Turnitin Building Block retired

In summer 2022 we moved to a new version of Turnitin. As support for our previous version of Turnitin has now ceased, the historical version (known as Turnitin Building Block) will be retired on 31 August 2023.

This means that any marked assignments will no longer be accessible to staff and students.

Students should download any historical assignments (from pre-academic year 2022-23) and save them.

Staff should contact the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit (elearning@aber.ac.uk) if they still need to access Turnitin assignments in the Building Block for marking purposes.

Even though access will be removed, the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit will still be able to request marked assignments via Turnitin support. If you require this after 31 August 2023, please contact the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit (elearning@aber.ac.uk).  

Blackboard Ultra: Blog Alternatives Overview

Blackboard Ultra icon

This post outlines the solutions that the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit are working on for Blog activities in Blackboard Ultra. Once these solutions have been tried and tested, we will work on providing guidance for colleagues.


Blogs are a collaborative tool used for a number of assessed and unassessed activities at Aberystwyth University.

The tool is not currently available in Blackboard Ultra (despite our enhancement requests) and is not on Blackboard’s roadmap of development.

The unavailability of the Blog tool has been included in all parts of the decision-making process to highlight it as a risk in the move to Blackboard Ultra.

In their very nature blogs offer students the opportunity to reflect on their learning, organise their thoughts and ideas chronologically, and comment on each other’s posts.

Whilst there aren’t blogs in Ultra, there are two fully-integrated participation and engagement tools that will offer alternatives: Journals and Discussions.

Option 1: Use the Journal tool

Whilst blogs don’t exist in Blackboard Ultra, the journal tool does remain. Journals are used in a similar way to blogs but they are private between course tutors and students. If the activity can function without making student’s posts visible to all, we recommend using this tool.

You can get an overview of the journal tool by watching this Journal overview tutorial.

Option 2: Use the Discussions tool

If the activity requires an interactive element between students then we recommend using the discussion tool. Here you can create a thread, organise your discussions via folders, set the discussions to be graded, encourage student participation by not viewing the thread until students have completed their initial post.

For an idea as to how discussions work, take a look at this demonstration video.

Even though our discussion board tool has changed, our principles on discussion board design and engagement still remain the same. Take a look at our discussion board design blogpost for some tips and questions for you to ask yourselves in the design of the activity.

Option 3: Use WordPress blogging tool

Whilst we recommend that discussion board activity remains in Blackboard so that student engagement and assessment can take place, there is another blogging tool supported by the University: WordPress. If you think that WordPress is the only option for you then we recommend that you get in contact with us first to discuss your activity and so we can advise further (elearning@aber.ac.uk).

Blackboard Ultra: Directors of Learning and Teaching Consultations

Blackboard Ultra icon

On 1 and 2 March, LTEU met with Departmental Directors of Learning and Teaching to update on the Blackboard Ultra project and discuss our plans for training, ways in which we can address challenges, and the support required for the Ultra project.

The slides from the session can be downloaded from this link.

The slides include an update on the project timeline, what academic colleagues will have to do, and an overview of our training approach.

Summary of discussions

  • Support contact – if you are having any difficulties with using e-learning tools then do contact elearning@aber.ac.uk and we will be happy to help you out.
  • Adding Reading List and Panopto Link – Staff members will have to add links to these in their modules. There is currently no way of doing this automatically, but we will continue to investigate ways of doing so.
  • Departments will be able to choose whether they have an in-person training session or an online training session.
  • LTEU will continue training on using Ultra over the summer and into the new academic year
  • Academic colleagues will be able to access and copy materials from historical modules – the current retention period is 5 years + current year.
  • Where possible, colleagues should use Blackboard text editor features to ensure that their content is as accessible as possible.
  • A checklist will be produced so that colleagues can check that they’ve done everything required in building their modules.
  • Colleagues would like a consistent message from Information Services about the project.
  • Training sessions will be offered to all Registry teams as well as external examiners and franchise campuses.
  • Communications and approach will include the benefits of the move to Ultra and a list of new features.
  • Where possible, video materials will be created.

If you have any questions, concerns, or want to speak to us about something specific in your course, then contact us on elearning@aber.ac.uk.

Ultra Practice Courses created

Blackboard Ultra icon

Now that the templates have been confirmed we have created an individual Ultra Practice Course for all staff members.

This practice course is private to you and has no students enrolled on it. You can use this course to create content and try out the new Ultra course interface.

You will find your practice course by going to Organisations on the left-hand side menu:

Ultra Base Navigation with Organisations showing

The course has been created with the bilingual AU course template. For further information on course templates, see our previous blogpost. They will be named your name Cwrs Ymarfer Ultra / Ultra Practice Course.  

To help prepare you for Ultra courses next academic year, try the following:

  1. Create an announcement
  2. Create a folder to organise material
  3. Create / upload a document
  4. Post a link to a website
  5. Copy material from one of your modules into your Ultra practice course

You’ll notice that you can drag and drop content much more easily in Ultra.  Additionally, you can choose where you add content (without newly created content defaulting to the bottom of the page).

As Ultra is much more fluid than Blackboard original, your approach to content organisation is essential to help students navigate the module. Make sure that you use the preview features so that you can get an idea of how the content looks to students:

Participant Preview button

It might be that you want to discuss content organisation with colleagues to see if there’s departmental approach that you want to take.

We will be using these practice organisations for training purposes over the coming months. Keep an eye on our blog and webpages for additional information as further guidance is produced.

We’ll be blogging additional tasks over the coming months for you to try in your Ultra practice course. In our next blogpost of this nature, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at the Grade Book, Assignments, Turnitin, and Blackboard tests.

If you’ve got any questions about the move to Blackboard Ultra, please contact the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit (elearning@aber.ac.uk).

MS Bookings: Bookings Appointments Enabled

Accessibility icons showing 3 images: a checklist, a computer workstation, an image

Want a way to automatically schedule meetings with colleagues and students without going back and forth?

Bookings has been enabled on Office365 accounts. You might want to use this to schedule personal tutor meetings, dissertation supervision sessions, or appointments with professional services staff.

Bookings allows you to schedule meetings and appointments and automatically integrates with your Office365 calendar based on yours and your attendees’ availability.

You can specify your available booking slots, when your meetings are scheduled, whether they’re taking place online, and publish a webpage with a link to share with others or put in your email signature.

Take a look at our FAQ for further information on how to set this up.

Contact Information Services (is@aber.ac.uk) if you have got any questions about using Bookings.

Important Information: Blackboard Ultra

Blackboard Ultra icon

In our previous blogpost, we announced our move to Blackboard Ultra.

Following the meeting of Academic Board, we can confirm that Phase 1 of the Ultra project, Ultra Base Navigation (UBN), will take place between 3 and 6 January 2023.

During this time, you will notice changes to the landing pages of Blackboard. Whilst UBN offers a new feel to Blackboard, course functionality and content will remain the same. We aim to maintain user access to Blackboard throughout this time, but it should be considered at risk for this period.

Further updates about UBN will follow to help prepare staff and students for this change to the landing page.

Once Phase 1 is complete, the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit will move to Phase 2, preparing for Ultra Courses in September 2023.

We are blogging throughout the project and key messages will be communicated via the Weekly Bulletin and IS news.

We will provide FAQs and have a dedicated webpage which will develop as the project progresses.

If you have any questions, please contact the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit (elearning@aber.ac.uk).

Teams Language Interpretation now available

Accessibility icons showing 3 images: a checklist, a computer workstation, an image

In its most recent update, Teams made available its new translation channel for online meetings. Now, you can allocate a translator to your meeting and attendees can tune into their interpretation. This solution has been developed in collaboration between Microsoft and Welsh Government.

If you’ve got any questions about using Teams, please contact is@aber.ac.uk.

In line with the statutory requirements of the Welsh Language Standards and the University’s internal policy on the use of Welsh, the Centre for Welsh Language Services provides a Simultaneous Translation service at meetings (virtual, hybrid and in-person).

Simultaneous Translation allows attendees to use their preferred language (e.g. Welsh/English) completely naturally and easily at meetings, committees and events for example. For further information please contact the Centre for Welsh Language Services tlustaff@aber.ac.uk.

Read More

Blackboard Ultra: Stakeholder Meeting 1

Blackboard Ultra icon

The Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit is starting to work on our next project: the move to Blackboard Ultra. Over the coming months we’ll be using our blog to communicate project progression as well as important information.

Over the next year or so, you’ll probably hear the following phrases:

  1. Ultra Base Navigation: the name given to the new design and navigation within Blackboard, before you enter a module or organisation.
  2. Ultra Course View: a more modern design and easy-to-use interface for modules with some new tools that are not available in the Original Course View.
  3. Original Course View: the design and interface we are currently using for modules and which Blackboard is retiring.
  4. LTI (Learning Tools Interoperability): the external tools integrated into Blackboard such as Turnitin and Panopto.

There are advantages to using Ultra:

  1. More intuitive course design and content creation.
  2. Increased compatibility with mobile and tablet devices.
  3. Benefits from Blackboard’s continuous updates and support.
  4. Updated aesthetic.

Whilst we recognise these benefits, the change may be disruptive for colleagues and students but we will be working hard to ensure the rollout is as smooth as possible.

For colleagues, we’ll be running training sessions next year so that you are as prepared for this change as possible.

In this first blogpost, we’ll provide a summary of our first stakeholder engagement meeting which took place on Friday 16 September. Your departmental directors of learning and teaching along with other stakeholders were invited to the meeting.

Our client support colleagues from Blackboard gave attendees a tour of the Ultra interface from an instructor’s perspective and a day in the life of a student.  

We have made the meeting available for everyone via Panopto.

Following the stakeholder meeting we will be working on the following areas:

  1. When can we enable Ultra Base Navigation?
  2. What will the course creation and copying process look like for colleagues?
  3. How does Blackboard Ultra manage Welsh and English content?

Keep a lookout for further updates. If you have got any questions, do let us know (lteu@aber.ac.uk).

Parent-child modules 2022-23

Image of Blackboard logo and parent-child

Now that the 2022-23 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 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.

Read More