Although there is a growing interest in the use of Virtual Learning Education Systems (VLEs), in primary schools they were found to be “very limited”, a little more use in secondary schools – with the most developed use in tertiary education. (BBC News Education, January 2009).

There is often some confusion about the definition of Virtual Learning Education Systems. Virtual learning education systems (VLEs) are not designed to replace the teacher. They can provide background material, practice tests, course notes and internet links to help pupils at school or for homework or revision. A VLE is applied through the Internet and a collection of tools is provided. These can be tools for assessment (automatically corrected multiple choice test), communication (Student –teacher forums, student forums), uploading and downloading of content, submission or return of students’ work, peer assessment, administration of student groups, collecting and organizing student grades, questionnaires, tracking tools, etc. New features in these systems include wikis and blogs.

A VLE should provide a working template for the course designer to present to students the components required for a course. They should implement the following elements: (Wikipaedia) • The syllabus for the course • Administrative information including the location of sessions, details of pre-requisites and co-requisites, credit information, and how to get help • Formal assessment procedures • Self-assessment quizzes which can be scored automatically • A notice board for up-to-date course information • Basic teaching materials. These may be the complete content of the course, if the VLE is being used in a distance learning context, or copies of visual aids used in lectures or other classes where it is being used to support a campus-based course. • Additional resources, including reading materials, and links to outside resources in libraries and on the Internet. • Electronic communication support including e-mail, threaded discussions and a chat room, with or without a moderator • Production of documentation and statistics on the course in the format required for institutional administration and quality control • Easy authoring tools for creating the necessary documents including the insertion of hyperlinks – though it is acceptable (arguably, preferable) for the VLE to be designed so that standard word processors or other office software can be used for authoring.

I am inclined to believe that VLEs will become an increasingly important part of the offerings of their institutions. The feedback I have received by Chemistry and Biology students at the University of Crete seems to be positive at large. It is only the students who would not consider themselves as internet savvies that initially object to the very existence of VLEs. However, with sustainable provision of training and support, they come to realize the immense contribution these facilities have to make. And surprisingly, it is these students who demand the provision of the same service by other instructors, when they move on to the next level.

Interestingly, you can even upload recorded videos of your lectures so that students who have missed the lecture or lesson can actually keep up with the rest of the class. Although videos might demotivate students with their in-class attendance, they can be really convenient. Students do not have to follow a strict timetable, as with traditional lectures only, and therefore they cannot miss a lecture (Walker & Harrington 2004), the handouts and/or slides from that lecture.

Kallia Katsampoxaki-Hodgetts

University of Crete, English for Chemistry and Biology Instructor.


1. Walker, B.L. & Harrington. S.S. (2004) “Can nursing facility staff with minimal education be successfully trained with computer-based training?” Nurse Education Today, Vol. 24.

2. Marileena Koskela, Piia Kiltti, Inka Vilpola and Janne Tervonen, (2005), Suitability of a Virtual Learning Environment for Higher Education,Tampere University of Technology, Finland, Electronic Journal of e-Learning Volume 3 Issue 1.

3. Virtual Learning Slow starter, (2009), BBC News Education (online)

4. Wikipaedia 2009, Virtual Learning Environment,