What is virtual learning?

According to Gillespie, Boulton, Hramiak and Williamson (2007) 'Virtual learning' is a term that has begun to be used in schools and education in general to describe an application that enables teachers and learners to do some or all of the following:

  • share files;
  • download information;
  • email;
  • use discussion boards;
  • undertake test and surveys;
  • share information;
  • organise time and resources;
  • link teaching and learning applications and activities with management information systems.

These are usually done through an application that runs over an intranet or the internet and is viewed through a web browser (p.1). According to BBC (2009) virtual learning systems 'have been introduced in schools since about 2000, but that the implementation has been patchy' and has been "slow to take off". Despite expectations, the arrival of these online support services for learners was still in the early stages of development'.
Some virtual learning is "flourish[ing] where skilled and confident teachers and tutors treated the VLE as an extension of their normal work". In contrast, [...] the least successful virtual learning schemes were "used as a dumping ground or storage place for rarely used files".

Within Hampshire there has been an initiative for all schools to be using a VLE as part of school and home communications Wizkids, although my own school has not started the initiative, many have, with a varying degree of success. It appears to need a big drive for the initial set up, but enthusiasm amongst staff initially appears good, however possible problems relating to time teachers spend placing learning on the site, could cause possible issues as time goes on.