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CELT Newsletters

CELT Newsletter

Block and Blend Basics, Engagement and More

19 February 2021

Video update from Dr Ellen Buck, Director of Learning and Teaching

This newsletter follows up from the February SLT Video (embedded above) that updated on learning and teaching at the University.  This included the release of the Block and Blend Basics, updates on how to better monitor engagement in Brightspace, improvements to creating/accessing Virtual Classrooms and Lecture Capture as well as the move the anonymous marking and additional webinars and support drop-ins.

The Block and Blend pilot evaluation report has also been published, you can access the Executive Summary and Full Report at this link.

You can navigate through the pages of the newsletter below:

Block and Blend Basics

The Directorate has developed the first stage of the guidance to support course teams in their move to the University's new Block and Blend Pedagogy.  This guidance material is set out to explain and illustrate the Block and Blend pedagogy that is being adopted across the institution.  

The guide provides initial guidance for course teams — we anticipate this being developed in coming months, particularly as lessons from the Block and Blend pilot emerge. 

The sections that make up the Block and Blend Basics are:


Virtual Classroom and Lecture Capture 

The Brightspace Virtual Classroom (VC) continues to be the primary means through which learning and teaching is been conducted at the University of Suffolk. The VC allows lecturers and student to communicate via video, audio and text. Lecturers can upload and present documents, and can also split attendees into small breakout rooms to facilitate group work. 

We are changing how we ask you to add VCs to your modules by now inserting a session directly alongside your module content, rather than by creating sessions through the 'Communications' tab.  There are three reasons for this, first the live session is inline with the content, meaning the students can access content and activities alongside their live sessions.  Secondly, the recording is also available inline with the content, so supports the flow of the narrative and thirdly, we can capture data that shows the students have revisited and accessed the recording.

Both methods will achieve the same end-result as far as the VC session itself, but will have differing results within the module content. Please also familiarise yourself with the following notices about use of the Virtual Classroom settings:


Creating and Setting up Virtual Classroom (VC) sessions within Brightspace Modules. 

The Brightspace Virtual Classroom continues to be the primary means through which teaching is been conducted at the University of Suffolk. The VC (hosted by an external tool named Bongo) allows lecturers and student to communicate via video, audio and text. Lecturers can upload an present documents, and can also split attendees into small breakout rooms to facilitate group work. 

Virtual Classroom inline with Content to create Context and Narrative

The interactive guidance below shows you how to set up a Virtual Classroom session by two methods, by inserting a session directly alongside your course content,  and by creating sessions through the Communications tab in Brightspace. Both methods will achieve the same end-result as far as the VC session itself, but will have differing results within the module content. Please also familiarise yourself with the following notices about use of the Virtual Classroom settings;

  • Automatically Recorded Sessions - Guidance from the University of Suffolk is that ALL VC sessions should be recorded in order to facilitate both synchronous and asynchronous learning. Whilst setting up a VC session 'Auto-Record' is set off by default. Turning this on means that the session will begin recording from the set start time. If 'Auto-Record' is not set, recording will need to be initiated manually. If a session is not recorded it will disappear once ended and cannot be recovered. See guidance on how to start recording here 
  • Publish Recorded Meeting - The option to automatically publish a recorded meeting is set on by default. This can be turned off. Be aware that recorded meetings that are not auto-published will not show up on a students list of Virtual Classroom sessions to be reviewed after they have ended, even if a student is invited to the session. If Auto-Publish is set to off, a VC session can only be shared by creating a link to its public URL in course content after the session has ended. 
  • Allowing External Participants - By default Brightspace Virtual Classroom sessions should not be set to allow external participants. Leaving this option off means that ONLY the students and staff enrolled on the module will be able to see and attend the VC session. If you need an external speaker (who otherwise would have no access to the session) to be able to attend, then select this option. Once selected an option to "Copy External URL" will appear under the 3-dots next to the session. Clicking this will store it on your clipboard and it can be pasted into emails and messages. This option should NOT be used to allow students to enter the VC, as their attendance in the VC will not be tracked if they enter via this link. 
  • Inviting the Entire Class or Not? - The default setting for "Invite Entire Class" in VC sessions is on. This will allow every student access to the VC session you have created. If you untick this option, students will not be able to see the VC session. You can use this to only invite certain students to a VC for group work or individual tutorials. This option should not be used to pre-record lectures, as students cannot see the resulting VC recording. If this option is selected you can click the 3-dots next to a session and select "Manage Invites" to select which students should be able to attend. After a session is recorded, those who were not invited will not be able to see the recording. 

If you require further guidance on use of the Virtual Classroom please see our guidance on Running VC sessions here, or alternatively you can speak to Learning Services staff at our Drop-In sessions, advertised here.


Closed Captions on Video Content

The University of Suffolk is committed to providing, where possible, accessible content for all our students. This includes video content that is either produced by university staff, and content from third-party websites. 

Videos from sites such as YouTube and Vimeo will usually have captions already available and you can control this yourself within the video.

Your lecturers will make every effort to make sure content is accessible, including the use of closed captions on any video content if possible. If you have any specific requirements or any issues with accessible content please raise this with your course team directly.

To find out how to enabled a more generic approach to enabling Closed Captions please follow the guidance below.


Captions for Virtual Classroom

In-built captioning for live video is very often technically difficult and platform dependant, this includes the Virtual Classroom sessions that you will be attending during your course. If you require captioning to be available whilst viewing the Virtual Classroom there is a way that you can use the Google Chrome Web Browser to generate live auto-captions. Please see below for guidance on how to enable this option. 
(Please note this guidance is only applicable to Google Chrome on PC)

Enabling Live Captions in Google Chrome Browser

When using the Google Chrome browser you can enable live captioning, this will work on most webpages that have audio.  This means you can receive live captions for example on:

  • Live Brightspace virtual classroom sessions
  • Recorded Brightspace virtual classroom sessions
  • Video embedded into Brightspace



Lecture Capture Principles

(Virtual Classroom at the University of Suffolk)

The University is committed to providing students with a flexible and supportive learning experience. This includes the use of Virtual Classroom (Bongo, VC) for the delivery of lectures, and on occasion seminars. The University recognises that this will enable students to engage with live synchronous delivery, but to also revisit learning delivered through lectures and seminars post live delivery or if, exceptionally, engagement with live delivery is not possible. 

The use of recorded sessions (lecture capture) is based on the following guiding principles:  

  1. All lectures should be delivered using VC, and should, normally, be recorded and posted to the Brightspace module / unit folder.  

  1. Where sensitive topics are delivered and discussed using VC there may be a rationale from not recording the live session, or for stopping and then restarting the recording. The decision to not record should be: 

    1. determined as part of the course design process ahead of the scheduled delivery date, 

    2. discussed between the tutor delivering the lecture, and either the Course Leader or Associate dean of Learning Teaching and Student Experience, with a clear rationale provided, 

    3. notified to the students as part of the timetabling or module introduction, 

    4. be replaced by additional learning resources such as slides, video, readings or discussion boards within the module / unit of content in Brightspace.  

  2. Where the chat function is used as part of delivery, this will be included in the uploaded recorded lecture. In exceptional circumstances, the entire chat may be removed from the recorded, by the Learning Design team, through a manual process.  

  1. Recorded lectures are for educational purposes and are not used as part of performance management by the tutor line manager or course team.  

  1. Recorded lectures may be used as part of the University Peer Observation policy and procedure to encourage practice of individual staff members or course teams.  

  1. Recorded lectures are made available for the duration of the academic year, but will not form part of the content rolled across academic years.  

Understanding Engagement in an Online Environment

As we continue to work through a global pandemic and with the move to a new Block and Blend pedagogy, we need to better understand student engagement with online learning.  We need to think beyond attendance as a metric for engagement, the data that is collected within Brightspace, we are able to see where students are not only accessing, but spending time with content and activities.

We can also setup notifications to either email the student with with a nudge or prompt to access, we can also setup for a notification to be sent to the module team or academic administrator to alert you to non access.

The links below guide you through the setup and understand of the engagement data:


Anonymous Marking

We have now upgraded functionality in Brightspace for all Ipswich based courses to allow for assessments to be marked anonymously. Anonymous marking will be the default approach to be marking.  There will be some exceptions to anonymous marking including presentations, dissertations and formative assessment.

Guidance has been created to show how to access and navigate anonymous submission as well as how to grade and release feedback

The use of anonymous marking will be included in the work currently underway to review university policy and assessment regulations.

Support Webinars and Drop-ins

The Learning Design team have released more dates of their webinar series and drop-ins to support the features and functions of Brightspace.  The webinars are themed and are available below:


Drop-ins follow the webinars for an additional hour, these are general Q & A sessions and do not need to relate to the above themed webinars.  To view the drop-ins access this link.