Here we provide a detailed review of VuoLearning’s innovative blended learning platform and flipped classroom tool. We are big fans of this elearning system, which takes course materials digital – creating mobile, interactive and social learning.
Simplicity itself, but very smart indeed and with added sophistication
Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest, and Finland’s VuoLearning Ltd has produced a breathtakingly simple tool that will allow many tutors and teachers to create interactive elearning directly from Word or PowerPoint documents, and understand how students are using the learning from a unique analytics perspective.
The most common use for Vuo is currently as a blended learning platform with a flipped classroom model, since it gives tutors an idea of what to concentrate during the expensive on-site time, by providing learner information based on analytics, feedback and chat driven from the learning materials.
There are also currently users who also use the service for fully online courses, to arrange webinar sessions with Skype, or as a workshop tool.
In our view, this platform has many potential uses in both education and corporate elearning.
Making Life Easy for Tutors
Tutors begin by structuring their course in Vuo into a series of chapters, and each Chapter is a learning experience where materials can be created, imported and edited after importing from Word or PowerPoint.
It is as easy to re-order the chapters as it is the content within the chapters, and the very modern UI is clean and simple making Vuo very easy to use – very quickly.
The Vuo platform allows for a Word document to be imported into the learning platform with ease. It is then automatically chunked into sections, or ‘Blocks’, presented with full formatting intact.
Vuo also works for PowerPoint and Latex, although it still has some minor niggles with PowerPoint that were ironed out during our evaluation. We did not test it with Latex. As yet PDF is not supported.
Sophisticated diagrams in the Word document were imported and presented with no issues. Text remained as crisp as in the Word document.
Pretty good, pretty simple, pretty effective, so a Word document can become a series of Blocks (think slides) broken up quite effectively. A little experimentation is required in using headings and paragraphs, as they appear to influence the break points. However, we tested Vuo with academic papers, our own reports and simple bulletins, and Vuo handled them fine.
It is at this stage that Vuo gets smart: a tutor can upload their previously created reading lists with short summaries and a little check test to see who has been reading what for example.
Academic publications, lecture notes and presentations can be uploaded into Vuo which automatically digitises them. This presents an excellent solution for institutions such as universities which have large amounts of electronic content which can easily be turned in to valuable elearning, without any additional work required. In addition, when a tutor is using Vuo in the classroom they can take pictures of whiteboards or group assignments and easily upload them as part of their online content.
Interactions can now be added to each of the chunked stages with exceptional ease.
Imagine putting some of the endless free downloadable educational resources available for teachers into Vuo and maybe adding videos or audio files to them from Vimeo or Youtube. You can then add some simple knowledge checks and use the face-to fac- time in the classroom to fill in the gaps or deal with the feedback.
The Vuo Block editor allows for some customisable editing and formatting of the section and indeed it is very easy to re-order the sections with a simple drag and drop feature. The ability to add interactivity is however really powerful:
It is exceptionally easy to add audio files, video files images, enhance the content using heading and other features such as tables and create questions very easily indeed.
Here we have created an open question and we are allowing learners to submit their responses in a variety of ways by uploading files as well as creating a text based answer:
We have provided some of the topics they should have addressed in the feedback section.
This really is a very easy and effective way for a tutor to digitise their learning materials quickly and very easily indeed. The word document is now engaging with knowledge checks built in and simple interactions such as video and audio files added.
PowerPoints can likewise be updated to the Vuo platform. The converted materials can be used for self-directed learning or as enhanced materials in the classroom as Vuo allows for a presentation mode of delivery.
The usage is in fact interchangeable as courses can be opened in a reader format or to present.
This the home screen seen by a tutor:
Administration is simple and effective for tutors to use and manage both the development of their materials and subsequent iterations. This includes ordering and re-ordering (simplicity itself) and editing and making additions, which can be as a result of feedback or the analytics.
For students using Vuo in a self-directed mode, anonymous learner feedback is allowed on the materials. This feature is really useful for addressing quality issues. Chat is also available for interactions by named learners or as an anonymous learner.
If the course is made available to peers, the feedback (anonymous) would be useful in the growing attention given to peer-reviewed learning materials.
eLearning Translation and Search Functions
Vuo also has powerful on-board search functionality to allow learners to explore the learning materials, which is very neat. In addition Wikipedia, Google and a translation tool are included making these resources available to the student at their fingertips. Searches made by learners are of course highlighted in the Analytics… neat!
So far, 9 languages are supported, including Chinese along with the major European languages that include Finnish, which is this product’s development language.
A Learner’s Perspective
The approach from a learner’s perspective is refreshing in its simplicity as well. Our testing included the disaggregating of a dry academic paper on the effectiveness of e-learning which came with considerable use of statistical analysis. The disaggregation of the materials into blocks with knowledge checks proved transformational in building our understanding of statistical analysis by adding some video expositions of statistics from Youtube. These really brought the paper to life and provided the basis for some quick knowledge checks. A simple and smart solution
Tests (or in the Vuo terminology ‘tasks’) are created in the learning course using the panel, but are held separately in the Tasks folder where they can be edited and evaluated which is very useful.
Creating a task is very easy indeed.
We looked at creating an open question but we can also look at creating a multiple choice question which is very easy, but limited to multiple choice only, so no drag and drops or heat maps.
Innovative Course / Learner Analytics
Where Vuo gets sophisticated is in offering a solution to measure involvement with the course materials through visual learner analytics tools.
Here the granularity of the course is put to real effect, beyond learner engagement as learner engagement can now be interpreted and visualised at chapter level.
The art is to use the structure of chapters very effectively and the granularity of assessment will prove useful indeed.
Chunking learning into blocks is important and getting the optimum length of learning interactions is key to creating engaging effective e-learning. While video based nano-learning is very ‘in’ at present, optimised learning blocks in the Vuo solution is much more driven by the discretion of the tutor creating the learning and then paying attention to the analytics.
In addition the analytics accurately tracks the date and time (to the minute) of user interaction levels. This is powerful.
The usage of each of the chapters is presented in heat map format and provides an effective overview as to where the learners are spending their time.
The whole chapter is presented and the colour indicators reflect where students have spent time looking at the learning materials created. How cool is that?
The search activities of the learners are also recorded.
So, Vuo is a simple to use, smart learning solution designed for tutors to quickly digitise courses with absolutely no programming requirements (true) and its potential for use in Universities and Colleges is considerable.
The Vuo product also allows for real time feedback of the learners patterns of usage to understand the effectiveness of the materials created.
eLearning that Meets a Real Need
Vuo is evolving and uses could be easily identified in work based training where detailed documentation of policies and procedures need to be provided in a digitised format. It also provides an engaging platform which will add aid effectiveness and the patterns of use learning can be seen at the analytics and the effectiveness of the materials (or otherwise assessed).
Vuo is maturing rapidly. Its Finnish developers have started a journey born from frustration and sensible realisation that many educational organisations have huge amounts of learning materials and resources in dull, dry formats that are in danger of being left behind or ignored by the digital native learner.
They also realise that the cost to turn all these materials into e-learning with high quality production values using the present generation of tools and learning design is prohibitive in terms of time and money.
Vuo is an attempt to allow busy tutors and teachers to bring to life their existing learning materials created in Word or PowerPoint in as easy and effective manner by allowing very simple interactions in the way of knowledge checks and the introduction of alternate materials (video, audio, imagery) exceptionally easily.
In addition Vuo supports feedback and chat and has a very interesting approach to analytics where learner activities or patterns are the measure. Vuo also adapts beautifully to smartphones and tablets. This is something that users really appreciate as it makes the learning more accessible.
Vuo’s blended learning platform and flipped classroom solution is a great addition to the elearning space. It’s an amazingly productive little tool that is going to allow for dry Word documents and papers to become interactive, engaging and a lot more interesting indeed.
In short, Vuo turns documents and presentations into interactive learning resources and then allows tutors to understand how the materials are being engaged with via great learner and course analytics funtionalities. Tutors can either make improvements or model their teaching effort in light of the information.
While much is written of the Flipped Classroom, this tool – Vuo – is one that can really make it even more effective. Vuo makes digitisation of content easy for tutors (and engaging for learners) and provides real information of how students have engaged with it.
Visit the VuoLearning website to learn more.