The End Of The Beginning.

“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” (Churchill, 1942)

The hard work of Learning Technology Development and Faculty of Education teams begins to pay off this week as the end of the first phase of staff development workshops draws to a close. So far, over fifty two hour workshops have taken place to help Education Programme teams prepare for the September launch of their courses in the new and updated virtual learning environment (VLE), (Blackboard Learn version 9.1,) now branded Learning Edge. There is still work to be done and additional ‘drop in’ and bespoke sessions will be available to support ongoing developments, but we are now in a position to see how the new VLE is going to bring real benefits to both staff and students.

Here are just a few of the features which have been causing excitement in the staff development workshops:

“Drag and drop file upload is going to be a fantastic time saver!”
Now you can upload whole folder directories into your Course Files by dragging a folder from a location on your computer or pen drive and dropping it straight into the Blackboard course file manager. This drag and drop functionality is also available to organise the course menu and page layout within course areas.

“Integrating multimedia content into my course is so easy.”
Finding and adding video clips, photos and presentations into your course is even easier with the Youtube, Flicker and Slideshare Mashup tools. Students can also make the most of the mashup tools because multimedia content can be embedded into wiki pages, blog entries and discussion board posts. One course area already using the new VLE have been enhancing the aesthetics of their announcements with images.

“This Early Warning alerts tool is going to be really useful for contacting students who have not been accessing Blackboard regularly enough.”

Monitoring student activity using the Early Warning System helps tutors identify potential problems. Alerts are triggered when students meet specified criteria enabling tutors to take early action. If a student doesn’t log in for two weeks you can ask why and if a student doesn’t submit an assignment on time you can contact them about it. The tool can also be useful for providing positive feedback to students who have, for example, done particularly well on an assessment. One programme team are going to explore the potential of the tool for monitoring attendance.

“The course reports are good and being able to view statistics about individual files might be really revealing.”
You can now see how many students have viewed specific files or content areas in your course by enabling additional tracking statistics. If you want to know when the course handbook is being accessed or whether the essential readings have been viewed switch on Tracking Statistics.

“The What’s New panel on the Course Updates page is a great way to see what’s happened since you last logged in.”
Students can see an overview of recent course activity at a glance with the ‘What’s New’ panel on a Course Notifications page. New announcements, assignments, content and discussions are all highlighted, helping students keep up to date with the latest course information and activity.

We will write about more new features in later posts but for now we hope this little list has sparked some interest and encouraged you to log in and start using Learning Edge. We would also love to hear about the features you are using or looking forward to using – so please leave us a comment and share your favourites.

Meg Juss
Learning Technologist

Training and support

As many staff will be aware, we’re in the process of moving over to ‘Learning Edge’ (Blackboard 9.1). Many of our academic teams have already received training on the new system as part of the ‘systems migration’ and we are arranging additional sessions in consultation with each faculty….contact your faculty champions for more details of these sessions.

For those colleagues within support services, keep an eye on the staff development wiki for opportunities to attend training sessions on the new system. In the meantime, if you have any specific queries or need immediate support please contact the Learning Technology Development team at [email protected] – we’re always on hand to help.

There are many resources available to support you on the Learning Services wiki which can be accessed here: under ‘How do I…? Use Technology Enhanced Learning

Training guides for Blackboard 9.1 can be found here, as well as a wealth of other information around technology enhanced learning. If you would like support with a technology and can’t find a resource there, please contact us on the above email and let us know what you would like to see!

Katherine Richardson
LTD Operations Co-ordinator

Elaine Czotter

Elaine Czotter
ICT Staff Development Co-ordinator

Introducing eShare



eShare is a repository for managing the universities growing volume of digital teaching and learning content for its use within Blackboard.

Why use eShare?

  • a digital home for teaching and learning resources
  • enables better management of the lifecycle of teaching and learning resources
  • easily upload, download and share resources
  • store your presentations, videos, images and more
  • upload your resource once and link to it from multiple locations
  • accessible online anytime & anywhere
  • showcase your innovative and creative teaching resources

Testing is nearly completed!

Watch this space for a link to eShare.

For further information please contact the eshare team from Learning Services. [email protected]

Common misconceptions in Blackboard 9.1 (Learning Edge) part 1

Over the past few months we have had a few queries arise from members of staff about what to expect in Blackboard 9.1 Learning Edge.  We have started collating some of these and hope to answer them here.

“I have to let my Learning Technologist know about which areas I need creating for next year”

All areas are being created automatically according to the Student Information Database (SID) so if your programme, course or module exists there, it will automatically exist in Blackboard also! You will need to liase with your administrative staff to arrange access to these areas (see next question).

“I will automatically be given access to my Blackboard Courses”

All student enrollments into the new system are now automated as a result of the successful integration of the Student Information System (SID) and Blackboard.

Staff enrolments into Backboard courses will be managed manually within the Faculties. Faculty Course Administrators will, on request, grant access to primary course contacts ie. Programme/Course/Year/Module leads who will then be able to give their teams the required access.

“I have to teach in modules now”

Many will choose to teach in a modular form, but many other possibilities are available.  You can teach your subjects in year groups or by programme or course amongst other options.  Speak to your head of department or faculty and administrators to decide what would be best to suit your needs and teaching requirements.

“I need to have technical skills to use Blackboard”

Basic IT skills are all you need to get started using a virtual learning environment (VLE) like Blackboard. Blackboard 9.1 has been designed for teachers who don’t have a technical background and is even more intuitive and easy to use than before. As with all new technologies, it might take a bit of getting used to at first, which is why the Learning Technology Development team are working with staff from across the University to ensure they are ready to make the most of the new system.

“Do I still need to send lists (to LTD) to get students enrolled?”

Not any longer.  Student details of where they are enrolled are taken from SID and matched in Blackboard.  When a student is enrolled, they will then be added to the appropriate area in Blackboard 9.1.  This makes it ever more important communication between  Academic Registry and your Administrative teams are kept up to date about student movements between modules or possibly courses, as it will affect what they can access in Blackboard 9.1  There will be no way to add students into a module that they are not enrolled on!

“It’s hard work to get my content across to the new version (Blackboard 9.1)”

Depending on the complexity of your modules or courses, this is a relatively straight-forward process.  If you have a basic level of content, you may wish to take the opportunity to have a ‘spring clean’ of any old documents to make sure your material is up-to-date.  This may involve starting fresh in your new module/course area.  If you have a complex course, we have the opportunity to ‘migrate’ the content across (this will still require a little tidying up afterwards).  Decide on which is the best option for you, but remember, the Learning Technology Department is here to help support you in this transition.

Please contact the Learning Technology Department on [email protected]

Carol Chatten
Learning Technologist


Making things happen: behind the scenes (part 2)

In our last post we focused on the Learning Services team and their roles in the technical development and staff training for Blackboard 9.1. This time, we thought we’d introduce the colleagues who work with our Learning Technologists, David Callaghan and Adrian Cain: Kevin English (Assistant Registrar, Data Management & User Support Team, Academic Registry), Kevin Molyneux (Senior Business Systems Officer, IT Services) and Victor Iriarte (Complex Hosting Manager, Blackboard).

This cross-University/Blackboard group have been working over the past few months to ensure that integration between existing University systems and Blackboard 9.1 has enabled the automatic creation of course areas and student enrolments in Blackboard. The collaboration has resulted in a robust integration and provided timely and consistent availability of courses and student enrolments into Blackboard. It wouldn’t have happened without the excellent teamwork from all involved.

Our offer of a high-quality group photo to accompany this post was gently refused so we have included an image of the 9.1 ‘concept’ highlighting the integration aspect instead. The aim is to illustrate that without effective systems integration, none of the other benefits of Blackboard 9.1 can be realised.

The final post in the ‘Behind the Scenes’ series will introduce you to faculty colleagues who have key roles in the roll out of Blackboard 9.1 to staff and students …