Developing an academic online presence with Social Media

Invited external speaker Sue Beckingham from Sheffield Hallam University delivered a workshop for academics at Reading on how to use social media to develop an academic online presence. This staff development session provided an opportunity for academics to consider how social media can be used in a scholarly context and examples of how to apply social media in Higher Education.

The session covered:socialmedia-SueBecks-April2016

  • Developing a digital professional persona to share scholarly achievements,
  • Cultivating your own personal learning network and co-learning communities,
  • Sharing learning journeys through working out loud.

Find out what happened in the session and discover resources by checking out our Storify of the event.

Which browser works best with Blackboard and Turnitin?

This is an update on an earlier blog post from November 2015.

If you put this question to any member of the CQSD TEL team – or, indeed, most learning technologists around the country – the answer you will get is “Google Chrome”. That browser seems to be least troublesome when running Blackboard and Turnitin (as well as for more general web use), and we all have it as our default browser.

However it is by no means the only Internet browser you can use to access these systems.


To find the latest statement from Blackboard themselves please check this page on their Help site: Supported Browsers for using Blackboard.

The page also includes details of supported operating systems and plug-ins such as Java, and gives you access to a browser-checker. It is regularly updated in line with new Blackboard versions, and as new technologies emerge, so is well worth checking out if you experience any technical issues.

Please note that, following the most recent Blackboard upgrade:

  • Microsoft Edge is now supported, for Windows 10 users.
  • Internet Explorer 9 and 10 are no longer supported.

The rationale for withdrawing support for IE 9 and 10 is given in this Blackboard announcement:

Microsoft announced it will only support Internet Explorer (IE) version 11 as of January 2016.  This means Microsoft will no longer address security vulnerabilities or other issues that may be identified with Internet Explorer (IE) 10 and older.

Because Blackboard does not support the use of third-party technologies – including browsers – not supported by their respective vendors, we are immediately discontinuing support of IE 9 and IE 10 for Blackboard Learn.  Supported browser pages in Blackboard Learn documentation will be updated to reflect this change.  This change affects all versions and deployment models of Blackboard Learn.  End users on operating systems other than Windows are unaffected by this change.

Users may still have success using IE 9 and IE 10 with Blackboard Learn.  However, issues specific to these browsers reported to Product Support will not be addressed because Microsoft does not support these browsers.


Windows 7 and 8 users should update to Internet Explorer 11 or use an alternative supported browser such as Chrome or Firefox.  Windows 10 users can also use Microsoft Edge.

All University of Reading PCs should have Internet Explorer 11 installed, so this change does not directly affect on-campus users. But if you use your own PC or laptop to access Blackboard and Turnitin, please make sure that you are running an up-to-date browser.

One thing you should look out for with Internet Explorer is  its ‘Compatibility View’, which you may encounter on some staff PCs on campus. This makes parts of Blackboard unusable – please see our guide on how to spot this, and how to turn it off: Internet Explorer Compatibility View and Blackboard



For Turnitin, a list of supported browsers and other technologies can be seen here: Turnitin system requirements.

Please note that, at the time of writing, Microsoft Edge is not yet supported by Turnitin.


Blocked plug-ins in Chrome and Edge

Finally, despite our enthusiasm for Google Chrome, Google have created some difficulties for web users by taking a very strict approach to third party plug-ins, which has meant that some audio and video content uploaded to Blackboard simply could not be accessed in Chrome. Similar issues apply also to those using MS Edge.

Fortunately the most recent version of Blackboard provides a new way of embedding audio and video files such as MP3s and MP4s, which will make this content accessible in any browser and on any device. See this guide for details: Uploading and embedding audio and video files into your Blackboard course

Uploading and embedding audio and video files into your Blackboard course

The TEL team generally recommend Google Chrome as the browser which provides the most satisfactory performance with Blackboard. During the last year, however, Google introduced changes which made it impossible to play certain types of media file in Chrome. In addition, there is a Known Issue in Blackboard which causes MP3 audio files to start playing automatically in Google Chrome, even when the auto-start option has been deselected.

The latest Blackboard release, now installed on our system, gets round these issues by enabling audio and video files to be embedded as HTML5 elements.

This change means that

  • MP3 audio files uploaded to Blackboard can be played in any Internet Browser.
  • MP4 video files uploaded to Blackboard can be played in any Internet Browser.

Our guide Uploading and embedding audio and video files into your Blackboard course provides details on how to use the new HTML5 Audio and HTML5 Video options to upload and embed media files, so that they can be played in any browser, on any device.

embedded audio file

embedded video file


Please note

  • The new functionality is available only for newly-created audio and video links in Blackboard. The guide suggests how you can deal with previously-uploaded media content to take advantage of the new functionality.
  • Other file types (Ogg, WAV and WebM) are also supported by the HTML5 tools, but MP3 and MP4 are the only types playable in all of the main Internet Browsers.
  • Windows Media files (wma and wmv) are not supported, and should be avoided when uploading media content to Blackboard.
  • We also have guides to help you embed video content from sites such as YouTube into your Blackboard course:

Improvements to the Turnitin Assignments by Groups tool

The ‘building block’ which links our Blackboard system to Turnitin was updated yesterday evening.

Any staff who use – or who have considered using – the Turnitin Assignments by Group feature will be pleased to know that the interface has seen a few minor, but useful improvements.

Principally, you can now see the Grade when accessing Turnitin Assignments by Group. This means you can tell at a glance which papers have been marked, and which remain to be marked.

Please note:
This tool is NOT useful as a way of marking group work, where each member of the group will receive the same mark and feedback – Turnitin does not currently provide a solution for that scenario. But it should prove useful for any assignment where each marker is marking work submitted by a particular tutor group or seminar group. It can also be used as a way of randomly assigning students to markers.

Please see our updated guide for help with using the tool, and guidance on setting up Groups in Blackboard to accommodate a variety of assessment scenarios: Turnitin Assignments by Group.

For advice on assessing group work, see Group Assignments.