Welcome to the new academic year at Aston. We’ve been busy upgrading some of the core learning tools during the summer. Before I talk about new tools, I thought it’s worth shouting about a new collaborative learning space (MB512) – see image above. This space has been designed and installed to showcase the ideas and feedback from recent consultations coordinated by Steve Ellis. It looks and feels great, and has been designed to ensure the space is flexible and can cater for collaborative (small group) working. The design, colours, and embedded technology all make for an innovative space.
For those just getting back into the swing of things here’s a few pointers to keep you updated;
Blackboard VLE has been migrated to a managed hosted service, and is now updated to service pack 8. The transition has been slick and painless, and thus ensures a robust service for all our users. Two new tools of note in this release are:
• New grading rubrics
• New reports (tracking) types
As you may be aware, Blackboard purchased Elluminate and Horizon Wimba last year. The resultant development was Collaborate, which we upgraded to this summer. Apart from the improved interface , upgrades include:
• Echo cancellation, which eliminate feedback noise, meaning you no longer need to use headphones with PC speakers.
• Improved scheduling via the Blackboard integration.
• (vastly) Improved application sharing. Meaning you can share your desktop/live applications with session attendees, to illustrate an idea, walk through a solution, or collaborate in real time.
Collaborate is fully integrated into your Blackboard Courses. Access it via the Tools menu.
We have also upgraded Turnitin’s integration with Blackboard. This new integration should eliminate some operational issues reported last year. The new (direct) integration fundamentally alters the way BB VLE links to Turnitin. This has resulted in a change to the submissions inbox, removing the ability to sort by student name, and no paper ID column! Students still get a full time and date stamped receipt. The main difference in the assignment set up, is the new multi part assignment. This can now cater up to 5 parts to a new assignment, each with their own due dates – which could be useful for large/iterative or group projects.
Skype has been installed on all the Pool rooms PC’s, and uses the handheld/tie microphones. So if you are planning to invite a guest speaker from afar, they could be “present” in your lecture via Skype.