Dissertation supervision using Moodle (Gateway) Database

For our distance learning programmes (Catalyst), we have designed a database to allow the students and supervisors to track their progress for their Dissertation or Applied project. Using this system, they can upload meeting records, draft (sections of) their dissertation for feedback, monthly progress logs, notes and comments. The supervisors will be able to comment on each record or edit the record to add feedback in uploaded files.

The reason for this database is to keep all records regarding students’ Dissertations or Applied projects in one place. This database has been added to the same area as the Dissertation & Applied project guides and the portal for submitting their final Dissertation. Having this system means that supervisors and students don’t have to search through their email for records. In addition, if a supervisor goes off on long-term leave or resigns, a newly assigned supervisor will have access to all the information they need.

At the moment, supervisors do not get notified from the database when a student uploads something; students are asked to ping a quick email to their supervisor to let them know to have a look. In the future, we may look into whether Event monitoring may be an option to assist with this.

Some basic CSS and HTML table styling has been used in the Templates to organise and improve the look of the database records.

We have tried to keep the database as simple as possible. Let me run you through the system:

 

Instructions

Above the database records, the students will be able to find instructions for how to use it, as well as download templates for any forms they may need to fill out and upload. In addition, we have added the supervisors’ email addresses to enable the students to plan meetings with them.

Supervision database image1

To access different areas, there are tabs at the top of the database:

Supervision database image5

  • “View list” means showing all records’ basic information in a list
  • “View single” means showing one full record at a time
  • “Search” can be used to find certain records with extended search options
  • “Add entry” is where students can add a new entry to their records.

Let’s run through each option:

 

List view and basic search

The main overview for the database is a list of records. Students will only be able to see their own records, which is achieved by requiring approval by a “Teacher” role and removing the “Approve” button. Records are sorted in order of “Time added” / “Descending”, meaning that the last added record will always be listed first. Supervisors can see all records from all students in the same order.

At the top, there is a basic search function, so supervisors can add their name to the search to list all their students or add a specific student’s name to the search function to find all records for one student. This search function can also be used to search for particular types of entries (i.e. meeting record forms, dissertation uploads etc.) or to search for a particular word in a comment.

The list view has an incomplete record view, showing only the student’s name, the supervisor’s name, the entry type and when it was last added or modified. There is a link to show the full entry.

Using the “Edit” cog on the right, students and supervisors can edit the corresponding record to update information or to add feedback within a form.

Using the selection box, they can delete an entry if they have uploaded incorrect information. To prevent mistakes, we removed the standard “Delete” button and made it a multi-step process of selecting a record, then clicking “Delete selected” at the bottom of the page. A confirmation box will also appear before a record is permanently deleted.

Supervision database image2

 

Single view

In the single view of a record, students and supervisors can find the full details of a record. They will see the basic information as displayed in the list view, as well as the full record including the uploaded file, notes and any comments as added by the student and/or the supervisor(s).

Supervision database image3

 

Search

Using the search tab, students and supervisors can use extended options to search for records:

Supervision database image6

 

Add entry view

In the “Add entry” view, students can add new records. This has been designed as a simple form to fill in. The students are asked to:

  • Select their supervisor from a drop-down menu
  • Select their entry type from a drop-down menu:
    Supervision database image7
  • Upload a file; students can upload files such as meeting record forms, monthly progress logs as well as (parts of) their dissertation for feedback. As a standard in the Moodle Database system, only one file can be uploaded at a time, which is why the students are told to create a separate record for each file.
  • Add any comments or notes in a text box.
  • Click either “Save and view” or “Save and add another”, based on their needs.

Once the form has been saved, their completed details will be instantly saved to the “List view” and “Single view”, where it can be edited and commented on.

Supervision database image4

This concludes our tour of the Supervision database. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with RAU Learning Technologist Chantal Schipper.

 

 

Meet up and zoom

We’ve recently set up our committee room with a new screen and Logitech meet up camera. The meetup is designed for huddle rooms and small spaces, it is a 4K ultra HD camera with 5X HD zoom. It automatically adjusts camera position and zoom to find and frame people in the room.

The committee room will be used for online governing council meetings and other meetings where a video conference set up is required.

We will be using Zoom software for our online meetings and last week ran some training for our PAs.

IMG_3442Zoom offers “communications software that combines video conferencing, online meetings, chat, and mobile collaboration”. Some of the benefits for the RAU are integration with Panopto and Moodle. We have already started using it for our Catalyst programme.

IMG_3441

 

Introducing Husna

Husna AhmedHello, I am Husna Ahmed and am the new learning technologist working on the Catalyst project along with Chantal Schipper and Madeline Paterson. As the project is halfway through, I will be focusing on the undergraduate programmes that will be starting in the 20/21 academic year.

My background is in Operations Research and IT and I have worked in the industry in various capacities.

training session of an arrest.I joined RAU two weeks ago, having moved here from University of the West of England where I was also a learning technologist and worked in the health and applied sciences faculty. The role was varied, ranging from dealing with professional councils to training clinicians, staff and students with a focus on work-based learning and assessments. I was also involved with police apprenticeships, which got me involved with the Avon and Somerset police force, it was great fun working on some of their training exercises and it was good to see the kind of work they do a bit close up, it makes one appreciate all the effort that goes into that line of work and what they do for the community. The picture shows us filming a training session of an arrest.

Prior to that, I was a digital learning coach at Gloucestershire College for a few years. The role was to support academics in the use of technology for teaching and learning with the emphasis on CPD and coaching. So, most of the time I designed and delivered training sessions on the use of technology to all stakeholders. Pictured below was one of such sessions.

Training session

Training session

Before joining the education sector, I worked for a software company that built systems for the UK pharma industry as the company IT trainer and service analyst. I look forward to working on the Catalyst project and with the wider RAU colleagues. 

Resource Review workshop

As part of the design process for the new BSc (Hons) Rural Entrepreneurship & Enterprise, one of the new Catalyst programme courses, we were involved in a Resource Review workshop. The workshop was facilitated by Kate Lindsay, Damien Turner, Sue Lowe and Sandra Scalzavara from the University College of Estate Management (UCEM) who are supporting us with the development of the Catalyst programmes.

A team working on the marketing module

A team of academics working on the marketing module

During the workshop the academics were asked to consider resources (text, audio, video, image, hyperlink, interactive activities, artefacts etc.) that already exist and think about repurposing them for programme modules using some different techniques.

For example they were asked to consider:

  • Is the resource relevant?
  • Is the resource available?
  • Is the resource reliable?
  • Is the resource current?
  • Is the resource scaffolded?

img_2484.jpgThe programme academics broke into teams and worked on an individual module with a Learning Technologist from UCEM. They were asked to place their suggested resources on a chart and consider their relevance to the module learning outcomes.

After thinking about what resources already exist, the academics used the remaining time to fill in the gaps with resources that need to be found or developed.

IMG_2488
Susan Baker, the RAU Library Operations Manager, also attended the workshop and provided an overview of the databases and e-library platforms that RAU has available for 2020. These include:

  • Business Source Premier (Ebsco)
  • Emerald Business & Management Journals
  • Science Direct
  • Other e-journal packages such as Wiley, Taylor & Francis, Sage
  • Marketline Advantage
  • Statista is a highly trustworthy source of data and statistics across a very broad range of industries. It also includes reports, dossiers, forecasts, infographics etc.

These resources can be searched via “Find It @ RAU” on the Library page on Gateway.

A team of academics working on the entrepreneurship module

A team of academics working on the entrepreneurship module

The session worked really well and by the end of the two hours we had a clear overview of what resources can be used in the to be developed modules. This overview of resources will be used in the oncoming Design Workshops to further develop these modules.

New Learning Technologist needed!

Would you like to join our merry team? Fancy working in a small specialist institution where you can make a huge amount of difference and get involved in lots of interesting areas of work? Are you a creative, team player who is interested in course design, multimedia and all things learning tech?

RAU in daffodils

RAU in the spring

The Royal Agricultural University have a vacancy for a new Learning Technologist to work on development of the Catalyst programme of blended learning courses.

If you are interested take a look at the key responsibilities and person specification in the briefing pack.

Closing date for applications is 12th November 2019 with interviews on 20th November 2019.

Creating 360˚ virtual tours

Using H5P, one of the tools available on Gateway (Moodle, our VLE), you can easily create 360˚ virtual tours: a collection of 360˚ photos, which you can add texts, videos, pictures, links and multiple choice questions to. A 360˚ photo is a photograph which allows you to look in each direction.


Virtual soil, air and water tour

virtual tour

An example 360˚ virtual tour, developed by Dr. Felicity Crotty and Chantal Schipper for Catalyst module “4410 Making a positive impact on the natural environment and rural economy”, can be tried out via the link below:

Creating a virtual tour is surprisingly easy to do. All you need is:

  • A smartphone with the free Google Streetview app installed
  • A tripod with smartphone grip (can be borrowed from ITS if needed)
  • The H5P virtual tour content builder, which is already available on Gateway (our Moodle Virtual Learning Environment – VLE)

Check out the steps below to learn how to create a virtual tour.


Step 1: Planning your virtual tour

Before you go out and take photos, take a moment to think about:

  • What do you want the students to learn from this?
  • What 360˚ photos will you need to take?
  • What information (text, images, videos or links) will you need to give students to be able to achieve the learning outcomes?
  • What questions could you ask to allow students to check their learning?

Check your diary to select a time when you want to take the photo(s) and ask a Learning Technologist if the kit is available. A Learning Technologist may also be able to take the photo(s) for you. If you’re taking photographs outside, check the weather beforehand so it’s not raining.


Step 2: Taking the photographs

streetview

Once you are on location to take your photo(s), set up the tripod with the smartphone rig and insert your smartphone. Note that your smartphone must be kept in portrait mode (upright) for it to work in H5P.

Open up the Google Streetview app and click on the Camera icon on the bottom-right. Follow the instructions on the screen – you will be asked to point the camera at a collection of dots on the screen. Make sure you do not move the tripod until the 360˚ photo is complete, as this may cause odd seams in your 360˚ view.

Once the icon at the bottom turns green, click on it to save your 360˚ photo to your smartphone. You will be able to check your 360˚ photo once it has finished processing. There is no need to upload the photo to Google Maps – just save it on your smartphone.

You are able to combine multiple 360˚ photos together to create a tour of an area.

A video tutorial on using Google Streetview to create 360˚ photos can be viewed below:


Step 3: Creating your tour with information and questions

Before opening up Gateway, hook up your phone to your computer to copy the 360˚ photo(s) from your phone’s photo album (most modern phones have a USB plug in the charger). Alternatively, you could email the photo(s) to yourself from the phone’s photo album, then save them on your computer.

Then, log in to Gateway and go to the module you want to add your virtual tour to. Click on “Turn editing on”, then “Add an Activity or Resource”. Select “Interactive content” (black H5P icon) and click “Add”.

From this step, you will be able to follow the instructions on the H5P Virtual tour tutorial available here:

Once you have finished creating your virtual tour, scroll down to the bottom of the page and select “Save and display”. Do a run-through of your virtual tour to check for any mistakes. If you need to edit your virtual tour, go to the Administration block on the right and select “H5P > Edit settings”,

For any support, please don’t hesitate to contact one of the RAU Learning Technologists (Chantal Schipper, Aurelie Soulier or Marieke Guy).

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.

 

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

Sim Venture Evolution – the immersive experience of running a virtual company

How can you run a company and not worry about bankruptcy? Sim Venture!

At the RAU we already use Sim Venture Classic – the server-based business simulation game from Venture Simulations. As part of the development of our Catalyst programme courses we are looking at Sim Venture Evolution – a cloud based business simulation and strategy. Earlier today we had a visit from Lesley Strachan, Learning and Development manager at SimVenture, to show us how the system can be used to support businesses courses and facilitate learning.

Lesley Strachan - Learning and Development manager SimVenture

Lesley Strachan – Learning and Development manager SimVenture

Lesley spent time showing us how the software could be used within a course to allow students to start up their own business and test out ideas.

There is quite a lot of preparatory work to be carried out by academics and facilitators and they need to think about some of the following areas:

  • Which scenario do you want to go for? Create a business from scratch, use start up (bicycle scenario), grow a business to 10 years old?
  • Should it be run weekly? As a one-day event? As a competition?
  • What about teams? Or individuals?
  • How do you assess?

In the session we were provided with user logins and Lesley gave us a couple of team tasks to work through. We began by looking at 5 core skills areas (training ground, promotions, production, pricing, borrowing) and we then set up our own companies and competed to make the most profit.

Main dashboard

Main dashboard

Sim Venture comes with a comprehensive set of resources including over 120 single page case studies. The data from student sessions can be exported into excel and used in a variety of different supplementary ways.

It’s clear that Sim Venture Evolutions could prove to be a very useful tool for the Catalyst programme. We will be investigating using it on MBA modules and during the residential session.

IMG_8929.JPG

Creating a bicycle company in Sim Venture Evolutions

Catalyst show and tell day

Yesterday was a Catalyst show and tell day looking at our second batch of modules in development.

For those who are unfamiliar with the Catalyst project it involves the development of four innovative blended learning programmes for the University. You can see our previous blog posts on work so far.

During this all day session module leaders shared their work so far, giving us a virtual tour of module content and activities.

Learning Technologist Aurelie Soulier outlines the dissertation supervision plans for Catalyst

Learning Technologist Aurelie Soulier outlines the dissertation supervision plans for Catalyst

With modules ranging from ‘Improving your financial decision-making skills’ and ‘Making sense of a changing world’, to ‘Facing the global challenges in food and agriculture’ and ‘Managing your food and agri-business supply chains’ there was some really varied and exciting content.

Interactive time line of the history of agriculture in the UK

Interactive time line of the history of agriculture in the UK

We’ve made good use of tools like H5P, Answer Garden, Mahara, Padlet, Panopto and moodle activities to ensure that the end result is a highly interactive experience for the user.