Call for Proposals – Group Work and Group Assessment

Mini Conference Logo

The Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit are pleased to announce that the first of this year’s Academy Mini Conferences will be held on Monday 16th December 2019. This Mini Conference will explore the advantageous and complex nature of group work, in and out of the classroom, and as a mode of assessment.

We are looking for expressions of interest from members of the University to give presentations, demonstrations, workshops and discussions on their how they approach group teaching. If you would like to submit a proposal to this year’s mini-conference, please fill in this online form before Monday 18th November. 

Potential topics might include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Group assessment design and marking (including peer marking)
  • Approaches to embedding group work into teaching (large and small teaching)
  • Use of technology in group work
  • Managing and supporting different group dynamics

You can register to attend the Mini Conference by clicking on this link. If you have any queries, please email lteu@aber.ac.uk.  

4th International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating

Turnitin icon

Today, October 16 2019, is the 4th International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating.

In this special blogpost, we’ll outline how Contract Cheating impacts Higher Education. In the UK, Contract Cheating involves making use of essay mills. These services have gained increased exposure over the past few years, with a report undertaken by Swansea University identifying that one in seven recent graduates across the world admitting to pay someone to undertake their work (Newton, 2018).  In order to highlight the issue, the International Center for Academic Integrity in the USA established the International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating. In the UK, the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) provides guidance on Contract Cheating.

In 2018, more than 40 University leaders in the UK wrote to the Education Secretary asking for a ban on essay mills. There are also ongoing legal disputes against this practice. Here at Aberystwyth University, use of essay mills is covered by Unacceptable Academic Practice regulations.

Students – who can help?

For students, there might be several reasons why you think Contract Cheating might be the only solution. It might be because you haven’t left enough time to complete your assignment. It might be because you don’t understand the assignment brief or have difficulty grasping a complex concept. It might also be because you’re concerned about your grades and want to do better. Regardless of the reason, there are plenty of people around to help you with doing the best that you can on your assignments.

The first thing to do at the start of the semester is to make sure you plan out your time carefully. Give yourself enough time to look through the assignment and module information. Check out all your deadlines for your modules and add to your online calendar. Doing this will let you know when you need to have your different assignments ready and when you might be the most busy. This also gives you enough time to spend understanding your assignment and what is being asked of you.

Make sure you ask for help. If you don’t understand the essay question or concept, speak to your lecturer or tutor and ask for help. Ask specific questions – work out which part of a theory or concept you don’t understand. Have a look at the material that is available to you via Blackboard, such as lecture notes, PowerPoint slides, or lecture recordings, and use these to help you make an informed decision over your assignment. Speak to your peers as well and maybe think of setting up a study group to discuss the issues.  You can also find advice from the University Library, including storing references you have found and software available to help you manage and format your references. 

Give yourself time to look at and digest your feedback from previous assignments. Look at areas that you have done well in as well as areas that require improvement. Aim to improve the areas for improvement in your next assignment. This can’t be done by an Essay Mill – only you know your own work and what areas you need to work on. You can look back at all your feedback from assignments by logging into Blackboard.

In the news

BBC News. 2018. ‘Essay cheating: how common is it?’. BBC News. [online]. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-43975508. Last Accessed: 02.10.2019.

BBC News. 2018. ‘Essay mills: ‘One in seven’ paying for university essays. BBC News. [online]. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-45358185. Last Accessed: 02.10.2019.

Husbands, C. 2019. ‘Essay mills prey on vulnerable students – let’s stamp them out’. The Guardian. 20 March. [online]. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/mar/20/essay-mills-prey-on-vulnerable-students-lets-stamp-them-out. Last Accessed: 01.10.2019.  

References

Newton, P. 2018. ‘How common is Commercial Contract Cheating in Higher Education and is it increasing? A systematic review’. Frontiers in Education. 30 August. [online]. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3389/feduc.2018.00067. Last Accessed: 02.10.2019. 

QAA. 2017. Contracting to Cheat in Higher Education: How to Address Contract Cheating, the Use of Third-Party Services and Essay Mills. [online]. Available at: https://www.qaa.ac.uk/docs/qaa/quality-code/contracting-to-cheat-in-higher-education.pdf?sfvrsn=f66af681_10. Last Accessed: 01.10.2019.

Academy Forums 2019/20

Join us for our first Academy Forum of the year, in E3, E-learning Training Room, Hugh Owen Building on October 29, 10-11am. Click here to book your place.

In this first Academy Forum, we will be providing an overview of JISC’s Digital Experience Tracker.

The Academy Forums for the year are:

Date

Time

Title

Room

06.12.2019 11am-12pm Engaging with Seminar Reading Hermann Ethé (Hugh Owen Library)
05.02.2020 2pm-3pm Using Technology in Small Group Teaching B20, Llandinam
17.03.2020 10am-11am Using Technology in Large Group Teaching E3, E-learning Training Room
21.05.2020 11am-12pm Using Technology for Group Work E3, E-learning Training Room

New Distance Learner Forum

These Forums are specifically aimed at those who deliver Distance Learning teaching or are considering delivering via Distance Learning in the future.

Date

Time

Title

Room

22.10.2019 1pm-2pm Strategies for Monitoring Student Engagement E3, E-learning Training Room
18.02.2020 1pm-2pm Creating a Podcast E3, E-learning Training Room
26.05.2020 1pm-2pm Gauging Opinion from a Distance E3, E-learning Training Room

We hope that you’ll be able to attend these forums. Please contact us with any questions.

New Distance Learner Forum

Distance Learner BannerWe’re excited to announce a new Distance Learner Forum for staff. These Forums are specifically aimed at those who deliver Distance Learning teaching or are considering delivering via Distance Learning in the future.

The Distance Learner Forum was established at this year’s Annual Learning and Teaching Conference. Book your place on these courses online.

This year there are 3 Distance Learning Forums:

Distance Learning Forum 1: Strategies for Monitoring Student Engagement

Tuesday 22nd October 2019, 1pm-2pm, E3 E-learning Training Room

In the first of these special Distance Learner Forums we will be looking at how you measure student engagement with learning activities in Blackboard. Blackboard has many different types of learning opportunities and activities. In this session, we will be looking at how we can measure student engagement with Blackboard for Distance Learning students.

Distance Learning Forum 2: Creating a Podcast

Tuesday 18th February 2020, 1pm-2pm, E3 E-learning Training Room

In the second of our Distance Learner Forums, we will be looking at Creating Podcasts. Podcasts are a great way to keep your students engaged with the content that you are creating as well as giving them opportunities to build activities into the podcasts. We’ll look at successful podcast design whilst also looking at the practicalities for creating your podcast and embedding it into your Blackboard course.

Distance Learning Forum 3: Gauging Student Opinion from a Distance

Tuesday 26th May 2020, 1pm-2pm, E3 E-learning Training Room

In the third of our Distance Learner Forums, we will be looking at how you can gauge student opinion from a distance. We’ll discuss and present strategies on how to allow distance learning students to feel part of a community and also to learn from each other. We’ll introduce activities that can be done in Blackboard to support this as well as other technologies such as online polling and Skype for Business.

We hope that you’ll be able to attend these forums. Please contact us with any questions.

Welcome to new students (and welcome back to our returners) – some top tips on using our E-learning Systems

Welcome to all our new students

We’d like to say hello to all new students and welcome back to those who are joining us again for another year. With the start of term approaching, we thought we’d provide you with some advice and top tips on using our E-learning systems. In this blogpost, we’ll be introducing our main services to you. E-learning support and advice is provided by the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit located in Information Services.

Here are some top tips to help you get started.

  • Use Chrome or Firefox to access our systems
  • Make sure you have your Aberystwyth username and password handy.
  • Over the next few weeks take time to familiarise yourself with these systems so that you are ready to use them

If you’ve got any queries regarding IT or library services, email is@aber.ac.uk or call 01970 62 2400.

Virtual Learning Environment

Blackboard Logo

Firstly, Blackboard is the University’s Virtual Learning Environment. You can access Blackboard by going to blackboard.aber.ac.uk. You’ll need your Aberystwyth Username and Password in order to login. Your language preference for using Blackboard is taken from your preferred language of choice in your student record (Welsh or English). Every module that you’re studying has its own Blackboard site. Here you’ll find materials that will support your learning and teaching.  In addition to this, you’ll be able to access your lecture recordings and submit your assignments electronically. You can navigate to the different areas of a module by clicking on the left-hand menu.

In addition to accessing your teaching materials, you might be asked by your lecturer to undertake some other activities in Blackboard such as tests or quizzes, wikis, blogs, or reflective journals. You’ll also have Departmental sites which will include important information regarding your assignments and further support that you might have.

E-submission

Turnitin logo

All text-based word-processed work will be submitted electronically whilst you’re here at Aberystwyth University via Blackboard. You’ll also receive your marks and feedback electronically as well. There are two different types of electronic submission available: Turnitin and Blackboard Assignment. We’ve got specific advice available on our FAQs for submitting via Turnitin and also via Blackboard Assignment. See below for some top tips on submitting your work electronically:

  • Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to submit your assignment before the deadline
  • Most of the work that you submit will be marked anonymously so don’t put your name on your assignment
  • Save and name your assignment as something meaningful to you
  • Double-check that you are submitting to the correct module
  • Check your emails after you’ve submitted to make sure you’ve got an email receipt
  • Give yourself time to read your feedback carefully after you’ve got your marks

Lecture Capture

Panopto logo

Aberystwyth University makes use of lecture capture software called Panopto. This means that you are able to access recordings from your lectures via Blackboard. There’s a great infographic by Nordmann et al (2018) on how best to make the use of lecture capture to support your learning. Their advice is summarised below:

Firstly, make sure you attend your lectures. Whilst lecture recordings are available for you, this is no replacement for being live at the teaching session. Here you’ll have opportunities to ask questions and also learn from your peers. Think of the lecture capture as supplementing the live teaching sessions. In your lectures, make sure that you make notes and attempt to summarise the discussions in your own words.

When watching the lectures back, be specific and go to the bits that you don’t understand or don’t remember. Don’t watch the lecture as a whole – you should ideally do this within a few days of the lecture taking place to see how much you do remember. Make sure you have your lecture notes handy so that you can add to them.

If you are unable to attend the lecture for valid reasons, make sure you watch the recording within a week so that you can keep up to date with the content – don’t binge watch at the end of the semester. If you are making use of the recording, make sure you watch it at its normal speed and don’t fast forward. Give the recording your full attention and don’t do other tasks such as the Go back to the bits that you don’t understanding and re-watch these sections.  You can find the full article online.

References

Nordmann, E., Kuepper-Tetzel, C. E., Robson, L., Phillipson, S., Lipan, G., & Mcgeorge, P. (2018). Lecture capture: Practical recommendations for students and lecturers. [online]. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/sd7u4. Last accessed: 03.10.2019.

Parent-child modules

Image of Blackboard logo and parent-child

Now that the 2019-20 modules are available to staff, we can link them together at the module co-ordinator’s request. This process is known as parent-childing. Linking modules together is an effective way of dealing with separate modules with the same content so you don’t have to upload materials to two or more different modules.

This process makes one module the parent, whilst the other module(s) become a child. There’s no limit on how many modules you make a child but there can only be one parent.

If you’d like to parent-child your modules, and you’re the module co-coordinator, contact elearning@aber.ac.uk with the module codes for the parent and child modules.

Examples from Aberystwyth

Many members of staff are currently using parent-child modules across the institution. Some examples are:

  1. Modules are taught the same content but there’s a module available for different years
  2. Modules with the same content delivered in English and Welsh
  3. Modules that bring together different degree schemes and have different module IDs, for example dissertation modules

Essentially, any module that shares the same content is ideal for parent-childing.

What do students see?

Students will see the name of the module that they are enrolled on (even if it’s the child module) when they log into Blackboard but they will see all the content placed in the parent module. Instructors will not be able to place content in the child module.

Things to consider

Now, before the start of term and whilst module content is being built, is the perfect time for linking your modules. Whilst the linking of modules does save time in the loading of materials, there are some things to consider:

  • All content is able to be viewed as soon as the modules are merged (as long as students are enrolled on the module). In addition to PowerPoints, lecture materials, this also includes Announcements and other interactive tools on your parent module
  • Historical student interactions on a child module (such as using blogs or posting in discussion boards) won’t be available once the modules have been merged
  • Any submission points created on a child module before the merge takes place will no longer be able to be viewed. We would advise creating these again in the parent module

How do I control content so that it is only viewable to a module cohort?

Whilst all content is automatically visible once the modules are merged, you can use groups and adaptive release if you only want the content to be visible to a specific module cohort. This might be useful, for example, if you have a 2nd year and 3rd year module merged but your students on the different modules have separate assignments. You can use groups – 1 for the 2nd year students and one for 3rd year students and limit who can see the assignment information and submission point. Follow our guidance on creating a group and adaptive release if you wish to do this.

Parent-Child Grade Centre and Component Marks Transfer

Once the merging takes place, all students will appear in the Grade Centre of the parent module. You can, however, determine whether they are enrolled on the child module as this information displays against the student in the Grade Centre columns. We would advise creating different submission points (using adaptive release) so that the component marks transfer can be managed more easily. If there is one submission point for all students then Component Marks transfer can only be used on one of the module codes.

If you’d like further information on this process or have specific questions then please contact us (elearning@aber.ac.uk).

Creating Accessible Learning Materials

Accessibility icons showing 3 images: a checklist, a computer workstation, an imageNew digital accessibility legislation came into effect in 2018. It covers all material on public sector websites as well as documents uploaded into VLEs, such as our Blackboard site. For details of the new law, please see Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No.2) Accessibility Regulations 2018. See the Accessible Virtual Learning Environments Report for information about how we can make our modules more accessible and inclusive.

Over the past few months, members of staff in the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit have been working with colleagues across the University to prepare for the introduction of the legislation. For details about how the university is responding to the legislation, please see the university’s Digital Accessibility Statement. From that page, click on Guidance for Staff (you will need to log in to view these materials).  Guidance for Staff includes two sections – one for CMS users (website builders) and one for any staff who create learning materials or other documents for the web or Blackboard.

The Guidance on Creating Accessible Learning Materials page includes a checklist for making your Word documents, PowerPoint files, PDF documents, and embedded media clips more accessible for your students. You can also access the handout from the Creating Accessible Learning Materials training session that is run by the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit in collaboration with Student Support.

In addition to the Creating Accessible Materials training sessions (that can be booked online), the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit is also happy to offer bespoke training for staff in departments. If you have any queries about creating accessible materials for your learning and teaching, or you’d like to book a bespoke session for yourself and colleagues in your Department, please contact us (lteu@aber.ac.uk).

Changes to Video Conferencing

Information Services is changing its Video Conferencing provision to Skype for Business. The Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit have been working with colleagues across Information Services on the change to this provision.

Skype for Business has the capability to have up to 250 participants attend the webinar. You can attach documents for participants to review beforehand. In addition to this, you can choose the content that you display to your participants, from just audio calls, through to screen casts and PowerPoint presentations. Skype for Business is fully integrated with Office 365 and conference attendees only need an Internet connection to participate in the meeting.

Current Video Conference suites will be updated with new equipment for Skype for Business. You can already download Skype for Business. We’ve got further advice available here.

We will be offering 2 different training sessions on using Skype for Business and you can sign up here.

  • Skype for Business for Meeting Organisers

This session is for those who arrange and set up meetings. We will be looking at how to arrange a meeting using Outlook, how to send the meeting request to participants, control participant interaction, and share documents with participants before the meeting.

  • Skype for Business for Teaching Activities

In addition to covering the above, we will also look at the interactive features of Skype for Business that can enhance Learning and Teaching. We will give advice on strategies you can use for teaching virtually.

Webinars can enhance learning and teaching provision, particularly for students who aren’t studying on campus. JISC have got some guidance on using Webinars in education which you can access here.

We’ve helped the Department of Education run a couple of webinars which you can find out more about here. In addition to this, we’ve also run a couple of webinars on E-learning tools and provision.

2019/2020 Modules now available (staff)

Modules for the academic year 2019/20 are now available for staff teaching on modules. You may have noticed that a new tab has appeared on the top menu of your Blackboard screen:

If you’re enrolled as a staff member on the module in Astra then you should be able to view your modules for next academic year. If you’re not able to see a module that you are enrolled on then contact your Departmental Administrator. Students won’t be enrolled on the module until registration is complete.

We’ve created 2019/20 modules earlier this year in order to assist staff in getting their modules ready following the second phase of Blank Course Copy, following last year’s Blank Course Copy for all Year 1 on campus modules.

This year, Blank Course Copy applies to all on-campus Year 2 and Year 3 modules. Year 2 and 3 modules created blank last year with your Departmental Template will be copied over into this year’s module.

We’ve got the following support available to help with Blank Course Copy:

If you have any queries regarding Blank Course Copy, or need further assistance, please email elearning@aber.ac.uk.

A reminder, that Blackboard will be unavailable on Thursday 29th August, 09:30-12:30 and will be at risk until 14:00 whilst we complete our work to migrate to SaaS. Blackboard will then be read only until Monday 2nd September.

Exemplary Course Award: Winners

We are pleased to announce this year’s recipient of the Exemplary Course Award run by the E-learning Group. Come and see the winners present their modules at next week’s Learning and Teaching Conference. Further information here.

Alison Pierse, Lifelong Learning Tutor in Art, has been awarded the Exemplary Course Award for the module XA15220 Figuratively Speaking: The History of Western Figurative Sculpture. The panel commended this module for its innovative approach to co-design with students as well as its ability to create a 3 dimensional learning experience for students who might not be studying on campus, in addition to ensuring all aspects of this module was fully accessible.

In addition to the winner, the following modules achieved Highly Commended:

  • IBERS Distance Learning Team for BDM0120 Research Methods
  • Stephen Chapman for BDM1320 The Future of Packaging
  • Alexandros Koutsoukis for IP12620 Behind the Headlines
  • Jennifer Wood for SP10740 Spanish Language (Beginners)

The diverse range of teaching and learning styles evidenced in this year’s applications reflects the innovative work that is taking place across the institution.

The aim of the Exemplary Course Award, now in its sixth year, is to recognise the very best learning and teaching practices by giving staff members the opportunity to share their work with colleagues, enhance their current modules in Blackboard, and receive feedback on their modules. Modules are assessed across 4 areas: course design, interaction and collaboration, assessment, and learner support. The self-assessed nature of the award gives staff the opportunity to reflect on their course and enhance aspects of their module before a panel assesses each application against the rubric.

The panel and the E-learning Group would like to thank all of the applicants for the time and effort that they have put into their applications and modules this year.

We’re looking forward to receiving more applications next year and many congratulations to the recipients of this year’s award.