New Blackboard Pages on the LTDS website

You may have noticed some new Blackboard pages that have been added to the LTDS website recently. These provide you with information about Blackboard at Newcastle University, the VLE Threshold Standard and the Module Overview Page on your Blackboard sites. You will also find links to the Case Studies database highlighting innovative use of Blackboard and details of any workshops delivered by LTDS.

Please note this information replaces the pages that were originally found at The new pages are also linked to directly on the Overview Page of your module sites.

Overview Page

If you have any Blackboard queries or would like to arrange a training session, please contact LTDS.

NUTELA 3Ps Workshop: Flipped Classroom

NUTELA 200516


NUTELA will be hosting another of their successful 3Ps workshops on 20th May.

As usual the workshop will take place from 12-2pm, with plenty of pizza and pop and lashings of practice.

The theme for this session is flipped classroom and there will be number of sessions exploring what this term really means, how it can be useful and plenty of examples of good practice from across the University.

The event will be held in the Committee Room in the Robinson Library.

To register, just fill out the online form.

STAR CASE STUDY: Feedback Foghorn

Would you like your students to be able to see all of their feedback in one place?

Do you feel like you’re pouring useful advice and feedback into the void?

You need the feedback foghorn!

Lindsey Ferrie

Lindsey Ferrie in Biomedical Sciences has been piloting the scheme in Biomedical Sciences which allows students to use e-portfolio software to compile, track and store their feedback across their course.

The system allows them to track their academic progress across software such as Grademark, Turnitin and PeerWise in order to analyse areas of strength and weakness and to see clearly  their academic progress. Continue reading “STAR CASE STUDY: Feedback Foghorn”

Research informed teaching: Do your students value it?

A study into our students’ perceptions of the links between research and teaching is currently considering this question.


Charlotte Huggins, a Psychology MSc student, is investigating this issue through a series of student consultations and a survey. Supported by LTDS she is asking students about their understanding of the term, if they recognise the ways in which staff research expertise feeds into teaching, and whether this is something that students value.

This study is well underway with a number of focus groups involving students from across the University being held this week.

A survey is also gathering a wider set of responses. The survey is open to all Newcastle University students and can be accessed online here.

Do encourage your students to complete the survey, we want to hear their views. Those who complete the survey will be entered in a prize draw for a £20 Eldon Square voucher.

Dr Sara Marsham, Associate Dean in SAgE, is conducting the parallel staff consultation. These two strands will be collated and fed back to the University Learning, Teaching and Student Experience Committee (ULTSEC) under the direction of Professor Suzanne Cholerton, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Learning and Teaching.

4Ps: The Awards, 4th March

NUTELA is delighted to announce that we will be celebrating the winners and nominees of our inaugral Peer Recognition Awards, with a feast of pizza, plonk, pop and practice!

To be held at the University’s swanky new Marjorie Robinson Rooms on Sandyford Road, the event will take place on Friday 4th March at 3.30pm.

It will showcase best practice as well as rewarding the hard work of staff who go above and beyond to help colleagues to employ technology in their teaching.

Pro-Vice Chancellor for Learning and Teaching Suzanne Cholerton will present awards to our 2015 award winners, Graeme Patterson (CEGS) and Gigi Herbert (Careers).


The winners will talk about their award-winning practice and there will be posters to celebrate the work of runners-up.

Details of this year’s competition will also be available at the event.

We hope that you will join us!

To do so please fill out the online form.

National Student Survey Launches on Campus

Students on campus

This week sees the launch of the 2016 National Student Survey (NSS) at Newcastle University.

Entering its twelfth 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 six aspects of their learning experience: 1) the teaching on the course, 2) assessment and feedback, 3) academic support, 4) organisation and management, 5) learning resources, and 6) 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

We will be using more social media outlets to promote NSS this year and are putting together the final details of a plan with the University’s Social Media Team. Thank you for recently sharing School platform addresses and administrators. Please get in touch with Myra Giesen ( if you think we can help with your School’s NSS campaign.

Student ambassadors promoting the NSS across campus will be strategically located across campus starting in teaching week 6 through the end of April. Locations and times will be advertised through social media outlets once they are set.

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

Learning and Teaching Development Service Website Launch

On the 17th of December, the Learning and Teaching Development Service will be launching their new website, alongside the new Case Studies database.

The new LTDS website  replace the old QuILT website, and will provide University staff will a clear route to find the things you need related to learning and teaching development and teaching quality assurance at Newcastle University.

We have many workshops and webinars running, and we will be developing a new booking system in the New Year.

The new Case Studies database has over 100 examples of good teaching practice across the University. Use it to inspire and support you in your teaching.

Alongside the revision of the website, we have launched this Learning and Teaching Development blog covering:

  • news in learning and teaching from around the University, including teaching quality assurance
  • theme based collections of case studies of good practice from academic and support staff
  • reports from learning and teaching related projects including Innovation Award holders
  • changes and rapid updates to learning and teaching services supported by LTDS (Blackboard, ReCap, ePortfolio, etc)
  • hints and tips, tricks and tools covering all aspects of LTDS areas of responsibility





1st FutureLearn Asia Pacific Forum, Shanghai, China

FutureLearn cupcakes. Source: CC-BY-NC-ND

I was delighted to be asked to represent one of three UK FutureLearn partner institutions at the first FutureLearn Asia Pacific Partner Forum, held in Shanghai, 24 & 25 November 2015.

Partner Forums are one of the things that make working with the FutureLearn partnership so useful. A chance to meet others a few times a year who are facing the same challenges, providing regular opportunities to share experiences and learn from each other, as well as influence the development of the platform. And we do really influence the development of the platform. Previously Partner Forums have happened in London, but with recent expansions in the Asia Pacific partnership, an inaugural Forum was planned in Shanghai, aiming to replicate meetings in the UK, but for Asia Pacific partners.

I set off to meet up in Shanghai with Kate Dickens, Project Lead for FutureLearn from University of Southampton, Joanna Stroud, Project Lead for FutureLearn from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Simon Nelson, CEO of FutureLearn, and 4 of his staff. We took part in a very well organised and intensive two day forum with around 70 representatives from HEIs and specialist organisations based in the Asia Pacific region, from countries including Australia, Malaysia, Japan, and Korea,  as well as several Chinese institutions and representatives from the British Council and Consulate.

In a packed two days, as well as getting to know each other, we got to know a bit about how the approaches developed within UK and European FutureLearn partners were being received by more recent Asia Pacific partners, and had the opportunity to share with each other some of the things we have learned in our time developing and delivering free online courses with FutureLearn.

FutureLearn’s mantra for free online courses, which appears at the beginning of nearly every presentation,  is to ‘Tell stories, provoke conversation and celebrate success’.

As Newcastle University courses have consistently succeeded in achieving higher than average engagement with our courses,  I was asked to present a session on Effective Storytelling in Newcastle’s free online courses, and to sit on a panel discussing approaches to course development and sharing top tips.

For the panel session, which took place on the morning of day 2, I was on the stage with Kate Dickens from University of Southampton, David Major, Learning Technologist from FutureLearn, and Professor Hongling Zhang from Shanghai International Studies University (SISU), Lead Educator on the Intercultural Communication free online course. The session was facilitated by Kate Sandars, Partnership Manager from FutureLearn and was based on questions from the floor, which were many, and discussion around them, which was lively. The session was very much about the practical aspects of developing and delivering free online courses, and about how this aligns with institutional strategy. The panel session overran and there was much continued discussion  in the following tea break.

Just before lunch on day 2 I presented a half hour slot on ‘Effective Storytelling’ in our free online courses at Newcastle University. I was pleased to be asked to do this session, as our courses consistently achieve higher than the FutureLearn average for social learning (engagement of learners with discussion and comments), and we also achieve higher than the average FutureLearn full participation rate (the nearest metric we have to ‘course completion’) – with our Ageing Well: Falls course having the highest full participation rate of any FutureLearn course to date, at 57% of those who started the course.

This indicates to us that there is something about our approach to working with teams of educators on developing our courses which works. Our focus on learning design is crucial to course success and we do focus on it a lot, right from course conception to delivery.

Why is storytelling so important? Well I think that the telling stories analogy is a great one for us to focus on. It enables us to talk about course creation in a different way, it encourages us to examine what is special about storytelling and storytellers. Why do stories work? Why are they compelling? What qualities to they have which are different to campus based courses? How can we replicate some of that in free online courses? And why is making courses online so different to making campus based programmes?

The session went down really well, and there was further lively discussion afterwards over a delicious lunch with colleagues from Monash University, the University of Malaya, RMIT, Fudan University, SISU and others.

An afternoon tea reception hosted by the British Council ended the Forum, which was an amazing privilege to be asked to attend, and which profiled the work of the University and its approach to online course development which has generated much interest from Asia Pacific HEIs.  We look forward to following up with these contacts over the coming weeks.  Many thanks go to Simon Nelson and his team at FutureLearn for asking us to represent established partners, for giving us the opportunity to profile our work and courses in the Asia Pacific region, and for looking after us so well in Shanghai.

Scotland’s QAA Focus on Student Transitions

Using the findings of a recent project focused on student transitions, Scotland’s QAA will build resources to help students with transitions at University, from a sense of ‘belonging’ to their institution to the development of graduate skills.

The project, led by Dr Ming Cheng, a Lecturer in the Academic Development Unit at the University of Glasgow, examined models of transition and their applicability to HE.

The study’s findings and a range of resources are available online.

The aim was to provide students and staff with resources to help them to gain an insight into these processes but also to highlight transition, and a continuing process of change, as an inherent part of the University experience for students.

The project formed part of QAA’s Scotland’s Student Transitions Enhancement Theme.

The work is likely to feed into future projects looking at how transitions skills can be beneficial at university but also in alter life.

In recent years a variety of institutions and research bodies have been focusing on student transitions, as a way of improving students’ experiences at and after University, both academically and personally.

These transitions also take into account the movement from school, college or work to University and can contribute to processes of recruitment and widening participation.

At Newcastle this has led to the appointment of a Transitions Officer in Computing Science, who helps undergraduates and postgraduates to adjust as they move through the different levels of their academic courses and out into the world of work.

Are you doing research into student transitions at Newcastle? Tell us about it: or @ncllt.


Matt Price – Meet the New Education Officer

Matt pRICEWe met up with the new Newcastle university Students’ Union’s Education Officer to find out a little bit more about him and what he hopes to bring to his new role….

What are you looking forward to the most about your new role?

I’m just really looking forward to starting the role. This is a really important year for the University in terms of teaching and learning because of the Higher Education Review. I hope this is a year where we can get a lot done – there is already some great teaching taking place in the University but I want to lay the groundwork to make things even better for students.

What sorts of issues do you hope to address in your year as Education Officer?

I really want to make a much bigger thing out of the Teaching Excellence Awards because I think that the staff at Newcastle work tremendously hard and we need to acknowledge really excellent teaching when we see it. I’d like to open nominations for awards earlier this year and work harder to encourage students to nominate outstanding teachers in their Schools. I’d also like to publicise the whole Teaching Awards event much more through social media and to really promote the good teaching going on across the University.

I’m also particularly interested in ReCap as a resource for students. It was something that was really useful to me as a student, I used to work so hard in the lectures on my course to really follow exactly what the lecturers were saying and take it in and then use ReCap later to take notes. I just really didn’t want to miss anything! I know some staff have reservations about the system but I really want to work with them too to put the student case and also to see if we can find a solution which addresses their concerns.

What is the single most important thing you hope to improve?

I’d really like to address the issue of exam feedback and to make a lasting and positive change on that. I found it really frustrating as a student that I often couldn’t view any feedback on the exams I sat, much less get hold of the past papers without great difficulty. I think it’s really important for students to get feedback on all of their work, even exams, so that they can improve or even so they can see where they went wrong. I’d also like to see a more consistent approach to exam feedback when it is available, sometimes you get a little and sometimes a lot – I suppose it’s difficult for staff to know whether students will see it or whether they are just pouring words into the void and that might be discouraging – but I think it would be really good to address this issue across the University and see if we can get some sort of consistency. Just access to decent feedback on exam assessment. It’s that simple.

You can contact Matt through

You can find out more about his manifesto and his interests and approach as a Union Officer here.