All posts by Graeme

Graeme is the development officer in QuILT (Quality in Learning and Teaching) at Newcastle University who is responsible for the pedagogical support of ePortfolio.

Vice-Chancellor’s Education Excellence Awards

The Vice-Chancellor’s Education Excellence awards aim to raise the status of teaching and learning at Newcastle University by rewarding those individuals and teams who make a marked impact on enhancing our student educational experience.

The Award is open to all members of staff, at Newcastle, NUIS, NUMed and NUL, whose work enhances the student educational experience. In addition, applications are welcome from staff of associated employers with direct and substantive involvement in the delivery of the student experience at Newcastle, for example, staff of INTO Newcastle University. Groups of colleagues who work closely together are invited to apply for the team award.

For more information about the award and the application process, please visit the VC’s Award page on the LTDS website.

Downtime on Hadrian’s Wall @VindolandaTrust

As we move into the weekend and we start to think about how we are going to spend our downtime, and pursue leisure activities, we’d like to share a video with you which gives a lovely insight into leisure time on Hadrian’s Wall.

Meet Dr Andrew Birley, one of our guest contributors to Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier. We asked Andrew to talk about his one of his favourite objects at Vindolanda where he is Director of Excavations.

Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier is a Newcastle University free online course lasting 6 weeks which starts on Monday 19 February (www.futurelearn.com/courses/hadrians-wall)

We can’t wait for Monday! Can you?

National Teaching Fellowship Scheme 2018

The Higher Education Academy’s National Teaching Fellowship Scheme (NTFS) celebrates excellent practice and outstanding achievement in learning and teaching in higher education. The awards support individuals’ professional development in learning and teaching and provides a national focus for institutional teaching and learning excellence schemes.

More details about the scheme can be found on the HEA’s website.

We are pleased to announce the launch of the 2018 National Teaching Fellowship Scheme. The HEA has announced that the 2018 round will open on the 12th February and will close on the 30th of April. This closing date refers to when applications need to be submitted to the HEA by the University. If you are considering applying, please note the earlier submission date below.

Application to be an institutional nominee

Nominations are welcomed from all members of staff who feel their work has a major, positive impact on student teaching and learning. Staff who would like to be considered should provide a maximum of 1000 words which address the following criteria.

    • Your personal practice and why this should be recognised as outstanding,
    • Your impact on colleagues, both internally and externally,
    • Your reflection on the above.

Nominations should be sent electronically to ltds@ncl.ac.uk by 12 noon on Friday the 23rd February.

View the LTDS website for more information.

How to ensure Turnitin grades and feedback are not leaked

When creating a Turnitin assignment, there are two areas we need to check to make sure the grades and feedback are not leaked to students.

Turnitin Assignment Settings

If this setting is not correct, students will be able to see their marks and feedback ahead of the post date, from the same location they initially submitted their work.

When creating the assignment, in the Additional Settings, there is an option for “Do you want to only release marks on the post date”. This needs to be set to “Yes”. One issue we have is that it defaults to “No”, even if you have changed your defaults.

Blackboard Grade Centre

If these steps are not taken correctly, marks or feedback may be released to students through the “My Grades” functionality in Blackboard.

There are three steps you need to take to ensure this doesn’t happen.

  1. Once your assignment has been created in your module visit the relevant area in the Grade Centre (Control Panel > Grade Centre > Full Grade Centre)
  2. Now navigate to the relevant column heading for your assignment and select Edit Column Information. See the corresponding image(click on it to see a larger version)
  3. On the “Edit Column” page scroll down to section 3, Options. Turn all of the options to NO and then click submit. See the corresponding image, click on it to see a larger one.

 

When you are ready to release the marks and feedback to students, we recommend you unhide the grade centre column.

 

Hiding/Unhiding a Grade Centre column

  1. Go to the course/module in Blackboard
  2. Under the Control Panel, click Grade Centre then Full Grade Centre
  3. Find the column associated with the assignment. New assignments appear at the right. You may need to scroll across.
  4. Find the column and use the drop down menu and then click Hide from Students (on/off)

When you are happy for students to see their grades and feedback, return to the Grade Centre and repeat the above steps

Turnitin UK Academic Integrity Summit 2017

I recently attended the Turnitin UK Academic Integrity Summit 2017 held in Newcastle Upon Tyne.  This was a very timely conference following the release of the QAA report into contract cheating.  I was concerned that this would be a day-long sales pitch from Turnitin but was pleasantly surprised to find the opposite. There were many presentations from institutions around the world, but very little ‘grandstanding’ from Turnitin.

Stephen Gow, Academic Integrity Coordinator, University of York

The first session I attended was a look at the approach from the University of York towards academic integrity. They discussed the importance of the language used at the University, moving away from terms such as “plagiarism” towards “academic integrity”. All their students have a mandatory academic integrity online tutorial they must complete in Semester 1 of Stage 1. They are working closely with the student union on their “integrity week” and are also working more closely with staff, including on their Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice (PGCAP).

Turnitin Data Workflows

The second session was a discussion session with the Turnitin staff exploring the types of data and statistics institutions would like to get out of Turnitin. This included reports on feedback return time, statistics around number of students receiving extensions, archiving, learning analytics, and reporting on the various functions used. We hope Turnitin will use this in the further developments of the software.

Bill Loller, Turnitin

The third session was facilitated by Bill Loller, Chief Product Officer at Jobvite, who is working on a technical solution to expose contract cheating for Turnitin. They are using expertise from the field of forensic linguistics to develop a product. Forensic linguistics may be used in a court case to determine whether a person did, or did not, write a document. They are currently testing their modelling and developing a report that will provide a confidence score.

Bill continued this theme into a larger session with the group, showing some of the contract cheating/essay mills websites prevalent online. He admitted that Turnitin may have helped with this problem – “crack down on plagiarism and students will look elsewhere”. These websites offer 10,000 words for approximately £300.

Simon Bullock, QAA

Simon Bullock from the QAA was next to discuss his recent publication “Contracting to Cheat in Higher Education – How to Address Contract Cheating, the Use of Third-Party Services and Essay Mills.”  He discussed the risks to the public if students were obtaining their degrees through cheating but that despite attempts it is not yet illegal to offer essay mill services online. The QAA is exploring as many non-legislative methods as possible.

Irene Glendinning, Coventry University

Irene Glendinning of Coventry University presented her research work analysing the impact of policies for plagiarism in Higher Education across Europe. She highlighted the UK and Ireland as being some way ahead of many other countries in Europe. They have developed an academic integrity maturity model, a tool to compare the results of the impact analysis across 27 EU member states.

Cath Ellis, New South Wales

The presentation that had the most impact on me was from Cath Ellis from the University of New South Wales. Cath reported that there was too much anecdotal information forming decisions, and not enough hard data.

To find out how many students are using contract cheating services, Cath asked them anonymously. Out of the 14,096 students surveyed around 6% (n=814) admitted to cheating in some form during their programme. The vast majority of this cheating comes in the form of assistance from other or former students. It is not commercially driven. The cheating group’s attitudes show they are less likely to think it’s wrong, although there was no discernible difference between English and non-English speaking students. Non-English speaking students are as likely to think cheating is wrong as English speaking students. Other findings of the study showed that when there are perceptions that there are a lot of opportunities to cheat, cheating goes up. And when there is dissatisfaction with the teaching environment, cheating goes up.

Cath discussed the need for students to have “ethical fitness” – we should not try to remove every opportunity to cheat as students need to be ethical.

She then discussed the various types of contract cheating and review some of the typical websites.

Assessment design is widely advocated as a possible solution to contract cheating, but Cath argued that this is a myth. We should not change our assessment design because of a small percentage of cheaters. Reduced assessment time (shorter deadlines) will actually drive students towards essay mills.

Cath noted that we are not having the correct conversations with students and advised us to discuss contract cheating with them. Part of the study looked at the perceptions of how prevalent contract cheating is, compared to how damaging it is. The study showed that students in the cheating group thought that a lot of students were doing it and it was not that serious. Staff members thought it was not very common but it was very serious. Students in the non-cheating group followed the same path as the students in the cheating group. They also thought that lots of students were doing it while it was not very serious.

Professor Phil Newton – Swansea University

The last presentation was given by Professor Phil Newton from Swansea University. He presented various research projects that explored academic integrity.

I found the event extremely useful and I have reflected since on the way Newcastle University approaches academic integrity. The presentation from Cath Ellis convinced me that we should not be changing any approaches to assessment to attempt to counter the small number of cheating students, but we should be minimising their opportunities to cheat. We also need to be having more conversations with staff and students about the promotion of academic integrity, and the impact contract cheating could have on their career.


Blackboard Baseline

 What is Blackboard Baseline?

The Blackboard baseline sets out the core minimum requirements expected on all modules within the centrally supported Virtual Learning Environment. This was previously known as the VLE threshold standard.

Why do we have the Blackboard Baseline?

It has been designed to:

  • Establish a degree of consistency across modules on the VLE
  • Provide clear guidance regarding the availability of information and teaching resources provided via the VLE
  • Establish a baseline on which modules can be developed and offer guidance on ways staff can move beyond the minimum expectations

What is in the Blackboard Baseline?

Some of the content covered by the Blackboard Baseline will be brought in automatically to your Blackboard module. The automated content includes:

  • Every module must have a VLE presence
  • Module information on courses that are not parent-child. (credit weighting, learning outcomes, summary outline of teaching activities)
  • Reading List where appropriate – If using the reading list online system – otherwise this will have to be entered manually.
  • Assessment information including details of the type and weighting of the assessment. This is brought in directly from MOFS.

Some of the content will need to be added by the instructors on the Blackboard module. The manually added content includes:

  • Contact details
  • Module handbook
  • Learning materials. These may include:
    • Lecture presentations
    • Lecture / seminar notes
    • Lecture/seminar handouts
    • ReCap recordings

    Learning materials should be named consistently with a clear filename. Any teaching material uploaded must conform to the University guidance on copyright and intellectual property.

  • Assessment and Feedback area

This should contain the key assessment information including weighting and schedule of assessment. Info on the form of assessment, the criteria, and schedule for feedback to be returned to students. It may also include guidance on the University policy for the return of feedback.

  • Student Voice – “You said we did”

In response to previous years module evaluations, the summary of the outcomes from the evaluations should be published as well as any actions resulting from them.

Consistently name content

Key module information and teaching materials should be presented in a consistently named content area across modules. These are determined by the school/subject. It is for academic units to decide whether the consistent layout should apply across a school or at subject level. This requirement could be met through the adoption of a module template.

Schools should start to consider the adoption of a module template. We can create the courses in Feb/March with the new template to give a lot of time to transfer content across. LTDS can facilitate School-based sessions in PC clusters to support academic staff with the moving of content.

Enhancement

Recommendations are provided to outline ways in which staff can go beyond the baseline and ensure effective practice. This could be through the use of:

  • Announcements –  use them to email students. If using an announcements page, make this the module landing page in Bb.
  • Online collaboration – consider providing students with the opportunity to collaborate online within the module/community.
  • Blackboard Tests – can be used for diagnostic assessment, a revision aid, and as a means for students to evaluate their own progress. Students can be provided with instant feedback.
  • Mobile Accessibility – Clear, descriptive naming of files and folders. Avoid “week 1”, “Lecture 1”, etc. Avoid using symbols. If using Blackboard tests for formative assessment, choose the option to build a “Mobile Compatible Test”

Implementation

The implementation of the Blackboard Baseline will be monitored through three main routes:

  • Feedback from students via SSC, stage evaluation and NSS/PTES
  • Learning and Teaching Reviews
  • Data gathered from reporting tools in VLE

Format for conversion from a Word document

The Learning and Teaching Development Service uses software called Respondus to convert the exam and also to produce print versions of the exam.  Respondus is also now available for University staff to use, find out more here.

If you would like LTDS to convert an exam from Word, or if you are going to convert it yourself using Respondus, it needs to be in the format shown in the linked document. Respondus format. See simple example below.

Example Exam Question:

Title: Speed of Light. 

3) Who determined the exact speed of light?

a. Albert Einstein

*b. Albert Michelson

c. Thomas Edison

d. Guglielmo Marconi

NOTE: Respondus only converts the following question types:

  • multiple choice
  • true-false
  • essay – not currently supported in locked down exams
  • fill in the blank
  • jumbled sentence
  • ordering questions
  • matching
  • multiple answer questions

Respondus cannot convert calculated formula questions and has no support for Hot Spot questions. These types need to be created online. Hot spot questions will need to be added manually into the paper version of the exam. The other questions can be pulled down from Blackboard to Respondus for printing (with answers for external examiners to check and without answers as a backup for students).

If you are using a paper based exam that is currently very different to this, please get in touch with OLAF Admin in good time  and we can look at  how it will work.

How is an OLAF exam run?

  1. The Exams Office arrange invigilation and technical support.
  2. The computers in the exam room are ‘locked down
  3. Students log into Blackboard and navigate to the exam and await further instructions.
  4. When the exam starts, students are instructed to turn over a printed slip to find a secret password that allows them to start the exam itself.
  5. Each question is displayed on a separate page.
  6. Students can move backwards and forwards through the exam using the next and previous buttons or the ‘Question Completion Status‘ bar.
  7. If students have any problems during the exam, the invigilators and computing officers assist.

Other online assessment and feedback tools

There are a range of online assessment and feedback tools that may be better suited to your needs (and those of your students).

Group Work

  • WebPA allows students to assess each others contribution to group work. Contact OLAF Admin.

Essays

Turnitin now provides tools for giving students feedback and facilitating Peer feedback on written work in addition to plagiarism checking:

  • GradeMark – Mark essays and access feedback online. Includes reusable comments and marking Rubrics.
  • PeerMark – Allows students to score and review the work of their peers.

Maths, Statistics and other disciplines

NUMBAs – Whilst some mathematical testing is possible though Blackboard, NUMBAs, developed by the School of Mathematics and Statistics here at Newcastle, offers more sophisticated assessment. It is used by several schools across the institution. See also http://numbas.mathcentre.ac.uk/