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Mobile Learning in the Faculty of Science and Technology

Posted on: 27 March 2015
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Filed under: Mobile

The project to help transform learning and teaching through mobile learning is now well underway. It was recently agreed that iPADs would be the device that the Faculty would exploit in this work. The plan will essentially involve providing all level 5 and 6 students with iPADs as well as all staff.

At present the project team are finishing of an invitation to tender to be issued for companies to bid to supply the iPADs and an attendant support programme.

Alongside this the team are busy putting together a development programme for staff in the Faculty which will range from the basic operation of the device through to using the iPADs for in and out of class activities.

To find out more about the ideas behind the project visit the project website.

Classroom Project

Posted on: 27 March 2015
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Filed under: Classrooms

The first step with the classroom project has been to work with small groups of staff at each to identify which rooms should be the target for ‘modernisation’ over the Summer. We hope at this stage that Faculty will be able to markedly improve between 4-6 rooms with a combination of new furniture, different AV/IT, as well as attending to some basic needs such as blinds and lighting.

The rooms identified as targets at each Faculty are:

Marylebone – C176, C178, C179, C180, C181, C279, C280, C281, C282, M321, LA103

Regent – 350, 352, 354, 355, 359, 251

Harrow – A7.01, A7.02, A7.02a, A7.03, A7.04

Cavendish – C305, C303/4, Pavilion, C204, C207, C211, CLG1, 1.110, C1.15

Now a design company are on board (Rock Townsend) the nest step will costing up what each Faculty would ideally like each room to look like.


Blackboard Discovery Workshops

Posted on: 27 March 2015
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Filed under: Blackboard

A Blackboard discovery workshop was held on the 24th February. This one day event was attended by around 40 staff representing the academic community, IT support, library, student support services (careers, health and wellbeing), recruitment, admission and marketing, academic registries and core Blackboard support staff.

The day comprised a number of activities the most extensive of which involved groups deciding on a student persona and then trying to think through what that student might need from a Blackboard portal.

All groups decided on an undergraduate persona and the range of information and services they felt critical to their student were quite similar and can be collectively summed up as including:


This should be personalised and include:

– timetable
– week to view calendar of timetable/events
– notifications (upcoming tasks, e.g. assessments)
– Progress bars (assessments, course)
– Key contacts including tutors and office hours
– Course Facebook page

Other key information included:

– Discounted goods and services for students
– Student support services (counselling, careers)
– Finance support
– Registry support
– Induction and enrolment information

News should include:

– SU events
– Faculty events
– Training and placements
– Extra curricular opportunities
– Talent bank
– External newsfeeds

Other key information services included: Library, email. print

An example of feedback from one of the groups is shown below:

Each group was also asked how things may  need to be different for postgraduates. It was suggested that key for them would be knowing their timetable a year in advance (to support the need for greater flexibility), ‘different’ employability support, targeted training and research seminars

Mobile Devices and what the University should do

Posted on: 27 March 2015
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Filed under: Mobile

During the recently completed Review of Infrastructure and Environment for Learning and Teaching there was much discussion around the future use of mobile devices in learning and teaching. Staff generally agreed that:

  • Total ownership of mobile devices, plus reliable wireless, supports new in class learning methods
  • Mobile devices are potentially significant for group work
  • A number of simple in-class approaches for engagement derive from tablets/mobiles
  • There is concern that mobile devices in class is thought to = student engagement
  • Staff need a lot of guidance and support to get started

The review concluded that the University should:

  • Have a defined strategy(ies) for mobile learning and use of devices
  • Provide guidance on reliable, effective mobile learning
  • Develop an approach to ensure ‘total ownership’ of a suitable mobile device1
  • Ensure that the wireless network can support ‘total ownership’
  • Ensure students have ubiquitous access to networks and power
  • Enable students to network their own devices easily in campus locations
  • Ensure social spaces support the use of personal devices and associated informal, collaborative, networked modes of learning
  • Assess the impact of mobile/lighter devices on open access computing laboratories

Classrooms – what staff say

Posted on: 27 March 2015
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Filed under: Classrooms

a) Classroom technology

  • It needs to be simple and work
  • Standard whiteboards were still quite critical
  • Front position of display can dictate pedagogy
  • Support for mobile ‘lectern’
  • Support for plug and play and own devices
  • Support for capability to display on any wall

b) Basic fixtures and fittings

  • Need good:
    • Lighting
    • Ventilation
    • Bright walls or glass walls
    • Blinds that work

c) Furniture

  • Needs to be lightweight, easily moved
  • Not too much of it in the space available
  • Allowing for fast, flexible re-configuration of the room
  • Need to facilitate group work

d) Layout and capacity

  • Stop with the rows being the norm
  • Innovative arrangements
  • Circles, semi-circles
  • Lecturer in the middle
  • Lecturer not restricted by location of display device

e) Old technology

  • Must still have whiteboards
  • Flip charts
  • Have digital display screen positioned separately to whiteboard
  • Use these old technologies as well as modern display approaches

Blackboard – what students say

Posted on: 27 March 2015
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Filed under: Blackboard

Over the past 15 months several surveys of students have been conducted to get views on various aspects of Blackboard. Included in all surveys were either specific questions like ‘What information would you most like to see in Blackboard’ or ‘What single thing could we to improve Blackboard for you’ or free text questions like ‘Is there anything else you would like to tell us’?

All of the qualitative contributions made by students to these questions (some 1257 separate undergraduate students) have been analysed using Nvivo software. This is what we see.

What services would you most like to be able to access directly in Blackboard?

Email and library get the most mentions here; followed by timetable information. More than few commented they would like to see more information on their timetables – all coursework deadlines for example. SRSWeb was mentioned less frequently as was the H-drive. A few comments related to the need to have contact information for staff and or information of when they were in; a chat facility to contact staff was also mentioned more than once.


What information would most like to be able to access directly in Blackboard?

Most common here were job opportunities, summer placements and internship/work experience opportunities. Course news was highlighted significantly. Events and training workshops were mentioned more than once.


What single thing could we do to Blackboard to make it more useful to you?

  • Add a path through to all exam and assessment details/deadlines
  • Make it possible to move to other services without always signing in again
  • Make the navigation/UI simpler
  • Make it simpler and clearer
  • Change the look, it’s boring
  • It’s too slow; (often related to the Blackboard Mobile app)