Let’s start with some stats. In 2016/7 Queen Margaret University’s virtual learning platform, the Hub, logged 976,358 sessions.  Increasingly, these sessions are external to the campus network – less than 40% now originate from the campus network. Hub users are now connecting from a total of 159 countries across the world – the top three are Nepal, Singapore and India.

The following three trends have emerged from our review of data analytics, learner feedback and tutor guidance:

Responsive design

In 2016/7, there was a 25% increase in student and tutor mobile access to the Hub. Our recent update to Blackboard Learn 3200.x enables a more responsive layout when accessing the Hub through a mobile device browser.

Blackboard has also released a new student app called Blackboard App. The app has a modern user interface, is free to download, and provides students immediate access to learning materials,  online discussions and tutor announcements.

Stability

“QMU requires a student to submit a digital copy of all assessments…” QMU Assessment Regulations 4.16 (2017 p.10).

Over the last few years there has been a significant increase in students submitting their assessments online, resulting in similar growth of online tutor feedback – last year there were 65,146 on script tutor feedback comments  in Turnitin alone. Also, QMU continues to expand its  synchronous online examinations, running on and off-campus including in Kathmandu, Nepal.

During one week in 2016/7, Hub servers had to support over 33,000 sessions. Moving to the new sever model known as Software as a Service (SaaS) allows our supplier, Blackboard, to scale up ad-hoc server capacity to respond to user loads providing greater stability and more consistent loading times.

Accessibility

In addition to software updates and server changes, the Learning Technologies team also sought to make improvements to the User Interface during summer 2017.  These visual changes not only present a unified cleaner look, but also have been selected for their high contrast to improve accessibility and focus attention on the learning content. Alongside this, we also restricted the use of customised backgrounds to Hub areas to enhance the readability for all users.

That’s not all…

We are continuing to prepare module areas for the coming year with 1,399 modules currently imported into the Hub for 2017/8, working with the School Office to ensure student access, releasing our online Hub inductions for students as well as co-running drop-in sessions alongside IT.

Having successfully completed the migration to SaaS, the Hub is in a position to take advantage of new innovative features which the team are working on over the coming months, so keep checking our blog for updates.