Digi Know – Class Notebook is now available within Blackboard

You can now create a Microsoft OneNote Class Notebook for a given module within Course Resources. Invitations to join the notebook will be sent automatically to students.

Class Notebook

The OneNote Class Notebook is specific type of notebook that lets you use OneNote to create, deliver and collaborate on content with Students within and outside of the classroom.

More information about Class Notebook can be found here

Digi know: OneNote for Educators


Microsoft OneNote is a freely available tool (https://www.onenote.com/download) which allows you to take, structure and collaborate on digital notes. These can be screen clippings, drawings, photographs, typed/handwritten notes and audio/video clips.


OneNote on a desktop machine

It is available for use at the institution from your work computer and is also available for download on your personal devices, this includes tablets and smartphones.

One way to think about OneNote in relation to the physical world is a scrapbook, or ring binder. For example, previously you might have kept a physical folder for session notes, tutorials etc… OneNote can be an effective digital replacement for this.


Physical folder of teaching material

OneNote can also be an excellent planning tool, allowing you to collate lots of materials which can then be organised into something which begins to make sense regarding a course or a given lesson.


Digital folder of teaching material

OneNote has an extensive set of features which can be explored in detail via the following webpages. For more guidance please contact the Learning Technology Team on tel@derby.ac.uk.


Blackboard Teaching and Learning Conference 2015

A number of staff from Learning Enhancement, ITS and UDOL attended Blackboard’s annual Innovate & Educate: Teaching & Learning Conference which took place at the University of Liverpool. The conference gave delegates a chance to network with peers, but perhaps more significantly with the Blackboard team itself.

The following links provide more information about the conference:



Brief video highlights from both days can be found courtesy of Blackboard’s YouTube channel.



Keynote 1

Learning {Re}imagined (Graham Brown-Martin)

Graham Brown-Martin travelled the world in an attempt to investigate the challenges that today’s educators face, he has since put his experiences into the book “Learning {Re}imagined” – http://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/learning-reimagined-9781474222730/

Graham’s keynote was an insight into his travels, experiences, opinions and the pressing questions that he feels society as a whole need to answer. A provocative speaker, he challenged the idea that technology has yet to cause the revolution that it has threatened, arguing that we are still living in a Victorian like education system where the retention of facts takes precedence over problem solving, work skills and life skills. The culmination of this culture is the alphanumeric profile used to judge a student, forcing them, and their parents (he alluded to his own experiences with his children) to “chase the grade”. This is further compounded by the fact that grades are still mainly awarded via a memory intense exam that does not reflect the “real world” where information is freely and instantaneously available.

Keynote 2

Jay Bhatt (President and CEO)

Jay’s keynote was focused on the current strategic positioning of Blackboard as a company, it’s collaborative partners and how the company is trying deal with the challenges posed by different markets and locales.

Over the last few years Blackboard have strived to pull together the wide range of products within their portfolio into one ecosystem. The focal point being the student journey and what they require from a digital ecosystem.

It was evident from Jay’s keynote that they had made a real effort to understand their customer base (this includes their international market) and provide localisations to their products and to their customer service. There has also been a huge shift in the marketing strategy which has seen a major change in the companies “brand” and the look and feel of the products, there is now a real drive towards a holistic approach to product design.

It is also worth noting that the University got a mention in relation to it’s future use of analytics!

Keynote 3

Valerie Schreiner

The main focus of this presentation was the Blackboard Roadmap, showcasing some of the new products and their aesthetic/usability enhancements. Three of the key products where Blackboard Ultra, the new Blackboard Collaborate and the new mobile apps.

Blackboard Ultra

‘Ultra’ seeks to provide a responsive design User Interface in which users are never more than 3 layers deep. Incorporated into this will be a profile for each student which is integrated with MyEdu and Mozilla Open Badges. Ultra is not an upgrade to the current version of Blackboard, 9.1, but is a separate streamlined product using cloud based technology. Blackboard 9.1 will continue to be supported as a separate product, with the long term goal being to migrate institutions over to Ultra during the next few years.

Blackboard Collaborate

The company has also recently purchased a specialist WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communication) company and have built the new version of Blackboard Collaborate (online classroom) with this technology. This now allows students to access the classroom directly from their browsers with no need for extra plugins (specifically this removes the Java reliance). This will be available around the end of May 2015

Blackboard Mobile Apps

On the mobile front, Blackboard have taken the decision to split their mobile Learn app into two separate mobile apps, one focused on the Student and the other on the Instructor. The rationale behind this is to provide a more tailored experience to the two main Blackboard Learn roles. There is also a mobile version of the blackboard grading tool called BB Grader. BB Grader is already available, the new mobile apps will be available this summer.

Keynote 4

Louwarnoud van der Duim

All the way from the University of Groningen (Netherlands), Louwarnoud leads a team responsible for educational support and innovation. Louwarnoud’s keynote covered three things that had been implemented during his time in this role:

  • e-Assessment – The institution equipped the main exam halls with Ethernet points and then used laptops to delivery examinations via Blackboard Tests.
  • Help Desk for Blackboard – This was an initiative led by student volunteers that proved incredibly popular and helpful for the staff at the institution, it also gave the students valuable work and customer experience.
  • Bespoke Student Portal – The University created a portal to collate all the various digital services that Staff and Students use at the institution. This was found to not be used extensively as people tended to go directly to the various websites/applications.

Digital Capabilities

Gillian Fielding

University of Salford/UCISA User Skills Group

Gillian Fielding from University of Salford and the UCISA User Skills Group presented the results of Digital Capabilities Survey (http://www.ucisa.ac.uk/digcap).  The survey was looking at trends in digital capabilities across the HE sector (63/156 HE institutions in the UK and Ireland responded).

Key findings and recommendations of the survey include definitions of what digital capabilities means, internal and external strategies driving or enabling the development of staff and student digital capabilities, the types of training, support, development and accreditation that was being offered across the sector. The executive summary is available here: (http://www.ucisa.ac.uk/~/media/groups/dsdg/usg/Digital_Capabilities_Executive_Summaryv6.ashx) which includes an outline the key findings from across the sector and draw together recommendations and conclusions.

Overall recommendations included establishing more effective mechanisms for sharing good practice within institutions, clearer descriptions of skills and competencies required for roles and disciplines, and more importantly looking at implementing institution led projects to embed digital capabilities into curricula or job roles.

Forward thinking feedback

Helena Gillespie

Helen described how UEA were working with their student officers to improve the uptake of technology enhanced learning, in particular assessment and feedback. Working with the NUS Assessment and Feedback benchmarking toolkit (http://www.nusconnect.org.uk/resourcehandler/a8b81c81-3e09-4798-bb38-b19d20d77c04/) they began to build up a framework to enrich the feedback process at UEA through digitization.

The project outlines some key areas including:

  • Giving academics great control over assessment process, enabling it to relate better to teaching and learning
  • Minimise assessment and feedback admin for staff
  • Create a bank of sample questions and answers
  • Ensure adequate support mechanisms are in place for all colleagues needs
  • Have e-assessment champion in each faculty

15th Durham Blackboard Users’ Conference

The 15th Durham Blackboard Users Conference took place on the 6th and 7th of January. This year’s theme differed from the past in that it had a greater emphasis on students. Aptly titled ‘Students as Partners’, the aim was to question the rationale and mechanisms used in involving students, establish what impact this has and see how this potentially mutually beneficial relationship impacts both the institutions and the students.

The following links provide more information about the conference:



Keynote 1

Engagement Through Partnership

Dr Abbi Flint is a Consultant in Academic Practice at the Higher Education Academy. Abbi has 11 years’ experience of educational development and pedagogic research at both institutional and national level.

Abbi’s presentation focused on the recently developed HEA ‘Framework for partnership in learning and teaching in higher education’.

The ‘Framework for partnership in learning and teaching in higher education’ is trying to address how the wider HE community work more closely with students in the pursuit of a more cohesive and inclusive environment for engagement.

“The Higher Education Academy’s (HEA’s) Framework for partnership in learning and teaching in higher education has been developed in response to the need identified in the sector for greater clarity and focus in broader discussions of student engagement and partnership.”

Neatly packaged into a circular diagram, it can be used to plan, review and encourage debate and discourse around curriculum design, validation, community feel etc…


Keynote 2

Doug is the Web Literacy Lead for the Mozilla Foundation, an ex teacher living in the NE of England. He was heavily involved in making Open Badges a reality and is enthusiastic about all things related to education, technology and productivity.

An engaging presentation which Doug challenged the audience to define their organisations ‘mission’, its ‘architecture of participation’ and what might be hindering ‘radical participation’. He asked the audience to write their thoughts down on index cards that were provided – you can see a collection of them on his flickr account.  Doug’s parting blow was to encourage bolder ‘radical participation’ and change within our institutions, rather than through the more systematic minute ones.


Rosie Hare (University of York) has written a nice summary of both keynotes.


Partnership: The Blackboard Perspective

Blackboards presentation was split into two parts, the first was given by Alan Masson who spoke about the challenges Blackboard faces, how it can empower its users and utilise its users (including students) as change agents.

The second part was a presentation was geared towards the future direction of Blackboard and its products – effectively their roadmap. The main changes on the horizon are significant user interface changes to the Learn platform. Project named ‘Ultra’ seeks to provide a responsive design User Interface in which users are never more than 3 layers deep. Incorporated into this will be a profile for each student which is integrated with MyEdu and Mozilla Open Badges.

The company has also recently purchased a specialist WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communication) company and have built the new version of Blackboard Collaborate (online classroom) with this technology. This now allows students to access the classroom directly from their browsers with no need for extra plugins (specifically this removes the Java reliance).

On the mobile front, Blackboard have taken the decision to split their mobile app into two separate mobile apps, one focused on the Student and the other on the Instructor. The rationale behind this is to provide a more tailored experience to the two main Blackboard Learn roles.

Other interesting presentations:

Solutions for Detecting & Preventing Plagiarism. A community session: SafeAssign and Turnitin – Discussion

This was an interesting discussion around eSubmission and the possible direction of the wider sector.

There seemed to be a general feeling that the sector would like to move away from Turnitin due to the downtime that most institutions experience during peak demand. The main issue with a move away from Turnitin to SafeAssign appeared to be with the plagiarism checkers and the feeling that Turnitin still have the edge in this regard. Further to this the audience felt that the Blackboard Grading App is not up to the standard of the Turnitin Grading App.

Student/staff Collaboration in the Production of an Official University App for Students

The National University of Ireland (NUI), Galway provides an initiative for project collaboration and offers a budget of 1000 euro. Two students Darren Kelly and Fionn Delahunty applied for this funding and decided that there was a need to provide a University mobile app that was student centric which solved lots of small annoying issues that students were experiencing. They did this in partnership with the ‘Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching’, in particular Sharon Flynn.

The project was built using the mymosaic https://mymosaic.com/ platform which allows for rapid cross platform development of mobile applications. Students were surveyed about what were the most pressing issues they faced and this then informed what content and resources were to be within the app. The resulting application was available for iOS and Android and has been a success with the student community.

Using Open Badges to Encourage Student Participation in Class Rep Activities

A fairly innovative approach, using Mozilla Open Badges, was taken by Edinburgh University Sudents’ Association (EUSA) for encouraging participation in Class Rep activities. Used as an incentive to recognise the good work that the Class Reps achieve across the University, Reps are asked to evidence their work. This then allows them to earn ‘badges’ as recognition for this work, it also provides the EUSA with valuable information on what Reps have been up to during the course of the year and evaluate the approaches that work the best.

Open Badges could be used in numerous ways at the institution to encourage Student and Staff participation with the incentive of a tangible award to add to their career portfolio.

More information about the Open Badges can be found at http://openbadges.org/

The trouble with Drag and Drop is…

“I want it to be more interactive”, I hear them cry…

It is almost impossible to count how many times I have heard this statement, normally given by a willing teacher with the right intentions in mind. The trouble though is that interactivity has a very bad name!

Repeat after me…

Interactivity is not a mouse click…
Interactivity is not a mouse click…
Interactivity is not a mouse click…

Maybe a little over the top, but hopefully it gets a point across. Too many times it is assumed that by digitising the odd learning activity or by adding some pictures and video, the content will spring into life, entertain and satisfy. 9 times out of 10, it won’t.

So what then?

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Khan Academy

I have been using the Khan Academy to assist with my study of Mathematics for over a year and I would like to share my experiences with you. For those of you who have not heard of the Khan Academy, it’s a free educational website consisting of 2600 videos and 306 practice exercises. It is predominantly focused on Science-based material and is the brainchild of Salman Khan, former MIT and Harvard graduate (not to be confused with the Bollywood megastar of the same name). You can find out about how and why this website started from http://www.khanacademy.org/about and the Ted talk Salman Khan gave, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTFEUsudhfs (I seriously encourage you to give this a watch).

When I first started to pursue Maths again, almost a decade after completing an A-Level in the subject, I had almost no knowledge of the subject; was hopelessly out of practice and had only my enthusiasm to go on. Enter Youtube… Youtube??? … but I thought this was a post about Khan Academy? Well it is. However, to share my experiences and thoughts I need to start somewhere near the beginning.

There are many great educators on Youtube who provide free lessons in a multitude of disciplines and these have long played a central part in my learning. The ability to pause, skip forward and go back allows me to learn at a pace that suits me. I can equate my time appropriately to the areas I am weak in. I have however found some things lacking, specifically reinforcement through ‘doing’ and a way of categorising and tracking what has been learnt and what should be learnt.

On these last two points Khan Academy excels when supporting Maths. It provides a sophisticated set of exercises, statistics, a map of your knowledge and, as they put it ‘Badges worth bragging about’, which are earned through the completion of challenges. The beauty of this almost game-based approach is that it can become obsessive and therefore encourages mastery of a particular topic before moving on. Simply move through the videos and exercises and follow the path laid out for you. You never know, while you are at it, you might actually have some fun!

Khan Academy has meant, and continues to mean, a lot to me. My feelings towards it are akin to those shown towards an inspirational teacher, wanting to do well by them. This flies in the face of those who think that a learner’s experience will be inherently worse for not having actual physical or real-time contact with their teachers. When I watch a Khan video, I feel like he is speaking directly to me: just a pupil and a teacher with the latter never judging; always patient and forever willing to repeat himself…

Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI)

Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) is an IMS specification aimed at providing a single way to integrate rich applications – referred to as ‘Tools‘ – with portals such as Learning Management Systems (e.g. Blackboard) – know  as ‘Tool Consumers’ .

Now I realise that this sounds a bit technical, and unfortunately it is.  This one really is for the developers, but the impact of implementing LTI will be beneficial to students and teachers alike.

So lets look at what LTI will allow us to do and what the benefits are…

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Really Simple Syndication (RSS) is a format widely used by websites to automatically publish a feed of their latest items such a posts, stories and media.  Think of it as you would an index for a magazine, allowing you to see a short summary of the latest stories to aid in your choice.

An RSS reader will let you access this feed and browse over the short summaries without visiting the website.  Should you find something worth looking at, you click on the link and you will be transported to the relevant material.

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During a spare moment most of us will have been in the following situation; sat in front of the internet, staring at Google and wondering what to search for.

StumbleUpon provides a great alternative to the traditional Google search. A combination of social opinions and machine learning provide a collaborative filter to deliver you with interesting content. If you like what you see then you can give it a ‘thumbs up’ and if you don’t then give it a ‘thumbs down’.  This all contributes to refining the filter used in providing you and others with content.

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