… the Edge Hill Virtual Learning Environment. Really?  It could be, but only with the help and support of Edge Hill staff and students.

 A colleague recently made the astute observation that Blackboard is like Marmite – you either love it or hate it. From the formal and informal feedback I receive on people’s experience of Blackboard, the Marmite analogy seems to apply whether you are a teacher or a student.  The challenge for me is how can we change to a perception of the VLE  as chocolate?

After rolling out the use of Blackboard in all first year modules in 2008-09, we have had an opportunity to take stock as it has been a significant learning curve for the whole University. Rather than continue to do more of the same, we would like to do something radical and  review everything to do with the VLE – the product, related applications and tools, pedagogy, accessibility, ease of use for all users regardless of location. This is where you come in…

All Edge Hill University staff and students are invited to get involved in the VLE Project starting this month. During October and November we will be issuing a survey and holding workshops to gather a wide range opinions on Blackboard, blended and online learning. We will also be running this blog for the duration of the project to keep you updated and of course, to get a lively discussion going with your comments.

Over to you … 

9 responses to “I've seen the future and it's …”

  1. I think this is a really good move forward. As a regular user of B’board I have had both good and bad experiences. However, the good far outway the bad. Reviewing the VLE can only help us move forward in our use of technology and getting everyone involved with this project will certainly ensure that all opinions and experiences are shared – great idea…

  2. More media tools would be welcome in B’board if possible. I think its need a wiki app and some multimedia streaming- such as video and audio.

    It’s a good idea to challenge users for their input. I’ve just done the survey so fingers crossed more helpful tools are implemented over time.

  3. The future of the VLE depends on the appropraite choice of tools and services. I believe that the VLE as an institutional tool is dead, defunct, and expired.

    I argue that many VLEs especially Blackboard are not fit for purpose, and masquerade as solutions for the management of online learning.

    We need to tailor content to the end user (Personal Learning Environment?) and not just utilise a large, externally hosted, mess of a system to simply share files or news.

  4. I think I use Blackboard in a different way to most of my colleagues in Secondary educaion – rather than modules / content etc there is one single link on the front page which opens into a web site – admittedly it’s very simple web site – I’m only a history teacher after all but history trainees understand how web sites work and were able to find their way around. The feedback from the trainees was generally positive – ones who had used blackboard at other institutions didn’t know that it could be made to work in this way. My son at Salford University has a desperately dull Blackboard site which does nothing more than hold lecture notes and timetable details etc

    Perhaps we need to look to the flexibility of blackboard and its potential. I think there was some scepticism about my way of working with blackboard but it was very easy to move 1 web site across from Web Ct – other colleagues experienced more problems last year as PGCE courses began the great migration.

  5. I have only just enrolled as a student at Edge Hill so haven’t had the chance yet to have a good look at Blackboard. I have studied on-line using Moodle which seemed to me to be a great VLE and has many of the tools suggested by Mark. Their own website describes Moodle as:
    * Moodle has features that allow it to scale to very large deployments and hundreds of thousands of students, yet it can also be used for a primary school or an education hobbyist.
    * Many institutions use it as their platform to conduct fully online courses, while some use it simply to augment face-to-face courses (known as blended learning).
    * Many of our users love to use the many activity modules (such as Forums, Wikis, Databases and so on) to build richly collaborative communities of learning around their subject matter (in the social constructionist tradition), while others prefer to use Moodle as a way to deliver content to students (such as standard SCORM packages) and assess learning using assignments or quizzes.
    It is a free resource used widely in schools and FE colleges and might be worth a look.

  6. I have used something similar with the Open University, so I got used to it very quickly. It has its advantages.

  7. Having used a few different flavours of VLE my vote goes with Moodle. Forgetting for a moment that it’s open source and would save the hefty costs associated with Blackboard. Moodle seems to do a much better job with user interaction (as mentioned by Susan above) making it more versatile and interesting while at the same time logical and easy to use. While I haven’t had much chance to develop on it the designer interface that the tutors would use also seems more friendly. Blackboard loses a lot of points with me over its bloated design interface that makes it difficult for new users to make good content without instruction. To anyone who hasn’t seen moodle go and have a try on their demo site to see for yourself: http://demo.moodle.org/

    At the end of the day your VLE is only as good as the content designed for it. Making it as easy as possible for staff to create and share a high quality online module should be the priority in any decision. Blackboard currently seems to be mostly used as a way of storing lecture notes and allowing submission of work. If that is all lecturers want from it then it would be much easier to deploy something such as MS Sharepoint for that purpose and leave the VLE development purely for online only courses.

  8. Thanks to everyone who has posted so far. It’s been a really interesting discussion and one that we are really pleased to have started. I have a couple of observations about Moodle. Firstly, although it is open source software, it isn’t free to Edge Hill as it requires considerable technical support to make it fully fit for purpose. An educated guess is that there would not be a significant cost-benefit in making the change – if cost was the only criteria.

    The other observation is that Moodle is becoming like Hoover – a name that covers all other open source products in that genre. I don’t see this as an either/or decision – Blackboard or Moodle. The idea is to establish an Edge Hill criteria based on what we as a university want to do with our VLE/PLE/content management system – then we apply that criteria to the products and test them against our specification. Let’s discuss first how we want to enhance learning and teaching using a set of online tools that loosly resemble a VLE etc.

  9. I have only recently become a student at Edge Hill but my initial impression of Blackboard is that it seems to be needlessly complicated with a poor layout. I think it needs a facelift.