What we need to consider when planning for 2021/22 teaching?

The time to get ready for 2021/22 teaching is fast-approaching. Although there is still much uncertainty about what we will be able to provide, we would like to share with you a few points worth considering when planning for next year. These points derive from our reflections and experiences of supporting staff and students over the past academic year, as well as considerations from colleagues across the sector.

How will we measure student engagement?

What we mean by student engagement and how we measure it has changed over the past year. Previously we might have gauged student engagement in the classroom by simply observing their participation during the face-to-face sessions or monitoring their attendance. Since teaching online, we perhaps paid more attention to Panopto statistics, participation in interactive activities on Blackboard and chat in Teams. Making it clear what you mean by engagement and how you are going to measure it, in what is likely to be a new delivery format for you and your students, can help you evaluate your methods and help students understand what is expected of them (Love & El Hakim, 2020).

What will our students need?

We know that during the pandemic many students suffered from isolation, studied in various home conditions and struggled with anxiety and motivation. Going forward we will need to take this into account and balance the increased need for contact hours and socialisation with best pedagogical practices. Although we won’t be able to approach this upcoming year with certainty, it is essential to provide students with a sense of structure wherever possible. One of best practice emphasised during past months is creating ‘roadmaps’ which tell students what they need to do and by when. Another recurring theme across the sector is building a community of learners to address isolation.

How will we manage student expectations?

Managing student expectations is never easy and may be even more challenging this upcoming year. One way of managing expectations effectively is by engaging in a continuous conversation with students and being able to adapt wherever possible. Treating students as partners in their learning design also requires  explaining why we educate them the way we do, even if it is not what they expected. Finally, scaffolding their learning regardless of the form it takes is likely to increase their satisfaction.

How our roles as educators and education professionals will change?

The flipped-classroom approach which our institution promoted this academic year changes the power dynamic in the classroom. It allows students to have more choice over how they learn and when. It also places more emphasis on tutors being mentors and facilitators rather than lecturers. Going forward, the relationships between students and staff is likely to be transformed further. As mentioned earlier, it may be an opportunity to work in partnership with our students, enabling them to be the agents of their learning experience. 

Kay Sambell and Sally Brown Workshop (Mini Fest)

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Improving assessment and feedback processes post-pandemic: authentic approaches to improve student learning and engagement – Professor Kay Sambell and Professor Sally Brown Workshop

The Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit is pleased to announce a special online workshop run by Kay Sambell & Sally Brown on Monday 17th May, 10:30-12:30.

Please book your place online [link].

Places are limited so please book as soon as possible.

Session Overview:

This workshop is designed to build on lessons learned during the complex transitions academics made last year when face-to-face on-campus assessment became impossible. A whole range of approaches were used by academics globally not only to cope with the contingency but also to streamline assessment and more fully align it with learning.

We now have an important opportunity to change assessment and feedback practices for good by boosting the authenticity of our designs to ensure they are future-fit.  Drawing on their work undertaken throughout 2020, https://sally-brown.net/kay-sambell-and-sally-brown-covid-19-assessment-collection/ the facilitators of this workshop Professor Kay Sambell and Professor Sally Brown will argue that we can’t ever go back to former ways of assessment and will propose practical, manageable approaches that fully integrate assessment and feedback with learning, leading to improved outcomes and longer-term learning for students.

This workshop is mapped primarily to A2, A5, K2, K3 on the UKPSF.  

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Supporting your Learning Blackboard module

[:en]At the beginning of this academic year, various departments across the University contributed to creating Supporting your Learning web pages. Although gathering all essential information in one place has been useful, we were looking for a way to present it in a more interactive and accessible format.

We created the Supporting your Learning organisation on Blackboard which includes all information from the web pages with some additional resources such as the Quick Guide to Student Success as well as practice submission points.

Supporting your Learning module has a menu on the left hand side that you can navigate the different pages from

We conducted several ‘Helping Students to Make Most of Online Learning’ training sessions with Peer Guides, Residential Assistants, Student Representatives and Student Support staff showing them the Supporting your Learning organisation. We received positive feedback and made changes based on their comments. We have also asked for feedback from the Directors of Learning and Teaching.

All students and staff can find the Supporting your Learning organisation under ‘My Organisation’ tab.

Supporting your Learning module is located under My Organisations on BB

We hope that it will support them in findings essential information in a more efficient way as well as enhance various induction processes. We would greatly appreciate if you could share this resource with all students and staff in your departments and utilise it where appropriate.

Netiquette – Communicating your expectations for online participation

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Mary Jacob, Lecturer in Learning and Teaching, LTEU

The term ‘Netiquette’ means etiquette for interacting on the internet. In the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit, staff often ask us about appropriate guidelines for students when interacting online.

There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to netiquette. Because different teaching scenarios require different guidelines, you will need to decide on the most appropriate rules for your own students. We’ve written this document to help you make those decisions when teaching synchronously (e.g. via Teams) and asynchronously (e.g. discussion boards), using verbal and/or written interactions.

If you can make your expectations clear to your students, it will give them confidence and reduce potential issues. Here are our key tips:

  • Tip 1: Make your expectations clear from the start and reinforce as needed. What seems obvious to us may not be obvious to our students. Telling them what we expect helps students behave appropriately and learn better.
  • Tip 2: Don’t change the rules mid-stream. Changing the rules after the module has begun could be confusing. Anticipating potential issues in advance can help us to avoid them.
  • Tip 3: Be fair and inclusive. The assumptions we make may not address all of the challenges our students face. Considering their diverse backgrounds and needs helps us include everyone.
  • Tip 4: Model good online behaviour. We serve as a powerful role model when we put into practice the same things we want our students to do.

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What else could we do to support student learning? (according to students themselves!)

We have recently had an opportunity to deliver ‘Make the most of your online learning’ sessions to Peer Guides, Student Representatives as well as Residential Assistants. These sessions focused mainly on introducing students to resources which are available to them: Supporting your Learning module on Blackboard (which will shortly be rolled out to all students); and the Quick Guide to Student Success.

We have also taken these opportunities to ask students: ‘What else can we do to support your learning?’. We would like to share with you some of the feedback we received along with suggestions on how these could be addressed:

Assignment extensions 

Although this is not something that can be resolved by teaching staff, it may be worth including a link to the Course Extensions information along with other assessment related information.

Clear structure

Some students expressed difficulties in navigating their workload related to online learning and a need for a clearer structure on how and when the content will be released to them. Therefore, we would like to encourage staff to include a short table with content release dates (it can be included in Module Information) and sticking to dates and times of seminar and live sessions which have been timetabled.

A table showing dates on each content being released on Blackboard

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E-learning Enhanced: Interactive Blackboard Tools Training Sessions

Distance Learner BannerThe Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit is pleased to be running our E-learning Enhanced training sessions again this semester.

We’ve got a session scheduled for each of Blackboard’s Interactive Tools: Discussion Boards, Wikis, Tests & Quizzes, and Journals & Blogs. In addition to this, we’ve got a number of Welsh Medium workshops on ‘What can I do in Blackboard?’ as well as some more CPD opportunities.

Blackboard Tools are incredibly versatile and can be adapted for a wide variety of different learning activities: from formative and summative assessment to peer and online learning community building, from reflective activities to the creation of resources. As with all technology enhanced learning, the key is the design of the activity and how that is linked to learning outcomes. Putting the teaching need first and choosing the most appropriate tool will result in meaningful engagements with the task.

These sessions have been designed in such a way to foreground the learning design of the activity as well as the technical creation. Participants will be given the opportunity in these sessions to design a learning activity using the relevant tool and will be provided with technical videos and tips for best embedding their tools in their teaching.

See below for dates and times:

DateSession
22.02.2021Designing and Using Blackboard Discussion Boards
26.02.2021Beth allaf ei wneud gyda Blackboard?
03.03.2021Designing and Using Wikis for Online Collaborative Activities
11.03.2021Creating Blackboard Tests and Quizzes
17.03.2021Using Blackboard Journals and Blogs for Learning Activities
22.03.2021Beth allaf ei wneud gyda Blackboard?

You can see our full list of CPD and book your place online: https://stafftraining.aber.ac.uk/sd/list_courses.php. All our sessions are designed to be run online via Teams. You will be sent a calendar invitation with a link to the session beforehand.

Tips for teaching with Breakout Rooms

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In case you didn’t see our previous blogpost, breakout rooms are now available in Microsoft Teams. In preparation for semester 2 teaching and for increased online teaching, we’re going to give you some design tips on how best to make use of Breakout Rooms. They can be used to great effect to help support and further student learning, as well as offering the option to break down larger groups of students into more manageable discussion groups.

As with all our advice for online learning, think about what you want your students to do before, during, and after the activity.

Before starting Breakout Rooms:

  1. Familiarise yourself with how breakout rooms work. Breakout rooms can only be set up once the meeting has started. To create breakout rooms, you must be the organiser of the meeting.
  2. Design the task for students and communicate that with them beforehand. Ask yourself what it is that you want your students to be able to do after they have engaged with the activity? Do you want them to produce anything whilst in the breakout room? Do you want them to present anything when they come back into the main room?
  3. Make sure that students understand what is being asked of them before they go into breakout groups. Also, give them a strategy for contacting you if they’ve got any questions. This might be using the chat feature in the main room. Or a student re-joining the main meeting again.
  4. Let the students know how long they’ve got in the breakout room before they have to come back into the main room.

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Content Organisation in Blackboard

Distance Learner BannerAs we are using more and more functionality in Blackboard modules, how they are organised has become increasingly important. We receive quite a number of queries from students struggling to locate various items or submission points in Blackboard.

To assist with navigation, we’ve pulled together our top tips on content organisation.

If you’ve got any questions about this or want to request a module MOT, please email elearning@aber.ac.uk.

Tips for Organising Blackboard Content

Before you start creating content on your Blackboard modules, think about how it can best be arranged so that students can easily access it and that learning resources and activities are in a logical place.  

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NEW Recurring MS Teams Meeting Feature in Blackboard

Today, a new feature has been made available in Blackboard which allows you to create recurring MS Teams meetings.

This new feature works very similarly to the recurring options available in Outlook. As can be seen in the image below, you can now arrange MS Teams meetings through Blackboard based on how often you want them to recur; on what days you want them to recur; and when you would like this recurrence to end.

Students should be encouraged to add this link to their calendars as this will automatically add the whole series to their calendars.

Screenshot showing the options available in the new recurring meetings feature.

When setting up your recurring meeting, please ensure that you include clear information which demonstrates which sessions should be accessed through the link that you have just created.

Table demonstrating which sessions can be accessed through the Teams link

For further details on how to use this new feature, please visit our FAQ.

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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