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Faculty of Humanities Teaching & Learning Office

Extended Student Access to Courses from 2017


In semester one of 2017-18, the access to Blackboard module sites by students will change. Students will be able to see their own previous years’ Blackboard module sites. (See communication of 14 July 2017 http://www.staffnet.manchester.ac.uk/news/display/?id=18643)

What is happening? 

Ahead of the release of past years modules to continuing students, course leaders were able to access previous years’ Blackboard module sites from 4 August 2017. This change in staff access to past years courses is to allow course leaders to modify, where appropriate, the visibility of items in past years’ sites.

On 1st September a new Previous Courses tab will be released for both staff and students that will filter the temporary long list of courses into current and previous years’ courses.

Why is this happening?

In June 2017 the Online Learning Strategy Group decided to bring this change in student access to course materials to improve and enhance students’ learning experience.

Extended access will have the benefit of allowing students to see the units that they actually participated in, potentially including the collaborative work that they took part in and the feedback on their submitted assessments.

Who will be affected?

Course leaders of modules that ran during the last five academic years: 2012-13, 2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17. 

What do you need to do?

Course leaders of modules that ran during the last five academic years may want to access their own sites and, where appropriate, alter the visibility or settings of items such as online tests, discussion boards, model answers, or feedback on assessments, especially where the new extended access to Bb sites may facilitate unintended sharing of course or assessment materials between student cohorts.

Anyone with a teaching role should see the old courses in exactly the same way as they do now when the end date for a course passes. 

Note that continuing students will be given access to previous years’ Blackboard sites by 1 September 2017.

Guidance and Further information

If you are unable to see your past years courses, or for more information or support please contact your eLearning team:

A Note about Blackboard Tests

Guidance is available on the different options available for those who may re-use their Blackboard test questions to limit the risk of questions being shared between students in different years. The simplest option is to use Adaptive Release settings to limit the availability of a test, but a more robust option would be to build up question banks that allow for some randomisation of the questions used in each test.

A Note about Guest Access

These changes to the course unit lifecycle are not intended as a replacement for the Blackboard guest access, which allows read–only access to content materials in units in the current year. Guest access provides different benefits, such as permitting optional courses to be previewed in more detail than a unit description allows, enabling students to see the content materials of a unit that they are not enrolled on, and allowing academic staff to see the content in other units.

Note that courses where guest access had been enabled at any point in the past will continue to allow such access.

A Note about Cloud-based Content

When resources built using cloud-based eLearning authoring software such as Softchalk Cloud are updated, these changes will be replicated in each linked instance of that content. The previous unit lifecycle meant that such changes would not affect students from previous years as they lost access to this material at the end of each year. With extended access to course units, students will now be able to see such updates, giving them the benefit of access to the most up to date information.

Under certain circumstances, the resource owner may consider it necessary to make changes to the content that they do not want previous years’ students to see. In such case, it will be necessary to create new versions of the content and update the links to that content in Blackboard accordingly.

Keep the content updated. Keep the content static.
This will ensure students have access to the latest information. Changes in content woud need to be reflected in relevant assessments, and students would need to be made aware of changes. Students would have a constant set of materials thoughout their studies. However they would not benefit from materials reflecting the latest information. Version control would become more complex.