Interactive Blackboard Tools Series – Journals and Blogs (Part 1)

Teaching staff at Aberystwyth University make excellent use of basic functions of Blackboard keeping it consistent and easy to navigate, meeting the needs of their students. Some staff go beyond Blackboard Required Minimum Presence, using additional, interactive functions in many different creative ways. Considering the current emphasis on online learning and the use of asynchronous online activities we would like to introduce you to some of the more advanced (although still easy to use!) tools in Blackboard:

  • Journals and Blogs
  • Wikis
  • Tests

We have already written about discussion board – perhaps the most versatile of all the Blackboard tools. In this blog post we will focus on blogs and journals and the value these tools could bring to your teaching. 

Both journals and blogs, typically written in an informal way, are tools conducive to reflection and personal expression. The difference in their use is determined by whether or not they are aimed at being shared with others. Journals in Blackboard can be set up in two ways:

  • Private journals cannot be anonymous, are seen only by the lecturer and the student who wrote it, if enabled other students may view them but not comment or edit.
  • Group journals enable students to write individual entries into one group journal, group members can view and comment on all entries.

Watch a tutorial on creating journals

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Helping Students to Make Most of Recorded Lectures – Using Discussion and Notes in Panopto

Panopto recordings have been heavily used by students even before the move to partly online delivery. This year they rely on pre-recorded content even more. Facilitating active learning using asynchronous materials such as lecture recordings can be challenging. We have previously shared with you the guide on using lecture recordings for students outlining six key strategies helping them to make most of the recordings. In one of our previous posts we have also explored the use of Panopto captions and quizzes which enables your recordings to be more accessible and interactive. Today we would like to introduce you to two additional Panopto functionalities – discussion and notes.

The image shows where the Discussion function in Panopto is located. It is between the Contents and Notes tabs on the left hand side of the Panopto editor.

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Using Podcasts for Teaching

The second Academy Forum session this year focused on creating podcasts in Panopto. The discussion emphasised podcasts’ unique potential for facilitating a sense of connection. Usually based on informal monologues, interviews and discussions podcasts provide their users with opportunities to listen in to unconstructed reflections and conversations. As explained by Street (2014) audio storytelling creates a ‘partnership between imagination and memory’ triggering a unique and personal reaction to it (as cited in McHugh, 2014, p.143). Podcasts can provide us with company; unlike with videos or written texts, we can listen to them during other daily activities.

These unique properties of podcasts hold great potential for its use in education. University of Cambridge created a collection of short podcasts from various subject areas. Podcasts are also used by individual educators, Ian Wilson, a Senior Lecturer in Education at York St John University Ian Wilson created a series of podcasts aimed at supporting learners on placements. His podcast focused on providing students with instructions on what the students should be doing the following week, answering any of their questions and providing some motivational advice. Although podcasting may not necessarily be the best solution for delivering the key learning material, as discussed during the Academy Forum session, it can complement your current teaching practice by fostering reflection, increasing learner’s engagement and foster a sense of community.

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Conducting blended teaching sessions – synchronously face-to-face and via Teams  

Teaching staff are encouraged to provide access to teaching sessions for students unable to attend them in person. The guidelines below provide step-by-step checklist of all things that need to be completed to conduct an effective session for both students sitting in the classroom and those joining via MS Teams.  

Before the session: 

Note: Make it clear that this has been provided for students who are not able to attend the session in person and that all students who are well and not self-isolating are expected to attend the sessions in-person and that attendance during face-toface session will be closely monitored.  

  • Revise the teaching room guide and watch videos demonstrating using the new teaching room set-up:  

Teaching Rooms Guide 

Teaching Rooms demonstrations 

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Engaging students with asynchronous online tasks: Self-Determination Theory (SDT) Perspective

2020 Student’s expectations survey conducted by Wonkhe showed that when presented with a scenario of limited face-to-face teaching, 71 per cent said that in such a scenario they would struggle with motivation to learn and keep up interest.

 

How can we make sure that our students engage with asynchronous online tasks?

Self-determination theory (SDT) by Deci and Ryan (1985, 2002) is one of the most comprehensive and empirically supported theories of motivation available today. Past research indicated that SDT predicts a variety of learning outcomes, including performance, persistence, and course satisfaction (Deci & Ryan, 1985). The SDT-based strategies may apply to a variety of educational settings including online learning environments (Kuan-Chung & Syh-Jong, 2010). According to SDT, when students’ basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness are met, they are more likely to internalize their motivation to learn and be more engaged in their studies.

Image showing the three components of self-determination theory: competence, autonomy and relatedness, all contributing to motivation.

 

Source: https://ela-source.com/2019/09/25/self-determination-theory-in-education/

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Hello from your new Online Learning Specialist!

My name is Ania and I am one of the three Online Learning Specialists joining the LTEU.

Some of you may recognise me as I have previously worked with Information Services, at first as Communications, Marketing and E-learning Support Officer and then as part of the E-learning Group providing technical support to staff and overseeing smooth running of online exams. In the summer of 2019, I left Aberystwyth to pursue a master’s degree in Applied Positive Psychology. During my degree, I also worked for Anglia Ruskin Students’ Union as a Volunteer Centre Coordinator. 

I would have never guessed I will be given the opportunity to join the LTEU once again. I am extremely grateful to be able to work alongside such a supportive team and contribute to the further development of, already outstanding, teaching at AU. Throughout my time of working at AU in the I have always been inspired by the dedication and creativity of AU teaching staff. I look forward to learning from your expertise and work alongside each one of you in delivering high-quality online teaching to our students. I am hoping to draw on research in the area of Positive Education, providing you with (hopefully) an interesting and transformative perspective of students’ basic psychological needs and their motivation for learning. It is clear that the upcoming year will be full of challenges for students as well as staff and I am hoping to provide you with the support and knowledge needed for you to develop online teaching that is sustainable, in line with your methods and the needs of your students.

I look forward to meeting you.

Please feel free to contact with me any queries comments: aeu@aber.ac.uk

Ania

Additional online learning support for teaching staff

Recent months brought an expected rapid demand for high-quality online teaching. As in the upcoming academic year a large part of teaching will continue to be delivered online, the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit will be joined by three Online Learning Specialists. They will support the LTEU in designing and delivering an ambitious programme of training for all teaching staff at AU. This programme aims to make sure that all AU staff are able to deliver pedagogically effective teaching and learning activities, in our new learning and teaching conditions.

We would like to extend a warm welcome to our new team members.

Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit

Digital Insights 2018/19: Digital tools and apps useful for learning

In Digital Insights 2018/19 survey, we asked students to give an example of a digital tool or app they find really useful for learning. We thought we will share some of the examples on our blog.

Access AU core e-learning services

 

Research

  • Endnote – reference management software (free to download for AU students and staff)
  • Mendeley – reference management software & researcher network

 

Organize & monitor your progress

  • ApAber– check your timetable, find available computers on campus, see your Aber Card balance, look at local bus timetables and much more
  • GradeHub – a tool to track your progress and predict what marks you need to achieve your degree
  • Asana – is a web and mobile application designed to help teams organize, track, and manage their work
  • MyStudyLife – unfortunately this service is shutting down but try myHomework (app) instead, it will help you to organize your workload

 

Taking notes

 

Study better

  • Forest App – is an app helping you stay away from your smartphone and stay focused on your work
  • GetRevising – revision tools
  • Anki – software for making flashcards
  • Study Blue – online flashcards, homework help & textbook solutions
  • Quora – a platform to ask questions and connect with people who contribute unique insights and quality answers
  • Memrise – a language platform which uses flashcards as memory aids, but also offers user-generated content on a wide range of other subjects
  • GeoGebra – an interactive geometry, algebra, statistics and calculus application
  • KhanAcademy – free online courses, lessons & practice
  • Tomato Timers – ‘Pomodoro Technique’ is a time management method, the technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks

 

 

Digital Insights 2018/19 benchmarking data

As promised in the previous post outlining some of the key findings of this year’s Digital Insights survey for students we will now present you with the benchmarking data from 29 other Higher Education in UK (14560 responses from students).

Having access to the benchmarking data gives us an opportunity to judge how well we are actually doing and determine which issues are specific to Aberystwyth and which are common to all HE institutions in our sector.

Overall, significantly more students at AU rated the quality of this university’s digital provision (software, hardware, learning environment) as ‘Excellent’.

 

 

 

 

In many aspects, the ratings of AU digital provisions were higher than the benchmarking data, however with regard to interactive digital activities such as using educational games or simulations, polling software or working online with others the results were lower.

In the next post from the Digital Insights’ series we will present you with examples of useful learning apps and tools given by students.


Significantly more students at AU responded that they have access to ‘recorded lectures’ at university whenever they need them.

 

 

 

 

Significantly more students at AU agree the university help them stay safe online.

 

 

 

 

 

Significantly more students at AU agree that they can easily find things on the VLE.

 

 

 

 

 

Significantly more students at AU agree that online assessments are delivered and managed well.

 

 

 

 

 

Significantly more students at AU never work online with others as part of their course.

 

 

 

 

 

Significantly more students at AU never use a polling device or online quiz to give answers in class as part of their course.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Findings of the Digital Insights survey running at AU for the second time!

Last year Aberystwyth University took part in the pilot of JISC Student Digital Experience Tracker – an online survey designed by JISC to collect information about students’ expectations and experiences of technology. The 2017/18 pilot has led to a new Jisc service now called Digital Experience Insights.

Digital Insights survey for students run at AU in January 2019. We were very excited about running this survey for the second time, as it enabled us to compare the findings with last year’s result and track our progress on digital provisions.

Below you will see a short summary of some of the key findings. If you wish to discuss them further or get more information on the project, please contact us at elearning@aber.ac.uk.

As you may be aware the Digital Experience Insights survey comes with a benchmarking data from other Higher Education institutions in our sector. The benchmarking data has been now made available and we will share it with you in the next Digital Insights post.

If you wish to read about AU experience of running Digital Insights in academic year 2017/18, take a look at the article published on Jisc website or browse through our previous posts:


Digital Experience Insights 2018/19

 

WiFi

Students’ satisfaction with WiFi increased by 7.3% in comparison to last year’s survey. Although WiFi is still the most common theme in students comment, the number of comments regarding WiFi decreased from 66 last year to 38 this year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

E-books & E-journals

7.7% less students responded that they have access to e-books and journals whenever they need them, this issue has been also mentioned in 19 of students’ comments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blackboard
The issue regarding a navigation in Blackboard seemed to improve. There were only 3 comments about this issue in comparison to 20 last year and 8.2% increase in the question on Blackboard navigation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*The question wording has changed since the 2017/18 survey which could have impacted the ratings.

 

Security
Students are more satisfied with the provisions regarding security issues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mobile devices
The use of smartphone to support learning increased slightly. In the comments, students talked about the need of core services such as Panopto and Blackboard being mobile friendly and about usefulness of apps helping them with their studies. Interestingly, when asked whether they would prefer to be allowed to use their own mobile devices in class only 49% answered ‘At any time’, 45.4% answered ‘Only to carry out class activities’ and 5.6% ‘None of the time’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Use of technology
There is a shift towards using more technology, there were quite a few comments about staff needing more training on the use of technology and there was an increase of nearly 10% of students wanting more technology to be used on their course.