A Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) - sometimes known as a Learning Management System (LMS) - is the future of the classroom. Most people now have a mini computer in the form of a smartphone in their pockets, meaning they can access e-learning or m-learning anytime, and anywhere.
A VLE is an online classroom; it's a digital space where employers or education providers can host e-learning courses that they'd like their staff or students to complete.
The VLE doesn't necessarily have to replace the physical classroom, as e-learning can complement more traditional approaches to teaching, creating what is known as a blended learning environment, or a flipped classroom.
At Virtual College, our VLE is known as Enable, and it allows learners to study at a pace that suits them, automatically tracking their progress as they do. This means they can go over course information as many times as they need to until they have absorbed it.
For students, a VLE allows them to benefit from self-paced learning and the opportunity to learn new skills without having to travel or arrange childcare while they attend courses. They will also get a real sense of achievement; with Virtual College courses, there is always a certificate to download and print at the end as a record of this achievement.
For teachers, the benefits of a Virtual Learning Environment are also huge. They can set lessons or training courses for their students to complete all at once, no matter how far apart they are based, allowing the teacher to work remotely too if needed.
A blended learning approach can also help them to keep their students more engaged with a course, spending some time working on practical tasks and some learning the theory behind what they are doing via a VLE.
Research has been carried out into the benefits of Virtual Learning Environments for students and teachers: a 2012 study conducted by Michael Van Beek, director of education policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Michigan, US, found that a VLE helps students to engage in personalised education. At the same time, it frees teachers from the constraints of classroom management tasks.
He drew on an initiative trialled by Clintondale Community Schools, which introduced a flipped classroom approach to learning following poor exam scores from students. In just one year, the number of students failing English fell by 19 per cent, the social studies pass rate increased by nine per cent, 13 per cent fewer individuals failed science and the maths pass rate also improved by 19 per cent.
Students reported more positive learning experiences, and teachers found that using a VLE freed up some of the time they would have traditionally spent planning and teaching lessons, allowing them to focus on coaching individual pupils to achieve their full potential.
Mr Beek commented: "Digital learning can greatly improve the way educational services are delivered. More schools should embrace this innovation."
If you'd like to know more about how using a Virtual Learning Environment could benefit your students, or yourself as a teacher, follow the link to find out more about the Virtual College Learning Management System.