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Faculty of Humanities Teaching & Learning Office

Blackboard organisations to support students at programme, discipline and academic community level

Case study: [Academic community] Residence Abroad

Cross-discipline, cross-Faculty; under the auspices of the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures

Academic lead: Wiebke Brockhaus-Grand; Blackboard Organisation lead: Shàdy Nowrouz; Blackboard Organisation assistant: Louise Steiger

Key features: Initial and pre-departure briefing documents; admin documentation, guidance and requirements; study partners and application procedures; work placement resources; practical student guides and blogs; Careers advice.

What were the key motivations for setting up the Blackboard organisation?

Primarily to enable all students, who are either on or due to undertake residence abroad, to easily access Residence Abroad (RA) guidance and related documentation (of which there is a lot).

Content/features: what content or features are used? How often is content added? Is this done by staff? students?

It has been set up as a series of folders and sub-folders which contain items as 'files'. Content is added on a weekly and often daily basis, with certain folders being updated more often than others, e.g. the ‘Work Placements’ folder which holds details of recently received work placement opportunities.

Roles and responsibilities: How many staff are involved in setting up and updating the Blackboard space? Academics/admin staff/GTAs? Are roles determined? Is the space updated regularly?

Primarily two members of staff – myself and my assistant (administrator). RA Tutors (academics who are also country specialists with RA responsibility for their own subject area) can also update their own areas on Blackboard, e.g. specific 'country' or 'host institution' folders – the information provided in these folders tends not to change very often. Students can view but not update content.

How successful do you find it (and how do you determine that)? Have you had any review sessions about it?

We ask students to provide feedback on the resources and IAG provided by the RA Office. This is done via an online ‘General Feedback Form’ created with ‘Select Surveys’. We regularly review Blackboard, prompted by informal comments and suggestions received by staff and students. It is also a fixed item on the agenda for the Residence Abroad and Exchanges Committee.

Have you had any feedback from individual students or student reps?

Yes, and it has been largely positive, particularly since folders were re-categorised to allow students and staff to find what they’re looking for more easily.

What challenges have you found?

With so many folders within folders, it can be difficult to ensure that all of the information that needs to be updated has been updated. We are trying to address this by including more generic references where possible, for example by referring to members of staff by their role/job title rather than by name, as we have several staff changes each year. We also try not to duplicate information in other folders.