Recent years have seen a focus on responding to student expectations in higher education. As a result, a number of technology-enhanced learning (TEL) policies have stipulated a requirement for a minimum virtual learning environment (VLE) standard to provide a consistent student experience.

This paper offers insight into an under-researched area of such a VLE standard policy development using a case study of one university.

With reference to the implementation staircase model, this study takes cue from the view that an institutional VLE template can affect lower levels directly, sidestepping the chain in the implementation staircase.

The Group’s activity whose remit is to design and develop a VLE template, therefore, becomes significant.

The study, drawing on activity theory, explores the mediating role of such a Group. Factors of success and sources of tension are analysed to understand the interaction between the individuals and the collective agency of Group members.

The paper identifies implications to practice for similar TEL development projects. Success factors identified demonstrated the importance of good project management principles, establishing clear rules and division of labour for TEL development groups.

One key finding is that Group members are needed to draw on both different and shared mediating artefacts, supporting the conclusion that the nature of the group’s composition and the situated expertise of its members are crucial for project success. The paper’s theoretical contribution is an enhanced representation of a TEL policy implementation staircase.

The study is available to download from Research in Learning Technology.