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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:

  1. How do you to create and effectively use discussion forums in Learn Original and in Learn Ultra?
    Thursday, November 4 at 10:00am GMT
    >>View Recording
  2. How do you create and upload content in Learn Original and in Learn Ultra?
    Thursday, December 2 at 10:00am GMT
    >>View Recording
  3. How does Adaptive Release work in Original and Conditional Availability in Ultra?
    Thursday, February 10 at 10:00am GMT
    >>View Recording
  4. How do you design and manage assessment items in Learn Original and in Learn Ultra?
    Thursday, March 10 at 10:00am GMT
    >>View Recording
  5. 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
    >>View Recording
  6. How do you use the Grade Centre in Learn Original and the Gradebook in Learn Ultra?
    Thursday, May 12 at 11:00am BST
    >>View Recording
  7. 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
    >>View Recording

Find out more, and sign up to attend here:

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Solve a Teaching ProblemWe came across this great resource recently, from the Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation Center at Carnegie Mellon University. It’s designed to help academics solve teaching problems through a three-step process:

  • Step 1: Identify a PROBLEM you encounter in your teaching.
  • Step 2: Identify possible REASONS for the problem
  • Step 3: Explore STRATEGIES to address the problem.

To access the site, click on the image, or use this hyperlink:

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Digival-vs-AnalogueAs Learning Designers, my colleagues Rob, Julie and myself are always looking for ways to help staff with the transition to Waterside and in (re-)designing their modules and programmes to take account of new ways of learning and teaching. To this end, there are a number of posts here on the flipped classroom, or on de-mystifying the CAIeRO for example, that aim to take away some of the apprehensions that we know exist.

What does teaching mean to you?

Another recent initiative has been a series of activities designed to help staff begin the process of reconceptualising how they teach and articulating their individual teaching style. In the midst of discussions around whether or not we are going to be a fully-online University (definitely ‘not’), or what the ‘new model’ for learning and teaching is going to be (the decision is for you and your team to determine- within certain parameters), it is easy to lose sight of the value of what staff do each and every day in the classroom – our face-to-face contact time (for an understanding of what we mean by ‘contact time’, including face-to-face and online, click here – sign in required).  Through conversations with ILT generally and Shirley Bennett, our Head of Academic Practice, we hope to help our staff identify what it is that they value about their face-to-face contact time, and then use technology to help them do more of what they value in the classroom. In starting from this perspective, the aim is to conceptualise technology as an enabler, of excellence in learning and teaching rather than a driver.

In response to the question What do you value about your face-to-face teaching? staff have produced some interesting and sometimes unexpected visual metaphors that will be the subject of a later blog. The workshop/Away Day was also used to set a challenge around learning and teaching innovations through reflectiong on past innovations (to you) and sharing ideas with colleagues.

A 21st Century Learning and Teaching SWOT Analysis

The direction of learning and teaching at the University of NorthamptonOur Institute for Learning and Teaching have recently produced a short video that many staff may have already seen, showing the general direction of travel for the 2015-2020 learning and teaching plan. It is important to stress that this model is only one approach – if you have an alternative that is more appropriate to your teaching style and your discipline, then there is no reason for you not to explore how that might look in practice.

The key part of this arrow is the second stage – learning activities that help students to make sense of the content. These can be either online or face-to-face depending on tutors’ individual pedagogy and subject discipline. What works for one subject, might be wholly unsuitable for another – and this is why we are keen to help staff articulate their pedagogical preferences and continue the process of enhancing their own practice and, as a result, the student experience, rather than simply focussing on the latest piece of technology. As a way in to exploring some of these issues, we facilitated a ’21st Century Learning and Teaching SWOT Analysis’. By 21st century learning and teaching, we mean looking at how we prepare our students for employment in the 21st century, where technology is ubiquitous and constantly evolving, and how we use technology ourselves to enhance our learning and teaching. Identifying individual strengths and weaknesses concerning technology-enhanced learning, and highlighting some of the opportunities and threats these new ways of learning and teaching bring helped staff to begin the process of development and provides indicators of individual training needs.

Determining your blend

We also began the process of looking at how to determine what must be taught face-to-face (content or skills) and what could be taught online. Really, this is about thinking what you want your ‘blend’ to look like and builds on the earlier notions of using technology to enable you to do more of what you value in the classroom. Expressing this in terms of what and how students are learning and not solely in terms of what the tutor is teaching can be tricky but we have activities that can help with this. We can also help you to begin to see how this might look in NILE.

Many course teams and individuals have been engaging in various forms of blended learning within their practice for a long time. Determining how you might need to develop your own practices is not something that you need to do in isolation – as Learning Designers, we are here to help and there is also your School Learning Technologist you can draw on, as well as your colleagues.

Packing your Suitcase for Waterside

The day concluded with asking to staff to select what they would need to pack in their suitcases in order to get them from where they are today to where they have identified that they would like to be. This tongue-in-cheek exercise involved selecting from a collection of icons and images of things that you might take on holiday and can include, but is not limited to the following: a bucket and spade (to help you build something new); your Kindle to read while sun-bathing on the beach (mobile content creation and delivery); paracetamol (to help get rid of your headache); lifeguard and buoyancy aid (peer support, learn tech training etc); towel to reserve your (deck)chair (desk) and so on.

On a more serious note, the underlying premise is to identify your training needs, and other ways in which staff can take steps to ‘get ready for Waterside’ and look at what you might do to respond to the challenges of 21st century learning and teaching or the implementation of Changemaker in the Curriculum.

If you or your subject team would like us to facilitate any or all of these activities at an upcoming Staff Development session or Away Day, or to help you design your teaching to enable you to do more of what you value, please email You know where we are!