If you’ve ever had ideas about how Blackboard could be better, then now’s the chance to get involved with a new user experience research project run by Blackboard’s User Experience & Design Team.
You can find out more, and can sign up as a participant here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NQ6HVS2
|Sorry. The upgraded version of Blackboard scheduled to be available from the 5th of November has been delayed, and will now be available on the 12th of November.|
November sees some great new features arriving in Ultra courses, including the much requested feature to add a bit of colour to courses via a course banner. Already available is another often requested feature, which is the ability to create Collaborate breakout groups from your course groups in NILE.
NILE course groups sync with Collaborate breakout groups
When setting up breakout groups in Collaborate sessions, quite a few people have said how useful it would be if they could set up their breakout groups to match the groups they have already set up in their NILE courses. Well, now this is possible.
When setting up your breakout groups, you will now see an option called ‘Course group set’. This will allocate the students in your Collaborate breakout groups according to groups that you have already set up in your NILE course. And if you have multiple groups set up in your NILE course, you can choose which NILE course groups you want to sync with your Collaborate breakout groups.
Available from Friday 5th November
• New UI (User Interface), including the ability to add a course banner
You can see immediately that the UI (User Interface) has changed a little in the new Ultra courses, with staff now being listed in the area immediately above the ‘Details & Actions’ menu. But probably of most interest here is the ability to add a course banner. From the 5th of November the ‘Details & Actions’ menu will include a ‘Course Image’ option, which means that you will be able to add a banner image to your course. Images must be at least 1200 x 240 pixels, but please do not add images which include text, as these are not accessible.
Perhaps the biggest challenge will be finding a great image to use for your course banner. A terrific source of free, high quality images can be found on the websites of the ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA. The links below will take you directly to their image galleries:
ESA and NASA images are free to use for educational and informational purposes, and, provided that any images you use do not contain an identifiable person, you will not be infringing anyone’s copyright or privacy by using them in this context. If you use images from ESA and NASA, please credit them somewhere in your course. Full terms and conditions about ESA and NASA image use can be found at the bottom of their pages which are linked above.
• Progress tracking
Also coming to the ‘Details & Actions’ menu will be the option to turn on ‘Progress Tracking’ for your students.
This feature allows your students to more easily see and mark which items in your course they have engaged with. At the moment, this feature is just for students, and academic staff do not get any information about how their students are engaging with their course content, although this is planned for a future release.
Content that a student has not looked at at all will be marked with an empty circle. Once a student has opened an item, the circle will become half-filled. Students can then click on the half-filled circle and mark it as complete (or, if Blackboard knows that the item is complete, such as when posting to a discussion or making a journal entry, it will automatically mark it as complete). Where items are in a learning module or folder, once all the items in the learning module or folder are complete, the learning module or folder will automatically be marked as complete.
• Improvements to tables
Finally, tables, which were new to Ultra courses in the October upgrade, are getting a few improvements in the November upgrade. From the 5th of November onwards, the following formatting options will be available when using tables in Ultra documents:
- Text Style
- Alignment options
- List Attachment
- Insert content
These options provide greater flexibility for staff, especially in disciplines where the presentation and formatting of data is particularly important.
Need more information?
As ever, if you would like any advice, guidance, or training with any aspects of NILE, please take a look at the guides and FAQs on our website, or get in touch with your learning technologist:
If you’re interested in understanding more about some of the new features that Blackboard will be bringing to Ultra and Original courses, you can join Blackboard’s Product Management leaders as they provide an update on the Blackboard Roadmap.
There are two sessions, one on the Ultra roadmap, and one on the Original roadmap. Even if you can’t attend the webinars, if you sign up to attend you will receive a recording of the webinar.
Ultra Course View
Wednesday, November 3, 2021. Time: 1:00pm GMT
Original Course View
Wednesday, November 3, 2021. Time: 12:00pm GMT
Between November 2021 and June 2022, Blackboard are offering a series of seven free webinars to understand how Blackboard Learn Original and Learn Ultra can support your teaching, your subject and your students’ learning.
You can sign up for one, some, or all the webinars. Even if you can’t make the live webinars, by signing up you will receive the recordings of the sessions that you signed up to.
The full series of webinars is as follows:
- How do you to create and effectively use discussion forums in Learn Original and in Learn Ultra?
Thursday, November 4 at 10:00am GMT
- How do you create and upload content in Learn Original and in Learn Ultra?
Thursday, December 2 at 10:00am GMT
- How does Adaptive Release work in Original and Conditional Availability in Ultra?
Thursday, February 10 at 10:00am GMT
- How do you design and manage assessment items in Learn Original and in Learn Ultra?
Thursday, March 10 at 10:00am GMT
- How do you create a marking structure and provide feedback using rubrics, audio and video in Learn Original and in Learn Ultra?
Thursday, April 7 at 11:00am BST
- How do you use the Grade Centre in Learn Original and the Gradebook in Learn Ultra?
Thursday, May 12 at 11:00am BST
- How to use data and key tools to monitor and support student progress and personalised learning in Learn Original and in Learn Ultra?
Thursday, June 9 11:00am BST
Find out more, and sign up to attend here:
Whether we like it or not, we are increasingly being directed to basic conversations with chatbots. The image above is taken from a discussion with ‘Bo’ who is the lovely chatbot that hosts discussions on the Differ system – students are encouraged to chat with other students on topics introduced by Bo. The aim being that it encourages greater online networking between students who may not normally meetup.
There are many sites providing information on what a chatbot is and how they may be used.
“At the most basic level, a chatbot is a computer program that simulates and processes human conversation (either written or spoken), allowing humans to interact with digital devices as if they were communicating with a real person. Chatbots can be as simple as rudimentary programs that answer a simple query with a single-line response, or as sophisticated as digital assistants that learn and evolve to deliver increasing levels of personalization as they gather and process information.”Oracle – What is a Chatbot
The excellent Edubots Webinar Series is providing greater insight and a discussion forum for those investigating how chatbots may be used within Education environments. It also raises the interesting moral issues such as when it is appropriate for chatbots to provide emotional support.
If you are based at the University of Northampton and you’d like a little pilot with Bo ‘the chatbot’ then please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Those who are interested for more information can join the Introduction to Chatbots for Educators – online course and community
From October 8th 2021, one of the most requested features of Blackboard Ultra will finally be available: the ability to create tables in the Ultra RTE (Rich Text Editor).
Also included in the upgrade, from the 8th of October onwards the maximum number of columns and rows in Blackboard Ultra rubrics will increase from ten to fifteen.
And when students submit Blackboard Ultra assignments, from the 8th of October they will receive confirmation via email and downloadable receipt that their submission has been successful. Please note that this does not apply to Turnitin assignments in Blackboard Ultra courses. Students will still be able to download their submission receipts for Turnitin assignments in Ultra courses, but will not be emailed submission receipts. Emailed submission receipts will only be available for Blackboard assignments in Ultra courses from 8th October onwards.
Also included in the upgrade are various other minor big fixes, etc.
Led by: Dr Elizabeth Hidson
Senior Lecturer in International Teacher Education, University of Sunderland
The recording of the event (53 mins) is available to view.
The slides from the session are also available to download.
At the heart of any teaching resource is an unheard narrative: the decision-making process that the teacher has gone through in order to develop the resource for the students that they teach. This is built from a range of knowledge sources accessed by teachers from the start of their career, which develops over time. In this session we will focus on in-service ICT teachers faced with the 2014 English National Curriculum shift that now required the teaching of Computer Science. We will see how their pedagogical knowledge was enhanced through shared lesson resources and professional communities of practice.
Elizabeth started her career in education as an IT teacher, progressing to ICT Advanced Skills Teacher, Lead Practitioner in ICT and later to assistant and deputy headteacher senior leadership roles in schools. Moving into academia, she has been an educational technology researcher as well as teaching on PGCE, MA and doctoral training courses at Durham University, Newcastle University and the University of Sunderland. Elizabeth’s research interests involve technology and pedagogy, and the use of digital and visual research methods.
Hidson, Elizabeth (2021) Pedagogy by proxy: teachers’ digital competence with crowd-sourced lesson resources. Pixel-Bit Journal of Media and Education, 61 (May 21). pp. 197-229. ISSN 1133-8482
Hidson, Elizabeth (2020) Internet Video Calling and Desktop Sharing (VCDS)as an Emerging Research Method for Exploring Pedagogical Reasoning in Lesson Planning. Video Journal of Education and Pedagogy, 5 (1). pp. 1-14. ISSN 2364-4583
Hidson, Elizabeth (2018) Video-enhanced lesson observation as a source of multiple modes of data for school leadership: A videographic approach. Management in Education, 32 (1). pp. 26-31. ISSN 0892-0206
“It is a cold Autumn day at Waterside and you are sitting in a room within the Learning Hub. You recognise other people in the room and there is a facilitator at the front. Do you:
a) Talk to other people on your desk?
b) Talk to the facilitator and engage in the workshop?
c) Log onto your laptop and check emails?
d) Exit the room and go elsewhere?”
Fortunately, all participants on the first meeting to explore the nature of gamification and the value for the University decided to remain in the room and fully engage with Tim Hinchliffe, Senior Adviser from Advance HE.
‘Games can be used as a general tool to look at our teaching processes more generally. The lessons are broadly applicable to whatever we do. You can take any subject and any content and use gamified mechanisms and dynamics to achieve what you’re looking for.’Tim Hinchliffe, Senior Adviser from Advance HE.
Over the day we were treated to an exploration of the differences between defining gamification in education, serious games and game based learning. We then went on to discuss the Octalysis Framework and apply this to a range of both physical and virtual games.
Tim used a slide deck to keep us all on track but the flexible nature of the workshop gave us plenty of time to explore how the concepts could apply to our own areas.
‘The approach of gamification would be really useful because it’s helping students to develop a lot of transferable skills: critical thinking, teamwork, collaboration, problem solving.’Simon Chapman, Senior Lecturer in Education.
Discussions are now ongoing on the possibility of launching a inter disciplinary group to further explore gamification.
If you are interested in further conversations around gamification then please email Rob.Howe@northampton.ac.uk
Learn Tech and Learning Design recently reviewed some popular online voting/polling tools to investigate which offers the best options for student engagement. Criteria for assessing the tools included ease of log in and navigation, range of question types and formats, ease of participation and access on different devices. We also compared the range of features available on each tool’s free version versus the paid for version.
Of the four tools investigated – Kahoot, Microsoft Forms, Mentimeter and Socrative – Mentimeter was considered the easiest and most engaging to use, with enough access, reporting and variety in the free version to satisfy most learning and teaching needs. Here are a few of the features we liked in Mentimeter:
- Wide range of interactive presentation templates (they call them Inspiration)
- Students don’t need to create an account, just go to menti.com and enter the code generated by Mentimeter and displayed on the quiz/presentation
- Easy for students to participate on a mobile device (anonymously)
- Good range of question types – wordcloud, multiple choice, open ended, scales, ranking, Q&A
- Leaderboard function to inject some competition
- Unlimited audience, unlimited presentations in the free version
- Up to 2 question slides, up to 5 quiz slides in the free version
- Export to PDF function (export to Excel only in the paid for version)
Mentimeter appears to meet some accessibility standards, however it does seem that there is still work to be done. Otherwise we received positive feedback from another institution about their user and technical experience of Mentimeter.
Overall we felt that Mentimeter is a useful resource for encouraging interaction and real-time responses from students in a lively and engaging way.
However, staff should note:
The use of voting/polling tools must be driven by pedagogical requirement and offer new/different benefits to existing licensed products.
Staff must not use Mentimeter for collecting personal or sensitive information. Students do not need to sign up to engage in Mentimeter activities.
Academic staff should consider the diverse needs of their cohort, paying particular attention to the feelings that can arise from timed activities and leader boards.
Although not officially supported by the University, we feel Mentimeter offers additional features and opportunities for engagement to those available in Collaborate polling.
Staff should review the recommendations for the use of third party tools and speak to their Learning Technologist prior to introducing any new technology to ensure it is fit for purpose.
And remember, too much of anything isn’t a good thing!
Information regarding accessibility has been obtained from the Mentimeter VPAT: https://www.mentimeter.com/accessibility
All WCAG AA requirements are either supported or partially supported with guidance.
All Policies regarding Mentimeter (privacy, security, cookie, processors and candidate) may be found at : https://www.mentimeter.com/policies
Nicola Denning, Richard Byles, and Belinda Green
There are a range of tools available for new and existing enrolled students to contribute towards development of digital capability. The three listed below are key starting points. A video introduction to this posting is also available.
This will provide a quick overview of your digital strengths and areas for development. A personal report will be generated which will allow you to track improvements over time. For more details see – https://blogs.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/2020/07/10/rate-your-digital-fitness-digital-capability/
2) The “Student Introduction to NILE (Ultra)” site on the Organisations tab on NILE
NILE (Northampton Integrated Learning Environment) is a online base for most of your course. This site provides a basic introduction to NILE. You will find the site listed in the “Organisations” area after logging into NILE.
LinkedIn Learning will be a resource that you will return to regularly over your student journey. It will help you develop the generic skills that will improve your ability to produce academic level assignments as well as develop digital skills specific to your chosen field. We believe the sooner you get familiar with using LinkedIn Learning the quicker you will be able to produce high quality work. For more details see https://www.northampton.ac.uk/student-life/university-living-laptops-trips-and-internships/linkedin-learning-for-students
- Blackboard Upgrade – June 2022
- Blackboard Upgrade – May 2022
- GAMING: Gamification for the Advancement of Multiprofessional/Interprofessional Groupwork
- Blackboard Upgrade – April 2022
- Reconceptualising critical digital literacies in the context of compulsory education Led by: Dr Anastasia Gouseti
- Blackboard Upgrade – March 2022
- Teaching and supporting a digital future: UoN Showcase – 4th February 2022
- Introducing the Centre for Active Digital Education (ADE)
- Changemaker Support (highlighting how the team supports staff and students’ digital employability)
- “It’s just a bit of fun! Really…?” Observations on online games in supporting student learning and student experience
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