Author: Andy White

The wizard has arrived!

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As part of the 2018 Blackboard Updates, the new process to guide you through the steps of applying a template and copying selected content to your new Blackboard site is now in place.

All 2018/19 courses will open with the wizard by default. Although it is a quick and straightforward process, we have produced this walkthrough guide and video for further information.

The wizard has been design to help with the initial course set-up. Prior to the introduction of the wizard, for each new site you would have to;

  1. Find the site and add yourself to it via the Staff tab on Blackboard
  2. Go into the new site and delete all existing menu areas
    • Each area takes four clicks to delete
  3. Go into your previous site and follow course copy, ensuring that you select all the correct options

On a basic site, apart from the time element, this would take about 45 clicks to set-up each site! To apply a new programme template at the same time would take even more time and complexity – and clicks.

The wizard will apply a template and copy selected content from a previous course (where available), and all from within the same Blackboard site – with far fewer clicks.

This new process further strengthens and develops the links between Blackboard and SITS.

This is the first iteration of the wizard, and it is hoped to develop it further over time.

 

Coming Soon: A new look on Blackboard

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As we have been reporting, there are a number of changes happening to Blackboard over the summer.

One of these changes is a new, responsive theme. Responsive themes are optimised to work on different devices, scaling-down to accommodate smaller screen sizes. Access to Blackboard via portable devices, such as smartphones, is growing rapidly, and the new theme helps support this growth, whilst providing an improved experience for all users.

Example responsive design – colours likely to change

To accommodate the responsive design, Blackboard no longer supports individual “Course Themes” (some examples below). Any courses that have a Course Theme applied will find that it has been reverted to the system-default design following the responsive theme application. This only applies to course design, course content is not affected.

The Course Theme selector will NOT be available following the application of the responsive theme
Current Course Theme examples. Course Themes will NOT be available following the application of the responsive theme over the summer. All courses with existing Course Themes applied will revert to the default course design.

You will still be able to personalise your course using a banner on the entry page and colour on the menu. However, consider accessibility issues, and make sure there is sufficient contrast between the text and background colours.

Enhancing your module Blackboard site

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AQD ran a recent webinar session “preparing and enhancing your Blackboard site” which considered the use of the Blackboard Protocols when planning your course. The session also included a quick exemplar site walkthrough

Many of the protocol areas are straightforward to apply, and can have a positive impact on the site. AQD have put together a few “quick wins” for checking and applying some of these areas.

AQD have also produced a getting started with Blackboard guide and a module checklist which could also be useful.

AQD can help support teams with their use of learning technology to enable and support learning. Please contact AQD to discuss.

Module-Site Protocol Area “Quick Win”
There is an easily located introduction to the course and/or Blackboard site Add the module aims as an item within the Module Information section of the site. This text can be expanded to include other relevant information regarding the structure and running of the module.
Staff contact information is available in its own area Ensure that up-to-date contact information is available. Include contact details for relevant support services.
Announcements are being used effectively Add announcements to alert/remind students of new topics within the course.
There is a link to the programme site on the menu Add a link to the programme site on your module’s menu – ensuring that the programme site is active and up-to-date.
There is an Assessment menu item, with information and submission points Add assessment criteria and learning outcomes to the assessment area.
Learning Outcomes are being displayed around the site (outside of the module guide) Copy the learning outcomes from the module handbook and paste them as an item in the Module Information area, and also add them to other relevant sections, such as the assessment area.
The module handbook is available Ensure that the current module handbook is within the Module Information area of the site. The document needs to be in a format that students can easily open and access, such as PDF.
There is a working reading-list link Add the relevant reading list link to your site’s menu. Please contact Information Services Library staff if you need help with creating/managing your reading list
An appropriate use of .pdf Check the files that are located on the site; many file types (such as Word and PowerPoint) can easily be converted to PDF which can then be uploaded onto the site.

For the latest guidance for adding library resources to Blackboard, please see the “making sure that you comply with copyright for library resources and reading and resource lists” section of this page

BOS is changing its name

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The Bristol Online Surveys (BOS) service migrated to Jisc in October 2017.

Jisc has recently announced that the service name, and site branding, will shortly start to change from “BOS” to “online surveys”, with all changes being completed by the summer (2018).

See their website for further details.

iLead iLearn Webinar Series – Preparing and enhancing your Blackboard site. 29th January 2018

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The session started with a brief recap of how Blackboard usage has grown at the university, with the system now being classed as “mission critical”.  A move to module-site delivery and a consistent approach resulted in a set of protocols being developed, and these were shown during the webinar, along with other support available, such as a staff-facing knowledgebase.

Access to these resources can be found via the Staff tab on Blackboard, along with the route to accessing your Blackboard module site, which was demonstrated during the webinar.

The option to review and reuse existing content was highlighted, and a tour of an exemplar site showed how a course could be organised; following the protocols and making the most of the tools available.

A quick walkthrough of adding a profile picture to your site, and making a screen-recording introduction to your course then followed.

Finally, there was a quick update on some system changes that are being planned for 2018/19

A additional question asked outside of the recording was about creating a banner on Blackboard.

Click the image below to view the recording (university login required)…

View “preparing and enhancing your Blackboard site” webinar recording (university login required)

 

 

 

New Blackboard Developments for 2018/19

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There are some exciting  changes coming to Blackboard for 2018/19 academic year such as:

  • Course Creation and Automated Template Application
  • System Home Page Redesign and Responsive Theme
  • Summer Upgrade

Course Creation and Automated Template Application

Background

The Blackboard course creation route has remained largely unchanged for a number of years. Although it has worked well, it is fairly inefficient and is not robust enough to support future developments and tighter integration with SITS.

Currently, apart from student enrolments, there is a lack of two-way communication between SITS and Blackboard for our module deliveries.  All modules created in SITS (via a MAV) and completed with the correct data are automatically created in Blackboard however if the course should subsequently be removed from SITS then this is not reflected on Blackboard which has caused issues of incorrect sites being used.

Students no longer associated with the MAV are not automatically removed from the Blackboard site.

To begin working on a site a tutor needs to select a course from within Blackboard (this relies on the module site creation process above), redesign or apply the correct template and, if required, copy any existing materials across from the previous instance of the course manually.

Proposed Development

The new system will:

  • Improve and increase updates in both frequency and capability of enrolments and course creation
  • Simplify the route to consistent Blackboard sites
  • Reduce the risk of incorrect Blackboard site selection
  • Limit the number of sites created to only the ones which are actually required
  • Establish the foundation for an enhanced dynamic link between SITS and Blackboard
  • Create more accurate SITS records

Once in place, Blackboard sites will only be created when the lead tutor is assigned to the MAV within SITS, this is critical as Blackboard sites will not be created without this data.  Once the data has been entered on the MAV in SITS the Module Blackboard sites will be available to a tutor within a few hours.  Requests for “non-module” Blackboard sites will be via a form request.

The identified tutor will automatically be attached to the newly created site and will find it listed under “My Courses”, or within the “Pending” category if the tutor has enabled “Terms”.

On selection of the site you will be taken through the two-step process of attaching a template and optionally, copying selected content from a previous instance.  The basic site is now ready to add/update content and attach other tutors as required.

If you plan to deliver a course where a number of modules are taught together then the system can help you create a combined site by prompting you to identify the modules (MAVs) to be included.

Only students who are on the MAV will appear on the Blackboard site.

The new system will be in place for all 2018/19 courses.

System Home Page Redesign and Responsive Theme

Background

System analysis, sector trends and our experience tells us that students are increasingly accessing learning materials via alternative devices year on year.  Whilst analytical data from Blackboard confirms the traditional desktop is still top of the list for access, a significant proportion of logins are from mobile and tablet devices and has been increasing for a number of years.

With our current system, display response to this wide variety of devices is difficult to predict but we are aware it can sometime cause issues, unpredictable behaviour and, on the whole, results in an inconsistent user experience.

To help mitigate this frustrating user experience, we are developing a new interface using a Responsive Web Design approach.

Responsive Web Design will make the site mobile-friendly and improve the way it looks on devices with both large and small screens as it automatically scales, reorders and prioritises content and elements to match the screen size on which it is viewed.  It also keeps images from being larger than the screen width and prevents users on mobile devices from needing to do extra work to read content.

The Blackboard App is constantly being updated, and the responsive theme will work in conjunction with the App to provide a much more seamless experience when using a mobile device.

As part of this project theme functionality, the Homepage and other “non-course” areas will be reviewed to provide a much more engaging experience.

Summer upgrade

The annual system update will take place during summer. The date has yet to be arranged, but it is likely to be at a similar time to previous years – around the end of July / early August.  Please be aware that Blackboard will be unavailable for up to 24 hours during the upgrade.

Regular and timely upgrades are necessary to ensure we have;

  • Full system support for each academic year
  • Access to the latest features and updates
  • Support for current client software – operating systems, browsers, etc.
  • Up-to-date security and performance settings

We will publish further information regarding dates and any new features of interest as soon as they become available.

Details and descriptions are subject to change, and more information will be circulated as necessary and as it becomes available.

 

 

 

 

 

Summer System Updates

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The system updates highlighted in February are now in place. Early August has been a time for refreshing some of our core learning technology systems.

  • PebblePad has moved to Version 5
  • Blackboard has been updated
  • The Turnitin Document Viewer has changed to Feedback Studio
  • Medial has been updated to Version 5.

The PebblePad update replaces legacy Flash technology with HTML5, which, along with a redesigned interface, makes the system more intuitive and accessible. Find out more ….

PebblePad V5

As well as security enhancements, and ensuring that we maintain full system support for the next academic year, there are some new features with the Blackboard upgrade. Find out more …

Blackboard

Turnitin’s Feedback Studio has all the same features as the previous Document Viewer, however the interface makes better use of space, and is more accessible and responsive. Find out more ….

Turnitin

Like PebblePad, Medial has moved their interface to HTML5. They have also added a useful multispeed player option. Find out more …

Medial V5

Educational Recipes!

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An online Educational Developer’s Cookbook has been published. The resource is a collection of practical ice-breakers, workshop ideas and ways to obtain feedback & evaluation.

“Recipes” have been submitted from across the educational development community, including one from our own Nicky Meer whose recipe is “making a cup of tea”!

The cookbook can be found here; http://teachingcommons.yorku.ca/educational-developers-cookbook/, where you will also find a link for submitting your own recipe.

ELESIG NW “Seek, Gather, Explore”. 15 March

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The ELESIG (Evaluation of Learners’ Experiences of e-learning Special Interest Group) North West group meet at Liverpool John Moores University on 15th March.

ELESIG logo

This was an afternoon event, which began with Dr Amanda Mason & Jim Turner from LJMU feeding back about a project to set-up and run a virtual Journal Club.

Dr Rod Cullen from Manchester Metropolitan University then discussed how they had used data from a student survey to gain some insight into students experience of TEL. A greater level of consistency across the student experience was a key finding – the most vocal reports were often when a student had a good experience on one course and a poor experience on another.

Other themes emerging were communications (clarity around how often & when to respond, for example), VLE content & organisation (timeliness of content, clarity of purpose, organisation, etc.), and an interactive teaching & learning experience (a desire to be involved in learning & teaching, not just passive recipients of information). Most of the issues were around learning design, rather than the technology. One idea was for better discussions with students regarding expectations with technologies, and how they can/should be used in their studies.

Daniel Roberts and Tunde Varga-Atkins from the University of Liverpool discussed a minimum standards VLE baseline. They found that the staff who were aware of the baseline, were generally positive about it, but didn’t want it to be too prescriptive, whilst 95% of students surveyed felt that a baseline was important – again, highlighting the need for consistency (students reported less provision on the VLE than staff thought they were providing).

Ashwini Datt from the University of Auckland then talked about a couple of MOOCs her university had developed and run. She discussed the idea of MOOC blending – where some of the resources for the MOOC were used in “on-campus” courses.

Professor Rhona Sharpe from Oxford Brookes University then discussed “rising to the challenge of education in the digital age”. She talked about the diverse ways that learners respond to technologically rich environments, and how it is difficult to generalise.

She felt that learner voices were important, as the student experience is a strategic priority, however internal systems can be slow to adapt to rapid technology changes.

Currently, the focus is on blended learning, digital literacy, distance learning & MOOCs. The goal is to prepare learners for the digital world; a global, networked society. Users need to be confident users of a range of technologies for personal, academic and professional use.

As with most of the speakers, consistency was again seen as vital. Curriculum redesign was happening with multi-disciplinary teams to help ensure consistency and embedding of digital skills. A mapping exercise using the Jisc NUS Benchmarking Tool was also mentioned.

A very useful session, highlighting again a number of key areas that can help support the student experience and develop vital digital skills.

Jisc Digital Student Project (Jisc, March 17)

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Jisc has recently circulated the following update regarding their Digital Student Project –

“As part of the Jisc Digital student project, we have recently carried out interviews with 12 students from across further education and skills, higher education and with learners who are studying online.

The Digital learner stories are inspirational stories from learners sharing their experiences of how technology has supported their educational journeys.

It is hoped that these learner stories will:

  • inspire and encourage learners to try new things
  • showcase the rich diversity of digital practices available to learners
  • demonstrate the importance of supporting digital learning practices in all their diversity
  • argue for investment in digital access, on the basis that this make a real difference to learning outcomes
  • encourage teaching staff to develop a range of approaches, and to work with students to fully exploit the technologies available for learning
  • offer evidence to decision makers about how technology is supporting learners and enhancing their educational journey

A report compiling all the themes arising from these interviews and building on the work of the Digital student project as a whole will be published shortly.”