Student Learning Ambassadors – What is a well-designed Blackboard Module? Project Findings

In the week beginning from the 12th of July the LTEU run the What is a well-designed Blackboard module? project. We recruited 9 students to work with us as Student Learning Ambassadors. The group included: one 3rd year undergraduate History student, one 3rd year undergraduate Childhood Studies student, two 2nd year undergraduate English Literature and Creative Writing students, one 3rd year undergraduate Economics student, one International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law Postgraduate student, one 3rd year and two 2nd year undergraduate Psychology students.

Throughout the project students completed the following tasks, working independently as well as part of the group:

  • mindmapped what it means for a module to be well-designed
  • generated a list of items that should be included in a Blackboard module
  • categorised the list of items they came up with
  • took part in usability testing on two existing Blackboard module
  • gave us a tour of a Blackboard module from their department that they found easy to use
  • wrote a short blog post on one aspect of a module design that is important to them with practical tips for teaching staff
  • identified common issues in Blackboard modules, reflected on the impact they have, and created a set of recommendations on how they could be fixed
  • proposed changes to existing Blackboard Required Minimum Presence

In the next few weeks, we will be publishing findings of the project including blog posts written by the Ambassadors themselves. We are incredibly grateful to Angela, Erin, Katie, Ammaarah, Elisa, Lucie, Charlotte, Gabriele and Nathalia for all the hard work they contributed to the project. We believe that all staff will find the findings as useful as we did. As my time as the Online Learning Specialist in the LTEU comes to an end I am extremely pleased and grateful to be able to conclude it by running this project. I genuinely believe that active involvement of students in the design of their learning should be a priority and I hope for more opportunities for student-staff partnerships. I would like to thank all staff I had an opportunity to work with these past months, thank you for your inspiring work and continuous commitment to providing the best possible experience to our students.

Weekly Resource Roundup – 28/7/2021

As leader of our PGCTHE programme, I keep an eye out for resources to help staff teach effectively. These include webinars, podcasts, online toolkits, publications and more. Topics include active learning, online/blended teaching, accessibility/inclusion, and effective learning design based on cognitive science. Below I’ve listed items that came to my attention in the past week. In the interest of clarity, our policy is to show the titles and descriptions in the language of delivery.   

Online events and webinars

Resources and publications

Please see the Staff Training booking page for training offered by the LTEU and other Aberystwyth University staff. I hope you find this weekly resource roundup useful. If you have questions or suggestions, please contact our team at You may also wish to follow my Twitter feed, Mary Jacob L&T.  

Interactive Blackboard Tools Case Studies – Wikis

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This case study is based on and includes extracts from the Student-led Planning of Tourism and Hospitality Education: The Use of Wikis to Enhance Student Learning book chapter written by Dr Mandy Talbot (Aberystwyth Business School) and published in the Routledge Handbook of Tourism and Hospitality Education.

What tool do you use and how? 

Dr Mandy Talbot used Blackboard wikis to facilitate a student led, collaborative learning project (…) on the second year, bachelor degree module: international tourism development. (…) The module course work required students to work in small groups to identify and evaluate the tourism development strategies that were being followed in given tourist destinations and to compare these with approaches being taken elsewhere. Due to the collaborative and interactive nature of the assignment the most suitable web tool was the wiki.’

Why did you choose this tool? 

Before implementation of wikis ‘students undertook the exercise by creating and delivering a group PowerPoint presentation of 15 minutes to the class, with a further 10 minutes for questions.’ Dr Mandy Talbot changed the format of this assessment in order to:

  1. ‘Improve the cohesiveness of student group work: The wiki format provides a collaborative work space for students to develop their work’
  • ‘Provide students with more opportunity to interact with the work of other groups: The wiki format enables students to visit each other’s’ presentations over an extended time period. Wiki pages also have comment boxes which enable students to pose questions and engage in discussion on the other sites.’
  • ‘Develop student IT skills: Students will learn how to create and structure web pages’.

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So Long, and Thanks for All the…

…challenges, suggestions, and insights into many different departments at the university! The last 11 months have been an absolute blast working with the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit as an Online Learning Specialist.

Having started with the 2020 Annual Learning and Teaching Conference, it was wonderful to be able to be a part of the 2021 instance of the same event towards the end of my time in this job. This time round, I even presented (albeit in my role as Lecturer in Theatre and Scenography with TFTS) – you can find the recording of that paper here. Those two events bracket an intense time of learning and teaching for me: alongside my lovely colleagues, I designed, developed, and delivered training sessions on everything from Blackboard to Vevox. I supported staff from all kinds of departments in the switch from in-person to blended learning, to online-only, and back. It is no exaggeration to say I am in awe of the dedication, determination, and ingenuity displayed by colleagues all over the university. I am sure that the resources produced by the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit will continue to support staff as we head towards another academic year potentially full of necessary adaptations. Keep an eye on the Staff Training pages – I for one will be sure to make use of them.

As my Online Learning Specialist colleagues and I move on to other challenges, I wanted to take this opportunity to thank all Information Services colleagues, and especially the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit, for being so welcoming and allowing me to gain a much deeper understanding of and appreciation for the many-facetted work of that department. Diolch o galon i gyd!

Updates to E-submission and E-feedback Policy

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The updated E-submission Policy has been approved by Academic Enhancement Committee. You can read the updated policy on our E-submission Pages.

The aim of the updated policy was to bring it in line with our Lecture Capture Policy and provide greater clarity over its scope and requirements from staff and students.

One big change that will affect the creation of Turnitin submission points is the introduction of a policy that gives student the option to submit multiple times before the deadline and also to view their Turnitin originality report. In the creation of the Turnitin submission point, choose the following settings:

  • Generate Similarity Reports for Students – Immediately (can overwrite until Due Date)
  • Allow Students to See Similarity Reports – Yes

The updated policy outlines:

  • The scope of E-submission and E-feedback
  • How our E-submission technologies makes use of yours and your students’ data
  • Tips for the submission of electronic work, including deadlines, giving students the opportunity to practice submitting
  • Grading and feedback expectations
  • Electronic submission for dissertations
  • Retention periods
  • Copyright
  • How IT failures are handled
  • Accessibility guidance for staff and students
  • The support available

Our E-submission page outlines all the support and training available for staff on e-submission. If you’ve got any questions about how to use these tools or drop us an email for assistance (

2020/21 External Speakers and Resources

As part of this year’s CPD programme, we hosted a number of external speakers who provided us with new perspectives and unique expertise in various aspects of learning and teaching. In preparation for the upcoming year, we would like to briefly remind you of some of the topics discussed and the resources available to you. We hope that by building on these and other sessions the Unit organised this year you will feel fully prepared to adapt and innovate your teaching in the upcoming year.

Professor Ale Armellini: The Journey towards Active Blended Learning

Last summer’s conference keynote speaker, Professor Ale Armellini, shared his insights and advice on learning innovation and online pedagogy.


Dr Naomi Winston: From Transmission to Transformation: Maximising Student Engagement with Feedback

In the first mini-conference of the year, we had an opportunity to listen to Dr Naomi Winstor who argued that maximising students’ engagement with feedback is fundamentally an issue of design, where opportunities for students to develop the skills required for effective use of feedback, and opportunities to apply feedback, can transform the role of students in assessment.


Frederika Roberts: Flourishing at Aberystwyth – Putting Positive Education into Practice

In this mini-conference keynote speech attendees learnt about key elements of positive psychology in the context of higher education and practical strategies for enhancing their own wellbeing.


Kate Lister: Online Communities and Student Well-being

Kate Lister from Advance HE explored how to create effective digital communities that can support students’ sense of belonging and purpose, facilitate meaningful connections, and provide support without relying on a campus environment.


Dr Kate Exley: Taking your (PowerPoint) Lectures Online

Dr Kate Exley was invited to deliver a workshop on moving our lectures, previously delivered in large lecture theatres and classrooms, to online platforms.


Dr Sally Brown & Dr Kay Sambell – Improving assessment and feedback processes post-pandemic: authentic approaches to improve student learning and engagement.

During our Mini-Fest on assessment, Dr Sally Brown and Dr Kay Sambell led a workshop designed to build on lessons learned during the complex transitions academics made last year and explore the concept of authentic approaches to assessments.

Link to recordings & resources

Professor Mick Healey & Dr Ruth Healey: Engaging students through student-staff partnership

We invited Professor Mick Healey and Dr Ruth Healey to deliver a workshop on student-staff partnerships and consult them on engaging students in projects and provisions we currently deliver.


Dr Dyddgu Hywel: Blaenoriaethu Iechyd a Lles Staff

The first external speaker of this year’s Learning and Teaching Conference talked about prioritizing the health and well-being of staff.


Andy McGregor: What will assessment look like in five years?

We also had an opportunity to listen to Andy McGregor from JISC on the future of assessment. A talk based on JISC’s paper: The future of assessment: five principles, five targets for 2025, which ‘sets five targets for the next five years to progress assessment towards being more authentic, accessible, appropriately automated and secure’.


Dr Chrissi Nerantzi: Breaking Free

Lastly, our keynote speech for this year’s conference was delivered by Dr Chrissi Neratzi who talked about open and flexible pedagogies.

Joe Probert & Izzy Whitley: Using Vevox to engage learners.

Joe Probert and Izzy Whitley from Vevox, our university polling software, delivered a session on how to make effective use of polling to engage learners.  


Course Copy 2021-2022

Every year, the E-learning Group create new modules in Blackboard ready for next year’s teaching. For the academic year 2021/22 departments decided internally  whether modules would be blank or have content copied over. Modules for 2021-2022 will be available from the beginning of August. 

Staff in Geography and Earth Sciences and IBERS will have modules created blank. We have prepared these FAQs with detailed guidance on copying different elements from one module to another in Blackboard.

All other departments will have their modules copied. As part of the course copy process, the following tools and content are not copied:

  • Turnitin submissions  
  • Blackboard Assignments  
  • Announcements
  • Blogs
  • Journals  
  • Wikis
  • Panopto recordings and links
  • Teams meetings. 

We would like to assist staff with preparing their modules as much as we can. We are happy to arrange a consultation over Teams. To do so, send an email to

Improving accessibility – lessons learnt from a blended approach  

Over the course of the conference, we had a wide range of presentations. A theme which emerged for me was the way in which the use of a blended learning approached offered increased accessibility specifically by tailoring module content which suited the needs of students. At Aberystwyth University, we are proud to have such a diverse range of students and provide an inclusive teaching approach. Some of the ways in which our courses have been adapted in response to the challenging teaching circumstances we have had throughout the pandemic had a significant impact on improving accessibility to our students.  

Neil Taylor of the Computer Science Department did a fantastic talk on his experiences in creating accessible interactive web-based resources. He was seeking to resolve confusion over the location of documents which he had created to provide information for third year dissertations. He developed a sphinx-doc which compiled all this information into one place and a more easily accessible format. He was able to configure different themes and fonts to suit the needs of the students. Neil’s talk emphasised the importance of the webpage interface design in in ensuring wide accessibility. To find out more click here for the presentation.   

Members of the English & Creative Writing Department gave a presentation that presented a case in favour of the hyflex model. Dr Louise Marshall, Dr Malte Urban and Professor Matt Jarvis led the presentation which really evaluated the benefits of the hyflex model of teaching. There was an appreciation by students about the flexibility of the online teaching approach, which meant that whether they were absent due to isolation, illness, or other circumstances, they could still engage with the content and attend the sessions. Two students from the department, Alex and Louise, both spoke about their positive experiences of the hyflex model and how it improved accessibility and inclusivity. I have to admit this was one of my favourite presentations so if you have the chance, please give it a listen. To find out more click here for the presentation.  

Dr Tristram Irvine-Fynn from the Geography and Earth Sciences Department gave a presentation of the creation of 3D Fieldtrips to Cadair Idris. This was inspired to complement the role of fieldwork within Geography modules.  By adapting resources the department have created a more accessible environment and active learning experience. It is a fantastic learning resource  and there is a lot of potential to increase and expand its use. To find out more click here for the presentation.  

Kittie Belltree, Mary Glasser, Cal Walters-Davies, & Caroline White  from the Student Support and Careers Services gave a presentation on the impacts that blended learning had on neurodiverse students. They noted that not all student experiences of blended learning were particular advantageous and that some neurodiverse students found it difficult to adapt to the new methods of learning and teaching. In the presentation the accessibility service provided information as to the ways which staff can support neurodiverse students and to help ensure their module content is accessible. They also provided a helpful guide to inclusive teaching. To find out more click here for the presentation. 

I think what the rapid switch to hyflex model has shown is the potential wider use of different methods of teaching. It has led to lecturers being able to trial and implement bolder methods of teaching and assessment. It has given departments a chance to reflect on the way in which course content is delivered and taught some key lessons and skills which can be used in the further development of course content.  

Interactive Blackboard Tools Case Studies – Tests

The second case study on using interactive Blackboard tools showcases effective use of tests for summative and formative assessment by Dr Ruth Wonfor from IBERS.

  • What tool do you use and how?

I use Blackboard tests for either formative or summative tests in most of my modules.

  • Why did you choose this tool?

I’ve chosen to use Blackboard tests for a variety of reasons. For summative tests, I have used these in a first year module on anatomy and physiology. This module provides a lot of foundation knowledge on basic biology that is used by students in future modules, therefore I wanted to design an assessment that would enable me to test a wide variety of topics across the module that meets quite a broad learning outcome. The use of multiple choice tests has worked really well for this and it fits really nicely with the work I do in this module to try to get students to use flashcards in their learning. Students can really see the benefit of the flashcards through this test.

For the formative assessments, I have chosen to use Blackboard tests for quite a range of reasons. I have previously tended to use them to allow students to test their knowledge at the end of a topic. However, whilst we have been teaching online I have started to use them to ask questions that I would have asked in the lecture to check understanding. This has been great to help me to structure the learning and ensure that students aren’t rushing onto new sections without fully understanding what they needed to in the previous section.

  • How did you design the activity using this tool?

How I design the Blackboard tests very much depends on what I am using them for. The summative tests are quite rigid with only multiple-choice questions. I tend to use standard question formats, such as choose the correct answer to a question, choose the correct statement or what structure is the arrow pointing to on an image. Whilst students have been able to take this test at home during Covid-19, I have also introduced some short answer questions into the multiple-choice test. These have worked really well to prevent students just looking up every multiple-choice answer and giving a good marks distribution.  

For the formative tests I use a wider range of options in the questions to fit what I want the students to learn.  For example, I’ve used the matching questions after going through terminology, so that student have to match the terms with the correct description. I also try to use the feedback in these formative tests to get the students to direct their learning. So instead of telling students that they have answered a question incorrectly and what the correct answer should have been, I instead use the feedback to direct the students to the slide or section of the lecture where they can find the answer, hopefully encouraging students to structure their learning and revision further.

Finally, whilst we have been teaching online I have found adaptive release combined with the BB tests really useful for structuring topics. I often start some lectures with a bit of revision of information that they should have covered in previous modules that is the basis of the topic we are covering in that session. Therefore, I’ve used BB tests to cover this revision. I use the feedback to direct the students to further information if they need to brush up their knowledge and then use adaptive release to only release the topic to them once they have attempted the revision quiz. The students get clear instructions that they need to have a go at the quiz and then they will get access to the lecture topic. This seemed to work well and so it is something that I hope to keep in place for future years so that I can remove the revision from the lectures, allowing more time for application of the knowledge gained in the lectures.

  • What do your students think of this tool?

I’ve had pretty good feedback from students about the use of the BB tests, a lot have said that they have found them really useful to help them revise and go over topics to understand where they need to put more effort into their further study. I’ve also helped to reduce student anxiety about the final summative test by using formative tests throughout the module. As the summative test I use is on a first-year module in semester 1, students are often quite anxious about what to expect at university level. I can therefore direct them towards the formative tests as examples of the level of questions that they will be expected to answer in the exam.

  • Do you have any tips for people who want to use this tool?

My main tip would be to allow yourself a fair bit of time to construct the tests. The initial start up to write good questions and feedback for the students takes a while. However, once you have spent that time, you have the tests ready to roll out each year. It is well worth the time spent to help the students and get an idea of their understanding and where you may need to clarify topics again. Also make sure that you take the tests yourself! I’ve noticed a few mistakes or questions that need further clarification when taking the test myself and it’s really useful to see how the student will see the final question formatting in their view.

We would like to thank Dr Ruth Wonfor for sharing her experiences of using Blackboard tests.

If you like to learn more about tests please take a look at the Blackboard Tests – Creating Online Assessment Activities for your Students post and the FAQs.

If you are planning to use Blackboard tests for online examination, please get in touch with us at

Exemplary Course Award Winners at the Annual Learning and Teaching Conference

Exemplary Course Award image

It was great to see so many faces at this year’s virtual Annual Learning and Teaching Conference. One of the highlights for me was to be able to celebrate our 5 Exemplary Course Award Winners. Since the start of the pandemic we haven’t been able to acknowledge our winners at graduation like we have done in previous years, so the ECA winners session is a way to share the fantastic and innovative practices taking place.

We’re about to start our course creation process for the academic year 2021-22. So, if you want some inspiration, take a look at the module tours linked from the text below.


Dr Hanna Binks, Department of Psychology: PS11320: Introduction to Research Methods

This core, first year module equips students with the skills that they need for their duration of the degree in Psychology. The innovative assessment design, bilingual content, consistent organisation, and clear communications with students saw Hanna win this year’s competition. If you want inspiration on how to tie together learning outcomes, assessment, and content then take a look at this module.

Take a look at the PS11320 module tour.

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