One of the challenges of teaching "intro to philosophy" courses, which tend to be organized as historical "survey" courses, is that they can often feel self-defeating. That is, many students come to intro courses without much (or any) experience with what it means to read or write or think "philosophy," and they are then bombarded with the details of Descartes' Meditations, or Kant's Groundwork, or Plato's Republic without any sort of meta-structure in which to situate these figures and arguments and assign them real importance. For many students, in my experience, intro "survey" courses end up requiring them to memorize material-- what are the three formulations of the Categorical Imperative? What is the ontological proof for the existence of God?-- that doesn't have any meaningful "uptake" (to use Austen's term). So, predictably, they forget the details of philosophy as soon as the course is over and, what's worse, they don't get much sense of what "philosophy" is apart from those details.
The VSI's are helpful in getting students to the thinkers by way of the ideas, instead of the other way around. So, I'm peppering them in with the regular, orthodox tomes as an experiment this year. I'll let you know how it goes.