The third and final day at our Teaching and Learning Conference was focused on making smarter decisions to empower and transform classes.

First, our Senior Functional Consultant, Pamela Laverty, shared her insight into how Blackboard Learn can help instructors to monitor a student’s focus and activity on a regular basis. With the help of a live demo available for each session attendee, she demonstrated tools such as the colour coding capability in the grade centre and the adaptive release facility, which allows learners to access units only once the previous course has been passed. Blackboard Learn also allows instructors to monitor how much time they are spending on individual classes and on which activity. Total time spent on grading or responding to discussion boards for different classes are just some of the things tutors can review, and use, to help them understand if they are doing all they can to get the best out of their students.

Empower and enhance with course templates and community modules
We also heard from Maria Tennant, from the University of Creative Arts, on how they have adapted Blackboard to improve students’ use of learning tools, such as the online library resource. The challenge UCA faced was that the library resource was so vast that students were not able to quickly find the content they needed and the majority of them gave up using it. To solve this, the institution decided to tailor the library content for each course enabling students to access the specific resources they needed directly from the Blackboard dashboard. This made the content more discoverable and, ultimately, saw a 19.5% increase in library resource usage.

From mailbox to blended learning
To continue the theme of the day, Merethe Hollen, Aarhus University’s e-learning coordinator, presented their challenges and solutions in implementing Blackboard Learn to provide teachers with the ability to redesign courses. The university’s main challenge was that many teachers felt comfortable with the basic functionality from their Learning Management System, such as the ability to upload material, communicate with students and create tasks and assignments, and were not ready for change. On the other hand, there were numerous teachers who wanted to learn more about which tools were available and how they could be used.
To bridge the gap between teachers’ skills and willingness, Aarhus University decided to develop advanced, hands-on courses where teachers could act as students. Teachers had the tools explained to them and were then tasked with creating blogs, podcasts, quizzes and discussion forums that they could use in their own courses. Aarhus University is developing a webpage to support teachers towards blended learning, as well as courses in how to teach large classes – all to minimise any potential resistance.

Final farewell
The final keynote came from Eamon McAteer from C2k, the educational technology service that provides infrastructure and services to support the enhanced use of ICT in schools in Northern Ireland and Peter Simpson from NEELB.TV, an online educational television station.

In Northern Ireland there is a big problem with motivating students and encouraging those that live in the North and South to mix. NEELB.TV, with an innovative use of Blackboard Collaborate, has found a way of bringing children from Protestant and Catholic backgrounds together for the first time through something children are familiar with – TV.
Using video conferencing, children are able to form friendships and mutual understandings with kids they wouldn’t otherwise know. Collaborate allows schools to have a virtual room where there are no number restrictions and less technology expertise required from the teachers.

Furthermore, NEELB.TV and C2k have enabled students from 325 schools and 49 countries to go on virtual field trips, contribute to new literary characters for World Book Day and even interview Olympic athlete, Dame Mary Peters. Peter Simpson concluded the closing keynote with “We don’t know where education is going but wherever or whatever it is, we hope it’s as exciting as the last few years have been.”

Finally, our VP Sales of Blackboard EMEA, Tony Shepherd, rounded off the event with some light entertainment – the ‘Selfie Awards.’ This was a challenge set for the attendees of our Teaching and Learning Conference, and the following people were awarded in the Volume, Creativity and Most Engaged selfie categories:

To see all the selfie submissions, use the #BbTLC2014selfie hashtag.
A big thank you to everyone who attended and presented at this year’s conference, we hope to see you all again next year.

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