Dr Christopher Jobling

Senior Lecturer



Yesterday I blogged about using Google Docs Spreadsheets and its new form feature to create a really simple survey system for your students. Today I thought I’d check out the offerings from the other major player in the non-aligned world of on-line office applications, Zoho Office, had to offer. (more…)

May 22nd, 2008

Posted In: e-learning, on-line office, tips

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Today I was looking for an alternative to Blackboard’s survey manager when I stumbled upon this great suggestion from Technology Bites. All you do is go to Google Docs (docs.google.com) and create a new Google Docs Spreadsheet (you’ll need a free google account, but if you’re a Gmail user or a Blogger blogger you’ll have these already). One of the sharing options that Google provides is web form for data input and this is quick and easy to use. The rest of this article takes you through the process with a screencast supported demo. (more…)

May 21st, 2008

Posted In: e-learning, tips

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In this second of my occasional series of Blackboard productivity tips I want to give another tip that is related to Tip #1: Exploit External Links. This simple tip provides an easy way to get your module details into a Blackboard module site using a link to the catalogue entry. This particular tip is also available in screencast format at Screencast.com. (more…)

May 15th, 2008

Posted In: blackboard, blogging, e-learning, tips

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One of the commonest pieces of student feedback that we hear is “why doesn’t Professor X have a Blackboard site.” A query that crops up quite regularly at IT Support is apparently “My Blackboard site isn’t working: there’s no link to Module Y.” Both are symptomatic of a mismatch between our students expectations of our primary e-learning platform (which at Swansea happens to be Blackboard) and our provision of e-learning support. Quite simply, our students see the absence of a module from Blackboard as a bug!

In this first of an occasional series, I will attempt to persuade you to address this for your own modules by passing on some lessons that I’ve learnt about exploiting Blackboard for students’ benefit without incurring too much extra work for yourself. Hopefully, by creating Blackboard sites for your modules and exploiting some of these tips, you’ll earn the gratitude of your students (and the higher satisfaction scores that your teaching materials no-doubt deserve) without incurring too much additional stress.


May 14th, 2008

Posted In: blackboard, e-learning, tips

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As a long-time scientific researcher, HTML trainer, Blackboard user, blogger and wiki contributor, I have used quite a few mark-up languages. At any moment I can switch from LaTeX to XHTML to MediaWiki markup with relative ease but I suspect that my colleagues and my students would have more problems. The trend in Web Applications seems to be towards the provision of  a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editing tool which can vary in complexity from the relatively simple toolbar provided by Word-Press for this blog to fully functioning “Word Replacements” like the one provided by Google docs.

However, when you’ve used a web application for any length of time, you quickly find that the apparent compatibility with a full-featured desktop word processors is fairly thin-skinned and for maximum control you need to get behind the display to the markup code. There is quite a bit of variation, and I suspect, a fair amount of possible end-user confusion in the choice of code that you’ll find there.

For most content editing tools that are used at Swansea University, for example Blackboard, Peanut Butter Wiki, and Word-Press, the underlying markup is actually HTML, the markup of the World-Wide Web. However, though relatively simple, HTML is not the simplest possible form of markup that there is, and it’s quite easy to get wrong. Some tools are more strict than others when it comes to rejecting invalid markup; and this has the unfortunate effect that the stricter they are, the harder they will be for an untrained user to get right! Many wiki tools, (DokuWiki, MediaWiki and TiddlyWiki are the ones I use personally) use a special form of markup called Wikitext, which is somewhat easier to create without tool support, but varies enormously in complexity, useability and compatibility. Somewhere in between are markups that other blogging tools use, for example Markdown and Textile.

With so much choice, what is the poor user to do? More importantly, what should our system providers be looking at when making a choice? In a series of articles to follow, I intend to look at this issue, providing examples of the mark-up languages available, their usage, and pros and cons. Hopefully this will be useful for both end-users struggling to understand their content editors and system administrators who need to make informed choices on behalf of their users.

Your comments and suggestions are of course welcomed! 

May 6th, 2008

Posted In: web content

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It was a well kept secret, but now Swansea University has its own Blogging system, based on WordPress, and I have a blog there called @the.coalface. The URL is https://blogs.swan.ac.uk/chris-jobling/. Enjoy!

May 6th, 2008

Posted In: blogging


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