Engaging learners with Blackboard Collaborate

How the Inclusion Team is using our web conferencing platform to engage students, enhance communication and improve outcomes.

Anne McLoughlin is  the leader of Edge Hill’s dyslexia programme.  The programme is a blended course – mostly online – delivered via our Blackboard VLE and the Collaborate web conferencing system, with some face to face conference days.

I interviewed Anne in September.  This 10 minute recording* is a mini-case study:

[eshare version of the recording and transcript: http://www.eshare.edgehill.ac.uk/5767/]

Here are some highlights:

  • One of the aims of using Collaborate was to give a more engaging experience for remote learners;
  • Sessions delivered with Collaborate are recorded – thus students are able to re-visit the sessions;
  • Collaborate is used for student inductions – with presentations by Learning Services staff;
  • It’s also used for tutorials – attempting to give an equivalent experience to distance students;
  • Issues revolve around students confidence with technology and ‘Java’[2];
  • The Collaborate mobile app has been very reliable;
  • The LTD guides have been useful [3];
  • The support from LTD has been “really good” [4];
  • The feedback from students indicates that Collaborate has made them feel part of the University community.

And, finally, Anne’s advice to staff: “Have a go …, perhaps a small number [of students] to start with, and then just go for it!”  And really finally, Anne’s last word: “I love it …”

BestofTEL_SMALLAnne McLoughlin
Senior Lecturer
Faculty of Education
Professional Development
Extension:  7163
Telephone:  01695 657163
Email: mclougha@edgehill.ac.uk

 

Anne would be pleased to discuss her approach to using Collaborate with anyone at Edge Hill – her contact details are above.

If you have more general questions about the Collaborate service or any of the tools within the Learning Edge Suite contact your Learning Technologist (see the Faculty Contacts on this page) or email the LTD Team on LTDSupport@edgehill.ac.uk or 01695 650754 x7754.

*Note that the recording was made on my mobile phone – illustrating the quality that is possible from a device most of us have in our pockets.


[1] Note that I’m creating a blog post on how to have a virtual office link at the end of your signature – so watch out for that in a few days time – or contact one of the LTD team if you want to do it now.

[2] Blackboard have removed the need for Java in the next version of Collaborate.

[3] We have many guides and resources – here are some that we understand have been very useful to colleagues:

Building and teaching in Learning Edge
Blackboard Collaborate: Audio and Video Equipment (Device Guide and Recommendations)
Planning Collaborate Session: An Overview
Introduction by Blackboard: Collaborate Web Conferencing Online Orientation
The LTD Best of TEL Blogs – such as: Collaborating all over the world

[4] Developing Digital Excellence sessions – such as:
Basic Introduction to Blackboard Collaborate (Student Services Webinar) 22/07/14

Using Optivote in Large Lectures for Student Engagement and Enhancing Learning

Optivote HandsetsIn this post Elaine Hughes, Senior Lecturer in Adult Nursing and a SOLSTICE Fellow, tells us about her experience using an Optivote voting system. If you are inspired to think about using this type of system in your own teaching, there is plenty of support and information available to help you get started.

Could you set the scene for us?
“As Kurt Lewin said ‘Learning is more effective when it’s an active rather than a passive process’. Therefore maintaining student engagement and enhancing learning in lecturers of around 140 students can prove to be very challenging. Other than written formative tests there are limited ways of assessing whether learning has taken place at the point of contact. Yet, it is well documented that when learning is fun then it can prove to enhance memory and thus stimulate learning.”

What did you do?
“Before the Optivote system was available for use I still used quizzes in the classroom with rewards for the right answers, usually Quality Street, which proved to be very popular with the students. It clearly helped focus their concentration as they were able to give the right answers after a taught session but whether learning had taken place throughout the class couldn’t be evaluated. What you also couldn’t see were how many got the answers right as not all students would attempt to verbally answer. Cue Optivote.”

Why did you do it? What were the drivers?
“The use of a voting system allowed greater student engagement and allowed me to evaluate whether students had understood the key messages in a lecture. It moved the delivery of sessions forward and I think there are probably many other ways to use this in class which could be measured over a period of time.”

How did you use the voting system?
“Because I teach anatomy and physiology initially Optivote lent itself to these sessions. However I have now used the Optivote system in large groups for a number of years across level 4-6 for sessions for different purposes:

  • for formative quizzes following anatomy and physiology sessions where the end of module assessment included a summative exam
  • as an alternative method of teaching anatomy and physiology, using the questions as a focal point to discuss the reasons for the answers
  • in clinical decision making and delegation sessions where students are asked to rationalise their decisions in practice and used as discussion points”

What was the outcome?
“The use of the Optivote handsets really promoted student engagement with the session content and generated discussion among the groups. In terms of ‘did deep learning take place?’ this is much harder to quantify. However in the module where there was a summative exam the pass rates were higher. To make real claims as to whether this was directly related to the use of technology research would have to be undertaken. However what is evident is the students enjoy this engagement as these sessions are consistently highlighted in module evaluations.”

What were the issues and concerns?
“With any technology within the classroom, especially with so many pairs of eyes watching, the fear is always ‘will the system fail’ and ‘have I programmed this correctly?’ There’s a handy guide to setting up your database and loading in your presentation and questions/responses but I think the first time I used it it wasn’t so simple! Although with practice it’s easy to set up and use, but like everything practice makes perfect – however I still always test it before each use!”

What ‘unanticipated outcomes’ were there?
“I wasn’t sure how the students would react. Would they think it was childish to press the button and vote? Would they want to get involved? Would they see it just like ‘who wants to be a millionaire’ and jump in with their answers? I needn’t have worried. What I actually saw at one point was probably the most disengaged group I’d ever taught sit on the edge of their seats, pointing their handsets at the screen and pressing buttons before the voting timer had even started! I did think that this was just a one off response from this particular group but when I demonstrated the use of the equipment to staff I had exactly same reaction! When students go off task in a class they talk. What I also tend to see with Optivote is lots of chatter with their neighbours, but it’s quite obvious they’re discussing the question that’s been posed to them, especially during clinical decision making as this can get quite animated.”

Did the use meet your expectations?
“In terms of student engagement it certainly has met my expectations. Keeping such large groups engaged and interacting, not just with me but with each other and on the subject content, can be difficult. However assessing if learning has taken place is more difficult. The students certainly remember the sessions but do they remember the content!”

What would be your advice to others trying to do this?
“I’m no techno expert by any means but if technology scares you then just speak to someone who has used it. It literally takes 20 minutes to set up your database and then it’s done. After that it’s a couple of minutes to set up in class. Don’t use it too frequently as it becomes too familiar: that way the students continue to engage with the process. Don’t use too many questions and change your format, it keeps the audience on their toes.”

BestofTEL_SMALLElaine Hughes
Senior Lecturer Adult Nursing & SOLSTICE Fellow

Getting Started with Virtual Reality

A Google CardboardWe have a weekly meeting in Learning Technology Development where we get together to talk about things that have interested or inspired us. Recently I brought along my Google Cardboard so that the team could try out some Virtual Reality experiences.

There is a lot of interest in Virtual Reality at the moment with Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus VR and the development of a wide range of headsets including those which use your phone as a screen and computer, and those which are standalone devices. Google Cardboard is one of those which holds a compatible phone, and is at the cheaper end of the scale as you can make it yourself, or buy it semi-assembled for less than £20.

My Google Cardboard As you can see I’ve added a velcro strap to make it hands free and Sugru to protect it from skin as it was getting used by a lot of people. A Bluetooth controller is also needed to use some Virtual Reality apps, but not all.

There is a dedicated Cardboard app for Android devices which demonstrates potential uses; I’ve looked at this in detail in another blog post. There is also a web page that you can visit to experience more experiments. The easiest way to create basic content yourself is by making Photo Spheres which newer (4.2+) Android devices can create using the default camera app. Another really good Android app to get you started is Tuscany Dive which displays a 3D environment that you can explore, and doesn’t require a controller.

As for possible uses in education we talked about ideas such as allowing new or potential students to view their rooms, or areas of campus, if they cannot access them for whatever reason. We wondered about using the headsets for Augmented Reality; the only AR example I’ve seen is the demo for a Role Playing Game. In the long term we could perhaps do some of the things that we’ve used 3D Virtual Worlds like Second Life for, such as running virtual risk assessments and role plays. Merchant et al (2014) undertook a meta-analysis of research into use of this ‘desktop-based virtual reality’ in education, which might be a good starting point to explore what has already been learned in this area.

We’re still quite a way from these technologies being ready for mainstream use; Gartner’s 2014 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies estimates that it will be 5-10 years before Virtual Reality reaches the Plateau of Productivity. There are also many issues to overcome such as motion sickness. However affordable headsets that use devices that many of us already own, can help us develop a better understanding of what we could use these technologies for in education.

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Peter Beaumont
Learning Technology Development Officer

Blackboard Profile Tool

Untitled-3Many people have uploaded profile pictures to Blackboard. When they post messages on Blackboard Tools such as the Discussion Board their photos now appear next to the messages, and simple personal profile pages are available.

Research by Kear et al (2014) found that some learners in online courses felt personal profile pages helped provide social presence in the online environment, while others preferred to learn about each other from the profile messages themselves. Because different students feel differently about creating profiles you might want to give students the option of creating a profile, rather than forcing them to. However there may be situations where you want to encourage student to add profiles and if so there are privacy settings available which may help put their minds at ease if they feel uncomfortable about creating profiles.

Below is a link to a video that goes through the process of creating a Blackboard profile. This includes uploading a profile picture, and changing privacy settings.
video that goes through the process of creating a Blackboard profile

If you prefer to use a text based guide, you can also follow the instructions provided in this guide on eShare which also covers using more of Blackboard’s Social Learning Tools.

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Peter Beaumont
Learning Technology Development Officer

Tab-tastic! Learning Edge now has faculty specific resources!

For new and returning students, there is something different in Learning Edge for this year!

For those returning, you may remember the Learning Services tab within Learning Edge, but now there is something even more special for each Faculty and Department for you to use.

The old tab has been replaced by Your FoHSC Resources, Your FoE Resources or Your FAS Resources.  Each one has specific resources tailored towards your Faculty and course so that you only get the most relevant information for your studies.

FoE tab   FoHSC tab   FAS tab

In each tab you will find panels full of useful information about your subject including videos, Twitter feeds, guides and quick links to the most needed materials (such as Referencing, Academic Skills, Journals, reading lists and more!)

readinglist        roombookings        eresources

Click an image for a larger preview

 

Keep an eye on these tabs as they will be dynamically updated to bring you the most relevant information depending on the time of year and will also change depending on what you are asking for to be included.  Just use Ask Us to let us know your ideas.

If you need any help please contact the Learning Services Help Desk based in the library.

 

 

Bristol Online Survey (BOS) – New Features Coming Soon

BOS logo

The team behind Bristol Online Surveys have been working on the new and enhanced version of BOS which will be released later this year. BOS is the University supported survey tool which is easy to use and allows you to create, deploy and analyse surveys.

BOS featuresThe new version will look and feel different, with many features which will enhance the functionality within the survey design, completion and analysis.

BOS will also be mobile friendly which makes it easier for participants to complete surveys on their mobile phones or tablets – hopefully this will increase your returns!  You can even allow sharing of surveys via Facebook, Twitter or Google+.

So, what do I need to do in preparation?

 If you already have some surveys in your BOS account, please review them and close or delete any that you no longer need. This will greatly help to reduce the migration time.

We have also been advised that any unlaunched surveys with a close date set at over 2 years ago will not be migrated. If you need to keep a survey that this applies to, please ensure you modify the close date.

The Upgrade Process

The upgrade will happen towards the end of October this year. During this time, we will experience some downtime (estimated to be a day) on our University BOS account and all active surveys will be temporarily unavailable. The participants will see the message advising them to come back shortly.

Once the migration has been completed, you and your respondents will see the new updated interface.  The link to your survey will remain the same.

For more information about the upgrade date and a sneak peek into the new features and enhancements to BOS, keep checking this blog.

If you would like any further information or if you have questions regarding this, please contact us via the email at ltdsupport@edgehill.ac.uk or call us on 01695 650754.

 NB: Surveys containing personal information

It is worth noting that if you are collecting personal information about individuals, there are a number of legal obligations under the Data Protection Act 1998. Principle 5 of the Data Protection Act is particularly pertinent here: “Personal data processed for any purpose or purposes shall not be kept for longer than is necessary for that purpose or those purposes.” If you don’t have any specific reasons to hold on to the data, then it should be deleted. For more information about your data protection responsibilities see the ICO’s Guide to Data Protection.

nina_unsworth

 

Nina Unsworth

Learning Technology Development Operations Coordinator

 

Time to get Appy!

Smartphones and Tablets get better every year and more of you are using your mobile devices to engage with Edge Hill content on the go.

With the start of term only a few weeks away, what better time to showcase the apps available to you…

Edge Hill Central

EHU Central logo
EHU Central

 

 

 

Stay connected with Edge Hill University wherever you are.

Look-up course information, search the library catalogue, check your emails and stay up-to-date with the latest university news, videos, images, and more.

iTunes link | Google Play link

Blackboard Mobile Learn

BB Mobile
BBMobile2

 

 

 

Blackboard Mobile Learn makes it easier for you to keep up with your courses by letting you access them whenever and wherever you want – now on WiFi and cellular!

We have also bundled a copy of this in to the Edge Hill Central App – so there is no need to install separately.

iTunes link | Google Play link

Blackboard Collaborate

CollaborateCollaborate2

 

 

 

Blackboard Collaborate is Edge Hill’s web conferencing tool. Collaborate provides an online environment where students and staff can engage in a live web conference for online classes, meetings, one-on-one tutoring, and much more.

In order to attend a Blackboard Collaborate session your tutor will need to schedule a session or create a room.

iTunes link | Google Play link

For more information on mobile enabled content available at Edge Hill University can be found here

As always, any questions on whats happening please contact LTD Support on 01695 650754 or email ltdsupport@edgehill.ac.uk.

JL_Blog

 

 

 

 

John Langford

Learning Technology Development Systems Officer

Collaborating all over the world

Using Blackboard Collaborate to support students based outside the UK

Pam Nicol has a number of roles at the University – this posting involves her work on the Masters in International Higher Education. Pam has been using Collaborate since it was introduced to the MIHE team about four years ago, and previously to that used the Wimba system.  This piece is derived from an interview I did with Pam on 6th August 2014.

“I teach on the Masters in International Higher Education – specifically a series of six sessions about strategic management, via Collaborate, to students located all over the world. Collaborate has been really useful – allowing me to present live and to recorded the sessions for students who can’t join at the time.

Bb Collab Image

Blackboard Collaborate ©

Collaborate is a great piece of technology – it’s been very reliable – it hasn’t let me down once!

When I was first asked to teach using web conferencing technologies I was quite nervous, but quite quickly it became evident how easy it was to use – to the extent that an IT novice like myself could use the technology quite effectively.

My introduction to the Collaborate system was hardly ideal – consisting of a quick run through from colleagues about half an hour before I was due to give a session. Needless to say, there were a few problems with that first session, but now I have a big ‘Press the Record Button’ above my monitor as a reminder!

The structure of my sessions are an hour for a lecture, then an hour for follow-up questions / individual tutorial. The six sessions are delivered around 5:30pm, for an hour, with tutorials / questions between 6:30 and 7:30. The twilight timing seems to fit in with students across multiple time zones.

Students use the mic or the chat window to ask questions during the session, and I remain online for up to an hour after the lecture to pick up on individual questions that students don’t want to raise in front of the group.

One of the main issues I’ve had to overcome is finding a quiet space – a shared office is not ideal. My currently favourite location is one of the small rooms in the SIC – as beyond 5pm it gets very quiet and I can borrow their headphones and camera.

Other issues I’ve experienced is unsuitable equipment that students or visiting lectures might try to use. We’ve also had some issues with visiting lecturers using Mac equipment. However, on the whole we’ve not had many issues with student’s equipment – noting that the instructions that Blackboard and Edge Hill have put in place to support students is very good (http://www.eshare.edgehill.ac.uk/1642/)– most students who are experiencing problems try to solve it themselves using the guides before they contact me.  A new guide is available via eShare on equipment that has been tested by Learning Services and is consdered to work well with Blackboard Collaborate (http://www.eshare.edgehill.ac.uk/5262/).

I’ve also noticed that teams in the Faculty of Health are more ready to try new technologies such as Collaborate.

I don’t think we would be able to deliver the qualification without Collaborate – I can’t see a way of getting students from all over the world involved in a class discussion except through web conferencing technologies.

My advice to staff thinking of doing some sessions with their students is just to have a go – and don’t get put off by the first few steps (that can be a little daunting for the novice). Also, write a script and print this out to have with you as you deliver – this is very useful for ‘filling in’ when there are gaps in the flow – and include comments such as what the weather’s been like recently. And if you are in a shared office, find somewhere else, or book a classroom.

My advice to the institution would be to see if Collaborate might be used to make courses that are not viable due to low numbers open to a wider audience.

And finally, one thing I’d really like is a feature to enable me to have a room available to invite students from anywhere in – not needing to setup a course area for them.”

 

BestofTEL_SMALLPam Nicol
Learning Facilitator
Student Services

Telephone:  01695 584190 x 4190
Email: nicolp@edgehill.ac.uk

 

It’s evident that Pam is very enthusiastic about the Collaborate technology – and she is demonstrating excellent practice in terms of delivery and recording. Pam would be pleased to discuss this with anyone at Edge Hill – her contact details are above.

I have also helped Pam achieve her final request above – using a tutor room in a course area. I’ll be creating a guide and blog post about this technique in a later posting, but it you want to know about this or any of the tools within the Learning Edge Suite contact your Learning Technologist (see the Faculty Contacts on this page) or email the LTD Team on LTDSupport@edgehill.ac.uk or x7754.

What Equipment do I Need to Collaborate?

Classroom PCs with Blackboard Collaborate Logo insetBlackboard Collaborate is a real-time web conferencing and online learning tool that can be used to support teaching and learning and other collaborative projects, and is generating a great deal of interest within Faculties and Departments at Edge Hill University. There has been a major increase in its use for taught sessions, meetings and student support.Close-up of Plantronics Headset

Learning Technology Development (LTD) is often asked, “what equipment do I need to fully participate in a Blackboard Collaborate session?”  So we have come-up with a document and resources that allow you to “try before you buy”.

The eShare guide (LTD5032: Blackboard Collaborate: Audio and Video Equipment) outlines best practices and suggests equipment recommended by LTD based on our own experience of using it with Blackboard Collaborate.

Open boc with Blackboard Collaborate logo floating aboveNow, the try before you buy element comes from the investment made by Learning Services in quality equipment that you can borrow from the Library and testing it prior to your own or departmental purchase.

Want to learn more about Blackboard Collaborate and the benefits for staff and students who need real-time virtual collaboration.  Contact your LTDO for more information, consultation and any training you wish to explore.

Martin Baxter

 

 

Martin Baxter
Learning Technology Development Officer

 

 

Let’s use PowerPoint to move away from PowerPoint with iSpring!

Love it or hate it, Microsoft PowerPoint has been the go-to tool for learning content for many years now and it will more than likely continue to be a staple in the Learning Edge tool box for years to come.  As we all know PowerPoint does have its limitations when incorporating multimedia + instructional tools if you’re trying to accommodate diverse learning styles and more equally trying to enable content accessibility via mobile devices (Edge Hill Central and Learning Edge Apps). Everywhere we look these days, we can see the impact that mobile technology continues to have on our society. According to Cisco Visual Networking Index, by the end of 2014 the number of mobile devices will exceed the number of people on earth, and by 2018 predicts there will nearly 1.4 mobile devices for every person. Mobile Learners with iSpringSince January 2014 here in the Learning Technology Development Team we’ve been exploring the capabilities of the iSpring application as an additional plugin to PowerPoint to meet the needs of academic staff and to also enhance the online/mobile learning experience of our students. For those new to iSpring, it’s fundamentally an e-learning authoring tool that integrates with PowerPoint, so no special skills are needed to start using it. iSpring gives PowerPoint the ability to add multimedia easily and include instructional functionality to slides.  This also ensures accessibility for both traditional desktop and mobile users by transforming your PowerPoint file into HTML5! (This means that it will play on pretty much any device without the need for additional software or apps!)

iSpring RibbonOn Thursday 3rd July 2014 I presented an introductory iSpring webinar via Blackboard Collaborate to 26 Edge Hill University Staff, which demonstrated the concepts of multimedia usage and instructional design within PowerPoint.  (I really wanted to title the session “The Jerry iSpringer Show’ though I wasn’t too sure how that would go down!) The webinar enlightened staff to the main differences between an ordinary PowerPoint presentation and a presentation energised with the features of iSpring. During the webinar I explained and demonstrated a variety of methods on how multimedia resources can be incorporated into your current or new PowerPoint presentations by just a few clicks using iSpring. All the tools I covered in the webinar have been approved as ‘mobile & desktop friendly’ solutions, which enables users to utilise resources online or in class.

Feel free to watch the webinar on YouTube by clicking on the link below:

I really value the quick feedback we receive from staff. I’d like to share some of those comments I’ve received from staff within the Faculty of Health and Social Care:

“The software is user friendly; you can make the most of this resource by embedding exercises, discussion, video, web links, reading, references etc.   It is possible to have a student centered, interactive resource recorded and available online in a short period of time.  Students have given very positive feedback and they value the ‘discussional’ approach we use, which makes online learning personal.  One student said that it was like having a one to one tutorial.”  Trish Prescott, Senior Lecturer CPD

“I find it much easier to use .ppt and dropping in audio from Audacity.  Being able to drop in other items really enhances the presentation”  Elaine Hughes, Senior Lecturer Adult Nursing

“The thing I like most about iSpring is that my PowerPoint presentations can be combined with sound files in three strokes of the mouse, and hey presto! My Learning Edge presentations can be viewed by students on their iPhones and iPads.”  Chris Jones, Senior Lecturer CPD

“iSpring is enabling me to teach  in all the ways that I was imagining – all in one package!”  Sertip Zangana Senior lecturer CPD

“iSpring allows me to build and edit material very easily in the way I want it to look on the page for the student.” Jeremy Brown, Reader in Health Service Research

“The beauty of iSpring for me, is in its potential to create a learning experience that addresses the needs of both the campus based and distance student.  With the increased functionality over other methods that I would have relied on previously, I can see opportunities to develop more engaging materials!”  Irene Dudley-Swarbrick, Senior Lecturer Applied Health & Social Care

Since the webinar took place Edge Hill University now has 43 iSpringers who originated from the early adopters project – who are taking e-learning to a whole new level. These users are located as followed:

15 x Faculty of Health and Social Care

12 x Faculty of Arts & Sciences

10 x Faculty of Education

5 x Learning Services

1 x Directorate

LTD have extended the outline of the original webinar in the form of a ‘digital hand-out’ for all current and new users…. just to make things even smoother over this academic year and beyond. Feel free view the resource by clicking on the below image and then bookmarking it in your browser or within your eShare account.

iSpring 1 So maybe you’re thinking “I’d like to give this a try”.  Have no fear, you are all more than welcome to join this technological revolution in teaching and learning in the form our LTD ‘Hot Desk’ options.  Within the LTD office (LINC 2nd Floor Room S2) we have a laptop which is bookable by all staff as well as 2 hot desks fully loaded with iSpring and many other exclusive software packages.

To book yourself onto any of the ‘Hot Desk’ options simply email LTDSupport@edgehill.ac.uk or phone us on Ext 7754 and we’d be more than happy to help you with one of the available options at a time that suits you best! Post a comment below if you have any questions. You can also get in touch with us if you would simply like to know more!

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Mark Wilcock Learning Technology Development Officer