Interactive Blackboard Tools Series – Journals and Blogs (Part 1)

Teaching staff at Aberystwyth University make excellent use of basic functions of Blackboard keeping it consistent and easy to navigate, meeting the needs of their students. Some staff go beyond Blackboard Required Minimum Presence, using additional, interactive functions in many different creative ways. Considering the current emphasis on online learning and the use of asynchronous online activities we would like to introduce you to some of the more advanced (although still easy to use!) tools in Blackboard:

  • Journals and Blogs
  • Wikis
  • Tests

We have already written about discussion board – perhaps the most versatile of all the Blackboard tools. In this blog post we will focus on blogs and journals and the value these tools could bring to your teaching. 

Both journals and blogs, typically written in an informal way, are tools conducive to reflection and personal expression. The difference in their use is determined by whether or not they are aimed at being shared with others. Journals in Blackboard can be set up in two ways:

  • Private journals cannot be anonymous, are seen only by the lecturer and the student who wrote it, if enabled other students may view them but not comment or edit.
  • Group journals enable students to write individual entries into one group journal, group members can view and comment on all entries.

Watch a tutorial on creating journals

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Alternative activities to in-person teaching

There may be occasions where it is not practically possible for you to simultaneously deliver non-lecture activities (e.g. seminars, workshops, etc.) to students in-person and students joining via MS Teams.

In this blog post, we will explore some different options for delivering alternative activities for those students that cannot join in-person sessions. Before you begin to design an alternative activity, consider the following points:

  1. Which alternative activity will best emulate the experience that students in the original in-person session are getting?
  2. What are my intended learning outcomes and which activities will best achieve these?
  3. How long will it take me to plan an activity and do I have the capacity to do this?
  4. Think carefully about your assessment criteria – will the alternative activity that you provide allow the students to undertake the module assessments successfully?
  5. Clarity and focus are at the heart of any well-designed online activity. Ensure that students using your alternative activity know exactly what they are doing and why they are doing it. If you ask students to use any technology, you must provide students with clear and concise guidance on how to use these.

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Potential disruption to Blackboard labels and titles

You may notice some changes to Blackboard labels whilst we update our language pack tomorrow morning (Tuesday 10.11.2020).

This will affect menu items and My Modules. Blackboard functionality and access will remain during this time and you will still be able to create content, access materials, and submit assignments. This work is scheduled to take place as part of Information Services’ Tuesday morning maintenance: https://faqs.aber.ac.uk/94.

Weekly Resource Roundup – 19/10/2020

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 – 5/10/2020

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.  

Useful Information: Online Teaching

Distance Learner BannerSetting up sessions through MS Teams:

  • Unless otherwise agreed, Microsoft Teams should be used to run all online teaching sessions.
  • Details of online teaching sessions should be posted in Blackboard (see our FAQ how to set up a Teams meeting in Blackboard?).
  • Please note that for any sessions set up through Blackboard, students will be able to use the link to join the session 15 minutes before the chosen start time. Any time prior to this, students have the option to add the session to their Office365 calendars (see our student FAQ).

Keeping students informed:

  1. Use the announcements feature in Blackboard to communicate with your students. (See our FAQ How do I add an announcement to my Blackboard module?)
  2. Ensure that your Blackboard contacts page has your contact information and clear instructions on how and when students should contact you.

Delivering online sessions from the University:

  • If required, you may come into the University to deliver your online session from the teaching rooms in the allotted timetabled slots. Please ensure you are using the correct room and time allocated to your activity. 

CPD sessions:

  • The Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit will be running a number of CPD sessions for staff members over the coming weeks, focusing specifically on online learning and teaching and associated E-learning tools.

For any technical assistance with using MS Teams or any of the E-learning tools, please email elearning@aber.ac.uk. If you wish to discuss any aspect of learning and teaching, please email lteu@aber.ac.uk.

Learning and Teaching Updates – September 2020

Distance Learner Banner

We would like to provide you with an overview of recent developments and support materials that we have worked on for the past few months.

This information is also available at:  https://www.aber.ac.uk/en/is/it-services/elearning/continuity/

Scheduling MS Teams meeting from Blackboard

All teaching sessions held in MS Teams should be scheduled in Blackboard. This includes timetabled online activities.

Setting up a meeting: https://faqs.aber.ac.uk/3067

Information for students: https://faqs.aber.ac.uk/3061

Recording seminars and Teams activities

There are privacy concerns which need to be considered when recording a meeting in MS Teams.

Further information: Guidance on recording seminars and Teams activities

Using teaching rooms

Information about using teaching rooms this academic year, including how to use MS Teams in an in-person teaching session is available at Teaching Room Guide 2020-21

Support materials for students

Supporting your Learning resources for students are now available at https://www.aber.ac.uk/en/important-info/living-and-learning-in-aberystwyth-2020-21/students/supporting-your-learning/. We will add to this page during the semester as things change or we approach key points for students.

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