VLEs lend themselves to a variety of useful functions and purposes in education enabling both students and teachers to extend their teaching and learning beyond the walls of the classroom. As you say @Jameshanlon they’re a good place to create online classes and add resources, VLEs can also be useful to show Ss the course/syllabus structure, and how it’s going to unfold chronologically (weekly basis) and/or thematically (topic-based). Having a VLE also facilitates signposting and communication with students via announcements, emails, staff contact pages as well as collaboration through discussion boards & forums, learning journals, blogs, wikis, etc creating in the process a community of practice amongst learners. They also allow teachers to add assignments and due dates (e.g. writing tasks, presentations, seminars, etc) and deliver good quality and timely feedback on student work.
@jameshanlon, you raise an interesting point about utilising VLEs for sharing articles and online sources. Clunky as it is, Blackboard has the tool that does something similar to that. The Leganto Reading Lists tool allows teachers to create reading lists for an assignment or a module. You can search for sources (from Blackboard) and add all the relevant ones accordingly. As you say, while this could, on one hand, provide ss with a number of (relevant) articles for them to choose from and explain why and how they think those sources might be used in their response or preparation for assignments, it could also mean that Ss turn away from using the library catalogue (StarPlus) altogether and keep their choices limited to the reading list they have on Blackboard.
The gradual development of using materials and resources as we made the shift to online teaching during the pandemic i.e from substitution toward complete redesigning of courses sounds only natural and familiar @Catherine21. Giving Ts editing/administrator access to a VLE can offer a great deal of control and freedom as to how they wish to design their courses choosing between or combining low-impact (add-on exercises), medium-impact (substitution) and high-impact (course redesign from scratch) blends. Most institutions tend to dedicate staff experienced in both teaching and learning technologies to mediate this support between academic directors, teachers and students.