Presented as an ‘update’ to an earlier 1999 report of the same title, it seems actually both an update and a re-working, and in my opinion greatly improved.
After an overview of the current (2003) state of affairs in VLE adoption in the UK (interesting in it’s own right) the authors gone on to explicate their framework. They base it on two theoretical models of teaching and learning – Stafford Beer’s Viable System Model (coming from a cybernetic perspective) and Diane Laurillard’s conversational framework. The explication is a bit of a slog but worth the read, and critical if you were going to buy into their framework.
They then go on to establish a set of evaluative questions built around the structural or recursive levels of “The Module,” “The Learner” and “The Programme.” Finally they look at a number of current systems in the light of this framework, including WebCT Vista, Blackboard Academic Suite
Granada Learnwise, FirstClass, LAMS, COSE and Moodle. These last three are particularly interesting as all have been heralded for the ways in which they challenge conventional VLE/CMS models. As a credit to the report, if not the framework, it manages to recognize the innovations in these systems and the value they bring without forsaking the important developments in dealing with enterprise level problems that the larger commercial CMS have been focusing on.
Finally, they sum up their findings and point to some of the key developments in VLEs since their 1999 report, including: increased programme level support, a greater level of flexibility, more thought given to supporting pedagogical innovation, a greater variety of student tools, more “Open systems” and some improvement in accessibility. All of which seems about right. – SWL