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Study shows no demonstrable link between choice of MLE and educational approach.

A team of Dutch researchers investigated the relation between various educational approaches (e.g. traditional, guided learning, active learning and experience-based learning) and the design and use of different virtual learning environments (VLE). Conclusion: it's not really possible to map an educational approach to a specific type of VLE.

The extensive empirical survey and literature review also showed that a lot of e-learning work in Dutch higher education is still about implementation rather than optimalisation. The experiences of those practitioners who did go beyond implementation suggested that adopting a particular educational approach in VLE use and design would not optimize the experience appreciably.

The team from CINOP (centre for course innovation) and the University of Utrecht also list some practical recommendations for e-learning in higher education:

  1. don't presume that the development you would like to happen, will happen without active intervention.
  2. most of the focus will be on 'learn to use' rather than 'use to learn'
  3. the use of VLEs need not require a re-orientation of educational approach
  4. the autonomy of lecturers means that they need to be persuaded of the utility of adopting a specific educational approach consistently
  5. bear in mind that the return on investment is usually lower for the lecturer than it is for the learner. Hence lecturers may not be that keen
  6. mind the law of diminishing returns; being the first is not necessarily best

Perhaps more ominously, the team also concluded that the quality of the learning process was not noticeably improved by adopting VLEs.

The report was commissioned by SURF (the Dutch equivalent of JISC). A paper version --in Dutch-- is available for free from the SURF site.

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