6th Annual Learning and Teaching Conference

This year’s annual Learning and Teaching Conference saw a range of students, academic and support staff come together from across the University to showcase their innovative practice. This year’s conference theme, Stepping up Students Learning, aimed to showcase and celebrate the areas of best practice in teaching and learning happening at Aberystwyth. Hot off the heels from recent accolades for the University, including being named University of the Year for Teaching Quality and also achieving TEF Gold, there has been much innovative practice to celebrate and share. One of the strengths of the conference is providing a space in which colleagues can come together and discuss their learning and teaching.

This year’s keynote was given by Professor Jonathan Shaw from Coventry University’s Disruptive Media Learning Lab. Jonathan discussed how the lab focuses on mainstream and alternative approaches to using technology to foster amore hybrid and open approach to teaching and learning.

In addition to the keynote, two of Jonathan’s colleagues, Oliver Wood and Thamu Dube, offered workshops to conference participants. Oliver’s workshop focused on LEGO as a teaching tool – participants were tasked with using the LEGO to discuss ideas. Colleagues were equipped with strategies as to how they could use LEGO in the classroom as part of a learning activity. The LEGO is now available in loan stock. If you wish to make a booking for the LEGO, email is@aber.ac.uk with your requirements.

The most beneficial part of the conference was listening to and hearing about the innovative approaches to learning and teaching that are happening across the University. It’s difficult to pick out particular high points, but some of the messages that we will taking away from the conference include:

  • Using technology to enhance feedback
  • The Video Essay as a method of assessment – you can view that here
  • Students as Partners in learning design
  • What not to learn from bad gym coaches

Recordings from the conference will be available on our webpages so if you missed a session, or you’d like to hear more about a particular topic, click here.

We will begin organising next year’s annual learning and teaching conference shortly. If you’d like to propose an idea or suggest a keynote, then get in touch with us (elearning@aber.ac.uk).

Jisc Digi Tracker: benefits and what to do with findings?

Read Jisc Digi Tracker and Jisc Digi Tracker: Key findings

What benefits came out from the project?

  • Clear directions for improvements.
  • The benchmarking data helped us to reflect on AU strengths and weaknesses in comparison to other institutions.
  • As a valued participant in the pilot Student Tracker we were the only Welsh university invited to take part in the pilot Staff Tracker and we’ve worked closely with JISC and the Aberystwyth University Translation Unit to provide a Welsh language version of the survey.
  • Aberystwyth was asked to be part of a series of 10 Institutional vignettes on how the digital experience tracker has supported our practice. The vignettes will be published by Jisc in September.
  • In March, we were chosen to give a presentation at the national conference, Digifest 2018.

What next:

  • Full sets of benchmarking data will be available in mid-September
  • Taking the findings to TELG
  • Consulting SU on communicating the findings to students
  • Provide training sessions that address the areas for development
  • Presenting the findings on this year’s Learning and Teaching Conference

We would like to hear your thoughts on this project and seek advice on how to best take the findings forward and communicate them to students.

Please leave a comment or contact elearning@aber.ac.uk

Next post from the series on DigiTracker:

Experience of using the tracker – Aberystwyth Univeristy vignette prepared by Jisc

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.

 

Jisc Digi Tracker: key findings

Read Jisc Digi Tracker

Key findings of the tracker:

What did we find particularly interesting?

We know that students use mobile devices, but the fact that nearly the same percentage of students support their learning through use of smartphones (30%) as through use of laptops (33.1%) was surprising. It is useful to have the starkness of this data to emphasise changing habits and reinforce how important it is.

62% felt they would like digital technologies to be used much the same as they are now rather than more. There is a tendency to think ‘we have done something, let’s see how we can push for next/different thing’. Perhaps we need to concentrate on things we are doing now that are really good and improve them rather than try to introduce new services.

It was also interesting to see what students considered an assistive technology. We were not sure if students didn’t understand a question or had a different understanding.  A lot of things students said we would not have considered to be an assistive technology (e.g. student app, google, end note).  We tend to think of assistive technology as something that helps you if you have a particular need – students perhaps see assistive technology as ‘something that helps me’.

Next post from the series on DigiTracker:

Benefits of running the tracker and what will we do with the findings?

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

Jisc Digital Tracker

This year Aberystwyth University participated for the first time in the JISC Student Digital Experience Tracker – an online survey designed by JISC to collect information about students’ expectations and experiences of technology.

Why did we decide to take part in the project?

  • The tracker is a simple and well-designed tool. It is credible across the sector and has a reliable methodology.
  • It comes with a benchmarking data from HE and FE institutions in our sector.
  • It is the only survey aimed entirely at the digital learning experience.
  • Institutions participating in the project received a great deal of support from JISC in customising, promoting and analysing the survey.
  • Hugely important- it was already translated into Welsh.

We will share the benefits of taking part in the project and some key findings from the data analysis on insitutional and on the sector level in the next few posts 🙂

Next post from the series on DigiTracker:

Key findings and what did we find particurlarly interesting.

 

Celebrating excellence in teaching: AU Blackboard Exemplary Course Awards (ECA)

We are proud to announce that the winners of this year’s AU Blackboard ECA awards are being presented with their awards during this week’s graduation ceremonies.

Adam Vellender, Catherine O’Hanlon, Daniel Low and Stephen Chapman, the winners 2017-2018 ECA winners are being presented with their awards during their department’s graduation ceremony. The winning modules all showed the high standard of learning and teaching at Aberystwyth University and inspire others to innovate and engage students in active learning and contained many exemplary practices. The winners’ modules contained many exemplary practices and received Highly Commended Awards.

Now in their fifth year, the Exemplary Course Awards recognise excellence in course design, interaction and collaboration, assessment and learner support.The ECA provides an excellent opportunity for staff to share their work with other colleagues, refle~@ct on their use of tools such as Blackboard, and get feedback on their learning activities from their peers. We congratulate all our Highly Commended staff this year and encourage other staff to consider entering their modules in the future. The E-learning Group are happy to provide advice and support for any interested in finding out more about the ECA.” Kate Wright, E-Learning Group Manager

For further information see here.

Planning Downtime

Downtime on the systems we rely on is never popular. Making the decision about when to take Blackboard out of service is one of the hardest parts of our job. Juggling the different areas of work at the University as well as making sure that all the relevant parties are consulted takes a lot of time. We try to avoid finishing maintenance on Fridays – it’s best that problems don’t emerge over the weekend when support staff aren’t here. Equally, we don’t do work during University closed periods (it’s hard to seek assistance from software companies as they’re often on holiday too).

We try to fix a date – we crosscheck with other commitments at team, departmental and University level. There are times we have to avoid – any time during teaching (including the PGCE students who start earlier and finish later than others, as well as those doing Distance Learner or Lifelong Learning Courses). Also, any time that students need to revise or Blackboard is needed for exam purposes is out.  Once we think we’ve found a suitable date, we ask a smaller group of individuals what they think – Faculty Registars, Senior Managers, Academic Registry and other key contacts. If they spot a problem then we begin again.

When the date is confirmed, we begin advertising the downtime. We will always put a message on a banner in Blackboard, use the Weekly Email and Information Services’ Twitter and Facebook accounts.

So we don’t organise into Blackboard downtime lightly. We ask people, we tell people, we plan it and we do our best to minimise its impact. We don’t always get it right for everyone, but we do our very best to balance all the competing demands of a complex institution.

Conference Registration now open

Registration for the sixth annual Learning and Teaching conference is now open. This year’s Learning and Teaching conference has the theme Stepping up Students’ Learning and will be taking place between Tuesday 11th and Thursday 13th September 2018.

You can register for the conference online.

This year, we’ve got an exciting and varied programme with activities, workshops and presentations demonstrating the innovative teaching practices that are taking place across the University. A draft copy of the programme is available here.

If you have any queries, please don’t hesitate to contact us.