I was delighted to attend Blackboard’s Teaching and Learning Conference held this year at Bocconi University in Milan, Italy. This is a key annual event that brings together Blackboard users from HE institutions across Europe, the Middle East, Asia and South Africa. I was accompanied by TEL colleague, Maria Papaefthimiou, TEL/AV Support Manager, Helena Bampton, and Real Estate and Planning (REP) DTL Angelique Chettiparambil-Rajan. We spent an interesting few days attending presentations and workshops about Blackboard and technology enhanced learning, and were pleased, this year, to present on some of the TEL developments we’ve achieved at UoR. Maria and I presented a paper sharing the TEL team’s strategies for successfully engaging and supporting UoR academics in using TEL. Angelique also shared REP’s experiences of piloting a whole-school move to electronic submission, online marking and e-feedback. Both presentations were well received and feature in an article in Blackboard’s eLearn magazine.
It’s not rocket science!
The opening keynote was delivered by the ever-engaging education consultant, Eric Stoller. You can access his presentation below. (The reference to rocket science is linked to Blackboard’s CEO, Bill Ballhaus’ background in astronautics!)
Virtual poster presentations from the conference can be accessed here.
Post-event resources, including presentations and photos, are available on the Blackboard Community website. (You will need to create an account to access the Community site.)
What were our key findings?
Looking at the usability of Blackboard through student eyes
Meg Juss shared Edge Hill University’s experience of surveying the student experience of using Blackboard. Their 7th bi-annual learning survey asked students questions about Blackboard and subsequent comprehensive usability testing established that students found aspects of Blackboard ‘confusing’, ‘jumbled’ and ‘overwhelming’. ‘A user interface is like a joke: it’s not that good if you have to explain it!’, asserted Meg. With this in this mind, findings helped Meg and her team to improve the Blackboard experience for students by standardising course templates, improving navigation and re-designing their ‘My Library’ tab. As a result, usage of the library tab increased by 12% and 82.5% of respondents agree or strongly agree that, ‘using Blackboard has enhanced the knowledge and understanding I get from lectures, tutorials and practical sessions.’ (7th Student eLearning Survey (2016-17) ~ 576 responses)
Staff from Durham and Saxion University in the Netherlands shared how they have brought elements of gamification, such as progression, rewards and use of Blackboard’s adaptive release feature, to Blackboard courses to help engage and motivate their students.
A search engine for Blackboard
Staff from the University of Leuven, Belgium, described how they have used their technical expertise to develop an in-house search engine to enable users to search for content within Blackboard. This is a feature that is currently missing from the off-the-shelf Blackboard Learn platform but which Blackboard are looking to develop.
It was interesting to hear the experiences of other institutions of electronic submission and online marking and feedback. TEL Manager Mark Gamble from Bedfordshire University shared his experience of staff trying to use the Blackboard Assignment tool for blind double marking. This information will be useful as we here at UoR progress with our EMA programme.
Roadmap – where next?
It was good to see Blackboard’s roadmap and hear about improved features coming soon. These include increased drag and drop options in some of the learning tools, and a better experience using Blackboard on mobile devices.