An E-Learning Consultant, Learning Technologist, and MOOC Project Manager. Also a lifelong learner and occasional reflector.

Mandatory VLE Presence? (again)

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During a Periodic Departmental Review (PDR), students in one of our medium-sized departments commented that not all courses had a Moodle presence.  This prompted the question (again........) 'do we have a formal College policy on the minimum requirements for use of Moodle in courses?'.

There is no formal College-wide policy as such requiring that courses must have a Moodle presence.  Some departments have set their own standards.  One, I believe, has an understanding that Tutors will maintain a Moodle space, or part thereof, for each of their courses. The departmental administration and IT team are involved in supporting this approach.

The benefits, if not the challenges, are universally accepted and understood.  Defining, supporting, and meeting baseline requirements is challenging; setting too low a bar may fail to deliver meaningful benefits while exacting opportunity costs elsewhere, setting the baseline too high without the necessary investment in support will likely end in failure.  There is of course, the risk that meeting the requirements of a mandatory presence is delegated to those not directly involved in the delivery of the taught course, and that such a disconnect between tutors and students does little to enhance the student experience beyond building a file repository. 

The view that, I believe, prevails at College is that Moodle is an amenity, rather than an imposition.  Over 1200 of our 1600 taught courses use Moodle to some extent - therefore attaining Kotter's 8th step? http://www.jiscinfonet.ac.uk/infokits/change-management/roles/leadership/.  To enforce a mandatory Moodle presence for every course would require increased support and recognition of Moodle use – at College, Faculty or Departmental levels – to ensure that efforts in building, maintaining, and policing courses would in fact bring pedagogic benefits.

The E-Learning Team - both of us - have played a role in expanding the use of Moodle, be it through delivering College-wide courses on Plagiarism and Using Turnitin, training and encouraging new and established staff to use the service, integrating Moodle and Turnitin so that even non-Moodle users now have a course space for the purpose of submitting assignments – with a view to supporting the development of these otherwise empty spaces. 

I agree with any proposal which would require course validation documentation to contain expansive information and ideas on how learning technologies have been considered and integrated into the teaching, assessment, and administration of courses/programmes.

What are your views on mandatory VLE presence for taught Undergraduate courses?  What challenges would you expect to face? How would you overcome these with no changes in levels of staffing and support elsewhere?  What changes would you suggest in terms of support and staffing? Should we concentrate in bringing up the rearguard or supporting those who are pushing (relatively) the boundaries?

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