Digital Productivity for Health & Social Care Staff


This month the Faculty of Health & Social Care (FoHSC) – with the added support of their Senior SOLSTICE Fellow (Laura Taylor) – introduced a brand new resource to provide its staff with the latest in e-learning tools and resources to help deliver ‘technology enhanced learning’ to its students.

The Digital Productivity Lab is a quiet work space for all FoHSC staff that gives access to every available e-learning resource within the institution, including the provision of audio and video peripherals. Located next to the main reception within the faculty building, the lab offers services exclusive to both academic and support staff within the faculty. FoHSC staff can either book the lab to work independently or to schedule private bespoke 1-2-1 sessions with one of their Faculty Learning Technology Development Officers (LTDOs).

The Digital Productivity Lab currently offers all FoHSC staff a shared platform to….

  • …the latest technology enhanced learning software to build engaging and exciting learning resoruces (Panopto, iSpring and Office Mix).
  • …an array of multimedia and HD recording equipment (both audio and video).
  • …iOS & Android mobile devices to plan and develop ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) sessions.

To help faculty staff identify key people, places and processes currently in place. Learning Services and Laura Taylor have collaboratively developed a TEL Community reference tool (see below) to support staff who wish to seek support from specific advocates and enablers.

TEL Community FOHSC


Bookings* for the lab are managed by the Customer Services Team (CST) and the FoHSC LTDOs within Learning Services.

  • For independent use: Please contact the Customer Services Team (Ext 7050) via the main reception to book the lab.
  • For 1-2-1 LTDO sessions: Appointments can be arranged via email or telephone on the following:

Picture of the authorPeter Beaumont
Learning Technology Development Officer (Undergraduate Programmes)
Ext 7749
Email: [email protected]


Mark WilcockMark Wilcock
Learning Technology Development Officer (Postgraduate Programmes)
Email: [email protected]


* Please contact at least one week in advance to secure your preferred time and date.

Audacity: Create Professional Audio Narrations for all your Learning Resources

It’s usually around this time of the year when most of us free up some time to create or even review our learning resources for the new academic year. I know a lot of staff at Edge Hill are really starting to move away from standard PowerPoint based materials and producing some really engaging resources by embedding multimedia into materials developed on the following:


  • Microsoft PowerPoint
  • iSpring
  • Microsoft Office Mix
  • Campus Pack (Podcasts)

Maybe some of you are considering trying one of these technologies (though I hope everyone uses PowerPoint as standard). Let’s face it, all we need to do is take a look around our amazing campus and witness the wide adoption of mobile devices over the recent years. With the use of mobile learning in mind, we need to understand that today’s learners will not solely consume content through the PC/Mac desktop environment. At some point, we all have to break out of our usual practices and look for an effective alternative to create rich engaging and mobile friendly materials for our modules and programmes.

So for those who are looking to take that first small step maybe consider introducing audio narration tracks to your current PowerPoint files. Audio narration can be used across all of the technologies I mentioned previously. It’ll offer you the opportunity to embed audio narration tracks to your resources by recording directly into whatever platform you wish (PowerPoint, iSpring, Podcasts etc.). For this post, I’m focussing on a video (see below) which details a specific process developed by Josh Holnagel (Instructional Designer, Techsmith). This process demonstrates how you can edit and polish a pre-recorded audio file within Audacity (an open-source audio editor). Audacity can be found on all PCs on campus and is freely available to download here.

You may want to record your audio narration first with an USB microphone, your smartphone or even your tablet. Take the recorded file and load it straight into Audacity and give this tutorial a go. The workflow shown is a series of small techniques, tips that Josh has developed from his own experience.

PlayerFor those experienced users of Audacity, a detailed table of contents follows below so you can see what‘s covered in this video.

Table of Contents

0:00 Intro
0:50 How to change the Audacity project rate
1:15 How to split a stereo track to mono
1:30 How to find and copy white noise
2:15 How to make a new track
2:25 How to paste white noise end-to-end
3:30 How to use white noise throughout a track
5:22 How to paste white noise over existing audio
6:40 How to eliminate breaths and mouth clicks
8:53 How to quiet noises in between words
10:24 How to use the Amplify effect in Audacity
10:46 How to repeat an effect
11:27 How to adjust the volume of words or phrases
13:13 How to reduce or remove white noise
14:47 How to export audio from Audacity
15:10 Outro

Below are some great guides and links on some of the technologies you can insert audio narrations into. Why not have a glance at any that appeal to you, feel free to contact your faculty LTDO if you need to know more!


Mark Wilcock
Learning Technology Development Officer



Shifting portfolios online

How a ‘spark’ during a staff development session led to a fully ‘on-line’ portfolio for all PCET trainees.

Lindsey Marsh (Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Education) attended an early Campus Pack training session.  During that session she realised that the wiki technology  offered the potential to significantly improve trainees’ portfolios.  This post is based on an interview with Lindsey on 8th Feb 2013 telling her story about how she implemented the electronic portfolio for the Post Compulsory Education and Training (PCET) course.

temp3Q: Can you tell me the history behind the PCET electronic portfolio?

“I attended a staff development session that introduced Campus Pack (one of yours!).  We were looking at how the administration team might be able to use the system to share course documentation with external staff, mentors, course representatives etc. and I had a ‘light bulb’ moment – realising that this system (Campus Pack) could be used for the trainees’ portfolios.  This led to a complete redesign of the two modules, and moving the initial audit from the first module (PTTLs) and integrating it into their professional practice modules.

Q: What did you envisage?

“I envisaged a completely electronic portfolio that integrates all the personal and professional development of the trainee from pre-course (pre course workshops and skills audit) for both teaching portfolios – ‘digitally’ – all in one place – saving room and allowing both trainees and staff to find things quickly.  Trainees now have links to video, audio, images, job applications, interview records and coursework in their electronic portfolios.

“Also note that the PCET tutors and mentors need to assess these portfolios regularly, so having these available on-line is a real benefit to everyone.”

Q: What was the ‘driver’ – what were you trying to fix / achieve?

“Trainees were producing two lever arch files of evidence for each of the modules.  This of course meant that they had to lug them around along with their teaching resources.  In terms of checking and marking, the tutors (including me) would have car boots full of lever arch files that took hours to go through, and mark, and sign, and comment on etc..  Having the portfolios available electronically means that the tutors didn’t need to carry anything around.  I also realised that other people would be able to access the portfolios – asynchronously – which means that we’d be able to track engagement, how often the trainees are updating their action and development plans etc.  We could also track how they are engaging with the other developmental work.

“I think the pivotal thing for me was the ability to ‘nip in and nip out’ – thus I now review trainees portfolios much more frequently than I used to with the paper based system – and this has also encouraged trainees to keep their portfolios more up to date – to be more of a ‘working document’.

“Personal tutors and Setting Subject Mentors (SSMs) can ‘nip in and nip out’ and mark with authenticated comments such as ‘yes, this is valid evidence, we did have those developmental meetings, this is the number of hours etc.  Also, because the wiki tool in Campus Pack tracks who’s done what and when we can now say with even greater certainty that a verification comment from a PT/SSM really is from the PT/SSM.”

Q: What do the rest of the PCET team think about the new system?

“Most of the team really like it – they like that they can check their trainees progress and engagement at a time that is convenient to them rather than bringing a trainee on to campus on a day that they wouldn’t normally attend.  A very small number of Personal Tutors have not been as confident as the technology required, and in those cases we have been very supportive, as we have been with SSMs in a similar position, and those tutors have come on board.  The number of PTs that are struggling with the technology is reducing very quickly.

“Note that we’ve decided as a team that any trainee that started from Sep ’12 MUST have an electronic portfolio – but they can always maintain a paper based portfolio for their own purposes.”

Q: What problems have you experienced implementing the new system?

“Trainees not following instructions accurately:  Very early on we noticed that some trainees managed to enter information into the master template – thus we had to change some permissions.  Also some other trainees didn’t give all the ‘Permissions’ (ability to edit a wiki) as they were instructed – again, something very quickly fixed.  In fact, I’ve got lots of support documentation with detailed explanations that I send out to trainees as these issues arise.”

Q: How significant were these issues to the trainee experience?

“I usually manage to respond to trainees very quickly – often resolving any problems within 12 hours of them being reported.”

Q: What do the trainees think about the new system:

“Generally trainees like:

    • not having to lug heavy files around;
    • getting feedback at ‘random’ or quick intervals;
    • tutors tagging pages with ‘complete’ or ‘needs attention’.

“To illustrate one issue, I went to see a couple of trainees that were having difficulties with the online portfolio last week.  The problem was they couldn’t picture / visualise the portfolio.  So I gave them a paper based index – and now they are saying ‘I love the e-portfolio now’.”

Q: What support have you put in place for the students?

“I’ve created a range of ‘How To’ resources with annotated screen shots and accessible language that are aimed at trainees, PTs and SSMs.”

Q: What advice would you give others thinking of creating an e-Portfolio system?

  • Plan: plan, plan and plan again!
  • Get feedback from colleagues who are going to be involved – DETAILED feedback – don’t rely on a quick look from someone;
  • Discourage the uploading of scanned documents – trainees can quickly reach their storage quota with these huge documents – if you need to scan a signed document then perhaps just scan the signature page and add that to the end of the rest of an electronic document;
  • The devil is in the detail – the TINY details that should be been picked up if there is a robust examination prior to publishing, perhaps by ‘walking through’ the whole life cycle as both a member of staff and a student*.”


Lindsey Marsh
Senior Lecturer PCET
Faculty of Education



What impressed me most about Lindsey’s story is that the students who haven’t experienced the paper portfolio are NOT ‘gushing’ about how easy it is to access, distribute, or copy – they have nothing to compare the e-portfolio with.  The result is that this innovative technology has been ‘backgrounded’ – thus the trainees are fully focused on the content – just as it should be!

For further help, support and advice on how you can use Campus Pack and other Web 2.0 style tools with your students contact your Learning Technologist (see the Faculty Contacts on this page) or email the LTD Team on [email protected].  Further – click here for LTD’s video introduction to  Campus Pack.

David Callaghan, 26th February 2013

* LTD’s guide to using your Test Student account in Blackboard

Students have your say – and win Amazon vouchers #2

My last blog post focused on last year’s student eLearning survey winners so I thought this time it  would be helpful to explain why we think the annual survey is so important.

The Student eLearning Survey is now 5 years old and is an important means of finding out how technology supports student learning at Edge Hill. It isn’t just a tick-box exercise; we want to know the bad and the downright ugly as well as the good so we can continue to improve the features, access and support of EHU systems like the Learning Edge VLE. Since the last survey we have, amongst other things, improved the look and feel of Learning Edge based on your feedback. We also redesigned the log in page to make access and support easier, made Campus Pack (personal blogs and Wiki spaces in Learning Edge) available and released the Edge Hill Central app.

So what did we learn last year? We already knew that Learning Edge (Blackboard) is heavily used, but thanks to the survey, we also know that many students rate it as important, with 78.7% agreeing that it enhanced the knowledge and understanding they get from lectures, tutorials and practical sessions.

While technical and access issues with Learning Edge still occur both on and off campus, the trend over the past 4 years is, thankfully, downward. Facebook was frequently cited as a student ‘owned’ technology to support informal learning where they can email, send notifications, use instant messaging, share documents and course information – I think of it as the Facebook ‘Hub’ compared to the Learning Edge ‘classroom’.

I could go on … but if you want to know more, have a look at the results of last year’s survey at

Finally, if you are a student and want to get your views about technology at Edge Hill heard, then why not complete the survey Don’t forget there is a prize draw for £50 and 2 x £25 Amazon vouchers as well as a 1G USB wristband for every 20th response – we’ve already given away loads and would love to give away more!

Lindsey Martin eLearning Strategy and Development Manager  Lindsey Martin, eLearning Strategy and Development Manager

Campus Pack: An Introduction to Wikis

Campus Pack is a new addition to Learning Edge and one of the tools that comes with it is a Wiki tool. Wikis were originally created as a very simple way to put information online, that all users could edit. They weren’t designed to look pretty, just to be quick and easy to use.

Wikis have developed over time and now it can be hard to see the difference between a content management system and a wiki. Generally though Wikis contain things like widely editable pages, a page history, records of discussions about the page’s development, and the ability to subscribe to notifications of changes to the page. Duffy and Bruns (2008) provide a good quick overview of wikis and their uses in ‘The use of blogs, wikis and RSS in education: A conversation of possibilities‘.

As some interesting examples of non-education specific uses have a look at:

  • Wikipatterns – A collaboratively updated book about different ways in which wikis can be used
  • Pulp Bard – Colaborative project to translate the Pulp Fiction film script into a Shakespearean equivalent
  • Wikipedia (English Version) – The largest wiki
  • Wikia – A site hosting 1000s of wikis where the communities have collected information about things like travel, games and films.

Many educators have used in Wikis in Higher Education. Some uses we are aware of at Edge Hill include:

Other uses elsewhere in Higher Education include:

Potential benefits reported have included:

  • Wikis “supporting social-constructivist models of pedagogy” (Feng Su and Chris Beaumont, 2010)
  • Wikis “invite collaboration and tolerate dissension, moving toward consensus and defined disagreement” (Cummings and Barton, 2008)
  • Students can benefit from quick peer feedback when there is a vibrant community. (Feng Su and Chris Beaumont, 2010)
  • Wikis can be used to promote integration of learning – i.e. “the ability to connect, apply, and/or synthesize information, knowledge and skills across varied contexts” (Barber, 2012)

Potential issues to be aware of, include those related to orientation and usability of the technology.

  • As with other collaborative online tools you might find that “inadequate socialisation at the start of the collaborative activity was a key obstacle in conducting group projects or activities at a distance” (Dr Shailey Minocha)
  • “When participants fail to form functional groups in their wikis, their ability to engage with the task and to form a community of enquiry… is impaired.” (Benson, et al, 2012)
  • Finding the right wiki tool for your particular use. “usability is the key attribute for a positive user experience” (Shailey Minocha and Peter G. Thomas, 2007)

I’ve started making notes around a few articles and my list might help you get started exploring the literature.

Finally, the following videos have been created to show how certain simple things can be done using Campus Pack wikis.

Picture of the author

Peter Beaumont
Learning Technologist

Podcasting with Campus Pack

It is now possible to create podcasts within Learning Edge using the Campus Pack podcast tool.

So exactly what is a podcast?

A podcast is a type of digital media consisting of an episodic series of files (either audio or video) subscribed to and downloaded through web syndication (RSS Feeds)

Podcasting lets you automatically receive the latest episode of your chosen programme as soon as it’s available. With podcasts you can subscribe to RSS feeds allowing the files come to you rather than searching for the files

How can it be used in education?

  • To record lectures for revision purposes, special events, or flexible delivery to those at a distance
  • To provide a recap or précis of the week’s activities
  • Interviews with subject specialists
  • Assisting those with different learning styles
  • Listening/pronunciation practice for certain discipline e.g. language learning, phonetics
  • Providing feedback to groups on assessment
  • Student activities

Creating podcasts using Campus Pack

Podcasting: Skills and Techniques

Want to findout more about the podcasting tool?  Contact the Learning Technology Development Team on: 01695 650 754 (or internal 7754)

Irfan Mulla

Learning Technologist

What’s on your Learning Edge wish list? Extending the functionality of Blackboard with Building Blocks

There are a vast number of tools and features available in Blackboard, but I’m sure you will agree, there are some things you can’t do, at least not yet! The great thing though about Blackboard is that through Building Blocks we can build more functionality into the system.

Perhaps you would like new features which help you manage your course, such as a way to quickly check all web links in a module or a way to maintain an online attendance register. Maybe there are features which you know would help your students, such as a tutorial sign-up sheet or a way for them to send files to their eReader. What other features would appear on your ‘wish list’?

Building the Blocks

To help you come up with some ideas, let’s talk a little bit more about what Building Blocks are and how they work.

Building Blocks essentially allow third-party developers to create customisations and extensions for Blackboard Learn through open APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) and web services. The types of building block that can be developed are:

  • Course Tool
  • Course Control
  • Group Tool
  • System Tool
  • User Tool
  • Content Type
  • Module

There are already a range of third party extensions available through Blackboard Extensions that we can try, including tools developed by other HE institutions. Also, we can now explore the viability of new in-house custom developments too!

One such development I recently started was the ‘Course Availability Per User’ system tool – Edge Hill University’s first Building Block! The aim of this Building Block is to assist administration of Blackboard by detailing a selected user’s course enrolments and respective availability.

Building Blocks can be as simple as querying data or as complex as connectors for synchronising data to externally hosted services e.g. Campus Pack. They are developed using a combination of the JDK (Java Development Kit), Building Block APIs and an IDE (Integrated Development Environment).

Developers use IDEs such as Eclipse and NetBeans to assist with the creation of Dynamic Web Applications. A Building Block is a Dynamic Web Application with the addition of one specific file: bb-manifest.xml. This file sets the properties that determine how the Building Block will behave and interact with the Blackboard 9.1 environment. Once the development of the building block is complete it is exported as a .WAR (Web Archive File) file and uploaded into Blackboard.

Community Resources

Edugarage provides a wealth of developer documentation, sample code/tools and user discussion to assist developers with creating building blocks.

Oscelot Projects is another great resource for open source eLearning solutions, developer related collaboration and code/tools.  Take a look at their web pages to see what others are currently developing.

Have your say

So, have you got any ideas? What course tools are missing? What functionality would be really useful for online group work? What could improve your course management or administration?

We’ve already added Building Blocks such as ‘Add Test Student’ and the ‘Paste from Word Mashup’ in response to requests from staff and we’d like to know what you would most value next. Feel free to suggest ideas and leave a comment. We can’t promise to add it all but we can certainly try!





John Langford
Learning Technology Systems Officer

What technologies did you get for Christmas?

Many of you lucky folks will have been fortunate enough to have received amazing new personal technologies or tools this Christmas and we’d love to hear about what you’ve got and how you’re using them in your studies, or for your teaching. You can use the comments box below to tell us all about how you’re using your iPods and Kindles, your digital recorders, tablets and favourite apps!

For those of us (myself included) that didn’t get a shiny new iPad2, I thought I’d highlight some of the great technologies we’ve now all got access to through Learning Edge. After all, Learning Edge got lots of really exciting new tools from Santa too!

Learning Edge is more than just Blackboard; it includes a whole range of teaching and learning systems. The list is long and it’s growing … this Guide to Learning Edge gives you a quick overview of all the facilities that are currently included, and remember, this lists only the core online technologies you have at your disposal – we’ll talk about classroom technologies, portable devices, web tools and apps another time!

Just before the New Year we introduced a number of new features to Learning Edge when we updated Blackboard Learn 9.1 to Service Pack 7, including enhancements to the Grade Centre, Interactive Rubrics and Timed Assessments.  A student Blog now, for instance, might be set to only appear in ‘Needs Grading’ status after a student has made three posts, rather than with each individual post.

We’ve also added additional functionality with Building Blocks such as, ‘Blackboard Mobile Learn’, ‘Paste From Word’ and ‘Add Test Student’.

The Mobile Learn app provides quick and easy access to courses in Learning Edge.

For staff and student guides on getting the most from the Blackboard Mobile Learn app, visit the eShare Mobile Collection.  Here, you will find information on downloading the app to your device, setting the course notifications you want to recieve on the go and, for teaching staff, information about building mobile friendly courses.


The Paste From Word mashup is another useful enhancment for both staff and students as it helps overcome formatting problems when copying and pasting text from Microsoft Word into the Blackboard visual textbox editor (VTBE). For a guide on using this functionality visit the eShare Learning Edge: Paste From Word Guide.

For staff wanting to  view their courses as their students see them, the Add Test Student enhancment is perfect. To learn more about using this functionality visit the eShare Learning Edge: Add Test Student Guide.

Campus Pack Tools ScreenshotCAMPUS PACK
Finally, in addition to all this, we’ve got a brand new ePortfolio system called Campus Pack!

Campus Pack will provide students and staff with their own personal online portfolio space within Learning Edge, with facilities such as blogs, journals, podcasts and wikis as well as PDP, CV and other portfolio template solutions. Tutors will also be able to embed Campus Pack content within Blackboard course areas.

We’ll be blogging about Campus Pack a lot more in the coming weeks but if you are interested in learning more about this tool, there is an online webinar running on Monday 16th January at 3pm 2:30-3:30pm. The webinar is aimed at staff involved in Campus Pack projects this term and next, but this is an open session, and anyone (staff or student) who is interested is welcome to join.

Email [email protected] and the webinar joining instructions will be provided.

I hope you’re making the most of all these fantasic technologies at your finger tips – remember if you need any help at all, Learning Technology Development are here to help.

Megan Juss Profile Picture

Meg Juss
Learning Technology Development Divisional Co-ordinator

Campus Pack Awareness Sessions: more than just an ePortfolio

Over the past few months we have been evaluating Campus Pack: a powerful ‘building block’ to further extend the potential of Learning Edge. It offers all students a personal area where they can create blogs, wikis, journals and podcasts, and allows us to build templates for things like CVs, ePortfolios, and PDP.

As students own the content within their environments, they have full control over who can view and edit – they can choose to share elements with colleagues across the University, as well as externals such as mentors in work placements and even potential employers. Viewers/collaborators then have the ability Rating tool in Campus Pack to leave comments, discuss and ‘rate’ items; offering exciting opportunities for ongoing feedback and dialogue.

Other interesting features include the capability for tutors to embed Campus Pack content directly within their courses, and where necessary, link these to the Grade Centre for assessment. There is also the potential for mobile access to Campus Pack, which will add further flexibility to learners.

We are holding a number of awareness-raising sessions over the coming weeks – it is envisaged that the range of options through Campus Pack will be of interest to colleagues across the University, with direct benefits to teaching and learning, as well other areas such as Careers and Learning Services.

These sessions provide opportunity for staff across the University to give us direct feedback, and influence any decision regarding the purchase of a license. Please get involved, it would be great to see and hear from as many staff as possible.

Tuesday 24th May – 12:00 – 1:00 (SOLSTICE Green Room)

Thursday 26th May – 12:00 – 1:00 (H203)

Wednesday  1st June – 1:00 – 2:00 (SOLSTICE Red Room)

Sign up for one of the sessions here –


If you are interested in Campus Pack and want to learn more about mobile access, contact Peter Reed ([email protected], #7756) for details about an upcoming webinar on Tuesday 24th May