Welcome to the Digital Transformation blog

Featured

Digital is the convergence of a variety of technologies and social changes that have led to a new way of living our lives. Our students are the epitome of this new digital reality – they create and consume content in a very different way to previous generations.

But what exactly is a digital transformation? The Enterprisers Project define it as:

“The integration of digital technology into all areas of a business resulting in fundamental changes to how businesses operate and how they deliver value to customers.

Beyond that, it’s a cultural change that requires organizations to continually challenge the status quo, experiment often, and get comfortable with failure.

Digital transformation is not solely about technology. In fact technology is only one part of the puzzle. Digital transformation is about meeting the needs of the new digital consumer – be they staff or student. It involves new understanding and cultural change. For more on this see Paul Boag’s Digital Transformation: The six questions you need to answer.

At the Royal Agricultural University (RAU) we are at the beginning of this transformation process. There is a commitment to develop and a will to act, but so far efforts have not been as co-ordinated as they could be.

However this is about change. We are working on a new digital-focused strategic approach to be integrated in our IT strategy and Learning and Teaching strategy.  It will form the backbone of our digital activity and allow progress to be made in a comprehensive and integrated manner.

We want to share our transformation with you and intend to blog about the journey, bumps and all.

Shiny new tools

We are introducing a couple of new digital tools for the start of the new academic year. Note that all tools still need to be set up, tested and piloted.

Sim Venture Evolution

We already use Sim Venture Classic on some of our business modules but will now be adding in Evolution for our blended and distance learning students. Evolution is a business strategy simulation that is highly aligned with pedagogic approaches and subject-based learning. We have already written about our recent Evolution training day.

SimVenture-Evolution-JPeg-image-HighRes

Zoom

ZoomZoom is a video conferencing and webinar tool.

We will be using it primarily on our Catalyst programmes but also hope to run some other webinars relevant to prospective students or industry partners.

We will be integrating Zoom with Gateway (our VLE) and Panopto to support sign on and storage.

Browsealoud

Browsealoud is an additional tool from texthelp who make Read&Write. We are considering adding it to the portfolio – no definite decision yet.

It is a plug in that we will be adding to Gateway to help users with accessibility and productivity. It allows users have web pages read to them and converted to MP3 files.

Browsealoud

So what new tools is your Learning Tech team introducing? Do share!

Our annual Moodle upgrade

Over the last couple of days we have been upgrading our Moodle site from 3.5 to 3.6.5. We upgraded at the same time last year and in order to ensure that our site is current and secure we are now committed to an annual upgrade to the highest long term support version. The upgrade went well with only a few minor CSS (text and icons formatting) issues, which were promptly resolved.

The process involves a number of stages and follows on from a practice run on our demo site:

  • Notify all users using email, warning notice on Moodle etc.
  • Put the site into maintenance mode
  • PHP upgrade to version 7.3
  • Moodle upgrade to 3.6.5
  • UAT testing using several accounts with different roles

This year we have taken a more coherent approach to our testing using UAT cards. Testers log in with a test account, each account has a different role e.g. student, non-editing teacher, teacher, External Examiner). The tester then works through a series of tasks recording if they pass or fail, and any issues. These issues are passed back to our developers to be resolved. We are also using a UAT test page and all activity is carried out in there. Tasks range from editing user profiles, adding and viewing content, checking assessments and some administrative activities.

IMG_0408

Version 3.6.5 brings its own set of new features (messaging, course layout etc.) but we have also added a few new features of our own including a new tab collapse format editor that allows you to flatten the page and move content between topics and tabs.

Over the next year we will be considering the theme we use on the site and our use of tabs collapse.

Thank you to everyone in ITS who helped with the upgrade process!

See Aurelie’s tweet:-


D_lkNynXUAAHj7w

Mahara: Improving the RAU ePortfolio system

Sam Taylor, eLearning Specialist at Catalyst IT, visited the Learning Technologists at the RAU on Thursday. Sam is known worldwide for her knowledge of Mahara and her positive pedagogical approaches to e-portfolios.

Mahara will play a large part of the reflective work on the newly-developed Catalyst programmes: some of the formative and summative assessment will be undertaken on Mahara. We therefore want the platform to be setup in an optimal way for all users.

The aim of the day was to get professional advice on how what is best for our Mahara platform, in terms of both technical specifications and regarding how to best structure our help and support for staff and student users.

 

Sam Taylor from Catalyst IT and the RAU Learning Technologists

Sam Taylor from Catalyst IT and the RAU Learning Technologists

Mahara Features

Thanks to Sam, we established that we might not be making full use of our current Mahara platform (18.04) due to not being familiar with the variety of features available.

As a summary, our current Mahara platform has functions such as:

  • Automatically sending notifications for changes in Terms & Conditions
  • Copying a page from other portfolio
  • Linking to another page from the user’s portfolios
  • Rotating images within Mahara
  • Linking to ‘Help’ (user manual for current version) in context (for each page)
  • Customising assessment status for Smart Evidence (competency framework)

As we discussed the options and technical support, we agreed that we would move to the latest version (19.04) of Mahara this summer, ready for the new Catalyst courses starting in October, which require Mahara for reflective activities and assessment.

This means we will benefit form a plethora of very useful new functionalities that will help us better support and manage groups and templates in Mahara. Here are some of the key improvements:

  • Timeline feature to see progress in portfolio development
  • Improved navigation
  • Improved editor for Smart Evidence (competency framework)
  • Pushing templates to groups and institutions
  • Adding a navigation block to all pages in a collection
  • Opening links in a new tab or window
  • Instructions block in pages
  • Locking blocks and stopping accidental page deletion
  • Copying blocks in context (e.g.: Journal)
  • Peer assessment (block for peers to review external activity)
  • Revoking access to page(s) in case the page is reported
  • Setting up institutional tags
  • Populating pages automatically with tag content
  • Updating a Plan directly in a page
  • Open badges

Using Templates

All templates are found under your ‘Pages and Collections’ with other portfolio pages. There are three types of templates in Mahara:

  • A page made copy-able from a user
  • Group templates – pushed to students or copied from a user
  • Institution templates that can be pushed to all users in an institution

Deep links

During the session, we found out how to create links between Gateway and Mahara so that students and staff are not forced to re-login or navigate via their dashboard to a page, from a link in Gateway.

Rubrics

We also discussed the benefits of e-portfolio rubrics for assessment and we will build a set of resources in Gateway to support our staff using rubrics.

What next?

We will carry on running workshops for staff and we will upgrade to Mahara version 19.04 this summer.

We are also planning to re-design the Mahara Support page in Gateway to include user support, academic guidance, workshops summary and notes and a series of portfolios to demonstrate good practice and the variety of uses of e-portfolios.

We would love to hear about any ideas you have for improving e-portfolio usage.

 

Mahara: designing activities and using groups

A couple of months ago, we posted about Mahara as we were launching a new series of workshops for anyone interested in e-portfolios at the RAU.

20190625_154409

Since then, we have run a practical session about editing portfolio pages. Our six participants ran through on online induction, building their own pages and sharing them. Once completed, they were allocated a digital badge that will now appear in their Gateway profile.

This session will be repeated on the 23rd July for those who missed it.

Last week we were focusing on designing authentic activities for portfolios in Mahara. One of the main advantages of e-portfolios, compared to a Word document for example, is that it can log evidence in a variety of media and reflections whilst showing progress. This means e-portfolios are conducive to students producing authentic original work that can be submitted for assessment.

The sessions produced a lot of questions on alignment to regulations for summative assessment, questions about groups and peer reviewing as well as questions using a portfolio rubric.

It was very energising to see learning design and creativity in action from our academic colleagues!

20190703_151525

Mahoodle 2019

On Monday we took a Learning Technologist outing to the Mahoodle day held at the University of Gloucestershire.

IMG_0162

All very useful stuff and our notes don’t do it justice. For a more comprehensive overview see Teresa MacKinnon’s Wakelet or the #Mahoodle19 hashtag.

Welcome

We were welcomed on to site by David James,  Dean of Academic Development, Professor of Exercise Science, University of Gloucestershire.

Open Source and Education Technology – Don Christie, Catalyst

Don’s opening talk gave us a some food for thought, covering open knowledge (“the outcome that we are seeking“) and the role Mahara plays in enabling users to “curate knowledge for the future”.

Don Christie, Catalyst presenting

Don Christie, Catalyst presenting

Supporting teachers across the world with effective use of Moodle – Andrew Field and Liz Duncombe, Cambridge Assessment

Cambridge Assessment have 3 Moodles (including an internal moodle –  bloodle), 2 Mahara and 1 login and are effectively using moodle to demonstrate online stuff that works.

They used the session to have the first public demo of their swipe tool: http://bit.ly/swipe19

Opportunities with Open – building Mahara and ePorrtfolio competencies together – Lisa Donaldson, DCU

While eportfolios (or ‘your learning portfolio’ as a preferred term) are not so popular in Ireland or the UK in the US eportfolios used by >50% of students. Dublin City university have portfolio use for graduate attributes embedded in their strategic plan. They launched Mahara in 2017 and now have 14,500 users across 30 programmes – supported by one person and the eTerns. Lisa has encouraged use through initiatives including portfolios for faculty CPD, work placements and extra-curricular activities; awards for excellent use of portfolios ; and portfolio sharing and feedback activities.

DCU are now working with Catalyst IT  to add bit of “magic” into mahara through the Placeholder block (a template block that does not specify what format is required)

DCU have shared their journey at: https://eportfolioireland.wordpress.com/

Improved Template Support in Mahara – Sam Taylor, Catalyst and Jane Atkinson, Cambridge Assessment

In advance of the session Sam asked for ideas through her Padlet board: https://padlet.com/samtaylorcatalysteu/mahara 

She then talked in more detail about the magic block mentioned by Lisa from DCU, ways to lock blocks and instructions, and plugins that support design like Gridstack.js http://gridstackjs.com/

Sam recommended Kristina Hoeppner’s slides: https://slides.com/anitsirk/scaffolding-eportfolio-use#/

Jane gave an overview of the work Cambridge Assessment are carrying out with portfolios.

Sam Taylor and Jane Atkinson presenting

Sam Taylor and Jane Atkinson presenting

Preparing Your Soil for Growth – Aurelie Soulier, Chantal Schipper and Marieke Guy, RAU

We gave an interactive presentation on the work we have been doing at RAU to increase use of Mahara.

Chantal, Aurelie and Marieke presenting at mahoodle, photo courtesy of SamTaylor

Chantal, Aurelie and Marieke presenting at mahoodle, photo courtesy of Sam Taylor

Competencies and Smart Evidence  – Gavin Henrick, LTS

Gavin explained that Competency Frameworks aren’t just about what a student has done or achieved, or pass or fail. “They’re a way to illustrate progress along the learning journey, their level of understanding at that moment in time”.  However smart evidence is often seen as too complicated for teachers to implement and learners to complete. As one audience member explained – unless you’ve got highly competent technical staff, there is a real barrier to access.

Applying Competencies, A Follow Up – Edd Bolton, Solent University

In a follow up to last year’s Mahoodle talk Edd covered where Solent have got to with competency frameworks. Edd also shared some tips for JSON editing: https://atom.io/packages/atom-json-editor

H5P Workshop (BYOD) – Dan Jefferies – @DevelopWithDan

After lunch we had a H5P training session from Dan Jefferies. It covered similar ares to our recent training session:

https://digitalrau.wordpress.com/2019/05/24/h5p-everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know-but-were-afraid-to-ask/

Dr Mahoodle: Q&A panel – pedagogy, use and a bit of tech

IMG_0177

The panel comprised of our Aurelie Soulier, Sam Taylor (Catalyst), Marcus Green (Titus learning) and Gavin Henrick

Community User Groups MUA/MUGSE – Aurelie Soulier, RAU

The day concluded with another talk by Aurelie on how the Moodle/Mahara user community can get more involved. Richard Samson, chair of the Moodle Users Association was also on hand to answer questions.

Business school and growth hub, Oxstalls campus, University of Gloucestershire

Business school and growth hub, Oxstalls campus, University of Gloucestershire

Checking the Tech in China

I have been lucky enough to spend the last couple of weeks teaching at Shandong Agricultural University (SDAU) in Tai’an, China. The RAU have a partnership arrangement with SDAU and our academics teach on a number of courses out there. SDAU is a multi-disciplinary university which covers agriculture, science, engineering, management, economics, humanities, law, medicine and education and has an enrollment of around 30,000 students. It is based in Tai’an, a large city in Shandong province which is known for its mountain – Mount Tai, one of the five most important mountains in China.

SDAU and Tai'an

SDAU and Tai’an

While the main focus of my trip wasn’t technology it is hard to visit China without noticing the role tech is playing in their modern lives.

Here are some observations I made while there:

It’s all about the QR code

QR codes are everywhere. From paying for your products (through WeChat and Alipay), sharing your contact details with strangers,  to using them to find out public information and what type of trees are in the park (botany is often labelled with a QR code!). As this Technode article explains, QR code scanning has gained prominence because it is a “cheaper alternative to traditional payment systems” and China is now leading the way in building the regulatory framework for QR codes.

49A8EA4B-9DE0-40B3-88FA-D7B290F2B373

Smart phone use is ubiquitous

Phone use has permeated every aspect of people’s lives. They seem to spend even more time on them than we do. It is pretty normal for Chinese (both young and old) to be riding their electric scooters while playing on a gaming app and speaking on the phone at the same time. They have apps for everything and have customised every part of their phone including the digital keyboards (think crazy colours and lots of emojis). As I’ve already mentioned they use their phones to pay for stuff – credit cards just resulted in odd looks.

WeChat is China’s most popular app and is used by absolutely everyone. Some of the main features are messaging, payments, phone management and games. WeChat has been described as a ‘superapp’ as a multitude of mini apps created by external developers can be integrated within the one service.

Learning technology is on the rise

I played Kahoot with my class and they loved it. While the classrooms have a traditional lecture room layout (with fixed seating and teacher at the front) there does seem to be a will to experiment more. With large class sizes technology could make a real difference. 

727F9169-647A-4586-B49E-48A4F66715FF

Technical innovation is the norm

Everywhere you look there are technical innovations. For example back up cameras projecting on the rear view mirror are fairly standard, drones for delivering orders, ipads are often used for menus, scanners and barcode readers are owned and used by everyone, from street sellers to hi-tech shops.

China is also aiming to be a global leader in AI and is investing huge amounts of money in research. The biggest Chinese search engine (Baidu) recently poached a former Microsoft executive to lead on AI efforts. The west is watching with interest as China takes the lead in many areas. For a good overview see this recent Wired article: From imitation to innovation: How China became a tech superpower.

Visiting the great wall of China

Visiting the great wall of China

H5P – Everything you ever wanted to know but were afraid to ask

Yesterday the RAU Learning technologists participated in an all-day training session on H5P led by moodle and H5P expert Dan Jeffries.

H5P is a free and open-source content collaboration framework based on JavaScript. H5P is an abbreviation for HTML5 Package, and enables users to create, share and reuse interactive HTML5 content. It integrates well with our moodle VLE and Chantal and Aurelie have been using it to build activities for the Catalyst Programme.

Dan Jeffries and our LTs

Dan Jeffries and our LTs

Due to our differing ability levels in using H5P Dan started off with a general intro to the tool and then focused on a couple of activities that will have maximum impact.

We spent time looking at:

  • Course presentation – an activity that comprises of many other smaller activities and with some skill could result in development of complete online learning course. Some of our key learnings here are:
    • Make the most of templates and copying content.
    • Use active surface mode for jumping around a presentation (be careful to not accidentally turn this on as you will have to rebuild content).
    • Create layers for putting over images and setting up hotspots.
    • The image background uses a 2:1 ratio – avoid stretching.
    • Hide the toolbar to avoid confusion to users.
    • End with a summary slide (or set of statements to chose from).
  • Interactive video – an interactive video content type which allows you to add things like multiple choice and fill in the blank questions and pop-up text to your videos. Some of our key learnings here are:
    • We need to look at if it is possible to get Panopto to work with H5P.
    • Title screens don’t work on YouTube.
    • Grades go to the moodle gradebook automatically.
    • Crossroads allows branching.
  • Documentation tool – allows you to create form wizards and outputs a document when the user has reach the end of the wizard. Some of our key learnings here are:
    • There is a lot of potential use for reflection but the goals pages are a little odd as they ask you to come up with goals and then think about how you have achieved them. Needs to be used at the end of a task.
    • Links with gradebook but unless there is a grade it can be difficult to see if the student has completed. Maybe better to use with activity completion.
    • You can export documents and get students to submit through Turnitin.
  • Speak the words – a fun test activity that uses voice recognition – teachers ask a question that can be answered with the user’s own voice.
Dan Jeffries demonstrating interactive video

Dan Jeffries demonstrating interactive video

Other useful tips from the day:

  • You can store all your H5P activities in wordpress and then link directly to them. This really helps with centralising and reusing activities.
  • Use the reuse option and download and import content.
  • Get snippet on your moodle site – great for reusing code.
  • Lots of other moodle tips that we are going to have a think about for our site!

Thanks to Dan for sharing his wisdom with us. Lots of fodder for our Friday TEL tips.

Teaching with VR

Last week we had a visit from James Maltby, Learning Technologist at Plumpton College. Plumpton College is based in East Sussex and one of the RAU’s partner colleges. We oversee validation of a number of their postgraduate level courses.

James Maltby demonstrates a pole for the 360 degree camera

James Maltby demonstrates a pole for the 360 degree camera

James is an award-winning learning technologist and educational researcher specialising in blended and immersive teaching. His work embedding virtual reality within teaching has been featured on BBC Countryfile. He has presented research at the Association of Colleges, Blended Learning Consortium, Education & Training Foundation, and JISC.

In 2019, he was awarded a fellowship from the 1851 Royal Commission and the Education & Training Foundation to continue his research into how immersive technology is transforming technical teaching and STEM education. The programme is a a partnership of Sussex training providers in the United Kingdom exploring the effective use of 360°, augmented and virtual reality technologies within the classroom. You can read more about the project at: https://www.teachingwithvirtualreality.com/

Showreel from Plumpton College on Vimeo.

James started our workshop with some nearpod questions that got us thinking about our digital skills. After a brief history of virtual reality (from the Nintendo Virtual Boy released in 1995 to the Google cardboard of 2014 and Oculus Rift in 2016) and the state of current technology he demonstrated some of the learning and teaching videos Plumpton have made (see https://vimeo.com/plumptoncollege). The videos range from countryside tours and forestry visits, to experiencing horse jumping and horse dissection. We were all able to try out the videos using an Oculus Go headset and see the relatively inexpensive tools used to create them – a Rioch Theta 360 degree camera and extension pole.

As a group we discussed quick and easy ways to get started. For example use of Google cardboard or Google streetview apps and embedding in H5P – see below.

RAU grass quad - click to view

RAU grass quad – click to view

We’d like to thank James for visiting us and sharing Plumpton’s exciting content with us. We’re raring to get started!

VR/360 ideas crowd sourced from the group

VR/360 ideas crowd sourced from the group

e-portfolios: What are they and what’s in it for me and my students?

MaharaLogo2017_300x95While the RAU has had Mahara for sometime we have unfortunately not been using it effectively as an assessment tool. Hopefully this will change soon and there are plans to use e-portfolios extensively on the new Catalyst blended-learning courses.

In order to get our academics up to speed we have launched a series of group workshops aimed at anyone interested in using an e-portfolio for student assessment. The sessions are led by Aurelie Soulier with additional support from the Learning Technology team.

Yesterday was our first session entitled e-portfolios: What are they and what’s in it for me and my students? There was some useful discussion on people’s previous experiences of using e-portfolios (not always good!) and possible uses of the tool.

Aurelie introducing ePortfolios

Aurelie introducing ePortfolios

The next sessions will be more hands on and start looking at our own e-portfolio tool in more detail.

  1. Introducing Mahara: a basic introduction to editing
    Wednesday 29th May, 3-4:30pm, Glass room, EJ
  2. Using Mahara: Designing learning activities and assessment, and using groups
    Wednesday 3rd July, 3-4:30pm, Glass room, EJ
  3. Advanced Mahara: Using competency frameworks
    Wednesday 24th July, 3-4pm, Glass room, EJ
    You will have had to attend previous workshops, or be familiar with Mahara, to attend this session
  4. Mahara for Dissertation management
    Wednesday 4th September, 3-4pm, Glass room, EJ
  5. Mahara as a CV builder
    Wednesday 18th September, 3-4pm, Glass room, EJ

All resources from the session will be available from the Mahara support page on Gateway.

Introduction to Mahara page - on Mahara

Introduction to Mahara page – on Mahara