As I mentioned in a previous post, the ACT DET has recently announced the adoption of the cLc by Uniservity as its new Virtual Learning Environment. Over the last couple of days I’ve had the opportunity to really begin exploring how it operates, and here are my intial thoughts.
1. It has a lot of useful features
Now it’s probably true of every modern learning environment that many things Web 2.0 have been included – things like Wiki and Blog services, podcasting and RSS etc. The cLc has a quite extensive set of services built-in, and the editors allow a reasonable amount of flexibility to insert other stuff that isn’t built into the system. You can embed videos from YouTube and do all the usual stuff, but it doesn’t have every feature I would have liked. One of the obvious ones missing for me is an RSS aggregator/feed reader that can be attached to users and classes – given how much easier it is to have relevant content fed to you now, it’s a big hole that I would like to see filled in future versions.
2. The Interface needs work
I’ve spoken with the vendor and he’s acknowledged that the interface does have an “old school” feel about it – given it’s evolved from around 8 years ago that’s no real surprise. The good news though is that in September, Uniservity are releasing cLc Life – an update to the environment that will have a dramatic impact on how the user interface works. I’m going to reserve my criticisms of this aspect of the system until after Life is released and I’ve had a chance to use it, but until that happens, I feel that the complexities involved in using some elements will be a bit of a deterrent to teachers.
3. It will integrate nicely with our student management system
Setting up any online learning environment involves the tedious process of populating it with users and grouping them into classes (or whatever unit you want to use). Thankfully, this will be alleviated when the cLc launches in the production phase – the system will integrate nicely with Maze (our admin system) so that class lists are automatically populated with data, and the ability to do things like send one-click emails to groups of parents based on the school email records will make communicating much easier than it is now (gone will be the days we have to manage our own mailing lists). There are a few more minor challenges we need to address here, but they are related more so to the processes involved in keeping info up to date rather than the cLc itself.
4. It’s going to require a cultural shift
There are a number of ways that the cLc could be leveraged to deliver online learning experiences for our students, but its going to be important that our school works out a strategy that is going to work for our community. The ability to share resources across multiple classes should help alleviate workload concerns if staff work smarter, and ultimately allow more time spent planning as a collective which will be much more efficient than everyone planning things on their own. But this is going to require staff to embrace the change, and that’s an issue that we’d face regardless of the environment being adopted.
Am I as excited as I’d hoped I’d be when I first heard about it? No. Am I of the opinion it is going to have benefits to our students? It definitely has that potential, but ultimately that rests not with the cLc itself, but with the ability for our teachers to rise to the challenge and rethink the way they approach the use of an online learning environment to support their teaching.
Another example where it’s not about the technology, but it is about the pedagogy.