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.

Blackboard v Moodle (Part 2)

A few weeks ago I posted a comparison of what have become the two leading VLEs in UK higher education, namely Blackboard and Moodle. I don’t want to get into arguments about which is “best” here because any system is only ever as good as its users. We have some excellent Blackboard sites across the university that take full advantage of the available functionality, but that’s by no means universal.

However, a number of institutions are apparently moving from Blackboard to Moodle, ostensibly because of the much lower costs associated with the latter. However, it seems, according to members of the Association for Learning Technology, whose mailing list I follow, that the transition is not a simple one. (It’s a subscription only list, so I won’t post a link to the relevant postings). I quote: –

“We moved from Blackboard to Moodle just over a year ago and at that time there was no way of bringing material (courses, forum, documents etc.) into Moodle from Blackboard, I presume that is still the case I suspect that the two databases are just to different to map tables and content to each other in any meaningful way.”

A number of other contributors describe similar difficulties. What that means is that were we to move, every single Blackboard site would have to be recreated afresh. As another contributor to the list pointed out, that’s actually a good opportunity for an institution to review its e-learning provision. I’m not aware that Lincoln has any plans to move as yet, but we are committed to Blackboard until 2014. That’s still a significant amount of time, (Essentially it will see all our current undergraduates out.) but there’s a good case for beginning to think strategically about what we want to do now. If we do decide to change (and there are other VLEs that I haven’t mentioned here which we could consider), I suspect the transition is likely to take some time.