Technology Supported Learning – Using Student Journals to Understand the Student Experience

Good Practice AwardThe Journals tool in Blackboard is a private space where students can post opinions, ideas and concerns. This case study, shared by Maria McCann (Widening Participation Manager), describes how the Journals tool was used within a research project, to understand the living, learning and emotional journeys of around 100 new students’ in their first term at Edge Hill University.

When the Student Journal project was envisioned, Maria and the team hoped that a tool within the university’s virtual learning environment (VLE) could be used to help document the student journey. Maria felt it sensible to use, a system already set up, open to all students on any course, something that they would be getting introduced to anyway and would continue to use throughout the lifetime of their degree programme.

To learn more about the Blackboard tools available to support student participation and feedback, Maria contacted Mark Wilcock, a Learning Technologist within the Learning Services, Learning Technology Development Team.

Maria met with Mark, explained her ideas, described what she wanted to achieve and what her key criteria were – she needed something that would allow students to record their thoughts in a single, secure place, that they could access anytime and anywhere. It was from this starting point that Mark (Learning Services) and Maria (Student Recruitment) were able to work collaboratively, to identify the most suitable tools and settings for her project.

Mark recommended a ‘Blackboard’ Organisation, which is similar to a Course area but can be used for non-credit bearing activity to house the research activity, and the Journals tool, which would provide the private online space, for students to write and submit their journals each week. The Journal tool settings were also suggested as a way to ‘release’ and ‘lock’ the weekly journals, at the same time each week, to keep the students on track.

It was decided to theme each week in a way that would be relatable to each individual student, regardless of programme studied. The themes were planned to mirror the systems, processes and services most students would experience and provided a ‘loose’ framework for students to base their journal entry on each week. Students were encouraged to think about key aspects of the theme and further guidance was given breaking down the themes into key points; however students were encouraged to think and write in depth, rather than trying to address all the points listed. Although the guidance was used widely by the students, it was not intended to be prescriptive and students were encouraged to think about what they had experienced in that particular week, their ‘journey’, rather than trying to ‘fit’ the framework. This was reiterated to the students in the briefing at the start of the project as well as emails and ‘posts’ to the organisation on Learning Edge. The benefits to providing a framework allowed quick reading and analysis for the reader.

This combination of Organisation and Journals provided the perfect platform for the research. Participants (and the researcher) had 24 hour access via their tablet, smart phone, PC or laptop, as well as providing complete anonymity (except from the reader-researcher).

Here Maria talks more about her experience whilst working on the project:

Maria McCann YouTube linkInformation about the Student Recruitment Research Activity

The Student Journey Programme is being managed by the Director of Student Recruitment and Administration aims to:

  • Provide an equitable, consistent and seamless high quality experience for all students from first enquiry through to graduation.
  • Provide services, systems and processes which are recognised as sector-leading nationally by prospective and current students and staff.

Edge Hill University Main Reception

This Journal Project sits within the wider Student Journey Programme. Its aims are:

  • To map interactions, activities and events where students engage with the university through its services, systems and processes- encompassing pre-enrolment and through the first 8 weeks of term as a first year.
  • To understand students’ emotional responses, perceptions, views and behaviours in relation to those services, systems and processes.
  • To provide a platform for students (as participants) to define what has the most impact on them and their learning experience (both ‘good’ and ‘not-so-good’ as defined by them).
  • To identify areas of good practice across the university (at different student ‘touch points’) and make recommendations for further enhancement in services being delivered to students.

Want to find out more about Blackboard’s Journal tool and Blackboard Organisations?  Contact your Faculty Learning Technology Development Officer.

Maria McCann




Maria McCann
(Widening Participation Manager)


LTD_Staff_0054 Mark Wilcock




Mark Wilcock
(Learning Technology Development Officer)

Technology Supported Learning – Making Use of BoB!

Good Practice AwardIn this case study you will hear how BoB (Box of Broadcasts) National is enhancing teaching and module content.  BoB National is a media rich online archive service that allows you to record and watch TV programmes from any internet enabled device including a Smart TV, PC, and mobile device. The services is widely available to staff and students here at Edge Hill University.

Charles Knight is a Senior Lecturer in Management in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.  Charles is a firm advocate of good technology, especially if it enhances his teaching and enriches the student learning experience.Students watching TV online.

It was therefore no surprise to us that Charles saw, instinctively, the benefits of using BoB (Box of Broadcasts) National with his students.

Charles makes extensive use of BoB (Box of Broadcasts) National to enhance his teaching and his use of Blackboard. BoB (Box of Broadcasts) National is an innovative shared online off-air TV and radio recording service for UK higher and further education institutions. BoB allows both staff and students to choose and record any broadcast programme from 60+ TV and radio channels.

In this short video, Charles discusses how he makes use of BoB and how it benefits both his own teaching practice and that of the students. He also discusses why BoB is a better alternative to making use of sites such as YouTube due to issues of copyright.

YouTube_BoB Box of BroadcastsDuring the video, Charles demonstrates how you can search and select content on BoB and then embed into Blackboard.

The recorded programmes are then kept indefinitely (no expiry) and added to a growing media archive (currently at over 1 million programmes), with all content shared by users across all subscribing institutions.

The user-friendly system allows staff and students to record and catch-up on missed programmes on and off-campus, schedule recordings in advance, edit programmes into clips, create playlists, embed clips into VLEs, share what they are watching with others, and search a growing archive of material.

BoB National LogoWant to find out more about BoB National, its growing media archive and how you and your course can benefit?


Contact your Faculty Learning Technology Development Officer or look through our PDF guide.





Charles Knight (Senior Lecturer in Management)

Blackboard Collaborate Video Case Study 3 of 3

Third and final case study in the series (part 1 and part 2)

Caroline Galon, Graduate Teaching Assistant, in Performing Arts, explains the importance of mastering any new technology and how Blackboard Collaborate provides her with the most stable and reliable platform from which to conduct her research interviews. Caroline tell us how Person looking at image of people-overlay and world map.crucial it is for her research that she has confidence using the technology, especially as her research involves meeting online with extremely busy people, experts from around the world.

On attending training and after talking to her Faculty Learning Technologist, Caroline explains why she continued using Blackboard Collaborate and how she felt it offered her the complete and robust solution she needed.  It was also important to Caroline, that the web conferencing tool used is widely supported in terms of providing best practice resources, guidance and buddy support, particularly as a first time user.

Caroline Galon - youtube playerCaroline describes her own experience of interviewing participants, all of whom are external to Edge Hill University with no previous experience of Blackboard Collaborate and the challenges she faced along the way.  She continues to compare Blackboard Collaborate with Skype, which she feels is more user friendly.

The next release of Collaborate, ‘Ultra’, is currently being evaluated by LTD with internal stakeholders and external colleagues.  It has the potential to offer significant benefits over the current version, such as ease of entry and a more attractive and intuitive interface.

Blog 3 Bb Collab Case StudyBlackboard’s release notes will tell you more about the < The Ultra Experience > and < The Ultra Changes

If you feel inspired by this and other videos in the series and want to learn more about web conferencing (Blackboard Collaborate) and other technologies, your Learning Technologist can help.

In addition, you can access to Blackboard Collaborate training session, talk to your Learning Technologist for more information.

Martin Baxter
Martin Baxter
Learning Technology Development Officer

Blackboard Collaborate Case Study 2 of 3

Blog 2 Bb Collab Case Study cropLesley Briscoe, Senior Lecturer on the International Midwifery Programme.  Lesley explains in this the second in a series of three video case studies (click to view the first in the series), the challenges of delivering a programme aimed at both conventional students and those accessing the programme online and from overseas.

She goes on to mention the solutions Blackboard Collaborate provided her, the Midwifery Team and the students studying the programme, particularly those attending from all corners of the world.

Lesley’s video outlines her personal experience and the significance that technology can play to instil confidence in developing an online course that is able to deliver all that it promises.

Click the YouTube image below to hear more about Lesley’s experience…LB youtube_player

If you feel inspired by this and other videos in the series and want to learn more about web conferencing (Blackboard Collaborate), your Learning Technologist can help.

In addition, you can access to Blackboard Collaborate training, talk to your Learning Technologist for more information.

Martin Baxter
Martin Baxter
Learning Technology Development Officer

Blackboard Collaborate – Video Case Study 1 of 3

David Callaghan is a Learning Technologist and an Associate Tutor for the Faculty of Education on the Undergraduate Professional DevelopmentStudent participating in an online video conference session. Programme, a blended course – delivered mostly online – via our Blackboard VLE and the Collaborate web conferencing system, with some face to face conference days.  So, he can also practice what he preaches.

Collaborate is used by David and his colleagues for student inductions; it’s also used for tutorials giving an equivalent experience to that of distance learners. The feedback from students indicates that Collaborate has made them feel part of the University community.

David Callaghan Associate Tutor

David’s video tells us how using web conferencing can help create an equitable experience – by bringing students together online they are able to support and challenge each other and build a community of inquiry, as they would do in an on-campus classroom.

Learning Edge Blog Post – Student account:
“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.”

Read more in this blog post: Technologies are an “absolute lifeline” for our students!

If you feel inspired by this and other videos in the series and want to learn more about web conferencing (Blackboard Collaborate), your Learning Technologist can help.

In addition, you can access to Blackboard Collaborate training, talk to your Learning Technologist for more information.

Martin Baxter
Martin Baxter
Learning Technology Development Officer


Get your own ‘Quick Hit’ video case study

Celebrate your success with Collaborate

We are creating a series of brief video case studies showcasing the success colleagues have been having with the Collaborate web conferencing system this year.Screen shot of YouTube video player

David Callaghan (also a member of the LTD team) is the first of a number of contributors to get involved from each Faculty (in his case Education).  Click on the YouTube image to see an example of the kind of short videos we are creating.

So, please let us know if you’d like your own case study, and watch out for the series that we’ll be launching in September. Call LTD Support on 01695 650754 or email [email protected].

Martin Baxter



Martin Baxter
Learning Technology Development Officer

What Equipment do I Need to Collaborate?

Classroom PCs with Blackboard Collaborate Logo insetBlackboard Collaborate is a real-time web conferencing and online learning tool that can be used to support teaching and learning and other collaborative projects, and is generating a great deal of interest within Faculties and Departments at Edge Hill University. There has been a major increase in its use for taught sessions, meetings and student support.Close-up of Plantronics Headset

Learning Technology Development (LTD) is often asked, “what equipment do I need to fully participate in a Blackboard Collaborate session?”  So we have come-up with a document and resources that allow you to “try before you buy”.

The eShare guide (LTD5032: Blackboard Collaborate: Audio and Video Equipment) outlines best practices and suggests equipment recommended by LTD based on our own experience of using it with Blackboard Collaborate.

Open boc with Blackboard Collaborate logo floating aboveNow, the try before you buy element comes from the investment made by Learning Services in quality equipment that you can borrow from the Library and testing it prior to your own or departmental purchase.

Want to learn more about Blackboard Collaborate and the benefits for staff and students who need real-time virtual collaboration.  Contact your LTDO for more information, consultation and any training you wish to explore.

Martin Baxter



Martin Baxter
Learning Technology Development Officer



A Knight’s Tale – ebooks the ultimate creation

Learning Service’s Learning Technology Development Team wanted to find out if it is possible to create an eBook of course content and distribute it to students without publishing through a 3rd party but via the institutional Virtual Learning Environment (Blackboard), as a way of providing media rich content which can be downloaded to their device.

Dr Charles KnightDr Charles Knight (Senior Lecturer Business School) assisted by taking part in a pilot project to develop course content for his students using eBook creation software.

On completion, Charles kindly agreed to be interviewed about his and the student experience.

As a result of the interview, this blog post contains a number of audio clips taken from the interview as our way of sharing a personal account of this subject with others who may also have an interest in this area.

After researching software with the right options for us, we decided upon Ultimate Ebook Creator (UEC) for the creation of ebook content. Which, in our view offered what was required in terms of (DIY) in-house creation, capable of producing several file types and is easy to use. Prior to the pilot a free trial version of the software was available making it a good choice, because it meant we could compare it with other free software such as Calibre and Scrivener.

The right solution

ebook software packagesIn addition to our own software research Charles also took a looked at Calibre, which he explains, is easy to use for converting documents into an ebook format. However, in terms of creation, he goes on to say;

Ultimate Ebook Creator is a very powerful piece of software.  The built-in document editor is very similar to Microsoft Word, so is very familiar and much easier to use than some other software packages”.


Introduction: Charles Knight

Traditionally, lecturers here use PDFs to distribute course content via Blackboard. Charles wanted to know what the advantages and disadvantages are of using eBooks, and also to get a better idea of the process of creating and distributing eBooks.

The problem with PDFs

Another of the drivers for conducting the pilot was to look at eBooks as more engaging alternative to PowerPoint.

When originally undertaking the pilot the first item to investigate converting was the course handbook.  The process currently involves producing a handbook as a Word document, saving it as a PDF and uploading it to Blackboard. For the pilot, Charles also offered the students an .ePub and .MOBI version of handbook so students can choose a format depending on their device or apps.

Challenges using the software

Another area which often presents a challenge is copyright. For the purpose of the pilot we asked Charles to consider this in the production of his material.

The content created and converted for the pilot was produced by Charles with the exception of the front cover. Charles explains the reason for this and why creating a good book cover that stands-out is important and goes on to describe his approach to copyright compliance:

During the pilot Charles was able to provide students with a number of file types and the opportunity to download .ePub, .MOBI, PDF and Word files for equity and with the aim of distributing them online through Blackboard.

Surprisingly for Charles and the students, downloading an eBook file to a dedicated eBook reader presented the main challenge. However, other devices such as the iPad, Android tablets and some mobile phones would suggest an application to open the file making it much easier to download and use.

Hear Charles share his thoughts on the process of creating eBooks, the software used and the complexities involved in terms of the process and the matter therefore of additional support and training for staff and students:

So what recommendations does Charles offer to others who may be considering doing something similar with eBooks and any comments for manufacturers of this type of software?


The future

Following on from the pilot, we asked Charles what would he do different next time and what his thoughts are around producing eBooks in his future courses and module:

“I’ve played around with the formats, I’ve got three devices in-front of me; an iPad, Nexus 5 Android phone and a Kindle tablet and it rescales and it’s dynamic content on each of these, you know because you can resize it. It’s made me think, it’s a far better format!”


It has been a very interesting journey and one where we have enjoyed areas of success and begun to reflect on current practices.  However there are still some challenges ahead and proposals of enhancements for the software developers to take on board.

Finally my thanks to Charles Knight for taking part in this pilot at such a busy time of the taught curriculum and to his students for providing valuable user insight. I would also like to thank Nitin Mistry, from Ultimate eBook Creator, for his part in the project; working with us to adapt his software, providing free and unrestricted access to UEC’s full features during the pilot and the continued developments he made throughout the project.

Martin Baxter




Martin Baxter (Learning Techology Development)

Geography are hands-on with Assignment Handler

Geography class students inspect fragments of rock.Edge Hill’s approach to eAssignment is to offer a number of flexible tools and not tie departments down to any one method.  After considering the choices available to them, each Faculty has gone with their preferred method of assignment submission.

Learning Edge currently has 3 tools: Blackboard Assignment, Assignment Handler and Turnitin.

Nigel Richardson Head of Geography Department

Nigel Richardson (Head of Geography) explains the direction Geography has taken and why Assignment Handler was the right choice for their students and staff.



“Introducing electronic submission to the programme was prompted by an institutional strategy aimed at enhancing the student experience and accommodating their changing expectations.  Our students were increasingly submitting assignments to us via email, rather than traveling to University to submit their work and the student feedback was also indicating some difficulties in reading staff feedback (handwriting) on assignments. Taking all of this into account, it seemed the right time to move to online submission.

We listened to the advice of the Learning Technology Officers on the various options available, before deciding on Assignment Handler.  Initially staff had mixed feelings – some were extremely positive and others were apprehensive.  The technology and the processes were new, and primary concerns centered on the impact that Assignment Handler would have on them, such as how long it would take to learn how to mark assignments and become proficient in doing so.”

Staff have since had training with Assignment Handler – All aspects including uploading assignments; downloading submissions; uploading feedback; general file handing e.g. use of zip files etc.

Students training included; how to access assignment details, submit an assignment; where to find feedback and marks.

It has been more than 12 months since Geography began on their eAssignment journey, so we asked Nigel to give us an update on the latest impression of both staff and students and how things have gone since implementation;

Generally staff are positive having gained experience of using Assignment Handler and some of the advantages of providing feedback electronically. Staff have a few concerns/queries but those are largely operational things rather than an issue with online submission and feedback. This is part of the natural course of improving what we do.  The department will aim to review our processes before the start of the next academic year.

For the Student, as noted above, there are advantages with flexibility of submission and also being able to read staff feedback. Also students can receive feedback and marks at any time of the day rather than waiting until the next module session for assignments to be handed out.

Geography have embraced Assignment Handler as their preferred method of assignment submission for their students and will continue to push the boundaries in terms of the way forward ensuring their students have the best possible experience.

Nigel added some advice for other colleagues deciding on the right assignment tool;

  • Ensure that it is user friendly both for students and staff.
  • Ensure that it can handle the types of coursework assignment you use, and submissions that you expect from students.
  • Think about how you are going to handle large numbers of files e.g. sending samples to external examiners; management and archiving of the files.

If you have any queries regarding eAssessment please don’t hesitate to contact the Learning Technology Development team on 01695 650754 or via [email protected]

Martin Baxter

Martin Baxter
Learning Technology Development

A Library of Answers

Technology Roadshow

Learning Services and IT Services are again joining forces to offer advice on the latest technology developments. We will be setting up a pop-up stall in the University Library where all your students can come along and ask us questions at the ‘Technology Roadshow’.







The aim of the Technology Roadshow is to demystify some of the things they’ve heard about but don’t know how to use, so they can get the best out of resources such as Learning Edge, the campus wifi, mobile apps and electronic library resources.

It is important we get the message out to as many students as possible.  Learning Services is conducting a campaign to promote the event so that we reach as many students as possible, however you are by far the best resource we have in terms of letting students know about the event.

So please mention the Technology Roadshow to all your students so that they know where and when they can talk to us.

  • The Technology Roadshow will be held in the University Library                  (11am – 2pm) on Tuesday 26th March.

For students working off campus or are unable to attend they can contact us during the event (and beyond) via our social media channels: Facebook and Twitter. We’ll be using the #EHUmobileclinic hashtag so if they have something to say or a question to ask about using technologies for their studies, they can get in touch.

If you are passing, why not take time to pop in and talk to us at the Technology Roadshow, who knows you might have questions too!

Martin Baxter




Martin Baxter – Learning Technology Development