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Virtual Learning Platforms Thread, It's Learning VLE in Technical; I have a demonstrator coming to our school to demo the It's Learning platform. Does anybody use or know anything ...
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    JRMatthews's Avatar
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    Cool It's Learning VLE

    I have a demonstrator coming to our school to demo the It's Learning platform. Does anybody use or know anything of this system? I think it is backed by Viglen and developed by Swedish programmers. It looks OK on paper, but I would rather hear from existing users.

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    We had It's Learning at my previous school.
    The system is ok, but was not noted for being stable. On quite a few occasions we could not login.
    You will find when you view the system that it is very good at what it does, but it I would say personally speaking that it would be useful in middle schools but for secondary education it can be somewhat lacking. The features can be rather basic and setting it up is very time consuming.
    The layout is pretty basic so it wouldn't keep the studnets attention.
    The email facility only allows you to email within the It's learning enviroment, which to me seems kind of pointless!

    This is of course my own personal view and you may find the system to be perfect for your school!

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    JRMatthews (20th May 2008)

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    We use It's Learning and love it! It is a Norwegian product and the Scandinavians have been using VLEs for years so have really thought things through. For us, the final choice of VLE was between two Norwegian VLEs, It's Learning and Fronter. Some years ago one of our ASTs visited Norway and came back very enthusiastic about what the Norwegian schools were doing online. At the time we had never heard of VLEs but have now put two and two together!

    Like any VLE, there is a learning curve and initially you won't see the benefits - you need to start using it before you begin to realise what it can do. We are using it with a cluster of schools - a secondary (us) and seven primaries. Personally I don't feel Viglen sell It's Learning very well. They are only distributors for it in the UK so don't let them put you off. I know schools who have been put off and have chosen something else because another company had a slick sales pitch. When I have shown them what we have done with It's Learning they realise they made the wrong choice.

    jamiesev, it sounds like you don't really know the product. For a start It's Learning does messaging to other users within your school/cluster, and on the same page you are able to setup conventional email - more than one account if you wish. We have an MS Exchange server for email and have an external IP address for it so users can access the IMAP server outside school. Simply adding the details into It's Learning means that users can access messaging and email using the same interface. All this can be setup initially using a csv. When a user sends an email using It's Learning it gets sent using the It's Learning smtp server. If you have externally provided email it is even easier - you simply need the mailserver address, username and password and you're up and running.

    So far we have created virtual staffrooms with bulletins and filestores; a great many courses containing content, surveys, forums, tests, assignments (where pupils are able to submit work via the VLE and you are able to view it and assess it online) also projects - where the pupils take charge of an area (like clubs, personal interest areas etc.). It's Learning has ePortfolios available and we are building up a CPD area where staff access a common CPD course and create their own ePortfolios accessible only to them. Our pupils are busy blogging and doing some fantastic stuff. One boy went to India in term time and did a blog of his adventures, avidly followed and commented on by pupils back at school. All users have a files area making it easier to transfer documents between home and school.

    I have just bought/upgraded Boardworks to the SCORM compliant versions and am installing these into the Library of It's Learning so staff can pull what they want into their courses. I want a lot of 'must-have' content available to encourage staff to use it. It is revolutionising our use of ICT and has one huge side-effect - it is all being done by teachers rather than by technical staff. Our network manager basically has very little to do with the VLE.

    We publish our weekly staff and pupils bulletins into It's Learning and are giving parents a generic guest login so they can access letters etc. the office staff have uploaded.

    As ICT Coordinator my plan to get the VLE used was to get the kids on board first. I got them into messaging and blogging in their ICT lessons and made sure all the ICT work we do is in courses in It's Learning. This, of course, means that it is all accessible from home. Thus the pupils are confident with it and the staff have an easier job. Whenever I log on in the evenings or at the weekend I can see many pupils also online. Some of our pupils conference through It's Learning in the evening to discuss ideas. We can also input video/audio directly into courses using a simple webcam.

    The more we use It's Learning, the more we find out it can do. We've been using it for 10 months or so now and there are still hidden depths we haven't explored.

    As you can tell I am very enthusiastic and whole-heartedly recommend it. I have seen nothing better. We have had no stability issues or problems logging on apart from where our broadband internet access has been causing problems generally. I would say it had depth enough to be used at higher-education level. jamiesev, some of the advanced features are not enabled by default so are not apparent unless switched on.

    JRMatthews, hope this helps. Please get back to me if you need to know anything else!
    Last edited by scgf; 23rd May 2008 at 07:42 PM.

  5. 6 Thanks to scgf:

    dagza (7th November 2008), eean (17th October 2008), JRMatthews (23rd May 2008), jumpinjamez (8th July 2009), Netman (23rd May 2008), Sam_Brown (8th December 2009)

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    A big thanks

    Many thanks for such an enthusiastic and comprehensive reply. I look forward to seeing the demo. I like your approach within the school as it was one I was going to adopt i.e. bottom up. The top down approach wouldn't work here as staff are 'too busy' so I see this as being driven by the pupils.

    Sorry for getting the programmersí nationality muddled up! Geography not my strong point.

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    maniac's Avatar
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    Sorry for digging up an old thread, but has anyone else got anything else to say good or bad about Viglen its learning? I've seen a demo twice now, had a sale rep into the school for a detailed discussion, and they are demontrating the platform to all our teaching staff next Friday on our inset day. Providing the teaching staff like it, it's looking likely that we will choose this as our learning platform, as it seems to do everything we would like and more, and the development team seem very on the ball and entusiastic about what they are doing.

    So anyone got anything to add about Viglen its learning?

    Mike.

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    It's Learning

    We have gone ahead and bought the VLE. We have just had an Admin training day over the half term (very dedicated) and are very pleased with it. It seems fully featured and does everything we want from a VLE at the moment. Our approach within school will be a slow roll-out buit I see it being very popular with pupils and staff alike.

    The trainer was very knowledgable and answered all our Qu's and more. The only thing they don't make clear is that you have to do the training to get their telephone support! If that's the most we have to complain about it can't be all bad.

    John

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    Interesting. I have just been looking at a Flash demo and it look promising.

    Is it hosted on their servers or on a school server?

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    It's hosted by ITs learning. Origenally I was put off by hosted VLEs, but the more I thought about it the more I realised it makes sense, as once you factor into it the cost of new server hardware, the time spent maintaining it, backing it up, sorting out the external connection into the school etc. a hosted solution works out much better value for money and is (in thoery) much less technical agravation to set up, leaving us free to concentrate on actually using the VLE as oppose to struggling to get it working properly.

    I have a further meeting next week with their sales team to discuss costings and finer details of what we want from the platform, and then 99% sure we will be buying into it, watch this space!

    Mike.

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    dagza (7th November 2008)

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    I guess the downsides would be if you loose the internet you loose the VLE and also kids managing 2 logins but everything else makes good sense.

    Does anyone have any ballpark ideas of their costing structure?

    Thanks

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    Quote Originally Posted by dagza View Post
    I guess the downsides would be if you loose the internet you loose the VLE and also kids managing 2 logins but everything else makes good sense.
    Yes, the loss of interent connection is main downside I've thought of, but our internet connection is exceedingly reliable here in kent. I think we've only had one genuine piece of downtime recently which was only a couple of hours. KCN are upgrading all the connections at the moment, which should make things even faster and more reliable. It's only because of the highspeed fibre connection we have that I think a hosted VLE is now viable.

    Student managing multiple usernames and passwords, well they have seperate logins for all sorts of stuff at the moment here so one more into the mix isn't going to make a great deal of difference. It will in the long run actually cut down on the amount of usernames and passwords issued, as hopefully some of the external services we use at the moment can be fully integrated into the VLE platform in time.

    Mike.
    Last edited by maniac; 7th November 2008 at 01:07 PM.

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    Hi sorry to hijack the thread but how does 'its learning' create usernames and passwords. Does it sync with the local AD, SIMS or do you have to feed it CSVs and re-set passwords.

    Any experience much appreciated.

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    It's Learning has a SIMS integration module. If you have a brand new VLE set up, and SIMS/VLE Integration has been installed on your SIMS server, you simply run the batch file (on the SIMS server) and It's Learning will be populated with all your users and the hierarchical structure will be created putting pupils into their correct teaching groups for each subject.

    It's Learning will create a unique username for each pupil, but if like us you want your own user naming convention you can create a csv with the new usernames and synchronise it with your VLE users to change the usernames in one go.

    We have found it useful to create usernames which enable us to identify the yeargroup of a pupil. Our VLE works across our feeder primary schools as well us us (a high school) so we use this format:

    xxyyyyyyzzz - where xx is the year the pupil entered year one, yyyyy is the full surname and zzz are the first three characters of the firstname.

    So, John Smith, who entered year one in 2003 would be 03smithjoh. We use the same username for our school network and our email addresses.

    I use the following spreadsheet formula (OpenOffice Calc) to create the usernames:

    =LOWER(CONCATENATE("03";A1;(LEFT(B1;3)))) where 03 is the year of entry to year one, A1 is the cell containing the pupil's surname and B1 the cell containing the firstname.

    Hope this helps.
    Last edited by scgf; 5th December 2008 at 02:25 PM.

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    Hi

    Quote Originally Posted by scgf View Post
    We have found it useful to create usernames which enable us to identify the yeargroup of a pupil. Our VLE works across our feeder primary schools as well us us (a high school) so we use this format:

    xxyyyyyyzzz - where xx is the year the pupil entered year one, yyyyy is the full surname and zzz are the first three characters of the firstname.

    So, John Smith, who entered year one in 2003 would be 03smithjoh. We use the same username for our school network and our email addresses.
    I think this is fairly typical of many secondary schools but I am surprised you are using it from year 1. Does no-one else think this is a bit of an eSafety child protection issue? If I am reading this right, knowing your pupils' username means you know their age, full surname and can probably guess the firstname. If it's possible in the VLE or via an email domain to also know the school then it's open to providing more information about my (say 10 year old) child than I as a parent would want.

    We made a decision to not disclose age in the usernames and as little of the real name as possible within the constraints of needing to make them memorable and not having too many duplicates. We also are considering a local authority email domain address. We have potentially 500 000 (500 thousand) users for our Learning Platform and the pattern we have adopted means we need to include 3 hex digits to prevent duplication allowing for redundancy after 10 years. Its surname up to 7 characters, initial and 3 hex digits. We did an exercise where we tried various patterns with the name of every child in the county and discovered the most common username was duplicated 105 times with no digits and yes it was smithj. So allowing for 4 times as many (2 parents and a similar number of teachers that's 420ish max. Using 3 hex digits gives us 4096 duplicates. We think we are safe for 10 years before we need to reuse a smithj000. We also made a decision to make them usable even if you move from being a student to being a teacher or back without needing to change the username or email address. (We'd be scuppered if every learner went on to require a teacher or adult ed account but not likely is it).

    In fact the pattern may even be adopted for citizen usernames for Government Gateway but then I think there could be problems with duplication.

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    Quote Originally Posted by olcinm View Post
    Hi
    I think this is fairly typical of many secondary schools but I am surprised you are using it from year 1. Does no-one else think this is a bit of an eSafety child protection issue? If I am reading this right, knowing your pupils' username means you know their age, full surname and can probably guess the firstname. If it's possible in the VLE or via an email domain to also know the school then it's open to providing more information about my (say 10 year old) child than I as a parent would want.
    I think child protection concerns have got out of hand - as a parent I have absolutely no problem with someone knowing my child's name and yeargroup. This information could be obtained in any number of ways. It's like how people blank out their registration plates when their car is shown in a picture. What is the problem? Walking round a a neighbourhood gathering registration plates of cars parked outside people's houses would give even more information.

    We really need to be less anal IMHO.

    We have been using this naming convention for several years and none of our pupils have suffered as a result.

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    Closed source/hosted

    Of course it is easier for an educational institution to get the VLE hosted by somebody else. But by choosing a VLE like It's Learning (closed source/hosted) you have no choice of hosting provider. You cannot continue to use the same VLE on another provider; you are locked-in. You will be forced to use the same product even when they raise prices.

    It is too risky to put all your money in one basket. Furthermore, It's Learning is crap IMHO. Usability is terrible. I have to work with it every day, and I'm confident that there's a better choice out there.

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