We are in our eleventh year of the Blackboard and VLE Awards, seeking the very best examples of online learning across the university. Since 2013, there have been many readjustments to the University’s way of working, but most notably for the awards was the restructure of faculties in 2018. In the 5 years since, it is interesting to consider how each faculty has performed in the awards.

Faculty Structure

In 2018, the University of Southampton reduced the number of faculties from 8 down to 5. The university undertook this change in the hope that it would make operations run more ‘effectively and efficiently’. These new faculties have been in place for the last 5 years, meaning almost all current undergraduates will have only known this structure. Each faculty contains one or more schools of study, as explained in the below organisational map.

In addition to the five named faculties, the University offers ‘Curriculum Innovation’ modules. These modules typically earn the classification of ‘interdisciplinary’ because they gather knowledge from various faculties and students have the flexibility to enrol in them in any year of most undergraduate courses. In the 23/24 academic year, students will have access to approximately 14 interdisciplinary modules, ranging from Global Health to Discovering Our Universe. For the Blackboard and VLE Awards, we usually consider Curriculum Innovation as its own faculty, rather than trying to classify individual modules.

2023 marks the 5th year of Blackboard and VLE Awards following the faculty restructure, so it’s interesting to investigate how each may have performed. Additionally, recognising any patterns or anomalies is important as it may influence how future iterations of the awards are advertised to students.


Each year of the awards sees hundreds of modules nominated, from Art History to Chemical Engineering. In 2023, a total of 276 modules were nominated, whereas in 2021, a remarkable 470 modules were commended for their exceptional efforts during the pandemic. The Faculty of Social Sciences is consistently most nominated, taking up around 30% of total nominations year on year. Every faculty has been nominated in every year.

Curriculum Innovation and Faculty of Medicine modules take up a smaller proportion of nominations, but this is likely due to fewer modules offered and smaller cohorts of students. The complete distribution is presented in the table below, indicating percentages of the total nominations for each respective year. 2023 remained fairly consistent with previous years, although there was an even smaller proportion of medicine nominations. This is the first time the awards have been open for nominations in Semester 2, so this may likely be a result of busy Medicine School placement schedules.

Total Nominations245312470360276

In order to more easily visualise this data, the following graph shows the proportions of each faculty in each year of nominations.

Comparative bar graphs showing the faculty distribution in nominations in the last 5 years of the awards.


It is one thing for modules to be nominated, but once they are surveyed and shortlisted, are faculties performing consistently? The shortlisting process has evolved with the awards, and this year saw the addition of a longlisting step to try and maximise the number of modules surveyed. Each year has seen around 30 modules shortlisted, and the distribution between faculties has surprisingly remained surprisingly consistent.

Curriculum Innovation does not reach the shortlist every year, but this is unsurprising considering the small number nominated. Medicine modules take up between 8-15% each year, while Engineering and Physical Sciences sits consistently around 20-23% of the shortlisted modules. The Faculty of Arts and Humanities, which had reached a peak of 31% of the shortlisted modules in 2020, exhibited the most substantial inconsistency, decreasing to 15-19% in more recent years. This is likely as a result in the spike of nominations for Arts and Humanities modules in 2020, making up 23% of total nominations as compared to the 12-15% of later years. Overall, the data suggests that patterns noticed in the nominations remain consistent with the shortlists, suggesting that the processes used to find our shortlists has been fair each year when considering faculty distribution.

Number in Shortlist303236 27 26
Comparative bar graphs showing the faculty distribution in the shortlists in the last 5 years of the awards.


Where our nominations and shortlists are long enough to leave space for all faculties, the list of winners is a different story. This is also interesting to consider at our current stage of the Blackboard and VLE Awards, as no 2023 winners have been selected yet. Since 2019, there have been 3 overall winners each year (a total of 12). There has also been a ‘Staff-Nominated’ winner each year. 2019 saw the addition of a ‘People’s Choice’ category which was voted on during the awards, and 2022 awarded a number of categories, with 16 additional winners. For the sake of consistency, we will look at the statistics of overall winners only, but will touch on the 2022 results out of interest.

Within the 12 overall winners, there have been three each for Medicine, Social Sciences and Engineering and Physical Sciences. Environmental and Life sciences has been awarded twice, while Curriculum Innovation has been awarded once. The Faculty of Arts and Humanities has not had an overall win since the faculty restructure – although it has won in staff nominations twice. In 2022, the 16 additional winners spanned all six faculties. Social Sciences and Engineering and Physical Sciences were again the runaway winners, taking 4 category wins each.

A panel of judges, which includes members from every faculty, selects the winners, so there is no specific bias that may have caused division. However, it does make sense that Social Sciences would be a popular winner, considering the sheer quantity of modules nominated. Contrastingly, Medicine modules may excel because their students hold exceptionally high standards – a Medicine degree is known for its difficulty, and our modules have to meet those expectations.

The below table lists the faculties which won in each year since 2019.

Curriculum InnovationEngineering and Physical SciencesEngineering and Physical SciencesEnvironmental and Life Sciences
Environmental and Life SciencesMedicineMedicineMedicine
Engineering and Physical SciencesSocial SciencesSocial SciencesSocial Sciences
Pie chart showing the distribution of winners between faculties


While it is not the primary function or purpose, it is important that the Blackboard and VLE Awards capture modules across the university. Nominations from all faculties demonstrate that advertising for the awards has been received evenly. Also, for a module lead looking for a good example of learning, something from within their own faculty is often far more valuable. Having considered the fairly consistent and even distribution of nominations and shortlisted modules between faculties, I think it’s fair to say that the Blackboard and VLE Awards are hitting this target. It will be interesting to see how the 2023 winners may sway the faculty distribution of winners . The Blackboard and VLE Shortlist is available to view here. The winning courses will be announced at the Awards Event as part of the CHEP Festival of Learning and Teaching on September 14th. We hope to see you there!

Blackboard and VLE Awards: 5 Years of New Faculties

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