A group of us met earlier in the year from my office and from Learning and Teaching Solutions at the Open University to discuss some of our ideas around the future development of our Moodle-based VLE/LMS. Out of this discussion emerge, I think, some principles which could be taken into account when looking at new functionality. I offer these not as absolutes at this stage but am keen to hear what others at the OU and elsewhere think about them.
Principle 1: The VLE should facilitate easy online collaborative content development. The systems are not currently in place to make this easy – and they need to be enhanced.
Principle 2: The VLE must recognise the needs of specific subject areas and business needs. Areas such as maths, languages and continuing professional development courses have unique requirements for displays, technologies and formatting which need to be catered for.
Principle 3: The VLE must be able to allow access to a variety of users. Employer engagement in particular will require increasing access from outside the university and there are various other types of user which require access.
Principle 4: We need to assess continuously whether we have the right balance between “control” and “freedom” in the use of the VLE by staff and students. A compromise needs to be reached between allowing users to have sufficient levels of access to VLE facilities and maintaining the quality of our learning content, activities and support.
Principle 5: The integration of external tools will be continually evaluated. While the University considers an in-house VLE to remain essential there are facilities such as email provision which may be better outsourced.
Principle 6: The OU VLE should be visible on a wide range of channels. All student facing systems should be accessible and easy to use on mobile devices as well as on desktop PCs and laptops.
Principle 7: All textual content should be stored in XML format where possible. This will help considerably with repurposing for delivery on other platforms eg paper, e-books and mobile devices.
Principle 8: Documentation should be good enough that course teams do not feel the need to write their own supporting notes around use of the VLE facilities. A proposed revised Computing Guide will address this issue which results in duplication of effort and the production of paper resources which go out of date quickly.
Most of these are probably relevant to other institutions too. There are other things such as ensuring accessibility, usability and robustness which we already assume; all the above are aspects we have not tackled systematically to date. Any thoughts gratefully received.