Well … there has been an interesting debate over the last few days in a group I subscribe to about the value of Virtual Learning Environments.  It has been fascinating.

Was just watching this:

Which gives a lot of different arguments in the debate.  Worth watching the first 25min or so, if nothing else.  

Schools are focussing a lot of their discretionary expenditure on commercial products like KnowledgeNET or Ultranet.  Or on 'free' things like Moodle – 'free' because there is still the cost of support etc.  Is it resulting in improved outcomes for students?  I am really not sure.  For a medium sized school there may be a cost to these tools of around $3000 to $4000 a year.  This is the same cost as 150-200+ hours of TA time.  Which is more useful?  Which supports learning better?  Like with anything it is the quality of what you get that is critical, and I would rather have an average LMS than a terrible TA for my room.  But having said that ….

Another argument that often comes up is around the free tools that have the same, or better functionality.  Edmodo is the second largest LMS platform internationally I read somewhere recently.  Behind Moodle (by a big margin).  Google Apps, blogs and wikis can give much of the content management and interactivity of a content management system (and that is all many LMS platforms are used for lets face it) for free.  Why would you pay for this?

As I have harped on about for years, it comes down to PURPOSE:

* WHY do you want to have one in the first place?

* HOW will it make the learning better; and not just different, better?

* Will something else give a better 'bang for buck' for your school staff and students?

* Is the learning curve of the tool worth the effort in terms of ultimate pay-off?

If we are not able to answer these questions definitively with a yes and a well thought through rationale why are we doing it?

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