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 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
This session looks at ways to streamline and standardise aspects of the assessment/feedback cycle. It takes a programme/level approach to ensure consistency across and between module teams. This is followed by ways to create assessment criteria and introduces rubrics. These will be discussed in more detail in a future webinar.
The session moves on and discusses managing the assessment process for students and then for academic staff. A few suggestions concerning Academic integrity follow, introducing essay mills and bespoke ‘ghost writers’.
The concluding slide provides links to the University regulations and the level and grade descriptors.
Click the image below to view the recording (university login required)
Providing an inclusive, safe and varied learning environment is central to promoting engagement across a diverse student population. Browser-based interactive presentation programmes such as Mentimeter can be used to achieve this in a way that reaches multiple learners simultaneously through their own portable devices and grants them anonymity.
We used this session to present our research on student perceptions of two features of Mentimeter: interactive multiple choice quizzes and the option for students to ask open anonymous questions during class. We found that students across two different levels, subject areas and contexts (anonymous questions and quizzes) recognised the value of Mentimeter in promoting engagement and inclusion. All students were in favour of Mentimeter being used again. Students perceived the quizzes to be fun, to consolidate learning, break up the lecture, and increase focus, while users of the anonymous open questions saw value in the potential for less vocal students to have their voices heard.
Participants in the Pedagogy in Practice session had the opportunity to take part in a quiz and an anonymous question and answer session, both of which were held remotely across campuses in Carlisle, Ambleside and Lancaster. This allowed the participants to interact with the software from a student’s perspective. Full functionality was accessible to all via Skype. Anonymous questions from the floor were used as the starting point for discussion around participation in quizzes by students with learning disabilities, by students of different ages and at different levels of study. We offered practical guidance on using interactive presentation software across various contexts. We concluded that technology-enhanced learning tools such as Mentimeter are effective in promoting student engagement and participation, and suggest that an optimal approach is to use these in combination with verbal question and answer sessions to suit a diverse population of learners.
To view the Microsoft PowerPoint presentation, please click here
Assessment for Social Justice: i-LEAD Discussion article
The continued use of numerical assessment grading relies on the assumption that the judgements made about our students’ work are fair, equitable, objective and just. There is however a very large amount of research data to suggest that this is not the case. Given that assessing students’ work is not scientifically measurable, HE assessment processes have been moving towards criteria-based grading in an attempt to mitigate the subjective practices of assessment (Sadler 2005).
In practice this has resulted in what Sen (2010) argues is a tension between proper procedures and ‘lived realities’. Are we creating a culture in which assessment procedures are highlighted and
enforced at the at the expense of learning outcomes? Or in assessment terms, creating clear, unambiguous, neutral conditions and procedures for assessment must naturally lead to fair assessments?
Jan McArthur’s thoughtful and challenging paper on assessment for social justice (2015) discusses many themes regarding ‘Fairness’ and ‘Just’ assessment focusing on the distinction between procedural and outcome processes for social justice. She also argues that a procedural approach to social justice is important in order to ensure fair and equitable processes but that these do not in themselves result in fair and equitable outcomes.
Building on this distinction we can identify ‘best practice’ assessment processes and grading systems to ensure consistency and equity of student experience but this happens within a specific system and a specific society. It could be argued that any educational system is intrinsically biased towards a set of values and beliefs that reflect a society’s dominant ideology (Fraser and Honneth 2003) and therefore those students who are most comfortable and familiar with that ideology may therefore be expected to do better in a system that embeds and embodies it. A similar argument has often been used to critique the notion of I.Q tests and what constitutes ‘general knowledge’ (Jensen 1980).
For assessments to be truly fair and/or equitable they need to go beyond a set of coherent and ‘sameness’ procedures to explore the lived realities of our students in order to ensure our assessment design and grading systems actively address ways to reduce injustice and advance justice through more flexibility and less culture-bound criteria.
To what extent have these values and beliefs consciously or subconsciously manifested themselves into our values and thus fed into our curriculum and the assessment process and therefore student outcomes?
PebblePad has moved from v3 (used Flash) to v5 (uses html5). The main difference is to Pebble+ – the personal space within PebblePad – where assets are created, shared and stored.
ATLAS, the assessment area within PebblePad, remains unchanged.
Everything in your Pebble+ account has transferred over into the new version.
The main differences:
- Works on all mobile devices and looks and behaves the same, no matter what device is used.
- Drag and drop to add files to your asset store.
- Improved text editing functions – you can use your mouse to copy and paste text.
- All Assets and Resources are in one place – no separate tabs for shared assets any more.
Here are some guides to help you navigate your way around the new version:
PebblePad v5: click the link to see what the new interface looks like; how to create assets; upload files; share with people or for assessment and Alumni information.
Academic PPDR instructions: click the link to find out how to fill out your Academic PPDR for the first and subsequent years.
Don’t forget, you can take your PebblePad account and all its contents with you if you leave or graduate from the university and you can continue to use it FREE forever. Just register for an Alumni account before you leave or graduate.
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.
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.
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.
Reflections on Learning and Teaching Fest 2017
The UoC Learning and Teaching Fest is an annual celebration of some of the most innovative and effective practices taking place across the institution. As a relative newcomer to the University, taking up a Lectureship in Zoology in August 2016, this year’s L&T Fest was my first. I was keen to discover more about new learning technologies and creative ways to engage students, which are particular interests I’ve been exploring as part of the PgCert in Learning and Teaching for Higher Education. As part of my studies, I carried out an action research project on how the free interactive software programme, Mentimeter, can be used to improve student engagement, and was fortunate to have the opportunity to present this work at the event.
The L&T Fest opened with introductions from Esther Jubb, Principal Lecturer in Academic Development, and our Vice Chancellor, Julie Mennell. To celebrate the theme of the conference, Student Success, Julie asked the Heads of Department to pick out a few student success stories. The proud Heads offered far more stories than Julie perhaps bargained for. For me the highlight of the introductions was listening to the reflections of three students, Rob, Chloe and Zoe, on their undergraduate or postgraduate journeys. They explained how the tuition and opportunities they had experienced during their time at UoC helped them to develop the confidence, abilities and perspectives to achieve things they had not considered possible and to become their ‘best possible selves’.
This was a moving reminder of why many of us chose to work in Higher Education. It must have been a tough act to follow for even our Keynote Speaker, Ruth Pilkington, Professorial Fellow in Learning and Teaching at Liverpool Hope University. In a thought-provoking talk on Developing as an Academic in HE 2020, Ruth considered what is required for us as individuals to achieve teaching excellence in a changing sector.
After coffee, the conference split into five parallel sessions. In the first of these, I gained practical tips from Lisa Smith and Sarah Ruston on using Blackboard blogs to manage student learning, which I am keen to try for myself in the coming year. Liz Bates gave an interesting talk on improving the postgraduate experience, concluding that the learning community, work-life balance and support from staff, family and friends were key.
Feeling refreshed from a delicious buffet lunch, we reunited for a very engaging, funny and humble keynote by Grace Hurford and Nicola Kitchen, Lecturer of the Year and recipient of Most Creative Teaching Award of the Year, respectively. They showed that problems can be turned into opportunities, challenged the audience to use teamwork to lower a stick to the ground balanced on a finger, and described how transforming the classroom into the backdrop of a science fiction film can inspire scientific problem-solving skills. Most of all, they encouraged us to be original and to take risks. Leaving us in no doubt that they practice what they preach, they finished by singing about their ‘Favourite Things’ in academia to the tune of the song from the Sound of Music.
Grace and Nicola’s interactive keynote set the scene perfectly for my talk that followed on how the interactive presentation software, Mentimeter, can be used to promote student engagement. This was a joint presentation with Kelly Fielden, Lecturer in Occupational Therapy. With the help of our audience we demonstrated how two different functions of the software (multiple choice quizzes and asking the lecturer anonymous questions) can be used within a lecture setting. We showed how our students, across different disciplines, levels and Mentimeter contexts, agreed that the software adds value to lectures and all recommended that it be used again.
Next up were Julie Taylor, David Wright and Andrea Charters, who provided a really useful talk on how marking rubrics can be used to provide a wealth of focussed feedback, improve consistency between and within marker, save marking time and enhance the student experience. I have been using simple spreadsheet rubrics for marking some of my own assignments and now feel equipped to try this through Blackboard. Finally, Charlotte Hardacre gave an excellent and very enthusiastic talk on her experiences of student-led teaching. She (bravely, I would say) alternated the delivery of a module between herself and different groups of students. This encouraged students to prepare for class more effectively because student ‘teachers’ were more actively involved in learning and were well placed to pester their peers to do the reading to ensure their session worked well. I was particularly interested in the idea that the intervention fostered critical thinking because students were less accepting of material delivered to them by their peers.
The L&T Fest was a really positive experience because it offered plenty of ideas and practical guidance to try out in the next academic year. It provided opportunities to speak with colleagues from different disciplines that I wouldn’t otherwise have met. Most of all, I was struck by how many enthusiastic, talented and creative people we have in our institution that are striving to provide the best student experience through teaching and support.
Developing digital capabilities of students and staff – Kelly Fielden -Health, Psychology & Social Studies
I attended the Learning and Teaching Fest 2017 for a variety of reasons. One – I went last year and found it very informative for my teaching development. Two – I love finding out what others are doing and like the opportunity for time to “think”. Three – (and probably the biggest reason!) I was one of the presenters. This was my first time presenting at a conference, so it was a great learning experience! One of the biggest highlights of the day was the morning talk from three successful students. The students kindly provided us with an overview of their various educational journeys and most importantly, laid down the gauntlet for academics to “keep it real” and keep learning accessible. They were all truly inspirational and provided such a positive outlook on their journeys through the University of Cumbria. Next, Ruth Pilkington provided some very valuable food for thought on learning and teaching within a changing landscape. In addition, she encouraged academics to be entrepreneurs and to see problems as opportunities. Thank you to both the student and Ruth for their thoughtful and motivating talks. Following this event, I will aim to ensure that I keep my teaching accessible and maintain a “real world” focus for all learners to ensure students employability and entrepreneurship when they graduate. For a start, I am going to begin a journal club for students who will be undertaking their first research module in the new academic year – an activity which often happens in occupational therapy practice. I will also continue to use some of my scholarly leave to revisit clinical practice and maintain essential skills and networks.
The session I conducted jointly with Dr Davina Hill (Lecturer in Zoology) reported on our respective PGCert Learning and Teaching in Higher Education action research studies. My particular study investigated student’s perceptions on the use of Mentimeter (a technology enhanced learning tool) to ask anonymous questions in class. We had a great session demonstrating the use of Mentimeter and reporting on our studies which concluded that students do value the use of Mentimeter in class. Thank you to all those who attended!
Thank you to the AQD Team for the great day – I cannot wait to attend next year!
Lecturer in Occupational Therapy
20 June 2017 saw this years L&T Fest held at the Fusehill Street Campus. Over 130 staff from across the university involved in teaching and learning support attended the conference, to explore the theme of Student Success: Adding Value through ‘Learning Gain’.
The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Julie Mennell opened the conference, during which she celebrated the success of the University during the past year, inviting Heads of Departments to contribute their departmental achievements. The success of students was also celebrated, with three giving an insight into their personal learning journey. Many thanks to PhD student Rob Ewin, award winning nursing student Zoe Butler and Graphic design student Chloe for giving their time to attend the conference and share their success. They really are an inspiration and got the conference off to a great start. You can view the student success stories on the UoC Facebook page.
Ruth Pilkington (NTF, 2014; PFHEA; SFSEDA) gave the first keynote exploring developing as an academic in HE 2020. Ruth outlined the shifting landscape of academic careers and challenged participants to feel empowered as they engage in professional learning and look to develop in this changing career.
The afternoon keynote session was led by Grace Hurford (Lecturer of the Year) and Nicola Kitchen (Creative Lecturer of the Year) and it certainly was creative, involving lowering sticks, recreating Starship Troopers/Alien mission (with a cat) and even a singalong to a version of My Favorite Things exploring what they love about HE!
The conference showcased the wide range of work of colleagues in teaching and supporting learning from across the university, with 20 presentations given, within five parallel sessions. Blog posts from some of the presenters will be available over the coming weeks, so stay tuned!
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:
All teaching delivered via separate Module sites following the same stucture: