What could you want from a VLE? 1

Having decided how we wanted to proceed, our objectives were clear. For anyone working within the NHS, you’ll be familiar with the options available to the NHS from ESR, and it’s sub-options in the form of OLM and the NLMS. ESR as a system is a great concept. The idea that a staff member can have an electronic record is a great bonus. Add to that the fact that their educational attendances and activities can all be integrated into the staff record is a great concept. However, unfortunately because the system has grown so much from the initial concept of a HR system, the ‘one-size-fits-all’ concept means that you lose some of the options which would come if you had individual, detached systems for each of the components.

As an organisation, we have invested heavily in ESR. Not only are all of or HR records on the system, but we also have a large percentage of managers working through the various self-service guises which are available. It was therefore the simple, logical progression to try and adapt the NLMS (as we were already using OLM to hold our staff training records). The problem we were faced with was that NLMS was not easy to navigate (from a staff perspective). We also wanted to add more functionality than just LMS options, so we needed something more.

The plan was to build a portal to the learning. Somewhere where we could place information about all our different courses (in their different formats) – and also provide an option to move on to complete the e-learning courses within the NLMS. We chose to invite a number of established companies to come and take part in a tender to develop this system in partnership with us. Having invited the companies to come and tender, one Friday morning we held an open pre-tender briefing session, providing an opportunity to bring everyone together, explain what we were looking for, and to give them an opportunity to ask any questions, before going away and (hopefully) devising a tender.

Data flowOne of the companies we had invited to tender was Epic Learning Group. I had heard of Epic before – but not had direct dealings with them, however their website offered a clear insight into the methodologies the company operates by, and knowing they had worked with other NHS organisations made them a company who we hoped would provide us with an interesting tender. On that particular day, I met Craig Taylor was working as the Solutions Consultant for Epic. Craig was an instantly likable character, who’s clear trait was his belief in the technologies he talked about. Craig shares a lot of the same values as I do with regards to technology enhanced learning – and I have no doubt I’ll mention him many times more as this blog progresses.

Anyway – following the tender process, we were given a number of options, from LMS solutions, to custom built, content filled solutions, however in the opinion of the group, there was a clear winner and this was the proposed solution by Epic. Now, there was more to our tender request than just the VLE. We were looking to build the capability of our internal team, build new processes, expand on skills and technology usage, both in the central development team, and also the wider education team, and the solution offered by Epic ticked all of these boxes.

From the VLE, Epic had designed us a Moodle based system, which would allow us to store all of our wider educational content – and for our e-learning we would divert staff into the NLMS – giving us a good, organised content store combined with a portal through to the national system – hopefully the best of both worlds!

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