Blackboard 2016 Update Complete

Blackboard Logo
Source: Blackboard, Inc.

What happened?

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:

  • Thread-to-Thread navigation in discussion boards
  • Delete Assignment option in the Turnitin Assignments area (please consult your Faculty Learning Technologist before use)
  • Improved screen-casting with Kaltura using the new CaptureSpace Lite tool
  • Video quizzing option using Kaltura

What do I need to do?

No action is required from you. However, should you wish to find out more information about these changes, please visit the ‘Help’ tab within Blackboard.

Learning Technology Team

Turnitin – Paper Submission – Issue with new Windows 10 and Microsoft Office Fonts

Turnitin Logo
Source: Turnitin

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 – Engaging your Students

“Plickers” by Wayne Barry. All rights reserved.
“Plickers” by Wayne Barry. All rights reserved.

Introduction

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.

Advantages

  • 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

Disadvantages

  • 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

Pedagogic value

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.

What next?

There are help resources available on the Plickers website including a useful Getting started guide. There is also an introductory YouTube video which you might find useful.

If you would like to discuss how Plicker could be useful to you, please contact your Faculty Learning Technologist and arrange for a chat.

Turnitin – GradeMark – Opening GradeMark Shows ‘This is a draft submission’ Warning

Turnitin Logo
Source: Turnitin

There is a current known issue with GradeMark when clicking on the pencil icon to grade a submission, which results in the following warning message being presented to instructor users:

“This is a draft submission. Any and all marks will be deleted when or if the paper is resubmitted. Would you like to continue?”

This warning message should only appear if the Due Date has not yet been reached.

As a workaround, instructors can bypass this message either by clicking on the OK button on this warning message or by clicking on the assignment title instead.

 

Kaltura – Support for Internet Explorer 10 and below ended

Kaltura Logo
Source: Kaltura

Kaltura has ended support for Internet Explorer 10 and below

Statement from Kaltura:

On Jan. 12th 2016 Microsoft stopped providing technical support and security updates for Internet Explorer versions 10 and below.

Kaltura will align our support for these browsers with Microsoft’s policy, and therefore we will no longer proactively test the Kaltura video applications on these browsers as well.

We will continue to support Microsoft IE11 and Edge browsers.

The University recommended browser when accessing Kaltura is Chrome.

Blackboard Update 9th and 10th August – a date for your diary!

Service Update
Service Update
Source: Shutterstock

What is happening?

An update to the Blackboard system is scheduled to take place from 6am on Tuesday 9th August 2016 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).

Why is this happening?

Primarily the update is to ensure the system remains current and can continue to be supported, however any new features will be posted in the coming months.

When is this happening?

The update process is scheduled to take place from 6am on Tuesday 9th August to 6am on Thursday 11 August 2016.

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.

If you have any questions in the meantime please contact your Faculty Learning Technologist.

Durham Blackboard Users’ Conference 2016: A Few Reflections

"Durham Cathedral" by dun_deagh. Creative Commons licence CC BY-SA
"Durham Cathedral" by dun_deagh. Creative Commons licence CC BY-SA
Durham Cathedral” by dun_deagh. Creative Commons licence CC BY-SA

Each year Durham University hosts a Blackboard Users’ conference, organised by the user community, for the user community. This year was the 16th annual conference that took place on 7th & 8th January 2016. This year’s theme was “Learning from Failure” which focused on areas such as:

  • Blended Learning;
  • Learner Analytics;
  • Course Design;
  • Lecture Capture and many more!

The conference regularly attracts over 140 delegates from Further Education and Higher Education institutions, ranging from: learning technologists, system administrators, librarians and academics. Luke Dunmall and I attended the conference on behalf of the Learning Technology Team.

Rather than reporting on each of the sessions attended, I am going to offer some of my reflections on those sessions that resonated with me.

#1: Designing pre-induction materials

Steve Dawes, from Regent’s University London, ran a short 25 minute session called “Designing a Pre-Induction Course: Mistakes, Issues and Successes”. In his session, Steve discussed the institutional drivers for the development of an online induction course and the need to provide specialist pre-arrival information for large intakes of international students. A key focus of the project was to develop a student-centric platform that could be easily accessed before the students received their computing accounts.

After reviewing the available options, it was decided that Blackboard would be utilised for both the creation and delivery of the pre-induction course. By using the University’s Blackboard virtual learning environment, this allowed students to become familiar with both the system and course layout before commencing their studies, due to the pre-induction course being based on the University’s standard course template design. The use of Blackboard, also provided opportunities to include interactive elements, which may not have been possible if another platform had been used.

The learning design for the induction course consisted of a simplified, sectional design which guided the prospective students through the relevant parts of the course. Plain English and brevity were also used throughout, to avoid information overload. The course also made use of some html elements, to allow the display of navigational tabs and interactive elements such as quizzes, to provide an interactive checklist for the students with contextualised prompts/feedback. Links to the University’s various social media channels were also included within the course to encourage interaction.

Since introducing the pre-induction course, the University have seen a reduction in the number of enrolment-related questions being referred to the student support teams. In addition, it is estimated that each applicant accessed the pre-induction course at least 3.6 times. Future improvements/considerations to include: accessibility on mobile devices, face-to-face web conferencing sessions and improved multimedia content.

Further information on designing effective induction programmes for international students, can be found in the following Higher Education Academy publication.

#2: An approach to transferring grades from Blackboard to the student record system

Jim Emery, from Glasgow Caledonian University, delivered a 55 minute session called “Marks Integration and the Digital University: Our Experience of Using Blackboard’s Grade Journey”. In his session, Jim provided an overview of the administrative burden faced by many universities regarding the transfer of grades from virtual learning environments (VLE) such as Blackboard to student information systems (SIS). Although a large proportion of grades are captured electronically, these often have to be manually inputted by academic or professional services staff into the student information system to meet university regulations. In order to improve staff/student satisfaction and to become a ‘more digital’ university, a project was undertaken by Glasgow Caledonian University to explore the use of Blackboard’s ‘Grades Journey’ tool, to automate the process of grade transfer between the VLE and SIS.

The tool works by exporting the assignment details of each module held in the SIS and passes this through to Blackboard. Once the relevant assessments have taken place in the VLE e.g. completion of a Turnitin Assignment, Computer Aided Assessment (online tests) the grades can be transferred at a click of a button from the Blackboard Grade Centre to the SIS. Therefore, avoiding the need for hours of manual input.

Although this tool is not currently available at CCCU, the session provided an informative overview of the tool (including some of the technical challenges experienced) and demonstrated how the capabilities of the University VLE, Blackboard, can be expanded/improved to better meet the needs of staff and students.

#3: Introducing OneNote to students

Alaric Pritchard & Elaine Tan, from Durham University, delivered a 25 minute session called “OneNote: The Gold Mine we treat like a coal mine”. In their session, Alaric and Elaine described an approach taken by Durham University to encourage students to take more effective notes i.e. notes which are accessible, searchable and shareable. Whilst at the same time developing the skills and abilities of their students, in key areas such as; organisation, comprehension, and time management skills. Their approach, introduce students to a tool that most students already have access to, but have probably never heard of – OneNote.

OneNote is a tool available as part of the Office 365 suite (currently licenced by the University) or is available for free with a Microsoft account and works on any device. It is a digital note-taking application, which provides an easy way to store notes, photos, audio recordings, web clippings and much more in a searchable digital repository. Notes can be organised within notebooks and by using tabs, pages and tags. With notes being stored in the ‘cloud’, these can be accessed on any device, wherever the student is. Notes can also be easily shared with others, allowing easy collaboration. By using an industry standard tool such as OneNote, this can help to improve student’s employability through the development of transferable skills.

One of the main things that stood out to me both during the session and also in my follow up research into OneNote, was the simplicity of the tool due to it using a similar layout and design of other Microsoft Office applications such as Word and PowerPoint. Therefore, avoiding the need for students to learn a completely new tool, with much of their existing knowledge being transferable to OneNote.

For more information about OneNote, check out the following web resources:

Turnitin – Paper Submission – ”Would you like to open or save t_submit.json from api.turnitin.com” message in Internet Explorer 9

Turnitin Logo
Source: Turnitin

Turnitin has ended support for Internet Explorer 9 (see related article Technical – Support for Internet Explorer 9 Ended March 1, 2015 – All).

The error message “Would you like to open or save t_submit.json from api.turnitin.com” may be displayed when submissions are attempted from the IE9 web browser.

To resolve the error, update to a newer version of Internet Explorer, or use an alternative web browser like Chrome or Firefox. The University recommended browser when accessing Turnitin is Chrome.

ALT-C 2015: A Few Reflections

“CB_ALT_080915_194” by Association for Learning Technology. Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-SA
“CB_ALT_080915_194” by Association for Learning Technology. Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-SA
CB_ALT_080915_194” by Association for Learning Technology. Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-SA

Introduction

The Association for Learning Technology (ALT) holds an annual conference each year. This year was the 22nd annual conference that took place on 8-10 September 2015 at the University of Manchester. This year’s theme was “Shaping the Future of Learning Together” which focused upon the following areas:

  • Harnessing the power of the crowd – collaboration and connectivist learning;
  • Social media in learning and teaching;
  • Open educational practice;
  • Learners as agents of change;
  • Participatory approaches to the development of learning technologies.

The conference was host to almost 500 delegates from around the world and ran 185 sessions over three days (ALT, 2015). Simon Starr and I attended the conference and presented a session called “The Chamber of Fear: A Role Playing Approach to the Recruitment and Selection of Learning Technologists”, you can read my reflections on how our session went on my personal blog.

Rather than report verbatim on the 33 sessions that I had attended, what I would like to do is to offer some of my reflections on some of those sessions that resonated with me.

#1: A new model to describe e-portfolios

In John Couperthwaite’s session, “Nailing jelly to the wall: defining and describing eportfolio”, he discusses the thorny issue that surrounds the “conversational confusion about e-portfolios”, much of it stems from how an e-portfolio is perceived. Strivens (2015) suggests that there are three types of e-portfolio:

  1. Type A (Represent One’s Self)
  2. Type B (Presentation of Evidence), and
  3. Type C (Demonstrate Achievement)

This largely draws upon the early work of Barrett (2004). John’s colleague, Shane Sutherland of PebblePad, offers a different solution, the “e-Portfolio Format Model”, which “suggests that an e-portfolio is the product of the interplay between the audience, the message being conveyed, and the content it presents” (Sutherland, 2015). In this model, the e-portfolio can be conceived as either “Me-Portfolios” or “Task-Portfolios”, of which there are a number of related purposes:

  • Me-Portfolios (tends to focus on the author)
    • Personal
    • Professional
    • Promotional
  • Task-Portfolios (tends to focus on an activity)
    • Process
    • Project
    • Placement
    • Production
    • Pedagogical

Whilst this might be a useful step in helping people to conceptualise what an e-portfolio is, there is still, I think, a lot of work need to be done in demonstrating the “value” of an e-portfolio.

#2: An approach to developing digital capabilities for staff

Liz Bennett & Sue Folley, from the University of Huddersfield, reported in their session, “A positive and participatory approach to developing digital capabilities”, about a one year strategic project to investigate and develop the digital literacies of academic staff at their university. A particular focus of the project was to try and achieve high levels of confidence and skill for those academics who might be classified as the ‘late adopters’, those who are not usually the innovators or early adopters of technology (Rogers, 1983). Much has been made of the notion of “digital capabilities” by JISC, the HEA and the QAA. The University of Huddersfield had embedded digital literacy for staff in their current Learning & Teaching strategy.

The team used a “Trojan horse” approach to staff digital literacy by embedding it within a 2.5 hour Curriculum Design workshop in a bid to change academics belief systems around the value of learning technology. Adopting an appreciative enquiry approach and using the JISC ViewPoints cards developed by the University of Ulster, the team got the academic staff to think about their curriculum; how it fitted within institutional agendas; look at issues identified by the academic team; involve cross-functional teams (Learning Technologists and Librarians); look at how technology could be meaningfully incorporated within their redesign; and identify support for it.

This is a very interesting and powerful way to develop staff digital literacy skills through the intervention of a curriculum design workshop. As was noted by the presenters, a 2.5 hour workshop is not sufficient. Somewhere down the line, institutions need to create some valuable space and time so that academic staff are able to engage with far-reaching agendas in a friendly, but critical, environment.

#3: The Student Dashboard

Ann Liggett and Ed Foster, from Nottingham Trent University, ran a short 15 minute presentation called “The Student Dashboard: An Innovative Collaboration in Learning Analytics” (a variation of their presentation can be found here). Their presentation related to a pilot project, involving 500 students and over 40 tutors, whereby the institution wanted to use an assortment of student support systems more effectively to support the student journey. This ‘dashboard’ provided views for both students and staff and drew data from a variety of sources such as:

  • Student biographical information (e.g. enrolment status)
  • Evidence of student engagement, which include:
    • door swipes (where appropriate)
    • Library book loans
    • VLE usage
    • dropbox submissions

Future enhancements to the ‘dashboard’ will feature student attendance and e-resource usage. Furthermore, the ‘dashboard’ provides a mechanism that compares individual student profiles with that of their cohort and generates a simple ranking, from high to low. This has, apparently, prompted 27% (135) of the students to become more engaged with their studies.

In addition, tutor alerts are automatically generated for attention of personal tutors, if a student has no engagement at all for a fortnight or fails an assignment. However, the presenters were not entirely sure if the tutors were using the ‘dashboard’ in a consistent way. Unsurprisingly, it was noted that there were ethical issues that needed to be addressed in dealing with such ‘big data’.

Learning Analytics, as it is called, has been quite prevalent in the US for some time and is beginning to make inroads into the HE sector from the likes of JISC and the HEA. Potentially, this can give tutors an almost 360o perspective of their students, drawing upon a vast array of data that could help tutors to better support their students, thus helping towards dealing with student retention and attrition.

References

ALT. (2015). Press release: Annual Conference 2015. We have the power to shape the future of learning – together. Oxford, England: Association for Learning Technology (ALT). Available at: https://www.alt.ac.uk/news/media_releases/press-release-annual-conference-2015-we-have-power-shape-future-learning [Accessed 22.9.2015].

Barrett, H. (2004). “Selecting ePortfolio Software”. ePortfolios for Learning blog, 01.06.2004. Available from: http://electronicportfolios.org/blog/2004/06/selecting-eportfolio-software.html [Assessed 22.9.2015].

Rogers, E.M. (1983). Diffusion of Innovation. 3rd Edition. London, England: Free Press.

Strivens, J. (2015). “A Typology of ePortfolios”. RAPPORT: The International Journal for Recording Achievement, Planning and Portfolios, 1(1), pp. 3-5. Available at: http://joom.ag/I58p [Accessed 22.9.2015].

Sutherland, S. (2015). “Reflections of the Typology”. RAPPORT: The International Journal for Recording Achievement, Planning and Portfolios, 1(1), pp. 6-10. Available at: http://joom.ag/I58p [Accessed 22.9.2015].

Mentimeter – Engaging your students

“Clickers for engagement” by Alan Wolf. Creative Commons licence CC BY
Clickers for engagement” by Alan Wolf. Creative Commons licence CC BY

Introduction

Voting tools, ‘clickers’ or audience response systems are all terms for the combination of software and hardware which enable students or audiences to click a button on a device and have their votes display rapidly and dynamically on a screen.

There are many audience response solutions available, ranging from comprehensive systems with dedicated credit-card like controls, to elegant online software which partners well with ubiquitous mobile technology such as phones, tablets or laptops.

One such online tool is called Mentimeter. It is easy to use and very quick to display results in real time. In common with most online tools, Mentimeter has both a free and paid-for versions. Free versions often have restrictions which limit their usefulness, but Mentimeter’s free version does not have a limit on the number of students who can participate and includes the two most popular question types for voting – multiple choice and those which call for a free text, or ‘tweeted’ answer.

How to use Mentimeter

Instructors can create a free account with Mentimeter and prepare as many questions as they wish before a lecture or teaching session. During the lecture, students participate by visiting a web page on their phone and entering the number displayed on the screen to begin voting. A distinct advantage of Mentimeter is that students do not have to create their own account or download an app. To vote, they just need to enter new question numbers displayed on-screen in front of them. All votes are anonymous.

Using voting tools for teaching and learning

You can use Mentimeter (or a similar voting tool) to add some interactivity to a lecture or to take a quick ‘pulse’ to gauge understanding at the start or the end of a session. Voting tools are invaluable for the Flipped Classroom model in which students undertake some learning before the in-class time. When students come to the contact session, a voting tool can be used to see how well they have understood what they have learned. A multiple choice question can be set and if the majority of responses are correct, students can partner up and try and convince the other that they are right!

Questions which require a free text answer are great for prompting discussions. Students can ‘tweet’ sentences which appear on-screen in front of the group. With Mentimeter, you can highlight one of the contributions by bringing it to the centre of the display where it is automatically highlighted.

You can keep a Mentimeter voting session open for a space of time and you can embed the live results on your Blackboard. When students vote, they can refresh the page and see how their choice has altered the results. Note that the embedded version doesn’t display on Apple iOS devices, so just include a link to the live voting page so students can view it just by a single click.

Mentimeter
You can embed a vote into Blackboard

Help and advice

If you are thinking of trying out an online tool such as Mentimeter, your Faculty Learning Technologist will help you start out. It is important to note, however, that Web 2.0 tools are not centrally supported by the University. Check out their Help facilities and video guides so you know that you have recourse to specific support and always read the Privacy Policy and the Terms and Conditions before signing up. With any technology, it is always advisable to have a Plan B too!