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Learning Technology Team

Designing & Managing Your NILE Course

Information for Staff

NILE design standards, expectations, and guidance for an excellent student experience (2021/22)

The NILE 2021/22 Design Standard paper was approved at the Student Support Forum on the 15th of April, 2021

Contents

Section A: NILE Design Standards

1. Purpose
2. NILE design standards
3. Availability of NILE courses
4. Accessibility of content in NILE courses

Section B: Design standards for Ultra courses

5. Ultra courses: Minimum standards and guidance in NILE module-level Ultra courses

Section C: Design standards for Original courses

6. Original courses: Minimum standards and guidance in NILE module-level Original courses
7. Original courses: Minimum standards and guidance in all NILE programme-level courses

Section D: Standards and expectations for Ultra and Original courses

8. Minimum standards for layout and format in all NILE courses
9. ABL expectations for all NILE courses

NILE design standards, expectations, and guidance for an excellent student experience (2021/22)

Section A: NILE Design Standards

The NILE 2021/22 Design Standard paper was approved at the Student Support Forum on the 15th of April, 2021

1. Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to set out and clarify the minimum standards expected of NILE module and programme courses for the 21/22 academic year. The standards are intended to support and guide staff in their use of NILE, and to help make best use of the NILE templates that are created for all modules and programmes each year. In addition to the guidance provided in this document, support to meet the minimum standards is provided by the Learning Technology Team.

This paper contains the standards for both the newer Ultra courses (Section B), and the original courses (Section C). Ultra courses are currently being rolled out following the agreed timescales:
https://libguides.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/staff/nile-guides/blackboard-ultra

2. NILE design standards

The core NILE design standards have been split into ‘required’ and ‘recommended’. Required items should be present in all NILE courses; recommended standards are additions that may add extra value to the student experience and further enhance the course. These standards have been developed and refined in response to student feedback and in consultation with students and staff. In addition, the standards are in accordance with the principles and practices of active, blended learning, and adherence to them will help to ensure a consistent student user experience in NILE.

3. Availability of NILE courses

It is expected that students will have access to all of their NILE courses, including all of the teaching and learning materials and activities, and their assignments, grades and feedback, for the current and the two previous academic years. Therefore, NILE courses should not be made unavailable to students at the end of each academic year.

4. Accessibility of content in NILE courses

All content available to students in NILE courses must meet the 2018 accessibility regulations: 
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/accessibility-requirements-for-public-sector-websites-and-apps
Ally is enabled on all courses and should be used for accessibility checking.

Section B: Design standards for Ultra courses

5. Ultra courses: Minimum standards and guidance in NILE module-level Ultra courses

(NB. NILE templates are the same for UON and Partners.)
Ultra programme-level courses are not being used in the 21/22 academic year, so are not included in this document

Table 5.1: Ultra module-level courses - Course Content items
Course Content items Further information
About this module

Item description visible to students and staff:
“Welcome to your module. In here you will find important information about your module, including the module guide, contact details for your lecturers, and the module reading and resource list.”
(This item description should not be deleted or modified.)

Required
The ‘About this module’ section of the Course Content area in Ultra module-level courses should contain the following items:
• a written and/or video welcome to the module;
• the module guide;
• details of how to contact staff teaching on the module;
• the Aspire online reading and resource list for the module.

Recommended
Staff may also like to include a ‘Module FAQs’ discussion. By encouraging students to post general or frequently asked questions, staff may be able to avoid the use of email to answer the same questions multiple times. Alternatively, staff may like to include a pre-written list of module FAQs.

To note
Contact information for all core University services is provided in the ‘Assist’ tool in the main NILE navigation menu, and is updated and maintained centrally, therefore this information does not need adding into individual Ultra courses.

Assessment and submission

Item description visible to students and staff:
“In here you will find the submission points for your module assessments, along with information related to the assessments for this module (e.g., assessment briefs, submission instructions, and deadlines).”
(This item description should not be deleted or modified.)

Required 
The ‘Assessment and submission’ section of the Course Content area in Ultra module-level courses should contain the following items:
• assessment brief(s), including information on acceptable file formats for submission, word count (or equivalent), assessment weighting, and which learning outcomes are being assessed;
• assessment submission and feedback dates, including re-sit dates;
• assessment arrangements for students with additional needs;
• assessment criteria, including a copy of, or link to, any assessment rubric (or similar) being used;
• any assessment-specific materials;
• guidance about the process by which the assessment item(s) should be submitted
• the assessment submission point(s)

Recommended
Staff may like to add a video introduction to assessments in addition to the formal assessment brief. Staff may also like to set up an assessment FAQs discussion, or may prefer to include a pre-written list of assessment FAQs. Staff may like to make use of sub-folders where there are multiple assessment items.

Grading, feedback, and verification
[Hidden]

Item description visible to staff:
“This folder contains information for staff and external examiners about the grading, feedback and verification processes carried out for this module’s assessments. This folder and all items within it must always remain hidden from students.”
(This item description should not be deleted or modified.)

Required
Staff should use this area of their Ultra course to store materials relating to the grading, feedback and verification process, including internal moderation records, and any materials for the External Examiner.

GDPR information to note
This area is hidden from students and must always remain so, as should all items stored within this area. Should items stored in this area of the module be made available to students, it may constitute a data breach and will need to be reported to the University’s Records Management Office for further investigation.

Teaching and learning content and activities

Required
The teaching and learning content and activities should be placed in the Course Content section of the Ultra course, after the ‘About this module’, ‘Assessment and submission’, and the (hidden from students) ‘Grading, feedback and verification processes’ areas.

Use of top-level learning modules and folders (structured, for example, week-by-week or thematically) will be necessary to create a logical layout for students to be able to find materials, as this will be the area where students will spend most of their time.

Recommended
Use of learning modules is recommended for top-level course content items. Rather than displaying all course content at once, staff may like to use release conditions to automatically release course content. Alternatively, staff may prefer to manually hide course content at the start of the module, and release content each week.

To see examples of completed Ultra courses structured week-by-week and thematically, staff are invited to view the UON Ultra Demonstration Courses. See: https://libguides.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/staff/nile-guides/blackboard-ultra-faqs#s-lg-box-15341315 

Table 5.2: Ultra module-level courses - Details & Actions menu items
Details & Actions menu items Further information
Class register Staff can view who is enrolled on their course and can see additional details such as student ID numbers and email addresses. Students can view who is enrolled on their course, and see profile pictures, if these have been uploaded, but cannot see other students’ ID numbers, or email addresses. 
Course Groups Staff can use this tool to create and manage groups in Ultra courses. Students can view the groups that they are a member of.
Course is open / private / completed Visible to staff only. Staff can use this tool to set the course availability. By default, courses are private (i.e., they can be seen in the Courses menu, but not accessed by students). Courses should be set to ‘open’ prior to teaching so students can access them. Once finished, staff may set the course to ‘completed’, which allows students to access the course content but not participate (e.g., contribute to discussion board and journals) in the course.
Blackboard Collaborate

Staff can use Blackboard Collaborate to set up, run, and manage synchronous online classroom sessions, meetings, tutorials, etc. Students use this tool to join these sessions, and access session recordings.

Recommended
Where Collaborate is used, in advance of their first session it is useful to provide students with clear instructions about how to find the session, and the need to access Collaborate via an up-to-date browser with a good Internet connection. At the start of their first session, it is worthwhile to spend some time with students explaining the functionality of Collaborate, including how to participate in the chat, draw on whiteboards, take part in polls, etc.

Staff using a virtual classroom for the first time are advised to meet with their learning technologist, to find out how to use and get the best from virtual classrooms.

Announcements Staff can use this tool to send announcements to all students enrolled on the course. Students will receive the announcements via email. Students will see announcements in the Activity Stream and will also see any new announcements in a pop-up window when they access the course. Staff and students can view previous announcements via this tool.
Books and Tools Staff can use this tool to add content from external sources, such as licenced/purchased ebooks from publishers.
Question Banks Visible to staff only. Staff can use this tool to import question banks for (re)use in their courses.
Student Preview

Visible to staff only. Staff can use this tool to see how their course will look and function to students.

Recommended
Use of Student Preview to check through courses is highly recommended, especially where course content has been set up with complex release conditions.

Table 5.3: Ultra module-level courses - Course Tools menu items
Course Tools menu items Further information
Course Content This area contains the course content and should follow the design standards set out in Table 5.1 above.
Calendar Staff and students can access the Ultra course calendar. Items in the Ultra course which have dates, such as an assessment due date, will be shown in the Calendar. (Note that the Ultra course calendar is not linked to the UON timetabling system.)
Discussions Staff and students can quickly view and access all course discussions.
Gradebook Staff use the Gradebook to view and mark student assessments. Students can view and submit assignments via Gradebook, as well as via the assignment submission points set up by staff in the ‘Assessment and submission’ area in Course Content (see Table 5.1). Students can view grades and feedback within Gradebook, and via the ‘Grades’ tool in the main NILE navigation menu. 
Messages Whereas the Announcements tool can only be used to contact all students on the course, staff can use the Messages tool to contact individual students, or groups of students. Students will see the message in the Messages tool in the main NILE navigation menu, and staff can choose to also send the message via email too.
Analytics Visible to staff only. Where staff have set up tests, and where the tests have met the minimum number of responses, staff will be able to use the Analytics tool to view detailed information about the question responses.

Section C: Design standards for Original courses

6. Original courses: Minimum standards and guidance in NILE module-level Original courses

(NB. All NILE content items listed are included in the UON template. Where appropriate, some content items are not included or are included in a modified form in the template for Partners.)

Table 6: Original module-level courses
NILE menu item Information provided within each item (right hand-side frame of NILE) In Partner
Template?
About this module [Entry Point*]

Required
This area will be used to welcome students to the module and outline the key content. Important information relating to the module, not covered elsewhere in the course, should be in this area (e.g. learning outcomes, timetables and deadlines). 

Recommended
Information on induction may also be provided within this area along with an introductory video from the tutor or the team. If there is a downloadable module guide, then it should be in this area and kept consistent with the rest of the courses.

*About this module is the default entry point for the module, and should normally be used for the first few weeks of term. Once the module is underway, academic staff may choose to switch the entry point to ‘Announcements’.

Yes
Announcements Required
Clear details about any information, changes and updates that students need to be aware of.
Yes
Contacts

Required
Full contact information for the key people who may need to be contacted by students enrolled onto the module, along with how to make an appointment and guidance on how soon students can expect a reply - it doesn’t have to be straight away, as long as they know what to expect. Some questions may be easily answered by peers, so encourage students to post general or frequently asked questions to a discussion forum, to which staff should also contribute. Avoid the use of email to answer general questions multiple times.

Other useful contacts are available via the ‘My Support Network’ link in the course, and the ‘Assist’ link in the main NILE navigation menu.

Recommended
Ideally, there should be a photo along with the key contacts to assist with identification.

Yes
Module activities

Required
This is an area for material and activities relating directly to the module. Digital resources – (such as presentations, lecture recordings, hand-outs, etc.): tasks for sense-making (activities etc.): - linked to blogs, discussion forums, and other appropriate tools, a place for online discussion, analysis and reflection are essential in an ABL context. 

Learning activities, including those that students are expected to complete outside the classroom (activities, etc), provide a structure or scaffold for learners to make meaningful use of the content. Remember it is what students do with content that is important to support the achievement the learning outcomes.

Sensible use of folders (e.g., week by week or topic by topic) is necessary to create a logical layout for students to be able to find materials, as this will be the area where students will spend most of their time. Most recent resources should be clearly labelled or near the top to avoid scrolling.

Recommended
Adaptive release may be used to display content selectively as needed. Consider using ‘bite sized’ chunks of material (video, audio or text) rather than overly long content.

Yes
Blackboard
Collaborate

Required
Where Collaborate is used, it is important to provide students with clear instructions about how to access and use it in advance of their first session.

Recommended
Staff using a virtual classroom for the first time are advised to attend a training session, or to meet with their learning technologist, to find out how to use and get the best from virtual classrooms.

Yes
Reading and resources

Required
The key reading material for the module with links to the source location. The Aspire online reading list software will be used as the University’s standard tool for creating and accessing reading lists.  

Recommended
This area may include video guides, subject specific resource sites, and other useful links.

Yes, but without link to Aspire reading list
Assessment information

Required
Assessment briefs and assessment-specific materials will be uploaded here. This area should note the assignment deadlines for the module (submission and feedback dates) including re-sit dates. 
Where there is more than one assessment, then a folder should be created for each assessment, with the assessment code at the start of the title e.g. ES1. Details on the procedure for feedback on assessment should be clearly displayed. Assessment arrangements for students with identified additional needs should be included here. The following prompts will be included in this area where appropriate: a guide on word count, weighting, deadline and return date. It should be made clear which learning outcomes the assessments refer to. There should be a link to the University grade criteria. If you are using rubrics then it should be clear where students may access these prior to submission.

Assignment submission points should not be included in this section.

Yes, but without links to Learning Development and Academic Librarians
Submit your work Required
A clear location for students to go to in order to submit assignments. Only submission points should be included here.
Yes
Feedback and grades Required
This is a NILE tool area into which tutors do not have to put customised content. Grades from the Grade Centre will be displayed to students here.
Yes
My support network Required
This link points students to non-module specific support available to them at the University and includes links to other relevant resources.
Yes, modified resource for Partner students
Support for tutors Required
This link is unavailable to students but provides tutors with additional support and links in developing the course.
Yes, modified resource for Partner staff
Response to feedback Required
Module Leaders will use this section to inform students taking this module how the module has been enhanced in response to feedback from students in last year’s cohort (to close the feedback loop).
No
External examiner Required
This link is unavailable to students. It provides material for External Examiners and a quick link to the content areas containing information regarding lists of students who require review.
Yes

7. Original courses: Minimum standards and guidance in all NILE programme-level courses

(NB. Programme-level NILE courses are not automatically created for Partners, however, they are available on request.)

Table 7: Original programme-level courses
NILE menu item Information provided within each item (right hand-side frame of NILE)
My Programme [Entry Point]

Required
This area is used to welcome students to the programme and to outline the key features of the programme.

Recommended
An introductory video from the programme leader or the team is also encouraged.

Announcements Required
Welcome (back) and clear details about any information, changes and updates that students need to be aware of, such as messages about placement, graduate posts, further study, transition to next year of study, NSS, and upcoming special events.
Contacts

Required
Full contact information for the key people who may need to be contacted by students enrolled onto the programme (programme leader, personal tutors and module tutors), along with how to make an appointment and guidance on how soon students can expect a reply - it doesn’t have to be straight away, as long as they know what to expect. Some questions may be easily answered by peers, so encourage students to post general or frequently asked questions to a discussion forum, to which staff should also contribute. Avoid the use of email to answer general questions multiple times.

Recommended
Ideally, there should be a photo along with the key contacts to assist with identification.

Discussion Areas Recommended
A communication area that contains three discussion areas which may be used within the programme:
  • Introductions (unavailable by default - an area for students to introduce themselves)
  • Student Advocates (unavailable by default – allows students to interact with their course advocate)
  • FAQs (unavailable by default - an area for students to post questions regarding the programme)
My Learning Required
Contains information about academic and study support services and resources available to students, including Learning Development, Academic Librarians, Skills Hub, UNPAC, and Top Tips for Good Academic Practice.
My Voice Required
Contains information about Student Advocates, the Students’ Union. STaR Awards, module evaluations, the NSS, etc.
My Wellbeing Required
Contains information about the services available to support student wellbeing, including links to Support and Services, Your Health & Wellbeing, Academic Advice Managers, Financial Guidance Support, and International Student Support.
My Career Required
Contains information about the Changemaker Hub and the Alumni Association.
My Personal Tutor

Required
Programme Leaders will upload lists of Personal Tutors for students on this programme.

Either of the following is acceptable:

  • A list of students' names along with the name of their personal tutor;
  • A list of students' ID numbers along with the name of their personal tutor.

In no circumstances should the students' names and their ID numbers be listed. Such a list would constitute a data breach and would need reporting to recordsmanager@northampton.ac.uk.

External Examiner Report Required
Link to the relevant External Examiner report for that programme and the teams’ response and actions.

Section D: Standards and expectations for Ultra and Original courses

8. Minimum standards for layout and format in all NILE courses

Table 8: Minimum standards for layout and format in all NILE courses
Standards What it means
Consistent colour scheme and layout Required
Readability of the course and the overall design and accessibility (see below) must be considered.
Content accessible to a range of devices Required
Standard accessible formats must be used, such as PDF or Word for text-based documents, PowerPoint for presentations, JPG for photos, PNG for graphics, and Kaltura for audio and video clips. Avoid formats that require specialist software or plug-ins, unless they are required for the subject of study.
Content accessible for all students

Required
Materials must be created with accessibility in mind. For example, Word documents must be formatted using styles and headers to ensure compatibility with screen readers and easy conversion to PDF. Tutors must ensure that all content being used is accessible in all countries where students are based.

Staff must use the Ally report tool in their sites to identify any content which is not accessible and then resolve this prior to release to students.


9. ABL expectations for all NILE course

Table 9: ABL expectations for all NILE courses
Expectations What it means
ABL  Required
Students should be provided with a range of active learning opportunities not only in class, but on all module-level NILE courses. Active learning opportunities require that students are expected to do more than accessing information. Activities for use in and outside the classroom, should provide learners with a suitable scaffold, i.e., an opportunity to make sense of the content they engage with. The tasks can be either individual or group based. NILE should not be used as a content repository. Critically, each module should be taught as a single, blended unit, and not as two separate tiers (face-to-face on the one hand and online on the other).
Staff visibility  Required
Within ABL, some of the contact time will take place outside the regular teaching slots, typically on an asynchronous basis (i.e., not in real time). Academic staff must be active, visible and engaged throughout. This means participating actively in discussion forums, commenting on blog posts, making regular announcements about how the class is progressing, and in general, taking an active role in the formation of a community of learning.
Synchronous and asynchronous technologies Required
While a proportion of the teaching and some of the NILE-based learning activities will take place asynchronously (through activities that make use of tools such as discussions, journals and blogs to allow learner flexibility), consideration as to the use of synchronous (real-time) sessions is recommended. Blackboard Collaborate is the UON-supported tool to enable staff and students to engage remotely in real-time sessions.

Should you require urgent assistance with NILE, please contact the LearnTech Support Helpdesk via the online contact form