See microphone comparisons below. The Blue Snowball ice microphone is available in the Tpod.

Below: Internal Microphone HP Laptop

Audio Test - Internal Microphone

Below: Headset Microphone – Logitech USB

Audio Test - Logitech Headset

Below: Headset Microphone – Sennheiser USB

Audio Test - Sennheiser Headset

Below: External Microphone – Blue SnowBall

Audio Test - External Microphone - Blue SnowBall

Results: The external SnowBall Ice Microphone provides the best audio quality, followed closely by the Sennheiser Headset that has been allocated to staff by IT. Both the internal mic and older Logitech headsets are noticeably poorer quality.

Emma Dillon and Anna O’Neill

Emma and Anna

Emma Dillon  RMN,BSc,PGCE,MSc,FHEA.
MHFA Adult Instructor.
Senior Lecturer in Mental Health Nursing.
“As module leader for NPR3028P I really enjoyed working with Anne to develop a Xerte for the year 3 skills week for BSc Nursing.  Anne helped me to transform my ideas into an interactive e-learning package looking at well-being of the student/graduate nurse. It was fun to create and has really positive feedback from the students: “the well-being Xerte really motivated me to look after myself, it was fun and interactive – it really made me think” – “the Xerte reminded me of the core values of nursing and resilience”-” the well-being Xerte really bought the skills week together“.
Xerte E-Learning Package

Xerte E-Learning Package for Skills Week

Anna O’Neill
Lecturer in Practice Development
Faculty of Health and Society
“I thoroughly enjoyed learning about Xerte and the experience of using this package with our third-year student nurses.
Anne’s teaching style was such that I felt comfortable to develop the Xerte with support, so as to truly experience setting up the Xerte, learning to incorporate pictures, links and the ability for students to download their work to upload onto PebblePad.
Xerte is a fantastic way of supporting blended learning and/or distance learning.
We used Xerte for our year 3 skills development package in line with our move to Waterside and our students feedback was extremely positive”.

Xerte E-Learning Package - Skills Week

Xerte E-Learning Package - Skills Week


Blackboard Learn (NILE) is being upgraded on Saturday 18th August 2018 and will be unavailable from 22:30 BST until 10:30 on Sunday 19th.

The upgrade is necessary to maintain performance, stability, and security. This upgrade will also bring a new look to NILE, designed to work better on small screens and mobile devices. Some of the colours and layout will be slightly different and there will be standardised colours across all sites. If you have previously used fontawesome icons in your NILE sites, these will no longer be displayed after the upgrade, but the surrounding content will be preserved.

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Guest post written by Jim Lusted.

“Our classrooms are changing – and I don’t mean the posh new room designs and furniture at Waterside campus. Since I started teaching at Northampton in 2009 the students I have taught have become increasingly diverse in their ethnic background. I’ve gone from having only a small handful of Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) students to now regularly teaching classes with an even split of people from white and BAME backgrounds. It’s not just in my own department, Northampton has seen a significant increase in the intake of BAME students. This isn’t, however, reflective of the sector as a whole, which has seen very little increase in ethnic diversity across the whole student intake.”

“…our research recommended that staff make a more concerted effort to create groups that offer students the chance to work with a wide range of students, not only their peer or friendship group.”

Read the whole article.

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Written by Dr. Jim Lusted, Learning Designer/Senior Lecturer in Sport Studies

In November 2017 I took up an 8 month secondment as a Learning Designer (LD) with the Learning Technology team. I had been a Senior Lecturer in Sport Studies at Northampton since 2009 and saw this as a great opportunity to try something new for a while. This blog gives you a flavour of my experience of the LD secondment, what I learned about working in professional services.

Why a Learning Designer secondment?

I was attracted to the secondment for three main reasons. First, I had really enjoyed working with the Learning Technology team as a lecturer and had valued their support – through things like CAIeRO course design workshops, ABL development sessions and helping me solve NILE problems. I felt I could fit quite nicely into their team and would enjoy working with them. Second, I had become more interested in teaching and learning practice – particularly as a result of the University’s shift towards ABL, and felt the secondment would be a great way to develop my own skills and knowledge in this area. Third, in my role as programme leader I had enjoyed mentoring new and less experienced colleagues, so I wanted to see what it would be like supporting staff in a more formal role. I must also admit that after 9 years of working in the same role I also fancied a change of scenery – I was eager to try something new.

“…I learned more about T&L practice in my LD role than I had probably done in my whole teaching career up to that point – I had the head space to think about my practice rather than just be chasing my tail teaching sessions every week.”

Download and read Jim’s full reflections


Written by Jim Lusted, Learning Designer/Senior Lecturer in Sport Studies

Since the University moved to online assignment submission some years ago it has been much easier to judge the originality of student work. If an assignment is set up using a Turnitin submission point, a similarity report is automatically generated for each assignment. This provides the marker with a % score of how much of the student work matches material contained in Turnitin’s vast database – some 62 billion webpages, 734 million student papers and 165 million academic sources.

While this automated process has really helped staff judge the credibility of student assignments, your own judgement is still needed to interpret the similarity report. This blog offers some tips about how to ‘read’ Turnitin reports – and to consider a range of factors beyond just the overall similarity % score to help you make a judgement about whether you should refer an assignment to the academic integrity and misconduct process.


Get the set up right to get the most accurate report

Start by making sure the similarity report generated is as accurate and useful as possible. When you first set up a Turnitin submission point in NILE, you are offered a daunting list of options to select from. Follow this help guide from the Learn Tech team ( to ensure your similarity reports check exactly what you want them to.

Before you begin marking, a useful tip is to overlay the similarity view with the marking view of the Turnitin site (see right).  This allows you to continually keep a check on originality as you go through the process of marking the work – and helps you contextualise the areas of similarity. You’ll be able to easily spot where exactly the larger pockets of similarity are being used across the assignment.


Look beyond the percentage score..

The overall % score gives us a quick, rough indicator of how original a student submission might be. It’s certainly a good starting point, but it shouldn’t solely determine your verdict of the assignment and it’s really best not to set a benchmark score to guide your overall judgement – the process ultimately requires a qualitative judgement to be made. Let’s look at a couple of scenarios where the percentage originality score (high or low) might not necessarily tell the full story of who has written the assignment.

a) A small score but a big problem?

Anything below 20% is fine, right? A score like this does indicate that the vast majority of the assignment is original. But…

  • A small percentage score could ‘hide’ one or two (or more) long paragraphs of ‘copied’ text that is acknowledged as such. While only taking up a small proportion of the assignment, such large chunks of unsourced text may lead you to concerns about possible plagiarism.
  • A similarity score of zero may also raise some concerns. If an assignment contains absolutely no material derived from other sources, particularly if you are sure that the work contains the use of quotes and paraphrasing, you may want to question why the report is so ‘squeaky-clean’. There are all kinds of tips on the internet for students to try to ‘trick’ Turnitin that might possibly be at play. You might also be entering the world of contract cheating, which is much harder to identify (and prove).


b) A big score but with good reason?

Anything over 30% must be a problem, right? Not necessarily – ask whether there might be any plausible reasons for the large score, particularly if it is repeated across several students in your cohort. Potentially valid reasons for high similarity scores might include:

  • The use of a generic template or pro-forma that students have used to structure their assignment – is this the primary cause of the high score?
  • The inclusion of appendices in a student’s work are these being highlighted?
  • Several students referring directly to the same source or quote or content (e.g. a prescription protocol) that has been used regularly in the module
  • Several small passages of quotes being used appropriately and suitably referenced


Look beyond the similarity score – there may be a perfectly good reason for the relatively high % score.


The grey areas where your judgement is needed

This may all sound straightforward, but there are always going to be difficult judgements to be made when cases are not as clear cut as those above. The ‘grey areas’ tend to relate to two main areas:

1. Paraphrasing another source – is the student trying to re-phrase another person’s work? Some students are better at this than others, and there are online tools like Grammarly that students may be tempted to use to help paraphrase (often with poor results). You need to decide whether this paraphrasing is a deliberate attempt by the student to claim the work as their own, or more a case of poor academic practice.

2. Referencing – are the sections under scrutiny indicative of a student presenting the work of others as their original efforts, or perhaps the result of poor referencing practice? Consider the quality and style of referencing through the work (good or bad) to help decide how ‘deliberate’ the student is being in failing to acknowledge other sources of work. Again, the judgement here is between willful academic misconduct or poor academic practice.

In these types of ‘grey’ cases, its best to seek a second opinion – from a trusted colleague, an experienced member of your team or even a quick chat with an Academic Integrity Officer (AIO) before you decide whether to formally refer the student to the academic integrity and misconduct process. Getting a second opinion usually helps you come to the right verdict in the end.



Written by Jim Lusted, Learning Designer

I recently attended a workshop hosted by Northampton Students’ Union (SU) and facilitated by the National Union of Students (NUS) where SU staff, academics and student representatives were introduced to a project called the ‘Greener Curriculum’. This is certainly a more catchy title than the more commonly used term Education for Sustainable Development – shortened to ESD – which represents an area of activity gaining increasing prominence across the HE sector.


What is sustainability?

At the start of the workshop we were asked to define ‘sustainability’. Most of us immediately came up with environmental issues such as recycling, creating less waste, energy efficiency and so on, but we were also encouraged to consider the social and economic aspects of sustainability that we might not immediately recognise. This makes up what has been termed the ‘3 pillars’ of sustainability, or the ‘triple bottom line’ of people, planet and profit.

This holistic approach is reflected in the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals that were adopted in 2015 to commit nation states to take action not only on high profile ‘green’ issues like climate change, but also concerns such as social equality, poverty, protecting life (human and non-human), and ensuring a quality education for all.

Education and sustainability

These are all unarguably worthy causes, but what role might universities play in promoting sustainability? The workshop asked us to consider this in relation to our own circumstances at Northampton. The NUS defines ESD as ‘education that aims to give students the knowledge and skills to live and work sustainably’, and their vision behind ESD is to ensure students leave higher education being part of the solution rather than the problem when it comes to tackling some of the big issues mentioned above.

The NUS have commissioned research that shows that two thirds of students want to have sustainability issues embedded into their programmes:


“Sustainable development is something universities should actively incorporate and promote.”
(NUS 2018)

Students want to engage with the big challenges of our times through their studies – be it environmental, social or economic – and they want to explore ways they positively influence the world around them.

Education for sustainable development @ University of Northampton

As the workshop progressed, many of the participants noted the apparent similarities between the guiding principles of ESD and the ideals that underpin Northampton’s status as an AshokaU ‘Changemaker’ campus. Indeed, one of the manifesto commitments of a Changemaker campus refers explicitly to sustainability:

“Operating in socially and environmentally conscious ways to model changemaking for students and other institutions and contribute to the vitality of people and the planet”

(AshokaU 2018)

We felt that Northampton might be particularly well suited to embedding ESD into the curriculum when channelled explicitly through the Changemaker agenda. This academic year, as part of the UMF assessment review, all modules have been required to articulate revised learning outcomes, including some directly attributed to Changemaker values. This gives teaching staff a real chance to reflect on how they are embedding such values into their curriculum and where they are providing students with opportunities to explore some core principles of sustainability in their studies.

Embedding ESD in the curriculum – some ideas

We were given a number of useful resources and tips during the workshop to help consider how and where ESD could be embedded into teaching practice and curricula. Firstly, although some courses may be more aligned to ESD principles than others, like the social sciences (indeed, courses like Geography are likely to have sustainability as a core topic), we were encouraged to consider how every subject has the potential to include ESD perspectives. A really useful A-Z guide, called #sustainabilityAtoZ has been produced by the NUS to showcase examples across the breadth of academic disciplines where ESD has been embedded into programmes. Similarly, a website called has recently been set up by the NUS as an attempt to try to bring together dissertation students with local and national organisations – with a view to creating dissertation topics and projects that can have a direct impact on the ‘real world’.

The future for ESD

It seems like many of the big issues facing the HE sector at the moment – debates about ‘value for money’, student satisfaction, graduate employment and so on – lend themselves to ESD being given ever higher profile in future higher education policy and curriculum design. Our workshop discussed several examples of universities across England who had undertaken big reviews of their own university wide curricula (much like our UMF review) to better align graduate attributes and skills more closely to ESD principles such as social responsibility and impact. With all this in mind, I expect we will be hearing much more about the idea of a ‘greener curriculum’. I personally really welcome the renewed interest developing a social conscience among students through their studies, and at Northampton in particular I see a real opportunity for us to creatively explore the ways in which ESD values can help bring the ‘Changemaker’ agenda into our teaching at the University.


We are pleased to announce that your 1819 module and programme sites have been created and are now ready to receive your content, so you can self-enrol now.

This year (as last) we have again chosen to differentiate between courses taught at the University and those delivered by our academic partners, to reflect the different needs of all concerned and so LearnTech has developed and updated separate templates, making for a more tailored student (and staff) experience.

The template and NILE Standards have been updated for 2018-19 following recommendations approved at the University’s Student Experience Committee and Faculty SECs. Please refer to these for up-to-date guidance on what to include in which section of your NILE sites when preparing them for the coming academic year.

You will note that in-site guidance has again been streamlined to allow for any necessary dynamic updates throughout the academic year, incorporating links to existing support, thus avoiding duplication and avoiding potentially conflicting advice. We have again included the ‘Support for Tutors’ and ‘Support for Students’ resources lists, so please also refer to these for your own assistance and for that of your students.

The template is designed to build on last year’s updating of content: you should therefore all find yourselves in a strong position for this year’s plan to copy over only what is required for the coming years teaching.  N.B. If you are using Pearsons content, please do not copy over any site content without first contacting Learning Technology.

For those of you unfamiliar with the process of preparing your sites for the coming year, we have provided updated guidance on how to do this, as well as having Learning Technology team members on standby should you require extra support and assistance. Please email LearnTech Support in the first instance or contact your designated LearnTech.

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In this video Mark Allenby, Senior Lecturer in Social Work, discusses how peer assessments have provided an opportunity for active learning with his first year BA in Social Work students and reflects on why he will be increasingly using peer assessments in his teaching at Waterside.

Mark introduced peer assessments as formative activities within his 17/18 module SWK1049 – Skills for Practice – using the NILE tool Self and Peer Assessments, in order to help scaffold his students’ learning for their forthcoming assessments.

VIDEO – Mark Allenby reflects on NILE Self and Peer Assessments

Working with Learning Technologist Richard Byles, he has been documenting his students’ feedback using the digital post-it tool, Padlet, and by recording video feedback with student Angell O’Callaghan.

The majority of feedback for the activity was very positive, with many wishing to practice further. Students also identified areas where the activity could be improved. Comments included:

“I would like to use this more often throughout my degree.”

“It was very useful and I liked the autonomy. It was helpful to read others’ work.”

“It was good to take other’s interview skills on board and use them myself, helping me better and develop my own interview skills.”

“Scoring as a Yes/No or a 1/2 doesn’t give a lot of scope.”

“The process (of submitting) was somewhat convoluted but this may be due to it being a new activity.”

Mark says that “peer-feedback is a tool that fits perfectly with the move to ABL, as students are collaboratively engaged in evaluating their own progress towards goals that they have chosen for themselves”. In conclusion, he advocates that staff try the tool for themselves in ‘low risk’ formative activities with students and explain to them the benefits of peer assessments.

For more information on using Self and Peer Assessments please read the FAQ – How do I set up a Self and Peer Assessment in NILE? or contact the Learn Technology team:

NILE is integrated into the Active Blended Learning (ABL) process at The University of Northampton and we need to ensure that it is being used effectively by staff in order to provide a quality student experience.

Building on the guidance which was initially produced in January 2012, the  framework has now been updated to cover the minimum standards which are expected on a NILE site. This was approved at University SEC on 28th February, 2018 and is subsequently being used as the basis for the new NILE templates which have been developed for the 2018/19 academic year.

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