Merged Course Monday

Well it’s Monday folks and hope you all had a great weekend!

The LTT have started the week with our annual exercise of merging courses in Blackboard Learn: “Merged Course Monday” (the title could catch on!!). Fuelled by treats and plenty of caffeine, we are currently busy merging those Blackboard Learn Courses that Departments have informed us about.

Students will get access to 2014/5 Courses in Blackboard on 3rd September, so we want to get these merged Courses sorted out ahead of ‘go live’!

Right…best get back to merging…!!

Fuel for our gruelling merged Course session

Auditor Accounts: Going, going…gone!

As you know – we at LTT like to change things up a bit (all positive changes, of course!).

One thing that we have been reviewing is the use of auditor accounts in Blackboard Learn. What are these? – you might ask! Auditor accounts are Blackboard Learn accounts that allow read-only access to all Courses (modules) within (former) academic Schools.

Whilst this may sound handy – we have reviewed the use of these accounts and it seems like they haven’t been used quite as much as we would have liked. This may be, in part, as individuals have been taking advantage of the Bb Learn Course Catalogue which already allows all staff and students read-only access to all modules.

So – as you can see- there is hardly any need for these accounts any longer and we will soon be decommissioning them.

However, we recognise that there may be some staff out there that require editing access to many modules, which is why we have been working on another project to allow delegated administrative access to Bb Learn (more about that later!)

As usual- please let us know if you have any questions about this.

Build your 2014-15 modules now!

We’re pleased to let you know that the majority of Blackboard Courses (that is, modules) that’ll run in 2014/15 are now available in the VLE. Similarly, most members of staff will have access to these modules from today; they’ll show up with the rest of your enrolments in the ‘My Blackboard’ widget.

As such, many of you will be able to get started on building your Courses. Alternatively, we realise many of you will want to copy last year’s content – or portions of it – into the  new module area.

There is an exception to the above: we are still handling Merged Courses. We have emailed key contacts across campus to verify which Courses are to be merged this year – the sooner we receive this information, the sooner we can create the Courses, and group them as requested.

If, then, you don’t see an up-to-date list when you log into Blackboard, it’s likely because some of your content consists of some Merged Courses. Feel free to enquire about this, but we are aiming to have the work completed by the end of August.

If you need reminding about how to copy existing content into a new module, take a look at our guide to this procedure: 

Questions as always to

To Merge or not to Merge? That is the question!

As part of our annual processes for Blackboard Learn our TEL Advisers are in touch with Colleges and Departments to establish which Merged Courses are required for 2014/5 in Blackboard Learn.

If you are not familiar with the concept- here is a quick overview…


If you know of any Courses that need to be merged – please let us know via

We aim to gather this information from Colleges/ Departments by 22nd August (but preferably earlier!)

New Look University … New Look LTT!

Following all the changes to the University post-TXP, the LTT are now pleased to announce that we have a new structure in place that will be able to better support Colleges and Departments going forward.

You will already be aware from an earlier post that we are part of Brunel’s Educational Excellence Centre (BEEC).

The great news is that we are now officially a bigger team, and below is a brief overview of our ‘new look’…

LTT Structure

The new TEL Adviser roles (held by Louise, Natalie and Alastair) will enable our team to build closer relationships with each of the Colleges and their respective departments. This means that we can better understand your needs and we can become more proactive in supporting you with Technology Enhanced Learning initiatives… not to mention that you will now have a dedicated contact in the LTT!

We are also thrilled to have a dedicated TEL Developer (Alex) who will provide a key technical support function in the team, taking forward technical projects and also being the support contact for Central Departments.

Over the coming weeks the TEL Advisers will be in touch to discuss ways in which we can work with each of the Colleges and, most importantly, to introduce themselves to you!

Blackboard Learn upgrade completed (a little ahead of schedule!)

I’m pleased to let you know that the upgrade to Blackboard Learn Service Pack 14 was completed, with Bb Learn being available early this morning.

The Learning Technology Team and colleagues in the Computer Centre have worked hard on this upgrade, trying to get the system up and running as soon as possible. As usual, I would like to extend my thanks to them and to you all for your patience!

Many of the features that we mentioned earlier were implemented in this latest upgrade. The LTT are currently working on resources to help you make the most of the new features.

Student Expectations of the VLE Blackboard Learn


A recent end-of-year survey asked students what areas of Brunel’s virtual learning environment they found most useful, with the aim to identify, promote and guide staff using Blackboard Learn with ‘good practice’ examples.

The survey appeared to students on the front page of Blackboard during a 2 week period in April 2014, and received 450 responses.

This Learning Technology Team initiative discovered the following areas of good practice that students are finding useful in support of their studies.

  • 25% of votes related to finding things easily
  • 20% of votes were related to clear guidance and ease to use resources
  • 18% of votes related to having a range of content including extra resources (e.g. past papers) and extra reading
  • 12% of votes related to having content that was made available in a timely and up to date manner (e.g. resources that relate to weekly themes of study were uploaded

The remaining 25% of votes related to specific types of content that was well received by students, such as:

  • Having a range of multi-media content such as audio, video and lecture capture resources
  • regular communication from tutors via Blackboard announcements and email tools
  • online discussion boards
  • self-tests and quizzes
  • online assignment submission
  • online assignment grading and feedback

One of the students surveyed said:

“I really liked the use of Blackboard for this course. Lecture notes were uploaded every week. They were absolutely clear and well prepared. There were even some extra notes every now and then. For the communications part, we submitted our assignments online which is so much better than handing in pieces of paper and is more environmentally friendly also. Handing in assignments online was easy and just intuitive. The way we received our grades as well was a lot nicer. The module leader delivered the grades using the Blackboard interface (the tab in the menu that was designed for grades). That way, you could only see your grade and couldn’t see others which is great for privacy.”

The Learning Technology Team then put together the best examples of each of these areas of good practice to showcase and demonstrate real-life uses of the technology, along with a ‘how do I do it?’ poster display. This poster presentation showcased the good practice at the Learning and Teaching Symposium 1st May 2014 as part of the Technologies Zone.

The full presentation including all 10 areas of good practice is now located here. You may find it useful to refer to when considering how to improve you Blackboard module site for students for the upcoming academic year.

The LTT are on hand to support your VLE requirements so if you have any new ideas, or if you want clearer guidance on how to implement some of these ones, please do not hesitate to contact the Learning Technology Team [part of the new Brunel Educational Excellence Centre] on

Blackboard Upgrade – New Features in Service Pack 14

During the week 14th-18th July 2014 Blackboard Learn will be unavailable whilst the system is upgraded to Service Pack 14. This post will briefly highlight a selection of the main features included* in the upgrade (*subject to testing). Click on each feature title to find out more information:


The Achievements tool allows instructors and course designers to designate criteria for issuing rewards to students in the form of both Badges and Certificates.

Course Messages Notifications

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

Date Management

Date Management gives instructors the ability to have the system automatically “shift” content and tool dates in a course in a highly efficient way.


Student Preview

With the Student Preview feature, instructors can see their courses and interact with them exactly how students do.

Explorance bluepulse

Bluepulse allows students the opportunity to make daily suggestions about what can be improved in the classroom.


Grade Centre Improvements

Improvements include: improved workflow for setting anonymous and delegated grading on assignments, the ‘My Grades’ page order of display matches the Grade Centre column order, improved workflow for Tests settings, & Grading Schemas can now go over 100%.

Groups Management 

The new Group Management page provides a single page to: manage tool access for all groups, sort columns, perform bulk actions for deleting groups, and create Grade Centre smart views for one or more groups.


Inline Grading 

Instructors can view student-submitted files “inline,” meaning in the web browser.  Annotations tools are available as part of the inline viewer, enabling instructors to provide [electronically written] feedback — comments, highlights, and drawing/annotation — directly on the inline view of the document.


Any staff interested in utilising some of these new features are welcome to contact the Learning Technology Team for further information and support.


Blackboard Learn Downtime: July 2014

The July upgrade to Blackboard Learn will be taking place between 14th – 18th July 2014. This means that the system will not be accessible during this period. As usual, the Learning Technology Team will aim to minimise the downtime as far as possible by working very hard to bring the system back to life quickly!

A notice will go up on IntraBrunel tomorrow. Key contacts from Schools and Central Services will be reminded in a separate email and students will also be informed.

We will soon post a follow up blog message to tell you more about the new features you can expect to see in this upgrade.

The “new” LTT

As we know there are many changes going on across the University at the moment, and our team has also been influenced by these.

Last week marked the beginning of the new Learning Technology Team structure (now located within the Brunel Educational Excellence Centre, headed up by Dr Fiona Denney). This has been reorganised to more closely meet the needs of the new colleges following TXP. So what does this mean for us?

We have a Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) Team Manager (myself), with 3 TEL Advisers to liaise with each of the 3 Colleges (Alastair Gemmill, Natalie Parnis and currently a vacancy). Also part of the team is a TEL Developer (a technical role) covered by Alex Osmond and an administrator (yet to be appointed).

We are confident that these changes will help us to enhance learning and teaching at Brunel, by becoming more aligned with the Colleges, being better resourced and ultimately building closer relationships with our colleagues within BEEC to help drive educational excellence at Brunel.