Distance Learning: Have your say

We’re holding what we’re terming a ‘Distance Learning Forum‘ on the 6th of November as a staff development event.

online learning

The aim of the event is to undertake a fact finding mission about distance learning as well as promoting the practice of those already undertaking distance learning activities. What we’d really like from the event is a clearer picture of what staff are thinking about distance learning, perhaps are already doing and explore  their ideas of what they’d like to do in the future. We’re also inviting student representation along to provide the voice of our online learners.

So if you’re a member of Durham University (sorry this one’s internal only!) come along and have your say.

Full details of the event

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Dealing with the free rider or “Campus Slacker”

There’s an interesting article in the THE today by Jack Grove, highlighting research around a strategy to deal with free riders in group work - something that as the LTT, we frequently get asked about. To this effort we’ve tried; looking at the history of wikis, self evaluation questionnaires and are currently exploring other web based tools to support review of group work. Therefore it was with interest that I saw this article outlining research conducted at the University of Valencia by Miguel Arevalillo-Herráez  and wondered if this would be an effective way of dealing with this problem head on.

The method outlined is simple ‘…students were offered the chance to gain a higher mark for their group assignment if they managed to raise the grade scored by the weakest student in individual tests on the same subject’.

The results put forward by Arvealillo-Herráez (2014) in suggest the method was highly successful in encouraging peer support and learning. In the original article (apologies if you’re off campus) he concludes suggesting that ‘We believe that reactive methods should be given a greater relevance, and these should be supported by motivational techniques as opposed to punishment’ (530).

It’s a very interesting suggestion, using a motivation technique that utilises peer support and cooperative learning in a very effective way.

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I came across an interesting app today (thanks to @drnickpearce for the link!) “Plickers”, using an app and printed codes as a voting system in small classes. How it looks like it works is that a question is posed and students hold up a card, rotating it a certain way to indicate A,B,C or D. Having a quick chat in the team about this, we also wondered if raised edges could be put onto some sides of the card to make them accessible.

Whilst this wouldn’t be of any use in a large lecture theatre (the limit is 40) it may be something to look at in smaller classes.
What I find most interesting is the idea of it being a very inclusive system, not dependent on every student having a mobile phone and given that the cards are printable, unlike voting handsets are easily replaceable.

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BBWorld14 Keynote by Jay Bhatt

At BBWorld, CEO and President Jay Bhatt delivered the corporate keynote along with the Blackboard Executive team …. this being the second BBWorld keynote that Jay has delivered.  The team shared their perspective on the new era of education in a learner-centric world and how Blackboard is helping address these changes.


New BB User Experience

At BB World last month, Vice President of User Experience Stephanie Weeks gave a short talk at the corporate keynote about Blackboard’s vision for a new user experience …. at only 7 minutes long it will give you a feel for what Blackboard hopes is the future for their product


Blackboard Streamline Learning Solutions

BB World 2014Last week at BB World 2014, we learned that Blackboard are to streamline their Learning Solutions to provide cost-effective combinations of their products and services to provide you with the technology and support best suited to each institution.

So let’s introduce you to the four solutions on offer:

1. Learning Core: Formerly Blackboard Learn including Content, Community, Mobile and XPLOR

2. Learning Essentials: Includes Learning Core plus Collaborate

3. Learning Insight: Includes Learning Core and Essentials plus Learning Analytics

4. Learning Insight & Student Retention: All of the above plus Data Analytics, Reporting and services to help identify, engage and retain at-risk students.

Here’s Jay Bhatt introducing us to the solutions in which he says “We have fundamentally changed the way we bring our product to you by making it easier to buy and deploy our point products.”

When these changes come about and whether prices will change remains to be seen … but we will bring you news when we find out.


Enterprise Surveys at BBWorld

At the Blackboard World conference recently I helped host, along with Jason Rhode from Northern Illinois University, an Enterprise Survey session.  This session was quite popular and people from any institutions attended.  We went through many of the issues we were experiencing and Dan Rinzel from Blackboard attended to take notes to feedback to the relevant people.

Of note was that Jim Chalex has handed over the gauntlet of the Enterprise Survey tool to Jason Sparks who has the wonderful title of Blackboard Product, Manager, Accountability of Learning.  Jason, who joined the session midway through, comes with experience of the Outcomes system from which the Enterprise Survey tool emanates.  Jason and I subsequently met after this session to discuss several issues that Durham has been facing with this tool and have arranged to follow up over the summer.

I was quite sad but quietly pleased to note that I am not the only System Administrator to mail bomb their institution because of the default setting of “all students in all courses” within this tool. Other issues discussed, apart from the long list of bugs, were the issues of ownership of surveys belonging to individuals rather than nodes, how to manage and archive completed surveys, getting overviews of the surveys, quality of the reports etc and sharing results.

We have since arranged for a mailing list to be set up to discuss purely Enterprise Survey issues and if you wish to join please send an email to: ENTERPRISE_SURVEYS@LISTS.BLACKBOARD.COM and you will be added to the listing.


What exactly is “Fair Dealing”? Quick online copyright training from JISC

I’ve just taken a few minutes to complete this course and found it useful so I thought I’d post it up here. (The registration is a bit of a faff, but don’t let that put you off!)
It’s got some useful information about the use of videos, images and music in lectures and what’s “okay” to include in your online materials. For anyone who is a little unsure of what exactly “Fair Dealing” is, it’s worth a look.

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