Monitoring Student Engagement while teaching online

Distance Learner BannerThis blogpost aims to provide you with information on some useful tools in Blackboard that can help you monitor student engagement. This was initially produced for a Distance Learner forum but the tools discussed apply to teaching online. In addition to providing some guidance on Blackboard tools, there are also some resources on student engagement and teaching online at the end of this document.

Statistics Tracking

Statistics Tracking is a useful way for you to monitor how many of your students have engaged with your course materials. This tool is available in Blackboard.
How do I track students’ use of items in my Blackboard Module? https://faqs.aber.ac.uk/index.php?id=628

Review Status

Review Status ask learners to mark that they have a reviewed a piece of content. This will allow you to track where learners are with their modules and their items. 

Using Review Status places the emphasis on giving students their own review status.

What is the Review Status in Blackboard? https://faqs.aber.ac.uk/index.php?search=2869

Adaptive Release

Adaptive release gives Instructors a flexible way to control which items in a Blackboard module are available to students. You can customise your material to fit the needs of individual students or groups. This is especially useful if you have both core and supplementary materials. For example, you might want to release supplementary material only to those students who score poorly on an assessment, but not to the whole class. You can set up a path of contingent prerequisites, such that students cannot see more advanced material until they have viewed the introductory material. You can make material available only for the time period when it is relevant, such as before or after a laboratory practical. You may also wish to make material available only to a selected group of students, perhaps releasing information to a group of students on their group project topic.
How do I use adaptive release to control when items in Blackboard are made available? https://faqs.aber.ac.uk/index.php?id=582
Irwin, B. et al. 2013. ‘Engaging students with feedback through adaptive release’. Innovations in Education and Teaching International. 50: 1. DOI: 10.1080/14703297.2012.748333. Pp. 51-61. Last Accessed 21.10.2019. This article looks at the impact of using adaptive release for releasing student feedback. The aim of this approach was to encourage students to engage more fully with their feedback. Using adaptive release in this way can also be used to engage students with their learning tasks.

You can use adaptive release via the grade centre and the completion of a test or quiz, for example, to release the next unit to students. Not only that, you can also use it to hide content once it’s completed.

Resources on Student Engagement

Blessinger, P. & C. Wankel. Ed. 2013. Increasing Student Engagement and Retention in e-Learning Environments: Web 2.0 and Blended Learning Technologies. Bradford: Emerald Publishing Limited. Last Accessed: 18.10.2019.

Especially:

Starr-Glass, D. 2013. ‘From Connectivity to Connected Learners: Transactional Distance and Social Presence.’ Pp. 113-143

This publication looks at how technology can be used to engage students. The edited collection provides lots of guidance on learning technologies in teaching.

As the editors identify, ‘any technology, novelty or technical sophistication alone cannot guarantee engagement of learners. These technologies should be used in a purposeful and integrated way and within an appropriate theoretical framework germane to the teaching and learning context’ (2013: 5-6).

One chapter of note is Starr-Glass (Pp. 113-143) who emphasises building a learning community and offering opportunities for collaboration as a way to engage students who are studying at a distance. 

Starr-Glass uses Michael Moore’s theory of transactional difference to look at the repercussions of separating the learner from their peers and instructors. The author encourages learners to rely on more than just the technology.  Distance Learning also seen as an early form of learner-centric activities.

Starr-Glass argues that we are now at a Fifth Generation of Distance Learning (2005- ) – The intelligent flexible learning model (2013: 118). This is characterised by access to technology environments where ‘[l]earners are viewed as knowledgeable, self-assured, and capable of accessing informational networks’ (ibid.). Opportunities for creating communities amongst peers are also explored.

Krull, G. & J. M Duart. 2019. ‘Supporting seamless learners: exploring patterns of multiple device use in an open and distance learning context’. Research in Learning Technology. 2017. http://dx.doi.org/10.25304/rlt.v27.2215. Pp. 1-13. Last Accessed: 18.10.2019. 

We often think about content of Distance Learning courses but we don’t necessarily think about how our students are accessing their content. In this article, Greig Krull and Joseph Duart look at how students make use of multiple devices. They used semi- structured interviews to analyse their findings.

Their findings suggest that students studying via distance learning tend to work in multiple locations (private and public) ‘demonstrating the potential for seamless learning’ (4).

The study also found that students had access to between 2 and 5 digital devices for learning. On average, students used 3 devices for learning (4).

As the authors indicate, ‘[a]n area for future research is how educators can better support students using multiple devices and how to reduce any potential ‘seams’ in their learning experiences’ (10).

Meyer, K. 2014. Student Engagement Online: What works and why. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons. Last Accessed 21.10.2019.

Meyer examines online learning against a context of retention in Higher Education. Of most interest, might be the section on Experiential and Active Learning (p. 28).Meyer also discusses the importance of fostering an online community amongst learners to encourage engagement with resources. The monograph borrows the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) to consider how you might engage students in online learning.

These include:

1.       Level of academic challenge

2.       Active and collaborative learning

3.       Student-faculty interaction

4.       Enriching educational experience

5.       Supportive campus (online) environment

(7-8)

 

 

Teaching Tips: Teaching and Learning Continuity

Distance Learner BannerGeneral Points 

  • Provide clear and easy to understand instructions. This cuts down on the number of emails and queries you will receive.  
  • Use the technology that you and your students know and can use. Remember that you can include links to our FAQs in your Blackboard course to help your students. 
  • If you are using your own computer, check that you can do everything you will need to do. If you have any questions you can contact is@aber.ac.uk. These FAQs will help you: 

Further resources

View the excellent set of resources in the ACUE online teaching toolkit:  

See guidance from UK Copyright Literacy on Copyright, Fair Dealing and Online Teaching at a Time of Crisis. 

Manage your content

  • Active learning at a distance: Think about the learning tasks that you want students to carry out, not just the content covered. Make sure that the tasks are made clear to the students. If the learning task is clear, it will promote active learning even at a distance.   For example, a somewhat vague learning task would be to read three articles. A more active task would be to read the three articles and evaluate their arguments relative to each other, or analyse data across several sources to identify patterns, etc.  
  • Accessibility: Apply principles of good accessibility practice to your PowerPoints, Word documents, and other materials.  
    • Apply ALT tags to images in any materials. 
    • Ensure that speaker notes are included in your PowerPoint files and upload the PPT file into Blackboard. Do not just upload a PDF. This gives students another channel to get all of the information you want them to have. 
    • Use plain English as much as possible. If your students don’t understand something well, they won’t be able to ask you during lecture. 
  • Make sure that your Blackboard course is easy for students to navigate. They should be able to find the relevant material for each week easily and quickly. 
  • Reading materials: Ensure that all reading material is accessible through Blackboard. Use Aspire reading lists. If some material is only available in print form (e.g. books in the library), find alternative e-books or online sources they can use instead. 
  • Adaptive Release: You can use Adaptive Release so your materials appear at set times. Try and avoid too many complicated adaptive release rules as they can make it difficult work out why a student can’t see documents.  
  • Box of Broadcasts is an excellent resource for TV and radio material. You can arrange recordings of upcoming material or use previously broadcast programmes. 

Blackboard Tests and Surveys 

Tests are an excellent way for students to check their understanding of a topic and help you know more about their progress. 

  • Be sure to include feedback on right and wrong answers, so that your students can learn from the formative quiz.  
  • You don’t have to give the correct answer but can give links to readings, or further resources to help learn the material. 
  • Write questions that help your students engage with the material, rather than just remembering facts. You can write questions that require them to analyse material, work with scenarios, and do calculations etc. 

Discussion Boards 

Discussion boards are an excellent way to run a remote seminar. They allow students to engage at times that work for them. They are also familiar to many.  

  • Activities: Provide activities for the students to engage with on the discussion boards – set starter questions that require them to actively engage, for example analysing data, comparing articles, summarising their reading, creating questions from the materials they have read. 
  • Guidance on engagement: Provide guidance for students on how you want them to engage with the discussion boards.  
    • For example, you could ask them to write their own posts, and comment on others.  
    • Tell them how often you want the students to engage and how often you will engage. 
    • If you are running a thread for each seminar, you may want to keep the discussion going for a week and then start a new one at a set time. 
  • Guidance on writing:  
    • Do you want them to write formally or informally? 
    • Should they reference their reading? 
    • Short posts are better than essays – the aim of discussion boards is for students to interact rather than just post their essays  

BlogsWikis and Journals 

Blogs and Journals are a good way of students to document an ongoing process or practice – for example a reading journal. Students can use text, images, video etc. Blogs are visible to all class members, and Journals are private between the student and the instructor. 

Wikis are good for group work. They can be used by all the class, or you can split into groups, and each group can have a wiki. Students can use text, images and video, and you can see each student’s contribution. 

  • Give students clear instructions about how to use the blogs, wikis or journals. Tell them what you expect: how often you want them to contribute and how often you will engage with them. 
  • Example contributions can be useful to help students understand what you expect. 
  • You can make comments on posts to provide feedback.
  • All three types of activity can be graded if you want to use them as an assessment method. 

Panopto Recordings 

Panopto recordings are a good way of presenting information to your students along with PowerPoint slides. You can re-use recordings you have already made, but if you are making new recordings specifically for continuity purposes, bear the following in mind: 

  • Make your videos shorter than a standard lecture. Students will find it easier to concentrate on shorter videos. 
  • Link the recording to a learning activity for your students. Encourage active listening with questions, or other activities. 
  • Make the PowerPoint and speakers notes (if you use them) available on Blackboard. 
  • If you are still working on campus, use teaching rooms or AU equipment to create Panopto recordings. If you are experiencing problems with installing Panopto on your own equipment, consider re-using recordings you have made in previous years until these have been resolved. 

Panopto Quizzes

Quizzes are a good way of breaking up your recording, similar to the way you would use questions in a lecture 

  • Write clear questions that will help your students engage with the recording actively. 

Annual Learning and Teaching Conference 2020 Keynote Speaker: Professor Ale Armellini

We are very excited to announce that Professor Ale Armellini will be attending this year’s Learning and Teaching Conference as our Keynote speaker.

From developing, implementing and evaluating Northampton University’s own Learning and Teaching plan, we are highly anticipating Professor Ale Armellini’s thoughts and ideas on this year’s conference theme of Enhancing the Curriculum: Inspire Learning and Invigorate Teaching!

Northampton University’s Learning and Teaching Plan and the Aberystwyth Pedagogical Excellence (APEX) Strategy both emphasise the importance of active learning, and are trying to implement active learning on a wider scale across their respective universities. Active learning is one of this year’s key points of the conference, so to have Professor Armellini as keynote speaker will certainly be a highlight of the event.

Over three phases, Aberystwyth University aims to promote a more sustained student active learning ethos, by following a series of both key strategies and ongoing strategies, through the mediums of Welsh and English. This includes our Active Learning Project, and Staff and Student Mental Health Development as two key areas of strategy, as well as Personal Tutor Enhancement, and Employability Initiatives as part of our ongoing strategic concerns. Ultimately, by the summer of 2022, Aberystwyth University strives to have transformed how we teach and how our students learn, and hopefully encourage other Universities to do the same.

Northampton University’s Learning and Teaching Objectives, developed by our keynote speaker, have some similarities which highlight the importance of pedagogic innovation. Professor Armellini’s role in providing leadership in learning and teaching across the entirety of Northampton University and research on learning innovation and online pedagogy, to name a few of his research areas, means he will be providing the attendees of our conference with invaluable advice and insight.

The Annual Learning and Teaching Conference at Aberystwyth University will be held from the 7th September 2020, to 9th September 2020. 

You can follow his twitter feed at @alejandroa

Teaching and Learning Continuity

Distance Learner Banner

This FAQ outlines the e-learning tools available to staff to provide teaching and learning continuity

Information Services guidance for working from home can be found in the FAQ here

Human Resources (HR) guidance for working from home can be found on the HR website here

We recommend staff and students use Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox web browsers

Blackboard as a Learning Environment

What can I do?

How do I do it?

Familiarise yourself with Blackboard See our Getting Started in Blackboard Guide

If you do not see all your modules see our FAQ on how Staff are enrolled on modules

See our Blackboard FAQs

Manage your learning content effectively See our FAQ on uploading files and content to Blackboard

See our FAQ on managing your links and folders

See our Checklist on making your documents accessible

See our Teaching Tips

Use Announcements within Blackboard to communicate with the students on your module See our FAQ on adding an announcement in Blackboard
Let your students know how to contact you by adding contact information to your profile See our FAQ on adding Staff information to a Blackboard module
Use Blackboard tests and surveys for formative assessment See our FAQ on Creating a test or survey in Blackboard

See our guidance on tests and surveys

See our Teaching Tips

Enable students to engage with yourself and each other via a discussion board See our FAQ on adding a discussion board to your Blackboard module

See our guidance on discussion boards

See our Teaching Tips

Utilise blogs, wikis and journals for student reflection and collaboration See our guidance on blogs

See our guidance on wikis

See our guidance on journals

See our Teaching Tips

E-submission

What can I do?

How do I do it?

Familiarise yourself with using Turnitin for E-submission See our Quick Start Guide to Turnitin

See our Turnitin FAQs

Create Turnitin submission points for your students to submit their assignments to See our FAQ on creating a Turnitin submission point
Mark Turnitin submissions and provide feedback online See our FAQ on marking assignments in Turnitin

Lecture Recording

What can I do?

How do I do it?

Install Panopto on your own computer so you can make recordings from wherever you are working See our FAQ on installing Panopto on your computer
Check your microphone is working See our FAQ on checking your microphone is picking up sound
Make a Panopto recording See our FAQ on making a Panopto recording

See our FAQ on re-using recordings you have previously made

See our Teaching Tips

Add quizzes to your Panopto recording See our FAQ on adding a quiz to your Panopto recording

See our Teaching Tips

Virtual Meetings

What can I do?

How do I do it?

Familiarise yourself with using Skype for Business for Virtual Meetings. See our Skype for Business Guide

See our guide for Learning and Teaching Activities using Skype for Business. 

Install Skype for Business on your machine See our FAQ on installing Skype for Business (Windows)

See our FAQ on installing Skype for Business (Android)

See our FAQ on installing Skype for Business (Mac)

Arrange a meeting or virtual teaching session See our FAQ on how do I set up a meeting or video conference using Skype for Business

 

For further help and guidance please see the E-learning webpages and our Guides and Documents webpage

Practice Organisations available for all teaching staff

Practice ModulesWe have created Practice Organisations for all staff with teaching roles. These organisations are spaces where you can try out the many different features of Blackboard and preload materials without working on a live Blackboard module.

To access the Practice Organisation, log into Blackboard, and scroll down to My Organisations. You will see your practice module with the code PRAC_username.

If you build something in your practice organisation then you are able to copy content over into a live module. We’ve got the following FAQs for copying:

In addition to this, there are many more FAQs and Guides to support your use of Blackboard, in addition to further information on our website.

As these are practice courses, they don’t contain enrolments and there are certain items that can’t be copied, such as:

  • Turnitin submission points
  • Items that have adaptive release enabled
  • Any assessed items linked to the grade centre
  • Blackboard groups

You are welcome to use your practice course at any time. Practice organisations are not subject to Blank Course Copy and the content will rollover every year.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Call for Proposals: Learning and Teaching Conference 2020

We are now inviting proposals for the 8th Annual Learning and Teaching Conference, Monday 7th – Wednesday 9th September 2020.

Submit and view the call for proposals here.

This year’s conference theme, Enhancing the Curriculum: Inspire Learning and Invigorate Teaching aims to reflect the commitment that AU staff have to enhance the student learning experience. The four main strands of this year’s conference are:

  • Creating a Learning Community
  • Developing Wellbeing in the Curriculum
  • Embedding Active Learning
  • Working with Students as Partners

Staff, postgraduate teaching assistants, and students are welcome to propose sessions on any topic relating to learning and teaching, especially those that focus on the incorporation and use of technology. Even if your suggestion doesn’t fit a particular strand, other topics are welcome.

We seek to encourage presenters to consider using alternative formats that reflect and suit the content of their sessions. As such, we are not specifying a standardised presentation format.

Please complete this form no later than 8th May 2020.

If you have any questions, please contact the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit at elearning@aber.ac.uk  or phone us on extension 2472.

Kate Exley Workshop

The Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit is pleased to announce that Dr Kate Exley will be running two workshops on Tuesday 24th March 2020. 

Dr Exley is Senior Staff Development Officer at the University of Leeds and a Consultant in Higher Education. She has particular expertise in Higher Education Teaching and Learning, Assessment and Accreditation, Supervising Research Students and Career Review, and Course Design and Curriculum Change.   

These workshops have been specifically designed to support the implementation of the forthcoming Active Learning projects that form part of the Learning and Teaching Strategy 2019-2022. The workshops will focus on Active Learning for small and large group teaching. The workshops are open to all members of the University community but we strongly recommend that staff members or their nominee involved in the implementation of the Active Learning projects attend.   

To ensure that as many people as possible can attend, the workshop will run twice – once 9.30am-12pm and again 12.30-3pm. Places are limited and booking is recommended.  

To book your place, fill in your details on this online form and specify which workshop you would prefer to attend.  

If you have any queries regarding these workshops please email lteu@aber.ac.uk.  

Blackboard Tools for Group Work (Blogpost 5): Assignments

Group Work Banner

Blackboard Group Assignments for Instructors

https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Instructor/Assignments/Create_and_Edit_Assignments/Group_Assignments

Before assigning group work

You don’t want students to see group activities as busy work. If group work doesn’t enhance your learning objectives and provide value, consider alternative teaching techniques. Only use group work for projects an individual student can’t do as well alone and finish in the intended amount of time.

Research shows that students work harder when others rely on them. To encourage this interdependence, create group assignments that require the students to divide the work to meet the goal, question and challenge each other’s ideas, and share feedback and encouragement.

Before incorporating group work into your course, consider these questions:

  • Will the group work further my course objectives?
  • What introductory material or group resource information can I provide to help students succeed?
  • How will the groups be formed?
  • Will students be involved in planning the groups?
  • How will I assess students’ learning and maintain individual accountability? Will I require a group deliverable?
  • How will I handle concerns and problems

Blackboard Group Assignments for Students

Some Considerations Before you begin

A course group must exist before you create group assignments for it.

  • Students who are enrolled in more than one group that receives the same assignment will be able to submit more than one attempt for this assignment. You may need to provide these students with an overall grade for the assignment.
  • Students who aren’t enrolled at the time that a group assignment has been submitted don’t have access to that submission. These students only see that the submission occurred.
  • Students who you remove from a group can’t see the group assignments. They can access their submissions from My Grades.
  • If you edit the assignment between creation and the due date, the entire group may lose any work already in progress.
  • If you delete a group from the assignment after students have started an attempt but before submission, they’ll lose access to the assignment and lose their work.

You create a group assignment in the same way you create an assignment for students to complete individually. When you create a group assignment, a gradebook item is created automatically. You can create group assignments in content areas, learning modules, lesson plans, and folders. The group assignment appears in the course area where you create it and on the group homepage.

A few notes on marking Blackboard Group Assignments

  • When marking a group assignment using Inline Grading, the overall mark given will automatically be submitted for all the students in the group and will become visible in the Grade Centre. However, you can modify individual students’ marks if you need to.
  • Individual marks cannot be applied in the case of anonymous group assignments, as it won’t be possible to identify individual students.

Blackboard Tools for Group Work (Blogpost 4): Discussions

Group Work Banner

Blackboard Discussions for Instructors

https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Instructor/Interact/Discussions

Online discussions provide unique benefits. Because students can take time to ponder before they post ideas, you may see more thoughtful conversations play out. You can observe as students demonstrate their grasp of the material and correct misconceptions. You can extend your office hours and reach students more often during the week so that learning is continuous.

Building a sense of community among students is crucial for a successful online experience. With online discussions, course members can replicate the robust discussions that take place in the traditional classroom.

For smaller course groups, you can also offer group discussions, available only to the members of the group.

Blackboard Discussions for Students

https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Student/Interact/Discussions

In discussions, you can share thoughts and ideas about class materials. In Blackboard Learn, course members can have the thoughtful discussions that take place in the traditional classroom, but with the advantages of asynchronous communication. Participants don’t need to be in the same location or time zone, and you can take the time to consider your responses carefully.

You can use discussions for these tasks:

  • Meet with your peers for collaboration and social interaction.
  • Pose questions about homework assignments, readings, and course content.
  • Demonstrate your understanding or application of course material.

See our Aberystwyth FAQs on Discussions:

faqs.aber.ac.uk and search “Discussion”

Blackboard Tools for Group Work (Blogpost 3): Wikis

Group Work BannerBlackboard Wikis for Instructors

https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Instructor/Interact/Wikis

Wikis allow course members to contribute and modify one or more pages of course-related materials and provide a means of sharing and collaboration. Course members can create and edit pages quickly, and track changes and additions, which allows for effective collaboration between multiple writers. You can create one or more wikis for all course members to contribute to and wikis for specific groups to use to collaborate.

All course members can use the wikis tool to record information and serve as a repository for course information and knowledge. A course wiki is a vast source of information compiled by course members. Wikis can help build a community of collaboration and learning. Social interaction increases during the exchange of information.

Benefits of using wikis

Wikis can help course members build a shared repository of knowledge. As the knowledge base grows over time, you can expect the wiki to have some degree of seriousness and permanence.

With dedicated use, you can use wikis for these educational purposes:

  • Provide an easy to use environment for communication
  • Promote collaboration rather than competition
  • Foster a social and interactive approach to learning
  • Build partnerships where you can benefit from the strengths of others
  • Increase network building, trust, and negotiation skills
  • Provide support and prompt feedback
  • Provide a one-stop area where information is searched, updated, and accessed easily and quickly
  • Increase and enhance the possibility of creativity, spontaneity, and innovation through the application of reflective thinking

Blackboard Wikis for Students

https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Student/Interact/Wikis

A wiki is a collaborative tool that allows you to contribute and modify one or more pages of course-related materials. A wiki provides an area where you can collaborate on content. Course members can create and edit wiki pages that pertain to the course or a course group.

Instructors and students can offer comments, and your instructor can grade individual work.

image of wikis

See our Aberystwyth FAQs on Wikis:

faqs.aber.ac.uk and search “Wikis”