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 ….
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 …
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 ….
Like PebblePad, Medial has moved their interface to HTML5. They have also added a useful multispeed player option. Find out more …
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.
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.
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.
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.”
There are a number of learning technology system changes expected to happen prior to the start of 2017/18;
- PebblePad moving to version 5
- Turnitin GradeMark moving to Turnitin Feedback Studio
- Blackboard upgrade and theme change
- Medial moving to version 5
Details and descriptions are subject to change, and more information will be circulated as necessary and as it becomes available.
- Our current version of PebblePad is being moved to the latest version (V5) over the summer
- The underlying technology moves from Flash to HTML5 – more accessible, and in-line with browsers that are phasing-out/removing Flash support
- Accessible on all devices, such as smartphones and tablets
- Redesigned, and simpler interface
- ATLAS remains unchanged
- All Assets move across
- Our current version is no longer being developed, and will be phased-out shortly
Support & communication
Workshops for staff will be delivered over the coming months. Some have already taken place. Those who attend will have access to V5 via a temporary account that will remain available to them until the upgrade.
There are many “how-to” guides directly on the new home page. We will produce a transition guide, which will be applicable to staff and students.
Most users will move across on Monday 7th August, however, any reassessment students will be left on V3 (current system) until they have resubmitted, and will be moved at the end of August.
- GradeMark interface is being updated to Feedback Studio
- Same features, but improved use of space
- Easier to add comments & Quick Marks
- Can now add clickable URLs to feedback – support pages, documents etc.
Support & communication
A transition guide will be produced to help staff move to marking via the updated interface.
Some of the features can be seen on Turnitin’s demonstration site.
We are able to switch-on this feature at any time, with a forced change to all users initially planned from Turnitin by July 2017. We are checking current timings for this forced switch; however, the current proposal is to make the move at around the same time as the Blackboard upgrade (i.e. late July / early August).
We will be looking to perform our annual upgrade of Blackboard over the summer. There is no licence-cost impact to upgrading to a newer version of the system. All upgrades bring security improvements, as well as support for newer versions of client software and systems (browsers etc.). However, an essential reason for needing to regularly upgrade is to ensure full support for the system for the up-coming academic year.
The upgrade will bring some new features and an updated colour scheme and theme change.
Regarding the theme, we are proposing to move incrementally towards the – desired – responsive web design theme as it develops. The proposal is a move towards the look-and-feel, but maintaining the course design options for a period of time (these themes need to be turned-off when we move totally onto the responsive design).
The last two upgrades have happened towards the end of July / early August, and the proposal would be to do the same again (these upgrades didn’t appear to cause any major disruption issues). Blackboard should be on Managed Hosting by the time of the upgrade; this should offer more flexibility and options for upgrade timings.
- System update to version 5
- Updated and fully responsive interface redesign
- HTML5 player by default (Flash fallback still an option)
- Multispeed playback (i.e. 2x)
- Multi-bitrate playback
- Version 5 is required for MediaLecture (if we were to consider this option)
- More customisation & branding options
- Live-stream workflow improvements
Support & communication
Much of the current interaction with Medial is via the Blackboard building block, rather than directly through the interface. The main changes via this route will be the new options on the player, and the switch to HTML5. All the web interface features will still be there, just with an enhanced interface.
Support and upgrades of Medial is included in our annual licence. The upgrade is carried out remotely and is expected to take less than an hour (updates in the past have been around 15 minutes, with actual video playback disruption less than that). We just need to book an update “slot” with the vendors. As there isn’t a test system for Medial, updates always carry a slight risk, and we only see the changes at the same time as all system users (we rely on their demo server to view some of the potential feature changes ahead of the move).
This event, held on Tuesday 25 October, hosted by the Vice Chancellor, Professor Julie Mennell, was an opportunity to celebrate colleagues involved in teaching and learning support who have been recognised as Fellows of the HEA.
HEA Fellowship is recognition of a commitment to professionalism in teaching and learning in higher education and demonstrates that your practice is aligned with the UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF). To date over 75,000 individuals have become Fellows of the HEA. The HEA website provides more details.
Here at the University of Cumbria we have almost 65% of our eligible staff recognised as Fellow, Senior Fellow or Principal Fellow of the HEA. This is a great achievement when compared to the national average of around 40%. Of course we want all staff involved in learning and teaching to be recognised to show our commitment to a high quality student learning experience.
If you are interested in gaining recognition for your commitment to professionalism in learning and teaching we encourage you to engage with the CPD route to UKPSF recognition, which is open to all staff who teach or support student learning.
Professor Stephanie Marshall, CEO of the HEA, attended as a guest speaker and outlined the work of the HEA and how the University of Cumbria are able to access various streams of support.
The theme of this year’s Association for Learning Technology Conference (known as ALT-C for short) was “Connect, Collaborate, Create” (press release)
The conference was three full days of keynote speakers and presentations from individuals and groups from a host of UK and international institutions; including Dan Meer and myself from Cumbria. Our presentation was on the “12 Seasonal Tips” initiative that ran at the end of semester-one 2015. Our “slot” was right at the end of the programme on day three, so we had that at the back of our minds during the conference (best till last?!)!
I attended a wide variety of presentations, and have come away with a number of ideas and topics to follow-up.
Below is Ian Livingstone’s keynote recording. All the keynote presentations can be seen here.
Digital capabilities and digital wellbeing were amongst the areas being discussed, with presenters talking about how they were approaching designing and running their CPD offer, acknowledging that “creativity takes courage” when it comes to updating or challenging practice.
The question of Open Badges was raised in a couple of sessions, including one run by City & Guilds who highlighted some of the challenges and opportunities of badges.
The use of analytics was a key theme of the conference, and I saw a number of presentations where speakers were talking about their proposed and actual use of data to help support learning, saying that institutions tend to be “data rich, intelligence poor”. One argument was that students are already used to sharing data outside of the institution, and therefore an electronic footprint of student use of institutional systems would be useful to help monitor engagement and support the student. However, it was acknowledged that data ownership and use was something that should be transparent through clear policies / codes of practice.
The shear amount of online activity (as highlighted by the internet minute), was the inspiration to presentations about the use of media to support learning. This included the use of lecture capture and of systems to help “create / publish / share / discover” media within the institution; one institution even providing a “’DIY film school” workshop for simple tips & tricks to capture video content using the user’s own smartphone or tablet. Copyright, together with OER policies and open licences were also under discussion.
Flipped classrooms, webinars and the blend between physical and virtual spaces were also discussed, with the challenge of providing active learning spaces regardless of the environment being a key theme.
There are some other conference blog posts here.
Overall, a very enjoyable, tiring, challenging and informative conference – and the food and accommodation was good too!
Andy White, AQD
Esther Jubb gives us the lowdown on the recent Blackboard World conference
In early 2016, without actually expecting to be accepted to the conference, I put in a presentation proposal to the Blackboard World 2016 Conference in Las Vegas. The presentation planned to talk about the changes and developments that we have been working on in relation to our use of Blackboard during the last 18 months. In the background, many of the changes that we have been working on is an Exemplary Course Programme and the presentation proposal was to discuss how we were using the rubric that supports this programme to identify and drive much of our work. Having been accepted to the conference and being briefed on how the panel session would run I packed my suitcase and flew 10 hours to Las Vegas.
Blackboard World is a very large conference 3000 plus delegates, large expo hall with lots of learning technology vendors keen to talk to you about your learning technology needs (and to give you free gifts; caps, charging cables, t-shirts, bottle openers…) parallel sessions that start at 8:15am and finish at 6:00pm, additional workshops and keynote sessions and lots of opportunities to indulge the geeky side of your personality.
Despite some wicked jetlag I attended a whole variety of sessions. My first session was an interesting presentation from Charles Darwin University on Developing an Integrated Student Learning Universe; putting students at the centre of all technology developments and taking a 3 layer approach:
- Learner engagement needs
- Learner facing systems
- Underlying technology architecture
I also attended a session from Johns Hopkins University on their approach to supporting staff new to teaching fully online distance learning programmes. My favourite session, in terms of making me think about my role at the university and how we better make use of learning technology, was run by staff from IBM on design thinking. Not only was this an introduction to something new….it was an interactive session where we started to engage with the approach of design thinking.
Youtube video quick overview Design Thinking:
Youtube video Tim Brown (creator of design thinking) talking about Design Thinking:
Part of the problem with such a large conference is that it is difficult to choose between 10 different sessions in any one parallel slot and not every session lives up to the description so you then feel that you’ve wasted a valuable session! My overall reflections on the conference were, that although we do have plenty of work to do in our use of learning technology, we are heading in the right direction; ensuring that the student experience is consistent and what we promise them, using the affordances of the technology to support the learning that our students need to prepare them for their future aspirations, and getting the most out of our learning technologies. Finally, how did my presentation go? There were about 60 people the room, the feedback was excellent with all those who provided feedback saying that they thought the session was useful to them, which is what you want to achieve from talking about the interesting and exciting things that you’re doing.
Dr Esther Jubb, AQD
For staff new to teaching in higher education we provide a ‘taught route’ to professional recognition through the PGCert.
This flexible programme provides you the opportunity for you to develop you knowledge and understanding of the practice of teaching and the support of student learning in HE, and advance your professional; skills within your own working context.
Details on how to apply can be found on the website.