The Shorthand Units

Gill Wray, an academic member of staff in the School of Social Historical and Literary Studies within the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences is responsible amongst other things, for the Journalism Shorthand units. I’ve been talking to her about some of the interesting elements of her units that she has implemented for students with the help of the Faculty’s Online Course Developers, Scott, Joe and Daren.

Journalism Shorthand units run in the first and second years as a core requirement aiming to teach shorthand to those taking a Journalism course. As part of her teaching Jill has been involved with the development of some interesting interactive elements on her Moodle site.

I think this sort of work is worth highlighting to others as it shows how Moodle can be much more than just a repository for work, and handouts. Moodle allows an incredible amount of flexibility in terms of what content you can make available for students – it doesn’t just have to be downloadable PDF revision sheets!

The Test Your Shorthand WebApp

The ‘Test Your Shorthand’ app for practicing shorthand knowledge has been around for a while, though due to problems with audio playing on an older version, has recently been rebuilt as a responsive web app to remain functional on various devices across a variety of screen sizes.

The app, which you can see in the screenshots here, gives a student three different difficulty levels to test a student’s shorthand knowledge. Choosing one of these gives a short multiple choice shorthand quiz tuned to the difficulty of the option the student selected. The app also provides a series of shorthand ‘outlines’ (the squiggles that form the core part of journalistic shorthand) as revision aid, as well as 10 different voice recordings to practice note taking on. The audio is offered in 100, 110 and 120 words a minute format, perfect for a student learning to record what they hear.

The app is available as part of the Shorthand Year One Moodle site, and is offered as a supplement to the existing course content, which includes videos that are timed to release to students each week, and also other more traditional worksheet activities.

Digraph Train

Gill’s Shorthand site also includes The Digraph Train. When I asked her why she had added this interactivity to her Moodle site she said:

“One of the main challenges has been the inability of some students to recognise that digraphs ‘sh’, ‘ch’, ‘th’ and ‘wh’ make specific sounds.  We therefore produced a very simple ‘early learning’ style visual in the form of a moving train with carriages adding letters one at a time. There is audio as each carriage joins the train. This helps students understand how two letters come together to make a particular sound.”

The Digraph Train was produced by Gill, with the help of the Online Course Developers in the School, using a software package called Articulate Storyline. When I spoke with Joe Wright, who was responsible for the project, about why he chose Storyline he said:

“I chose to use Storyline because I found it gave me all the tools that would fulfil the task in hand. It is a great e-learning package which you can use to create unique projects using triggers and timing. It’s simple to use as it uses an interface similar to the Microsoft packages which makes it very easy to navigate, to add animations, images and sound to the project. Gill told me that the students found the end result to be very engaging”.

It’s worth mentioning, that both these projects took time, and required skills that are not reflected across every faculty. If you have an idea for something you want to create, but don’t know where to start, visit your Online Course Developers first more often than not they’ll be happy to help. If you think your idea might benefit students (or staff) in a faculty other than your own Technology Enhanced Learning would also be happy to work with you to get your idea off the ground.

Highlighting your own creative and innovative use of Moodle is a difficult thing. There is no University wide platform, no place a member of staff can go and say ‘hey! I helped make this and I think it’s good!’ Case studies like this are our way of putting good work out there for people to see. Currently both of these projects are available only to students studying the Shorthand units on Journalism courses.