…to our two new TEL Support Officers, Sev Raychev and Peter Moll.
These are new roles in the CQSD-TEL team. Along with TEL Applications Manager Andy Turner, Sev & Peter will be working closely with the TEL Advisors, and with IT, to help and support staff and students using all of the university’s digital learning tools – principally Blackboard and Turnitin.
Sev: Hi, I’m Sevastiyan (Sev) and I’ve been working at the University for a few months as an IT Support Analyst where I became familiar with the university’s systems. I have a BSc in Computer Science and am currently doing an MSc in Business Informatics part time.
I’ve previously worked at Aberystwyth University’s IT Department supporting their IT systems including Blackboard and Turnitin. I am very passionate about technology and education, so I am very excited to be here.
I look forward to working with all of you to make the most out of the technologies we have!
Peter: I have used virtual learning environments from different viewpoints. My background of an Ancient History degree ironically prepared me for the role, using Blackboard as a student. I have recently supported the Directors of Teaching and Learning within the School of Politics, Economics, and International Relations. This has given me an overview and exposure to the university, as well as specific knowledge of Teaching and Learning processes. I feel Sev and I will complement each other in our background and knowledge base.
You will be aware that the Blackboard upgrade at the beginning of August introduced a bug which broke links on Blackboard course menus to Talis reading lists. Initially Blackboard seemed optimistic that they would have a resolution for this problem before the start of term. However, to date, no solution has been forthcoming.
With Welcome Week fast approaching, we wanted to ensure that Module Convenors were aware of the situation, and of the workaround which you can put in place to allow students to access their module reading list from Blackboard.
Please see this guide for instructions on creating a working link to Talis from your Blackboard course.
Please note that the problem affects Blackboard courses where there is a single module reading list, with a link from the Blackboard course menu.
If your Blackboard course has multiple reading lists, or you have created links from Blackboard to specific sections of a Talis list, these links will be inside a Blackboard content area, and should not be affected by the Blackboard bug.
Please continue to update your reading lists for the 2017/18 session, and remember to publish all lists that are still in draft. Until published, a list can’t be seen by your students. For further information please contact your Liaison Librarian.
…to our newest staff member Jackie Fairbairn,
our new TEL Advisor.
“Hello, I’m the newest member of the TEL team and I’m really looking forward to working with staff at Reading University.
Before joining the University I worked in FE colleges, as a lecturer in Creative Technologies and in a support role providing staff development sessions and mentoring PGCE students. Within these roles I covered a variety of eLearning tools; I have a particular interest in blended learning and deploying new technologies in the classroom.
I am keen to share the benefits of technology in learning. My degree is in Graphic Design and I started my career in education by working for an educational app provider, which sparked my interest in teaching and learning. Alongside working in the TEL department, I am completing a part-time MA in Education.”
“Really liked the event – thought there was lots of opportunity to chat with colleagues (both TEL and outside TEL) informally and share best practice. I learned a lot that will help me make my module better with relatively little effort. You should definitely do it again next year!” [TEL Fest delegate]
The university’s first TEL Fest, held 11-13 July 2017, has been hailed a great success with lots of positive feedback from staff who attended the 3 day event. Our festival of Technology Enhanced Learning comprised a range of 11 staff development sessions aimed at helping staff develop their awareness and use of technology to engage students and enrich their learning experience here at the university.
Staff from Blackboard and UCL joined TEL and CQSD staff along with colleagues from across the university to network, present and share TEL and Blackboard ideas and expertise to help enhance teaching, learning and assessment here at Reading. From tasty ‘TEL tapas’ and Blackboard Bootcamp, UCL’s ABC rapid design curriculum design workshop, TEL tools for teaching large classes, using video from Box of Broadcasts and sharing apps for teaching and learning, it was a varied programme with something for everyone!
We also launched the new Blackboard Collaborate Ultra tool (live online classroom) for use in modules in the new academic year. Staff from UoR Malaysia and Blackboard joined us remotely along with early adopters to help launch the tool and, yes, there were party poppers! You can find out more information about this new tool and access self-help materials on the TEL Blog.
TEL Fest in numbers
Around 130 staff attended one or more of the sessions with Henley Business School, International Study and Language Institute (ISLI) then Chemistry, Food and Pharmacy being the top three schools in terms of staff attendance.
TEL Fest in tweets
View an account of TEL Fest in the tweets posted during the event at this TEL Fest Storify.
Thanks to all involved. TEL Fest 18 is already in the diary – watch this space for more info!
You may see notifications from Blackboard about Instructor, their new mobile app for staff.
This is part of a revamp of Blackboard’s mobile provision. Mobile Learn is being discontinued in favour of two “persona-based” apps:
- a student app simply called Blackboard – see our guidance for students on the Student Help site
- Blackboard Instructor for those with a staff role (e.g. Instructor or Teaching Assistant) on their Blackboard courses
Students are able to use the Blackboard app right now, but staff eager to try out Blackboard Instructor will have to wait until 7th August, after our system upgrade.
We will make sure we have some guidance material ready by then.
In the meantime you can get an idea of what the app can do from this short video
and on the Blackboard Help site: https://help.blackboard.com/Blackboard_App/Instructor
Initially the app provides limited functionality, but the range of features will increase over the coming months. In this first version you can
- preview course content, including tests and assignments – this could be really useful to check how well students are able to view your course content on a mobile device
- post announcements
- post and reply to discussion forums
- launch Collaborate Ultra sessions
Future releases will allow tablet users to view, mark and provide feedback on assignment submissions.
Colleagues will be aware that we had previously scheduled this summer’s Blackboard upgrade for 25th June, but this had to be postponed when Blackboard’s quality checks identified a software defect. This bug was quickly resolved, and we are currently testing the revised software version on our Staging system.
We are keen to take advantage of new features offered by the latest version, and have provisionally rescheduled the upgrade for 6th – 7th August.
The upgrade requires system downtime.
Blackboard and Turnitin will be unavailable
from 7.20 p.m. on Sunday 6th August
until no later than midday on Monday 7th August
We will endeavour to complete all post-upgrade checks, and have Blackboard back online, by mid-morning on Monday 7th, but the whole of the morning should be considered as being “at risk”.
This downtime window has been planned to minimise disruption, and particularly to avoid any disruption to those resitting exams.
Our apologies if the revised schedule does cause any inconvenience for you and your learners.