About Chris Bell

Learning Technologist at the University of Derby.

Digi know: The Blackboard Evaluation Tool

The Evaluation area within the Blackboard Control Panel, provides tutors with an easy way to check student engagement with Blackboard content and monitor progress against the module average. Tutors can choose to monitor individuals or groups of students who may be falling under a particular threshold of attainment or engagement, they can then communicate with them accordingly and take immediate action for improvement if necessary.

It is important to note that currently only tutors have access to the Evaluation area, students do not get to see data on their own performance, nor data on any of their wider cohort. The TEL Team would also recommend that all performance metrics are only used as a prompt for further investigation, statistics only tell a part of any story and whether or not a student is classed as ‘at risk’ is very much down to the discretion and discernment of individual tutors.

There are three constituent parts to the Evaluation area within Blackboard, they are as follows:

Module Reports:

Tools within this area allow tutors to run off reports at any time throughout the duration of the module lifecycle, and thereafter. Particularly useful are the reports on the ‘Overall Summary of User Activity’ and the ‘Course Activity Overview’. Tutors can choose to view data on specific students across specific timeframes, they can also run a report on the entire cohort across the full duration of the module.

Tip: If the report is viewed as ‘html’ as opposed to ‘pdf’, the report becomes dynamic and can be drilled into, meaning that the ‘Course Activity Overview’, for instance, becomes a handy way of viewing which students have been looking at certain pieces of content, when, and for how long.

Performance Dashboard:

The Performance Dashboard is a handy at a glance way to see when students last accessed your module, if they’ve viewed any pieces of content you may have set for ‘review’, and whether they’ve posted anything to the Blackboard Discussion Board.

Tip: If you have a particular piece of content that is important, such as assessment guidelines/criteria, and you want to check whether students have accessed it, set it for ‘review status’. Once this has been done you will be able to see at a glance whether that content has been viewed by using the Performance Dashboard.

To set the review status on a file or folder, turn on Edit Mode, click the downwards chevron arrow when you hover over the content, and choose ‘Review Status: On’. You will then be able to see who has accessed this content and when – by using the Performance Dashboard.

Retention Centre:

The Retention Centre is perhaps the most useful of the three tools in the Blackboard Evaluation area, because tutors can customise what appears in the ‘risk table’ and set the thresholds for determining when students are ‘at risk’. To create these rules, click on the ‘Customise’ label, when in the Retention Centre. Please note that there are a set of pre-configured rules in the Retention Centre, as set by Blackboard themselves.

Tip: By clicking on an individual student within the Retention Centre, tutors can access a 360 degree view of all student activity, against the module average. They can then choose to manually monitor a student if appropriate. Alternatively, by clicking on the ‘at risk bar’ at the top of the Retention Centre, tutors can choose to communicate to all at risk students collectively and perhaps make small interventions for immediate improvement, if appropriate.

The gifts of feedback, but how do we get our students to open them?

The following post was written by Sheila Mclaughlin, a lecturer in Tourism at the University of Derby, Buxton.

Our new Turnitin digital submission system and assessment facility provides a wonderful step forward in being able to provide slick and timely feedback but how do we get more of our students to engage with it?

The dashboard on Turnitin shows us by a silhouetted image the students who have visited their marked assessment for more than 30 seconds.  This means there is a slim chance that a few may have clicked in and down loaded without being detected.

A recent cohort of 99 level 4 students from a range of programmes were emailed to announce the availability of their provisional grades and feedback, this resulted in a 75% response rate but what of the other 25% who did not view their feedback (incidentally with provisional grades ranging from NS/F to A+).  A subsequent specific reminder to the non engagers provided no improvement to the response rate.

Will the students look later in the summer or never bother?  Does that matter?

Many authors have written on the subject including Dennis (1999).who noted immediacy of feedback as the extent to which a medium enables users to give rapid feedback on the communications they receive which fantastically our new system supports.  According to Wiggins (1993) useful and timely feedback is an absolute requirement of any authentic test.  Whilst Chickering,  Gamson and Poulsen (1987) include prompt feedback in their Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education:

  1. Encourages contact between students and faculty;
  2. Develops reciprocity and cooperation among students;
  3. Encourages active learning;
  4. Gives prompt feedback;
  5. Emphasizes time on task;
  6. Communicates high expectations;
  7. Respects diverse talents and ways of learning.

Those authors believe that assessment without timely feedback contributes little to learning.  Hattie and Timperley (2007) identify key issues relative to  the type of feedback, the way it is given and the timing of feedback in their work entitled The Power of Feedback.

So how can we give the opportunity for our feedback to be powerful?

A few of the Buxton academics have gained some success in engaging the students with their feedback through announcing availability of provisional grades within the 3 week turnaround, then hiding (burying) the grades in amongst the digital feedback comments within the scripts.  It would appear that the opportunity to gain provisional grades is one incentive to engage with feedback.

Small scale initial student feedback is positive on ‘hiding grades’ as an incentive.  Clearly more student and staff experiences and views need to be gained.  Could we start the ball rolling on this via this blog.  It would be perhaps help us all if you would note your percentage student response experiences, incentives/anything you have found to be effective and views on the way forward.

Some of thinking goes onto question whether engagement and real benefit from feedback could be derived from integrating feedback into PDP activities. Whilst some may do this already, views by blog response to the suggestion of the following series of activities for PDP could be very insightful.

  1. Start of each semester, PDP activity for all students to undertake charted analysis of their assessment feedback, particularly relative to improvement suggestions (York University for example require academics to provide 3 clear improvement points);
  2. From the analysis for each student as part of PDP to then develop say 3 SMART objectives for improvement;
  3. For the student again to develop mini strategies (action plan) as to how they will achieve those objectives;
  4. At the end of the semester for each student to undertake a mini reflection on achievement or otherwise of their objectives.

Could such PDP activity be readily set up through IT as an online process, perhaps with online video guidance?


Digi Know: Student Feedback Folders on Blackboard

As part of the Learning Technology Team’s on going commitment to providing staff with TEL support, we will be sending out weekly tips focusing on how technologies available at the UoD might be used to support teaching and learning in areas you are familiar with.

The first TEL Tip provides guidance on how to set up individual feedback folders for students within modules on Blackboard/Course Resources. This feature can be used to give students feedback in audio, video and text-based formats without any of the security issues associated with email. You can access the video resource below. This particular video is part of the Marking Offline – http://www.derby.ac.uk/lei/tel/assessing-students/esubmission/electronic-marking/marking-offline – resources in the eSubmission – http://www.derby.ac.uk/lei/tel/assessing-students/esubmission – section of the LEI website.

We hope that you will find these short bulletins informative and useful. As always, members of the Learning Technology team (X1865 / learningtechs@derby.ac.uk) are more than happy to provide you with support, and/or answer any questions concerning TEL-related queries.

Putting Blended Learning Back on the Map

Periods of financial uncertainty and casual political ruination can do strange things to good ideas. Rarely they can refine or perhaps redefine them, but all too often they can be ridden bridle deep into clod. Does anyone remember blended learning? Back in 2003, when the Black Eyed Peas were asking where the love was (it’s certainly not in 2012, will.i.am) and I commuted to JISC every day in a mauve Cavalier “Expression”, blended learning was obviously the perfect transformational convergence of technology into teaching. The Fergie and will.I.am of educational delivery strategy and I had the Venn diagram to prove it.

Fast-forward nearly ten years and what happened? Continue reading

The Beginnings of an Online Distance Learning “Manifesto”!

A few weeks ago I was asked to contribute to a discussion which sought to classify how the University of Derby should approach its online distance learning provision in an ‘ideal world’, and whether or not we could align this approach with a wider ethos. Speculating about what an ‘ideal’ distance learning module should comprise of, I began to systematically work through what I deemed to be the best bits of innovative content on our VLE, hoping to be able to formulate the bare bones of what I will pretentiously call a manifesto.

From a learning technologist perspective I’m particularly interested in whether or not this manifesto can potentially define a set of principles to support tutors in uniformly structuring their content, and in-turn influence how that content is delivered to students. A threshold standard designed principally for our online provision, if you like.

Having never lived in anything resembling an ideal or perfect world, the seven points below were as far as I got with said manifesto, but if anybody in the blogosphere has any thoughts about how I can improve or build upon these points then I’d love to hear from you.

So, without further ado.

Continue reading

Threshold Standards Staff Development

Threshold Standards Screen GrabThis week the Learning Technology team started to roll out a staff development programme to support tutors through the process of making sure they are meeting the university’s recently introduced threshold standards. From September 2011 these standards aim to ensure a degree of uniformity of student experience across modules, based on existing good practice of student usability.

To make sure that you, as tutors, are fully supported, we have a variety of staff development resources on offer, all of which can be accessed by visiting www.derby.ac.uk/threshold-standards. For the first time ever, the Learning Technology team are also introducing virtual support through Wimba Classroom, ensuring that even if you aren’t available to meet us face-to-face we can take you through the finer points of the threshold standards remotely.

We recognise that many of you will already be meeting and exceeding the threshold standards and because of this we would like to reiterate that we are very much continuing  to encourage and support additional module development and further adoption of Technology Enhanced Learning. To formalise this support we are introducing four new strands of“continuing improvement”. These strands are:

  • Improving student induction
  • Improving active learning
  • Improving learning content
  • Improving assessment and feedback

If you feel that you are comfortable with the threshold standards then we would very much like to engage with you around these four broad strands of continuing improvement. As such, we are in the process of setting up staff development sessions and other additional support resources which will guide you through these strands on your own terms.

As ever, if you have any questions about these standards or strands of improvement (or anything TEL related for that matter!) then pop down to B111 and talk to us directly and we’ll happily provide bespoke staff development sessions for you and/or your team.