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learning platforms document - LGfL

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learning platforms document - LGfL

Learning Platforms:

A briefing for Local Authorities and Schools

London Grid for Learning page 1

    Executive Summary………………………………………………………….. 3

    Introduction to learning platforms………………………………………… 4

     Why do schools need a learning platform? ............................. 4

     What can schools do prior to its introduction? ............................. 4

    How can schools ensure best value from

    Current learning platform provision? …………………………… 6

    How should schools approach the implementation

    of a learning platform? …………………………………………… 6

What is a Learning platform?.................................................................. 7

     Admin centric …………………………………………………… 7

     Content centric …………………………………………………… 8

     Teacher Centric …………………………………………………… 8

     Learner Centric …………………………………………………… 8

    Questions to ask commercial suppliers about Learning Platforms: ………………………………………………... 10

    The LGfL Learning Platform:…………………………………………….... 12

     Benefits for schools …………………………………………………… 13

     Benefits for Staff …………………………………………………… 13

     Benefits for Learners ……...................................................... 13

     The LGfL MLE procurement …………………………………… 14

    „Do-it-yourself‟ learning platforms: ……………………………………….. 15

     The apparent attractions of a ‘DIY’ solution …….……………… 16

     Cost ……………………………………………………. 16

    The educational theories behind

    open source solutions: ……………………………………. 17

    The enthusiasts…………………………………………………. 17

     The alternatives to ‘DIY’ solutions ……………………………………. 18

    Appendix 1: Draft BECTA learning platform specification…………….. 20

    Appendix 2: Learning platform links ………………………………………. 26

London Grid for Learning page 2

Executive Summary:

Do schools need learning platforms?

    Firstly, let’s be clear that schools don’t need a Learning platform.

Schools - including successful schools all have a need to manage and

    improve teaching and learning.

    Schools are planning for the future, for difficulties and for succession whilst ensuring that they are accountable for their actions to parents, to governors and to the wider community and schools are doing this in the midst of a drive to reduce staff workload.

    A learning platform can help schools along this path, but only as part of an integrated strategy for ICT that encompasses the learning of the school as an organisation; as part of a wider community; and for individuals.

    Learning platforms are now being accepted as a useful tool to enable a school to improve, so how can schools best implement such a learning platform?

    A successful implementation is only achieved when the whole school community, led by the SMT is committed to the implementation and the changes in practice that will be required. Success is more likely when implementation is evolutionary through building on a base of experience in school-wide learning through ICT. Investing in a learning platform without this

    base of experience may lead to an unsuccessful and costly implementation that may forestall any improvements in the future.

    This document details a number of factors for success, explanations of what learning platforms are and examples of the kind of questions schools should ask any those who are promoting one solution or another. It also outlines the services provided through the LGfL, freely for London Schools and ends with an analysis of the benefits and drawbacks of ‘DIY’ learning platforms.

    Finally however, the importance of the human network of learners, teachers, schools and authorities that make up the LGfL should not be under estimated. The technology is in place to enable human networks to operate. Therefore;

    Together, teachers and learners can take hold of their learning and teaching,

    Together, authorities and school can procure, manage and develop more effectively.

    Together, as part of a wider network, the bigger are the benefits to the whole educational community.

    This document sets out how learning platforms can help all to achieve more for the school, for the teachers and for the learners.

    London Grid for Learning page 3

Learning Platforms:

1: Introduction

    When investigating how ICT can be used to raise standards, the term Learning Platform is becoming widely used. DfES Standards funding advice and recent Governmental Strategies all talk about learning platforms of some form. Commercial providers are keen to show schools their wares that may provide some form of Learning Platform (delivering content), Virtual Learning Environment (creating, storing and sharing content) or some combination that includes aspects of assessment and recording (Managed Learning Environment)

    It should be the case that the need for a learning platform inside a school is obvious -but this is not necessarily so. Why should schools invest considerable sums of money in a learning platform? If schools do invest

    what should they be investing in?

    i) Why do schools need a learning platform?

Firstly, let’s be clear that schools don’t need a learning platform.

Schools - including successful schools all have a need to manage and

    improve teaching and learning. To do this, many are reflecting on their need to modernise the management of knowledge inside the school; the need to motivate pupils and staff; to involve pupils in their learning and to inform parents about their child’s achievement; the need to manage behaviour, ensure progression and create opportunities for professional development.

    Schools are planning for the future, for difficulties and for succession whilst ensuring that they are accountable for their actions to parents, to governors and to the wider community and schools are doing this in the midst of a drive to reduce staff workload.

    A learning platform can help schools along this path, but only as part of an integrated strategy for ICT that encompasses the learning of the school as an organisation; as part of a wider community; and for individuals. A learning platform can only be recognised as useful in the wider context of a learning strategy that encompasses technology as an essential tool, not necessarily an

    immediate and easy solution, as suggested by some providers’ sales

    literature.

    ii) If a learning platform is accepted as a useful tool to enable a

    school to improve, whilst taking into account workforce reform,

    what can schools do prior to its introduction?

    For the successful introduction of a learning platform there should be:

London Grid for Learning page 4

    ; A clear link to a school development priority: there should be a

    specific reason or purpose for the learning platform to be introduced.

    ; An existing collaborative learning platform of some kind: this may

    be identified as a content repository, but it should include collaborative

    learning tools. In its simplest form, this can be centrally hosted disk

    space plus email.

    ; A leader in the senior management team: preferably the head, who

    may well delegate the responsibility for strategy to an e-learning

    management board and to an identified senior staff member

    responsible for the management of the learning platform.

    ; A culture of openness and willingness to share: staff are given the

    freedom to create and innovate and are rewarded for sharing inside

    and outside of the school

    ; A culture of continuous, reflective learning: the school needs to be

    an organisation that learns from its successes and mistakes moving

    forward to challenge the status quo

    ; Explicit management of the knowledge inside the school: creating

    and sharing good practice across departments and year groups.

    Based on Managing Knowledge documentation from the OU.

    But in addition to the need for a structured plan, assuming the above factors for success are present, the introduction of a learning platform relies on a

    robust and resilient technological structure being in place. This includes resilient broadband for access to rich content and collaboration outside the school. The processes inside the school also need to be identified and changed if necessary. Once these have happened the change management can be taken forward to change the working practices involved in adopting a learning platform to aid a school’s progress.

    It could be said, building on a model first developed by BT, that the introduction of a learning platform is:

    70% about effective

    change management

    20% about the processes

    inside a school

     10% about the

    technology

    London Grid for Learning page 5

    It should be recognised that the technology provides the point of the triangle, and the rest of the strategy ‘balances’ on that point. If the technology ‘falls over’ then so does the introduction of the learning platform.

    Experience gained during present learning platform implementations suggest that the process of successfully implementing a learning platform and changing practice within a secondary school can take a minimum of 2 years. However, LGfL is seeing the implementation time reduce, especially in primary schools where much learning platform development is now taking a matter of a few months. BUT, without time and resources spent on the first 30% quoted above, the change management needed will founder and the potential gains of a learning platform will be squandered.

    iii) How can schools ensure best value from current learning

    platform provision?

    a. identify whether their LEA or RBC offer a freely available

    learning platform use this as a pilot scheme before committing

    to more expenditure to work towards implementation of a

    learning platform.

    b. If no learning platform has been provided by their LEA/RBC,

    build on the school’s own internal network and email systems for

    storing, sharing and accessing collaboratively created content,

    or investigate how a centrally hosted commercial provider might

    support a pilot project before committing to major expenditure.

    c. work with the LEA/RBC/SST or whichever regional organisation

    can provide a collaborative infrastructure to ensure

    interoperability and transferability of content between schools

    (remembering that the pupils may transfer between institutions

    and should be able to take work with them) and helping enable

    best value.

    iv) How should schools approach the implementation of a

    learning platform?

    Learning platforms can help address the needs of a school but in practice a

    successful implementation is only achieved when the whole school community, led by the SMT is committed to the implementation and the changes in practice that will be required. Success is more likely when implementation is evolutionary through building on a base of experience in school-wide learning through ICT. Investing in a learning platform without this base of experience may lead to an unsuccessful and costly implementation that may forestall any improvements in the future.

    For success, commit to the use of the new technologies (which may include more investment in school networks), re-engineer the processes inside the

    school to enable collaboration and sharing and gain experience in managing

    the change required before committing to a learning platform.

    London Grid for Learning page 6

2: What is a learning platform?

    Is it a virtual learning environment, a managed learning environment or a content management system? Becta has produced this explanatory diagram and a variety of documents for schools leaders and governing bodies explaining the rationale for learning platforms. Copies of these documents can be found at www.learningplatform.lgfl.net along with a number of strategic

    documents for the implementation of a learning platform.

    The introduction of a learning platform is seen as an essential component of the DfES’ drive towards personalised learning through the e-strategy. But

    there is much confusion over what a learning platform actually does, or which platform should be purchased. Essentially, ‘learning platform’ is a generic

    term to describe a system of information and communication technologies that is used to deliver and support learning. It may be a single product, or be made up of several independent modules. Appendix 1 contains a draft specification from BECTA illustrating the essential and potential components of a learning platform.

    Essentially though, a Learning platform (made up of some combination of all the components in the BECTA specification) should enable the creation, publication and administration of educational content and learner data.

    This is illustrated on the diagram overleaf. As components of a learning platform are combined, so the desired outcome is achieved.

London Grid for Learning page 7

Comparing Learning Platforms

    Because of the large variety in the way existing platforms have been developed, it makes comparison between them somewhat difficult. For example, two solutions may make similar claims in allowing a customised homepage but the degree of customisation can vary from only being able to change the title and background colour to being able to substitute any html based page in its place.

Kent LA has analysed a variety of ‘learning platforms’ into a number of very

    useful categories that inform the descriptions below. Such categorisation might help when investigating a commercial solution, or when deciding how best to meet the needs of a particular school.

Admin Centric

    Typically this type of learning platform offers an extension to the school information management system; useful where the priority is a need for structured curriculum organisation, including systems offering attendance monitoring, assessment monitoring, storage of curriculum planning and lesson plans etc. There are also a number of products now aimed at linking the School Evaluation Framework to school development and curriculum planning.

Content Centric

    London Grid for Learning page 8

    These are essentially an authentication and delivery portal for accessing 3rd party content, usually to electronically deliver a publishers product portfolio. This is predominantly an online alternative to distribution by CD and DVD (the problem with CD/DVD distribution is that it becomes difficult to maintain version control, whereas an online portal means that the publisher can update centrally.

     rdMany learning platform providers offer subscriptions to 3 party content, and

    the dedicated single publisher portal is likely to be a short lived phenomenon. However, Content centric providers are starting to move into the Learner centric environment through purchase and commercial integration of products

Teacher Centric

    This approach is focused on supporting teaching and embedding ICT in classroom practice; usually aimed at the use of interactive whiteboards and other presentation technology, providing storage and management of resources and content.

    Although some products in this space are quite sophisticated, many have a clear focus on extending the traditional teaching model, and are therefore evolutionary rather than transformational in nature; an excellent way on introducing digital resources into teaching and learning, developing and building competencies and skills without moving too far from the teachers comfort zone. This approach is less appropriate if the goal is nurturing autonomous independent learners.

    Some of these learning environments mimic a typical traditional school class structure based on year groups and forms of entry. They are frequently used to supplement the curricular timetable and act as a repository for local content and resources, as well as online revision, homework and communications between pupils, parents and teachers.

Learner Centric

    This approach lends itself to individualised autonomous learning. It has features which allow work to be allocated to individuals and classes, assessment tools, email, live communications and resource management features.

    The learner centric approach requires high levels of access to computers and connectivity at home and school. This presents challenges to schools in finding the resources needed to sustain short product life-cycles, and support the mobile connected environment that is implied.

    There are a number of Microsoft based products in this space, alongside products developed and based on open-source products. The Microsoft based products would typically need installations of proprietary Microsoft London Grid for Learning page 9

    products such as Class-server. The open source based solutions may be developed by a commercial company as a commercial, branded product, or indeed by used as a ‘DIY’ school solution.

    Eventually, as the market matures, it is likely that products will be able to be categorised into more than one of the possibilities above.

    Regardless of how learning platforms develop commercially, schools and authorities should always have considered the underlying issues relating to implementation

    ; Are the school‟s needs being put first?

    ; Where does the school want to be and by when?

    ; Has the starting point of the process of change been identified?

    ; How can the school ensure that it can move quickly to expand the

    solution?

    London Grid for Learning page 10

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