on 16 April 2007
There's lots of practical advice in this book. I'm the e-learning champion in my college and I found it a useful guide to using VLEs for teaching, and also it has provided me with lots of theory I can bamboozle others with. I now quote affordances everywhere! The chapter on integrating with other systems was insightful, and not at all techy. The author has a good writing style, which makes what can be a rather dry subject very engaging. I would have preferred a bit more on general e-learning (although I think his other book does this - haven't read it), but definitely worth a buy if you have anything to do with e-learning or VLEs.
on 1 December 2011
In this book Martin Weller offers a comprehensive overview on different aspects related to the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). And even in 2011 it is still one of the view resources with this kind of scope. Weller's (2007) target audience is Higher Education and the VLE in primary and secondary education are not explored or discussed. Although Weller (2007: 4) is cautious defining the VLE, as "definitions often generate more heat than light, their length and ferocity almost indirectly proportional to their usefulness". The VLE is defined as "a software system that combines a number of different tools that are used to systematically deliver content online and facilitate the learning experience around the content' (Weller, 2007: 5).
The first chapters are introductory, offering a discussion on defining the VLE in contrast with other systems such as MLE and CMS, the common conception about a VLE, an explanation of its applications and how it can be used in an educational context. These chapters seem to aim for a more general reader who wants to inform him/herself and wants to work with the VLE.
The chapters in the middle are more specific and deal with the choice for a VLE, the integration of the VLE with other institutional systems such as student portals, interoperability and technical standards. Weller (2007) spends some time on open source VLE solutions, which might indicate a certain preference, maybe not surprisingly with his close connection to the Open University. The latter chapters put the VLE in a wider context and Weller (2007) offers a couple of case studies how the VLE was implemented at three institutions and what can be learned from it. By looking forward to WEB 2.0 technologies Weller (2007) tries to address some question that might be raised in relationship with the VLE. The middle and later chapters might be less relevant for a general reader, as they are slightly more technical. The chapters are probably more relevant for learning technologist and administrators, who are reviewing their institutional VLE, are looking for the different aspects that need to be considered and want to draw a framework for their VLE review process.
Weller (2007) describes and discusses a variety of aspects and topics related to the VLE in a higher educational context, which have not been brought together concisely. This is certainly the strength of this book. However the scope might also be seen as a shortcoming. The introductory chapters and a chapter on `learning design' touch on pedagogy and offer some framework to start with, but I'm not sure if they offer enough substance to be practical or applicable. Further, a topic as the take-up of the VLE starts with Rogers' (1962) `Diffusion of Innovation' model which is appropriate, but Weller (2007) does not mention any research on the take-up of the VLE. References to e.g. the Jenkins et al. (2005) report would have given the topic more body and made it less hypothetical. Weller (2007) is by times somewhat descriptive, however, the discussion on the future of the VLE and his chapter on personal learning environment are still very relevant.
Jenkins, M. Browne. T. & Walker, R. (2005). VLE Surveys A longitudinal perspective between March 2001, March 2003 and March 2005 for higher education in the United Kingdom. [Online]. Available from: [...]
Rogers, E. M. (1962). Diffusion of Innovations. Glencoe, Free Press
Weller, M. (2007) Virtual Learning Environments. Using choosing and developing your VLE. Oxon, Routledge
on 22 April 2008
An excellent book, but I'm not so sure about who the target audience might be - certainly not for the faint-hearted. Written from the background of the OU Professor Martin Weller writes well but, I suspect, for a limited audience.
I do not see many 'techies' getting much in terms of an understanding of the educational aspects of a VLE. Similarly, at a time when thousands of school leaders are presently trying to understand their own VLE strategies, I am not sure how much help this book will actually be in helping educationists in terms of the actual sub-title.
From the wider market perspective, I would have liked to have seen a comparative table of the 20-odd various VLE products available - after-all, the VLE market is much, much bigger than just Higher Education.
For me, as a teacher, the book does not answer the bottom-line questions: Should I even bother installing a VLE? and if so, What will it actually do for teaching and learning?
Despite my criticisms, a good niche reference book for many who might be struggling with these issues.