VLE data

First, I’d better come clean. This data isn’t mine – it’s from a publicly available spreadsheet produced by Matt Lingard, and you can get the full set at

and many thanks to him for doing that.
Following on from my last post, I thought it might be useful to get a sense of who was using what Virtual Learning Environment, (VLE) so I had a little play with Matt’s data, concentrating on UK Higher Education institutions only. (The full dataset does include some overseas institutions)  It seems that Blackboard is still the lead VLE in most UK Higher Education institutions. 

VLE Statistics United Kingdom Higher Education
VLE Statistics UK higher Education
Apart from Blackboard and Moodle, no VLE is used by more than one institution. (The “other VLE users” in this graph use either something they developed in house, or other commercial products). Given the constant complaints about the high cost of Blackboard, something else I thought I might glean from Matt’s data was how many institutions are changing from one VLE to another (or planning to change – the spreadsheet simply comments on some individual cases, so it’s hard to see how far a change is confirmed). In effect, that means changing from Blackboard to Moodle, since as far as I can tell from the data no-one is planning to change to Blackboard from either Moodle, or one of the stand alone VLEs. Here are the figures.
UK Institutions planning to change Virtual Learning Environment
Planned changes to UK VLEs
I was quite surprised that relatively few institutions were planning a change, most preferring to upgrade their existing VLE. There are significantly new versions of both Blackboard and Moodle this year, so this would appear to have been a good opportunity to change, but most seem to have contented themselves with upgrading what they already have. (Also, the phrase “doing nothing” in the chart legend is a bit misleading, since many of the Blackboard users upgraded last year.) Of course, it may be that institutions are contractually tied to Blackboard, which is preventing them from changing until the contract expires. It would  be interesting to repeat this exercise over the next couple of years and see if there are any changes to this pattern.

6 thoughts on “VLE data

  1. The source data used for this is incomplete so any stats gleaned from it are wildly inaccurate. The source claims to be a survey of UK institutions, yet at the time of writing does not include major institutions such as Cambridge and Oxford. Plus does not take into account that some institutions run several VLE’s.

    I’ve amended some data but it would be good to see a complete set of data.


  2. Standing back and looking at the wider view is always an interesting exercise; but one of the dangers of doing so is that you are at the mercy of your data quality, and any conclusions drawn have to be considered carefully.

    If this exercise had just looked at who was using BlackBoard and Moodle in UK HE institutions, it would probably be closer to reality, but readers should be warned that the list used at the time almost certainly fell short of providing a complete picture of all UK HEIs and the distribution of their VLEs.

    At Cambridge, we have used Sakai since about 2005, and as a committed member of the Sakai community, we’re also keen to raise it’s profile where it might have been missed.
    As a leading research institution, we’re also aware of how important good data quality is, and although Julian’s exercise might not be spot on, it has led to the core data set being amended and thus (hopefully) improved, which can only be a good thing.

  3. Thanks Raad (and other commenters) – I’m well aware of the limitations of the data set. (I just can’t resist playing with data!) In any case I suspect getting an accurate picture, especially one that reflects institutions that are using multiple VLE’s and those that aren’t using any specific product but combining various tools to make a de facto VLE is going to be extremely tricky. Deciding what constitutes “use” is tricky too. Here at Lincoln, while Blackboard is the institutional VLE, I know of at least one lecturer who is using a self installed version of Moodle with a handful of students (and without any institutional tech support that I know of). As we move to more open platforms, and people get more confident with the technology, I have a feeling we’ll see quite a lot more of this sort of thing.

  4. The UCISA report at http://www.ucisa.ac.uk/groups/ssg/~/media/groups/ssg/surveys/TEL%20survey%202010_FINAL.ashx
    provides a much more comprehensive picture of VLE usage in 2010. It shows that 55% of institutions use Moodle, 23% as their main VLE. BB (if you aggregate the different versions) still shades it on market share, although almost 2 years on we can’t be far from a 50/50 split.
    I’d also question the statement that ‘relatively few institutions are planning a change’. If 1 in 12 institutions is switching from BB to Moodle in a single 12-month period (presumably higher if you disregard those who aren’t using BB in the first place) then it won’t be long before the latter achieves market dominance.

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