I frequently think about virtual learning environments, what they are, why they matter, what impact they may have on teaching, learning... and the administration of schools and universities. There's a great deal of debate about their (as if there's a category of product called "VLE" to which we can all agree) utility given the effort and cost often required to implement and adopt.
I recently had an opportunity to spend the day with some senior education leaders and policy makers from Europe. One of the common threads they shared was an unyielding belief (one they intuitively knew but also had research to support) that PARENTS (and their aspirational involvement) are critical to the success of all students. Their position wasn't so much centered on how VLE's may augment the formal or informal learning process... but on how we draw parents into the relationship, leverage their innate aspirations for their children and engage them in a productive, proactive and positive community.
I'm encouraged by insight like the following from an Independent article
"Teachers use the gateway to plan lessons, contact parents and each other and mark school work from home. Pupils can upload their homework for marking and benefit from an e-portfolio of all their computer work, while parents can access their children's work, check on their attendance and behaviour and even look at pictures of school trips. Unless you invited parents in every week there's no way they'd have such a window into the life of the school..."