E-Learning Newsletter – September 2021 Edition

Welcome to the September 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:

  • Info: Returning to lecture capture of live teaching
  • Info: Preparing your videos for reuse
  • Info: Yorkshare VLE – New Text Box Editor
  • Info: Planned System Outages
  • Info: Collaborate Ultra – New Whiteboard
  • PDLT webinar 8th September 2-3pm: Reading lists and resources: accessible and inclusive practices
  • Resources: Blended Learning Design and Delivery and Tutoring Online VLE sites
  • Resources: Start of Term Readiness – Technical checks for teaching and admin’ staff to ensure their VLE sites are ready for use
  • Resources: E-Learning at York – Orientation For New Staff
  • Resources: Start of Term Induction Materials for Students
  • Resources: Video of the month – Engagement with Padlet and discussion boards
  • Call for Participation: CMALT Cohort (2021-22)
  • Webinars: York, Texthelp, AbilityNet and JISC webinars
  • Info: Digital accessibility projects
  • E-Accessibility News:
    • Resource: Inclusive practice, student stories
    • Training: Creating Accessible Documents, 7 Sep,10am to 12pm
    • Meetup: Accessible Documents meetup group 14 Sep, 12pm to 1pm
    • Meetup: The Distractibles, 24 Sep, 12.30pm to 1.30pm
    • Bespoke Training
    • Update: Blackboard Ally News
    • Update: Texthelp Read&Write and EquatIO
    • Standing item: Future Teacher
    • Standing item: Departmental training sessions

    Returning to lecture capture of live teaching

    The new term will see many staff using live lecture capture for the first time in over a year. If you want to refresh your memory of how the system works, key information and links to guidance are available on the timetabled lecture capture web page. In addition, guidance is available on captioning requirements for recorded live lectures, which supplements the University’s existing policy on captioning pre-recorded videos.

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    Preparing your videos for reuse

    In the following blog post entitled ‘preparing your videos for reuse’ you can find a simple checklist of key steps to consider when preparing to reuse video materials. An accompanying video (UoY log in to Panopto required) explains how to manage your videos in the University’s Replay/Panopto system to ensure new students can access them.

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    Yorkshare VLE – New Text Box Editor

    As per our Summer Upgrade FAQ document, the text box editor (aka the “VTBE”) used to create and edit most content types in the VLE has been changed.

    • The new VTBE look and feel is closer to many modern systems you’re already familiar with, hopefully making it a largely intuitive experience
    • Most of the tools that are you are used to using are still present in the new VTBE toolbars but will now be using more modern iconography, however two key features that have changed more noticeably are:
      • The previous “mashups” drop down menu and “attachments” paperclip icon have been replaced by a single “add content” button that appears at the end of the second row of buttons; this can be used to attach/embed many types of media and files via one menu rather than several as before
      • Direct access to add/edit CSS code on content items has now been removed, CSS and HTML should both be applied via the “source code” button instead
    • For further information see Blackboard’s own help pages on the new VTBE:

    We are in the process of updating our user guides to reflect these changes; if you find one that you need that hasn’t been updated yet, do flag it to us via vle-support@york.ac.uk and we will prioritise it in our fixing process.

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    Planned System Outages

    Collaborate Ultra, 8th September 2021

    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 overnight between 00:01 and 04:00 BST on September 8th.

    We are still awaiting details of what changes/improvements are coming in this upgrade. See Collaborate’s own Release Notes page for more information as it is released.

    VLE Mini-upgrade, 7th and 8th December 2021

    Colleagues should also be advised that we will also be carrying out further necessary system maintenance in December of 2021. This Winter ‘Mini-Upgrade’ will take place over a two day period, requiring Tuesday the 7th and Wednesday the 8th of December inclusive. As with the Summer upgrade, the VLE and Replay Lecture Capture will be unavailable to all users. This work is to ensure that the service continues to be robust and stable for the busy assessment periods in the Spring term.

    Please ensure that these dates are shared widely within your respective 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.

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

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    Collaborate Ultra – New Whiteboard

    As of mid-August 2021, Blackboard has introduced a new version of the Whiteboard tool in Collaborate Ultra. This new version of the whiteboard uses a pared-down version of Blackboard Annotate, the tool used to mark up student submissions to standard assignment submission points on the VLE.

    You do not need to do anything to get access to the new whiteboard, just enter a Collaborate session, open the right hand panel, go to the “Share Content” tab and share the whiteboard as normal.

    This version of the whiteboard is temporary, with a further improved version aiming for release in early 2022 – We’ll share more information on that once it becomes available.

    The main benefits of this interim whiteboard are as follows:

    • Annotations made on the whiteboard (or on uploaded files) are no longer lost when you navigate away; eg. if you open up slides after using the whiteboard and then re-open the whiteboard in the same session the annotations should still be there
    • More varied and improved drawing tools, including pen types and thickness and an eraser for individual elements rather than just being able to clear the whole board.

    For more details about the new whiteboard, see Blackboard’s own help page on “Collaborate Annotation Tools”.

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    Webinar – Reading lists and resources: Accessible and inclusive practices – Wednesday 8th September 2021 2-3pm

    Led by Alice Bennett, Accessibility Support Specialist, Teaching and Learning Team, this webinar will provide an overview of how to create and assign reading lists and resources in a way which is both accessible and inclusive for all students. It is suitable for any teaching staff, particularly those with responsibility for assigning reading, and for any staff who help create and maintain module sites. The session will offer practical advice based on student feedback, and offer a particular focus on ensuring accessibility for disabled students in the provision of reading and resources.

    Sign up for the webinar

    If you would like to suggest any themes that you would like to see included in future webinars, please let us know (vle-support@york.ac.uk).

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    Blended Learning Design and Delivery and Tutoring Online VLE sites

    The “Blended Learning Design and Delivery” resource is available for staff on the VLE.  Produced in collaboration with the Academic Practice team, this is a revised version of “Planning for Dual Delivery 2020-21” which refocuses support for the academic year 2020/21 towards ongoing design and delivery of integrated in-person and online teaching and learning. 

    Blended learning design and delivery 

    All staff should automatically have been provided with access to the site and there is also a GTA Access to the “Blended Learning Design and Delivery” VLE Site request form if needed.

    The design sections of the site focus on combining in-person and online modes of delivery to best effect. They include links through to the  Flipped Learning Toolkit for those looking for more in-depth guidance on this form of blended learning design and also offer support with planning assessment and evaluation of blended learning modules.   

    The teaching/facilitation section focuses on supporting inclusive learning communities and groups, and designing and facilitating synchronous and asynchronous learning activities in-person and online. 

    For those looking for a more in-depth focus on online teaching/facilitation, the tutoring online course is also available on request. Our new blogpost Tutoring Online: an introduction to our resource provides a quick overview of the course, including the topics covered and how you might benefit from accessing it.

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    Start of Term Readiness – Technical checks for teaching and admin’ staff to ensure their VLE sites are ready for use

    A reminder 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 provides general housekeeping guidance covering how to get ready for a new term.

    Please note that the VLE Group User rollover process has begun and we hope to complete this process in the next week. Further updates will be communicated to colleagues via the VLE Coordinators email group and/or direct emails.

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    E-Learning at York – Orientation 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 centrally supported and available for you to use.

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

    E-learning at York for new staff.

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    Start of Term Induction Materials for Students

    Our induction material for students are now a Practical Guide on https://subjectguides.york.ac.uk/learning-tech

    Please note this address has been updated so there is a hyphen between ‘learning’ and ‘tech’.

    Several cross-team webinars were held w/c August 23rd around what induction materials are available at the University for new and returning students:

    Links and Resources from the webinar

    University of York relevant websites

    Links to private online courses

    Contact Sue Russell if you have any questions.

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    Video of the month

    In the following video (12 mins), Nicola Sinclair and Gabriel Vyvyan provide an insight into staff and student experiences of asynchronous discussion-based activities linked to live seminars in a module in the History of Art. In the video, they note the following based on their experiences:

    • Padlet provided a more accessible and enjoyable format for discussions than discussion boards
    • Close integration with synchronous sessions (e.g. to prepare for in-person debate) maximised engagement and usefulness of asynchronous discussions
    • Task design was crucial (integration, purpose, structure, clear expectations and attempts to ensure a ‘low entry threshold’, whilst incorporating ‘scope for the most engaged to spread their intellectual wings’)
    • The experience could be enhanced by tasks designed to encourage greater student-to-student exchange before the seminars and/or to increase student responsibility for summarising the discussions and identifying key points for further discussion during the seminars (e.g. role allocation).

    Engagement with Padlet and discussion boards (UoY log in to Panopto required)

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    Call for Participation: CMALT Cohort (2021-22)

    Would you like to gain professional accreditation for your learning technology skills and experience? We will be running a programme of workshops over the autumn term, supporting staff who wish to receive CMALT accreditation, starting with a kick-off session on Friday 24th September (11am-12pm). This would be an ideal opportunity to find out more about the programme and how the monthly workshops will run.

    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 that they have done so.

    To get started in finding out 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 the autumn programme and attend the kick-off session on 24th September, please get in touch with Richard Walker: richard.walker@york.ac.uk 

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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.



    Why not watch some recordings from previous webinars? 

    Digital accessibility projects

    The following departments have now completed their digital accessibility projects following their successful bid for funding:

    • Academic Integrity Tutorial – updated so that materials are on our own accessible web-based authoring system, Xerte.
    • Chemistry – VLE sites and resources updated by interns. Several guides for tutors produced including A guide to inclusive lecturing from a disabled student intern.
    • Economics – Guidance provided to all tutors who use LaTeX to produce documents for students on how to make these so the outputs are more accessible. See the guidance on our Accessible Equations website.
    • Environment – A “Welcome to the Module” page was added to all new VLE sites. Accessibility guidance was provided to tutors.
    • IPC – Handwritten maths was digitised directly into web pages with Xerte.
    • Natural Science – Department web pages and VLE sites were made accessible. VLE sites include guidance for students on alternative formats and skills guides.
    • Physics – A key Maths VLE site was updated with more accessible resources. Handwritten maths were digitised into LaTeX to produce PDFs and Word versions.
    • UYMS – Tutors on the Actuarial Science programme received support to create more accessible versions of their LaTeX documents, with outputs produced in multiple formats.

    We aim to conduct an evaluation of the outcomes in the academic year.

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    E-accessibility News

    Inclusive practice: student stories

    Some of our disabled students have been doing user research with us. They have also written up their stories to help you understand what has helped them and what more we can do to improve things for everyone.

    Read the student stories on our e-accessibility mini-site.

    Training: Creating Accessible Documents • Online using Collaborate Ultra • 10am to 12pm • 7 Sep

    1373 – the number of attendees who have attended the workshop so far! Latest feedback includes:

    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 • 14 Sep

    “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

    The Distractibles Meetup • 12.30pm to 1.30pm • 24 Sep

    Finding it hard to focus and plagued by distractions? Join The Distractibles Meetup on the last Friday of each month, 12.30pm to 1.30pm. We are a support group of staff and students with small group chat and an ideas bank of things to try.

    View the event and add to your own calendar to get the Zoom link.

    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.

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    Blackboard Ally News

    Our scores are looking lower than normal at 81%. Hopefully as academics start to update materials, we will see an improvement in the score again! Academics can always look at their own modules’ accessibility scores by going to Course Tools > Accessibility Report. Go for quick wins like removing old materials that are no longer needed. 

    Need advice on making PDF documents created from LaTeX more accessible? Consult our Accessible Equations web site. We have published v1.0 of our LaTeX template following the STEM Digital Accessibility project. 

    About Blackboard Ally.

    Our Blackboard Ally spreadsheet includes the department’s average Accessibility Report score. This is linked from our Blackboard Ally mini-site

    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. 

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    Texthelp Read&Write and EquatIO, OrbitDoc

    The student interns have been using EquatIO successfully to digitise handwritten maths (usually solutions to problem sheets) into digital formats like LaTex and web pages. Texthelp have rebranded their PDF reader to OrbitDoc.

    “With OrbitDoc you can make digital documents accessible and actionable, while demonstrating and giving feedback in multiple formats. It’s a great tool to boost productivity, connections and collaboration!”

    If you want to make notes on PDF documents, highlight and keep highlights, or collaborate on PDF notes, try OrbitDoc as your PDF reader. More on OrbitDoc.

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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?/li>
    • 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.

    The next webinar will run on 21 October 2021 at 1pm.

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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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