Tel Tales

Adventures in Technology Enhanced Learning @ UoP

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The Amazon menu is magical

 

Tom Cripps I’m somebody who gets distracted easily. Sometimes this can get in the way of what I need to do, but sometimes, just sometimes, it pays off. This is one of those times.

I’m sure all of you have heard of amazon.co.uk the online purveyor of anything imaginable. What I noticed while I was browsing their site the other day totally distracted me from what I was searching for, to the point that I’m still not sure what it was I was trying to buy! Their product menu is so well thought out it’s almost magical, real Harry Potter level stuff:

amazon_menu_gif

Simply put, it’s just good design, and something you wouldn’t normally notice – when you hover over the main menu on the left-hand side, it changes content in the panel on the sub-menu on the right-hand side.

A potential problem arises when you need to get your cursor from the bottom of the left-hand list to the top of the right-hand list. Your most direct path takes you over some of the other items in the main menu, which should then change the content in the right-hand list you are aiming for – but this is where the magic comes in!

The menu detects which direction your cursor is travelling and prevents the main-menu, and in turn the sub-menu, from switching. If however you pause, or change the direction your cursor is travelling, it ‘unlocks’ the main menu again and allows it to change. You can watch this in action above (and maybe even have a go yourself!).

Lynda.com

 
Adrian Sharkey

Lynda.com is an online learning platform that offers thousands of e-learning courses (mostly video, but it includes downloadable materials, exercises and manuals). The vast range of courses cover business, software, technology and creative skills. The courses are delivered by recognised industry experts and are of the highest quality. Lots of the courses offered map directly to courses offered by the University, for example, programming, 3D design, photography, digital marketing, video production software and many more, as well as general software and business skills for employability and continuous professional development.

Having worked in training for a number of years, Lynda.com is a tool I’ve been aware of for a long time. Whenever I’ve had a chance to look at it and compare it with similar tools I’ve always been impressed with the range and quality of courses available. What was difficult, was justifying the cost of buying Lynda.com licenses to support the role of a relatively small IT Training team.

The last couple of years has seen ‘digital capabilities’ rise on the agenda for Higher Education (to be covered in a future blog post). The government and agencies like Jisc and UCISA have been emphasising the role universities have in meeting the digital skills gap and conferences have been promoting the digital capability framework and methods of meeting its requirements. One topic kept recurring and was the subject of a few presentations – the use of Lynda.com by universities. With increasing numbers of universities (now 70% in the UK) using Lynda.com, it suddenly seemed a viable option.

After gathering some interest from around the University I was given the go-ahead to submit an investment proposal in 2016 and aimed to match up the benefits of Lynda.com with the University and Education strategies. This meant showing how Lynda.com could be used to help provide a flexible digital environment, accessible anytime from any device, develop employability skills and support Continuing Professional Development (CPD). It also supports distance learners and can be used to extend and enhance the use of other digital resources by raising awareness and providing training for under-utilised tools such as Webex.

At this point, pre-launch, a number of us from around the University are working to get Lynda.com ready for students and staff to use in the new academic year. It has great potential to make a difference and enhance teaching and learning. It gives students and staff:

  • Unlimited access – more than 5000 video tutorials covering business, creative and technology topics.
  • Relevant recommendations – explore the most in-demand skills based on your interests.
  • Expert instructors – learn from industry leaders, all in the one place.
  • Convenient learning – access courses at your convenience, from any desktop or mobile device.

To be really successful, staff and students need to be engaged and using Lynda.com embedded in the curriculum. The ability to share playlists and publish courses through Moodle helps with this, with the potential for flipping the classroom and changing the way contact time is used makes things very exciting. Independent learning and opportunities for students and staff around employability and CPD are greatly increased.

Around the launch there will be articles on UoP News, you’ll see posters in the open access areas and briefing sessions will be organised. The aim is to have Lynda.com available for staff early in August and for students when they start the new term. There will be ongoing support from DCQE and IT Training. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me.

Lynda.com Google Community
@adrianjsharkey

Adrian Sharkey has recently joined the TEL Team from IS for a 12 month secondment. Adrian is working with TEL, the Library and other stakeholders to support digital literacy of staff/students around the university. A particular focus will be on how to make best use of Lynda.com, for which we will soon have a site license.

Welcome to the team, Adrian! 🙂

Is learning inevitable? Are teachers an essential part of the process?

 
Shaun Searle

Is now the right time to question our role in education?

In my previous role of ICT Co-Ordinator within local primary schools, one of the key components of my job was to source and purchase new technology for the school. I know the University are making large capital investments, one such example is the £11 million Future Technology Centre. With ever decreasing budgets and tightening of the purse strings, I had to research and plead my case, attend numerous Senior Leader and Governor meetings to stress how vital this technology was for learning and for future attendees of the school. There were many hoops to jump through and numerous games to play just to get a fraction of the budget I had bid for. So you can imagine my reaction when at a headteachers conference I was sat on a table with a very proud Headteacher who had just spent a large amount of money on 60 iPads with the aim to eventually ensure every child has one in the school. When quizzed on the reasoning behind this strategy, what confounded me was how little thought seemed to be behind this. Now there may have been an ICT Co-Ordinator working tirelessly in the background, who had a detailed 5-year plan to modernise the school but this wasn’t shared by the headteacher. “We haven’t thought that far yet!” “They can access the internet in class.” and “They can use them instead of writing in books!” as if the technology automatically is “better” than pencil and paper were later offered as reasons.

There is a lot of research and evidence that backs up the use of mobile technology in the classroom and it is my view that educators can use technology to support the learning of any subject. As is the importance of bringing the technology to the hands of the students rather than them having to trundle off to the antiquated computer suite. It did get me thinking about the technology first/pedagogy second approach.

Steve Wheeler

Steve Wheeler is Associate Professor of Learning Technologies at the Plymouth Institute of Education where he chairs the Learning Futures group and leads the Computing and Science education teams. Within his widely renowned educational blog Learning with e’s, he asked the question: What is Digital Learning? I would certainly recommend reading it but he does come up with two huge statements within it that bear thinking about. Firstly “Learning is learning. Whether you use technology or not is relative. Using the tools and technologies will enable you to connect with more content and peers, more quickly and effectively. However, learning without technology is also a reality for all of us”  before hitting home with the notion: “Here’s the bottom line: Learning will happen if the conditions are right, and it will happen whether teachers and technology are present or not.”

My background in both training staff in Primary and Higher Education is to promote the educator’s role as being one of the facilitator and technology is medium through which this is channeled or amplified. However, with the premise of flipped classrooms, student led research and truly constructivist approaches where students not educators dictate the direction that their learning takes (which in turn leads to new and unforeseen outcomes) – Do we educators overestimate our importance to the process?

Sugata Mitra

A few years ago I was fortunate enough to be in the audience for Sugata Mitra’s address at the Hampshire ICT conference where he discussed his Hole in the Wall research project. I would thoroughly recommend watching his 2010 TED talk where he outlines how he placed a computer with the internet in the slums and observed how children with no prior knowledge and poor English skills learnt on their own through a process of exploration, discovery and peer coaching when interacting with technology. He coined the term  Minimally Invasive Education which is a pedagogic method that uses the learning environment (or in this case a Learning Station) to generate motivation to induce learning with minimal or no intervention from a teacher. Further information about this can be found on the Hole-in-the-Wall website. While this study is aimed at younger students, I feel the research findings have merit with their Higher Education counterparts. The ability to access content, learn from it and most importantly retain it is enhanced, the overall academic improvement of the students and the close proximity to the performance of their peers who received formal computer education would certainly advocate a “let them loose with the technology” approach.

Final thoughts

We recently received a presentation from Chris Chang about the University’s policy on global engagement and it is fair to say that the makeup of our student intake is becoming increasingly diverse. It is not purely about what learning is imparted during lectures on campus, the use of Moodle as a supporting tool to encourage independent, self governed learning requires the pedagogists to think deeper about their audience and the intended learning outcomes. Distance Learners do not set foot on campus and do not get to see educators “in the flesh” but still are required to (and do) reach the same standard through further intuitive interactions such as webinars, forums and quizzes.  We are in a world where the modern student has unprecedented levels of access and connectivity with their peers around the world. Teachers/educators need to be fluid and change like the world around them. If the “way” in which we deliver education does not change then we may find ourselves in a world where our students or our institutions no longer need us to get to where they want to be.

 

Bespoke TEL Training Sessions

 
Mandy Harcup

During August and September, TEL (Technology Enhanced Learning) will only be offering bespoke training sessions as the normal training room will be out of action due to building works. The usual timetabled TEL training sessions will resume in October.

Bespoke sessions can be either 1-2-1 or group sessions.

Informal 1-2-1 sessions can be held at your desk, or if there are several of you interested in a session and you have a room available, you can request  a more structured group session. Topics for bespoke sessions can be based around our traditional TEL programme, or we can tailor the session to answer any specific questions or needs that you require.

Please complete a Bespoke Training Request form (see below) and simply tick the box next to the session you would like training on. If you tick ‘Other’ please give a brief explanation of the topic you wished to be covered in the session. Complete with the date on which you would like your training session to take place, along with your preferred time and finish it by clicking ‘SUBMIT’.

Please click here for the Bespoke Training Request form:

Bespoke Training Request Form

Once we receive your form, a member of  the TEL team will contact you to confirm your training arrangements.

To view the full description of our training sessions, please see the

TEL Training Calendar.

NB Bespoke TEL training sessions can also be arranged throughout the year.

Accessible documents – How easy it is to read your digital document?

 

What sort of question is that that you might ask – but to someone who is visually impaired and possibly using screen reader technology, documents can vary significantly in their usability. By creating documents with a few small changes it is possible to improve their usability for everyone.

When we download a file from a web page or receive an email attachment, the majority of us can do a quick visual scan of a document to find the information we want. However, if there is no structure (where a larger font size and bold text has been used for headings), those using a screen reader will need to read the whole document to find the relevant parts – a time consuming process with a long document. Searching for a particular word/words could also miss relevant information. Adding structure will make the whole document navigable – easily done by using styles to construct a hierarchy of headings that can then be used to create a table of contents.

It might seem a chore to have to set up styles before starting to write your document, but spending a few extra minutes creating styles for documents longer than a few pages could assist all readers, whether or not they are visually impaired. Once you have set up styles or modified existing default styles, you will then be able to save time in the future and use this file as a template for further documents.

Here are some of the most basic things you could do to make a document more accessible:

  • Use a clear sans serif font of at least 12 point such as Arial, Calibri or Helvetica
  • Use a hierarchy of heading styles to add structure to your document that will also enable easy creation of a table of contents:
    • heading 1 – title
    • heading 2 – chapters
    • heading 3 – sections
    • heading 4 – sub-sections
  • Create a table of contents for longer documents with sections
  • Avoiding adding a blank line at the end of paragraphs using a hard return on your keyboard – incorporate space after a paragraph using paragraph styles instead
  • Insert a page break at the bottom of a page rather than adding a few blank lines
  • Text that is aligned left and not justified is easier to read
  • Use high contrasting colours between text and the background
  • Reverse text (a light colour text on a dark background) is difficult to read so is best avoided
  • Busy backgrounds cause problems reading text so using a plain one is preferable
  • Use Alt Text (alternative text) for any images in your document to describe the feature for those using screen readers

Bearing these points in mind when creating a document should only take you a little extra time and just doing these few simple things could make a big difference in usability for the reader.

Some helpful links:

Ways to make your Word document more accessible:
http://webaim.org/techniques/word/

The Accessibility Color Wheel allows you to try out different text and background colours:
http://gmazzocato.altervista.org/colorwheel/wheel.php

Adding Alt Text to your Microsoft document:
https://support.office.com/en-gb/article/Add-alternative-text-to-a-shape-picture-chart-table-SmartArt-graphic-or-other-object-44989b2a-903c-4d9a-b742-6a75b451c669

Suggestions for creating accessible PDF documents:
www.gov.uk/guidance/how-to-publish-on-gov-uk/accessible-pdfs
https://helpx.adobe.com/acrobat/using/creating-accessible-pdfs.html

So, next time you start a new document, why not think about making it easier to read!

Colour Psychology – how colour can affect our learning

 
Marie Kendall-Waters

Have you ever attended a presentation and been shown a slideshow or walked down the street and been given a flyer and felt a little queasy at the colour use? Perhaps the colours don’t compliment each other, perhaps the colours used bleed into one another or the font colour is hard to read on the background colour, either way it doesn’t engage you – it has quite the opposite effect!

So why does colour use affect us so much?

Colour use is much more deeply-rooted in our daily lives then we tend to think about. Colour can affect our moods and behaviour and can have different meanings in different cultures. Choosing the ‘correct’ colours can either hinder learning or increase learning and this is why it is one of the major things we need to consider in instructional design.

How do I know what colours to use when designing?

Colours have stereotypical ways that they are interpreted, these are called colour associations. When designing it is important to understand colour associations, but also be aware that these aren’t the set rules to go by, as colour is also very dependant on the individual, their preferences and experiences.

Here are some examples of colour associations:

  • Blue – can represent trust, peace, order, and loyalty
  • Yellow – can represent happiness, fun, playful
  • Green – can represent nature
  • Black – can represent luxury and value
  • White – can represent freedom, spaciousness, and breathability

For me, I like to use a lot of white space in my designs, as I like a design to look ‘clean’ and I use pops of other colours to highlight important areas. As a learner I also find I am able to engage more if there isn’t too much colour distracting me.

Understanding the psychology of colour can help you when designing for students so it is important to look at colour associations and profiles when brainstorming ideas for a project where design is involved. I often use colours surrounding me in my everyday life to influence my decision on colour palettes. However if you do get stuck for inspiration there are always some useful tools online to help you, such as:

Here are some other useful sites which may help you when considering your choice of colour –

The psychology of colour particularly in elearning and instructional design:

https://elearningindustry.com/psychology-of-color-instructional-design

http://info.shiftelearning.com/blog/bid/348188/6-Ways-Color-Psychology-Can-Be-Used-to-Design-Effective-eLearning

Designing for colour-blindness:

www.visibone.com/colorblind/

Interesting article about colour use in brand design:

www.webpagefx.com/logo-colors/

Degree Apprenticeships

 

Wouldn’t it be great if you could work in your chosen profession whilst working towards a degree and not have to pay a penny toward tuition fees? Well, soon many will be able to do just that. In April 2017, the UK Government introduced the ‘Apprenticeship Levy’ in effort to encourage more people to take on an apprenticeship. The idea is that this will improve employee skill across a range of sectors whilst retaining them in the workplace environment.

All UK employers that have a total employee pay bill above £3m a year will pay the levy, which has been set at a rate of 0.5% of the employers pay bill. Employer’s eligible include the public and private sector, charities and education providers. Employers will get a £15,000 fixed annual allowance to offset against the levy payment, so for example, an Employer with a £3m pay bill would have a levy bill of £15,000. Therefore the allowance is offset against this so their levy payment would be £0.00. Employers will have the freedom to spend their money on apprenticeship training to meet their needs as they see fit, however funds will expire after 24 months so there is incentive for employers to use their levy fund.

For our University, and many other Higher Education institutions across the country,  we are going to need to work hard to develop and provide suitable courses for these new students. The most attractive courses will be those that can allow the student to obtain their degree without having to leave their workplace to attend lectures or study days, which would greatly benefit their employer. For this reason, the TEL team have been reading various literature to help piece together the best practices for creating distance learning courses that are taught entirely online.

The University of York provides a useful checklist as to how best to create and develop online distance courses and the key issues to consider. The main points of the checklist are as follows:

Planning & Team Formation

Have you:

  • Outlined a project plan and sought input from relevant advisory services?
  • Profiled your prospective students e.g. demographics, technical competence, time zones, prior experience of online learning?
  • Formed a project team and, where relevant, identified and signed up training required?
  • Resolved how any remote tutors will be trained?
  • Agreed roles within the project team i.e. who is responsible for site and content development, and who will be online at what frequencies to communicate with students and facilitate online activities?

Course design & development

Have you:

  • Used a structured design approach e.g. story-boarding to plan the course structure and learning design?
  • Evaluated online tools and identified the appropriate means to support design?
  • Devised active learning activities e.g. problem solving, case reports, journal writing, role playing and discussions to engage students?
  • Identified materials and resources to be written or adapted, as well as existing electronic resources (inc. copyright)?
  • Agreed a content development plan including responsibilities, milestones, and a deadline allowing for review prior to delivery?
  • Developed a style for format of materials e.g. template, optimised for on-screen reading with graphics etc.?
  • Set up a logical structure for online materials with clear headings that use student-friendly terminology?
  • Divided learning materials into manageable chunks or sections, in sequence, and clearly stated the learning outcomes for each?
  • Highlighted any plug-ins, readers or specialist software that are required for accessing online files that students will need to engage with and included links to download them?
  • Set up clear communication channels e.g. online discussion activities?
  • Balanced group and individual activities so students can still work at their chosen pace?
  • Provided self-assessments or other opportunities for students to consolidate after each section and check/self-diagnose their progress?
  • Identified a method for the submission of assignments and established how students will receive feedback e.g. by personal email
  • Set aside time to properly test your module as a student?

Student support

Have you:

  • Developed a student induction programme including instructions (perhaps sent by email) that enable students to master such tasks as online logging in, navigating and using key online tools e.g. blog, wiki?
  • Provided a prominent welcome and a “big picture” overview of the module?
  • Compiled introductory guidelines for students setting out:
    • Module outline?
    • Module timetable?
    • Staff contacts and expected turnaround times for responses?
    • Technical requirements for computers?
    • First points of contact for academic and technical help?
    • Reading lists inc. links to online library resources and student services?
  • Included a “Week 0” for addressing any access issues and for running online icebreaker activities to build confidence as well as begin to help generate a sense of student “community” (that fellow learners are also engaged in the process)?
  • Included guidance on how to approach studying online and also on being an independent learner? Such guidance might include online etiquette guidelines (language, “wiki wars”, copyright, file sizes etc.) and suggested frequency for logging in?
  • Integrated generic support materials where relevant e.g. information skills, plagiarism awareness tutorials, tool use hints?
  • Encouraged peer support groups or set up peer review activities within the module to encourage a supportive community?

Evaluation

Have you:

  • Established how you will gather feedback on the module? Such as:
    • Using entry and exit surveys to elicit students’ expectations and concerns about learning online and then follow-up questioning their actual experience in the module?
    • As an alternative, using an informal mid-module survey asking students what is helping their learning and what is most challenging for them, then using a formal evaluation at the end?

In terms of the best practices for teaching an online course, the information we found within ‘Best Practices in Online Teaching Strategies’ by the Hanover Research Council proved interesting. The HRC have summarised key practices in effective online teaching taken from VOCAL (Visible, Organized, Compassionate, Analytical, and Leader), which are the characteristics deemed most effective in online learning and teaching by John R. Savery. The key points are identified as below:

Visible

The online classroom differs from the traditional classroom in that text largely replaces in-person, face-to-face, verbal communication. This different dynamic makes it easier for students to feel as if the instructor is not participating in learning, thus making it more likely that students take a passive role as well. A lack of visibility may lead to students‘ critical attitudes of the instructor‘s effectiveness and lower levels of effective learning.

Visibility can be demonstrated through public and private communication channels, such as:

  • A section of the course website with personal and professional information about the instructor.
  • Timely return of assignments and feedback.
  • Regular course website updates and postings, and well as regular updates to a shared assignment calendar.
  • Mass and personal email communications with all students.

Organized

Because online learners generally choose to take an online course because they assume it will provide more flexibility for their busy schedules, they also need to know what is expected of them so that they can organize their time to meet course requirements. This increased time management responsibility of the learner also means that there is an increased organization responsibility on the instructor. In order to meet the needs of students, it is suggested that online instructors:

  • Require students to take an online self-assessment and report what they think are the characteristics of a successful online student.
  • Prepare syllabus and assignment due dates carefully and well in advance so that students know what to expect and when.
  • Prepare a documents of ―Do‘s and Dont’s for the course, including the rules of web etiquette, posting comments in discussion forums, and communicating concerns to the instructor.
  • Anticipate the need for a non-instructional venue for online discussions.
  • Use different formats for online resources and label each clearly so that students can select a format that is most useful to them (i.e. pdf, html, doc, ppt).
  • Fully use the capabilities of the available educational technology to enhance student learning.

Compassionate

Online environments can be surprisingly intimate, especially since email provides a combination of privacy and distance that does not exist in traditional classrooms. This intimacy increases the need for instructors to be compassionate of students‘ feelings and needs. This can be accomplished through:

  • Permission for students to communicate directly with the instructor.
  • Discussion forums in which students introduce themselves and provide personal information, or use ice-breaker techniques to get students to share personal information with each other.
  • Reminding, if necessary, student of the class expectations of conduct, participation, and the instructor‘s response to unanticipated problems.

Analytical

Instructors need to manage the online learning assignment to ensure that students are completing assignments and achieving learning outcomes. This includes the timely return of assignments as well as the analysis of student data. While many course management systems provide tools for assessment and analysis, it is the instructor‘s responsibility to determine if the assessment if appropriate to the subject. Suggested strategies include:

  • The use of smaller and more frequent assignments throughout the course to reduce test anxiety and provide learners with opportunities to process course concepts and content.
  • The use of satellite offices, if possible, to administer face-to-face exams.
  • Specify the format and file naming conventions for assignments submitted online to help easily organize and alphabetize assignments.
  • Provide opportunities for students to provide feedback on the course.
  • Provide clear expectations and guidelines for assessing participation.

Leader-by-Example

The online instructor sets the tone for student performance through teacher-student interactions. Consequently, instructors should attempt to model best practice strategies to assist student learning. Ways in which instructors can model good online learning and behavior

include:

  • Introductions in which the instructors shares personal information with students both formally and informally.
  • Model responsibility by returning assignments within the communicated established time period.
  • Model the right way students should communicate online.
  • Use public and private communication to ensure visibility.
  • Plan for and implement an activity at the end of the course that brings closure to the class, reinforces what was learning, and acknowledges the contributions of students.

What next?

There is a lot of information out there and we now need to work on creating our own Framework, so we as a University can be prepared for the development of these courses. Having this Framework in place will not just benefit those taking part in a degree apprenticeship, but also Home, EU and International students who are taking part in distance learning courses. Our aim is to give these new students the best experience possible, regardless of where they are based.

References:

Distance Learning Development Checklist, Elearning Development Team, University of York, 2011

Hanover Research Council, Best Practices in Online Teaching Strategies, 2009, Pg 8-10

John R. Savery. ―Be VOCAL: Characteristics of Success Online Instructors.‖ Journal of Interactive Online Learning. 4:2,Fall 2005. Pg. 141. 

New Units for Moodle 2017/18

 
Mandy Harcup

If you have already had approval for a new 2017/18 unit then you can start creating it now! All you have to do is complete the New Moodle Unit Request form on the Self Service portal (https://servicedesk.port.ac.uk/sw/selfservice/portal.php#home)

Sign in using your university login details, click on ‘Log a Service Request’.

From the ‘Log a Service Request’ page scroll down to the ‘Your Services’ block, where you’ll see the ‘Moodle Request’ icon.

Clicking on this icon will take you to the ‘Service Details [Moodle Request]’ page where you can select ‘Request a new unit to be created on Moodle’. Once selected click ‘Next’.

From the next page, please ensure you complete all the mandatory fields in the request form to proceed, once you’re happy with the information you have supplied, click ‘Submit’.

If you are unsure of the information required please see our MyPort article ‘New Moodle Unit Request guide.

Once the form has been submitted you will see your reference number appear on the screen – you will also receive an email confirming your request. Your request should also be visible on your Self Service Portal home page under ‘Recent Requests’.

Elearn (TEL) will be assigned your query by Service Desk, and will email you back confirming when your request has been actioned. You’ll then be able to start creating your new unit, along with assistance from your faculty Online Course Developers should you need it.

Header image taken from Unsplash.com under a free to use license.

Can technology provide us with the opportunity to move away from traditional delivery methods?

 
Shaun Searle

“The most vital app an educator could use is good purposeful teaching”

Introduction

On the way back from setting up the Mobile Ubicast unit for a lecturer, I had an interesting discussion about the use of technology in teaching. My first thoughts took me back to my previous life as an ICT co-ordinator of a primary school where a member of the leadership team teaching was eager to be observed “using ICT” within their teaching. What unfolded was 45 uncomfortable minutes of the educator using a digital camera within an English lesson. Of course it led to my first question of “why did you use the technology?” It did not help the students achieve their learning goals in English, whilst also not allowing them to develop or demonstrate skills using the technology.

Digital technology and equipment help provide multiple access points, like a door with multiple handles at different heights but ultimately pedagogy and learning intentions must stay at the forefront of the educators mind. It brought me back to a great JISC document I read based on the Digital experiences students should have. I thought I would signpost a few of the parts that I found most interesting and hopefully it may spark a few ideas of how technology could be used in your lectures.

Social referencing

Jane Challinor gives a good account of the trials and tribulations of using Diigo social bookmarking site with level one undergraduates She outlines the discovery that students at Level 2 and 3 were found to have poor research skills. Even at level 3 students made little use of academic journals and the cause of academic irregularity were caused by poor record keeping, especially of web based sources so a key feature of the module was to introduce the students to e-search, a tool which allows students to search journal database similar to Athens. By using groups within Diigo not only could students benefit from the features of a social referencing site such group/shared discussions, bookmarking and direct online source linking, it gave lecturers the opportunity to monitor student activity, thus make it an assessment for learning tool encouraging precision teaching. Without giving away any spoilers (!) it not only improved the students record keeping and bookmarking, it changed their whole attitude and behaviour towards using online sources and journals within assignments.

Digital critique

As there is broad range of digital sources of communication to reference from online, it gives students the ability to develop skills of critique that takes them beyond just reading text on screen. It allows students to examine a specific source in terms of its credibility, argument, tone, implied audience and provenance – who is hosting and propagating this message? This could then influence the creation of their own digital content, with a greater appreciation of its purpose and the audience it is targeted at. New Media Literacy: a blog post by Lynsay Grant offers an interesting blog based on critique against re-design that is well worth a read.

 

Use a simulation to support real-world practice

Simulations allow students to venture where perhaps the real-life situation represent unacceptable risk to the student or others. But simulations also allow students to review, revisit and revise their preparation and practice to a real-life event. Simulations can also be used to collaborate and to provide a shared platform to problem solve. The skills2Learn site shows a wide range of practical and field-based skills that can be carried out through elearning and virtual reality simulations. The advances of modern technology and the range of mediums through which to experience sound, image, video and touch based representations has become more accessible and affordable with the rise of Google Cardboard and other VR displays. The four walls of a lecture theatre no longer need to confine “where” learning takes place.

Digital deconstruction

Within my teaching role, one area in which I felt I excelled was finding new and innovative ways to teach topics. One such way was trying to introduce coding to 6-year-olds by taking them out of the computer suite and into the kitchen, testing their given programmes (recipes) and debugging and re-coding where necessary. Chrissi Narantzi’s blog explores her use of LEGO bricks with first-year undergraduates. I love the concept of taking what essentially is a digital concept, bringing it into a real life situation or a practical analogy as it were to broaden and deepen their understanding and application of digital skills. Possible applications of this could be statistical analysis, qualitative data analysis, design, giving a presentation with slides, mindmapping, ‘cut and paste’ editing, sharing ideas via twitter, commenting on/reviewing other students’ work.

Use gamification

This is a powerful concept that I have seen bear the fruits of success with younger students. I have been fortunate on a few occasions to have met critically acclaimed Tim Rylands who really was at the forefront of gamification within education and his TED talk about teachers being creative and using games to enhance learning in other topic areas is well worth watching and extremely powerful. Other gaming concepts such as ‘levelling up’,  earning XP points and shading a progress bar could be ways in which to make aspects of your teaching engaging while also giving competition a positive element. A different Chrissi Narantzi blog  shows how a mixed reality game is used in academic development and while it does require a level of ingenuity to incorporate gaming features, it can really help give insight and make learning fun.

Final thoughts

There are a number of other digital experiences that Jisc recommend students have and I’m sure the concepts of lecture capture, online questionnaires and presenting using digital media will be covered in subsequent blogs but perhaps it is a good point to reflect on our own practise and consider how using technology within our existing delivery could enhance the learning experiences of our students further.

References

Grant, L. (2010). New media literacy: Critique vs re-design. Available at: http://dmlcentral.net/new-media-literacy-critique-vs-re-design/ (Accessed: 23 November, 2016).

Jisc (2015). Digital experiences students should have. Available at: https://digitalstudent.jiscinvolve.org/wp/files/2015/01/Digitalstudentexperiences.pdf (Accessed: 23 November, 2016).

Terms, P.I. (2016). Can you Diigo it? Available at: https://prezi.com/j82f6mbocnwb/can-you-diigo-it/ (Accessed: 23 November, 2016).

Flipping the classroom

 
Jerry Collingwood

Over the last few years the convenience of creating a multimedia recording has improved to such an extent that it is now very feasible to enhance the interactivity of contact time with students by recording content that can be passively consumed by students and providing it to them in advance of the valuable timetabled contact time. It requires an initial investment of time but with a bit of careful planning the recordings can be used for a number of years without the need for revision, potentially saving you time in the future as well as removing some of the stress of trying to squeeze all your teaching content into a finite number of lectures and also creates a resource for students to revise from and a reference you can use when providing feedback.

The concept is that you can pre-record content that would normally be presented as a lecture. This can be done without the audience of students which can be a stressful environment, with large lecture theatres, disruptive murmurings in the audience and  audio-visual equipment not always performing as expected. This content can then be viewed by the student at their leisure, at a time when they are receptive to learning, fitting in around part-time employment and other commitments. Time that would normally be spent lecturing can then be repurposed as an engaging student-led session, affording the students time to ask any questions that may have arisen from consuming the content or by working through examples in class – important reflective aspects of learning which are all too often sacrificed in order to cover the all the content of the curriculum. Some may argue that lecture time is not saved as it is invested early in the process to make the recordings, which is true. However, producing a recording of a lecture that is presented multiple times (for example, in large courses), which can also be reused in the following semester or year, can save time on delivering content.

Here at the University of Portsmouth we have a variety of technologies that can assist you with ‘flipping the classroom’ and making your content more engaging, which will both enhance your teaching, and more importantly, improve the students’ learning.

New for the 2016 academic year we have a full lecture capture system for the first time. The UbiCast system is available in a limited number of venues and is now fully operational in the big lecture theatres of Park (Room 2.23 and Eldon West (Room 1.11). It is also available in the Grad School (Room 4.09, St Andrew’s Court) and there is a small seminar room equipped in Dennis Sciama (Room 2.02) where it is intended that content could be created in a ‘studio’ environment without the audience, i.e. for a flipped classroom. DCQE also have a mobile recording unit that can be requested via: elearn@port.ac.uk.

Members of Technology Enhanced Learning will setup the equipment in a suitable venue (please note 30 minutes setup time is required). The UbiCast system will record audio, the content of your screen and video of you presenting – which in the large lecture theatres of Park and Eldon will track you as you walk around the presentation area.

Well established at the University but often underestimated is Relay, a system for capturing screen and audio. In many cases this is all that is required for flipping the classroom – a video of the presenter does not always add value to the content. Relay is available on all standard build PCs via the MyApps portal or can be downloaded from: http://relay.port.ac.uk/ to your personal PC or Mac.

Please note to use Relay you may require a microphone (if the one in the classroom is not connected to the PC), we recommend a simple USB microphone that is easy to carry around. If you need to walk around whilst presenting try a wireless USB microphone such as the RevoLab X-Tag. If you have a webcam, then this can also be incorporated into the Relay recording as a picture in picture (appearing over the content in the bottom right-hand corner) although we would not normally recommend this as it can block some content and may be distracting to the viewer.

Fuse is a free mobile app developed by TechSmith (the developers of Relay), compatible with Android, iOS and Windows mobile devices. Fuse utilises the camera and microphone of your mobile device to record video and upload it to the Relay server where it can be processed and hosted in Compass to easily embed into your Moodle unit(s). If you don’t need a visual from your computer screen or document camera to get your message across why not utilise Fuse to add an introductory video or an interview of a subject specialist to your Moodle unit?

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