• Journey to 9.1 … the first milestone and a big Thank You

    The week leading up to the end of the last semester saw us achieve a big milestone in the move from our current version of Blackboard to the latest version (Blackboard Learn 9.1). Colleagues from each Faculty, IT Services, Academic Registry, Learning Services and Teaching and Learning Development came together to work with Blackboard Consulting to map out how key University systems would integrate with Blackboard. I didn’t get a chance at the end of the week to express my thanks to everyone who was involved, so Thank You All!

    The whole week stands as an exemplar of the multi-professional team in action. At the end of the process, consensus was reached that demonstrated a good balance between wants and needs and that consideration of the student experience was our constant benchmark.

    Why is achieving effective systems integration a milestone? Underpinning Blackboard as a vehicle for teaching and learning is a database of student, staff, programme and module information that draws source data from the student information database (SID). Getting the right students into the right Blackboard modules at the right time has never been a simple or automatic process. There are of necessity more course and module records in SID than are taught face to face or online – considerable mediation and manual processes are required to ensure that courses and modules in Blackboard match the taught curriculum. Simplifying and automating the creation of Blackboard courses and the enrolment of students into said courses will significantly speed up and improve the process of developing courses in Blackboard. This can only be A Good Thing!

    Having now achieved consensus on integration, the next key milestones are (i) the managed roll-out of Blackboard 9.1 to a handful of courses in January, (ii) the implementation of a comprehensive staff training and 9.1 development programme and (iii) the introduction of a separate repository for teaching and learning content. More on each of these to follow …

  • Students, have your say – the EHU Student eLearning Survey #3

    Where does the time go? The third EHU student eLearning survey went live last Friday and lots of you have already been taking time out to fill it in. Telling us your experiences and expectations of technology to support your learning helps us to understand what works and what hinders. Last year we had 775 completed questionnaires and this year it would be great if we could top that as the more responses we get the more influential the survey is in continuing to improve current services and inform future direction.

    The survey isn’t just an academic exercise, it informs change – have a look at last year’s survey. Since the survey report was published we have completed the VLE Review, drawing upon views, comments and suggestions contained in the 2009/10 survey – the new version of Blackboard we are upgrading to in September 2011 will contain lots of features you told us you wanted – like blogs, wikis, mashups with Facebook and other Web2.0 tools. We have also overhauled how we manage staff and student queries and problems with Blackboard to ensure a proactive, speedier, more joined-up service.

    If you are an Edge Hill student, please (please!) complete our survey. We realise that your time is precious – especially with end of term assignment deadlines looming – and so we have added a sweetener of a prize draw of one £50 and two £25 Amazon vouchers.

    The survey may be accessed from Blackboard, from email or from http://surveys.edgehill.ac.uk/ehu_elearning_2010. We plan to close the survey on 29th January 2010. We look forward to hearing from you …

  • Welcome to the LearningEdge

    Regular readers might be forgiven for wondering what has become of the VLE Review blog. With the review now over an implementation project has taken over. To reflect this new focus,  the blog has been renamed and given a makeover.

    The name change isn’t just for the blog, it covers the whole virtual learning environment (VLE). The role of the VLE is rapidly changing to become more than a single technology ‘product’ – Blackboard 9.1 is now only part of the picture as it becomes a ‘hub’ or core learning system capable of being extended by other systems and learning technologies that integrate seamlessly with it. Staff or students should from September 2011 only need to go to one place (Blackboard) in order to access blogs, wikis, announcements, TurnItIn, podcasts, videos, conferencing, digitized content, discussion and so on. In recognition of this expansion, Edge Hill’s virtual learning environment has been given a new name where symbolically learning comes first and foremost. Welcome to LearningEdge!

    While things have been quiet on the blog front recently, there has been a lot of activity going on behind the scenes – think of a swan gliding along the water in a stately fashion whilst its legs are paddling like the clappers below – that’s a good description of the LearningEdge implementation project team!

    We’ll be posting updates on progress and inviting your comments and suggestions on a regular basis as we work towards going fully live with the LearningEdge by September 2011. We’ll also be adding pages to the menu which will give you information about how the implementation is being handled in your Faculty. Like the strapline at the top of the page says … the journey continues …