Blackboard Tools for Group Work (Blogpost 5): Assignments

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Blackboard Group Assignments for Instructors

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

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Blackboard Discussions for Instructors

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

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: and search “Discussion”

Blackboard Tools for Group Work (Blogpost 3): Wikis

Group Work BannerBlackboard Wikis for Instructors

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

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: and search “Wikis”

Blackboard Tools for Group Work (Blogpost 2): Blogs

Group Work BannerBlackboard Blogs for Instructors

A blog is a personal online journal that is frequently updated and intended to share with others. Most blogs also have a commenting feature, so that people can respond to one another’s thoughts. Blogs encourage students to clearly express their ideas. Blogs also address the need to expand various aspects of social learning. From the instructor’s point of view, blogs are an effective means of gaining insight into students’ activities and provide a way to share the knowledge and materials collected.

In Blackboard Learn, instructors create and manage blogs, and only enrolled users can view and create entries and comments in them. Similar to journals, you can use blogs for a graded assignment or gather opinions and information without assigning a grade.

Blackboard Blogs for Students

A blog is your personal online journal. Each blog entry you make can include any combination of text, images, links, multimedia, mashups, and attachments. Blogs are an effective way for you to share knowledge and materials created and collected in the course. You can post entries and add comments to existing blogs. Use your blog to express your ideas and share them with the class.

As the owner of a blog, you can create entries and your instructor and classmates can add comments. A course or a group can also own a blog. In the group area, all members of a group can create entries for the same blog, building upon one another. Any course member can read and comment on a group blog, but can’t create an entry if the user isn’t a member of the group. Your instructor can also offer comments and grade entries.

See our Aberystwyth FAQs on Blogs: and search “Blogs”

Blackboard Tools for Group Work (Blogpost 1)

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Blackboard Groups for Instructors

Collaborative learning offers many benefits over traditional instruction. Studies show that when students work as a team, they develop positive attitudes, solve problems more effectively, and experience a greater sense of accomplishment.

You can organise students into groups so they can interact with each other and demonstrate their knowledge while they learn to appreciate the perspective of others.

You can create course groups one at a time or in sets.

In the Original Course View, each group has its own homepage with links to tools to help students collaborate. Only you and group members can access the group tools.

In the Control Panel, expand the Users and Groups section and select Groups. On the Groups page, you can view and edit your existing groups, and create new groups and group sets.

Blackboard Groups for Students

Instructors can create groups of students within courses. Groups usually consist of a small number of students for study groups or projects. These groups have their own collaboration areas in the course so that they can communicate and share files.

Your instructor places you in a group or allows you to select the group you want to join. Your instructor chooses which communication and collaboration tools are available to your group.

Picture showing Groups under the menu item groups

See the Aberystwyth FAQ on creating groups:

How do I create a student group in Blackboard? (Staff) or search “groups”

Additional Distance Learning Forum

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Following feedback, we have added an additional Distance Learning Forum.

Supervising at a Distance

Date: 11.03.2020

Time: 14:00-15:30

Location: E3, E-learning Training Room

This forum is an opportunity to discuss to the good practice happening around the university on a variety of distance learning schemes and modules.  For those of you who are already supervising at a distance, we hope you will be able to bring your expertise and knowledge to those who are newer to this process. 

Book your place online:

Save the Date: Annual Learning and Teaching Conference

The Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit are excited to announce the date for the 8th Annual Learning and Teaching Conference. The conference will be taking place between Monday 7th and Wednesday 9th September 2020.

Look out for Calls for Proposals and the announcement of the conference theme later this month. As usual, we will be updating our Learning and Teaching Conference Webpages and also our blog to keep you up-to-date with how things are progressing. 


Mini Conference: Group Work and Group Assessment, Monday 16 December, 10.30am

Mini Conference Programme

Mini Conference Logo

On Monday 16th December, at 10.30am, the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit will be hosting this year’s Academy Mini Conference.

The Mini Conference is a smaller version of our Annual Learning and Teaching Conference which allows us to pull together a series of presentations and workshops around a particular learning and teaching topic.

This year the Mini Conference has the theme of Group Work and Group Assessment.

We’re excited to confirm our programme:

  • Professor John Traxler, Professor of Digital Learning, University of Wolverhampton: Working (Groups) in the Digital Age
  • Dr Jennifer Wood & Roberta Sartoni (Modern Langauges): Group Work as an Active-Learning Tool in Translation Classes
  • Janet Roland & John Harrington (Student Support Services): Supporting students who find group work challenging
  • Dr Gareth Llŷr Evans (Theatre, Film and Television Studies): Prosesau Creadigol Agored ac Asesu Grwpiau Bach
  • Dr Ian Archer (Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit): Learning Environments and your personality preferences
  • Mary Jacob (Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit): Designing and Assessing Group Work

We hope that you’ll be able to join us for this event. Places at the Mini Conference are limited so please book your place via this booking page.

Changes to Component Marks Transfer Process

Last year we introduced Component Marks Transfer, a process where marks were transferred from the Blackboard Grade Centre into the module record on AStRA.

Following its introduction, we have been working on enhancing this process, which has resulted in some changes. For the most part, the concept of Component Marks remains unchanged. For those of you who undertake Component Marks Transfer, you will notice that with the new system, the interface is slightly different when it comes to map the columns and transfer the grades. We will now be using Apex, an online application tool, to map, confirm, and transfer the marks into AStRA.

You’ll be able to access the Component Marks Transfer tool in the same way as before by logging into Blackboard, navigating to the module, expanding Course Tools under Course Management and selecting AStRA:: Map Columns. As with before, you will need to have a Departmental Administrator or an Instructor profile on the modules that you wish to transfer.

Enhancements include:

  • Map columns to multiple modules. The ability to map the same column to a different module enabling Parent-Child modules to be mapped
  • Preview the marks before you transfer. The new interface has a preview function allowing you to double-check that you have mapped the correct column before confirming that they are correct.
  • Visible checks for 0 marks. In addition to the preview, any marks with 0 given a visual cue for you to double-check that all is correct.

In order to support this change, we have our E-learning Essential: Introduction to Component Marks Transfer sessions on:

  • 03.12.2019, 10am-11am
  • 06.01.2020, 2pm-3pm
  • 13.01.2020, 11am-12pm
  • 06.05.2020, 2pm-3pm
  • 19.05.2020, 11am-12pm

These sessions can be booked online. In these sessions, we will be covering the concept of Component Marks transfer as well as introducing and guiding you through the new interface.

Our online Component Marks Transfer guidance has been updated to reflect the new interface and is available on our webpages.

In addition to the training, we’re also happy to offer bespoke training for groups of 5 or more colleagues. If you’d like to arrange a bespoke training session, please email

If you have any queries regarding this process, please contact / 01970 62 2472.

Guidance on using Audio Feedback in Turnitin

Banner for Audio Feedback


Turnitin is an e-submission software that students use to submit their work and staff use to mark. Marking is done via Turnitin Feedback Studio that has many features, such as rubrics, grade forms, Quick Marks, feedback summaries, and inline comments. In this guide, we’ll be looking specifically at Audio Feedback, a feature of Turnitin that allows instructors to record their feedback summaries and students to listen to them back.

There are many advantages to using Audio Feedback and we are finding colleagues across the sector making use of this feature. A recent study on the impact of Audio Feedback by colleagues at the University of Liverpool highlights that ‘feedback quality and student satisfaction were […] higher for audio feedback than for written feedback’ (Voelkel & Mello, 2014.: 29). This study also highlighted that there is no difference in terms of learner progression and attainment from students who received audio or written feedback. However, the study did highlight that students were more likely to revisit written than audio feedback.

In order to support the increased use of Audio Feedback, we have put together this resource to help staff provide effective feedback for their students. If you’re interested in using audio feedback then our E-submission pages contain information on setting up Turnitin submission points and providing feedback.

Policies and Best Practice

Here at Aberystwyth University, we have a policy in place for assessment feedback (3.2.17), which can be found in the Assessment of Taught Schemes. The feedback principles apply to both written as well as audio feedback. Both audio and written feedback are not treated differently regarding these policies. Audio feedback should be structured in the same or similar way to written feedback, identifying strengths, weaknesses and points for improvement.

In addition to this, you might find the summary of Psychology’s Dr Gareth Norris, Dr Heather Norris, and Alexandra Brookes’ presentation entitled ‘Delivering Feedback through Audio Commentary’ from the 2018 Annual Learning and Teaching Conference useful. You can access a recording summary of that presentation online.

Tips on using Audio Feedback

1.      Plan your feedback

We all know how important feedback is to students, especially in terms of guidance on how to improve their performance in subsequent assignments. If you haven’t used Audio Feedback before, you might want to plan what you intend to say – if you bullet point the main parts of your feedback then it will allow you to say focused whilst you’re recording your feedback. Unlike written feedback, the length of time that you are able to record is limited to 3 minutes and this can go quite quickly. Having Audio feedback on Turnitin is limited to three minutes, and that can go quite quickly plan to make sure all your main points are covered. As with written feedback, it’s important the audio feedback still addresses the criteria of the assignment. See the point about planning, but also be explicit in your audio feedback about which part of the criteria your feedback is addressing.

2.      Consider tone

Adding an audio dimension to feedback means that the tone in which you are delivering has to be considered. Often, when we give feedback verbally, face-to-face, we are able to convey more meaning to the individuals, as well as pick up visible cues from the student receiving their feedback. We’ve got to be mindful that with audio feedback, the student will be accessing their feedback on their own. Make sure that you identify the positive aspects of the work, as well as parts that can be developed.

3.      Listen back to your audio feedback

It’s always strange to listen back to yourself talking, but for the first few times you use audio feedback, you can get a feel as to how the feedback sounds. Listening back to the feedback will allow you to ensure that the feedback is linked to the assessment criteria. Unfortunately there is no editing feature for audio feedback, but you are always able to delete and record again. Listening back to the feedback will also allow you to evaluate whether the feedback is addressing the criteria. In addition to this, it will enable you to identify whether you have recorded something that you don’t want to be recorded, such as the dog barking or a fire alarm sounding.

4.      Make sure students know how to access their feedback

Whilst students often make use of Turnitin to submit their assignments and access their feedback, it’s important to let students know that they will be accessing audio feedback on their assignments. Whilst we are seeing an increase in staff using audio feedback, we’ve got to remember that students might be accessing this feature for the first time. To access the feedback voice comment, students navigate to their assignment, open it up, and click on the play button in the feedback summary window:

As with any feedback, make sure that students know how to contact you if they have any queries regarding their feedback.

Some quick technical tips to help you use the audio feedback feature:

  • Use Chrome or Firefox to access Turnitin
  • You’ll be prompted to save the feedback – make sure that you do this by clicking on the save icon
  • Don’t toggle between assignments and close your assignment after you’ve finished marking

If you have any queries regarding using audio feedback, please don’t hesitate to contact the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit.


Aberystwyth University. 2019. ‘Section 3: Assessment of Taught Schemes’ Academic Quality Handbook. Available online:—Chapter-3—v3-Sept-2019.pdf. Last Accessed 05.11.2019.

Voelkel, S. & Mello, L.  2014. ‘Audio Feedback – Better Feedback?’ in Bioscience Education. 22: 1. Pp. 16-30. Last accessed 04.11.2019.