A plaque for the winner of the 2016 excellence in VLE awards.

VLE Awards trophies

The fourth annual ILIaD Blackboard & VLE Awards event brought together colleagues from across the university who have inspired their students by the quality of their VLE provision. With a record number of courses nominated, the judging panel had the opportunity to explore a wide selection of shortlisted courses, showcasing some exciting features and an outstanding level of support for students. After a close competition, the panel (comprising members of ILIaD and the iSolutions MLE team, as well as an Associate Dean for Education, a student representative and a representative from a VLE other than Blackboard) chose four overall winners:


MANG1020: Ideas that shaped the Business World 1: Government & Society
(Mark Gatenby and Stefan Cantore)

VLE Awards MANG1020Students said:

“Clear understanding that the online learning space was important to us as students and could aid understanding. It was treated as more than just a “dumping ground” for lecture slides.”

Judges’ comments

Ideas 1 provides an online learning space that students describe as a “hub” for the module. It offers an appealing experience for students, with a clean layout, easy access to key information and video introductions to each section. Students are helped to prepare fully for each taught session with advance guidance on what to do and issues to consider, and there are a range of follow-up activities including a Pinterest board with links to explore, and online quizzes to test understanding.


MATH1052: Differential Equations
(Chris Howls)

Students said:

“The material was clear and presented with vivacity, acumen and creativity”… “The learning tools were outstanding”

Judges’ comments
Differential equations provides a comprehensive resource to enable students to maximise their learning on this module. Pre- and post-lecture versions of notes are provided, along with lecture recordings. There are multiple opportunities for students to practise what they have learned, with homework questions set out at the start of the module, a range of past papers and links for additional study. Students describe the videos of worked solutions as “fantastic to learn from”.


ECON1002: Principles of Macroeconomics
(Michael Hatcher and Panagiotis Giannarakis)

VLE Awards ECON1002Students said:

“The structure is really clear and shows what should we do in each part”…“Gave us extra questions and quizzes that we could do in our free time. I loved that as it helped me to better understand the material and test myself”

Judges’ comments

Principles of Macroeconomics is a clearly structured module site with excellent guidance to support students, including giving the study time for each resource. Each week’s taught session is accompanied by a range of resources including reading suggestions, notes for self-study, links to online videos and podcasts, as well as lecture recordings and online quizzes to revise the session content. Students particularly praise the way the module site supports self-study.


MEDI2046: Nervous and Locomotor 2
(Scott Border)

VLE Awards MEDI2046Students said:

“The use of media kept the course stimulating and provided alternative ways of learning”…”This module made better use of the increased functionality of Blackboard – it is more than a service to put powerpoints on.”

Judges’ comments
Nervous and Locomotor 2 offers a clearly laid out site with detailed course information, but is set apart by the resources developed to further enhance learning and engagement in the module. Students appreciate the alternative ways of learning provided, such as the podcasts and the video resources in the Soton Brain Hub. The Anatomy eLearning resources accompanying the module create an interactive experience that helps students consolidate and extend their learning, and the Twitter feed has proved popular with students.


VLE Awards - student input The key to a successful VLE?  Winners highlighted the importance of student input.  Involving students as co-creators had resulted in the innovative, engaging course content that was a feature of the winning courses.

The feedback given by students about what they value in a VLE is central to the awards. A Prezi summarising these comments, featuring examples from shortlisted courses, can be found here: http://prezi.com/byg_ygcxrldn/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy.


This year, 26 staff also put forward courses in the new self-nominated category, highlighting VLE sites of an exceptionally high standard.  Judges compared the courses in two categories: those taught mostly online (course delivered through the VLE), and those taught mostly face-to-face (course supported by the VLE). The winners chosen for each category were:


MANG1016: Placement Preparation
(Rob Jack & Riikka Kemppainen)

VLE Awards MANG1016

This course also scored highly in the student nominations, with students praising

“Very helpful, clear and motivating content which truly helps me with my degree.”

Judges’ comments

Placement preparation is a fantastic resource, with both the Blackboard module and the accompanying WordPress site laid out in a helpful, visually appealing format.  Video introductions to each section make an exciting beginning, as well as communicating key information in a clear way.  The step-by-step progression through self-study materials makes these easy to use, with a range of videos, text and images, and online quizzes to help students test their learning.  Regular updates add to the sense of an active, engaging site, such as additions to the jobs board and posts on the site blog, including contributions from students.


ARTD1099: Introduction to English Language 1B
(Michael Salmon)

Judges’ comments
Communication is put at the heart of the Introduction to English Language 1B Blackboard site.  It makes brilliant use of discussion boards, both to engage students and as a starting point for learning.   It’s clear from the level of student input that structuring the site in this way has been a real success with the Dalian students.  The site is easy to navigate with clear labelling, a simple structure, and images to help identify resources.  Students are also supported by the provision of materials for further study and opportunities to practise assessments.

The awards bring to light many examples of excellent practice, not all of which can be acknowledged during the presentation.  ILIaD will forward comments on each of the shortlisted courses to individuals and teams, and will be looking at ways of sharing the ideas and inspiration they have to offer more widely.

Blackboard & VLE Awards 2016

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