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Abstract This is a short paper looking at the pros and cons of different ways to evaluate a VLE (Blackboard).  Blackboard was initially analyzed using the ‘official’ statistical reports within Blackboard and the ‘Bb Stats’ building block. The quantitative data generated by these systems was complemented by a qualitative study of staff opinions about Bb. Recently we have implemented Google Analytics as an additional method of gathering data regarding institutional Blackboard usage.

First I will give a brief overview of the data provided by ‘Bb Stats’ and the inbuilt analytical tools provided by Blackboard. Secondly I will provide of overview of the qualitative methodology used to evaluate staff’s perceptions of Blackboard. Thirdly, I will describe the process of installing Google Analytics and how we interpreted the statistical information it provided.

Google Analytics, Bb Stats and the inbuilt tools provided us with a variety of quantitative information. The quantitative reports enabled us to see how many students visited the VLE and how they interacted with its content. It also showed us the kind of browsers they were using and geographically where the users were coming from. The qualitative data based on staff interviews gave us much more information on how the VLE was being used. I will show how Google Analytics data compares and contrasts with the inbuilt analytical tools and ‘Bb stats’. Finally, I will also look at some of the questions about Google Analytics limitations as an evaluation tool, such as, can a piece of software designed for commercial motives be useful for learning technologists?

Overall using a combination of quantitative and qualitative data enabled us to have a much better understanding of how the VLE is being used, which in turn informed decisions about the formatting and appearance of the learning resources in the VLE. The results  determined the type of training we provided to our staff and students and informed discussions  with senior managers to show how the VLE is contributing to the successful outcome of the institutions strategic objects.

ALT Conference Presentation 2012

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