It was nice to see some familiar faces and meet new colleagues at last week’s Learning and Teaching Conference. Members of the FMS TEL team took turns answering queries during sessions breaks. We also had the opportunity to attend the talks ourselves, and pick up some helpful tips and tricks!
At the desk we were pleased to see a number of visitors take copies of our booklet, showcasing some of the best posts from the FMS TEL blog.
This post is a review of the conference experience by FMS TEL members John Keogan and Andy Stokes.
This years conference was going to be a bit different to any conference we had ran in the past, the decision was made for the 2022 conference to be hybrid! We would run in-person presentations, online only sessions, and some sessions would be a hybrid of both. We were excited to take advantage of the video-conferencing technologies on offer within the University.
Using lessons learnt from last years online version, we set out tasks to complete and deadlines to meet.
We divided the main tasks between us and ran through the list of jobs involved in preparing for the conference. We quickly realised that there was lot more involved than we initially thought!
The main tasks included:
communications (including mail merges)
creating online conference materials
One aspect of the preparation was getting word out about the conference. We approached schools within the faculty and asked them to put up posters in areas with heavy footfall, as well as staffrooms. We put up posters in cafes, corridors and even lifts – please let us know if you saw them! We also requested that the campus messaging screens carried information about the conference in FMS areas.
Consider your criteria before booking, for example:
‘Is the room big enough?’
‘Do the speakers work?’
‘Can we connect a laptop to the projectors?’
The room bookings website is not always accurate when you nominate the relative criteria; i.e. ‘Hybrid’, ‘videoconference’ etc.
Give yourself enough time to visit the rooms in person (It’s also worthwhile booking the rooms for when you plan to test them, as they can be snapped up pretty quickly in term time).
Reserved your rooms well in advance!
Contact the Audio Visual team for a demonstration of the hybrid technology. They showed us how to set up and use the cameras and mics, and also how to troubleshoot common problems.
Consider your booking platform and its limitations, we used workshops.ncl which required us to use an iCal maker so delegates could add the events to their diaries.
Familiarise yourself with video editing software. As a team we edited the recordings using a mix of ReCap, Premiere Pro and Adobe Rush.
Schedule a block of time to review captions. We have some excellent posts on how to edit your captions.
Overall, the conference was a great success and we all enjoyed our time being part of the 2022 FMS TEL Conference team.
Being new to running a conference we developed skills and knowledge during the journey. The encouragement and support from our team helped ensure that we fulfilled our tasks and that looming deadlines were met.
We learned things that we will do different, or better, next year and we hope the tips shared in this post will be a good starting point for anyone wanting to run their own conference.
In the summer of 2020 Newcastle University switched from Blackboard to Canvas. In truth, some online modules had been hosted on Canvas months before the official launch, but from August 1st 2020 Canvas was the exclusive Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). The content that had previously been in Blackboard was transferred over to Canvas, creating three years’ worth of archives. For the majority of courses this was fine, as Blackboard was only ever a repository for course materials. For the e-learning courses offered in the FMS Graduate School and the School of Medical Education, there was an additional challenge.
In addition to Blackboard, e-learning courses also used Ngage, a bespoke VLE used widely throughout FMS. Quizzes, assignments and discussion boards could all be found on Blackboard, but Ngage was home to the actual content, typically released weekly to students. Where Blackboard content could be migrated en masse, anything on Ngage had to be migrated over manually. Page by page, course by course, for all three semesters.
Once the content was copied over, we had to adapt it to fit the new platform. Discussion boards and assignments were like for like, but certain Blackboard features such as blogs and eJournals had no direct equivalent on Canvas. This required creative problem solving to adapt Canvas to our specific needs, and with help from the Canvas Community we were able to find solutions. For example to create an eJournal, a staple of many of our modules, we had to assign every student to their own private group, and then set up a regular discussion board as a ‘group discussion’ and selecting the pre-prepared eJournal groups, thereby creating a private area for students to make notes on the different topics and have the module leader’s check over them.
A lot of visual features and formatting were also lost during the copying and pasting process, meaning pages previously adorned with images and embedded materials had to be reworked. We utilised the web design skills of the FMS TEL Team and with a bit of creativity were able to create interactive features such as click and reveal, and visual aspects, such as shadowboxes, to help emphasise particular pieces of text.
As well as the migration of content, a huge effort was made to train University staff in the run up to the 2020/21 academic year. Training sessions that had originally been scheduled in-person were instead delivered via Zoom, covering areas such as Canvas essentials, assignments and quizzes. To supplement the training, a Canvas orientation module was created to help ease staff into the transition. Additionally, every member of University staff was assigned their own sandbox course allowing them to experiment with the new platform and test out features that could be replicated in real courses.
Now that we are exclusively using Canvas, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Despite some initial challenges with the practicalities of using a new VLE – and some trial and error – new Canvas features such as Zoom integration, built in calendars and Speedgrader have enhanced the user experience.