Back to school VITAL kitbag

The new academic year looms and everyone’s thoughts instantly turn to VITAL, of course. It can be a chore to remember what buttons to click and what processes to follow when preparing the new year’s modules. The first bit of good news is that this summer’s VITAL upgrade has not changed anything in the layout, names of buttons or tools, or any of those kinds of things that seem designed to catch people out between versions of the software. The second bit of good news is that we have prepared below some links and resources which we hope will make it a little easier to reacquaint yourself with VITAL. We are also offering some short VITAL training sessions for people who are new to the system on September 16th and October 14th as well as a couple of sessions on the new Stream Capture lecture and screen capture system at the University of Liverpool. The post below has help on:

  1. Finding a missing VITAL module
  2. Course copy
  3. The VITAL Baseline
  4. New features 2015-16
  5. Known Issues and Bugs
  6. More help and training for VITAL

1. I can’t see my module in VITAL! Where is it?

If you log in to VITAL and cannot find the module(s) on which you are teaching this coming year in your module list then for most standard taught modules click here for a checklist on how to resolve this problem.

2. How do I copy content over from another module?

The easiest way to copy the bulk of your content from another module (e.g. last year’s version) is to use the Course Copy facility. You need to be at the Instructor level on both the source and destination modules. Here is the latest version of our guide to the course copy process. The screenshot here shows you where to locate this facility on the Control Panel menu. Once on the course copy page do use the Browse button to find the Destination Course ID and do not  select the Include Enrolments in the Copy option (at the bottom of the copy page). There are also some useful tools and tips on course copy below this screenshot.

Course copy – useful Link-checker tool. See all of the weblinks in the copied module content on one page and check whether any are broken so that these can be hidden and/or fixed. Access this from the module’s Control Panel in the Course Tools section. When you click the Link Checker link the tool will start the checking process so there may be a few seconds until the results display.

Course copy – Date-manager tool. See all of the due dates, availability dates and date adaptive release rules for the copied module content on one page and adjust these for the new academic year (also useful if you need to make changes to the schedule of a module during term-time). Again, access this from the Control Panel in the Course Tools section. Click the Date Management link here. Select the List all Dates for Review option at the start of the process to see and adjust dates individually. 

Course copy – Tidy up modules. Course Copy is also an opportunity to think about tidying up modules. For example, does every content area from the older module still need to be copied over? You can specify which sections you want copying and which to leave (and you can always come back and copy individual sections over if it turns out you need them after all). Thinking about the VITAL Baseline, are the sections you have copied over organised in a structure that is easy to navigate for your students and are folders, content areas and files clearly labelled? The VITAL Baseline guide below offers some advice on doing this. A word of caution though, there is no Undo facility in VITAL and if you delete anything it cannot currently be recovered.

Course copy – Video content. Something else to think about is any video content uploaded directly to your module. Firstly, please do not upload any further video content to VITAL modules, it is too large and the way that VITAL works means that students have first to download it before they can view it which can be highly problematic. Instead, where you own the copyright to the video then use the University’s streaming media service to host and to stream the videos. If the video is hosted on another streaming site (YouTube for instance) you can embed it in your VITAL module. For material broadcast on UK television you can use the Box of Broadcasts service and stream full programmes and extracts from here. For video that does not fall into these categories then please contact the eLearning Unit for help. Then for video content that is already in the module please have a chat with CSD technical team about moving your video content out of VITAL and storing and streaming it elsewhere. For advice on copyright of video please see this library guidance site.

Copyright – scanned journal articles/book extracts. One more thing to check for is the copyright status of materials in your module, in particular what to do about journal articles and extracts from books which you have scanned/have previously been scanned from a hard copy and then uploaded to VITAL. If you do have items like this and they have not been uploaded by following the CLA clearing process detailed here (click on the ‘Procedures for VITAL’ section) you need to ensure that these items comply. You can make things easier by using the library’s new digitisation service and offering the resource through Reading Lists @ Liverpool (click the ‘Digitisation Service’ link on the same page). Your liaison librarian can help you with this.

3. What’s the VITAL Baseline again?

Once course copy is completed, check that the module will meet the VITAL Baseline. More has been automated for this academic year so that the Module Overview page link and the Exam Resources section now appear by default in your module menu. You will still need to manually add a link to any Reading Lists @ Liverpool list you have set up for a module. This quick guide to the six elements of the Baseline shows you how to add this link and for you to check your module meets all six elements. There is also a module on which you are enrolled ‘VITAL Baseline and guidance’ which takes you through the Baseline in more detail.

You’ll notice another new default section in your module called ‘Stream Lectures’. If you are using Stream Capture to record Orbit-timetabled lectures then this is the section of your module where the recordings appear automatically. If you are not then this section will not appear to students (as does any empty module section).

4. Is there anything new in VITAL this year?

No major additions to the toolset have been made, this year’s upgrade was to the hardware running our installation of VITAL. The Durham SignUp List tool has been upgraded and now works again (see this FAQ for details). There were some important new features added to VITAL in the December 2014 upgrade, including a student preview mode,  anonymous marking for Blackboard assignments and delegated marking for Blackboard assignments. You can read more about these here.

For Turnitin users there are a couple of useful enhancements, most importantly the file size limit for student assignments has doubled to 40 MB. You can also directly email late-submitting students from the assignment’s Turnitin classlist.

5. Any problems you can tell me about now?

There is a regularly-updated Known Issues page here which also covers Turnitin and Campus Pack problems. Some of the main current problems are:

  • Retention Centre is unavailable.
  • Tracking statistics reports do not include Mobile app access of modules.
  • Blackboard’s Self and Peer Assessment tool has a problem with the distribution of non-submitting students.
  • Bringing forward the post date of a Turnitin assignment marked with GradeMark  appears to make any final grades entered go missing (in fact they re-appear later on but this is alarming to see).

If you encounter a problem with VITAL which is not listed on the Known Issues page please do report this to the CSD ServiceDesk.

6. Where can I get some more help, training or online resources for VITAL?

Workshops. We have some introductory workshops to limber people up for the new academic year (dates are links to booking forms).

  • VITAL Essentials – a short, practical, beginner’s guide to VITAL (16th September and 14th October)
  • Stream Capture for screencasting etc  – a practical look at the applications of the University’s new capture system (23rd and 30th September)
  • An introduction to Technology Enhanced Learning – a broader overview of  learning technologies at the University and planning to use these in your learning and teaching (15th October)
  • One hour GradeMark (28th October)

Watch out for other term-time offerings and the January 2016 Winter School (11th – 15th).

Guides. This A-Z guides page has functional help on setting up and using the toolset in VITAL. If you don’t see the guide you need just ask us and we’ll find something for you!

VITAL Modules.  Everyone is enrolled on VITAL Baseline and guidance module which details how to meet the Baseline standard. If you come on one of our workshops you will also be enrolled on our workshop resources module which contains guides, examples, case studies, research and more.

Email and ‘phone support. Contact us for advice and help. We also run a bookable Studio Wednesday drop-in.

Is there anyone else out there I can talk to?

As well as the eLearning Unit and CSD Servicedesk (who will deal with all student queries and all technical problems like enrolments, error messages and so on) if you want help with the Reading Lists @ Liverpool tool or digital copyright then please contact your liaison librarian. There is also a University mailing list for people interested in learning technology where you can ask questions and get updates on what is happening with learning technologies around the institution; get in touch with the eLearning Unit if you want to join.

Dan

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