Our eLearning systems extend the range of tools available to instructors for designing effective courses. Face to face eLearning systems such as UQ Wordcloud enhance in-class interactions, and online systems enable flexible learning, improve equity, and protect diversity. Some of the capabilities are listed below, and a pick list of initiatives is available for units that want to take advantage of these capabilities. Senior staff can book a personal briefing by contacting elearningtraining@uq.edu.au. The capabilities below are divided into course level, enterprise level, and new capabilities being deployed, new capabilities in development. IT Services is committed to building awareness of technology options throughout UQ, based on an understanding of course and program needs, and also based on new opportunities that technology may present, even in well run courses. Adoption decisions are left to the coordinator or academic administration.

Course Level Capabilities

More efficiently collect and distribute assignments - (TurnItIn, Blackboard assignments)

UQ's learning management system facilitates more efficient and reliable assignment submission for students, and faster and more efficient assignment marking for instructors. Assignments are immediately available to instructors for marking, and once marked are quickly available to students for reflection. Units may want to consider an online assignment submission initiative. The Turnitin system offers the benefit of producing originality reports by comparing submitted assignments with works by other students and published material. During 2014 249,656 UQ student assignment were managed through the Turnitin system. Many more were managed through the Blackboard assignment tool.


Provide faster feedback to students- (TurnItIn Grademark and Blackboard Inline Grading)

The Grademark feature of Turnitin allows instructors to quickly and efficiently annotate assignments online using comments and rubrics, providing students with timely feedback. Students can quickly view  marks and feedback online, eliminating paper trails. Units may want to consider an online grading Initiative, or rubrics initiative. During 2014 133,038 UQ assignments were graded at UQ using the Turnitin Grademark tool. Since August 2013 instructors have been able to use Grademark from an iPad to mark offline. Students can submit many different file types including images, and the tool can be used to grade performances. Instructors can also mark online using the Blackboard Inline Grading tool.

Enhance student preparation and revision for class - (e.g. instructional video in Echo, PCAP, Kaltura, Youtube)

By providing recordings of lectures online students can revise more effectively. Lectures in central venues of over 40 seats are automatically recorded. This capability is greatly appreciated by students, who use it at a rate of 35,000 views per day during revision week. A study by McKinney, Dyck, and Luber (2009) found that students who took notes from a lecture recording scored significantly higher than students who took notes at the lecture alone  In support of the flipped classroom approach, coordinators are given access to a range of tools for generating instructional videos from their desktop.

Free up Lectures for active learning (face to face)

Coordinators can ask students to learn and test themselves online before coming to a class where they apply what they have learnt using collaborative, problem based, peer or project based learning. Unit managers may be interested in a flip one class initiative, or in sponsoring the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiative.

Engage with working or remote students - (Adobe Connect)

Coordinators can host online lectures and tutorials to allow students to engage from any location (another campus, home, work) using the virtual classroom system. Students can join the class online seeing the slides, listening and participating just like in a face to face class. The same system allows lecturers to bring guest speakers into the class from anywhere in the world, or for the University to host  seminars.

Engage students in lectures with Active Learning tools - (UQpoll, Wordcloud and Responseware)

In class coordinators can interact wiith large classes more effectively using WordCloud, UQ Poll, and Responseware. For instance UQpoll allows the instructor to pose questions during lectures which students can vote on either individually or in groups using a smartphone or laptop. Instructors gain live feedback on student understanding of concepts and a tool that can be used as a catalyst for group interaction. UQpoll has also proven valuable in ensuring participation from all students, even the shy ones.

Allow students to measure their progress - (Online tests)

The Blackboard test tool allows students can check their understanding of concepts with online tests and quizzes. It prepares them better for class and gauge their preparation for final exams.

Allow instructors to measure student engagement - (Online tests, Discussion board, Blogs)

Online tools in Blackboard such as tests, discussion boards and blogs can be used to check if students are engaging with the course. The instructor can set up self-marking online quizzes that provide immediate feedback to the student, post questions on the discussion board, or ask the students to reflect on their learning in a blog.

Improve Student Retention and Provide Custom Interventions

The new Student Retention feature in Blackboard allows instructors to highlight students with poor engagement, not submitting assessment material, struggling with language or with referencing. These students can be automatically brought to the attention of existing student support units to provide customised interventions. The data in our LMS is being used to quickly identify students that are not engaging in a course, within the first 2 weeks. These students can be contacted and given support though an intervention program. The new Blackboard system has student retention functionality that helps instructors identify students that are not engaging with a class. Units may like to sponsor a student retention Initiative.

Improve Equity for Students

Most forms of online learning help deliver education in a format more accessible to disabled and disadvantaged students (JISC 2008). Course coordinators and students with restricted ability to participate in face-to-face experiences may be able to fully participate in online experiences. Analyse learning behaviours and optimise course design

The LMS records student activities which can be used to analyse learning behaviours in order to optimise design.

Provide Personalised Learning

Adaptive release features in Blackboard, and Student Response systems allow instructors to create a level of personalised learning.

Provide an Alternate Learning Mode

Different students prefer different learning modes. Online learning provides an alternate mode that may be preferred by some students.

Facilitate instructor peer-learning

Guest Access allows instructors to learn from each other's eLearning approaches. Any member of the UQ community (who has a UQ login) can look at a basic version of the contents of any course. This is intended to: a) promote a culture of sharing resources and practices, b) give students the opportunity to see the context of their learning and the program in which they're enrolled. Units may want to consider a peer referencing initiative.

Reliably communicate with students - (Announcements, Discussion board)

Best practice when communicating with students is to use the announcements feature of Blackboard to update students on important information. All students automatically receive an email and a record communication is kept. This approach is more reliable than email alone because students can periodically check announcements and know they are aware of all important communications, regardless of the reliability of their email system with spam filters and space limitations. The discussion board feature can be used to encourage students to give feedback on concepts they find difficult to staff, to ask questions about assignments and for students to help each other learn. Additionally, those students reluctant to speak up in class will often find discussion boards less intimidating.

Engage students in online group interactions- (Blackboard Groups)

Instructors can engage students in groups for tasks, discussions, blogs, file uploads, and wikis - to help them work together and learn from each other. Students can sign up to their project group online. A virtual classroom can be created where students can meet online, and collaborate from remote locations. They can communicate live using audio, video, text or whiteboard. The instructor can assign students to groups to collaborate and then present to the rest of the class, all online.

Enterprise Level Capabilities

Reach New Markets

Our online learning environment allows learning and teaching to occur at a time, and in a way, more convenient for students (and coordinators). Online learning can be used to reach busy professionals, interstate students, or new markets overseas. For instance the University of Central Lancashire developed online healthcare training in diabetes that reaches healthcare professionals around the world (JISC 2008). Blended learning can be used to cater for higher numbers of students by redesigning a course into a blended-intensive mode that uses about 1/3 of the physical infrastructure.  A blended intensive course may make it easier for busy professionals to attend. UQ's school of Pharmacy has had success with this approach. Units may want to consider an initiative to engage new markets.

Protect Course Diversity through Collaboration

Courses that are not sustainable in one institution's physical catchment alone may be sustainable in a wider online catchment under a multi-university collaborative model online. For instance Swansea University used video-conferencing to support collaborative teaching across three institutions and reported: "An institution might not be able to employ four epigraphists to contribute to a single module but across three institutions there can be experts in the field (JISC 2008 p18)". Similar programmes are running at the UQ's International Water Centre, and  Sustainable Minerals Institute. Interested units could consider a diversity protection initiative.

Support Industry Placements

Online courses (potentially including an intensive mode component) is a way to continue teaching for students while giving them industry placement experiences.

Engage with Catchment Schools

It may be possible to increase the quality of students from catchment schools by giving potential students a taste of the courses they may attend. If students have a better understanding of the material and delivery of a course they will make more informed decisions before enrolment. See Schools Initiative.

New Capabilities being Deployed

New capabilities are being added to UQ's eLearning system all the time. Briefly the new capabilities include:

  • Identify at-risk students (available from start of 2014): The Retention Centre provides an easy way for instructors to discover which students in their courses are at risk. Based on preconfigured rules and rules instructors create, students’ engagement and participation are visually displayed, quickly alerting them to potential risk.
  • Ability to mark assignments offline on an iPad (released end of 2013): Turnitin Grademark now runs on iPads adding the ability for UQ instructors to mark 'offline'. This is on top of existing functionality of assignment management, text matching, rubrics, and automatic return of grades.
  • Ability to analyse student consumption of lecture recordings and instructional video (Echo/Kaltura)
  • Access and contribute to an international library of learning materials: Instructors will get access to Blackboard xpLor, which is a global learning object repository for rich educational materials including assessments, assignments, discussions, HTML pages, and more.  Instructors can also author learning materials to spread the UQ brand and potentially earn money.
  • Give out internationally recognised "badges" to students when they complete a milestone or course: Staff will be able to grant open badges and students can view and share earned badges and publish badges to the Mozilla Open Backpack.
  • More lectures recorded automatically: ITS is expanding lecture recording from 100 rooms to 150 rooms during 2014.
  • Mark new assignment file types online (available from start of 2014): A new online marking tool will accept multiple file formats, and allow hand annotations,  rubrics, works from a browser, and is simple to use, feeding the results directly back into the Grade Centre, similar to Turnitin's GradeMark feature but without text matching and not restricted to PDFs.
  • The virtual classroom system has been expanded from 150 to 200 concurrent users in response to increased use during Semester 1 – 2013.
  • Inter-campus Lecture Streaming (available from start of 2014): a new lecture capture capability that streams a lecture live to other venues, such as remote campuses.
  • Improved discussion board: The discussion board has been completely redesigned to make it into a modern more usable tool for staff and students. Features include: all posts on one page; role highlighting; inline replies; first setting (can require students to post to a forum before they can see other students’ posts).

New Capabilities In Development

Some of the new features expected to available for deployment during 2015 include:

  • In class active learning and engagement tools (Word Cloud)
  • Dashboard providing student activity oversight for Heads of School, Executive Deans (Analytics).
  • Grades published direct to SI-net
  • Improved user experience
  • Blackboard MOOC platform - Open Education
  • Improved large course support (e.g. WebPAF peer assessment tool)
  • Outcomes assessment dashboard evidence collection at scale for consensus moderation
  • In class active learning tools (allows students in class to see slides, make comments, answer polls, collaborate, make notes etc.)


Dani McKinney, Jennifer L. Dyck, Elise S. Luber, iTunes University and the classroom: Can podcasts replace Professors?, Computers & Education, Volume 52, Issue 3, April 2009, Pages 617-623

Laurillard, Diana ( 2008) Digital technologies and their role in achieving our ambitions for education, Professorial lecture, Institute of Education, University of London

JISC (2008). "Exploring Tangible Benefits of e-Learning: Does investment yield interest?

U.S. Department of Education (2010). "Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies.