JISC Report: Digital Experience Insights Survey 2018

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JISC recently published their findings of an extensive survey looking at students’ digital experiences within FE and HE institutions in the UK. These findings give the sector some very useful information to help plan for future student and staff digital engagement.

37,700 students were surveyed between October 2017 and April 2018 from 83 institutions.

The survey looked at four key themes: 

  • Theme One: The Digital Lives of Learners.
  • Theme Two: Digital in the Institution
  • Theme Three: Digital at Course Level
  • Theme Four: Attitudes to Digital

A short report on the findings can be found here: JISC student experience survey notes Sept 18

The full report can be found here:

Newman, T. Beetham, H & Knight, S. (2018) Digital experience insights survey: findings from students in UK further and higher education. September 2018. Bristol: JISC.

First Step to Claiming Your 2018/9 Blackboard Sites is Now Ready

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As part of the new automated process for Blackboard site creation in 2018/9, you will need to engage with the following process as we have been reporting.

To ensure you get your Blackboard site and are identified as the  module lead on SITS you will need to check if the data is correct on ICON.

This can be done using a new ICON screen called ‘Tutor MAV Maintenance’, please watch the following video which will walk you through the two minute process:



In Summary, on the Tutor MAV Maintenance screen you need to ensure the ‘Tutor’ field is populated and the ‘Bb Site Req?’ field is ticked. You will find further information here.

Please look out for further updates regarding availability of 2018/9 Blackboard sites.

Use “Terms” to easily identify your new courses when they arrive on Blackboard.

PebblePad visit to the University of Cumbria

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On Weds 25th April, we enjoyed a visit from our PebblePad representatives: Debbie Holmes, Sarah Copeland and Sarah Chesney.

First slide

We had asked them specifically to come and talk to our guests about how PebblePad can be used to deliver Apprenticeship requirements but also to generally speak about ways in which this system could be used to get the best out of students, no matter what they are studying.

With degree apprenticeships, there are usually several parties involved in the process – the student, the university tutor, workplace mentors/coaches, PLUS external verifiers (required by whichever Apprentice body is overseeing the delivery).

Debbie spoke about the work currently underway at Northumbria University where they are using PebblePad to deliver the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship (CMDA).

PebblePad is used as a Personal Learning Space to capture records and reflections along the students’ learning journey, incorporating heavy use of PebblePocket (the mobile app). In the early days, this builds up users’ confidence in the system and encourages them to become more creative right from the start of their studies.

Informal capture

PebblePad is also used more formally for formative and summative work. Bespoke electronic templates have been built to suit the particular requirements of the CDMA apprenticeship at Northumbria – and in such a way as to get out the information the verifiers need. (Reporting is a way to quickly collate students’ responses to certain questions posed in electronic templates and is a brilliant (underused) feature of the system offering pie charts and nice visual touches)

PebblePad is a useful way to evidence any professional standards which need to be met, and for evidencing the number of hours spent on particular activities – both features proving very useful for apprentices.

I have to say we had a really interesting debate afterwards and the enthusiasm in the room was wonderful – thank you to all who attended. Many conversations were had; demonstrations of live work currently underway at UoC (particularly Ofsted reporting and Paramedic developments) were carried out. There were promises to move forward with the system for some, and just general food for thought for others. If anyone would like to explore the use of bespoke electronic templates to sit within PebblePocket, please let me know at

I have offered UoC to be part of an Apprenticeship Special Interest Group (SIG) which is looking to meet in the North West so I will post any future dates of meetings as soon as I know them. I have also offered UoC as a possible venue.

Forthcoming events:

  1. Health Symposium June 25th, Birmingham – a day sharing stories of PebblePad and healthcare programmes
  2. Minibash June 26th, Birmingham – a day of all things PebblePad!

£100 if you book both events so a great deal for CPD

Here is a link to the recording from the session (NB questions/demonstrations at the end have been removed). Click the image to view the video:


And finally, here is a link to the Implementation Toolkit which Debbie mentions in her presentation: for anyone designing curriculum and wish to incorporate PebblePad into their students’ learning.


New Blackboard Developments for 2018/9 – April Update

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The process for creating, claiming and getting started with your Blackboard sites will change for 2018/9 academic year.  Our January and March iLead posts will provide further information on the project, however, if these articles don’t cover your question please contact

In summary, the success of the automated process relies on the data in SITS, and a Blackboard site will be created using MAV data in the normal way but now also relies on:

  • a MAV ‘flagged’ as needing a Blackboard site and
  • the ‘Lead Tutor’. This individual will automatically be added as an Instructor to the site which will subsequently appear in a “Pending” section of their Blackboard My Courses list.

In view of this, we are asking you to review and update a spreadsheet to ensure your Blackboard site will be created and available to you.  We understand that future changes to the lead tutors are inevitable and are working on a solution to manage this.

The spreadsheet shows all the MAV’s set up for 2018/9 within each subject group and only the columns highlighted in yellow need to be completed.  We request that you check:

  • the module title, subject group and department.  These are taken from the Module Record (MOD), if this data is incorrect please contact providing the correct details.
  • ‘Is the Blackboard Site Needed?’ has been defaulted to YES, please change to NO if you do not need a Blackboard site.
  • ‘Tutor Name’. This has been pre-populated by data currently on SITS, please amend and complete as necessary.  Changes to the spreadsheet are tracked by colour changing cells.
  • To complete the data collection please add in your initials in the first column to indicate the MAV has been checked.

Access to the Spreadsheet

On Campus is via the ‘Z’ Drive and can be found using this file path: Z:\SAAS – Shared Documents\Data Collection\SDMU\Blackboard Tutor Collection

Off Campus you will need to use the ‘Off campus Z drive access or the Remote Desktop both of which can be found under Systems on the StaffHub:



Can’t find your modules?  The individual spreadsheets are built using the Subject Group data on the MAV, if this is incorrect then you are likely to find your modules on one of the other spreadsheets within your department folder.

If you notice the data isn’t quite right ie. the Period isn’t right or the module is on the wrong spreadsheet please make a note in the Comments column for correction at the end of this process.

Course information has been provided for information only and is not a definitive list.  The information was sourced from 2017/8 MAVs that have students attached.  Variants have not been split-out; there will be one title covering part time/full time, placement/sandwich etc.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation with this process, please note the spreadsheet is available from now until 18th May.

To find out more on any of the above please contact either the central email or directly to your supporting learning technologist.

RCN Conference, 20-21 March 2018

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Partners in Practice: Nurses Working Together Through Change.

Royal College of Nursing Education Forum, National Conference & Exhibition.

20 – 21 March 2018

Civic Centre, Newcastle upon Tyne.

Lisa Smith, Senior Lecturer in Emergency and Urgent Care and Sarah Ruston, Senior Learning Technologist, Academic Quality and Standards.

Using Blogs for structured learning activities in Undergraduate and Postgraduate nursing education.

Lisa had the brilliant (but scary) idea of presenting our work on blogs, at this national conference a few months ago, so we duly submitted our proposal at the allotted time. We were pleased to hear that we had been accepted early in the New Year.  We would be supporting each other and presenting as a duo, and it would be a nice trip where we would find out what others are doing in the nursing sector. Unfortunately, on the day (well several before it) Lisa succumbed to the flu and could not stand, let alone travel for 3 hours and present at a conference. Therefore, there was nothing for it but for Sarah to present the paper on her own.

The keynote speech was very interesting, especially when the Regional Director of the RCN, Glenn Turp, gave a recent overview of the RCN and mentioned the University of Cumbria in a very positive light stating ‘we love the University of Cumbria’ as I think many of our students go on to be members of the RCN.


So, onto my presentation, thankfully straight after the opening keynote. There I am with no nursing qualifications (so not a lot in common with the other 270 delegates) presenting to a room of 40+ people as a first-time presenter at a conference, with a very shaky internet connection (my presentation relied totally on the internet!).

I talked about the work Lisa has done to move away from the somewhat chaotic discussion boards within Blackboard, and onto using the Blackboard blog feature. Blogs have really benefited her management of the large cohorts she is dealing with, especially as it is totally online delivery. Once I got started, I really enjoyed presenting the session and had lots of interesting questions and debate afterwards so the presentation had certainly garnered quite a bit of  interest.

Next time Lisa suggests a joint conference presentation, I might think twice………!

New Blackboard Developments for 2018/9 – March Update

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The project streams documented in our iLead Blackboard Development post are progressing well and to plan.  The following information is still very much in draft form, but should give a flavour of how it might look.  Please note that the images below are mock-up screenshots and are subject to change.

The process for creating, claiming and getting started with your Blackboard sites will change for 2018/9 academic year. The introduction of enhanced automation will create a much faster process, with you in control.

For a new Blackboard site to be created the lead tutor needs to be added to the associated module (MAV) on SITS. A data collection exercise, managed by Data Management, will take place between 16th April and 18th May when you will be asked if a Blackboard site is required for a MAV, and to identify the Module Lead for each module delivery.  This data will be imported into SITS and, via an automated process on a yet to be specified date, a Blackboard site is created and will appear in a “Pending” section of the identified individual’s Blackboard courses list.  We are also working on a solution to manage future changes to this data.


Once your site is on Blackboard, you will be able to run a set-up programme that will walk you through the initial steps of template application and copying existing content from a previous iteration of the module.


We look forward to working with you and your team to create a Blackboard template for your programme, which will help ensure consistency between modules, and adherence to the Blackboard Protocols.  Please contact AQD to find out more.

Action Research using problem-based learning to increase participation in discussion forums on Blackboard

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Here is the latest PIP presentation held on Tuesday 13th March 2018.

The session generated discussion on how staff could make discussions boards more appealing to use in the future. Title :Action Research using problem-based learning to increase participation in discussion forums on Blackboard. Led by Tania Hopley HPSS.

The PowerPoint presentation can be viewed by clicking on the image above, or here.

Nicky Meer, PFHEA reflects on Barriers to Fellowship

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Nicky Meer, looks back on her recent PFHEA accreditation.

Although the HEA does not define who ‘ought’ to be a fellow, many have found that colleagues outside of a narrow norm can face barriers to accreditation. Some face barriers through their own self-belief: ‘I am just a technician/learning advisor/library staff… so I wouldn’t be able to get it’.  And others may face barriers due to subconscious or unintended assumptions made by those who create schemes or resources that help people compile their submissions. This could result in specific language patterns used or narrow examples given, potentially making people outside of this feel it’s not for them.

To read the full article on the HEA Blog, click here

Turnitin Academic Integrity Summit: 19th October 2017

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The conference took place at the Crowne Plaza in Newcastle. The early start was soon forgotten when greeted with bacon and sausage sandwiches on arrival, a very promising start!

The day loosely followed, what were described as the ‘Seven Major Themes from the HE Sector’ with some topics more of a focus than others:


Turnitin reported they were making solid progress in the UK after a £5.2m investment in Turnitin UK over the past two years with a 66% staff increase and infrastructure/application monitoring investment resulting in 12 hours less degraded service and an improvement in their First Response time from 5-6 days to 30 minutes.

Data Access

Turnitin and JISC are in Stage 1 of a partnership around data integration and Learning Analytics. Working on a data exhaust (data generated as a by-product of online actions and choices ie. cookies, log and temporary internet files).

Marking and Moderation

Unfortunately this topic was covered in a session I was unable to attend….
Assessment Workflows and Integration
Linked to ‘Data Access’ above; Learning Analytics likely to drive workflow definitions and refinements, in other words in the future institutions will be able to unlock Turnitin data to acquire information.

Customer Relations

It was identified that there was a need for better communications from Turnitin, particularly on new features and service outages (twitter isn’t the ideal comms tool for such important information). Communications on new feature changes will be farther in advance.

Turnitin now employ a team of writers who are currently updating the 4000 User Guides and creating video’s to make their offering much more current and engaging. Coming soon will be a new and improved platform and tools to enable institutions to make more use of the resources.

Ghost Writing or essay mills, contract cheating, authorship verification…


The conference was heavily focused on Contract Cheating alternatively named Ghostwriting; there is currently some debate on favoured terminology.
Turnitin has completed the first phase of research to address the global problem of contract cheating; the act of hiring someone to complete an assignment for you, as these assignments are guaranteed to be original work the current plagiarism detections tools are ineffective.

Contract Cheating was first highlighted by an Australian scandal in late 2014 where, it was reported, that up to 1000 students from 16 universities were enlisting the MyMaster website to write assignments and sit online tests.

The cheating sites have evolved to be ‘big business’ so much so that currently 1000+ sites are reported to be active and prices and turnaround times have been driven down eg. Currently a 1500-word assignment can be bought for £154.



Simon Bullock from the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), presented the brand new QAA guidance ‘Contracting to Cheat in Higher Education: How to address Contract Cheating, the Use of Third-Party Services and Essay Mills’ which is an interesting read and informs how to address contract cheating in HE.






There was also an interesting presentation by Professor Phil Newton is available on YouTube

The UoC ‘Assessment Briefs’ written by Dr Amanda Chapman provide some valuable tips on how to subvert contract cheating.

Future Requirements

Turnitin acknowledged future requirements in formative usage of the product.  Afternoon sessions on similarity report enhancement as well as on source code similarity

Design and development is underway on a solution to support multiple marking (currently in Beta stage) for moderation, second marking and double blind marking.  Features will include:

  • Markers will be able to leave their own layer of marks on a student’s submission.
  • Bubble comments and QuickMarks will include the marker’s initials, to allow markers a way to identify who left which mark.
  • Visibility of each marker’s feedback on the student submission may be layered on or off.
  • The overall grade field and feedback side panels are currently shared amongst markers.

The AHE conference

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Assessment in Higher Education Conference

The AHE conference

The AHE conference has grown from a half-day University of Cumbria event at the Carlisle campus to an International sector-leading two-day programme held at various locations around the UK. 2017 saw the 6th conference which was held in Manchester. The aim of the conference is to showcase research-informed practice in the areas of assessment and feedback. Each conference has attracted increasing numbers of delegates from over 25 countries. The atmosphere is one of friendliness and sharing practice. It’s an inspiring mix of people, countries and institutions and there is always something new to learn. Please make a note of June 2019 for the next one. In the meantime we have….

The one-day conference

On the ‘off’ year a one-day conference is held. Next year, 28th June 2018, the theme is Transforming Feedback: Research and Development. The keynote for this one-day event is David Carless who will be discussing Feedback for the longer term: Developing student feedback literacy.

Feedback continues to be a challenge for institutions so this is an area ripe for research and evaluation of practice. For more details, please go the website:

The call for contributions is now out so if you feel you have any relevant research or case studies, please send in an abstract. The deadline for submissions is Monday 15th January 2018.

For the latest information and updates on how you can contribute please follow us on twitter.