ALT–C 2016: A Last Look Back

“CB_080916_ALT_433” by Association for Learning Technology. Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC
“CB_080916_ALT_433” by Association for Learning Technology. Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC
CB_080916_ALT_433” by Association for Learning Technology. Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC

The Association for Learning Technology held its 23rd annual conference at the University of Warwick from 6-8th September 2016.

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.

Begklis (2016), from Imperial College London, had a few key points for video production:

  1. Ask a few key questions before you go out and make the video (i.e. Do I need a video? Why are you making one? What kind of video? and What are the learning objectives?)
  2. Keep a pace of 140-180 words per minute. The video should be no longer than 4-6 minutes long.
  3. Present an opening hook to attract your audience. Break your concept into three.
  4. Use simple conversational speech.
  5. Consolidate learning through asking questions, or setting a task for students to complete.

Further details surrounding video design and production can be found in Koumi (2016), available at the following address:

Metcalfe (2016), from the University of Plymouth, had the following advice when delivering lectures to large groups of students via a webinar tool (up to 500 students):

  1. Don’t run it as a traditional lecture.
  2. Familiarise your students with the software you are going to be using.
  3. Record sessions for later recap.
  4. Make it interactive (i.e. ask more questions, be responsive to questions, add activities, use polls and include breakout activities).
  5. Lastly, for large sessions, have a colleague to assist. They can coordinate questions and respond to any technical difficulties a student may have.

Students tends to assume that they know how to make the best use of lecture capture. Metcalfe, therefore, presents some useful guidance on how students use lecture captures for learning.

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.

For a detailed report, please visit the USICA pages.


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.

JISC. (2016), Student Digital Experience Tracker. Available at: (accessed 1st October 2016)

Koumi, J.  (2016), Guidelines for video design and production. Available at: (accessed 1st October 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.

UCISA. (2016), UCISA TEL Report 2016. Available at: (accessed 1st October  2016)

ALT-C 2016: A Few Reflections

“CB_080916_ALT_433” by Association for Learning Technology. Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC
“CB_080916_ALT_433” by Association for Learning Technology. Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC
CB_080916_ALT_433” by Association for Learning Technology. Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC

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.

Accessibility Webinar: Making Blackboard Modules and Content Accessible for All

Blackboard Logo
Source: Blackboard, Inc.

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.

Blackboard has accessibility functionality the can be found on the Blackboard web pages.

The full version of this webinar is available on YouTube.

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.


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

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: