Module design on the Catalyst project


2½ years ago the RAU, in collaboration with UCEM and CCRI, started on the development of four new postgraduate and undergraduate programmes in what’s called the “Catalyst project”. The new programmes are designed to stimulate and support enhanced leadership in the land management and agri-food sectors, especially suited to the post-Brexit era that meets the unprecedented combination of challenges posed by the rapidly changing political, economic and natural environments.

The first stage of the Catalyst project was to write the programme and module specifications. The programmes have been created in conjunction with CCRI and RAU’s industry partners, including the National Trust, Waitrose and National Farmers’ Union, to carefully tailor the programmes to meet skills gaps and respond to changes in industry trends.

Once the specifications were in place, the Learning technology team worked on developing processes for the pedagogical and technical design and development of the programmes and modules.


Development of processes

Prior to starting module development we worked with UCEM, who specialise in online education, to develop processes for the design of our modules, taking best practices in pedagogy and online learning into account. Extensive research and conversations with other education organisations has gone into the development of module templates, design processes and academic training.


Postgraduate programmes development process

During the second stage of the Catalyst project, we developed two online postgraduate programmes: MBA Innovation in Sustainable Food and Agriculture and MSc Sustainable Food and Agriculture Policy.

We designed a 12-week module design process, with “on-time” training sessions to support the academics in their design and development. This process has been adapted from UCEM’s module development processes and works in stages.

This process uses UCEM’s model named “Student Outcome Led Design (SOLD)”; meaning that the final assessment is designed first, focusing on assessing the module learning outcomes, and the module is designed to develop the skills the students need to complete the assessment.

To kick off the design and development of the modules, the Learning technology team hosts a “Start-up day”, a day-long workshop consisting of multiple stages:

  1. Introductory training in module design, accessibility, design processes, online learning tools.
  2. Module conversations based on question cards designed to stimulate the thought process and familiarisation with the module
  3. Assessment design based on the module’s learning outcomes
  4. Planning “themes” based on the learning outcomes and final assessment
  5. Planning formative assessments – working towards the final assessment
  6. Planning weekly “learning points” i.e. what will the students learn this week?

The Start-up day is hosted with around 6-7 module leads and two Learning technologists in a room to allow for easy sharing of ideas and experiences.

startup day

After the start-up day, the academics go and speak to colleagues, library etc. to gather ideas and resources for their module, prior to a 1-1 design & planning session with a Learning technologist to flesh out the content further into learning activities and to write an action plan for development. This module design is written out into a templated sheet for a Quality review meeting with the programme lead, an additional academic with an interest in the subject and where possible one of our external partners. This meeting is an open discussion to discuss the module design prior to its development.

Once the module design has gone through the Quality review, the module lead, contributors and the Learning technologists develop the online learning activities over the next 10 weeks. The Learning technology team provides academics with templated sheets to write their content in, so it’s ready to be turned into online learning activities and consistent with other modules on the programme. These templates have clear instructions for the academics and links to short training pages. During the whole process, each module has a lead Learning technologist the academics are able to contact when they get stuck, need guidance or would like to brainstorm ideas for an activity. The learning technologists will also create the activities on the VLE.

The full design templates document consists of five steps:

  1. Learning outcomes and questions to think about
  2. Summative assessment(s)
  3. Themes: plan topics and put them in a logical order
  4. Learning points and activities: what will the students learn each week? What activities can be created for the students to learn that and how can they check their learning?
  5. Full activities: write out the content and gather resources and media, to be provided to a Learning technologist using a templated sheet.

During week 7 of the development stage, the Learning technology team hosts an informal “Show & Tell session”, where the module leads get to show off what they’ve done so far and share ideas with other academics going through the process.

Show and tell

In the final week of development, the Quality review team for the module comes together again to discuss the final result.

This process has been repeated twice to develop all modules on the post-graduate Catalyst programmes within an academic year. These programmes have now successfully run for their first year and the programme team has received great feedback from the students.


Adapting the process to development of new Undergraduate Catalyst programmes

The third stage of the Catalyst project consists of developing two Undergraduate programmes: BSc Rural Entrepreneurship and Enterprise and BSc Environment, Food and Society. These programmes are more campus-based and focus on innovative teaching methods as well as a proportion of online learning.

For this stage, we used the previous processes and adapted them based on lessons learned, as well as redesigning the templates to work for campus-based teaching. Additionally, we combined our previous processes with UCL’s ABC Learning design methods.

To adapt to the Covid-19 situation, we’ve had to scrap our Start-up days and are now using an online version of UCEM’s Design jam model on a module-by-module basis. For each module, we schedule in an initial three-hour Design jam with two Learning technologists, the module lead and one or two academics with an interest in the subject. As we are all currently working from home, we are using MS Teams and Sharepoint to facilitate the Design Jams: we use a Teams call to be able to discuss and share ideas as a group, while we all have a synchronously updated Word template opened up on Sharepoint to write out the ideas we have for the module design.

The Design Jam consists of a few stages:

  1. Introduction to the process by a Learning technologist
  2. Module basics: Learning outcomes and questions to think about before designing your module
    Module basics
  3. Writing the summative assessment task(s)
  4. Learning overview: weekly topics, learning points (what will the students learn this week) and opportunities to check student learning. Academics are asked to highlight the relevant learning outcomes for each week.
  5. Learning design: the activities, media and resources to be used or created for each week. Activities are designed within four to five weekly stages: Online introduction, Online lecture, Online activities, Face-to-face seminar and Online knowledge check (optional). UCL’s ABC learning design method is used at this stage to provide an even balance of activity types: Acquisition, Collaboration, Discussion, Investigation, Practice and Production.
  6. Action planning: an action register is created for the development of the module.

After the Design jam, the academics have some time to discuss their ideas with colleagues, library etc. The module lead, collaborators and Learning technologists work according to the action plan to develop their content. The programme team regularly comes together to check progress and quality of each module.

These programmes will run starting from September ’20.


The future

Over the last two years, academics and Learning technologists have learned a lot about online teaching & learning and learning design. A lot of the lessons we have learned during the project have been heavily used during the pivot to online for all RAU programmes when the Covid lockdown started.

Academics who have taken part in the Catalyst project are already using what they’ve learned and the design processes for the modules they run on other programmes. We plan on further expanding the use of the processes to all new and old RAU programmes.

Unprecedented times

Like most other HEIs we are moving the vast majority of our teaching online due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Here are the key activities we have undertaken.

Running training sessions for all our staff (academic and professional services)

Last week we ran the following training sessions for staff. All sessions were recorded. We have also made a series of shorter videos covering key areas.

  • MS Teams: chatting with and phoning a colleague in the cloud
  • Gateway (Moodle): uploading files, using forums, organising, checking student work (reports) and where to find help
  • Turnitin: setting up an assessment portal
  • Turnitin: marking assessments and adding grades to Quercus
  • Panopto: recording and/or live streaming a lecture
  • Panopto: using video assignments
  • Zoom: hosting live lectures (with student response), seminars, tutorials and 1-1 sessions
  • Analytics and tracking your students’ activities (Panopto and Gateway/Moodle)
  • MS Teams: hosting live lectures (with student response), seminars, tutorials and 1-1 sessions
  • Gateway (Moodle): Creating & marking quizzes (online tests)
Chantal running a training session for academics

Chantal running a training session for academics

Providing explicit guidance for academics on moving our courses online

We have been proving guidance on our baseline requirements for each module. These are:

  • Pre-recorded lectures for each scheduled lecture – using Panopto.
  • A set of PowerPoint slides as used in the lecture.
  • An opportunity for further consideration of the lecture topics through an interactive session (‘seminar’). This activity could be carried out using an online forum (Moodle forum), an online discussion (Teams or Zoom) or another means.
  • Clear guidance for students on weekly activities by programme.

These activities are supported by the following tools:

  • Moodle – Moodle activities and H5P
  • Panopto
  • MS Office 365 – in particular Teams
  • Zoom
  • RAU Resource Lists – Talis Aspire

There have also a couple of other pieces of work to support online delivery:

  • ensuring that resources (ebooks,  journals etc.) can be accessed off site and that we have the right licences in place
  • ensuring that we make the most of existing analytics to monitor student engagement. We are currently setting all module pages up have activity completion turned on and are adding are setting up reports to help academic check their students’ engagement with module content.

Co-ordinating our approach for assessment online

There is a small working group looking at assessment and online delivery.  We have spent considerable time data gathering so we have detailed information about all the assessments across all modules, programmes, levels. The next step will be to produce an overview of what alternatives/options we should/could consider.

All information is being communicated to staff and students.

Enabling our staff to work from home

Considerable effort has been put in to enable as many staff to work from home. This has been  supported by:

  • Purchasing of laptops
  • Setting up a VPN for all staff to use
  • Training – face-to-face and video content, and guidance materials
  • Ensuing our IT Service Desk activities can be managed centrally and run from anywhere

All activity has been aided by significant sharing of information among the wider Learning Technology and IT communities. We feel that we are now in a relatively good place to get through the next couple of months, providing the Internet holds up!

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:



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



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.



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!