We encourage you to think about what you are ultimately trying to achieve and what you want to see as the principles and characteristics of the learning and teaching experience at your institution before you begin to translate this into a functional specification for a system.

The SAMR model, developed by Dr Ruben Puentedura, has been used by many universities as a way of thinking about how technology can support learning and teaching. The acronym SAMR stands for:
  • Substitution
  • Augmentation
  • Modification
  • Redefinition

If you have followed the guidance in the earlier section of this Toolkit covering Why review? and have undertaken research to give you a good understanding of the VLE landscape you should be well placed to express your own aspirations in ways that keep you open to seeing the best of what the market can deliver.

You can play a video of Dr Ruben Puentedura talking about the SAMR model in our resources section.

Andy Beggan, Dean of Digital Education at the University of Lincoln has undertaken a number of VLE reviews in different institutions.

Andy finds the SAMR model a useful way of thinking about this type of project. He believes that too much emphasis on the features of a VLE tends to predicate towards a focus on substitution and augmentation.

The University of Lincoln began exploring options for the next phase learning environment in 2018 by first identifying project learning and teaching principles (more on this in the section on 'Why review?') and encouraging people to think about the learning experience not tied to specific technologies.

The University is also trying to separate out the administrative functions of a VLE from teaching and learning.

They are trying to ask questions about what is unique to a VLE that other systems cannot do and have come up with the following broad areas:
  • Common interface and single point of entry (to help sequence the learning experience).
  • Integration layer with third-party systems and access management such as Turnitin, Panopto etc.
  • Granular record of student attainment (breaking down of individual assessments activities) as opposed to just module level scores.
  • Management of ad hoc creation of groups and group activities.
  • Variable levels of access management: role, institutional hierarchy, time released, etc.
  • Tracking user engagement across the learning experience.

There are many possible outcomes from this project and it is still far from turning into any kind of procurement exercise. Currently we are just raising questions and challenging accepted practice.

Andy Beggan, Dean of Digital Education, University of Lincoln