The University currently offers two centrally supported VLEs, Blackboard Learn and Moodle. Both these services are supported by information Services (IS) and benefit from the highest level of resilience with infrastructure located in both the University's main hosting sites. These VLEs are supplemented by a range of 'best of breed' software products which offer additional support for teaching and Learning activities. This is one of series of migrations scoped by the VLE Consolidation Project TEL038.

The eeSurg VLE has been custom built and supports the Certificate, Diploma and MSc in Surgical Sciences (Edinburgh Surgical Skills Qualification – ESSQ). It is one of a number of bespoke VLEs commissioned by academic programmes within the University. In common with many of the bespoke VLEs, it provides a highly customised user experience, with a strong sense of programme branding, but has not been built in a resilient manner.  Although supported by second line support teams during standard office hours, it is not classed as High Priority in the University Disaster Recovery Classification.

The VLE Consolidation Project completed an initial review of the bespoke Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) created by the Learning and Teaching Section (LTS) of the College of Medicine (eeSurg) supporting the ESSQ MSc in Surgical Sciences and a decision has been made to migrate the MSc in Surgical Sciences to Blackboard Learn. The VLE Migration project will manage the transition from the existing eeSurg system to Blackboard Learn.


This project will migrate the content, supporting functionality and resources currently provided by the bespoke eeSurg VLE to the centrally provided Blackboard Learn VLE to allow the ESSQ MSc in Surgical Sciences to be delivered via Learn.

The overarching objective is to maintain a good student experience of the ESSQ MSc in Surgical Sciences through the migration to an effective, resilient and sustainable VLE.

In order to achieve this, this project will:

  1. Migrate ESSQ MSc in Surgical Sciences course content and supporting functionality from the existing VLE to Blackboard Learn
  2. Migrate ESSQ MSc in Surgical Sciences resources from the existing VLE to a new Knowledge base

Migration of core course content, resources and core functionality will be completed by 8th December 2017 allowing the ESSQ MSc in Surgical Sciences to be taught via Blackboard Learn.

A large quantity of supporting resources is currently hosted on the bespoke VLE and these will be transferred to a new Knowledge Base, linked to Blackboard Learn so that students have access to resources at the appropriate time during their course.

Adaptation of external systems is outwith the scope of this project, however links will be created from Learn so that existing Labyrinth and PathCAL functionality is maintained. Labyrinth & PathCALS will continue to be supported for 2017-18, but no further development will be done on the platform (support will continue to be provided). A plan should be agreed to retain or replace Labyrinth and PathCALs during 2017-18 and this will be managed by the College of Medicine & Veterinary Medicine. Other functionality currently provided in eeSURG such as MCQs, e-Bookshelf and Assessed Discussions will be migrated to Learn (see Appendix).

As the ESSQ MSc in Surgical Sciences modules are being reconfigured in line with University accreditation & assessment requirements, this will allow courses to be created automatically from Euclid for the 2018 Academic Year. Manual enrolment of users to courses will be required for 2017-18.

The ESSQ team will make a decision in early 2018 about an appropriate launch date and it is likely that students will not begin to use the system until the 2018-19 Academic year. The eeSURG VLE will be maintained and supported until the ESSQ MSc in Surgical Sciences launch is complete and all student cohorts with data on eeSURG have completed their studies.

Replacing Labyrinth and PathCAL is not in scope for this project but it is understood that a review is being planned as part of the School of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine IT portfolio for 2017-18. ESSQ is recognised as a major stakeholder in both Labyrinth and PathCAL and will be included in any review along with other stakeholders. Labyrinth and PathCAL will continue to be supported for 2017-18 and future support will be agreed with MVM.


Objectives & Deliverables

Objective 1

To enable the delivery of the ESSQ MSc in Surgical Sciences via Blackboard Learn

Deliverable 1

To migrate course content and supporting functionality from the existing VLE to Blackboard Learn

Objective 2

To enable students to access supporting resources in a knowledge base

Deliverable 2

To migrate resources from the existing VLE to a new Knowledge base


A migration plan will be agreed by the Project Board and reviewed at key checkpoints. An initial prototype has already been created and populated, and forms the basis for the ESSQ MSc in Surgical Sciences VLE structure. As Blackboard Learn is being upgraded on 5th July 2017, a second prototype will be built to ensure new design and features are applied successfully. Course content will be migrated to Learn to allow courses to be delivered.

Where possible, eeSurg course content and supporting processes (functionality) will be documented and transferred to Learn. For any eeSurg content that cannot be provided by Learn an alternative solution will be identified and delivered as part of the project. If new functionality or features are requested and additional time or resource is required to deliver this, all efforts will be made to include this in the project but it will be subject to availability of staff. 

Additional resources will be migrated to a new Knowledge Hub, built using WordPress, to allow students to access all resources. WordPress has been shown to be a satisfactory application, however it is recognised that WordPress does not benefit from Tier 1 support. Any resources or other content that are required to be available 24/7 should be included in Learn which has the highest level of support.

A documented training & support model will be developed, including additional support for the year following go-live. This Operational Level Agreement will be signed off by the Project Board.



The overarching benefit of the project will be to maintain the positive student and staff experience of the virtual Learning environment that underpins ESSQ MSc in Surgical Sciences teaching, ensuring that it is based on resilient infrastructure.

  • Moving to Blackboard Learn brings the ESSQ MSc in Surgical Sciences programme in line with the rest of the organisation, providing a consistent user experience and facilitating cross-programme teaching.
  • This also provides a more sustainable solution, allowing the School to take advantage of centrally provided IS support, training, documentation and consultancy as well as improved service continuity and disaster recovery provision.
  • Reduced administrative effort required to support the VLE:
    • Courses and students automatically populated within both of the centrally supported VLEs via a link form the student records system EUCLID.
    • Both Blackboard Learn and Moodle can be configured to produce base student analytic data.
  • Opportunity to review and revise current teaching and learning activities to reflect current thinking and student expectations.
  • Improved student experience and the facilitation of cross program teaching
  • Opportunity to benefit from IS initiatives without additional work or cost (MediaHopper, Civitas, Lecture Capture)
  • Reduction in support costs as Learn is funded out of the contribution made by Schools and Colleges to the central IS infrastructure.
  • Documentation, training, support and consultancy services from both LTW and the suppliers of both VLEs and third party software products.


Success Criteria

  • The Edinburgh Surgical Sciences MSc will be ready to be delivered through Blackboard Learn from December 2017. This will include migration of content, resources and functionality to the new environment.
  • Student and staff experience of the ESSQ MSc in Surgical Sciences Virtual Learning Environment should be positive. This will be tested by survey before the end of the 2016-17 Academic year and again during the 2018-19 Academic Year following launch.


Project Info

The eeSurg VLE Migration Project
ISG Virtual Learning Environment Projects (VLE)
Management Office
Project Manager
Karen Beggs
Project Sponsor
Anne-Marie Scott
Current Stage
Project Classification
Start Date
Planning Date
Delivery Date
Close Date