Highlights from the Blackboard T&L Conference, Antwerp, April 2012

I was lucky to attend a useful and productive Teaching and Learning event organised by Blackboard in Antwerp, which was attended by 240 delegates from HEIs across Europe. There were 5 parallel strands covering innovative teaching, efficiency, staff development, digital literacies, mobile technologies and a number of training sessions.

Rubens' Descent from the Cross triptych

Rubens - Antwerp Cathedral

I presented a paper on the work we did on the DEVELOP project which was attended by a large group of people and received good feedback. Our innovative work has impressed a number of HEIs who asked for further information about our e-portfolio development. Below are some inetersting highlights form the various presentations I attended:

  • Use of educational mobile apps is increasing with 64% of institutions having at least one mobile app. Some of the drivers of mobile technologies is personalised learner centred situated collaborative ubiquitous lifelong learning; the marketing to prospective students and the demand by current students. The University of Northampton shared their experience of using Blackboard’s own mobile app (it was reported that they were cheaper than the competition). More information at: Nile.northampton.ac.uk
  • Mobile Learn (accessing Blackboard courses and tests on mobile devices) and Mobile Central (a collection f different aspects of the institution accessed on mobile devices including campus tours, augmented reality with maps etc.) are Blackboard Products that are currently implemented by a number of HEIs. Northampton University: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dP2jViZeyqI.
  • In his keynote, Prof. Dr. Cor N.A. Molenaar talked about the need to change the way we teach and what we teach, to listen and tune in to the new generation of students and the world they live in (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3B1F-_QzUPA&feature=youtube_gdata_player), and encouraged us to communicate in a different way http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hzgzim5m7oU&feature=youtube_gdata_player.
  • As many institutions look for ways to respond to students’ rising expectations against the backdrop of pressures to reduce costs, there is a lot of interest in embedding technology, and Blackboard specifically, into the students’ assessment experience. Assessment and feedback with Blackboard is increasing within the various UK universities. Common drivers include student expectations for services and transactions online; high student numbers (assessment types to handle, deliver feedback at scale); new global markets: fully online (cost efficiencies); NSS New regime: institutions are concerned about quality, their offering, and higher customer expectation.
    • Common uses are the use of online testing; assessing online activities such as discussions, blogs, wikis, and e- portfolios; delivering marks and feedback online; and online submission and administration of coursework. Blackboard can be customised for all assessment purposes.
    • University of Lincoln – use of Bb for delivering formative marks and feedback, but the final marks are handled by another system (SITS).
    • University of Salford Use Turnitin for online submission and are currently looking into the administrative processes of assessment
    • University of West of England are taking an administrative perspective.
    • Staffordshire University take the academic perspective to enhance assessment and feedback experience for students through online medium and grow into distance learning. The question here is what is the academic change process to move a traditional process online?
    • Issue mentioned: Staff resistinmg the marking online.
    • The use of electronic marking and feedback was presented by the Vrije University Amsterdam.  The use of Turnitin (through Blackboard) and more specifically PeerMark and GradeMark features, has provided enhanced student engagement and logistical efficiency for the staff, reporting 40% time saving for staff.
    • “The digital literacy of academic staff affects the way students perceive and use technology during their studies and beyond”. This is what research in Liverpool John Moores University has showed, which resulted in university strategy to provide opportunities for staff to develop their capabilities. Six students are placed for a full year in each one of the University faculties to support staff and students in using Blackboard, by providing training and one-to-one help. In addition to the University benefit, the students gain considerable experience and increase their employability prospects.
    • Use of voice tools for a more personalised student experience, and time savings for staff was reported by Liverpool John Moores. Case studies presented covered the use of voice feedback formatively on draft assignments and also for summative  feedback on final examinations, by posting it on the Blackboard gradecentre; use of audio for adding a summary after the lecture when students can refresh their learning; used at PGCert, to promote reflective practice, use of voice board posting recordings on discussion board to answer the question on what is a good learning experience, where participants can revisit original idea at end of course to see how they progressed; voice can also be embedded in PDF files.
    • The pervasive use of Blackboard to support Assurance and Enhancement was presented by Kevin Jacques, Teaching Fellow, Director of T&L, University of Lincoln. The School of Computer Science at the University of Lincoln has spent two years creating and applying Quality Assurance mechanisms and procedures that are wholly implemented using standard toolsets available in Blackboard, resulting in totally paperless quality assurance. The procedures include all aspects of academic quality assurance from the setting and moderation of assessment documentation; marking and feedback to students; internal and external engagement with assessment work moderation; gathering of student evaluation of modules of study and the recording and storing of annual module Quality Assurance and Enhancement reports pertaining to all modules of study across the curriculum. The session identified benefits in maintaining a wholly Blackboard supported, paperless approach to maintaining and evidencing quality standards.
    • The Use of Bb for placement learning was presented by the University of Arts, where students used the VLE as a means to find information about placement opportunities; feedback on their experience and keep the information up-to-date; and use the blog to communicate with their tutor at the university and theirs peers. This was 
    • Blackboard Roadmap
      • Blackboard is a multiple learning platform incl. Moodle and Sakai
      • New service Pack SP8 was announced. SP10 has a Facebook concept, social networking Portal for students to see what is happening across courses and further developments on profiles.
      • Bb are taking a Broader view on education on the education lifecycle: learn, collaborate, mobile, analytics, connect, Transact
      • Bb Digital content: YouTube, Kaltura, and OERs. In addition, commercial content (Pearson, Macmillan McGraw Hill, and Wiley) are now available for Blackboard.

About Maria-Christiana Papaefthimiou

My title is Enhanacement Manager (Teaching, Learning and Technlology) and I am curretnly project managing the DEVELOP project. My repsonsibilities include: 1. Management and direction of the work of a small team of Enhancement Officers (e-Learning), facilitating the development of cross-team working in CDoTL, including the effective integration of the team’s work across the University. 2. The management of the University’s Virtual Learning Environment and other e-learning tools with the aim to enhance and support the development of Teaching and Learning. 3. Work with academic Schools and academic staff, professional services staff and CDoTL team members to create an infrastructure of resources that support the development of courses through the use of Learning Technology. 4. Lead staff development and training programmes to be provided by the team or faculty/IT staff to ensure that academics are able to utilise learning technology approapriately and effectively 5. Promote the use of learning technology by planning and promoting university-wide workshops and faculty based staff development events. 6. Develop, as appropriate, university-wide participation and support for the engagement of academic staff with Technology Enhanced Learning. 7. Contribute to CDoTL’s strategic planning as a member of the CDOTL Senior Management Staff Team. 8. Identify opportunities for development and innovation, including accessing external funding sources, support the writing of bids. 9. Project management
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