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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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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Workaround for Blackboard 404 error when accessing files using the Microsoft Edge browser.

The Microsoft Edge browser attempts to open Microsoft Office files directly in the browser. When accessing files in Blackboard this is causing an error with the message; “404 – File or directory not found.”

image of a 404 error message

A suggested workaround for this is to use either the Google Chrome or Firefox browsers.

Alternatively you can change the following setting in Microsoft Edge:

Open the Edge menu by clicking the three dots and click Settings

An image of the Edge menu with settings highlighted

Click Downloads

Turn off the setting Open Office files in the browser

An image of the settings under downloads

If you require further assistance please contact elearning@aber.ac.uk

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: 

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.

Exemplary Course Award 2022 Submissions Open

Exemplary Course Award image

We’re really pleased to announce that this year’s Exemplary Course Award is now open for submissions with a deadline of 12 noon on Monday 31st January 2022. 

Continuing with the same process as last year, we’ve got a streamlined approach to the award.

Applicants will be asked to outline their 3 standout practices in relation to their module, before identifying which criteria the module meets. Applicants are welcome to submit a Panopto recording including a module tour.

If you’re considering submitting an award, we’ve got training for applicants on:

  • 8th December, 2pm-3.30pm
  • 14th January, 11am-12.30pm

You can book your place at these training sessions via the Course Booking page. 

Further information, including the criteria, is available on our webpages, where you can also access an application form.

If you’re looking for ideas, then check out a recording of last year’s winner and highly commended winners.

If you’ve got any questions, then do not hesitate to contact us (elearning@aber.ac.uk).

Organisation of Blackboard content – Tips from Students (Student Learning Ambassadors)

Written by Erin Whittaker, English and Creative Writing

The usability testing activity I completed during the Student Learning Ambassadors project prompted me to write my blog post on the ease and accessibility of finding specific information covered in lectures and seminars based on the chronological layout and labelling of their files. Having navigated my way through two previously unseen exemplar modules and another of a module I took in 2nd year, I found that the module layouts that were most accessible and easy to navigate were those in which the information and materials for lectures and seminars were labelled by week and topic title, rather than simply the number of that specific seminar; ie. ‘Seminar: Week 2 – Learning about Specificity’ > ‘Seminar 2’. Labelling the files in this way made finding the information covered in those specific seminars and lectures straightforward and less time consuming than having to trawl through multiple seminar PowerPoints in order to find the specific information I was seeking.

Additionally, the most obvious folder for storing both the lecture and seminar Panopto recordings and accompanying PowerPoint slides would be, in my opinion, ‘Learning Materials’, along with additional materials such as the Aspire Reading List, workshops, tutorials, and schedule overview for that module. However, it would be my recommendation that if the files for seminars and lectures are plentiful in number, ie. more than three files per week, that they are given a separate folder under the title of ‘Lectures/Seminars’ within the left-hand folder column, along with a copy of the Aspire Reading List.

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Do your modules on Blackboard speak your student’s language? – Student Learning Ambassadors

Written by Angela Connor, Psychology

I know asking whether your modules on Blackboard speak your student’s language may seem odd. I can almost hear you declaring “Of course they do”. Obviously, you upload materials in English and Welsh. But that’s not quite what I mean. To ensure Blackboard is as easily accessible for as many students as possible we need to put ourselves in their shoes for a while and look at the layouts and content objectively to see if they are laid out as best they can be for the intended cohort so they can easily understand your modules.

It is often said in education that if you adapt your delivery to those with additional needs in mind, you’ll actually be making it easier for everyone. Perhaps this ethos could be applied in terms of Blackboard, enabling all students to fulfil their peak potential with as little stress as possible.

There are undoubtedly elements of a Blackboard module that require formality and professionalism, such as Unacceptable Academic Practice, and the module handbook. The handbook acts almost as a contractual agreement between the module coordinator and the student, and vice versa, as it clearly outlines what the module will deliver and what will be expected from the student in return. However, keeping educational jargon out where possible, or introducing it gradually can help with increasing your students’ confidence and familiarity with these terms. For example, how many students really understood the new terms of “synchronous” and “asynchronous” that were suddenly thrust into education last year? And when they were understood, were they occasionally mixed up for sounding so similar occasionally? I know it caught me out a few times.

So, think about students who are neurodiverse, dyslexic, have ADHD, care leavers who are going it alone for the first time, mature students who are often juggling work and caring responsibilities, and joint honours students who have two departments and their nuances to work with. If your modules are laid out clearly, all of these groups in the student population, and many others, will be helped a tremendous amount.

I shall be using examples to demonstrate some points from Dr Victoria Wright and Dr Alexander Taylor’s Blackboard modules, both from the Psychology Department, whom I thank for their permission to do so. Their modules have been chosen for clarity, resourcefulness, enthusiasm, motivation and ease of use. As a final year student these module layouts, and the resources provided, really supported me to work through the modules to my full potential. Well, full enough potential, as with a pandemic going on I was probably hindered at least a little.

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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 the Learning 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 Teaching webpages 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)

Read More

Reflections on running the Student Learning Ambassadors Pilot Project

By Anna Udalowska

Pedagogical literature emphasises the importance of students’ active involvement in all initiatives which impact their learning experience. As we, the LTEU, work so closely with teaching staff advising them on best practices in learning and teaching, we felt that our provision would benefit from students’ direct involvement. We decided to partner with a group of students, acting as Student Learning Ambassadors, to focus on one of the most frequently raised issues in student feedback – Blackboard modules’ design.

A lot has been done already to improve navigation and consistency of Blackboard modules, e.g., we introduced departmental Blackboard menus and Blackboard Required Minimum Presence. There are some excellent examples of Blackboard modules out there, some of which are showcased in our Exemplary Course Awards. Nevertheless, comments on difficulties in navigation and lack of consistency of the Blackboard module still appear in student feedback (e.g., Digital Insights Survey).

Before starting the project, our Unit had an opportunity to attend a workshop on student-staff partnership delivered by Ruth and Mick Healey who are the leading consultants in this aspect of student engagement. The session as well as follow-up consultation focusing specifically on the Student Learning Ambassadors project was invaluable. Although our project was focused mainly on consulting students, we did our best to implement underlying values of student-staff partnerships, empowering students to take ownership of the project, helping them to realise the impact of their work and reflect on how it benefited their growth.

The Student Learning Ambassadors project was advertised through the AberWorks scheme and the AberCareers platform as well as among current Peer Guides and Student Representatives. In the week before the project started students completed their induction which included familiarising themselves with health and safety working procedures, information security and data protection guidelines, and introduction to the LTEU.

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