Interactive Blackboard Tools Series – Journals and Blogs (Part 1)

Teaching staff at Aberystwyth University make excellent use of basic functions of Blackboard keeping it consistent and easy to navigate, meeting the needs of their students. Some staff go beyond Blackboard Required Minimum Presence, using additional, interactive functions in many different creative ways. Considering the current emphasis on online learning and the use of asynchronous online activities we would like to introduce you to some of the more advanced (although still easy to use!) tools in Blackboard:

  • Journals and Blogs
  • Wikis
  • Tests

We have already written about discussion board – perhaps the most versatile of all the Blackboard tools. In this blog post we will focus on blogs and journals and the value these tools could bring to your teaching. 

Both journals and blogs, typically written in an informal way, are tools conducive to reflection and personal expression. The difference in their use is determined by whether or not they are aimed at being shared with others. Journals in Blackboard can be set up in two ways:

  • Private journals cannot be anonymous, are seen only by the lecturer and the student who wrote it, if enabled other students may view them but not comment or edit.
  • Group journals enable students to write individual entries into one group journal, group members can view and comment on all entries.

Watch a tutorial on creating journals

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Alternative activities to in-person teaching

There may be occasions where it is not practically possible for you to simultaneously deliver non-lecture activities (e.g. seminars, workshops, etc.) to students in-person and students joining via MS Teams.

In this blog post, we will explore some different options for delivering alternative activities for those students that cannot join in-person sessions. Before you begin to design an alternative activity, consider the following points:

1.

    • Which alternative activity will best emulate the experience that students in the original in-person session are getting?

2.

    • What are my intended learning outcomes and which activities will best achieve these?

3.

    • How long will it take me to plan an activity and do I have the capacity to do this?

4.

    • Think carefully about your assessment criteria – will the alternative activity that you provide allow the students to undertake the module assessments successfully?

5.

    Clarity and focus are at the heart of any well-designed online activity. Ensure that students using your alternative activity know exactly what they are doing and why they are doing it. If you ask students to use any technology, you must provide students with clear and concise guidance on how to use these.

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Using Podcasts for Teaching

The second Academy Forum session this year focused on creating podcasts in Panopto. The discussion emphasised podcasts’ unique potential for facilitating a sense of connection. Usually based on informal monologues, interviews and discussions podcasts provide their users with opportunities to listen in to unconstructed reflections and conversations. As explained by Street (2014) audio storytelling creates a ‘partnership between imagination and memory’ triggering a unique and personal reaction to it (as cited in McHugh, 2014, p.143). Podcasts can provide us with company; unlike with videos or written texts, we can listen to them during other daily activities.

These unique properties of podcasts hold great potential for its use in education. University of Cambridge created a collection of short podcasts from various subject areas. Podcasts are also used by individual educators, Ian Wilson, a Senior Lecturer in Education at York St John University Ian Wilson created a series of podcasts aimed at supporting learners on placements. His podcast focused on providing students with instructions on what the students should be doing the following week, answering any of their questions and providing some motivational advice. Although podcasting may not necessarily be the best solution for delivering the key learning material, as discussed during the Academy Forum session, it can complement your current teaching practice by fostering reflection, increasing learner’s engagement and foster a sense of community.

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Tips for monitoring chat for online and in person sessions

Distance Learner BannerIn this blogpost, we’ll be looking at some tips for monitoring a Teams chat when you’ve also got attendees joining in person and online.

The planning of the synchronous activity and what you want your students to be able to do after they have engaged with the activity shapes the purpose of the chat. Ask yourself: what role do you want the chat to have in your teaching session?

For example, do you want the chat to be used for students joining online to communicate their ideas with you? Do you want it to be used for them to chat with each other? Do you want the chat contributions to be communicated with those joining in person?

In addition to that, you want to think about how you are asking your online students to engage in the session. Do you want them, for example, to use the raise the hand function to attract your attention? Or, do you want them to only use the chat.

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Useful Information: Online Teaching

Distance Learner BannerSetting up sessions through MS Teams:

  • Unless otherwise agreed, Microsoft Teams should be used to run all online teaching sessions.
  • Details of online teaching sessions should be posted in Blackboard (see our FAQ how to set up a Teams meeting in Blackboard?).
  • Please note that for any sessions set up through Blackboard, students will be able to use the link to join the session 15 minutes before the chosen start time. Any time prior to this, students have the option to add the session to their Office365 calendars (see our student FAQ).

Keeping students informed:

  1. Use the announcements feature in Blackboard to communicate with your students. (See our FAQ How do I add an announcement to my Blackboard module?)
  2. Ensure that your Blackboard contacts page has your contact information and clear instructions on how and when students should contact you.

Delivering online sessions from the University:

  • If required, you may come into the University to deliver your online session from the teaching rooms in the allotted timetabled slots. Please ensure you are using the correct room and time allocated to your activity. 

CPD sessions:

  • The Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit will be running a number of CPD sessions for staff members over the coming weeks, focusing specifically on online learning and teaching and associated E-learning tools.

For any technical assistance with using MS Teams or any of the E-learning tools, please email elearning@aber.ac.uk. If you wish to discuss any aspect of learning and teaching, please email lteu@aber.ac.uk.

 

Weekly Resource Roundup 30/6/2020

Weekly Resource Roundup with Mary Jacob, Lecturer in Learning and Teaching

As lecturer in learning and teaching responsible for the PGCTHE, I keep an eye out for new resources to help our staff teach effectively online. This includes externally-provided webinars, toolkits, publications and other resources. Because active learning is high on our university agenda, I’m particularly keen to share guidance for moving active learning online.

Below I’ve listed items that came to my attention in the past week. In the interest of clarity, our policy is to show the titles and descriptions in the language of delivery.

Please see the Staff Training booking page for training offered by the LTEU and other Aberystwyth University staff. 

I hope you find this weekly resource roundup useful. If you have questions or suggestions, please contact our team at lteu@aber.ac.uk. You may also wish to follow my Twitter feed, Mary Jacob L&T.

Using the Whiteboard Feature in Microsoft Teams

In this blogpost we will be taking a look at one of the tools available to make your teaching in a Microsoft Teams session more interactive. The Whiteboard is a space where you and your students can collaborate.

The whiteboard can be used for:

  1. Students sharing ideas or thoughts
  2. Talking your students through a complicated diagram
  3. Mind-mapping ideas or concepts
  4. Sharing or charting a complex process

There’s a great video on using the Whiteboard in Teams by The Virtual Training Team: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDqtWRu0rTA

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More training sessions available

Distance Learner BannerThe Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit have got some more Moving to Online Teaching and Using Microsoft Teams for Learning and Teaching Activities scheduled. You can book your place online and we will send you a Teams Calendar invite to attend the training session.

In the Moving to Online Teaching session, we introduce some general guidance on how to design and prepare for online teaching. We look at the various interactive tools available in Blackboard and offer tips on how best to implement them into your teaching. We also provide some guidance on the e-assessment tools available to you, guidance on how to tailor your Panopto recordings for online delivery, and how to design and prepare for online video conferencing sessions. We finish with some guidance on using Third Party Software to support Learning and Teaching.

In using Microsoft Teams for Learning and Teaching Activities, we expand our advice on running online teaching sessions for students and go through the functionality available to you in Teams meetings. We provide guidance and information on how best to run interactive sessions with your students, looking at the document collaboration functionality available in Teams.

Underpinning these sessions are the principles of Active Learning and Accessibility that will help to create effective online learning environments for your students.

We will be developing our CPD programme over the summer to respond to the needs of staff. If you wish to discuss any aspect of learning and teaching, please email lteu@aber.ac.uk. For any technical guidance, email elearning@aber.ac.uk.

Using Third Party Software for Learning and Teaching

Distance Learner Banner

As we move to planning and delivering teaching online, we have to become creative with the tools that we use.

Whilst advice so far has been to use technologies that both you and your students are familiar with, there might be a good reason to try a different platform that is not supported or hosted by AU.

If you are considering using a different platform, do bear in mind the company’s privacy statements and find out what they do with personal data (yours and your students’). For example, Zoom, a video conferencing software, has some great functionality especially around creating breakout rooms. Their privacy statement does, however, show that they collect a wide range of information from both the meeting organiser and participants.

The same principles apply to polling software by third parties. In a previous blogpost, we wrote about being mindful of what is happening to yours and your students’ data. Do ask yourselves when selecting a third party platform:

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

Most companies make their Privacy Policy easy to find. On most sites, you can find a link at the bottom of the homepage under the heading Privacy.

We are on hand to help you and your students transition to online learning.  Do be aware that our expertise is in supporting the technologies we host here at AU, so it may take a little longer to assist you with queries about other platforms. Many of the principles and best practice about teaching with technology apply regardless of platform, and we will be more than happy to help you with this.

We’re not discouraging you from using these platforms, but we do want you to consider the implications for your and your students’ data before doing so, so that you can make an informed choice on how to deliver learning.

If you have any questions about online teaching, please don’t hesitate to contact us on elearning@aber.ac.uk / 01970 622472.

If you have any questions about data protection and using third party software, including potential personal data breaches, please contact the Information Governance Manager on infocompliance@aber.ac.uk.

You can find further information on Learning and Teaching Continuity on our webpages as well as our FAQs.

Monitoring Student Engagement while teaching online

Distance Learner BannerThis blogpost aims to provide you with information on some useful tools in Blackboard that can help you monitor student engagement. This was initially produced for a Distance Learner forum but the tools discussed apply to teaching online. In addition to providing some guidance on Blackboard tools, there are also some resources on student engagement and teaching online at the end of this document.

Statistics Tracking

Statistics Tracking is a useful way for you to monitor how many of your students have engaged with your course materials. This tool is available in Blackboard.
How do I track students’ use of items in my Blackboard Module? https://faqs.aber.ac.uk/index.php?id=628

Review Status

Review Status ask learners to mark that they have a reviewed a piece of content. This will allow you to track where learners are with their modules and their items. 

Using Review Status places the emphasis on giving students their own review status.

What is the Review Status in Blackboard? https://faqs.aber.ac.uk/index.php?search=2869

Adaptive Release

Adaptive release gives Instructors a flexible way to control which items in a Blackboard module are available to students. You can customise your material to fit the needs of individual students or groups. This is especially useful if you have both core and supplementary materials. For example, you might want to release supplementary material only to those students who score poorly on an assessment, but not to the whole class. You can set up a path of contingent prerequisites, such that students cannot see more advanced material until they have viewed the introductory material. You can make material available only for the time period when it is relevant, such as before or after a laboratory practical. You may also wish to make material available only to a selected group of students, perhaps releasing information to a group of students on their group project topic.
How do I use adaptive release to control when items in Blackboard are made available? https://faqs.aber.ac.uk/index.php?id=582
Irwin, B. et al. 2013. ‘Engaging students with feedback through adaptive release’. Innovations in Education and Teaching International. 50: 1. DOI: 10.1080/14703297.2012.748333. Pp. 51-61. Last Accessed 21.10.2019. This article looks at the impact of using adaptive release for releasing student feedback. The aim of this approach was to encourage students to engage more fully with their feedback. Using adaptive release in this way can also be used to engage students with their learning tasks.

You can use adaptive release via the grade centre and the completion of a test or quiz, for example, to release the next unit to students. Not only that, you can also use it to hide content once it’s completed.

Resources on Student Engagement

Blessinger, P. & C. Wankel. Ed. 2013. Increasing Student Engagement and Retention in e-Learning Environments: Web 2.0 and Blended Learning Technologies. Bradford: Emerald Publishing Limited. Last Accessed: 18.10.2019.

Especially:

Starr-Glass, D. 2013. ‘From Connectivity to Connected Learners: Transactional Distance and Social Presence.’ Pp. 113-143

This publication looks at how technology can be used to engage students. The edited collection provides lots of guidance on learning technologies in teaching.

As the editors identify, ‘any technology, novelty or technical sophistication alone cannot guarantee engagement of learners. These technologies should be used in a purposeful and integrated way and within an appropriate theoretical framework germane to the teaching and learning context’ (2013: 5-6).

One chapter of note is Starr-Glass (Pp. 113-143) who emphasises building a learning community and offering opportunities for collaboration as a way to engage students who are studying at a distance. 

Starr-Glass uses Michael Moore’s theory of transactional difference to look at the repercussions of separating the learner from their peers and instructors. The author encourages learners to rely on more than just the technology.  Distance Learning also seen as an early form of learner-centric activities.

Starr-Glass argues that we are now at a Fifth Generation of Distance Learning (2005- ) – The intelligent flexible learning model (2013: 118). This is characterised by access to technology environments where ‘[l]earners are viewed as knowledgeable, self-assured, and capable of accessing informational networks’ (ibid.). Opportunities for creating communities amongst peers are also explored.

Krull, G. & J. M Duart. 2019. ‘Supporting seamless learners: exploring patterns of multiple device use in an open and distance learning context’. Research in Learning Technology. 2017. http://dx.doi.org/10.25304/rlt.v27.2215. Pp. 1-13. Last Accessed: 18.10.2019. 

We often think about content of Distance Learning courses but we don’t necessarily think about how our students are accessing their content. In this article, Greig Krull and Joseph Duart look at how students make use of multiple devices. They used semi- structured interviews to analyse their findings.

Their findings suggest that students studying via distance learning tend to work in multiple locations (private and public) ‘demonstrating the potential for seamless learning’ (4).

The study also found that students had access to between 2 and 5 digital devices for learning. On average, students used 3 devices for learning (4).

As the authors indicate, ‘[a]n area for future research is how educators can better support students using multiple devices and how to reduce any potential ‘seams’ in their learning experiences’ (10).

Meyer, K. 2014. Student Engagement Online: What works and why. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons. Last Accessed 21.10.2019.

Meyer examines online learning against a context of retention in Higher Education. Of most interest, might be the section on Experiential and Active Learning (p. 28).Meyer also discusses the importance of fostering an online community amongst learners to encourage engagement with resources. The monograph borrows the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) to consider how you might engage students in online learning.

These include:

1.       Level of academic challenge

2.       Active and collaborative learning

3.       Student-faculty interaction

4.       Enriching educational experience

5.       Supportive campus (online) environment

(7-8)