E-Learning Newsletter – March 2020 Edition

Welcome to the March 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 email.

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:

  • Info: VLE Summer and Winter Upgrade Schedule
  • Event: PDLT Webinars • 31 March, Blended learning design
  • Call for Participants: Peer observation for online tutors
  • Event: ResponseWare Lunch and Learn • March 25th, 2020
  • Info: York Technology Enhanced Learning Handbook Update – VLE Annual Calendar & Mobile Learning (mLearning)
  • Event: Online Learning Knowledge Share – 23 – 26th March, 2020
  • Webinar: Future Teacher 3.0 Webinar, Friday 28th March, 13:00pm
  • Call for Papers: Association of Learning Technologists Conferences 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

VLE Summer and Winter Upgrade Schedule

We are currently testing and configuring the target release for the summer upgrade of the VLE, and this work will continue over the coming months. This release will include further improvements to the mobile device experience and responsive theme, in addition to increased system stability and reliability. The upgrade will also deliver a set of minor feature and functionality improvements and we will be providing further information on the specifics of the new release over the coming months.

At this stage, we would like to advise Departments that we are planning to carry out the Summer upgrade over a two-day period on Tuesday the 7th and Wednesday the 8th of July inclusive. During which time, the VLE and Replay Lecture Capture will be unavailable to all users.

Stakeholders should also be advised that we will also be carrying out further necessary system maintenance in December of 2020. This Winter ‘Mini-Upgrade’ will also take place over a two day period, requiring Tuesday the 8th and Wednesday the 9th of December inclusive. As with the Summer upgrade, the VLE and Replay Lecture Capture will be unavailable to all users. This work is to ensure that the service continues to be robust and stable for the busy assessment periods in the Spring term. We do not plan to introduce any new functionality during the mini-upgrade.

Please ensure that these dates are shared widely within your respective Department. If you are aware of any planned teaching and learning activities that are running during these upgrade periods, please contact the Programme Design and Learning Technology Team as early as possible at vle-support@york.ac.uk and we will endeavour to find a solution for you.

New PDLT Webinar Series

We are relaunching our monthly ‘webinars’ with the following event:

Blended learning design: Designing to connect face-to-face sessions (large and small group teaching) and study online – Tues 31st March – 1pm

This will be followed with events towards the end of each month, beginning with:

  • April – Lecturing in the age of lecture capture
  • May – Assessment for learning
  • June – Making collaborative online activities work

By starting with a focus on learning design we stress that learning, teaching and assessment activities, tools and techniques are best integrated within a broader learning design at or beyond the level of the module. We will focus on design principles for active learning including:

  • clarifying objectives and ensuring alignment of level, pedagogic approaches and assessment
  • Mapping variables (objectives/pedagogic approaches, interaction types, time and place) to maximise the benefits of different modes of activity
  • Building in structure between activities to create a clear sense of journey and progression
  • Planning for engagement
  • Building in inclusive and accessible learning practices

We will provide examples of learning designs from different Departments and consider key success factors.  By the end of the webinar we hope that you will have had the opportunity to explore the factors involved in blended learning design, considered opportunities for development and identified possible next steps.

If you would like to join us, please complete this google form and we will provide you with further details and joining instructions

Peer observation for online tutors: Call for participants for 2020 programme

At the November 2019 meeting of the Online and Distance Learning Special Interest Group it was agreed that we should explore the possibility of running another peer observation programme for online tutors and programme managers.  

Peer observation is primarily a developmental technique for the individuals involved.  It facilitates the sharing of impartial and objective feedback based upon actual observations of online tutoring practice. It’s intentionally non-directive, with participants free to determine the amount of time that they can commit to the process, what they want to get out of it and how and when they will conduct the peer observation.

Participants from previous programmes have found that being paired up with a colleague from a different discipline can bring fresh perspectives on tutoring practice and new insights into online course design and technologies to engage students in their learning.  For some participants, it can represent a less daunting experience than working with a colleague from your own programme team who is already familiar with what you do, and can provide a safe space to reflect on current practice and explore new tutoring techniques. You are free though to choose whether you would like to be paired with someone from the same discipline or a different one.

The programme is entirely flexible and it’s up to you to decide whether you want to just observe someone’s practice, rather than be observed too in a reciprocal arrangement.  

If you are interested in taking part this year, please could you get in touch with Richard Walker, Head of the Programme Design and Learning Technology Team (richard.walker@york.ac.uk; x1138) by Monday 9th March.  It would also be extremely helpful if you could publicise this opportunity to colleagues – anyone really with a significant tutoring or programme management responsibility for online learning who might be interested in taking part. 

Please do drop Richard a line if you have any questions about the programme. For further details please take a look at a YouTube video which offers an overview of how the programme works and how it may benefit participants. We have also blogged about previous peer observation programmes, including a cross-institutional online exchange with colleagues from the University of Waikato (New Zealand).

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

York Technology Enhanced Learning Handbook Update – VLE Annual Calendar & Mobile Learning (mLearning)

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 chapter will cover a broad range of mobile-related things, including a section of easy, day-to-day things that you can do on your smartphone/tablet to help with teaching, learning and related activities.

This day-to-day section will include guidance on doing the following on a mobile device:

Accessing something:

  • Access teaching materials
  • Access materials offline
  • Access and use the same materials across different devices
  • Access Eduroam WiFi (connect to and find EduRoam WiFi locations globally)
  • Create shortcuts to helpful online tools on your device’s home screen
  • Print from your mobile

Organising something:

  • Organise materials (build personal web page reading lists, mind maps, reference lists, organise files)
  • Organise yourself (to do lists, reminders)

Working with others:

  • Text messaging and video calls
  • Collaborative documents, pinboards and to do lists/reminders

Revising or studying:

  • Improve focus/productivity
  • Take notes (including voice dictation, photo/scanning documents, real time annotation/markup across devices)
  • Listen to teaching materials, including written files
  • Build and use flashcards
  • Display apps side by side (such as a notes doc and reading material)

Recording and creating media:

  • Images (inc. screenshots, continuity camera)
  • Video (inc. screen scrape recordings)
  • Audio

Improving Accessibility

  • Native tools on your mobile device to help improve accessibility
    • Apple devices
    • Android devices

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

What about now? 

Whilst you wait for the mLearning content to be finalised and published, you can take a look at our new VLE annual calendar. We’ve added this into the handbook as a new page: 1.7 Planning ahead.

This page details things that both academic and support staff should think about throughout the academic year, to help them and their students get the most out of the VLE. It also includes a poster which can be printed out and stuck up in an office for reference.

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


Event: Online Learning Knowledge Share 23-26 March

An exciting opportunity to be part of a knowledge share exchange with the Institut Obert de Catalunya (IOC) is happening at the University of York (UoY) from 23 March to 26 March.

Lilian Soon met the tutors from the IOC at a Future Teacher conference in Belgium in May 2019 and the idea for a visit started then. The IOC is the institute of distance learning of the Department of Education in Catalonia. They provide online and distance learning courses and promote online learning in Catalonia. The tutors have a 4-day Erasmus ‘scholarship’ grant to do some professional development here in the UK and the result is this Online Learning Knowledge Share event at the University of York from 23-26 March. 

The three tutors visiting us from IOC are computer science teachers and also part of the learning analytics research group – ADA (Academic Data Analysis) in IOC. 

This is an opportunity to exchange best practice in the delivery of online and distance education, and to learn more about the use of learning analytics from the research and software tools developed by the team.


  • 23 March – Supporting online learners, accessibility needs
  • 24 March – Academic data analysis, learning analytics – technical session
  • 24 March – Academic data analysis, learning analytics – pedagogy session
  • 25 March – Online learning design
  • 26 March – Visit to MyKnowledgeMap, York

You can view times, locations and register to attend on the event Google Site.

Info: E-Accessibility News

Job Advert: IT Accessibility Support Specialist

The University is advertising for an IT Accessibility Support Specialist. If you know anyone who is suitable for this 2 year fixed term full time role, please encourage them to apply. Closing date 8 March. Job Advert.

Training: Creating Accessible Documents • B/R/012 • 10am-12pm • 10 March

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

We now have 11 departments running Blackboard Ally. Our institution score has risen from 55% before summer to 75% after summer, and is now at 79%. Well done everyone! Let’s keep going and making our learning resources more accessible for everyone.

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

February’s webinar saw Alex Reid from Psychology present on how he uses Mentimeter to attune to what students know. Look out for the webinar recording on the relevant page on the Future Teacher website.

The March Future Teacher webinar is on the topic Collaborative teaching and learning. Sign up form is now available on the Future Teacher website.

This series of webinars has been running for over two years. 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 some feedback (feedback form), just let us know what you’ve gained from the FutureTeacher sessions or how they’ve influenced your teaching.  

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.

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.

Call for Papers: Association of Learning Technologists Conferences 2020

The window for submissions for workshops or presentations at ALT-C 2020 is now open with a deadline of 19th March 2020. The annual conference for the Association for Learning Technology will take place between 09 – 11 September 2020 in London. Registration will open in the Spring.

The themes for the conference are as follows: (From the ALT Website)

  • Inclusive Practice – our learners are diverse. How do we design and create inclusive student-centred learning environments to support and celebrate this diversity? What challenges and opportunities do digital environments bring? How do we ensure that we are representing our student’s voice and our evolving student demographic?
  • Leadership in learning technology – what role does leadership play? For example, implementing policies and frameworks; establishing learning technology within an institution; building learning technology teams; promoting and supporting diversity; professional development of learning technologists; collaborating internally & externally.
  • Digital Wellbeing – Considering the relationship between the technology we promote and the wellbeing of students and teachers; the impact of digital services on people’s mental, physical and emotional health; the ethical questions raised through the use of analytics and the safety of user data; wellbeing and resilience as digital capabilities; the challenge of delivering online learning to those who are actively reducing their use of online platforms.
  • Responding to Complexity – how are we dealing with change and the growing complexity of the education sector and our institutions?  How are we navigating new political and ethical considerations? What are the challenges and opportunities of unbundled education and disaggregated learning technologies?
  • Wildcard: if your work doesn’t relate directly to any of the conference themes, then we encourage you to select the wildcard theme when submitting your learning technology research, practice or policy work from any sector including further and higher education, schools, vocational learning and training, lifelong learning and work-based learning.

You can read more on the ALT’s official 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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