The Yorkshare VLE will be upgraded on 15th-16th July, bringing some exciting new functionality. While previous upgrades have ushered in fundamental changes to the way that we use the VLE, this year seems to be more about enhancing core functionality with a couple of new tools that open up completely new opportunities for supporting learning and teaching online.
Improved text box editor
The text box editor is by far the most ubiquitous of all tools in the VLE, appearing when you add any content or when students post in blog, discussion board or wikis. We’re delighted to see that this is getting an overhaul making it much easier to use, to get your content to look how you want it to, enabling you to paste content directly from word processing applications. In addition to improving the things you’ve always done, the new text box editor now also allows you to do things that you might have wanted to do but couldn’t.
- Support for LaTeX is now embedded into the text box editor allowing you to enter Maths notation quickly and easily into any content areas, including tests.
- Images are now much easier to embed in the VLE with simple controls for wrapping text around your images and adding interactions.
- Video Everywhere – record video from your webcam and embed it directly into the text box with a single click. The videos are stored as “unlisted” on your University YouTube account and because this functionality is available wherever you see the text box it is available to students participating in discussion boards or other interactive tools. With immediate applications such as video feedback (staff) or video diaries (students), we’re really excited to see what else people might use this application for.
Discussion boards in the VLE have also received a much needed “make over” and should now be much easier to use and follow discussions within a thread, with a new, more user-friendly interface, which also includes a new “post first feature” requiring students to contribute their original thoughts before they can see the rest of the discussion thread. Combined with the support for discussion boards on mobile devices through the “Mobile Learn” app, we hope that the improved user experience will encourage more inventive use of this staple feature of the online learning toolbox.
As the use of online assignment submission continues to grow for formative as well as summative work, inline grading provides support for viewing and providing feedback on student work within your web browser. Instructors can comment, highlight and draw free-form annotations on student work, integrating with interactive rubrics if required, and work can then be returned to students directly through the VLE or printed out for discussion at supervisor meetings.
These are just some of the main improvements that we should see after the upgrade, though you might notice that there are other things that have got better, such as “item analysis” to assess quiz question validity, “enterprise” surveys which can be deployed outside of the VLE to specific groups of staff or students and enhanced support for themes to help you customise the look and feel of your sites or departmental VLE presence.