cLc in the DET

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.

2 thoughts on “cLc in the DET”

  1. Peter Kent

    Hi Bruce,

    This is a good blog post, and I suspect that you are saying what a couple of others are thinking.

    I suppose the important thing to remember is that we are in a pilot in the true sense of the word. I know that often in the past the term ‘pilot’ or ‘trial’ has been given to the beginning of an initiative when really it should have probably been call ‘the beginning of the initiative’ as nothing changed between the pilot and the main implementation. But this is a pilot in the true sense of the term in that it is a small scale preliminary activity that is a pre-cursor to the main cLc implementation.

    While your point about the RSS aggregator is well founded (and I am confident that the cLc developers will make this a priority in the future) there is also a great deal of functionality that will be in the main cLc implementation that will not be in the pilot.

    As an example the pilot does not include the integration of:
    Clickview Media Server
    Video Conference / Video Cast Creation
    Student Email
    Automatic Synchronisation with MAZE both in terms of extracting information from and publishing information to (ie grades)
    Integration with a range of 3rd parties – ie The Le@rning Federation content
    Accounts for parents

    Some of the reasoning for this is that the pilot is being hosted in Melbourne and so Internet traffic is an issue for high bandwidth applications. Also some of the new functionality is reliant on SchoolsNet being in place. In reality it will be around 12 – 18 months before all of the pieces of the puzzle fall into place such that the full functionality of the new VLE is available.

    I suppose what I am saying is that I would also be a little less excited than I originally expected if what we all saw last week was all that there is going to be. What we saw was only the beginning.

    Cheers

    Peter

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