Recipe for a good VLE site

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2018 has seen another substantial haul of nominations for our Blackboard & VLE Awards, with students sharing the numerous ways course sites have supported and inspired their learning.  It’s evident that many courses do this well, and after careful consideration and much discussion those that stood out have made this year’s shortlist.

What are the ingredients of a good VLE site?   Some of the key elements highlighted in student comments are set out below.

A clear plan

What is going to happen in the module?   Students nominated sites where everything is clear from the start: the expectations; the outline; the intended outcomes.  Most recipes start by preparing you for what you are going to do at the end: ‘pre-heat the oven to…’.  Students value sites that do the same.  How will the module be assessed, and beyond that, what part might it play in their future career?

Read the label

If you’ve ever had the misfortune of mistaking sugar for salt, you will know the importance of good labelling.  Overwhelmingly, students put forward modules that stand out for their straightforward structure, consistent layout and helpful labelling.  Being able to find and recognise what you need is fundamental.

Blend well

How does the online content link to taught sessions?  Students highlight modules where this is made explicit: for instance, suggesting a short activity to complete ahead of the session, aligning follow-up readings with lecture materials, including questions for consideration or summarising key learning points.

Demonstrate

There’s a reason TV schedules give us multiple opportunities to watch people cook, and YouTube is full of ‘how to’ videos.  ‘Show, not tell’ is a valuable approach and students cite courses that offer plenty of examples: linking to relevant video clips; recording worked examples; or providing opportunities to practise.  Students also appreciated announcements drawing their attention to relevant examples and news items, helping set the module in a ‘real-life’ context.

Adjust to taste

Feedback is a key feature of many nominated sites, with opportunities such as online marking or quizzes for self-assessment allowing students to check and develop their understanding.  Staff response to feedback was also frequently mentioned, with nominated sites maintaining good communication channels, such as discussion forums, or content being adapted or added in response to student requests.

Don’t overcook

One nominated course site was described as a “Goldilocks” module: offering neither too much, nor too little.  It’s a good analogy and characteristic of many winning courses.

We’ll be sharing examples from this year’s shortlist over the next few months; in the mean time, view last year’s at: http://go.soton.ac.uk/vleawards.

Staff nominations

Thank you to all staff who put forward their courses in the self-nominated category.   It’s great to see your examples of good practice and we will look to share these more widely.

Award winners in both categories will be announced at the Awards Presentation on Tues 1st May.