The Virtual Learning Commons

"A Learning Commons is a common, or shared, learning ‘space’ that is both physical and virtual. It is designed to move students beyond mere research, practice, and group work to a greater level of engagement through exploration, experimentation, and collaboration. A Learning Commons is more than a room or a website.  A Learning Commons allows users to create their own environments to improve learning. A Learning Commons is about changing school culture, and about transforming the way learning and teaching occur. " 

Replace the Library Website with a Participatory Virtual Learning Commons

Library websites are usually one-way stream of helpful information that kids and teachers are likely to google around. However, if they help build it, they will use it!

Here are three free google templates for the Virtual Learning Commons at elementary, middle, and high school levels:

The elementary school at:

The middle school at:

The high school at:


YouTube Video

The Virtual Learning Commons: Building a Participatory School learning Community

An in-depth look at the role and function of a Virtual Learning Commons is covered in the following books by Loertscher and Koechlin.  It can be obtained from

  Elements of the Virtual Learning Commons to Develop

As of 2011, the following core elements or portals have been developed by students at San Jose State University:

  • The Information Center - the opening page not unlike the traditional school library website containing portal entries into the sites listed below and provides linkages to the OPAC, other libraries, items of interest, calendar, etc.
  • The Literacy Center - the world of literacy including reading, writing, speaking, and listening
  • The Knowledge Building Center - the place where the learning commons interfaces with the great learning experiences across departments, grade levels, and the faculty of the school
  • The Experimental Learning Center - that is home base for school improvement and professional development; a place for experimentation, action research, specific initiatives.
  • School Culture - the living school yearbook of the school including, performances, sports, exhibits, clubs, and other notable activities.

Features to include:
  • An area for a parade of super learning experiences working though the learning commons.
  • A place for tools, tutorials including those created by faculty and students
  • Collaborative reading centers and initiatives in support of school improvement and the Common Core Standards
  • The center of school culture
  • The virtual school yearbook
  • Professional development in the experimental learning center of the VLC
  • Collaborative construction of all kinds of lists,  projects, etc.
  • Connections to all types of libraries and community agencies
  • Connection to an OPAC that is collaborative
  • Connections to databases and other resources where everyone is helping find and recommend the best
  • Current events
  • Activities that draw kids and adults to the VLC
  • The center of the curriculum and teacher's learning activities and programs; courses, etc.
  • Connections beyond the school to the community and on into the world
  • Career information
  • Connections to experts of all kinds
  • School-wide projects
  • etc.

Help Getting Started

  • Use a sample template from the left:
  • To use the template, you need a Google Account.
  • Click on "Use this template"
  • Rename the template for the school you want to create it for
  • Fill in the security picture code
  • Yea! you now own a VLC and can change anything you like. See the pencil picture at the upper right? That is the edit button. Check out the "More" button to manage the site. If you don't know how to do something, Google a tutorial.

A few more tips :

Create the main web page/title screen. Select the software you will be using for the group VLC. We recommend Google Sites, the software these templates are built upon; other possibilities are Weebly and any other software that does not require team members to know html and that is free. If your school is interested in Google Apps Education Edition, then you need to use Google Sites as your tool. Google Apps Education is safe and free and that is very appealing to schools and districts where fear rules the day. The advantage to Weebly or even Google Sites outside Google Apps Education is that your can use a wide variety of web 2.0 tools that are accepted by your school or district.

The International Virtual Learning Commons Idea Bank at:

Subpages (1): sjsu Example VLCs