Innovative Practice - Turn on, tune in

25th November 2011 at 00:00
A virtual learning environment that encourages discussion and collaboration between pupils

The background

Virtual learning environments (VLEs) are now almost ubiquitous in schools. But this was not the case in 2005, when Lent Rise Combined School in Burnham, Buckinghamshire, set up the Lent Rise Learning World. It remains a trendsetter.

The aim was to provide pupils with 24-hour access to personalised learning materials posted by teachers. On the site, pupils can share their views with their peers in forums, as well as receive up-to-date feedback on homework assignments.

The project

Now in its sixth year, the ICT project provides pupils with a host of learning resources in every subject area. Each pupil has their own e-portfolio, which they use to store their work and check their ongoing targets. Teachers upload information on students' attainment, attendance, behaviour, and attitude to homework to the e-portfolios, and the site encourages pupils and parents to use this to set their own targets.

The site's many forums promote discussion between pupils. And in recent years the VLE has expanded, offering pupils virtual access to the school library and to Media and Radio World, where they can watch and listen to work created by other year groups.

A new addition to the network is The Hot Seat, where a particular subject is chosen as a topic for discussion. The school governors also have their own secure area on the site.

Teachers use the site daily to mark homework and give pupils instant feedback on their progress. The network also allows key stage 2 pupils to prepare activities, such as quizzes, for younger children. Pupils are encouraged to come up with ideas for how to develop the site.

The Lent Rise Learning World has proved particularly useful during school holidays, providing access to school curriculum resources at the touch of a button.

Tips from the scheme

- Have a clear vision for the network that will incorporate the whole school. Within this, have a clear marketing plan - consider what leaflets and information to give new parents.

- Provide training for all staff so it is a whole-school project. And give training and guidance to parents so they are engaged in the process.

- Make a key member of staff responsible for data management, safety and a code of conduct so that staff, pupils, parents and other appropriate users all know the procedures.

Evidence that it works?

Feedback shows 90 per cent of students use the network every week from home. Many positive comments about the site have been made by parents and pupils, and governors have noted the project's positive impact on the culture and ethos of the school. The scheme was highlighted when Lent Rise won a TES Schools Award in 2010.

The project

Approach: Launching a 24-hour virtual learning environment to make learning more accessible for pupils

Started: 2005

Leader: Assistant head Jill Watson

The school

Name: Lent Rise Combined School

Location: Burnham, Buckinghamshire

Number of pupils: 420

Age: 4-11

Intake: The school represents a wide range of ethnic-minority groups. There is a high proportion of pupils with learning difficulties

Ofsted overall rating: Outstanding.

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