Adding a Numbas Test to Blackboard

To add a Numbas test to Blackboard, first create a test in the Numbas Editor (see this post). Next, download your test: from the sidebar of the test, choose the Download -> SCORM package option.

In your Blackboard course, go to the Assessments drop-down menu and select Numbas – LTI.


You will be presented with some options, including a name and optional description. This is the information used to display the item in the Blackboard folder. Further down you will find some of the other standard Blackboard options such as display dates. There is no need to change any of the LTI configuration.


After clicking on Submit and Launch you will be presented with the New Numbas activity page.


Using Choose file, browse to your Numbas test, then click Submit. You will be taken to the dashboard of the test, which will display student attempts, once the test is up and running.


Click the Test run button to preview your test. The dashboard will show attempts once students have accessed the material, and has options to do things like download scores. Clicking on the Blackboard link to the test will take instructors to this dashboard; students will be taken straight into the test itself, which you can preview using Blackboard’s standard Enter Student Preview button.


Numbas is developed by the e-learning unit in the School of Mathematics & Statistics. If you have any questions or are interested in using Numbas in your course please Chris Graham at

Creating a Numbas Test

Tests are created in the Numbas Editor, which you can log in to with your University credentials.

Creating a New Test:

To create a test you do not necessarily need to write new questions. The Numbas Editor is also accessible to the wider community, and there are several thousand questions which have been licensed for re-use. The simplest way to create a test is to browse the Numbas Editor and  fill up a basket of existing questions. Refer to the Numbas documentation  for details, which will walk you through the process of finding and collating questions into a test.

An excellent place to start is the Content created by Newcastle University project on the editor, which contains material developed by the e-learning unit in the School of Mathematics & Statistics.

Creating New Questions:

You may well wish to add your own questions to your test. Here is a short video which describes how to create your first (very simple) question:

Of course Numbas is capable of creating very sophisticated questions and we recommend consulting the Numbas documentation for more information.

Once you have a test, you can find out how to add your Numbas test to Blackboard



Numbas is developed by the e-learning unit in the School of Mathematics & Statistics. If you have any questions or are interested in using Numbas in your course please Chris Graham at


Using Mobile Devices for Surveys

No PC? That’s fine…

Did you know that students can complete the National Student Survey, module evaluations and stage evaluations using their mobile devices? Both the NSS and EvaSys evaluations can be completed on iOS, Android and Windows based devices.

Students don’t need to be tied to a PC to complete the evaluations, they can complete them anywhere – on the bus, on the Metro, at the end of your lecture – you name it, as long as they have signal, they can do it!

Boost response rates!

Letting your students know that they can complete the evaluations on their mobile devices may even help boost your response rates – they might not be aware that they can use their tablets or mobiles (or how easy it is)!

You could use the end of your lecture or seminar to ask students if they could use their mobiles to complete the evaluation on a module, without the need for an IT Cluster. You could also ask your final year SSC representatives to complete the NSS towards the end of a committee meeting and then spread the word to their course mates.

How do students use their mobile devices?

It’s simple, for the NSS students can follow this link: or follow the link sent to their email. For EvaSys evaluations, students open their student email and find the EvaSys emails with their personal link in.

Once they click the link, the evaluation will open and they can complete it using their mobile device (some students will need to copy the link by highlighting it in their email and pasting into a web browser).

Alternatively, for EvaSys evaluations, students can log into Blackboard on their mobile device and find a list of open surveys under the ‘My EvaSys’ section on the ‘My Institution’ tab. You could even pop a notification on your Blackboard module page with some directions to the evaluation, or show students during class where to find them.

We advise that students save the evaluation as they are completing it – this way they don’t need to start from the beginning again if they get disconnected. It also means they can exit the evaluation, and go back to the place they last saved when they re-open the evaluation.

For more information, please take a look at our guide to using mobile devices.

Boosting National Student Survey Reponse Rates

Looking for tips on boosting response rates for the NSS survey? Below you will find a few ideas on how to achieve a higher response rate…


Some ideas on what you could do…

  • Actively encourage completion using a mobile device. Wireless access is being continuously improved across campus which should make this really easy! When using a smartphone students just need to follow the link in their email which will automatically take them to the mobile version of the NSS Survey.
  • Arrange dedicated information sessions or set aside a brief amount of time at the start or end of timetabled sessions for students to complete surveys on their own devices.
  • Task student ambassadors or stage reps with encouraging their cohort to take part in surveys by posting on School/Programme social media. Encouraging discussion amongst student cohorts may lead to positive suggestions for improvement.

Communication is key…

  • Try to ensure examples of improvements made both in house and across the wider University in response to survey results are communicated widely. You Said, We Did  highlights recent University wide actions. It might also be a good idea to highlight separately what has been achieved at local level.
  • Don’t forget taking part in the NSS is an opportunity for students to compete with other Schools! Subject areas with the highest response rates at the end of the survey period will win a cash prize to spend however the students wish. Further details of this can be found on the LTDS webpages

Why is the NSS important?

Aside from helping the University ensure that students are satisfied with its courses the NSS is also increasingly crucial for prospective students and parents in deciding which institution to choose.

Data from the NSS is publicly available via Unistats. This official site allows prospective students to compare information across institutions and subjects/courses. The site draws together comparable data on areas that students have identified as important in making decisions about what and where to study.

As it is publicly available the NSS can also be used by prospective students but also by other bodies wishing to measure student satisfaction and experience, from newspapers to government and policymakers.

To find out more visit visit

If you have any initiatives that you have introduced in house in an effort to boost response rates and would like to share your ideas with the wider University, then please contact the Learning and Teaching Development Service by emailing


New release of ePortfolio

We have launched an updated version of ePortfolio today. The main update made is the functionality that will allow administrators to record meetings on behalf of tutors. They can create individual and group meetings in advance, or retrospectively. They cannot create meeting slots. We are running training webinars on the administration interface.

It is still the responsibility of the tutor to ensure meetings are arranged. The decision to use the admin functionality is a local one to be taken within an academic unit, this email should not be taken as a presumption that your School Office is offering this support.

The full list of developments in the release are:

Admin recordings of meetings

  • Creation of new meetings admin role and a backend application to manage who has this role.
  • Administrators can create, edit and delete meetings.
  • Administrators can create group meetings.
  • Log files will be created with a list of changes by administrators
  • Administrator history for meetings so admins can review previous .
  • Backend administrator ability to view/edit/delete admin meeting logs.

Other developments

  • A new dropdown on the homepage to add students in stages to meeting/slot/emails.
  • Show programme and relevant stage for students in Find Person search results.
  • When viewing search results, show a popup when clicking ‘View’ rather than taking user away from search.
  • allow adding of new students to existing meeting slots
  • add ‘print’ button to blog post.
  • info tab on student profile showing current programme registrations.
  • show safety confirmation dialog box when clicking outside or closing blog post without saving. This will stop work being lost accidentally.

National Student Survey Launches on Campus

Monday 6th of February sees the launch of the 2017 National Student Survey (NSS) at Newcastle University.

Entering its thirteenth year, the NSS gives students the opportunity to give their opinions on their experiences at Newcastle, from teaching to accommodation.

We will survey our final year undergraduate students in Malaysia and Singapore as well as those based here in the UK. We are unable to survey non-UK based students as part of the NSS, so we will be running a simultaneous survey using EvaSys for students at NUMed and those at SIT. The results of this additional survey will not be publicly available in the same way that NSS results are, but will allow us to have comparable data for Schools and programmes on our international campuses as well as for those programmes delivered here in the UK.

What is the NSS?

The NSS is an annual survey of final year undergraduates in England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland. It is a high profile annual census of nearly half a million students across the UK, which gives students a powerful collective voice to help shape the future of both their course and university or college.

The survey is widely recognised as an authoritative measure of student satisfaction and, as such, the results are highly visible on Key Information Sets (KIS) and on Unistats, and often reported in the media. It has helped to build a broader picture of the quality of higher education in the UK and has made it possible to monitor trends over time.

The NSS is commissioned by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) on behalf of the UK funding bodies. Ipsos MORI, an independent research company, conducts the survey.

What questions does the NSS ask?

The questions allows students to provide feedback on a range of topics, relating to aspects of their learning experience which include the teaching on the course, assessment and feedback, academic support, organisation and management, learning resources, and personal development. Students also are asked about their overall satisfaction.

All final year undergraduates can complete the NSS.


Current students

The University and NUSU examines the anonymised NSS data internally to identify areas of strengths and weaknesses. This information can be used to help effect changes designed to enhance or improve the student experience for both current and prospective students.

Newcastle has always supported the NSS and as a result of listening to what former students had to say, the following changes have been implemented in recent years:

  • increased opening of Robinson Library
  • increased availability of computer clusters
  • improved access to internet in University accommodation
  • new University policies on feedback turnaround time and feedback on exams

 How important is the NSS?

Aside from helping the University ensure that students are satisfied with its courses the NSS is also increasingly crucial for prospective students and parents in deciding which institution to choose.

Data from the NSS are publicly available via Unistats. This official site allows prospective students to compare information across institutions and subjects/courses. The site draws together comparable data on areas that students have identified as important in making decisions about what and where to study, including the findings of the NSS.

As it is publicly available and the NSS can also be used by prospective students but also by other bodies wishing to measure student satisfaction and experience, from newspapers to government and policymakers.

Promotions and Incentives

This year we will once again be focusing on the Schools’ league table that has been a success in previous years. Two prize categories will exist – one for subject areas with fewer than 100 students, and one for those with 100 students or more, with two prizes available within each category: £500 for first place and £250 for second place. Again, we are including Malaysia and Singapore in the league table to help support their efforts in encouraging responses too.

Weekly response rate updates will be circulated to on the nss-updates mail list, so everyone can see how their School/subject area is doing and who is in the lead on the league tables. Members of staff who would like to be included in this list can request inclusion by contacting

Want to know more

To find out more visit or contact the NSS team at Ipsos MORI directly at You can always contact the Learning and Teaching Development Service on campus by emailing

Downloading Turnitin Assignments

You can download the student assignments from Turnitin by following the steps below.

  1. Access Turnitin using the Turnitin Assignment section in Course Tools.bp1
  2. Select the relevant assignment from the list of Turnitin Assignments shown.bp2
  3. Use the empty squares next to each name to select the relevant assignments you wish to download.bp3
  4. If you wish to download all of them, use the box at the top to select all the names.You will see a yellow bar appear, and on this yellow area towards the right-hand side of the page is a download button. You have the options to download:
    • The original papers
    • The original papers as .pdf
    • The grademark paper (i.e. with quickmark comments, etc)

Turniitin screenshot

Learning and Teaching Workshop – 9 February

The next Learning & Teaching Workshop is being held on Thursday 9 February 2017, 4-5pm, entitled ‘Building Teaching Strategies: challenging perspectives on teacher / student interaction’.

This seminar is designed as an interactive session to support those who are interested in reflecting on the relationship between themselves and their students and the impact this may have on their teaching. Using a modified Balint group approach, attendees will have an opportunity to discuss and explore their personal challenges when teaching. This is an experimental seminar and limited to 10 attendees. To facilitate the development of this approach, a short period of time will be set aside for evaluation.

Come to the session with an open mind and prepared to talk about your own experiences.

The workshop will be held in room Med L1.0, 4-5pm.

Due to limited numbers it is important that you register your attendance with

Teaching Spaces Sandpit

Do you often feel frustrated with rooms which are ill-equipped or badly set up for your teaching?

Do you want to have your say on teaching spaces around campus?

Estates, NUIT and researchers from the Research Centre for Learning and Teaching have come together to offer academics across the University the opportunity to do just that.

The Teaching Sandpit, to be set up in King George VI Building will give academics the opportunity to try out a new kind of teaching space and to feedback to decision-makers in NUIT and in Estates on what sorts of facilities they would like to see rolled out across the University.

Dave Allsopp from NUIT explained: ‘Usually when decisions are made about what sorts of technical equipment available in or even the basic layout of teaching rooms, we don’t have time to consult with teaching staff, the staff who will use those rooms.

‘This will give us the opportunity to find out what people want and to really engage with academics across campus to find out what sorts of technologies they may want to try out, even what sorts of furniture might work in common teaching rooms and what they might expect or need from spaces across campus.’

The idea came out of research conducted by Ulrika Thomas of the Research Centre for Learning and Teaching, who completed a study with colleague Pam Woolner looking at how students and staff perceived teaching rooms across campus and what the expected from them.

Ulrika explained: ‘Our study was really well-received and its findings have now been referred to the Executive, who want to act on our findings.

‘The sandpit is one idea which has come out of this research, giving staff an opportunity to see what might be available to them, to try it and to feedback on what works.’

The idea of a sandpit came, as Dave explains, from a similar exercise undertaken at Wolverhampton University, in which staff were given the opportunity to feedback based on their use of a sandpit space in which new technologies and layouts could be trialed.

Here at Newcastle the project is looking for:

  • Academic colleagues to deliver one-off small group teaching sessions and road test new ways of teaching using different styles and new technology
  • Professional Support Services to deliver specific training to colleagues in use of new and existing technology
  • Professional support teams to evaluate new technology and furniture engaging with academic colleagues and students to understand how it could be used in the successful design and provision of teaching and learning spaces in the future

Staff can volunteer by filling out this online form, and can discuss requirement with the project team.

Support will be provided by NUIT on technologies offered within the space and all users will have the opportunity to feedback on the experience.

It is expected that the space will not be utilised for normal teaching but perhaps for one-off sessions with 10-15 students.

Colin Fahey of NUIT, who in leading on the project, said: ‘The most important thing is to get academics into the space and get their feedback.

The whole project depends on the engagement of teaching staff, we need them to come along and use the space and to tell us what they found.’

Staff are encouraged to get in touch if they:

  1. Have any proposals or suggestions around innovative technology or furniture that you are aware of and may wish to see considered for inclusion in the space?
  2. Would be interested in trialing the space once it becomes bookable?

The space will be made available for use shortly after Easter 2017 so interested parties should  web-form by Friday 24th February 2017 and the team will contact them with further information.




Students viewing their feedback via GradeMark

If your students need a reminder on how they can access their feedback on assignments this will help.

To view your GradeMark feedback

1 Follow the same link you used to submit your work

2 To view your marked paper, select the blue View button next to the assignment. Your paper will open in a separate window where you can read the feedback or print the grade and comment information. We recommend that you use Chrome (or Safari for Mac users) to access your feedback.

view feedback screen clip

Tip: If the GradeMark View button is grey, the return date and time for the assignment has not been reached. If you are trying to view the feedback after this time and it is still greyed out, please check with your School Office.