Book your place on this year’s Learning & Teaching Symposium!

Welcome back after the Easter break. Having indulged in Easter eggs and enjoyed the good weather, it’s now time to get back into the swing of things as we turn our attention to this year’s Learning & Teaching Symposium at Brunel.

This year’s event will consist of 3 themes:

  • Technology Enhanced Learning
  • Inclusivity
  • Transitions

The Learning Technology Team and other support services from Brunel’s Educational Excellence Centre (BEEC) will also be showcasing at the event (being held on Monday 20th April 2015).

Booking for the Symposium is now open! To view the full programme and book your place, visit:

We look forward to seeing you there!

JISC ‘Digital Student’ Project Exemplars

Following a call from the Digital Student project for examples, JISC has announced the publication of 50 short case studies in ‘enhancing the student digital experience’ in HE. These are available from the Digital Student website, organised according to the main challenges they address. We believe the following list of exemplars (which can also be browsed on the site) would be really helpful, interesting and hopefully inspiring to all at Brunel!

A couple of examples from FE Colleges have also been included, and JISC expect to add more as they near completion of the Digital Student study (FE and Skills) and repeat the process of identifying best practice. JISC will also shortly be publishing an online guide to Enhancing the Student Digital Experience which draws on these examples.

We hope you enjoy these resources and the valuable insights into sector practice. host Google hangout on 27th January for the digital academic

On Tuesday 27th January at 12pm GMT,, the leading global jobs board for academia, are hosting a free 60-minute live video event on the topic of ‘How to be a Successful Digital Academic to Boost Your Career’.

The event, which is being hosted via a #jobsQ Google+ Hangout, will explore how academics, researchers, PhDs and supporting staff can use digital media, such as blogs, apps and social media, to enhance their research and boost their careers.

Participants in the Hangout will hear from a panel of five experts, including Dr Inger Mewburn, Editor of popular blog ‘The Thesis Whisperer’, on topics such as:

  • How to blend digital tools into your current work and conferences
  • How to manage your time online effectively
  • How to write for an online audience
  • How to use a blog to increase your public engagement
  • How digital networking can enhance your research
  • How to effectively use online networking to find collaborators

Participants will also be able to get involved in the conversation by submitting their digital questions via’s Google+ page in the run up to event – or by asking their questions live on the day.

Find out more about the Hangout and register for free here.

Blackboard User Group Meeting

On 5th December 2014 a couple members of the LTT attended the BUG User group meeting. Sadly, we weren’t sitting around in a circle discussing our favourite insects – BUG actually stands for the ‘Blackboard User Group’ meeting. The meetings are held twice a year and are a great opportunity for TEL employees from local colleges and Universities to meet up and discuss great, and not so great, things about Blackboard. Not to mention it’s also a great opportunity to help ourselves to a yummy selection of sandwiches and snacks throughout the day!

The meeting was held at the Blackboard London offices which, believe it or not, are located on busy Oxford Street. Whilst we were tempted to make a start on our Christmas Shopping, we decided our day would be a lot better spent getting up to date with Blackboard.

Our very own Anu Sharma presented an interesting talk on how the Enterprise Surveys tool was piloted at Brunel to disseminate the 2014 PTPS (Postgraduate Taught Programmes Survey). The response rate over 4 weeks was 32% which is a very positive response rate for this type of survey. Students were sent an email to inform them that the survey was available and were able to click on a link in the email to access the survey directly. Agreed benefits of the survey tool were the ability to send the survey link via email, the ability for students to complete surveys on mobile devices and the fact that detailed analysis of results is possible. The presentation went down very well and many at the group were keen to find out more!

There was another interesting presentation on the Blackboard Catalyst Awards, which “honor those who push the boundaries of their educational programs and technology in order to deliver innovate and effective learning experiences”. There are five different awards available and more information on everything can be found here:

Whilst the BUG meeting is a great chance to celebrate our collective successes with Blackboard, it also gave us the opportunity to have a bit of a moan and groan to Blackboard representatives on a few of the features that we don’t think are working so well in Blackboard. This also helps us to find out when bugs are due to be fixed as well as any further updates we need.

There were a few more talks, a bit of discussion, and some networking, and the day was nicely rounded up with a bit of Christmas cheer to celebrate the festive season. The LTT look forward to attending further meetings in the future to forge ties with similar institutions and share good practice…and we certainly wouldn’t turn down a few more of those yummy sandwiches as well!

LTT at the Blackboard Roadshow

London is known for its glitz and glamour, its 24/7 party ethos, its plentiful food and drink. …And its thoughtful approach to Technology Enhanced Learning.

One Friday, the LTT decided they were done with partying, and ventured instead to a Blackboard Product roadshow. Here’s what happened…

Early November, Blackboard hosted a series of five events, running one ‘roadshow’ a day in a different venue, across Europe and the UK. Surprisingly, the Learning Technology Team decided against a trip to Amsterdam and opted to head for the London event.

Between 50 and 70 representatives of HE institutions were present (including academics, learning technologists, system administrators, and more), alongside a sizeable contingent of Blackboard staff to maintain order. This took place in the wonderful buildings of the Law Society on Chancery Lane.

The day itself, after an introductory session, was split into two ‘tracks’. The first focused on the development of Blackboard Learn and aspects of its Mobile, Collaborate and Analytics components. The second dealt with good practice in the areas of professional development and training; looking at how to ensure that staff at an institution are as equipped as they can be to handle a range of technologies to support face-to-face learning.

The ‘product development’ track featured some exciting new developments in the VLE and its additional components.

Broadly, these included:

  • Better handling of UK-specific practices in assessment (moderation, double-blind marking, etc.)
  • A new grading app for iOS
  • Better integration between the student records system (in our case, SITS) and the Grade Centre
  • ‘Blackboard offline’ – the ability for students to download entire courses, ensuring they have all the learning materials to hand
  • Removal of Java from Blackboard and the Collaborate conferencing system, improving compatibility on mobile devices
  • Additional MOOC support and capabilities
  • ‘Blackboard Ultra’; an overhauled user interface, hugely improving navigation, accessibility, and collaboration
  • An examination of Blackboard Analytics, the data-warehousing and reporting add-on for Blackboard, which is seeing a boost in UK take-up

The professional development track focused on:

  • Ways to develop ‘positive learning habits’ using tools like Achievements and Portfolios
  • Fostering student-led learning; giving students a sense of ownership of their progress
  • Making the most of digital assessment and feedback

Overall, we came away with some great ideas about the positive direction in which we can take TEL at Brunel. We also got a chance to see the excellent developments that Learn itself will undergo as it becomes a genuinely up-to-date piece of software. That said, it will take some time to implement properly, as the new tools and interface will require a substantive training effort to bring students and staff up-to-date.

As usual at events like this, the chance to network with staff from nearly all of Blackboard’s different departments, and with the people like us from other institutions, was excellent. One of the Blackboard presenters had attended every single event over the 5 days, having flown from the US for the first one, and was flying back to Washington that same last evening. And she was still going strong! I don’t know what Blackboard put in their coffee…

“On the first day of Christmas, I downloaded an app…”

Regents University are very helpfully launching an ‘open to all’ course which runs through some apps that you might find beneficial for your teaching and students’ learning. If you are interested, please do sign up. Details are below…

Overwhelmed by the range of apps for teaching and learning to be found online? This year, the helpful elves of Regent’s University London are coming to your rescue, with 12 Apps of Christmas!

12 Apps of Christmas is a fun, free, and simple online course  and tailored to the needs of staff here at RUL but is open to all.

Running every weekday from Thursday 4th to Friday 19th December, 12 Apps of Christmas is like an advent calendar of learning!

Each day we will present a different educational app, explain how it can benefit you, and show you how to download it. There will be a short and fun task (no more than ten minutes) to get you using each app, with a chance to learn about it in more depth in your own time and at your own pace.


4th to 19th December 2014.

Harness the reindeer, launch the sleigh, and sign up here:

Updated Blackboard Learn Tools card for 2014-15

Have you ever thought that it would be really handy to have all the Blackboard Learn tools listed in a convenient one-page guide? Well, you’re in luck because that’s exactly what we’ve done! We’ve split tools into five categories – Content, Assessment, Collaboration, Information and Management – so it should be easier to see what tools you can use for which purpose. There are 53 tools in all so we’ve pretty much got everything including the kitchen sink! Tools range from the old reliable Content Folder to the new kid on the block Panopto video links.

You can find the guide here: Blackboard Learn Tools card 2014-15

ToolsScreenshotA small taster of the tools card!

Feel free to take a look and if you would like any further information on how any of the tools on the card work, please contact your liaison (details below).


College of Engineering, Design and Physical Sciences – Natalie Parnis

College of Business, Arts and Social Sciences – Louise Faux

College of Health and Life Sciences – Alastair Gemmill

Central Services – Alex Osmond

User Guides and Tracking Stats

Ever wondered if anyone clicks on your resources?

Wonder no more!

In Blackboard you can turn on Enable Tracking to show you how many people have clicked on a resource.

To do this you must go to Control Panel > Content Collection. Select the options menu for the file you want to track and click Edit Settings.

Blog post image 1

The ‘360 View’ screen then displays a list of users and times of access.

The Learning Technology Team looked to find how many staff accessed the PDF help guides on the Help for Staff tab in Blackboard since tracking was enabled over the summer.

In total, all guides received over 1200 hits.

The top 10 guides are shown in the table below.


The most popular guides during the period August-October were unsurprisingly ‘Getting Ready for 2014-15’, ‘Course Copy’ and ‘Creating Assignments’, which made up 1000 (around 85%) of those hits. It is likely these guides received significantly more hits was because they available from inside every course (via the course template).

Staff looking for other tool guides will now find them in the ‘new look’ Help for Staff tab within Blackboard.

Gearing up with a ‘Headstart’

This week we have been busy preparing for the start of yet another year. Amongst various activities one of the initiatives we have participated in is ‘Headstart Week’- an opportunity for new Brunel students to literally get a ‘head start’ on University life (organised by the ASK team).

Students from various Colleges have been brought onto campus a week ahead of the start of term to get to grips with various aspects of University life, including academic writing, using Library resources, managing finances and, of course, getting to grips with Blackboard Learn!

A series of sessions were delivered by the LTT explaining how to use some of the features within Blackboard Learn, getting hold of the mobile app and seeking support more generally.

The Bb Learn Getting Started guide provides a great summary of the essential information for students.

Week 0…. here we come!

Ready, Set, Go! New Courses Now Available

With the new academic year fast approaching, the next few weeks will see students eagerly logging in to Blackboard Learn to find out more about their new modules.

get set go

Staff will need log in to Blackboard to prepare for the influx of students by uploading content into their new course sites or copying content over from last year. Here is a handy guide if you are not sure how to do this . Don’t forget to check out the ‘Help for Staff’ tab on Blackboard for more guides like this.

Last year, students nominated certain courses for good, effective practice. One of the things many of these courses did was to clearly introduce topics and resources. They were also structured in a clear, accessible way; your course menu, on the left-hand side of the screen, is a good place to highlight your structure.

Staff looking to get to grips with Blackboard should sign up for staff development training or if you have an idea you would like to discuss with your new College-based LTT liaison, please email with details of what you want to do.


If you do not yet have access to a particular module, particularly if it has a new module code or if your network account has changed during TxP, please email the Learning Technology Team with your access request.