Thursday 18 December 2014

Learning Services: Gamification .... initial outcomes

The group presented back today on their ideas around Gamification and its role within our workshops. First observation from me, is wow ... problem based learning sprint activities work really well. The three of them (Aaron, David & Jo) covered some ground, applied it to the context and delivered a though provoking presentation. Well done all :-)

A previous blog outlines the task set. They were given three days, and updated the wider group on progress via our Learning Services Google Community

For me, the key outcomes was gamification can be best described as a way of using game mechanics or processes to enhance learning or engagement. There is a perceived misconception though that gamification means playing games, however this falls inline with more of the Games Based Learning (GBL) approach.

We would look at using more of what is termed ‘Structural Gamification’ to help our workshops. This entails motivators such as ranks, experience points, badges and leaderboards. It’s with this in mind that we shifted our focus from the design of the core workshops to implementing a framework to sustain such gamified workshops and masterclasses. On the flip side ‘Content Gamification’, where game elements and thinking are used to create content could find a place in our in-curriculum programmes. The longer, discipline specific setting would allow us to introduce detailed scenarios.

Their presentation is below.

The next stage is to let the dust settle, encourage those from Learning Services who attended to reflect on the ideas covered, and formulate more questions and add these to the Learning Services space. After which, in the new year (February time), we can explore a small scale pilot within our existing workshop programmes. This is to pilot the methods by which we can add the reward / bonus question within a face to face session.

Image, With Thanks -

Monday 15 December 2014

Where are the e-Learning Developers?

If you are wondering where are the e-learning Developers at the moment? Well, we are on a workshop design development sprint, to look at ways of enhancing our face to face workshops.

The problem

Learning Services at UCS provide a range of generic workshops where the intended learning outcomes are around developing knowledge and awareness, and developing hands-on skills to complete certain tasks. Within this are a number of challenges based on the learner characteristics for the generic sessions, these include; a large range in cohort sizes, large variation in existing skills, knowledge and backgrounds, cross discipline, and cross academic level (undergrads, postgrads and staff).

The range in learner characteristics for our workshops has resulted in many session facilitators being “safe” within their learning designs, they question the effectiveness of sessions as change agents, and wonder about student participation and engagement.

Give this background, recently a member of the team suggested we need to explore the concept of gamification within our workshop designs to re-invigorate our sessions and make them more engaging and effective. Interest in this has gained momentum / buy-in from the Learning Services Management Team.

The task (the product)
  • To present to the Learning Services Management Team, your findings on why and how we can use Gamification to enhance the learning experience within our workshop designs. This should include, two worked up, core topic workshop designs which use different aspects of gamification. The presentation should be 15 minutes, with 10 minutes for questions. All group members should be involved in the presentation.
  • A short report (less than 200 words), including recommendations and an implementation plan needs to accompany this presentation.
  • A short reflection (less than 500 words) on a potential of this approach as a workshop and staff development tool
Guided Questions
  • What are the elements of gamification?
  • How have others implemented it within a similar context to us? What worked, what didn’t?
  • What would a workshop learning design look like?
  • Why might this be better at motivating participation?
  • What could be the issues around implementing this within our context?

With Thanks - Source -

Friday 12 December 2014

Learning Services: Our first MOOCs

Just like to promote the following online workshops which have just been released by the Learning Services team for December 2014. The topics are;
  1. Getting started with information sources
  2. Essay Structure
  3. e-Portfolios for the reflective learner
We are very pleased with these courses as they are collaboratively created across the Learning Services Team. The online workshops are managed through the Coursesites platform by Blackboard. In the majority of cases they are open to anyone. However, some of the courses are for UCS student and staff only, as they use UCS software or require UCS accounts. The courses which are UCS only are clearly labelled "UCS Only".

A number of the courses at tutor lead, therefore, these have set start and end dates. These are clearly labelled "Tutor Led", and will include the start and end dates, and a sign up form. The other courses are student led, and self paced.

All of the courses integrate other online support materials and how to guides, including Learning Service's Assignment Toolkit

What do I get for completing the course?

Inline with our face to face workshops, as recognition of successfully completing the online course you will be awarded a certificate and open badge as recognition of the skills and knowledge you have acquired. More information see the video below (a short story about open badges)

How do I enrol on Learning Services UCS: Study Skills Online (lsucssto1)?

The courses are being taught using CourseSites by Blackboard, an online platform for organizing and securely sharing course materials, online lectures, discussion and other learning activities. To request enrollment into the courses, follow the steps below:
  • Launch a browser and enter the following URL to the course home page:
  • Once at the course home page, click the Request Enrollment button.
  • Enter a valid email address and your full name in the corresponding fields.
  • Optionally, edit the Subject.
  • Optionally, edit the message. The name you enter in the Full Name field will be automatically entered into the signature of the message.
  • Click Submit to send your request.
Shortly after, you will be sent to you a course invitation. Follow the link to confirm and register. When signing up, take note that you can register using existing account information from popular web services like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Gmail, Yahoo and Windows Live to make it easier to login.

If you would like more information, please email

Friday 28 November 2014

Innovating Pedagogy Report 2014: The Open University

The OU have published their annual Innovating Pedagogy Report (, which explores new forms of teaching, learning and assessment to guide educators and policy makers. They "list ten topics which have the potential to provoke major shifts in practice" (OU 2014, pg 3). There is also significant interest in this annual report from the Elevate Team, as the majority of the ideas will be enhanced and facilitated through learning technologies, as well us disseminating the report and transferring the ideas into our own practice.

From my perspective the report is reassuring with respect to to what we do. There are a number of innovations which are being championed at UCS with course teams, and some course teams are starting to redesign their curriculum to accommodate. This includes, the flipped classroom.

I am particularly interested in the emergence of the Learning to Learn innovation. The report suggests, "what we find difficult are learning what others want to teach us, and managing our learning in order to achieve particular goals and outcomes" (OU 2014, pg 4). Based on this, the innovation requires developing people to people able to be more effective learners. This dovetails really nicely with the innovations which are being piloted by Learning Services (of which Elevate is part), where we are trying to engaged with course teams to better support and develop digital literacies (study skills in old money) within their course timetables. The focus is from the board skills (developing reflective practice, search strategies, selecting the good stuff) to the specific (critical writing etc.,).

Another potential development (which I'd not thought about, although I do participate in and run !!) is event-based learning pedagogy. This offers synergies with our one off workshops. The synergies may develop further as we are looking at potential of gameifying our learning designs, and a number of wider team are running with lego serious play.

Again, a very thought provoking annual report ... Thanks to the OU Team :-)  

Thursday 27 November 2014

Example of TEL based Learning Scenarios

The Elevate Team have released three Learning Scenario's around simple uses of Technology Enhanced Learning. These cover; twitter for discover and sharing of web resources, group authoring of MCQs for threshold concepts, and the use of LearnUCS group tools within summative group presentations.

A key aim is to raises awareness of the potential uses, however, other aims of the materials is around improving the design to enhance the likely effectiveness of your TEL implementation. Therefore, it includes the visualisation of the activity over time, and the use of a simplified learning design sequence to consider and plan for required resources, responsibilities and communication.

For more information about the learning design sequence, see;
Alternatively, contact the Elevate Team and we'd love to discuss how it might work for you.

With Thanks - Image -

UCS Email Update

The message below is from the IT Services team:

UCS Email Service - Preserving Email on Mobile Devices
Nov 27 2014 9:00AM by Robert Blackett

When we enable the recovered email system cached emails, stored on your mobile device, will be wiped and replaced with the newest contents of your inbox.
You are able to preserve some but not all of these cached emails if the following are enabled:
  • You have a UCS email account configured on your mobile device.
  • You have a second private email account configured on the same device.
  • You forward emails from the UCS account to your private account. - NB: emails with attachments, or embedded links may not be fowardable, due to device limitations.
  • If you have a UCS and private account configured on your mobile, we are happy to assist you in the Infozone.
A further announcement will be put out in the next few hours, about the state of the recovery process.
To re-emphasize the first paragraph: once we re-enable the email service you will lose all cached email on your mobile devices.

Tuesday 25 November 2014

UCS Email Problems - Elevate and Learning Services

Due to a serious hardware failure, the email accounts for Elevate, Learning Services and some individual staff are unavailable.

It is anticipated that the email accounts affected will not be available until mid-day tomorrow (26th November 2014) as our most optimistic estimate. Any emails sent to affected accounts will be stored and forwarded to the relevant account, when service is restored.

In the meantime please contact Learning Services via 01473 338700.

We will update here once we know the mail system is backup and running.

Learning Design Tips for Course Teams: #1 Assessment and Feedback

This set of learning design tips are based around the putting some practical steps to the Nicol & MacFarlane-Dick, Principles of Good Feedback (which I use regular as a starting point with Course Teams).

However, before the tips, I have included some background context via the slides. These look at the why from three integrated perspectives; the Principles of Good Feedback, making time for feedback through the flipped classroom model, and evening out the assessment pattern.

The aims of the following checklist are to act as a discussion point for course teams, e-Learning Developers, Student Representatives, Learning Services and wider stakeholders when considering assessment and feedback within the course design.

These tips have been developed around the Viewpoints Curriculum Development Workshop developed by the University of Ulster. The format is to state the principle, its interpretation by the University of Ulster team, and list some suggested approaches course teams can use to meet this principle.

The hope is, based on this review and the examples used in the checklist the course team can redesign their assessment (summative and formative) process to make it more effective.

Principle: Encourage time and effort on task

To what extent do your assessment tasks encourage regular study in and out of class and deep rather than surface learning?
  1. reduce the size (limited word count) and increase the number of learning tasks (or assessments). Distribute these across the module [with distance learners need to spread the assessments throughout the module]
  2. make such tasks compulsory with minimal marks (5/10%) [need to focus on activity design which facilitates high order learning skills]
  3. give learners online multiple-choice tests to complete and feedback [provide regular, small MCQs and based on the results identify weaknesses]
  4. provide learners with mock exams / assessments so they have opportunities to experience what is required award fewer marks for early assessments or allocate all marks for the later / last ones [this can be incorporated with point 2]
Principle: Clarify good performance

To what extent do learners in your course have opportunities to engage actively with goals, criteria and standards, before, during and after an assessment task?
  1. provide explicit marking criteria and performance-level definitions for all assessments [these can be included as an item associated with the appropriate submission point / activity]
  2. provide opportunities for discussion and reflection about criteria and standards before learners engage in a learning task [as a distance learning course, you could provide a video overview of the criteria, supported with a discussion board activity]
  3. Provide learners with model answers for assessment tasks and opportunities to make comparisons against their own work [release a model answer document - key points, bullet points for student to compare]
  4. Before an assessment, let learners examine selected examples of completed assessments to identify which are superior and why (individually or in groups) [set up an activity where they mark an assessment using the criteria against model answers]
Principle: Deliver high quality feedback

What kind of teacher feedback do you provide - in what ways does it help learners self-assess and self-correct?
  1. provide opportunities for learners to work through problems sets in tutorials - where you can give immediate and timely feedback
  2. give plenty of documented feedback in advance of learners attempting an assessment, ie frequently occurring problems list
  3. give plenty of feedback at the point which they submit their work, ie., release a model answer after submission. Remember, learners are most receptive for feedback when they have just worked through their assessment
  4. ensure feedback is provided in relation to previously stated criteria as it helps link the feedback to the expected learning outcomes instead of providing the correct answer, point learners to where they can find the correct answer
  5. ask learners to self-assess their own work before submission and provide feedback on this self-assessment, as well as the assessment. This might be involving the cover sheet.
Principle: Provide opportunities to act on feedback

To what extent is feedback attended to and acted upon by learners and if so, in what ways?
  1. increase the number of opportunities for re-submission of assessments [for online learners this is technically easy to do, it will be about designing the learning activity to be scaleable from a staff perspective. It might include drafts, or peer-assessment of drafts]
  2. avoid releasing the grade for an assessment or task until the learner has responded to the feedback by commenting on it [can use the journal tool in LearnUCS for the students to comment on their feedback]
  3. ask learners to find one or two examples of feedback which they useful and get them to suggest how it will help them in future assignments [use the journal tool in LearnUCS, and find time to sign this off]
Principle: Encourage interaction and dialogue

What opportunities are there for feedback dialogue (peer and/or teacher-learner) around assessment tasks in your course?
  1. encourage learners to give each other feedback on assessment in relation to published criteria before submission
  2. create peer dialogue by creating group projects. Structure the tasks so they are expected to discuss criteria before submission
  3. use clickers and poll everywhere in class, or other appropriate in class feedback techniques
  4. support the development of learning groups and communities
  5. ask learners (in pairs) to produce MCQ tests with extensive feedback
Principle: Develop self-assessment and reflection

To what extent are there formal opportunities for reflection, self-assessment or peer assessment in your course?
  1. structure opportunities for peers to assess and provide feedback on each others work
  2. use confidence based marking (CBM) where learners must rate their confidence that their answer is correct.
  3. use an assessment cover sheet with questions to encourage reflection and self-assessment before they hand it in. In particular, have they met the criteria, and estimate what mark they think they should be given (and why)
  4. directly involve learners in monitoring and reflecting on their own learning through e-portfolios. These reflections might be included within the low-stakes assessment.
  5. ask learners (in pairs) to produce MCQs over the duration of the module, with extensive feedback
Principle: Give assessment choice

To what extent do learners have choice in the topics, methods, criteria, weighting and/or timing of assessment tasks in your course?
  1. give learners the opportunity to select the topics or extended essays, to encourage ownership and increasing motivation
  2. require learner groups to generate the criteria (or some sub criteria) for the assessment and take these into account in the final assessment
  3. ask learners (in pairs) to produce MCQ tests with extensive feedback for key learning objectives, and let the rest of the group share these. A selection could be used in the final assessment
Principle: Inform and shape your teaching

To what extent do your assessments and feedback processes inform and shape your teaching?
  1. deploy one minute papers (students carry out a small assessment task, like a short answer question) and hand it in anonymously at the end of class. You use this to inform your teaching in the next session
  2. provide opportunities for frequent low-stakes assessment tasks with regular outputs to help gauge progress (online objective quiz with short answer feedback etc., or clickers & poll everywhere when in class)
  3. carry out a brief mid-term survey, so you have time to address major concerns
If you have any questions around incorporating TEL within your Learning Designs, please contact the Elevate Team within Learning Services (
Image - With Thanks -

Friday 21 November 2014

Helping students understand assessment criteria: Approach #2

The Elevate Team as part of Learning Services provide a number of in curriculum study skills sessions. One module is Scientific Study Skills. This module also requires us to set and mark a formative assessment activity. This is delivered within a flipped classroom model; pre session (one hour, online), the session (one hour, group work) and the post session (two hours, individual formative assessment).

The focus of the formative assessment is two fold; to engage with the content, and engage with the marking criteria. For instance, the classroom based learning activity is group work, where the have to plan their formative assessment, drawing on information provided (pre-session and during the lecture) to answer the question set, given the marking criteria. The plan is generated on a flip chart which is discussed with the tutor.

Given the transparency of the formative assignment within the marking criteria, it is very straight forward to mark using the Rubrics tool within the Assignment (inline grading).

The following videos walk through the learning activity from two perspectives.

What does the student do?

What does the member of staff do?

Wednesday 5 November 2014

Helping students understand assessment criteria

The following shares some good practice with respect to the Elevate Team working with course teams to effectively embed technology enhanced learning within their curriculum.

We were approached by Federica Masieri (Dept STH), about how we might help them implement a project to improve students awareness of assessment marking criteria.

The background was members of the Department had identified this as a potential issues, and prioritised it within annual plan. 

There were a number of requirements;
  1. knowledge transfer around the assessment marking criteria, and support routes
  2. something which would engage and develop students
  3. monitor if students had used it
  4. a solution which could be rolled out across all their modules
The outcome was to develop the activities in LearnUCS around a quiz they'd previously mocked up. The quiz would be feedback intensive. So it would contain, "yes / no questions", and the feedback would contain all the learning materials. The quiz would also allow staff to be able to monitor students activity. 

In the first instance we've wrapped a number of resources around the quiz. So, a new navigation item has been added. This area contains, welcome message and diagnostic quiz. On completion of the quiz, a number of additional resources were released depending on their performance (used the adaptive release feature). These provided students with more directed support (on top of the quiz feedback). The new items included information on how Learning Services could support the student through understanding marking criteria.

Through the copy function within LearnUCS the resource is easily rolled out across other LearnUCS modules.

The next steps include; creating some video stories from students and staff around interpreting and understanding the assessment marking criteria, and enhancing the "where next" from Learning Services to include connections with our Assignment Toolkit, and workshops programme.

Federica and others within the Department will be evaluating the success of the pilot and disseminating the outcomes through a range of channels.

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Effective Poster Presentations Session

We were recently asked to cover a session about poster design. This is a session we have never covered before as this used to be facilitated by someone who has now left the institution. The aim of the session was to help a cohort of students with their poster presentation assignment.

The previous session was quite tool orientated, revolving heavily around the use of Microsoft PowerPoint with a 'what buttons to click' approach.

We decided to revise what had been done before to introduce students to the more of the planning side. So looking at structure, good practice and design tips, highlighting good and bad examples and more.

First port of call for the session was to ask the students how far they are currently are with poster design, do they have any specific questions that they would like answering? It transpired that they were all quite comfortable with the 'doing' part, they were seeking information such as recommended font size and tips for reviewing what they had done. This fit perfectly to what we had put together as a presentation guide.

Below you can see the presentation we put together for this session.

The presentation weaved it's way through the structure, what they had to think about in terms of design, through to a small 15 minute hands on session to play with what they had learnt, ending in a little direction for further support.

This cohort of students were active and engaged with the subject so getting them into small groups of 3 or 4 and setting the task was quite pleasurable. The task was to mock up a poster based around what they had just learnt on a subject of their choice.

It was nice to see the small groups in full blown discussion about the design, structure with the addition of personal preference items such as colour or orientation.

After the generous time limit, I stood at the front of the room holding up the posters and asked the team to comment on their poster, it was done in a very informal manner as to encourage negative comments as well as positive. I didn't comment on the posters but asked their team and other teams questions around each one. 'What would you have done here?', 'Is this white space for an image?' and jokingly 'Who on earth chose that?!'.

This gave an opportunity for all to comment and highlight some of the ideas we have previously discussed during the session presentation.

Below are the final mock up posters:

The students feedback to this approach was very positive, they mentioned that it gave them an opportunity to explore some of the ideas without the technical barriers and time of doing it in PowerPoint and not having something to stand back and think about.

One student mentioned she struggled to work out spacing of the boxes and text in PowerPoint as the student had to constantly zoom in to type.

I mentioned that maybe first, the student should get the poster laid out how they would like it first in let's say PowerPoint. To help them visualise this I asked the students if they had ever heard of Lorem Ipsum, the printers typesetting dummy text. The students weren't aware of this so I demoed going to the Lorem Ipsum generator at and how they could use it to 'fill' empty text boxes in their poster to better see how much they need to type. When they are happy with their design, they can simply go into each section and start inputting their real content. Of course they may well have to adjust some bits but it's easier for the eye to see 'Is that too much text?','Does that look right where it is?'.

The session ran well and I even had two students take photos on their phones of the posters they created.

Blackboard Grader App - Overview

I have been aware of Blackboard working on a mobile application to allow grading of student work away from the traditional desktop computing environment for some time.

This first release of the application is now available in the Apple App Store and is called 'BB Grader'.

The app requires that we are using the Blackboard Mobile services building block, which we are, so the app has seamless integration with LearnUCS.

The app allows academic staff to access all of the assignment submission points from all of their modules in LearnUCS.  You are shown each submission point where you can see all submissions, when they were submitted and if they were late.

You are able to communicate with students from the app, as well as make notes into the retention centre.

If you have used the Inline Grading tools on a desktop computer you will be familiar with the tools in the app.  You can use the annotation tool to markup and grade a students submissions, as well as grading via Rubrics if you are using them in your modules.

A nice addition is the ability to record audio and/or video as feedback, this is very straight forward via the tablet.  Once you are happy with the grading you can send the grades back to the Gradecentre, which are then available immediately to either you or the student depending on Gradecentre column settings.

One thing I haven't seen/found yet is access to Safeassign reports, these currently need to be accessed via a browser if required.

Below is a short video overview of the app working.

Please get in touch with the Elevate team in Learning Services if you would like to see the app working in person.

Friday 24 October 2014

Personal, Practical Support - Show & Tell with #Screencastify

I received a support email asking for help on a certain task in LearnUCS.  I was advised that I could reply via email rather than trying over the phone.

One email was sent back to confirm the required support.  Then rather than try and type a response explaining the options or the steps, I decided to make a simple video showing showing the steps to complete the task.

We have spoken about Screencastify as an extension to Google Chrome before but it is such a brilliant, easy tool to use that there was no choice, I would simply open a tab and record it.

The support request was for the different ways you could upload files into LearnUCS, I was aware there was more than one file, so I quickly made a video showing the different ways of uploading and sharing those files.

As this is such a quick and simple tool I could make the video personal to the academic requiring help, in the future I can simply remove/delete the video if necessary.

I wasn't too concerned about making a video too perfect, that could then be shared or used elsewhere, covering just generic information.  Screencastify is so simple, it makes these videos almost disposable.

As an example, the video is below:

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Do clickers improve student learning and result in better grades?

A question often asked by lecturers is, will the use of clickers improve the student learning and result in better grades?

You'd imagine this is a relatively straight forward yes answer. For instance, the theory would suggest it, and the evidence must support it. It is not quite as cut and dry as you'd expect. The research evidence suggests audience response systems have positive effects on performance. Cavdar and Velasco (2013) analysis suggests from a student perspective, clicker tasks helped them understand the lecture, concepts discussed and course material. Although fewer students perceived it helped them prepare for exams. These findings resonate with other research around perceived engagement and actual learning (Oigara & Keengwe (2013), Welch (2013) and Denker (2013)).

However, the positive, impact on learning is in part associated with motivation as students compare their performance to the peers, and are motivated to self improve (Oswald and Rhoten, 2014). A strong message from the literature is the effectiveness of clickers in teaching is strongly influenced by the individual lecturer and the alignment of clickers to the course teams' pedagogical model (Monk, Campbell and Smala, (2013))

If you'd like to discuss how you might use clickers in your teaching, please contact the Elevate Team (


  • Brady, M., Seli, H. & Rosenthal, J. 2013, "Metacognition and the influence of polling systems: how do clickers compare with low technology systems", Educational Technology Research and Development, vol. 61, no. 6, pp. 885-902.
  • Cavdar, G. & Velasco, M. 2013, "Teaching large classes with clickers: results from a teaching experiment in comparative politics", PS: Political Science & Politics, vol. 46, no. 4, pp. 823.
  • Denker, K.J. 2013, "Student Response Systems and Facilitating the Large Lecture Basic Communication Course: Assessing Engagement and Learning", Communication Teacher, vol. 27, no. 1, pp. 50.
  • Monk, S., Campbell, C. & Smala, S. 2013, "Aligning pedagogy and technology: A case study using clickers in a first-year university education course", International Journal of Pedagogies and Learning, vol. 8, no. 3, pp. 229-241.
  • Oigara, J. & Keengwe, J. 2013; 2011, "Students’ perceptions of clickers as an instructional tool to promote active learning", Education and Information Technologies, vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 15-28.
  • Oswald, K.M. & Rhoten, S.E. 2014, "Improving classroom clicker practices: effects of incentives and feedback on retention", North American Journal of Psychology, vol. 16, no. 1, pp. 79.
  • Welch, S. 2013, "Effectiveness of classroom response systems within an active learning environment", The Journal of nursing education, vol. 52, no. 11, pp. 653.
With thanks - Image -

Thursday 16 October 2014

Would you like to capture classroom discussions? MindMapping software can help

Following on from a previous post around using MindMapping software (I've started to use MindMup, as it's web based, and integrates with Google Drive) I thought it would be useful to share how to use it within a small, group teaching session (less than 20).

A common task in small group session is to set a problem for the students to unpack, either individually or in groups, and get them to feedback. When I observe this activity the capture methods range from oral only (no visual recording), to using whiteboards or flip charts. There are a number of limitations with these techniques, including, threaded debates (if oral only), and post session sharing issues.

An alternative use, is to use a MindMap tool, the MindMup allows you to record their suggestions in the sessions (software runs through the browser with no installation required), you then save to Google Docs and you can include the link to the final doc in your LearnUCS course.

For more information, see, or email


The image is captured from the MindMap used in the Level 4 Dance In Curriculum Study Skills Course, Session 1

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Flip, Flip and Away: An example of a blended learning model

The intention of this post is to share a learning design which employs a flipped classroom model. We (Learning Services at UCS) are currently implementing this approach when designing our in curriculum delivery of study skills.

The learning designs is based upon Bloom's (revised) Taxonomy, where the pre-session activities are around the the provision of information and the student building up key information and knowledge around the topic. This is used as the building blocks for the face to face workshop, where the tasks are around applying, analyzing and creating. The face to face tasks are designed around group collaboration, with enable peer learning opportunities and support. The face to face session focusses on active and collaborative learning activities. The post session task is their formative assessment which further builds upon the previous learning activities.

As the learning activity is spread over three weeks, with the largest proportion being delivered online, their includes a number of monitoring points and a communication plan.

If you'd like to know more about how you might use similar approaches within your teaching, learning and assessment designs, please contact the Elevate Team ( within Learning Services. I would be interested to hear about perceived barriers to stop you deploying this within your curriculum.


Image - With thanks -

Friday 10 October 2014

Learning Objects via Google Slides

Following the successful Getting Ahead programme and the social media elements, I thought I would put together a quick 'how to' for Twitter. This taster session followed the same lesson plan as the face-to-face. Talking through the process of creating a PLN (Personal Learning Network) and how flipping an every day too (Twitter) can lead to a great learning experience.
To deliver the materials I wanted a tool that was quick and easier to author, but also easy to make available and multiple places, and then also easy to amend when required.

For this I've decided to try and use Google's presentation tool 'Slides'. The idea being that I would make a presentation that would guide people through a number of tasks, with Google Slides being online and usable through just a browser I thought this should work well.

The huge advantage to being web-based and easy to embed means I can add this 'learning object' to many different places, like here on the blog, or on our 'Support for Learners' page on MyUCS.

It doesn't matter where or how many places it is embedded, I still only need to edit it in one place. These changes are then live where ever it is embedded.

Below is the set of slides that guide people through creating an account, following other users to build a PLN to hashtags and being safe online.  This has been embedded to fit this blog, you can always click the fullscreen icon to the right of the slide picker.

I believe using this tool/technique for small bite-sized learning objects works very well, and is much more accessible than other tools currently being used by our academics.

Wednesday 8 October 2014

Technologies for Learning: Student Inductions 2014/15

We've just finished our Student Induction sessions. As part of the process we collect information from the sessions, and report back. The reflections for 2013 are available from:

After much discussion we followed a similar task and tool mix used in 2013. The slides for this year are below. A new drive this year was to make reference to e-safety and our Social Media Guidelines. During the induction period this was managed through a number of routes, including A5 flyers in their planners, and reference in these sessions.

We also ask a number of questions during the sessions using the Clicker Technologies. The aim of asking these questions is to help create a profile of our new students. The questions and answers are below. The sample population was across five cohorts, and 122 students (out of 963 first year students). The background is 91% had a social media account, 4% did not, and 5% wouldn't tell us.

A question we ask was could they rank the top 3 most common tasks they've undertaken from the list in the last three months. The results indicate for this cohort the most common tasks are; accessing email on tablet / phone, taking and sharing a photo on your phone, writing a word doc and installing an app on your mobile device. This is exactly the same pattern as the 2013 Cohort.

The next question we ask is around if they can classify their technical ability.
  • I’m a power user. I’m very competent with Microsoft Word, I update blogs, I’ve added content to youtube and I use Google Docs (17.4% in 2013)
  • I’m a novice. I’m very good as some aspects of Microsoft Office, I read lots of material from web sites, I access multimedia (video and audio) online, and I have used skype (37.5% in 2013) 
  • I’m a happy amateur. I tend to use UCS computers and software, and share most of my word documents as email attachments. It meets my needs (39.9% in 2013) 
  • I’m rather stressed and anxious when it comes to technology. I don’t feel in control, and what I’m currently doing isn’t very satisfactory (5.2% in 2013)
The results (admittedly not statistically significant) indicate there has been a shift from the previous year with more people rating themselves as being more technical (digital) literate.

Given the length of the session varied (from 30 to 60 minutes), we ask the question, where would they like us to place the emphasis. Interestingly, this year, the focus was on Google Docs.
As part of the process, we'll reflect on the session in terms of its effectiveness and focus for the Semester 2 intake.


With Thanks - Image -

Friday 3 October 2014

LearnUCS Module Issue: Broken Links

We have become aware of an issue with a link that is present in all 2014/15 module areas in LearnUCS.

When a user clicks on the "Assignment Toolkit" link they are presented with an error page.

The issue is being looked at currently, in the mean time it is possible to access the Assignment Toolkit directly with the following link.

Sorry for any inconvenience this has caused, the Elevate Team will update this blog as soon as it knows more.

Monday 29 September 2014

Staff development TEL Workshops: October 2014

We'd just like to disseminate the details of the technology enhanced learning sessions we are running during October, as part of the wider Learning Services development provision.

The following workshops are intended for staff (both lecturers and support teams), the details are below, and the online booking form is available from:
Flipping your teaching model: the how and the why (21st October: 12:00 to 13:00)

The flipped classroom is a teaching model which integrates the use of online and face to face teaching spaces to maximise the learning experience. The broad approach is to use the online for pre and post session activities, to enable the face to face teaching to be more active and problem based. This workshop will discuss what it is, and provide hands-on experience at developing a flipped classroom approach.

Getting more out of your LearnUCS module (21st October: 13:00 to 14:00)

This workshop is intended as a question and answer session, around how you might get more out of your use of LearnUCS. The session will weave actual uses by lecturers at UCS around effective uses of video, collaborative tools, reflective tools, and assessment tools.

Using social media to become a connected educator (22nd October: 11:00 to 12:00)

Social media is becoming increasingly important as a means of sharing ideas and work. This workshop will explore ways you can harness social media to enhance your own personal learning environment. The session will focus on the application of Twitter and YouTube to discover material and resources.

How clickers can change the way you teach (22nd October: 12:00 to 13:00)

Clickers (audience response systems) offer the lecturer a simple, non threatening way to enhance the effectiveness of student participation within a teaching session, and open up opportunities to improve formative feedback mechanism. This session will introduce clickers, question writing and work through deployment strategies.

Monitoring student engagement and performance in your LearnUCS Course (22nd October: 13.00 to 14.00)

With the inclusion of more interactive tools and learning designs within LearnUCS lecturers are able to make use of the Retention Centre. This new feature allows lecturers to check on student progress within their course according to criteria of their choice. Students' participation and engagement are visually displayed, alerting the lecturer to any potential risk and students who are excelling.

Creating talk over powerpoints and similar videos (22nd October: 14.00 to 15.00)

A popular request from staff is, how can they create short talk over powerpoints / presentations which they can share with their students? This session will cover the rationale, what do you want to create and how is this embedded within your learning model, and providing the hands-on experience of creating the video and embedding within LearnUCS.

Designing a group based learning activity (23rd October: 12:00 to 13:00)

This workshop will discuss the opportunities for enhancing learning through group based learning activities, and how technologies might more effectively facilitate this learning model. The technology enhanced, group based learning activities will focus on the group tools within LearnUCS, and the social media. We’ll be exploring activities where they will create and share content.

Getting started with the LearnUCS Quiz engine in your teaching and assessment models (23rd October: 13:00 to 14:00)

Objective testing in LearnUCS (the quiz engine) is probably one of the most under utilised tools with the VLE, and it tends to be viewed as only useful for lower order learning skills. This session aims to challenge this perception as it is argued the tool offers significant benefits as a formative and summative assessment feedback tool, and we'll ensure you have the technical skills to design and develop an objective test using LearnUCS.

We hope to see you at one of these sessions. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please email

Friday 19 September 2014

Online Mind Mapping Software: Getting going with Mind Mapping Software

We have had a few requests about straight forward mind mapping software for individuals or groups. One we've started to use within the Elevate Team is MindMup ( This tool offers a few exciting features. Although it is not A "Mind Map Enterprise Solution".

The features I like, include:

  1. Very simple to use, no learning curve
  2. Creation of unlimited private Mind Maps
  3. Free, it is an extension in Google Chrome
  4. Integrates with Google Drive, to allow storage and sharing
  5. Some very nice collaboration tools, It looks like very exciting opportunities for online, real time collaboration, which can be enhanced with Google Hangouts

This suits my workflow, as I log into Google Chrome for a number of extensions (screencastify, chromecast, and Diigo). So including with the extensions is really useful. It also works fine on our UCS Domain Machines.

It does open up an obvious classroom based learning opportunity for small groups and tutorials. The lecturer will be able to easily collect ideas through the Mind Map from the group, and post session include a link to the map within their LearnUCS Module.

So, if you are interested in exploring the potential of mindmaps, and you have a Google Account ... MindMups might be perfect for you :-)

If you have any questions, please email

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Some uses of Twitter in Teaching and Learning: Example from PGCAP

The following outlines how the PGCAP course team are encouraging students to use Twitter within their teaching and learning.

The expected models of use of social media within the PGCAP context, are;
  1. developing your (informal) personal learning network - keeping up with the latest news and views from the authors and organisations on your indicative reading list
  2. developing your (informal) social learning - support the dissemination of resources across the cohort and within your learning sets.
  3. Professional use of Social Media at UCS
Be aware, social media can be a double edged sword. Read the awareness, support materials and toolkits on My UCS ( Any further questions with respect to effectively managing your online presence, please contact Learning Services (

In class tasks
  1. Create a Twitter Account (assuming you do not already have one) -
  2. Follow the following people / organisations (based on your Indicative Reading from the PGCAP Handbook)
    • Beetham, Helen
    • Salmon, Gilly
    • Goodyear, Peter
    • Higher Education Academy
    • Elevate at UCS
    • JISC
  3. Find an online resource or case study (including YouTube) which explains or applies the Flipped Classroom Teaching Model. Tweet the link to this resource, and use the hashtag: #ucspgcap
The student induction and support material included a set of short how to videos, and advise on creating you account. The intention is to include the hashtag search within the course area, and make reference in the face to face sessions.

Friday 12 September 2014

External Examiners: Briefing Statement

After a conversation with Quality and Enhancement Team, we thought it would be useful to update UCS External Examiners about the changes in LearnUCS, post our Summer 2014 upgrade.

The summer upgrade has introduced a number of enhancements to the system. However, these enhancements do not impact on how you access the system, or review the grade centre or access student submitted work. Any changes to the delivery by the course team due to these enhancements will be communicated with you by the Module Leader and/or Course Administrator.

The support for External Examiners on LearnUCS is not changing. Any questions you have concerning accessing the system, finding what you need, and support on the system need to be directed to the appropriate Course Administrator. The Module Leader will know the contact details for the Course Administrator.

The support package will be enhanced from previous years, including training sessions within the External Examiners Forum Meeting, and online materials.

If you have any questions, please contact the appropriate Course Administrator.

Monday 8 September 2014

Available support and development sessions: Learning Services

The Learning Services Team at UCS was created on the 1st August, 2014 with the aim of enhancing the way members of UCS are supported to develop appropriate skills and strategies to enable them to become a more effective learners.

This is achieved through various routes, including the provision of workshops. These workshops are designed around active and collaborative learning principles. The October 2014 workshop programme is outlined below, and you can register your place via the Learning Services Workshop Sessions area:

If you would like to discuss how one of more of these sessions might be useful for you, please email

13th: Enhancing your learning with social media
13th: Assignment planning
13th: Reading Journal Articles
14th: Dissertation planning
14th: Electronic is the new Black: Navigating ebooks at UCS
14th: Harvard Referencing
15th: Keeping your references organised with RefWorks
15th: "Too descriptive. Not enough critical analysis" An introduction to critical writing
15th: Enhancing your employability through managing your online presence
16th: Ways to design and develop effective presentations
16th: Literature Searching
17th: Developing your reflective practice
17th: How to get the most out of Learning Services
17th: Technologies to facilitate reflection

Staff Only: Technology Enhanced Learning

21st: Flipping your teaching model: the how and the why
21st: Getting more out of your LearnUCS module 22nd: (Staff) Using social media to become a connected educator
22nd: How clickers can change the way you teach
22nd: Monitoring student engagement and performance in your LearnUCS module
22nd: Creating talk over powerpoints and similar videos
23rd: Designing a group based learning activity
23rd: Getting started with objective testing (LearnUCS tests and MCQs in the optical mark reader)

Image Source - with thanks:

Friday 5 September 2014

Staff Welcome Back: LearnUCS Surgeries

As many of you are aware we upgraded LearnUCS during July 2014. As part of this project we are rolling out a number of What are the new features in LearnUCS surgeries (30 minutes).

So if you'd like to know more about what is new and improved within LearnUCS, and how you might use this in your teaching and assessment, why not drop into one of the following short sessions (no booking required).

The sessions will be primarily looking at:
Times and location of surgeries:

  • Thursday 18th September 2014
    • 13.30 - 14.00
    • W415
  • Tuesday 23rd September 2014
    • 14.00 - 14.30
    • W415
  • Wednesday 1st October 2014
    • 15.00 - 15.30
    • W417
  • Friday 10th October 2014
    • 10.00 - 10.30
    • W418
If you have any questions about these sessions, or would like more information please email the Elevate Team in Learning Services (

Monday 18 August 2014

LearnUCS 2014/15 Module Template - Focused yet Flexible

We have used module templates in LearnUCS for a number of years, they allow us to pre-build materials into all modules/courses that get released for the new academic year.

Once a template is created and then used to generate new module and course sites, those module are then set to that content.  UCS are a managed hosted client of Blackboard's, so we have no write access to the central databases, making global changes to modules/courses not possible.

Following a small review of the VLE, we were aware of feedback that was suggesting more timely, focused support for both staff and students.  Being timely, means that content needs to change at different points of the year.  This in turn makes templates difficult, as be definition they tend to be static once created.

This year the Elevate team have taken a different approach, meaning the content in the templates can be changed, globally.  We are able to be both focused and flexible, to achieve this we are using RSS feeds from this blog.

We have setup three keyword labels:
  • StudentsLearnUCS
  • StaffLearnUCSSupport
  • StudentSubmissionLearnUCS
We have a RSS feed building block in LearnUCS, this has been deployed three times in the template:
  • Assessment Folder
  • Help Folder
  • Staff EMA Support Folder (hidden from students)
Any blog post that uses one or more of those labels will mean that post is automatically displayed in the list of FAQs in one or more of the folders in every module/course.

The advantage of using RSS to control support page content is that we are able to amend, remove or add new content at any time to the 1300 module sites in LearnUCS.

We are able to make them timely, by re-ordering them or adding new content to the top of the list to coincide with assessment times.

By changing the date of the post to the blog, enables us to re-order the FAQs.

Below is an image showing how they are displayed in the module sites.

This year we have also introduced a new menu item, as shown below:

This set to "hidden", so it is only available to academic staff and not students.  This area again pulls in support material from this blog via RSS.  These materials are designed to offer support specifically for EMA - Electronic Management of Assessments.  These new materials were designed after an EMA review this summer, which showed that academic staff were asking for more support material.

Friday 15 August 2014

Open Badges Generator & Issuer - Feature Updates!

This is a small blog post to update everyone with some recent developments with our Open Badges Generator & Issuer.

New Features:

  • Badges issued now reference a unique 8 character ID instead of a row number. This will allow us to maintain a clean data sheet and be able to sort issued badges without disrupting any non issued badges.
  • Badges can now have an expiry date. We really wanted this implementation as it allows us to tag certain badges for expiry to indicate a need for refreshing skills periodically.
  • Removed the need for the external proxy script.
  • Unified some naming conventions
  • Adjusted some guideline notes
The source code has been updated to the latest version, previous versions can be found using GitHub's own version control.

Here is the link to the guide:

This documentation is provided on the basis that the viewer has some technical knowledge of Javascript Syntax, basic Google Apps Script and basic HTML/CSS knowledge.

And here is a link to the updated source code:

Monday 11 August 2014

2014/15 Modules Released

Modules for academic year 2014/15 have been released late this afternoon.  Academic staff should contact their course administrator for access to these newly released modules.

Please see the blog post here for help with rolling content over from a current module.

These modules now contain a menu item that is only available to staff, this area contains a list of FAQs that help support academic use of Electronic Marking of Assessment (EMA) features.

Content Rollover - 13/14 to 14/15

We will be releasing the new 2014/15 modules tomorrow, 12 August 2014.  Once these have been released academic staff can request access via their course administrator.

Once academic staff have access they can start to populate the modules with content.  This can be done in two ways, individual items can be copied from one module to another, or a bulk "module copy" can be completed.

The video below shows both of these routes for copying.

All 2014/15 modules are being created as "unavailable", meaning they need to be set to available before students can access them.  The end of the above video shows how to make a module available for students.

Thursday 7 August 2014

Small things do matter: some reflections on 2013/14

The following snippets capture how the Elevate Team have been working with individual at UCS to explore how they might enhance their teaching and learning.

This is part of our wider commitment to evaluating the impact of the service we provide. The aim is not to focus on large scale projects (this is done elsewhere - see link), but the intention is to capture small scale interventions which have had a positive impacted on practice.
Theme What were they wanting to achieve? How did we help? Did it work? Who did we work with?
Capturing student presentations for summative assessment A request was to record student presentations. These presentations would contributed towards their final marks. Stephen want them recorded to enable him to provide more specific feedback, and provide access for the external examiner.
Our role was to record the student and the presentation, edit the films to ensure the audio was acceptable, and forward the links to Stephen to share as required.
The feedback from Stephen was very positive, it allowed him to focus on different aspects within the actual presentation as afterwards he would re-visited the presentation.
This intervention should have enhanced the feedback and assessment process.

Stephen Sawyers
Using social media: Twitter The Elevate Team facilitate workshops during the student induction period to raise awareness of a selection of technologies a student might use to enhance their learning.
One of the activities we develop is to use Twitter as a Personal Learning Network to gather insights, resources and discourse from other students, practitioners, professionals and peers.
Some very positive feedback was captured from one of the students in a blog post.
The feedback shows that our session was transformational for some students. Based on this and other sessions we are exploring alternative delivery methods to widen opportunities.

More info
Sharing resources: Diigo Trevor wished to enable his students to more effectively share, and annotate web resources which they’d discovered.
The software we suggested was Diigo. To help the implementation, we trained Trevor, we wrote a short student guide, we attended a session with the students to support them, and answer questions. We also provided a follow up support session.
The outcomes seemed positive, the students shared resources they’d discovered and left comments to help contextualisation.
Trevor Grimshaw
Course Validations The Elevate Team support course teams as they prepare materials for validations and approvals. We have been exploring the different models we could use.
After discussion with Allison, we attend a course team meeting, and developed a support plan. This involved providing some bespoke training sessions to the team on the effective learning designs for technology enhanced learning. This includes both online and face to face teaching. In addition, we discussed the likely student support requirements and potential solutions.
This led to enhancing members of the course teams through introducing new ideas and developing their technical skills.
In addition, an outcome was to collaborate on the development of an online taster course.

Allison Boggis
More info
Creating and embedding multimedia resources The Elevate Team were asked to support the creation of an online presentation for students to access anywhere, anytime. After speaking with Nickey Rooke we were aware that the presentation was currently in an online unfriendly format.
To get the most out of an online presentation the Elevate Team worked with Nickey to use a screen capture tool to allow the presentation and Nickey’s voice to be captured and synchronised. The end result was a video of the presentation as it appeared on screen, with Nickey’s voice overlayed talking through the presentation.
The advantage of this approach is that we were able to embed the video into LearnUCS meaning the video was accessible to all students on any device. As well as this, as this was a video, the students had full control of the rate at which they watched. They have the ability to pause, rewind, fastforward etc. allowing them to engage much more with the content of the presentation.
Nicky Rooke
Formative objective testing The request was to design a number of regular formative assignments to monitor student progress, and provide more focussed feedback. This feedback was going to be provided in the classroom setting. The learning design was informed by a flipped classroom model.
After discussing the pros and cons of various options with Will, the selected approach was to use the LearnUCS quiz engine. We trained the lecturer on the quiz engine, and discussed question management, re-use etc. We also provided ongoing support through the module.
The feedback from the lecturer was very positive, and we have discussed ideas around making the process more effective for the next implementation.
In the wider context this approach has encouraged more use of MCQs in summative assignments.

Will Thomas
Peer Learning & Assessment We were asked by the Social Work team to help them identify the best way to engage students with group peer assessment using LearnUCS.
After some initial talks it was decided to take the most positive elements of both face to face and online solutions.
The students would use the VLE to collaboratively draft up a poster presentation, groups would then present and peer score each other face to face. The end discuss would be put up onto group wikis for each group to sign off.
The end result was a collaborative effort between the e-Learning Developers and the Social Work team. Initial feedback has been very positive and we haven’t had any support queries regarding the process or technology involved.

Sue Taplin
More info
Extending the classroom: Google Hangouts The Elevate Team were approached to provide advice and support for real time, online lectures, allowing external speakers to engage with UCS students. We met with the course team to discuss and complete a requirements capture, so we would know exactly what their needs were. This introduced a new element to the scenario, they wanted the lecture to be broadcast live, publically, but then to have a closed discussion, just between the lecture theatre and the external presenter(s).
Two weeks before the lecture we created a Google Hangout event in Google Plus, this creates an event page where both external presenters and students can sign-up to the lecture. Then a few days before the event we had an appointment with the external presenter(s) to invite them into a Hangout, allowing them to familiarise themselves with the tool.
Google Hangouts allows you to choose when to start broadcasting, this means once the first part of the lecture was over, we could stop the live broadcast and only those in the lecture theatre and the external speakers could communicate, allow for questions without fear of personal information being publicly broadcast.
After the broadcast was finished, the Hangout’s recording is processed and it becomes available from the event’s page that was originally set up, allowing students to review their time with external subject specialists.

Sarah Housden
Enhancing reflection: Mahara As part of our Digital Literacies Programme we run an online course called e-Portfolios for the reflective learner. The course designed introduces the students to what e-portfolios are and what being a reflective learner is all about.
We had 14 students complete the course and one student was willing to be recorded about how effective the tool (Mahara) had been and what she was now using it for.
The feedback was positive as the student states she is now using Mahara regularly to record her reflections to use in her course.
More info
Course Team Training Sessions As an ongoing commitment to develop staff across the Learning Network we provide ad hoc sessions at their colleges.
A request from Paddy Shaw at Great Yarmouth was to run a session during their HE Professional Discussion Day.
The two hour session was delivered to eight lecturers. It covered a range of topics, which were weaved together within a flipped classroom narrative.
The feedback was positive, and Paddy said the session was well received. We’ll follow up with individual sessions during September and October, 2014.

More info
Audio feedback using iPads (iAnnotate) A request from a course team was to pilot a more innovative feedback model for a formative assignment compared to current approach which was text based feedback.
After discussions with the course team, they wished to try audio feedback.
Our role was to loan a number of iPads, with the iAnnotate software installed. We provided staff training on the software.
We ensured the student work submitted via LearnUCS was accessible on the iPad, and staff could mark it. Afterwards we transferred the annotated work back to LearnUCS, and provided advice to students on how to access their feedback.
The initial feedback from the course team was very positive. The course team are indicating they would like to further explore this area in the future.

Heather Rugg

Image Source:

Tuesday 5 August 2014

Open Badge Requirements

After the recent issuing of Open Badges to those who either took an online course or attended an event here at UCS, the team decided to sit down and discuss what exactly what we would advise for issuing further badges.

We were keen to make sure we weren't diluting the achievement based elements of gaining a badge by simply issuing them to whoever turned up to an event.

For our pilot badges we decided to make sure the participant had to actually participant in someway to the event or course.

For example, the students who took the e-Portfolios for the reflective learner course received there badges shortly after completing the course. During the course the students had to complete a short number of tasks and submit a final portfolio. This was their activity or task to prove that they had participated in the course.

The sentiment that the badge should prove that the participant has been 'involved' in their learning by proving active communication, teamwork or critical thinking was echoed in a recent Edudemic post 'Why The Future of Education Involves Badges' (

"Articulating benefits from general education and extracurricular activities. For general education courses, colleges can use learning design principles to define “soft skill” outcomes and then measure competency against these objectives. Students who demonstrate they have acquired these critical job-ready soft skills will earn job-relevant badges in areas like critical thinking, research, oral and written communication, collaboration, leadership and teamwork."

This is why we advise NOT to simply issue a badge based on lets say for instance simply attending a workshop or conference.

We would suggest, instead, offering up a badge for anyone who wishes to submit a reflective piece based around any key messages they have taken away from that workshop or conference. This ticks multiple boxes, firstly it gets the participant actively involved in their learning and secondly it provides a nice conduit for more in-depth feedback about said workshop or conference. It may well depend on what information you wish to capture however we would advise keeping any reflective piece to around 150-200 words.

Tuesday 29 July 2014

LearnUCS Supported Browsers

Following the recent upgrade to LearnUCS we are publishing Blackboard's minimum browser requirements.

As you will read below Microsoft's Internet Explorer 8 is no longer supported, as well as the latest releases of Internet Explorer making some LearnUCS features difficult to use.  The Elevate team recommend using one of the 3 other browsers when accessing LearnUCS.


Supported Browsers

Four primary browsers for LearnUCS current release.

Automatically Updated Channel-based Browsers

The dates listed are the latest numbered patch release dates.

  • Firefox® 28 (stable channel) from Mozilla (18 March 2014)
  • Firefox 24 (ESR channel) from Mozilla (17 September 2013)
  • Chrome™ 34 (stable channel) from Google (8 April 2014)

Traditionally Released Browsers

The dates listed are the original release dates for general availability.
  • Safari® 7 from Apple (22 October 2013)
  • Safari® 6 from Apple (25 July 2012)
Safari for Windows is unsupported. Apple's continued support for this browser is unclear, and Blackboard does not test it.
  • Internet Explorer® 11 from Microsoft (17 October 2013 for Windows 8.1, 7 November 2013 for Windows 7)
  • Internet Explorer 10 from Microsoft (26 October 2012 for Windows 8, 26 February 2013 for Windows 7)
  • Internet Explorer 9 from Microsoft (14 March 2011)
Some configuration options for Internet Explorer might make some features of Blackboard Learn difficult to use. To learn more, see Internet Explorer Security Zones and Compatibility View topic in this section.


Tuesday 22 July 2014

e-submission Review at UCS: Electronic Management of Assignments (EMA): Draft Report

The following is a draft for consultation and will be presented at the next AMC meeting. If you have any comments or observations, please contact Andy Ramsden (

  • Andy Ramsden (e-Learning Development Manager, UCS)
  • 7th July, 2014


The author would like to thank the following people for their active role in the Task and Finish Group. Without their input it would have been a longer, harder journey.
  • Aaron Burrell
  • Faith Hicks
  • Matt Hirst

Executive Summary

The aim of this review was to answer the following questions, how can we enhance the workflow of EMA at UCS? How can we increase adoption of good practice across the institution?

The discussion highlighted EMA is viewed positively by all stakeholders. There are a number of recommendations to enhance the effective implementation across UCS. These recommendations have been appropriately resourced and prioritised.


The Review of e-Submission, e-Grading and e-Return paper was presented to the AMC meeting in March 2014. The paper proposed given there has been a gradual roll-out and take up of electronic processes available to support online submission, grading and return across UCS, and the last review was undertaken in 2011/12, it would be appropriate and timely to undertake another review.

The aim of this review was to answer the following questions, how can we enhance the workflow of EMA at UCS? How can we increase adoption of good practice?


The Task & Finish Group - comprised of:
  • Aaron Burrell - Elevate Team
  • Faith Hicks - Academic Services
  • Matt Hirst - Academic Services
  • Andy Ramsden (Chair) - Elevate Team
The Task and Finish Group identified a number of key stakeholders to approach. These included:
  • Student (n=1) Semi structured interview and desk study from Course Reports
  • Lecturers (n=17 (2 from Otley)) - semi structured interviews (1-2-1)
  • Course Admins (n=4) - focus group 
  • Health & Safety (n=1) - email correspondence
  • IT Services Helpdesk (n=1) - email correspondence 
  • Infozone Manager (n=1) - semi structured interview 
    • Total (n=25)
The Heads of Department were asked to recommend staff to participate.

The data (interviews, focus groups and email correspondence was undertaken during May & June 2014.

As would be expected from this approach, a number of caveats exist:
  • Small sample size means it is not a significant sample
  • Sample bias as the Task & Finish Group selected the people to interview
  • Interview bias as “they may say what they think we want to here, not what they actually think


The original workflow has been implemented in a variety of models at UCS. The analysis identified a lot of positive feedback for benefits of EMA across all stakeholders at UCS. The Students commented about the ease of submission, and no printing costs. While Course Admins identified efficiency gains and easier monitoring, and Lecturers discussed the benefits of streamlining the marking and feedback cycle.

How can we improve the workflow?

Some people were not aware of the workflow. However, the principle of being explicit about roles and responsibilities was positively received across the stakeholders.

The latest iteration of the workflow is available below.

Some of the suggested enhancements were:
  • ensure a meetings are undertaken between the course team and the course administrator to agree who is responsible for the various parts.
  • clear up misunderstandings between ratified and unratified grades for students
  • include external examiners within the process, and ensure they are supported
  • re-design the workflow to accommodate the enhancements to the LearnUCS software.
There were a number of requests for software improvements. The Elevate Team will continue to monitor enhancements in the Blackboard software and feed these back the UCS community.

How can we support the implementation of the workflow?

A consistent message emerged from all the stakeholders around needing clarity of “who is responsible for managing portals?” This implies the current workflow has not embedded across all the course teams, and we need an effective marketing and communication strategy aimed at all stakeholders.


A common thread throughout the staff discussions were issues around the required hardware and software to complete the e-grading and e-return. Staff did not find the current arrangement of workstations with small monitors in open planned offices conducive to the process. In addition, a number of concerns were raised around health issues associated with spending long periods of time marking online, and the frustrations of excessive scrolling due to small monitors.


  1. A few issues raised the need for consistency across Departmental implementations. There existed significant differences in practice.
  2. A question asked by some was, "what does good practice look like? What should I be aiming towards?"
Course Administrators
  1. They acknowledged a variety of approaches were adopted by different course administrators. They saw an opportunity to learn from each other, and move to a more consistent implementation.
  2. More consistency across UCS with respect to the management of extensions
  3. More effective and efficient support for External Examiners
  4. More support sessions for academic staff around inline grading (e-grading, e-feedback)
Student Perspective
  1. Clearer guidance on who to contact with respect to availability or issues with the submission portals.
  2. Earlier communication if there is an issue with the format of the submitted file.
  3. Encourage consistency within course teams on when and how EMA is used
  4. Simplify the need to manage all the other files (cover sheets, marking grids) which need to be submitted with the assignment
System Integration
  1. The Course Admins discussed if there existed opportunities to integrate the Student Record System (SITS) with LearnUCS. The hope was for two integration. For instance, the automatic creation of online submission portals based on assessment diets from SITS, and the push of appropriate and selected data from LearnUCS gradebook into SITS.


The recommendations have been organised through a MoSCoW analysis.

  1. Creation of a dedicated EMA support area for Staff and Students to support and inform them of the process. This will be linked to from each LearnUCS course, and the UCS Assignment Toolkit [Owner: Elevate (Aaron) - By: July 2014]
  2. Redesign the submission portal to improve access to FAQs, links to academic skills support, clearly identify people / roles who support the process, and make this support material multimedia rich with screencasts [Owner: Elevate (Aaron) & Acad Services (Matt) - By: July 2014]
  3. Provide student focussed posters at key times of the year within student learning spaces which focus on how to submit work and access feedback. [Owner: Elevate (Aaron) & Acad Services (Matt) - By: December Campaign]
  4. Provide awareness raising posters (lecturer audience) at key times of the year, distributed within staff spaces and offices which focus on the EMA workflow, the benefits, where material resides and contact names [Owner: Elevate (Aaron) & Acad Services (Matt) - By: December Campaign]
  5. Improve the communications with new lecturers as part of their induction. Provide a clear and consistent message around talking to their course administrator about the process. [Owner: Elevate (Andy) & Acad Services (Matt) - By: July & Ongoing]
  6. Run training sessions twice a year for course admins to ensure they have collective ownership the emerging good practice around EMA. Create regular bulletins. [Owner: Elevate (Aaron) & Acad Services (Matt) - By: July 2014 & December 2014]
  7. Develop online guidance for lecturers on the common issues and questions. Ensure this is easily accessible for lecturers in LearnUCS when they are marking. [Owner: Elevate (Aaron) & Acad Services (Matt) - By: July 2014]
  8. Be more explicit about the available support and advice on Health and Safety. Include in Online Support Material [Owner: Elevate (Andy) - By: October 2014]
  9. Group meet to review implementation plan, and write a new short term plan for Jan to June 2015 [Owner: Elevate (Andy) - By: December 2014]
  10. Dissemination strategy, including Meetings (AMC, LTAG, Faculty), MyUCS Announcements [Owner: Elevate (Andy) - By: Sept - Nov 2014]
  1. Look at opportunities to create e-grading and e-feedback dedicated workstations or rooms. These would include machines with large monitors, and meet the minimum browser requirements. [Owner: Elevate (Andy) - By: ongoing]
  2. Train all course administrators on the functionality of the inline grading tool, and collectively author FAQs from the lecturer and student perspective [Owner: Elevate (Aaron) & Acad Services (Matt) - By: October 2014]
  3. Explore file conversion software for course admins [Owner: Elevate (Aaron) & IT Services - By: October 2014]
  4. Blog post to engage in the wider UCS discussions around browsers, in particular issues around the performance of LearnUCS in Internet Explorer [Owner: Elevate (Aaron) - By: October 2014]
  5. Explore the current situation with respect to SITS and LearnUCS integration [Owner: Elevate (Aaron) - By: October 2014]

  1. Pay for Blackboard bespoke developments for SITS integration, and Email Receipts
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