Introducing Blackboard Spaces

spaces_cutIf you open the Global Navigation menu in Blackboard, you will see that the bottom icon on the menu links to a tool called Spaces.

These are very simple social spaces that anyone can set up and invite people to. Members of a Space can create their own posts and comment on posts written by others.

You might find Spaces useful if you want to quickly set up a study group and invite people to it. You can even invite people from other universities and institutions that use the Blackboard Spaces tool.

We’ve created a short guide to using the Spaces tool, and members of staff can contact their Learning Technologist for guidance, or if you have any comments.


Peter Beaumont
Learning Technology Development Officer

Learning Edge Gets Community Engagement

Following the recent acquisition (Oct 2013) of Blackboard Community Engagement, an add on to our current Blackboard Learn 9.1 platform, Learning Services will be working with staff across the university to improve the design and functionality of Learning Edge.

This screencast showcases how the new features, which include personalised Tabs, Panels and Organisations, could be developed to enhance our Learning Edge facilities, for current and prospective students, staff, alumni and other guests.

Community Pre-Login Mock UpClick the image above to watch a 5 minute YouTube video tour.

Learning Technology Development will be holding face-to-face and live online web-conference demonstrations over the next few weeks. In addition discussions will take place at Faculty TEL Steering Groups and the team hope to attend team meetings and speak with interested individuals about the potential of Community.

If you would like to arrange a meeting to discuss how your department could benefit from these new Community features, please speak with your faculty Learning Technologist directly or email

Learning Edge Upgrade: Now Completed

Upgrade Sucess

The scheduled Leaning Edge Blackboard 9.1 upgrade has been completed successfully and you can now login as normal.

As well as ensuring the highest level of performance and stability this upgrade will ensure Edge Hill staff and students have access to a modern feature rich system. We hope you like it!

As with any upgrade, you may find some unexpected behaviour– if you do spot any problems please let us know asap so we can investigate and get them resolved for you.

Where can you learn more?

As mentioned in a previous blog post, the LTD team are facilitating an online webinar (via Collaborate) at 2.30pm on Wednesday 24th July. This session will introduce you to what’s new, provide you with an opportunity to ask questions and help you explore where and how to make the most of the new improved system.

Please Feedback

Take your time to explore the upgraded system and let us know what you think.

Contact the Learning Technology Development team to share any queries or comments you have regarding the upgrade or the online webinar– leave a comment below, email or call 01695 650754.

Meg Juss, Learning Technology Development Manager

Meg Juss
Learning Technology Development Manager

Learning Services: Learning Technology Development Division

Introducing Service Pack 12: A look at what’s next for Learning Edge – July 2013 upgrade

Whats-New-in-SP12-for-EducatorsOver the years, there have been significant system upgrades implemented to Learning Edge (Blackboard 9.1) which have added many new features as well as an improved overall user experience. The next upgrade to Learning Edge is scheduled for July 21st-22nd, 2013, this is when the system will be unavailable for a short time – However we will continue to update you with further information closer to the time.

Once the work is complete, you will be able to log in as normal but will notice a number of enhancements.This upgrade will provide an even more user friendly and modern experience for students and staff alike. Many existing features have been improved and some exciting new features added to make the user experience more efficient.

The following is a quick overview of the tools* that you can expect to be using soon:

*Subject to change and agreement of social ‘cloud’ policy and testing.

Global Navigation

The new Global Navigation feature refers to the set of links that appears at the very top right of the Blackboard Learn frame. This set of links has been streamlined and becomes the entry point to My Blackboard and social learning tools. Access points to critical academic information are organised in one place to provide a consistent, quick, and easy way to find information.



My Blackboard

The new My Blackboard feature provides information from across Learning Edge for users. Users access My Blackboard via the new Global Navigation Menu at the top of the screen. My Blackboard has a navigation panel that quickly connects to the new My Blackboard tools – Profile, Updates, People, and Posts – as well as courses, organisations, and settings.



With this enhancement, Blackboard have thoroughly revamped the look and feel of this tool. The first thing you’ll notice are the large avatars or profile pictures, so it’s a lot easier to identify tutors or students. And now you can see all threads on one page, but if this gets overwhelming, you have the ability to collapse and expand them.

Something you’ll all like is this new post first feature. If used, this will force students to write their own posts before seeing what their peers have written to encourage critical and original thinking.

Highlights include:

  • All posts on one page: The entire discussion thread appears on a single page, thereby maintaining the context of posts and replies to one another.
  • Avatars:  The user profile avatars are more prominent in the new Discussions.
  • Conditional highlighting of instructors’ posts: It is easier for students to find posts from instructors in a sea of other posts.
  • Respond to posts inline: When clicking “Reply”, the content editor appears in the context of the discussion so as not to disrupt the flow of the user.  The full content editor is available for the user to write a reply. When finished, submitting the post adds it directly into the page without losing context.


Inline Assignment Grading

Inline Assignment Grading is a revision to the workflow for grading submissions via the Assignment tool. Now instead of downloading the files that you need to view, edit and grade, you can view the Word, Excel, PPT docs or PDFs “inline” within Learning Edge.   Instead of downloading student-submitted files to view or edit, you will now be able to view student-submitted files “inline,” i.e. in the web browser, without requiring any plugins, applets, or client-side applications.

Additionally, annotation tools will be made available as part of the inline viewer, enabling tutors to provide feedback including comments, highlights, and even drawings/annotations directly on the inline view of the document.


Retention Center

The brand new Retention Center provides an easy-to-use data visualisation and pre-configured rules for identifying at-risk students in a course. Because it requires no set up on the part of the tutor or administrator, it automatically calls out students who may need the tutor’s attention, making it easy for tutors to catch and respond to risk factors quickly, while there is time to help the at-risk students succeed in the course.


New Calendar

With this new calendar, you can spend less time organising your calendar and more time doing what’s on it. Consolidate your course items into this easy-to-use calendar. Add events, drag and drop to change due dates, input course reminders.

Students and tutors can view items that are past due, due today, or due this week by navigating to the overview capability in My Blackboard. From the image below you can see that it’s much more modern, in terms of both look and functionality.

You can select views (month, week, and day) and color-code the events to differentiate courses and personal items. Items with due dates automatically appear on the new Learning Edge calendar.  If you change a due date within a course area, the calendar gets updated for students as well.

Calendar events may be viewed at once– or filtered to show only the desired mix of class and personal events. Users can select which calendars to view, ranging from personal to institution to individual course listings.  These calendar items can also be exported via an iCal feed to Outlook, Google or other 3rd party calendars.


Assessment Item Analysis

The new Item Analysis provides statistics on overall test performance and on individual test questions. This data helps faculty recognise questions that might not adequately discriminate between students who understand the material and those who do not. Faculty can use this information to improve questions for future tests or to adjust marks on current attempts. Ineffective or misleading questions are identified easily, corrected in the Test Canvas, and are re-graded automatically.


We hope you like the look of these new features and would be happy to hear your thoughts via the comments section below.

If you have any queries regarding this upgrade please don’t hesitate to contact the Learning Technology Development team on 01695 650754 or via


Mark Wilcock
Learning Technology Development Officer



Where’s the subscribe button gone?








Blackboard 9.1 Discussion Board Forum – Subscription Button

You may or may not have noticed that the Subscribe button has recently taken a break from its duties. Well you’ll be happy to know you can fix this!

In Control Panel open customisation and click on Tool Availability.





Within the Tool Availability list scroll down and find Email.Put a tick in the Available check box (first check box).


Now as long as you have set the subscribe property in the Forum settings, users will once again be able to subscribe to your forum.








John Langford
Learning Technology Systems Officer

Accessible and Inclusive Design: Session Notes

For those who couldn’t make it to this week’s session on creating accessible content I thought it would be worth making the session notes available.

In the session we looked at how content uploaded to Edge Hill’s Learning Edge online learning environment can be created in ways that make it more accessible to a wide range of students including those with SpLDs and those using mobile devices to access content.

Specifically we will look at Word and PDF documents, PowerPoint slides, audio and video recordings and content accessed through the mobile app.

Picture of the author

Peter Beaumont
Learning Technologist

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

Blackboard 9.1 Journal Tool – Reflections in Writing.

Girl taking notes in class

Communication – Blackboard 9.1 offers new opportunities for using social communication tools including Journals, blogs and wikis.  The main difference between a blog and a journal is that blogs tend to be used for group debate and to comment, and the Journal tool for individual reflection.  Journals offer a personal writing space for self-reflection and private communication with the instructor, whereas blogs and wikis tend to be used as collaborative and social tools.

Private Journal – The Journal’s uses include reflection on personal growth throughout the semester, record things learned on a field trip, a place for expressing yourself, documenting clinical experiences, and points that are private.

Public Journal –Although journals offer a private place of communication between student and instructor, they can also be made for sharing with the rest of the group so that others in the group are able to read the journal, but they cannot comment on it.

Click on the video link for help creating a Journal link in Blackboard 9.1                    Video Guide – Creating a Journal for staff

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

Martin Baxter (Learning Technology Development)

Creating Accessible Content

Creating accessible content is an important aspect to consider when putting content in Learning Edge. It is important to make sure information is easily available to everybody.

By using a simple tool from the Web to create content and using this in Learning Edge it can transform your course pages.

The tool can be found on the Web and it is a simple HTML Editor Tool which allows you to customise your content and differentiate content using colour schemes.

There are many HTML tools available but the one that has proved to be the most useful is shown below

HTML Editor

Example of content created using the HTML tool 

Image 3

Colour coding the text allows the students to differentiate different areas such as readings, links to audio files, videos, discussions etc. and makes it easy for them to access the information.

Readings are linked directly to the library catalogue for easy access and by using the Learning Module option from Learning Edge this allows for easy navigation by providing a contents area.

If you would like to find out more information on how you could use to this tool to enhance your course pages contact the Learning Development Team on 01695 650 754 (or internal 7754)

Irfan Mulla
Learning Technologist

Staff Reminder: Learning Edge Drop In 16.04.12

Are you working on something new in Learning Edge? Do you want help or ideas?

Staff are invited to visit the LINC Development* room at lunch time on Monday to:

  • Learning Edge LogoExplore the potential of Learning Edge
  • Focus on enhancing current practice
  • Resolve any queries

These regular open door Drop In sessions have been organised to support staff building and working on courses and are the perfect opportunity to gain additional advice from a Learning Technologist.

No need to book! Please just drop into the LINC Development room and a member of the Learning Technology Development department will be on hand to help and advise.

Drop In Schedule this Term:
12.01.12 – 12 pm – 13 pm, Thursday, LINC Dev
23.01.12 – 13 pm – 14 pm, Monday, LINC Dev
07.02.12 – 12 pm – 13 pm, Tuesday, LINC Dev
23.02.12 – 12 pm – 13 pm, Thursday, LINC Dev
05.03.12 – 13 pm – 14 pm, Monday, LINC Dev
23.03.12 – 12 pm – 13 pm, Friday, LINC Dev
03.04.12 – 12 pm – 13 pm, Tuesday, LINC Dev
16.04.12 – 13 pm – 14 pm, Monday, LINC Dev

*Please note: a change from the advertised location of these Drop In sessions printed in a Learning Services Staff Development leaflet. Staff may continue to visit the SOLSTICE Centre for  support with Learning Technology, but the LINC Development room has been booked to comfortably accommodate any number of staff during these open door Drop In periods.

Hope to see you there!
The Learning Technology Development Team.