E-Learning Newsletter – December 2020 Edition

E-Learning Newsletter – December 2020 Edition

Welcome to the December 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)

Preparations for Spring Term and PDLT Support during the Christmas Vacation

PDLT vacation support

The PDLT will be providing a limited support service via email (vle-support@york.ac.uk) until Thursday 24th December. Thereafter, we will be maintaining essential operations and services up until 4th January, when a full service will resume.
We would therefore very much appreciate it if any urgent training and support issues are communicated to us by Friday 18th December to ensure that we can guarantee our usual level of response.

Support and guidance for teaching staff and students 

With both the festive break and spring term in mind, we have generated the following materials to help both staff and students throughout December (but particularly during periods of limited support in the holidays):

Both of these help pages (and more) are linked to from our central “Tech Help & Support” page on our website – A good one to bookmark! 


We also have the following two new blog posts which relate to current ‘hot topics’

Please share these resources widely within your Departments.

Second Intakes and January Starts

If Departments have any remaining requests for additional copies of VLE module sites for whole programmes to accommodate a second intake or January starts, please contact us as soon as possible at vle-support@york.ac.uk to ensure that these are set up correctly.

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VLE Mini Upgrade and Panopto scheduled downtime, December 2020

Please see the following System Availability page for information about all events (upcoming and recent) impacting on availability of our supported tools.

As noted in the September, October and November newsletters, we will be carrying out necessary system maintenance on the VLE in December. 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, Replay Lecture Capture (aka Panopto) and Collaborate Ultra 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.

Panopto will also be carrying out their own, independent maintenance involving a scheduled downtime on Saturday 19th December (currently planned for 3 hours from 10pm GMT).  During this time Replay videos will be unavailable for viewing or editing either within the VLE or at https://york.cloud.panopto.eu/. 

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Xerte Upgrade December 2020

Please see the following System Availability page for information about all events (upcoming and recent) impacting on availability of our supported tools.

We are planning to upgrade the Xerte learning objects service in December 2020. The Xerte service will be unavailable to all users on the evening of Tuesday the 15th of December 2020 between 1800 hrs and 1900 hrs whilst we upgrade the service to the latest version.

This upgrade will bring many new features, improvements, bug fixes and security patches. See the Xerte v3.8 Release Notes and Xerte v3.9 Release Notes for further details.

Find out more about Xerte at the University of York.

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Further Collaborate Downtime (Maintenance)

Please see the following System Availability page for information about all events (upcoming and recent) impacting on availability of our supported tools.

Blackboard will be performing maintenance on Collaborate Ultra in the earlier hours of Thursday December 10th (from 00:01 to 04:00 GMT, overnight between Wednesday and Thursday). This is their usual monthly maintenance/upgrade slot, where they should be implementing general bug fixes and working on improving system stability, and also some new features (further information: Collaborate Release Notes):

  • Large Sessions should support up to 1000 users instead of 500 as before

  • Users should be able to “@” people in text chat (similar to Slack) to tag particular people in the session in their response

  • Basic formatting options should be introduced in the text chat such as bolding, italicising and underlining.

During this window, Collaborate may be inaccessible to all staff and students. Blackboard advises that Collaborate shouldn’t be used during this time even if it seems to be available. For further information see Blackboard’s own article on the Collaborate maintenance.

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Digital Assessment and Feedback Project update

PDLT is working with the Enterprise Systems team on the Digital Assessment and Feedback

Project which is due to run for the next 20 months. The aim of the project is to significantly improve the University’s capability to deliver digital assessment and feedback services in the medium to long term to enable the university to become a leader in the provision of these Services.

The project will involve all teaching departments, gathering data on current assessment needs and exploring opportunities for incorporating and using technology in future assessments and feedback delivery. Professional services staff and students will also be widely consulted. 

The project team has been speaking to several departments who may be involved in the proof of concept trials to support digital assessment and feedback prior to any University wide rollout. Subject to contract, Wiseflow (from UNIwise) will be the commercial product used to run these first proofs of contract.

The team invites those interested in learning more about the project to sign up to a Google group and/or our slack channel (#digital-assessment-stakeholder-group).

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VLE Module Site Purge

It is time to prepare for the purge (deletion or removal) of old module sites and their content from the VLE for academic years prior to 2016. The VLE Archiving Policy states that VLE module sites will be retained for 5 years only and then purged from the system. Please note that this year we have a backlog of 3 years to catch up on hence four years of modules will be purged. This means that module sites from the 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 academic years will be purged in the final week of January 2021 (between the 25th and 29th).

As the VLE has no notion of a single module owner, all VLE users with an Instructor role on 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 academic year module sites have recently been emailed individually with:

  • a link to a VLE Self Service Dashboard report showing modules they are enrolled on as an Instructor, 

  • an explanation of the module purge process

  • instructions on how to preserve module content or entire module sites.

Departmental coordinators will shortly be issued with a link to a report so that they are able to view all modules that are categorised for their department which are scheduled for deletion. If you think there are any module sites, or content within them, for these academic years which you may need retaining please contact vle-support@york.ac.uk along with an explanation of why you would need to retain the sites or content. Also feel free to contact us if you have any queries about the module purge process.

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Collaborate Original final call: 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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Learning and teaching @York in the Coronavirus Pandemic

On Wednesday 2nd December (online, 2-3.30pm), the Learning and Teaching Forum will be holding an event in collaboration with PDLT for staff and students to share and learn from our experiences of learning and teaching in the Autumn term focusing on the following questions:

  • What have you learned from your experiences of teaching and learning in the Autumn term 2020 online and on-campus?

  • What positives can we take forward and share from these experiences in the immediate future and in the post-COVID University?

The session will be divided up into three 30 minute panels of staff and students focused on: Student engagement, teaching practice and planning for teaching under Covid (programme). 

Panel members will briefly outline their experiences and  talking points, followed by time for discussion.  If you would like to join us, please see the following registration page for further information and the sign up form.

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Collaborative Tools Event 8 – 10 Dec

The University of York’s Collaborative Tools conference is an opportunity for staff across the White Rose University Consortium to explore a wide variety of digital tools. In 2020, we are excited to hold this conference online, from 8-10 December, with a wide range of sessions delivered through Zoom.


  • Take part in an exciting range of workshops and talks.

  • Discover best practice hints and tips. 

  • Try out tools and applications that will enable collaborative working and communication of the work that you do. 

  • Listen to talks by University staff and students who are using the power of digital and harnessing its benefits. 

  • Be inspired to try these tools for yourself.

Find out more and register for the Collaborative Tools Event.

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Call for Participation: CMALT Cohort 2021

Would you like to gain professional accreditation for your learning technology skills and experience? We will be running a programme of workshops next year, supporting staff who wish to receive CMALT accreditation.

CMALT is a portfolio-based peer-reviewed accreditation, organised by the Association for Learning Technology, for which the University of York is an organisational member. CMALT aims to foster an appreciation of the interplay between learning and technology as well as provide a platform to allow educators and those involved in supporting education to learn from each other and evidence than they have done so.

If you would like to know more about CMALT, please take a look at the information on our CMALT group information page.

If you would like to register your interest in getting involved next year, please get in touch with Richard Walker: richard.walker@york.ac.uk 

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Call for Chapters – Industry Practices in Education (Springer) – 20th Jan 2021

A second call has been issued for initial chapter proposals for the forthcoming edited book, “Industry Practices, Processes and Techniques Adopted in Education – Supporting innovative teaching and learning practice”, edited by Kathryn MacCallum and David Parsons to be published by Springer in late 2021. At this stage, all that is required is suggested chapter titles, details of authors, and a brief outline of the proposed content of the chapter (approx. 200 words). These can be sent to the editors by filling in the expression of interest Google Form. Any questions about the call for chapters should be directed to the editors at agileleanbook@gmail.com

Important Dates:

  • Abstract Registration due: January 20th, 2021

  • Notification on initial acceptance: February 1st, 2021

  • Book Chapters due: March 1st, 2021

  • Notification to authors: May 1st, 2021

  • Revised papers due: July 1st, 2021

  • Publication of the book: Late 2021

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Disability History Month

18 Nov to 20 Dec is UK Disability History Month. Why not engage with one of the webinars below to find out more about an aspect of this topic?

Webinars: York, AbilityNet and JISC webinars

Each month, AbilityNet and JISC run webinars on digital accessibility and related topics. 

View the e-accessibility calendar for these and other events.


Date and time

Event

1 Dec, Tuesday, 1pm to 2pm

AbilityNet webinar, winning hearts and minds for accessibility, University of Cambridge

2 Dec, Wednesday, 12.30pm to 1.30pm

JISC Accessibility Drop-In clinic. Going mobile: accessibility for mobile sites and apps

8 Dec, Tuesday, 3.15pm to 4.15pm

Inclusive design with online learning, Lou Stringer

9 Dec, Wednesday, 12.30pm to 1.15pm

Assistive software: EquatIO, 

Anna Coburn from Texthelp

10 Dec, Thursday, 1pm to 1.45pm

Assistive software: Read&Write, 

Anna Coburn from Texthelp

10 Dec, Thursday, 2pm to 3pm

Collaborating with your diverse self, 

Lilian Soon

11 Dec Friday, 10am to 12pm

Creating Accessible Documents online workshop, Lilian Soon – HR LMS sign up or Google Form sign up

Why not watch some recordings from previous webinars? 

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Info: E-Accessibility News

Texthelp Read&Write Gold and EquatIO

We’ve increased users from 330 to 391 in a month. Why not attend two workshops on these tools during IT Teaching and Learning’s Collaborative Tools event in December? See the Webinars section above for more details.

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

1112 – the number of attendees who have attended the workshop so far! The workshop demonstrates 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-calendar.

Blackboard Ally News

About Blackboard Ally.

We have seem large numbers of epub downloads in Autumn term, which is interesting! We’d like to find out why students are finding epubs helpful. Please help us by asking students 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 has been made mandatory across the University. It 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.

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Future Teacher 3.0 Webinars Rich Media – Audio, 29 Jan 2021 1pm

The November Future Teacher webinar was on the topic Rich Media, Images and featured speakers from UCLan and Plumpton College. View the recording on the Future Teacher website.

We’re looking for presenters willing to share their experiences on Rich Media – Audio for our next webinar on 29 Jan at 1pm. You can also contribute by reviewing the content from the previous webinar and providing a fresh literature review! Our own Prof David Beer from Sociology appeared in that previous webinar.

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.

Please see below for further information about the Future Teacher Webinars

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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.

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Standing Item: Departmental training 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

You can also view a comprehensive list of the professional development opportunities that we offer for staff 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

Information on available induction information for staff and students can be found here: Induction Resources for Staff and Students.

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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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