This post outlines the main online platforms and tools the University provides to support your teaching activities, and how we as a team support their usage.
Yorkshare (the VLE)
Yorkshare provides you with a safe and flexible online space to deliver resources and tools (such as blogs or discussion forums) to your students. Although we’re not going to cover Yorkshare’s comprehensive range of tools in this short(ish) post, it’s worth knowing they are available to support your teaching. We cover Yorkshare’s affordances within our extensive support offering, which there will be more information on later in this post.
One tool that does deserve a special mention, however, is the Reading List. Although we (the PDLT) don’t support use of the Reading List tool directly (the Library do this), the platform for Reading List development is integrated with Yorkshare and can only be made available to students via Yorkshare. The Reading List platform is called Leganto.
Yorkshare itself can be accessed from the University web-site. Click on the ‘Staff and students’ text toward the upper right of the University home page and select ‘Staff homepage’ from the drop-down. Select the ‘Yorkshare VLE’ link when at the staff home page.
Alternatively, you can get straight to the VLE by going to vle.york.ac.uk – noting that you don’t include www when typing in this address.
Yorkshare uses the Blackboard Learn software platform so it’s worth noting that colleagues may refer to the platform variously as:
- The VLE (which stands for Virtual Learning Environment)
- Blackboard, or Learn.
Whichever term you hear, people are referring to the same platform.
If you are teaching on, or developing, a module that is being delivered via distance learning then the University operates an alternative platform called Canvas.
Replay is our centrally supported lecture recording service and the software platform Replay relies on is called Panopto. If you hear a colleague mention Panopto they are referring to Replay by another name. The Replay platform is fully integrated with Yorkshare (the VLE) and, in the case of most departments, students will access Replay recordings via Yorkshare.
When in a campus teaching venue Replay provides automated “capture” of timetabled lectures by recording the screen of the computer you are using during your lecture, synchronised with your voice. Generally, it will only capture audio as narration for the image feed, not video footage of you. However, do note that select venues around campus support blackboard or whiteboard capture along with capture of a computer feed and audio. Image feed from a visualiser can also be supported.
As of the 2018 to 2019 academic year the University has adopted an opt-out policy to lecture capture meaning, unless you successfully make a case to your department for not having your sessions recorded, all your timetabled lectures will be recorded. For more on this please go to the University website and search on Replay.
If a timetabled session is scheduled to be captured in a teaching venue, all you need to do is check that the lectern PC in the room you are teaching in is switched on. The capture itself will start and stop automatically a few minutes before and after the session starts/ends, without need for your intervention. Note that, if you prefer to use your own device, Replay will capture its display if you project it by connecting your device to the lectern. You do still need to make sure the lectern PC is on, though you don’t need to be logged in to it if you aren’t using it.
Further to timetabled capture, the Replay platform also provides for ‘at-desk’ capture either by an installable capture app or a browser based one. You can use ‘at-desk’ capture to record video resources while at your own computer. These materials can be published directly to a Yorkshare VLE site if required. This is the method of lecture recording you will likely predominantly use for recording lectures that aren’t taking place face-to-face due to COVID related teaching adjustments for example.
Note that any video files you wish to upload for students to view must be uploaded to Replay and not directly to the Yorkshare (the VLE). Videos uploaded to Panopto will also need to be moved or copied to a Replay Content folder associated with a VLE site (and not shared from your Replay/Panopto My Folder).
Responseware is an audience participation platform that provides a means for you to conduct interactive polls and receive text messages from students during real-time sessions.
Importantly, students can use their own devices, whether a smartphone, tablet or laptop, to register their responses to your queries.
Once installed on your computer, TurningPoint, the software used to create the interactive polls that Responseware uses, is integrated with Microsoft PowerPoint. You then use PowerPoint, and the TurningPoint toolbar that appears within PowerPoint, to develop poll questions you want to pose to your students during your real-time sessions.
As well as anonymously registering responses to polls, ResponseWare supports receipt of text messages too. This can for example, be useful for collation of student comments or questions with a view to addressing them at the end or during a live session.
Blackboard Collaborate Ultra
Blackboard Collaborate Ultra and its use in facilitating webinars is another key centrally supported online platform that you can use in your teaching or research practise.
A webinar is essentially a seminar or lecture delivered ‘live’ online and is a useful intervention to implement when your desired participants can’t all be present in the same physical location, but where synchronous (real-time) communication is required. It can also be used as a low-cost, time-friendly way to facilitate external speakers presenting to your students.
Collaborate can be used for real-time teaching or student collaborations within Yorkshare sites, and for external speakers to present without any University log-in required. Similarly, participants don’t require a University log-in to participate in a Collaborate session.
Padlet is an online collaborative tool that acts as a virtual noticeboard for sharing all kinds of information including files, videos, links to external web pages and text content.
A Padlet could, for example, be used ‘live’ as a way to crowd-source thoughts and ideas during a lecture, with students accessing your Padlet using their own devices. Alternatively, a Padlet could be used to facilitate an asynchronous online activity perhaps supporting an independent study theme.
Padlets can be embedded directly within a Yorkshare site to make the incorporation of such an activity more seamless, this is particularly enabling when used in concert with other Yorkshare contained resources.
Again, for more information on how to get started with Padlet, please visit our e-learning support site and access the York TEL Handbook or search the support site using the word Padlet.
As an institution, the University has adopted Google as its email provider and as a consequence, along with email provision, every member of staff and every student gains access to Google’s useful suite of tools.
A number of the Google Tools could potentially be used to support your teaching, notably Google Docs, Google Slides, Blogger and Google Sites for example. There are however other Tools in the Google suite that you may find useful within your teaching practise.
While IT Services support the Google platform from a technical point of view, we are certainly able to advise and help you in possible use of Google Tools with your students and within your teaching.
It’s worth noting here however that if you have students attending from China you will need to consider tools or platforms other than those offered by Google as Google tools are blocked in China.
Just get in touch with us via our vle support email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you do need advice regards using Google within your teaching. Contact IT Support if you have more technical queries relating to use of Google Tools more generally.
The Programme Design and Learning Technology Team (PDLT) are here to support you in the use of all the platforms covered in this post as well as with advice and consultation on the use of online tools you might use in supporting learning and teaching more generally.
Online we have a range of resources designed to help you as and when needed:
Tackling your more technical ‘how to’ needs, we’ve developed an extensive suite of guides that can be searched on. The guides, exposed via the Help tab when logged into the VLE, are also strategically linked to from within our team support site. Our guides include both written and, where appropriate, video guidance.
Our team support site, found at elearningyork.wordpress.com, is where you will find the already mentioned York TEL Handbook. The handbook presents technology-supported approaches to your teaching designed to improve student engagement as well as learning and teaching practise. The handbook is comprehensive and includes good practice information on content creation, site design, online activities, assessment and feedback among many other topics.
To keep you abreast of events, opportunities and news we regularly post to our support site blog (the blog this post is made within) as well as publish a monthly newsletter. We also regularly update the support site with case studies from around campus. Please consider subscribing to the support site to receive post notifications from it via email (this includes the monthly newsletter when it is posted).
Last but not least the team support site provides you with details on how to contact us, bringing us nicely on to what you can expect from actual humans.
You are welcome, and indeed encouraged, to contact us for the arrangement of consultation or planning support for yourself, or for your staff. If you are developing a new programme, or module, and would like advice on how you can integrate online platforms in to your plans, then don’t hesitate to get in touch.
We also provide end-to-end consultation and training that is fitted to your specific needs (including workshops, bespoke sessions or drop-ins). We can assist you one to one, or in groups, on themes such as course design, course delivery, content development (inc. audio/video development) and evaluation activities, as well as help you with more technical concerns such as tool configuration or uploading resources for students.
Essentially, if you have any kind of query relating to the use of online platforms or tools in your learning and teaching practise, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.