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DURBBU20 Durham Blackboard Users’ Conference 2020

Happy new year!
This post will be about my thoughts and findings from the Durham Blackboard Users’ Conference 2020 held 6th-8th January. #durbbu
Conference details:

Day 1
Day 2

Pre-conference Workshop

Arriving in the new Durham Teaching and Learning Centre it’s nice to see such an open and light environment, spotted with spaces to work / study throughout. The only issue I can find thus far is the drastic lack of power points in our first room!! Why do building designers think we don’t need places to plug in?? 
Anyway, rant over and on with the workshop.

What is the future of academic integrity and assessment?

In this workshop you’ll explore current assessment practices, review strategies for evaluating students at scale and share innovative ways to reinforce your academic integrity standards. Share your experience, learn from your colleagues and discover why Turnitin’s expanded suite of tools were designed to help address your emerging educational challenges.
Jamie Whitehead and colleagues

Turnitin have a new mission statement:

Gradescope – Turnitin’s offering to allow you to support non-essay based assessments – look forward to seeing what this is.

Gradescope can use AI to identify similar answers from each student to allow you to group and provide feedback on all.

Complex workflows is in beta – allows double blind marking and other workflow features:

Turnitin want to make an end-to-end assessment with integrity. A set of common tools with specialised workflows and subject-specific insights.

Turnitin just asked us to look at some of the “challenges” they had listed and asked us to show which ones we experience.

They then made the mistake of asking if we had any challenges not listed….

We have just had a 5 minute rant (could have gone on longer) about Late submissions, anonymous marking, dividing up work between staff with large cohorts and some of the other mad workarounds we have all come up with to try and work within the limitations of Turnitin and Feedback studio.  i also raised the recent updates that have resulted in the inability for us to identify learners who have not submitted.
This wasn’t what they were expecting, but – they did ask!

Gradescope has OCR and AI to analyse the submissions and we are going to be given hands on to play with this.

Gradescope has a good feel but is not feature rich – yet.

The marking is done question by question and you can navigate to see all of Q1s or all of a single student’s submission.
The rubric allows cumulative points to be selected, either in the positive or negative depending on your marking style. The example above shows negative marking and I could have selected bother rubric items 2 and 3 which would have resulted in a score of zero.
Markup, you can draw, highlight and comment, but all in one colour.
You can add comments on each question and even select comments you’ve previously used.
No sign yet of being able to provide audio feedback.

We’re told that all of the features above are FREE!!  Now on to the premium features – autograding with OCR and AI.

This is showing us that the they have grouped multiple submission into these groups as having matching answers.  You can then review the un-matched submissions to see if they can be grouped with any of the others or if they are unique. Once done you can review those in each group to make sure they have not been wrongly grouped.
You then go on to mark the group providing the same feedback to all with the same answer.  You can go into each paper if you wish / need to.
The marking rubric works the same as above but in the group view there is no script markup.

One thing that strikes me is that this is being demonstrated with maths equations but there is no way of inserting an equation when marking. If you go script by script you could try and draw this on.  Have fed this back to Turnitin.

One nice thing to see if that you can choose which papers to publish rather than having to publish all at once.

Another feature is that you can allow students to add comments / queries to pass back to the teaching team. (I can see a lot of policy consideration will be needed on this feature)

Because you are marking each question individually you can then see statistics on each questions.  If you tag questions by topic then you can also see the stats on each tag.

When batch uploading you can identify the name / email address / student ID area and it will OCR the content for submission attribution:

Uploading can be a single or multiple PDFs – the system will automatically detect the start of each new paper.

Time for a coffee break!

I found the power sockets!!!

Anyone have a ladder?

Now we are looking at issues surrounding academic integrity.

Now looking at Authorship:

We are being given a hands on trial of Authorship to see if we can use it to identify anything of worry in the submissions.

Authorship can accept papers from Turnitin Feedback Studio OR uploads directly.

If using a paper ID, it will then collate all submissions from the same student.  I’m assured that this works with Basic integrations – but I’ll wait to see it in action.

The report that is generated provides a lot of analysis including:

  • File Details
  • Readability
  • Document Information
  • Similarity
  • Language
  • Sentences
  • References

One thing that jumps out at me is that the similarity scores are colour-coded with blue green and red. 
Zero can be worse than 80-100% and some staff see a green score and assume that they do not need to check the report!
Please Turnitin – remove these colours!
The rest of the report is great – especially the file data.  Here you can see changes in font, colour, pc name, paper size and see if there are any outliers that might indicate that someone else has produced the document.  Language allows you to see if the learner is consistent in spelling of words, e.g. english vs american english.
This report is aimed at the investigator not the marker (although these could be the same person) due to the volume of data and the need to understand what it is showing.
I think this has a real potential to support the investigation of academic misconduct, but I can see this becoming a big job for someone if the scale of contract cheating is as bad a some report.

Here are some of the things Turnitin say are to come:

AND…. Microsoft Teams – Turnitin integration.  This is looking like it will be launched at BETT:

It is well worth noting though that this will just be the originality report and NOT feedback studio.  You would have to look at marking using the tools within Microsoft to mark for now, but I’m told it will be looked at – but no timescale mentioned.

[NB I will be keeping a note on the number of times MS Teams is mentioned at the conference]

More updates to come:

Turnitin are also looking at producing a Google Docs and MS Work add-on to support the correct referencing and possibly providing access to similarity reports.


Day 1

Great welcome by Malcolm, using PowerPoint auto-subtitles (with some hilarious translations from his accent – something may or may not have gone on in a barn)

Based on the stats presented by Malcolm I can tell you that the number of vegetarians at durbbu is higher than the national average, but the number of non-drinkers is lower.

Blackboard Ultra: Perfect Solution or Perfect Storm?

Andy Yule & Sara Preston University of Aberdeen

The answer, of course, is somewhere in between. We will take you through our experience of “Ultra”, in Aberdeen, from its beginnings in the move to SaaS and the powerful result of switching on the “Ultra Experience” to what its like to be a guinea pig in the Ultra course view along with the dilemmas of how we support both Ultra and Original course views at the same time! We shall present both hard data and anecdotal evidence for the views we express. Blackboard’s mantra of “It’s not a question of whether Ultra is ready for you but whether you are ready for Ultra” always struck me as a bit of a cover-up. We will show you why as we proceed. The move to SaaS was smooth, handled beautifully by Blackboard but happened as we arrived in Durham two years ago causing lost sleep and enjoyment at the conference. The impact of that move has been both delightful and challenging. The switch on of the “Ultra Experience” happened 6 months later and showed us the power of the light that Blackboard had previously hidden under a bush! At the same time we introduced Ally with little trouble and a tremendously positive response from students and staff. A year later 40% of our courses transitioned to the Ultra Course View and we are at the end of our first term. If we look a bit haggard then you’ll know why. In that time we have supported both course views which has proved both a godsend and a tribulation. We were definitely ready for the Ultra mobility but was Ultra ready for us? We leave you to judge. Topics I shall explore:- 1. SaaS … beauty and the beast. 2. The Ultra Experience … beauty personified (except ..) 3. Ally … it really is. 4. The Ultra Course View … the, very different, infant with considerable potential 5. The Original/Classic Course View … the saving grace of maturity.

Very popular talk this morning – standing room only!

2 year ago SMT wanted them to move fully to the Ultra experience, but they have managed to phase this change over time to ease into it.

Large central eLearning unit that is managing the journey. No Learning technologists outside of this team in the university.

Started in Q3 2017 to prepare for move to SaaS.  Moved Q1 2018. Switched on ULTRA experience in Q3 2018. Q1 2019 prepared 5/12 schools to go further.  Q3 2019 40% of 1st semester courses go ULTRA.
(2 years from start to 40% migration)

Major headaches pre-Ultra view release: Using Terms and course list order

Comment made on the fact that words on the Road Map from Blackboard are not really what you are getting initially.  Testing usually shows the initial updates result in a subset of the expected tools.
Don’t promise staff the Road Map.

Aberdeen have switched on the Ultra base navigation. Provided a demonstration of this navigation. The activity stream helps to focus students on what needs to be done right then. Students can also (from the base navigation) see an aggregation of their grades.
A lot of this could be done in Original by clicking your name top right, but in ULTRA this is prominent and the main focus for the navigation.

Course list in ULTRA has a filter to allow you to find a course – great if you have a long list of courses!!

Promoting the benefits of keeping the activity stream as the landing page in the new navigation.  Wanted to promote something new rather than trying to keep the course list as the landing page.


Accessibility is nothing new in education but implementation has been low until recently. Ally has been a benefit to all student. Had a big communication strategy around staff not needing to update all their content right away but that it needs to be something done over time and as new content is created. Since Ally has been switched on in August 2019 you can see an improvement over time and in every school across the university.

Haven’t seen a change in the types of files being used, but their accessibility has been improved.

When migrating schools, the problems are always where you don’t expect them.

A lot of people are not happy to see the new ULTRA view (the word ‘hate’ was mentioned), until they get to using it.

Some challenges –

  • Tests – lack of control around feedback.  Could not stop feedback from going out to students right after test completion. Might be that some questions types are not also available in ULTRA – I need to ask about this.
  • Groups – in ULTRA delegated grading by groups is not available. (Turnitin is working).  Also confusion between a group assessment and adding groups to an assessment – big difference.
Having to set up ‘sister’ courses (an ugly solution) that are in the original courses to allow for workarounds to these issues.

A lot of their journey has been spend having to take a step back and rethink things so that they can benefit from the new features in ULTRA.

They now have access to the database and all of their data (even though they are on SaaS).

Ticking the boxes: Using rubrics for benchmarking

Andy White & Phil Smith University of Cumbria

Over the last few years the Learning Technology Team has run a benchmarking exercise to audit a randomly-selected set of current-year module courses on Blackboard, against a set of university standards. The first set of standards were introduced in 2016, to help drive consistency and promote best-practice use of the VLE at the institution. The standards have been refreshed for 2019/20 delivery. Over the last few years, we have also been promoting the use of rubrics to course teams, to support consistency of online marking and feedback. This year we wondered whether it would be possible to utilise rubrics for our benchmarking process; moving away from the online spreadsheet that the team has previously used to record results and output a final summary report. Initially, we thought that the online marking tools may help streamline the benchmarking process, however, we also felt that it would also be a good opportunity to ‘practice what we preach’ in terms of using Turnitin for marking and feedback. We decided to try using the list of course-IDs to be benchmarked as student ‘submissions’ on a new Blackboard site. This presentation will walk through our process of designing, running and reporting a benchmarking exercise utilising Turnitin, Python and Blackboard. We will share how the initial round of benchmarking using this new process went, and our plans for any tweaks or changes for future iterations.

  • Bb is now a mission critical system.
  • Mixed practice developed over the years
  • Need for consistency
  • Protocols introduced for 2015/6 
  • Needed some benchmarking.

Started out using Excel to record compliance with protocols.  Took a lot of work and had some issues.

In 2019/20

  • Threshold Standards
  • Module Handbook – built content into generic template leaving gaps for staff to fill in for each module.
  • Accessibility Directive

Had been promoting rubrics for consistency in marking assessments, but could this be used for assessing the Blackboard course compliance.

Designed the rubric in excel – using the Turnitin template.
Criterium based on the new threshold standards – ended up with 17.

Because they were marking the rubric in Turnitin, they created 125 test students and added them to a course. Produced 125 text files with just the module code in so not blank and were unique.  Uploaded to Turnitin then matched all 125 students one by one to each of the 125 submissions.

Used Groups in Blackboard to randomly group the 125 test students into marking groups for the 5 staff marking. Then used the Turnitin Assignments by Groups.

Once done they accessed the grading report from Turnitin.
Created a weighted score to compare courses and also looked at the total score.

My thoughts: The underpinning ethos of doing this is great, and something I think a lot of HEIs could look to do. This does seem like a complicated way of working with a rubric but does give an experience of marking in Turnitin and does keep things stored correctly. I think personally I would look to see if there is a simpler alternative to get set up.  If this was something to be done frequently I might even consider writing my on application / database – but that’s just me and based on my skill set.


Enabling virtual classroom technology for the whole institution

Tom Foster University of Sheffield

This session will explore the journey undertaken by the University of Sheffield to migrate the primary webinar tool from Adobe Connect to Blackboard Collaborate Ultra. We will look at the qualitative data gathered about the two systems as part of our analysis, and the importance of the ‘user voice’ in this process. One of the biggest challenges was preserving historic session recordings from Adobe Connect, and making them available via Blackboard to our students – this session will explore how we tackled this problem using Kaltura, our media hosting solution. Blackboard Collaborate Ultra has been live at Sheffield since September 2019, and this session will look at how the technology has already accessed many areas of university activity – from the chaplaincy to student assessment. Collaborate has already had an impact across the institution, and we will hear from an academic colleague who has recently convened a multinational symposium using Collaborate, featuring remote presenters and participants.

On Adobe Connect:

  • 20 courses taught at a distance, not all using live online teaching.
  • Available in Learn since 2015
  • Local software required or Flash in browser.
  • Flexible User interface
  • Small uptake outside of learning and teaching.

In the evaluation they identified that the main core features of adobe that weren’t in other products were not really being used heavily – thus allowing them to consider other products without much worry.

Users did not like the use of flash in the browser or having to install software on their computer.
App stability was also an issue.

Meeting in AC are recorded in FLV (flash video) which is a pain to work with and the downloads were 1:1 – i.e. a 50 minute recording took 50 minutes to download.

Asked users to rate importance of tools:

Main wants were the simple basics, not the advanced tools.

Piloted Bb Collab in three areas, course, open days, apprenticeships.
Evaluation of the users:

This trend of moving towards the easy use was replicated on many of the other questions.

Made a recommendation to the university to migrate to Bb Collaborate.

Based on this evidence they agreed to migrate – BUT still an issue around the recordings that were already made in AC.
Had ~2000 recordings, 40% without a meeting host identified.

Chose to work out who the meeting hosts were and to email them asking them if they wanted to keep their recordings or not over a three month period.

~1000 recordings needed to be saved. 40k minutes of recordings. This would equal 30 days 24/7 of downloading.

Managed to get some money to pay a reseller to download the recordings for them at 0.12p/minute and to put them into their Kaltura video store.

Provided a lookup by using the AC url to find it in kaltura – AC link would just show 404 error.

Produced staff development sessions on “teaching online with webinars” based on the Bb Collab Exemplary practitioner rubric.

Looked at if staff prefer webinar vs face-to-face sessions.  Strong preference for face-to-face (x3).

Staff get an organisation set up on request that allows them to access Bb Collab.
Doing this way allows them to also add students as leaders to run their own meetings.

Used it for a symposium to allow remote attendance and delivery.

Asked about if a lot of people were on Bb Collab at the same time in teaching room.  They felt that this wouldn’t be an issue and that they did have a large number of people on it without issue.

Open the Box (virtual) to First Year Health Inductions

Belinda Green & Cleo Cameron (Alison Power, Paul Rice, James Bywater) University of Northampton

During the 2019/20 academic year, the University of Northampton welcomed 450 undergraduate health students from 13 different courses. As part of the inter-professional education programme it was decided that all the students would be integrated together for the induction week. This proposal outlines how we successfully managed this large operation with the valuable support of our Blackboard virtual learning environment (NILE: Northampton’s Integrated Learning Environment). An activity was created using the model of solving puzzles, finding clues, and deciphering codes to deliver the key induction materials (resources and orientation) to students in a creative, innovative, and engaging manner. This was chosen as the learning and teaching approach since research has found it enhances student motivation; encourages the development of problem-solving skills and promotes active involvement (Gallegos et al, 2017). The activity consisted of seven challenges hosted by NILE. Students were provided with videos in advance on how to access and navigate the system. The tasks required students to use the library catalogue and physically locate books; use the electronic journal search facility; use the University’s Skills Hub resources (online academic support resources) and visit various University buildings. All the activities were designed to be student-led and not require staff involvement on the day. Students were randomly allocated to interprofessional groups to provide them with opportunities for socialisation, teamworking and collaboration with students from other professional programmes. After completing the activity, students were surveyed (n=130). The purpose was to find out how effective the induction activity was and explore the students’ emotions before and after undertaking the activity utilising both quantitative and qualitative data. Of the aims of this induction process, students identified working in a team and navigating their way around campus as the goals they achieved the most. However, all the induction aims achieved positive scores. The associations and differences were examined for these induction goals by gender, age, and course and the only statistically significant differences were found working in a team and gender. A Fisher’s Exact test was conducted between gender and if the student enjoyed working in a team and highlighted there was a statistically significant association, with females prefer to work in a team compared to males (p < 0.01). Full results of qualitative data will be presented in this session together with a demonstration of how the activity was set up and presented to students on our NILE system. Finally, there will be time for delegates to ask questions of the activity or the technical issues (lessons learnt) we faced using our VLE.

450 health students and only had 2 hours when the students were all together.
Wanted students to become familiar with physical spaces and resources both physical and digital.
Students placed into mixed groups and asked to go around the campus and answer some questions / challenges e.g. 3 letter of the name of the building in the photo / build a online puzzle to find a hidden word / find books in the library.

Once they had completed all of the challenges they had the final one. You had to work out the final work based on key letters from the answers you found. This was then entered in blackboard.

Surveyed the students before and after the event.

My Thoughts: this is a really nice way of engaging students and getting them to work with others outside of their social and course groups while getting them to explore the multiple locations / campuses.


Learn Ultra – The Top 5 Things Your Academics Need to Know

Ashley Wright & Richard Gibbons Blackboard

During this session Blackboard Solution Engineers will take you through the top 5 high-level areas academics and support staff need to know about Learn Ultra and Ultra courses.

  • Ultra Base Navigation and Notifications
  • Workflows – Easier to create and implement
  • Mobile-first design
  • Consistent experience across products
  • Data-Driven and Actionable Insights

Using a mixture of visual aids and live demonstration, they will cover the key factors that will make the lives of academics more efficient and enjoyable when using Learn Ultra.
Join the session; you may discover something new you didn’t know.

  1. Ultra Base Navigation and Notifications
  2. Workflows – Easier to create and implement
  3. Mobile first design
  4. Consistent experience across products
  5. Data Driven and Actionable Insights

To get the ultra base navigation you must be on SaaS.
Activity stream is personalisable so that you only see the data type you want.
Courses can be viewed in a list or card view (with nice images)

Makes it simple to batch roll over courses.
Assessments can be set up with multiple types – e.g. essay submission with multiple choice questions below.

Mobile experience is good and a strong focus from Bb.

Demonstrated Bb Collaborate and how simple it is to go from ultra into Bb Collab and then into other tools.

Showed us the insights on student engagement / grades and how it can identify students falling behind

An interesting insight is that it can show you when a student first opened and assignment, when they submitted and their score. This allows you to see if students scoring low started late / submitted early and to have a targeted conversation with them.

Blackboard Keynote

Introduced by Malcolm with hilarity of the auto subtitles:

Starting out with a think back 20 years to Y2K and what everyone was doing that night.

Bb Learn at 696 SaaS clients, 238 on Ultra.

Northumbria Uni made the choice to move to Ultra based not on where Bb were with Ultra but by where they would be by the point Northumbria would be making the final move.

Universidad Central (Spain) has moved from canvas to Bb Ultra.

Newish product from Bb is the Training and Development Manager.  This allows you to provide training and development for staff within Blackboard without having to worry about managing enrolments.  Users can self enrol and take the courses you offer.

Note the above when looking at the below

Something they are developing is the ability to mark up a PDF within Bb Collab.

Bb will be focusing on providing Data aggregation, bring all data into one layer.
(this seems aimed at SaaS – as most new bits are!)

Bb Predict – re-releasing it, might re-brand. More stats will be including e.g. around tool usage.

new will be launched tomorrow

I asked “Everything new and shiney has been started with ‘On SaaS…’, is this the end of the road for Learn Original?
Answer: No, anything we develop for the platform is still for platform wide, Bb will be announcing dates by BbWorld at the latest this year around when Bb will be dropping Learn Orriginal and Managed hosting.

Microsoft Team integration is in work.


Day 2

Good morning.  Great evening last night with dinner in Durham Castle and a murder mystery.  Unfortunately I did not guess the correct person but still had a fun evening.

Welcome back to day to from Malcolm.

Keynote: Playing with Blackboard

Dr Katie Piatt, University of Brighton

The case for playford (and inclusive) approach to increase student engagement

Making use of nearpod for sharing slide and audience engagement.

Physical Library spaces try very hard to make the space appealing and engaging, but we don’t do the same thing in our VLEs

Brighton change their login page every month. Their thought is that if the outside of the VLE is changing and updating then the learners will believe that the inside is changing and to be enticed to explore further.

Marketing really hate that the university branding is being messed with. They also use students’ work and sometimes the artwork is a little controversial and not to everyone’s taste.

Once a student logs in (during October) they were invited to do a doodle a day.

This is then captured and placed into a gallery.

We’ve just been given 2 minutes to draw our breakfast – not as simple as it sounds!

They got 7800 submissions over the month:

Day they were asked to draw a seagull

There were a large number of images depicting body parts – and there was a moderation policy!

Sometimes they got an image were students just wrote “I’m so lonely” – these were always escalated through student support services.

The main reasons academics say this will not work:

We are all asked to help debunk these. We all agree that they can all be overcome though support and discussion and demonstration.

Would we have voted differently if the work engage was changed to entertain? But aren’t they linked, similar?

This strangely changes when looking at the VLE, but why?  Students spend so much time in the VLE why shouldn’t it be engaging?

You can start out simply by using imagery and adaptive release. Do task one and then get task two – but why not title it a quest / a journey and they have just progressed / leveled up?

Using competition is a great way to engage students. If you think students will not like to be individually identifiable, use groups to bring the students together.

Student feedback:

This is a count of “accessing Blackboard on a given day of the module”

There is a clear correlation between student engagement with Blackboard and them passing the module.

Everyone’s invited to the party – Improving accessibility with Blackboard Ally

Lauren McCann & Daniel Barker University of Reading Acknowledging the contributions of Adam Bailey, Emma Herrod, Vicki Holmes, Chris Johnson, Matt Jones, Maria-Christiana Papaefthimiou & Andy Turner

Parties are about good times. Everyone wants to enjoy themselves at a party, and we want to make sure that our varied guests feel welcome and enjoy the best possible time. When planning a party, there are many factors to consider to ensure that everyone feels included and is able to enjoy themselves. Having someone feel left out because they can’t enjoy the food, or can’t enjoy the music, can spoil their experience. The same applies in education: we want everyone to have access to their learning and resources in a way that meets their requirements and preferences to avoid anyone feeling obstructed or excluded. We want our students to have the best possible experience and be enabled to fulfil their potential. At the University of Reading, we’ve been using the Blackboard Ally tool since 2018 to help make resources more accessible to our diverse student body and help ensure an inclusive experience. In this presentation, we’ll share with colleagues: The University of Reading’s context and journey so far with Ally Our current position – Ally usage data for our staff and students How we’re supporting our staff to develop their use of Ally and their inclusive practice How we’re getting the message out about accessibility and Ally Staff and student stories And we’ll look ahead and consider where we go next… Come join the party!

@unirdg_tel Patti Moore
BBC R4 worth listening to

1:6 students declared a disability (2018/9)
1:16 declared a learning disability (2018/9)
1:25 declared a mental health (2018/9)

Ally is just one of the projects at Reading aimed at accessibility and ease of use

Collaborated with their Business Change Team to plan out implementation.

Held a launch event attended by Bb staff focused on accessibility.

Piloted with very positive feedback from staff and students.  Strong feedback from students liking the audio format.

Now moving Ally to business as usual.

Continuing to promote Ally availability to staff and students through the key stakeholders.

Made a MS Team for Bb Ally to share all the resources and discuss its implementation.

Interesting poster where you can tap your phone to get more information (NFC tags)

(They are happy to share their posters for others to use too.)

Designed face to face and online training sessions aimed at those developing teaching resources and how to make them as accessible as possible – even though Bb Ally helps a lot, it’s always best to get your initial documents as accessible as possible.

After staff start to see the reports from Ally on their resources they can see where they can improve them.  This allows them to understand how to improved new resources as they are created in the future.

After the implementation of Ally, every school’s score increased as assessed by Ally (look at historical and new content).

Found some staff who tried to game the score without actually fixing the issues (i.e. marking things as decretive).

Managing the pain of Blackboard transition – Ripping off the plaster

Sue Lee & Michelle Esmonds Staffordshire University

In Aug 2019 we moved from Blackboard Learn on a hosted platform to SaaS and applied Blackboard Ultra Navigation over a 4 day period. We took the decision to do both at the same time to minimise disruption. In our presentation we will outline: • The benefits • The drawbacks • What worked well • What we might have done differently • Our trip hazards • How we managed communication There were challenges and there were triumphs and we survived to tell the tale.

In Aug 2019 moved from managed hosted to SaaS and applied Ultra Base Navigation.

Server setup

Communication from Bb was really great during the migration and Bb changed the DNS for them so they could retain the URL.

Single Sign on was implemented by another team without communication and this resulted in the migration team’s documentation for staff and students being wrong.

Turnitin – you’re only allowed a set number of keys and they had reached their limit – had to turn off the test server so that they could get one for the SaaS version.

(Building up to a full Ultra move?)

Key message to staff was that there will not be any significant changes to the content of the courses themselves.

Didn’t have a communication plan for the students. Didn’t get issues from students – except logins.


Behind the scenes of Reading’s Grades Journey adventure

Andy Turner & Jonathan Rajadurai University of Reading

This follows on from presentations made at Durham and the Blackboard TLC in 2019. The University of Reading’s 3-year Electronic Management Assessment programme came to an end in December 2019 – electronic submission, feedback and grading is now business as usual at Reading. One important strand of the programme involved integrating assessment records in SITS and Blackboard, using Blackboard’s Enhanced Grades Journey tool. This went live in January 2019 and, despite a number of technical concerns, the rollout and implementation proved to be very successful. This success was built on a number of factors. Not least strong project management, bringing together staff from a variety of teams: Exams, SITS, Middleware, IT Blackboard Support, and user-facing TEL Support; all the while maintaining close relations with the main end users, Programme Administration teams. Before the EMA integration went live, a great deal of work had been done to document assessment processes, and to steer Schools towards defined, supported routes, which nonetheless allowed for variation in assessment and feedback types, and which supported local interpretations of University regulations on Anonymity and Internal Moderation. There had also been a significant programme of staff training for administrators. This was followed up through EMA Breakfast Briefings, support surgeries, and a regularly updated staff support site, which attempted to document all possible scenarios (spoiler alert: this is impossible!). This presentation will look at the planning which went into our Grades Journey implementation, at how staff training and support were delivered, and how practical solutions were found to address technical shortcomings of the integration. We will also discuss how the University worked closely with Blackboard product development to deliver a new LTI-based Enhanced Grades Journey tool – an enhancement which went live at Reading in September 2019, which addresses all of our major technical concerns, and which will be made more widely available to Blackboard customers.

3 year project 2016-19.
Workstream included:

  • Electronic submission feedback and grading
  • Core systems:
    • sub-modular marks in SITS
    • SITS/Bb Integration

Before 2017/8 only the final module mark was recorded in SITS.  Sub-modular marks were started to be recorded in 2017/8 for UG and PG the year after.

2018/9 expanded the list of modes of assessment 6 -> 24+ – used to determine what Grades Journey would create in Bb. Also added due dates in SITS – something that wasn’t centrally recorded before.

Before this, tutors had to be enrolled into every module that they needed to see the grades for a student.

Regulations had to be updated to allow for case of failure / users’ technology for the EMA programme.

Similar policy to Keele – if the fault is with the students equipment / time management then no EC, if it is uni equipment or system issue then EC.

Have a 15 day turnaround time for marking and providing feedback.

Matrix of what is possible and how much care is needed with it.

Late policy is only applied within SITS.

Marks are only ever sent to SITS once per module – to prevent adjustments applied in SITS from being overridden.

Limitations and Bugs:
During testing they identified 20 bugs and raised these with Bb.
Bugs prioritised as part of requirements sign-off in order to concentrate on those calcified as project critical.

Global setting in the GJ settings to allow you to hide Grade Center column by default on creation.

When having GJ set up a test is creates a new test, rather than a placeholder to allow you to select the test you wish to use.

Created a role in Bb of Grade Approver and only give that to carefully selected staff

Don’t accept the “functioning as designed” response from Bb <- Love this!

GJ can work with merged courses too.

Now moved to BAU (Business As Usual)

ME PRESENTING – sorry can’t blog and talk!

I will produce a summary of my key thoughts in my blog soon, thanks for reading.

One Comment

  1. interesting stuff. good luck getting to those power sockets

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