Reference sites

Most selection processes involve some kind of contact with other institutions who can provide a reference for their supplier. This might take the form of a questionnaire, a telephone call or a site visit.

A reputable supplier will have a good relationship with their reference sites and never use them without prior permission. The institution requesting the reference also needs to be conscious of how much time this takes particularly if requesting a written response as part of an ITT or requesting a site visit.

Most of the contributors to this Toolkit told us that references were extremely helpful to them but there are a number of factors to take into consideration in determining how valuable a reference is to you:
  • how similar are the reference site's processes and structures to your own;
  • which elements of functionality is the reference site actually using;
  • what did the reference site use beforehand - there can be great differences in user expectations and satisfaction between institutions making limited use of their VLE and those at the leading edge of technology enhanced learning;
  • are you getting the views of the right stakeholders in the reference institution?

You can also draw on the collective knowledge of professional networks such as those that exist within ucisa and the Heads of e-Learning Forum (HeLF) and gain informal information from users who have not been specifically referenced by the suppliers.

Top tip

Have you thought about international comparators as well as other UK institutions? London Business School looked at market trends globally as part of their research and had a particular eye on what similar institutions in the US were doing.