Changes to Teaching Machines

Over the summer, Information Services have made some changes to equipment in teaching rooms:

  • Whiteboard capture with Crestron Airboard cameras
  • PowerPoint Presenter Mode with screen mirroring
  • Interactive whiteboards with CleverTouch screens

These tools are available in a selection of rooms around campus.

Crestron Airboard

Whiteboard capture will project everything you write onto the screen. You can also use it to record your whiteboard notes.

Whiteboard capture is available in:

  • IBERS 0.30,
  • IBERS 0.31,
  • Edward Llwyd 3.34
  • Hugh Owen E3
  • Hugh Owen C22

After you have logged into the computer:

  1. Click on the Crestron Airboard icon on the desktop
  2. There is a Crestron unit on wall near the whiteboard.
  3. When the button on unit flashes blue, press it

The Crestron page will then appear on screen and will display your handwriting on the screen. You can share a link to this page with your students. They will be able to see your handwriting on a laptop, tablet or mobile phone.

If you want to record the handwriting with Panopto, you will need to make sure that you select to capture the computer screen as well as any PowerPoint you are using when starting your recording. You will need to make sure that the Crestron web page is the main window open on the computer when you are writing on the board.

Presenter Mode

You can use Presenter Mode to show your PowerPoint slides to students, and see the speaker’s notes yourself on from the teaching room machine.

Currently in:

  • Edward Llwyd 3.34
  • IBERS 0.30
  • IBERS 0.31
  • Hugh Owen Language Labs (BA8 and BA9)
  • Hugh Owen C22 (permanently in presenter mode with two monitors)
  • All teaching rooms in Penbryn 5.

When you go into the PC it will default to screen mirroring. This means that the display on the monitor will be the same as the display on the projector screen. If you want to use PowerPoint Presenter Mode (speaker notes on the monitor and slides on the screen):

  1. Click on Extend Display on the desktop
  2. To record the slides but not the notes, set up Panopto to capture Second Screen and not the Main Screen.
  3. You can move windows from your main screen (monitor) to the Second Screen (screen) by dragging it to the left-hand side of the monitor
  4. To go back to normal, click on Mirror Display

Interactive Whiteboards

Currently in:

  • All teaching rooms in Penbryn 5.

To use the CleverTouch boards just as a whiteboard:

  1. Tap the bottom of the screen > choose Lux
  2. Tap left or right arrow > choose Note

This will then open a whiteboard application and you can annotate it. Be aware that it isn’t possible to record these screens with Panopto.

To go back to the PC tap the bottom of the screen and then select HDMI.

To annotate PowerPoint etc on PC (HDMI mode)

  1. Click on the left or right arrow on the board
  2. Click on the pen icon
  3. This will provide an image of the screen that you can’t interactive with, but you can write on it.
  4. To move onto the next slide, click on the left or right arrow on the board
  5. Click on the cross icon

This will lose your annotations. Note that the annotations will disappear when you move to the next screen. Also, annotations aren’t captured with Panopto.

What’s changed with Blackboard Saas?

Login

When you go to https://blackboard.aber.ac.uk you will now see the Login@AU page. Use your AU username and password on this page to access Blackboard.

Welsh Language

If you have set your Language to Welsh in ABW or your Student Record, you will automatically see the Welsh version of Blackboard. If you want to change your language setting have a look at the FAQ.

Blackboard App

If you have problems using the Blackboard app:

  1. Logout and close the app.
  2. Search for Aberystwyth University and click on the name.
  3. You will be told that you are logging in through the AU website
  4. Click Got it
  5. Login with your AU username and password

Updates

Blackboard will update at the beginning of every month. These monthly updates mean that we don’t need to take Blackboard out of service for maintenance any more.

Update dates for semester 1:

  • 5 September
  • 3 October
  • 7 November
  • 5 December
  • 2 January

You may notice that things have changed, or new features appear. We’ll try to keep you updated with major changes through the blog. You can also find out more at https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Administrator/SaaS/Release_Notes

Retention and Backup

Blackboard keep deleted material for 30 days. If you have deleted something from Blackboard and you want to get it back, please email elearning@aber.ac.uk as soon as possible. This includes course materials, users and grades.

Dealing with Queries

As Blackboard is now managed in the cloud, e-learning support staff may need to refer your query to central Blackboard support. We may need to:

  • Ask you for more details than normal about the problem – we may need to ask you for a detailed breakdown of the steps you took
  • Give Blackboard support staff access to your module

It may also take a little longer to get a reply but we’ll try to keep you updated on the progress of your query.

Blackboard SaaS Update 5

Da iawn ni! The big development of this month has been a working version of the Welsh language interface. After a lot of thinking, and some investigations we have managed to

Iaith Gwaith logo - speech bubble containing the word Cymraeg

find a way to recreate our Welsh language tabs and boxes on the new SaaS environment. As users you won’t notice anything different, but for us it’s a major step forward. And it’s all nicely documented (all 9 pages of it!) to make sure that anyone in the team can do it, should we need to. It’s nice to see Blackboard back to its bilingual normality!

We’re also looking for teaching and administrative staff to help test the new Blackboard SaaS environment. If you are interested, please email us on elearning@aber.ac.uk

We’ll give our testers access to copies of their Blackboard modules on the SaaS site. We will then ask you to

  • Look at the course materials and check they work as you expect
  • Use some of the Blackboard tools to make sure they are working normally
  • Spot and report any problems or issues

All staff are welcome to join the testing. We are especially looking for staff who use Blackboard in Welsh or who use tools like tests and discussion boards.

If you would like more information, you can email elearning@aber.ac.uk

Blackboard SaaS Update 4

The focus of most of our testing over the last month has been making sure that our local settings in Blackboard work correctly. We’ve spent a lot of time working on the Welsh language translation. Our translation files are quite old and need updating, so we’ll be spending time getting the Welsh interface working correctly.

We’re also checking all the main Blackboard tools to make sure that they work as we expect – and for that to work properly we will need your help. We plan to invite staff to test the new SaaS environment to get more feedback – look out for an email inviting you to join the testing group.

In the last blog post we mentioned we are planning downtime for the final data transfer. It has been quite hard to find a suitable time that isn’t either too early or disruptive during the supplementary exam period. We believe that we’ve now found a suitable date. Our plan is to take Blackboard out of service on 29th August. It should take a couple of hours to transfer the data and when we bring Blackboard back into service it will be read-only until 2nd September. If staff need access to update anything between 29th August and 2nd September, please email elearning@aber.ac.uk

Padlet

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been taking a FutureLearn course called Using Technology in Evidence-Based Teaching and Learning. It’s run by the Chartered College of Teaching and focuses on the use of learning technologies in primary and secondary education. Although the context is different to higher education, it’s been a really interesting and enlightening course. It’s been useful to find out more about the education system that our students have come from, and it’s also good to find out about different tools and technologies that we may not use so much in universities.

Screenshot of a Padlet board

One of the tools that teachers in school use a lot is called Padlet. We know that Padlet is used in universities and there may be Padlet users amongst our readers. However, it wasn’t something that I’d used much, so I decided to take a look at it.

Padlet (https://padlet.com/) describes itself as ‘productivity software’ which makes collaboration easier. It’s designed around the idea of a wall or a board, to which you and users can add cards or notes. The cards can contain text, images, links, videos and files.

To create a Padlet board you will need to create an account – you can have a free account, which provides you 3 boards and an upload of 10Mb. You will also see adverts on this free version. You can sign-in with Google or create your own account. Students can contribute to the boards without creating an account, although if you want to know what who has posted what they will need to set-up an account. Boards can be private or public, and you can control who you invite to post to the boards. (Have a look at our post on polling software and privacy considerations)

There seem to be two uses that are obvious for Padlet – the first is for curation or research type activities, and the second is for collecting feedback for students.

You can find lots of case studies of schools, colleges and universities using Padlet to allow students to collaboratively collect resources and materials. This could be for group presentations and projects or for seminar preparation. A nice example is with Foundation Year Psychology undergraduates at University of Sussex (https://journals.gre.ac.uk/index.php/compass/article/view/714)

Many of us may also have seen Padlets used to facilitate interaction in lectures or presentations. Students can post up their questions to a Padlet wall during a lecture allowing the lecturer to view comments and questions. Used in this way, Padlet has some of the same tools as other polling software. While it doesn’t allow participants to answer questions, it’s a great way of collecting text-based responses. And these can be used later, or archived for future reference.

There’s a very useful set of resources from University of Derby (https://digitalhandbook.wp.derby.ac.uk/menu/toolbox/padlet/). Do be aware that this contains information specific to Derby staff, but you should find the ideas useful. If you’re already a Padlet users, do get in touch; we’re always looking for guest bloggers. Also, you may want to consider putting in a paper proposal for July’s Learning and Teaching conference.

Blackboard SaaS Update 2

At the end of last month, we blogged about getting our hands on a test Blackboard SaaS environment. This month we’ve started the process of testing the environment and finding out the differences and similarities between SaaS and our current version of Blackboard.

A lot of the work this month is being done by our Blackboard Project Manager in Amsterdam. Blackboard have taken a full copy of our local version and are importing it into the new SaaS system. Once this is done, we’ll be able to have a look at our existing courses, check that the migration process has worked and that everything is behaving as expected. This will mean looking at existing content, testing all the tools work properly, and running through all the normal daily processes we use.

In the meantime, we are testing all the Building Blocks that have been developed in-house at AU. Building Blocks are the Blackboard name for extension tools – some examples of Building Blocks you’ll recognise are Turnitin and Panopto. A Building Block embeds third-party functionality into Blackboard, for example using Blackboard enrolments to control permissions, and making it easy to display content in a Blackboard module. However, there are other tools that you use every day, but you probably don’t even know have been created at AU. The scrolling banner and My Modules box are examples of these. We also have some tools that we as System Admins use and ordinary users will never see – things that allow us to deliver the NSS information to third year students or provide a Blackboard feed to ApAber.

The testing process has involved documenting what each tool does and how it behaves now. We then use the same tool in our SaaS environment to check that it has the same outcome and behaves the same way. We make sure that all Building Blocks are tested in multiple browsers, as well as on PC and Apple. Where appropriate we’ll also test on a mobile device. And of course, we check in both English and Welsh. Once this has been done, we’ll pass feedback to our local developers for any changes that might be needed. And then the process starts again.

We’re also getting used to the continuous deployment cycle that we talked about in the last blog post. This means making sure we receive the emails that come from Blackboard and read them closely to look at what’s changing for our environment. We may have fixes for problems we’ve reported or new / updated tools. Once the deployment has been installed, we then need to test each of the new items to make sure it does what we expect it to do as well as making sure that our bug has been fixed where appropriate. We may also need to update our documentation, FAQs etc to reflect the changes that will be made.

Blackboard SaaS update 1

Blackboard LogoMany of you will have seen the announcement that AU is moving to the cloud-hosted, Blackboard SaaS platform. We plan to provide a monthly update on the progress of the project via the E-learning blog and this is our first update.

SaaS stands for Software as a Service, and there are advantages of moving to using Blackboard SaaS. The first, and most welcome one, is no more downtime once we have migrated to SaaS . Currently we have two planned maintenance periods every year – two days during the Christmas vacation and two days in the summer. Followers of this blog will know how difficult it is to plan these, and how it is virtually impossible to find a time that suits everyone. Blackboard SaaS is upgraded without any downtime (you can find out more about this and other SaaS features at https://uk.blackboard.com/learning-management-system/saas-deployment.html).

There will be a period of downtime as part of the migration process, but this will be communicated to you closer to the time. And the good news is that once we have moved, there will be no more Christmas or summer downtime announcements!

SaaS is upgraded using a ‘continuous deployment’ method – this means that every month Blackboard will be updated to the latest version. This update includes both bug fixes and new features. So, you should find problems get fixed earlier and you won’t have to wait too long for new tools or updates to current tools.

There is plenty of information about Blackboard SaaS online; if you do have a look, please note that there are two different versions of Blackboard available on SaaS, Original and Ultra. We’re planning to move to the Original version initially – and we’ll consider Ultra in the future.

Since we sent out the initial announcement, the E-learning Group and Systems Integration team have spent a lot of time getting to know SaaS. One of the most exciting things has been being given access to a completely fresh, new version of Blackboard. Most of us have never seen Blackboard without any courses or any users – it was a little bit like being faced with a patch of fresh snow!!

Our first priorities are to make sure that all the main features work as expected, and to check that all the add-ins (or Building Blocks) we use work correctly. We use Building Blocks for a whole host of things, from Turnitin and Panopto, to the scrolling banner on the homepage.

If you have any questions about Blackboard SaaS, you can contact us on elearning@aber.ac.uk

Online polling services and privacy issues

If you’ve already read part one of this series, you’ll know how useful online polling services are to engaging students actively in the classroom (if you haven’t – take a look).

As well as selecting a tool to suit your teaching and learning activity, you also need to take a look at the Privacy Policy of the service you’re interested in. This will help you to understand what:

  • personal data the company in question is collecting about you;
  • what personal data your students may be required to give;
  • information on how your presentations are stored;
  • how and where your data is kept.

https://flic.kr/p/8ouBhQ

Most companies make their Privacy Policy pretty easy to find (on most sites there was a link at the bottom of the homepage under the heading Privacy).

Here are our top tips when using an online polling tool:

  1. We found the Terms and Conditions of most services are fairly short and easy to understand – some even provided an ‘at a glance’ summary of main points.
  2. In the majority of cases, students are not required to create accounts or register for a service to take part in a polling activity. This means that for students, the only information that is collected about them would be details of the browser / device etc they used to access the poll. And this won’t be linked to their name or email address.
  3. In all cases, staff need to register with a service to create and display polls. For the majority of the services, you can either create a username and password, or link to an existing account (such as Google or Facebook).
    1. If you are creating your own account, don’t use your AU password as the password to the polling service. Follow our tips to create a strong, separate password (https://faqs.aber.ac.uk/index.php?id=25)
    2. If you are using an existing account, be aware of the data that may be shared between the two services. Your Facebook or Google account will contain lots of information about you that you may not want to be shared. You may want to look at the settings for the connection to make sure that you are happy with the level of data shared.
  4. Have a look at the rights you have to your polls. Some services allow other users to browse and share presentations, so you may want to consider the visibility of your presentations.
  5. Consider which third parties your data is shared with. We strongly recommend that you choose a service where the data is either based in the EU or where the company has the EU-US Privacy Shield standard in place. And check your preferences – do you want to opt-out of mailing lists, advertising etc.

At present, AU does not have a site licence for an online polling service, so when signing up for one of these services you are signing up as an individual, rather than as a representative of, or on behalf of, AU.

Choosing an online polling tool

Image of students using polling handsets

https://flic.kr/p/9wNtHp

In-class polling or voting is great way to increase student engagement and interactivity in the classroom (for example see: Shaw et al, 2015; Boyle and Nicol 2003; Habel and Stubbs, 2014; Stratling, 2015). It is used widely in both higher and further education, and number of staff at AU make use of in-class polling on a regular basis. In addition to physical Qwizdom handsets available in loan stock, staff are more and more using online polling services such as Poll Everywhere, Socrative and Mentimeter (amongst others). These services allow students to use their own devices (such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops) to take part in polls, give feedback, and ask questions.

The E-learning Group can provide a wide range of information and support for anyone interested in using polling in their teaching. This ranges from advice on how to embed polling into your teaching practice successfully, to practical help on creating and using polls in the classroom.

At present AU doesn’t offer a centrally supported online polling tool for mobile devices. However, there are a wide range of services available, many with free or trial versions. This blog post is designed to help you assess which tool suits you and your students’ best.

  1. What do you want to do? As with all learning technology implementation, the first question you need to ask is ‘what do I want my students to do?’ The service you select will depend on the answer you have. For example, if you want your students to submit questions, or provide written feedback, look for a service that offers more than multiple choice questions.
  2. How many students will be in the class? Many of the free or limited versions of paid-for software have a limit on the number of students they can be used it. Look carefully at the details of what the free version does or doesn’t include.
  3. We also strongly recommend that you look at the Privacy Policy of the service to ensure you know what personal data is collected about you and your students (have a look at our blog post on this issue).

The E-learning Group has produced some information on some services which you may want to look at.

Once you have decided on which service you are using, here’s some of our top tips on successfully using voting in the classroom

  1. Think about your question/s. There’s lots of resources on designing good questions, particularly multiple choice questions. Don’t feel that you have to ask a question that has a correct or incorrect answer. Sometimes a question that sparks debate or shows the breadth of opinions on a subject can be useful.
  2. Using polling as a discussion starter. There are a variety of ways that you can use polling and group discussions together – two popular ways are Peer Instruction (especially the work of Eric Mazur) or Class-Wide Instruction (Dufresne, 1996)
  3. Practice. Have a practice before the session so that you are comfortable and familiar with using the questions and displaying the results. You can do this from your office using a mobile device such as a tablet or mobile phone.
  4. Make time in the lecture. If you are using polling activities in the classroom, make sure you leave enough time to give students to access on their devices, think about the answers and respond. You may also need time to correct misunderstandings or explain the answers.
  5. Let your students know in advance. Make sure that your students know to bring their devices and have them available in class. You can do this using the announcement function in Blackboard. You can also provide links to relevant FAQs such as how to connect to the AU wifi (Android: https://faqs.aber.ac.uk/index.php?id=692, Windows: https://faqs.aber.ac.uk/index.php?id=870, iOS: https://faqs.aber.ac.uk/index.php?id=700 )

There are a whole range of opportunities for using polling – from collecting information on how much the students know at the start of a module, to finding out what topics you need to cover in a revision session. You can also collect opinions, gain feedback on how the lecture is going, or collect anonymous questions. If you’re using polling in your teaching get in touch and tell us more – we may even feature your work on the blog!