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Kruse, Fabian [Fabian] - 16. Jun 2016, 14:37

ILIAS @ AMA Vocational College: The versatile use of ILIAS at school

In the series ILIAS @ home we use our blog to introduce you to new and veteran users of ILIAS and show you how they use the software - and help to make it even better as part of the ILIAS community. Today we are going to take a look at how ILIAS is used at the Alfred-Müller-Armack Vocational College in Cologne, Germany.
As well as being used in universities, public administration and in large companies, ILIAS is being used more and more often in schools. The Alfred-Müller-Armack Vocational College in Cologne, Germany, has been using the open source LMS for many years now. Especially effective for the college is the combination of traditional classroom teaching together with self-study phases in ILIAS – so called 'blended learning'. 'Using blended learning, it is possible to ideally utilise the specific potentials of both forms of learning for the benefit of the students' says Jens Behrens, coordinator for new media and e-learning at the AMA Vocational College.
Jens Behrens, Coordinator for new media and e-learning at the AMA Vocational College
By using the usual tools – for example learning modules, media and documents for download, tests and forums – it is also possible to utilise ILIAS in special ways in schools. For example, WebQuests, in which students, after an introduction to a real problem, get a task to complete. This has to be achieved using sources of information from the internet – normally working in groups. It also common for work-related tasks to be set, in which students need to work on and solve tasks that they might encounter when working in a real company. They can do this without having to fear any repercussions that might arise with a real employer.
A huge advantage of ILIAS is how easy it is to keep the learning materials up to date. In the past, dog-eared school books would be passed down from generation to generation – something that just is not in tune with the modern world we live in. The classic school textbook just can't fulfil the need for up-to-date teaching material. That's why at the AMA Vocational College they rely on ILIAS: 'The learning materials made available via ILIAS can be adapted to circumstances quickly and without great effort. All those involved are kept up to date on changes made thanks to the integrated notification system.'
Thanks to the notification system and version tracking of documents, it is easy for multiple teachers to cooperate when preparing materials for lessons. Teachers can work together as a team to create, update and make available materials. The central administration of the materials also opens up other possibilities – for example when it comes to substitute teaching, as Jens Behrens explained: 'Using ILIAS, substitute teachers have access to materials suitable for the group they will be teaching, even in cases of very short notice. As part of the respective group curriculum for the year, materials for substitution situations are kept in ILIAS pools. In cases of random substitution, the absent teacher sends a substitution lesson suggestion – for example using the ILIAS e-mail function – to the central substitution planning point. The necessary materials can then be downloaded from the set pool of exercises.'
The AMA Vocational College in Cologne
Whether at school, in the workplace or at home: students nowadays learn in a variety of different locations. For this reason, the optimisation of ILIAS for mobile devices (already a feature in version 5.0) has been an important step. The system has therefore been part of a project at the AMA Vocational College since September 2015, looking at the the long-term use of tablet-pcs in lessons. Tablets bring ILIAS directly to the desk of each individual learner. The project is focussing on testing and optimising concepts for paperless, interactive teaching as well as the requirements for digital teaching materials that arise from this. The students have each been given their own tablet for the year-long duration of the project, which they are also allowed to use out of school when preparing for lessons or completing homework. For this, ILIAS is used alongside the digital textbooks of a well-known educational publisher. 'ILIAS is our learning management tool that allows us to set-up, run and administer a virtual school environment. The learning platform guarantees the digital logistics necessary to enable the trouble-free use of tablets in lessons.'
The local ILIAS installation at the AMA Vocational College
ILIAS is not only used at the AMA Vocational College – but rather at many more schools. The increasing spread of ILIAS in schools has been aided by the work of the Special Interest Group ILIAS@Schule, in which already 37 representatives from a whole variety of school forms exchange ideas and discuss the use of ILIAS in their own online forum. They even meet up in real life from time to time. This is a group where many questions can be answered quickly and unbureaucratically, solutions to more complex problems sought together, and ideas for new features developed.

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