E-Learning Newsletter – August 2020 Edition

E-Learning Newsletter – August 2020 Edition

Welcome to the August edition of our newsletter, which summarises the latest news on technology enhanced learning provision across the University.

To navigate through the contents below, you will need to open up the Google Doc for the hyperlinks to work. Otherwise, you can just scroll through the blogpost.

You can stay up to date with us by visiting our website: https://elearningyork.wordpress.com/ or following us on Twitter: @UoY_Yorkshare (Service) & UoY_TEL (Pedagogy)

In this edition:

  • Job Opening: Educational Adviser role within the PDLT
  • Info: Advanced Notice of Panopto Downtime in August
  • Info: VLE Upgrade Overview
  • Info: Support for recording videos for STEM Teaching
  • Info: Replay Service Level for Autumn 2020/21
  • Resource: Preparing for Dual Delivery VLE Site Resource For Staff
  • ASO webinar series recordings and resources; facilitated workshops in September
  • Info: COVID Contingency Materials for Staff and Students
  • Info: Changes have arrived to the standard assignment markup and grading interface (from “Box View” to “Bb Annotate”)
  • Info: Collaborate Ultra: Recording Links, Profanity Filters and Whiteboards
  • Info: Collaborate Original End of Life
  • 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

Job Opening Within the PDLT

We are recruiting for an Educational Adviser within the Programme Design and Learning Technology Team.

This is an open-ended post to provide professional advice and support to academic departments in the development of their degree programmes, with a particular focus on working with departments in one of the University’s three Faculties. The successful applicant will provide guidance, training and strategic planning support to departments, highlighting opportunities to enhance student learning and the provision of engaging teaching and classroom activities, including the effective incorporation of learning technologies as part of the overall programme design.

The closing date for applications is 16th August. More information can be found on The University of York Jobs Website. For enquiries, contact richard.walker@york.ac.uk

Advanced Notice of Panopto Downtime in August

On Saturday, August 15, Panopto will be making a number of updates to the Panopto Cloud infrastructure to improve performance and scalability. These updates will require downtime. We expect up to 3 hours of downtime, with a target start time of 10:00 pm BST.

During the downtime, staff and students will not be able to access videos on Panopto, and any attempts to upload from recording clients will result in a “Server unable to connect” message.

We appreciate your understanding and apologise for any inconvenience caused during this maintenance window.

VLE Summer Upgrade Summary

On Tuesday the 7th and Wednesday the 8th of July the VLE was successfully upgraded to the 2019Q4 release of Blackboard Learn. This release introduced a small set of new features and a continuation of improvements to workflows and the mobile architecture. There were also a number of bug fixes, stability improvements and underlying infrastructure enhancements which will ensure a strong foundation as demand on the service continues to increase. Thank you for your patience and understanding while we carried out this essential upgrade work.

If you have any queries or encounter any issues with the new release please contact the Programme Design and Learning Technology team via vle-suppport@york.ac.uk.

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.

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. 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. 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.

Replay Service Level for Autumn 2020/21

With no face-to-face lectures taking place on campus in the Autumn Term, the Replay service will be available on an opt-in basis only. Colleagues wishing to schedule a face-to-face ‘non-lecture’ type activity for recording will need to articulate their requirements (for either a single session or a sequence of sessions in one of our supported rooms) to timetabling@york.ac.uk, providing notice of three working days.

For colleagues wishing to make use of the service, we have composed some guidance that outlines the limitations of the facilities for ‘non-didactic’ delivery and how to approach some of the practical issues that emerge from this.

When it is deemed suitable for normal face-to-face lecturing to recommence on campus, the recording of lectures, as stipulated by the University Policy for the Recording of Lectures (2018) will also resume.

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)

The July webinar series has recently come to a close and we have made the recordings and resources from this available in the following VLE site.  The webinars are organised by the following themes:

  • Designing and planning for active and inclusive learning
  • Developing resources, tasks and explicit VLE sites
  • Interaction and engagement in dual delivery 
  • Assessment and feedback approaches
  • Evaluation and well-being

We hope that this will be a useful resource to draw on alongside the preparing for dual delivery site and the PDLT guidance on the use of the VLE and related tools when you are developing plans for the 20-21 academic year.

If you have attended any of the webinars, or if you have accessed any of the recordings and resources, we would welcome your feedback via the following feedback form.

In September, we plan to offer further support for those who have accessed the recordings and resources so that they can come along and share their plans in a facilitated workshop format.  This will provide opportunities to discuss work in development and seek input on any unresolved issues.  If you’d be interested in attending one of those events, please get in touch with us at vle-support@york.ac.uk or see the webinars site for further information.

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 have arrived to the standard assignment markup and grading interface (from “Box View” to “Bb Annotate”)

Decorative - example screenshot of the new Bb Annotate interface

We’re pleased to announce that changes have come to the standard assignment markup interface as part of our summer VLE upgrade. To learn more and access our help/support materials, please take a look at our blog post: Yorkshare Standard Assignment Markup Changes – New Features, Flexibility and More.

Collaborate Ultra: Recording Links, Profanity Filters and Whiteboards

Collaborate Ultra’s next scheduled upgrade window is this Thursday, from 00:01 until 06:00 BST. Collaborate may be unavailable and unusable during this time. See here for help understanding when the Collaborate maintenance window occurs in your timezone

This update should introduce two new features:

  • Increased security options for links to Collaborate recordings, they won’t be publicly accessible by default any more – THIS FEATURE HAS NOW BEEN DELAYED, RELEASE TBC
  • An optional profanity filter which you can choose to enable in your session settings, but will be off by default.

For more information about these changes, see:

Originally updates to the Collaborate whiteboard were also penned for this upgrade, but they have now been postponed. We have no firm date as to when the new whiteboard features will be available as of yet.

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 older 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 increase 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 

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.

Info: E-Accessibility News

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

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

All departments except for three are now 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.

Students are invited to complete our survey on student use of Ally. Please do pass this survey link on to any students you are currently in touch with.

Mathtype licences, Mathjax, Latex documents

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

We are pleased to announce that the University will also be acquiring a site licence for Equatio, which is mentioned in our equations guidance.

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 (Alex Reid, Psychology)
  • 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 (Stefan Wytwyckyj, IPC)
  • 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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