Accessible and Inclusive Design: Session Notes

For those who couldn’t make it to this week’s session on creating accessible content I thought it would be worth making the session notes available.

In the session we looked at how content uploaded to Edge Hill’s Learning Edge online learning environment can be created in ways that make it more accessible to a wide range of students including those with SpLDs and those using mobile devices to access content.

Specifically we will look at Word and PDF documents, PowerPoint slides, audio and video recordings and content accessed through the mobile app.

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Peter Beaumont
Learning Technologist

eAssignments: Which is the right tool for me?

eAssessment is gaining more and more popularity in the HE sector.  Students are demanding the convenience that electronic submission gives them and so with a number of tools on offer within Learning Edge you have the opportunity to give your students what they are looking for.

Learning Edge currently has 3 tools to allow your students to submit electronically; Blackboard Assignment, Assignment Handler and Turnitin.  Don’t forget the potential of blogs and journals that can enable your students to submit work whilst also working in groups collaboratively which can also be assessed.


You may have heard of Turnitin, but what are the reasons for using it?

Turnitin is a very powerful plagiarism detection tool – but in the wrong hands can create real confusion!

Turnitin allows you to help your students formatively construct a well referenced piece of academic writing by helping them to see where they may not have referenced or acknowledged someone else’s work in the correct way.

There is no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ percentage in Turnitin, because it depends on what you, the tutor, are looking for and what the nature of the assignment is that you have set.

Give your students the chance to check their work – try not to jump to any conclusions about their report if it looks bad from the percentage figure.  Have a closer look at the submission and then decide what is going on.  It may be that your student just needs a little extra advice or guidance on writing a referenced piece of work.

Before deciding to use Turnitin, think about what the contents of the assignment will be.  There is no need to set a Turnitin assignment for a poster presentation as there is no bibliography for instance and besides, Turnitin does not accept PowerPoint format!  Neither does it accept Excel spreadsheets, databases, multimedia, images or other more unusual file formats.  Basically, it accepts text, and the best kind of text it accepts is in essay form!

It is also worth noting that Turnitin only accepts one file for each submission drop box.  So if you want 2 pieces submitted for the same assignment, you will either have to set up 2 drop boxes or ask the students to combine them into one document.

When it comes to marking, Turnitin does make it very easy to add floating comments onto the script, so students can see exactly where you made the comments and can then read a larger summary – but be aware, Turnitin ‘general comments’ area is limited to 5000 characters… now this may sound a lot but by the time you have taken into account spaces and full stops, 5000 characters quickly disappears!

TIP!  If you are receiving an error message when trying to save the comments it may be you have entered too many characters!

Turnitin marking requires you to have an active internet connection as you are actually only marking ‘online’, so please take this into account when you are planning to start marking.


Blackboard Assignment Tool and Assignment Handler

On the other hand you have Blackboard Assignments (during the course of this year we will be introducing Assignment Handler – it’s the Blackboard Assignment tool, but with some enhanced features that you may find useful!)

The Blackboard Assignment tool accepts multiple files at a time and also can take any format of file – so if you need your students to submit a spreadsheet they can!

Marking using the Blackboard Assignment tool involves an extra step (to download the assignments), but this may be your preferred method of marking (e.g. Word and comments).

The Assignment Handler tool also allows you to bulk download the submissions so that you can mark them offline at a time that suits you – not only when you have an active internet connection!

All tools integrate into the Blackboard ‘Grade Centre’.  Please note that ‘Grade Centre’ is the overarching tool in Blackboard that ‘picks up’ grades that you have entered from the various tools (including Assignments, Turnitin, Blogs & Journals, etc.) and pulls them into one uniform area where they can be managed (or downloaded) whereas ‘GradeMark’ refers to the marking tool within Turnitin.

You should ensure that you have a method for giving feedback to students when using eAssessment.  You do not necessarily have to mark on screen, or even read the scripts on screen but there are different ways to manage your marking work load.  Some still prefer to print and read the submission in paper form.  Some prefer to download them all so they can then read at their leisure.  Your department may choose to fill in paper feedback forms to hand back to your students, or you may have an electronic feedback form that your faculty or department has supplied.  Or, as mentioned before you may simply wish to put comments onto a submission using Word or by using Turnitin’s GradeMark feature.

Discuss with your department about how to give feedback to your students.

On a final note, it is worth mentioning that using the Blackboard Assignment tool can add to the robustness of your course.  Blackboard have a service level agreement (SLA) with the University to deliver 99.9% ‘up time’, and also 24-7 support.  If the system goes down for any reason, Blackboard is alerted and the problem is dealt with quickly.

Turnitin is a third party piece of software and as such has a different agreement for guaranteed ‘up-time’ and policy of reliability.

Carol Chatten
Learning Technology Development Officer




Mark Wilcock
Learning Technology Development Officer



Students have your say – and win Amazon vouchers #2

My last blog post focused on last year’s student eLearning survey winners so I thought this time it  would be helpful to explain why we think the annual survey is so important.

The Student eLearning Survey is now 5 years old and is an important means of finding out how technology supports student learning at Edge Hill. It isn’t just a tick-box exercise; we want to know the bad and the downright ugly as well as the good so we can continue to improve the features, access and support of EHU systems like the Learning Edge VLE. Since the last survey we have, amongst other things, improved the look and feel of Learning Edge based on your feedback. We also redesigned the log in page to make access and support easier, made Campus Pack (personal blogs and Wiki spaces in Learning Edge) available and released the Edge Hill Central app.

So what did we learn last year? We already knew that Learning Edge (Blackboard) is heavily used, but thanks to the survey, we also know that many students rate it as important, with 78.7% agreeing that it enhanced the knowledge and understanding they get from lectures, tutorials and practical sessions.

While technical and access issues with Learning Edge still occur both on and off campus, the trend over the past 4 years is, thankfully, downward. Facebook was frequently cited as a student ‘owned’ technology to support informal learning where they can email, send notifications, use instant messaging, share documents and course information – I think of it as the Facebook ‘Hub’ compared to the Learning Edge ‘classroom’.

I could go on … but if you want to know more, have a look at the results of last year’s survey at

Finally, if you are a student and want to get your views about technology at Edge Hill heard, then why not complete the survey Don’t forget there is a prize draw for £50 and 2 x £25 Amazon vouchers as well as a 1G USB wristband for every 20th response – we’ve already given away loads and would love to give away more!

Lindsey Martin eLearning Strategy and Development Manager  Lindsey Martin, eLearning Strategy and Development Manager

Students – have your say and win Amazon vouchers!

EHU’s fifth student eLearning survey was launched this week and in exchange for your  views and experiences of technology we are offering one £50 and two £25 Amazon vouchers in a prize draw. We know how precious your time is, so as an additional thank you for completing the survey, we are also giving away a Learning Services 1G USB wristband to every 20th student who takes part.

Here are a couple of photos of last year’s prize draw winners – note the wristbands too!

Matthew Cooper and Lindsey Martin

First prize to Matthew Cooper, Human Geography and Management pictured with yours truly.


Daniel Campbell

Runner up, Daniel Campbell, Computing










Current students, you can complete the survey. It will close on Friday 25th January 2013.

Here is the link

Keep an eye out for a blog post coming soon on how we use the feedback from the eLearning survey to make a difference.

Lindsey Martin eLearning Strategy and Development Manager Lindsey Martin, eLearning Strategy & Development Manager

Monday 26th November 2012: ‘Accessible and Inclusive Design’ Session

The next session in The Digital Practitioner series of staff development events will be about simple ways in which staff can make the materials that they distribute via the Learning Edge online learning environment, more accessible.

It will take place between 1:00 and 2:00pm on Monday the 26th November 2012, at the Ormskirk campus.

You can book on the session by going to the sessions page on the Staff Development section of the Human Resources wiki.

In this session we look at the content uploaded to Edge Hill’s Learning Edge online learning environment, and look at simple ways that it could be made more accessible to a wide range of students including those with SpLDs and those using mobile devices to access content.

Specifically we will look at Word documents, PowerPoint slides, PDF documents, audio and video recordings and content accessed through the mobile app.

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Peter Beaumont
Learning Technologist

Find out more about Learning Edge

Have you ever thought, what really is Learning Edge, what does it contain, why is it seen as eight tools in one!!!  What are the eight tools and do they effect me?

The Learning Technology Development Team are holding a pop up road show in the foyer of the University Library.  You can go along on Thursday 22nd November 2012 11.30 am – 2.30pm to speak to members of the team about all things technology, mobile, or VLE. 

The road show is for everyone – staff and students can come along to ask questions, share any issues and also share good practice.  We have mobile devices to show you how valuable the Blackboard mobile app can be in keeping in touch with your course and your students.  We will also have support and information about using other apps for resources.

We will have some freebies to give away – you can have a 1GB Learning Services wrist band if you tell us on a flip camera video (helpful staff will be around with the camera) what technologies help you with your studies – it can be anything!

Looking forward to seeing you

The Learning Technology Development Team

eShare – Staff Development

What is eShare? Why do we have it? How can it benefit me?

Come along tomorrow for an introduction to our digital repository for teaching and learning and see how you can make the most of eShare.

eShare offers you the opportunity to showcase your work to the world, store presentations, videos and images in an easily accessible way and find ready-made, adaptable materials for your teaching.

In this hands-on session you will:

  • Create a profile – your profile can then be used for departmental webpages, EHRA and CV creation.
  • Learn how to search the repository for teaching resources, guides to teaching and learning technologies and learning resources.
  • Upload your own items – copyright and creative commons will be explained and demystified.
  • Enjoy the benefits of sharing with a Cake Tasting session!

Thursday 15th November 11.00-1.00.  Book online here.