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.


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


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.

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.


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


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.


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


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.
Apr 032014

It’s not as testing as it seems

It was anticipated that students studying their first year of the new Mathematics for Scientific Computing module would take four tests on paper but newly appointed module leader, Dr Sarah Greenfield, had other ideas.

Sarah recognised that the nature of the tests; multiple choice with single correct answers, lends itself to an online format. This not only means that Sarah can have the tests marked by the system but it saves paper and makes the tests re-usable year on year with minor amendments.

One hurdle that was overcome was the use of pictures in one of the tests. The fourth phasetest is a thirteen question test in which each of the questions and each of the four options for each question are presented in picture format.

Sarah talked to the relevant specialist and it was decided that to create this test using the Blackboard Learn Virtual Learning Environment would investigated as this was anticipated that this platform would add the most value by way of time saving and recycling the tests.

With support from the ELT Project Officer, Sarah has been able to efficiently create a bank of questions for Phasetest 4 which comprise of the question image and four answer images per question. It took a few hours to create all of the images so that they all appear consistently but this up-front investment is far out-weighed by the time saved by having the tests marked by the VLE and on an ongoing basis, there is no longer a need to re-write and re-print paper tests every year.

Two issues were encountered:

Firstly, when adding pictures (.jpg format) to the test in the VLE, the default permissions do not include any access for students. This means that although the test appears to be fine for instructors, when students take the test for real, blank spaces appear where the pictures should be.

To overcome this, as the pictures were created, they were saved to a single local directory with meaningful filenames and following an agreed structure/hierarchy. Once all of the pictures had been produced, the entire directory was uploaded to the VLE and the folder permissions were changed to include students with read only permissions. Before submitting, the ‘overwrite’ option was selected and the new student permissions automatically percolated through to the sub-directories and files.

The second issue was how to create the thirteen questions in an efficient manner. Sarah could have created each question individually and browsed for each question and its respective four options images as the questions were created but it was estimated that this would represent the best part of a day’s work.

Instead, Sarah created the first question and using the Edit Test screen twelve copies were taken. Sarah then went into the editor for the second question and amended the question title and so on. However, at this point the images in the copied questions were still showing the images for question one. To save time, instead of removing all of the images and browsing the course for the correct image, Sarah made use of the HTML mode in the editor to point the existing code to the correct image.

For example, this code points toward the third answer option for question one:

<div class="vtbegenerated"><img src="https://vle.dmu.ac.uk/bbcswebdav/courses/IMAT1205_2014_Y/Phasetest4files/Sarah%20G_Phasetest4images_March2014/Sarah%20G_Phasetest4images_March2014/Q1/Q1C.jpg" alt="" style="border: 0px solid rgb(0, 0, 0);" /></div>

The key part here is the “Q1/Q1C.jpg” section of the code. This represents the sub-directory and the filename of this particular image.

Using the HTML mode, Sarah was able to copy and paste this code into each of the questions and amend only the sub-directory and filename to show the correct picture for the correct question and its respective answer options.

For example, this code represents the first answer option in question eight:

<div class="vtbegenerated"><img src="https://vle.dmu.ac.uk/bbcswebdav/courses/IMAT1205_2014_Y/Phasetest4files/Sarah%20G_Phasetest4images_March2014/Sarah%20G_Phasetest4images_March2014/Q8/Q1A.jpg" alt="" style="border: 0px solid rgb(0, 0, 0);" /></div>

Note that the code is almost identical with the exception of the sub-directory and filename which is now “Q8/Q1A.jpg

Using this technique of copy and paste with the HTML mode on, Sarah was able to quickly re-point the links to the relevant picture files in around an hour. This use of HTML mode requires absolutely no knowledge of HTML programming or tags, just a well organised folder to begin with.

Sarah’s students will now sit this phasetest in a computer lab whilst logged into the VLE rather than on paper. This will save Sarah time as there is no longer a need to manually mark the tests and Sarah now has a bank of questions that can be easily added to or amended over the next few years.


Ian Pettit

Mar 262014

Using social media tools to affirm study skills

Zoë Allman is the Programme Leader, Media Production BSc, Faculty of Technology and a DMU Teacher Fellow.

Up until the 2013/14 academic year, one of the modules that Zoë taught was the Social Media and Technology module; the learning outcomes of which are focused on students developing their study skills such as how write group essays, revision techniques and other study skills. The module also focuses on how to write for social media platforms and the importance of keeping an up to date online profile.

Traditionally, when engaging with study skills tutorials, students would work in isolation during lab sessions and in quite a didactic manner, feedback would be given on the pieces of written work that the students had produced. It was obvious to module leader Andrew Clay, supported by module tutor Zoë, that this approach to teaching study skills as part of Social Media and Technology was not pedagogically appropriate as students were seen to have forgotten what they had learnt through the feedback and therefore they set about to innovate the teaching and assessment techniques used in this part of the module.

Andrew and Zoë decided to marry the subject of the module ‘social media’ with the study skills learning outcomes. This made sense as this created a situation where the students would be using the tools that the module is focused on to develop and construct their knowledge relating to study skills.

Students were already using Facebook and Twitter in other modules and in their personal lives so in consultation with the students the module team agreed that Facebook and Twitter would be used as a platform for students to engage with each other and work collaboratively on their study skills – this approach also lent itself to the curriculum as one of the summative assessment tasks is to produce a group essay.

Initially, Andrew and Zoë adapted the traditional approach by building in the use of social media. As a module team they encouraged students to share their attempts at writing in an academic style using a Facebook group. The students found that being able to see and formatively critique each other’s attempts helped them to understand the principles behind academic writing and to learn from each other’s feedback.

This approach helped students to retain what they had learnt about study skills but the breakthrough came when one group of students decided to take their learning into their own hands.

An assignment was set whereby small groups were tasked to produce a piece (written or otherwise) to demonstrate that a specific study skill had been mastered. All groups, with the exception of one, submitted either a written document or a short video in a piece to camera style.

However, Zoë was pleasantly surprised when she reviewed one group’s submission to find that they had taken a popular song, parodied the video, re-written the lyrics and presented a produced ‘pop-video’ style piece that demonstrated fully that they had learnt how to write a group assignment.

The following week, as part of the co-teaching activity, Zoë showcased this submission to the other groups which prompted one group to go directly to the media production studio and create a parody of Beyoncé’s Single Ladies for the following week.

Now, rich multimedia content has become the normal for students working in groups or individually on the study skills assignments as part of Social Media and Media technology. Submissions are now shared and critiqued using the DMU Commons rather than Facebook but the principles are the same and students also use the DMU Commons to blog using the FutureMedia site as championed by Rob Watson, Principal Lecturer.

Andrew and Zoë also encourage the students to Tweet about their learning experience. With guidance from Dr Andrew Clay, Principal Lecturer, Critical Technical Practices, Zoë and the students have been making use of the storification tools in Twitter to build up a chronological portfolio of reflective Tweets that others can see.

Students are also encouraged to stay up to date with social media trends when using these platforms to collaborate and produce pieces for assessment. For example, students embraced the ‘Harlem Shake’ trend and group’s submitted Harlem Shake style videos to demonstrate their understanding – this links to the social media focused learning outcomes of the module as it encourages students to not only use such tools for their own assessment pieces but through using these tools they are also learning how to use them in the context of their course too.

The students enjoy these approaches to teaching and formative assessment, and have taken control of their own learning by pro-actively extending their use of social media by parodying videos and talking about their experiences and the work they have produced in these spaces.

The students described here are all first year students and through these activities they are encouraged to begin to take control of their own learning through these innovative approaches to teaching study skills.

Ian Pettit

Mar 172014

JISC Digital Festival – Birmingham ICC March 11th & 12th 2014

Two days of – interesting conversations, engaging presentations, freebies, networking overload, tea (sooo much tea), familiar faces, new faces, new connections, energized ideas.

The JISC Digital Festival was packed full of interesting stuff about Enhancing Learning through Technology. It had things that would appeal to IT technicians, librarians, learning technologists, teachers, researchers and academics – which meant some fascinating discussions were taking place that weaved in, out, through and around a multiverse of digital practices in education.

What follows is an overview of some of the highlights of the festival as I experienced it – with a focus on the sessions that I attended.

Opening Keynote

Featured a talk from Diana Oblinger – who explored what education might be like if we used the best that technology has to offer.

Points of note:
The notion that higher order learning comes from complex challenges – and these can be digitally delivered through activities such as gamification and scenario-based approaches

There is a growing need (and perhaps an expectation from students) for a more ‘personalised’ and ‘individualised’ learning experience – for example, developing individualized learning pathways, and using automated ‘early warning’ systems to alert students if they are ‘falling behind’, why they are falling behind, and how to rectify this.

An interesting idea was presented concerning competency-based models of learning – which has ramifications for the ‘employability’ agenda. Wherein students, alongside their degree/course/field specific learning could develop a competency portfolio that was a mechanism for demonstrating the ‘transferrable’ skills that they were gaining.

Day 1 – Session highlights

Designing strategically aligned digital credentialing systems with open badges to engage and meet the needs of digital learners

This session concerned the development and use of open badges. It offered some introductory information about the digital badging concept and then proceeded to workshop the production of a digital badge using a ‘new’ JISC Open Badge design sheet (released date – sometime in March 2014) that assists in the initial design process of developing a Badge-based digital credentialing system.

Flipped classroom, or just flippin' technology? Where are we now with technology, student experience and organisational change?

The content of this session was underpinned by the Changing the Learning Landscape project.

Key topics of interest were:

To be aware of ‘ red herrings’ and ‘bandwagons’ – the recent ‘excitement’ over MOOCS was given as an example of this. To be wary of reacting to flavor of the month technologies, or competitive forces such as "our competitors have just installed technology X, so we must have it in order to keep up with them". One way of avoiding such red herrings is to critically assess how the ‘tech’ can be effectively embedded in the curriculum – 'adding value' to the student learning experience.

There was also an interesting discussion around how VLE’s in many institutions appear to be used ‘for the most part’ as information repositories – rather than as resources for structuring learning materials in a ‘curriculum’ sensitive manner.

Promoting feedback dialogue using technology: why, how and lessons learned

This session, which was based on research looking at promoting feedback dialogue, discussed how in many cases feedback to students from their teachers was monologic – that is one-way from tutor to student, and that students may not be adequately 'engaging' with feedback in a manner which informs their acdemic practice. It was argued that a more effective feedback model is dialogic (where there is a two-way ‘dialogue’ between tutor and student). Part of this dialogue is also about encouraging the student to engage in deeper reflection on the feedback given to them.

Two dialogic feedback models were presented:

The university as a hackerspace: Can interventions in teaching and learning drive university strategy?

In this session Joss Winn gave an overview of the Student as Producer concept that has been adopted at Lincoln as a core component of the Undergraduate Teaching and Learning Strategy.

He then went on to introduce the concept of the university as a Hackerspace – and outlined this vision through his ‘experiment’ in creating a cross-university Masters by research based on Hackerspace principles. Joss discussed some interesting ideas around taking an anti-disciplinary approach, in which persons from all disciplines are welcome but the disciplines themselves are not ‘modularised’ or 'partitioned' – it is an open and democratic space. For me it was refreshing and exciting to see such experimental spirit being openly accommodated by a HE institution in the development of a new ‘course?’… And to see that there are still spaces within HE where ‘radical approaches’ are being allowed to ‘do their thing’…as it were.

Day 2 – Session highlights

Understanding students' expectations and experiences of the digital environment

This discussion/workshop session took its point of departure from Phase 1 of the Digital Student Project, which conducted a review into the student experience, and expectations of the digital environment at university.

One of the core themes concerned how we (that is educators and learning technologists) in HE can/should/must help shape the students ‘transformational’ use of digital technology. In other words – students may have digital ‘know how’ but they don’t necessarily know how this applies to their academic practice.

It was noted that there can be an imbalance between student expectations of what the digital environment at university will encompass and their actual ‘digital needs’ with respect to supporting and enhancing their academic practice and their learning. The challenge of this scenario is in responding to what students want based on their experiences outside of University, balanced against what they need to succeed at university and in the digital world beyond.

The workshop section used an interesting scenario-based approach to gather data, having us imagine the university of 2020, and speculating in what ways an institution might fail to reach this balance between expectation and needs; and conversely might succeed in reaching this balance.

Whatever happened to the MOOC?

This session took the MOOC concept as the starting point for a much broader discussion about Open Education, retaining the ‘networked learning’ aspect of the MOOC space and applying this concept more broadly. With seven speakers the tempo was quick fire, but not frantic – indeed there was a refreshing ‘to the point’ succinctness in the presentations.

Key bits:

It’s not about the ‘content’; it’s about enabling learners to learn in a networked world

There is a paradigm shift in open learning from a ‘one to many’ model to a ‘many to many’ model

This many to many model lead to some interesting chat around how, in such community and networked open learning spaces the participants are at times teaching the teachers through what they contribute, or the mechanisms by which they contribute content, or how they organize content in a digitally facilitated manner.

Was great to see my one time colleague Viv Rolfe presenting at this session, still strenuously advocating Open Education.

Digital storytelling for public engagement

This presentation covered with the basic concepts of digital storytelling – comparing and contrasting two particular digital stories and the approaches used, and offering advice concerning best practice in the creation of digital stories.

What I found particularly interesting was how an economy of content (2 mins of spoken words accompanied by a series of still images) could be an effective communicator of ‘a message’. But also that in such economy of content and the basic technical knowledge required to create the digital story, the production of such a resource was not ‘onerous’.  I.e. the value of the output seemed to be significantly more than the effort required to create the output.

Final keynote – Preparing new generations for the digital future – how the world (and business) will change over the next 20 years

Futurologist – Ray Hammond ruminated on the six major trends that he believes will shape society and business life over the next two decades and how this relates to education – through the lens of digtial technology.

He made some intriguing suggestions concerning the difficulties in thinking about how we might proactively shape the future in relation to emerging and exponentially advancing technologies when we do not have an effective ‘language’ to describe, define and ruminate on the potentials of the new technologies – i.e. the pace of development/evolution of language is not keeping up with the pace of technological change. He used the example of the term ‘horseless carriage’ which used to be used to signify a 'car', and suggested that the terms ‘mobile phone’ or ‘smart phone’ were at the same historical point of linguistic development as the term ‘horseless carriage’. Such 'newly emerged' words/terms and what they signify are inadequate in articulating the potentials of what they are defining.

His ruminations also brought home some stark ‘possibilities’ about the significant and radical changes to the ‘way things are’, based on the rapid advance of technology in relation to key global trends, that may well be ‘just around the corner’. And the fundamental role that education and those involved in education will have to play in preparing our learners to effectively engage with a rapidly and radically changing future.

Overall, for me, the conference was a great success. I came away from it with a renewed vigour to continue to do my part in advancing the use of technology for enhancing teaching and learning.

Check out the Digital Dream Wall that gradually emerged from a blank white canvas over the 2 days.


(artwork thanks to the artists at CreativeConnection.co.uk)

I think this is an apt visual representation of what the conference achieved. Facilitating not only a sharing of thoughts, ideas, concerns, experiences, abilities, and techniques. But providing the space in which new networks of ongoing communication and collaboration are established – through which, all of these things can begin to ‘synthesize’ into a strong and progressive lattice of shared understanding, knowledge and ability that will continue to have a positive impact on all learning sectors, as we continue our digital journey.

I look forward to what JISC DigiFest 2015 has to offer.

Posted by Rob Weale

Feb 262014

Subhes Bhattacharyya teaches Sustainable Development as part of the Energy and Sustainable Development Subject Group at De Montfort University.

This Subject Group has traditionally pioneered Distance Learning through the use of online materials and a database for communicating with Distance Learners.

Subhes teaches in semester one only and over the summer of 2013 Subhes approached the ELT Project Officer with regard to offering captured lecture content to complement the existing online learning materials.

A discussion took place that identified Subhes’ teaching styles and it was decided that the Panopto lecture capture system coupled with the AV facilities in the classroom would be an appropriate use of technology to capture Subhes’ classes during the first semester.

Subhes uses slides that are projected on screen in class along with the whiteboard and he also shows creative commons licensed videos at the end of class to affirm. Panopto was the choice of platform for this project as it can simultaneously capture slides, screen and (in this case) a video feed from the classroom’s HD camera.

A tutorial was given regarding delivering whilst recording using Panopto and with the absolute minimal support, Subhes has captured an entire semester and made these available online each week, within a couple of hours, via the Virtual Learning Environment.

Subhes found the software and hardware easy to use and intuitive whilst being non-intrusive in the classroom.

Six students have volunteered feedback regarding the captured content and all have been positive. A couple of points to note are that one student was required to install a free browser plugin for Safari on Mac OS and a second student mentioned that on a slow internet connection that buffering did occur. However, these were the only negative points raised and with recent upgrades to the Panopto software that is used at DMU, the buffering issue should be a thing of the past.

Some students did say that although the captures are great and the way that Panopto presents these online is intuitive, they would also appreciate a more traditional, downloadable version for watching offline as well. This links to Subhes’ original aim to provide a suite of different ways to engage with the curriculum as captured content is not a replacement for other online materials but more so a complementary and diverse mix of content that is available quickly is what the students want and value.

Going forward, Subhes is keen to look into other ways in which his classroom activity can be captured and in September 2014 he will start to capture the classroom’s visualiser alongside the screen and slides as Subhes wants to use this technology as an electronic whiteboard rather than pointing the camera at the dry wipe board.

For more advice and guidance in the area of lecture capture, try the Multimedia Production Pathway.



Jan 032014

sharing practice poster(web)

This sharing practice session was part of an initiative to increase the opportunities for staff to share their experiences of teaching and pedagogies for enhancing learning through technology. CELT also supports sharing of practice including through case studies contributed to the online CELT Hub, a monthly Skillshare session, and occasional symposiums.

The main pedagogic theme of the session was scenario-based learning, with the ‘bring your own device’ agenda and story-telling also important topics of discussion. For this session presenters from the Faculty of Art, Design and Humanities were Kathleen Bell and Simon Perril who talked about student digital literacies and how technology is incorporated into the pedagogy and curriculum of Creative Writing and Mark Bradshaw, who talked about and demonstrated how he uses a response system to engage students in large lectures. From Health and Life Sciences, Annette Crisp talked about how students engage with the innovative scenario-based animations she has created, and Rob Weale provided insights into creating and managing scenario-based learning across Nursing.

Creative Writing: development of digital literacies

Creative Writing at DMU embeds digital literacies throughout the three-year undergraduate programme. It is important for writers to develop a range of technological skills and know-how so that they can better engage with the practice and theories of writing and story-telling that encompass an appreciation of the Web, hyperlinks and gaming. Although it might be expected that most students already have a high level of digital literacies, this is not always the case. Kathleen Bell and Simon Perril talked about a number of Craft Challenges that embed the use of technology.

Level 4 students are introduced to twitter as a writing tool. They are asked to look through the Tweets of various writers who use twitter and to identify those tweets they consider most interesting and most important. The pedagogy behind the exercise allows students to understand the type of writing that stands out amongst the crowd. Understanding twitter as a tool for writers is important to enable students to understand the potential for identity making and to enable them to practice conciseness in their writing.

Additionally level 4 students are required to write blog posts to enhance their writing skill while also learning about the technical and social aspects of the practice. The students write article reviews of relevant events, which are peer reviewed before posting onto their website, allowing authoring to a space that is public facing. This also adds to the profile of Creative Writing.

Level 5 students can focus on various concepts including hypertext and audio/visual layering.  The latter requires students to use and learn photo-story software, which allows layering of visual, text and audio to build on the craft of creative story writing. We saw many created examples which demonstrated how text can be used to create suspense, by its sequence of appearance.

The other method, hypertext, originated from Raymond Queneau and refers to the process of the reader choosing their own story and their own ending by selecting hyperlinks to the next chapter or page.

Final year students are encouraged to build and maintain their own web presence. Creating a space where the public can see their blogs, authoring, and reviews of articles that perspective employers can see.


Annette Crisp building Avatars for criminology

Annette Crisp from HLS talked about innovative scenario based learning resources that she has created and how the students use them. In criminology reading about a horrific crime such as murder or rape incident may not fully engage the learner in all perspectives of the situation. Therefore the pedagogic purpose of the avatar-based stories is to encourage students to engage with the more visual representations, which also include background music and text combined to dramatic effect. Students are then able to think about the crime being committed and whether there is a sequence of events that demonstrated serial crimes.

The main software tools used to create the avatars are iClone for creating the 3D animation and Crazytalk by Realillusion, which is an app for create facial animation and voice. The scenario-based films of the avatars are placed into an articulate presentation. This provides an excellent platform for learning. The articulate software allows the students to read the slides to get acquainted with background information, then view the filmed scenarios. This process allows the student to engage with sections of the film and then to move back and forth in the presentation until all information is understood.

In addition to the criminology avatars Annette has produced some very engaging high- profile figures, such as Albeit Einstein and Margaret Thatcher, who she uses to draw attention to the importance of completing the national student survey.  This is a really innovative and humorous way to capture student attention.


InfuseLearning feedback Mark Bradshaw

Mark Bradshaw from Fashion and Textiles shared his experience of using a programme called InfuseLearning.  The initial goal was to capitalise on the trend of students ‘Bringing their own Device’(BOYD) to encourage student engagement, particularly in large lectures. Infuselearning allows tutors to create a quiz before the lecture which students can then respond to at specific points throughout the class.  They can use a computer or any type of mobile device.  The use of InfuseLearning is free and requires registration only on the Website.

One pedagogic aim of using InfuseLearning is to identify whether students have understood the topic area before leaving the classroom. Mark often found students nodded that they understood, but when the following week came with information that built upon the previous week students were unsure what to do.

During the sharing practice session we tested this software. This was a very useful way of understanding what the program does, what can be achieved, and how to do it. Having created a test for this purpose, Mark signed into the InfuseLearning program online and created a classroom number. The participants in the event signed into the program with iPads, mobiles, and laptops, and completed this test. When all individuals had submitted, the results could be viewed on screen for everyone to see.

The feedback from students has been very positive. If the students use their name to register then it is displayed on the screen. Whereas Mark had expected students to feel negative about this they seem to love this feature. Furthermore, students have got into the habit of bringing their laptops and own devices to the classroom.

Seeing whether you have an area or answer incorrect has not worried the students in any of the formative Quizzes Mark has carried out with the students. However, it does identify whether a specific area or topic covered in a taught session is not understood by the students. This acknowledgement is represented by a complete column of red/ incorrect dots. Being aware of this as a tutor one can develop further material to assist the students’ understanding.

This was an extremely useful piece of technology in that it is fun and has a social aspect also. The students can also complete the questions in pairs as this can be less daunting and also addresses concerns about some students not having the technologies needed for this. Another point is that tutor must be logged in when the quiz is being taken, therefore it is not suitable to ask questions that can be completed afterwards. It could be useful as part of a distance learning session.


The High Street – A virtual learning environment

Rob Weale described key aspects of the collaborative developmental process behind the creation of High Street, and gave examples of how it is being used for teaching and learning across Nursing and Midwifery.

High Street is a virtual, fictional community created to support and enhance teaching and learning for students on the BSc Nursing and Midwifery programme at DMU. Built in a Blackboard community shell it provides a space in which teaching staff can create, develop and explore the use of 'real-world' scenarios as teaching and learning enhancement tools, as such embedding a pedagogic approach that is based around scenario-based learning.

Rob is also currenly exploring the potential for developing a virtual hospital ward, as part of High Street.




Nov 072013

The DMU Academic Commons is built on WordPress technology and is managed by the CELT team in Library and Learning Services, although the service is provided by ITMS. The Commons is hosted at: http://our.dmu.ac.uk

The DMU Commons mirrors the idea of the Academic Commons developed at:

The DMU Commons has over 600 registered blogs and 750 registered users.

The idea behind the Commons was to encourage open scholarship by creating a platform to enable Centres, staff, students, external communities etc. to innovate and to exchange ideas. The DMU Commons might include a range of more enclosed spaces for critical data/business confidentiality, but it enables research projects and outputs, teaching and learning plans, Centre plans, archives etc. to be linked and developed.

The Vision for the DMU Commons is here: https://our.dmu.ac.uk/about/

The Commons is managed by the CELT team, in partnership with ITMS. It is based on a co-operative organising principle. The CELT team are currently working on a plan for extending the use of the Commons, including the deployment of the BuddyPress social networking plug-in and for revisiting Governance. BuddyPress works like a social network, enabling users to develop extended profiles, blogs, friendship networks and groups, and to use messaging, forums and blogs to produce. BuddyPress will provide a shared space for use by students, staff, and DMU communities that will underpin the University's Learning, Teaching and Assessment Strategy.

Impact: the DMU Commons is focused upon developing the distinctiveness of DMU’s research, and learning and teaching environments. Maintaining and extending the Commons will help DMU to realise its public good agenda, in particular based on a track record of successful research/project bids that focus on social and communal impact. Innovation and co-operation, between staff/students and with external partners and employers, underpins the ethos of the Commons.

If you are a DMU member of staff or student, you can set-up an account and a blog/website easily. See: https://our.dmu.ac.uk/administration/building-your-site/


The CELT Hub for academic staff professional development: https://celt.our.dmu.ac.uk/

Staff Development e-Learning Resources (POD): http://estaff.our.dmu.ac.uk/

AHRC-funded, Digital Building Heritage project: http://digitalbuildingheritage.our.dmu.ac.uk/

The internationally-successful, Digital Literacy Project: http://lccdigilit.our.dmu.ac.uk/ and http://latkin00.our.dmu.ac.uk/ and http://www.digilitleic.com/

The Aphasia Leicester Group: http://aphasia.our.dmu.ac.uk

The Journal of Critical Southern Studies: http://jcss.our.dmu.ac.uk

Future Media @ DMU: https://futuremedia.our.dmu.ac.uk/

Social Housing Research: http://choice.our.dmu.ac.uk/

Department of Politics and Public Policy: http://dmupopp.our.dmu.ac.uk/

ESRC-funded, Boosting Housing Supply project: http://housingsupply.our.dmu.ac.uk/

Student blogs:




PhD student blog: http://snapey.our.dmu.ac.uk/

Owen Williams’ Open Source blog: http://c3iq.our.dmu.ac.uk/

Phil Adams’ Library blog: http://fulup.our.dmu.ac.uk/

Nov 012013

De Montfort University has recently subscribed to the British Universities Film & Video Council's Box of Broadcasts service – or 'BoB'.

Using their single sign-on credentials, staff and students can log into BoB and record terrestial television and radio programmes from the past seven days as well as scheduling recordings over the seven days to come.

There is also an extensive, searchable archive that holds programmes from 2007 onwards.

The service has been procured by Library and Learning Services and there is a full LibGuide available that talks about how to record programmes, create playlists and share recordings.

However, once recordings are made, staff may wish to make use of these resources within the Blackboard VLE and this post is about the steps needed to embed a BoB video or clip into a Blackboard shell.

Once a programme has been recorded using BoB, it can be trimmed down into a clip or it can be used in its entirety – staff can embed BoB recordings into their Blackboard shell and a how to guide describing this process has been produced.

Ian Pettit.

Aug 212013

I recently took delivery of a new piece of technology from the IT department here at DMU. It’s a telephone… or is it?

Last year DMU started the roll-out of Microsoft Lync to all of its staff members; the vision is that staff will make use of the software to video conference with each other, we will make use of Voice Over IP and we can also manage our time and meetings more effectively due to the integration with Outlook.

From a business justification perspective, all of the points above stand up by way of helping us to be more efficient and save costs but it is the other benefit that this project has ‘accidentally’ delivered that I want to talk about here.

The Centre for Enhancing Learning through Technology (CELT) works independently from the IT support department as part of the Library and Learning Services Directorate at DMU. However projects that the IT team delivers will often have a knock-on effect on CELT’s work and can sometimes deliver unexpected teaching, learning and assessment related benefits.

In order to take full advantage of MS Lync, the IT team has equipped each staff member with a new telephone – I was quite excited to take delivery of mine as my previous device would have been more at home in a museum than on my desk but aside the obvious benefits of clearer sound, being notified when I had missed a call and being able to see when my next meeting is scheduled on the telephone’s screen I also noticed that there are now some new cables on my desk.

The cable I’m really excited about (if I can get excited about a piece of black wire) is the USB cable that now plugs into my PC and the new ‘phone.

This cable not only facilitates the communication between the MS Lync desktop application and the telephone but my PC also now ‘sees’ the new telephone and its discreet devices as devices that the PC can access, control and interface with.

And here’s the point – by providing each staff member with a new telephone and the USB interface, the IT department has given everyone a good quality microphone and speaker that their computer can see and use.

Over the last couple of years, as one of the Enhancing Learning through Technology Project Officers at DMU, I have worked with a number of staff in areas such as creating screencast based resources, providing audio or audio/visual feedback and using screencast technology to provide resources and feedback using a variety of media for Distance Learners and attending students.

One area that has always been a sticking point is the provision of an appropriate microphone and speaker(s) to enable a teaching team to adopt such practice en masse.

Traditionally, I have always advised staff members to look for a mid-range wireless USB headset with microphone as this can double up as a device to be used in the office for recording audio feedback or if staff wish to record their session then the wireless USB headset can also be worn whilst teaching in order to capture audio as part of a lecture capture solution without having to loan or purchase a separate lapel mic’. However, such headsets can cost around £50 each and this cost can be prohibitive.

I have also come across instances whereby teaching staff will be in possession of a microphone but it will be an older 3.5mm jack plug style microphone. This would be ok when maybe using the Windows sound recorder to produce audio files but when interfacing with software such as Expression for the production of screencast type content, a USB microphone is required as in my experience Expression does not interface with more traditional equipment plugged into a jack plug and other applications struggle to pick up the older style microphones at a decent volume (even with a bit of tweaking of the levels).

So this brings me back to my nice new shiny telephone and the fact that when it was first plugged into my work PC it installed a few drivers, talked to MS Lync and did everything that the IT team expected it to; but now, when I open the ‘recording devices’ menu on my PC I see I have a new USB microphone available to use that Expression can also see (or is that hear) as well as other software such as Panopto and the Windows sound recorder.

The ‘phone actually has two microphones, the one in the handset and the one that is built into the body for use in loud-speaker mode, it doesn’t matter which I use when using the ‘phone to record audio on my PC, both deliver very good quality audio and the PC doesn’t need to switch between the handset and loud-speaker microphone which makes using the telephone as a USB microphone really easy – it’s just the same as plugging a USB microphone into a computer and talking to it.

The provision of these telephones at DMU has opened up a lot of potential for staff wanting to experiment with audio and audio/visual resources and feedback as everyone now has a good quality microphone on their desk that will talk to software that is free to use or other centrally supported software and they also have a speaker through which recorded content can be played for checking prior to uploading to the VLE, a real bonus for a project that was focused solely on providing a more corporate style communication tool for staff.

One member of academic staff at DMU is ahead of the game in this respect as his location was equipped early in the MS Lync project. Cormac Norton, School of Nursing, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences has already adopted the use of his new telephone as a USB microphone to add voice to PowerPoint slides – a case study that looks at Cormac’s technique in detail can be accessed on the CELT Hub here.

This experience also highlights the need for people such as myself, who support the use of technology from a teaching, learning and assessment perspective to be aware of the technology that is centrally provided and how technology that might not have been designed or implemented with teaching, learning and assessment in mind can be exploited in order to make a difference.

I’m sure if we all looked hard enough we’d be able to squeeze just a bit more out of the kit that we are supplied to work with every day.

Ian Pettit.