The WWW is 30, but what about the VLE?

There have been several news items today celebrating the World Wide Web’s 30th birthday (well, technically, its conception was 30 years ago, the first website arrived in 1991).

#Web30 is trending on Twitter, there’s a wonderful collection of images on Google Art and Culture, including this video.

But what’s been the impact on education, and particularly the VLE? Speaking personally, 1987 was when I did a PGCE, including an element on Computing in the Primary Curriculum. In those pre-internet days of Granny’s Garden we had the amazing Domesday project (now available via the National archive) – which was a crowd sourced database; the precursor, in a way, to a Wiki?

Wikipedia outlines a long history of the VLE, starting with a shorthand course advertised in the Boston Gazette in 1728. By the 1990s, there were many names that are familiar to those working at or attending Universities in the 90s and early 2000s. Just 8 years after the first website, Britain and Liber’s framework  listed of 11 VLEs, of which FirstClass (a tool designed specifically for collaboration) still lives on. However, the most used at the time, WebCT was later bought by Blackboard, as was CourseInfo.

[Low quality, as was created to be delivered via 28K modem]

Britain and Lieber listed a set of functionalities for the evaluation of a VLE.

Staff Tools Student Tools
Resource management tools

  • Creating/importing content
  • Store resources
  • Add Metadata
  • Add description
  • Add/play multimedia Content

People management tools

  • Store & view learner data
  • Add/remove learners
  • Track learner activities

Course Management Tools

  • Course Structuring
  • Adding Resources
  • Creating assignments
  • Performing assessments
  • Rapid Course Revising
  • Create Discussion groups
Resource management tools

  • Web browsing
  • Creating/importing content
  • Store bookmarks
  • Add metadata
  • Add description
  • Play Multimedia

People Management data

  • View people data
  • Homepage authoring

Learning Management tools

  • Calendar tools
  • Self testing tools
  • Searchable resource archive
  • Create discussion groups

This list was created 20 years ago, just 8 years after the first website. Which tools have been added to a typical VLE since? Which of those still aren’t present in Blackboard? Which aren’t used today (were things like Metadata ever used as thoroughly as some had hoped they would be?)
What functionality could be added, or have we got to a stage where it’s now the UX that can be enhanced?

Over the years, I’ve used Teknical, WebCT, Moodle, and, now, Blackboard. Yes, the interface and the UX varies, but the actual functionality doesn’t much. I’m still waiting for the ability to move the data from the VLE directly to a Student Record system …

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