How many VLEs do you need?

In recent years there has been a trend towards having a single institution-wide VLE rather than supporting a range of different products that meet the needs of different disciplines.

However, somewhat paradoxically, at the same time as some people are questioning whether you need a VLE at all (we cover this in the following section) others are finding that their current portfolio of offerings is driving them towards different systems for different needs. Some examples of where institutions might be using a separate VLE for particular types of course include:

  • MOOCs;
  • degree apprenticeships or other work-based learning;
  • courses delivered in partnership with other institutions;
  • courses delivered through international or commercial partnerships.

The University of York uses five different VLEs as each is a best fit for particular needs:

  • Blackboard as the main institutional VLE;
  • Moodle in the maths department and for outreach and distance learning in the Social Policy and Social Work department;
  • The FutureLearn platform for MOOCs;
  • Canvas for a new set of distance learning courses being co-designed with a commercial partner;
  • The Administrate CPD platform for on demand access to course resources.

Glasgow School of Art was the pilot institution for a framework agreement for VLE supply set up by the Scottish universities and colleges procurement consortium APUC (Advanced Procurement for Universities and Colleges).

Prior to this Glasgow School of Art had Blackboard but used it mainly as a repository particularly for staff-facing materials. Following the procurement exercise they opted to use the features that suited them best from the top two suppliers on the framework agreement.

They have kept Blackboard as their intranet for staff facing content, are using Blackboard Collaborate for online collaboration and have also implemented Canvas as their student facing VLE.