E-Learning Newsletter – June 2020 Edition

E-Learning Newsletter – June 2020 Edition

Welcome to the June edition of our newsletter, which summarises the latest news on technology enhanced learning provision across the University. In light of the ongoing situation, this newsletter also includes updates on our service level for the coming Summer term, our re-focused staff development offering.

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
  • Info: Advanced Notice of Panopto (Replay) Downtime. June 27th
  • Training: PDLT Staff Development Offering
  • Info: Changes coming to standard assignment markup and grading interface
  • Advance HE Article: Designing learning and teaching online: the role of discussion forums
  • 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 • 11 June, 10am-12pm, Online
  • Info: Digital Accessibility Tutorial
  • Info: Blackboard Ally Update
  • Future Teacher Webinar: Wednesday 27 May, 13:00pm
  • 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. This release will enable Blackboard Ally for all VLE sites unless your department informs PDLT otherwise. See About Blackboard Ally for more information on this.

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.

Advanced Notice of Panopto (Replay) Downtime – June 27th

Due to an upgrade, Panopto, the vendor who supply the software for our Replay Service, will be unavailable for users between 19:00 and 22:00 on Saturday June 27th.

Users should be forewarned that the service will be unavailable during this period. This includes access to Replay lecture captures within the ‘Replay Content’ tool link on Yorkshare VLE sites.

We apologise in advance for any disruption to viewership this will cause.

PDLT Webinars (New Webinars and Dates Added)

To support staff with the need to transfer to online teaching, we have developed a rolling programme of webinars in line with the advice from our guide on Transferring face-to-face teaching interventions to Online.  This month we will be introducing the following new webinars:

  • A showcase of approaches to transferring f2f to online
  • Making collaborative online activities work
  • Panopto ‘Drop in’

And we will also be repeating the following sessions:

  • 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
  • Using breakout rooms in Collaborate
  • Setting up seminar groups within your VLE Site
  • Creating accessible documents
  • Creating accessible presentations

Please see our self-enrol VLE site for session details, the sign-up form and self-paced resources

Show and Tell: A showcase of approaches to transferring f2f to online, 8 June 11am-12pm

A chance to learn from other academic colleagues how they have approached transferring face to face sessions online. Each session aims to showcase the work of a colleague from each Faculty and one other Department with insight and reflection on the process of development/delivery.  8 June will feature Paula Mountford (Education,) Martin Suckling (Music) and Alistair Boxall (Environment). See sign up form above.

Changes coming to standard assignment markup and grading interface (from “Box View” to “Bb Annotate”)

We’re pleased to announce that changes are coming to the standard assignment markup interface in 2020. Whilst the exact date of this transition is not yet confirmed we still wanted to share a “sneak peek” with you of what you can expect when the new tools arrive. Please take at our new blog post (link below) to see some of the new features plus details around when these new tools will be arriving. If you’re planning standard assignment grading activities across July/August, please note what’s advised in the “Transition Date” section of the blog post. 

Advance HE Article: Designing learning and teaching online: the role of discussion forums

Advance HE has recently published a new article on the role of discussion boards in the design of online learning and teaching, with some valuable tips on how to manage asynchronous discussions.

This article has significant University of York interest, as it was co-authored by Ellen Roberts and Jane Lund, from the Online Masters programme team in the Department of Social Policy and Social Work.

The full article can be read on Advance HE’s Official Website.

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).  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

Impact of training

I ran a mentimeter survey asking staff to tell me which practices they had adopted after attending training. I’m really pleased to see how many people are creating structured documents now with headings and lists. More people are creating accessible presentations than 6 months ago as well. I’m especially pleased with how many people you discuss digital accessibility with.

Out of all the things you learned in the Creating Accessible Documents workshop, what do you now do the most? 90% use headings and lists, 72% add ALT text to images, 88% create meaningful hyperlinks. 48% export PDF with bookmarks (could be they don’t create pdfs in the first place), 52% use the Microsoft Accessibility Checker and 62% have stopped using tables for layouts.

If you do use PowerPoint or Google Slides, what do you now do the most? 70% use slide titles and slide templates, 64% check the reading order of content and 54% add explanations in speaker notes.

On average, how many people have you discussed digital accessibility with? Users could choose between 0 and 10 and the average response is 5.3. A simple way to make this number really big is to talk to students about digital accessibility. Telling them that using heading styles can help them to reorganise their work is one way to incentivise them to adopt this habit. See Jenny Threlfall, SPSW item below.

Jenny Threlfall, Social Policy and Social Work Lecturer, talks about the things she does to promote more accessible ways to write. Lou also appears in this Future Teacher webinar detailing how she teaches students to note-take and organise their writing. You’ll be able to catch up with this recording in due course at http://bit.ly/ft30ukpage.

Training: Creating Accessible Documents • Online using Collaborate Ultra • 10am-12pm • 11 June

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 19 departments running Blackboard Ally

On the Ally roadmap is a way to flag if videos have captions, and if a site has broken links. 

Mathtype licences, Mathjax, Latex documents

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

Webinar: Future Teacher 3.0 Webinars 26 June 1pm

The June Future Teacher webinar is on the topic Self assessment and mastery learning. Join us on 26 June at 1pm. Check back on the Future Teacher website for further details. 

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!

May’s webinar on Strategies to support writing saw a guest presentation slot by Lou Stringer from the Learning Enhancement team and a recorded video from Jenny Threlfall from SPSW about supporting students in writing with simple technology practices. The webinar recording from the session will be 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.  

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.

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. 

TYMS have successfully piloted Ally, with more detailed feedback on their experience available from end of May. 

Our institution score has risen from 55% before summer to 75% after summer, and is now at 79.7%. Well done everyone! Let’s keep going and making our learning resources more accessible for everyone. 

A new feature since April available to all is the Bee Line Reader. The Ally Instructor guide and Ally student guide have been updated. Anyone can also use Ally outside of the VLE for the next few months at https://ally.ac/covid19/.

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 (Lou Stringer, Learning Enhancement, Jenny Threlfall, SPSW)
  • 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

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