Back to school VITAL kitbag 2017

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. This post includes reminders,  links and resources which we hope will make it a little easier to reacquaint yourself with VITAL. The main thing to be aware of in terms of changes to VITAL is that Turnitin GradeMark has been upgraded and given a new design and name, Feedback Studio. We are offering some short workshops and webinars on Feedback Studio in September and October and there are plenty of online resources. We are also running VITAL training sessions for people who are new to the system and again there are online support resources as well. The post below has help on:

  1. Course copy
  2. The VITAL Baseline
  3. New features 2017-18
  4. Known Issues and Bugs
  5. More help and training for VITAL

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

You do not need to re-make you modules from scratch. You can copy content from any previous 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 firstly in the very first section SELECT COPY TYPE make sure that you have selected the option ‘Copy Course Materials into an Existing Course’ (and not ‘Copy Course Materials into a New Course’)

Then use the Browse button to find the Destination Course ID (don’t type in the module 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.


To ensure you remain copyright compliant in your teaching it is worth noting that before uploading anything to VITAL you should stop and think about the materials you want to upload.  Do you have permission to do so, or do you need to seek permission?

Important! Scanned journal articles/book extracts. 

The University of Liverpool holds a licence from the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA), which allows staff to scan either ONE WHOLE CHAPTER from a book / ONE WHOLE ARTICLE from a journal issue OR 10% of the whole publication, whichever amount is greater, from permitted copyright works and upload them to VITAL in order to support teaching and learning.

BUT you have to comply with the terms of the licence for each item uploaded to VITAL and show you have done so by prefacing each scan with a Copyright Notice.

There are 3 options for ensuring you meet the terms of the Licence:

1. Complete the online Digitisation Request Form – which will automatically check the terms have been met.

  • If copyright cleared, the Library will scan the item and return it to you with the required Copyright Notice.
  • If you already have a pdf of the requested chapter/article you can supply this with the form and the system will attach the Copyright Notice to your pdf for you.


2. Use the Library’s Digitisation Service which will automatically check materials for copyright-clearance, digitise the materials and embed the scans within Reading Lists @ Liverpool (contact your Liaison Librarian to find out how). You may also use the link provided to the scan and Copyright Notice in VITAL.


3. Complete a Copyright Notice Form – to show YOU have manually checked the terms have been met. You need to send this form to your Liaison Librarian for reporting to the CLA.

For details on the CLA process, digitisation, and for a comprehensive guide to copyright and VITAL generally this site from the library on copyright is an excellent resource. Follow the link and look at the Procedures for VITAL for a starting point. You can also contact your liaison librarian as another excellent source of help for any copyright questions.

2. 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 as well as the Module Overview page link and the Exam Resources section appearing by default in your module menu, you will also see that the link to your Reading Lists @ Liverpool list has been included in the default module template. 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. The all-staff module VITAL help for staff includes a detailed section on the VITAL Baseline and how to meet it.

As a reminder there is also a 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.

3. Is there anything new in VITAL this year?

1. GradeMark redesign – Introducing Feedback Studio

The biggest change you will see is the new design for GradeMark, which also gets a new name, Feedback Studio. None of the current grading and feedback functionality will be changed or lost. There will only be small additions to the system, for example very simple formatting for text comments is introduced. Full guidance on the new design is available at the VITAL help for staff module here.

To have an introductory look at the new design, visit this interactive demo page. If you have used the GradeMark iPad app then you will already be familiar with this new design.

This video demonstrates the differences between the current GradeMark and the new design of Feedback Studio.


2. VITAL new features
This summer release sees some small but significant improvements to the main Blackboard system, many of which are relevant to electronic submission and grading.

A. Drag and drop file uploads. The Create Item tool now lets you drag and drop a file or multiple files to upload them to a content area. You’ll also be able to upload file attachments in this way to the Web Link tool and the Assignment tool. Students will be able to drag and drop to the Blackboard Assignment tool when submitting their file(s). Where you see this dotted line box you will be able to drag and drop a file or files for upload. 

B. Easier to email non-submitters for Blackboard Assignments. A new option for Blackboard Assignments, Tests and Self and Peer Assessments, with one click you can send a system-generated, generic reminder text to students who have not submitted, rather than selecting individual students to contact. Particularly useful for anonymised assignments where you cannot select students individually in the Grade Centre to email.

C. Needs Grading area improvement. If you use this feature, and have assignments which allow multiple submission attempts by your students, you will now only be shown the work you have specified (e.g. last attempt). This is a big improvement again for anonymised assignments to avoid marking multiple, similar submissions from one student.

D. Course Activity reports by groups. New in the Course Reports usage statistics area of the module, the report Course Activity Overview (which summarises all activity across the module for students) includes a filter which lets you select a report for a group or groups rather than all students.

E. Submit button is now always visible. Instead of chasing up and down the screen to find the button it will always be available at the bottom of your current view of the page when editing.

F. The VITAL default menu template now includes the Reading Lists @ Liverpool link automatically. If you do not use this tool you can hide it from your menu.

And a farewell to…

The old Chat and Virtual Classroom tools have finally been discontinued and are no longer available in VITAL.

4. 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.

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

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

VITAL help module.  Everyone is enrolled on the VITAL help for staff 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 further guides, examples, case studies, research and more.

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!

Workshops. We have some introductory workshops to limber people up for the new academic year (book here).

  • VITAL Essentials – a short, practical, beginner’s guide to VITAL (21st September and 27th September)
  • An introduction to Feedback Studio – Grademark upgrade workshop (19th and 26th 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 (25th October)

Watch out for other term-time offerings and the January 2018 Winter School (Mon 8th – Fri 12th).

Email and ‘phone support. Contact us for advice and help. We will also be running a bookable Studio Wednesday drop-in once we move back into our building in late October.

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 the We also meet face-to-face at least once a term.


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