Blackboard’s July upgrade will be available from the morning of Friday 8th July. The July upgrade includes the ability for staff to copy question banks into Ultra courses, and to prohibit backtracking in Ultra tests. Also included are improvements to the way that uploaded documents render inline in Ultra courses, and to the quality of the rendering of mathematical formulas created in the maths editor in Original and Ultra courses.

Copy question banks into Ultra courses

Currently, staff can copy a test from an Original or Ultra course into an Ultra course, but cannot copy a question bank. After the July upgrade, question banks will be available to copy into Ultra courses.

You can find out more about copying content into your Ultra course at: https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Instructor/Ultra/Course_Content/Reuse_Content/Ultra_Copy_Content#select

Prohibit backtracking in Ultra tests

In the April upgrade, Blackboard added the ability to display Ultra test questions one question at time. The July upgrade adds the option to prohibit backtracking, so that when questions are displayed one at time students cannot go back to a previous question and change their answer.

By default, Ultra tests will display all questions at once, but, following the July upgrade, if ‘Display one question at a time’ is selected when setting up the test, ‘Prohibit backtracking’ will also be available to staff as an option.

You can find out more about setting up and using tests in Ultra courses at: https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Instructor/Ultra/Tests_Pools_Surveys/Create_Tests_and_Surveys

Improvements to inline rendering in Ultra courses

In the June upgrade, Blackboard added inline rendering for files uploaded into Ultra documents, meaning that instead of students having to download the attached files in order to view them, staff can set the attached file to display inline (i.e., directly in the browser) so that students can view the file without having to download it.

In the July upgrade, inline rendering will be extended to all supported file types regardless of where they are added into an Ultra course.

Inline rendering is supported for the following file types:

  • Adobe Acrobat Documents (PDF)
  • Microsoft Word (DOC, DOCX)
  • Microsoft PowerPoint (PPT, PPTX)
  • Microsoft Excel (XLS, XLSX)
  • OpenOffice Documents (ODS, ODT, ODP)
  • Image files (JPEG/JPG, GIF, PNG)

Please note that staff should continue to upload video and audio files into NILE courses via Kaltura. For information about how to use Kaltura to upload a video or audio file into NILE, please see: https://libguides.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/staff/nile-guides/kaltura

When uploading an attachment that can be displayed inline, staff will be given the following options:

  • View and download
  • View only
  • Download only

Files which have already been uploaded into Ultra courses do not need to be re-uploaded in order to take advantage of inline rendering – all files inside Ultra courses which can be rendered inline will be. Where files that can be rendered inline already exist in Ultra courses, they will be given a default setting of ‘View and download’.

Quality and accessibility improvements for mathematical formulas in both Original and Ultra courses.

The maths editor in Original and Ultra courses currently renders formulas in PNG format. Following the July upgrade, formulas will render as SVG images, meaning that the image will be remain sharp even if it is zoomed into.

Equations and formulas can be added into Original and Ultra courses wherever the Rich Text Editor is available.

• Launching the maths editor in an Ultra course
• Using the maths editor in an Ultra course
• Using the maths editor in an Original course

‘LTI item’ renamed ‘Content Market’

Following the July upgrade, ‘LTI item’ will be renamed ‘Content Market’ in the Rich Text Editor in Ultra couses.

• Prior to the July upgrade
• After the July upgrade

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 the June upgrade: https://libguides.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/staff/nile-help/who-is-my-learning-technologist

Blackboard’s June upgrade will be available from the morning of Friday 3rd June. The June upgrade includes the ability for staff to set PDF, Microsoft Office and OpenOffice files to render inline in Ultra documents. This means that students can view these documents directly in the browser without having to download them. Additionally, from 3rd June onward, staff can allow groups to have multiple submission attempts when using Blackboard assignments in Ultra courses.

Attachments render inline in Ultra documents

Image files in Ultra documents can already be set to display inline (i.e., directly in the browser), but from 3rd June onward, when uploading a PDF, Microsoft Office or OpenOffice file into an Ultra document, instead of students having to download the attached file in order to view it, staff can set the attachment to display inline so that students can view the file without having to download it.

Inline rendering is supported for the following file types:

  • Adobe Acrobat Documents (PDF)
  • Microsoft Word (DOC, DOCX)
  • Microsoft PowerPoint (PPT, PPTX)
  • Microsoft Excel (XLS, XLSX)
  • OpenOffice Documents (ODS, ODT, ODP)

When uploading an attachment that can be displayed inline, staff will be given the following options:

  • View and download
  • View only
  • Download only
Staff view of options when uploading a file supported by inline rendering
Student view of .docx file rendered inline in an Ultra document

Files that are not compatible with inline rendering can still be uploaded, but students will need to download these in order to view them.

You can find out more about inline file rendering in Ultra documents here: https://youtu.be/e6o0xrePzyU

Multiple submissions are allowed for group submissions in Ultra courses

From 3rd June onward, staff will be able to allow groups to have multiple submission attempts when using a Blackboard assignment. Previously, group submissions were restricted to one submission attempt only, but following the June upgrade staff will be able to specify a maximum number of group submission attempts between 1 and 10, or unlimited.

You can find out more about setting up and deploying tests in Ultra courses here: https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Instructor/Ultra/Tests_Pools_Surveys/Create_Tests_and_Surveys

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 the June upgrade: https://libguides.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/staff/nile-help/who-is-my-learning-technologist

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Blackboard’s May upgrade will be available from the morning of Friday 6th May. The May upgrade includes improvements to Ultra tests for students, improvements to Ultra journals, the addition of an ‘undo’ and ‘redo’ function for Bb Annotate (the tool used to make notes and feedback on students’ assignments submitted via a Blackboard assignment submission point), and an Ultra course session time-out warning.

Improvements to UItra tests for students

The May upgrade includes improvements to Ultra tests for students, bringing in a test question filter, a test submission warning where students attempt to submit without answering all questions, and the ability to show and hide the timer on timed tests.

• Test question filter

The question filter supports common test taking strategies. For example, students may complete questions they know first and leave harder ones to complete later in the test. The filter enables students to quickly return to skipped questions. Students may also use the filter to find essay questions.

• Submit test warning

If a student submits a test with unanswered questions, a warning will alert the student. The alert shows the number of unanswered questions. The student may choose to submit the test or keep working. If the student chooses to keep working, the unanswered questions filter auto applies.

• Control timer visibility

In response to student feedback, students may now choose to hide the timer in timed tests. This may help to reduce pressure and anxiety during assessments. Once hidden, the timer may be easily made visible again.

Timer is visible
Timer is hidden

Improvements to Ultra journals

To better support staff and students who use Ultra journals, the May upgrade will include the following improvements:

  • students may make unlimited journal entries;
  • students and staff have improved navigation with pagination on the entries page;
  • students and staff can decide the number of items that appear per page;
  • staff have a count of graded journals and students filtered for grading.

Improved navigation with pagination
Select the number of items that appear per page
Visible count of graded journals and students filtered for grading

‘Undo’ and ‘redo’ capability in Bb Annotate in Original and Ultra courses

Following the May upgrade, staff using Blackboard assignments in both Original and Ultra courses will find that the Bb Annotate tool (the tool using for writing notes and feedback on students’ submissions) includes an ‘undo’ and ‘redo’ option.

Ultra course session time-out warning

When a person does not do anything in NILE for over three hours their session ends (i.e., they are automatically logged out of NILE). They must then login again to continue to use NILE. Every time a user saves a page or selects a button their NILE session refreshes and stays active for three more hours. However, there can be times when a person is actually working but is considered by the system not to be doing anything. This happens because the browser is not sending data to NILE and can occur, for example, when a person is writing a long discussion board or journal post, or developing a complex rubric.

Following the May upgrade, staff and students who are working in an Ultra course and whose session is ending soon will receive a warning. This warning will appear at least six minutes before the session times out. If the warning is closed before the session ends, the session will be extended for three more hours, allowing staff and students plenty of time to complete their work and save it before their session ends again.

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 the May upgrade: https://libguides.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/staff/nile-help/who-is-my-learning-technologist.

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Using gamification technology to enhance interprofessional collaboration, negotiation, conflict resolution and leadership.

Alison Power (Registered Midwife) SFHEA, MProfPrac, MSc, PGCTHE, PGCPE, Associate Professor (Learning and Teaching), Faculty Lead for Interprofessional Education, Academic Integrity Officer was successful in a bid for the University of Northampton ‘Learning Enhancement and Innovation fund 2021-2022’.

Screenshot of video: Introduction to GAMING
Screenshot of video: Introduction to GAMING

Alison Power was supported by Anne Misselbrook E-Learning/Multimedia Resources Developer to develop the Xerte resource.

Development timeframe was June to September 2021. The learning and teaching resource for up to 300 final year students to engage with in interprofessional groups, was required for a synchronous online session on 6 October 2021.

Anne identified needs, completed a Checklist and provided Alison with examples of Xerte learning resources. Alison was introduced to the Xerte interactive page types and learnt in the 1-2-1 training provided by Anne, that the ability for learners to collaborate with OneDrive documents in Xerte, use a drag and drop activity, link to resources and watch videos were possible.

The Xerte function called ‘Shared Settings’ enabled Alison and Anne to co-edit the Xerte in the Editor.

Alison invited colleagues Robin Sturman-Coombs and Devon Rossetti to contribute and join virtual meetings.

In August 2021 Anne and her colleague Richard Byles, a Learning Technologist, provided Alison and her colleagues with training in basic video production. They attended the ‘Record and edit video using tools available’ virtual workshop session on 25 August 2021. Alison could then understand the fundamentals of filmmaking and the importance of having scripts for the actors and get signed Performance Release forms by all those featuring in the film.

On 30 September the Xerte was uploaded to NILE ready for the live synchronous session with students on 6 October 2021.

Video Introduction: What is GAMING?
Video Introduction: What is GAMING?

Students feedback on the technology:
“Each page explained each task clearly”.
“The Xerte was very well laid out and simple to navigate”.
“Everything followed nicely and logically from one another”.
“I really enjoyed the videos, so to see the characters acting as opposed to just reading about the different types of characters made it much more relatable and understandable to me”.

Conferences in 2022

Alison Power
Alison Power

Look out for Alison who will present at Conferences later in the year. Confirmed dates so far are:

Using a games based approach to motivate students to engage with synchronous online interprofessional education (IPE): A case study.
TUFH Conference (Vancouver)
17/18 or 19 August 2022

Analysing perceptions of online games based learning: Case study of the University of Northampton.
International research conference, ICQHE London
e-Conference
28/29 July 2022

Further information:
Link to Alison’s blog https://mypad.northampton.ac.uk/gaming/2021/10/21/intro-to-gaming/

Read the full blog text provided below.

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Blackboard’s April upgrade (officially known as ‘Learn SaaS 3900.37.0 Feature Production Release’) was originally scheduled for 7th April 2022, but has been delayed and is currently tentatively scheduled for 21st April. Please note that the release date refers to the evening on which the release will be applied, so a 21st April date means that the upgrade will be available to users first thing on 22nd April. You can find out more about when the April upgrade will be available here: https://status.blackboard.com/incidents/0940tk6n2993.

The April upgrade includes:

  • Significant improvements to Ultra tests.
  • Improvements to the Ultra course copy tool, allowing copying of content within an Ultra course.
  • Improvements to the Ultra content editor, allowing use of code snippets.
  • The ability to verify students’ Blackboard assignment receipts in the Ultra gradebook.

The rest of this blog post explains each of these improvements in more detail,

Improvements to Ultra tests

The April upgrade includes many significant improvements to Ultra tests.

• Display test questions to students one at a time

Currently, Ultra tests display all the test questions to students in one long list. Following the April upgrade, staff will have the choice to display test questions to students all at once, or one at a time.

• Disable auto-posting of grades when using 100% computer marked tests

Currently, when using Ultra tests which contain only computer marked questions (e.g., a 100% multiple choice test) the overall test score is immediately displayed to students on completion of the test. After the April upgrade, staff will be able to choose whether or not the tests marks are posted automatically.

• Control over students’ ability to view their test submission, question feedback, question scores, and correct answers.

Currently, students can view their test submissions as soon as they have submitted them. The April release brings in the ability for staff to decide if and when a student can view their test submission. Staff can prevent students from ever being able to view their test submission, or can allow them to see their submission at a particular time, including immediately after submission, on the due date, on a particular date, or when all marks have been posted.

If a student is allowed to view their submission, staff can also choose when to display automated question feedback, individual question scores, and which answers in a computer-marked question were the correct answers.

You can find out more about how to use these settings here: Blackboard video – student feedback display controls.

• New Ultra test question type: calculated numeric question

The April release includes the ability to add a calculated numeric question type.

This new question type supports the following:

  • Students may enter a number as an answer. The number can be an integer, decimal, or scientific notation. The largest value supported is 16 digits.
  • Instructors may combine text and mathematical formulas in the question.
  • Instructors may define an answer range. The range value can be an integer, decimal, or scientific notation. The largest value supported is 16 digits.
  • The answer field validates only numeric digits.

You can find out more about using calculated numeric questions here: Blackboard video – calculated numeric question type.

• Download Ultra test results

The April release includes the ability for staff to be able to download Ultra test results.

When downloading results, the following options are available:

  • File type – Excel spreadsheet (.xls) or comma separated value (.csv); the default is .xls
  • Format results by student or by question and student; the default is by student
  • Download all attempts or only attempts included in the grade calculation. The instructor defines which attempts to include in the grade calculation in the ‘Grade attempts’ settings. The default is to download only attempts used for calculation.

You can find out more about downloading Ultra test results here: Blackboard video – download test results.

• More information about setting up and using Ultra tests

You can find out more about Ultra tests here:

Copy content within the same Ultra course

Currently, it is possible to copy content from one Ultra course to another, but staff are not able to copy content within the same Ultra course. The April release will include the ability to copy content within the same course.

You can find out more about the enhancements to the Ultra course copy process here: Blackboard video – copy content enhancements.

Content editor update – code snippets

The April upgrade will allow staff and students to author and share computer code in the content editor using a new code snippet tool.

The content editor identifies eleven programming syntaxes:

  • Python;
  • Java;
  • JavaScript;
  • Kotlin;
  • R;
  • PHP;
  • Go;
  • C;
  • Swift;
  • C#;
  • HTML.

You can find out more about code snippets here: Blackboard video – code snippets

Submission receipts for Blackboard assignments

Currently, while Blackboard assignments generate and send students a receipt for a submission, the receipts are easily edited and cannot be verified. Following the April upgrade, staff will be able to verify students’ submission receipts in the Ultra gradebook.

You can find out more about these enhancements here: Blackboard video – submission receipt enhancements.

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 the April upgrade: https://libguides.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/staff/nile-help/who-is-my-learning-technologist.

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Lecturer in Digital Education at the University of Hull

Dr Anastasia Gouseti

The recording of the event (49 mins) held on 23rd March, 2022 is available to view.

The slides from the session are available to download

The Padlet from the session is available for contributions.

For more information on the Detect project

In this presentation Dr Gouseti considered why supporting teachers and students with developing critical digital literacies (CDL) appears to be more timely than ever and she presented a new framework of critical digital literacies created by the DETECT Erasmus+ project. This conceptualisation of critical digital literacies builds on other relevant frameworks but it also introduces a more open-ended approach towards capturing different dimensions that can be associated with CDL practices within and outside formal educational contexts. Furthermore, some project outputs relevant for teachers’ professional development in the area of CDL were discussed during this presentation.

Anastasia Gouseti is a Lecturer in Digital Education at the University of Hull. Her research interests include the use of digital media in educational settings and the role of new technologies in promoting teaching, learning and collaboration. She is currently the Principal Investigator for the Erasmus+ DETECT project which focuses on supporting educators with developing critical digital literacies.

Staff profile: https://www.hull.ac.uk/staff-directory/anastasia-gouseti

Selected publications

Gouseti, A. (2021). ‘We’d never had to set up a virtual school before’: Opportunities and challenges for primary and secondary teachers during emergency remote education. Review of Education, 9(3), https://doi.org/10.1002/rev3.3305

Gouseti, A., Abbott, D., Burden, K., & Jeffrey, S. (2020). Adopting the use of a legacy digital artefact in formal educational settings: opportunities and challenges. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 29(5), 613-629. https://doi.org/10.1080/1475939X.2020.1822435

Gouseti, A. (2017). Exploring doctoral students’ use of digital technologies: what do they use them for and why?. Educational review, 69(5), 638-654 https://doi.org/10.1080/00131911.2017.1291492

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The March upgrade, which will be available from Friday 4th March, includes some minor changes to way that learning modules in Ultra courses are set up and modified.

Learning Modules

When setting up learning modules after Friday 4th of March, the following panel will open up once a learning module has been selected for creation:

From this panel, the learning module can be named and a description can be added. The learning module availability can also be set (‘Visible to students’ or ‘Hidden from students’), or release conditions can be set allowing the learning module to be made available to all or only certain groups of students. Release conditions can also include the learning module being made visible after and/or until a particular date.

Additionally, learning modules can be set so that students have to navigate through the content in order and cannot skip ahead. To enable this, ‘Forced sequence’ should be chosen when setting up the learning module.

To update any of the learning module settings after it has been created, simply select the ellipsis menu on the right-hand side of the learning module and choose ‘Edit’.

Also, learning module descriptions are now visible immediately, and students no longer have to open the learning module to read the description:

You can find out more about how to use learning modules in Ultra courses at: https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Instructor/Ultra/Course_Content/Create_Content/Create_Containers_for_Content/Create_Learning_Modules

More information

As ever, please get in touch with your learning technologist if you would like any more information about the February upgrade: https://libguides.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/staff/nile-help/who-is-my-learning-technologist

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This event (co-ordinated by: Helen Caldwell, Emma Whewell, Cristina Devecchi and Rob Howe) was a chance for all those involved in teaching, learning, research or support of any digital activity to come together virtually to share experiences. All of the sessions were recorded and the individual blog links may be found below:

Helen Caldwell with news of the launch of the Centre for Active Digital Education (ADE)

Alison Power – Demystifying the Digital World: supporting midwifery students to develop digital competence and confidence

Rob Lambert – 3D Gamified training simulation tool for the National Fire Chiefs Council

Alastair Snook – UK primary school teacher perceptions of educational technology within professional practice: issues and opportunities

Emma Whewell and Helen Caldwell – Changemakers as digital makers: Connecting and co-creating

Tom Briggs – Almost Every Museum Has Had Digital Resources for Years So Why Did They Struggle So Much When the Pandemic Hit?

Kardi Somerfield – Live client project: Building and promoting a Virtual Reality experience for the Campus Security/Police as part of Safer Nights Out Campaign.

Simon Wragg – Observations on online games in supporting student learning and student experience

Wray Irwin – Changemaker Support (highlighting how the team supports staff and students’ digital employability)

Cristina Devecchi – Plenary and wrap up

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Presentation at: Teaching and supporting a digital future: UoN Showcase 4th February 2022

Helen Caldwell introduces the newly formed Centre for Active Digital Education (ADE)

The recording of the event is available to view

Some key points (subject to be updated) regarding the Centre:

Vision: The Active Digital Education Centre will be a catalyst for the development of digital skills which will position the University of Northampton as a hub for innovation benefiting staff, students, and the wider sector including local businesses.  

Proposed Centre Membership: The centre will recruit members across all three Faculties and from relevant Professional Services teams within the University of Northampton. Initial membership will be from the existing Digital Technologies SIG but this will grow to include other relevant SIGs (e.g.Gamification, AI and eXtended Reality XR) and external members by specific invitation related to the strategic direction of the Centre. 

Summary Description of the Centre:

Active Digital Education (ADE) is a pedagogical approach to designing and teaching using digital tools. This concept has been developed at the University of Northampton to complement their pedagogical approach of Active Blended Learning (ABL). The ADE approach recognises that digital tools can be harnessed to facilitate the co-construction of knowledge through technology-enabled exchanges of ideas. Such active co-creation has the potential for students to build employability skills consistent with the transformative ambitions of SDG4 and with changemaker values.  It engages students in knowledge construction, reflection and critique, the development of learner autonomy and the achievement of learning outcomes using digital tools. 

The Centre will bring together expertise throughout the University and beyond to become a beacon of excellence for development and dissemination in ADE and develop knowledge exchange opportunities with external companies (such as placements, projects and joint funding). It will build on the work and networks already developed through the existing Digital Technologies SIG. It will act as a unifying structure for relevant SIGs focusing on innovative digital technology themes such as chatbots, AI, inclusive technology, gamification, immersive technologies and eXtended Reality (XR), simulation and digital competencies. 

As such, the umbrella of ADE and the Centre will act as a focal point and a vehicle for the creative deployment of technologies across disciplines. 

Rationale and goals for the Centre:

The ADE Centre recognises that the use of digital technologies in higher education is poised to move into a new era and that the University of Northampton has the capacity to lead in the field. Innovative digital technologies can pave the way for new pedagogical approaches that emphasise active participation, social inclusion and collaborative innovation. The ADE Centre seeks to provide a multidisciplinary environment supporting and sharing research and innovation. 

The ADE Centre intends to: 

  • raise the profile of scholarly debate about ADE. 
  • define ADE across educational sectors and stakeholder groups. 
  • become a hub for the development and exchange of ADE knowledge through a collection of SIGs that form partnerships between academics across disciplines and external stakeholders. 
  • nurture the production of a range of research related tangible outputs that contribute to PURE and feed into the REF. 
  • share, reflect and discuss all matters related to research and its practical application to ADE.  
  • support innovation across a broad spectrum of digital technologies in research, and research-led teaching and learning. 
  • foster an inclusive, interdisciplinary community that develops expertise and supports researcher development and wellbeing. 
  • encourage collaboration in scholarship and evidence-based practice in ADE to discover and share research informed solutions. 
  • sustain a bidding programme in the field of ADE for research and enterprise income that results in a shared repertoire of outputs. 
  • act as point of advice on relation to TEF and NSS developments which can be underpinned and supported by ADE activities. 
  • raise the reputation and visibility of the University of Northampton to students, local businesses, recruitment markets etc. as the modern university of choice. 
  • address local digital skills shortages and business growth challenges by working closely with external organisations. This will help businesses identify future opportunities and increase the employability of our students.  
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Presentation at: Teaching and supporting a digital future: UoN Showcase 4th February 2022

Wray Irwin talks about Changemaker Support (highlighting how the team supports staff and students’ digital employability)

The recording of the event is available to view

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