Presentation: 18th Durham Blackboard Users’ Conference

September 19, 2019

This presentation took place on 4 January 2018 by Jonny Crook and Andrew Gold, Learning Technologists at The University of Manchester.

Original paper submission:

Blackboard: Experiences using a Standard Course Structure for Course Design

This paper will explain our approach to providing a ‘Standard Course Structure’ (SCS) for academics to use for their Blackboard course spaces and to provide a more consistent student user experience. 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.
We will look at the purpose of using this approach and within Blackboard, we will demonstrate key features and content of the SCS and the benefits to teaching staff.

We will look at how the template aims to provide a more consistent student experience with easy to find information such as study skills and School procedures. Preloaded information allows resources to be found in the same location and ensure information and web links are up-to-date.

We will talk about using a SCS tailored for each of our five Schools within the Faculty of Humanities, and the variations and bespoke content required for them.

We will look at our delivery approach for the roll-out of each SCS at key times during the academic year; our experiences—good and bad— in encouraging academic uptake of the SCS and Blackboard data showing us the outcome in implementing the SCS.

The session will be presented by Jonny Crook and Andrew Gold, Learning Technologists within The Faculty of Humanities, The University of Manchester. The Humanities eLearning Team supports five Schools, 1,000 academic staff and approx. 2120 Blackboard courses for 18,000 students.

ALT-C Presentation: Enhancing Lectures with Interactive Teaching Tools

July 26, 2017

This paper and presentation was accepted by ALT (Association for Learning Technology). It was presented by Jonny Crook and Dr Julian Jones at the 2015 ALT Conference: Shaping the Future of Learning Together. Presentation link.

The presentation focused on a project developed between Dr Julian Jones, Lecturer in Accounting and Finance and Jonny Crook, Learning Technologist | The University of Manchester.

The project was developed for an Alliance Manchester Business School course in Accounting and Finance. The project centred on converting a number of traditional lecture slides into interactive teaching tools that could be used both inside and outside the lecture. They allow greater student engagement and understanding and give the tutor an indication of student understanding of the subject matter. The project looked at using elements of ‘The Flipped Classroom’ approach to teaching.

Tools used included interactive topics and Responseware polling, all accessible across platforms: computer, mobile and tablet devices.

Association for Learning Technologies Conference 2013

September 27, 2013

This year’s ALT conference—Association for Learning Technology—was held at Nottingham University, with the theme: ‘Building new cultures of learning’. It was the 20th annual conference so this year’s event was quite a celebration of ALT’s achievements over the years.

The Humanities eLearning Team were well represented at the conference and had four submitted papers accepted with three being delivered over the 3-day event.

Jonny Crook delivered a paper entitled, ‘Using Technology to Support New Ideas in Language Learning: a ’TESS Experience’ exemplar covering written and audio assessment in Spanish’. He explained the process behind a recent, successful TESS project working with Susana Lorenzo (Spanish Language, SALC) on using technology, assessment and audiobooks. Tablets and stylus’ were used to provide feedback via digital annotation on written work. Digital recording devices were available for students to record their audiobooks. The presentation also discussed the working relationship between academic and Learning Technologist.

Cath Booth’s paper, ‘Reconstructing the Past through Visual Assessment (TESS Experience exemplar)’, was another example of an innovative project set up by academic and the eLearning Team. Melanie Giles (Archaeology, SALC) created a Blackboard-based formative assessment featuring visualisations. These image-based assessments were supplemented and enriched by primary data and research articles, and audio interviews with the visualisation artists that explained how (and why) the images were created.

Anna Verges’ session focussed on eAssessment. A number of HE institutions in the UK have reported on the effects of the use of Turnitin/Grademark on a number of fronts. Her presentation reviewed JISC available evidence as well as local data from 2010 to 2013 on the implementation of the Faculty Plan to transition into online submission and eFeedback. The presentation aimed to evaluate and consolidate the existing evidence and to identify possible new lines of enquiry.


Designer/Developer Fiesta – London, 28th September 2012

October 5, 2012

I attended the Designer’s and Developer’s Fiesta which is run by Academy Class – a digital media training company that specialises in Adobe training. It’s a 1-day event for digital creatives, focusing on inspirational sessions and workshops.

As our team are in the progress of shifting our focus and skills on mobile development, I was keen to gain as much knowledge and insight I could.

I focused on attending sessions on mobile development, and this seemed to be a popular theme for the event with most sessions standing room only. There was much discussion on developing for different mobile platforms eg. Apple iPhone/iPad, Blackberry, Android-based phones and tablets. iOS for Apple devices, Android SDK and web apps using HTML5/CSS3/javascript.

Apple – Xcode
Language is Objective C

Language is Objective C


Responsive Design

Designing sites that adapt and respond to different devices – they resize automatically based on screen size of device eg. screen, tablet, mobile


More information:


There were some elearning specific sessions too. A workshop on Articulate Storyline showed the potential of this tool; easy to use and can create interactive resources easily using the in-built library and coding tools. One good feature is the option to create your resources specifically for iOS –  iPhones/iPads. 

Project tin can is replacing SCORM

Adobe Edge Animate  newly launched product that can create interactions and animations. It creates HTML5 resources that can work across different mobile devices.

Mobile technology and innovation

An eye-opening showcase by Scott Seeborn for their pioneering mobile technologies company XS2, showed how mobile technology innovation is being pushed further and further to create some truly amazing apps. Inspiring.



March 4, 2011

A quick browse around for latest tablets currently on the market:

Archos Android tablets

Two sizes available:
–     7” (201 x 114 x 10 mm) £ 234.88
–    10” (270 x 150 x 12 mm) £ 275.74
–    Uses Google Android operating system
–    Supports Flash
–    Has USB port

Samsung Galaxy

–    7” screen
–    £449.00
–    Uses Google Android operating system
–    Supports Flash
–    No USB

Dell Streak

–    5” screen
–    £399.00
–    Uses Google Android operating system
–    Supports Flash
–    Has USB port

Apple iPad2

Not yet released
– £TBA
– 10″ display
– No Flash support
– No USB port

Motorola Xoom

–    Not released until April 2011
–    10” screen
–    £499.00
–    Uses Google Android operating system
–    Supports Flash
–    Has USB port

Blackberry Playbook

Not yet released
– £TBA
– 7″ screen
– Supports Flash
– Has USB port

Who’s using TurnItIn and GradeMark?

May 7, 2010

Who’s using Turnitin?

University of Glasgow

University of Exeter

University of Cambridge

University of East Anglia

University of Essex

University of Nottingham

University of Bradford

University of Bristol

University of Kent

Staffordshire University

Who’s using GradeMark?

University of Edinburgh

Edinburgh Napier

Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh

University of Huddersfield

Royal Holloway, University of London

Leeds Met

University of Leeds

University of Glamorgan

Twitter in Education

May 13, 2009

I’ve been using Twitter for quite a few months now and after an initial period of scepticism, reluctance and cynicism, I am now a fully-fledged Twitter convert.

How I use Twitter

Gone are the days of Twittering about ‘eating beans on toast’ or what you’re having for breakfast. Gone too are the days of stalking Stephen Fry and other such celebrity nonsense (in my opinion).

Twitter posts are now a ‘Thought Stream’ – cataloguing and promoting ideas, news and information; sharing links, help and advice.

I use Twitter mainly for work purposes – i.e. Within the e-learning community as a Learning Technologist.

Since joining, my personal network has grown enormously and I am now following and being followed by people throughout the country and around the world – all within the e-learning community.

My knowledge and awareness of new ideas, software, developments and conferences has been opened up. I am discovering new things everyday. Blackboard 9, virtual worlds, cloud computing, teaching tools, mobile learning, new technologies – just a few of the things I have been made more aware of recently.

Here’s some good links to get you all on-board:

Presentation: Twitter in Education

What is this Twitter thing and why should I care?

50 ideas on Using Twitter for Education


Twitter and the new wave of Digital Natives

March 26, 2009

The Guardian reports on proposals to introduce the study of Twitter, Wikis and blogs into the Primary curriculum. It says:

The proposals would require:

Children to leave primary school familiar with blogging, podcasts, Wikipedia and Twitter as sources of information and forms of communication. They must gain “fluency” in handwriting and keyboard skills, and learn how to use a spellchecker alongside how to spell.

I think this is a great idea, especially as tools such as Twitter are becoming more mainstream and finding their uses in e-education. I still believe touch typing skills are pretty much essential (faster, more productive) although this recent report suggests touch screen technologies will become the norm. But I suppose this is just making the mouse and keyboard redundant.

I just hope that new technologies with in elearning are supported throughout education, not just Primary (ie. FE colleges, HE Universities etc).

Have joined Twitter

January 22, 2009

After considering the pros and cons of jumping on the Twitter bandwagon, I decided to climb aboard…

I’m enjoying the ride so far.

Virtual World Wobble

December 9, 2008

Google’s brief foray into virtual worlds has come to a swift end. Google’s ‘Lively’—its answer to Second Life—has been shut down. Launched in July 2008, it offered virtual world characters, three-dimentional graphics and virtual rooms for people to socialise.

It’s quite possible Google thought there was no future in virtual worlds, certainly after the increasingly ridiculous Second Life stories being reported in the press.

Even a Reuter’s reporter has left Second Life, after concluding that there wasn’t really anything of value to report after being ‘sent there’.

However, as one door closes, another one opens. Muxlim has just been launched – a Sims-style virtual world aimed at the Muslim community, with the hope of members socialising and sharing common interests.