Tel Tales

Adventures in Technology Enhanced Learning @ UoP

Category: Pedagogy

Assessed Videos

Jerry Collingwood

Assessed Videos is a solution developed by the TEL Team to simplify the administration processes of recording a student (or group of students) for assessment. Recordings are shared privately between the assessor and the student just as a written assignment would be. The process is so simple it has been used in class whilst students have given short presentations one after the other with the recording available to the student for review before the end of the session.

Utilising our TechSmith Relay Server (formerly Camtasia Relay) and the TechSmith Fuse mobile app (available on Android, iOS and Windows devices), a video is taken by the mobile device and uploaded to the central server where metadata such as the student’s ID number and details about the recording are stored in a database and used to assign viewing rights. As a lecturer on a really basic level, all you need to do to use this service is start a recording, stop a recording, select the appropriate profile from a dropdown list when uploading the recording and enter the student’s ID number in the description field. After five minutes (longer for high definition video, longer recordings and at peak times) the recording is available for both you and your student to view at http://relay.port.ac.uk/assessed/ where you can both log in using your standard UoP details. All of your videos will be available from one simple navigation page, so no need to remember lots of URLs or save numerous emails.

Whilst working closely with early adopters of this technology/solution, it has become clear that sometimes we can save you even more time by batch processing some of the metadata for you. For example between X and Y dates you might like all of your recordings to have similar titles .e.g ‘U12345 Assessment 1 – student number’. This can be arranged for you so that all you need to do is enter the student number in the description field as described above, rather than completing the title field each time in addition. We can also ensure that all of your recordings are shared with a colleague and vice versa – particularly useful if you team teach. Have an external examiner? No problem, we can create an account for them and share either all or just a selection of your recordings with them.

For each recording, the owner (and any markers) have space to enter a numerical grade out of 100 and also complete a comments box, but that is no reason to limit yourself with the type of feedback you could be providing. Why not film yourself talking to the camera? Simply enter the ID number for the student you are providing feedback to in the description field. Or if you are a little camera shy you could use Relay on your computer to record your screen, perhaps allowing you to add an audio comment alongside a marking grid that you might be completing for the student? If you make a number of recordings throughout the year, you can even set a written reflection exercise with your students who can reference each recording with the direct URL – their recording is still private between you and them as nobody else can view that URL without permissions.

There is both a ‘quickstart’ and a more detailed user-guide available to download from http://relay.port.ac.uk/assessed/ but if you have any questions or would like a demonstration of the system please contact the TEL team at elearn@port.ac.uk for assistance.

 

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.

 

 

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. 

 

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?

 

Why Blog? Good question, why blog indeed?

Marie Kendall-Waters

As you can see the TEL Team have a brand new, shiny blog! We’re hoping to share all our news and exciting discoveries with you all and we would like you to contribute too by leaving comments and feedback to our blog posts that interest you. With this in mind, I’ve started thinking about blogs and blogging.

Blogs are a great platform for communicating to a wider audience, sharing good practice and building up a community amongst others who have similar interests to your own. Blogging is a great way of learning, it challenges you to sit down and write and reflect on your experiences on a regular basis, which can often be scary putting your thoughts out there for all to read! However, by embracing this, you learn and grow as an individual, perhaps even become an expert in a certain field and in turn you are helping others to learn too! For some people having an opinion and voicing that opinion online comes as a natural process for others it can be a terrifying prospect, and by overcoming that it can become empowering – so perhaps it’s worth thinking about, even if it is a little scary!

So what makes a successful blog?

Okay, so here are a few things that I think are important to remember when blogging…

  • Purpose: so why blog? What are you trying to say to your audience? By giving a blog a purpose, a reason for its existence, you are giving your readers something memorable to grab onto. They have something to engage with, comment on, and share.
  • Audience: who are your lovely readers? Are you talking to a specific group of people? If so, do you need to tailor your posts to their needs? Also, do you need to think of the wider audience?
  • Tone: conversational tone – blog posts tend to be more informal and chatty.
  • Structure of blog posts: as with any writing, structure is very important. Writing a blog post is no different! Organise your thoughts and ideas before embarking on the task. Use headings to signpost your readers. Include a clear introduction so that the reader knows what is going to be discussed. Break down your post into well structured paragraphs and always finish by adding a conclusion.
  • Length of posts: It shouldn’t really matter – keep the content to the length that it is required to discuss your chosen topic. However, keeping content clear and to the point will help to keep the word count down and keep your content focused and your reader engrossed.
  • Unique content: write something with a different spin/take on it, rather than writing something that someone else has already written. Include punchy headlines and humor to grab the reader’s attention – doesn’t always have to be serious!
  • Media: include videos and images in posts – why?  It makes it more interesting and engaging for our readers rather than reams of text.
  • Frequency of posts: by blogging on a regular basis you will keep your readers’ interest!
  • Internal linking: linking related posts within a blog by #hashtags is a great way of enhancing the learning experience for readers. It not only provides themes throughout but also searchable keywords which are useful for when reflecting and also for the reader when searching.
  • Documenting and reflecting: a way for you and your readers to have a learning experience through blogging.
  • Spelling and grammar: there is nothing worse than reading a blog full of mistakes and typos. Have a process in place. Write the post, go back and edit and then get someone else to proofread with a fresh pair of eyes and only then publish!

Sounds good, right?

Yes it does, however, blogging has never come naturally to the TEL Team and to be honest this isn’t the first TEL Team attempt at having a blog – we’ve tried and failed in the past – we’ve just never seemed to get it quite right – why? Well, how can I put it, we are pretty good at setting up a blog but we’re not so great at blogging, which is pretty crucial when owning a blog, I think you’d agree!

So as a team we have decided to give blogging another go – yippee I hear you cry – and this time it’s going to be different! Please wish us all the best with our little blogging adventure and I’ll reflect on how we are doing over the coming weeks. In the meantime, if you have any experience of blogs or are a keen blogger yourself and have any useful tips then please share them with us 🙂

Image credits: Background image created by Valeria_aksakova – Freepik.com