Aug 212015
 

Dr Marie Bassford, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Technology, started to teach a new first year Physics Fundamentals module in 2014/15. Having taught only second and third year students for a number of years; Marie saw the opportunity to develop a new first year module as a vehicle to re-engage with the use of phase tests for assessment.

In the past, Marie would have made use of a paper based optical mark reading system as the platform for delivering phase tests but with her learning technologist background, Marie sought to identify a more automated approach that could be re-used year on year.

Marie delivers Physics Fundamentals with two colleagues and following an exploratory conversation with the ELT Project Officer, Marie and the team decided to move forward with the Blackboard Learn Test tool for administering phase tests via the Virtual Learning Environment.

Each of the module team members were tasked with producing questions for the phase test. These questions were linked to the learning outcomes and were all multiple choice type questions with one correct answer. The phase test itself was to be 25 questions in total but with the input of three colleagues a bank of 58 questions was produced.

The ELT Project Officer helped Marie to develop her skills and understanding of the Test tool and Marie ensured that the questions were authored in Blackboard Learn.

The over production of questions was purposeful as in conversation with the ELT Project Officer, Marie had decided to create a large pool of questions and have Blackboard Learn serve a random 25 questions to each student from the pool. There were a number of reasons for this approach:

  1. Having each student answer a randomly selected set of 25 questions helps to minimise copying in the test environment;
  2. Building a pool of questions enables Marie and the team to add to this pool each year; and
  3. The pool can be re-used year on year with minimal effort by including it in the annual Course Copy.

There was an amount of effort required to create the initial pool of 58 questions but the three colleagues teaching Physics Fundamentals spread this work across the module team and this pool will now roll over each year. Marie is confident that although there will inevitably be updates and amendments to the question pool; in the long run, the time that has been invested will be recouped.

Due to the multiple choice nature of the questions, Blackboard Learn marks each test upon completion and there are options for students to see their provisional grade instantly upon completion of the test along with any generic/automated feedback. When compared to the work required to print and scan optically mark read submissions the use of the Test tool minimises the effort required to deliver the test and grades once the initial pool is created and the test is deployed on the module shell.

The students who engaged with the phase test in December 2014 were generally positive about the experience. One student did question the use of randomised question sets but as the questions that each student received had all been carefully written to support one or more learning outcome this query was swiftly dealt with.

Conversely, one student actively told Marie that she thought it was “clever how the questions were randomised” and that she understood that it made it fairer to assess that way when taking the test together, side by side at PCs.

During the test, there was one issue in that a superscript character that had been used in one of the questions did not display correctly but this was quickly dealt with on the day and Marie has now re-formatted the question text to ensure that it displays fully to the students.

Marie’s next Physics Fundamentals phase test in is April 2015 and she will be using this question pool with the addition of further questions for the second phase test and Marie will continue to use the Test tool this year and in years to come as part of the Physics Fundamentals assessment  components.

Thank you to Dr Marie Bassford and the Physics Fundamentals module team for enabling the documentation of their use of online phase tests. If you wish to learn more about how to replicate this practice at DMU, please contact your local ELT Project Officer.

Ian Pettit and Marie Bassford.

Jul 072015
 

Andrew Reeves is a Lecturer working with the School of Energy and Sustainable Development. Andrew teaches a number of modules and this short blog post focuses on his practice when engaging with a small cohort of students on the People, Society and Climate Change MSc module.

Andrew’s current cohort comprises of two attending students and nine Distance Learning students. Two of the Distance Learning students who are currently enrolled are able to commit to being online at the same time as Andrew’s timetabled sessions.

The teaching approach that Andrew deploys is one that is grounded in small group discussions and activities to help students construct knowledge and learn from each other whilst Andrew facilitates in the classroom. Traditionally, materials would be made available online for the Distance Learning students to engage with but this year, Andrew has extended this approach by bringing his Distance Learning students into the classroom using Google Hangouts.

Each week, Andrew will start a Hangout and the Distance Learning students will join the Hangout and join in with the discussion based sessions. This contribution firstly helps the Distance Learning students to engage and feel part of the student community but their presence also enriches the discussion as by their nature the Distance Learning students bring different perspectives to the discussion as they are generally mature students who have industry experience to bring to the table.

One of Andrew’s sessions involves a card sorting activity. Traditionally, the attending students would be given pieces of paper and they would work together to achieve the outcome. Using the Hangout in conjunction with Google Sheets Andrew has replicated this exercise online; enabling the Distance Learning students to take part in the card sorting session.

The Distance Learning and attending students who are enrolled on People, Society and Climate Change this year have been very positive about the use of online technology to provide an inclusive experience:

“Thanks so much for including us via Google hangout. I have really felt part of the course and far more engaged than just communicating via email.”

Not only does Andrew find that involving the Distance Learning students in this way helps to deepen the discussions; this practice also ensures that the small group discussion approach is sustainable. As this is a small cohort of students, should one or two of the attending students be unable to participate, having the Distance Learning students present via the Hangout ensures that discussions and activities remain meaningful.

In conversation, Andrew is now thinking about extending this inclusive approach by utilising other tools that may enable discussions to continue in an online space in between the timetabled sessions. This extension of Andrew’s approach would also help should any of the Distance Learning students be unable to attend virtually. Andrew is also looking to pilot this approach in other post-graduate courses with larger student numbers.

Thank you to Andrew Reeves for agreeing to the production of this blog post.

Ian Pettit
ELT Project Officer

Jun 052015
 

Dr Neil Brown mainly teaches Energy Analysis Techniques, Energy Efficiency, and Mechanical and Electronic Engineering Labs, in the School of Engineering and Sustainable development at DMU.
 
Traditionally, all feedback in the Energy and Sustainable Development (ESD) Subject Group has been text based due to the use of a specific database for communicating feedback to students. The database was partly developed for the benefit of the Distance Learners in ESD who make up the majority of the cohort.

Neil’s  biggest single marking load is Energy Analysis Techniques, this is a core module to three MSc courses and the assessment comprises of two written components. To provide as much meaningful feedback to students as is possible and to be able to mark efficiently and away from the university whilst offline; he has identified an innovative and efficient way to provide feedback that his students have also embraced.

The approach adopted bypasses the computer keyboard by using speech to text software to simply dictate to the computer. Using this approach it’s possible to generate feedback much more quickly, with less fatigue, and allowing concentration on the subject in hand.  He also uses this technique to generate course notes for Distance Learners and he has found that dictation can be around 5-6x faster than typing.

For marking, the overall process is not sped up massively, but the extra detail possible in feedback means that there are almost zero queries on marks from students, which in itself offers a massive time saving. One recent comment was that a student was ‘blown away’ by the amount of feedback.

For Energy Analysis Techniques, comments on each report are grouped as; general comments, notable good features, and areas for improvement.  Comments could also be placed in the submitted PDF of each assignment. This is done in conjunction with grid marking, where a spreadsheet is used to generate marks based on weighted criteria.  It’s not vital to mark in this way, but grouping comments this way, plus grid marking makes things easier still.

Neil uses Dragon Naturally Speaking 10, which now costs around £30. The basic microphone which comes boxed with the software works reasonably well, but he has found that suppliers of dictation software to GPs etc. offer microphones with much better results – expect to spend around £30-50.
Usually, the dictation is carried out using a basic Dell laptop from 2010, running Windows 7. The Dragon Naturally Speaking CD installs itself in Windows and the software can be configured to run on Linux with some tweaking, and Mac OS. He has also trialled other speech to text solutions such as Google speech recognition and IBM ViaVoice but the Google product proved less reliable on accuracy.  The IBM product worked well but it did require significantly more training.

To dictate, a microphone is plugged into the laptop and the Dragon software is started along with the application (Word, Excel, Open/Libre office, Notepad). Training the software to recognise a specific voice takes around 30 minutes and involves reading some set passages before dictating for real. This ‘training’ can be one-off, although the software does become more accurate with more use by the same person/voice.

A bespoke database had been used in the past, long before Blackboard was used for providing feedback, but now the subject group uses DMU’s Blackboard Learn VLE installation. Blackboard Learn offers the chance to provide audio feedback too, circumventing text altogether. Neil and the ELT Project Officer discussed this and Neil tested this multimedia based audio feedback approach, although after a trial the students stated a preference for text as text is easier to skim read and pick out the salient points. He also felt that the audio files were rather lengthy, handling them became fiddly for a large cohort, so has now reverted to dictation.

This approach to providing rich text based electronic feedback not only benefits students but colleagues who may have a disability could also adopt this technique to speak their feedback.  The software can also control the computer, offering improved functionality for anyone who is differently able.

Neil’s top tips for those who may wish to replicate this practice would be:

  1. Use a good quality microphone – background noise can reduce the accuracy of the software
  2. Set the software to be as accurate as possible and speak clearly
  3. Skim read the output text before releasing to the student as some specialist words or phrases can be misinterpreted
  4. Understand your students – Energy Analysis Techniques students prefer text based feedback but in other subjects it may be more appropriate to provide audio, text, or feedback in other media.

Ian Pettit, Neil Brown

Nov 102014
 

In my experience as a learning technologist in HE there can sometimes be a misconception (and at times assumption) on the part of the teacher that the use of eLearning should inevitably, or to a significant extent at least lead to a more efficient, less labour-intensive work flow. At times, having demonstrated a particular eLearning intervention the question that followed has been something along the lines of “but this means more work for me! I thought eLearning was about making things more efficient?”

This is perhaps an understandable misconception as the implementation of eLearning by definition involves the use of electronic/computer-based technology, generally referred to as IT (or ICT). IT has historically been developed and implemented, to a lesser or greater extent as a labour-saving intervention, to make certain tasks less labour-intensive. Ergo: introducing IT into a particular teaching practice (i.e. eLearning) should ultimately result in less work for the teacher.

But at its core – eLearning is not about creating less work for the teacher – it’s about enhancing teaching and learning.

This is not to say that there aren’t times when the introduction of technology into teaching and learning can potentially, and does indeed lead to a more efficient workflow. But in some of these cases it’s not necessarily about eLearning, what is key here is that the student learning experience is not being enhanced in any significant way. For example, shifting from marking hard copies of essays to marking electronically online (which can be classed as an eLearning intervention) may result in a reduction in time taken to mark the work. But there may be no fundamental enhancing of learning achieved because of this change in practice. One could perhaps argue that if research has shown that students are more likely to read the feedback given to them via electronic marking and feedback than they are with hard copies, then I may have not chosen the best example here – but I hope you can still see my point. Indeed, there can be instances where eLearning does both – enhance teaching and learning and save labour. E.g. implementing eLearning that facilitates more autonomous/independent learning (peer and collaborative learning).

Nevertheless, to reiterate – as its point of departure, eLearning is about enhancing teaching and learning.

Given that there may well be some cans of worms left significantly ajar in what I’ve touched on above. I should perhaps contextualize this via the lens of certain current issues. Given what appears to be a general ‘leaning’ of the HE labour force over recent years (the rounds of voluntary and compulsory severance across the HE sector), one can perhaps understand how anything labour saving would rate high on the priorities of what may be an over-stretched teaching labour force; and given that, in my experience the implementation of eLearning can in some cases lead to an increase in workload, the desire on the part of the teacher to introduce eLearning that isn’t fundamentally labour saving will be diminished. The question, “will this result in more work for me?” may become more prevalent in direct relationship to the labour force ‘over-stretching’ and as a result the desire to engage in the implementation of eLearning will be diminished. Indeed, were we to arrive at a large-scale ‘work to rule’ situation with HE – could we see the ongoing innovation, development and implementation of eLearning across the curriculum becoming an untenable proposition, as teaching staff loading for eLearning does not realistically reflect the investment of time required?

So on the one hand it is important that there is an understanding on the part of teachers as to what eLearning is fundamentally about – Enhancing Learning through Technology (ELT) – and not necessarily labour saving in the first instance. But also an understanding on the part of learning technologists who have a role in catalyzing and driving the implementation of ELT, that the current working environment might lead to a less accommodating attitude to eLearning implementations in direct correlation to the extra time required to implement them.

By Rob Weale

Jul 282014
 

Blackboard has been upgraded to service pack 14 on the 10th July 2014 (previous version service pack 8) which has brought some new features and improvements to existing ones. See here for more details.

Why do we upgrade?

There are many reasons why we have to upgrade, software, browsers, hardware, data security and other web technologies are constantly having updates we need to ensure that our systems such as Blackboard operate efficiently. We also need to keep up with the latest release as older releases will no longer be supported which could cause us issues if we had a problem.

The CELT team were involved in evaluating and testing features in subsequent service packs from 8 to our current version 14. There are some features that we have disabled after evaluation based on data security and workflow process and we will be keeping a close eye on how these are further developed so staff and students get the best teaching and learning experience using Blackboard. Were running some central staff Blackboard overview sessions as well as faculty sessions, more details in the link above. Hope to see you there!

Sukhtinder

Jul 282014
 

Chris Knifton, Richard Postance and Helen Rooney from the School of Nursing and Midwifery at DMU have been capturing student role-play sessions on video for use as formative reflective learning materials.

A case study detailing this approach is available on the CELT Hub at:

http://celt.our.dmu.ac.uk/effective-practice/elt-case-studies/student-role-play-videos-for-formative-learning-in-nursing/

 

Jul 022014
 

Just a quick post about a neat trick I discovered today that could help improve access to files for students and staff.

A colleague was looking for a more intuitive way to point fellow staff members to a Blackboard course's file repository as the link (in Control Panel) is not always obvious.

Firstly we right-clicked the link in the browser and copied the link location to the clipboard.

We then created a new item in a content area, inserted a picture and submitted.

Once submitted, the item was edited and with the picture selected the hyperlink button was clicked and the URL for the course file repository pasted into the link URL.

The changes were submitted and we now have a big picture/button within a content area that takes staff and students (depending on permissions) to the course files or a specific directory. This is much more obvious for staff members who may be using a Blackboard course or Organisation for sharing files.

We also found that this approach can be used when creating an Announcement too. Using the divider on the Announcement page we can permanently stick a link to the student files to the top of the default course entry page.

Using this approach could help in a scenario where students need the content of a directory and the instructor can save time by using this technique as an alternative to attaching individual files to an item or using the folder content type as the folder content type offers limited ability to wrap links within contextual and support information.

 

Ian.

Jun 122014
 

workshopsJISC Legal has produced an online training course in copyright for academics and those supporting academic staff on legally using other people's materials in teaching and learning.  It is a standalone module which takes an hour to complete, and consists of some videos, audio, animation and text pages.

For more information on copyright for teaching and learning at DMU see:

http://celt.our.dmu.ac.uk/support-using-technology/elt-key-documentation/copyright-guidelines/

http://libguides.library.dmu.ac.uk/copyright

[note: the content of this post has been borrowed from http://libguides.library.dmu.ac.uk/copyright]

Jun 032014
 

We will be having a Blackboard upgrade this summer 2014. Here is a sneak preview of what to expect!

More information about the upgrade will appear soon.

 

Global Navigation Menu and My Blackboard

When you first log in to the newly upgraded Blackboard, you will see an overlay that highlights some of the new features. On clicking on your name in the  upper right-hand corner of the screen, a drop-down menu will appear, providing access to content notifications, user profile, and the newly redesigned calender.

The Global Navigation panel consists of a set of text links within the user menu – this is the right panel headed 'Courses'. Selecting a course link will take you to that Blackboard Course. The My Blackboard menu with icons is loacted on the darker left panel. These menus give you a personalized view of your learning environment.

The user menu on the right (contains Courses, Organizations, Settings) which provides access to your courses, communities, as well as the Home and Help links at the very bottom of the panel.

My Blackboard menu (on the left) shows timely course communication, recent posts, due dates, grades (for students only) and more for all of your courses. It provides icons and links to various areas of Blackboard. The icons and the numbers in red boxes signal the presence and number of new information, such as new messages and new posts.

videolink Watch an overview video by Blackboard. Please note that we may not be using all the icons displayed in this view.

welcomescreensp14

New Content Editor

The new content editor improves the user experience for adding text and digital content. The update brings a new math formula editor (WIRIS) that is based on JavaScript.

videolink Watch an overview video by Blackboard on the new content editor

Find out more on the Maths Editor Improvements

newcontenteditor

Inline Grading Assignment

A revision to the current assignment workflow allowing instructors to view student submitted files 'inline'. Annotation tools enable instuctors to provide feedback including comments, highlights and even drawing/annotations directly on the inline view of the document

videolink Watch an overview video by Blackboard

Inline Grading for Blackboard, Discussion, Blogs and Wikis

The Inline Grading sidebar design has now been added to Blogs, Journals, Wikis and Discussion Boards.

videolink Watch an overview video by Blackboard

Groups Management – Enhancement

This update to groups simplifies the process of creating and managing groups. Manage all course groups at once from the 'All Groups' page, including deleting multiple groups at once, creating GradeCnter Smart Views and enabling or disabling Group Tools. Plus on the users page, group membership is now listed.
 

videolink Watch an overview video by Blackboard

Discussion Boards

A modern discussion interface that displays all posts and options on a single page, allows for inline posrting and can also require students to post before participating.
 

videolink Watch an overview video by Blackboard

Retention Center

A tools that enables instructors to give focused attention to students who may be at risk. Ths tool is based on preconfigured rules created in a Blackbord module. It replaces the Early Warning System feature with easy workflows, while reati8ning all existing early Warning System data and rule.

Note Works in FireFox and not Internet Explorer or Google Chrome

videolink Watch an overview video by Blackboard

Calendar Enhancement

Instructors and students can view personal, course and system-wide events in a single calendar view.
 

videolink Watch an overview video by Blackboard

Test Improvements

Item Analysis on a Test
This fearture allows for  the ability to evaluate the quality of each question and that question’s ability to discriminate between students who understand the material and those who do not.  Ineffective questions can be easily identified and then quickly corrected with the Automatic Regrade feature.

videolink Watch an overview video by Blackboard

File Attachments in Tests
Files that are attached to test questions must be uploaded using the content editor. This will store the files in Course Files in the Blackboard module.
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videolink Watch an overview video by Blackboard

Test and Survey options

Test Availability Exceptions—have been added to the Test/Survey Options page which allows you to set the Test/Survey options once the Test/Survey has been added to a content are, improved workflow including group and user deployment, improved handling of late submissions, having a test 'begin page' to add additional information before the test is taken and more.

videolink Watch an overview video by Blackboard

Find out more on Blackboard help on Test and Survey options


Test Availbilty Option ' Score Attempts Using' (also in Blackboard Assignments)

In test deployment options the option 'Score Attempts Using' has been added. Previosuly this option was only available from the Grade Center, this created an inefficient worksflow iif your test or assignment was set to multiple attempts beacuse you had to remember to navigate to the Grade Center if you wanted to change the default score that was displayed to students if there was more than one attempt on an test or assignment. Now when you deply a test or assignment you can specify which attempt score to display.
 

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Event- based method for releasing Test results and Feedback to students

In test deployment options, there are additional feedback options to provide instructors with more control on when and how students can view test feedback. Also evebts can be triggered to specific feedback settings

Find out more on Blackboard help on Test results and Feedback to students

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Test Question Positioning

It's now possible to create a new test question in the desired location with respect to questions that have been created already.

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Test Access Log

Detailed Information on student test attempt interactions are now availble, this helps address issues as to whether students have began to take the test or ran into issues whilst taking the test.

Find out more on Blackboadr Help on Test Access Log

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Test Export Options

All questions are now retained in imported and exported tests, these include questions that originate outside the exoprted test (i.e. question sets , random blocks and question links. Questioms that are in question sets and random blocks in teh originating tests are imported into the new course in question pool. Single questins that were linked in the originating test are imported as 'native' (non-linked) questions.

 

Mobile Browser Support for Mashups


Changes in how mashups are processed allow them to play on mobile devices via a web browser.

 

 

Accessibilty Improvements

The Quick Links tool allows a user to quickly locate any heading or section within any page in the Blackboard Learn application and jump directly to it.

videolink Watch an overview video by Blackboard

 

Course Reports – Single Course User Participation Report 

In the option 'Evalutions | Course Reports' (via Control Panel) in a Blackboard course you can run several types of course reports to view information about course usage and activity. You can now run the report 'Single Course Participation Report' –  If run, this reports displays the number of user submissions in your course for Blakcboard assignments, tests, discussions, blogs, and journals within a chosen time frame. Note this information is provided in a Microsoft® Excel® spreadsheet (.xls). Also if no activity exists for an item type, then no assignment column appears in the spreadsheet.

Find out more on Blackboard help on Blackboard Course Reports

 

 

 

 

Apr 292014
 

A joint venture with POD and UNISON- 19.05.14 to 23.05.14 

CELT activities –  Monday 19th May and Friday 23rd May  between 12.30pm to 2.30pm in Eric Wood 1.13 

This two-hour slot will contain three bite-sized exhibition style activities that will repeat throughout the two hours: 

  1. How to create audio and visual feedback using screencast software.
  2. Using word 2010 to assist navigation of a PDF.
  3. How to set-up your own website/blog in the DMU Commons.
  • (Each activity is likely to last around 15 -20 minutes) 

How to create audio and visual feedback using screencast software – overview

  • In the hands on session you will create feedback videos using screen capture software. This technique creates feedback where students hear the tutor’s voice and inflection, which adds meaning, significance and enhances students learning of the feedback. 
  • You will learn how to: mark an electronically submitted assignment; save it as video file; and upload it to Blackboard. Where your students can download it as a podcast.

Using word 2010 to assist navigation of a PDF – overview

  • Lengthy PDF documents within Blackboard are often left unread by students. By applying Word2010 tools to that document you can enhance the PDF making it easy to navigate and subtract the information required. Applying this to topics, or highlight significant detail, creates an engaging and inclusive PDF for the different learners in your cohort.
  • Using a typical handbook the hands on session will teach you how to: create a template of headings and subheadings; applying them to the document; and save as a PDF.

How to set-up your own website/blog in the DMU Commons – overview 

  • DMU Commons is based on the WordPress platform. It is used by staff and students across DMU to create a blogging platform, web space, and/or social network tool; linking everyone into one online community.
  • This session will demonstrate and provide you with an understanding on the basics of WordPress. Provide a hands on activity that will allow you to: create a DMU commons account; set up and build a website/blog; and how to maintain the site.