Blog posts and articles

Topic: Accessibility

iSolutions Digital Accessibility Community of Practice: what did we do in 2021 and what was the impact?
The iSolutions Digital Accessibility Community of Practice began in December 2020. It aims to share practices, provide peer support, and raise awareness of digital accessibility within the department. Using results from a survey of community members, in this post I review the past year and looks forward to the year to come.
Published on The University of Southampton Digital Learning Blog
Accessibility Allies
Resources and artefacts shared as part of a presentation about the "Accessibility Allies Project" at the University of Southampton.
Published on The University of Southampton Digital Learning Blog
Accessibility does not impede agility! Six ways that Digital Accessibility maps to Agile Practices
A common misconception is that Digital Accessibility slows down and impedes IT development process, making them less agile. In this post we cover six aspects we learned in our Agile training course and how they relate to accessibility.
Published on The University of Southampton Digital Learning Blog
Three ways PowerPoint’s "Design Ideas" excludes your audience, and how to fix it.
PowerPoint’s Design Ideas feature helps us create attractive slides quickly. Unfortunately, some of its suggestions do not follow accessibility best practice, creating barriers that may exclude members of your audience. In this blog post we explain three issues and how to fix them.
Published on The University of Southampton Digital Learning Blog
How can I use colour accessibly?
A companion article to my presentation,"Making it simple to ensure the use of colour is both on brand and accessible".
Published on The University of Southampton Digital Learning Blog
How can I improve the accessibility of my emails?
How to check the accessibility of your emails and encourage your colleagues to do the same.
Published on The University of Southampton Digital Learning Blog
Guest blog: How to check your brand's colour contrast for accessibility
In this post I share a method both to ensure colour choices are accessible and inline with an institutional brand.
Published by AbilityNet

Topic: Educational Technology

Virtual backgrounds when creating PowerPoint Recordings
For recorded lectures and presentations, some colleagues prefer to create narrated PowerPoint files. You can include your webcam video in these types of recordings, this helps students to see you and your passion for your subject and helps to build a connection with your audience. I received a ticket with a query about whether the background of the video could be blurred.
Published on The University of Southampton Digital Learning Blog

Topic: the use, administration, and configuration of the Blackboard Learning Management System

Should you use Significant Figures or Decimal Places when setting Answer Set options for Calculated Formula questions in Blackboard?
When setting the Answer Set options, use Decimals, and not Significant Figures. If you specify significant figures, then students have to give an answer with the same number of significant figures that you specify, but unless you state this in the question text, they will not know that they need to do so.
Published on The University of Southampton Digital Learning Blog
An innovative new Blackboard structure for Arts and Humanities
The Digital Learning team worked on a major project last year with our Faculty of Humanities to implement new Blackboard course templates. This introduced new course menus, course menu colour schemes, and course redesign.
Published on The University of Southampton Digital Learning Blog
Using the Blackboard ‘Self and Peer Assessment’ tool with groups
The self and peers assessment tool takes a little practice to become confident with. A major consideration is that the system does not tell students when the submission stage ends and the evaluation stage begins, so careful oversight and communication is essential.
Published on The University of Southampton Digital Learning Blog
How to use virtual backgrounds with Blackboard Collaborate
The ability to hide your background in Blackboard Collaborate is one of the most requested features on the Blackboard Community site. In addition, it has been requested many times by colleagues at the University of Southampton. This post will teach you how to use third-party tools to use virtual backgrounds in Blackboard Collaborate.
Published on The University of Southampton Digital Learning Blog
Enable automated captions for Blackboard Collaborate using Google Chrome
Although Blackboard Collaborate does not currently offer automated captioning, Chrome now offers this feature.
Published on The VLE Guru Blog
How students can create their own groups within Blackboard for work, study, and socialising
With the new semester about to start in the UK I wanted to put together a short video that explains how students can create their OWN groups in any Blackboard course. This can be really useful for creating impromptu and dynamic groups on a course that can be used for any purpose, for example working on a project, getting a team together, or just socialising.
Published on The VLE Guru Blog
Bb Collaborate Workshop Materials
Recently I was asked to do a workshop to introduce a department to Collaborate. When I asked what they wanted to cover the list kept getting longer and longer. So rather than spend the time doing live demos I built on some slides that Amy Eyre had shared some time ago, and in the spirit of the community I'm sharing these back. I also have a few examples for ice-breakers that I used.
Published on The VLE Guru Blog
My updated theme for Blackboard 3800.13
As we move to SaaS soon I had to update our theme work to be compatible with the latest SaaS version. So this means I have a nice freshly compiled version to share.
Published on The VLE Guru Blog
JSHack: Collaborate Help
As part of my roll-out plan for Blackboard Collaborate I wanted to add some light contextual help that acknowledged that Collaborate was something new, that directed staff and students to support resources, and that stated the recommended browsers. To this end I created a JSHack which I am now sharing to the wider community.
Published on The VLE Guru Blog
Webinar Presentation: Introduction to Blackboard Discussion Forums
I recently gave a presentation introducing discussion boards for asynchronous communication as part of our drive to engage and inform Blackboard users as our institution moves more learning and teaching online as part strategy to cope with COVID19.
Published on The VLE Guru Blog
The SaaS Migration Diaries #3: Inching forwards
In my last post we had reached an impasse while migrating legacy content. The tool claimed it had worked, but there was no evidence from the data that it had. In this post I share how I got on with Blackboard support and some other news from our SaaS Migration Project.
Published on The VLE Guru Blog
The SaaS Migration Diaries #2: Migrating Legacy Content - Part 2
In this episode of the SaaS Migration Diaries, I share what happened when we tried running the Move Legacy Content to Content System migration tools for the first time on a development server.
Published on The VLE Guru Blog
The SaaS Migration Diaries #1: Migrating Legacy Content - Part 1
After months of writing business cases, project plans, engaging with stakeholders, confirming budgets, and negotiating contracts we are on the road to SaaS.
Published on The VLE Guru Blog
JSHack: A floating toolbox for Blackboard portal pages
In this post I'm going to share with you the "floating box" I added to the bottom right corner of Blackboard portal pages.
Published on The VLE Guru Blog
Let me show you our Blackboard
In the spirit of Chris Boon's fantastic thread on the old Blackboard community site, I would like to share with you how our Blackboard looks now that we have spent half a year on the responsive theme.
Published on The VLE Guru Blog
University of Southampton President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Mark E. Smith meets the Managed Learning Environment Team to discuss Computer-based exams and more.
The University of Southampton is leading the way in the uptake of computer-based examinations. At the heart of this innovation is the Managed Learning Environment (MLE) Team who have been developing and supporting the computer-based exams experience at UoS since the early 2000s. Last week, our President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Mark E. Smith visited the MLE team to find out about their vital work in supporting several key pillars of the University’s strategy.
Published on The VLE Guru Blog
Reactions to "Blackboard accessibility beyond Ally"
Feedback from a recent presentation.
Published on The VLE Guru Blog
Making an enhanced Accessibility Toolbar for Blackboard"
Recently I have created and launched what I'm calling an Enhanced Accessibility Toolbar for our Blackboard VLE.
Published on LinkedIn.
Updating our preprod environment to 2018 Q4 CU3
A quick post about our preprod upgrade to 2018 Q4 CU3
Published on The VLE Guru Blog
Upgrading two dev environments to 2018 Q4
In the last fortnight we have upgraded two development environments to 2018q4
Published on The VLE Guru Blog
Our live upgrade plan from 2016 Q4 CU6 to 2017 Q4 CU3
Here is a slightly redacted version of our live upgrade plan. I'm sharing this in case it is useful for others...
Published on The VLE Guru Blog
Updates to our upgrade process
This winter like many other institutions we applied the latest CU to enable the crocodoc to box transition. The upgrades worked well as we were able to update and adjust the implementation plans we had spent a lot of time on last year.
Published on The VLE Guru Blog
Our final upgrade implementation plan (from 2015 Q4 CU1 to 2016 Q4 CU3)
This winter like many other institutions we applied the latest CU to enable the crocodoc to box transition. The upgrades worked well as we were able to update and adjust the implementation plans we had spent a lot of time on last year.
Published on The VLE Guru Blog
Highlights of fixes from our upgrade implementation plan
Our implementation plan is quite long and hard to skim over. Here I've tried to highlight some of the interesting fixes that we have included that may be of particular interest to others.
Published on The VLE Guru Blog
Getting photos for use with Open Photo Roster
Internally we have a service that was set up for getting user id photos. You point a web browser at a URL with the staff/student number of a particular users at the end of the address and you will be presented with their photo. I developed a very simple bash script to look up who was in Blackboard and get their photos.
Published on The VLE Guru Blog
A successful upgrade
Last weekend we successfully upgraded from 2015 Q4 CU1 to 2016 Q4 CU3. The upgrade worked out great. We only hit two issues...
Published on The VLE Guru Blog
Communications during and after an upgrade
It's always interesting to see how different institutions handle communications with their users. I thought some might be interested in our approach this year.
Published on The VLE Guru Blog
Upgrading our first dev server to 9.1 Q4 2016
As most will know, since 9.1 Q2 2016 Blackboard uses a new installer. We had tried this in our upgrade last year but were not able to get the new installer to work.
Published on The VLE Guru Blog
Upgrading our Second Dev server (“Dev 2”)
Having successfully upgraded our first dev server and updated our documentation, we were ready to upgrade our second dev server.
Published on The VLE Guru Blog
Examining log files post-upgrade
Following an upgrade it’s always worth checking over the log files to see if any new errors or warnings appear.
Published on The VLE Guru Blog
Organising and publicising downtime
The VLE/LMS is such an important resource that for almost any institution downtime is unpopular. Despite this if you are self hosted or managed hosted downtime is inevitable in order to apply upgrades and take care of maintenance.
Published on The VLE Guru Blog
The best laid schemes
In my previous post I wrote about how we set up a framework for performing Blackboard upgrades. Having set that up I could start planning the upgrade projec
Published on The VLE Guru Blog
Last minute upgrades - never again!
Our Summer 2016 upgrade was successful, but running an upgrade project from start to finish in eight weeks had been a stressful experience. We had only this short period of time due to local resourcing issues. To improve this going forwards I wrote a paper stating how upgrades would be controlled in the future.
Published on The VLE Guru Blog