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.

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One of our course advocate students on Events Management has kindly collated some reflections on the student’s experiences of online learning.

“I know you are all trying to make our learning experience the best you possibly can in this situation and we are very thankful for that. So to support this, I am reaching out to communicate feedback that I received from my course mates. We will all be stuck with online lectures, probably until we graduate, so I think it is in all our interest to make this the best we possibly can, rather sooner than later.”

Group work

The questions asked were: where are the problems? what would you like to be changed? & are you happy with everything?

There were two different opinions about group work and break out rooms:

  1. Students feel a lot more confident and comfortable contributing when they know the other person, or at least recognise the name of people in the group.
    This leads to group work where no one is speaking with each other at all and work isn’t being done so it’s ultimately a waste of time.
    —> so the goal here would be to be able to choose your partners yourself, as you would in F2F lectures.
  2. On the other hand there are students raising their concerns about this as it can be super isolating for new and anxious students, who may not know anyone personally, and don’t want to be “pushed away”.

One of the suggestions around group work is to set up groups being named as “Camera & Mic”, “Mic”, & “Chat”, so that students can choose the way of group work they feel most comfortable with. Another idea would be to integrate more verbal engagements.

Some of the above suggestions echo those covered in in other guidance on groupwork from Inside Higher Education

Interactive sessions

“Students have more than one lecture where they are physically just spoken to for two hours straight and are watching a PowerPoint. Often not even referenced, this feels pointless.”

Lectures could do with being more interactive, if possible. Many students have mentioned the way other tutors incorporates polls in their lectures to find out about our opinions, then afterwards he asks about the reasons for the answers. This engages students! They are then able to have verbal and written discussions on the chat.

Cameras

There is currently a discussion underway about whether cameras should be left on or turned off in online sessions. Some students and tutors are valuing the social interaction which is encouraged when they are able to see other participants in the room. Others emphasise with articles such as “Reasons Why You Should Reconsider Requiring Students to Turn on Their Zoom Cameras During Class” and suggest that this should be optional.

For more information on strategies see previous blog postings from Learntech, Mark Allenby’s suggestions on group work and suggestions from Kaltura

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During 2020 Mark decided to make a radical change in his teaching through removal of PowerPoint in his synchronous teaching. He still use some pre-recorded presentations, but his ‘live’ teaching, both face-to-face and online, have now used NILE(Blackboard Learn), not PowerPoint.

In this guest Learntech posting, Mark shares some of his hints and tips on ‘life without PowerPoint’.

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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 video.northampton.ac.uk 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:

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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:

https://libguides.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/staff/nile-guides/blackboard-ultra

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One of our students in FHES (Faculty of Health Education and Society) has reflected on the first few weeks of term and their opinion on pre-lecture coffee and Hyflex:

“For me the first two weeks have gone well, I have quite quickly adjusted to the way things are working. Did have a minor hissing fit last week when I arrived on campus at 8h30 for a 9 am lecture to find no coffee would be available till 9 when I had to be in class. Pleased to say that by this week the matter was resolved, and pre-lecture coffee was available.

I have decided that under the present conditions I prefer the synchronous online lectures to in class as despite the limitations around having discussions I can at least breath and focus.  In class, I have found wearing a mask very distracting and I spend more time suppressing my claustrophobia then concentrating on the lecture, also I find the lecturers talking from behind a visor is quite muffling and I can’t always make out what is being said. That said clearly some lecturers are way better at delivering online than others but I have been very impressed with how Collaborates breakout function works. This has been my tech revelation of the year so far.”

The University is continuing to refine hyflex models and share experiences on when this works well, how it can be refined and when other methods of delivery may be more appropriate.

For more information on socially distanced delivery then please see the Learntech blog

If you have other experiences to share then please email rob.howe@northampton.ac.uk

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Picture of Christine Collymore
Christine Collymore – FHES

“The situation was that the room was not big enough to accommodate all the students, so they chose to sit nearby, whilst there were others who could not  come to the face to face session and were online.

I am a bit of a wanderer when I am teaching and so I do not know if the students could always hear me when I move around. There is also the issue of not being able to hear the student’s contribution because of the masks and so I needed to ask on a couple of occasions for them to repeat themselves.

…there is a need to multi-task in terms of ensuring there is participation and accessibility of resources and activities for this delivery method.

On reflection, I will ensure that I have a hard copy of the presentation, in case IT issues occur and to keep checking in with the students who are online or sitting nearby more often. The 2 hours flew by.”

The University is continuing to refine hyflex models and share experiences on when this works well, how it can be refined and when other methods of delivery may be more appropriate.

For more information on socially distanced delivery then please see the Learntech blog

If you have other experiences to share then please email rob.howe@northampton.ac.uk

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Picture of Sally Sun
Sally Sun – FBL

Sally Sun from Faculty of Business and Law has kindly reflected on her experiences of Hybrid / Flexible Learning on the module BUS1004 (Introduction to Management).

She notes ‘…this is a case study about my practices of teaching students online and F2F at the same time during March 2020. I feel that I have adopted some teaching practices which are very similar to what is suggested in the HyFlex teaching approach, so this is my reflection about my experiences of what went well and what can be improved. This reflection is designed around Gibb’s reflection cycle to help me focus on my experiences.’

4 key points were noted by Sally regarding her experiences:

  1. The new delivery format has satisfied the needs of a certain kind of students
  2. Students got excited when they interact with students online
  3. She felt extremely exhausted after the session
  4. She felt the teaching quality was not her best level for F2F students in the class

The University is continuing to refine hyflex models and share experiences on when this works well, how it can be refined and when other methods of delivery may be more appropriate.

For more information on socially distanced delivery then please see the Learntech blog

If you have other experiences to share then please email rob.howe@northampton.ac.uk

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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.

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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 rob.howe@northampton.ac.uk.

Equity Unbound / OneHE

Hyper Island Toolbox

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

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