Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Learntech Changes and Updates Summer 2012

During the next few weeks, there will be a number of changes to the systems which the Learntech team supports. Many of these changes have been made as a direct response to feedback which has been provided over the year and will represent a considerable investment in improvements to the current environment.
Following the decision by the University Executive Team to remain with Blackboard for a further three years, we will be upgrading this to the latest release which will provide a number of security updates and new features. Some of the key changes include an improved look and feel and enhanced features for assessment and monitoring. A separate page provides full details on these changes.
As previously announced, there will be a move from the Campus Pack blogs and wikis within NILE to using the Blackboard tools. Staff should continue to migrate content out of these areas if required and ensure they are familiar with the new tools.
As part of closer integration with the student record system, student demand for greater clarity and the future need to transfer grades from NILE, there will be a change to the way in which modules and courses are setup. All courses and modules will be created on NILE as they are validated, using an agreed template. Students will be automatically added, and when the site has been developed and made available by the tutor, students will see this in their list of modules when they login to NILE. For full details on the QNIG project, please view the blog posting.
SaGE (Submission and Grading Electronically)
The above changes to NILE will support the University drive to move to e-submission and grading of work, as the site template will help tutors to provide clearer instructions to students on where they need to submit work and how they will obtain results. The SaGE blog continues to be updated with the latest information and guidance.
MyPAD (e-portfolios)
Following the announcement on May 2nd the product which currently underpins MyPAD will be replaced with a new system based on WordPress (supplied by Edublogs). This will provide significantly improved flexibility for students in their choice of layout and ability to share with a wide range of individuals. Some tutors within The School of Health are continuing to use PebblePad where there is a need for highly structured portfolios.
Northampton YouTube
During 2012, a new product for video streaming similar to that used by YouTube will be introduced to Northampton. Provided by Kaltura, there will be a significant improvement in the integration with NILE and in the functionality over our current video streaming system. Further details will be made available as this work progresses.
Mobile (iNorthampton)
As of May 2012, there have been nearly 10,000 downloads of the iNorthampton app. A further update to iNorthampton is planned shortly based on feedback to the first phase – keep an eye on the website for the latest project news.

All of the above changes represents a considerable investment and improvement in the Learning Technology environment. Do not panic as the Learntech team are here to help you and many of the changes are additional features to the current systems.
If you wish to discuss some of these improvements in more detail then please come along to one of theLearntech Friday sessions or just contact the team at any time.

NILE Upgrade Summer 2012

by Rob Howe

What’s happening?
As part of our regular programme of NILE maintenance and improvements, this summer there will be a short period when work will be completed.
When is it happening?
Between  10:30pm on Saturday 21st July and 10:30am Sunday 22nd July, the Blackboard software that underpins NILE will be upgraded to the latest service pack (SP8). NILE will be unavailable during this time.
Changes to NILE in v9.1 SP8
The Blackboard software that underpins NILE will be upgraded from version 9.1 service pack 5 to service pack 8.
The service pack will fix some minor problems in the current version, and add some functionality to existing features. There will be some improvements to the look and feel. The main changes are listed below:
Look & Feel
  • New Theme for 2012 – user feedback and on-going development of NILE user interface means that there is a new look and slightly modified layout which should be more efficient and intuitive.
Assessment and monitoring
  • Negative Marking – you can now give negative points for wrong answers, this stops guessing on multiple choice questions!
  • Automatic Re-grading – if you have an invalid question in a test you can drop, give full credit, change point value or change the correct answer and the score is recalculated and updated in the grade centre.
  • Timed Assessments Enhancement – you can now choose to make the test “auto submit” at the end of the allocated time or purely warn the student they are now over time. Also there is a prominent progress indicator bar and with only one minute remaining the line turns red to serve as a visual cue.
Grading and feedback (the Grade Centre)
  • Needs Grading – gives you better visibility and access to items that need grading in your module. You can also set minimum student activity prior to needing grading such as the minimum number of posts in a discussion board.
  • Interactive Rubrics – create grading rubrics and attach to assignments to help towards consistent grading. Choose to let the student see/not see the grading rubric prior to assignment submission via the grade centre.
Where can I find more information?
More details on the changes can be found on the full release notes  for Service Pack 8,Service Pack 7 and Service Pack 6. If you have any questions about any of the changes, please contact the Learning Technology team.

You can also use the new feedback form, available on the Help tab in NILE, to tell the learning technology team what you think of the changes!


Closer links between NILE and the Student Record System

Since 2010, a group (QNIG) representing key parts of the University has been working to develop closer links between the student record system (QLS) and NILE.
There are 3 main phases of QLS NILE Integration Group (QNIG):
  1. Username, password and email address synchronisation
  2. Module synchronisation
  3. Grading synchronisation
Phase 1 was completed in July 2011 and now means that usernames, passwords and email addresses on NILE will be the same as used for all other central systems.
Phases 2 and 3 are linked in that we need to ensure that modules in NILE are named in the same way as they are in QLS. Once this is completed then we will be able to automatically enrol students onto modules. Phase 2 is focused on module coding and automatic enrolment of students and this will be completed for summer 2012. Phase 3 is linked to the SaGE project and will be working during 2012/2013 to begin the process of investigating grade transfer from NILE into the student record system.
Phase 2 represents a change for many staff in that NILE courses/modules will no longer be reused each year for a new cohort. Instead a new shell will be setup for new cohorts – meaning that the old cohort will still retain access to previous content. The shell will be based on either the  Module  or Course template depending on the site status in QLS.  The full process is shown on the image below:
[Click on the image below to see full screen]
QNIG process Map
There are benefits of this approach:
  • Allows for automatic enrolment of students onto the correct module and assessment areas
  • The student only sees their own module  site.
  • Allows for assessment variations (e.g. submission dates) between different groups/sessions
  • Keeps the assessment details for each session clearly separated
  • Tutors able to communicate with clearly defined cohorts
  • A new site will be created each year to allow for clear separation of each group and the retention of data.
  • Reduced number of assignment submission points links within a single area
  • Anticipated future ability to extract grades directly from the Grade Centre and transfer these to the student record system.
For further discussion on this process then please contact

Friday, 18 May 2012

Money - HEA teaching development grants

HEA launches next round of teaching development grants. Taken from: The call for bids in the Higher Education Academy’s second phase of its teaching development grants has opened today, 18 May 2012. Over the next year the HEA will make funding available to stimulate evidence-based research and encourage innovations in learning and teaching on the themes of assessment and feedback and flexible learning. However, 25% of the available funding will be reserved for an open call for learning and teaching development. These projects could build on previous pedagogic work, or they could seek to develop a new area of work entirely. Today’s call is for individual academic staff, with funding ring fenced for Fellows of the HEA and new academic staff. Proposals may request up to £7,000 and the deadline for applications is 17 June 2012. The departmental call will open on the 28 August 2012 with a closing date for applications on the 30 September 2012. The collaborative call will open on the 7 January 2013 with a closing date for applications on the 3 March 2013. Details can be found at

Turnitin – Introducing Voice Comments!!

Turnitin – Introducing Voice Comments!! by Adel Gordon on MAY 17, 2012 
Taken from: 

 You can now easily add audio feedback to student’s work! Tutors now have the ability to leave a voice comment in GradeMark to give students additional substantive feedback that is clear, engaging, and easy to understand. With just a few clicks, instructors can quickly record a detailed voice message and attach it to a paper. This new GradeMark feature is especially useful in disciplines where written assignments are graded primarily on content vs. writing skills (such as science lab reports). Also, adding a voice comment gives you the opportunity to more fully explain your feedback. With voice comments, students can hear the content of the message, and more importantly, the context of the feedback and tone of the tutor’s voice. To add a voice comment, go to the General Comments area in GradeMark, and click the microphone at the top of the right section. You will be asked to allow access to the microphone the first time you use it. 

Friday, 11 May 2012

Library and Learning Services Conference - Tuesday 19 June

The University of Northampton Library and Learning Services Conference 2012 takes place on Tuesday 19 June.

Library and Learning Services sit at the heart of the student experience - supporting, enhancing and contributing to the teaching, learning and research activities of the University.

The aims of this conference are to raise awareness of the formal and informal research activity that underpins the work in Library and Learning Services; to showcase our most innovative practice, and to receive feedback on potential areas for development.

The conference is brimming with new ideas to inform practice, to advance teaching and learning pedagogy and to utilise exciting new technologies.

Who should attend?

The conference is aimed at Northampton Library users and HE Library and Information practitioners with an interest in research-informed practice.

For more information, please visit

Conference programme

Registration and coffee
Opening and welcome
Vice-Chancellor, Professor Nick Petford

Underpinning it all: the role of research in LLS
Chris Powis

The iconography of the Library or “We always come here”
Chris Powis, Kate Littlemore, Georgina Dimmock
and Katie Fraser

The student experience of patron-driven ebooks
Joanne Farmer and Charlotte Heppell

Coffee break/poster exhibition

Scaffolding librarians: enhancing student success
Hannah Rose and Heather McBryde-Wilding


Reading lists – time for a reality check?
Gillian Siddall and Hannah Rose

Minute madness!

Lunch/poster exhibition

Digital footprints in the transition out from university
Rob Howe

Pilot of online maths tutorials: you can lead a horse to water...
Paul Rice

The ‘digital generation’? Supply, demand and mobile services at the University of Northampton
Julie Usher

Coffee break/poster exhibition

Research data management: life beyond the laptop
Miggie Pickton

Minute madness!

Plenary and feedback
Chris Powis

Miggie Pickton

Sunday, 6 May 2012


Two blogs taken from the LearnTech blog by Rob Howe and Rob Farmer

In this case study, Jacquie Ridge reflects on how the redevelopment of of module improved student engagement and reduced non-completion rates.
Tagged with:  • 
As you may already know, NILE blogs and wikis are changing this year. This change also involves the MyPAD e-Portfolio, which will be substantially revised for the forthcoming academic year in response to comments from staff and students. Details of what is happening is available here:
Students who are using MyPAD also need to be aware of these changes, so the link to MyPAD has been updated to provide all users with information about what will be happening.
When users select the MyPAD link in NILE, they are now directed to a screen informing them of the upcoming changes to MyPAD, and what they need to do in order to save their work before the changes take place on the 20th of July.
Click on the image below to find out more …

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Northampton videos that might be of interest 1

Mobile Learning for Foundation Art & Design

Professor Neil Mercer - Dialogues for Learning

Professor Mark Schofield - Learning Dialogues in 

Learning Focused Universities

What do students thinks of exam?

Ajit, S.  (2017)  Exam as an assessment instrument in computer programming courses: student perceptions.  Poster presented to:  6th Internat...