What is a well-designed Blackboard module? – Student Learning Ambassadors Project

Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit (LTEU) is looking for a number of Student Learning Ambassadors to work on a ‘What is a well-designed Blackboard module?’ project. Issues with consistency and navigation of Blackboard modules are frequently raised in the feedback received from students (e.g., via the Information User Survey or the JISC Digital Insights survey). We would like to gather a small community of students who, through various User Experience methods, will work on this question. As part of this role, students will participate in focus groups, build their own Blackboard module and work collaboratively to report on the findings.

We are looking to recruit 8 students. This project will run between 05th and 17th of July 2021. Depends on the group, Ambassadors will be required to commit approximately 13 hours of work either in the first or in the second week of the project.

Please consider encouraging your students to apply for this role via the AberWorks  portal where more information is available. The closing date is 21st of June.

Weekly Resource Roundup – 13/4/2021

As leader of our PGCTHE programme, I keep an eye out for resources to help staff teach effectively. These include webinars, podcasts, online toolkits, publications and more. Topics include active learning, online/blended teaching, accessibility/inclusion, and effective learning design based on cognitive science. 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.  

Mini-Fest: Assessment – 17th May – 21st May

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The Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit is pleased to announce its first mini-festival. The aim of the mini-fest is to bring together training sessions and workshops offered by LTEU around a particular topic with an external speaker. For this first mini-fest, we’ll be looking specifically at assessment. The mini fest will run from Monday 17th May until Friday 21st May and will be taking place online via Teams. Please book on the sessions that you wish to attend on our online booking system.

We are going to be joined by Professors Sally Brown and Kay Sambell to talk about assessment design post covid on Monday 17th May for a 2-hour workshop at 10.30am. Their paper Writing Better Assignments in the post Covid19 Era has been widely discussed across the sector since last summer:

Improving assessment and feedback processes post-pandemic: authentic approaches to improve student learning and engagement.

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.

Professor Kay Sambell is an Independent Consultant widely known internationally for her contributions to the Assessment for Learning (AfL) movement in higher education. A 2002 National Teaching Fellow (NTF) and Principal Fellow Higher Education Academy (PFHEA), she is President of the vibrant Assessment in Higher Education (AHE) conference series, ( https://ahenetwork.org/) and Visiting Professor of Assessment for Learning at the University of Sunderland and the University of Cumbria. Kay has held personal chairs in Learning and Teaching at Northumbria University, where she co-led one of the UK Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning which specialised in AfL, and, more recently, at Edinburgh Napier University.   

Kay.sambell@cumbria.ac.uk

Website: https://kaysambell.wordpress.com

Professor Sally Brown is an Independent Consultant in Learning, Teaching and Assessment and Emerita Professor at Leeds Beckett University where she was, until 2010, Pro-Vice-Chancellor. She is also Visiting Professor at Edge Hill University and formerly at the Universities of Plymouth, Robert Gordon, South Wales and Liverpool John Moores and at Australian universities James Cook Central Queensland and the Sunshine Coast. She is a PFHEA, a Staff and Educational Development Association (SEDA) Senior Fellow and an NTF. She is widely published on learning, teaching and particularly assessment and enjoys working with institutions and teams on improving the student learning experience. 

S.brown@leedsbeckett.ac.uk

Website: https://sally-brown.net

In addition to Sally’s and Kay’s workshop, LTEU will be offering sessions and workshops over the course of the week:

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Kate Exley Workshop Summary

Last month the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit invited Dr Kate Exley to run a workshop for Aberystwyth University Staff called Moving your (PowerPoint) Lecture online.

What emerged from participants were lots of useful strategies for engaging students whilst teaching online. We’ve summarised some of the discussion below.

Learning Design:

  1. Simple strategies were most effective, such as using word document and uploading into chat
  2. Make use of Polling Software to engage students in their learning
  3. Build in ice-breaker activities to establish initial engagement
  4. In longer sessions, set a task and factor in a screen break
  5. Include tasks for students to do in advance and use the live sessions to scaffold their knowledge
  6. Include social tasks as well as formal tasks
  7. One department are running day long workshops with the option to ‘dial’ in the staff member if they’ve got any questions
  8. Stick to one or two large scale activities in a 40 minute session
  9. Be aware that students might be entering the synchronous session not having engaged with all tasks beforehand
  10. Use collaborative tools such as shared document, whiteboard or Padlet to collectively generate notes
  11. Being more informal in recorded lectures
  12. Offering weekly live q and a drop in sessions
  13. Asking students to meet in groups outside of timetabled activities
  14. Share real life examples / case studies in teaching and ask students to contribute with their own examples
  15. Ask students to look things up / research in the synchronous session

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Why and how we manage Blackboard enrolments

One of the most common queries we get is from people who aren’t enrolled on modules in Blackboard. Our standard answer is that staff and students should be enrolled on the module in the module record in AstRA. Once this is done, it takes about an hour for that enrolment to make its way to Blackboard.

But we know that there are still times when students and staff are added manually to modules. We’d like to reduce this as much as possible, so we need to understand when and why it happens. Our short survey will help us do this. The results of this survey will help us to see if we need to make changes to our processes to make it easier for everyone who needs to be on a module can get access quickly and easily.

It can be tempting to just manually add someone to a module, especially if you are in a rush or can’t find someone to make the change for you. However, there are reasons why we take all our enrolments from one source:

  1. Who has access to a module is transparent. This is particularly important for staff enrolments as staff have access to marks and student details. If all our records are taken from AStRA we know that someone should have access to the module; their enrolment has been approved. Also, there are checks within AStRA to make sure that only staff IDs can be given teaching permissions to a module. This avoids mix-ups with logins or typing mistakes which could see students accidentally being given access to grades (for example).
  2. Students only get access to modules they are registered to. Although we encourage students to check their student record, they will often go by the modules they are registered on in Blackboard. So, if a student is manually added to a module in Blackboard, but not properly registered in the Student Record, this can cause all sorts of issues. Especially when we reach exam board season.
  3. Enrolments can be re-built if needed. If a problem with Blackboard we can easily rebuild permissions to modules quickly and easily as there is a central source for them. Any manual enrolments will not be included in this process and could lead to delays with access.

If you manually add staff or students to modules (or ask someone else to do it for you) please take a few minutes to complete our survey.

Weekly Resource Roundup – 8/2/2021

Weekly Resource Roundup with Mary Jacob, Lecturer in Learning and Teaching As leader of our PGCTHE programme, I keep an eye out for resources to help staff teach effectively. These include webinars, podcasts, online toolkits, publications and more. Topics include active learning, online/blended teaching, accessibility/inclusion, and effective learning design based on cognitive science. 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 – 1/2/2021

Weekly Resource Roundup with Mary Jacob, Lecturer in Learning and Teaching As leader of our PGCTHE programme, I keep an eye out for resources to help staff teach effectively. These include webinars, podcasts, online toolkits, publications and more. Topics include active learning, online/blended teaching, accessibility/inclusion, and effective learning design based on cognitive science. 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.  

How can I check for understanding whilst teaching online?

Checking for understanding (CFU) plays a crucial role in the learning and teaching process and can verify to the lecturer what is being learnt but also provides students with an opportunity to reflect on their own learning. CFU is one of the biggest challenges in teaching and having to do so within the virtual classroom can make this even more challenging than in a traditional face-to-face setting! However, there are several useful features in MS Teams that can be used to help you CFU. Here are a few tips on how to utilise these features:

The chat function.
You can use the chat function in a variety of ways to CFU. Some ideas include asking students to summarize a concept or idea, or to paraphrase a theory in just a couple of sentences. The chat can also prove as a valuable tool in CFU of quieter students who may not wish to reply verbally to your questions. Here are some tips on how to manage the chat effectively in MS Team.

Emojis.
To inject a bit of fun into the classroom and as a way of avoiding “yes/no” answers, you could ask your students to react to comments on questions that you have posted in the chat to express how they’re feeling about a topic or concept. For example:
Screenshot showing reactions to a post in the chat

Raise your hand feature.
The raise your hand feature in Teams allows users to notify the lecturer that they have a question or a comment to make, but you could also use it to CFU. How about asking students to use the feature in response to a question? For example, “raise your hand if you want me to show you how to do that again”.
You could also use the feature to encourage students to elaborate on their answers in the chat, for example, “raise your hand if you can tell me more about that”. If students are unsure about unmuting themselves, you can encourage them to respond with a written response in the chat.

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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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