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


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).

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.


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:-


Mahoodle 2019

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


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.


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:

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:

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: 

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

Sam recommended Kristina Hoeppner’s slides:

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:

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:

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


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

Rollover, rollover..

In the summer holidays we will be ‘rolling over’ our moodle site (Gateway). This process involves some key activities. Firstly we will be upgrading moodle itself and all connected services. Then we will be creating new blank module pages and new blank programme pages. There will also be some minor changes to the look and feel of Gateway.

I thought it might be useful to explain what is involved in the process.

Some background

The RAU has used moodle as its main Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) software for 7 years now. The service is known by staff and students as Gateway and is used for all taught courses with on-site teaching. Gateway consists of a main live site and a demo site, both run on a university server. The service is supported with consultancy effort from VLE Middleware, part of The Development Manager (TDM).

In the past, updates to the version of moodle used have been inconsistent and only made when absolutely necessary. Teaching staff were given little guidance on the layout and content required for their module and course pages.

At the start of the 2017/18 academic year, in an attempt to apply a level of consistency, a new tabbed template was released for all module pages. At the same time it was also decided that students would in future be able to access previous years’ module pages to help them with their academic studies and revision. Both changes have been (on the whole) well-received by staff and students.


One of our proposed layouts for the front page of Gateway

A new Gateway maintenance plan

We are now planning a more systematic and strategic approach to the use and development of Gateway.

The proposed approach has a number of elements

1. Gateway maintenance week

This will be an annual week of maintenance to take place after the end of the summer term, post results. It will involve an upgrade of moodle to the most recent Long Term Stable Release (LTSR). Note that LTSR versions are designed to be supported for a longer than normal period. Upgrades will also be carried out (if required) on services that integrate with moodle, such as Turnitin, Panopto and Talis Aspire.

2. Introduce a standard format for programme pages

For 2018-19, a new, standard format for course pages is to be introduced.

3. Preparation for Gateway rollover.

Prior to rollover, all recommended changes to module and course page templates will be agreed with Registry and academic staff, as will any changes to the Gateway Baseline (see below) and support and guidance for the new templates will be developed.

4. Gateway Baseline

The Gateway Baseline establishes the minimum standards expected of taught courses with a VLE presence. The Baseline is intended to ensure consistent course structure and navigation; consistent content location and format; effective communication and clear guidance for electronic submission, assessment and feedback. It is supported with online resources and an exemplar Gateway page.

5. Gateway rollover

At the end of Gateway maintenance week, a rollover process will be carried out. This process involves rolling over all the previous year’s pages into an archive folder and creating the new pages for the new academic year. The process will take place once all final changes to modules have been agreed by AQSC.

6. Page update by academics

After Gateway rollover has taken place academics will be in a position to update their new module and course pages in preparation for the new academic year. They will also be required to update their RAU Resource Lists and create their online assessments. Training and support will be provided. A rationale for the use of blank templates is provided at the end of this post.

7. Monitoring of page updates

Prior to the start of the academic year reports will be run to indicate new Gateway pages for the academic year that have yet to be updated. Teaching staff who have not updated their page content will be given extra support.

Each year a calendar will be provided detailing the time frame for all the above elements.

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Mahoodle for digital assessment

Today Rachael Foy (senior lecturer, RAU) and I attended the Mahoodle for digital assessment one-day conference at Cranfield Defence and Security (CDS), part of Cranfield University, based at the Ministry of Defence establishment at Shrivenham.

Cranfield University, along with Southampton Solent University, have been a little like RAU’s big sibling in our VLE transformation process. They have been metaphorically holding our hand, inspiring us and offering us support and guidance throughout – for which we are very grateful. This one-day event looking at moodle and Mahara, both open-source tools that we use at RAU, was something weren’t going to miss.

The day comprised of a good mix of plenaries, show and tells and workshops.

Keynote: Overview of the Erasmus-funded Academic Integrity project

Dr Mark Glynn (Dublin City University) gave us an overview of the 12 principles that they have established as part of their Academic integrity project. The principles will lead in to development of a toolkit which will include Case studies, self-assessment checklist, collation of resources.

Dr Mark Glynn, DCU

Mark also shared a whole heap of ‘giveaways’ including a rubric giveaway and an ebook on eportfolios.

Show and Tell Session 1

Aimee Helliker (Lecturer in Military Engineering Weapon & Vehicle Systems, Cranfield University) explained how she has managed to get students engaged prior to the start of their module using a few minor tweaks. She has change the term ‘pre-reading’ to ‘pre-work’ and explains that the student needs to dedicate time to the module before they start. She has also been more explicit about the reading required and gives clearly directed reading which involves identification of chapters considered using formative assessment consisting of a pre-work quiz and pre-work reflective question given within the opening lecture.

Roger Emery (Head of Learning Technologies, Southampton Solent University) and Edd Bolton (Learning Technologist, Southampton Solent University) provided an overview of their recent work on their myportfolio Mahara system. SmartEvidence allows you to work with competency frameworks in Mahara and associate them automatically with an evidence map for a visualisation of the competencies already gained, in progress, and not yet started. At Solent they have created templates for Competency based frameworks developed with JSON files.

Jane Watts and Mike Wadley from the Defence Academy elearning team talked about some of the security challenges of working in the MOD in relation to their Virtual Learning Environment. So for example they can’t allow upload of materials by students or marking online and assessments need to be locked down. The site also needs to pass penetration tests. This year’s approach has been implementation of an assessor role which will ensure that all assignments are classified officially.

Steve Powell (e-learning team leader, Lancaster University) presented their new approved policy of 100% online submission and paperless feedback. The policy is supported by a move to Moodle assignments away from use of Turnitin.

Steve Powell, Lancaster University

Steve Powell, Lancaster University

Bob Ridge-Stearn (head of e-learning, Newman University) gave an overview of how Newman have applied a lock down approach to their moodle assignments – they all have the same settings. Academics can flag that they would like assignments to be set up different but this is controlled centrally by elearning.

Portfolio Assessment Workshop

Portfolio Assessment Workshop

After lunch and an amazing tour of the Technology School (think big tanks, helicopters and guns!) Aurélie Soulier and Sam Taylor (Learning Technologists, Cranfield University) ran their Portfolio Assessment Workshop. They had us designing an assessment that could be used to road test their Evaluation Checklist.

Assessment toolkit

Joey Murison (Catalyst IT Europe) then gave a demonstration of the key new features in moodle 3.5 and Mahara 18.04. He wins the award for the best analogy of the day: “open source is free, like a puppy – it needs food and water and love”. Joey’s main suggestion was that we aim to go for Long Term Stable Releases (LTSR) if possible, these versions are designed to be supported for a longer than normal period. The next LTSR of moodle is 3.5, which is out fairly soon. The recent versions of moodle have had relatively few additions due to the main focus being on GDPR compliance.

Show and Tell Session 2

Richard Oelmann (Senior System Developer, University of Gloucestershire) demonstrated their progress in SITS and moodle integration and Submission from Mahara into moodle.

Dan Jefferies (Improve International) gave a whirlwind demo of user tours, which allows administrators to create visual and positional step by step guides of moodle. He also showed us snippets, a plugin which allows administrators to add text, layouts, buttons and other content from templates directly into moodle HTML areas.

Andrew Field (e-learning manager, Cambridge Assessment International Education) talked about rubrics, badges and their custom plugin team project which allows team submissions. They will be releasing later on in the year.

Gill Ritchie (Learning Technologist, Queen Mary University of London) gave an honest account of her experiences in using Mahoodle for assessment. They have been using it on the PGCAP they run which is attended by Learning Technologists. They’ve had mixed results and many people have found Mahara hardgoing. The single column view use (see below) being a good example of a fail.


Gill Ritchie, QM

Brett Lucas (e-learning Policy and Change Manager, Queen Mary University of London) and Rumi Begum (Learning Technologist, Queen Mary University of London) shared their QMUL Model which is an initiative to broaden opportunities for Queen Mary undergraduates within by allowing them to study modules outside of their main curriculum. The model is built around networking; multi- and inter-disciplinarity; international/global perspectives and enterprising perspectives. They are using Mahara as the main portfolio tool.

The final session of the day was the Mahoodle Clinic facilitated by Roger Emery (Southampton Solent University). The questions are all available on Padlet.

A great day with lots of ideas to keep us busy!