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).

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.

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).

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.

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

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.

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