Understanding lecturers' use of Virtual Learning Environments to support face-to-face teaching in UK Higher Education

Morón-García, Susan Doreen (2004). Understanding lecturers' use of Virtual Learning Environments to support face-to-face teaching in UK Higher Education. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000e8b7


Many institutions of higher education in the UK have invested in Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs). The main reason appears to be the enhancement of teaching and learning. This thesis sought to understand what was meant by enhancement and this thesis provides a richer picture of actual VLE use than that offered by surveys and user numbers. It concludes that the idea of enhancement comes from the association of Web and Internet-based technology (on which VLEs are built) with the creation of student-centred learning environments. This is important because of research showing a correlation between higher quality learning outcomes and a deep approach to learning and between a surface approach to learning and a teacher-focused approach to teaching.

The focus of this research is the individual lecturer in face-to-face higher education. The aim was to investigate whether VLEs were being used to support student-centred teaching methods. This research took the form of an interview study that began by exploring whether and how VLEs were used. The pilot study helped re-focus the interview questions and clarify what was meant by student-centred teaching methods. 31 humanities and social science lecturers, from ten higher education institutions, were interviewed for the main study, in order to explore why and how a VLE was used and to identify contextual factors that impacted on that use. They were also asked to complete the Approaches to Teaching Inventory (ATI).

Reasons for use were classified as original motivation (interest and pressure) and intended use (course management and the facilitation of learning). Four sets of issues were identified as impacting on use: student, technical, pedagogic and institutional. The ATI scores suggested that interviewees were more student- than teacher-focused in approach and therefore more likely to adopt student-centred methods. An analysis of comments from four selected transcripts confirmed this.

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