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Over the past five weeks, lecturers and students at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) had the chance to provide input for the new virtual learning environment (VLE). And they seized the opportunity.

In the period from 15 February to 17 March, six faculties set up test labs where lecturers and students could share their thoughts on must-have and nice-to-have features of the University’s prospective new virtual learning environment.

Usability

Test lab visitors could get a taste of what other VLEs have to offer based on various use cases based on common tasks such as submitting assignments, posting documents and slides and sending student notifications. These were subsequently assessed on the basis of four criteria: how easy it was to learn to use the VLE, how user-friendly the interface was, the range of available options, and how easy it was to carry out the various tasks.

Integrated systems

Carmen Smeenk, a student assistant and test lab supervisor at the faculties of Social & Behavioural Sciences and Medicine, summed up her impression: ‘Both students and lecturers appear to prefer a system in which everything can be integrated. Not only because it avoids the need to access lots of websites for all their daily activities, but also because such a system is better at keeping up with new developments.’

Fellow student assistant and test lab supervisor at the Faculty of Humanities Wietse de Graaf adds: ‘Lecturers were particularly enthusiastic about the impending changes. Some were more critical of the systems than others, but overall they were pleased with the modern VLEs. We noticed that lecturers encouraged each other to drop by and were eager to see what other systems have to offer.’

A total of 361 evaluation forms were completed: 185 by students, 132 by lecturers and 44 by other staff.

Tendering process

In the weeks ahead the results of the test labs will be translated to a schedule of requirements and disseminated through the Working Group on Future Electronic Learning Environments. This will then form the basis for the tendering procedure for a new VLE by the University of Amsterdam and VU University Amsterdam. For updates, see via uva.nl/tel.