Friday, 21 March 2014

Sector-wide subscription to VLE minimum standards

As I've previously blogged, the University of Liverpool are looking to introduce minimum standards for all modules within the VLE, with the concern of 'consistency' across module a key priority. I'm part of a working group to investigate this in more detail, so as many people will know, I canvassed the ALT-Members email list in an attempt to crowdsource a document to detail which Universities are looking to introduce, or already have introduced, VLE minimum standards. I was also interested in the specific items/criteria that different Universities include in their minimum standards, threshold standards, and baseline agreements (there is a range of terminology related to this).

In total, 24 responses were received from the following institutions: Aberystwyth; Bath; Bristol; Durham (Physics and Arts & Humanities); Edge Hill; Exeter; Goldsmiths; Greenwich; Institute of Education, University of London; Kent; Leeds; Liverpool; London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; Newcastle; Nottingham; Northampton; Salford; Southampton Solent; Swansea; York St. John; Warwick; Univ. of Malta; and University College London. Whilst this doesn't cover every University in the UK, it does provide us with a useful insight!

Some of the responses indicated minimum standards might be school/faculty based, rather than institution-wide e.g. Durham, and some institutions promote the use of the ‘Blackboard Exemplary Course Program’, which provides rubrics to extend the use of the VLE further. The program focuses on four key areas: Course design, Interaction & Collaboration, Assessment, and Learner Support.

Chart 1. Subscription to minimum standards
75% (n=18) already have VLE minimum standards in place, with 25% (n=6) looking to introduce minimum standards in the future.

For those institutions with minimum standards currently in place (n=18), respondents were asked to identify the specific criteria included (Chart 2). 24 different criteria were identified, with the most common items being:

  • Dedicated VLE areas (100%, n=18); 
  • Staff Profiles/Contact Details (89%, n=16); 
  • Further/Recommended Reading (83%, n=15); 
  • Module Description/Outline inc. learning outcomes, etc (83%, n=15); 
  • Assessment Requirements (83%, n=15); 
  • Lecture handouts/slides (61%, n=11).

Chart 2. Criteria for inclusion in minimum standards

The data collected suggests a small set of criteria are commonly included in minimum standards across the sector, however there are a wide range of items which appear in a just a small number of cases.

The most commonly included criteria (detailed above) demonstrates some correlation with the views of staff and students at Liverpool (from the data I obtained in some research).

So overall, introducing minimum standards appears to be a big issue across Higher Education. Many HEIs are already doing 'something', with others looking to get on board soon. There are other debates circling which suggest introducing a 'minimum' might mean staff don't do any more. From my perspective, I think this minimum is what students want from a hygiene perspective i.e. to prevent dissatisfaction, and well ultimately, something is better than nothing!

Thanks to all those that completed the data in the Google Sheet, which of course will remain open for further editing and viewing by interested parties!


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  1. Hi - not sure if someone from my dept sent you ours at Solent? If so then I apologise for the duplication :)

  2. Thanks for pulling this altogether Peter - it is a really useful summary.