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!

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.

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.

gateway-home

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.

IMG_3795

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!

moodlemoot 2018

I’ve just returned from the Ireland and UK Moodle Moot held in Glasgow, Scotland. moodle is our virtual learning environment and as I’ve explained in previous posts we are keen to make better and more effective use of it. This means moving from its use as a repository of learning materials to an engaging learning tool that effectively facilitates student interaction and allows delivery of our blended learning courses. Moodle does seem to be up for the job. As a well-established open source tool it has a large community of developers and users all working towards it’s goal: “to give the world the most effective platform for learning”.

Martin Dougiamas opens the moot

Martin Dougiamas opens the moot

Martin Dougiamas, moodle founder and CEO delivered the opening plenary (and facilitated quite a lot of the sessions). He covered how moodle is focused on supporting the Sustainable development Goals, a collection of 17 global goals set by the United Nations. Each goal has specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years. Goal 4 covers Quality Education. Martin explained how moodle has been at an inflection point (the increased uptake of other VLEs may be a contributing factor here) leading the team to talk to investors. They have finally opted to partner with Education for the many, an investment company owned by the Decathlon sports store who have invested 6 million dollars in the company.

This further investment is allowing Moodle to work on two key areas:

  • The Learn moodle project – building a curriculum to aid users (teachers, lecturers etc.) in learning to teach online delivered in mulltilingual courses with certifications and accreditation. Learn moodle will be aligned under DigCompEdu, a European commission digital competencies framework.
  • The moodlenet project – building an online community around moodle that will replace the moodle.org forums and will be the place in which to share all moodle resources, ideas and developed tools. Moodlenet will sit between tech and pedagogy and will unite developers and users.
The venue for moodlemoot: Technology and Innovation Centre, Strathclyde University

The venue for moodlemoot: Technology and Innovation Centre, Strathclyde University

The moot covered many important areas but the key takeaways for me were:

GDPR – Moodle 3.5 out in May 2018 will bring new security features for GDPR compliance. In the meantime there are two plugins that will help with ensuring that the VLE and its users offer clarity on how user data is used. At RAU we are in the process of upgrading Moodle and will have these plugins working soon. However creating more online content brings more GDPR considerations such as video rights, discussion forum content etc.

Plugins – so many to choose from and many interesting ideas to help us deliver our blended learning courses. The ones I hope we will look at soon are: BigBlueButton (for communication with remote users), Intelliboard (for analytics), H5P (see below) and Lifecycle (to organise courses).

H5P is where it is at! – H5P allows you to create, share and reuse interactive HTML5 content in your browser. Although its intergration with Moodle isn’t perfect (for example you can’t link it to moodle quizzes so some data can be lost) it is a very powerful interactive tool for video, quizzes etc.

Look and Feel – Moodle can look incredibly slick if you have the know how: themes, CSS and the rest. We also need to investigate user tours, tags, global search and quite a lot of other things. A version upgrade will help here.

Good practice – Moodlers like to share and there are a lot of course sites that we can look at (e.g. Orange county) and demo sites we can explore (thanks to DCU here). The 3E framework for moodle is a good place to start. Learn moodle is a FutureLearn MOOC that runs every 6 months – next one starts in June.

Accessibility – moodle is accessible by default (the Atto editor brought in a few years ago has an inbuilt accessibility checker) but we could be better. This may mean better support for those creating content, creating subtitles on videos or making more use of timing overrides for special needs students.

IMG_3341

All in all it was a great conference. Some really interesting sessions on gamification, blended learning, learning analytics and accessibility. I also met lots of moodlers who were very keen to help us with specific issues – now or in the future – I’m definitely going to take them up on that offer!

moodle

Focusing on the VLE

As discussed before on this blog Jisc have been conducting a light-touch review of our Virtual Learning Environment (Gateway). The review has looked at areas including student engagement, curriculum delivery and accessibility.

Last week Zac Gribble and John Sumpter from Jisc visited the campus to run a series of focus groups with staff and students looking at what works and what could be improved with our digital delivery. The will be delivering a report with recommendations for improvements.

Students talking to the Jisc team about Gateway

Students talking to the Jisc team about Gateway

The Jisc team enjoyed meeting the focus group attendees and were impressed with our Gateway content.

John Sumpter commented that: “RAU are in a good starting position for taking things forward” and that “reviewing your VLE use is an ongoing activity that compliments your digital strategy”.

Staff in the VLE focus group session

Staff in the VLE focus group session

 

Reviewing our VLE

When I was at university in the mid 90s there wasn’t a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). I seem to remember file stores and floppy disks galore but no central repository of learning resources.We just carried everything around with us – and bad luck if you lost anything!

The actual term VLE was first coined in the late 90s (by whom I cannot tell?) but in the US the descriptor Learning Management Systems (LMS) has always been more prevalent. Wikipedia offers an indepth history of VLEs for those interested.

Today VLEs are a given at Higher Education institutions. The 2016 UCISA TEL survey found that 100% institutions who participated had some form of VLE with the split being roughly 50:50 between open-source Moodle and Blackboard, other platforms barely got a mention. The 2017-18 survey is now underway and we are likely to see a new generation of VLEs, like Canvas, making headway. At RAU we have had a Moodle system for over 7 years – we call our VLE Gateway. On the whole we are happy with what we have, but as is often the case we feel we could be doing more to engage students, encourage academics and support our digital delivery.

Enter the new Jisc VLE review service. It’s not well advertised yet but as part of a provider’s subscription Jisc will review their learning environment for them. The VLE review will help us to “understand how our platform is being used, what areas could be flagged as best practice, in addition to highlighting barriers and challenges that are preventing your staff and students from getting the best of your VLE. The process will review: Curriculum delivery, Communication & Collaboration, Content management, Student Administration, and Technical. This approach helps identify and put in place the process, tools and digital capabilities necessary to meet learners’ needs. Furthermore, It’s a useful tool to build a business case for changes in IT infrastructure, staff development activity and create an ongoing mechanism for dialogue between departments“. [Jisc’s words]

The Jisc team have been allocated user accounts and will be spending time in our VLE looking at it from a student and staff perspective. They are also coming on site in mid-March and will be running focus groups and interviews with students, staff and those involved in the technical delivery of Gateway.

A course module in Gateway

A course module in Gateway

The plan is not to change our VLE – though many providers are doing that. The aforementioned 2016 UCISA survey found that over half of the institutions which responded had conducted evaluation reviews over the last two years. The plan is to make what we have more user friendly, more engaging and just…better! Easy right?! 😉

TEL Pages on Gateway

We are in the process of developing some Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) pages on Gateway – the RAU’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). These pages will hopefully be the first port of call for teaching staff wanting to embed technology in their learning and teaching.

TEL-picThe TEL pages on Gateway

Currently the pages include the following tabs:

  • What is TEL? – An explanation of what TEL is and some key concepts.
  • Technology Tools – A list of over 30 tools that can be used by teaching staff inside and outside the classroom.
  • Support – Information on where you can get support from and which RAU staff can help.
  • Lesson Ideas – Includes a lesson bank of ideas based on activity by RAU staff. This is a growing resource that will be developed over time.
  • Conferences – Interesting events and conferences that could offer ideas for learning and teaching staff.
  • Inspiration – A selection of great resources to get people inspires – all shared in Padlet.
  • Pedagogy – Information on pedagogy and TEL.

If you are interested in contributing some content to the pages do let us know. Note that you will need to have an RAU account to access the pages on Gateway.

TEL-inspirationTEL inspiration on Padlet