Technologies are an “absolute lifeline” for our students!

Blackboard Collaborate and discussion forums help build community and meet students’ emotional and learning needs.

Readers of this Learning Edge blog will be familiar with our Best of TEL series, where we invite colleagues from across the university to guest author posts about their practice, to inform and inspire others. This post has a guest author, but is slightly different, as this time we hear from one of our recent graduates.

Lisa Corcoran, a student on the BA (Hons) Teaching, Learning and Mentoring Practice in 2012-13 and talks about her experience of the TMP3000 Work-Based Research module which incorporated the use of discussion forums and weekly webinars via Blackboard Collaborate:

“Distance learning for me was a very isolating experience, TMP3000 was the final milestone of a long and arduous journey. At times the daily slog of work, family and study seemed relentless with no light at the end of the tunnel. I was at the end of four years study and had found communication a barrier in most of the other modules I had completed.

I think universities who offer distance learning don’t always consider these emotional factors, Edge Hill certainly offered great resources in terms of its library postal service, taster days and written material. But nothing compares to human contact and being able to have that reassurance that you are on the right track.

Whilst completing TMP3000 my feelings are that the communication and support was outstanding and as a learning community we all came together in the final hour though the discussion boards and the webinar to support each other. That learning community was only facilitated because of those discussion boards and webinars, for some people it was an absolute lifeline and the importance should not be underestimated as very important emotional needs and learning needs were met daily on those discussion boards.

On a personal note the webinar sessions were most helpful, the experience I was having with distance learning was very abstract and the webinar made it a concrete tangible process which brought about a change in my state of mind that yes I was on the right track, yes other people were feeling the same way and yes there was somebody there (David) to reaffirm I wasn’t going mad.

I cannot emphasise how important it was for me to take part in live discussions without the misinterpretation of email and the long text, to be able to speak rather than type a question and be part of a discussion with real live people. The experience for me was absolutely invaluable on every level and absolutely without a doubt was a contributing factor to achieving a first class honours.”


Lisa’s story powerfully illustrates the positive effect that technology can have.  Her words describe how the use of technologies, and particularly the web conferencing tool, helped connect her with her fellow students and tutor, and offered ‘human contact’, which addressed her need for emotional support during learning.

At Edge Hill we have built up a critical mass of good practice that can be accessed by staff who are thinking of incorporating these technologies into their courses. If you have been inspired and would like to learn more your Learning Technologist can help.

You are also invited to join a Developing Digital Excellence staff development session:

…and you have access to a wide range of user guides on eShare:

If you enjoyed this post, you might also be interested in some of our previous Best of TEL guest entries:

Turnitin Grades – What Has Been Seen Cannot Be Unseen!

It’s that time again… marking.

Very few would actually admit to enjoying marking reams of students’ work right after the Christmas break but it is a necessary (evil) task.

And to make things worse, students seem to be finding their grades out early! How on Earth did that happen? You’ve done everything you thought you needed to, so how are they getting them!?

Yes, the process to hide grades and marks from students is a little convoluted. Ideally we’d have a single button that we could use to hide and then un-hide whenever we want (or even better, on a specific date!) but alas, no such magic exists… yet.  Whilst we await with fingers crossed for a better way, there are a couple of things you need to do now to get it right.

Here’s our top 5 tips for hiding grades:

  1. Remember the Post Date (This is the date on which TURNITIN gives access to any marks and comments you have left via the Turnitin Grade Mark feature).
  2. Remember the option (within Optional Settings when setting up Turnitin) for ‘Reveal grades to students only on post date? > YES
  3. Remember to hide the relevant column in the Grade Centre also (Turnitin is a separate programme to Blackboard, so don’t forget that not only do you have to hide in Turnitin, but also in Blackboard!)
  4. Check that the grade isn’t being fed through to another column that ISN’T hidden! For example Total or Weighted Total column.
  5. The final one that can be very annoying… if you forget to hide the grades until after you’ve entered marks, then even if you hide the columns retrospectively, if a student has already been in and seen their grade then it may have ‘cached’ on their web browser so regardless of what you do, they’ll still get to it!

If you have any questions at all about this information get in touch with your local friendly Learning Technologist for your department who will be more than happy to help our with any queries or niggles you may have with using Turnitin or Blackboard (or any other learning technology for that matter!)

Oh, still here? Excellent! How about a few more nuggets of information about online submissions?

  • Remember that Turnitin is an individual tool for checking originality in writing.  You don’t need to use it for Images, Videos, Audio, most presentations, or other work that is not predominantly text.  It’s also not designed to take group submissions, unless one person is submitting on everyone’s behalf and you know who that person is!
  • If you genuinely have a group submission, consider using the Blackboard Assignment tool which does allow submission by group (which you can also set up in Blackboard)
  • Also use Blackboard Assignment for ‘other’ file types.  Turnitin only like text files, so if you are submitting a file of a more unusual type, use Bb Assignment
  • Also with that in mind, Blackboard Assignment allows multiple file submissions – so may well be the best option if you are expecting more than one file from students.
  • Remember that Turnitin only accepts files up to 20mb in size!  Any bigger and it will be rejected!
  • Turnitin GradeMark is marking online – don’t forget that you can lose your comments if your connection is flaky (e.g. wireless) as the connection to the server will drop.  It’s probably best to make notes offline and then copy and paste them in to ensure there are no tears at the end of an epic marking sesh!
  • You can ‘navigate’ through students’ submission when marking using the arrows at the top of the page (this goes for Turnitin and Bb Assignment).
  • Don’t forget you can always download work if you find it easier for marking, or need to work offline.  Turnitin won’t allow you to upload a marked paper – so remember to make those comments so you can copy and paste, but Bb Assignment does, so you may wish to consider changing your assignment submission method.
  • It’s worth noting that we have a new feature in Blackboard Assignment called ‘Safe Assign‘.  This is an emerging originality checking tool that may in time replace Turnitin.  If you fancy giving it a go (possibly on a submission that’s not critical to having Turnitin features) then feel free to check it out in your Test Course or come and have a chat with LTD!




Carol Chatten
Learning Technology Development Officer

Students, technology and study – still time to have your say!

The 6th EHU student eLearning Survey is an important means of gathering large-scale, detailed feedback on how students experience technology in teaching and learning. Past surveys have contributed massively to our development and support of technology-enhanced learning. The current survey has a couple more weeks to run but the responses already reveal interesting trends that I thought worth sharing. Do these reflect your own experiences? There is still time to complete the survey at (and be in with a chance of winning up to £100 in Amazon vouchers).

Trend 1. Mobile devices are essential tools to support your studies

This isn’t really surprising when you think that your smart phone has more computing power than Apollo 11 when it landed a man on the moon. Apart from money, your phone is the one thing you probably won’t leave home without. Survey responses so far tell us that smart phone access to Learning Edge now seems to be a mainstream activity for accessing notifications, presentations and course content. Just under a quarter of you are using Apps to support study – RefMe, PC Availability, Dropbox, Socrative, barcode scanners and note-making apps to name a few.

Table 1 shows how mobile access to Learning Edge has increased year on year alongside other activities. Table 2 shows the types of devices that are being brought onto campus (%).

Table 2. Devices students bring onto campus.

Table 2


Table 1. How students use mobile devices for study

Table 1






Trend 2: Accessing Learning Edge on and off-campus is a much-improved experience

The 2012/13 survey revealed fewer number of you were experiencing technical difficulties when using Learning Edge on and off campus – but oddly, the most dramatic improvement was in the reduction of off campus technical difficulties.

This prompted us to take a fresh look at on-campus access to Learning Edge and I’m pleased to say that it looks like the many #getconnected roadshows and promotion of Eduroam for reliable WIFI access on campus have had a big impact. Early data from the current survey shows a significant improvement in your on campus access to Learning Edge as illustrated by tables 3 and 4.

on campus access to Eearning Edge

Table 3


Off campus access to Learning Edge

Table 4






Trend 3. Learning Edge is essential for 27/7/365 access to your course

Past surveys told us that each year more of you agree with the statement that Learning Edge enhances knowledge and understanding gained at taught sessions. Early indications are that this year is no different – but with a pleasing improvement on 2012/13. There has been a similar improvement in the response to the statement ‘my tutors regularly update Learning Edge with course information and materials –currently 93.4% of student responses agree with this statement (tables 5 and 6 illustrate).

Table 5. tutors regularly update Learning Edge

Table 5


Table 6. Learning Edge enhances my learning

Table 6






Whilst much data has been obtained by this survey so far, it is important to capture the widest sample of experiences and feedback possible. This isn’t a vanity exercise – although praise is always welcomed. As well as the good, we also welcome the bad and downright ugly! This survey is an important part of our commitment to keep listening to you so we can continue improve year on year on what we do.

Lindsey Martin Assitant Head of Learning Services



Lindsey Martin, Assistant Head of Learning Services (Learning, ICT & Media Technologies)