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Virtual Learning Environment

Virtual Learning Environment

20 February, 2016

A virtual learning environment (VLE) is an education system based on the Web that models conventional real-world education by integrating a set of equal virtual concepts for tests, homework, classes, classrooms, and the like, and perhaps even museums and other external academic resources. It normally uses Web 2.0 tools for 2-way interaction, and includes a content management system.

Virtual learning environments are the basic component of modern distance learning, but can also be incorporated with a physical learning environment.; this is sometimes referred to as Blended Learning.

The book and DVD pack given out freely to schools by the Yorkshire and Humber Grid for Learning Foundation (YHGfL) called ‘Virtually There’, a Professor Stephen Heppell writes in the foreword:

    “Learning is breaking out of the narrow boxes that it was trapped in during the 20th century; teachers’ professionalism, reflection and ingenuity are leading learning to places that genuinely excite this new generation of connected young school students — and their teachers too. VLEs are helping to make sure that their learning is not confined to a particular building, or restricted to any single location or moment.”

A Virtual Learning Environment is one of the methods of providing computerized learning or e-learning. Such a system may also be referred to as a Learning Management System (LMS). Related concepts include” Content Management System (CMS), which properly pertains to the organization of the educational or other content, not the overall environment; Learning Content Management System (LCMS), which is more often utilized for corporate training systems than for systems in education institutions; Managed Learning Environment (MLE), which normally refers to the overall infrastructure in an institution of which the VLE is a component, Learning Support System (LSS); Online Learning Centre (OLC); or Learning Platform (LP), education via computer-mediated communication (CMC); or Online Education. The term “Virtual Learning Environment” is more commonly used in the UK, Europe and Asia, while the synonymous term “Learning Management System” is the more common usage in North America.

The term LMS can also mean “Library Management System” (which is now more commonly referred to as Integrated Library System, or ILS.


A VLE will usually involve some or all of the following elements:

  1. The course syllabus
  2. Administrative information about the course: prerequisites, credits, registration, payments, physical sessions, and contact information for the instructor.
  3. A notice board for the latest information about the ongoing course
  4. The basic content of some or all of the course; the complete course for distance learning applications, or some part of it, when used as a portion of a conventional course. This normally includes material such as copies of lecture in the form of text, audio, or video presentations, and the supporting visual presentations
  5. Additional resources, either integrated or as links to outside resources. This typically consists of complementary reading, or innovative equivalents for it.
  6. Self-assessment quizzes or analogous devices, usually scored automatically
  7. Formal assessment functions, such as examinations, essay submission, or presentation of projects. This now frequently includes components to support peer assessment
  8. Support for communications, including e-mail, threaded discussions, chat rooms, twitter and other media, sometimes with the instructor or an assistant acting as moderator. Additional elements include wikis, blogs, RSS and 3D virtual learning spaces.
  9. Management of access rights for instructors, their assistants, course support staff, and students
  10. Documentation and statistics as needed for institutional administration and quality control
  11. Authoring tools for creating the necessary documents by the instructor, and, usually, submissions by the students
  12. Provision for the necessary hyperlinks to create a unified presentation to the students.

A VLE is normally not designed for a specific course or subject, but is capable of supporting multiple courses over the full range of the academic program, giving a consistent interface within the institution and—to some degree—with other institutions using the system.