DL Forum Newsletter: July 2010
- News and Updates
- DL at the University of Leicester: The Way to Go
- Blackboard 9 and Your Courses
- The CDDU and You: A Helping Hand
Dear DL Forum,
Welcome to the July 2010 newsletter.
It has been a wonderful year with lots of interesting discussion and activities that have helped to inform institutional developments.
The DL Forum has covered:
- DL Models and Values
- Costs – presentation from Greville Rumble
- Student Support – case study from the Centre for Labour Market Studies
- Tutor Training – presentation from Sid Verber
- Student support in distance learning – presentation from Ormond Simpson
- Virtual Learning Environments and Blackboard
- Course Design and Development - case study from Museum Studies
- Central Service Support
- The Course Design and Development Unit (CDDU) and the support and resources they provide
- An Academic’s Diary: Time Management – presentation by Simon Rofe from International Relations
- Sustainability of Learning and Teaching – presentation by Annette Cashmore
- The UoL’s Educational Business Partners – presentations from two visiting partners (Bill O’Hara and John Evans)
- Marketing and DL
- Planning DL courses and the importance of the underpinning administrative model
- The Student Record System
This has resulted in the Distance Education Centre (DEC) being able to:
- Commission a report for a policy framework for DL usage of Blackboard through the Learning Technologies Management Group (LTMG) using the feedback you gave us. This has been produced, and is now being considered by a special working group of the LTMG.
- Respond to the need expressed to provide immediate help to DL departments with Blackboard assistance. This includes the availability of Post graduate ‘at elbow’ helpers who are trained by CDDU.
- Inform the IT Services Blackboard team in charge of the upgrade to version 9 of your concerns and priorities for future developments.
- Use the DL values you helped us to create to inform the ethos and direction of key projects such as those surrounding the student record.
- Enable the CDDU to, through consultation with you all, scope and direct institution-wide projects such as: the Orientation Module and the Blackboard Taster courses.
- Establish a DL training group chaired by Steve Barrow.
- Scope the work of the DEC.
We would not be able to do this work without you all. Once again thank you for your time and support.
We will be sending another newsletter on the last Tuesday in August 2010 to let you know how the Blackboard upgrade went, status on the SUNRISE project, alongside any other pertinent news items.
We hope that you have a great summer and look forward to seeing you in September 2010.
Director of Distance Learning Development
Students’ Union - Alex Nutt (SU Academic Affairs Officer)
The ‘I Love My Academic’ awards were a great success last year and a special commendation has to be given to the nominee, Tracey Morris. This nomination shows how a Distant Learner Tutor is making a significant effort to ensure that students are receiving the best teaching, advice and support possible. We are delighted with this nomination as it demonstrates that students are achieving the highest quality of teaching available as a Distance Learner.
SUNRISE project update - Laura Freeman
Those of you who were at the June DL Forum and heard Anne Hall's presentation will know that the Single Student Record project has been renamed the SUNRISE project. We're currently in one of those periods of activity where there is lots of work going on behind the scenes. We have set up a task group to look at DL regulations issues, and we are currently investigating whether the 'halo' processes of assignment handling and customer relationship management should be brought into the scope of stage 1. More information about SUNRISE and its activities is available on the project Blackboard site at DL SINGLE STUDENT RECORD PROJECT (DL SSR) (ADX003) which is available for any member of staff to enrol on to.
DL Marketing - Tamara Beard
Distance Learning applications in 2009/10 were up by 20% compared to 2008/9 across the board. However, we are starting to see a decline in new registrations students which are down by 8.5% in the latest period, although registrations are still 15% higher when compared to 2007/8 figures. The recent decline in registrations provides some cause for concern, in particular bearing in mind the ambitious growth targets that some Departments have included in college plans. We’ll be keeping an eye on this and advising departments accordingly.
At the same time we are seeing some decline in the number of new enquiries that we are receiving for distance learning study. It looks like a genuine fall and we are responding by developing aspects of the University’s website and enquiry capture mechanisms and have upped Google Adword spend in some areas.
As many of you will know the University has recently appointed a new advertising agency called Hunterlodge, and together with Departments we are beginning work planning the advertising schedules for 2010/11 subject to confirmation of budgets. We believe their innovative approach to media planning in particular will be important in helping to address enquiry levels. Given the fall in enquiries and challenging targets departments have established we strongly advise against any reductions in advertising spend. We appreciate there is considerable pressure on non-pay budgets but cutting spend, especially on Google Adwords, is a false economy and will further depress enquiries and recruitment.
An article by Helen Lentell:
As you have hopefully already heard, Blackboard will be upgraded to a new version (9) on August 10-12th 2010. Whilst any content in your Blackboard courses will remain the same, the way it appears to both you and the students; and the way that you edit and amend it, will change.
If you haven't done so already, you may like to book on a hands-on session with ITS Training or review the online upgrade details on the ITS web site: see below for further details.
If you have any difficulties with Blackboard 9 over and above the ITS training and information which may affect the design and delivery of your courses, please contact CDDU (email@example.com) and we will be glad to provide advice and assistance.
Blackboard Upgrade News Update
A standing news item for the DL Forum from IT Services, by Sandy Pearson and Nick Adkins:
We are into the final month before the upgrade takes place on 10th to 12th August and everything is going well at the moment. The main activities at this stage are described below.
We are engaging with Blackboard for them to assess our hardware and to test it to its limits. This will give us valuable information for the future in ensuring that the hardware has the capacity to meet future growth forecasts. To put this testing into context, historical analysis has shown us that we have seen a peak of approximately 215,000 hits per hour. The new system is designed to have the capacity for a 50% year on year increase for the next three years, thus translating into a capacity of approximately 730,000 hits per hour. Furthermore, should we need to increase capacity during this period, the hardware design allows for this.
The consultancy work is currently ongoing, but initial findings are very positive and Blackboard have already reported that our hardware selection is "sound".
We have received many very valuable testing feedback reports which have all been investigated. Thanks to everyone who has made comments so far.
All issues which have been replicated and are either fixed or awaiting a response from Blackboard are listed on the upgrade website (at http://go.le.ac.uk/bbupgrade) under the known issues section. Some issues reported are as a result of a change in functionality with the new version of Blackboard, and so we are trying to communicate this via the website, our training sessions, or the on-line support materials which are under development.
If you haven’t tested your courses yet, please have a look at them as soon as possible - it takes a while to get issues resolved so we really need to know about any problems well before the actual upgrade in August.
IT Services' Training and Communications team have run a number of training sessions recently. All have been very well received.
“...the session was useful as a lot of [Blackboard] is being changed - most of it for the better.”
“Good to get an overview of the new system and have a play with it.”
The current training sessions give an overview of the main differences between the old and new versions, and these will continue up to, and after, the upgrade. If you haven’t attended one why don’t you sign up through Staff Development: http://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/staff-development/courses/it/elearning/sdcct054
The nascent Course Design and Development Unit (CDDU) the first unit within the proposed DEC (Distance Education Centre) became a recognised part of Corporate Services on the 1st August 2009.
We have been working with and for departments across the University over the past year, and continue to do so. In brief:
- We have established CDDU as a proactive service provider, which supports departments in the design and delivery of Distance Learning courses, from initial planning through to delivery and review, and covering pedagogic and administrative activity. To date, we have worked with fourteen departments, some of which are highlighted below:
- We have undertaken a review of the MSc in Educational Leadership, and are now working with both the School and with the College finance officer to consider and cost developments within the College framework.
- We are undertaking a long-term review and redesign of the MSc and Diploma courses in Forensic Psychology, in partnership with the academic staff.
- We have worked with the School of Law to model a more effective split between print and online resources.
- We are engaged in work with the Leading Edge, Lifelong Learning and the School of Archaeology and Ancient History on their use of BlackBoard.
- We are in the early stages of scoping out and planning developments with Media and Mass Communications, and with the College of Arts, for the design of new DL courses in tandem with the creation of new on-campus courses (possibly including blended delivery).
- We are building strong links between departments and central services, and working on the production of central resources to help all departments, examples of which are:
- We are working in partnership with the Library to produce online tutorials for finding and using online academic resources.
- We are developing templates and content for taster and orientation course elements with potential for all DL courses.
- We have also set up, recruited, trained and funded a pool of postgraduate students to help with DL Blackboard assistance and online moderation.
- We also take an active part in promoting and supporting Distance Learning at a number of University committees, including the College Academic committees, the new Learning Technologies Management and Advisory Groups, and working parties on Tutor Training and the Staff-Student Committee working party (in the latter case leading to amended guidelines which recognise and have relevance to DL courses).
Two CDDU-created resources which are currently available to all departments are:
The CDDU have produced a series of Blackboard models [PDF] to help you to choose a Blackboard course structure that will meet the needs of your course administrators, tutors and the student experience. Please do not think that this is a definitive set; for some courses you might need a combination of these, or an entirely new model, and the CDDU can help with this.
Recruitment of distance learning students is challenging on a number of levels, particularly as potential students are unlikely to visit the campus, or experience face-to-face communication with the University.
Blackboard Taster Courses (see the Guidelines [PDF]) are the first stage of a three step process that is being developed by the Course Design and Development Unit (CDDU) and Marketing and Communications to improve our distance learner student experience.
Blackboard Taster Courses offers the prospective student an opportunity to sample the course before applying and provides an insight into the course presentation, structure, content, learning methods, course delivery and on-line environment. It is an open Blackboard course and does not therefore require University of Leicester computer account details (CFS username and password).