E-Learning Newsletter – January 2020 Edition

Welcome to the January edition of our newsletter, which summarises the latest news on technology enhanced learning provision across the University. 

To navigate through the contents below, you will need to open up the Google Doc for the hyperlinks to work. Otherwise, you can just scroll through the blogpost.

From everyone in the Programme Design and Learning Technology Team, we wish you a very Happy New Year, and hope that you have a fantastic 2020!

You can stay up to date with us by visiting our website: https://elearningyork.wordpress.com/ or following us on Twitter: @UoY_Yorkshare (Service) & UoY_TEL (Pedagogy)

In this edition:

  • Upgrade: December VLE Mini-Upgrade Overview:
  • Upgrade: January Panopto Upgrade Overview
  • Call for Interest: PDLT Online development activities / webinars
  • Info: 2020 York Technology Enhanced Learning Handbook Update
  • New Blog: Recent Conference Take-homes/Key Messages for Online Learning
  • Event: ResponseWare Lunch and Learn • March 25th, 2020
  • Forum: Online Learning Knowledge Sharing Event • February 12th, 2020 – HG/21
  • Info: E-Assessment Guidance Communications for the Start of Term
  • E-Accessibility News:
    • Training: Creating Accessible Documents • Tuesday 14 Jan
    • Info: Digital Accessibility Tutorial
    • Info:MathType Software Licences
  • Info: Mathjax support for the VLE & Blackboard Ally
  • Event: White Rose Learning Technologists forum • Wednesday 15 Jan
  • Event: Blackboard Course Sites Demonstration Visit – January 28th
  • Training: Xerte training • Tuesday 14 Jan
  • Webinars: Future Teacher 3.0 • Friday 31 Jan
  • Call for Chapters: Cases on Active Blended Learning in Higher Education
  • Call For Papers: University of York Teaching and Learning Conference 2019
  • Educational Development: Departmental teaching and learning sessions
  • Standing Item: Development Opportunities and Bespoke Technical Training

December VLE Mini-Upgrade Overview

On Tuesday the 10th of December the Blackboard Learn VLE was successfully upgraded to the latest version available for our release.

The upgrade has provided a number of stability and security improvements to the platform, and has also provided us with an opportunity to implement a number of configuration changes and additional features.

As is outlined later in this newsletter, we have been able to implement two key tools for supporting Accessibility – Blackboard Ally, and the MathJax plugin for rendering mathematical equations.

Panopto Upgrade Overview

On Saturday 4th January, the Panopto platform that the University uses to facilitate the scheduling, storage and publication of lecture recordings was upgraded to the latest version, Panopto 8.

The update brings with it a number of new features for end users, including access to an individual ‘Recycle Bin’ for colleagues to view and restore content that they have removed. Lecturers can also choose to make their Powerpoint slides (providing that they were captured during the recording) available to download via the Panopto video player.

You can review a list of the upcoming features in the release notes on Panopto’s website.

[back to the top]

Call For Interest:  PDLT Online development activities / webinars

We are planning a series of online development activities / webinars for 2020 on aspects of design and support for active learning and would appreciate your input in shaping this.  These aim to provide a balance between theory and practice and to include examples from within and beyond the University.

If you could provide us with your thoughts and preferences using the following google form – PDLT webinars (should take no more than a couple of minutes) we will use these to develop the series.

York Technology Enhanced Learning Handbook Update

We are continually adding-to, refreshing and improving our York Technology Enhanced Learning Handbook to encompass new case studies, pedagogic approaches and new technologies.

York TEL Handbook Baseline use of yorkshare Creating resources Module site design Embedding online activities Facilitating online activities Assessment and feedback Guides, Advice, Key Principles, Good Practice, Approaches Link to launch= http://bit.ly/ytelhb-2020

York TEL Handbook
Baseline use of Yorkshare
Creating resources
Module site design
Embedding online activities
Facilitating online activities
Assessment and feedback
Guides, Advice, Key Principles, Good Practice, Approaches
Link to launch=

Click the above image to launch the TEL handbook’s introductory page

New Blog: Recent Conference Key Messages For Online Learning

Nathan Page, the PDLT’s Educational Adviser for Online Learning, has composed a blogpost containing his take-aways and the key messages from a plenary at the Association for Learning Technology Conference (ALT-C) and the Online Pedagogies and Postgraduate Engagement Event (Council for Graduate Education).

You can read more on our E-Learning Blog.

ResponseWare Lunch and Learn • March 25th, 2020 – HG/09

Dr. Simon Tweddle of The University of Bradford is a Principle Fellow of the HEA with a research interest in team-based learning pedagogy. Dr. Tweddle will be visiting The University of York on March 25th to deliver a workshop on approaches to using Turning Point ResponseWare to facilitate active learning.

Whether you are an experienced user of ResponseWare looking for inspiration, or someone who is exploring the idea of using Electronic Voting Systems for the first time, attendance is highly recommended.

Click on the following link to register your interest

Online Learning Knowledge Sharing Event • February 12th, 2020 – HG/21

The next meeting of the Distance and Online Learning Special Interest Group will take place on February 12th 2020 from 12.30-14.00 in H/G21.

This will be a roundtable knowledge sharing event delivered in collaboration with the Programme Design and Learning Technology team, on the topic of ‘Delivering Online Learning to Large Cohorts and Facilitating Learner Engagement‘.

This session is likely to be of interest to anyone who is involved in the design and delivery of fully online learning.

If you are interested in attending the event, please contact Nathan Page on n.page@york.ac.uk.

Info: E-Assessment Guidance Communications

Due to the time of year, we’re currently undertaking direct communications with staff and students about electronic assessments. Feel free to forward on any of these materials to relevant parties yourselves.

If you have any feedback about any of these comms, please contact amy.eyre@york.ac.uk

Student Communications

For the last few years, in the run up to and during common assessment periods we’ve run an animated banner across the top of all student VLE homepages that links through to a One Page Guide to Submitting VLE Assignments when clicked:

Submitting Assignments via the Yorkshare VLE. Establish what you need to do in advance. Use robust equipment when submitting. Give yourself plenty of time to submit. Immediately check the file you've submitted. Anonymising your work. Compressing your work. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about assessment submissions. Click this banner to launch a guide covering these and other assessment topics.

This “one pager” document is always available to students on their “Help & Support” tab that appears in the top right of every VLE page, but the banner helps draw attention to it.

This banner has proven popular: it was clicked 2349 times in 2017/18 and 4487 times in 2018/19. We’ve just put this banner up again for the 19/20 Autumn term (it went up on October 28th) and we’ll keep it up until the end of term. We’ll then put it back up in late December for the January assessment period. 

Staff Communications

After the success of our “Start of Term Readiness” staff-targeted comms last year and this, we have created an “E-Assignment Readiness” guide targeting common assessment queries and will disseminate this out the same way:

Are your VLE assignment submission points ready? Who Creates and Maintains Submission Points? Pedagogical Help Designing E-Assignments. Technical Help Creating Submission Points. Technical Help Editing Existing Submission Points. Technical Help with Electronic Marking. Click this box to view our short readiness guide covering these points and more.

  • Twitter (also appears in the “@UoY_Yorkshare on Twitter” box on VLE homepages)
  • Newsletter
  • Direct email to key VLE contacts in departments (sent round on October 28th)
  • Animated Portlet on Staff VLE Homepages (started October 28th):

Info: E-Accessibility News

Training: Creating Accessible Documents • Tuesday 14 Jan • 10am to 12pm • B/R/012

A workshop demonstrating how ‘universal design’ can help everyone, and not just those with an accessibility need. Practice creating accessible documents and bring your own documents to work on. Find out more and sign up (HR LMS) or sign up for those who cannot access the HR LMS. Find other events at http://bit.ly/eaccess-wiki.

Digital Accessibility Tutorial

Our Digital Accessibility Tutorial introduces you to the 2018 regulations and why it’s important to reach certain standards in digital accessibility. Find out how you can create accessible documents and create your action plan today!

Do you type maths? Mathtype licences

For anyone who types Maths equations or formulas into Microsoft Office Word or PowerPoint using the Maths Editor, you can improve the accessibility of these equations or formulas by using Mathtype

We ran a Mathtype forum in December attended by IPC, Economics, TYMS and the Maths Skills Centre. We all learned something from each other and look forward to welcoming more people who are interested in creating accessible maths to the next forum. Get in touch if you have any questions: vle-support@york.ac.uk

Mathjax and Blackboard Ally

At our last VLE co-ordinators meeting, we shared the good news that we now have Mathjax on the VLE following the upgrade in December. We also unveiled Blackboard Ally to departments, who have until Week 3 in Spring Term to let us know if they want to have a bit more time before Ally is made available to everyone or if they simply want to have a site to try out Ally before the go-live date. 

View the recording from the VLE Co-ordinators meeting.

What is Ally?

Ally is a tool that works seamlessly on Blackboard to provide tips and step-by-step guidance to help you improve your content accessibility. In addition to providing you with an accessibility report, Ally automatically creates alternative versions of your files. This allows students to choose the type of file they want that best suits their needs. While you’re in the process of improving files, students can still access alternative copies. 

Three departments have been piloting Ally, with feedback available from January. 

Ally user group at UoY

Join the discussion about Ally on Google Groups. The welcome message has links to the instructor guide, student guide, message to departments and messages that can be shared with staff.

Sharing our progress

Departments are reminded that new staff should attend the Creating Accessible Documents workshops, follow our accessibility guidance and our wiki (see below) and being aware of the department’s own action plan and accessibility statements. Almost all departments have now produced and added accessibility statements to vle sites, or the vle landing page for the department. If you would like help with your accessibility statements or action plans, do get in touch and we’ll work with you: vle-support@york.ac.uk

E-accessibility wiki

Several initiatives are happening across the university as a result of the 2018 regulations. Find out more by reading our blog post and visiting our e-accessibility project wiki (UoY login required). The latest items on the wiki relate to:

Workshop dates, guides and links are available on the wiki. If you’d like to be involved with any of the working groups, please do get in touch.

Event: White Rose Learning Technologists forum Wednesday 15 Jan 12.30pm – 5pm

The next meeting of the White Rose Learning Technologist Forum will be on Wednesday the 15th January 2020 at The University of Leeds, from 12:30 to 17:00.

The theme will be learning analytics and use of data.

Find out more and sign up.

Blackboard Course Sites Demonstration Visit – January 28th

Blackboard CourseSites is a free-to-use educational platform which can be utilised to deliver open-access educational courses, such as MOOCs.

On Tuesday 28th January from 9am – 12.30pm, representatives from Blackboard will visit the University of York to deliver a workshop on Blackboard CourseSites. As part of this session, attendees will also get a look at Blackboard Ultra – Blackboard’s next generation, cloud-based learning environment.

For further information, please contact richard.walker@york.ac.uk

Training: Xerte training • 14 Jan • 3pm to 5pm • LFA/015

Xerte is a highly accessible elearning authoring tool that helps to create interactive web pages, including pages with maths and equations. See examples of Xerte and sign up for the training session.

Webinar: Future Teacher 3.0 webinars, 31 Jan, 1pm

The next Future Teacher webinar is on Flipped learning reactivated – Friday, 31 Jan, 1pm – 2pm. Sign up form

The Future Teacher series of webinars has been running for over two years now. We are re-running the topics from the beginning, adding fresh input by guest speakers and updating resources as we go, to ensure that these open source materials continue to benefit everyone.

If you have a minute to give us a New Year present (feedback form), just let us know what you’ve gained from the FutureTeacher sessions or how they’ve influenced your teaching.  

We’d love you to join us if:

1) You’ve tried Flipped learning and it worked,

2) You’ve tried flipped learning and it didn’t work,

3) You’ve not tried it but would like to have a go,

4) You’re interested but want more evidence.

We’re still looking for one more presenter willing to share their experiences. Or if you’ve not got experiences but enjoy researching and presenting yet we could point you to some links and ask you to summarise the pros and cons!

If you are interested in presenting your work on any of the topics below, please do get in touch with lilian.soon@york.ac.uk.

You can view previously recorded webinars and access the interactive learning resource from the Future Teacher website. Previous sessions have featured various University of York staff or resources and covered:

  • Online learning – what works?
  • The Flipped Classroom
  • Knowing what they know – getting feedback from students
  • Collaborative teaching and learning – inside and outside the classroom
  • Strategies to support reading
  • Strategies to support writing
  • Self-assessment and mastery learning
  • Using Social Media in Teaching and Learning (Glenn Hurst, Chemistry)
  • Inclusive Practice (Emily Brunsden, Physics)
  • Working with Rich Media – Images (Sandrine Devlin, LFA)
  • Working with Rich Media – Audio (David Beer, Sociology)
  • Working with Rich Media – Video (features our Replay guides)
  • Getting Savvy with digital tools and resources
  • Designing appropriate assessments
  • Designing for technology enhanced programmes
  • Designing and Creating Online Learning Activities and Resources (Sociology’s resource ‘The Bureau of Applied History’ was added to the inspiration board)
  • The wonderful world of webinars (Amy Eyre, PDLT)
  • Future Proofing Future Teacher – including sharing and reusing our Journeys
  • Learning Analytics (Jess Wardman, TYMS and James Youdale, PDLT)

Call for Chapters: Cases on Active Blended Learning in Higher Education

Proposal Submission Deadline: February 22, 2020. Full Chapters Due: June 21, 2020

Active blended learning (ABL) is a pedagogical approach that combines sense-making activities with focused interactions in appropriate learning settings. It encompasses a variety of concepts, methods and techniques, such as collaborative learning, experiential learning, problem-based learning, team-based learning and flipped classrooms. Educators can use ABL to develop learner autonomy, engaging students in knowledge construction, reflection and critique. 

This collection of case studies on ABL will inspire and guide relevant stakeholders in higher education interested in implementing this approach. 

Call for Papers: University of York Teaching and Learning Conference 2019

The University of York’s Annual Learning and Teaching Conference will be held on Friday 13th March in the Ron Cooke Hub in Heslington East, with the theme of ‘Inclusive and Engaged Learning’.

The conference organisers are particularly interested in proposals in which student presenters are involved. Themes:

  • Creative and innovative learning methods
  • Building inclusive learning communities
  • Inter-cultural perspectives in the curriculum
  • Diverse learning and assessment strategies
  • Novel approaches to learning Application procedure

All applications for proposals should be made by submitting a completed proposal form online by Monday 3 February 2020. The Learning and Teaching Forum committee will then meet to review the proposals and decide on a programme. Applicants will be informed of the outcome shortly thereafter.

To read more, visit the Annual Learning and Teaching Conference Website.

Standing Item: Departmental teaching and learning sessions

As part of our remit to provide advice and support to academic Departments, we can work with you to design and deliver sessions focused on a range of programme design and learning technology matters.  

You may be planning some specific programme developments or looking to explore the potential benefits of different approaches or tools within your learning, teaching and assessment within and across modules.  Or you may want to address some particular learning, teaching and assessment challenges or opportunities within your Department. Themes that we have helped to address recently include:

  • Facilitating interactivity and engagement within large lectures using Electronic Voting Systems and synchronous discussion tools
  • Enhancing student engagement with learning outside class contact time and between scheduled sessions using the VLE

We can provide bespoke input informed by case studies on subjects such as: 

  • Learning and teaching in large groups or in small groups
  • Supporting independent study
  • Maximising the benefits of live learning and teaching activities through activities carried out in between sessions (front-loading, flipped learning, ‘blended’ learning)
  • Enhancing formative assessment
  • Enhancing feedback processes
  • Developing assessments to maximise learning (e.g. assessing process elements as well as end products; incorporating collaborative working; integrating skills)
  • Approaches to ‘engagement’ in assessment: Active learning and assessment; ‘real-world’ / authentic assessments; integrating transferable skills

We can also offer Department-specific versions of any of the workshops detailed on our blog.

If you would like to discuss this further please do not hesitate to contact us at vle-support@york.ac.uk.

Standing Item: Development Opportunities and Bespoke Technical Training


  • VLE Induction – Getting Started with Yorkshare and Baseline Approaches


This can be tailored to an academic or support staff context, specific to your use of the VLE in your role – ideal for those who are new to using Yorkshare or who may need a refresher on certain tools and functionality. Section 1 of the York TEL Handbook also covers recommended good practice for baseline use of Yorkshare. As well as 1:1 consultations at the modular level, we can tailor this session to programme teams for a more holistic overview.


  • VLE Induction – Yorkshare Administration


Yorkshare Administration training is for departmental administrators who need to create and manage Yorkshare module sites and content system privileges.


  • VLE Induction – Self-paced Getting Started Materials


We’ve developed a series of short help videos (hosted on YouTube) covering the most common tasks you might need to undertake when developing, preparing or managing your Yorkshare (VLE) site.

This blog post provides a table listing (and individually linking to) all of the short ‘getting started’ help videos we’ve produced.  The table also includes links to equivalent written guides where available too.

The blog post also provides links to three online Prezi files that further contextualise the help videos:

Basics of using Yorkshare (Prezi)

Prezi contextualising the videos relating to advanced use of Yorkshare’s Content Items

Prezi contextualising the videos relating to Tools and Control Panels

You can view a more comprehensive list of the professional development opportunities that we offer on our E-Learning Blog. To request a session for either yourself or to make a booking for your department, please contact us at the earliest possible convenience at: vle-support@york.ac.ukAs always, we welcome any feedback and suggestions on how we can support e-learning and use of the VLE and other technologies within your departments. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch at vle-support@york.ac.uk.

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