Currently viewing the category: "LearnTech News"

New to NILE this week is Blackboard Assist, a curated collection of links to useful services, information, help and resources available to University of Northampton students.

Blackboard Assist

To see what’s available, simply click on the ‘Assist’ link in the NILE main menu.

Tagged with:

The Learntech Team note that staff who are exploring new tools with their students should undertake a number of considerations when these are being reviewed:

Always start with the reason for the tool and have a chat with your Learning Technologist in the first instance. There may already be licensed and/or supported tools which will satisfy your needs.

Ensure that the tools are accessible for all students – complete an Equality Impact Analysis to obtain guidance with this.

Ensure that use of the tool is inline with data protection regulations complete a Privacy Impact Assessment to obtain prompt questions. Please also review this useful GDPR blog post

Review the guidance on the use of third party tools

Ensure that use of the tool is sustainable (i.e. is tool support only localised with one person?) What will happen if the tool is withdrawn in the future or the cost becomes prohibitive?

Students should be fully aware who is providing support for the tool to ensure they address the correct support desk.

Any tool which is used for summative assessment should comply with University regulations on retention of content / student engagement.

The University Digital Steering Group makes decisions on the tools which are fully supported by the University; which are recognised but not fully supported; and which are not to be used.

If in doubt then please contact for further guidance.

Tagged with:

Please could all staff using Xerte check their accounts to ensure they have all Xertes which are needed regardless of whether they are currently being used or not.

Xerte logo

In addition, please can all staff check their NILE sites for resources which contain Xerte URL links. Please check if the URL link is:

a. from your own Xerte account, or
b. whether it is a Xerte URL link of a Xerte not created by you but created by someone else, or
c. is a link used in an active NILE site which has been re-used and/or inherited by you from a member of staff who has left the university.

Why do this?
We are at the beginning of a process to review archiving of unused Xerte accounts and need to ensure that access is not lost to resources which are still required.
NOTE: It is important that you check if you use Xerte Learning Objects created by colleagues who have left the university, or if in your NILE site you have a URL link to a Xerte which was not created by you, or you have inherited sites which contain Xerte content not created by you.

Passing Xerte projects to another member of staff
If you need to pass ownership of the Xerte to another member of staff then you can use a Xerte function called ‘Give this project’. If there is no-one in post to give your Xerte project to, you can export the Xerte projects as SCORM zip files and store them a shared area where your team can have access. These Xerte SCORM zip files can be imported in to Xerte if they require editing and then uploaded as SCORM zip files in to NILE. If no editing is required, the exported Xerte can be uploaded to your site in NILE, if the content is unchanged.

It is recommended that you share your Xerte projects with at least one colleague as Co-Author role.

More information
For more help then log in to the Xerte Community site on NILE and read the relevant guidance. Visit the left menu called Training to book on to a Xerte training session.


From the 6th of November 2020 onwards, staff and students will notice that the Blackboard Content Editor looks a little different.

Where previously you’ll have seen and used this version of the content editor:

Blackboard's Old Content Editor

You’ll now see and use this updated and improved content editor:

Blackboard's New Content Editor

An important difference between the old and new content editors is the ‘Mashups’ button. In the old content editor it looked like this:

Old Content Editor Mashups Button

While in the new one it is now a ‘plus’ button:

New Content Editor 'Plus' Button

There are lots of great reasons to like the updated content editor. Adding content has been simplified, and it works better on both hand-held devices and larger screens. There are several improvements for accessibility and some new features, too. Here are six enhancements you can look forward to:

1. The Power of Plus. One easy menu for adding content from your computer, cloud storage, Content Collection, or integrated tool. The content editor will automatically recognize the kinds of files you add.

2. Better for All Devices. The editor is better suited for all devices—small screen or big. It’s easier to author on mobile devices because pop-ups are gone.

3. Improved Accessibility. The editor is more accessible due to higher contrast icons and menus, and the removal of pop-ups improves the experience for screen reader users. A new accessibility checker helps authors make content more accessible while they’re creating content. An Ally licence isn’t required for the accessibility checker; it also complements Ally capabilities because it helps users while they’re initially authoring.

4. Better Copy and Paste. Pasting content from Word, Excel, and websites is even better. Easily remove extra HTML but retain basic formatting.

5. Simple Embed. When pasting links to websites such as YouTube, Vimeo, and Dailymotion, the videos are automatically embedded for inline playback—there’s no need to fuss with HTML. Other sites including The New York Times, WordPress, SlideShare and Facebook will embed summary previews.

6. Display Computer Code. Authors can now share formatted computer code snippets, super handy for computer science classes and coding clubs.

If you have any questions about the new content editor, please feel free to contact your learning technologist.

Tagged with:

In addition to a huge amount of written guidance and video tutorials, the Learning Technology team can now offer staff and students access to the Kaltura Help Centre produced by the amazing team at Kaltura.

You can find the new Kaltura Help Centre by going to to the MediaSpace Homepage at and selecting the tab.

The content is not all 100% applicable to UON staff and students but the information does cover most common questions. Please keep it in mind if you have a quick question which you need an answer to.

The Learning Technology team are always happy to help but they can’t always be there just when you need support. For example, if you’re trying to record a video at 3am. It’s not often you’d be doing that, but there will be times you need help and we’re not available.

Remember, that in additional to the new Kaltura Help Centre, we also have a library of Video Tutorials available on MediaSpace and we have an extensive set of written guides which cover pretty much everything you need to know about the Kaltura services. You can find the written guides if you follow this link:

Tagged with:

The core technology underpinning NILE, known as Blackboard Learn, is changing. This will have a major impact across the University as NILE courses are updated to Blackboard Learn Ultra over the next three academic years, starting with Level 4 and Foundation courses for teaching beginning in the 2021/22 academic year.

Blackboard Learn Ultra is a modern, responsive VLE, that has been designed to work across the widest range of devices. While the original version of Blackboard Learn was, and in many respects still is, a highly functional and well-engineered VLE, it does not have the same ability to work seamlessly across the full range of devices that our students now expect. Blackboard Learn Ultra is Blackboard’s answer to the challenges posed by today’s students, the majority of whom now access the VLE from a mobile device.

The Ultra experience is very different to the Original experience. From a design point of view it has a simpler, more modern and less cluttered look-and-feel. And because it has been designed with mobile devices in mind, it flows and responds well on smaller screens, whilst giving users a similar experience regardless of whether it is accessed on a desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

We have titled the project to move NILE from Blackboard Learn Original to Blackboard Learn Ultra ‘UON Ultra’, and you can find out more about the project and the timescales here:

Tagged with:

If you are interested in how engaged your students are with your video content, then Video Analytics can provide you with some useful insight.

You could discover that your video is a total sensation. That your students watch it over and over again. That they stop at specific points to really take in and digest what you’re talking about. That they are watching it and it is helping them achieve better outcomes.

Conversely, lots of my videos have appeared in front of staff, a small percentage of them click on the video and those that click on the video rarely make it all the way to the end. This forces me to reflect: does it need to be an hour long? Would it be more engaging if it were just 15 minutes? Do I sound very bored?

The wonders of modern Video Analytics have revealed to me that I am not, perhaps, as interesting as I have led myself to believe.

Setting aside my own self-esteem issues, Video Analytics can make a massive positive difference to how you teach and enable you to focus your energy and time in the most productive way.

Every one of your videos in MediaSpace has an Analytics report for you. It can tell you things like how many times a video has been viewed, where your viewers are in the world and what device they have viewed your video on. This is really useful data.

But, let me be clear: you are not required or compelled to use this data. You can continue to produce videos in the same way that you have always done. However, if you are curious to find out how engaged your students are with your videos then feel free to dip your mouse into the glorious world of Video Analytics.

I’m happy to provide a link to some thorough guidance provided by Kaltura or you can contact your subject Learning Technologist and ask them questions about Kaltura analytics or any of our tools and platforms.

This is a link to a detailed guide on Analytics.

One final thought: if you are not inclined to explore Video Analytics then let me offer you one tip: keep your videos short, focused and accessible.

Happy content creation.

Tagged with:

This blog is a home for some of the links which provide useful ideas for icebreakers for online classes. If you have particular favourites/collections then please email them to

Equity Unbound / OneHE

Hyper Island Toolbox

Adding Some TEC-VARIETY: 100+ Activities for Motivating and Retaining Learners Online.

Tagged with:

Whilst the Padlet team are aware that they need to make the product more accessible, their progress during 2020 has been slow. The product has been used in many subject areas and usage is still growing.

Those using the product should be aware that some people with accessibility needs may not be able to access all parts of the screen or access all of the content being displayed. This may include people who primarily use screen readers and / or keyboards to access content.

The Padlet blog does indicate the main issues at the current time. It should be noted that those needing higher contrast on their screen should download a web extension such as High Contrast for Chrome to increase this for Padlet pages.

Those making use of Padet will need to review the information provided and consider the appropriateness of the tool for their own situation. The Learntech team are considering alternatives if a need to change is required.

Tagged with:

A range of different delivery styles have been used by tutors ranging from face to face, hybrid (mix of face to face and online) and purely online. The return to teaching approaches for Autumn 2020 recognise (in the advent of COVID-19) that there is the possibility of staff working with students who are both physically on campus and also accessing the session remotely. This has been termed a hybrid flexible approach (shortened to Hyflex). The Hyflex approach should assist with socially distanced delivery.

Guidance notes (only accessible to those with internal accounts) have been developed to assist staff who are operating under the Hyflex model. These will be updated as new information becomes available over the academic year. A shorter summary of these notes (which includes an update on session recordings) is also available.

For staff which wish to check their knowledge on online delivery then this is available through the Jisc Discovery Tool (circa. 10 minutes to complete)

A presentation on the delivery model and scenarios (used in the training sessions) is available.

Some strategies for teaching in a Hyflex mode may be found on the Inside Higher Education pages.

Tagged with: