Thursday, 7 November 2019

Digital Skills for Teaching Staff


The world of digital learning technologies changes so fast, it can be hard for educators to keep up. The BLE's Get Interactive MOOC was one approach to helping teachers around the world use practical and popular technologies to enhance their teaching. Now, we're embarking on another approach to supporting teaching staff within their own university settings.

While we were working on our successful Digital Skills Awareness course for incoming HE students, which has received expressions of interest from 150 UK institutions so far, we started to hear about the need for a similar course for incoming teaching staff, who sometimes enter employment without essential digital skills. This led to a bit of market research and the confirmation that there is indeed a need gap.

This new BLE project will be along the same lines: a "template" Moodle course with basic structure and content, which institutions can adopt, adapt and install locally in order to give their new staff a heads-up about what skills they need for their work and - crucially - steer them to where they can acquire and improve these skills.

The course is being developed initially for and with the guidance of the BLE partners, but the expectation is that, upon successful piloting, it will be available more widely around the UK. Watch this space!

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

The BLE Highlight Report is now available!

BLE Report cover

One of Sarah's last big jobs before heading off for maternity leave was to work with me (Nancy) on gathering together all the projects, events, changes, news, awards and accomplishments for the period 2015-19 and present them in a form that wouldn't put the reader to sleep. I think we've managed that by creating a document that balances coverage with brevity.

If you'd like to see what the BLE has been doing for the last four years (or to remind yourself what you've done, if you've been involved in any of our projects or events) you can download a copy from the BLE website ble.ac.uk/about (direct link to report).


Friday, 30 August 2019

Au revoir!

After 12 years working full-time for the fantastic Bloomsbury Learning Exchange, I will now be heading off on maternity leave for one year. I wanted to announce the arrangements for my cover during this time.

My official maternity cover is Julian Bream, who has impressive skills in facilitating meetings, coordinating TEL-related events, and engaging and driving the use of digital education to different stakeholders. Julian will work flexibly for two days per week to maintain the BLE Special Interest Groups and relationships with our providers, ensuring seamless service delivery. I have every confidence and faith in Julian and am delighted that he will be joining the BLE Executive.

Nancy Weitz, the BLE’s Digital Learning Consultant, will increase her days working for the BLE. Her key activities will be supporting the Digital Skills Awareness course (DSAC) and the BLE MOOC; she will be driving the development of a teacher version of the DSAC and progressing the partnership between the BLE and FutureLearn.

Julian and Nancy will now be pleased to respond to your queries. In the first instance, you can contact them via the BLE website.

With very best wishes to all BLE supporters,
Sarah

Monday, 15 July 2019

The BLE is renamed!

BLE logo no.3After over 15 years, as the "Bloomsbury Learning Environment", the BLE has (slightly) changed its name. Now known as the Bloomsbury Learning Exchange, the BLE Executive Team and Steering Group agreed that this much better reflects the nature of the collaboration.

A brief history of the BLE
BLE Logo no.2Established in 2004 by LSHTM, SOAS and the Royal Veterinary College, the Bloomsbury Learning Environment service was set up to provide a joint virtual learning platform, Blackboard. The Institute of Education and Birkbeck joined the consortium soon after, and all five partners were using this shared platform. Blackboard was cleverly set up so users didn't realise they were actually using the same system. In addition to Blackboard, a number of additional shared software licences were negotiated and introduced. In 2012, we migrated away from Blackboard and each partner moved onto their own instance of Moodle.

The present
BLE logoThe BLE is no longer a shared platform - although the partner institutions still benefit from preferential software licence deals, negotiated by the Service Manager. Today, it is much more about sharing, collaborating and improving the use of learning technology and the exchange of good practice in digital education to enhance learning and teaching across the partnership institutions. Therefore, 'Bloomsbury Learning Exchange' is a much better fit to represent what we do.

"In my opinion, the modification of the BLE's name is a no-brainer and took the Steering Group no time at all to approve. I'm proud to support and continue to Chair this valuable and successful collaboration". Jonathon Thomas, Chair of the BLE Steering Group.

"The new name offers much stronger reflection and more representative connotations for what the BLE service provides its partner institutions. I'm delighted that the Service continues to make strides in supporting and improving the application of digital learning and teaching". Dr Mandy Bentham, Founder of the BLE.

What does this mean for the service?
BLE logo no.4Other than some tweaks to our beautiful branding, designed by the BLE's Digital Education Specialist Nancy Weitz, nothing will change. The Service will continue to provide support to staff in the BLE's partner institution (including academics, academic support, learning technologists, librarians and other professional services) and students to explore the opportunities that digital education lends to improving practice. We do this by arranging meetings, events, webinars, workshops, demonstrations and developing resources (such as our MOOC for teaching staff and Digital Skills Awareness course for students).

For more information and to get in touch, please visit our website: www.ble.ac.uk 


Friday, 28 June 2019

BLE runs its first webinar

On Tuesday 25th June, the BLE organised and ran its first webinar, which focused on a mentoring scheme managed at LSHTM. The purpose of the session was to share the method used to recruit and train alumni mentors in order to enhance students’ learning experience. This has transferability across different HE contexts.

Dr Anna Foss, Associate Professor in Public Health Education & Mathematical Epidemiology at the School presented her work in such a way that colleagues will be able to take lessons learned and the model she used to apply to their own contexts.

The aims of the session were therefore to
  • present key findings from the group mentorship scheme in which alumni support Public Health MSc students undertaking a research project via distance learning through LSHTM
  • discuss the relevance for other contexts of the transferable lessons learnt
  • outline and share resources (e.g. mentor training slides www.bit.ly/m150319, code of conduct and template emails) that may be adaptable to other contexts
  • gain insights from participants on whether these resources are useful / adaptable to different contexts, and whether this mentorship scheme is likely to be transferred elsewhere
You can watch the recording from the session here:
and access all the resources from the session via the BLE website: www.ble.ac.uk/events.html