Defeating ‘The Beast from the East’: How Collaborate was used to run a ‘blended’ conference

Blackboard Collaborate is an online classroom tool. It is designed to allow presentations and tutorials to be given to students while they are off-campus. In this blog post we look at an unusual use of Collaborate, as it was used to run a ‘blended’ conference.

Meg Juss: Could you set the scene for us?

Peter Beaumont: The Every Child Counts conference had been organised to run at Edge Hill University in early March 2018, with speakers coming from all over the country. However a day before it was going to run it was clear that due to snow, with red and orange weather warnings in many parts of the country, most of the presenters and many attendees were not going to be able to make it.

Welcome to the Conference Sign

MJ: Can you explain what we did?

PB: First we posted to the very helpful ALT-MEMBERS mailing list to ask for advice from the learning technology community. It was useful to read personal experiences of others, and the advice influenced some of the specific decisions we took.

The key thing for us was to enable the speakers to present from home, but we also wanted distance attendees to be able to experience and take part in the conference as much as possible. We decided to try and run the conference through Blackboard Collaborate. Speakers would present through it, and their webcam video and slides could be displayed on the big screen in the lecture theatre, as well as on distance attendees computer screens. Distance attendees could post questions in chat when it was time for post-presentation questions, and we used a Catchbox microphone to ensure that questions asked in the room, could be heard at a distance.

Welcome to Delegates

MJ: What were the issues and concerns?

PB: Because the conference was suddenly moved online, presenters’ slides were not created with Collaborate in mind. Animations don’t work as slides are converted to images, and videos need taking out of the slides and presenting another way. The presenters were fantastic and flexible and spent extra time changing to fit the limitations of presenting this way. Obviously in an ideal world we’d want to work with presenters to make the most of the technology, rather than be limited by it, but there just wasn’t time for that.

There were some distance attendees who were finding that slides were not updating, and we worked with Blackboard to identify that these users were not using the Chrome browser. Although we sent out instructions advising the use of Chrome, we identified two issues which we will need to consider in future. Not all users have an understanding that different web browsers are available, and I think their mental model of using the web is that they click on the ‘e’ to ‘open the internet’. The other thing to consider is the amount of pre-conference information that can you send to attendees before you get into a TL;DR situation?

Finally, even with wonderful, understanding and flexible presenters, unexpected things can happen. For example a presenter in the room might do something in the room which cannot be followed at a distance, for example writing on a flip chart. When that happened at this conference, we copied what was being written using the Collaborate annotation tools, allowing the distance attendees to follow. There are moments like that when you are a bit unsure what you are going to do.

Online Presentation

MJ: What would be your advice to others trying to do this?

PB: Running a ‘blended’ conference felt successful and we got good feedback from attendees, but we did have three people working on Collaborate all day during the conference, and spending the day before planning, and speaking to the presenters. One person was supporting the presenters, doing things like switching between the slides and the videos, switching the room mics on so distance presenters could hear the audience during discussion times, and operating the Catchbox mic. One person was at home, meaning they were aware of how the distance attendees were experiencing the conference, and they offered support to those having issues, as well as advising the people supporting the conference on campus of how it sounded and looked. The third person, was monitoring chat to collect questions from the distance attendees, welcoming and supporting attendees, copying what was written on flipcharts, etc. This sort of support, from people who understand the Collaborate system, is not often available.

You need to prepare online presenters in advance, so that their slides and planned activities are appropriate for the presentation method. Presenting online doesn’t have to be a worse experience than a face-to-face presentation, but you need to understand the strengths and limitations of the medium.

A lot of small things are quite important too. We found that putting some ‘elevator’ music on in the room between sessions, gave some feedback to distance attendees that they were in the right place. We made sure that Collaborate notifications are turned off on the presenter PC at the front, so that it was not bleeping as people entered and left the session.

Collaborate is a good solution to enable people to present online, but you need to be aware of the risks. If the presenter’s home internet is poor, then the session could be frustrating for attendees to follow. The Every Child Counts team very wisely had back-up plans for an alternative session, in case something went wrong. However, there are risks with face-to-face presentations too, as we saw with this conference. There is no reason to be scared of online presentations, as long as you and the attendees are prepared.

All over

MJ: Can you share any quotes with us?

Distance Attendee: “The day exceeded my expectations. The speakers were fantastic [… it was] all very informative and useful. The online conference was exceptional. It was very easy and smooth. The moderators were very helpful. A fantastic experience – would be a great way to deliver a course/ conference in the future.”

ECC Team: “[The Learning Technology Development team] managed a mixture of onsite and distant presenters and onsite and distant audiences that worked beautifully, was roundly praised by all concerned … and [the Every Child Count’s team are] very grateful”

Learning Technology Team: “We enjoyed the challenge and learnt a lot in the 12 working hours we had to prep, as well as during the event.”

Meg Juss, Learning Technology Development Manager

Meg Juss, Learning Technology Development Manager

Bite-sized Lecture Series

Students at Edge Hill University value the support they receive whist studying here, so much that they tell us how important that support is, each year through the National Student Survey.

Andrea Wright

Edge Hill has a diverse student population and recognises the importance of innovative approaches to teaching and learning which are both inclusive and supportive.

Since the introduction of Panopto software in 2016, more and more areas of the University are being provisioned and many more students are benefiting from access to recorded lecture content.

Andrea Wright (Senior Lecturer – Film Studies), introduced her students to recordings of taught sessions to encourage engagement and shared understanding of her topics.  Andrea’s approach to using Panopto, means that her students can review lectures in manageable bite-sized videos.

BiteSized Lecture Series

From the statistics gathered over two years of using Panopto, Andrea is able to see when students are making use of her bit-sized recordings.

Panopto Bar Graph Session Stats

Consistently, the peak periods of use are around assessment time and prior to submission deadlines. Students are using the recordings as a support mechanism and revision tool, to check key terms, concepts and understanding of the topic.

Andrea also states “following the introduction of Panopto in 2016, there is certainly some evidence of students attaining slightly better in the modules. Particularly for some students who may well have struggled to gain a pass mark, there was evidence of them getting beyond the pass mark and a larger proportion of students achieving a first class.” Andrea strongly believes, Panopto has the potential to benefit all students to gain higher marks toward their degree.

YouTube Video link

For more information about Panopto at Edge Hill University, please contact our team of experts on lecturecapture@edgehill.ac.uk

If you feel inspired by Andrea’s story and want to use this or another technology to help you enhance and support your own teaching, please get in touch with the Learning Technology Development Team in Learning Services. We would be very happy to work with you.

Related case studies: Inclusive Practice.

Martin Baxter

 

Martin Baxter
Learning Technology Development Officer
(Faculty of Arts & Sciences)

 

Carol Chatten

 

Carol Chatten
Learning Technology Development Officer
(FAS & Medical Education)

Have you used the Inclusive Digital Practices Toolkit?

Inclusive Digital Practice ToolkitLearning Services have created the toolkit to support academic staff in the creation of accessible Digital Content.

The toolkit includes quick tips, a checklist, user guides and some video case studies that showcase how teaching staff are using Digital Technology to support their students.

We are submitting the toolkit for the Blackboard Catalyst Award for Inclusive Education and are looking for some endorsements from staff who have used the toolkit to enhance their teaching practices.

Please get in touch, to let us know if the toolkit has helped.

email: John Haycock (haycockj@edgehill.ac.uk)

Tea and Technology – New Sessions

We have three new Tea and Technology sessions available for you to book your place on now!

Zeetings Presentations 
Friday 16th March 10:30-11 in JD13
Explore Zeetings, a software which allows your audience to follow your presentation on their device, and allows you to add interactive elements such as polls and activity walls to your slides.

eShare 
What is it and how and why would I use it?
Tuesday 17th April 10:30-11 in JD13
Come and find out more about eShare – your digital repository for Teaching and Learning resources. Learn how to upload and link to items within Learning Edge and gain an understanding of Copyright and Creative Commons licences.

App Swap Break
Thursday 24th May 10:30-11 in JD13
This session aims to provide an opportunity for us all to share our experiences about how we use apps to encourage awareness and good practice amongst ourselves. This is not restricted to apps you use for your jobs, but any apps you find are useful, save you time or you just couldn’t live without!
Please come prepared to discuss any apps you may use to engage with students, organise a surprise party, share cat videos or anything else!

Book your place through MyView – search for Tea & Tech to locate the sessions.

 

 

Edge Hill Central – Edge Hill University in the palm of your hand

The updated Edge Hill Central app was launched at the end of November and has a fresh new look, more features and is easier than ever to navigate on mobiles and tablets.  More social media links have been introduced including Instagram and Facebook but all the features you know and love are just as easy to access such as PC Availability, the Library Catalogue and Edge Hill University Email.

The app is currently available for Apple and Android platforms.  It is available for free via the respective apps stores:  Apple  /  Android

What can it do?

Events – Always know what’s on, in and around Edge Hill University. Browse cinema screenings, comedy shows, theatre productions, open lectures, and more. There is something for everyone and you can save the events you are interested in straight to your calendar.

Learn – Take your learning environment with you. With quick and easy access to your courses in Learning Edge (Blackboard) you can check the latest announcements, look up lecture notes, participate in discussion groups, update your blogs, and much, much more.

Email – Stay up-to-date with your university communications. Sign into your University email account to check emails from your course tutors and colleagues.

News – Read about university news as it happens. Browse articles published by the university on faculty activity, campus developments, research projects, awards, events and other interesting stories.

Library – Start your reading and research wherever you are. Explore the complete library catalog to check the availability of books, journals, newspapers, etc. and make reservations. Even review your account status to see what items you have on loan and when they need to be renewed.

Get Help – Access important numbers when you need them. Contact a help desk, report an emergency or get information from the general switchboard.

Images – Search, browse, download and share images from Edge Hill University’s collections.

Videos – Watch Edge Hill University YouTube content whenever – and wherever – you like.

Statistics

Averages over the past 6 weeks since the app launched (This includes the ‘quiet’ Christmas period):

Screen Views: 2081
Screen Sessions: 1309
Unique Users: 493

It is hoped that the app will continue to be developed over time with more features and items being added tailored towards prospective and current students and staff.  If you have any time to offer some feedback after using the app, please leave a comment at the bottom of this blog.

 

 

Carol Chatten
Learning Technology Development Officer

 

Implementation of New Box View for Blackboard Assignment tool

This information only applies to the Blackboard Assignments tool which formerly used the Crocodoc viewer.  It does not apply to assignments submitted or marked through Turnitin.

On 18th December Blackboard Assignments was upgraded to use New Box View to preview student submissions.  Annotations made to submissions with the old Crocodoc tool were converted to pdfs and are available to view through New Box View.

What will New Box View offer?

  • New Box View allows many more file types to be previewed, including audio, video, image and plain text files, in addition to the standard Microsoft Office and PDF files that Crocodoc previewed.
  • All annotations made in Crocodoc will be available to be viewed and downloaded through New Box View, however they cannot be changed or deleted.
  • Marks and feedback comments can be added in the panel on the right hand side and these will feed into the grade centre as before.
  • Safe Assign works as before.
  • Rubrics work as before.
  • Annotation of submissions within New Box View is still under development.  Students cannot download their annotated work and due to the limitations of Box it can be hard for students to view annotation comments, and in some cases, comments may be missed altogether.
  • We strongly recommend that you do not use the annotation tools within New Box View until improvements to the interface are made.

A one page Quick Guide to New Box View is available for both staff and students:

New Box View Quick Guide for staff

New Box View Quick Guide for students

If you are using Turnitin or Turnitin Feedback studio to mark and annotate submissions this change does not affect you and you can continue to mark and add annotations within the Turnitin portal as normal.

If you have any questions please add a comment or email ltdsupport@edgehill.ac.uk

Turnitin Feedback Studio: Ready for marking

As we are swiftly heading on through this semester and towards end of term assessments we thought it would be helpful to once again highlight marking through Turnitin.

Turnitin recently released Feedback Studio; an updated and revamped way of marking papers with some nifty new features such as page navigation and Grading/Similarity layers.

Access to Feedback Studio remains the same way as you would mark before but just in case you need a recap:

How to access Turnitin Feedback Studio:

The same tools are still there but they have been tidied up and even better, have been combined into one view – no more having to switch between ‘Grading View’ or ‘Similarity View’ you can choose to see them both at the same time. This is useful for cross checking originality whilst making comments.

One of the most used features of Turnitin are the Inline Commenting Tools allowing you to leave annotations on pieces of work.  Quick Marks are also available to build up banks of commonly used phrases or corrections which you can drag and drop onto an assignment for quickly highlighting areas for improvement.  Rubrics have become popular to create and deploy across modules as they can reflect the marking criteria included in programme/module handbooks.  The new Rubrics function uses sliding scale bars to indicate a level that the student is working at.  You can also choose to mark using the Expanded Rubric Manager if you prefer to work in this way.  Rubrics can automatically calculate scores which can inform the overall grade.

Finally, should you wish to recap reviewing originality, take a look at the following guidance from Turnitin: Interpreting the Similarity Report.

Full guidance on Turnitin Feedback Studio can be found here: Turnitin Feedback Studio Full Guide.

Don’t forget the Turnitin app is available on iPad to mark assessments.  One particular benefit of using the app is that once all the submissions are in and you sync it to the iPad then you can mark offline.  Once you have re-established a connection all the marks and comments will automatically be uploaded back into Learning Edge including Grades into the Grade Centre!

 

 

 

As always if you need any help or support, contact the Learning Technology Development Team via ext.7754, ltdsupport@edgehill.ac.uk or Ask LTD knowledge base.

 

 

Carol Chatten
Learning Technology Development Officer
FAS & Medical Education

Staff Development this Term

Learning Services offer a programme of informative sessions and hands-on training opportunities to help staff develop their use of various technologies.

Come along to our Turnitin Feedback Studio session and mimic the whole electronic submissions process from both a tutor and student perspective. Learn more in our Online Marking, Grades and Feedback session and discover how you can create the best possible experience for your students.

There are a selection of sessions on using different Office packages – including Microsoft Excel, Word, Project, Visio and Outlook!There are also sessions available which can help you get started on using Adobe packages InDesign to create professional looking brochures, and Photoshop to learn the basics of image editing. You can also learn to create animations with Powtoon, enhance your use of social media with Twitter and create infographics with Piktochart!

Throughout November and December we are running training sessions on using the features of our new Reading List software, which are relevant for all academic staff responsible for updating reading lists.

For more details, visit our new Staff Development information page, and book your place on any of the sessions through MyView.

And don’t forget, all EHU staff can access Lynda.com at any time for online training!

Crocodoc Replacement for Blackboard Assignments Only

Croco what? I hear you say! Well lets start with some explanations of what’s what:

Blackboard Assignment

A Blackboard Assignment is a drop box that accepts submissions from students based on parameters set when the assignment is created.

blackboard assignment image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inline Grading – Annotation tool Crocodoc

The Inline Grading annotation tool known as Crocodoc, is the online tool provided within Blackboard Assignment, for annotating assignments.

You will know if you are using inline grading annotations if you see the following image:

crocodoc image

 

 

If you do regularly see the Crocodoc image, then the following information is for you…

What’s happening?

Blackboard are retiring the inline grading Crocodoc element of the Blackboard assignment. It will be replaced with a new product called Box View.

What do you need to do?

Simple – after 28th October do not use the inline grading tools – that is do not mark online with Blackboard Assignments. You can still create Blackboard assignments, accept submissions and download original submissions for offline marking and feedback.

What about Safe Assign?

Originality reports and plagarism checking through Safe Assign will not be affected.

What about work already marked?

Blackboard will retain all existing annotations.  These will be incorporated into a pdf along with the original document.  Although further editing, updating or deleting of the annotations will not be possible.  The annotated pdf will be available to view through the Grade Centre.  Please note students will not be able to download these annotated .pdfs.

When will the new Box View be available?

A number of system changes will need to take place in the background before the new Box View for Blackboard Assignments can be enabled. LTD will begin testing as soon as the update is available (this is expected to be in November). We will then be in a position to share more detail about the timeline for using new Box View as soon as possible following this work.

Blackboard 9.1 Upgrade

Blackboard 9.1 needs to be upgraded to allow for the change from Crocodoc to Box View.  The upgrade to Blackboard will take place from Sunday 26th November (11:30pm) until Monday 27th November (11.30am) and during this time Learning Edge and Blackboard will be unavailable for all users.  There is more information about this on the Learning Edge Service Report blog https://blogs.edgehill.ac.uk/lesr/2017/11/02/learning-edge-blackboard-9-1-upgrade-coming-soon/

Who can I speak to?

Should you need any further information, you can speak to your Learning Technologist, who can be found here 

Feel free to email LTDSupport@edgehill.ac.uk or phone us on Ext 7754 and we’d be more than happy to answer any questions or just get in touch if you would simply like to know more.

John Langford & Ruth Smalley

Playful Learning Conference 2017

I was fortunate enough to attend the Playful Learning conference over the summer. We explored how playfulness can be included in adults’ learning experiences, which involved things such as playing games that were being used in Higher Education, making things, and experiencing escape rooms.

We were all given cuddly toys with which we were to undertake certain activities, to encourage playfulness in the conference. One of the tasks was to create a twitter profile for the toys, and in the end it was pointed out that these toys had ended up acting as avatars for us on the #playlearn17 twitter hashtag, allowing behaviour that might otherwise have been considered odd or bad.

Nikki Woods talked about her work with Blast Theory, and their experiences of the consequences of play. It brought up ideas about how it is important to remember that not everyone knows when ‘play’ is taking place, and that people will perceive it differently.

There were quite a lot of escape rooms, which were fun. They have been used as ice-breakers, or as activities for the students to create themselves.

Geraldine Foley, Sarah Leach, and Aggie Molnar from LSE guided us through playing their ‘Capture the Market’ game. It presented some themes like monopoly and diversification, that could later be discussed. It brought out the tension between learning and gameplay, as some players wanted the game to be more complex and open to mastery through playing it several times, while others thought it was designed well for a game that was only played once to start conversations in the classroom.

Amid all the lego, sandpits, and giant playing cards, Rikke Toft Norgard was exploring the theory of play, how we can encourage play to connect “to the deep structures of pedagogical ‘how to’ designs” and to be “embedded in the virtues emanating from the ‘why-ness’ of education?”, and presenting a framework for a playful university. I recon everyone loved it, and Rikke’s slides are available.

Finally we heard from Deborah Bullivant, who set up Grimm & Co in Rotherham. She talked about their amazing work encouraging children to write through creative, playful environments. She talked about similar projects such as London’s Hoxton Street Monster Supplies, San Francisco’s Pirate Supply Store, and Brooklyn’s Superhero Supply co.

I’ve never had more fun at a conference, and it left me with plenty to think about. It is easy to be playful at a conference where it is explicitly expected. It’s unlikely that people attending will get annoyed, or be cynical and not pay along. How is that expectation set out in university? I’ve seen the occasional students say “I’m not doing that” when a session moved away from the standard lecture or seminar format. Is the solution to be clear about the reason for doing things differently?

Playfulness and games are different things, that don’t always overlap. Games can be taken very seriously, and some types of playfulness affect game mechanics in a negative way.

This year’s reading includes:

You can explore further using #playlearn17 on Twitter, or Alex Mosely’s Storify of the conference days (day 1, day 2, day 3)



All images from:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/144603711@N05/sets/72157686737802183.
Used under a Creative Commons licence.

beaumont_smaller

Peter Beaumont
Learning Technology Development Officer