ULTSEC Innovation Fund Submission Dates and Workshops announcement

The submission dates for ULTSEC Innovation Fund have been announced for 2017/18.

Responsive project proposal submission deadlines

Autumn – Monday 20th November 2017 4pm

Spring – Monday 12th April 2018 4pm

Summer – Wednesday 30th May 2018 4pm

Strategic project proposal submission deadlines

Semester 1: Monday 22nd January 2018 4pm

Semester 2: Monday 21st May 2018 4pm

We will be running some webinars and workshops which will be available to book via the Learning and Teaching Development Programme shortly.

The dates of the workshops are:

  • 19th October 2017 10 .00am – 11.00am Training Room 4 Herschel Building
  • 23rd February 2018 10.00am – 11.00am ARMB 3.41

The dates of the webinars are:

  • 17th October 11.00 – 11.30
  • 19th January 10.00 – 10.30
  • 20th February 10.00 – 10.30

Parent-Child Modules

Many staff often request for modules to be joined together on Blackboard where the content delivered on those modules is the same. When this happens, we create what is called a parent-child module. The existing modules become child modules of a newly created parent module. Combining the modules in this way means that the content only has to be added to the parent, but students continue to see the content via the child module they are enrolled in.

For example, a lecturer requests modules L1718-ABC2000 Introduction to Newcastle and L1718-ABC2004 Introduction to Newcastle (Erasmus Study Abroad) to be combined as all teaching content and sessions are the same. A new parent module is created called L1718-ABC2000-ABC2004 Introduction to Newcastle using the content from L1718-ABC2000 module as the template. Any staff will now see the new parent module in their course list and this is where all content will be added or edited, but the students continue to see only the module that they are enrolled on.

Staff find this set up very beneficial, however there are a number of points to consider:

  • All content added to the parent module will be seen by students on all child modules e.g. announcements, documents, assignments unless you create student groups and use adaptive release
  • Once the parent module is created, no amendments can be made to the content in the child modules
  • The Module Overview page will no longer be present. Any content normally provided on the overview page will need to be provided elsewhere in the module in order to meet the Blackboard Baseline.
  • Any student interaction with the child modules before the modules are joined, e.g. contribution to a discussion forum, will no longer be available
  • If any assessment submissions have already taken place before the modules are joined, these will no longer be available. Also if you have created any Turnitin assignments these will no longer work even if there have been no submissions so these will need to be set up again in the new parent module
  • The ReCap recordings folder will be configured to show all jointly taught sessions.  If you require students to have access to any other recordings please contact recap@ncl.ac.uk
  • All module leaders must agree to the combining of the modules.

All requests for parent-child modules should be submitted using the appropriate form.

Queries about parent-child modules should be sent to the IT Service Desk.

Checking an OLAF test and settings using the ‘checkexam’ web page

As a member of staff who is running an OLAF exam, you will be sent an email containing the link to the exam check page when your exam is ready for you to check. The exam check page makes it easier to check OLAF exam questions and settings (randomisation and feedback to students). Exams will appear on this page if they have the word OLAF in the title (e.g. ‘BIO1001 23rd May 2017 OLAF’) and the Available from setting is for a date in the future.

Please read the notes below before using the page.


  • If you click the links on the page you will need to log into Blackboard with your standard username and password.
  • If you believe the settings are wrong, please contact OLAF Admin so that we can make the changes for you and ensure they are not reset later incorrectly. Some of the options we use for exams may seem counter-intuitive. They may be set as they are for a reason.
  • The start and end times are deliberately set to be available early (30 minutes before the start) and become unavailable 45 minutes after the finish. This is to allow students to get logged in and ready to enter the exam password at the start time.The extra time allows for students entitled to extra time and empowers the invigilator to give extensions if the group or individual students experience technical issues. The invigilator tells the students when to stop.
  • The test is only visible to students during the Available from and Available to period. Even then, a password is required. The password is changed after the exam starts.


The page consists of a table with data about the exam and links to Edit and View the test and settings. Click the image below to expand and see the explanations.

To access the page use the link that has been emailed to you by the OLAF team.

Checking settings:

  • Please check the Available from and Available to columns to check the dates are correct (and that the time is correct with half an hour before, and 45 minutes after the official start and end times)
  • Please check the columns for Randomise question and Scores are automatically released to students to make sure they are correct for your exam.
  • Please check the Title of the exam. This is what the students will see in the exam room. Please contact olafop@ncl.ac.uk if you think this will not be meaningful to them. This is particularly important if there are exams in similar subject areas taking place, or if the same is exam is happening under two module codes. Delays can occur if students click the wrong link.

To edit the test or see the test in it’s entirety, click Edit the test. Sign in with your standard (Blackboard) username and password.

To see the test as a student would see it, you need to know the password:

  1. Click View the test options, log in with your Blackboard username and scroll down the screen to find and note the password.
  2. Return to the exam check page (the link that has been emailed to you by the OLAF team) and click Check student view.
  3. Log in with your standard username and password.
  4. A screen will open showing the instructions for the exam (this includes general information about the exam, as well as any specific instructions that have been created).  Click Continue to move to the password screen.
  5. Enter the exam password you noted earlier, and click Submit.
  6. Work through the questions using the forward and backward arrows.


Rollout of Ombea and removal of TurningPoint from teaching spaces

Ombea has replaced TurningPoint as the University’s centrally supported audience response system (agreed by ULTSEC in 2016/17).

Rollout of Ombea

Ombea was rolled out during 2016/17 to all centrally supported teaching spaces.  Through integration with PowerPoint it enables the participants to answer questions posed by the presenter on any device with access to the internet, e.g. smartphones, tablets and laptops. Therefore the system does not require handsets and allows presenters to ask a wider range of question types than was possible with TurningPoint.

Removal of TurningPoint

From September 2017 TurningPoint is no longer centrally supported as the version currently installed across campus will not be compatible with future versions of Microsoft Office/Windows. Therefore all TurningPoint receivers and software have been removed from centrally supported teaching venues.

Support and Training

Existing TurningPoint presentations are not compatible with Ombea.

LTDS can offer assistance to existing TurningPoint users in moving to Ombea and are advised to contact LTDS as soon as possible if they have presentations that they wish to be converted. Contact – ltds@ncl.ac.uk  #

Workshops on using OMBEA in your teaching are available as part of the Learning and Teaching Development Programme.


Resources to support designing, developing or delivering flipped, blended, or online learning

If you have been thinking about more flexible forms of module or programme delivery, then there are some resources which you may find helpful.

You will find:

  • An introduction to online and blended learning
  • Some definitions of online and blended learning
  • How LTDS can support online or blended course development
  • Some tips on designing online or blended learning
  • Advice on producing online or blended learning

There is also guidance on tailored workshops available and a ‘How To Build a Great Futurelearn Course’ course (approx 8 hours) which we can add you to.  For further information or to discuss your ideas contact online-courses@ncl.ac.uk

Why is my list of tutees displayed incorrectly at the start of the academic year?

At the start of the academic year, some staff members have reported that students are appearing in the wrong year, or across two years. Some images are set as graphics rather than the student photograph.

Previous tutees show in ePortfolio because of a ‘grace period’ for students from the previous academic year which we apply so that returning students don’t ‘disappear’ as they come to the end of their registration period. This is to support students if there is a delay in them registering (as is frequently the case) and also it enables returning students continuing access to various systems over the summer prior to the formal start of the academic year – especially important for the numerous programmes which start before the main start of the academic year.

Our practice has been developed over the years to address the short period where registration data is so fluid that it cannot be the sole basis for identifying current tutees.

This problem is compounded because it is common practice by Schools to assign tutees to tutors on SAP for an indefinite time, so we cannot reliably use the recorded end date. We have also include admissions data so that tutors can see new tutees prior to registration.

From the 2nd of October, the ePortfolio system will revert back to registration data as the vast majority of students will have had time to register.

Numbas material to aid the transition to university

Many subjects across the University are challenged by students who struggle with an unexpectedly high level of assumed mathematical proficiency in their courses. As part of an ULTSEC strategic project  this summer, we have aimed to tackle this problem by building a significant bank of formative mathematical tests which can be used both as a diagnostic tool and for student-led learning.

The material is largely drawn from the GCSE syllabus in mathematics, and is engaging and accessible for students, even outside of numerate disciplines.

Each question is randomised, making it perfect for practice, and has full solutions.


The material covers topics including: data collection and presentation, probability, statistics, units of measurement, area and volume, algebraic manipulation, sequences and many more. Each topic makes up a mini test with several questions.

A full list of topics can be found on the ASK website, one of the places where we are making the material available to students.

How do I give students access to the material?

Directing students to the ASK website is one possibility. Another is adding the material directly to Blackboard. Numbas embeds seamlessly into Blackboard and can also store student attempts. Adding a test is straightforward, simply select the Numbas – LTI option from the assessment menu, give the Blackboard item a name and then launch the Numbas tool. We have handily provided a menu of the tests on the right hand side of the tool, under “Select a ready-made exam”. The following video demonstrates the process of adding a test:

The settings for all of the tests are optimised for use as practice material. The students can regenerate questions to get new versions, change their answers as many times as they like and get full solutions. If you would like to customise the tests in any way then it is possible by using the Numbas editor. We can also help you to adapt material for your needs; don’t hesitate to get in touch if you require any assistance.

Thank you to our team of students and staff who have helped to develop the material, including undergraduate students Hannah Aldous, Bradley Bush, Stanislav Duris, Elliott Fletcher, Aiden McCall Lauren Richards and Maths Aid tutor Vicky Hall.

Learning and Teaching Development Programme 2017-18 launched

The new programme of learning and teaching development workshops and webinars is now available for 2017-18.

The whole series is available on a dedicated blog, which includes links to booking forms for each session.

To find the session you are interested in go to blogs.ncl.ac.uk/ltdprog/ and use the categories along the top to find the area you are interested in:

Some categories have drop down menus:

You can also use the search box. If you are looking specifically for training at your desk via webinar, this has a dedicated link in the right hand menu:

Once you click on the title of the session you are interested in (see OMBEA example below)…

…you get the full session description and the dates that sessions are running:

Click on your chosen date and you will be taken to the booking form.

If you have any queries please email: ltds@ncl.ac.uk

Information for Senior and Personal Tutors

The University’s Framework for Personal Tutoring has been updated following the approval of revised meeting arrangements by University Learning, Teaching and Student Experience Committee in July. With effect from the start of the 2017-18 academic year, tutors should record the first meeting that is offered and those that have taken place for undergraduate students. For taught postgraduate students, tutors should record the offer of meetings in ePortfolio. If tutorial meetings do not take place, reasons why not should also be recorded.

We have clarified what should happen if meetings do not take place. If a tutor offers a meeting within ePortfolio using meeting slots, but a student chooses not to pick a time to meet with the tutor, this should be regarded as sufficient reason why the meeting has not taken place. Only if a meeting slot is not created by the tutor within ePortfolio should a reason be recorded elsewhere why a meeting has not taken place.

We have distributed to Senior Tutors a new version of the briefing slides for Senior Tutors to discuss with Personal Tutors in their School or subject area. The slides provide information which will hopefully be helpful for ensuring that Senior and Personal Tutors are familiar with University expectations. They also provide advice on how to find and signpost further support.

Additional resources for tutors have also been brought up to date and can be found on our website.

The Senior Tutors Discussion Forum will continue to meet on a quarterly basis beginning in October. Dates and arrangements for the meetings are available here. A Role of the Senior Tutor Training Workshop will also be held twice this coming academic year: view and book available sessions here.

If you have any questions or can suggest examples of effective practice in personal tutoring, please contact LTDS.


Using Numbas for a final exam in quantitative methods

In semester 2 of the 2016/2017 academic year we ran our first ever Numbas final exam at Newcastle, for a module in quantitative methods for Business School students.

We have run locked-down exam sittings before for in-course assessment, in particular here in the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Physics, where we host a diagnostic test for all stage 1 students. However this was the first as an official final exam and was non-trivial, with over 300 students across 4 computer clusters.

The module in question introduces students to the techniques of collecting, summarising and analysing data which are  necessary for modern business decision making. As such, most of the assessment relies on students entering numeric answers, or interpreting the results in the form of a multiple-choice question.

Given the type of questions required, the exam is an obvious candidate for electronic assessment. But why use Numbas?

One reason is the superior user-experience provided by the Numbas interface. Consider the following question from the specimen exam, in which students are asked to complete a Stem and Leaf plot. For those of you not mathematically inclined, this involves taking a list of numbers and grouping them.

In a written exam the marker could process the student’s answer easily, but it is not trivial to mark this automatically. What if the student puts the numbers in an illogical order, or adds a space but no comma? Numbas handles all of this without over-burdening the students with the instructions that would otherwise be required.

There was a fairly significant increase in marks on the 2015/16 academic year, when the test was run through Blackboard and contained very similar questions. Though there is no conclusive evidence, one theory is that the students were more comfortable inputting answers into the same system as their mock exam and in-course assessment.

Another significant benefit of using Numbas is the randomisation of the question variables: each student is presented with a unique version of the questions, in this case usually a unique data set. This additional security, in computer clusters not designed for holding examinations, is particularly welcome, given that the answers are very short and would be easy to observe.

The exam was run using the OLAF lockdown browser, following the standard online exam procedures. The test simply opening as a Numbas exam, rather than a Blackboard item.

We were very pleased with our first run of a final exam. If you have any questions about running something similar in your course then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.




Numbas is developed by the e-learning unit in the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Physics. If you have any questions or are interested in using Numbas in your course please Chris Graham at christopher.graham@ncl.ac.uk