E-Learning Newsletter – February 2020 Edition

Welcome to the February 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.

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:

  • Call for Interest: PDLT Online development activities / webinars
  • Info: 2020 York Technology Enhanced Learning Handbook Update – Mobile Learning (mLearning)
  • Event: ResponseWare Lunch and Learn • March 25th, 2020
  • Forum: Online Learning Knowledge Sharing Event • February 12th, 2020 – HG/21
  • Forum: White Rose Learning Technology forum on learner portfolios • March 25th, 2020 12pm-5pm • Bradford University
  • E-Accessibility News:
    • Training: Creating Accessible Documents • 15 Feb, 2-4pm, B/R/012
    • Info: Digital Accessibility Tutorial
    • Info: Blackboard Ally Update
    • Blog: E-Accessibility, the Mobile VLE and Collaborate Webinars
  • Webinars: Future Teacher 3.0 • 31 Jan and 27 Feb, 1pm
  • Call For papers: International Journal of Teaching and Learning
  • Call For Chapters: Cases on Active Blended Learning in Higher Education
  • Call For Papers: University of York Teaching and Learning Conference 2020
  • Call For Papers: Learner portfolios, WRLT, March 25th
  • Call For Papers: UP North 2020, York St John Learning and Teaching, 5 June 2020
  • Call For Papers: Uni of Sheffield TELFest 30 June – 2 July 2020
  • Community: Blackboard User Groups
  • Educational Development: Departmental teaching and learning sessions
  • Standing Item: MathType Software Licences
  • Standing Item: Development Opportunities and Bespoke Technical Training

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. 

Watch this space: Over the coming months we will be releasing a new Handbook chapter, specifically concerning the ever-growing area of mobile learning (“mLearning”).

This new chapter will include details on:

  • The Evolution of Mobile Devices
  • mLearning Theory and Considerations
  • The Benefits and Challenges of mLearning
  • Designing mLearning Content (Learning Objects for Mobile Consumption)
  • Evaluating mLearning
  • Day to Day Mobile Tips & Apps for Teaching and Learning
  • Mobile Accessibility
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

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.

White Rose Learning Technology forum on learner portfolios • March 25th, 2020 12pm-5pm • Bradford University

Spring Term’s WRLT forum has a special focus on portfolios at the University of Bradford, with kind sponsorship from PebblePad. There is a call for proposals on the topic of eportfolios and an early sign-up form for the event.

Info: E-Accessibility News

We’ve had a busy few weeks since the start of term (and the start of the new year!).

  • Lilian Soon ran a workshop at the Durham Blackboard User Group conference on shifting digital accessibility practice. It generated lots of positive comments on how useful Kotter’s eight-step change process was for reflecting on progress and proved to be very engaging for the delegates. 
  • Richard Walker gave a presentation to the Student Systems Strategy Group to raise awareness of compliance issues. The Uni needs to gather VPAT (Voluntary Product Accessibility Template) statements from suppliers to help assure that we are presenting students and staff with accessible systems. Andrew Male has been leading on this for University systems.
  • Marketing have been working hard on making the Uni website accessible. They have also been working on the templates that provide a good baseline for accessible pages. Our website now scores above 80% on the Siteimprove checker compared with a sector benchmark of 68%.
  • We attended a webinar and found out that GDS will start their compliance monitoring from April this year. 
  • We’ve started a soft launch of Blackboard Ally for the vle, an accessibility checker and help guide built into the vle that also offers students alternative format downloads. Find out more from your DCO or read about the launch. Also see Blackboard Ally News below.
  • PDLT and library have run a user experience (UX) workshop with 4 visually impaired students and a student with dyspraxia/dyslexia. We’ve learned a lot (see blog post on our UX workshop experience as well as Amy Eyre’s additional blog post), and will be publishing a guide to running your own UX workshop.
  • Following their successful RRF bids, Sociology department have 4 e-interns helping them to improve their vle sites and content. TYMS have 2 e-interns and Biology are advertising for theirs. 

Lilian Soon ran another Creating Accessible Documents workshop on 14th Jan. To date, we’ve reached over 1000 staff through the workshops or briefings! I’m sure we can get to everyone so do keep promoting accessible practice in your departments and teams. Over 88% of those who attend now use headings to structure documents and regularly create descriptive hyperlinks. Over 70% now add alternative text to images. It’s good to know we are willing to make changes to our baseline practice and keep creating accessible documents. The next workshop is listed below.

Keep up the good work, everyone!

Training: Creating Accessible Documents • 14 Feb 2-4pm • 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!

Blackboard Ally News

Since piloting and making Blackboard Ally available to departments who wanted to proceed with this, 7 departments now have this enabled, 4 more will start using Ally towards the end of Spring term while others have certain sites turned on to familiarise some staff with its functionality. We were able to demonstrate to a visually-impaired (VI) student how to access alternative formats on the vle and they were extremely pleased with how good the audio downloads were for their materials. We showed another VI learner how to use the headings available in structured pdfs to navigate to parts of the document. 

Our institution score has risen from 55% before summer to 75% after summer, with the help of e-interns in departments and staff updating their content and sites. It’s great that we’ve managed to improve the accessibility of our documents through upskilling and awareness raising. It’s gone up a further 3% since we started promoting Ally and we hope the upward trend will continue. 

Blog: E-Accessibility, the Mobile VLE and Collaborate Webinars

PDLT team member Amy Eyre has written up her own experiences of the team’s recent UX workshops where a number of students with digital accessibility requirements tried out a number of University systems including the VLE, Replay lecture capture and more.

Amy’s focus was on the Collaborate Ultra webinar platform and the mobile experience of the Yorkshare VLE (particularly via Blackboard’s mobile apps).

Read the blog post in full: Blog – E-Accessibility, the Mobile VLE and Collaborate Webinars.

Mathtype licences, Mathjax, Latex documents

See standing items for MathType licences and Mathjax and latex documents.

Webinar: Future Teacher 3.0 webinar 27 Feb, 1pm

The February Future Teacher webinar is on the topic Knowing what they know – getting feedback from students, Thursday, 27 Feb, 1pm – 2pm. Sign up form will be available soon. Do check back on the Future Teacher website.

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 using feedback tools and it worked,

2) You’ve tried using feedback tools 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 looking for presenters willing to share their experiences. Or if you’ve not got experiences but enjoy researching and presenting you could review the content from the previous webinar and provide a fresh literature review!

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.

Also see our standing item Future Teacher Webinars.

Call for Papers: International Journal of Teaching and Learning

There is an open call for papers for the new international education journal, the ‘International Journal of Teaching and Learning’.

This journal publishes empirical research conducted in formal and informal educational contexts, including controlled and natural settings, from all subfields of education.

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 2020

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.

Call for Papers: York St John Learning & Teaching symposium, 5 June 2020.

UP (Understanding Pedagogies) North, is an exciting regional Learning & Teaching symposium organised by York St John University. Its aim is to provide an opportunity for those working in Northern Higher Education Institutions, in a variety of roles, to share and explore innovations and developments in Learning and Teaching. 

This year’s symposium theme is The Responsible University and takes place on 5th June 2020 at York St John University, UK. Session formats include keynote by Dr Fiona Smart (Edinburgh Napier), workshops, presentations, posters and a world-cafe. 

The call for proposals is now open.

Call for Papers: Uni of Sheffield TELFest, 30 June – 2 July 2020.

TELFest, the University of Sheffield’s festival of technology-enhanced learning and innovation, is returning for its seventh year, 30th June – 2nd July 2020, showcasing the use of digital learning in higher education. We are inviting you to join us in promoting and exploring how we can enhance our programmes of study, and improve engagement, satisfaction and overall success of our learners.

The festival offers a variety of opportunities to share practice with colleagues across the sector, with speakers and delegates in attendance from a wide range of institutions, providing a chance to learn more about the affordances of technology in learning and teaching.

This year our suggested themes include topics at the heart of the University’s learning and teaching priorities – how can technology and innovation help us be inclusive teachers for all our learners, and how can we harness technology to enhance employability opportunities and digital skills?

Submissions on the following topics are particularly encouraged:

  • Inclusivity – how can we harness technology to create inclusive environments, and ensure our teaching materials are accessible to all learners?
  • Digital Skills and Literacies – how can we ensure our students and staff have the skills to navigate a digital world?
  • Employability – how can digital technology be used in ways that make our learners more prepared for the world of work?
  • Education for Sustainable Development – what role can technology play in helping us produce informed graduates with the skills to address the global environmental, economic and social challenges we face?
  • Students as Partners – how can our learners collaborate with us to shape their learning and what part technology can play in this?
  • Classroom engagement – how can technologies engage our students in small and large groups? How can technologies enhance – or disrupt – traditional forms of university teaching?

The festival is aimed at academic and teaching staff, and those who support the design and delivery of Learning and Teaching. The format of sessions in previous years has included workshops, case studies, panel discussions, debates and gamified activities, on a wide range of topics including social media, flipped learning, course design, electronic assessment, mobile learning and much more. Attendance is free for HE, FE, NHS and relevant non-profit organisations.

To share your practice during TELFest, please submit your proposal by Friday 20th March 2020 https://forms.gle/N3jmetbe6s5mhzNf7

For more information about TELFest please go to: http://www.shef.ac.uk/telfest or contact the TELFest team at telfest@sheffield.ac.uk.

Community: Blackboard User Groups

Blackboard (the company that provides the platform that the Yorkshare VLE is built on, as well as Collaborate webinars and the Ally accessibility tool) have a number of User Groups which any Blackboard customers from across the globe are welcome to join. The user groups meet regularly online to discuss best practices, user cases, updates and more. As the University of York is a Blackboard customer, any interested staff (technical, academic or otherwise) are welcome to join user groups  if the area is of interest.

The following User Groups may be of particular interest:

Standing item: E-accessibility

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.

Mathtype licences and latex documents

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

You can sign up for Mathtype licences (which are limited this year) if you regularly type maths in Microsoft Office. If you have any issues with getting your licence on your PC, please email itsupport@york.ac.uk.

Mathtype licences have been installed on student campus machines.You can also use Mathtype via Unidesktop.

We ran a Mathtype forum in December 2019 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

If you create documents using Latex, you can improve the accessibility of the documents (pdf or web pages) that you generate from Latex by reviewing the university’s document about Making equations accessible at the University of York


At our last VLE coordinators meeting, we shared the good news that we now have Mathjax on the VLE following the upgrade in December. 

View the recording from the VLE Coordinators meeting (UoY login required)

About Blackboard 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.

Standing item: Future Teacher Webinars

Future Teacher webinars have been running once a month at lunch time for over two years.  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)

Access previously recorded webinars and the interactive learning resources from our Future Teacher WordPress page or directly from the Future Teacher web site.

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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