Threshold Standards for Moodle: A Learning Technologist’s tale

Study Direct imageAn Unexpected Journey….

Over the summer months Sussex TEL have been in their various Hobbit holes focussing a lot of time on implementing school-level standards for Study Direct, Sussex’s virtual learning environment (VLE) that’s built on the Moodle platform.

This endeavour began this time last year when the TEL team discussed individual needs and requirements with representatives from each school. During these discussions, one issue that was consistently raised was the inconsistency amongst Study Direct sites. So, with a large task in our hands and commitment in our hearts we began our arduous and unexpected journey…

The Fellowships of the Standards…

When other institutions have attempted this journey, their focus has been centred around institutional VLE standards. However, after a strategic conversation between TEL and faculty members it was decided that a school-level approach should be taken in order to recognise differences in disciplinary practices.

This decision led to school-level workshops being delivered by TEL which encouraged conversation between representatives from all the Study Direct user groups; faculty, professional services, associate tutors and students (continuing our Tolkien analogy, I’ll let you decide who the Wizards and Elves would be).


flickr photo by S3ISOR shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

All user groups having an input into the standards sought to ensure a sense of local ownership and an enhancement-led approach to their application. The acknowledgement of differences in teaching practices involving the use of Moodle allowed the groups to discuss, reflect and agree upon school-level threshold standards, thus negating any sense of centrally imposed requirements which could be insensitive to disciplinary needs or ambitions. So the board had been set and the pieces were moving (Gandalf the White, 2003).


flickr photo by mira66 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

The Twelve Towers…

After the standards had been discussed and defined, the TEL team worked with each of the 11 schools (and the Sussex Centre for Language Studies, hailing from the North of Middle Sussex) to ensure the standards were communicated to staff and implementation on module sites could begin. In order to achieve this TEL assisted schools by creating Study Direct sites that not only modelled the Threshold Standards but also linked to videos and resources which showed staff how to use some of the more complicated functionality in Study Direct. As well as this, every school was offered bespoke training sessions with a dedicated learning technologist where staff could ask questions about any area of Study Direct that they needed assistance with.

The Return of the Standards…

So now the Threshold Standards have been defined and implementation has begun from each school, what next? To ensure module sites adhere to the standards, each school has taken a different approach with some choosing to add it to their teaching observation and some choosing to ‘sign-off’ Study Direct sites before the start of term. The TEL team will work with schools continually throughout the year to ensure that staff are given the correct level of training to adhere to the standards set. So we promised the university we would keep their sites safe, and safe is where we’ll keep them (Treebeard, 2002).


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