Friday, 5 June 2015

LearnUCS Review 2015: Findings (Draft)

Learning Services (Elevate Team) have undertaken a review of LearnUCS to ensure the virtual learning environment (VLE) facilitates the support UCS’s 2020 Vision. This was through answering two distinct questions:
  1. How are staff currently using the VLE within your teaching, learning or assessment?
  2. How would staff like to use the VLE to enhance your teaching, learning or assessment?
UCS’s current Blackboard licence is for the external hosting of the Learn platform. The Blackboard Learn software sits at the centre of a set of e-learning tools used at UCS to provide a broad virtual learning environment.

The usage of LearnUCS is relatively high, with an average of over 78,000 logins per month (web and mobile app - Oct 14-April 15).


The data collection involved a number of 1-2-1 semi-structured interviews and group tasks within Departmental meetings. The data was collected between Feb and April, 2015.


The VLE (LearnUCS) within the broader e-learning platforms at UCS is capable of meeting the general requirements from staff for the design and delivery of a rich digital learning experiences. Therefore, it is the author’s opinion, the existing e-Learning Tool Landscape would only need a few additions to enable UCS to “further develop flexible modes of supporting learning that enable students to flourish as independent learners with the capacity for analytical, critical and creative thinking” (UCS 2020 Vision pg 12). Based on staff feedback, these additions would include UCS exploring a specialist peer assessment tool, getting more from its current web conferencing tools, and seeking opportunities for collaborative learning through student owned cloud solutions, in particular, Microsoft 365 and Google Drive.
The review identified;
  • Staff currently use the VLE as a content plus model. Where the core learning activities and support are delivered face to face. While, administrative information (announcements, calendar), readings, learning material, submission of assignments and some support is provided online
  • The majority of the “it can’t do” issues are actually possible, and in many cases have been for a while. This implies the need to revisit our communication plan to improve its effectiveness. If this is more effective the potential barriers to adoption will be reduced.
  • There is a need for more effective access to support people (Elevate Team) for staff. Individuals, felt many of their questions could be effectively addressed through just-in time support, and not an over reliance on online materials.
  • The barriers to adoption do not indicate there are issues with the actual VLE software. The barriers tend to be related to processes, the provision of wider UCS hardware and most commonly time to explore the opportunities the software offers.
  • The required enhancements include known issues for Blackboard on their roadmaps, in particular enhancements around the electronic management of assessments, the Learn Mobile app and discussion board tools. Therefore, Learning Services need to regularly discuss these with our Blackboard account manager.


The following recommendations are intended to encourage the adoption of the VLE, widen its use towards more e-learning activities, improve UCS’s awareness of viable alternative to Blackboard, and identify the resource requirements for UCS to self-host Blackboard.

The granular enhancements identified through data analysis (see further reading) will be accommodated in the annual LearnUCS Service Plan.

Getting more out of the VLE

Design and implement a more effective staff support and development model.
Learning Services (Elevate Team)
Implement in Sept 2015
Publish an advice guide on using the following to enhance teaching, Learning and Assessment;

  1. Webinar tools (visimeet & google hangouts)
  2. LearnUCS Quiz tool
  3. LearnUCS Collaborative Group Tools (Wikis & Blogs)
Learning Services (Elevate Team)
Sept 2015
Promote LearnUCS Top Tips and minimum expectations as one way of enhancing effective use.
Learning Services (Elevate Team)
Sept 2015
Work closely with IT Services and Estates to ensure the required hardware and software is available for staff use the e-Learning Tools.
Learning Services (Elevate Team)

Being aware of viable alternatives to Blackboard

Compare the feature set of alternative VLEs, in particular; Moodle, Desire to Learn, & Google Educational Apps
Learning Services (Elevate Team)
Dec 2015 & Dec 2016

Seeking ways to reduce the license costs

Identify resource requirements for UCS to self-host Blackboard.
IT Services
May 2016

Further Reading

Image - With Thanks -

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