Spotlight on the Learning Services Mobile Implementation Team

Blackboard Catalyst Award Winner LogoReaders of the Learning Services blog or the Edge Hill News will have perhaps already read about our exciting 2013 Blackboard Catalyst Award for Mobile Innovation, which celebrates the successful wide ranging activity taking place across the service (and in collaboration with other departments across the university,) to enhance the student experience of mobile technology.

As I’ve said before, this achievement is a collective one- so I thought it would be good to highlight some of the people involved with the mobile implementation project and the activity that has been recognised by the Blackboard community as exemplary:

Learning Services Mobile Implementation TeamLearning Services Mobile Implementation Team. L-R: Adrian Cain, Paul Appleton, Mark Wilcock, Martin Baxter, Meg Juss, John Langford, Lindsey Martin, Rachel Bury, Nina Unsworth, David Callaghan, Carol Chatten, Irfan Mulla, Pete Beaumont.

Adrian Cain, Learning Technology Development Officer
As an advocate of the Mobile Learn app and proactive technologist within the Faculty of Health and Social Care, Adrian has worked closely with Laura Taylor, the Faculty of Health and Social Care Senior Solstice Fellow, to showcase the Learn app to new students at inductions. Adrian has also worked with Meg to co-develop ‘The Students’ Ideal VLE’, a popular staff development workshop that draws on evidence from our internal surveys and NSS commentrary, which promotes the essential role of mobile in VLE developments. Adrian is now a leading member of the Learning Services App Review group who, in response to student feedback, are identifying and signposting other useful mobile apps for learning.

Paul Appleton, Communication and Design Officer
A professional graphic designer, Pauls’ handiwork can be seen in the numerous print and online marketing materials used to introduce students and staff to the growing portfolio of mobile solutions. Paul has also created a series of illuminating infographics to clearly present findings from our annual Student eLearning Survey and continues to design visual resources to help us convey our mobile story. (We’ll be publishing more about the 2012-13 survey and infographics in a future blog post).

Mark Wilcock, Learning Technology Development Officer
Working closely with staff in the Faculty of Education and Faculty of Health and Social Care, Mark has provided support for teams wanting to explore and improve their course design and embrace mobile-friendly practices though the production of quick-guides and delivery of bespoke staff development sessions. Mark is currently working extensively on assignment submission projects and will play a key role in supporting mobile grading functionality when it becomes available for both Blackboard and Turnitin.

Martin Baxter, Learning Technology Development Officer
Delivering staff development sessions for academic, support and administrative staff on the use of QR codes and smart phones, Martin has helped introduce new ideas to colleagues wanting to explore what mobile technology has to offer. Martin is currently investigating methods and tools to support bespoke eBook content creation, with a view to building even more mobile-friendly content options into our course designs.

Megan Juss, Learning Technology Development Manager
Responsible for the delivery and effectiveness of our mobile initiatives  I manage the numerous strands of our strategy (communication, marketing, staff development, student support as well as progress evaluation and R&D) in order to make our mobile vision a reality. I am currently working with Learning Services colleagues to organise an internal conference on ‘Mobile Technology and Social Media’ to support the skills and confidence development of our service staff, as well as coordinating six exciting new projects to enhance mobile touchpoints with the service, and ultimately improve the EHU student experience (Social Media, Library Instruction, Mobile Communication & AskUs SMS, Library Resources, Apps Review & Signposting, Augmented Reality and EHU Central v2).

John Langford, Learning Technology Development Systems Officer
Coordinating installation, testing and updates to the mobile learn building block John makes sure we have the most up to date, feature rich app available. He has also worked extensively with Blackboard to resolve reported problems and continues to provide expert technical advice. With numerous app developments on the horizon, John will be closely involved with the implementation and delivery of improved functionality to the suite of EHU mobile tools.

Lindsey Martin, Assistant Head of Learning Services (Learning, ICT and Media Technologies)
Listening to what Edge Hill students have to say underpins the vision and direction that Lindsey offers to the team. Having instigated the annual Student eLearning Survey 5 years ago, Lindsey has worked hard to utilise the voice of our students to inform service developments – including supporting the original business case to invest in the Mobile Learn app. Exploring the most recent survey data, Lindsey is now examining the implications of the growing BYOD movement on our student support structures – to make sure we are in a position to respond to the growing numbers of students using their own devices on campus.

Rachel Bury, Academic Liaison Manager (Quality, Marketing and Communication) Rachel has been the driving force behind our communication campaign, using print, web and social media to really heighten awareness and ensure impact. As well as commissioning the production of professional marketing materials and collaborating with ITS colleagues to help market on-campus wifi solutions, Rachel continues to play a leading role in organising events like Fresher’s Fair during Welcome Week and the Pop-up Mobile Clinics.

Nina Unsworth, Learning Technology Development Operations Coordinator
Collating monthly usage stats and devising a simple dashboard to enable easy monitoring and dissemination of information to key stakeholders, Nina supports our analytics and evaluation activity. She also responds to user enquiries and provides level 2 troubleshooting assistance to LS Help Desk colleagues. Nina is currently working on a project to capture enquiry data in a format that allows us to analyse end user issues (including those related to the use of mobile technologies,) that will feed into future support activities.

David Callaghan, Learning Technology Development Officer
As a learning technology evangelist David has worked with colleagues in the Faculty of Education to showcase the learn app and promote the broader potential of mobile technology for teaching, learning and assessment. David has also provided support and staff development sessions for colleagues across the university looking to enhance their use of iPads, including Facilities Management colleagues wanting to gather user feedback, and senior managers wanting tips for using iPads in the workplace. David is now exploring the mobile capabilities of Campus pack to support student ePortfolio activity in the workplace

Carol Chatten, Learning Technology Development Officer
A resident mobile expert, Carol has played a leading role in many of our mobile developments, including: extensive work to support the design of mobile-friendly courses (particularly with the Clinical Education programme team and colleagues in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences), researching the role of the mobile learn app for enhanced online discussion, and delivering several innovative staff development workshops such as the ‘Mobile Field Trip’. Carol has also collaborated with Academic Liasion and Information Resources colleagues to develop our mobile Library facilities, including producing a catalogue of resources to support users downloading loanable eBooks to their mobile devices. Carol is now working in collaboration with Web Team colleagues to review and enhance the  EHU central app.

Irfan Mulla, Learning Technology Development Officer
In collaboration with colleagues in the Faculty of Education Inclusion programmes Irfan has supported the development of mobile-friendly and accessible course content, provided staff development sessions to help the team develop the knowledge, skills and confidence to embed mobile learning into their course design and produced a comprehensive collection of bespoke guidance materials for Dyslexia and SENCo students. Irfan has also supported the introduction of web conferencing using Blackboard Collaborate online and via Collaborate app, and is currently exploring the latest app update that brings support for Android and Kindle fire devices as well as integrated conference call in functionality.

Peter Beaumont, Learning Technology Development Officer
Promoting the range of mobile technologies and support available from the LTD team, Pete has delivered numerous overview sessions for colleagues within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences as well as induction sessions for all new academic colleagues and international visitors. Pete has also facilitated staff development workshops to help colleagues produce content that is accessible to a wide range of students including those with SpLDs and those using mobile devices. He has also researched the potential of mobile devices to support classroom teaching, extending the work he does supporting the use of our Optivote and Turning Point clicker systems. Pete is now leading the Learning Services Augmented Reality working group who are exploring the potential of AR enhanced content.

Other university departments (not pictured) but who have also played a key role in Edge Hill’s successful and on-going mobile developments include:

IT Services colleagues, including Web Services (managed by Mike Nolan) and Core Services (managed by Neil Malcolm), who this year have delivered a new mobile website and numerous other new services targeted at mobile users, including the EHU Central app, enhanced mobile-friendly Library Catalogue, improved on-campus Wi-Fi and the impressive and popular computer availability app.

Learning Services Information Resources colleagues who in collaboration with IT Services have introduced enhanced mobile compatible library search facilities, such as Discover More and the mobile-friendly Library Catalogue.

Customer Services colleagues and Flexi IT rovers for their excellent on-going Help Desk support to mobile users- which also now includes mobile-friendly (search, live chat and SMS) support via the Ask Us knowledge base.

Academic Skills division colleagues who have staffed the regular Mobile Clinics and Open Days to help promote mobile facilities- including the vast array of mobile compatible eResources that are available to staff and students – such as the Ebrary Downloads.

Media and ICT division colleagues who have produced many of the excellent videos featured on the Edge Hill YouTube channel which appear in the EHU Central app, and who continue to contribute to on-campus classroom infrastructure reviews.

And… Faculty colleagues who are using the learning and teaching opportunities presented by the evolving mobile world to support and enhance the Edge Hill student experience!

Hopefully this brief summary of activity is enough to give you a flavour of the collective on-going efforts taking place to improve the mobile facilities and services here at Edge Hill. The pace of technological change isn’t likely to slow and I’m sure we’ll see another exciting 12 months of progress in 2013-14!

If you would like to learn more about our activites to support the uptake and application of mobile technologies please leave a comment or contact your learning technologist.

Meg Juss, Learning Technology Development Manager





Meg Juss, Learning Technology Development Manager

Future Gazing: Exploring Tomorrow’s Technologies Today

I’ve been working at Edge Hill for 10 years and in that time we’ve seen major developments in the use of technology in Higher Education. For example mobile technologies have become mainstream, and online services have developed massively. Remember that YouTube only started in 2005, and Twitter in 2006, but they are widely used by educators today.

nmc_itunesu.HR2013_2_0The NMC Horizon Report: Higher Education Edition is an annual publication which presents six areas of technology that a collection of experts in the field see as likely to see mainstream adoption in Higher Education over the next five years. The aim is that this will give “campus leaders and practitioners a valuable guide for strategic technology planning”, and it is also an interesting read.

This year’s report covers:

<1 year to adoption

  • Massive Open Online Courses
  • Tablet Computing

2-3 years to adoption

  • Games and Gamification
  • Learning Analytics

4-5 years to adoption

  • 3D Printing
  • Wearable Technology

We’ll be running a session led by Peter Beaumont and David Callaghan on Thursday 23rd May 2013 from 12:00-1:00PM, where we will briefly present on these six areas of technology and aim to start some ongoing conversations around them.

We’d love it if you could join us. If you can make it, please book on through the session page on the Human Resources wiki.

Picture of the author

Peter Beaumont
Learning Technologist

Using Facebook to engage and retain new students

Weaving social media into the learning technology mix.

Ian Currie, Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Education, is an advocate for the complementary use of social media to support his students’ learning experience. Understanding the tensions between the professional educational environment offered by ‘Blackboard’ and the popular social medium of ‘Facebook’ he elegantly walks the tightrope between cloistered and open technologies. Ian talks candidly about his approach and acknowledges that the potential pitfalls of using social media in Higher Education are not to be taken lightly: i.e. the legitimately held concerns of eSafety, data protection, inclusion, reputation, branding, etc. (see afterword for advice from JISC).  Ian has used the immediacy and informal nature of the Facebook platform to great effect – and then continued that use on throughout the course, integrating well with the more formal Learning Technologies at Edge Hill University.

FacebookAndBlackboard100I seem to have gained a bit of a reputation amongst my peers for being an advocate of social media as a means of communicating with students – this is more by accident than design but I am growing to accept my fate.

The attraction of Facebook as a means of communicating with prospective students emerged from the frustration of applicants (at the time) being unable to access Blackboard content before enrolling. Thus apart from marketing messages and/or individual emails it was difficult to keep potential students engaged with Edge Hill – particularly at course level. The attrition rate between applicants and those finally enrolling was something I felt social media could be used to ameliorate.

At around this time, I also came across the work of Goodenow (1992), Becker and Luthar (2002) and others around students’ ‘sense of belonging’ – something their work suggests is a key factor in students’ decisions to leave their course of study early.

It occurred to me that Facebook as a social media platform inhabited increasingly by a substantial proportion of the population had potential to engage applicants early and keep them engaged with their chosen destination course up until (and possibly after) enrolment. So in 2011 I launched a Facebook page specifically for applicants for the BA (Hons) Early Years Professional Practice and Leadership Course. A simple idea, posts about sector developments, occasional posts about the university, a means of making contact with other applicants for the same course, a platform for sharing concerns, intelligence about Ormskirk and the surrounding area, asking questions of each other (and of course the tutor/admins) and some surprising outcomes at enrolment…

In their first induction session, Freshers were seeking each other out following on-line conversations they had already had. They were becoming acquainted not as strangers, but as individuals finally putting names to faces. The page was so popular that we kept it going after the start of the course and a few months later when I asked for specific feedback about the page, this is what the students said:

  • They could talk to people already on the course
  • The page was a point of contact
  • Video links were interesting
  • It was a single place to go if I needed any information or had any problems
  • People from class could also post comments and links
  • People from class can help post links related to the assignment
  • There were resources on it that they found useful (and which weren’t necessarily module specific)
  • They liked being able to see information about the university in a less formal format before coming
  • They were able to see other people’s questions and comments about the uni and found this reassuring
  • Meeting new friends on-line
  • They could see what course is about
  • Became more relaxed, less nervous about coming to uni.
  • Received help and advice on queries which helped preparation for uni.
  • Simply chatting to people on your course
  • Noting important dates before getting to uni.
  • Parents could get a better idea of the course and what uni would be like

I launched a second page for 2012 recruits, the evaluation of which provided similar positive feedback. This has however raised an issue – whether to keep separate pages going for each new cohort or whether to somehow merge these into one. My current strategy is as follows…

I have now created a generic page for all ‘PD early years courses at Edge Hill’. New applicants will be signposted to this where sector relevant links and new sector developments are featured prominently. Current students are also signposted to this link.

I will continue to create a new page for applicants with a view to engaging them early and maintaining contact, but I will encourage students to increasingly take responsibility for posting content to keep this going.

One thing I would like to share with colleagues is that these Facebook pages are not intended to replace Blackboard. Indeed, any comparison is really one of oranges vs apples. The success of the page(s) has been largely due to the differences between the two platforms. Facebook is a social space that students routinely inhabit and as such is a convenient means of information sharing. A recent discussion with a group of students about what they liked about the Facebook page confirmed that the immediacy of access was far more preferable than the logging on process required to access Blackboard. ‘Far too many clicks and passwords to navigate through Blackboard’ was their response. They found Facebook much quicker for sharing information than Groupwise/Blackboard and the fact that they routinely had Facebook notification activated meant that this was a further convenience in terms of speed of communication. This experience was brought home to me earlier this year when I was delayed getting to work (snow) and I posted a Blackboard announcement as well as sending a Facebook notification to this effect. When I checked with students which version of the message they had received, only one person identified the Blackboard announcement.

Clearly there are functions on Blackboard that could not, and indeed should not, be replicated on a Facebook page, but as a vehicle for sharing information and speedy communication the Facebook page works well.

Some colleagues have expressed concerns about students posting inappropriate content on a Facebook page – thus far this has not happened in my experience, but could conceivably arise. In setting up a page, one has administrator rights and would thus be able to moderate any unacceptable posts.

One very recent phenomenon that I have come across but so far I am just keeping an eye on, are two people who have ‘befriended’ the Facebook page and who have started to post some (so far) subtle advertising content – not spam, but advertising about leadership coaching and private tutoring. I do not currently see this as too problematic, but it is a reminder that content can be seen and accessed by the wider public – that said, I recently received feedback via the Lancashire Early Years Forum that Edge Hill is clearly at the forefront of sector initiatives, because of someone having seen the posts on the Facebook page. This now has me thinking about the further potential of Facebook as a vehicle for promotion and publicity.

In a nutshell, if Blackboard is the formal institutional vehicle for pedagogical discourse, narrative and communication, Facebook is the equivalent of the local pub which customers frequent out of a combination of habit and choice to share thoughts and ideas in a non-threatening, convivial and largely egalitarian virtual environment. I would be interested to hear via the comments, others’ views on the pros and cons of aligning Facebook and other social media channels with core institutional facilities.


Goodenow, C. (1992). Strengthening the links between educational psychology and the study of social contexts. Educational Psychologist, 27(2), 177-196.

Becker, B. E., & Luthar, S. S. (2002). Social-emotional factors affecting achievement outcomes among disadvantaged students: Closing the achievement gap. Educational Psychologist, 37(4), 197-214.


BestofTEL_SMALLIan Currie
Course Leader BA (Hons) Early Years Professional Practice & Leadership
Faculty of Education

Afterword: The use of a ‘Page’ and a generic ‘EYPPL account’ in Facebook mitigates many of the risks arising out of colleagues using Facebook to communicate with students.  For detailed advice, see ‘Facing up to Facebook: A Guide for FE and HE (August 2011)‘ from JISC and/or talk to your Learning Technologist (see the Faculty Contacts on this page) or email the LTD Team on [email protected]

It is also worth noting that continued investment in the university’s portfolio of teaching and learning technologies have introduced features that now address some of the improvements Ian’s students originally sought- such as the Blackboard mobile app, which offers them quick and easy access to their courses, and has activity notification alerts like Facebook. 

Furthermore, as the Blackboard product continues to evolve, new social learning features will become available to support registered students to connect and collaborate in a secure and supported environment. 

Finally, on the Edge Hill technology roadmap, faculties can look forward to even greater flexibility to use the VLE to engage with pre-entry, alumni, partners and guests. Programme teams and colleagues like Ian will be able to create publically available course spaces to deliver content for potential or pre-enrolled students in the same way that Ian is using the Facebook page above 

Keep an eye on this blog to hear more about upcoming upgrades and improvements to Learning Edge Blackboard 9.1 

David Callaghan, 13th May 2013

Supporting the Associate Tutor through a Blackboard ‘Hub’

Two programmes in the Faculty of Education who rely on Associate Tutors to bring skills and expertise to their courses have created ‘Hubs’ or Tutor Areas to create a community of practitioners where they can discuss and share experiences, questions and receive support in a safe environment, as they are most usually away from campus.

The Inclusion Team at Edge Hill have explored different ways of supporting Associate Tutors on the Inclusion Award.  One of the ways of which has proved to be really successful is making an area available on Blackboard called the “Inclusion Associate Tutor Hub” to which all associate tutors on the award have access to.

This allows all associate tutors on the Inclusion Award a central area on Blackboard to participate in discussions, share ideas and discuss best practices.

It allows the programne leaders and course leaders to provide support and information/updates to all Associate Tutors (AT’s) on the award. The associate tutor hub has proved to be an excellent resource area for all AT’s to engage in. A comment received by an AT supporting the course;

 “The Associate Tutor Hub has proved to be a great resource area and also allowed me to keep in touch and share ideas with other Associate Tutors on the award through discussion forums.”


In Clinical Education, Associate Tutors are predominantly drawn from doctors, experts and practitioners in the medical context.  They have full time jobs in hospitals and clinics and so find it difficult to attend AT sessions during working hours.

The Associate Tutors’ Area has helped ATs keep abreast of any changes or developments as the course progresses and also allows them to obtain any workshop materials ahead of the day of delivery and review up-to-date PowerPoint presentations that are planned to be used.

The area is broken up into the courses and modules to make identification of the materials quick and simple and also has links (using the web tool ‘When Should We?‘) to allow the tutors themselves to offer their availability to attend, facilitate or deliver workshops should they be available.  Being a blended programme, not all the content is delivered and facilitated online and so allowing the ATs to offer their attendance is vitally important to the programme.

Links to Edge Hill contacts are also included to avoid any feelings of isolation and a convenient calendar is utilised to enable ATs to plan ahead and see when one of the numerous cohorts of modules is due to commence or when workshops are coming up.

Help is also included for technology FAQs and help with getting their own PC or device setup and ready to use.  The discussion forum allows ATs to share thoughts and ideas on the course and also make suggestions for improvement in regards to what they would like training or development-wise.


The Blackboard areas have really helped associate tutors feel more included in the on-goings of the behind the scenes workings of courses and programmes.  Having a forum for Associate Tutors can aid their development and improve their own skills in a supportive environment, even though they may be away from campus.

If you are thinking this is something you would like to develop for your own Associate Tutors but would like some help or advice getting started, give LTD Support a call on 7754 or [email protected]

Irfan Mulla

Irfan Mulla
Learning Technology Development Officer (SENCo)


Carol Chatten
Learning Technology Development Officer
(FAS and Clinical Education)