Report from Durham Blackboard Users Conference, 4-5 January/2018

This is a conference organised by the user community, for the user community. The conference is for sharing useful practices in Teaching Enhanced Learning along with introducing new technologies and the Blackboard road map. The theme for this year conference was “The User Experience – the Good, The Bad and the Ugly”.


Sharon Flyn- Opening Keynote
National University of Ireland (NUI) Galway

Based within a centre for teaching and learning, the focus of the CELT learning technologies team is on supporting pedagogy and student learning through the effective use of technology, and the team carry  out  this  support  through  a  range  of  activities  aimed  primarily  at  academic  staff  within  the university. In 2006-07,  Sharon  and  her  team  were  instrumental  in  the Pilot  to  Mainstream project which established Blackboard Learn as the institutional VLE at NUI Galway. More recently, the team have supported the rollout of the Grades Journey tool within Blackboard in a University wide Online Results Entry project. Staff development is core to the mission of CELT at NUI Galway, and Sharon recently worked with the Irish National Forum for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education as part of a Professional   Development   Expert   Group,  looking  at  the  rollout  of  Ireland’s  new  Professional Development Framework for all staff who teaching in Higher Education.




Pre-Arrival Induction Success -The Methods and the Evidence
Tim Smale
Keele University


The Keele University Pre-Arrival Online Induction Programme is a bespoke development to provide an accessible online induction programme that is available for all students from the day of acceptance onto their chosen course at Keele.  This  programme  was  designed  to  introduce  all  new  students, whether  within  the  UK  or  overseas,  to  the  key  systems  and  services  used  at  Keele  for  teaching, learning, and living. This programme included an introductory website, short training videos and the delivery of content through Blackboard.

Tim shown how the online induction course have impacted on the number of calls from students. The course was using adaptive release, so the content will only be revealed at the relevant time of the year.

Blackboard: Experiences using a Standard Course Structure for Course Design
Jonny Crook & Andrew Gold
University of Manchester


A course template is created for academics to use based on course design, pedagogical approaches and student user experience.  The  template  is  set  up  ready  to  be  populated  with  course  content, assessment material and other useful information to help and guide  the staff and student teaching and learning experience.

Although the team at University of Manchester have managed to design a unique template for each school, but it requires manual process to copy the template to the new course/module. Usually this is done by the lecturer, and therefore it couldn’t be measured the exact percentage of how many academics are using the template.

Blackboard –The Institution-Wide Impact of Accessibility
Nicolaas Matthijs

Ally is a tool that focuses on making course content more accessible and integrates seamlessly with the Learning Management System. Ally helps institutions gain detailed insight into the accessibility of their digital course content, provides guidance to teachers on how to improve the accessibility of their content, and automatically provides students with a range of more accessible alternative formats, leading to a more inclusive environment that all learners can benefit from.

One of the nice features of Ally, it allows the students to convert any text file into an accessible format including an audio output. For more information see the following link: Creating inclusive experiences in education.

URKUND’s plagiarism detection fully available in Blackboard’s workflow

URKUND building block uses Blackboard’s Mashup tool so that assignments are sent directly to URKUND for checking similarity report. Teaching staff see the result and a link to the report in Grade Centre and in the marking tool. This will require an additional step for the staff and student in order to view the similarity report.

This tool is only used to generate similarity report. In order to create/mark/submit and assignment then it has to be by using the Blackboard assessment tool.


Ideas to consider:

  • Student innovations prize.
  • Grade journey solution – Migrate grades from Blackboard to the student record system.
  • Accredited Technology Learning module as part of an existing degree or qualification.
  • Look into Ally solution to address accessibility.


Image credit: Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier, Durham University, from Flickr