Mini Conference Materials Available

Before the vacation, the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit ran their final mini conference of the year.

The theme for the mini conference was using polling software to enhance learning and teaching. If you were unable to make the event then check out the recordings on our Mini Conference webpage.

Since the University procured a licence for Vevox polling software earlier this year, we’ve seen a whole host of colleagues making use of it. In semester 1 1873 polls have been run by 136 staff members with 6485 student responses.

If you want to know more about polling software then we’ve got a Vevox webpage which has all our guidance. Kate and Jim led a webinar for Vevox on our implementation and how colleagues have made use of it in their teaching. Check out the recording on YouTube or Vevox’s own website for other case studies. You can read about Vevox’s latest updates on our recent blogpost.

The conference kicked off with a session run by Dr Christina Stanley from Chester University. Christina gave us an overview of how she’s been using polling software to boost student confidence and promote inclusivity.

Next, our client managers from Vevox, Joe Probert and Izzy Whitley gave us an update on future developments with Vevox polling software and some product enhancements that will be coming down the line.

Then we moved onto colleagues from Aberystwyth University who shared with us how they are using polling in their teaching. Dr Maire Gorman who teaches in the Graduate School and the Physics Department gave us an overview as to how polling software can be used in statistics teaching to facilitate peer learning and inter and intra-cohort bonding.

Next, Bruce Fraser Wight, from the Business School demonstrated how he has been using polling software for ice breaking activity. We were grateful to hear from two of Bruce’s students to find out how they found using polling software.

Finally, Dr Jennifer Wood from the Department of Modern Languages outlined how polling software can be used for language learning and encourage engagement.

If you’re doing something interesting with polling software, we’d love to hear from you for a potential blogpost – drop us an email on lteu@aber.ac.uk.   

Welcome to new staff joining Aberystwyth University

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Welcome to new staff joining Aberystwyth University

We’re the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit. Based in Information Services. We work with staff across the university to support and develop learning and teaching. We run a wide range of activities to do this.

All the information that you need is on theLearning and Teaching Enhancement Unit webpages. We have recently worked intensively with academic colleagues to develop solutions in response to the Covid 19 pandemic. Our Supporting your Teachingwebpages will help you with various teaching solutions.

We write a blog full of the latest updates, details on events and training sessions, and resources.

If you need to get in touch with us, you can do so using one of two email addresses:

lteu@aber.ac.uk (for pedagogical and design questions, or to arrange a consultation) or

elearning@aber.ac.uk (for technical queries regarding our e-learning tools listed below)

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Vevox updates December 2021

One of the advantages to having an institution subscription is that we can benefit from enhancements and updates.

One of the recent enhancements was to the word cloud style question. Previously only one word was able to be submitted to the word cloud style question, but now participants can provide multi-word submissions as well as single words. Word clouds also accept non-English characters and emojis. Vevox has also been working on the accessibility of the word cloud question and the colour scheme has been enhanced to improve its display.

We’re really pleased at how colleagues are making use of Vevox. If you’re after some ideas on how you can use it in your teaching, then Kate and myself recently presented a webinar on Vevox’s behalf. As well as giving an overview of our rollout of Vevox since we procured it in March, we also outlined some exemplary practices taking place by colleagues:

  • Module Evaluation (Dr Emmanual Isibor and Dr Chris Loftus, Computer Science)
  • Stats generation (Dr Maire Gorman, Physics and Graduate School)
  • Anonymous Q and A (Dr Megan Talbot, Law and Criminology)
  • Peer assessment and word associations (Dr Michael Toomey, International Politics)
  • Asynchronous Q and A (Dr Victoria Wright, Psychology)
  • Pin on image and session impact (Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit)

Thank you for the colleagues above for sharing their practices and experiences with us. A recording of the webinar is available on YouTube.

We’ve also got our Mini Conference on Thursday looking at how polling software can be used to enhance learning and teaching activities. There’s still time to book onto that. We’re grateful to be joined by Joe and Izzy from Vevox, as well as our external speaker, Dr Christina Stanley from the University of Chester.

Vevox guidance is available on our webpages. If you’ve not used Vevox before then sign up for the Zero to Hero sessions which are run every Tuesday at 3pm. We’re also re-running our training session Designing Teaching Activities using Vevox on 16 March 2022 at 10am. You can sign up via our Course Booking page.

What is a well-designed Blackboard module? Project

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Written by Ania Udalowska

A well-designed Blackboard module may mean different things for different people. We asked our group of Student Learning Ambassadors to brainstorm what does it mean to them that a module is well-design. The findings of this discussion divided into categories can be found below.

Module Information

Teaching schedule – showing what is expected throughout the semester (which is carried out throughout the design of the module in folders). It is not necessary to have to release all content at the start of the module rather a roadmap showing students what they need to plan for. Download the teaching schedule example:

Module handbook – one of the students explained that the handbook is almost like a contract between a student and a module coordinator. It should include all essential information (which may be, and in some cases, should be also included in different sections, e.g., all assessment-related information in Assessment & Feedback). Take a look at this blog post on comprehensive handbooks.

FAQs on the module – FAQs could be generated throughout the module based on queries received by the module coordinator and could be then used to help future students, e.g., what textbook is best / how do you set the assignment out/ suggestions of resources to help with a tricky concept etc. You could use the discussion board functionality to ask students for questions they want to know answers to.

Short introduction video – it would be nice to include a video that welcomes students into the module, explains how to navigate it and briefly outlines what will the teaching schedule look like. It does not have to be long nor formal!

Learning Materials

Folders – content should be divided into weeks (or topics). It should correspond with the teaching schedule. Consistency within folders is just as important, try to include the same type of learning materials in each folder (you can use small icons to indicate the type of activity) and keep them in a consistent order:

  • Live session preparation tasks – make it clear what needs to be done.
  • Teams links to live sessions.
  • Pre-recorded lectures (clear/ small chunks/ and no background noise)
  • Lecture slides and lecture handouts with space for notes (how to convert PowerPoint slides into handouts)
  • Activities to complete that give instant results/feedback to test knowledge. You could use Blackboard tests or Panopto quizzes.
  • Examples, relating theory to real-world as much as possible.
  • Reading – which items from the reading list refer to that week’s content.

Note: Where possible use review status and adaptive release – students progress at a different pace, some prefer for the content to be released all at once, others in stages. Having the review status and adaptive release can give students control over how much content they see at once and it also helps them to stay organised.

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Implementing ‘Tools for Academic Writing’ across all departments – Student Learning Ambassadors

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Written by Lucie Andrews, English and Creative Writing

The best Blackboard modules are organised effectively, easy to navigate and kept updated. However, I would like to focus on how Blackboard could be used as a resource for study skills and excellent academic practice. During the Student Learning Ambassadors project, we discussed what is a well-designed Blackboard module and some of the feedback included the way we felt that the referencing and citing guide was not easily accessible nor comprehensive enough to cover all student’s needs. We also talked about the idea of including assignment model answers as a template of what needs to be included and how to format assignments correctly. One way to act upon this feedback would be to include a new folder within the assessment and feedback section that focuses on study skills in order to improve Blackboard as a student resource.          

When analysing the different approaches to how different departments used Blackboard during the usability testing, I realised there was a useful section in the module menu called ‘Tools for Academic Writing’ in my department of English and Creative Writing that was not in the other departmental menus. Therefore, I would recommend that we should implement ‘Tools for Academic Writing’ across all departments by creating an additional folder within the assessment and feedback section to act upon some of the student feedback. Why should you consider this? And what will this new folder include? As Blackboard is the site used for the learning and academic aspect of the student experience, I believe that all students would gain from a folder dedicated to providing students with study skills and tips that will enable them to achieve excellent academic practice. Within this folder, it would provide a unique list of study skills relating to each department’s needs. Here is a general template of what this folder could include:

  • a detailed referencing and citing guide that meets each department’s stylesheet
  • a guide of essential study tips and skills including essay writing pointers
  • links to workshops offered by the university on study skills
  • a FAQ on study skills and general module information

As a student, I have personally found that there is mostly a focus on the material covered in lectures, seminars and workshops and a focus on the marks scheme and assessment criteria. However, there is generally less focus on how you can improve your writing/study skills independently and how to write an essay/assessment / referencing to the expectations that meets the standards of university practices. Therefore, this folder on ‘Tools for Academic Writing’ should be implemented in all department’s assessment and feedback section across the University as it would offer Blackboard something new that would enhance the student academic experience, and this would aid students to achieve better grades. Thus, I feel that by implementing a folder dedicated to study skills within each module that is specific to what students on that module need would enhance student’s learning experience on Blackboard and improve its resources.

The importance of comprehensive module handbooks (Student Learning Ambassadors)

Written by Nathalia Kinsey, History and Welsh History 

One of the things we discussed during the Student Learning Ambassadors project was how helpful module handbooks can be for students. Throughout my three years in the History department, module handbooks have been my go-to source of key information about each module. I often downloaded module handbooks at the start of the semester and kept them on my desktop, easy to reach for when I needed to glance at the marking criteria for an essay, double-check a due date, or find out what I needed to read for my next seminar. Having all this key information in one document meant I always knew where to look when I needed something, with no searching through Blackboard, wondering where a lecturer had put a particular piece of information. The key pieces of information included in the handbooks were:  

  • contact details for the lecturer;  
  • a brief introduction to the module;  
  • numbered lists of lecturer and seminar titles, with information about the preparation needed;  
  • assignment deadlines, word counts and the department assignment length policy;  
  • a list of essay titles to choose from (although this may not be relevant, or could be adapted for other departments)  
  • marking criteria.  

They also often included other details specific to the module, such as maps or family trees, as well as notes on referencing, frequently used primary sources, or spelling names that might have multiple versions across texts. Overall, I and others participating in this project have found module handbooks to be incredibly useful documents that would be helpful to have across departments; they provide a single place where all the key information about a module can be easily accessed and kept near at hand.  

Example of a comprehensive module handbook: 

Information on Assessments – Tips from Students (Student Learning Ambassadors)

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Written by Elisa Long Perez, Department of Law & Criminology 

Assessments are the predominant way for lecturers to test students’ knowledge in a module or subject. To make that possible, students need to know what criteria they are expected to adhere to, as well as where and when to submit. In some modules, this essential information are not as easily accessible as needed.  

During the usability testing activities, I completed as part of the Student Learning Ambassadors project, I noticed that some modules either had no marking criteria or had marking criteria that were not easily accessible to students. The absence of this key document often leaves students confused as to how they should approach their assignments, leading to lower marks. Other issues I found were to do with submission points and deadlines. Submission points were often included at the bottom of the Assessment and Feedback section or in a different section altogether which may lead to students either not submitting their assignments on time or they don’t submit them at all. Secondly, if the deadline isn’t emphasised enough or is easily missed the same thing happens; students won’t know when they are due to submit their assignments and may end up rushing to submit at the last minute or fail to submit on time.  

My suggestions to teaching staff would be to: always include the marking criteria in the Assessment and Feedback section and the module handbook; make sure the submission points are on top of the section and highlight the deadline in bold; send a reminder one month, one week and one day before the deadline.  

Written by Gabriele Sidekerskyte, Aberystwyth Business School 

Being a part of the Student Learning Ambassadors group was one of the most interesting projects I have participated in at the University. I am very glad that I was able to use my student experience as a tool to improve Blackboard and other students’ experience at Aberystwyth University. The fact, that students are the ones deciding how Blackboard modules should look like and what they should contain is amazing because students are the ones that are and will be using it, so their opinion is most important.  In the past years, especially during the pandemic, Blackboard played a very important role in my student life. I came across some issues like accessing reading materials and assignments. The reading lists provided by module coordinators are great, however, sometimes not all reading is accessible to students. Making sure that all materials on the reading lists are available in an electronic version is essential.  

In terms of the Assessment and Feedback section, the most important information included there are: the submission deadline and submission point, assignment requirements, marks and feedback. Although some modules include this information in the module handbook, it is much easier and more intuitive if they are included in the Assessment and Feedback section. It would be ideal if the submission deadlines for all assignments would be provided as early as possible so students can plan their time effectively. If the deadline has been extended, that should be announced clearly for everyone. Assignment topics, requirements, literature if available and weight of the assignment on the overall module mark should also be included in the Assessment and Feedback section, in the same place where students will have to submit their work. Similarly, it should be clearly communicated when students can expect their marks and feedback, especially if it changes. I think it would be great if students would get notified once the mark and feedback are available. Feedback should be clear and detailed, with examples and explanations of the mistakes made and suggestions for improvements as only then students can get better.   

I hope these words will be taken into consideration. I enjoyed this experience and I hope this project will improve the Blackboard experience for everyone. The teamwork and organisation side of the project were great, the meetings were just perfect length, and the activities were interesting. Thank you for the experience. 

Mini Conference Programme Announced

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On Thursday 16th December, the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit will be hosting the second Academy Mini-Conference online of this academic year.  

The theme will be ‘Using Polling Software to Enhance Learning and Teaching Activities’. Since we procured Vevox earlier this year, we’ve seen a proliferation in the use of polling software in learning and teaching activities.  

The Mini-Conference will run from 10:30-15:00. We’re excited to confirm our programme:  

Dr Christina Stanley – keynote (Chester University): Polling to boost student confidence and promote inclusivity
Joe Probert & Izzy Whitley: Vevox
Dr Maire Gorman (Physics & Graduate School): Inter & Intra-cohort bonding (and peer learning) in statistics teaching
Bruce Wight (Aberystwyth Business School): How much does a Polar Bear weigh? Enough to break the ice! Using Vevox for Icebreaker Activities
Dr Jennifer Wood (Modern Languages): Is there anybody out there? Using Polling Software in the Language Classroom: Breaching the void.  

For session abstracts and timings, please see the programme on our webpages.

We hope that you will be able to join us.

You can register to attend the Mini-Conference by clicking on this link.  

If you have any queries, please email lteu@aber.ac.uk.

Component Marks Transfer

As December starts to approach, we thought it would be useful to outline the support available for  the Component Marks Transfer process. This process transfers marks from the Blackboard Grade Centre columns into AStRA’s Assessment marks per Module (STF080) page. 

The tool is available in each Blackboard module and also in the Component Marks tool in MyAdmin. Departmental Administrative Staff are able to view and transfer modules for each module in their department whereas Module Co-ordinators are able to view and transfer marks for their modules.

To support the Component Marks Transfer process, we have:

  • Training Sessions on:
    • Monday 13th December, 11am-12pm
    • Wednesday 5th January, 1pm-2pm

Book your place online.

If you have any questions about this process, email elearning@aber.ac.uk.

Academy Forum 2: Designing Blended Learning

Our next Academy Forum will be taking place online on Thursday 2nd December, 10am-11.30am. In this Academy Forum, participants will be sharing their experiences and approaches to designing blended learning.

In response to the pandemic, many of us had to adapt our teaching practices considerably. For most, this relied on an increase in the use of technology and online activities for students to undertake in their own time asynchronously. Blended Learning design looks at how you might approach or integrate online interactions with face-to-face teaching.

Participants will be reflecting on their current approaches to teaching and how they design online and face to face activities. We’ll be looking at some frameworks that will be helpful in planning for blended learning and be thinking about strategies for successfully and gracefully integrating online teaching into face to face interactions, and face to face interactions into online teaching.

Take a look at our overview of forthcoming Academy Forums and book your place online.

If you have any questions, then please contact us: lteu@aber.ac.uk.