E-Learning Newsletter – January 2021 Edition

E-Learning Newsletter – January 2021 Edition

Welcome to the January 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

Support and guidance for teaching staff and students

With the spring term in mind, we have generated the following materials to help both staff and students

  • Staff – Online/Dual Delivery Teaching & Learning One Stop Shop – Contains information on building online content and activities, along with related information such as assessment set up, digital accessibility and general start of term readiness.
  • IMPORTANT:
    • If you’re planning on releasing exam papers via the VLE that need to be visible only on certain dates/times, you need to ensure that you are releasing these materials securely and in such a way that they are not released early. Our guidance on how to apply robust file access control can be found here: VLE – Strict File Access Controls
    • Summative tests should not be run on the VLE without the PDLT being contacted well in advance for consultation – please contact us to discuss.
  • Students: Teaching and Learning Technology Help – Contains information about tool usage, technical troubleshooting, and study/revision guidance in relation to our tool set (VLE, Panopto, etc).

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!

Please share these resources widely within your Departments.

Second Intakes and January Starts

Please note the following:

  • If staff are planning to re-use some or all of the Panopto videos they created for the Autumn intake of their module, action will need to be taken to make sure that the January intake students can see the videos that are shared with them. We’ve summarised the options in the “Thing 2” section of our “REPLAY – Help! My Students Can’t See My Recordings” guide.

  • 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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December Upgrade Work – An Update (Panopto and Xerte)

Panopto 10.0 Upgrade

Following the winter service upgrade on 19 Dec 2020, the transition to version 10.0 has brought a number of improvements to the interface of the cloud service, particularly within the Web Editor. One key change – in response to a feature request – is the addition of an “audio normalisation” feature which will allow creators to increase the volume levels for quieter recordings. A summary of some of the headline features are listed in this Google doc.

Please note: some of the features as listed in Panopto’s release notes may not be available on an institutional level by default.

Xerte Upgrade

Xerte was successfully updated on 16 Dec 2020. This upgrade adds 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. 

Top features include:

  • Accessibility statements available to add to your learning objects
  • Ctrl-K now works for adding hyperlinks
  • Lightbox and Standalone page functionality built-in (see Intermediate object linked below)
  • QR code generator
  • Answer x of y page type (For example, name two planets in the solar system)

A new tutorial object (intermediate object) has been created featuring just a few of the new features. Do look at the release notes linked above for the huge range of improvements.

You may find you need to do a hard refresh of the xerte.york.ac.uk site or you will get a blank window when you log in. Go to the site, and before logging in, press Ctrl on the keyboard and Reload on the browser.

If you’ve logged in and received the blank project screen, clear your cache and do the hard refresh of the browser to sort it. Any issues, get in touch at vle-support@york.ac.uk.

Find out more about xerte.

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Collaborate Ultra Maintenance

Collaborate Ultra is normally updated once a month by Blackboard. Information about the next update has now been released:

Any questions? Contact vle-support@york.ac.uk.

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VLE Module Site Purge – Final Reminder

This will be the final reminder for the module site purge. Please read carefully and share with all colleagues in your department who have modules on the VLE older than five years.

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 were contacted individually last year 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 should use the Departmental Modules Purgelist report in the SelfService Dashboard to view all modules that are categorised for their department which are scheduled for deletion. (The departmental report may contain modules which your colleagues have already flagged to us to be retained, but please do contact us if you are unsure.) 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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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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Learning and teaching @York in the Coronavirus Pandemic: A conversation – Recordings and resources now available

On Wednesday December 2nd 2020, a group of around 80 staff and students from across the University took part in an event organised by the Learning and Teaching Forum in collaboration with PDLT to share experiences of teaching and learning under COVID in Autumn term 2020.  The session aimed to address 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 was divided up into three 30 minute panels of staff and students loosely organised by themes of student engagement, teaching practice and planning for teaching under COVID.

Please see the following PDLT blog post for further information and links to the recording and resources from the event.

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Tutoring Online – self-study resource now available

This resource has been developed by members of PDLT to support staff delivering online learning. The focus is on approaches to supporting student activity/engagement with online materials, rather than designing the materials themselves.

The resource draws upon established approaches to online pedagogy supplemented by ideas from experienced online tutors at the University. You should find beneficial ideas for your own practice whether you are new or experienced in this form of teaching, and whether you are delivering a fully online programme or have temporarily moved into online teaching due to the pandemic.

It is a self-study resource, which should take approximately 4 hours to work through in total. The resource is currently accessed through Canvas (the Virtual Learning Environment used by the University’s fully online programmes). To request access, please add your details to this short form: Form – Request Access to “Tutoring Online” Materials

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New research publication: Facilitating active learning opportunities for students

A chapter on student-centred learning design at the University of York has been published in a new book on ‘Teaching, Learning and New Technologies in Higher Education’, exploring the contribution that learning technologies can make to engagement and learning outcomes. Further details on the publication are available in our blog post.

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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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Webinars and meetups: 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
15 Jan, Fri, 10am to 12pm Creating Accessible Documents online workshop, Lilian Soon – HR LMS sign up or Google Form sign up
More about Creating Accessible Documents
19 Jan, Tue, 1pm to 2pm AbilityNet Accessibility Insights with the European Disability Forum
22 Jan, Fri, 12pm to 1pm Accessible Documents Group meetup
29 Jan, Fri, 1pm to 2pm Future Teacher webinar, Rich Media, Audio
Featuring Barry Lee and Chris Jay from Philosophy

Why not watch some recordings from previous webinars? 

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Info: E-Accessibility News

In November, Richard Walker and Lilian Soon ran two briefing sessions for University staff, in conjunction with HR, to update colleagues on digital accessibility. These were well attended with over 50 colleagues present to find out more about the legislation and what they could do to start on their journey of more accessible digital practice.

You can view the slides used at the briefing and the recording can be viewed at Digital Accessibility Briefing Recording.

Training: Creating Accessible Documents • Online using Collaborate Ultra • 10am to 12pm • 15 Jan

1153 – 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 for workshop (HR LMS). You’ll have to login to the HR LMS and search for ‘accessibility’ to view the events. Or workshop 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.

New Accessible Documents Meetup Group • 12pm to 1pm • 22 Jan

Interested in making accessible content and resources? Join our online monthly meetup to share resources or discuss a challenge you would like help with.
Accessible Documents Meetup Group information and sign up

Bespoke training

If your department has specific questions about the kind of documents you produce and how accessible they are to users, why not book a bespoke training workshop where we go through the principles and use your documents as examples? Contact lilian.soon@york.ac.uk to make arrangements.

Texthelp Read&Write Gold and EquatIO

We’ve increased users again to 434 in a month. Last month we had 391 unique users and a total of 418 users for both Read&Write and EquatIO. Going forward, we will track the total users.
Keep promoting the tools to colleagues and students and do try it out yourself!
See the Webinars section above for Texthelp webinars you can review.

Blackboard Ally News

About Blackboard Ally.

Up to 18 Dec 2020, students downloaded 25,421 alternative formats from 1133 courses. Find out more interesting statistics on our BB Ally site linked above.

Please help us find out more about how students use alternative formats by asking them to complete our survey on student use of Ally. We really appreciate it. Only 152 users have participated to date.

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 Webinar 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.

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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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