Case Studies

CASE STUDIES SERIES: Edina Kulenovic, Senior Lecturer, Education

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The Education faculty had been using large Blackboard programme sites which presented a number of issues for students, and staff.

On a large programme site with multiple cohorts enrolled, any announcement sent out would be received by all students and therefore irrelevant to many and when marking students work, the numerous Turnitin submissions would make it hard for staff and externals to find and review.

By using a module site for teaching, communication is much more targeted, reading lists can be deployed and the management by staff is much more efficient. The module can also be tailored by the individual tutors in terms of themes, banners layout etc.

Edina Kulenovic from our London campus recently highlighted some of the positives the staff have found with their move to module sites.


We have found that using Blackboard Module sites is easier and more time efficient than the old, large Programme site. One of the big advantages is that both the lecturers and students are automatically enrolled into all new sites.

In addition, accessing the individual sites is quicker.

The option of changing the module specific sites by changing the colour schemes or banners and personalising the site is welcome too.

The announcements were often sent to all users, but now they are sent to specific groups of students or a specific site. Module leaders and lecturers now know where to post resources and announcements.

Marking has become easier, as both the lecturers and External Examiners found it difficult to find work to mark in the old site.

The new Blackboard app is most welcome too, for quick access and information.


Lecturers had to get used to having a long list of sites on their Blackboard My Institution page.

A previous Case Study regarding the move from Programme to Module sites, was also published by Emma Moore, BSc (Hons) Nursing Delivery here.

CASE STUDY: Student led learning through conference organisation, Graham Hallet and Shelby Mercer

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Graham Hallet, Senior Lecturer, SEN/D and Inclusion, and Shelby Mercer, second year student, give their reflections on a student led conference undertaken as part of  a 2nd year Inclusion module 

An essential part of being a teacher is to reflect on practice, and to use that reflection as the basis for innovation and creativity in our teaching and learning activities. In the summer of 2010, the opportunity arose to implement a different approach in an Education Studies module in the 2nd year of our 4-year BA (Hons) with QTS. The module is on Inclusion, and this is seen to encompass the needs of all marginalized pupils, rather than only on those with special educational needs. Such a huge subject area seemed to require an approach that differed from our usual teaching pattern, to ensure a continued focus throughout the academic year on Inclusion. Accordingly, a number of changes were made to the usual pattern of seminars and occasional lectures.

Two further beliefs shaped the approach of the module. The first was a conviction that far too much emphasis is placed on summative assignments in the University, and far too little is placed on a continued rehearsal of the skills and attributes needed in producing those assignments. Accordingly, a system akin to the idea of Oxford tutorials was introduced; following a lead lecture, on, for example, gender inclusion, students were expected to prepare and submit a short essay of perhaps 750 words to their tutor. A week or so later, in groups of six plus a tutor, these essays were dissected and discussed in a tutorial lasting an hour. This cycle was repeated 5 or 6 times during the module, ensuring the continued development of writing and research skills.

The second belief was that students respond positively and productively to being given responsibility, even at such an early stage of their academic journey. It was decided to give the students the responsibility of organizing an inclusion conference. A model was provided through the provision of a tutor led conference at the end of Semester 1 but it was made clear that the organization of the student led conference rested entirely with the student body. Time had to be allocated within the structure of the day for the students to present a group paper that formed their summative assignment for the module, but otherwise the programme was entirely within their remit.

student conf 1
Shelby’s last minute preparation

The first Conference took place in June 2011 and has been followed by further events in each subsequent year. Each has been very different, perhaps reflecting the personalities of the students in that year, but each has been completely successful, with invited speakers of national importance in the field, exhibitions of relevant materials, refreshments provided, webcasts organized and T-shirts produced.  Perhaps the best way to show the value of these events is to listen to the student voice; in this case, Shelby Mercer, one of our current second year organisers, gives her views of the conference that was held on the 28th March 2017.


The morning had gone well. My colleagues and I, looking around at one another, felt quietly confident. Our third speaker, half way through her talk, was passionately sharing her experiences with the audience. Eyes were fixed to the front until, suddenly, our speaker’s PowerPoint disappeared and the emergency lighting flickered on. There had been a power cut.

The student-led conference is one of the opportunities that makes our degree unique. I have attended them before and know others that have previously organised them, yet, the degree of autonomy involved was still surprising. Early during the module Graham explained the conference was ours; this meant we were responsible for everything from fundraising to flyers, speakers to spoons. The extent we were involved personally was also up to us; everyone wanted to participate in the planning, driven by the strong motivation of the experience rather than a grade.

I cannot stress strongly enough the importance of the lessons learnt from creating and implementing a conference, with 20 peers, at this stage in our learning journey. Here are some:

A group of people can succeed in their goals without a leader. Early on we split into small self-organising teams, each with our own aims such as publicity and fundraising. I am not going to say that it all happened smoothly; some were more active in the planning than others and communication was sometimes lacking. However, this approach allowed us to make decisions by consensus, agreeing together therefore meant everyone was committed to turning our decisions into reality.

student conf 2
Group presentation to the final speaker, who had lectured through the power cut.

Some people will simply ignore your emails. Both the teams responsible for speakers and exhibitors had to quickly learn to deal with rejection or simply being ignored. However, this feeling was overshadowed by the fear that we wouldn’t have enough speakers; a needless worry as we secured four fantastic guest speakers.

Not everything will run smoothly. There is likely to be a moment, or two, or many, of stress. For us this ranged from technical difficulties, to losing an exhibitor in the carpark, and finally the power cut. Conferences are intrinsically social gatherings. It might be a cliché to say so, but, as I watched our final speaker do an impression of a Scouse lion under emergency lighting, I realised we should, after all our hard work, be enjoying ourselves. As Graham said, it’s our day.

These are just some of lessons I have learnt from planning a conference, I’m sure for my peers they may be different. However, the importance, I believe, is that we were given the opportunity to learn them – in our own way.

CASE STUDIES SERIES: Emma Moore, BSc (Hons) Nursing Delivery

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What was the problem/challenge you were trying to address?

The Pre-Registration Undergraduate Nursing Programme used one large Blackboard site per cohort.

With multiple instructors across multiple locations, all modules (28) were within this one site. Announcements were often sent to all users when they should have been targeted to a specific group of students or a specific site.

For Instructors undertaking marking, the numerous Turnitin portals made it difficult to find work to mark, and this also applied to External Examiners reviewing work online. For students, there were a number of Turnitin portals for modules and this sometimes led them to submit to all portals they could see (just in case….) due to confusion.

What did you do/implement?

We adopted SITS-linked module sites initially for all first years starting in September 2015 (including the Working Together modules). The rationale for starting with the first years was so that this was accepted as the way they would see their modules, and not seen as a change half way through their teaching. It would become the new ‘norm’. The other programmes would continue on the old-style sites until completion.

In addition, we created a whole cohort Programme site for generic programme-level information that applied to all pathways. Information included External Examiner reports, student forum reports, job opportunities, programme overview (which included placement information, timetables and holidays) and PSRB specific information. This is a non-teaching site.

By using the module approach for teaching, communication was much more targeted and students were clear about where to look for module related information. We were also able to link to electronic reading lists.

What advice would you give to others looking to implement something similar? (positives, negatives, lessons learned

On the whole it has been a positive experience. Staff on each module know where they are posting information/resources. Marking is easier to access and the new External Examiners’ reviews have been easier to find. The module teams have reported that they enjoyed the freedom to develop their module specific sites based on the template applied, and some changed the look-and-feel of the site by changing the banner/colour schemes, etc.

Negatives: Staff needed to get used to having a long list of sites on their Blackboard My Institution page. We had to be careful about the naming of each site so that the cohort was clearly identified, as staff would be teaching the same module for both the September intake as well as the March intake.

Lessons learned: Use of groups when large numbers of students were involved was very helpful. Groups can be created which the students don’t see, but can be used for administration, for example, groups for each pathway or site of delivery. This then enables more targeted site or pathway specific information to be delivered. We could also use these groups for marking when multiple teams are working on the same module. We also discovered that a single submission portal for assignments means it is clearer for the students to submit to. Previously, we had made portals for each site and pathway and for extensions and students had submitted to more than portal when unsure which one to submit to. We were also using anonymous marking, so these errors were not immediately apparent.

Have you adapted/changed anything subsequently?

Since then, the subsequent intakes are all on SITS-module sites and staff are now used to this way of working.

What is the evidence on the impact of students and their learning?

The changes we made were not to the way that we delivered our teaching, but more to the administration and organisation of our delivery. Students just see this as the way we work, so it is difficult to measure impact. However, we are certain that students are now clear where to look for information and also, where to submit their assignments to.

What do you plan to do next?

We review the template each year to ensure that it reflects current information and is user friendly for both students and staff. Staff are being encouraged to implement further use of educational technology within their sites, such as podcasts, narrated PowerPoints and we hope to develop the use of PebblePad further within the programme.

Here is an example of one of our OLD Blackboard sites, with 27 separate Menu items:

As we used one Blackboard site for 3 years of study, the Turnitin submission points became very busy. At the end of the three years, this site had 95 separate submission points.


This is how things look now:

Programme site

All teaching delivered via separate Module sites following the same stucture:



Passing the Baton – Relay Away!

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01-RelayIconDesktop Video Recording – enhancing student & staff experiences in the online environment
(David Hepworth.  Senior Lecturer, Lifelong and Interprofessional Learning)

This article aims to demonstrate what a versatile tool Relay
is and to encourage you to use it if you haven’t already done so. It concludes with a short Relay video demonstrating how easy it is to set up and use.

It does this giving examples of:

  • Video “guided tour” of Blackboard site
  • An assignment tutorial video
  • Enhancing teaching materials
  • Enhancing consistency of marking / feedback
  • Various other means of supporting colleagues
  • Feedback from students / colleagues highlighting its value

Initial challenges / opportunities

It is recommended that Blackboard sites should include a “video tour” which guides students regarding the content of the site.

03-BbNavPicMost of the modules that I run are predominantly or exclusively delivered online and I started using Camtasia Relay in an attempt to give students studying at distance a clear indication of the layout of the Blackboard site and how to engage with it.

The video takes a few minutes to make and by  loading it to Pebblepad a web link / URL can easily be created (which saves uploading the large file format). As well as embedding this link in Blackboard (image left) students can be emailed it prior to commencing the module.

With over a hundred students studying the module at distance I would anticipate no more than a couple needing to contact me with questions regarding layout / accessing materials.

Here’s a typical guided tour:     Video Guided Tour (opens in a new window)

Logical Developments

04-AssVidTutorialA logical development of this was to produce video tutorials relating to assignments, embedded in an “Assignment Supporting Materials” folder along with a couple of assignment exemplars.

These give a detailed overview of the assignment and are built into one of the early module activities. They evaluate particularly well with students (and External Examiners) and result in very few general questions regarding assignment layout and content.

05-CommentThe EBP module (Level 6 Evidence Based Practice) runs independently as both classroom and purely online delivery. The classroom students receive a detailed face to face discussion in relation to the assignment yet levels of attainment between the two cohorts (composed of very similar students) have been equivalent for several years, despite the online cohort growing from ten to over a hundred students per semester.

The assignment tutorial videos take less than half an hour to produce / embed. They serve as an invaluable resource for all students, evaluating well and resulting in significant time savings from a tutor perspective.

Here’s a typical example:     Assignment Video Tutorial Example (opens in a new window)

Potential for enhancing teaching materials

06-CommentIt is apparent that a good number of students struggle to develop good search
skills using online databases such as One Search – even those at Level 7 (see feedback below).

I therefore produced a structured “search package” which developed into a
teaching resource that can be easily adapted and deployed across a range of
modules, forming the basis of a full weekly or fortnightly online activity.

It has proved a very popular resource with students and gives them a high
degree of confidence in their search skills.

  • Here’s the basic search skills tutorial:     Basic Search Skills Tutorial Video (opens in a new window)
  • Followed by a document in which this is woven into a set of activities (including locating a decent article on avoiding plagiarism):     Search Skills Activities (opens in a new window)

From the above it is easy to add an activity whereby students seek out a specific article / piece of research that you have in mind, on which an online activity can be built.

07-CommentI use variations of this format in a number of modules  – for students starting their studies at Levels 5/6, as well as on a number of Masters Level modules. Recent feedback from a Level 7 student highlighted its value:

Enhancing other aspects of teaching and learning

Achieving consistency of marking and feedback has been a challenge as student numbers have increased significantly in the last 2 years and the marking team has expanded accordingly. In order to enhance consistency I have produced a range of materials to support staff.

08-StaffSuppThe objective is to go through an assignment, discussing general aspects such as providing feedback in line with the University’s Good Principles for Providing Feedback, along with subject specific aspects.

I embed these in a Content Area (not available to students)
which staff can access.

These materials have demonstrated their worth significantly. Various members of staff who are new to working in Higher Education have undertaken marking on the module and have been commended by the External Examiner in relation to the consistency of marking and quality of feedback (including using the audio facility).

I have also produced a number of video guides such as:

Guide to producing audio feedback – using the Audio Facility in Turnitin / GradeMark (opens in a new window).

I have also mentored a number of new members of staff in setting up Blackboard and using Turnitin. A useful feature of Relay is that it can record these sessions and I can send the colleague the link to them for future reference.

Here’s a new member of staff reflecting on the value of this approach (using audio feedback for the first time as a means of doing so).  (opens in a new window)

Lessons Learned / observations

Make sure that any resources that you produce remain confidential. The Staff Support Materials above evaluate well but I need to remake part of them as one of the videos identifies the name of a student as I discuss part of an assignment. Care / planning ahead is essential in this regard.

The resources above evaluate well with students, staff and external stakeholders. They demonstrate how the clarity of Blackboard sites can be enhanced, increasing the ability of students to navigate independently. They also demonstrate opportunities for enhancing teaching / learning – with students and colleagues.

Fancy Learning to Use Camtasia Relay ?

A number of staff have expressed an interest in using Relay.

Here’s a short video demonstrating how very easy it is to set up and use.  (opens in a new window).  The audio is slightly dodgy in the middle – first time for everything! 

Contact Details / Support

Please contact me if you have any suggestions / feedback or if you think that I can be of assistance in any way.

Telephone: 01524 384199

Skype for Business Webinars with Turnitin and PebblePad

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In March 2017, the Learning technology Team in AQD, needed to facilitate two webinars for  Turnitin and Pebblepad as they were showcasing the system changes due to be rolled out over the summer of 2017.

As the external companies were only visiting the Lancaster campus, we wanted to include staff from other campuses/locations as the enhancements were fairly significant and as a picture paints a thousand words, we could easily share the presentations via the “Present Desktop” option over the network during the meeting.

With Skype for Business being readily available to all staff, and having proved itself to be reliable in terms of audio quality and in its simplicity, it was an easy decision to make when considering a webinar software solution.

The benefits of Skype for Business when arranging an online meeting are

  • Ability to create from Microsoft Outlook
  • Easy to invite attendees
  • Meeting reminders are generated.
  • Works across multiple mobile devices
  • Reduces the need to travel
  • Attendees do not need the Skype for Business client installing (They may however, need to install a plugin for the browser)
Outlook invitation – Skype for Business











During the meetings we used Revo X tag microphones which are available from IT Services.

Xtag microphone

They’re very easy to set up and the audio quality is great, picking up the presenter without any of the surrounding audible distractions. However, you can just as easily present from your workplace with the use of a headset and built in microphone. If you don’t have one, you can request one from IT Services.

Both of the events were well attended with around 40 members of staff attending in the rooms and around 20 online of which none reported any issues with the audio or when the presenters shared their desktops to show the enhancements being rolled out over the summer.

Our only lesson learnt was in the way we hoped to improve the experience during the Q&A’s, as we wanted to use more than 1 microphone during the Q&A’s. Unfortunately Skype for Business only allows 1 microphone per presenter, so we had to have another laptop in the room, with another presenter, which on the day, failed due to the Wireless Network going off, rendering the additional laptop useless during the set up. As such, we were restricted to time constraints and couldn’t fully test before the meeting.  So, always plan, check, check and check.

That aside, both meetings went very well, Skype for Business remained stable, the audio quality was great, and sharing the desktop with the audience over the network was effortless, so from a teaching and learning perspective, staff are be able to create an online meeting with students regardless of where they are or what device/PC they’re using and it should just work.

AQD have previously tested a Skype for Business meeting with a member of the South West Ambulance Trust. The participant was based in Devon and was able to connect with an iOS device on a wireless network, yet still produced very clear video and audio.









CASE STUDY SERIES: Alison Hampson Head of Department, Health,Psychology and Social Studies

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Digital Health Modules: A Unique Approach to Module Development

Following the successful first delivery, Andrea Charters (AQD) interviewed Alison Hampson about her experience of designing and delivering the innovative Digital Health modules.

The Digital Health modules were a brand new delivery intended to give an in-depth understanding of how technology can be used to support health and/or social care outcomes. The modules were designed to support the fast developing area of Digital Health within the NHS, and are aimed at individuals interested in developing technology within the health and social care arena.

Alison felt that, the “digital nature of the modules required the wider use of available technologies as, in my view, if you are going to encourage people to use digital health what better way to get them thinking in that direction than experiencing and taking part in digital learning”.

However, the subject was so large that Alison didn’t feel that any one person had all the required skills, and thus, she believed she would get much better results from an interdisciplinary team approach using the expertise of different people. Alison was particularly keen to include the services of an AQD Learning Technologist as I she wanted to deliver a module which was both cutting edge and demonstrated our expertise to enhance the student experience.

“The team approach proved to be very successful and we delivered the modules using various formats” such as:

  • Videos uploaded to a discussion board; each student created a short film sharing their reasons for joining the module and future plans for development which were uploaded to a discussion board for comment by tutors and peers
  • External presenters recorded via Skype for Business uploaded to Medial and streamed via Blackboardskype
  • Instructor-only discussion board for team communication
  • The application of a template design, ensuring consistency across all modulestemplate
  • Staff discussion board; capturing comments from students and reflections on deliveries i.e. lessons learnt
  • Lectures were recorded and uploaded to Blackboard

This, in turn, developed individual team members’ confidence and experience of using different approaches and delivery methods.

Q. It was rewarding to see how ideas were developed and translated into actions, and new approaches embraced, what was the enabling factor?

The support we received; talking theoretically about the types of technology available is really interesting but getting it into operation is where you (AQD) have really helped us. The team may have had an idea but you have been able to give us the mechanism to translate ideas into action and advise us how to do it. For example, students uploading the videos they had taken on their phone to the Blackboard site via a discussion board, because you have the expertise on exactly how that was done you wrote the guidance and uploaded it to Blackboard. This made it much easier and we can now do that in future modules, the information you created can be reused.

Q. I have noticed that some members of the team are expanding the experience with digital health into their own modules.

I took on this module in this context because of the opportunities to learn from each other and for the benefits it would bring to everyone, myself included. We had people in the team that were used to working with you and your service so were motivated to take that further, we had people in the team who haven’t done as much face to face teaching and people who have got less experience of digital health.

It was also an opportunity to update my own knowledge of running a module which is good for me as a Head of Department in terms of future developments, I can now take forward ideas and bring digital technology to the forefront of my mind when considering future opportunities.

Q. Is this a format that can be used across all programmes, not just when the topic is around digital health

Definitely, I have discussed this with one of the team and we consider this to be an almost best practice approach as it’s the whole team working together, developing ideas, applying various delivery methods and evaluating outcomes.

It’s a model that I’m sure we would all love to roll out across all the modules due to the benefits, however consideration should be given to:

  • Appropriate level of team communication/time constraints
  • Workload balancing model – will the hours be accurately reflected?
  • Team agreed working methods

I do believe this would be an effective approach for modules running for the first time, for example following validation.

Student feedback on the modules has been very positive, and engaging with the technology has built their confidence. They have commented very, very positively on the different things we’ve used such as Skype for Business for the presentations. Skype For Business has probably allowed us to have a better range of presentations as we wouldn’t have been able to get the experts into the classroom. It’s thrown up the practicalities of using Skype; the pros and the cons as to what works as well also how you can get round problems.

The team included Alison Marshall, Director- Cumbrian Centre for Health Technologies, Health and Science, Susie Wilson, Senior Lecturer in Occupational Therapy, School of Rehabilitation & Public Health, Elaine Bidmead, Research Fellow, Cumbrian Centre for Health Technologies, Andrew Sullivan, Development Manager (CaCHeT), CaCHeT and Andrea Charters, Senior Learning Technologist, AQD.

CASE STUDY SERIES: Lisa Smith, Senior Lecturer in Emergency and Urgent Care

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health-practice-development-2Using Blackboard Blogs for structured learning activities

Lisa Smith recently took over the leadership of several modules on the Practice Development Framework. Some of the modules have some face to face elements but others are delivered totally online.

Structured materials and resources are provided via Blackboard with the main learning and interaction takes place through weekly ‘thread work’.

These are structured topics of research which the students need to post their findings on.

There is also the expectation that they will also read and respond to work posted by their peers and in this way they learn from each other.

What was the challenge you were trying to address?

As a distance learning module with a large number of students (60+) I was looking at a way to manage the Discussion Boards better. I give individual feedback to threads, and found it hard to keep track of the Discussion Board postings I had already marked.

I also wanted the students from all levels of study (5, 6 and 7) to work together as  I felt they would all benefit from seeing all the work submitted by their peers. The approach of putting them into smaller groups depending on their level, defeated this objective.

What did you do/implement?

I sought assistance from Sarah Ruston in AQD who suggested using Blackboard Blogs rather than a Discussion Board. The rationale for this suggestion is that:

  •  you can instantly see exactly what each student has posted
  • unread posts are ‘flagged’ so you quickly know which you have already read
  • whether anyone has commented on each blog posting

Essentially, students can post their thread work and easily choose another student’s work to read without having to scroll through large numbers of posts as was the practice on a discussion board.

What advice would you give to others looking to implement something similar?

Seek advice from the learning technologists!

The experience was excellent and well received by students, a number of points came to mind when considering this question:

Positive points:

  • With a large number of students it is easier to see who has submitted and who hasn’t Rather than having to scroll down through large numbers of threads you can just click on each student’s blog and read their work and the comments of other students.
  • The students themselves are still able to easily engage.
  • When marking thread work you can see who you have read and those who have submitted since the last time you accessed the blog.

Negative point

There was very little to be negative about but if I had to identify something, it would be the absence of an edit feature after feedback has been posted.  If you have written something and want to correct it after submitting it, you cannot simply go back and edit it.  You have to copy your original comment, delete it and then paste it into a new comment with the edits. This is only a very minor negative though.

Words of warning

If you are going to implement Blogs, make sure you do it from the outset. I  decided to introduce this approach after students had already engaged via a Discussion Board.

I quickly realised I would struggle with this particular module as I had so many students on it. So implemented the Blog for week 2 of the thread work. Some students got a little confused with the new process, however we gave them a lot of guidance on how to submit, but some still got a little lost.

Make sure that the ‘Group Blog’ feature is turned off (if you are using Groups in your Blackboard site) as this will give students two places to submit to and cause great confusion – learn from my mistake!

Have you adapted/changed anything subsequently?

All my modules now use Blogs for threadwork submissions.

What is the evidence on the impact of students and their learning?
At first the students need a little help to navigate the blogs but this settles down quickly.  Both the major’s and minor’s modules showed a high level of interaction between the students.  A recent student evaluation mentioned that they enjoyed using the blogs.

What do you plan to do next?

Use blogs for all thread work in the future.


How the blog looks to users:


An example blog posting and related comment:



CASE STUDY SERIES: Peter Tankard, Senior Lecturer, Secondary Education and School Direct UPL

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“The best way to eat a bunch of grapes”  Supporting School Direct students at a distance using PebblePad

The Core Science PGCE began to use PebblePad several years ago to track trainees’ progress whilst they were on placement. This was a small-scale pilot to try to improve communications whilst trainees were on placement.

Prior to adopting the system, when trainees went on placement their record keeping and tracking was historically not very satisfactory. In Peter’s words: “everything felt really asynchronous – trainees went on placement and came back and that was it – there was no ongoing dialogue”. Very few trainees kept in touch whilst in school so tutors didn’t really know how the trainee was progressing until they visited them on site. Trainees were also expected keep a weekly reflective log to regularly reflect on their teaching delivery and record mentor meetings. In many cases, this did not happen. “There was no real sense of trainees keeping on top of things and they would write things retrospectively once they returned from placement, which was far from ideal as the reflections were much less meaningful”. The Science team found the use of PebblePad a bit of a breakthrough as, even though not in ‘real time’, there was much more of a sense of this ongoing dialogue regarding a trainee’s progress. Such was the success of this small pilot, in 2013/14, the whole core secondary PGCE team adopted PebblePad for use in this way.

Moreover, the trainees’ use of PebblePad was extended to incorporate an ongoing portfolio of evidence and reflections with regard to their workplace learning across both phases of their ‘in school’ training. This work was shared to a secure area which allowed university personal tutors access to monitor trainees’ progress and gave tutors the ability to offer feedback and suggestions in a timely manner. Staff could also offer prompts if trainees seemed to be falling behind. Most trainees engaged with this process extremely well and saw the benefits of using a system like PebblePad, but sadly there were a few that didn’t. Anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that those trainees that did engage made the most rapid progress. Of course this could be due to a multitude of other, unrelated factors and dispositions. In a similar way, some tutors engaged well and really saw the benefits of working in this way

With the advent of School Direct from 2014 onwards, where trainees are based in schools and ‘learning on the job’, the university needed a robust way to track trainees’ progress whilst they were largely in schools. It was decided to use PebblePad as the system was already established across the programme and most staff had a good working knowledge so one barrier had already been addressed.

As an aside, and around the same time, the PebblePad system was upgraded and the new version introduced many enhanced reporting features and functions behind the scenes, which most of the teaching team did not know about until they were demonstrated. Peter calls this serendipity:“We started using PebblePad in one way then, when staff saw its worth, it was then re-designed to get the best out of the trainees and provide a rich vein of data for the programme

On the School Direct programme, at the outset, trainees begin by observing taught lessons, then they move on to delivering lessons themselves. They are constantly observed by mentors and have targets applied regularly. All of these ‘occurrences’ are meaningful learning moments that trainees needed to capture and reflect upon straight away. If trainees did not complete the reflections soon after the occurrence (as was largely the case in the pre-PebblePad days), they would almost render the experience worthless as new learning would be occurring all the time. Reflection is arguably a fundamental skill for a professional. Peter said “our aim was, that by getting trainees to complete the weekly reflections in the workbook, we would produce better teachers at the end. Having dialogue throughout (between trainee and University Partnership Lecturer) made the learning more meaningful, targeted and progressive”.

What did you do/implement?
A bespoke workbook was created for the School Direct trainees and, using adaptive release, pages were released at certain points during the year. Staff were careful not to ‘over-face’ the trainees with too many pages at the outset so just the pages needed for the first term were released at the beginning. Peter refers to this as the ‘thin end of the wedge’ – make the workbook simple and easy to use and then release more complex material in stages. It was important the everyone became comfortable with the software before ‘raising the bar’ in terms of the tasks.

“You cannot eat a cluster of grapes at once, but it is very easy if you eat them one by one” (Roumain)  
Trainees needed to develop their skills very rapidly, therefore short support videos were provided outlining what trainees needed to know. This support resource was created in PebblePad and linked to the first page of the workbook. It showed trainees how they could fill in their weekly reflections and how to document targets set by their mentors. Ultimately, the aim of the workbook was to develop trainees’ reflective skills throughout the course.

Have you adapted/changed anything subsequently?
We refine the workbook each year and sometimes ‘in year’ which is the absolute strength of using workbooks. Also, the reporting function is extremely powerful and the ability to collect data is another of PebblePad’s selling points. The university can download this vast amount of this accrued data to spreadsheets and disseminate it simply to where it’s needed. This was the feature that the more reticent staff were sold on“.

“Pebble Pocket is awesome!”
The mobile app is very versatile for School Direct trainees, and is used, for example, to record transcripts of mentor meetings. When trainees meet with their mentor, they have a conversation and agree targets. A paper-based form is completed which they both sign. The trainee is able to take a photograph of this form with their mobile, and send it directly to their PebblePad asset store using a Wifi connection. This form can then form part of their QTS (Qualified Teacher Status) evidence and added to their workbook.

School based mentors can see a real benefit with this process. In the past, they would’ve held the meeting with their trainee and the trainee was then expected to go away and write up notes of the meeting ‘after the fact’. Mentors were never fully sure that all information was being recorded in trainees’ portfolios, especially if reprimands or hard targets were issued. Now, the mentor knows that the meeting is being documented in a much more realistic way.

What is the evidence on the impact of trainees and their learning?
PebblePad is not currently used for ‘formal’ learning as such, but is more of a developmental tool to enhance reflection skills which, in turn, arguably enhances their learning. Peter would like to develop this area in the future as he feels there is a lot of potential to use PebblePad in a more formal way.

Impact on Staff……
In addition to the School Direct workspaces, Peter has also created a Quality Assurance workspace just for academic staff to use. Each time they visit a school, the university tutor will fill in an electronic form and send it to the workspace for that school. This is a really simple and efficient way to keep all information on a school in one place and is especially useful for consistency if there are staff changes either in school or at the university. It will be especially useful outlining where a school possibly needs to improve and when Ofsted carry out their inspections.

What do you plan to do next?
I don’t know, but as soon as someone presents a problem, my immediate thought is ‘how can we do this in PebblePad”

Student submissions:


Staff can see when a student last accessed their workbook and also how complete it is (%age figure).

An example of a Secondary PGCE workbook with feedback.

NB Feedback can be added as free-text or an electronic feedback form can be designed and used: 


An example of the electronic feedback form staff filled in when marking students’ work:


CASE STUDY SERIES: Volker Deecke, Associate Professor, Centre for Wildlife Conservation

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Use of a common course-specific Blackboard template (all Conservation modules)

Traditionally each module leader on the Conservation provision had set up his/her own module Blackboard site. This had the effect that equivalent content was in different locations on different sites and caused considerable confusion for the students. The problem was exacerbated by the fact the many teaching staff did not have access to Blackboard sites other than the ones they were teaching on which provided limited opportunity for exchange of best practice. Sarah Ruston (AQD) helped design and share a common template for all Forestry and Conservation Blackboard sites to standardise the look and the navigation.


The template provided an effective way to standardise the layout of the module Blackboard sites while at the same time enabling module tutors to  customise their sites (e.g., by including custom banners and colour schemes). The latter was important so as to avoid students (and staff) getting confused as to which Blackboard site they were accessing at any given point. Student feedback about the standardisation was very positive and the new layouts were welcomed at the staff-student forums. The exercise also had the benefit that now course leaders and external examiners were now automatically enrolled on the relevant module Blackboard sites.


CASE STUDY SERIES: Kath Norris, Principal Lecturer in Education

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ioe-logoTransition to Employment Documentation for Primary Teacher Trainees on PebblePad


What was the problem/challenge you were trying to address?

At the end of their QTS (Qualified Teacher Status) courses all Initial Teacher Education (ITE) trainees must record their areas of strength and areas they need to develop in their first year of employment using a document called the CEDP (Career Entry and Development Profile). Their targets must be linked to the Teachers’ Standards and be made available to the school at which they gain employment. The secondary trainees already use PebblePad to track their progress throughout the course ending with the completion of a CEDP. Primary courses however don’t use PebblePad and with several hundred primary trainees on a range of different QTS courses at the University,  the recording and dissemination of their transition documents was very problematic. As part of the new Ofsted inspection framework for ITE trainees, targets are scrutinised by inspectors to assess their effectiveness for the individual trainees in their first teaching job and so it is imperative that these targets are quality assured by the UoC. In the past we have relied on the trainees themselves taking a paper copy of their CEDP to the school on their first visit.

What did you do/implement?

With the help of Sarah Ruston, the IoEs NQT (Newly Qualified Teacher) Coordinator designed an electronic CEDP to be completed via PebblePad. The CEDP records not only these targets,  but also provides a place to record the trainee’s place of employment, alumni contact information and it also includes a link to the Bristol on-line exit survey which all students need to complete. All the programme leaders and personal tutors were given access to their trainees’ completed CEDPs via a PebblePad workspace, allowing them to ensure the quality of their targets before they go out to Head Teachers in the employing schools. This is done during a tutorial after the trainees have completed their CEDP electronically. It proved to be a very useful source of evaluative data as 644 forms were captured in one place.

What advice would you give to others looking to implement something similar? (positives, negatives, lessons learnt)

This was a very straight forward process once the trainees had been enrolled, helped by the very useful simple guidance put together by Sarah for both staff and trainees. One of the issues was that we only wanted to send part of the CEDP to schools and this proved impossible as the form could not be easily split into sections so my advice would be to use a “book” format instead of a “form” format so that information can be extracted as required. Next year we will design the form differently.

Have you adapted/changed anything subsequently?

The new CEDP for 2016/17 will allow for the strengths and targets section to be extracted and emailed to schools.

What is the evidence on the impact on students/your processes?

Students preferred to complete their CEDPs electronically and appreciated that all their “course exit tasks” ie completing the CEDP, the destination information and the exit survey were in one place. Feedback from tutors was also positive as they thought the process was straight forward and valued the immediate access to the CEDPs via the PebblePad workspace, to allow for the timely beginning of the QA process. It has also meant that we have a complete set of documentation captured electronically eliminating the risk of losing forms. The Alumni office has been given access to the destination data and values the ability to transfer employment data into Raisers Edge electronically. This also facilitates our ability to send on-line surveys to employing Head Teachers.

We now have access to a lot of valuable data which PebblePad can assimilate for us. It can group together the answers given by respondents of the forms, which give us really useful information such as who has filled in the form, which programme they are on and have they found a teaching job, if so, where and what key stage will be taught.

Here are some examples of the types of information that can be extracted:

Responses broken down into Programmes


Employment Secured? Yes/No


If employed in school, which Key Stage will you teach?



What do you plan to do next? 

As mentioned above this process will continue for 2016/17 and the relevant information will be sent to schools electronically in the summer of 2017. It is important that the trainees record the URNs of their employing schools to distinguish between schools of the same name so this will be emphasised to trainees and facilitated by a link on the form to the web-site containing all the URNs of the schools in the country.