TEL Me More – April

April’s TEL Me More event showcased two different tools from Course Resources that sparked interest and discussion from our attendees. We also demoed a tool called Padlet which a number of people in the room had already used and they happily shared their experiences and uses of it.

Group Spaces in Blackboard
Dennis Parkes, Computer Science

Dennis has been working with the Group Spaces tool in Blackboard across a number of different modules, and described the different ways in which he had been using it.


Group work
In his first and second year modules, group spaces are set up for students to share documents and files that were used as part of either their group or paired project work. Dennis was aware that his students had been using Facebook as a space to share resources for the group projects and felt that this wasn’t appropriate. He explored the groups spaces in Blackboard, and discovered it was a perfect document repository enabling students to upload and share their files with each other and ensure the access to documents was limited to just group members, in a protected environment. Students could also use the group email tool to keep in touch with the rest of the group and notify each other when a new document had been uploaded.

Independent Study
As well as using Group Spaces for groups to share documentation between each other, Dennis looked at using them for final year students undertaking their independent study. The Group Spaces were set up so that only one student was in each group, and they could then upload they progress reports and drafts of the various aspects of their dissertation. This cut down on the number of emails being forwarded around, and the risk of documents being lost or not read. Dennis would then review the documents and reports in advance of the progress meetings 

Dennis has also started looking at using this with MSc students for the same reasons, to support them through their projects. Details of the supervisors and the project are recorded within the description of the individual groups.

Work Placements
Although this has not been trialled yet, the next step is to look at using the group spaces with students away on work placements, as it enables them to upload their weekly journals/reflections during their placement. Date and time stamps are recorded when a document is uploaded, so staff can easily see if a student has been engaging weekly or not.

This was felt by everyone that it was quite an innovative approach to the use of group spaces, and students had found it so useful in their group work that they had requested similar spaces be set up in their other modules

Online Tests in Blackboard
Susan Tarrant, Education

Susan runs a module with approx 110 students, which has always had an end of year test to see how well the students are performing in ICT. This is a summative assessment, but used to help the students realise what gaps they might have with their ICT skills before going out on work placement in the next academic year. The results of the tests are shared with their work placement mentors so that they can create an action plan and address specific areas throughout their placement.

IMG_0052Originally the test had been presented to students in a paper version, which took staff a long time to mark. After working with staff in the TEL team, Susan was able to convert her paper-based test into an online version within Course Resources. She used a range of question types including multiple choice, multiple response and short answer. The multiple choice and response questions are automatically marked by Blackboard, leaving the instructors to manually mark the short answer questions. This is all completed online, and Susan and her staff found this much quicker.

The results are easily downloaded into an Excel spreadsheet, and there is also the option to carry out item analysis on the questions, which enables instructors to review all the questions and determine which might be more effective for testing students.

Both staff and students reported that they liked using the online tests in Course Resources, and it gave more flexibility to students accessing and taking the tests.

Padlet for collaboration
Louise Hart, IT Training Facilitator

Johanna from the TEL team introduced and demoed Padlet (, as a collaborative workspace that can be embedded into a Course Resources module. Louise then volunteered to share her experiences of using Padlet, which included a lovely range of examples. She’d taken and uploaded a photo of a group of her students as the background to the Padlet page, and asked them to add comments and interesting facts about themselves.

She also described uploading a picture of the world map, and asking students to collaboratively share their interesting facts about different countries.Louise

One example she had seen at a conference had been to create three padlets sites, encouraging participants to add feedback about good things, bad things, and something they’d learnt from the conference. This was all carried out in groups, where at least one member of the group had access to a tablet or smart phone, and they collaboratively shared their feedback which was instantly displayed on the projectors at the conference.

The next TEL Me More session will be held in B110 KR, on 27th May, 11-12 (please note the earlier time). These are informal sessions for staff to discuss about talk about their own experiences of technology. We provide tea, coffee and a selection of biscuits, but staff do bring along a packed lunch as well. We hope to see you next month.

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