TLC2016 - Inspiring a Sense of Educational Community

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Inspiring a Sense of Educational CommunityB S Becker, J R Gilbert & A A WatsonLibraries & Learning Innovation, Leeds Beckett University

@bsbecker1, @adlab

Good Afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen. Thank you for attending this Session this afternoon.

My name is Barbara Becker from Leeds Beckett University. (Colleagues from the UK will know us in our previous guise as Leeds Metropolitan University). My co-authors are Jack Gilbert and Adam Watson, but unfortunately they are not able to attend the Conference this week.

Today I will present our work on personalising the University Learning Platform, to provide a unique student experience for a cohesive individual cohort experience.


Leeds Beckett University2

Two campuses based in Leeds, Yorkshire, UK Tertiary education provider for over 100 years University status granted in 1992 - were New!Staff and students access our learning platform from 161 countries

Before I get into the nitty gritty of my presentation, let me share some interesting facts about my University. Leeds Beckett University is based in the City of Leeds, in Yorkshire, in the centre of the so called UK Northern Powerhouse.

And despite the city being landlocked we do still have the River Aire and the Leeds Liverpool canal running through the City. So like Groningen we have a waterfront just to the same extent.

We have a split campus, with a city centre location, and around 3.5 miles north of the city is our beautiful Headingley Campus with the James Graham building as its architectural highlight.

Although, we have been a tertiary education provider for over 100 years, we received our University Chartership in 1992. So a relatively new University. And although our student and staff are in the main campus based, we have a significant, and growing, off-campus population, with logins from 161 countries.


The Concept3Inspiring a Sense of Educational Community

So heres the thing. The concept3


At the beginning

An educational institution consists of many types of students And as an institution we provide one learning platform for everyone to access But when we started analysing our student base, how were they actually studying?4


Classroom Based at home institution Standard Student

The majority of students are standard students on campus, classroom based.5


Classroom Based at another institution Franchise Student

We have a significant and growing proportion of students who are classroom based, but being taught in their home institutions and accessing the learning platform under Franchise contracts.6


Independent study from homeDistance Learning Students

Moreover, in the last few years, the University has been growing its distance learning provision, students usually studying at home and fitting in their studies with working, bringing up families. These students can be either be based internationally or in the institution's country. 7


Independent study for workContinual Professional Development (CPD)

Finally, we have an established set of continuing professional development courses, where students study a specific set short courses related to their current working career.8


So one size fits all?

But our learning platform initially treated all our institutional students as the same one size fits all We came to realise that this was not the case For instance why would Distance Learning students require access to our institutional timetables when they are off-campus? 9


What if?

So what if we could we personalise our virtual learning environment for each group of students define them and separate them from the larger body of conventional classroom based students we started to investigate the possibilities10

Franchise PartnersStandard Students11

Distance LearnersContinuing Professional Development


Our University Perspective13Inspiring a Sense of Educational Community

So thats the concept hold that thought just for a moment12

Current University Context 13

~94% of users, login at least once during the year~69% of Courses being taught use the VLE40% of visits last at least ten minutes4 out of 5 users have downloaded / used the Mobile AppStaff: 2,900

Academic: 1,500Students:29,000

Before I go any further it might be useful, to provide you with some context to our Blackboard Installation.

We have around 29,000 students, 2,900 staff or which 1500 are academic staff. Our statistical analysis (not taken from Blackboard analytics) shows that 94% of users login at least once during the year, with 69% of courses (of which we have 3500) being taught on Blackboard (so have content and students attached). And 40% of visits last at least 10 minutes or more.

We have the mobile app installed and we know that 4 out of 5 of our users are using the app to access their course materials.


Portal & VLE Timeline14



2001 WebCT Campus Edition

2003 Sungard HE (Ellucian) Campus Pipeline

2008 WebCT VISTA

2010 Blackboard Learn 9.1

2011 Blackboard Learn 9.1

2016 Learn 9.1 October 2014

2004 Sungard HE (Ellucian) Luminis

Leeds Beckett University has had a portal/VLE platform for a number of years since bringing in WebCT Campus Edition in 2001, some 15 years ago.

Two years later WebCT was embedded into the first student portal platform supplied by Sungard HE (now Ellucian).

For a number of years this remained the status quo, with the only change a slight upgrade to the portal and WebCT being upgraded to the Vista flavour of the product.

Then in 2010 the decision was made to change the student portal to Blackboard Learn 9.1 Communities, in which the VISTA VLE was embedded.

Finally, VISTA was upgraded to Blackboard Learn 9.1 Courses and the Portal and the VLE were finally on the same platform.

And in August 2015 we migrated from self-hosting to managed hosting, as well as upgrading. For any Sys Admins out there, we are currently on Blackboard Learn 9.1 October 2014 with CU2. 14


Our learning platform is branded as MyBeckett and the Login Page is heavily customised using HTML & CSS. All our students and staff see this login page, irrespective of the course program that they are following.

We provide prominent Staff and student help links, these contain our top 9 queries, taken from a tally of the support queries as well as a link to our general online support guides.

The Hot support section, allows the quick posting of a message, or a permanent link to our induction video at the relevant time or year without having to upload a new login page each time.

Finally, we provide a mechanism for students to access the relevant password reset mechanism dependent on their particular registration status.15


Typical Student Layout

When a standard staff or student logs into MyBeckett they are presented with a range of tabs. This is a typical student set of tabs, but staff see much the same with a few extras.

Below which are a series of HTML and Building Block communities modules designed to a standard template to produce an accessible layout.

Each module has two title areas to inform users of the modules function, followed with a few lines of text to give further detail of the service provided by the module. A large action button exists, which is this size, so that it can be easily clicked without zoom when mobile users access Communities via a mobile browser. Finally Help & Information buttons embedded into the module provide immediate targeted help either as self-help instructions or help contacts.

For each tab we create a series of modules, which are either Building Blocks or simple HTML channels dependent on the service being provided.

In this example the Password Manager and Web Payments modules are HTML channels that link students through to web-based service, while Enrol Online and Update your Personal Data are Building blocks that pass relevant student information to our SIS allowing the students to perform a number of functions in the SIS.16

The Plan20Inspiring a Sense of Educational Community

So we have the concept and we have the customised learning platform, how do we put them together to achieve our aim we needed a cunning plan!17


Is the learning platform content relevant and targeted to the right group of students?Are all students entitled tosee all the resources that we provide?Are the students actually engaging with the services provided through the learning platform?

Our questions

We started off by asking our selves three questions In each case we had to turn are initial Nos into Yess

How could we make the content relevant

How could we only give access to the legitimate resources?

And how could we provide an engaging learning platform?



Out of the Box 2010Standard Brand2014-15


So we knew what we wanted to achieve,

But we had already come a long way from the out of the box product, creating our own Brand, including the required University font, logo and corporate colours.

So the next step was to identify the tools required, to create unique brands, utilising the university colour palette, along with a mechanism to identify the tabs and modules required.


The Technical Bit22

Inspiring a Sense of Educational Community

So what did we