E-Learning Newsletter – April 2020 Edition

Welcome to the April edition of our newsletter. March proved to be a particularly challenging month, with several of our planned events being postponed as a result of the disruption caused by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. In light of the present situation, this newsletter includes updates on our service level for the coming Summer term, our re-focussed staff development offering, whilst also summarising the latest news on technology enhanced learning provision across the University. 

From everyone in the Programme Design and Learning Technology Team, we hope that you are well, safe and are able to enjoy a restful Easter Break despite the overarching circumstances.

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:

  • Covid-19: PDLT Working Arrangement and Office Hours
  • Info: Transferring Face-to-Face to Online Facilitation
  • Info: Web Conferencing: Collaborate Ultra vs. Zoom vs. Google Meet
  • Info: VLE Summer and Winter Upgrade Schedule
  • Info: A Note About Video Submissions
  • Training: New PDLT Staff Development Offering (Covid-19)
  • New Blog: Delivering Online Learning To Large Cohorts and Facilitating Engagement
  • Call for Participants: Peer observation for online tutors
  • E-Accessibility News:
  • Training: Creating Accessible Documents • 14th April, 2-4pm, Online
  • Info: Digital Accessibility Tutorial
  • Info: Blackboard Ally Update
  • Webinar: Future Teacher 3.0 Webinar, Wednesday 29 April, 13:00pm
  • Community: Free Open Conference on Networked Learning (18-20 May)
  • 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.

PDLT Working Arrangement and Office Hours

In light of the ongoing situation, the Programme Design and Learning Technology has transitioned towards remote working.

Please rest assured, however, that during any period of disruption, we will continue to provide full support for our services within our advertised office hours of 09:00 to 17:15, Monday to Friday. We will endeavour to meet our service level agreement of three working days, but with respect to the extraordinary circumstances and the expected high level of demand upon our services, we thank you for your patience and understanding should it take us longer to get back to you.

In the shorter term, The Programme Design and Learning Technology Team will be observing the intended University closure days (Wednesday 8th – Monday 13th April inclusive).

It is expected that unforeseen scenarios will arise, however we urge colleagues to think proactively about their requirements for learning, teaching and assessment, to consult our guidance below, and to contact us as early as possible at vle-support@york.ac.uk. Remember, we also have our general online technical help and support pages for a quick and easy way to get to commonly-needed guidance.

Transferring Face-To-Face Teaching to Online

In line with The University’s Academic Contingency Advice for Teaching, Learning, Assessment and Progression, the Programme Design and Learning Technology Team have developed a companion document, Transferring Face-To-Face Teaching to Online to assist colleagues with practical considerations for delivering teaching fully online.

If you have any specific queries that sit outwith the areas covered in this document, please contact the Programme Design and Learning Technology Team at the earliest possible convenience at vle-support@york.ac.uk.

Web Conferencing: Collaborate Ultra vs. Zoom vs. Google Meet

The University now has a number of different supported “web conferencing” platforms available, after various licensing extensions and purchasings occurring in the last month:

The University’s general guidance around which platform to use when is as follows:

  • Collaborate Ultra should be used for Teaching and Learning-related activities
  • Zoom should be used for non-Teaching and Learning-related activities
  • Google Meet should only be used if users are already familiar with it, and if they keep in mind that some features (>50 simultaneous users, ability to record) will likely be lost after September 2020.

For a more detailed comparison of the three platforms, see here: Collaborate Ultra vs. Google Meet vs. Zoom. Please note that Collaborate Ultra is supported by our team (the PDLT) and the other two are supported by the Learning and Teaching team in the Information Directorate.

Staff can use Collaborate Ultra for non Teaching and Learning-related activities if they wish to, but unfortunately the PDLT will likely not have the capacity to support these users at this time. As a team, our focus has to be on supporting Teaching and Learning during the ongoing coronavirus situation. Similarly, staff wishing to use Zoom for Teaching and learning activities can get pedagogical support from the PDLT, but technical support would have to come from the Learning & Teaching Team within the Information Directorate.

Related help pages:

Further information about Collaborate Ultra

We have been generating a lot of support materials for Collaborate in the last six weeks. Due to this, there are now many guides available in our Collaborate Google Drive Folder, but it may be a little disorientating finding your way around.

There is a full list of all Collaborate guides available, but generally we would recommend staff use our “Crash Course in Collaborate Ultra” or our “scenario hub guides” to get started. 

  • The hub guides (listed out below) focus on different scenarios you may wish to use Collaborate in, and link out to all further relevant guides from there. A “one stop shop” for each scenario. 
  • The crash course couches the scenario hub guides with a little more context, and includes other Collaborate resources such as server status and more.

Scenario Hub Guides:

  • Recording Collab’ Without an Audience to Create Video Resources for Later
  • Using Collab’ for Sensitive Meetings/Consultations/Interviews
  • Using Collab’ with One Group of Students via the VLE
  • Using Collab’ with Multiple Groups of Students via the VLE
  • Using Collab’ with People Not Enrolled on your VLE Site (externals, other staff/student audiences).

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.

A Note About Video Submissions

With the pivot towards open online summative assessment, we are noticing that many oral/presentation-type modes of assessment are being replaced with assessment tasks where students are being asked to deliver a video-based submission.

If colleagues are considering setting up an assessment where students are expected to submit a video or large file (characterised as being anything over 30 megabytes in size), you MUST contact the Programme Design and Learning Technology Team before setting up such a submission.

The only circumstance where the above would not apply is where you can be certain that both of the following are true:

  • students files will be under 30MB in size
  • your cohort size is 25 students or less.

We’ll be providing further guidance on supporting video submissions as soon as possible.

PDLT Webinars

The blended learning webinar series that we had planned for April, May and June has been postponed due to the COVID-19 situation. We are, instead, focusing on staff development offerings specifically targeted at the need to transfer to online teaching.  The first of these are available as follows:

  • Lecture Replacement Strategies/Practical At-Desk Video Tips
  • Introduction to Blackboard Collaborate Ultra for synchronous activities
  • Online asynchronous seminars with recorded videos and discussion boards
  • Setting up seminar groups within your VLE Site
  • Using breakout rooms in Collaborate

There is a rolling programme during the weeks beginning 13th and 20th April. Please see the Google Form for further information and sign ups.

Online asynchronous seminars with recorded videos and discussion boards

This webinar will provide you with an example of a straightforward model for asynchronous online activity involving:

  1. A recorded presentation and introduction to the week, with supporting information/links to resources
  2. A discussion board activity allowing students to respond to questions/summarise their thoughts/comment on each other’s ideas
  3. A recorded summary and/or document to summarise the key learning points and move on to the next week of activities
  4. The session provide you with an overview of how you can set this up within the VLE with a single page for each week.  There will be a rapid overview of how to use the Panopto desktop recorder to create the videos for steps 1 and 3, and how to set up a discussion board activity for 2.

This session will run at the following dates/times:

  • 15 April 2pm – 3pm
  • 22 April 10-11am

Introduction to Blackboard Collaborate Ultra for synchronous activities

Blackboard Collaborate is an online webinar tool that can be used with small or large groups for seminars or lectures.  Not used online webinar tools before? This session introduces you to the key concepts for running synchronous activities in such a way that learners remain active AND you have time to ‘breathe’ between activities. You will be sent a guide to join the session beforehand.

This session will run at the following dates/times:

  • 15 April 10-11am, 
  • 22 April 2-3pm

Setting up seminar groups within your VLE Site

If you have large cohorts for modules and need a way to manage the seminar groups through the VLE, you can set up Groups in the VLE using just two spreadsheets to automate the process. These Groups can have access to their own Collaborate room, Discussion Board, Blogs, Journals, Wikis and so on. This approach can help to manage synchronous seminars and asynchronous seminar activity during the Covid-19 crisis. This session will introduce the online seminar templates available to all seminar leaders. 

This session will run at the following dates/times:

  • 16 April 12pm – 1pm

Lecture Replacement Strategies/Practical At-Desk Video Tips

This practical, hands-on-session will discuss approaches for replacing lectures as part of Online Delivery models, with specific attention given to the Panopto At-Desk recorder as a tool for facilitation. Attendees will be invited to reflect upon their own lecture replacement strategies for the Summer Term.

This session will run at the following dates/times:

  • 21 April 1pm – 2pm

New Blog: Delivering Online Learning To Large Cohorts and Facilitating Learner Engagement

On February 12th 2020, a knowledge sharing event was held on these two (related) themes, in collaboration between the Programme Design and Learning Technology team (PDLT) and the Online and Distance Learning Special Interest Group. In this topical blog post, Nathan Page from the PDLT summarises some of the key points that were shared in the plenary.

You can read more on our E-Learning Blog.

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) by Monday 27th April.  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). Please note that the opportunity to experience a virtual exchange with a colleague from Waikato is available again this year. There are a number of Waikato tutors who are keen to share practice with us again. 

Info: E-Accessibility News

Training: Creating Accessible Documents • Online using Collaborate Ultra • 2pm-4pm • 14 April

A workshop demonstrating how ‘universal design’ can help everyone, and not just those with an accessibility need. Practise creating accessible documents using your own documents or using sample documents. Find out more and sign up (HR LMS). You’ll have to login to the HR LMS and search for ‘accessibility’ to view the events. Or sign up for those who cannot access the HR LMS. You will be sent a Collaborate Ultra link to join the online training room.

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! Login to the HR LMS and search for ‘accessibility’ to find the online tutorial.

Blackboard Ally News

We now have 14 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, 29 April, 1300 hrs

The April Future Teacher webinar is on the topic Strategies to support reading. 29 April, 1pm to 2pm. Sign up form is now available on the Future Teacher website

March’s webinar on collaborative teaching and learning saw record-breaking numbers of sign ups with our maximum of 100 attendees participating. Apologies to anyone who didn’t manage to join us. The webinar recording is available from  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.

Free Open Conference on Networked Learning (18-20 May)

Registration is now open for the free open research-based conference on Networked Learning (18-20 May)

Further details on the conference can be found on the official website.

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

Mathjax 

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.uk

As 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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