, let’s have your examples of the things you’ve seen in your VLE that leave you in despair. Please leave your examples as comments below … we’ll see what we get.

Here’s a couple of examples I’ve seen over the past 5 years or so …

  • Learning resources and files loaded as simply ‘click here’ or ‘week one’ without any explanation. Try introducing the file with an appropriate name (‘Week one resources: [topic title]’) as well as some brief text about what the file is and what it contains, how the student should use it (read, discuss, activity, wider research, etc.), and what the learning outcome is – put the resource in the context of the learning and / or subject and / or timetable.
  • Well structured and detailed navigation … but empty folders. Even if you are using ‘adaptive release’ and the materials are loaded but not available yet, you could at least put a ‘holding’ message to say the materials will be available on or after specific dates – if it’s empty the student thinks you’ve either not done anything or it’s something they’ve done wrong.
  • Announcements on the home page / welcome screen … but there haven’t been any, either use it or don’t display it, an empty area can only cause confusion for students (see above).

I plan to collate the responses and comments into a fuller list (that’ll be part 2) which I’ll blog about in a month or two or when there’s a good range of comments. If you’d rather remain anonymous then please email me (‘david’ at ‘this website address’) and I’ll publish it minus your name.

Image Source: Naughty Funny Kids

  • Ohhh, where to start :)

    Content with last years date as part of the title, which just says how much thought has gone into the course.
    Folders in folders in folders in folders… you get the idea – content ‘structure’ that is far too deep and impossible to find things.
    An ‘archive’ folder of last years course content, when last years course is perfectly accessible.
    No information for students telling them that this particular module doesn’t use the VLE.
    Adding a document link for basic course information instead of creating the content directly in the VLE, so the students have to download and open a document to find out something like the timetable instead of being able to access the info easily.

    … and relax.

    • Thanks Danny … I’m sure there are more, come on, don’t hold back!

      All the best, David

  • Agree! I’ve seen these and others, and blogged them a while back http://rhul-lt.blogspot.co.uk/2011/02/how-to-create-horrible-and-ineffective.html

    • Thanks Martin, great resource … any more you want to add you’ve seen since?

      All the best, David

  • Generally speaking, links to unused tools annoy me – distracting visual clutter. But you’re right to identify the dreaded “Announcements” as the worst of all offences (especially when they’re written in multicoloured text (I kid you not).

    • Thanks Alan – You’ve just reminded me … I’ve seen Blackboard navigation using yellow text on a pink background – yuck!

      All the best, David

  • Ester Muñoz

    I agree completely with the unused tools, having links to things that never get used “just because we can have them”. Also terrible when a huge banner is used for the course’s title, using screen space, and adding nothing extra (the text could be just text)

    • Hi Ester – thanks for this. Are these ‘banners’ acting in any way to inform the students on content, dates, etc., or just as an introduction / label (advert?) to the course? How do you think this space could be used more ‘wisely’?

      All the best, David

      • Banners – and other ‘branding elements’ seem to raise the ire of some of my students (and, I admit, me). We are already in a relationship with the institution, and putting branding on it is just a way of wasting time, resources, and good will. Use screen estate for useful content, which includes decent navigation (either within the module on the VLE or to other resources)

  • What I find most annoying is links to files that are dated 10-11 and even 09-10. Either that or sporadic engagement throughout a course with some modules/units being really engaged with, where as others are completely empty. It doesnt give the student the best of experiences.

    • Hi Damien – All very true and unfortunately not unique to your experience. Students believe we talk to each other and plan the whole course together, so one module using lots of tools and another not using any does give an unequal and poor impression.

      Is this something that can/should be handled in the planning stages of a course and a ‘directive’ produced about ‘how’ tools should be shared throughout the course modules (and ‘why’)?

      All the best, David

      • We are looking at introducing tiered levels of engagement. E.g. a course will be given a tier 1 status if they use a range of tools and methods. They will be offered training to move up tiers but cannot do so until they have had the training. This will ensure the staff will understand the tools within their course areas and be able to use them to their full potential. There is also talk, thats all it is at the moment, of introducing ownership of content within a course page directly with the moduler leader. This will be down at a contact level so they have to take ownership of their areas and make sure they are up to date.

      • Maybe a better way of dealing with the issue of students believing we talk to each other at our institutions, rather than trying to reinforce that by keeping dates on files up to date, is to either talk to each other (I know, the horror!) or lay it on the line with the students?

        As a student, I actually slightly preferred notes with last years date on them to either this years or 5 years out of date. It always seemed likely to be up to date but to have had the kinks knocked out of it.

        As for the desire for a level of of homogeneity in tool use in the VLE, I hear from other staff here that our students want it. I don’t hear that from the students, though (self selecting group, so quite feasibly selection bias). What I *do* hear though is that students like it when staff use the VLE in a new and exciting way – not something you can achieve, I suspect, if everyone is using it the same way?

  • Learning comes about through the resolution of confusion. So sometimes confusion can be a good thing – not that empty space is always good, but it can also provoke a sense of enquiry, which can be useful, I find, in students. Of course, it does require the ‘resolution’ bit to make it work…

    My main pet hate about content hosted in a VLE is that I could have found it more easily via a search if it was on a simple web page, preferably owned by the course lecturer. Or even a complex, content rich, interactive web page owned by the course lecturer, I don’t mind.

    I’m fortunate to be in an institution where content is ‘owned’ by the lecturers – I have worked in organisations where it is up to someone else to keep them up to date, and although this can work OK if the administrative person is like a terrier with a rabbit, in most cases it just leads to out of date material and mismatches between taught content and resources. On the other hand, our staff web pages are on the institutional CMS and guarded, with only those who know the secret rituals allowed to edit them, leading to a poor digital presence for staff; having VLE presence and web presence matching would be useful, and the owner of the information should always be responsible for it, and empowered to keep it up to date.

    Another peeve is all content being as linked files in PDF/PPT/Word formats. And video/audio without transcripts. But my biggest bugbear? Forums which are there for the benefit of students, and which staff will happily use and contribute on, but which the students refuse point blank to use, despite complaining that what they want is more interaction with the staff.

  • Kevin Richardson

    Hyperlinks with text labels such as “click here” are very unhelpful, but terrible for accessibility …they fail the 2.4.4 criteria of WAI WCAG 2.0; Link Purpose (in Context). Thus, when a VLE has these links you immediately fail Level ‘A’ compliance (the most fundamental level).

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