No ‘One’ Fits All – A Critical Review

A critical review of Sheila MacNeill’s (2014); Living with the VLE dictator and Peter Reed’s (2014); The VLE vs ‘Whatever’ blog posts and how I relate these to my own experiences.

Having read MacNeill’s (2014) post, I did not feel that there was much depth and or analysis of the use of VLE’s in education.  It is somewhat amiss of any reference to academic literature, or of any exploration of own experience. Thus, there was little to draw upon to critically evaluate. However, I did identify a few areas of thought that I would like to deliberate.

According to MacNeill (2014), “VLE’s are all about management, administration and not about the learner”, and queries, whether or not, the general consensus is, “blackboard sucks”. During the early years of working in education, I would have agreed with this statement. However, with what I have learned along my journey, I would now, only agree in part; of course there are huge aspects of management and administration conjoined to the use of VLE’s in education, how else would they or could they be utilised? Having materials prepared in an electronic format, how much of a hindrance does this actually bring about, to log on, and upload? However, for an effective use of such a VLE, a consistency of use from all departmental members is essential. If a module leader fails to add a team tutor in the BB area, the tutor will not have any access to materials and neither be able to provide materials for the module on the VLE. Ultimate focus should be the quality of the learning experience provided to students and therefore, to achieve this, it is important to establish effective communication amongst your teaching teams.

Moreover, Reed (2014), argues that, although it is common of higher education institutions not to be open at all, this does not encourage silos. When I first started to use a VLE, silos is what it felt like, but having developed my understanding, knowledge and use of such technology, I do now, hold the contrary view. I advocate; for a VLE to be used to its maximum effect, would not be using the system as a place of storage. I do wonder; until such aims have been achieved, is then, silos what it is to be? However, if the use of a VLE is reaching the necessary audience, how open does it need to be?

MacNeill (2014), believes; “to stop using blackboard would cause chaos for students and staff”, and in any event, transition needs to matter. Currently, it is difficult for me to know whether or not, to stop using BB would cause disruption. This is because my place of work is currently going through the transition from one VLE, namely blackboard to another, Moodle. Therefore, I do not have the relative experience to know what disruption one individual system may cause. Nevertheless, I do agree that the transition needs to matter, added value needs to be offered, otherwise, why change?

VLE Image

Conversely, however, Reed (2014), states that, higher education is not a tech industry and believes disruption to education is caused by “the whole web…not one individual system”. I can relate to this. The majority of students own electronic devices whereby the internet is readily available. Regardless of classroom rules which are established from the outset, students’ attention are often diverted by these devices. However, I have found, what works well is to allow the student’s to utilise these for research to assist them in completing tutorial tasks with the requirement of identifying their sources upon delivering their findings.

How far does the use of technology have a place in higher education is at the forefront of my mind, and this is under constant review in my practice. However, having read Reed’s (2014), view that higher education ‘is not a tech industry’ and therefore, would not provide a significant disruption, makes me question; are we where we need to be? How far should we (in HE) be trying to implement the use of technologies into teaching and learning? And how far is ‘too far’ that may cause a disruption to education? This question is especially prevalent when you consider Reed’s (2014), work ‘Surveying students to attend to VLE minimum standards/ baseline’ which identifies, students only wish for the basics, and states; “just because students are using Facebook or various other community platforms, it does not mean we need to invade this”.

I do not belief that a VLE could or should be used as a replacement for the classroom because students can gain so much from taking part in discussions, teaching and learning activities, peer and tutor support in the development of their knowledge and understanding, regardless of the topic. Nevertheless, I do advocate for the integration and development of technologies in education. Technology is a dominate feature in modern society therefore, it is important we embrace technological uses, in education. The final product, in this instance – the use of a VLE in education, is a reflection of your efforts put into your use of it. However, a balance in use should remain, because respect for real education, needs not to be lost. Thus, I do not believe the use of a VLE sucks. No ‘one’ fits all. 


MacNeill, S. (2014). Living with the VLE dictator [Online] WordPress; HowsheilaseesIT Accessed 03/02/2015

Reed, P. (2014). The VLE vs ‘Whatever’ [Online] Blogger Accessed 03/02/2015

For further reading, consider also;

Conole, G. and Culver, J. (2009). Cloudworks: Social networking for learning design [Online] The Open University: Accessed 03/02/2015

HEFCE (2009). Enhancing learning and teaching through the use of technology: A revised approach to HEFCE’s strategy for e-learning, [Online] HEFCE  publication: Accessed 03/02/2015

Sharpe, R. and Benfield, G. (2005). The Student Experience of E-Learning in Higher Education: A review of the Literature [Online] Oxford Brooks University Accessed 03/02/2015

Sharpe, R. and Benfield, G. (2014). Reflections on ‘The student experience of e-learning in higher education: a review of the literature’ [Online] Oxford Brooks University Accessed 03/02/2015

4 thoughts on “No ‘One’ Fits All – A Critical Review

  1. Thanks for the review. Just for the record this post wasn’t written as any kind of critique of VLEs in education. Or indeed my own ( and extensive ) experience of working with them. It was a personal reflection on a keynote by Audrey Watters.

    My blog is deliberately not written in an academic style, it is a place for informal sharing and reflection on my day to day practice. It is often a starting point for more formal writing. I am pleased that it has been able to help you in your blogging endeavours too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Sheila, Thank you for your comment. I am somewhat new to blogging and it has been a whilst since I was the student. This ‘critique’ was developed at the outset of forming my blog, e-portfolio for my MA in Education. I do hope that I have not caused any bad feeling. It really did assist me in both my reflections and development of thought for further enquiry. Thank you.


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