Virtual Learning Environment

A virtual learning environment (VLE) is an education system based on the Web that models conventional real-world education by integrating a set of equivalent virtual concepts for tests, homework, classes, classrooms, and the like, and perhaps even museums and other external academic resources. It normally uses Web 2.0 tools for 2-way interaction, and includes a content management system.

Virtual learning environments are the basic component of contemporary distance learning, but can also be integrated with a physical learning environment.; this is sometimes referred to as Blended Learning.

In 'Virtually There', a book and DVD pack given out freely to schools by the Yorkshire and Humber Grid for Learning Foundation (YHGfL), Professor Stephen Heppell writes in the foreword:

    "Learning is breaking out of the narrow boxes that it was trapped in during the 20th century; teachers' professionalism, reflection and ingenuity are leading learning to places that genuinely excite this new generation of connected young school students — and their teachers too. VLEs are helping to make sure that their learning is not confined to a particular building, or restricted to any single location or moment."

A Virtual Learning Environment is one of the ways of providing computerized learning or e-learning. Such a system may also be referred to as a Learning Management System (LMS). Related concepts include" Content Management System (CMS), which properly refers to the organization of the educational or other content, not the overall environment; Learning Content Management System (LCMS), which is more often used for corporate training systems than for systems in education institutions; Managed Learning Environment (MLE), which normally refers to the overall infrastructure in an institution of which the VLE is a component, Learning Support System (LSS); Online Learning Centre (OLC); or Learning Platform (LP), education via computer-mediated communication (CMC); or Online Education. The term "Virtual Learning Environment" is more commonly used in the UK, Europe and Asia, while the synonymous term "Learning Management System" is the more common usage in North America.

The term LMS can also mean "Library Management System" (which is now more commonly referred to as Integrated Library System, or ILS.

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