NUTELA 3Ps – Dialogues

At NUTELA (Newcastle University Technology Enhanced Learning Advocates) 3Ps workshop this week, we were learning about how to make really excellent resources for all of our students.

change-timingsAs both teachers and as researchers, we spend lots of time creating digital resources, how can we build in accessibility so that they can be used by the widest group of people?

For this session we explored a number of ideas:

  • Documents are best when they have text (not pictures of text), structure, and a sensible reading order.
    – We explored this with a hands-on exercise looking at pdf accessibility.
  • Videos are much more accessible and useful when they have a transcript and subtitles.
    – We had a look at how easy it is to add transcripts to YouTube.
  • Images can convey information powerfully, but how can we make these useful to people with little or no sight?
    – We explored the use of images in a Sway.

You can read more about the sessions and learn how to make resources for all at the NUTELA blog.

For more information about NUTELA or to join our mailing list email us.

ULTSEC Innovation Fund Workshop Reminder

LTDS are running an ULTSEC Innovation Fund workshop on December 12th 2-3pm in KGVI 1.36C. You will be given an overview of the fund as well as guidance from the Careers Service about how to employ students for your project. There will also be presentations from successful project teams from previous years who will share details of their project and the application process.

To sign up to this workshop please do so via the following link: We would love to see you there.

Further information including key dates and application forms and guidance can be found on the Innovation Fund section of the LTDS website:

About Numbas

Numbas is a web-based assessment system with an emphasis on mathematics. It helps users to build sophisticated online tests suitable for numerate disciplines, including support for interactive graphs, statistical functions and the assessment of algebraic expressions.

Suitable for both practice and in-course assessment, Numbas tests integrate seamlessly with Blackboard, returning marks to Grade Center and offering the opportunity to download scores and reports directly from the tool.

Numbas is used in a wide range of subject areas here at Newcastle University, including accounting, biomedical sciences, engineering, physics and psychology. It is also used to deliver online support material in the ASK Academic Skills Kit.


Developed here at Newcastle University by the  School of Mathematics & Statistics e-learning unit, Numbas is an open source project with users and partners around the world. More information can be found on the Numbas public website.

The Numbas section of the LTDS blog is in its infancy, however the team is very happy to answer any queries:

Peer Mentoring: Feedback Sessions

With the Peer Mentoring Scheme well underway across the University, mentors have been meeting with convenors to check how things are going.

Alison Graham convenes the Peer Mentors in the School of Biology.

Students in Peer Mentoring feedback session

She meets with Peer Mentors in the school in week 2, week 4 and week 7 or 8, just to check how students are doing and make sure that mentors and mentees are getting the most out of the scheme.

‘What I’ve started to try to do is to incentivise the meetings, so the students feel that they are getting something out of them, as well as just catching up.

‘I came up with the idea of tying them to the Graduate Skills Framework, so I often work through how the mentors will be able to use their skills in applying for jobs.

‘We go through how to evidence the skills that they’ve gained in applications and at  interview.’

Alison hopes that this approach will make the scheme more lucrative for second and third year students who may be unsure about giving up their time.

‘It’s really about making sure that students can see and really use the skills they are gaining form being a Peer Mentor, in addition to helping other students.’

Alison says the scheme has proved popular in the School and that students have described it as useful but that often the whole experience relies on engagement from the mentors.

‘We have some excellent mentors who establish a real social group and relationship with their mentees by organising trips and events.

‘We try to encourage that and encourage teamwork within the groups – for example, we organise a treasure hunt in week one where they all have to work together.’

She says that the amount of engagement with mentors depends on individual students and often to circumstances.

‘But it depends on them. Some students only really liaise with their mentor in the first few weeks but some need a little bit more.

‘They also tend to turn to their mentors around exam and assignment time.

‘But it can also be really important for some students who are struggling.’

As a convenor for the programme, Alison points out that its important for the mentors to be trained and supported so that they know what queries they can answer.

‘We have to be quite careful to make sure that they know how much help they can give students with their academic work.

‘Obviously they can provide some advice but we don’t want people sharing assignments or anything, so that’s something we have to train them for.’

As well as the feedback meetings, Peer Mentors have all been invited to a Thank You party, taking place on 5th December in the Great North Museum.

Claire Burnham, the University’s Peer Mentoring Coordinator said: ‘We’re very excited about the event.

‘The Mentor of the year award will be presented on the night and we’ve already had 400 nominations from students across the University.

‘It’s a great way of rewarding our mentors and our convenors for all of their hard work.’


STAR CASE STUDY: Blackboard Module Design in Computing Science

Nick Cook and teaching staff in Computing Science use templates to help ensure that their Blackboard materials are easy to find and use.

Module layout for one of the modules in Computing Science

Nick said: ‘Basically students had said that they often found it difficult to navigate Blackboard modules as each module was divided up totally differently in another, making it hard to work out where lecture notes or even assessment information might be.

‘We decided that what we needed was an agreed format , so that every module had the same folders, with the same names, for the same sorts of materials.

‘This makes it much easier for students to find things and even for staff to decide where to put them!’

The folders they selected were: Announcements, Teaching Materials, Assessments,  ReCap Recordings, Contacts and Overview.

They made sure that, at least for student’s viewing Blackboard, both menus matched up, so that they no longer had to click through so many folders to find key information.

Nick said: ‘LTDS provided us with basic templates but staff across the School just updated their own modules.

‘Although people were unsure at first, afterwards staff commented on how refreshing it was not to be faced with lots of muddled and overflowing folders.

‘Most remarked that the new streamlined version was easier to populate and made them feel much more organised.’

Students also found the system much easier to use and no further comments were received about confusing Blackboard modules or materials which were difficult to find.

Nick said: ‘We don’t enforce it in the School but most people seem to have more or less stuck to it because it’s so much easier to use.’

You can read the whole Case Study on our Case Studies Database.

Do you have a potential Case Study of Good Practice in learning and teaching? Submit it online or email

NUTELA 3Ps: Dialogues

The next 3Ps: Pizza Pop and Practice workshop will take place on 29th November 2016.

3ps-dialoguesThe topic is ‘Dialogues’ and draws together sessions on storytelling using Microsoft Sway and the complexities of designing materials accessible to all students.

The event will take place between 12 and 2pm in the Hope and Tees Clusters of the Robinson Library.

There will, of course, be pizza and pop available before the workshops begin.

Please do register here.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Why build the Wall?

At the end of week one of Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier we have been asking “Why was the Wall built?”

If you would like to find some of the diverse views on this topic you can watch this extra discussion that Professor Ian Haynes held with world experts on Hadrian’s Wall.

In this 13 minute film, recorded in 2014,  you will see Ian talking with:

  • Professor David Breeze (Visiting Professor, Newcastle University),
  • Dr Sue Stallibrass (Historic England, Regional Science Advisor, NW England
  • Dr Nick Hodgson (Principal Keeper of Archaeology: Strategic Project Management, Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums)

Have their ideas changed your own thoughts at all?

ULTSEC Innovation Fund Dates Announced

The submission dates for ULTSEC Innovation Fund have been announced for 2016/17.


Autumn – Monday 7th November 2016

Spring – Monday 10th April 2017

Summer – Friday 26th May 2017


Semester 1 – Friday 20th January 2017

Semester 2 – Friday 26th May 2017

We will be running some webinars and workshops which will be available to book on to via the ULTSEC Innovation Fund webpage shortly.

There will also be training workshops giving useful advice on preparing submissions. Please see our website for details.