Blackboard SaaS update 1

Blackboard LogoMany of you will have seen the announcement that AU is moving to the cloud-hosted, Blackboard SaaS platform. We plan to provide a monthly update on the progress of the project via the E-learning blog and this is our first update.

SaaS stands for Software as a Service, and there are advantages of moving to using Blackboard SaaS. The first, and most welcome one, is no more downtime once we have migrated to SaaS . Currently we have two planned maintenance periods every year – two days during the Christmas vacation and two days in the summer. Followers of this blog will know how difficult it is to plan these, and how it is virtually impossible to find a time that suits everyone. Blackboard SaaS is upgraded without any downtime (you can find out more about this and other SaaS features at https://uk.blackboard.com/learning-management-system/saas-deployment.html).

There will be a period of downtime as part of the migration process, but this will be communicated to you closer to the time. And the good news is that once we have moved, there will be no more Christmas or summer downtime announcements!

SaaS is upgraded using a ‘continuous deployment’ method – this means that every month Blackboard will be updated to the latest version. This update includes both bug fixes and new features. So, you should find problems get fixed earlier and you won’t have to wait too long for new tools or updates to current tools.

There is plenty of information about Blackboard SaaS online; if you do have a look, please note that there are two different versions of Blackboard available on SaaS, Original and Ultra. We’re planning to move to the Original version initially – and we’ll consider Ultra in the future.

Since we sent out the initial announcement, the E-learning Group and Systems Integration team have spent a lot of time getting to know SaaS. One of the most exciting things has been being given access to a completely fresh, new version of Blackboard. Most of us have never seen Blackboard without any courses or any users – it was a little bit like being faced with a patch of fresh snow!!

Our first priorities are to make sure that all the main features work as expected, and to check that all the add-ins (or Building Blocks) we use work correctly. We use Building Blocks for a whole host of things, from Turnitin and Panopto, to the scrolling banner on the homepage.

If you have any questions about Blackboard SaaS, you can contact us on elearning@aber.ac.uk

Blackboard Grade Centre

The Blackboard Grade Centre is probably the most powerful yet underused part of a Blackboard module. Every Blackboard module has one, but how often do you use it and are you getting the most out of it? I’m a big fan of the Blackboard Grade Centre so I’m using this series of blog posts to introduce to some of the hidden features which could make your marking and assessment life easier.

The first post is about setting up the Grade Centre. Like many things, a little bit of thought and planning before you start goes a long way. Some advance organisational work will make your life a lot easier in the long run.

So, what sort of things should you consider?

  1. Organise before you create. Some features like categories and Marking Periods are added to columns when you create them. It’s useful to set these up first, rather than go back and edit afterwards (although that it is possible).
    1. Categories. There are built in categories for types of tools (e.g. Tests, Assignments ) etc. which are applied automatically when you create them. But you can also create your own. For example, you might want a category for Exams or Presentations. You can also do calculations based on the category of a column using the Calculated Column options. Blackboard help on Categories.
    2. Marking Periods. These are time periods for when the work is marked. This would be useful if you are putting a lot of marks directly into the Grade Centre for a long-thin module. You could have a Semester 1 and Semester 2 grading period and then filter by these so you only see the relevant columns. Blackboard help on Marking Periods.
  2. Do you need any additional columns? Anything that you can grade in Blackboard generates a Grade Centre column when you create it. So, if you have a Turnitin Assignment, graded Discussion Board or Wiki, you have a column in the Grade Centre already. If you want to store marks for presentations, exams, in-class tests, oral exams etc., you can create your own columns. Blackboard help on creating columns.
  3. Think careful when you name your columns (either manually created columns, or the ones created when you set-up Turnitin etc.). They should be meaningful and easy to understand which assessment component they relate to. This is especially important when mapping components for marks transfer. A common problem is two e-submission points both called Essay; make sure you use titles which make sense such as Essay 1 and Essay 2 or Nutrition Essay and Exercise Essay.
  4. Do you want to make any calculations or combine marks? AStRA takes care of the weighting of your assignments in the overall module mark calculations, but you may want to group together small assignments to make calculations or show to the students. For example, you might have a set of weekly tests that make up one component of your module assessment. To do this you can create one of the calculated columns. Blackboard help on Calculated Columns.
  5. What do you want the students to see? Most people know that you can hide Grade Centre columns to the students, but did you know that there is a Primary and Secondary Grade. This means that you can show the students a letter grade, or even that the work has been marked, without showing the grade. This is a way of giving feedback before the releasing a mark.
  6. Viewing and filtering. There are a number of ways you can organise your Grade Centre to help you see only the things you want to see. Depending on how many columns you have and what you need to do, one of the following might be useful:
    1. Smart Views and Favourites. You know the Needs Marking and Assignments items under Full Grade Centre in your menu? These are shortcuts that take you to filtered views of the Grade Centre. Did you know you can add your own shortcuts here, using categories or groups of students as the criteria? Blackboard help on Smart Views.
    2. Filtering. Like Excel spreadsheets it is possible to filter your view of the Grade Centre, to only certain sets of information. Blackboard help of filtering.
  7. Colour coding. This is my personal favourite. You can colour code the Grade Centre to quickly show which students are getting very high marks, and which students might need a little more help. This is particularly useful for tests which are marked automatically and you may not see the results straightaway. It provides you with a quick visual way of seeing who might need some further help. Blackboard help on colour coding.

The next instalment of this series will be marking and dealing with grades. If you want any help with setting up your Grade Centre, get in touch and we can go through your requirements and get you up and running.

New Webinar: Create a Turnitin Submission Point

The E-learning Group will be running a webinar on Wednesday February 6th at 3pm. In this webinar, the E-learning Group will be demonstrating how to set up a Turnitin submission point and all the optional settings that are available to you.

It is quick and easy for you to join the webinar – you can do so from your own office, all you need is an Internet connection. First, book on the webinar by going to the course booking page which can be found here. You’ll then be sent an Outlook Meeting appointment which you can add to your calendar. When it’s time to join the webinar, you can do so by double-clicking the link on the meeting appointment. Alternatively, you can join the webinar by clicking on this link here.  The webinar will be recorded and made available to staff after the session.

The webinar will be using Skype for Business. For more information on Skype for Business, please see this guide available here.

If you have any questions about the webinar, email elearning@aber.ac.uk.

E-learning Support for Learning and Teaching Activities

The E-learning Group hope you had an enjoyable break over holiday period. As we begin to enter into the examination period, we thought that it would be useful for us to identify what support is on offer for colleagues who provide administrative support for learning and teaching activities.

Our FAQ, What FAQs are useful for providing administrative support for E-learning systems?, might be a good starting point. This is a FAQ designed specifically to bring all our FAQs pertaining to administrative support together so that you are able to find an answer to your question as quickly as possible.

In addition to our FAQs, we also have E-learning Guides available on our webpages. These guides are designed to guide you through the entirety of a process from beginning to end and are useful for those who would like to gain an understanding for a whole process. We’re also happy to meet you face-to-face and of course we provide help and support over the phone and via email. We’re also happy to provide training to yourself and your colleagues. If you and your colleagues would like to request a training session, just get in touch. There may also be some training sessions that you will find useful. Our full training programme for 2018/19 can be found on our webpages.

elearning@aber.ac.uk

01970 62 2472

www.aber.ac.uk/en/is/it-services/elearning

E-learning Blog

 

Submit your Blackboard Module for an Exemplary Course Award

Applications for the Exemplary Course Award are now open. The closing date for applications is 12pm, 1st February 2019. To submit an application, download the application form here and consult the guidance available on our webpages.

The Exemplary Course Award is designed to recognise exemplary practice in Blackboard modules. Since its launch in 2013, the Exemplary Course award has awarded 5 exemplary modules, 8 highly commended and 3 commended awards.

This year’s awards are slightly different. Although the Exemplary Course Award is still based on Blackboard’s Exemplary Course Program Rubric, we have made some adjustments to emphasise the interactive uses of Blackboard to provide a blended learning environment for students. In addition to this, extra weighting has been given to the accessibility criteria to ensure that the Blackboard modules are accessible for all learners.

We will be running a training session for those of you who are considering submitting an application for the ECA on Wednesday 12th December, 3pm-4pm in E3, E-learning Training Room and also on Tuesday 8th January, 3pm-4pm. You can book onto these sessions by going onto the CDSAP book a course pages.

Academy Forum 2018/19

This year’s Academy Forums are now well underway. This year, our Academy Forums are structured around themes that emerged from the Annual Learning and Teaching Conference and were put forward by conference delegates.

The Academy Forums for the year are:

  • 03.10.2018, 3pm-4pm: Introduction to Academy Forum
  • 11.10.2018, 10am-11am: JISC’s Student Digital Tracker
  • 16.11.2018, 11am-12pm: Students as Partners
  • 17.12.2018, 1pm-2pm: Innovative approaches to feedbacl
  • 21.01.2019, 12pm-1pm: Learning Design
  • 28.02.2019, 3pm-4pm: Research-Led Teaching
  • 01.04.2019, 12pm-1pm: Instilling self-regulation in learners
  • 09.05.2019, 11am-12pm: How do we know our teaching is working?
  • 12.06.2019, 2pm-4pm: Using Learning Analytics, Summary and Close

You can book onto the Academy Forums via the CDASP booking pages.

Our Academy Forums provide an informal space for members of the University community to come together and discuss matters relating to learning and teaching and technology-enhanced learning.

Last year’s Academy Forums were based on JISC’s Enhancing the Digital Experience for Students’ Cards. Some of the discussions that we had last year. Within the E-learning Group, we started to develop our own Student Engagement Strategy and started to think about how we might work more closely with our student partners. In addition to this, we also started working with colleagues in the Careers service to talk about the digital skills that were required in the workplace.

The Academy Forums are held in E3, the E-learning Training Room. To access E3, you will need your Aber Card. Enter the Hugh Owen building via the Language Labs and proceed up the stairs to Level E. Swipe your Aber Card and E3 Training Room is just around the corner on the right hand side.

If you wish to join the Academy Forum mailing list, email elearning@aber.ac.uk. Notes from previous Academy Forums are available on the Academy Forum wiki.

Training and Support

This year’s E-learning Training programme is well underway. You can book onto our training sessions via the CDSAP booking pages. This year, our training is split into 3 different levels so that the training that we are offering you meets your needs.

Our first level is E-learning Essentials. These sessions are aimed at people who have not used the systems before or who would like a refresher. A key aim of these sessions is to ensure that participants are able to adhere to the University’s policies. Whilst these sessions are technical, we ensure that there is always a view as to the pedagogical rationale surrounding them. Following this, our next level is E-learning Enhanced. The idea of these sessions is to begin to explore innovative ways in which you can use the E-learning software to support your learning and teaching. Our final level is E-learning Excellence. These sessions support the development of innovative approaches to technology-enhanced learning.

There are a couple of new sessions that we would like to draw your attention to:

  • What can I do with my Blackboard course? In this session, we will be looking at the interactive tools that can be used in Blackboard to enhance learning and teaching. There’s a special version of this session on 13th December specifically looking at how Blackboard can be used for Distance Learners.
  • Introduction to Skype for Business. This session will look at Skype for Business and how you can make use of it to create a virtual classroom. We will go through setting up the Skype for Business meeting and the interactive
  • Using Panopto for Assessments. Panopto is the University’s Lecture Capture Software. In addition to recording lectures, Panopto can also be used for assessments. This session will look at how you might use Panopto for student assessments.
  • Teaching with Mobile Devices. We will look at how you might use mobile devices in your teaching. As well as using mobile devices to teach, we will also look at ways in which you can use polling software to increase interactivity in your teaching sessions.

We’ll also be running sessions on the Component Marks Transfer tool that allows marks to automatically feed through from Blackboard into AStRA which may be of use to those who manage this process.

Our sessions are participatory and interactive. If you would prefer a one-on-one version of our sessions, or if you have any specific requirements, then please email elearning@aber.ac.uk.

Access to E3 Aber Academy has also changed. In order to access the E-learning Training Room, enter the Hugh Owen Building via the Language Labs on Level B. Proceed up the stairs until you reach Level E. You will need your Aber Card to swipe to let you in. E3, the E-learning Training Room, is just down the corridor on the right hand side.

Quizdom Virtual Remote (QVR) no longer available after December 2018

The licence for the Quizdom Virtual Remote (QVR) which allows students to use their own mobile devices for in-class voting expires in December 2018 and will no longer be available.

We are aware that some of you used it in your sessions, therefore we would like to encourage you to keep using interactive course activities and consider one of the options below:

  • Although it will no longer be possible to use the remote version of Quizdom allowing students to vote from their own devices, you will be able to use four sets of Qwizdom with a total of 118 handsets. Rather than using their own mobile devices students will have to vote using the handsets. If you wish to book the sets please email is@aber.ac.uk including the date(s) and time you wish to use the equipment and how many sets you wish to use.
  • The E-learning Group have been surveying the growing number of online polling tools available. Most of them are paid for services with different packages available depending on the types of tools, size of class etc. However, almost all have a free option which is a cut-down version of the paid-for service. All the services that we looked at are cloud-based – they don’t have software that you download, but you create your presentations via a web page and they are saved and run remotely.

Some of the polling software we recommend:

PollEverywhere

  • 40 participants, unlimited number of questions, 23 question types , PowerPoint integration

Mentimeter

  • unlimited number of participants, 7 questions per presentation (5 quiz and 2 other type), 10 questions types, Power Point integration

Socrative

  • 50 participants, unlimited number of questions, 3 questions types, reporting available

Please note that you will still be able to use the QVR in the first semester 2018.

Please contact the E-learning Group if you wish to get more information or training on using different classroom polling methods.

 

How can we help you with the Blank Course Copy?

Level 0 and Level 1 Blackboard modules for 2018/19 academic year will be created with no content. Previously, year by year the content was automatically copied over for all Blackboard modules.

Preparing the Level 1 and Level 0 modules for the next year will require the module co-ordinators to copy over existing and/or upload new material into the new iteration of their module. All modules will contain an agreed departmental menu template that content will need to be organised under.

We would like to assist staff with preparing their modules as much as we can. We are happy to come to your office or for you to come and visit us. If you would like to book an appointment with a member of the E-learning Group, please let us know a convenient time and place where you would like to meet. We will also run some training sessions over the next few weeks. These can be booked via CDSAP webpages.

We have prepared these FAQs with detailed guideline on copying different elements on Blackboard and produced the information help sheet below.

We look forward to work closely with all staff and supporting you in any convenient for you way.

Blank Course Copy

Today (30/07/2018) the first two departments had their blank level 0 and 1 modules created as part of the blank course copy process. IBERS, closely followed by International Politics, have agreed their departmental templates and their modules are now ready to be updated. This is nearly a quarter of all the level 1 and level 0 modules running in 2018-19 academic year.

Staff from the E-learning Group have worked with each department to explain the process and help them decide which additional menu items to add to the core template. The modules are now available, and staff can start adding or copying over teaching materials. There’s an FAQ about how different items can be copied over.

2018-19 modules can be found on the 2018-19 Modules tab which is now available on the My Modules page.

Blank Course Copy infographic

A big thanks to Mike Rose and James Vaughan who have worked with the E-learning Group through this process. If you’re a member of staff in either International Politics or IBERS and you want any help setting up your new module, take a look at the FAQ, or contact elearning@aber.ac.uk and we’d be happy to help you.

If you’re not sure what Blank Course Copy means, have a look at our infographic or email elearning@aber.ac.uk