Want to gain an early insight into the new upgraded Blackboard Learn?

Next week the LTT will be busily working away testing the latest version of Blackboard Learn. Our test system will be upgraded to Blackboard Learn Service Pack October 2014 so that we can have an early insight into the new features we can expect when we upgrade our live system in July.


We would really like to get the community involved, so if you would like to get access to the test system, even just to have a look around and play with some of the new features, please get in touch with us (ltt@brunel.ac.uk).

eLearning 2.0 Conference 2015

Hi Folks, we thought you may be interested in the following event being held here at Brunel….

“The Paradigm Shift: Refocusing on the Student”
Brunel University
, UK
July 29, 2015

eLearning 2.0 is a lively international conference exploring technology-enhanced learning and social media technologies. The conference is a collaborative space for educators, students, researchers, entrepreneurs, and policy makers to share their eLearning classroom successes, as well as new developments in their research and workplace. The main theme of this year’s conference is “The Paradigm Shift: Refocusing on the Student”. This educational paradigm shift is fuelled by the unprecedented access that students now have to information coupled with a view of learning as a constructive process consisting of selecting, organising and integrating information.

There is currently a call for contributions- though the deadline is tomorrow – so you will need to hurry!

The conferense is sponoserd by custom writing service Essay.ws

Further information is available at: http://www.elearning2.org/

So what can we expect from the upcoming Blackboard Learn upgrade?

With just under 2 months until our next Blackboard Learn upgrade, we thought it might be useful to provide a round-up of some of the key features you might expect to find in the system (as always- this comes with the usual caveat that features will always be released subject to testing!).

We will be upgrading from Service Pack 14 to the October 2014 release. Here are some of the highlights…

Anonymous and Delegated Grading

Instructors can hide student names from submitted assignments for anonymous grading. Instructors can delegate grading to specific users.


Course Messages Notifications

The Course Message Notifications tool gives each course a private and secure system for communication that functions similar to email.


My Grades

The look and feel of My Grades has been updated. Students now view feedback by clicking View Feedback.

Student Preview

Instructors can view their course exactly as a student does by using a student account the system generates for them.


If you are interested in any of the features, or would like to find out more, as usual, please get in touch with the Learning Technology Team (ltt@brunel.ac.uk)

Bb Learn Template 2015/6: Have your say!

Following a well-rested Bank Holiday weekend, we now turn our attention to next year and we would like to ask you for any suggestions you might have about how to adapt the institutional Bb Learn course template for 2015/6.

As a reminder the Bb Learn course template is the starting point for all Bb Learn Courses. Unless you import your content from your 2014/5 Course into your new Course, you will see this template. We have included a screen shot of the existing template below (click to enlarge)…


We are looking for suggestions that might make the template easier to use, better designed and help enhance the student learning experience. As it is an institutional template – we can’t promise we will use all suggestions- but we will consider them very carefully!

Please submit any suggestions to ltt@brunel.ac.uk by 14th May 2015.

Announcing the 2015 Blackboard Learn Upgrade

Hi Folks! It’s that time of the year again- our Blackboard Learn Upgrade is just round the corner.

The upgrade will take place this year between 13th – 17th July 2015, during which time the system will remain inaccessible. As usual, the Learning Technology Team will aim to minimise the downtime as far as possible by working very hard to bring Bb Learn back to life quickly!

The upgrade will help us to take advantage of improvements in the system, overcoming existing bugs and issues, as well as introducing some new features. We will be sure to tell you more about these in another blog post soon!

Key contacts from Schools and Central Services will be reminded in a separate email and students will also be informed.

As always – if you have any questions, please contact ltt@brunel.ac.uk

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.

jobs.ac.uk host Google hangout on 27th January for the digital academic

On Tuesday 27th January at 12pm GMT, jobs.ac.uk, 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 jobs.ac.uk’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: http://www.blackboard.com/community/catalyst-awards.aspx

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…