Blackboard SaaS Update 2

At the end of last month, we blogged about getting our hands on a test Blackboard SaaS environment. This month we’ve started the process of testing the environment and finding out the differences and similarities between SaaS and our current version of Blackboard.

A lot of the work this month is being done by our Blackboard Project Manager in Amsterdam. Blackboard have taken a full copy of our local version and are importing it into the new SaaS system. Once this is done, we’ll be able to have a look at our existing courses, check that the migration process has worked and that everything is behaving as expected. This will mean looking at existing content, testing all the tools work properly, and running through all the normal daily processes we use.

In the meantime, we are testing all the Building Blocks that have been developed in-house at AU. Building Blocks are the Blackboard name for extension tools – some examples of Building Blocks you’ll recognise are Turnitin and Panopto. A Building Block embeds third-party functionality into Blackboard, for example using Blackboard enrolments to control permissions, and making it easy to display content in a Blackboard module. However, there are other tools that you use every day, but you probably don’t even know have been created at AU. The scrolling banner and My Modules box are examples of these. We also have some tools that we as System Admins use and ordinary users will never see – things that allow us to deliver the NSS information to third year students or provide a Blackboard feed to ApAber.

The testing process has involved documenting what each tool does and how it behaves now. We then use the same tool in our SaaS environment to check that it has the same outcome and behaves the same way. We make sure that all Building Blocks are tested in multiple browsers, as well as on PC and Apple. Where appropriate we’ll also test on a mobile device. And of course, we check in both English and Welsh. Once this has been done, we’ll pass feedback to our local developers for any changes that might be needed. And then the process starts again.

We’re also getting used to the continuous deployment cycle that we talked about in the last blog post. This means making sure we receive the emails that come from Blackboard and read them closely to look at what’s changing for our environment. We may have fixes for problems we’ve reported or new / updated tools. Once the deployment has been installed, we then need to test each of the new items to make sure it does what we expect it to do as well as making sure that our bug has been fixed where appropriate. We may also need to update our documentation, FAQs etc to reflect the changes that will be made.

Academy Forum: Instilling Self-Regulation in Learners

The E-learning Group host several Academy Forums across the academic year. The aim of the Academy Forums is to bring together members from across the University to discuss a matter related to Learning and Teaching. Our last Academy Forum focused on Instilling Self-Regulation in Learners. This topic was suggested following last year’s Annual Learning and Teaching Conference. At the conference, Dr Simon Payne, Liz Titley, and Liam Knox gave a presentation based on Self-Regulation. In addition to this, the E-learning Group ran an Academy Showcase where Simon presented strategies for instilling self-regulation.

As always, our full notes from the Academy Forums can be found on a dedicated Wiki which can be found in the Enhancing Learning with Technology module which all staff have access to.

A summary of our discussions can be found below:

  • Strategies for encouraging self-regulation in learning and teaching activities
  • Students spend more time learning outside of class time so we should be teaching them how to learn
  • What skills do students arrive with and what do we need to teach them in order to be self-regulated learners
  • How might we emphasise and measure improvement

If you would like to explore self-regulation in further detail then you are able to view the recording from Simon’s recent Academy Showcase. In addition to this, the following articles might be of interest:

Our next Academy Forum is on 9th May at 11am and is focused on the topic ‘How do I know my teaching is working?’ The forums are a great way to share your experiences and learn from others whilst also reflecting on your own approach to the topic. If you’d like to suggest a topic for an Academy Forum next year then do get in touch with us. You can sign up to the Academy Forum by booking online.

Dr Rob Grieve – Mini Conference Presentation

The E-learning Group are hosting a mini conference on Inclusive Education on Wednesday 10th April at 1pm in E3, E-learning Training Room, Aber Academy. In addition to our previous blogpost announcing the line-up for the mini conference, we’re also pleased to announce that Dr Rob Grieve will be giving a recorded presentation entitled Stand Up and Be Heard: Student Fear of Public Speaking.

Rob is a Senior Lecturer in Physiotherapy in the Allied Health Professions Department at the University of the West of England (UWE). In addition to his main research area and teaching activities, Rob is also a trustee of the British Stammer Association. As such, he has spoken at several events about the use of presentations as a form of assessment and equipping students with the skills necessary for public speaking. In this introduction, Rob will be drawing on a couple of his recent presentations that he has given at Advance Higher Education. Rob will also be reflecting on Stand Up and Be Heard workshops that he has been running for students with a fear of public speaking. The aim of the workshops was to support learning and teaching related to presentations and public speaking through specific strategies and a review of the overall benefits of public speaking as a transferable skill for university, life, and future employment. Rob builds on a survey conducted in 2012 which evidenced that 80% of students identified that they experienced social anxiety as part of assignments that involved public speaking (Russell and Topham, 2012). In addition to this, a further study (Marinho et al, 2017) identified that 64% of students had a fear of public speaking whilst 89% would have liked their undergraduate programme to include classes on improving public speaking. Further information on Rob’s work can be found on this blogpost. His Twitter handle is @robgrieve17.

We hope that you’re able to join us at the mini conference. There are still a couple of places remaining. You can book onto these online.

References

Marinho, ACF., de Madeiros, AM., Gama, AC., & Teixeir, LC. 2017. Fear of Public Speaking: Perception of College Students and Correlates. Journal of Voice. 31:1 DOI: 10.1016/j.jvoice.2015.12.012

Russell, G. and Topham, P. 2012. The impact of social anxiety on student learning and wellbeing in higher education. Journal of Mental Health 21:4. Pp. 375-385. https://doi.org/10.3109/09638237.2012.694505

 

Using Virtual Reality (VR) in Mental Health

Although individuals using VR are conscious of their experience not being real, the physical and psychological responses induced by it are similar to those experienced in real life scenarios.

Using VR in mental health treatment opens up possibilities of working through responses to problematic stimulus without having to face them in a real life. There is an obvious, practical benefit to it; for example, creating a flight simulation for an individual struggling with phobia of flying is a much easier solution that arranging an actual flight.

Additionally, it allows the therapist to work not only based on the patient’s account but to actually observe their responses. Both therapist and the patient have a control over the stimuli making the treatment potentially safer both physically and psychologically.

‘VR has the potential to transform the assessment, understanding and treatment of mental health problems’ (Freeman, et al., p. 2392). It has been used for assessment and treatment of phobias, anxiety, PTSD, addiction, paranoia, eating disorders and autism. For example, a VR app created at Tulane School of Social Work prevents drug and alcohol relapse in patients ‘by practicing self-control and awareness skills in realistic simulations where drugs and alcohol are present’ (Leatham, 2018, para.13).

Gareth Norris and Rachel Rahman from the Psychology department at Aberystwyth University in collaboration with colleagues in Computer Science have recently done a pilot research project using VR to look at its potential for reminiscing in older adults.

The E-learning Group has acquired virtual reality (VR) headsets and camera for staff to use in teaching and research. You can create immersive learning environments or use already existing VR materials. Book the VR headsets and camera from the library loan stock.

 

References:

Farnsworth, B. (2018, May 1). The Future of Therapy – VR and Biometrics. Retrieved from https://imotions.com/blog/vr-therapy-future-biometrics/

Freeman, D. & Freeman, J. (2017, March 22). Why virtual reality could be a mental health gamechanger. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2017/mar/22/why-virtual-reality-could-be-a-mental-health-gamechanger

Freeman, D., Reeve. S., Robinson, A., Ehlers, A., Clark, D., Spanlang, B. & Slater, M. (2017). Virtual reality in the assessment, understanding, and treatment of mental health disorders. Psychological Medicine, 47 (2393-2400).

Leatham, J. (2018, June 22). How VR is helping Children with Autism Navigate the World around Them. Retrieved from https://www.vrfitnessinsider.com/how-vr-is-helping-children-with-autism-navigate-the-world-around-them/

 

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.

Can I use polling software for Distance Learners?

Following the post on using polling software for teaching we received a query about the feasibility of using polling software such as PollEverywhere or Mentimeter for Distance Learners’ modules.

Please find below the results of our testing and research.

Mentimeter

As every presentation has a different code to access the poll, you can vote even when the presentation is not displayed. However, if not used for live voting, each presentation should only contain one slide. If the presentation includes two or more slides (and it is not displayed by the poll’s author) the participants will only be able to access the first slide.

PollEverywhere

  • PollEverywhere has a function that allows to group questions/polls and change them into a survey which can be shared and filled in by participants in their own time. However you have to make the survey ‘active’ and only one presentation can be active at the time (https://www.polleverywhere.com/faq question: Can I combine multiple questions (polls) into a survey?)
  • There are other online surveys’ tools such as Google Forms or Wufoo. They can be used by unlimited number of participants (which is not the case with PollEverywhere, the limit with the free plan is 25 responders). However, these tools do not have such a variety of questions (particularly in comparison to PollEverywhere) and are not as visually attractive.

Alternative to all above are Blackboard tests or surveys.

Sharing surveys with students:

The link to any of the online surveys could be shared with students via e-mail, announcement or link in the content area on Blackboard (in case of PollEverywhere you can only share one survey at the time, the ‘active’ one).

Sharing results with students:

The actual results’ reporting tools in Mentimeter and PollEverywhere are not available with the free plan. You could share the results with students by taking screenshots of the graphs with responses and putting them up as an image, item or one of the slides in a PowerPoint presentation on Blackboard.

In both, Google Forms and Wufoo you can download the results to Excel. However, if wanting to present results in an accessible and visual way, it would probably be better to use the screenshot method described above. When using Blackboard tests or surveys, you can view the statistics via Grade Centre and either download them to Excel or save them as pdf document.

If you have any questions or suggestion, please do not hesitate to share them with us.

 

Call for Proposals: Learning and Teaching Conference 2019

We are now inviting proposals for the 7th Annual Learning and Teaching Conference, Monday 8th July – Wednesday 10th July 2019.

Submit and view the call for proposals here.

This year’s conference theme, Learning from Excellence: Innovate, Collaborate, Participate!, aims to reflect the commitment that AU staff have to enhance the student learning experience. The four main strands of this year’s conference are:

  • How students learn
  • Effective and innovative learning design
  • Research-led teaching to enhance learning
  • Collaborative and participatory learning experiences

Staff, postgraduate teaching assistants, and students are welcome to propose sessions on any topic relating to learning and teaching, especially those that focus on the incorporation and use of technology. Even if your suggestion doesn’t fit a particular strand, other topics are welcome.

We seek to encourage presenters to consider using alternative formats that reflect and suit the content of their sessions. As such, we are not specifying a standardised presentation format.

Please complete this form no later than 10th May 2019.

If you have any questions, please contact the E-learning Group at elearning@aber.ac.uk  or phone us on extension 2472.

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

Using Lecture Capture Effectively: Tips for staff and students

In this blogpost we will be looking at how we can use lecture capture more effectively to enhance learning and knowledge retention. We will build on our previous blogpost Making use of the captioning and quiz function in Panopto.

The tips and discussion below are based on a paper being published this year by psychologists from Glasgow, Dundee, Sheffield and Aberdeen Universities, in collaboration with staff from IT Services at the University of Manchester. The paper, entitled ‘Lecture capture: Practical recommendations for students and lecturers’, is written within the context of self-regulated learning and offers guidance to students and staff on how to make the most out of lecture recordings. Aberystwyth University introduced its Lecture Capture Policy in 2016 following the introduction of Panopto in 2013. As lecture capture has increased across the UK Higher Education sector,[1] focus is now shifting on how it works with learning.

The article is available online and is split into 4 sections:

  1. Introduction
  2. Self-regulated learning as a theoretical framework for lecture capture implementation
  3. Recommendations for students
  4. Recommendations for staff

In addition to this, the authors of the study have created an infographic with their main findings aimed at students:

Normann et al, 2018.

The full infographic is available online.

The E-learning Group discussed this paper as part of their regular team training hour. Below are some of the points that we would like to highlight to staff and students:

  • Students should view recordings only as supplement to their learning and not as a replacement of attendance. Studies have found that attendance at the live session had a stronger relationship with the final grade with lecture capture being used to support learning.[2]
  • Introduce students to the Cornell note-taking system and encourage them to take notes during lectures. Note-taking enhances knowledge retention, but it is a cognitively demanding task therefore using strategies such as Cornell note-taking system can help students to make most of it. There’s a video introducing Cornell notes here.
  • Incorporate reviewing video recordings into ‘homework’ activities, encouraging them to go through their notes and re-watching only targeted sections of the recordings. Students should re-watch the lecture within a couple of days of attending the session, but not directly afterwards. Making a break between revising increases knowledge retention. Watching the recording in full makes it more likely for the concentration to be lost, therefore students should focus on the sections which they do not remember or understand and use the recording to improve the notes they took in the first place. They should review their notes whilst watching the recording.
  • If student misses a lecture it is advised that they watch the recording in full as soon as possible and then revisit the recording within a couple of days watching only targeted sections as described above. They should watch the recording in its normal speed and take notes during watching as they would do during a live session.
  • Make use of the active learning activities – these might include peer discussions, practise questions at the end of the session, in-class voting. Evidence shows that more of the interactive activities as more likely students will want to attend the lecture rather than watch the recording. Consider using quizzes in Panopto to test their knowledge or check whether they have understood the material: https://faqs.aber.ac.uk/index.php?id=2771

We’ll be embedding the tips from this reading into our forthcoming training sessions. We’ve got the following coming up

  • E-learning Enhanced: Using E-learning Tools for Revision Activities (27th March at 3pm in E3, E-learning Training Room)

You can book onto this session here.

We’re always on the look-out for guest bloggers so if you use Panopto in a particular way, why not drop us an email.

References

Credé, M., Roch, S.G., & Kieszczynka, U. M. (2010). Class attendance in college: A meta-analytic review of the relationship of class attendance with grades and student characteristics. Review of Educational Research, 80 (2), 272-295. https://doi.org/10.3102%2F0034654310362998

Newland, B. (2017). Lecture Capture in UK HE: A HeLF Survey Report. Heads of eLearning Forum, retrieved from https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bx0Bp7cZGLTPRUpPZ2NaaEpkb28/view

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

[1] Newland, 2017 reports that 86% of HEIs have lecture capture technology.

[2] See Credé, Roch and Kieszcynka (2010).

Online polling services and privacy issues

If you’ve already read part one of this series, you’ll know how useful online polling services are to engaging students actively in the classroom (if you haven’t – take a look).

As well as selecting a tool to suit your teaching and learning activity, you also need to take a look at the Privacy Policy of the service you’re interested in. This will help you to understand what:

  • personal data the company in question is collecting about you;
  • what personal data your students may be required to give;
  • information on how your presentations are stored;
  • how and where your data is kept.

https://flic.kr/p/8ouBhQ

Most companies make their Privacy Policy pretty easy to find (on most sites there was a link at the bottom of the homepage under the heading Privacy).

Here are our top tips when using an online polling tool:

  1. We found the Terms and Conditions of most services are fairly short and easy to understand – some even provided an ‘at a glance’ summary of main points.
  2. In the majority of cases, students are not required to create accounts or register for a service to take part in a polling activity. This means that for students, the only information that is collected about them would be details of the browser / device etc they used to access the poll. And this won’t be linked to their name or email address.
  3. In all cases, staff need to register with a service to create and display polls. For the majority of the services, you can either create a username and password, or link to an existing account (such as Google or Facebook).
    1. If you are creating your own account, don’t use your AU password as the password to the polling service. Follow our tips to create a strong, separate password (https://faqs.aber.ac.uk/index.php?id=25)
    2. If you are using an existing account, be aware of the data that may be shared between the two services. Your Facebook or Google account will contain lots of information about you that you may not want to be shared. You may want to look at the settings for the connection to make sure that you are happy with the level of data shared.
  4. Have a look at the rights you have to your polls. Some services allow other users to browse and share presentations, so you may want to consider the visibility of your presentations.
  5. Consider which third parties your data is shared with. We strongly recommend that you choose a service where the data is either based in the EU or where the company has the EU-US Privacy Shield standard in place. And check your preferences – do you want to opt-out of mailing lists, advertising etc.

At present, AU does not have a site licence for an online polling service, so when signing up for one of these services you are signing up as an individual, rather than as a representative of, or on behalf of, AU.