Why review your VLE?

It is clear that many institutions are not only conducting VLE reviews but are doing so on a regular basis.

In most institutions the VLE is currently the main student facing information system and thus key to the student learning experience. A review can help you see if you are meeting your existing objectives, possibly against internal or external benchmarks, and plan what you need to do in future to meet your long-term strategic objectives.

One possible outcome of the review is that you move into a procurement exercise but in order to get the best from such an exercise there are other steps you should undertake first.

  • Begin by reviewing your current practice in order to be clear what you are already doing well before you think about how to rectify any issues or fill any gaps.
  • Understand what others are doing and the current shape of the VLE market.
  • Plan formal engagement with suppliers through a procurement exercise only when you are clear there is a sound business case for doing so.

In considering whether or not there is a business case for change, you are likely to be thinking about both strategic direction and cost. We cover this topic in more detail in the section on Estimating Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).

Reasons to review

People have reported various reasons for reviewing their VLE including all of the following:
  • the existence of a 'burning platform' such as the supplier withdrawing support for the product;
  • high levels of staff and student dissatisfaction to the extent that the VLE had become a 'toxic brand' within the institution;
  • the feeling that the institution had reached a 'plateau' in its use of technology enhanced learning;
  • the desire to check whether the VLE they had was genuinely 'best in class';
  • asking high level questions about what the University is trying to achieve and deliberately challenging assumptions about what a VLE is and does.

Caviar or red herring?
... the process may be seen as either a quality opportunity to ensure that you have the best product (the Caviar) or an opportunity to spend significant time comparing products with very similar functionality (the Red Herring) - you may not be sure which you have until you get to the end of the process…..and could end up with a mix of the two!

Rob Howe, Head of Learning Technology, University of Northampton. Read the full blog post here.

The perception was that the institution had reached a plateau in its VLE use and it was time to take stock of the institution's e-learning priorities.

Richard Walker, Head of E-Learning Development,
University of York

Is there a no change option?

A decision to stay with the same supplier is not necessarily a decision to maintain the status quo. Many institutions undertake significant change whilst maintaining their relationship with the existing supplier. Options include:

  • upgrading to the latest version of an existing product;
  • changing to a different hosting model such as managed hosting or software as a service (SaaS);
  • diversifying technology enhanced learning activities thus using more of the functionality of the existing product;
  • making greater use of other specialist products e.g. for assessment and feedback whilst retaining the existing VLE for core course management activities.

There is more on this topic in the section on Changing practice without changing VLE.

The business case for change

The following is taken from a business case for moving to procurement following a VLE review project.

The key drivers for this initiative are to address the following issues:
  • complaints from staff and students;
  • need to improve the staff and student experience in order to remain competitive;
  • major inefficiencies and high volume repetitive manual tasks inherent in current operations;
  • compliance issues, arising from both internal and external reviews and requirements;
  • loss of revenue and unexplored opportunities;
  • threat to external rankings;
  • more compelling offering at competitor institutions;
  • inability to meet strategic objectives and future growth plans;
  • inability for [business unit name] to fully implement all elements of its programme design framework and to measure impact.