Project Overview

The University of Leicester is due to upgrade its institutional VLE to Blackboard 9.1 in the summer of 2012.  To inform this update and to ensure that the new platform meets staff needs and better supports the student experience, an institution-wide evaluation was conducted via an online survey, interviews, and focus groups conducted between November 2011 and February 2012.  This evaluation was designed to document both staff and student experiences of the current version of the VLE and their expectations of the future one.  The findings are being used to inform the migration process, including provision for training and support in line with staff and student needs.

As part of this process, we highlighted the extent to which Blackboard is being used primarily as a content repository.  Academics are currently using features such as file uploads for course maintenance rather than for pedagogical design, while interactive tools such as discussion boards, blogs and wikis are being used to a far lesser extent.  These findings emphasis the need to encourage and support the effective deployment of the collaborative features of the new VLE.

Project aim: To enable and support staff at Leicester and beyond to design effectively for collaborative learning by capitalising on the affordances of the new VLE, which will be a significant contribution towards the enhancement of the student experience.

Outcomes and deliverables: The project will create a set of open, highly usable learning design and technical resources to guide academics on how to design for collaborative learning using the new version of the VLE.  It will also create resources and exemplars for use in staff training and development.  They key outcome of the project is to offer much better support to staff in the use of the new VLE for collaborative learning, by adapting and exploiting existing JISC and Leicester resources and creating new ones.

Principal Investigator: Alejandro Armellini (

Research Assistant: Jennifer Beard (


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