The leaves are tinged with the hints of reds, golds and browns of autumn, there’s the familiar chill in the early mornings . Yes, it’s the start of the new academic year for both schools, FE and HE institutions across the sector are gearing up to welcome thousands of new students to a new phase in their education or perhaps restarting their education.
There’s a range of activities that have occurred over the summer months to help put digital learning and teaching on a stronger foothold and plenty of innovative practice to get engaged with over the next academic year. If you’d like to know more, then read on.
What’s been happening over the summer?
Here’s just a few of the things that have been happening to improve the digital learning and teaching experience.
- IT have been working hard to improve the WiFi network in the residences. There’s been plenty of feedback from staff and students that having a good network is really important and it’s crucial for digital learning and teaching so it’s been and will continue to be an area of focus.
- There’s ongoing work to update Office 365 to the latest version. This is happening in phases so that everyone will be upgraded but IT will be undertaking this on a rolling basis.
- The TEL Unit put a lot of work into moving our Blackboard VLE into the cloud. This doesn’t mean any changes from a user perspective but it puts the support of Blackboard in a better position moving forward.
- There’s also a new Blackboard template for courses. You can find out more on the TEL Unit blog
- And as it’s the start of the year, the TEL Unit have plenty of advice and support about getting your Blackboard courses ready for the new academic year .
- The new Digital Learning and Teaching Steering Group is up and running. This will be meeting on a regular basis to discuss strategic initiatives and help ensure that digital learning and teaching is embedded across the institution.
- There’s also a new Special Interest Group that’s been set-up to share ideas on Digital Accessibility. The Special Interest Group is open to everyone at the University regardless of whether you’re a member of staff or a student. If you’re interested in digital accessibility whether you’re studying a subject related to this area, a practitioner, researcher or someone who has an active interest, you are most welcome. To get involved search for the GRP_Digital Accessibility Group on Yammer – which is part of Office365.
And what’s happening over the new academic year?
- Many of you contributed to conversations last academic year about the future of digital learning and teaching and where we might want to focus our efforts. The biggest activity that will be happening this year will be the production a new Learning and Teaching Strategy. For the first time, digital learning and teaching will be embedded in the Learning and Teaching Strategy drawing on the range of feedback and conversations. So it’s a really busy but exciting time as we start to pull of that thinking together.
- As an inclusive institution we’re planning to support staff in making their courses as accessible as possible to coincide with the new public sector accessibility regulations. This will be a significant area of focus for the next year and there will be a range of activities and awareness raising initiatives to support everyone is making their learning content accessible. IT have a help page with information about using some of the Office365 tools to make Word docs or PowerPoints accessible and the TEL Unit have advice on making Blackboard courses accessible. This also ties in with the launch of the Inclusive toolkit which will happening later in the term. Look out for a range of information, support and webinars focusing on digital accessibility.
- As part of the support for digital learning and teaching on campus, there’s currently a project looking at polling/voting systems with the aim of being able to offer a university wide polling system in the future. This will strengthen the opportunities to take an active, blended approach to learning and teaching.
- With everyone now using Blackboard and TurnitIn for the electronic management of assessment, the next stage of the project will be looking at connecting Blackboard with our student information system to allow easier transfer of assessment information. This is an ongoing project and further information will be available as work progresses.
- As IT roll out Office 365 there’ll be more opportunities to explore how Office365 can be used to support learning and teaching. Further information will be available as the update moves forward but if you’re interested you can find a range of useful guidance and courses via LinkedIn Learning or have a look at the Microsoft Education Community and have a go at earning a digital badge.
Want to get involved?
There’s plenty of innovative practice to get involved with this academic year and more opportunities in the pipeline. But do you have some innovative practice you really want to share? Want to write a blog post about it? Be part of a webinar or Share and Inspire session? Then let us know and we’ll definitely be in touch!