Cortex: your new look vUWS

Cortex logo

Cortex is an exciting new learning and teaching initiative developed by Learning Futures at Western. In simple terms, it is a template for all vUWS sites that will be applied to units across the University to ensure consistency and accessibility for all students.

Why Cortex?

In anatomy, a cortex exists as an outer layer. Coming from the Latin for “shell” a cortex systematically organises important matter. Project Cortex at Western offers a structural layer which we can apply to one of the central features of our learning and teaching – the vUWS site. Our vUWS sites present information and content to students for individual units and can contain a wide range of material from lectures to readings, videos and beyond. With the Cortex template applied this material is consistently presented enabling greater accessibility across the university and across disciplines, enhancing the student experience.

Project Information

Background of the Project

Current vUWS sites across the University vary in standard and structure. A quality benchmarking initiative identified the need to improve visual and structural consistency across Western vUWS sites. The Cortex template was established to create consistency across sites and allow students to access materials  and support more easily across schools and units. After a successful pilot across multiple schools Cortex was further developed and is now being rolled out across the university in a phased approach. Please refer to the Cortex Information Document or the Cortex Flyer for more details on the project.

Quality Standards Checklist

Cortex has been designed to align with the Quality Matters rubric; a recognised international standard in the design of online and blended learning environments. Details of this rubric and available support can be found at:

In developing Cortex, the Digital Futures Team won the Blackboard Catalyst award in 2018 (Digital Futures University-wide Template to improve access to content).

When is it Happening?

Implementation of Cortex will be completed by Learning Futures working collaboratively with academic staff. It will be delivered in a phased approach across schools on a session by session roll-out. Deans, DAPs and individual Unit Coordinators will be contacted with information specific to the migration of sites over to the new template ensuring minimal disruption.

More Information

Will Staff Receive Assistance?

Yes. Learning Futures will be providing information and training sessions to both permanent and sessional staff as Cortex is applied to sites. Staff will have final adjustments to make to their sites after the new template is applied and clear instructions will be circulated about  this. Learning Futures staff can provide consultations with Unit Coordinators during the migration process to ensure academics are well supported throughout. While there may be minor changes in the beginning the overall outcome of the Cortex project will ensure a reduction in queries about materials and student support  for teaching staff.

Existing vUWS Site Migration

Unit Coordinators will receive an email when their unit is due to be migrated. Additional communication will be sent from Learning Futures as the site progresses through the migration. An overview of the migration process is displayed below:

After a site migration, Unit Coordinators will need to complete a checklist of items to ensure their site is ready for students. Please refer to the Cortex Information Document for more detail on how content will be arranged during migration.

New vUWS Site Requests

Unit Coordinators who request a new unit site will be automatically provided with the new Cortex template. Please contact ITDS through the MyIT Portal for more information.

Training and Support

To help academics prepare their new look site, Cortex overview and training sessions are run regularly . Everyone is welcome to join these via Zoom. A copy of the Cortex Training Session presentation is available here.

Our vUWS support site contains 'step-by-step' instructions for a large range of vUWS queries.

To see the latest training dates see our Services and Resources page.

If you would like to arrange a consultation or if you need more help at any stage, please email

Additional Resources

Cortex icons for item headings

A list of Cortex icons and associated names is available here. These icons appear at the top of each item within the modules. You can change the icon by using the corresponding heading from the list (see 'Welcome' example below).

Cortex video for staff

Take a look at the Cortex videos:

  • 1 minute 'promo' (opens in a new window)
  • Full-length case study (opens in a new window)

Cortex video for students

To familiarise students with the new look vUWS, Unit Coordinators can use this YouTube video in two ways:

  • Embed a link in their vUWS site - See how - Add video resources/lecture pods - then select the 'Step-by-Step' button, or
  • Show this video to students at the beginning of class.

vUWS Demonstration Site

You can self-enrol to our Showcase site here. (Staff login required).