Introducing Blackboard Spaces

spaces_cutIf you open the Global Navigation menu in Blackboard, you will see that the bottom icon on the menu links to a tool called Spaces.

These are very simple social spaces that anyone can set up and invite people to. Members of a Space can create their own posts and comment on posts written by others.

You might find Spaces useful if you want to quickly set up a study group and invite people to it. You can even invite people from other universities and institutions that use the Blackboard Spaces tool.

We’ve created a short guide to using the Spaces tool, and members of staff can contact their Learning Technologist for guidance, or if you have any comments.


Peter Beaumont
Learning Technology Development Officer

How Blackboard Blogs put a “Wow” factor into an epidemiology lecture …

… creating a student generated resource that is used during the session and as a reference.

Laura Taylor, Senior Lecturer and Senior SOLSTICE Fellow within the Faculty of Health and Social Care describes how she has used Blackboard Blogs to transform a set of statistics into an engaging learning activity for students AND, almost as a ‘by product’ created a student-generated resource for reference.

Q: Can you set the scene for us please?

“In the 2nd year nursing programme we have a module called ‘Principles and practice in health and well-being in adult nursing’ where students are introduced to Public Health – the first time they will have studied this topic in depth.

Generally this has been a large cohort of around 110 students  – so group work can prove to be rather difficult – especially taking feedback from 20 or more groups.

So – for the ‘Globalization and Health Needs’ session we decided to capitalise on the technologies that were available – using Blackboard’s Blogs to record each group’s work.  Students do a small scoping exercise in self-selected groups choosing an area such as a country and then researching the demographics and some of the health trends that are specific to that country.  The activity immediately gives the students some insights into the differences to the UK as they have already looked at the UK Community Health Profiles.

The crux of group work and getting students to actively participate is feedback – you can get them to do something but the feedback is crucial to ensure active engagement.  So we get the students to record their findings on a Blackboard blog.  We could have used other technologies such as a discussion board, but the students seem to like blogs – perhaps there may have been some novelty value with the blogs as many were blogging for the first time.  Blogs are incredibly easy to use on Blackboard.  As well as recording their own work, they can see, comment and contribute to other groups work.  I tend to sit in the classroom, with Blackboard live so each time there’s a blog post it comes up instantly on the big screen.  The students find seeing their work build up on the big screen incredibly exciting – when they return to the classroom they look up at the screen and say:

“Wow, did we do all that?  Isn’t that great!”

Q: Can you compare your approach with more traditional methods?

“Not really – we didn’t do much on Globalization and Health previously because a ‘lecture’ presenting statistics wouldn’t work.  Also, group work with such a large cohort would be difficult too – consider the logistics of flip chart paper from 20 or so groups.  Moreover, there’s no record of what the group’s produced so the impact of the activity  is rather limited.

Having work recorded electronically means we can quickly flip between groups to feedback to most groups AND have the bonus of all the work being recorded for reference.

Q: Can you tell us about the logistics – how you organise the cohort for the session?

“We start in a classroom – all 100 or so students – and I introduce them to the Globalization topic for around 40 minutes.  Then we ask them to select an area to study, get into groups, and then go off for an hour or sometimes longer to create their blog entry (these instructions are reinforced on Blackboard).  When they come back everything is up on the board; there’s no gathering of pieces of paper or sticking them up or people arguing … all the work is neatly filed.  As they come back to the room they get the ‘Wow’ factor – the whole group can see at a glance what they’ve done.  Then we ask for volunteers (avoiding putting people ‘on the spot’) to present their groups work – if no one volunteers we ask for permission to open the blog.  This activity generates a lovely community spirit – they want to share this information that they’ve found.  They’re not disclosing anything – just stating information – we want them to use and share the data.

A typical blog post contains an overview of the health profile, the demographics, the GDP, population size, infant mortality rate etc., all with references and links.

Allowing 5 mins for each presentation we get through all the groups.

Q: What happens if there are significant discrepancies reported by students?

“We discuss it and use it as a teaching point.  All the sources of the data are on the blogs so we can go an explore where the different data has come from.

Q: What advice would you give to staff considering using blogs in this way?

“Go for it!  Make the instructions simple with a step by step guide.  Link the activity to the assessment process. And give them a choice – as I’ve done here with the students selecting the area to study and groups.

Q: What would you change?

“Nothing – I’ve run this three times now and I really wouldn’t change a thing – the students are very engaged and the staff enjoy the session as well.

Q: What are the main benefits of this approach?

“Picking out three points, I’d suggest:

  • Engagement – students are motivated with the ‘big screen’ factor.
  • Learning – engagement leads to deeper learning – and exposure to more facts and figures than traditional approaches.
  • Capture – all the groups work is recorded and students can return to look at their or their peers work at any time.

“Finally – formal student feedback from module evaluations as well as informal conversations indicates that they find this session enjoyable and effective.”


Laura Taylor
Senior Lecturer
Faculty of Health & Social Care



Laura would be happy to talk to colleagues about her experience using the above techniques.

Besides blogs, Learning Edge has a whole host of features and tools to help you engage students from ways to present content such as Learning Modules and the traditional discussion board that has had an impressive face lift in the SP12 version we are currently running.  For further help, support and advice on how you can use Blogs, Wikis and Discussion Boards within the Learning Edge Suite contact your Learning Technologist (see the Faculty Contacts on this page) or email the LTD Team on [email protected] or call x7754.

Learning Edge Gets Community Engagement

Following the recent acquisition (Oct 2013) of Blackboard Community Engagement, an add on to our current Blackboard Learn 9.1 platform, Learning Services will be working with staff across the university to improve the design and functionality of Learning Edge.

This screencast showcases how the new features, which include personalised Tabs, Panels and Organisations, could be developed to enhance our Learning Edge facilities, for current and prospective students, staff, alumni and other guests.

Community Pre-Login Mock UpClick the image above to watch a 5 minute YouTube video tour.

Learning Technology Development will be holding face-to-face and live online web-conference demonstrations over the next few weeks. In addition discussions will take place at Faculty TEL Steering Groups and the team hope to attend team meetings and speak with interested individuals about the potential of Community.

If you would like to arrange a meeting to discuss how your department could benefit from these new Community features, please speak with your faculty Learning Technologist directly or email [email protected].

The Best of Learning Edge: Nominations for Excellent Modules (+Student Prize Draw)


Students, has your lecturer created a great Learning Edge module to help your studies. Was it easy to navigate? Did it use multimedia? Encourage collaboration? Include interactivity and support?

Learning Technology Development (LTD) would like to know more about how lecturers use Learning Edge in ways that you find interesting, innovative or helpful. By finding out, we aim to share this practice across the University and help improve Learning Edge courses for staff and students. Please take a few minutes to complete this very short survey to nominate a Learning Edge module that you have really enjoyed and to tell us why.

For every module you nominate you will be entered into our 5 prize draws to win an official Edge Hill University USB pen drive and mug.  From Friday 11th October till Friday 8th November you can nominate up to 3 modules.

Feel free to post a comment on here if you have any questions. You can also get in touch with us at [email protected] or call 01695 650754 if you would simply like to know more about our the event.

Happy nominating and good luck!


Mark Wilcock
Learning Technology Development Officer



Mobile Matters! Who’s using an app?


The way Edge Hill students and staff are choosing to access Learning Edge appears to be changing, and more than ever we’re seeing usage patterns that show how important mobile access is.

There is an increasing trend for users to access Learning Edge via tablets and smart phones rather than the traditional PC. VLE use in general has increased – up by 33% compared with last September, but it’s even more interesting to see how mobile access has rocketed – up by a whopping 175%!

Over the last 12 months almost 17,000 individuals used the Mobile Learn app to access Learning Edge – with an impressive 6,000 in the first few weeks of term. Use of the app itself is even more impressive. Visits via the app in September 2012 totaled 17,703 compared with 53,785 in the same period this year – an increase of 204%!

It is good to see that both staff and students are taking advantage of the flexibility and ease of access that the mobile app offers.

Raising Awareness

At the start of term, to help students #Getconnected to the mobile technology available to them, Learning Services and IT colleagues spoke to over 1600 students at the freshers fair. With improved awareness of the Mobile Learn app, and better than ever features, steadily more users are opting to use the app (66%), as opposed to their mobile browser.


Advice for Staff: Recommended Practices for Mobile-Friendly Courses

As more and more students choose to access Learning Edge on their mobile devices, making sure your course is optimised to work with the Mobile Learn app will improve your students’ experience and ability to engage with the course wherever they are. The Mobile Learn app doesn’t replace the need for students or staff to access Learning Edge via a PC, but it does offer new opportunities to access features that work well on the go. So any time you edit or develop your Learning Edge Course, ask yourself, “is this mobile friendly?”

The following guides from Blackboard offer useful guidance:

  1. Getting Started
  2. Designing Content
  3. Mobile Learn Tools
  4. Quick Reference

The Learning Services Learning Technology Development team are also here to help. If you’d like advice on developing your course to make best use of the Mobile Learn app contact your learning technologist, come to one of our Developing Digital Excellence staff development sessions and browse the Learning Edge: Blackboard Mobile Learn guide collection available on eShare.



Nina Unsworth

Learning Technology Development Operations Coordinator