E-Learning Newsletter – October 2020 Edition

E-Learning Newsletter – October 2020 Edition

Welcome to the October edition of our newsletter, which summarises the latest news on technology enhanced learning provision across the University. You can use the links in the contents below to navigate through the different sections of the newsletter.

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)

Advanced Notice of VLE Mini-Upgrade, December 2020

Colleagues should be advised that we will also be carrying out necessary system maintenance in December of 2020. This Winter ‘Mini-Upgrade’ will 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 during that window. 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 or assessments 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.

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Replay Service Level for Autumn 2020/21 and Closed Captions for Video Policy

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.

It is a legal requirement for all pre-recorded video to meet the requirements of the 2018 Digital Accessibility Regulations. The captioning policy sets out the requirements that all staff should address in their handling of video to comply with the regulations. In summary:

  • All staff who are engaged in the creation of pre-recorded video content must ensure that accurate closed captions are included as part of that resource. Pre-recorded video may not be published to end-users without closed captioning in place.
  • Staff are required to review the captions for the pre-recorded video to check that they provide an accurate reflection of the audio content (e.g. presenting technical and discipline-specific language correctly). They are also required to respond to requests for corrections to captions from end-users, if errors come to light after the publication of the video resource. Requests for captioning corrections to be made may be communicated to staff directly or through the reporting channel that a teaching department has established and highlighted through its accessibility statement to students.
  • Videos hosted within Panopto (the University’s centrally supported service for delivering video for teaching and learning applications) will automatically receive system-generated closed captions – but these will need to be reviewed by the content author to ensure that they are accurate/intelligible

We encourage colleagues to share the full policy document within their Departments. Staff are also encouraged to look at our “REPLAY: Embedding/Editing Captions” guide.

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New Help Guides for Start of Term Issues/Hot Topics

As term is now getting underway, various new issues and queries have become common trends in the support requests we are receiving. We have made the following new guides to help with these queries:

General Start of Term Help:

Please also remember that we have a central guidance document available for both teaching and admin’ staff on how to help ensure VLE sites are ready for the start of term: VLE Start of Term Site Readiness. This guidance is not COVID-specific (for COVID help, see our central COVID page), but rather general housekeeping guidance covering how to get ready for a new term.

Induction Materials for New Staff:

For colleagues who are assuming new teaching responsibilities at the University in the coming academic year, we have composed a brief introduction to the ecology of e-learning services and platforms that are supported within the University.

This may also serve as a refresher for colleagues who are returning to teaching following an extended period of absence on research leave.

You can read more on our E-Learning Blog.

We also have many links to staff and student induction materials and more helpful guides on our central COVID webpage.

Induction Materials for New Students:

Colleagues are reminded of the induction materials are available at the University for new and returning students:

Please note that there is a new “Introduction to learning technologies” area which has been made available for easy access from a new ‘Explore!’ tab in the VLE. This area covers the types of online tasks that students may be given, as well as technical guidance on how to use many of the common tools used to facilitate these tasks (such as the VLE, Replay, Collaborate and more). The Library have also provided a Skills Guide around studying online, which covers areas such as being digitally organised, researching effectively online, and how to communicate with others over the internet.

For day to day technical support, students can look at the “Help & Support” tab in the top right of every VLE page, or use our Student Help & Support Page.

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Preparing for Dual Delivery VLE Site Resource For Staff

The VLE training site – ‘Preparing for Dual Delivery 2020-21’ is 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. It also includes guidance materials on socially distanced teaching on campus that have been prepared by ASO’s Academic Practice team.

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.

GTAs will not automatically gain access to the Dual Delivery site, but can request access via this form: Form – GTA Access to the Preparing for Dual Delivery VLE Site.

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ASO webinar series recordings and resources

Recordings and resources from the Summer webinar series are available in the following webinars VLE site. These 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

There are also recordings and resources from our ‘Show and tell’ webinars in which staff from a range of Departments shared their experiences of teaching in the Summer term 2019-20 and plans for 20-21.

If you would like to organise a webinar for your Department, please contact us at vle-support@york.ac.uk. We would be happy to run bespoke sessions for programme / Department teams with sufficient notice (typically two-weeks’ notice is required).

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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

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New blog: Defining a digital future for teaching, learning and assessment – What do our students want?

In this blog post, Richard Walker and Nathan Page report on their project which researched student perceptions of digital services (both current experiences and future requirements) relating to teaching, learning and assessment. They also present an overview of a workshop which they delivered at the Association of Learning Technology’s Online Summit in August 2020, based on the research project’s findings. This includes key points of discussion around the main themes which were presented there: flexibility, personalisation, networking/community and lifelong learning. Implications and suggested future directions for digital services in teaching, learning and assessment are also drawn out.

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Call for evidence: Digital teaching and learning during the coronavirus pandemic

The Association for Learning Technology (ALT) is preparing a response to the Office for Students’ call for evidence on Digital teaching and learning during the coronavirus pandemic. This call for evidence is seeking a wide breadth of sector input and experience to understand the challenges faced, and lessons learned from remote teaching and learning delivery since the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in March 2020. You can contribute to the response which will be shared publicly by visiting the ALT response page. The call for evidence runs until 14 October 2020.

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Info: E-Accessibility News

Texthelp Read&Write Gold and EquatIO

We’re pleased to announce that the University has rolled out Texthelp Read&Write Gold and EquatIO to all IT managed classroom PCs and virtual desktop. Read&Write is a discreet toolbar that integrates seamlessly with the computer applications you already use, like web browsers and Microsoft or Google applications. Staff and students can use the toolbar to have text read out to you, save text as audio, colour mask your screen or highlight and collate key information. Many more features, including a PDF reader, are available to explore in our learner’s guide to Texthelp tools.

EquatIO is the complementary tool for reading and writing Maths! Simply type, handwrite or dictate any expression, and EquatIO will convert it into accurate, digital maths and formulas which can be added to a Microsoft Word document or G Suite apps with a click. You can also screenshot maths to hear it read out. Together with its scientific calculator, molecular viewer and periodic table, EquatIO has the tools to support maths in every discipline and STEM subjects as well. View the information in our learner’s guide to Texthelp tools to find out more. Also consult our guidance on accessible equations.

Look up Texthelp, EquatIO or Read&Write in our IT A-Z software page to find out more about installing it on your own machines.

Also see our item on Mathtype below.

Training: Creating Accessible Documents • Online using Collaborate Ultra • 10am-12pm • 7th October

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.

Blackboard Ally News

We reached a high score of 89% on our Ally report at the start of term! Well done to everyone who has worked so hard to make this possible. We do have some way to go with our documents at 58% accessibility, but even that has improved by 8% compared to last year. Let’s keep going!

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 students.

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.

Mathtype licences, Mathjax, Latex documents

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

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Webinar: Future Teacher 3.0 Webinars 28 Oct 2020 1pm

The September Future Teacher webinar was on the topic Social Media and featured Glenn Hurst and Katie Lamb from Chemistry. View the recording on the Future Teacher website.

We’re looking for presenters willing to share their experiences on Inclusive Practice for our next webinar on 28 October 2020 at 1pm. You can also contribute by reviewing the content from the previous webinar and providing a fresh literature review!

The Future Teacher 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, please do get in touch with lilian.soon@york.ac.uk.

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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.

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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

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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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