E-Learning Newsletter – July 2020 Edition

E-Learning Newsletter – July 2020 Edition

Welcome to the July 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 blog post.

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: Final Notice of VLE Summer Upgrade (7th & 8th July)
  • Info: Support for recording videos for STEM Teaching
  • Info: 27/06/2020 Panopto Summer Upgrade Overview
  • Resource: Preparing for Dual Delivery VLE Site Resource For Staff
  • Training: ASO Webinar Series/Dual Delivery Staff Development Offering
  • Info: COVID Contingency Materials for Staff and Students
  • Info: Changes coming to standard assignment markup and grading interface
  • Info: Have your say: Suggest and Vote for Enhance Requests for Collaborate Ultra and/or the Blackboard (VLE) mobile experience
  • Info: Collaborate Original End of Life
  • Conference: BB World 21-22 July
  • Call for Participants: Peer observation for online tutors
  • Call for chapters: Designing Courses with Digital Technologies: Evidence and Examples by and for Higher Education Instructors
  • E-Accessibility News:
  • Training: Creating Accessible Documents • 11 June, 10am-12pm, Online
  • Info: Digital Accessibility Tutorial
  • Info: Blackboard Ally Update
  • Future Teacher Webinar: Review from June webinar
  • 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 Upgrade – Next Tuesday & Wednesday

Stakeholders should be aware that the annual Summer VLE Upgrade will take place on Tuesday 7th and Wednesday 8th July, 2020. This year the upgrade is scheduled to start at 0700 on the morning of Tuesday the 7th and during this upgrade window, access to the VLE and any integrated tools (such as Reading Lists, or Panopto/Replay) will be unavailable for all users. This upgrade introduces a number of important updates, bug fixes and essential security enhancements. Whilst the upgrade is in progress we will post regular updates to our Twitter feed @UoY_Yorkshare.

Colleagues 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.

Panopto Upgrade Overview

On Saturday 27th June, Panopto – the cloud service that we use to deliver our Replay Service, was updated to the latest version.

One key feature that has been delivered with this update is an improved version of the Panopto mobile application, which is now available on the Apple Store, and the Google Play store.

For a full list of new features, see the official release notes.

Support for Recording Videos for STEM Teaching

In line with the University guidance that no ‘face-to-face’ lectures should be timetabled for the Autumn Term, colleagues are being advised to generate their own lecture replacement materials and recordings. To assist with this process, we are now in a position to offer colleagues the following services:

  1. From Mon 6 July, the following Replay+ (Chalkboard Capture Rooms) can be booked by academic staff who wish to record videos for teaching. P/L/001, P/L/002, P/L/005, P/L/006
    1. Further lecture theatres with Replay+ will be added as buildings reopen.
    2. Bookings will be for a Monday – Thursday slot.
  1. From Mon 13 July, additional temporary recording studios will be available for booking in G/N/001, G/N/002, G/N/010, G/N/013 & G/N/02. Each room will have a fixed camera at the rear to capture a marked out area of the chalkboard space, providing a Replay+ type recording.

Bookings for use of these rooms can be made via emailing roombookings@york.ac.uk  

The above spaces will be operate under Covid-secure conditions:

    1. Colleagues will have sole use of the space for the duration of the booking.
    2. All consumables will be removed, and colleagues are requested to bring their own whiteboard pens, chalk and erasers
    3. Colleagues are requested to bring sanitising wipes to sanitise surfaces, keyboard, mouse and AV controls
    4. In the lecture theatres, the resident radio microphone will be used.
    5. In the seminar rooms, a fixed microphone above the boards will be used.

In addition, we are providing additional support for generating recordings of handwriting and ‘chalk and talk’ style delivery with the provision of loanable visualiser equipment. 

Devices will be available in one of two ways:

  • Departments planning intensive use will receive an allocation of devices, and will self-manage how these are shared between colleagues. Collection details will be communicated separately.
  • Colleagues in other departments will be able to book a visualiser for personal use through AV Services for a maximum period of two weeks at a time.  Collection details will be communicated separately.
  • The lead colleague in your department will tell you what the arrangements for your department are.

See this overarching document for more information.

Preparing for Dual Delivery VLE Site Resource For Staff

The VLE training site – ‘Preparing for Dual Delivery 2020-21’ – has been made available to all staff to review.  This resource aims to support departments with their planning and preparation for teaching as we move towards the next academic year (2020-2021). 

The VLE site models and explains different approaches to teaching online, and indicating how these methods might be adapted into blended/dual delivery.

To access the site, please log into the University virtual learning environment (Yorkshare) by going to https://vle.york.ac.uk/ and entering your username and computing password into the boxes, which will enable you to authenticate. From there you will arrive on your VLE home page. You can then search in your list of modules for ‘Preparing for Dual Delivery 2020-21’. 

Alternatively, once you have successfully logged into the VLE, you can click on this direct link to the site.

ASO Webinar Series (Programme Design and Learning Technology Team/Academic Practice)

This webinar series from the Programme Design and Learning Technology and the Academic Practice teams provides support with the preparation and delivery of modules for the 2020-21 academic year. You can sign up for the whole series or join individual webinars. You can find out more, sign up for upcoming webinars, and view recordings and resources from previous webinars at the PDLT Webinars 2020 VLE site (self-enrol).

COVID Contingency Materials for Staff and Students

We are working on better centralising all the numerous help resources that we have generated relating to COVID since March this year. Due to the quantity and type of materials this will take us some time to finish completely, however we have split this work into two phases and the first is already complete:

  1. Phase One – Ensure that there is a central page on our WordPress site that summarises all the core COVID materials for both staff and students and ensure that this page can be accessible from most areas of the site – COMPLETE.
    1. Here’s the central COVID page
    2. It’s “stickied” on our site’s homepage, and an orange “COVID Support” box has been added to the left hand pane of the vast majority of our WP pages that also links back to this same page.

  2. Phase Two – Ensure that all our new individual Google Doc help guides are added into the “VLE Help” search area for staff. Currently many of them are missing from that area – UNDERWAY
    1. It’s a manual task to get them all added, but we’re working on this already alongside a summer intern
    2. For now, if you cannot find specific materials please contact us or navigate through our GDoc Guides Folder.

If you have any suggestions as to how we can better publicise and share help materials, contact Amy at amy.eyre@york.ac.uk

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 coming in July/August 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. 

Have your say: Suggest and Vote for Enhance Requests for Collaborate Ultra and/or the Blackboard (VLE) mobile experience

We have created two surveys to allow our user community to both suggest new features/enhancements and to vote on those that have already been suggested. If you have ten minutes, please complete the relevant survey(s) if you have thoughts to share.

Access and learn more about the surveys: Have Your Say – Request Enhancements For Collaborate Ultra And Blackboard Mobile.

We’ve already had over 100 responses, so have published some initial results for both surveys, you can see these here: Initial Survey Results – Blackboard Mobile And Collaborate Enhancement Requests.

We have fed these initial results back to Blackboard and they have already provided feedback on the “top ten” for Collaborate. We’ll be publishing a further blog post soon to share this feedback with you soon, but for now you can watch a recording of the feedback session online (1hr 8m total, direct feedback starts around 32:30).

The surveys will continue to run for at least a few more months, so please do share them on to colleagues and any other interested parties.

“Collaborate Original” Webinar Platform End of Life

We have been advised by Blackboard that the Collaborate Original (aka “Collaborate Classic”) webinar tool will be hitting “End of Life” in Europe on December 31st 2020, and as such will no longer be supported or usable after that point. 

The Collaborate Ultra webinar platform that is currently in wide usage will not be impacted by this change. Collaborate Ultra will continue to be usable here at York in 2020 and beyond, it’s just the Original/Classic version of the Collaborate platform that is now facing end of life.

Help: Distinguishing “Collaborate Original” (aka “Classic”) from “Collaborate Ultra”.

Are you aware of anyone within your department still using Collaborate Original (rather than Collaborate Ultra) for webinar-type activity? We have run reports recently that have shown a spike in Collaborate Original activity since the beginning of COVID, as well as the much-expected increased in the use of Collaborate Ultra. 

We are keen to scope out who might be using Original rather than Ultra. We’re also keen to speak to anyone that has old Collaborate Original recordings that they’re wanting to keep beyond 2020.

Please forward this information on to relevant contacts within your department. If anyone is using Collaborate Original, or has any questions about this, please contact us at vle-support@york.ac.uk  

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.

Call for chapters: Designing Courses with Digital Technologies: Evidence and Examples by and for Higher Education Instructors

Higher education is currently undergoing a digital transformation. As most higher education institutions are integrating digital technologies, instructors need guidance. In this book, to be published by Routledge, instructors from around the world, representing different subject disciplines, will write short chapters with concrete examples of how they use digital technologies to support teaching and learning informed by evidence. The book will be written by and for instructors.

BB World: 21-22 July

This year, the Blackboard World conference is free to attend online. https://bbworld.com/ to view the agenda to sign up.

If you wish to catch up on the conference sessions from BB Europe’s Teaching and Learning Conference, you can self-enrol for TLC catchup TV here (filter on Free courses). 

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

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

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 20 departments running Blackboard Ally. We’ve set up a site: http://ytel-BBAlly that has monthly department statistics for your courses to help you track your site accessibility progress. Do pass any feedback or contribute any stories you or your students have on how you’re using Blackboard Ally.

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

Accessible Presentations and Chemistry 

The recording from the most recent Accessible Presentations workshop is available form our PDLT Webinars 2020 vle site. Do self-enrol and select Creating Accessible Presentations from the left-hand menu. This features some information on Languages and Chemistry presentations. 

Mathtype licences, Mathjax, Latex documents

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

Webinar: Future Teacher 3.0 Webinars 25 Sep 2020 1pm

The June Future Teacher webinar was on the topic Self assessment and mastery learning and featured Stefan Wytwyckyj from the IPC. View the recording on the Future Teacher website.

We’re looking for presenters willing to share their experiences on using Social Media for learning for our next webinar in September 2020. 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!

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.

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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