When contemplating new technologies to support learning and teaching for the university, it is useful to understand how our current technologies have been used.
MMU’s Blackboard (WebCT) Vista Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) maintains a history of users’ interactions with the system. Records of interactions with course areas from September 2006 to January 2010 have been analysed and a spreadsheet produced showing the frequency with which different aspects of the VLE have been used.
The figures demonstrate rapid growth in take-up across the institution with a consistent distribution of the types of action undertaken in the VLE. The aggregated picture inevitably hides variety in the patterns of use on different course areas, but reveals some high level patterns:
- Staff and students each access the VLE over 50 times a year, with students clicking more often on each visit than staff
- Content distibution is the dominant pattern of use across the institution
- Some parts of the institution use the VLE for more interactive forms of engagement than content distribution, such as discussion forums, quizzes and online submission. In comparison to content distribution, after an initial uptake from enthusiasts this more interactive mode of engagement has been slower to expand across the institution
- Students appear to look for updates about assessment and discussion postings more frequently than changes are made. Indeed, click-track evidence would suggest that an unsatisfied appetite for assessment information is leading students to check for quizzes when tutors are not using them. Similarly, students are checking for discussion postings on more areas than tutors are using them
- Different norms for staff-student communication appear to have arisen with announcements being the most widely-used mechanism but some intensive use of the VLE-only email system and some use of synchronous communication
- Use of the VLE for assessment is limited to less than 15% of the institution with online quizzes over twice as popular as online assignment submission, and a very small use of SCORM materials
- Practice has varied across the institution on whether students have access to VLE materials from previous years of study, but click-track evidence suggests that it is used where it is made available