Virtual learning environments or course management systems have become popular with many higher education colleges. A software package can be used by thousands of educational bodies worldwide (e.g. Blackboard is used by over 3700 colleges and other educational bodies). These systems provide software which tutors can use to upload course information and the more sophisticated platforms allow tutors to set up a forum for each course, so that classmates can discuss the course orremotely.
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Students are given a username and password so that they can log in remotely. This sort of platform can be accessed from any computer – not simply those within the college or university. Once in the system, the student can print out any course material they want, join in discussions or post new threads in the forum. Many of these packages are simple to use, but some of the more complex provide online manuals to answer queries for tutors and students.
Remote e-learning is an activity that some students ignore. You have so much work for your course already and you have quite enough reading to do. However, there are some really good reasons to use e-learning systems:-
- Some tutors will use the software to alert students about cancelled classes, so it is wise to check in regularly.
- The tutor may post up their own notes from lectures or tutorials and other helpful information.
- If you miss a class, you can use the online class notes. You don’t have to rely on another student’s notes.
- You can keep track of all your courses on one account.
- It is a really useful resource for essay preparation. You can refresh your memory about what was covered in class.
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Virtual learning environments can be useful when unexpected events happen, for instance, if the college is closed due to bad weather, a swine flu outbreak or other serious illness, or something less dramatic like a power cut. See Erica Jacobs’ description of using Blackboard during a swine flu college closure as an example of how you can keep preparing for assignments and essay writing against the odds!
While working on your essays, make sure you have learnt how to use your colleges e-learning resources. The tutor may even have uploaded an essay writing guide.
Have you been using your colleges e-learning system? Has it proved useful? Let us know by posting a comment below.