Putting your course on Minerva

Minerva is the University of Leeds’ official Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). Minerva must be used as the main platform to provide learning content to students.  You should use Minerva to build online components for your modules and communicate with your students.

Covering the basics 

If you are not a confident user of Minerva, these guides are a helpful reference:

Each of your modules will already have a Minerva area set up, accessible via the Modules menu on the Teach tab. It’s likely that you’re already using these module areas to provide content to your students. Students are automatically enrolled in Minerva module areas and so it’s the most reliable way of communicating with them and providing content.

You may also be using Organisations in Minerva, which are likely to be at programme or School level.

If you do not have access to the module area in Minerva for a module that you are teaching on, please contact the IT helpdesk for support.

Adding your content to Minerva

If you are already familiar with Minerva, the support guide explains how to create a structure for your module, and how to add content.

When adding your content to Minerva, consider the following:

Accessibility

Your course needs to be accessible to students with low-speed internet connections and disabilities. Many elements of online learning work well for students with special needs, especially if using the accessibility features available in tools such as Blackboard Collaborate and Office 365.

Here is some best practice:

What Helps those
Accompany any video-based learning materials with Word documents and PowerPoints With low internet speeds
Use simple layouts, language and colours and break up text with bullet points On the autistic spectrum
Provide ALT text for images, transcripts for videos, write descriptive links and headings Using screen readers
Use colour contrast, 12pt+ font sizes, publish all information instead of providing many download links With low vision
Use images and diagrams to support text, avoid underlining, italics and ALL CAPS With dyslexia
Give clickable elements space (don’t bunch many links together) With physical or motor disabilities
Use subtitles and video transcripts, break up text with sub-headings, images, videos Who are Deaf or hard of hearing
Give enough time for tasks, let students check answers before submitting a form With anxiety

Find out more about supporting remote learners with disabilities:

Communication with your students

Announcements in Minerva are an ideal way to post important updates and information to your students. You can:

  • let them know what content will be available,
  • let them know which activities they should be undertaking,
  • schedule synchronous events like webinars.

Structuring materials clearly

Ensure the layout, order and content of your course makes sense to your students. Here is a masterclass of structuring your content on Minerva – ten exercises of ten minutes each which you can use to design or rework your module.

Use the Minerva staff guides if you need help creating and uploading specific content (e.g. podcasts).

Designing content for discussion and collaboration

Including a Discussion Forum in your course encourages student engagement, quality discussion, reflection, investigation, and debate.

To frame a successful discussion, you need to plan it and set out what you want from students clearly. A good method for doing this is to use a consistent approach, so students encounter the same ‘set up’ each time they are asked to discuss online. You can use the template below to plan your session and develop the instructions your students will need.

Consider how the technical set up can also support student engagement. If you want to encourage participation, consider allowing students to post anonymously. Also, allow students to create new threads. This flexibility may encourage members to post their ideas and questions. You can also provide incentive by grading the discussion or adding exam questions based on discussion content.

Example
Discussion title  My innovation experience
Purpose This is an opportunity for you to think about and explore different experience of innovation, while you get to know your peers.
Task 1.       Write a short introductory message about yourself to your peers and tutor. Tell us:

  •  Who are you?
  •  Which country you currently live in?
  •  What motivates you to study innovation?

2.       Answer these questions:

  • What experience have you had with innovation?
  • How important a role does innovation play in your industry?
Your contribution Aim to write no more than 100 words. This is not a test, so there is not a right or wrong answer. This is an opportunity for you to think about and see the variety of experiences of innovation, while you get to know your peers.
Student dialogue Once you have posted your message, read messages from your peers. Aim to reply and say hello to at least two other people. When you respond, you might want to comment on:

  • Whether you share a similar professional background,
  • If you live in similar or different places,
  • How your views about innovation compare or contrast. Why might that be?
Feedback This forum is tutor-facilitated. Your tutor will introduce themselves as well and will welcome the rest of the class to the module.

They will also comment on some of your responses to the question.

Use the Minerva staff guides if you need help creating and adding to a discussion forum.

Providing opportunities for self-assessment and understanding

A good way to help students check their understanding in an online environment is to use multiple-choice questions (MCQs). If these are new to you, you can refer to a case study using MCQ in Minerva and the MCQ checklist. Use the  section of this website to learn about other tools you can use to test students’ understanding.

Use the Minerva staff guides if you need help with assessments and evaluation.

Encouraging engagement and reflection

Learning is most effective when it is an active process. If you have provided lots of reading and videos to watch, think about how you might get students to engage with the materials. Find some techniques for this below:

Using flipped learning

  • creating screencast tutorials in advance of a session so students come prepared to discuss and debate ideas or put ideas into practice
  • embedding a series of YouTube videos in Minerva on techniques so that students are primed to experiment in their synchronous session
  • providing links to web pages for students to explore individually and then designing collaborative activities for students to share and build on what they have learned
  • linking to external sources and creating peer teaching pairs, where one student explains a concept or technique to another student.

Using an online pinboard

One of the simplest tools to use for creating an online shared space for collecting ideas and resources is an online pin board tool called Padlet. Padlet describes itself as “somewhere between a doc and a full-fledged website builder.”

Possible uses of a Padlet that could be adapted to your own educational context are:

  • sharing evidence of student practice such as photos or videos of their work
  • compiling a wall of quotes, articles or images to explore an issue, fictional character or debate
  • students brainstorming ideas on how to solve a problem
  • icebreaker activities, e.g. students sharing photos and introductions
  • sharing images, websites and videos from independent or collaborative research
  • students curating a collection of web-based resources for project work individually or in groups.

Writing a blog or a reflective log

Blogs can support students in sharing ideas and processes, disseminating information, or documenting their personal experience or research and development. If the blog platform is public (i.e. seen by readers outside of the educational setting) then the blog can be used to communicate with future employers or professionals.

Bloggers can build professional networks whilst studying and retain their work after successful course completion. This builds basic literacy, digital literacy and enhances employability. In addition, reflective logs deepen competence by encouraging students to apply their theoretical knowledge to practical situations and develop self-knowledge as well as emotional literacy. They promote critical self-awareness, enabling continual professional and personal development.

Students can create a free blog on any of the commercial blogging platforms, for example, wordpress.com, blogger.com or tumblr.com.

Students can write reflective logs using their usual essay software, such as MS Word. For this, you can to provide a template. Logs can be emailed to tutors or submitted online (e.g. via services such as Turnitin). An alternative is to use an online document stored in the cloud such as OneDrive, which allows the students to keep their logs private or share it with specific individuals.

Peer review

This design orchestrates a series of activities that do not involve the tutor. It engages the students in thinking in several different ways about the task as an individual, as a reviewer, as a recipient of comment, and in responding to feedback.

It is important to encourage students to be constructive in their comments, and willing to share. This is not summative assessment, so there should be no concerns about being graded by someone who is inexpert.

Here is a potential framework for a peer review:

  1. Students work individually to draft a piece of work according to a defined set of instructions, with clear guidelines and criteria for scoring it.
  2. They are then asked to review other students’ drafts (two is probably the optimum number), assess them in terms of the criteria, and provide constructive comments.
  3. This provides them with an opportunity to compare other ways of doing the task, think again about the criteria and what counts as a good piece of work, and so reconsider their own work.
  4. They look at the two reviews of their own work, which provides them with some support for improving their work.
  5. They score each one for how helpful it was.
  6. Finally, they re-draft their own work for submission to the tutor, which following the peer review process should be of higher quality than without it.

Links and downloads

Relevant events

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Join this event suitable for academic staff and PGRs who teach, and SES staff who want to use it in their teaching.

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Join this event suitable for academic staff and PGRs who teach, and SES staff who want to use it in their teaching.

more