An update to the Blackboard system is scheduled to take place from 6am on Tuesday 1st August and will involve a maximum of 48 hours downtime. During this time there will be no access to Blackboard courses or to its integrated tools (i.e Turnitin, Blackboard Collaborate, Kaltura).
Why is this happening?
Primarily the update is to ensure the system remains current and can continue to be supported however we will be rolling out new improved versions of some of our learning technology tools (e.g PebblePad, Blackboard Collaborate and Turnitin).
When is this happening?
The update process is scheduled to take place from 6am on Tuesday 1st August to 6am on Thursday 3rd August 2017.
What do I need to do?
At this point in time please make a note of this date in your diary and for those colleagues who have assessment deadlines or feedback due on these dates please adjust these accordingly.
Further information will be posted in the coming months.
Use of Turnitin to provide digital feedback has grown rapidly in CCCU in recent years with 52% of 133,000 submissions to Turnitin receiving feedback during 2015/16 compared with 8% of 96,034 submissions in 2012/13. While we know this has helped to improve turnaround times, and our students value the flexibility of receiving feedback online, there has been little investigation of any deeper impact on our students’ learning – particularly use of feedback for development. Whereas the literature indicates associations between use of similar digital feedback tools with greater motivation and understanding of how to improve compared with to non-digital feedback, why this may be is often not clear. One possible factor is how the nature of digital feedback influences learners’ engagement with their feedback.
Understanding how students engage with Turnitin feedback
With the aim of informing markers’ action research into their use of digital feedback, Simon Starr interviewed CCCU students about their experience of the various ways Turnitin feedback can be presented for his MSc in Digital Education dissertation study. It was found that the choice presentation can make a substantive difference to the students’ use of their feedback. Specifically, it is concluded that on-script ‘Bubble Comments’ and off-script ‘Voice Comments’ may both positively influence how valued learners feel and encourage and support their use of feedback for development while on-script ‘QuickMark Comments’ and off-script ‘General Comments’ and ‘Rubrics’ may negatively influence same. These influences arise from how these different choices for presenting feedback in Turnitin affect personalisation, specificity and clarity of meaning of feedback, learners’ emotional connection with their marker and by simply grabbing their attention.
The NSS continues to highlight assessment and feedback as an area for ongoing enhancement, now incorporated as a metric for the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). Where the Digital Learning Thresholds (DLT) [internal CCCU link only] include an expectation for digital feedback as standard in future, it is important to ensure that such feedback is not only timely but engages encourages and supports our learners to improve.
It is recommended that, through their own action research, markers using GradeMark explore the use of Bubble Comments and Voice Comments as alternatives to General Comments, and ‘Grading Forms’ as an alternative to Rubrics. Specific considerations in doing so are suggested in the report. It is also recommended that CCCU considers strategies for helping learners apply GradeMark feedback to future work, including the possibility of re-writing generic assessment criteria in more ‘student friendly’ language and investigating improvements to accessing GradeMark via mobile devices.
To discuss ways of improving your students’ engagement with Turnitin feedback, contact your friendly learning technologist. See also our new section on technology-enhanced feedback [internal CCCU link only] for ways technology can support various aims for enhancing assessment, including improving feedback. Tools you can use are suggested along with links to examples, further reading and other resources and an ‘index’ of the tools we have available in the University.
As part of ongoing improvements by TurnitinUK, Turnitin is having some scheduled maintenance on Saturday 5 November 1:00pm – 6:00pm (UK Time).
We would like to make users aware that the Turnitin service will be unavailable between 1pm-6pm on Saturday 5th November. This is to allow for scheduled maintenance by TurnitinUK. No submissions, grading, or access will be possible through the service during this time.
Programmes are advised to amend any deadlines set during the maintenance period.
Markers are reminded that submitted papers can be downloaded (both individually and in bulk) from Turnitin should they wish to read/annotate during the maintenance period and then copy & paste these into the Document Viewer manually once the service is available again.
We apologise for any inconvenience caused.
For queries or further advice, please contact your Faculty Learning Technologist via the IT Service Desk on 01227 782626.
Here are some further takeaway points from the conference in particular focusing on use of video in learning and teaching which was a key strand flowing through the conference.
Video in Learning and Teaching
Smith (2016), from the Open University, proposed using live video, in this case the tool Periscope, to teach practical tasks on his CISCO network course, as part of a flipped classroom approach. His advice, if you are planning to do something like this, is to find out when ‘live recordings’ are convenient to students, and to advertise this well in advance to ensure adequate viewing. In this case, early evening was the best time. Periscope was a great tool as it is easy to set up, provides good quality live video, as well as providing recorded videos afterward. Periscope is not the only tool available, ‘Facebook Live’ is another, but it does require a user to follow your Facebook page.
Apart from video, there were a number of other themes including VLE design, learning analytics, use of e-portfolios. Some of which were covered in a previous post by Lynne Burroughs. However, there were two sector-wide launches during the conference.
The Student Voice Highlighting Change
JISC, the UK’s not-for-profit organisation for digital services and solutions for the Higher, Further Education and skills sectors, launched the second pilot of their digital experience tracker at the ALT conference. Led by Helen Beetham, Sarah Knight and Tabetha Newman (JISC, 2016), the tracker is a short survey, delivered through the Bristol Online Surveys platform, to allow evidence gathering from learners about their digital experience and make better provision regarding their digital environment. This tool also has an added advantage of giving institutions who partake an opportunity to benchmark their practice against others. While this is an opportunity for institutions to look forward, there has already been some results from the pioneer pilots. A synopsis of some initial findings has since been published.
Benchmarking of TEL across UK HE
Lastly, during the conference, UCISA launched their results of the 2016 Survey into Technology Enhanced Learning completed by 110 Heads of e-Learning across the UK HE sector. The report states that enhancing the quality of learning and teaching remain the key driver for considering using TEL, while availability of TEL support staff is the leading factor encouraging development of TEL. Lack of time and Institutional culture continue to be the biggest barriers.
Begklis, F. (2016), Pedagogic video design: A framework for producing instructional videos. Session 1344, Association of Learning Technologies Conference, University of Warwick, 6th to 8th September 2016.
Metcalfe, D. (2016), Evaluating webinars as a tool for delivering lectures and seminars at a distance in a healthcare setting, Session 1347, Association of Learning Technologies Conference, University of Warwick, 6th to 8th September 2016.
Smith, A. (2016), Using Periscope to teach Wannabee Network Engineers. Session 1258, Association of Learning Technologies Conference, University of Warwick, 6th to 8th September 2016.
On the 6th,7th and 8th September 2016 I was one of the learning technologists lucky enough to attend the Association of Learning Technology (ALT) Annual Conference at the University of Warwick. The conference theme was ‘Connect, Collaborate, Create’ with many parallel workshops on different topics. The keynote presentations were interesting and engaging and I was particularly struck by the keynote by Jane Secker (LSE) titled ‘Copyright and E-Learning: Understanding our privileges and freedoms’ (Video of this presentation available on YouTube). Jane argued that copyright is about ethics and respect for others ideas and is a fundamental part of information and digital literacy. She argued that creative commons licences were critical in preserving our ‘open commons’.
One of the topics of the workshops throughout the conference was learning analytics (LA). The JISC definition states “learning analytics refers to the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about the progress of learners and the contexts in which learning takes place”. Whereas the Higher Education Academy stipulates that “learning Analytics is the process of measuring and collecting data about learners and learning with the aim of improving teaching and learning practice through analysis of the data”.
One of the presentations I attended was titled ‘What can we learn from learning analytics? A case study based on an analysis of student use of video recordings’ presented by Moira Sarsfield and John Conway from Imperial College, London. They presented the results of their research into students use of video recordings of lectures across a range of subject areas. Their research found that students use of lecture recordings varied considerably with some students viewing parts of the lectures, whilst others viewed all the lectures. Interestingly, the time of the year students viewed the lectures also varied with some subjects using the videos for revision more than others. As a result of the research there are actionable insights to provide advice for students to view recordings early and maintain application through the course. However, student success was not directly correlated with viewing lecture recordings in this research. As we are launching a pilot of lecture capture next year it was interesting to consider the analysis that could be made of the student viewing to help improve teaching and learning.
Another presentation I attended was titled ‘Embedding ePortfolio in the Curriculum’ and was presented by Emma Purnell from the University of Plymouth. She outlined their use of the PebblePad workbook at the University. We have had PebblePad for 3 years at CCCU, but it has been used primarily within the Health and Wellbeing and Education Faculties. These case studies included use in a Business module to provide evidence of students skills and use for collaboration and group work for employability. Plymouth University have begun a project to provide a workbook for all students for each graduate attribute that could be shared with their personal tutor. This institution-wide project illustrates how an e-portfolio can be used to support learning for all students.
Overall it was an interesting and thought provoking conference to attend. As is often the case at conferences, one of the most useful things was to be able to meet and network with colleagues from other institutions.
On the 28th July 2016, Blackboard Accessibility Manager JoAnna Hunt led a webinar titled ‘Making Blackboard modules and content accessible for all’. This webinar was timely given the changes to the DSA allowance in the UK.
JoAnna highlighted how inclusive learning approaches benefit all students. However, it was acknowledged that there are challenges outlined in building an inclusive classroom. One of these that we are addressing at CCCU includes a ‘knowledge and skills gap’ for staff and ‘ongoing support for staff.’ These challenges are currently being addressed at CCCU through a working group which is looking at the implications of the changes in DSA funding for students and staff. Look out for staff development workshops around developing an inclusive curriculum and a new tab in Blackboard containing a link to an Inclusive Learning and Teaching Blackboard site.
The diverse needs of learners were outlined in this webinar including Cognitive challenges, Visual Challenges, Physical Challenges and Hearing challenges and the impact of these different challenges was on student learning was outlined. As JoAnna states:
‘There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Inclusiveness does not mean all students doing the same thing the same way. It means enabling everyone to achieve the same goals.’
There are things that can be done pedagogically to assist students using Blackboard (you may already be doing some of these)
Make the course outline available.
Define your learning outcomes.
Provide explicit instructions.
Include collaborative learning.
Use differentiated activities where appropriate in the curriculum.
In terms of content you put into Blackboard, the following checklist is useful:
Ensure images have alternative text – this means that visually impaired students using a screen reader know what the images are.
Limiting the use of animation to where it is critical to learning.
Ensure Microsoft Word and PowerPoint documents are properly structured.
Ensure PDF documents are accessible.
Ensure colour choices have proper contrast (e.g. dark text on a light background).
Do not use tables for formatting as these are read differently by screen readers (i.e. only use tables for data).
The aim of this webinar was to help staff think through their pedagogy and understand how they can make adjustments.
On Tuesday 9th and Wednesday 10th August 2016, the Blackboard system was updated by colleagues within IT and the Learning Technology Team. The system was made available to all users ahead of schedule at 12pm on Wednesday 10th August.
Why did this happen?
The upgrade ensures the system remains current and it brings a few new features to the system and its suite of tools:
Users using Windows 10 and/or Microsoft Office 2016 may experience issues submitting work to Turnitin, if using one of the new fonts such as Arial Nova.
Statement from Turnitin:
The new fonts found in Windows 10 and the latest version of Microsoft Word are not currently being displayed properly within Turnitin. If a newer font type such as Arial Nova is used in a document, it will be converted to a different font for display within Turnitin, and may appear as a cursive-based font.
We are working to make changes to better display these new fonts in future versions of Turnitin. In the meantime, a work-around to this would be to change the font to a type commonly used in previous versions of Word (such as Arial) before submission to Turnitin.
Plickers is another free online voting tool that can be used to engage students. However, where it differs from many other online tools is that it combines an app that the instructor downloads (free of charge) with paper/cards that the students use. This means that students do not need any technology to take part so no student is disadvantaged if they do not have a smart phone/tablet. The student registers their vote using specially designed cards. The camera in the app ‘reads’ these votes which are fed back to the tutor and can be displayed on a computer screen in real time if you want the students to view them.
How to use Plickers
Instructors create a free account with Plickers and download the app which available via Apple or Android. N.B. Please ensure that you select ‘iphone only’ when searching via the Apple store even though the app will work on ipad
You can print out cards (free) or order them online. Each card has a unique number which you can choose to assign to students by name or the students can be anonymous. You can add classes and assign students cards through the Plickers website. New questions can be created in your ‘Library’ within the website and organised into folders. The questions can include images and are either multiple choice or true/false. The instructor uses the app to select the question to be answered and clicks on the camera icon to scan student’s responses. The cards are rotated by the students to select their answers.
Free and easy to use software Students do not need any technology as they do not download an app
Tutors can view a report of the questions and how they were answered
You can assign students to cards or use anonymous voting
Immediate results can be made visible to students via the Plickers web page
Limited to 63 users
Limited question types (MCQs, T/F)
Not integrated with powerpoint
Need wifi access
Need sufficient lighting to enable the camera to pick up images
Audience response systems can be used to increase student engagement. As a lecturer you are able to adapt content in response to student answers. It could be used to stimulate debate and discussion and it can be used to help students interact throughout the lecture and enhance learner motivation.