As the New Year arrives I’m finding my thoughts slowly getting back to thinking about things I’ve happily ignored for the last two weeks. After ignoring the calendar invites and email alerts that have been pinging up as notifications on my various connected devices, it’s enough of a niggle in the background to interrupt the little time I’ve left with my family.
Foremost in my thoughts is the Durham Blackboard Users conference (#DURBBU) later this week, where many from UK FE and HE institutions collect to share experiences, collaborations, and development ideas on how best to use Blackboard, the VLE. I’m going again this year, but I don’t actually have any dealings with Blackboard anymore (other than a passing involvement in Collaborate Ultra, the online classroom tool). Yes, I may feel a little bit of an interloper, but I can learn and share much about online learning without being a Bb user, yes?
I believe, however, that the platform is not the important thing here (i.e. Blackboard). What is important is what we are doing and why. We all pretty much agree the tool should be a background ingredient to a successful learning experience, so I’m surprised that more non-Blackboard users don’t attend these events. Similarly, Blackboard users should attend the Moodle, Canvas, etc. conferences (if there are any) to see what people are doing in other systems, how they’re doing it, why, and what kind of impact it has on the student and their learning experiences.
Which brings me to the question I keep asking, myself and anyone who uses a VLE … do you use your VLE? It may seem silly to ask this, considering how long we’ve had VLEs, and how many times we’ve met with colleagues to introduce, train, cajole, bribe, force, etc. then to use it, but I’m sure there are many who simply don’t use it. So, instead of asking ‘how’ or ‘why’ or ‘when’ do they use the VLE perhaps we ought to ask the question ‘do you use your VLE?’ From there you can either take the route of ‘why not’ or ‘how’, depending on the answer. And that then opens up a whole new set of opportunities to engage your colleagues with their work, the VLE and other ways in which to work with them.
It’s also a great question for new team or staff members. The one thing none of us remember are the induction meetings where you’re introduced to the HR or finance department, you can’t fathom where to find the policy documents or expenses claim form, etc. despite being shown very clearly in the first week or two of the new job. The same goes for the new system and having IT or Learning Technologists showing you their version of Blackboard or Moodle or self-developed VLE. So, instead of demonstrating what is possible, only for it to be forgotten, ask them how they have used a VLE previously, what they like to do, what are they used to doing or indeed want to do. This then opens up the conversation to learn from each other about what can be done, how and why it can be done, and whether there are better or more efficient ways of doing it.
What about you, do you use your VLE?