Emerging practices in a post primary school: challenges and opportunities when working with a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)

  • Michael McEnery

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    The use of a Virtual Learning Environment (VIE) to support teaching and learning in a range of second and third level education contexts is increasing. The variety of elements included in the VIE and the extent to which it is integral to the course varies. While the use of the VLE may appear to have a number of benefits, in particular the promotion of independent learning, there is a need for empirical research in a range of contexts to establish an evidence base that will inform practice.

    This dissertation reports on a study of a General Certificate of Education (GCE) Advanced Supplementary (AS) Level Information Communication Technology Course (ICT) in a co-educational school with a mixed ability intake. The course models a ‘blended’ approach to the teaching, incorporating many of the Web 2.0 technology tools that comprise a VLE to support the students in their work and to encourage independent learning. The VLE is used along with the traditional teacher- led style of delivery outlining learning outcomes, directing learning and assessing progress.

    While numerous studies in this area have provided insights into the potential benefits of a VLE, many use third level institutions as a backdrop and focus on staff rather than pupil experiences. Students’ perceptions and engagement is under researched. This study addresses the students’ reasons for engagement with the VLE, their perceptions of this mode of delivery and the extent and nature of independent working promoted by this approach. The study showed that students saw the benefits of engaging with the VLE for the purpose of the course over and above those employed in other subject areas specifically in relation to student management and organisation of learning, absence from school, assessment feedback and belonging to a community of learners. The study also found that although the school made the development of the VLE a whole school initiative, for the majority of subjects its use was limited to an online resource storage area.
    Date of AwardJul 2015
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Queen's University Belfast
    SupervisorWilliam McClune (Supervisor)

    Cite this