Creating Blackboard-Friendly PowerPoint Resources

Powerpoint is one of the most useful tools in a lecturer’s arsenal and its presentations great for both delivering lectures and for creating resources that students can download from Blackboard and revisit in their own time.

However, potential problems can arise when uploading large PowerPoint files to your Blackboard sites:

  • Large files can quickly eat up the standard 500MB file allowance provided for each Blackboard site. You may find that you are soon unable to upload documents at all.
  • Large files can be difficult for students to access, especially if their internet is slow.
  • Transitions can be sluggish and images may be slow to load, even causing PowerPoint to crash.

But fear not! There are simple steps that you can take to ensure that your PowerPoint presentations are manageable.

Avoid Large Images

Images should generally be no bigger than 1920×1080 pixels and below 400 – 500kb,

We recommend using JPEGs as your file type for images when possible. These will generally have the lowest resolution. If part of your image has a transparent background, however, you will have to save the image as PNG instead. If you notice an image is exceptionally large in your presentation, right click then Save as Picture and select JPEG as the file type. Replace the existing image with your new JPEG and this may do the trick.

Compress Existing Large Images

To compress images in PowerPoint, first select a picture in your presentation. The Picture Format tab will then appear in the main PowerPoint ribbon. Navigate to it and select the Compress Pictures option:

Powerpoint Compress Pictures function

A dialogue box will then appear, presenting various options. By deselecting the Compression option ‘Apply only to this picture’, you can compress all images within the presentation in one fell swoop.

Compress Media Files

Should your presentation contain media or video files, then it’s a good idea to compress them using PowerPoint’s tool. One thing to bear in mind is that if you have embedded subtitles or an alternate audio track on your video or media file, then don’t perform the compression. You’ll lose them.

On the File tab, click Info, and then in the Media Size and Performance sectionclick Compress Media.

Compress Media settings

PowerPoint will first give you the option to convert any files so that they can be compressed. You have the option to compress to Presentation QualityInternet Quality and Low Quality. In our experience, we’ve found that Internet Quality is more often than not good enough.

The compression tool will do all videos in your presentation, cut any trimmed sections of videos (which is really handy when you don’t have access to video editing software) and show you how much you’ve reduced the file size by.

Accessibility

It is, of course, also important to ensure that any resources that students use are accessible. Microsoft provide very helpful advice on this subject at the link below.

Make your PowerPoint presentations accessible to people with disabilities

Blackboard Scheduled Downtime

We are pleased to announce that Blackboard, the University’s Virtual Learning Environment is moving to a managed hosting Software as a Service (SaaS) deployment method this August. 

There are many benefits to making this change including:

  • A reliable, scalable and robust infrastructure
  • Improved performance, giving a better user experience.
  • Zero or minimal downtime including scheduled maintenance and annual upgrades
  • Ability to deliver continuous updates including new features or enhancements
  • Quicker resolution of any technical issues, bug fixes, etc.
  • Access to facilitate new integrations

These changes will not affect the end user experience and you don’t need to do anything with your modules and organisations – these will all be transferred centrally, however there will be a period of downtime from 8pm on Friday 9th August until midday on Monday 12th August while the transition is carried out.

We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause. If you have any issues or questions with regard to this please contact tel@worc.ac.uk.

Website: www.uwtel.co.uk | Twitter: @UW_TEL

Summer Workshops

The Technology Enhanced Learning Unit will be running a series of workshops over the summer period.

Courses covered will be a mixture of our most popular regular courses, as well as some exciting new offerings, including making Blackboard more accessible, incorporating blended learning into your delivery, and an introduction to Medial, the University’s new tool for video assessment.

Courses on offer are:

  • 04/07/2019 – Using Quizzes, Tests and Surveys in Blackboard – 14:15-16:00 EE1101
  • 11/07/2019 – Running an Online Session in Collaborate – 10:30-12:00 Virtual Classroom (link will be emailed)
  • 16/07/2019 – Using Blackboard for Blended and Mobile Learning – 09:45-11:30 EE2011
  • 16/07/2019 – Medial Video Assessment – 13:00-14:00 EEG031
  • 19/07/2019 – Blackboard Made Simple – 09:30-11:15 EEG023 (PC)
  • 19/07/2019 – Designing Accessible Courses – 10:00-12:00 EEG031
  • 23/07/2019 – Setting Up and Using Turnitin Online Assignments – 10:30-12:00 EEG031 (PC)
  • 24/07/2019 – Camtasia – 09:30-11:15 EEG031 (PC)

We will also be running sessions for ASU staff as an introduction to Blackboard and Turnitin. These sessions will give staff an overview of how the systems work and how to resolve simple issues. Workshops will be arranged directly with ASU teams.

For more information and to sign up, visit the Staff Development page.

Staff Access to Blackboard Modules

This year we are not automatically enrolling staff – we have been rolling over staff enrolments for many years now and many users have been given access to modules they no longer teach on which can make your My Courses area very cluttered and allow unauthorised access in some cases.

This means that staff, including module leaders, will need to complete the Module Access request form which is available on the logged in staff page for each module they require access to for this year. Module leaders will be emailed to notify them of new enrolments.

This will create a little extra administration for users but this will greatly improve the security and administration in the long term.

As ever, it is a good idea to make yourself known to the module leader before enrolling as they will receive a an email notification to approve your enrolment. Please allow 24 hours for access to be granted.

Full enrolment instructions can be found here. If you have any queries, contact the Technology Enhanced Learning Unit at TEL@worc.ac.uk

VLE MOT

Do your Blackboard pages need a once-over? Does your knowledge of Turnitin need fine-tuning?

On Friday 3rd May, members of the Technology Enhanced Learning Unit, along with colleagues from Library Services, will be in St John’s main reception ready to take queries from staff about any aspect of the VLE and online resource lists.

Maybe you are having difficulties with one particular element, or would like more general advice on how to get the most out of Blackboard and online resource lists. Maybe you are interested in exploring remote learning with Collaborate, or are considering adding portfolio assessment to your course and would like to talk about PebblePad. You may want to discuss changes to electronic assessments, or maybe you would just like us to check your Blackboard pages to make sure that you are using the functionality optimally.

Whatever you would like to talk about, everyone is welcome. We will be in reception from 9:30am until 17:00, so come along and see us!

VLE Review Launch: What do You think of Blackboard?

The official review of the Blackboard Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) has now begun!

The first step is to assess our current system. We need to find out what staff like and don’t like about it, what could be improved and whether users would like to see the inclusion of any additional functionality. This can then be used as a benchmark to help us decide the direction of the VLE review project.

We would be extremely grateful if you could complete this short survey which should take no more than 5 minutes.

For further information about the VLE review, please see the VLE Review page of our website.

Blackboard Collaborate Workshop

Running an Online Session in Collaborate – 3rd April 2019, 13:45 – 15:00

Blackboard Collaborate is an online virtual classroom and meeting space which allows users to connect via audio, see each other via webcams, use a chat tool, collaborate on documents and view presentations as well as other features. Available as a plugin on all Blackboard modules, Collaborate is invaluable for engaging with students who are unable to come onto campus due to other commitments or travel problems. Some courses have used collaborate to increase student engagement by allowing students to engage remotely if they wish. Other applications include:

  • Tutorials
  • Delivering lectures on snow days
  • Facilitating guest speakers

The best way to get to know a new tool is by using it, so this session will be delivered online using the Collaborate virtual classroom. Guidance on best practice will be discussed and participants will be able to experience the interactive features this tool has to offer. There will also be a chance for discussion and questions.

If you are interested in attending either of these sessions, you can sign up via the Staff Development Workshops Page.

Supporting Student Retention in Blackboard

13th March, 13:15-15:45

We all know that student recruitment is a top priority for all universities, and the University of Worcester is no different. Nationally we face many challenges, with an historic low in the number of 18 year olds to draw our numbers from, and doubts over Brexit potentially having a negative effect on the number of international students studying in the UK.

The flip side of this story is student retention, which is every bit as important as recruitment. How can we keep students engaged and make sure that they aren’t struggling with life at university?

Student engagement and progression is key to their success, and the retention centre and performance dashboard are tools in Blackboard which can help you monitor your students’ activity within your Blackboard. Our handy 90-minute workshop will look at setting up rules for reporting lack of engagement and/or achievement and discuss strategies for re-engaging students and promoting active learning.

If you are interested in attending this session, you can sign up via the Staff Development Workshops Page.

Using Quizzes, Tests and Surveys in Blackboard

20th February 2019, 13:45 – 15:15

Did you know that Blackboard has a number of useful tools for conducting surveys and questionnaires? We will be running a handy 90 minute workshop to introduce you to the many ways that this can benefit your teaching.

 There are 17 different question types ranging from multiple choice to hot-spots to calculated questions in Blackboard. These can be included in formative, summative or anonymous tests and surveys to gain student feedback, guage understanding and ultimately, assess student performance.

This workshop will cover the set-up of a test canvas and the various options that entails together with a closer look at all the question types and how these might be used. Participants will be engaged both as students to experience the student view, and also as tutors setting up and marking their own quizzes to gain an all-round appreciation of the online assessment function.

Book your place via the staff development pages.

Beyond the Basics with Blackboard

7th February, 10:00 – 11:30

Would you like to get more out of Blackboard? Then come along to our workshop “Beyond the Basics with Blackboard”.

This 90 minute workshop session participants the opportunity to consider the design aspects of the Blackboard course including aesthetics, structure and layout.

A familiarity with the basic functionality is required to get the most out of this workshop which will help users move on to a more design focused use of the VLE.

If you are interested in attending this workshop, please book your place via the Staff Development Workshops Page.

We look forward to meeting you!

The TEL Unit