Summer School – Technology Enhanced Learning sessions 2018

Summer rolls round into view and everyone’s perennial favourite, the E-learning Summer School bursts into bloom. This year we are nurturing Curriculum 2021’s Liverpool Hallmarks in our verdant garden of workshops and network meetings, with a particular focus on authentic assessment and active learning. As well as our regular introductory sessions we’ll be looking at classroom polling technologies, getting started with Twitter for HE, tools and tips for visual presentations in lectures, introducing you to PebblePad’s assessment capabilities, and our #livunisocial network will be meeting. We’re also running a short session on the tools we have for student peer review and self assessment. Finally, it’s the end of our season of workshops on Turnitin and Blackboard Assignments which support the University’s policy on electronic submission so book in quick if you want to get some training in either of these e-submission and feedback systems.

The complete schedule follows below. For bookings please email eddev @ if there are any sessions you want to attend. Full descriptions for each session are available on the booking page here. You can also book from this page where clicking the ‘book here’ link generates an email with the subject filled in with the workshop you want to attend.

2018 Summer School Schedule

Wednesday 6th June (10:00 – 12:00) – VITAL Essentials – Beginner’s practical session on using VITAL also covering the VITAL Baseline, copyright and accessibility.

Monday 11th June (10:00 – 12:00) – PebblePad – an introduction. Pebblepad is the University’s online system for a range of activities
such as portfolios and student placements. This session will introduce users to the main features and identify different ways the system can be used.

Monday 11th June (13:30 – 15:00) – PebblePad for assessment.

Tuesday 12th June (10:00 – 12:00) – Social Media Round Table #livunisocial. Our popular network forum for staff using social media to support and enhance the student journey in all its forms. We’ll bring together examples of good practice from across the University, offer practical tips and advice, as well as exploring new tools and approaches.

Tuesday 12th June (13:30 – 15:30) – Engaging Learners visually in lectures – tools, tips and tricks. Examining principles of communication and good design for the presentation materials we use in lectures. We will explore sharing approaches and tools that allow you to make engaging slides in PowerPoint, access Creative Commons images, and present data in appealing and engaging ways.

Wednesday 13th June (10:00 – 12:00) – The Blackboard Assignment tool for e-submission and feedback . A practical session looking at how you set up and manage coursework submissions through the Blackboard Assignment tool and how you can offer feedback electronically using the grading.

Wednesday 13th June (13:30 – 15:30) – Turnitin and Feedback Studio for e-submission and feedback. A practical session looking at how you set up and manage coursework submissions through the Turnitin Assignment tool and how you can offer feedback electronically using Feedback Studio.

Thursday 14th June (13:30 – 15:30) – Classroom Polling Technologies. A look at some of the classroom polling systems widely available and their applications. NB this session will use technologies and software which are currently not available centrally through CSD, but you will be shown low cost or free (but limited) systems which you can use in your teaching.

Friday 15th June (10:00 – 12:00) – An introduction to Twitter in Higher Education. This session will provide an overview of the tool, demonstrate examples of how it is used in teaching to support learning, event hashtags and sharing of information.

Friday 15th June (13:30 – 15:00) – Online tools for student self and peer review. Here we introduce the two main tools for student self and peer review activities, PeerMark (from Turnitin) and Self and Peer Assessment (from Blackboard).

Also running soon after the main summer school sessions are our TEL introduction sessions. These are discursive, reflective sessions, along with a good overview of the technologies, policies and strategies, rather than practical skills-based sessions run in the lab, and are a key component of the CPS programme, but open to all.

Monday 18th June (09:30 – 12:30) – An introduction to technology-enhanced learning. Looks at the technologies we have available centrally at Liverpool, their applications for learning and teaching, and highlights policy, strategy and guidelines relating to TEL. Reflect on your digital capabilities and that of your students within the context of your own discipline.

Monday 25th June (13:30 – 15:00) – An introduction to technology-enhanced learning. Another run of the above session.

All of the workshops are listed on our booking site linked to here.

The main pre-requisite for the summer school sessions (apart from the introductory workshops) is that you are familiar with VITAL and navigating your way around, but please contact us if you want to discuss the suitability of any of the sessions. You are welcome to book on as many sessions as you wish, although we would ask that if you find yourself unable to attend to unenroll as soon as possible.

Please also remember that we are able to run tailored workshops for schools and departments (with a minimum of five attendees). Get in touch with the Centre for Innovation in Education to discuss this option.


Learning World Teaching Machine – 1985.

Image source: http://www.Inthe80s.com )

TEL eLearning Winter School 2018

A quick post to let you know about the eLearning Unit’s 2018 Winter School, with sessions on PebblePad, Twitter, polling tools, e-marking and online tests! All sessions bookable at: and you can read what last year’s Winter School participants thought about the sessions here.

We’ve scheduled the first full week of sessions as listed below. All are bookable at:

  • Monday 8th Jan – VITAL online tests – an introduction (13:30 – 15:30) – We look at the whole life cycle of running online tests via VITAL. The session will include practical experience of creating and managing tests and analysing test results, as well as taking a test from the student’s point of view.
  • Tuesday 9th Jan – VITAL Essentials (10:00 – 12:00) – Entry-level practical session on using VITAL also covering the VITAL Baseline.
  • Tuesday 9th Jan – An introduction to Technology Enhanced Learning (13:30 – 16:30) – Looks at the technologies we have available centrally at Liverpool, their applications for learning and teaching, and highlights policy, strategy and guidelines relating to TEL. Reflect on your digital capabilities and that of your students within the context of your own discipline.
  • Wednesday 10th Jan – An introduction to PebblePad (09:30 – 11:00) – Pebblepad is the University’s online system for a range of activities such as portfolios and student placements. This session will introduce users to the main features and identify different ways the system can be used.
  • Wednesday 10th Jan – PebblePad for Assessment (13:30 – 15:00)
  • Thursday 11th Jan – Stream Capture for lecture capture and screencasting (13:30 – 16:00) – Stream Capture for screencasting and lecture capture. Key concepts, practical considerations, examples and case studies, and how Stream Capture can be used in these contexts.
  • Friday 12th Jan – Classroom polling technologies (10:00 – 11:30) – A look at some of the classroom polling systems widely available and their applications. NB this session will use technologies and software which are currently not available centrally through CSD, but you will be shown low cost or free (but limited) systems which you can use in your teaching.

We are also running a second week of sessions (Monday 15th to Friday 19th January) a number of which are designed to tie-in with the online Bring Your Own Device for Learning 2018 events. All sessions bookable at:

  • Monday 15th Jan – An introduction to Twitter in HE (13:30 – 15:30) – This session will provide an overview of the tool, demonstrate examples of how it is used in teaching to support learning, event hashtags and sharing of information.
  • Tuesday 16th Jan – Multimedia Group meeting (10:00 – 12:00) Turning a subject outcome into an interactive resource – This practical workshop is designed for academic staff who are interested in creating interactive resources to support their teaching. We will take a pre-made learning outcome and explore how the content authoring software, Articulate Storyline, can be utilised to create an engaging learning experience.
  • Wednesday 17th Jan – e-submission and e-marking workshops
    • Turnitin and Feedback Studio for e-submission and feedback (12:00 – 14:00) A practical session looking at how you set up and manage coursework submissions through the Turnitin Assignment tool and how you can offer feedback electronically through .
    • The Blackboard Assignment tool for e-submission and feedback (14:30 – 16:00) – A practical session looking at how you set up and manage coursework submissions through the Blackboard Assignment tool and how you can offer feedback electronically using the inline grading tools, rubrics and more. 
  • Thursday 18th Jan – No sessions today – the team will be running the University’s 3rd annual Pedagogic Research Conference (all day).
  • Friday 19th Jan – Getting more out of Twitter – Tips, tools & tricks (Advanced Twitter) (10:00 – 12:00) – For Twitter users looking to enrich their practice, this session takes a deeper delve into some of the tools and services available: Tweetdeck; Analytics; Moments & Storify; Periscope; Tweetchats; Images, GIFs & Video.

All sessions bookable at:

If you want to read about what last year’s Winter School participants thought about the sessions then read our previous blog post here.


The University Challenge of using BlackBoard Test Tool

“Magna Carta! Disraeli! Debussy!” are usually my exclamations when watching University Challenge as I desperately attempt to get any question correct over anyone else watching with me.

I’d never get anywhere near a team for University Challenge, I’d like to think I’ve retired.  So I was delighted when Jane Coles, Societies Coordinator for the Guild, contacted our team for help with the trails for the University of Liverpool team.

Jane was looking for a way to run the trial through our VLE BlackBoard and to use the Test assessment tool.  The issues Jane had was:

  • To move a paper test into an online format.
  • Avoid manual marking each attempt.
  • Analyse the results of each student.

After meeting to discuss the issues, we went into the Test tool and looked at the different question types.  To get automatic marking to work, the best option was Fill in the blank option.

One of the benefits of Fill in the Blank option is it’s one of the few question types in Blackboard that allows you to set the correct answer to text that is either an exact match or contains that text.

uni challenge1

So for example, if the question was “Name colour is a ripe banana?”- you could either set the correct answer to be an exact match of ‘yellow’ being correct or contains ‘yellow’ so the student would still get the correct answer if they submitted ‘bright yellow’.

The option would also allow automatic marking, which can be viewed as soon as the student submitted their exam in either the Grade Centre or Retention Centre.

Jane went away and built a test consisting of 127 questions, varying from subjects covered on University Challenge.  Jane also manually enrolled the students onto the module and invited them to attend one of three time slots, Monday-Wednesday, where the trials would be taking place.

To avoid students potentially cheating by searching the web, Jane used NetSupport School software and locked down all the computers in the computer lab to only access the student intranet and Blackboard.

The students sat the trials and were encouraged to answer as many questions as they could during a two-hour slot.  They could leave anytime they liked but could not return once they had submitted their answers.

The trials themselves were successful, with the system not crashing or students having issues navigating through Blackboard and the Quiz.  I attended the final day and everything went smoothly.

Afterwards, Jane and I met to push the results through to the Grade Centre as exclamation marks were appearing.  This was due to the first few questions being of Essay type to simply ask availability, contact details and year studies finished.

Using the ‘Grade Questions’ option in the Grade Centre allowed us to quickly mark the Essay type questions for all student attempts on one page and finally push through the students’ score.

The other issues we had was if the answer was set as a plural answer (e.g. eggs) but the student set their answer as singular (egg) – the software identified the answer as wrong.

In the future we would need to set the answer as singular, but thankfully the score could be overwritten to be correct before marks are finalised.  Other issues to be aware of are to avoid capital lettering, set numbers as figures and text, as well as ensure apostrophes are correct or remove them.

uni challenge2

Also any questions that required two answers, if the student put “Atlantic and Pacific” but the correct answer set was “Pacific and Atlantic” it would be marked as incorrect.  So for future use, we would need to put both combinations in as the correct answer, as the Quiz tool allows more than one set of correct answers.

I found it to be a positive learning experience.  I enjoyed working with Jane and the Guild to get this project completed. I also learnt a lot of about the capabilities and restrictions the Blackboard Test tool offers.

In the time of writing this, the team has been selected to represent the University and are going through the first stages of getting onto the TV show.  I wish them the best of luck and hope Jeremy Paxman goes easy on them.

Ben McGrae

Bridge Over Troubled Water – Turnitin Summit 19th October

As I arrived in Newcastle, I took a walk around its famous Quayside.

Stepping onto one of the iron bridges to take in the River Tyne, Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” started playing through my headphones.

This song couldn’t be more ironic or apt for attending the Turnitin Summit.
I planned ahead with a list of questions I wanted to ask about the problems experienced with Feedback Studio, I suspected other attendees came with a similar agenda of grilling Turnitin.

But this was billed as a conference about Academic Integrity and how Turnitin will be working more closely with UK institutions. Marc Daubach of Turnitin, introducing the agenda of the day, reiterated this at the opening.

The keynote speaker was Kerr Gardiner ( who is a consultant in Learning Technology. He talked about his past role as Head of Learning Technology at the University of Glasgow, of how they pulled out of using Turnitin within their Moodle integration.

The anecdote was building up to how in the past, he worked in partnership with Turnitin to try to help meet Glasgow’s demands. That now that partnership has strengthened in his work with HeLF ( Both HeLF and Turnitin are discussing customer service, future problems in learning & teaching, smoothing out workflows and improving partnerships with UK institutions.

A report developed by HeLF outlined that Turnitin need to work on improving:
• Trust – new features appearing late or not working
• Transparency – if updates and new features are coming, to know in advance
• Relations – better communication and more targeted for the UK

Themes that Turnitin need to be addressing were:
• Reliability of the system, as outage times have had a big impact for a number of institutions.
• Data access has been an issue for a number of years being locked down and not accessible to users.
• Marking – still no double/multiple marking or access for external staff
• Workflows and integration – better support for the variety of different VLE systems, accessibility plans and archiving assignments.

Kerr outlined that Turnitin are looking into the future requirements we might have such as detecting ghost writing, and dealing with other forms of assessment like video. He was strong in saying Turnitin need to deliver and that dialogue will continue with HeLF.

Ron Park of Turnitin then addressed the conference with how Turnitin would meet these problems.
• Turnitin have invested £5.2 million in hardware and software to improve customer relations and dealing with calls.
• Turnitin are improving their cloud server to deal with more assignments and to be more stable.
• The Turnitin website is currently in Beta, which allows users to create folders, and users can drag and drop files onto the website. Still unsure of how these files are used.
• Viewer is being upgraded within Feedback Studio so will be turning on features to improve the magnification of a paper and get around the blurred text issue.
• New API will be available in November 2017

Bill Loller of Turnitin did a talk about the Academic Integrity vision and discussed how it is important for UK institutions, and that there is a need to raise awareness and educate teaching staff.

The conference was then broken up into break out areas called Discovery Sessions, which we signed up in advance of attending. The first was ‘Feedback, marking and moderation’ with Ron Park, which tried to address the issues Kerr Gardiner outlined.

This descended into a Q&A session, issues raised were:
• How were Turnitin going to support the variety of VLE integrations?
• Promises made today (double marking) were promised a few years ago with Feedback Studio and we’re still waiting.
• Other assessment tools are getting better, which allow for double marking, group submissions, other file formats like videos.

Turnitin diverted answers to these issues, threatening that if we moved away from Turnitin to a competitor that we’d be going back 5 years. Customer relations and transparency were questionable here.

After lunch it was the remaining two discovery sessions. I attended Bill Loller’s ‘Ghost Writing’ which was an interesting discussion on how it works. Bill talked about how the service is advertised to students, which type of students it is targeted to, how institutions should deal with students caught and how to educate staff about the issue.

The final session was ran by Gill Powell, ‘Preparing to tackle all elements of academic integrity’. Was a discussion of how different intuitions are educating their staff and students, and the challenges they’ve met. A member of staff from the University of Huddersfield shared his academic integrity report.

The rest of the afternoon was a number of talks around the issue of academic integrity. Simon Bullock from the QAA talked about raising student awareness and using technology to help educate students.

Irene Glendinning from the University of Coventry discussed her Academic Integrity scoring model developed through the IPPHEAE project, which involved scoring a number of universities across the European Union.

Cath Ellis from the University of New South Wales did an interesting talk about the global Academic Integrity picture. She’s been investigating students buying essays from online websites, and looking at student behaviour and how they view cheating.

The final talk was a video presentation by Phil Newton from the University of Swansea, titled ‘Pouring ALE on Contract Cheating’. ALE stands for Assessment Design, Law and Education. He described how the websites work for students wanting to have their essay written by someone else and how institutions can tackle the problem.

As I left the summit and boarded the train home, I plugged myself into music and shuffled back to Simon & Garfunkel. There’s a line at the beginning of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” which says “I’m on your side, Oh when times get rough.”

It seems Turnitin are willing to work more closely with UK institutions to improve support and trust in the system. I feel there are still issues in the current Feedback Studio that need to be addressed such as the app and user issues in Grademark. I felt encouraged there is more effort being made to listen to our concerns with the system and want to see action being taken, to be on our side and resolve them over the next academic year.

Ben McGrae

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.


Blackboard or Turnitin – our EMA decision-making flowchart

The team are fresh back from the now-legendary 2017 ALT conference, and bursting to share and connect with this  fantastic community. One of the things presented by Alex, Tünde and Dan which caught people’s eye during our session on the sometimes arduous road to EMA was Tünde’s ‘Blackboard or Turnitin’ decision flow chart.

It was designed to help staff decide what were the most important factors when they first come to choose whether BB or Tii is the best fit for their context. Behind it is the usual mountain of documentation, guides, caveats, sub-clauses and subtleties, but we had a think about what were the most-often asked questions from our staff and the priority they gave different requirements and used this to help map an easier route through the terrain.

As it looked useful to a few people, we’ve tidied it up, and given it a CC licence so please feel free to grab it from here and try it out with your own colleagues. If you want to know any more about our approach to guiding staff through the BB and Tii tangle then please do get in touch.

Creative Commons LicenseBlackboard or Turnitin Assignment by Centre for Innovation in Education, University of Liverpool is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

You can also catch up with our slides from the session here.

Something else that caught people’s attention, quite literally, was our percussion department for bringing the breakout discussion parts of our workshop presentations to order. ALT delegates are incredibly eager to get stuck in to a good conversation about any aspect of learning technologies, so you definitely need some serious help on your side as a presenter if you want to get a word in again! Here’s our kit, level 1 – the bell, level 2 – the castanets, and level 3 – our last resort – the slide whistle. We went all the way to level 3.

Alex, Tünde and Dan

Solstice Conference at Edge Hill University – Day Two

I attended the second day of the Solstice Teaching and Learning Conference at Edge Hill University. I’m not sure why I haven’t been to this conference for a number of years, I guess sometimes you overlook things because they are on your own doorstep. I’ll make sure I don’t make that mistake again. The topics discussed on this day admirably represented the current state of play in educational technologies, academic development, as well as the condition and purpose of the “University” at this tumultuous time. The notions of openness and space recurred throughout the day’s presentations. Beginning with Dr John Cater, Vice Chancellor at Edge Hill, addressing the audience with – as he described – his musings on the possible changes to the trajectory of Higher Education after the general election, it was great to see him pull up a table (no lectern or chair) and begin to share and respond to views about the responses around TEF and why we are at this point. He also did a little bit of future-gazing, sharing his ideas about the possible impact that a likely Conservative win would have on the Higher Education sector in general. This was an absorbing, passionate and inspiring talk and one I suspect doesn’t happen in other teaching and learning conferences around the country. Great start to the day.

The theme of openness continued with Prof Keith Smyth’s presentation on the ideas and approaches around the Porous (or leaky) University. Many will be familiar with his previous work and approaches to open practice via the 3E Framework and the Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice. The ideas around this talk weren’t unfamiliar to me. I’d been made aware of them through colleagues Mark Johnston and Sheila McNeil sharing their thoughts on Twitter. As I understand it, the Porous University is an exploration of openness and place – in particular third spaces as described in Ray Oldenburg’s The Great Good Place, the idea being that large amounts of learning can and does (and should?) take place in other spaces beyond the traditional classroom environment. With the increasing commercialisation of Higher Education in the UK, these ideas tend to be in tension with view of universities as a civic good and education as a mission, rather than a marketplace.  Keith went on to share a range of examples from across the country which look at alternative models of higher education as well as challenging the ideas of the current curriculum. What I found valuable about this work was the focus on connecting the University to local communities and other discrete groups in ways that would impact positively on both, becoming valuable to people in the activities it pursues and not just the revenue it generates.

The use of institutional tools came under scrutiny as being potential barriers for collaboration across modules, groups, interests and countries, suggesting that social media spaces are in a better position to encourage sharing and openness, while traditional VLE spaces are bound by transactional delivery of information. This theme was also picked up by Simon Thomson Head of Digital Pedagogy at Leeds Beckett University with his presentation “Disrupting the ownership model of educational technology”.

He has recently begun a project, supported by JISC, which pushes the idea that our digital spaces can be provided by the institution but the ownership, control and the data ultimately resides with the student. Working with his current VLE provider Blackboard, he is exploring ways to allow students to share from their social spaces into the VLE.  Taking IFTTT as his model, where you use existing parts of the web to plug into and connect services and profiles to be able function more effectively.  They are currently testing a product called Pulse which I’ll be keeping an eye (and finger! Boom boom!) on.

With a greater shift into digital spaces, there appears to be an increased level of questioning directed at educational technology providers. I’m sensing that people are no longer willing simply to accept what is presented to them, and adapt. Rather, interrogation of fitness for purpose appears to be becoming the new normal. Perhaps this is not too surprising when you consider that a number of universities in the UK are reviewing their digital spaces by undergoing or planning a VLE review. Continuing this theme was a presentation from Claire Moscrop entitled “Digital Accessibility in Higher Education: a Model for Improvement”. Set against the backdrop of changes to DSA support the talk highlighted a growing number of students that would need further support in the coming year. This context provided the basis of their research study looking into ways to provide guidance to create accessible content for adding to the VLE that would benefit all students.

It was not just the digital space that was being considered, the physical was also under discussion.  Federica Oradnini (University of Westminster) and Prof Peter Hartley (standing in for Prof Gunter Saunders) shared the substantial work being undertaken at Westminster to update and change a large number teaching rooms into effective learning spaces. The presentation highlighted a range of examples across the Higher Education landscape citing examples by Northampton, Leeds and Nottingham Trent Universities.

This project saw investment of £10 million over five years that would develop 260 standard teaching spaces at the institution. They are now in year three of the project and will have completed 100 rooms by the end of the summer. They presented pictures of the 5 different room types that emerged from discussions with staff. I would have liked to have spent a little more time in the session discussing these as a group as it seemed some of the choices were more geared to interactivity than others. Westminster had already adopted a number of in-class engagement tools to make the best use of these spaces including Poll Everywhere, Reflector and Padlet.  To help academic staff make the best of these new spaces Federica and her team created an online module to share good practice and ideas from within the institution.  The early stage feedback from staff and students who had used the room was positive but will be interesting to revisit in a year or two. Peter wrapped up with some considerations about the conditions and good practice needed to develop spaces like these. Key in this appears to be implementation “based on pedagogy not just capacity or efficiency”.

All in all this was a stimulating event with a great mix of workshops and presentations covering many of the key considerations of teaching and assessment in higher education at this current time. They also have ducks wandering around their campus. What more could you ask for? See you at Solstice 2018.