The following report provides an overview of the findings of the Generative AI Staff Survey which was available to all staff at UON from the 12th of Feb to 12th of April 2024.

The purpose of the survey is to explore staff understanding and use of Generative Artificial Intelligence tools, and their impact on staff roles at UON.

Author: R Howe. Researchers: K Lea, R Byles.

Staff GenAI Survey 2024
Link to Staff GenAI Survey Report

The new features in Blackboard’s May upgrade will be available on Friday 2nd May. This month’s upgrade includes the following new/improved features to Ultra courses:

Improved gradebook navigation

There are currently three different views of the Ultra gradebook which are available under two gradebook sub-tabs, one of which has a grid/list selector. These views are:

  • Markable items (list view)
  • Markable items (grid view)
  • Students

As this can make navigating the gradebook rather confusing, May’s upgrade will provide each gradebook view with its own sub-tab as follows:

  • Markable items (list view) will become Markable items
  • Markable items (grid view) will become Marks
  • Students will remain as it is
• Ultra gradebook current view (top) and new view (bottom)

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Supporting multiple performance criteria in release conditions

Staff can currently set performance-based release conditions for items in Ultra courses against only a single performance criteria (i.e, a gradable item for which students have a grade in the Ultra gradebook). For example, if there are three tests in a course and staff want to make an item available only to students who have scored above a certain score in each test, this is not possible. As a workaround, staff can use cascading release criteria, e.g., releasing the second test when the first is passed, the third when the second is passed, and the content item when the third test is passed. However, using cascading release criteria is not always what is desired, and they can be complicated to set up.

Following the May release, staff will be able to set release conditions against multiple performance criteria, allowing staff to selectively release content in Ultra courses to students who have fulfilled multiple conditions. Where staff want to continue using a series of cascading release conditions they can continue to do so, but will no longer have to use them as a workaround. When setting up performance-based release conditions, staff can set content to be released to students who have scored n points/% or higher, or can specify custom ranges.

Release conditions can be especially useful for staff who want to automatically release content to students based upon their assessment scores. For example, releasing one set of content designed to support students who have failed an assessment, another set to students who have passed the assessment, and more challenging content to students who have performed exceptionally well.

• Setting release conditions with multiple performance-based criteria

More information about using release conditions in Ultra courses is available from: Blackboard Help – Content Release Conditions

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More information

As ever, please get in touch with your learning technologist if you would like any more information about the new features available in this month’s upgrade: Who is my learning technologist?

Catch up with the latest news, case studies, and other interesting stories from the Learning Technology Team.

Link to LearnTech Spring Newsletter 2024 PDF
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With an overload of information and such dichotomous opinions about Artificial Intelligence (AI), it is difficult to know where to begin; especially if you are yet to experience using AI at all. One starting point is to find out where you are with your own knowledge and the Jisc discovery tool can assist with this.

The discovery tool, which was introduced to UON in 2020, is a developmental tool that students and staff can use to self-assess their digital capabilities, identify their strengths, and highlight opportunities to develop skills. The tool has been recently updated to include a question set for both staff and students on their capability and proficiency with AI and generative AI tools.

The question sets for students and staff have been developed with assistance from Jisc and aligns with the latest AI advice and AI guiding principles developed by Jisc and the Russell Group on the responsible and equitable use of AI to enhance learning and teaching.

How the discovery tool helps students and teachers

The new question sets provide users with a basis to self-assess their skills and knowledge of what AI is and how it could, or should, be used in the context of their studies or role.

An image of a wheel that is divided into sections to show a users confidence level with different areas of the question set.
Example of the AI Question set report wheel

Once users complete the question set, they can then access a personalised report with a confidence rating which will vary from ‘developing’ through ‘capable’ to ‘proficient’ depending on their experience. The report also provides recommendations and courses on how to advance knowledge around AI.

Images to show a sample of the resources that are available once the report has been generated
A sample of the resources that are available once the report has been generated

Users can repeat any of the discovery tool’s question sets at any point and therefore keep a dynamic view of their confidence levels.

Where can I access the tool?

Click here to log straight into the discovery tool and the AI question set, or copy and paste the link below into your address bar.

How can I Support Students?

To assist students in enhancing their digital skills and their knowledge and understanding of AI, we have put together a student guide which can be found here. It may also be helpful to add a link to this guide, or to the discovery tool itself, within NILE courses.

What if I would like to know more?

For more information about how to use the discovery tool, see:

For further information about the AI design assistant in NILE or Padlet’s new AI features, please get in touch with your Learning Technologist. 

Helpful links

Who is my Learning Technologist?

Learning Technology Lib Guides

The new features in Blackboard’s April upgrade will be available on Friday 5th April. This month’s upgrade includes the following new/improved features to Ultra courses:

Anonymous discussions

Following feedback from staff, April’s upgrade will allow staff to set up Ultra discussions to allow students to post and reply to posts anonymously. After the upgrade, the option to allow anonymous responses and replied will be available in the ‘Discussion Settings’ panel.

• Discussion settings with ‘Allow anonymous responses and replies’ highlighted

Please note that selecting ‘Allow anonymous responses and replies’ does not mean that all replies and reponses will be anonymous; rather it means that students and staff can choose to post anonymously if they want to. To post anonymously, the ‘Post anonymously’ checkbox will need to be selected. Once posted, the anonymity of a post cannot be changed – i.e., an anonymous post cannot be de-anonymised by the person who posted it, and a non-anonymous post cannot be changed to anonymous.

• Discussion post prior to posting with ‘Post anonymously’ selected

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AI Design Assistant: Select course items/context picker enhancements

Following last month’s upgrade which introduced the context picker (the ‘Select course items’ tool) for auto-generated test questions, April’s upgrade introduces the option to select course items when auto-generating learning modules, assignments, and discussion and journal prompts.

The purpose of the ‘Select course items’ tool is to allow staff to specify exactly which resources should be used when auto-generating content. If ‘Select course items’ is used, the auto-generated content will be based only upon the items selected. Where no course items are selected, auto-generated content will be based upon the course title.

• AI Design Assistant tool with ‘Select course items’ (context picker) highlighted

You can find out more about the AI Design Assistant and how to use it it at: Learning Technology Team: AI Design Assistant

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Duplicate test/form question option, plus change to default test question value

The April upgrade introduces the ability for staff to duplicate test and form questions. Additionally, following the upgrade the default point value for newly created test questions will be changed from 10 points to 1 point.

• Test question with ‘Duplicate’ option selected

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Likert form questions includes options for 4 and 6, as well as 3, 5, and 7

The February 2024 upgrade introduced the ‘Forms’ tool to Ultra courses. One of the question types available in forms is a Likert question; however, the original release only included options for staff to select Likert scales with 3, 5, or 7 points. April’s upgrade will add options to choose scales with 4 or 6 points.

• Form with Likert question and scale range selected

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More information

As ever, please get in touch with your learning technologist if you would like any more information about the new features available in this month’s upgrade: Who is my learning technologist?

Click to view interview with Anne-Marie Langford, UON Learning Development tutor on uses of GenAI

In this short video UON Learning Development tutor Anne-Marie Langford discusses her work employing generative AI to produce sample passages of academic writing for analysis and refinement in development workshops.

Anne-Marie notes that the use of AI-generated text can prompt students to critique academic writing, encouraging them to develop higher order thinking skills. This proves particularly valuable in scrutinising shortcomings in generative AI-generated text which can prove useful in identifying and presenting knowledge but are less adept and applying, analysing and evaluating it.

While recognising the time-saving potential of chatbots such as ChatGPT and their uses in enhancing student learning, she underscores the limitations of GAI in academic writing and referencing. Anne-Marie emphasises the importance of students adopting a critical, ethical and well-informed approach to using generative AI, urging them to cultivate their own critical voices and refine their skills.

By incorporating text from generative tools into her sessions, Anne-Marie exemplifies the advantages of modelling critical use of generative AI with students.

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In 2023 the University appointed its first student Digital Skills Ambassador (DSA), the purpose of the role being to allow students to get digital skills support from other students. While it’s often assumed that most people are now confident and competent users of digital systems, especially young people (the so-called ‘digital natives’), the reality is that some students come to university without the basic digital skills they need to flourish on their courses. The University of Northampton is rightfully proud of the excellent digital facilities that support teaching and learning here, but being mindful of the pernicious effects that the digital divide can have in education, chose to create the student DSA role in order not to leave any student in the digital darkness. To understand a little more about what it means to be a DSA, we interviewed the current incumbent, Faith Kiragu, and asked them to explain in their own words how the role works.

1. Can you tell me a little about you and your role? How does the support work?

“As the Digital Skills Ambassador, my role primarily revolves around providing support and guidance to fellow students on various aspects of digital skills, with a focus on Microsoft Office Packages, NILE (Northampton Integrated Learning Environment), the student Hub, LinkedIn Learning, and related queries.

Students can seek my help by booking appointments through the Learning Technology platform. Upon visiting the platform, they fill out a form detailing their query briefly. After submission, they receive a confirmation email containing the details of their appointment. Additionally, to ensure they do not miss their session, students receive reminders a day before their scheduled appointment time. During the session, I address their queries, provide guidance, and offer practical assistance to help them navigate through any challenges they may encounter with digital tools and platforms. My aim is to empower students with the necessary digital skills to enhance their academic journey and future career prospects.”

2. What are the common support requests and how do you support these?

“The most common support requests I receive are related to navigating NILE, submitting assignments, accessing online classes on Collaborate, and Microsoft PowerPoint tasks like adding images and textboxes.

To support these requests, I provide personalized guidance during the one-on-one appointments. I offer step-by-step demonstrations, share relevant resources such as Linked-In Learning, and address specific queries to ensure students feel confident in handling these on their own. Additionally, I offer troubleshooting assistance and encourage students to practice these skills independently to enhance their proficiency over time.

3. Is the support used by students across all courses, or some areas more than others?

“Yes, I have noticed that more students from health-related courses seek digital skills support compared to other courses, Public Health being the course I have encountered most students. Students from the Business and Law Faculty come a close second.”

4. Do you have any (anonymous) examples of how you have helped students with their problems?

“A student asked for help with accessing their online classes on Collaborate via NILE. During our appointment, I guided them through the process of navigating to the correct module on NILE, locating the scheduled Collaborate session, and joining the virtual classroom. By the end of the session, the student could successfully participate in their online class without further difficulties.

Another student sought help creating a presentation on Microsoft PowerPoint, specifically needing guidance on how to add images and textboxes effectively. I provided a step-by-step demonstration of inserting images into slides, resizing and positioning them, and formatting textboxes for adding content and captions. Additionally, I shared tips on utilising PowerPoint’s features for enhancing visual appeal and maintaining a cohesive layout throughout the presentation. I also supported the student in accessing Linked-In Learning, and the student left the session equipped with the skills and confidence to complete their assignment using PowerPoint effectively.”

5. What do you think are the main benefits to students who have received support? 

“The support I offer to students entails providing guidance and assistance with various digital tools and platforms, including NILE, Microsoft PowerPoint, and Collaborate. Through personalized appointments, students receive practical help in navigating these systems. This support not only enhances their digital skills but also boosts their confidence in engaging with coursework effectively. As a result, students experience improved academic performance and save valuable time by overcoming challenges efficiently. Furthermore, the support empowers students to take ownership of their learning journey, fostering independence and lifelong learning skills. Overall, the support provided equips students with the necessary resources and confidence to succeed academically in today’s digital-centric educational landscape.”

6. What have you learnt from your time in the role?

“In my role as the Student Digital Skills Ambassador, I have learned invaluable lessons that have enriched both my technical and interpersonal skills. Effective communication has been paramount as I translate complex technical information into accessible guidance for students with varying levels of digital literacy. Adaptability has been key as I tailor support to accommodate diverse learning styles and preferences. Through addressing queries, I have honed my problem-solving abilities while cultivating patience and empathy for students’ individual challenges. Additionally, this role has emphasized the importance of continuous learning, prompting me to stay updated on emerging technologies and digital trends. Overall, my experience has deepened my understanding of digital tools and platforms while enhancing my ability to support others in their learning journey, fostering a collaborative and empowering environment for student success.”

The new features in Blackboard’s March upgrade will be available on Friday 8th March. This month’s upgrade includes the following new/improved features to Ultra courses:

AI Design Assistant – Context picker for test question auto-generation

Following the March upgrade, when using the auto-generate question tool in Blackboard tests, staff will be able to use the new ‘Select course items’ option to specify exactly which resources the AI Design Assistant auto-generate tool should use when generating questions. Prior to this, any auto-generated questions would be based on the course title (i.e., the module name).

The ‘Select course items’ option may be especially useful for staff wanting to create multiple tests, each based on one or more specific content items in the course, or for staff wanting to create a longer test built up from multiple auto-generated questions from different sections of the course, thus ensuring that the test represents questions testing students’ knowledge from across the entire course.

• Selecting ‘Auto-generate question’ from within a Blackboard test
• Refining the context of the question auto-generation by choosing ‘Select course items’
• Selecting the items for inclusion

More information about the AI Design Assistant is available from: Learning Technology Team – AI Design Assistant

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‘No due date’ option for Blackboard assignments, tests, and forms

After the March upgrade, staff will no longer have to specify a due date when setting up a Blackboard assignment, test, or form. Please note that this change does not affect Turnitin assignments, which will continue to require a due date to be specified.

• Blackboard assignment with ‘No due date’ selected

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Gradebook item statistics

The March upgrade provides staff with the option to select a column in the Ultra gradebook and access summary statistics for any graded item. The statistics page displays key metrics including:

  • Minimum and maximum value;
  • Range;
  • Average;
  • Median;
  • Standard deviation;
  • Variance.

The number of submissions requiring grading and the distribution of grades is also displayed.

• Accessing the statistics page from a Gradebook item with the Gradebook in grid view

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More information

As ever, please get in touch with your learning technologist if you would like any more information about the new features available in this month’s upgrade: Who is my learning technologist?

Click to view video - Fashion GAI
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This short film features three BA Fashion, Textiles, Footwear & Accessories students discussing their experiences using Generative AI (GAI) in their projects. The students demonstrate diverse applications of GAI, highlighting how they tailor the technology to their individual creative needs.

The film features Subject Head Jane Mills, who discusses the potential of AI to support students, and outlines the introduction of a new AI logbook – designed to provide a framework for students to confidently explore and utilize GAI for brainstorming and research purposes.

Click to view David Meechan’s abridged talk from the Vulcan Sessions on 26/01/24.

In this condensed talk from the Vulcan Sessions on 26/01/24, Senior Lecturer in Education David Meechan discusses the opportunities and considerations of using AI in education.

Introducing the concept of Generative Artificial Intelligence (GAI) as a diverse and constantly evolving field without a consistent definition among scholars. He shares personal examples of how GAI can help support students by scaffolding their learning and reducing the initial cognitive load through the creation of basic first drafts.

David expresses, ‘I’m a big believer in experiential learning, providing children, and now students, with experiences they can build on.’ Therefore, he advocates for the use of GenAI tools, which offer ‘varied, specific, and potentially creative results, revolutionising education and supporting lifelong learning.’

Emphasising the importance of the ethical use AI tools in education, he argues for engagement with a wide range of GenAI tools to prepare students for navigating future changes in the education and technological landscape.

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