Choose your weapon

Technological development drives how people learn, with today’s trailblazer tomorrow’s mainstay. What are the newest ICT tools?

Lucky students at Leicester University not only develop their learning through a virtual learning environment (VLE); they can also sample open-source collaborative websites like Twitter, del.i.cious, Flickr and Twine. These enable, respectively, users to share personal information, recommendations for weblinks, pictures and discussion threads.

“Five years ago, we had 2,000 VLE users,” says Professor Gilly Salmon, who runs Leicester’s E-learning and Learning Technologies research lab. “Now, we have more like 28,000.”

Unknown 10 years ago, VLEs with course outlines, assessment grades, assignments and online databases are now standard, while blogs, wikis (websites that allow users to modify their content), podcasts and vodcasts (podcasts with video) are not far behind. “Downloading lecture notes is much more efficient: you can concentrate on what is being said without worrying. Online tests with instant marking mean you can pinpoint what you know — and what you don’t know,” says first-year medical sciences student Steby Ganeshamoorthy.