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Technology Enhanced Learning at UWL: moving on

January 9, 2015

I trust that no one has spent the last twenty months anxiously waiting for the next post on this blog. Things got busy… and then we started communicating via other channels.. and now I’m about to start a job at another University, so I’m actually just posting a brief entry in order to wind this blog up.

When I lasted wrote here, we were about to go to Blackboard Managed Hosting. There were a few technical glitches in transferring our data to Blackboard’s servers, but once the transfer was complete I’d say it has been nothing but good news. We had long recognised that if the use of TEL and Electronic Marking & Assessment were ever to really take off at the University, having a dependable VLE would be a prerequisite. Since moving to Managed Hosting, the University of West London has had a reliable, responsive VLE, and it really has made a difference.

Since the move to Managed Hosting in May 2013 there have been only two periods of unplanned downtime. Both of those were the result of denial of service attacks on another institution’s web space, and in each case Blackboard restored our service within a couple of hours. We have received very good support from Blackboard; patches and other fixes which required a service restart have been carried out at periods of low demand, in the middle of the night; and the major upgrades in August 2013 (from SP9 to SP13) and August 2014 (to the April 2014 release) were each completed within 12 hours (system shut down by Blackboard at 7.30 pm, and the updated system ready to be tested by the time UWL staff got up next morning).

The April 2014 release also brought some really good features, especially in relation to assessment processes. Indeed I personally feel that Blackboard now offers a number of advantages over Turnitin (still the most used system for submission and marking at UWL). Turnitin has made big improvements in the last year or so, but the fact remains that it still doesn’t properly support UK universities’ assessment processes. And it has a tendency to suffer serious technical problems every few months – always at times of peak demand.

Other TEL systems recently made available at the University of West London include: Panopto for personal recordings and lecture capture; and the PollEverywhere online polling system.

And just as importantly the TEL team has been restructured and expanded. Since the 2013-14 academic year I have been the VLE Manager “responsible for the operational management and administration of all of the University’s TEL systems including the VLE (Blackboard)”. If you get your skates on, there’s still time to apply for my old job – go to http://jobs.uwl.ac.uk/Vacancy.aspx?ref=INS021

Meanwhile Matt Lingard took up a completely new post of Head of TEL, while for the first time in over two years all the advisory posts supporting academics in the use of TEL were filled. See details of the current team at http://www.uwl.ac.uk/instil/our-team.

There’s a new staff support site too at www.uwl.ac.uk/telsupport – although you need to have a UWL account to access that. And I believe that there will be a new publicly visible blog for INSTIL (the University’s Institute for Teaching, Innovation and Learning) coming shortly. I’m looking forward to reading about my former colleagues’ activities as I move on to my new role.

 

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One Comment leave one →
  1. January 12, 2015 3:15 pm

    We’ll miss you here Andy!

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