Do you need a way to manage Personal Tutor appointments with your students?Microsoft Bookings might be the solution for you!
Microsoft Bookings is a Microsoft 365 app that makes scheduling and managing appointments easy. Microsoft Bookings can be accessed through your Microsoft 365 account. Launch the app chooser (top left-hand corner) and search for Bookings.
Follow the prompts to set up your bookings calendar and it will sync with your Teams/Outlook calendar.
Some of the great features include:
You can set up a shared calendar with colleagues.
You can add days/hours you want to allow your students to book.
You can tick a box to make it an online Teams meeting.
Students will only see the Bookings calendar that you publish online for the services, times and staff you choose.
Once you have created the Calendar you will get a link that you can share with students. Once the appointment is booked it’s added to your Outlook calendar and the calendar of the student!
This is a relatively new app that we’ve not really used before so give it a try, we would love your feedback. If it’s successful we can run a training session over the next couple of months.
The group tool in Blackboard has been around for a while but did you know it can be used for more than just giving students access to group tools? Groups can also help you control access to content items and make lots of admin tasks so much quicker too!
Below we have picked out the top 5 reasons why you will find Groups a useful tool…
1. Student Collaboration
Groups allow students to collaborate using various features and tools within Blackboard, such as discussion boards, journals and Blackboard Collaborate. Think of a group as a room which you populate with various tools and only the members of that group have access to these tools.
To do this, simply create your groups and choose which tools you would like them to access. For example, you might want different groups of students to work together on different topics in their own Discussion Board. Only the members of the group and the instructor can view the content so it’s safe and private for them.
2. Using groups with Blackboard Collaborate for Break Out Rooms
You can now use Groups created in your course or module to auto-create groups for breakout rooms in Collaborate, which will save you time when in the flow of teaching.
Students can stay in their same groups without any extra work for the tutor or facilitator however there is also flexibility for the tutor to adjust groups as needed during the session without altering the groups in Blackboard.
When you start a breakout group (Open the Share panel and select Breakout Groups), go to the Assign Groups menu and select Course Group Set. Choose the set of groups you want to use and start the breakout.
N.B. You can only use group sets (not standalone groups).
3.Using with Tests & Adaptive Release for Content
Tests are often time and date limited. Groups are an easy way to give certain students a different set of constraints to the rest of the class. For example if a number of students have special dispensation for an extra 25% time, putting these students into a group saves you having to manually enter them one-by-one every time you create a Test.
In this scenario, once you have created your group & created and deployed your Test, follow the steps below:
Find the Test and use the chevron to open the Context menu.
Select Edit the Test Options.
On the Test Options page, scroll down to the area labelled Test Availability Exemptions and click Add User or Group.
On the Add User or Group page put a checkmark next the group you want to apply and click submit in the bottom right hand corner.
You can also use Groups with Adaptive Release to control how content is released to Students. Simply click on the grey chevron next to an item title and select Adaptive Release (or Adaptive Release Advanced).
In Adaptive Release, scroll down to Membership and select the groups you want to view the content. Once a Membership criterion is created only those specified will be ale to view the content.
4. Self-Signup for picking a topic
You may be running several sessions and want students to pick a topic or session time to attend. You can manage this by creating self-signup groups where students add themselves to a group rather than being allocated. This might be a group set or single groups depending on the situation. Students get to make their own choice and you can limit the maximum number of students selecting each group. Note, you can tweak the groups if you need to move students around!
You can use ‘Smart Views’ to help filter the Grade Centre screen to only see certain students or groups of students.
Create the Smart Views whilst creating the group or at any other time by following the below instructions:
How to Create a Smart View
From your course Control Panel expand the Users and Groups section and click on Groups.
You are presented with a list of the groups set up on your course.
Place ticks in the tick boxes beside any groups for which you wish to create Smart Views.
Hover your mouse pointer over the Bulk Actions button and choose Create Smart View for Group.
Once a Smart View is set up you can apply it to the Grade Centre.
Using Smart Views to Filter the Grade Centre
From your course Control Panel open the Grade Centre
Select Manage – Smart Views.
You will be presented with a list of any existing Smart Views. From here you can edit, copy, delete or favourite a smart view (‘Favourite’ smart views will appear as short cuts within the Grade Centre menu under Control Panel).
To create a new smart view, click Create Smart View.
Enter a name and description. If you tick ‘Add as Favourite’ it will appear with the Control Panel for easy access.
For the purpose of this exercise select Course Group – this will show selected groups that have been set up in your course.
Select which data should be shown in the view by selecting Filter Results from the down menu.
Click on Submit to finish.
You only need to do the above once. Now that the Smart View is created you can view it from the Grade Centre by clicking on the Filter button.
**Do not set a custom Smart View to be the default view – if a student drops out of the course the view will become inaccessible and you will locked out of the Grade Centre.
It’s Monday morning… I got out of bed, had a morning cup of tea and got ready to greet my favourite team members.
After our Monday run down and a quick catch up, we logged off the meeting and got to work which for me was to make some changes to ‘meet the team posters’. A task myself and Reece (You would have read some his blogs around mental wellbeing, if not make sure to check them out!) have been working on.
This task requires us to create a fun yet professional poster introducing every member of the Faculty of Education to new students. Not only do we have to make sure their 100% accessible but that they meet a professional standard, and the staff are happy with their own individual poster.
Yet this week, we have made so much progress because we have completed 30 out of 63 ready to schedule for tweeting in September!! This took up most my morning and by the time we had fixed some issues, it was time for my lunch.
After my lunch, (cheesy pasta is always a go to) I was focusing on finishing up my digital escape room, well my third, I definitely got the hang of it!! I have created three surrounding Greek Myths, such as Theseus and the Minotaur, Perseus and Medusa and finally Odysseus’ Odyssey. The escape rooms ask students to escape through their knowledge of Edge Hill and the services the university provides as well as some creative riddles – which confuddled some of my teams’ heads.
By five all three escape rooms where perfect and I couldn’t have been prouder of myself.
I always think Tuesday’s go by in a flash. A task I have been given is to identify the sixth form providers in the Northwest of England and see if they are active on Twitter. This task meant one thing… a spreadsheet. Now if you’ve been reading my blogs since the start of the Internship then you’d know that me and Excel were not the best of friends… well now we’ve brought a house and are living happily ever after. I got into the routine of copying, pasting, searching and repeating to the point where this task which at first seemed huge took me a day!
I think this shows how when you can get in the groove of working, you can lose yourself a little. So, right now I’m going to remind you to make sure you’re drinking plenty and that you get yourself some fresh air, especially if you’re working from home!
On Wednesday I worked with Reece on the meet the team posters, completing some amendments and using Canva to make them look visually appealing. I’d like to think that Canva is following me, because if I’m not on it at work, then I’m seeing the advert everywhere!
Through creating the meet the team posters, I have definitely become more creative and can make posters for most tasks, I especially love using all the different elements they provide to create the perfect poster for my idea. For those interested there is great course available on Learning LinkedIn called Learning Canva – https://www.linkedin.com/learning/learning-canva-2/what-you-can-use-canva-for?u=35744052
Of course, we got the amendments done quickly, after that I dove into create some content for A Level Results Day to welcome new students to the Faculty of Education.
Thursday always goes quickly. My Thursday consisted of planning for a new task, but first my morning meeting followed by a meeting with the lovely FoE Reading for Pleasure ambassadors, who work together to encourage teachers in training to get children reading for pleasure rather than just at school and as an aspiring author I adore the idea.
Following this meeting I began to research all kinds of different books which could benefit children. I was also tasked to create a thread of books which explore diversity and inclusivity for each stage of education, Early Years, Primary Education and Secondary Education. I found this task very exciting as I love to read.
After researching I moved onto a new task, which Sarah set us that morning creating a brand for the work we produce so they cohesively and collectively fit together.
The team quickly created our own brand kits and presented them to each other, we realised that we all had used a shade of blue, therefore blue was to be in our palette. We drew other colours such as a seafoam green from the Digital Internship logo and added base colours such as white and black and our colour palette was made!
Finally, Friday! I started my morning with ordering a caramel macchiato and saying good morning to my team.
We discussed which font to choose for our brand image and we found this a little hard as two members of our team, myself included have a visual impairment, and we often found ourselves in the situation where one font was accessible for one of us but not for the other. Personally, I find fonts such as Cambria and Bookman Old Style easy to read but I would stick to Arial if you’re unsure.
So once our brand was confirmed, we could get back to work and today’s task was to create a social media good practice guide for future teachers in training in compliance to the Edge Hill Social Media Compliance Policy. I found this task quite refreshing as I understood most of it due to my experience within the field of Health and Social Care.
But that was my Friday, I logged off at five and enjoyed my weekend which included dinner at a local Italian and shopping!
On average, Brits spend 3 hours and 23 minutes staring at their mobile phone each day. To put this into context, that’s 49 days of the whole year, can you imagine spending a month and a half sat looking at your phone the entire day? – tiring right? Yet we still do it. The most popular app in 2020 was TikTok – a highly addictive short video sharing platform. Imagine if we utilised the hours we look at our phone and turn it into a more productive tool to boost ourselves and maximise potential. Here’s 6 ways we can do that:
Podcasts have started to gain popularity over the past few years, but some people still don’t utilise them to their full potential. Podcasts are great. Stick them on whilst doing the cleaning, doing your makeup before a night out or in the morning to get you started for the day. Not only are podcasts a great substitute to pointless videos, they also limit the time actually spent viewing your phone in turn making you less exposed to blue light – win win! It’s a great way to find new hobbies and interests and learn new things! Spotify shows top podcasts by category, meaning you can explore podcasts to do with music, science, sports, true crime and much more! Some of my favourite podcasts include:
Times News Briefing
A short 2-3-minute podcast every day discussing the latest headlines aired 3 times a day! A great way to start your morning informed.
JaackMaates Happy Hour
A podcast hosted by Youtuber JaackMaate and his friend Stevie White who provide a comedic style podcast every Monday and Thursday. They often invite celebrity guests and YouTube stars to sit and discuss different topics. The podcast is famously known for asking each guest what their favourite meal deal is!
The Yes Theory Podcast
Another youtuber hosted podcast which explores how discomfort may hold the key to meaning and happiness. Alongside their YouTube channel, Thomas, Matt and Ammar break the boundaries with their ‘Yes’ theory – the theory of saying yes to everything. Their podcasts and YouTube videos are inspiring and perfect for self-growth and reflection.
2. Regular Screen Time Checks
Many phones have an in-built app displaying screen time. It shows exactly how much time you spend on your phone and what on. Almost most of us are aware of this, how many of us actually use it to our potential? Knowing how much time you spend on your phone and setting limits is crucial. Could you be using your phone more wisely? Do you really need to spend 3 hours a day on TikTok? When you begin to cut back and substitute that time with more productive apps, you begin to use your phone as a tool for success. Being aware of limits and setting goals whilst requires self-strength, will allow you to optimise your phones potential.
3. Productivity apps
If you struggle setting boundaries yourself and are easily tempted to scroll on your phone – I know how you feel we’ve all been in an endless tiktok hole, then use apps that help you stay on track. Forest is a mobile productivity application that enables users to focus on their work by planting trees. You can set timers to distance yourself away from your phone, and whilst time ticks on the app, a tree is planted creating a virtual garden (whilst also giving you the option to plant a real-life tree – how great!) If you use your phone, the tree dies! Applications like this are a fun way to stay focused and productive. How about you start a league with your friends, who can track the most hours focused on the app? Everyone loves a bit of friendly competition.
4. Remove unnecessary apps and replace with educational platforms
As much as playing Subway Surfers passes the time in a long car journey, replacing them hours with fun learning is way more beneficial. How about learning a new language with Duolingo whilst on the way to your staycation? The platform offers 30+ languages for on the go language learning! Fancy some meditation? Download Headspace a mindfulness app to help manage a happy and relaxed lifestyle, or a chef in the kitchen? BBC Good Food gives users an extensive recipe data base to help you keep inspired in the kitchen. How about inspire others by posting your meals on Pinterest or Instagram?
5. Turning off notifications
A simple yet effective hack. Resisting the temptation can be difficult, by removing your notifications you are less likely to check social media as often. This gives you more time doing productive things you enjoy. So, go on, turn them off right now!
6. Following people who make you feel good
This post isn’t suggesting stop using social media completely, social media is great when used in the correct way. Following people who inspire positivity and productivity can benefit your day massively. The links between negative body image and the use of social media is frightening but reclaiming apps like Instagram and creating a positive space is super easy! Although the gummy hair sweets look delicious or the cuticle cream is a must have… influencers who promote a positive lifestyle are the way to go! My favourite positively inspired wellbeing influencers include:
@mikzaaon on Instagram who promotes body positivity.
@justalittlebitofpositivity on Instagram who shares inspiring quotes and reminders.
@selfcarevisuals on Instagram who are a self-care and positivity page sharing tips and tricks to lead a healthier, happier life.
And there we have it! 6 tips to optimise your mobile phone potential. I hope these tips have been useful and begin to be incorporated into your daily life. Remember you have the power to change your phone into a tool for success, let’s get started!
Hello, I am Reece, and I am Student Intern at Edge Hill University. I hope by now you have come across at least one of my blogs because if not, you will find this one very strange. So, before I get into it, I will give you a bit of background on how this will go; I will discuss the previous week of the internship and focus on what I completed and how I maintained a positive attitude. However, the biggest plot twist in history is that I will write it as if I am at Hogwarts, so you Harry Potter fans better enjoy this! Ok, I have chatted too much about the irrelevant bits so let me just get on that nine and three-quarters platform and pop on the Hogwarts Express.
What a week it has been. Hogwarts has been fascinating, and since I started as a wizard (Student Intern) in week 1, I have learnt so much, and my magical skills have improved tremendously.
Let’s start off with the beginning of the week. Our headmaster, Dumbledore (Sarah), returned after their lovely break and caught up with all the wizards in Gryffindor (Faculty of Education). We all had an engaging catch-up, completed a few spells and even had a Butterbeer to celebrate Dumbledore returning. No, I am only joking; Butterbeer is after work hours only, or we would be banished to Azkaban for the remainder of our lives. I made some new potions (Posters) this week for the Mental Health task, and I do have to say I am pretty proud of them. I have learnt so much more about positive wellbeing, and I am confident the posters will benefit other wizards. Ok, that is enough about the start of the week because who is really interested in that? Let’s open a whole new door and see what I can share about Wednesday…
I created Meet the Team posters with my fellow wizard friend, Sharnie, to share some facts about the professors. This will benefit the new wizards arriving at Hogwarts in September because they will know what the professor specialises in. For example, potions, spells, muggle studies or charms. It has taken us nearly 7 weeks to complete this task, and it has been mentally draining at times to keep up with the workload and emails from over 70 professors, so what have I done to remain positive and not stress? There were only so many Bertie Bott’s jelly sweets I could eat, so I asked my fellow wizard, Amy, if they wanted to play Quidditch (UNO) during our lunch. We had a few games until we got angry because we kept losing and decided to fly off on our brooms to enjoy the rest of our lunch.
So, we are coming to the last two days of my Week 8 Hogwarts experience, and I can say I was mentally prepared for some new tasks. At that moment, Dumbledore set a new task to create a branded design for Gryffindor (Faculty of Education). All the wizards decided to cast their own spells and share their own ideas. This was great as it improved our creativity and team working skills. Nevertheless, we have still not decided on the perfect design, but we have all promised to include most or all our spells, so we all have an input in the design. Also, during that day, we had a meeting with the Ministry of Magic, but don’t worry everyone, the Ministry of Magic is no longer corrupt as it once was when Harry Potter attended Hogwarts. The lovely Laura and Leah are the Heads of the Ministry of Magic, so everything runs very smoothly. Unfortunately, Leah was out observing muggles, but Laura was there so we could share how Hogwarts has been, and she asked us for some content to have for the event in week 12 at the Ministry of Magic (The last week of the internship).
Finally, the day every wizard and muggle wait for… Friday! I had an important evening in Diagon Alley, but back to work talk. I created some more potions (posters) and completed my weekly reflection for the Ministry of Magic. I also made sure I helped another wizard with some content that will be shared on The Daily Prophet showing the LTD staff.
I had a busy week, I guess, but I didn’t run into any Death Eaters or get tangled in the Whomping Willow. Week 8 has been enjoyable, and I got a lot of work done which makes me feel positive about my contribution to Hogwarts, and more specifically, Gryffindor. I hope you have all enjoyed reading my week at Hogwarts, but now I am going to steal the Weasley’s family car, Flying Ford Anglia. See you all very soon.
We have all heard the phrase ‘be kind’. It saturates social media, street art and conversations between friends and family- but what does it really mean? How can we truly ‘be kind’? For me this phrase is inherently subjective, and to achieve kindness one day can look entirely different to kindness the next, and it differs from person to person too. Within this post I would love to guide you to some small, effective ways that we can spread kindness, infect others with a smile and spread love.
I wholeheartedly believe that kindness to the self is imperative within life. In a world rooted in judgement, hate, and competition to be the ‘best’, we must strive to give ourselves a break from beauty standards on social media or becoming a mansion owner by 21 and love ourselves for being US! We are all perfect in our own ways, and I believe being kind, forgiving and patient to ourselves in life is crucial to happiness.
So here is a few things which will boost your kindness to YOU…
Take time for self-care; whether this is a facemask and takeaway night, going to the gym or enjoying a hobby, self-care is a must. Enjoy the mindfulness of joyous small moments like the smell of the early morning, your toast being the perfect golden brown or your favourite song coming on the radio. In addition, try to take a break from your phone screen (especially just before bed to help you get a deeper nights kip) and use the ‘app timer’ function on your smartphone to monitor and limit the time spent on social media apps… sometimes time slips away when we are engrossed in TikTok or browsing holiday photos on Facebook! Try to get outside, breathe in fresh air, go for a walk or a run around and enjoy the beautiful planet we have been blessed with… Kindness to your body is crucial too! Drink water, between three and four pints of water a day is the minimum our bodies need. Sleep- the recommended amount of sleep for the average adult is between 6 and 9 hours per night, so aim for this to allow your body time to reset, heal and prepare you for the next day! In addition to water, feeding your body with good food is important too- aim to get your five-a-day in, as well as eating foods high in dopamine (such as oily fish, nuts, seeds and dark chocolate) as these are a great way to keep your brain and body happy. Finally, one of the best forms of kindness to the self is dance! Having a boogie round your kitchen or bedroom, listening to your favourite music, and letting your body move releases serotonin and pumps us with energy- bonus points if you take your carefree dancing outside and soak up the summer sunrays simultaneously!
For friends and family:
Despite my hatred for chocolate/crisp companies writing ‘share bag’ on their snacks (as I know full well that I will be eating all of those buttons myself)- sharing a meal, a snack or just having a cup of tea with a friend/family member can be such a good tonic. Now that restrictions are easing, nipping for a coffee or even sitting in someone’s garden for a glass of something chilled can leave everyone feeling refreshed and beaming after spending time in good company. Although this may not seem an explicit act of kindness, sharing good company can turn someone’s hump-day into one looked fondly back on. Making memories and capturing them through your camera lens is heart warming and gives the opportunities to be kind to ourselves, and to have a laugh and enjoy good things with others also. I try to snap a couple of pictures too- nothing better than being able to look back and smile at days filled with positivity and happiness.
Some loved ones live further afield though- in this case I have the perfect way to put a smile on their face too… Our letterboxes are often filled with bank statements, bills, and flyers day-in day-out, send a card or letter to someone, just a short note to tell them that they are appreciated. This is something which undoubtedly puts a spring in my step! If you don’t want to write this on pen and paper, a simple text message or post on social media to express your appreciation of your loved ones is a small (but effective) way to be kind too…
Kindness is not just limited to ourselves and those we love, although me looking after me and mine and you looking after you and yours is important, there are easy and effective ways to show kindness to others too. Whether this be making someone locally smile or helping a social cause across the other side of the globe, small acts of kindness go a long way…
Firstly, signing a petition is a quick and easy way to support social causes that you are personally passionate about, whether it be to reduce plastic waste in the ocean, helping achieving equal pay for all at work, or increasing government funding to support struggling communities- your signature projects kindness. Small donations via JustGiving pages or buying something from your local charity shop also spread kindness to strangers in need.
If charity shop-chic isn’t really your thing, you could be kind and make someone’s day by paying for the coffee of the person behind you when you are at Starbucks next, leave a small tip for staff next time you eat out or even just thank the bus driver on your way to work. Also, sharing positive messages through social media spreads kindness too- the media can often be quite negative and cause many people worry, so break this up on your timeline by sharing a positive affirmation or quote for your friends and followers to see.
I hope that this post has given you one or two ideas for ways you can be kind to yourself and be kind to others also. Remember, kindness comes from the heart and more often than not it is free! Treat yourself with the same amount of kindness that you would show others, and don’t forget that smiling is infectious… one mere smile from you could make the whole world smile!
My name is Amber Berry and I have anxiety. This sounds like a weird confession, or a secret coming out. The word anxiety itself I think is a word that scares a lot of people, purely because they don’t understand it. Or it’s the other end and they know exactly what it is and that’s exactly what scares them. I don’t think it has to be any of these things, it’s simply a small part of me. Not a part of who I am, but still its apart of my being. It’s a part of my being that brings struggles and I was scared that these struggles would affect my performance during the student internship. However, the internship has done something that I didn’t expect. It’s helped me improve. In this blog post, I’m hoping to detail how and that if anyone sees this who is interested in similar opportunities but is worried of being overwhelmed. I want to reassure you that it isn’t as immense or intimidating as it might seem.
People. Now people are an interesting subject for me. I love them but new people…. I shrivel into a cocoon and want to hide from the world. It comes from a fear of judgement being afraid that myself is too much. Yet, there’s two things that’s slowly allowed me to start to eradicate this fear. Firstly, the people aren’t the people that we fear. Everyone I’ve met so far on this internship have been some of the most accepting, caring, and welcoming people. Everyone completely different but still helping each other. Also, with most of the interactions taking place online. I’ve been able to face my social fears from the comfort of my living room. As little as it might sound, being in a space that is familiar removes some of that facing the unknown which can be so daunting. I was talking to people in the space filled with memories with all the people I loved. In the place where the goofiest, real me wan usually on full display. Why should I let that change just because a camera is on? That made the biggest difference of all, because if people are being so kind and accepting of the real version of me, there was nothing to be afraid of.
Well, there’s one of the biggest obstacles taken care of but I know there’s more. I was scared that I might be too overwhelmed and that the work might feel like a tidal wave. It had happened before with university work at times and I didn’t want to push myself to hard. But the internship has taught me some valuable lessons on how to manage this stress. We use outlook calendar to view our meetings and see things clearly. I’ve figured not only having a routine but being able to see it visually and clearly helped immensely. It made me feel prepared and ready for the weeks. Moreover, I’ve been able to learn how to keep a work and life balance. Whereas at university I found it difficult to split my time between them. I now know when I need a break, what to do on said break, when I need to see some of my favourite humans and sometimes when I just need to be alone. It’s something that I wish I had known a long time ago, and it’s something I don’t think a lot of people think about.
I want this to be an encouragement, to everyone who worries their differences, or their fears will be obstacles. Even if they are, it won’t control your experience and there’s the possibility to accomplish things you’d never expect. Don’t let yourself be held back by anything, take control and remember that nothing defines you unless you allow it to.
After 20 years, I am slowly starting to appreciate the importance of time. Sure, I am sometimes excellent at time management, but then I can be awful. For example, one day last week, I thought it would be a great idea to stay awake until 3:00 am and then be up, ready and prepared for 8:45 am. However, after that, it all went downhill.
Think about your past week. Did you wake up every morning prepared and fully awake? Don’t worry if you didn’t, but it highlights you might need to change your lifestyle. This Student Internship is a fantastic opportunity, but sometimes it can be overwhelming so let’s change our habits to be the best we can!
I am not sure if Headspace wants to give me a sponsorship deal because I am essentially promoting their app right now, but last week I found out that you can get Headspace for free if you have a student Spotify account. The app is a means of making your life better. For example, this week, I have used it every night, and I have even fallen asleep from some of the guided meditations.
Don’t worry, I know what you are thinking right now, I know some of you don’t really ‘vibe’ with meditations, but there is also calming music and other activities to look at if you are interested. Nevertheless, I am essentially trying to convey meditation is an excellent means for this internship. If we are fully alert and prepared for our early starts, it will significantly impact our contribution to this internship. In fact, I’d even argue that everyone around you will benefit from it.
What if you completed this every weekday? It would become a part of your daily life and would feel less like a daily chore. YOU NEED TO DO THIS!
OK, I will stop shouting now… I might just be getting a bit carried away. Another way to prepare for work is to make sure you update the Microsoft Teams calendar. On Monday, I scheduled everything I had to complete this week. I promise you it will improve your time-management skills, and it just makes others aware that you might be busy, so they don’t bother you. One thing I dislike is people bothering me when I am really, really, really busy (I turn into a mini Hulk). So, for me, this just massively helps my concentration throughout the day. It allows me to have structure, and sequentially, I perform more effectively.
At the end of the day, maybe ask yourself did you complete all your tasks? Did you feel calm? Did Reece’s advice work? If not, I guess my psychology degree was all for nothing… I am just joking. Just try your best, and you never know you may benefit from reading this blog.
One of the beneficial features of Blackboard Ally is the Course Accessibly Report. For each module it shows:
Overall course accessibly score.
List of issues that have been identified in the course.
Distribution of course content by type.
The accessibility report organises content into options such as “Content that’s easiest to fix” and “Content with most severe issues”.
Accessing the Course Accessibility Report
To access the report, go to Course Tools – Accessibility Report.
You can then click on the ‘Start’ buttons to begin improving the accessibility of your content.
Blackboard Ally measures the accessibility of your course content and displays an accessibility indicator showing how it scores. The higher the score the fewer the issues.
Low (Red, 0-33%): Needs help! There are severe accessibility issues.
Medium (Amber, 34-66%): A little better. The file is somewhat accessible and needs improvement.
High (Light Green, 67-99%): Almost there. The file is accessible, but more improvements are possible.
Perfect (Dark Green, 100%): Perfect! Ally didn’t identify any accessibility issues, but further improvements may still be possible.
Instructor Feedback Panel
Content with the easiest issues to fix can often be done so directly from the Instructor Feedback Panel for example adding Alt text to images, this is a quick way to improve the accessibility of a document.
Other documents require you to download the document, fix any issues & then upload the improved version, you can do this all from within the Instructor Feedback Panel.
In the example below, the first step would be to click ‘All issues’. Ally lists the issues within the document and provides instructions on how to fix them. From within the guidance you can choose to download the document and once the issues are fixed reupload your improved file. This automatically replaces the existing inaccessible file and updates the Accessibility Score.
To learn more about how to build accessible content we have created a whole section on our Accessibility pages.
We have also scheduled lots of new sessions to support you with this:
Build Accessible: Making Documents Accessible
Build Accessible: Importance of accessible formats and accessibility software (Blackboard Ally)
In Jan 2019 EHU acquired a new technology called Blackboard Ally to help improve the accessibility of content within Blackboard, in line with UK legislation.
Ally not only provides staff with an accessibility score and guidance on files uploaded to Blackboard but also provides the files in alternative formats.
Alternative formats provide greater opportunities for everyone to access the information they need in the way they need or want it. With alternative formats all students can meet the same learning objectives using resources that are built to target the needs of the individual student. For example, students have converted lecture slides to audio, listening to them during their commute and to help them revise.
In the past the advice was to upload your materials to Blackboard as PDF’s to aid viewing on mobile devices. Since then, technology has moved on and advice has changed. It is easier and quicker to upload an accessible document in its original format, such as a Word document or PowerPoint. In its orginal format, students can then choose to download a version of the document that’s right for their own learning style through Ally Alternative formats.
We are often asked if students are using this feature? Yes they are!
Our students are now accessing the resources that you upload to Blackboard in a variety of formats, between Sept 2020-Jan 2021 there has been a total of 19,600 downloads across 1,952 courses.
The two most popular alternative formats that students have accessed is ePub and Tagged PDF:
The ePub alternative creates a digital publishing file that can be viewed on mobile devices. ePub files are responsive, this means they will automatically adapt to the screen size of your device. With an ePub you can take notes, adjust the text and background settings and create bookmarks.
You want to read content on your tablet, eReader or phone.
You want to adjust font size and background colour.
You want to highlight content, take notes, and bookmark important pages.
You want to be able to copy, paste, and search text.
You study on your commute and want to take your study materials with you
A Tagged PDF uses tags and elements—such as paragraphs and headings to add meaning to a page. It aids screen reader users as it adds structure to documents.
Tagged PDF might be useful if:
You want to be able to copy, paste, and search text.
You want to use text-to-speech and adjust the speed of the speech.
You use a screen reader.
Ally alternative formats are automatically generated from the original source document and this is why it is so important (as well as a legal requirement) to make the content you upload accessible. See our wiki pages for help & support with creating accessible content.
We have also scheduled a range of sessions that focus on accessibility:
Build Accessible: Making Documents Accessible – Wednesday 17th March (1pm-2pm) – Thursday 22nd April (12pm-1pm) – Wednesday 2nd June (1pm-2pm)
Build Accessible: Importance of accessible formats and accessibility software (Blackboard Ally) – Friday 19th March (12pm-12:30pm) – Friday 9th April (12pm-12:30pm) – Friday 7th May (12pm-12:30pm)