Decision on New Learning Platform is Central to Institutional Growth, Improvement
AMSTERDAM – 21 June, 2011 – Edge Hill University has chosen to upgrade its virtual learning environment (VLE) to Blackboard Learn™, Release 9.1, Blackboard Inc. (Nasdaq: BBBB) announced today. The selection follows a thorough evaluation of commercial and open source online learning systems that involved extensive engagement and input from the university community.
One of the U.K.’s fastest-growing universities, Edge Hill chose Release 9.1 to replace WebCT as part of a strategic initiative for institutional growth and improvement. The initiative will see the VLE become the central part of a single portal that seamlessly integrates other key university technologies including student course records and campus communication systems.
The first step in Edge Hill’s VLE evaluation effort – before any vendors or products were even considered – was to identify the most important features to students, faculty and staff in their everyday use. Those features were the major emphasis throughout the review, which included a range of faculty and student surveys, workshops and interviews. Users preferred Release 9.1’s ease of use, professional look and feel, intuitive navigation and familiar user interface compared to the more cluttered look and linear feel of other systems. Edge Hill also noted the introduction of social learning features like blogs and wikis and Blackboard’s high level of support for managed hosting as key drivers for their decision.
The case for moving forward with the Blackboard Learn platform was strengthened further by input from peer institutions in the U.K. who shared with Edge Hill their experiences moving to Blackboard’s newest VLE and to alternative systems.
“As we learned more about what our students and faculty wanted from the VLE, it became clearer that Blackboard was the only partner we could rely on with confidence for effective support, hosting and a long-term commitment to further development of the VLE as we continue to mature and expand,” said Lindsey Martin, eLearning Strategy and Development Manager of Learning Services at Edge Hill. “We had concerns that moving to open source could cost as much or more than we were spending, and that it could leave us exposed without adequate development and support over time.”
Edge Hill had experienced pockets of excellence with WebCT, which had contributed to the establishment in 2005 of Edge Hill’s SOLSTICE Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. It was, however, urged to take a more strategic approach towards mainstreaming the implementation and use of their online learning platform by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA), which assesses the academic standards and quality of U.K. higher education institutions. Since then, Edge Hill has seen rapid growth of online and blended learning options, with adoption of the VLE growing from 5 to 90 percent of modules (courses). The selection of Blackboard Learn, Release 9.1 is part of Edge Hill’s effort to capitalize on that growth by leveraging the best in VLE technology in support of its users.
“The decision to go with Blackboard has sparked conversations about technology and development that we’ve never had before,” said Martin. “This process has really advanced our thinking about the VLE but it has also started some real discussion about how other technologies, like mobile and collaboration technologies can carry us even farther in adding value. We’ve matured as an institution around e-learning and the use of technology in teaching and learning working with Blackboard, and the opportunity to work with them in these areas gives us great confidence going forward.”
In the fall, Edge Hill will fully move to Release 9.1. Since being launched in April 2010, more than 1,400 institutions have moved or are planning a move to Release 9.1.
For more information about Blackboard Learn, please visit http://www.blackboard.com/Platforms/Learn/Overview.aspx.