Blackboard Tools for Group Work (Blogpost 5): Assignments

Group Work Banner

Blackboard Group Assignments for Instructors

https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Instructor/Assignments/Create_and_Edit_Assignments/Group_Assignments

Before assigning group work

You don’t want students to see group activities as busy work. If group work doesn’t enhance your learning objectives and provide value, consider alternative teaching techniques. Only use group work for projects an individual student can’t do as well alone and finish in the intended amount of time.

Research shows that students work harder when others rely on them. To encourage this interdependence, create group assignments that require the students to divide the work to meet the goal, question and challenge each other’s ideas, and share feedback and encouragement.

Before incorporating group work into your course, consider these questions:

  • Will the group work further my course objectives?
  • What introductory material or group resource information can I provide to help students succeed?
  • How will the groups be formed?
  • Will students be involved in planning the groups?
  • How will I assess students’ learning and maintain individual accountability? Will I require a group deliverable?
  • How will I handle concerns and problems

Blackboard Group Assignments for Students

Some Considerations Before you begin

A course group must exist before you create group assignments for it.

  • Students who are enrolled in more than one group that receives the same assignment will be able to submit more than one attempt for this assignment. You may need to provide these students with an overall grade for the assignment.
  • Students who aren’t enrolled at the time that a group assignment has been submitted don’t have access to that submission. These students only see that the submission occurred.
  • Students who you remove from a group can’t see the group assignments. They can access their submissions from My Grades.
  • If you edit the assignment between creation and the due date, the entire group may lose any work already in progress.
  • If you delete a group from the assignment after students have started an attempt but before submission, they’ll lose access to the assignment and lose their work.

You create a group assignment in the same way you create an assignment for students to complete individually. When you create a group assignment, a gradebook item is created automatically. You can create group assignments in content areas, learning modules, lesson plans, and folders. The group assignment appears in the course area where you create it and on the group homepage.

A few notes on marking Blackboard Group Assignments

  • When marking a group assignment using Inline Grading, the overall mark given will automatically be submitted for all the students in the group and will become visible in the Grade Centre. However, you can modify individual students’ marks if you need to.
  • Individual marks cannot be applied in the case of anonymous group assignments, as it won’t be possible to identify individual students.

Blackboard Tools for Group Work (Blogpost 4): Discussions

Group Work Banner

Blackboard Discussions for Instructors

https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Instructor/Interact/Discussions

Online discussions provide unique benefits. Because students can take time to ponder before they post ideas, you may see more thoughtful conversations play out. You can observe as students demonstrate their grasp of the material and correct misconceptions. You can extend your office hours and reach students more often during the week so that learning is continuous.

Building a sense of community among students is crucial for a successful online experience. With online discussions, course members can replicate the robust discussions that take place in the traditional classroom.

For smaller course groups, you can also offer group discussions, available only to the members of the group.

Blackboard Discussions for Students

https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Student/Interact/Discussions

In discussions, you can share thoughts and ideas about class materials. In Blackboard Learn, course members can have the thoughtful discussions that take place in the traditional classroom, but with the advantages of asynchronous communication. Participants don’t need to be in the same location or time zone, and you can take the time to consider your responses carefully.

You can use discussions for these tasks:

  • Meet with your peers for collaboration and social interaction.
  • Pose questions about homework assignments, readings, and course content.
  • Demonstrate your understanding or application of course material.

See our Aberystwyth FAQs on Discussions:

faqs.aber.ac.uk and search “Discussion”

Blackboard Tools for Group Work (Blogpost 3): Wikis

Group Work BannerBlackboard Wikis for Instructors

https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Instructor/Interact/Wikis

Wikis allow course members to contribute and modify one or more pages of course-related materials and provide a means of sharing and collaboration. Course members can create and edit pages quickly, and track changes and additions, which allows for effective collaboration between multiple writers. You can create one or more wikis for all course members to contribute to and wikis for specific groups to use to collaborate.

All course members can use the wikis tool to record information and serve as a repository for course information and knowledge. A course wiki is a vast source of information compiled by course members. Wikis can help build a community of collaboration and learning. Social interaction increases during the exchange of information.

Benefits of using wikis

Wikis can help course members build a shared repository of knowledge. As the knowledge base grows over time, you can expect the wiki to have some degree of seriousness and permanence.

With dedicated use, you can use wikis for these educational purposes:

  • Provide an easy to use environment for communication
  • Promote collaboration rather than competition
  • Foster a social and interactive approach to learning
  • Build partnerships where you can benefit from the strengths of others
  • Increase network building, trust, and negotiation skills
  • Provide support and prompt feedback
  • Provide a one-stop area where information is searched, updated, and accessed easily and quickly
  • Increase and enhance the possibility of creativity, spontaneity, and innovation through the application of reflective thinking

Blackboard Wikis for Students

https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Student/Interact/Wikis

A wiki is a collaborative tool that allows you to contribute and modify one or more pages of course-related materials. A wiki provides an area where you can collaborate on content. Course members can create and edit wiki pages that pertain to the course or a course group.

Instructors and students can offer comments, and your instructor can grade individual work.

image of wikis

See our Aberystwyth FAQs on Wikis:

faqs.aber.ac.uk and search “Wikis”

Welcome to new students (and welcome back to our returners) – some top tips on using our E-learning Systems

Welcome to all our new students

We’d like to say hello to all new students and welcome back to those who are joining us again for another year. With the start of term approaching, we thought we’d provide you with some advice and top tips on using our E-learning systems. In this blogpost, we’ll be introducing our main services to you. E-learning support and advice is provided by the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit located in Information Services.

Here are some top tips to help you get started.

  • Use Chrome or Firefox to access our systems
  • Make sure you have your Aberystwyth username and password handy.
  • Over the next few weeks take time to familiarise yourself with these systems so that you are ready to use them

If you’ve got any queries regarding IT or library services, email is@aber.ac.uk or call 01970 62 2400.

Virtual Learning Environment

Blackboard Logo

Firstly, Blackboard is the University’s Virtual Learning Environment. You can access Blackboard by going to blackboard.aber.ac.uk. You’ll need your Aberystwyth Username and Password in order to login. Your language preference for using Blackboard is taken from your preferred language of choice in your student record (Welsh or English). Every module that you’re studying has its own Blackboard site. Here you’ll find materials that will support your learning and teaching.  In addition to this, you’ll be able to access your lecture recordings and submit your assignments electronically. You can navigate to the different areas of a module by clicking on the left-hand menu.

In addition to accessing your teaching materials, you might be asked by your lecturer to undertake some other activities in Blackboard such as tests or quizzes, wikis, blogs, or reflective journals. You’ll also have Departmental sites which will include important information regarding your assignments and further support that you might have.

E-submission

Turnitin logo

All text-based word-processed work will be submitted electronically whilst you’re here at Aberystwyth University via Blackboard. You’ll also receive your marks and feedback electronically as well. There are two different types of electronic submission available: Turnitin and Blackboard Assignment. We’ve got specific advice available on our FAQs for submitting via Turnitin and also via Blackboard Assignment. See below for some top tips on submitting your work electronically:

  • Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to submit your assignment before the deadline
  • Most of the work that you submit will be marked anonymously so don’t put your name on your assignment
  • Save and name your assignment as something meaningful to you
  • Double-check that you are submitting to the correct module
  • Check your emails after you’ve submitted to make sure you’ve got an email receipt
  • Give yourself time to read your feedback carefully after you’ve got your marks

Lecture Capture

Panopto logo

Aberystwyth University makes use of lecture capture software called Panopto. This means that you are able to access recordings from your lectures via Blackboard. There’s a great infographic by Nordmann et al (2018) on how best to make the use of lecture capture to support your learning. Their advice is summarised below:

Firstly, make sure you attend your lectures. Whilst lecture recordings are available for you, this is no replacement for being live at the teaching session. Here you’ll have opportunities to ask questions and also learn from your peers. Think of the lecture capture as supplementing the live teaching sessions. In your lectures, make sure that you make notes and attempt to summarise the discussions in your own words.

When watching the lectures back, be specific and go to the bits that you don’t understand or don’t remember. Don’t watch the lecture as a whole – you should ideally do this within a few days of the lecture taking place to see how much you do remember. Make sure you have your lecture notes handy so that you can add to them.

If you are unable to attend the lecture for valid reasons, make sure you watch the recording within a week so that you can keep up to date with the content – don’t binge watch at the end of the semester. If you are making use of the recording, make sure you watch it at its normal speed and don’t fast forward. Give the recording your full attention and don’t do other tasks such as the Go back to the bits that you don’t understanding and re-watch these sections.  You can find the full article online.

References

Nordmann, E., Kuepper-Tetzel, C. E., Robson, L., Phillipson, S., Lipan, G., & Mcgeorge, P. (2018). Lecture capture: Practical recommendations for students and lecturers. [online]. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/sd7u4. Last accessed: 03.10.2019.

Creating Accessible Learning Materials

Accessibility icons showing 3 images: a checklist, a computer workstation, an imageNew digital accessibility legislation came into effect in 2018. It covers all material on public sector websites as well as documents uploaded into VLEs, such as our Blackboard site. For details of the new law, please see Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No.2) Accessibility Regulations 2018. See the Accessible Virtual Learning Environments Report for information about how we can make our modules more accessible and inclusive.

Over the past few months, members of staff in the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit have been working with colleagues across the University to prepare for the introduction of the legislation. For details about how the university is responding to the legislation, please see the university’s Digital Accessibility Statement. From that page, click on Guidance for Staff (you will need to log in to view these materials).  Guidance for Staff includes two sections – one for CMS users (website builders) and one for any staff who create learning materials or other documents for the web or Blackboard.

The Guidance on Creating Accessible Learning Materials page includes a checklist for making your Word documents, PowerPoint files, PDF documents, and embedded media clips more accessible for your students. You can also access the handout from the Creating Accessible Learning Materials training session that is run by the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit in collaboration with Student Support.

In addition to the Creating Accessible Materials training sessions (that can be booked online), the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit is also happy to offer bespoke training for staff in departments. If you have any queries about creating accessible materials for your learning and teaching, or you’d like to book a bespoke session for yourself and colleagues in your Department, please contact us (lteu@aber.ac.uk).

How can we help you with the Blank Course Copy?

Level 2 and Level 3 Blackboard modules for 2019/20 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 2 and Level 3 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 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.

 

Mini Conference: Inclusive Education, Wednesday 10th April, 1pm

Cynhadledd Fer Mini Conference

On Wednesday 10th April, at 2pm, the E-learning Group will be hosting this year’s Academy Mini Conference. The Mini Conference is a smaller version of our Annual Learning and Teaching Conference which allows us to pull together a series of presentations and workshops around a particular learning and teaching topic. This year the Mini Conference has the theme of Inclusive Education.

We’re excited to confirm our programme for the afternoon:

These presentations will offer a series of practical tips and tricks that will help make your learning environments and documents more inclusive. In addition to this, we’ll be looking at how these strategies might be used in practice and within a teaching context.

We hope that you’ll be able to join us for this event. Places at the Mini Conference are limited so please book your place via this booking page.

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.