E-Learning Newsletter – May 2021 Edition

Welcome to the May 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)

For an entry point to our key resources, please see the following pages:

Planned System Outages – VLE Summer Upgrade July 13/14th, SafeAssign May 18th, Collaborate Ultra May 13th

You can always find summary information about planned outages for all our systems on our System Availability page.

VLE Outage

We are currently testing and configuring the target release for the summer upgrade of the VLE. We will be providing further information on the specifics of the new release over the coming months, but at this stage we would like to remind Departments the VLE and Replay Lecture Capture will be unavailable to all users all day Tuesday the 13th July and Wednesday the 14th of July 2021.

Please ensure that these dates are shared widely within your 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.

Panopto Outage

On Saturday, June 26, Panopto Cloud will be upgraded to the latest cloud release. This upgrade will require downtime and Panopto/Replay will be unavailable to users while work is being carried out. Recordings can still be made using the At-desk recorder but will not be uploaded to the Panopto server until the work is complete.

The downtime is expected to last for 3 hours between 7pm – 10pm BST (TBC) – confirmation of exact timings will be announced officially in the June issue of this newsletter along with details of new features. 

SafeAssign Outage

SafeAssign (Blackboard’s equivalent of TurnItIn, not widely used) will be undergoing maintenance by Blackboard from 06:00 to 08:00 BST on May 18th.

Collaborate Ultra Outage

Collaborate Ultra is updated roughly once a month by Blackboard, which requires a four hour period of down time where users cannot use the system. The next planned update is on May 13th 2021, 00:01 – 04:00 BST (ie. overnight between Wednesday and Thursday).

Information on what is coming in this release has not yet been shared, but should be available soon on Collaborate’s Release Notes page.

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PDLT Early May Bank Holiday Support

On the Early May Bank Holiday, on Monday the 3rd of May, we will be offering a reduced level of support for enquiries by email only; no telephone support will be provided. Our full level of service will be available again from Tuesday the 4th of May.

Should you require support for systems or services not supported by PDLT, our colleagues in the IT Support Office (ITSO / itsupport@york.ac.uk) will also be offering a similar service to ours (email, no phone).

Wishing you all a restful bank holiday weekend.

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Managing video in the VLE and Replay/Panopto

As outlined in our last newsletter, PDLT is currently working with departments to reduce the volume of video content that has been directly uploaded to the VLE. PDLT are also adding more options in Replay/Panopto for staff to manage “ongoing” media. (More detailed background information can be viewed in the following blog post: VLE and Replay video changes.

Over the next few weeks there are some key steps we are asking staff to take if they have video directly uploaded in the VLE.

  • Going forward we’d ask that teaching staff avoid uploading video materials directly to the VLE’s content collection. Students should likewise not be asked to upload video or audio files directly to the VLE. In the next few weeks, the ability to directly upload video files to the VLE will be disabled.
  • In most cases staff should use Replay/Panopto to upload, stream and embed videos in their VLE modules. Videos on Panopto will perform better for users, and will be automatically subtitled to conform with accessibility requirements. The following guidance document provides specific information on how to upload pre-existing videos to Panopto, and/or transfer media files from the VLE to Panopto, and delete the original files from the VLE:
    Video – Inappropriate Uploading/Sharing Methods to Avoid
    More extensive guidance can be accessed from the following link:
    Replay Staff Guide: Using Panopto to Teach Remotely
  • Videos that have previously been uploaded to the VLE will continue to work for the present. However, staff should transfer these videos to alternative locations and delete them from the VLE’s content collection prior to the module roll-over in June. If staff want to reuse the videos next year, they can save them and upload them to Panopto/Replay.
  • If there are any modules running through the Summer term where staff were planning to ask students to upload media (e.g. a video or an audio file) directly to the VLE, they should be aware this won’t be possible in a couple of weeks. There are a number of alternatives to this approach: e.g. asking students to upload their files to Google Drive and sharing a link. For summative assessment, the PDLT can also set up a deposit box for anonymized uploads.

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Collaborate Video Gallery

Collaborate Ultra has now introduced a video gallery (aka ‘gallery view’) where up to 26 cameras can be displayed on screen at any one time for moderators only. This feature was released in the April 8th release.

Further changes are roadmapped throughout 2021/22, including the rollout of the video gallery view to participants as well as moderators.
A mock up screenshot of Collaborate demostrating the video grid, where (in this example) 20 live video streams are arranged in a 5 by 4 grid.

Please see the following for more details:

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ePub and PDF Readers

Did you know that after tagged PDFs, ePubs are the most popular downloaded format from Blackboard Ally on the VLE? Students have downloaded 13,741 ePubs since 28 Sep 2020. Other popular sources for free ePubs include Project Gutenberg and Feedbooks (Public Domain).
You can now read ePubs and PDFs easily by installing Thorium reader from the Software Centre, or using the Texthelp ePub reader. ePub readers allow you to 

  • open PDFs and ePubs,
  • tag the content in your library, 
  • navigate with the table of contents, 
  • search text, 
  • bookmark, 
  • view in single page or two pages and 
  • customise the font size and background colour. 

It will even read the contents out to you
Find out more about Thorium Reader.
Find out more about Texthelp ePub Reader.

Reading PDFs with Word

Another neat trick to try is to open an accessible PDF in Word. From here you can either use the web page view (View > Webpage) or the immersive reader (View > Immersive Reader) to get the magnification you need with the text reflowing.

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The digital assessment project: What we have learned to date

A new blog post is available to read.  This post looks at the subject of online assessment; what do we as a university community want from a new digital assessment and feedback platform and how do we go about achieving that? It outlines the approach being taken by the Digital Assessment and Feedback (DA&F) project team ending with a call on all colleagues across the university to share their views and get involved. 

Online assessment: A look at future needs beyond the pandemic

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Flipped Learning Toolkit

As mentioned in last month’s newsletter the Flipped Learning Toolkit is now available.  This aims to provide a concise, searchable introduction to the core principles of flipped learning, and how to approach introducing flipped learning to your module or programme of study.
The Flipped Learning Toolkit is available alongside many other teaching and learning resources on our “Staff: Online/Dual Delivery Teaching & Learning One Stop Shop” page.

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Video of the month

This month’s ‘video vignette’ highlighting practices in blended/online learning focuses on breakout rooms.  Taryn Bell and Caitlin Kitchener (Archaeology)  provide some reflection on the use of simple techniques and technologies for engaging students in live sessions (UoY log in to Panopto required), supported by data from surveys of their students’ experiences and preferences.

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Research: Six key messages from the 2020 UCISA TEL Survey

Our new blog post summarises the findings of the UCISA Survey of Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) for higher education Report 2020, providing six headline findings and reflecting on how these relate to TEL developments here at the University.   The post highlights the  increasing importance of inclusivity, accessibility and widening participation as drivers for TEL development  which were well established before the pandemic. The post goes on to discuss the rapid shift to online provision and the impact this has had on staff teaching practices and staff development.  The six headline findings are as follows:

  1. Widening participation and inclusion strategies have emerged as key drivers for the development of TEL services
  2. There is now a strong focus on digital accessibility across the sector
  3. Fully online learning provision has been scaling up – and this development predates the Emergency Remote Teaching (ERT) phase
  4. Outsourcing of key TEL services continues at pace
  5. Webinar and virtual classroom platforms are now part of the core TEL tool-set
  6. Leading barriers to TEL adoption have focused on staff knowledge and commitment, but will these endure?

If you would like to find out more, the post is available on our website:  Six key messages from the 2020 UCISA TEL Survey

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Xerte user group meeting 4 May 12-1pm

Our next Xerte user group meeting will be on 4th May, Tuesday, at 12pm to 1pm. The Zoom link will be added to the event on the eaccess calendar.
We’ll be reviewing the Xerte conference, talking about the use of Xerte to create online escape room games, and David Anderson from IPC will showcase how he’s used Bootstrap to create an effective FAQ resource for students.
Find out more about Xerte.

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Webinars and meetups: York, AbilityNet, Texthelp and JISC webinars

Each month, the University of York, AbilityNet, Texthelp and JISC run webinars on digital accessibility and related topics. 

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


4 May, 12pm to 1pm. Xerte user group meeting.

10 May, 10am to 12pm. Creating Accessible Documents.

17 May, 12pm to 1pm. Accessible Documents Group meetup.

Internal and external

24 May, 1pm to 2pm. Future Teacher – Designing Technology Enhanced Programmes


12 May, 12.30pm to 1.30pm. JISC accessibility drop-in clinic – Mobile Apps

18 May, 1pm to 2pm. Abilitynet – Dementia-friendly design, expert tips for accessible websites

18 May, 3.30pm to 4.30pm. Natspec – EquatIO, Accessible Maths 

19 May, 10am to 3.30pm. JISC – Joint building digital capability and digital experience insights community of practice

20 May, Global Accessibility Awareness Day

20 May, Texthelp’s Festival of Accessibility

Why not watch some recordings from previous webinars? 

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E-accessibility News

Deaf awareness week • 3 – 9 May

Read an account from one of our deaf colleagues to help you understand some of our misconceptions about deaf people: The experience of a deaf colleague.

We encourage you to make your events more accessible by turning on live captioning in your Zoom meetings. Also check the captions on your recordings to ensure they are not littered with errors due to auto-captioning.

Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) • 20 May

“The purpose of GAAD is to get everyone talking, thinking and learning about digital access and inclusion, and the more than One Billion people with disabilities/impairments.”

Only have 5 minutes? Read the information on the GAAD home page to understand why it’s important to become more aware of digital accessibility: GAAD home page.
Want to invest some time into understanding more? Watch some of the videos on the GAAD home page or find an event to attend.
You can also attend Texthelp’s Festival of Accessibility on the day.

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

1294 – the number of attendees who have attended the workshop so far! We’re nearly at the 2000 mark! Latest feedback includes:

“This was a fantastic, interactive and engaging session and I will definitely recommend to colleagues.  There was so much info, but not overwhelming and presented in a variety of formats that made the 2 hours whiz by and gave me lots to think about. “

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 the workshop. You will be sent a Zoom link to join the online training room.
Find other events at http://bit.ly/eaccess-calendar.

Accessible Documents Meetup Group  • 12pm to 1pm • 20 April

“I really enjoyed this session and I think it is very useful…You can learn so many new things.”

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.

Blackboard Ally News

About Blackboard Ally.

Up to 22 April 2021, students downloaded 51,502 alternative formats from 1,848 courses. Find out more interesting statistics on our BB Ally site linked above.

ePub reader

See the item on ePub readers 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. 

Texthelp Read&Write and EquatIO

We now have 571 users of Texthelp tools. Do continue to promote these tools to colleagues and students. 
View the playlist of Read&Write videos and the playlist of EquatIO videos.

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: Designing technology enhanced programmes, 24 May 2021 1pm

The April Future Teacher webinar was on the topic Designing Appropriate Assessments and featured Scott Slorach from Law. Want to find out how to create more inclusive, authentic, media-based assessments? View the recording on the Future Teacher website (likely to be on the site from 3 May).

Our next webinar on Designing Technology Enhanced Programmes on 24 May 1pm will likely feature another speaker from the University. Could that be you? 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 4 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.  

Interested in presenting? Please do get in touch with lilian.soon@york.ac.uk.

See our standing item Future Teacher Webinars below.

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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, Katie Lamb, Chemistry)
  • Inclusive Practice (Emily Brunsden, Physics, Penny Spikins, Archaeology)
  • Working with Rich Media – Images (Sandrine Devlin, LFA)
  • Working with Rich Media – Audio (David Beer, Sociology, Barry Lee and Chris Jay, Philosophy)
  • Working with Rich Media – Video (features our Replay guides, Martin Suckling – Music , Sally Quinn – Psychology)
  • Getting Savvy with digital tools and resources
  • Designing appropriate assessments (Scott Slorach, Law)
  • 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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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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