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A case study of virtual learning course development in Scottish higher education

Clarkson, Michael J. (2007) A case study of virtual learning course development in Scottish higher education. PhD thesis, University Of Strathclyde.

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Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) are now an important part of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) strategy in Scottish Higher Educational institutions and beyond. VLEs, which can have a variety of other names such as virtual campuses, interactive web environments and managed learning environments (MLEs) are now considered as part of a group of software, known as learning platforms. The dissertation, which is insider research, examines the non-technical issues involved in VLE course development. The author has been developing a number of VLE courses for two departments in one Scottish Higher Education Institution, using the WebCT VLE. The promotion of learning in the educational context is discussed which examines some of the central claims of the constructivism versus behaviourism debate. A literature review has also been completed on a number of subjects such as Virtual Learning Environments, Managed Learning Environments, and the rise of VLEs in Higher Education, particularly in Scotland. Practical and theoretical definitions of VLE are discussed. A case study has been completed on the author's VLE course development. The thesis reports on a number of issues in the case study. These include the fear factor amongst academics, the range of staff training both in using VLEs and their application to academic subjects, as well as some of the policy and management decisions that were taken at department and university levels. The discussion expands some of the issues raised in the literature review and case study, particularly with regards to the nature of training given to academics, and the promotion of the VLE as a learning tool.