Changes to the Blackboard Required Minimum Presence (RMP)

Distance Learner BannerWe have updated the RMP to respond to the Covid-19 situation. The new RMP contains items that will help support students with their online learning. It has been developed by the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Group (LTEU) with significant input from sub-groups of the Learning and Teaching Scenario Planning Group (LTSPG).

What’s New?

All new or altered items are highlighted in bold in the new RMP. They represent some good practice currently in place around AU as well as responding to some of the queries received by the LTEU from staff and students during the Covid-19 crisis. Some highlights include:

  • A Panopto recording of a module tour to help students to familiarise themselves with how the module will run
  • Induction activities – see below
  • Providing clear information to students on what they need to do online, how they should do it, and what to do if they have problems
  • Recommendations on providing lecture materials via short Panopto recordings.

Induction materials

The IBERS Distance Learning modules make use of an induction folder (known as Unit 0). This introduces all students to a range of activities which must be completed to ensure that students are able to successfully study online. We recommend this approach for modules in the coming year. The types of activities you may want to include will vary between modules and will depend on what tools and approaches you are using in the module. Some examples may be:

  • A practice Turnitin or Blackboard Assignment submission to check submission and that students can view their feedback
  • Viewing a Panopto recording and completing a quiz
  • Posting an introductory message to a discussion forum
  • Completing a formative Blackboard test
  • Locating library materials through the Aspire Reading List

If you need any help or support with the new RMP, please email elearning@aber.ac.uk

Parent-child modules

Image of Blackboard logo and parent-child

Now that the 2020-21 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.

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Weekly Resource Roundup 22/6/2020

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.

Weekly Resource Roundup 15/6/2020

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.

Calling @AberUni staff. Do you use short Panopto lectures or Panopto quizzes in your online teaching? We’re after examples to use in our new good practice module. Email lteu@aber.ac.uk if you’d like to share your materials with us. 

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.

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.

Exemplary Course Award

Exemplary Course Award image

Dr Lara Kipp, from the Department of Theatre Film and Television Studies, has been awarded the Exemplary Course Award for the module TP22320: Principles of Scenography. The panel commended this module for its innovative assessment design and support, clear and logically ordered learning materials, novel use of announcements, and offering multiple ways for students to engage with learning activities.

In addition to the winner, the following module achieved Highly Commended:

  • Dr Rhianedd Jewell from the Department of Welsh and Celtic Studies for the module CY25620 / CY35620: Y Gymraeg yn y Gweithle

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 seventh year, aims to recognise the very best learning and teaching practices. It gives staff members the opportunity to share their work with colleagues, enhance their current modules in Blackboard, and receive feedback on to improve.

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 Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit 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.

Tips for Discussion Board Engagement

Distance Learner BannerOne of the interactive tools available in Blackboard is the Discussion Board. Whilst moving to online teaching, we’ve seen staff start to use discussion boards to communicate with their students and for students to communicate with their peers.

In this blogpost, we’ll be giving you some tips on how best to design learning activities using discussion boards and some strategies for implementing them into learning and teaching. As we move to online teaching, it’s important to remember that this is new to students as well as staff. A well-designed online learning activity will help to alleviate stresses for students and queries for staff.

One of the most common queries we get from staff is about student engagement with various e-learning tools. Engagement depends on how the learning activity is designed and how it feeds into the rest of the module and learning process.

The first question to ask yourself when starting to use discussion boards is what is its purpose? What is it that you want your students to do or be able to do after engaging with the activity? After you’ve established that the discussion board is the correct tool for the activity (remember to put the learning need first), you can begin to design it.

A recent blogpost by Slobodan Tomic, Ellen Roberts, Jane Lund from York University identifies some tips for best embedding Discussion Forums in your teaching. They propose a series of 5 questions that will help you to clarify the specificities of your discussion board for your learning activity:

1.       What is the activity? A discussion (with or without reference to a resource)

A debate

A reflection on personal experience

A co-created presentation

Resource sharing

2. What is the purpose of the discussion or activity? To enable students to:

·       Digest and critique a reading

·       Construct an argument

·       Test/challenge a theory

·       Work in pairs/teams

·       Develop skills (e.g. search for and share resources)

 

3.       What do students need to do and by when? How long will the activity run for?

Should they post once, or more than once?

Should they respond to at least one other post?

Do they need to communicate off-platform to complete the task?

Should they nominate a rapporteur?

What are the deadlines for each stage of the task?

4.       What will the tutor’s role be, and how often will they be ‘present’ (see below)? Will tutors facilitate the discussion?

Or will they lurk but not comment until a particular point?

Will tutors be checking in every day? Every few days? At the end of the task if it is a student-led task?

5.       What do students do if they have any problems? How should communicate this?

In the forum?

By email?

 

There are many more useful tips in this blogpost so do look at it.

Once you’ve got the correct purpose for the discussion board, you can start to think about how best to embed into your teaching.

The following tips should help encourage engagement:

  1. Preparation:
    1. Have you prepared the students for the activity?
    2. Have you explained exactly what you expect of the students?
    3. Have you provided students with guidance on how to engage with the tool?
    4. Have you explained to students how best to communicate with you?
  2. Explanation:
    1. Have you explained to your students the benefit of engaging with the activity?
    2. Do your students know why they have to undertake the activity?
    3. Have you explained to students why you have set up the activity in a certain way?
  3. Response:
    1. Have you responded to discussion board posts regularly (if designed in the learning activity)?
    2. Have you responded to posts in other learning activities?
    3. If running virtual seminars, have you drawn on the content in the posts?
  4. Examples:
    1. Have you provided sample discussion forum posts to your students?
    2. If you’re expecting students to post on other discussion forum posts, have you given examples of what types of posts they should be doing?

You may also Gilly Salmon’s Five Stage Model useful. This model isn’t new but is designed to help scaffold students into online discussion.

Hopefully, these tips will help you design your learning activity using discussion boards. Once you have designed the activity, you’ll find all the help on setting them up in our FAQs: https://faqs.aber.ac.uk/index.php?search=discussion.

We’re always on the lookout to hear from people successfully using e-learning tools in their teaching. If you’ve been using the Discussion Board feature successfully, then we’d like to hear from you. Drop us an email. As always, if you have any questions about using these tools, please email elearning@aber.ac.uk.

References

Tomic, S., Roberts, E., Lund, J. 2020. Designing learning and teaching online: the role of discussion forums. [Online]. Available at: https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/news-and-views/designing-learning-and-teaching-online-role-discussion-forums. Last accessed: 30.04.2020.

Salmon, G. n.d. Five Stage Model. [Online]. Available at: https://www.gillysalmon.com/five-stage-model.html. Last accessed: 30.04.2020.

 

Blackboard Tests – Creating Online Assessment Activities for your Students

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Online tests and quizzes can be created for your students using the Tests function in Blackboard. Tests can be provided as a formative method of assessment, as a self-assessment method for students, or as a more formal means of assessing student performance. 

The Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit have recently updated our Blackboard Tests guidance, to support staff in providing online assessment activities for students.

Why Use Blackboard Tests in my module?
Benefits to Students:

  • Reinforce learning. Research has shown that tests and quizzes are powerful tools to promote retrieval practice, aid revision and improve learning.
  • Valuable feedback. Blackboard Tests can provide varied, additional feedback opportunities for students.
  • Media rich experience. Videos, images and links to recordings and external resources can be provided within the questions and answers.
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  • Teaching Online? How to make Blackboard Activities more interactive with Adaptive Release

    Distance Learner Banner

    Following the move to online teaching, this blogpost is intended to give you some ideas about how to make your Blackboard Course Site more interactive for students. In the first of this series of blogposts, we’ll be looking explicitly at a feature called Adaptive Release.

    The move to online teaching, if anything, shows us that Blackboard is a powerful learning tool that can be used for a wide variety of learning activities and not solely as a place in which materials are accessed, lectures are watched, and assignments are submitted. Key to the design of online and digital learning is thinking about what activities you want your students to be doing in addition to what resources they need access to.

    One of the most powerful, yet underused tools, in Blackboard is Adaptive Release. Adaptive Release gives you the opportunity to release content based on a series of rules. The most common of these is to limit content based on dates and times or by a user or group of students, but you can also use Adaptive Release to release content after students have completed a certain activity or reviewed certain materials.

    For example, if you’ve got two lectures that students have got to view but you don’t want them to move straight onto the second lecture without having assessed their understanding of the first lecture. Additionally, understanding the content of the second lecture might be dependent on the content covered in the first lecture.

    If you’d like to limit moving onto the second lecture:

    Adaptive Release such as the above scenario links to a Grade in the Grade Centre. There are a number of rules that you can apply. For example, you could set the rule so that students have to get a specific mark in the test before they are able to see the content to demonstrate their understanding.

    In this scenario, you can ensure that students have gained sufficient knowledge and understanding from the content whilst also creating an environment that responds directly to their activity.

     

    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)