Virtual learning environment engagement and learning outcomes at a ‘bricks-and-mortar’ university​​

A study has shown virtual learning environments within a university curriculum might be used as predictors of student performance

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The way the human mind learns is geared differently for each individual and given the number of people furthering their education, the challenge for education institutions is adapting the curriculum to successfully meet the needs of its students. 

A study aimed to determine whether virtual learning environments (online lecture materials, quizzes, worksheets, discussion forums, etc) contribute to student engagement and enhance academic performance. The research team led by Chris Boulton also analysed whether virtual learning environments might be a useful predictor of students overall achievement at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom. Data from 38 compulsory modules in programmes studied by first year undergraduate students was collected from each of the six colleges at the University from 2015 to 2016, surveying a total of 2025 students. 

The virtual learning environment associated with each module is accessed by the students via an online software program called Moodle, which enabled the researchers to calculate the total amount of time students engaged with a module. The learning design of modules varies between study disciplines, so science modules include lectures, group activities and exams, while arts courses are oriented toward more essays and reading assignments. The different application of these virtual learning environments affected how much engagement time was required by students to complete their modules. Statistical analysis was applied to the data and the results showed that overall, the high performance of most students was reflected in their engagement with the modules. However, given the other offline learning activities available at the University, it was difficult to assess whether virtual learning environments alone, influenced student achievement.  

You can read the full article Virtual learning environment engagement and learning outcomes at a ‘bricks-and-mortar’ university in the journal Computers & Education

Gabrielle Ahern

Managing Editor, npj Science of Learning Community

I am based in Queensland, Australia, and have an interesting portfolio of skills, experience and qualifications in science research and content creation.