eCoffee @ SGH: Blackboard – what works well?

Medicine has seen continuing success over the seven years of the university’s Blackboard & VLE Awards, so in July’s eCoffee we explored some features of winning courses, sharing some ideas and inspiration ahead of the next academic year.

Blackboard upgrade

Blackboard has recently been upgraded, and as well as cleaner, more modern interface includes a range of helpful tips and features. More information can be found here: http://go.soton.ac.uk/bb2019. It is no longer compatible with Internet Explorer, but other browsers can be downloaded via Additional Software. One issue we discussed was some modules now had a mix of the old and new default font in Blackboard – the remove formatting option in Blackboard can help resolve this.

Blackboard & VLE Awards

The university’s annual Blackboard & VLE Awards asks students to nominate up to three module sites that provide excellent support for their learning. This gives valuable insight into what students find helpful in the virtual learning environment, and highlights examples of good practice, some of which can be explored further at: http://go.soton.ac.uk/724. Student representatives are involved in shortlisting courses that stand out from the nominations, and these courses are then demonstrated to a panel of judges including students, academics and technicians, who vote for the winners.

MEDI2046: Nervous & Locomotor 2

Screenshot from Soton Brain Hub YouTube channelNervous & Locomotor 2, led by Dr Scott Border, has won on two occasions – this year taking the ‘People’s Choice‘ award that event attendees voted for. Students particularly appreciate additional content like podcasts and the Soton Brain Hub, a YouTube channel with short video animations explaining key concepts.

Screenshot from Nervous & Locomotor 2 Blackboard site, showing Instagram feed

An important feature of the module is the contribution of students, who create content and are involved in peer teaching.

Including social media feeds in the module (such as the Instagram feed shown) helps keep content fresh and regularly updated.

MEDI3044: Child Health

Screenshot from Child Health Blackboard site welcome pageAttendees agreed that the welcome page for Child Health, one of last year’s award winners, makes a really inviting introduction to the course (led by Dr James Nurse). First impressions can make a big difference to engaging learners, and although Blackboard modules default to landing on ‘Announcements’, if these are rarely used it’s possible to change the entry point.

Screenshot from Child Health Blackboard site navigation pageNavigation is often a challenge in Blackboard, so using a visual guide to introduce this (as shown here) is helpful.

Throughout the Child Health site, the content is clearly co-ordinated, with useful guidance accompanying resources and lots of interactive content to support independent study.

MSc Allergy

Screenshot from Clinical Research Skills Blackboard statistics page, with link to interactive quizzesThe MSc Allergy programme site has previously won a VLE award, with modules from the programme making the shortlist each year since. Dr Veronica Hollis talked about recent features introduced to the sites.

To encourage students to engage with pre-learning materials, quizzes have been added to help learners check their knowledge. It’s possible to monitor results in Blackboard’s Grade Centre, providing useful feedback for instructors, as well as learners.

Screenshot from MSc Allergy Blackboard site, showing learning modulesWriting good multiple choice questions can be challenging, but implementing these in Blackboard is fairly straightforward, with the Allergy team involving a work experience student in creating these.

Another feature valued in the Allergy courses is the use of learning modules, which include a sub-menu that can help navigation.

Screenshot from the MSc Allergy Blackboard site, showing Sussed news feedBlackboard offers a folder view of the menu, that can be added as a web link for a site map, further supporting navigation.

Other helpful elements in the Allergy programme site include a link to students’ email, and a Sussed news feed.

We’ll be back with a new series of eCoffee sessions next academic year, with dates listed at http://go.soton.ac.uk.ecoffee. We’re always keen to hear if you have anything you could offer to share, or would like to see covered, so do get in touch.