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Category Archives: eLearning

Using the Q&A tool in Otago Capture to poll the class

There is a great deal of interest around the University in the prospect of a comprehensive “classroom response system”.  A classroom response system allows a lecturer or tutor to seek feedback and answers from a class of students.  For example, a lecturer may put a multi-choice question on a slide during her lecture, and call upon the entire class to electronically select an answer.  After that, an aggregation of how the class responded can be displayed on the slide.

While the University does currently offer sets of hardware ‘clickers’ for this purpose, this system is beginning to show its age.  Teaching staff often express to the eLearning team how useful a more up-to-date system would be, which relies on software (on students’ own phones, tablets, and laptops) rather than hardware.  We hope to offer a fully-featured classroom response solution in the future.

In the meantime, I want to share a simple idea designed to get some crude classroom response functionality out of our existing Otago Capture system.

This idea requires the lecturer to upload her slideshow for the lecture to Otago Capture in advance.  Some instructions for this preliminary step can be found in our Quick Start Guide.  

The Q&A tool in Otago Capture allows staff (and students) to submit typed questions pertaining to a given slide.  Once a question has been published, any users of the section who view that slide, can look at the question, and choose to give that question a ‘thumbs up’.  The total number of users who have given that question a thumbs up, is displayed below.  While the Q&A tool is typically used to ask questions, there is no reason why it can’t be used to display a selection of prospective answers to a question.

This means that a lecturer can pose a question to the class within one of the slides of her slideshow, and direct the students to answer that question by endorsing one of two prospective answers which she has previously submitted as “questions” using the Q&A tool.  Click on the below screenshot to see an example of how this might look in practice.

At last the infamous Trolley Problem from first year ethics can be used to demonstrate something useful.

There are a few pitfalls to this technique.  Firstly, the Q&A tool must be turned on in the settings for the section (as it is by default).  Secondly, there is nothing to stop students from publishing additional questions which may appear alongside the prospective answers, thus muddying the waters.  Thirdly, there is nothing to stop students giving a thumbs up to all the prospective answers.  Fourthly, the thumbs up appear in real time, so a student may see how the class vote is unfolding before she selects her own answer.

While recognising the limitations of this technique, I think it may nonetheless prove useful for some teachers.  Please feel free to drop us a line if you incorporate this in your teaching, or if you want to share any other thoughts about classroom response!

Blackboard Paper Administration Upgrade

We would like to announce an upgrade of Blackboard Paper Administration. We have scheduled the upgrade to happen between 5 pm and 7 pm Wednesday, 21 June. This will mean that there will be no access to Blackboard Paper Administration during this time frame. Blackboard itself will still be available as normal.

This upgrade includes:

  • Email notifications to coordinators
    • When students will lose access to the Blackboard paper.
    • When other staff will lose access to the Blackboard paper.
  • Some bug fixes.

You can keep up-to-date with news about this update by following the ITS Service Desk notices ( and here on the eLearning blog (

So long and thanks for the cake…

As my eight-and-a-bit years in eLearning draws to a close I’ve had a chance to empty out my desk and rediscover a multitude of things. A few of these items have sparked a trip down memory lane and reminded me just how far ITS has come in terms of eLearning and everything else surrounding it.

Who remembers filling in paper request forms for podcasting sites? I found a decent stack of those hidden in a bottom drawer. Or perhaps you have fond memories of the lilac coloured Blackboard training pamphlet – oh to be able to fit all the information about Blackboard on an A4 piece of paper now. Ferreted away in another drawer I found all the instructions for using Otago Connect – a now retired service. I’ve also hidden some rather fetching marketing posters and flyers that probably should never see the light of day again.

When I started eLearning was a team of one (two once I worked out what was going on) and we proudly supported 3 services. Now as a team of four we’re looking after 7 services (and counting) as well as getting out and about as often as possible to show everyone what it is we do.

So, this is me signing off as an eLearning and eResearch consultant – thanks to everyone I’ve come in contact with along the way. It’s been a memorable eight years and I’m excited to see what the next eight years brings for the department – a team of 8 and perhaps 20 services?