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Forget MySpace, try a little VLC
Posted Tuesday, September 5, 2006 10:30 AM

Students who normally seek different online communities to satisfy their wide-ranging interests and pursuits will have a new all-in-one online option available to them as of September 5.


Called the Virtual Learning Commons (or VLC), the new University of Manitoba website will allow students to meet other U of M students, access online academic resources, talk about the latest season of Lost, and get advice from an online writing tutor, to name just a few examples.


“We wanted to develop a site that recognizes that a student’s personal development is not separate from his or her academic development, that informal learning plays a crucial role in academic development, and that learning is a process of social participation,” explains Peter Tittenberger, the acting director of the Learning Technologies Centre and one of the partners in the project.


Although the VLC has many of the cool features of popular social networking websites such as MySpace or Facebook, the new site is much more than just a MySpace wannabe. It has been designed with U of M students in mind, bringing together university student resources, enabling connections, and promoting community building.


Students have choices in how they move through the site. Besides traditional navigation, the unique ‘to-do cloud’ allows students to move around the website just by clicking on items within a dynamic ‘to do’ list.


Current 'to do's include: ‘learn how to cite references properly’, ‘take a trip around the world’, and ‘protect my computer from viruses.’ Students can also add their own ‘to do’ items which can form the basis of new conversations with fellow students.


Other website highlights include an assignment manager that will create a step-by-step schedule for students to help them complete assignments, a calendar that pulls together all items from the assignment manager and a student’s individual ‘to do’ list, and an online writing tutor where students can submit their work and have it returned within 48 hours.


The website is built on a new model of the web, often dubbed Web 2.0 or the read/write web, which encourages interaction and contribution on the part of web users.


“It’s a living thing,” says Tittenberger, pointing out that the website even allows users to rate individual pages and therefore provide instant feedback on the site’s content.


The Virtual Learning Commons is a joint effort, bringing together several departments at the university including the Learning Technologies Centre, the Learning Assistance Centre, Student Advocacy, the Libraries, Faculty of Graduate Studies and Distance and Online Education.


“It’s really a collaborative project; all the key players are involved,” says Miriam Unruh, Coordinator of the Learning Assistance Centre.


The Virtual Learning Commons is only one component of a larger campaign to create a learning commons at the University of Manitoba.


Vice-president (academic) Robert Kerr commissioned a set of task forces in 2005 to look into what the University of Manitoba can do to create a Welcoming and


Supportive Environment for Students and a learning commons. The learning commons task force report is set to be released within the next few weeks.


Kerr said the report will likely recommend approaches for creating a physical learning commons at the university – a place on campus, or perhaps multiple smaller locations that would offer computers, study space and supports for students.


“The Virtual Learning Commons is a good first step in that direction,” Kerr says. “And it helps bring the resources of the Learning Technologies Centre and its partners into a more visible location.”


All students, faculty and staff can experience the VLC by clicking here.


For more information, contact:
Michael Marshall
Communications Officer
Marketing Communications Office
Phone: (204) 474-7962
Fax: (204) 474-7631
Related Links (Internal):
  •Virtual Learning Commons