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Annual report 2019-20

Online learning

Illustration of a laptop and books in a pile.

On this page:

For many years the Library has provided high quality online learning resources and has offered online webinars as part of our Skills@Library service and Researcher@Library support, along with face-to-face teaching, seminars and workshops.

We were able to pivot to online academic skills workshops and appointments almost immediately lockdown was announced. Our Learning Technologies Team supported staff and students with the university-wide shift to remote learning.

Our expertise and experience providing academic skills support in all formats proved invaluable when welcoming and equipping students for a new online academic year.

Online workshops, appointments and Shut up and Write!

When lockdown started, we rapidly converted face-to-face workshops into online synchronous webinars.

Recordings from our Skills@Library webinars were also made available on our website and allowed many more students to benefit who could not attend the session. 257 students benefitted from one-to-one online appointments from March to July.

The online format appealed to research staff and students, offering more opportunities for attendees to engage and work with one another. Bookings for sessions doubled, in some cases trebled, compared with last year.

The sessions are incredibly helpful to be productive AND they offer a real sense of social connection with others in the university while we are all dispersed due to Covid.

Shut Up and Write! participant

In response to demand, we extended our programme of Shut Up and Write! sessions, with 700 attendees between March and July. Researchers valued the structure and protected time to focus on their research.

Welcome, Induction and Transition

Our Learning Services Team made a significant contribution to the University’s new Welcome, Induction and Transition offer, with complementary materials for returning students.

Key academic skills content was included in several new student-facing resources:

This work was an opportunity to harness the University’s enhanced digital education capability, and to make sure that our approaches are inclusive and generate a sense of belonging.

Becoming an online learner

Our new Becoming an online learner resource supports taught students with the switch to an online learning environment. It helps them make the most of their study and contact time to become effective online learners.

Launched before the new academic year, there were over 6,300 pageviews of the resource in September 2020 alone.

Minerva pivotal in shift to online learning

Our Learning Technologies Team manage Minerva, our online learning environment. Offering key support to staff and students during the rapid shift to online delivery, they answered twice as many user support cases since the start of lockdown compared to the previous year.

Collaborate Ultra

Collaborate Ultra was identified as a key tool for delivering online sessions, and we provided additional support. We delivered training sessions, with new targeted user guides, and helped the Digital Education Service to set up a buddying scheme.

There has been a massive uptake of Collaborate Ultra. Comparing the last two weeks of term before the Easter break to the same period in the previous year, there were 6,591 sessions (a 6,118% increase) attended by 60,958 students (a 12,896% increase!).

Open online exams

Minerva provided the structure and tools for the deployment of open online exams. We supported schools to use the tools available, with the majority using Turnitin, with good use of Gradescope and Top Hat where these suited specific cases.

Minerva engagement data

We helped the Student Education Service plan for the start of a new online academic year by creating Minerva analytics-for-learn reports.

We explored ways to replace the physical attendance monitoring process and investigated how our analytics might support online engagement and learning.

We can now supply lists of students who have not logged in or engaged with their modules in the previous seven days.

Minerva moves to managed hosting

The Library and IT worked closely with our vendor (Blackboard) to successfully move Minerva into a managed hosting service. This is a modern cloud-based infrastructure that is robust and scalable.

Huge congratulations all round... We all know how much effort went into planning this move – and into executing it so skilfully.

Professor Tom Ward, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Student Education

Ally rollout for accessibility

We successfully launched Blackboard Ally, a tool to help meet the University’s commitment to provide an inclusive environment and digital accessibility for all.

Ally helps tutors to create accessible materials, essential for the shift to online hybrid teaching and to help meet new web accessibility regulations.

Working with colleagues from faculties and professional services, the team also developed an institutional accessibility statement and guidance, along with Ally training and orientation sessions.