Blackboard Ally is being rolled out January 2019

Blackboard Ally Banner

To support our commitment to a more inclusive campus, we’re introducing a new tool called Ally!

What is Blackboard Ally

Ally helps your students get the most from their course resources, and help you make your Blackboard space inclusive for all. Blackboard Ally automatically converts course resources into a variety of formats, from HTML and e-book for reading on mobile devices, to Electronic Braille for the visually impaired, and audio for learning on the go.

Ally also helps you make small changes to resources you upload to make them more accessible, in easy-to-follow steps.

Instructors will see a small dial icon next to any uploaded content giving an indication of how accessible it is. Clicking this icon will detail issues along with helpful guidance and a simple interface to fix them. Students do not see these accessibility indicators, the only interaction they have with Ally is downloading automatically generated alternative formats.

Ally accessible score icons.

Ally is being rolled out in the New Year (January 2019): to find out more, explore these quick guides from Blackboard to get you started.

For Instructors – get to know Ally

For Students – How to access usable resources

Twitter users can also follow #BbAlly to see how others across the HE sector are using Ally.

If you would like any further information about Blackboard Ally, and other learning technologies, please contact your Technologist via Ask LTD

Hosting all around – 360° video content.

360° content is increasing in popularity.

360 video on smart phoneThe production of 360 degree content couldn’t be easier; most of us have access to devices capable of capturing images that software or apps can stitch together to give an immersive viewing experience.

Lecturers across the university continue to explore this technology, generating good quality content for students to access through their devices whilst studying a module.

However, our own Media Production Team have invested Sample of 360° video camerasin the latest Insta360 Pro 360º professional camera, which they explain, presents a whole range of new possibilities when filming around campus. To learn more about the Media Production Team and the Insta360, visit the Learning Services wiki pages.

Examples of use: Areas across campus where 360° video is being used and generating interest:

  • Faculty of Health and Social Care – Paramedics and the 360° Experience. An ambitious project which aims to expose students to a variety of environments, giving them a sense of being present at a scene without actually being there in person (virtual practitioner).  Barry Mathews (Lecturer in Paramedic Practice and Pre-hospital Care) is exploring the potential of 360° images to simulate hazardous and clinical settings. Students will practice their observational skills and identify individual hazards and use this to influence their dynamic operational risk assessment.
  • Whilst on field trips with her students, Susan Jones (Lecturer – Geographical Information Systems) produced a series of 360° photographs of locations visited along the Northwest Coastline of scientific interest.  For Sue, who is keen to start using immersive content on her modules, this was an exciting time to (metaphorically speaking), tentatively dip a toe into the immersive water. Initial thoughts suggest there is value in producing content that students can use for revision, that gives them the means to study and explore areas of interest and identify points of reference.
  • The University Library, as part of its introduction to staff and students, has produced a 360° tour. People can take a virtual look around the different spaces and facilities before actually visiting in person. Interactive hot-spots provide information whilst red target-like buttons make it possible to move from room to room and between floors.

Other uses of 360 content:

  • Capital Projects site walk-through (CATALYST). Experience Edge Hill University’s newest £26m building, go on a tour with others and see how the building looks during its construction.
  • Aintree Library IT Suite and Issue Desk 360° Images. Never visited Edge Hill University’s Aintree Library? These photosphere images give you an all-round view of the IT Suite, Issue Desk, study space and shelf stock.

Plans for future use:

  • Paul Ward’s (Head of English and History) interest in 360 content, to make resources that are fun and interactive.  It also enables the department to address all the disciplines; so for example, a virtual fieldtrip using 360 would allow historians to look at developments across time, linguists to look at language use in different contexts, creative writers to visit new settings for fiction, and literary critics to explore literary connections or literary settings.  Paul goes on to say, “It also shows students how digital technologies that they are familiar with are learning and research tools”.

Options for hosting your 360° video content.

There are many hosting options around, the trouble is most offer hosting at a price, via a subscription, or they have free versions that are limited in features or for a limited time.

Here, we look at three of the most popular services used by staff at Edge Hill University.

About each platform

Online option: YouTube

YouTube Logo

A free video sharing/social website where anyone with an account can view, upload and share content.

If you need your content to be shared worldwide, YouTube is the second largest search engine. However, if you wish to target your audience, for instance within a module, by hosting your videos on YouTube, you are sending your audience to a third party site. This means that YouTube videos will be more visible within Google, compared to the videos embedded on your modules.

Unwanted content, clutter can be distracting for some, particularly those with a Specific Learning Difficulty (SpLD). YouTube’s auto play function means students may view unrelated content based on their own search criteria and pattern.

Online option: Vimeo

Vimeo Logo

Aimed at giving filmmakers a platform to present and promote their work.

Unlike YouTube, Vimeo doesn’t rely on funding from ads, preferring to offer a service which has less clutter, charging a membership fee for 500MB of space per month. Unless you opt for Pro membership, Vimeo’s video player incorporates its logo alongside your content.

Institution option: Panopto

Panopto LogoInstitutional platform to manage, live stream, record, and share videos across an organisation and/or a specific module in Learning Edge.

A secure platform for educational content, you manage access and take control of what your audience can see, no adverts, or suggested videos and no more clutter.  Unlimited space, full feature and no additional cost implications.

The University offers dedicated support and staff training. Guides and FAQs provide just-in-time resources at the point of need. Students can benefit from using assistive tools, with Panopto’s playback viewer, such as:

  • A graphical and textual index of PowerPoint slides.
  • The ability to slow down or speed up the recording.
  • The ability to make time-stamped typed notes and bookmarks.
  • A search tool that indexes on-screen text as well as spoken audio.

For a comparative view of the three services covered in this post, click the image below:

360 video hosting comparison matrix

Alternatively, download a PDF version: 360° Video Platform Comparison Matrix.

If you are interested in finding out more about creating your own 360° content and hosting options, contact Learning Technology Development Team via ext.7754, ltdsupport@edgehill.ac.uk or Ask LTD knowledge base.

Martin Baxter

 

 

Martin Baxter
Learning Technology Development Officer

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)

Lecture capture … what’s in a name?

Image

That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

To paraphrase Juliet’s speech to Romeo, what matters is what something is, not what it is called. The term lecture capture is a case in point as it invokes a whole range of responses and assumptions. As Edge Hill are rolling out a 12 month lecture capture pilot, it seems timely to look at what it is, the benefits it brings, and how it will be applied here at Edge Hill.

LLecture capture Poster

Some of the benefits of lecture capture
This is not a new technology and the benefits have been researched in various institutions. Studies suggest that students can participate more actively in sessions when they feel able to focus less attention on taking notes. A BIS commissioned Equality Analysis published in December 2014 advised that lecture capture has the potential to assist autonomous learning. There is also evidence that students tend to review short passages rather than watching or re-watching entire recordings, suggesting that they tend to use the facility to review complex or important parts of the lecture. According to our academic colleagues in the FoHSC who tested the lecture capture software over the summer, it was both a positive experience and simple to use.

The elephant in the room …
One common argument against the introduction of lecture capture is that it will have a negative impact on student attendance at lectures. Although lecture capture might be expected to reduce attendance, there is little evidence of this among UK HE institutions. Most recently, the Times Higher reported how Queens University Belfast monitored the introduction of lecture capture and concluded that it did not impact on attendance.
Two short case studies from the University of Leicester also discuss the impact on attendance
http://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/lli/tel/lecture-capture/case-study
http://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/lli/repository/case-studies/lecture-capture-experiences

Lecture Capture at Edge Hill
The software is called Panopto and it will capture and sync audio and presentation materials. Video will not be captured by default but will be an option. The tutor controls what is recorded, when it is released and for how long it is available. Access to recordings will be password protected via Learning Edge and there is the option to stream content and therefore prohibit its download by others.

To start with, the software has been installed in all 9 lecture theatres on the Ormskirk campus but use will be on an ‘opt in’ basis for the purpose of supplementing students’ learning and development. It is not intended as a replacement for student attendance at sessions or as a replacement for face-to-face teaching.

Lecture capture is most often used as an extension of the classroom through a ‘flipped’ or blended learning approach, but also supports distance learning as a replacement for the traditional ‘live’ format. The software is ideal for the ‘flipped’ approach as it can also be used to make talking heads or narrated screencasts from your own computer.
In the coming weeks we’ll push out more information about the pilot and the many benefits we anticipate it will provide. Meanwhile, if you would like to know more, please contact lecturecapture@edgehill.ac.uk

Lindsey Martin Assitant Head of Learning Services

Lindsey Martin