Adventures in Technology Enhanced Learning @ UoP

Tag: education (Page 1 of 2)

WiseFlow – Looking in the mirror with reflective portfolios in WiseFlow

Hey there, fellow exhausted souls!

Can you believe it? We’re finally coming towards the end of the academic year, and boy, has it been a fun ride!  Our WiseFlow pilot has gone from strength to strength as we support academics through a new assessment process.  More importantly, we have successfully run two separate assessments using our innovative approach of using WiseFlow as a reflective portfolio – the first use case of this we know about!  We’ve grown, learned, and potentially discovered an exciting prospect for the future of reflective portfolios at Portsmouth University, so let’s take a moment to reflect on the journey we’ve been on. 

You may have read our previous blog post on “Unlocking the power of WiseFlow: Transforming ePortfolio assessments” where we discussed the possibilities of using WiseFlow as a viable reflective portfolio platform and the benefits a reflective portfolio approach brings.  For students, this helps develop their metacognitive skills and self-awareness as learners over a period of time.  Academics, on the other hand, can use reflective portfolios to assess students’ learning outcomes in a more comprehensive and authentic manner.  This is all part of our wider WiseFlow pilot to provide one integrated assessment platform that serves our current (and future) assessment needs within Portsmouth University, which Mike Wilson spoke to us about recently on our podcast – you can listen here

Teach Well and Research-Informed Teaching

This year we ran two reflective portfolios within WiseFlow as part of our pilot project – to test the water and find out if this was even possible. The first was within our Researched Informed Teaching module, which supports early career academics to apply their learning in educational enhancements into their own contexts, through reflection and innovation.  Students will draw together higher education policy, research methods and educational developments to build students knowledge for their future work.  Secondly, we ran a reflective portfolio in our new level seven Teach Well: Principles to Practice module, which is a professional development route for those in roles related to supporting student learning. Students in this module embark on a pedagogical journey through three pillars of practice for teaching well in higher education, gaining the confidence to critically evaluate learning and design approaches and reflecting on what it means to teach well across different modes of study.  We recently caught up with Maria Hutchinson who runs this module in our podcast series, if you missed this one, you can listen here

We’ve worked closely with these academics and our support teams to develop reflective portfolios for these modules that can be used as a summative assessment vehicle which is both intuitive for learners and versatile enough to encompass a broad range of tools which enable the course learning outcomes to be demonstrated in an engaging and meaningful way.

What the students said…

Following the submission of reflective portfolios into WiseFlow, we sent out a survey to participants to gain their feedback and views.  Some of the headline figures are detailed below…

  • 90% of students found the WiseFlow reflective portfolio easy to navigate
  • 90% of students agreed that a reflective portfolio suited this type of assessment (compared with traditional essay-based assessment methods)
  • 82% of students felt their own students would enjoy using a reflective portfolio in WiseFlow
  • 71% of students enjoyed the interactive assessment methods, such as histograms, voice recorders etc. 
  • We received multiple comments about the clear instructions that were given on how to access and use Wiseflow as well as its reliability and stability as a platform.  Many users also commented positively on the functionality that WiseFlow offered compared to previously used portfolio solutions. 

Students also commented on…

  • If there was a need to add another system to Portsmouth University’s available assessment platforms – “There are too many platforms for submitting the work, Moodle, ePortfolio, WiseFlow, it is really confusing and frustrating that is necessary to learn how to use different platforms for different modules.”
  • The lack of formatting transfer from applications such as Word, when copying and pasting into WiseFlow – “Transfer of formatted MS Word document to WiseFlow could be improved. Currently, the document format is lost during the cut & paste process which then requires more effort to re-format within the WiseFlow portal.”
  • Better integration with Moodle and WiseFlow – “I’d like to see direct access from Moodle”. 

The data presented highlights the positive reception of WiseFlow as a reflective portfolio solution by students. The high percentage of students that recognized the suitability of a reflective portfolio as an assessment method, in comparison to traditional essay-based approaches and praised its usability is a really positive sign. The positive feedback on the interactive assessment methods further emphasizes the adaptability of the question bank in a traditional FlowMulti assessment to be used in an innovative way. 

However, some concerns were raised by students, such as the frustration of managing multiple assessment platforms at the university, indicating a need for better integration. This all links to our Digital Success Plan to (re)design robust assessments to meet the needs of the diverse student population within a blended and connected setting and incorporate a robust specialist end-to-end assessment platform. Our aims in the project were to make it easier for academics to design assessments, easier for students to find their assessments and feedback, and support staff by reducing the manual workaround assessments for academics.  During the next stage of the pilot project, integration into our current systems is a top priority and will alleviate these challenges.  Furthermore, the lack of formatting transfer from applications like Word to WiseFlow was highlighted as an area for improvement. These critical comments provide valuable insights for further refining and optimizing the WiseFlow system.

The evidence is clear to see – WiseFlow has the ability to provide a viable solution to reflective portfolios, with a bit of refinement – it could be excellent. 

What the staff said…

It was also vital to us that we gathered feedback from our academic staff.  

  • 100% of staff agreed that WiseFlow allowed them to develop their assessment in ways that were not previously possible
  • All staff agreed the WiseFlow reflective portfolio allowed them to fully cover learning objectives and meet the needs of their students
  • We received multiple comments about the speed of the platform, intuitive nature and search functionality which made the verification/moderation process seamless.  Staff also commended the accuracy of the rubrics for grading and how new interactive elements made them rethink how they could better use this type of functionality in the future.

Staff also commented on…

  • Comparisons to previously used portfolio platforms – “Historically the module used [another portfolio system] which was really clunky and didn’t work well at all. I really liked that Wiseflow could be scrolled across (as opposed to clicking through each page) and the layout was great”
  • Design elements within the marking interface – “It would have been useful to have had the comment box movable (I work with two screens and being able to drag the box to another screen to write on would have been a nice touch – several times I had to keep opening and closing the box as I wasn’t able to see the text underneath it)”
  • Having more time to explore the platform – “I did not feel I had enough time to play before it went live for students, but this was not WISEflow’s fault – it was just timing”. 

As an honest answer, we’ve been blown away by our staff feedback.   The unanimous agreement that WiseFlow enables new possibilities for assessment development speaks very highly of this solution and its potential in enhancing the teaching and learning experience for students at Portsmouth University.  The potential to create authentic assessments through the use of reflective portfolios is exciting.  The accuracy of the grading rubrics was also very highly commended – allowing students to have a greater chance of achieving a clear and defined target and making academic decision-making easier, fairer and more accurate.  In terms of developmental areas, the movement of the comment box is a fair point – we’ve heard from other academics about the size of the comment box before – hopefully, something that WiseFlow’s New Marker Journey will alleviate. 

Where do we go from here?

As we raised in our first blog post – the reflective portfolio solution in WiseFlow is far from perfect, with a few simple tweaks the solution could become very appealing. Sadly, some of these are out of our hands and lie within the code of the platform.  We’ve learnt a lot during the duration of this assessment as a project team, including developmental areas we have highlighted for the future.  

The single biggest limiting factor when using a reflective portfolio is when using a file upload question type.  This is limited to twelve files that are no more than 10Mb each – multiple file upload questions can be used, but will still have limits on them.  We have approached WiseFlow about this for development purposes, however, we have yet to have any significant movement on removing this limit.  The removal of this limit puts WiseFlow in an incredibly powerful position to offer another “string to their bow” in terms of assessment choice and would truly open up the use of reflective portfolios within the platform.  Sadly, with this limit in place, using reflective portfolios with some faculties such as our Creative and Cultural Industry, where students would regularly upload large .psd, CAD files, HD video, and high-quality audio etc) is just not a viable option.  Creative students will often build a “portfolio career” and we would love to be able to work with them on developing reflective portfolios, but this limit stops us.  Until this is removed, careful consideration must be taken at the planning stage of an assessment as to whether the reflective portfolio is the correct solution.  Further to this, other limitations must be considered – for example, once the reflective portfolio is live for students to complete, it cannot be altered, changed or adapted.  During the pilot, we’ve worked extensively with academics and our support teams to iron out any issues prior to release. Careful planning and consideration must take place in the authoring phase of an assignment, which will then be rigorously checked prior to release – in the same way an exam would.  This has worked at a small scale but we would need to ensure appropriate support mechanisms are in place at a larger scale.  

Our student feedback gave us valuable insight into the process of using WiseFlow.  Although reflective portfolios save every 10 seconds, if a student deletes a file or a piece of text and exits the platform, this cannot be recovered.  Over the duration of the assessments that took place, we encountered one reported instance of this. We also had some reports of formatting that will not copy from Word documents.  Again, we approached WiseFlow regarding this and it is recommended to copy/paste plain text from Word and finish the styling in the text editor of WiseFlow.  Although this solution works, having formatting that copies across would make students’ work translate much easier – particularly for those who write on external documents before copying into the platform at the last minute (like myself). In terms of progression beyond WiseFlow, we’d love for students to be able to take their work from the platform and have the ability to store it themselves or share it beyond the WiseFlow platform.  Currently, there is no solution to this.  A “zip folder” that contained all exports and uploaded files of any inputted answers into WiseFlow would be a great starting point.  Again, we’ve put forward the idea to WiseFlow, but have yet to have any movement on this.  

Where do we take our pilot now?

Although these are risks with using a reflective portfolio solution in WiseFlow, the prospect and the potential gain of this authentic assessment are exciting.  We’ve taken the plunge and proven the concept works, highlighting potential development areas which we really hope get some traction and we’d like to think WiseFlow will be open to listening to these developmental ideas.  As for our pilot project as a whole, we move into a second phase of the pilot with a continued focus on reflective portfolios but also some other areas of assessment we have struggled with in the past, such as large file submissions.  We have a plethora of training and support we are actively developing and working with local teams to ensure staff feel confident using the systems.  

We continue to have a waiting list for academics who are wanting to work with us to develop reflective portfolios in WiseFlow. I find myself meeting with academics on a weekly basis to discuss potential projects and reflective portfolio solutions in their disciplines.   So far, we’ve done no real advertising, and this interest has been created from word of mouth and from those who have used it as students. We are keen to share our experiences with other Universities in WiseFlow user groups, who are actively keen to explore this and want to learn about our innovative approach. However, we need to be open and honest about the limitations that this solution has at the moment. Collectively, we might hold enough power to make change happen but until that point, caution must be taken before embarking on a reflective portfolio to ensure this is the correct fit for assessment.

The potential of this solution is game-changing, not just for us, but for a lot of other Higher Education institutions across the world.

The future of reflective portfolios in WiseFlow is exciting – keep watching this space.  

Chris

Credit Image: Photo by MidJourney 

The AI Podcast – How we did it!

(Co-writer: ChatGPT)

There’s no doubt Artificial Intelligence (AI) will have a huge impact on the future of education and assessment.  I can’t think of a day that has gone past over the past few months where some form of AI chat hasn’t started within the office, often causing a healthy level of debate.  From the outrage of academics that students are using AI to generate degree-level work to the supposed “arms race” of technology companies to be the first to detect AI.  There’s no end to topics of conversation on the moral, technical, ethical and legal issues surrounding AI.    

With the Tel Tales Podcasts due to re-launch in the coming months, we thought it would be good to put AI to the test.  Could we create an entire podcast episode from AI?  Would it matter that it was AI generated?  Is this even possible?

To start the podcast off, we gave ChatGPT an open-ended initial prompt as follows…

“Write 6 questions to ask ChatGPT in a podcast about the impact ChatGPT will have on education”

Within a matter of seconds, ChatGPT was processing through its algorithms and writing a response to our initial prompt.  In less than a minute, ChatGPT responded with the following questions…

  1. How can ChatGPT be integrated into educational institutions to enhance the learning experience for students?
  2. What are the potential benefits and drawbacks of using ChatGPT in education, and how can these be mitigated?
  3. In what ways can ChatGPT be used to personalize learning for students with different learning styles and abilities?
  4. How can ChatGPT be used to facilitate communication and collaboration among students and teachers in online learning environments?
  5. How might the use of ChatGPT impact the role of teachers in education, and what skills might educators need to develop to effectively work with this technology?
  6. Could you conclude and summarise the impact that ChatGPT will have on education?

Looking at the response that was given, the questions that ChatGPT generated are certainly a good starting point, although very surface-level.  One of the biggest critiques of ChatGPT is the lack of “nuance, critical-thinking skills or ethical decision-making ability that are essential for successful journalism” (Lock, 2022).  Arguably, the questions generated cover a range of topics related to the use of ChatGPT in education that could lead to interesting and informative discussions.  ChatGPT is impressive on a surface level, but the reliance on using a machine for interaction or to generate conversations could lead to a loss of genuine human connection. The ability to connect with others through meaningful conversation and interactions is a fundamental aspect of being human.  The concept of outsourcing this to a machine could have detrimental side effects on our well-being and social skillset.  We learnt the true value of human interaction during the COVID pandemic and the severe impact the lack of meaningful human interaction had on mental health (Okabe-Miyamoto, 2021).  Without delving too deep into the content and ethical issues around this, the process took seconds to complete, with a total lack of human interaction apart from a very basic prompt.  Quite a scary thought!

These responses were then fed back into ChatGPT one at a time with the prefix “Write a 200-word response for a podcast to the question”, the results of this can be found at the bottom of this blog post.  Again, ChatGPT has provided plausible-sounding answers to its own questions.  However, it’s nothing new that we haven’t spoken about before, or anything game-changing.  Essentially, it’s just a series of ideas strung together from datasets.  We see themes that come up in nearly every answer around the “personalisation of learning” for students and how we can use AI to “engage” students.  The overemphasis in the responses on ‘buzzwords’ really highlights the lack of real input from a human; someone who is living and breathing this – an academic, a student, a head of school, a support team, a principal etc. Can we blame ChatGPT for its response?  Not really.  It’s done a pretty impressive job of answering its own questions and has generated some plausible responses, some of which will be popular with teachers – such as the reduction of marking load to allow teachers to focus on 1:1 learning with their students.  A glimmer of hope perhaps that ChatGPT acknowledges that a partnership between AI and teachers needs to be developed to unlock its full potential.  Maybe the machines are not taking over, just yet!

“With the right approach and training, ChatGPT can help usher in a new era of personalized, inclusive, and effective education.”  

After gaining our content, we used Speechify, to generate the audio.  Speechify has a range of voice actors – everything from Snoop Dogg to Gweneth Paltrow and uses AI to produce a natural voice, sensing the tone and intonation of text. Although the prospect of having Snoop Dogg; albeit a slightly static and stiff version of the OG himself, hosting our podcast would be amazing, we opted for British voice actors ‘Michael’ to host the podcast and ‘Stephanie’ to be the guest.  In recent news, David Guetta has spoken out about the use of AI in music and that “the future of Music is within AI”. There’s no doubt that this process of bringing AI-generated text ‘to life’ is taking the moral and ethical issues of AI writing and voice generation to a new level.  Could it be the next big “deep fake”; where AI voices are being used instead of the human equivalent?  Or that AI voices become so indistinguishable from the real human nuance of speech that it blurs the lines between reality and the matrix?  Either way, the results were good and we’re now starting to hear the results of our podcast.

After we had gathered our audio, we placed the audio files into Logic Pro X and used iZotope’s Ozone plugin for mixing and balancing.  The software uses AI to intelligently listen to the audio and suggest recommended settings.  We left everything with the settings that Ozone recommended for dynamics and equalisation – based on the audio files generated from Speechify.  It appears that gone are the days of building relationships with artists in a recording studio, akin to George Martin to refine and craft sound, when all that is needed is for an AI to “listen” and suggest settings, built on the foundations of those masters before. The final piece of the puzzle was to get some advertising for the podcast.  We asked ChatGPT to “write a tweet for @telportsmouth to advertise a totally AI-generated podcast for TelTales including hashtags” which has been used to advertise the podcast on our social media platforms.  We also asked Dall-e 2 to generate some AI artwork, with the prompt “AI-generated podcast from Tel Tales at Portsmouth University”, which you’ve probably seen before getting to this blog post. Did you even notice it was AI generated?  Had we not told you, would you have known? 

We loved creating this podcast.  In fact, it’s brought many more conversations into the office around the use of AI and how far we can (or should) push it.  Ultimately, ChatGPT is shaking the education sector to the core and making us re-evaluate our assessment methods – which is only ever a good thing!  ChatGPT is great at stringing a few sentences together to come up with a response.  However, is it not just generating content for content’s sake, with no real meaning?  Would you have even noticed this podcast was completely AI-generated, had we not told you?  Could we have made it more believable if we had “real-life” voice actors to narrate the script?  The answers ChatGPT gave for our podcast were plausible and spoke about relevant ideas and topics of discussion – but nothing more than that.  

With GPT4 on the horizon, will we see a ‘bigger and better’ version of this AI wizardry?  GPT4 promises to be able to respond to both text and images.  In theory, this multi-modal model should help the AI to understand the world we live in better and theorise more logical connections between datasets.  Perhaps this is only the beginning of our AI journey in education and further supports our need as educators to reevaluate our assessment methods.  As we’ve said before, this can only be a good thing!

Have we just done ourselves out of a job?  Probably not.  It is worth remembering that none of this was possible without that initial prompt and a “human” in the driving seat.  Does the future belong to AI? Not just yet, but it’s certainly one interesting journey we’re on!

Listen to the AI podcast 

Chris Wood

Follow me on Twitter @ChrisWoodTeach

References

Samatha Lock. (2022). What is AI chatbot phenomenon ChatGPT and could it replace humans? The Guardian. [Online]. 5th Dec 2022. Available at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2022/dec/05/what-is-ai-chatbot-phenomenon-chatgpt-and-could-it-replace-humans [Accessed 14th March 2023].

Karynna Okabe-Miyamoto, Sonja Lyubomirsky. (2021). Social Connection and Well-Being during COVID-19. WHR 2021. 1(1), p.Chapter 6. [Online]. Available at: https://worldhappiness.report/ed/2021/social-connection-and-well-being-during-covid-19/ [Accessed 14 March 2023].

Artwork: AI-generated through Dall-e 2

Content: AI-generated through ChatGPT

Voice: AI-generated through Speechify

Mixing: AI-generated through iZotope Ozone

ChatGPT Responses

Question 1 Prompt:

Write a 200-word response for a podcast to the question “How can ChatGPT be integrated into educational institutions to enhance the learning experience for students?”

Question 1 Answer: 

ChatGPT, as a language model, has the potential to revolutionize the way students learn by providing personalized and interactive educational experiences. One way to integrate ChatGPT into educational institutions is through the use of chatbots. Chatbots powered by ChatGPT can provide students with instant feedback on their assignments, answer their questions, and provide additional resources that are tailored to their individual needs.

Moreover, ChatGPT can be integrated into learning management systems to create personalized learning paths for students. By analyzing a student’s learning history and performance data, ChatGPT can suggest customized learning resources and activities that are most relevant to the student’s interests and abilities. This can help students stay engaged and motivated as they learn.

Another way to integrate ChatGPT into educational institutions is by using it to create virtual learning assistants. These assistants can help students navigate complex topics, provide additional explanations or examples, and even engage in an interactive dialogue with students to promote deeper understanding and critical thinking.

Overall, the integration of ChatGPT into educational institutions has the potential to enhance the learning experience for students by providing personalized and interactive learning experiences that meet their individual needs and interests. By leveraging the power of AI, educational institutions can provide a more effective and engaging learning experience for students, preparing them for success in the modern world.

Question 2 Prompt:

Write a 200-word response for a podcast to the question “What are the potential benefits and drawbacks of using ChatGPT in education, and how can these be mitigated?”

Question 2 Answer: 

The potential benefits of using ChatGPT in education are numerous. ChatGPT can help personalize the learning experience for students, offer instant feedback and support, and assist with knowledge acquisition and retention. Furthermore, ChatGPT can assist in the creation of more engaging and interactive learning materials, which can improve student motivation and learning outcomes. However, there are also potential drawbacks to using ChatGPT in education. One concern is that the technology could lead to overreliance on AI, causing students to disengage from the learning process and rely too heavily on ChatGPT to provide answers instead of engaging in critical thinking and problem-solving. Additionally, there is the possibility of biased or inaccurate responses from ChatGPT, which could negatively impact learning outcomes. To mitigate these potential drawbacks, it is important to ensure that ChatGPT is used in conjunction with traditional teaching methods to encourage critical thinking and promote deeper learning. It is also important to ensure that the technology is thoroughly tested and evaluated for accuracy and fairness. Finally, it is important to provide appropriate training to both educators and students to ensure that they understand the role of ChatGPT in the learning process and can use it effectively. With these measures in place, the potential benefits of ChatGPT in education can be realized while mitigating potential drawbacks.

Question 3 Prompt:

Write a 200-word response for a podcast to the question “In what ways can ChatGPT be used to personalize learning for students with different learning styles and abilities?”

Question 3 Answer: 

One of the most promising applications of ChatGPT in education is its ability to personalize the learning experience for students with different learning styles and abilities. ChatGPT can analyze a student’s learning history and performance data to provide tailored resources and feedback that meet their individual needs.

For students who are visual learners, ChatGPT can generate images, videos, and other multimedia resources to enhance their learning experience. For students who are auditory learners, ChatGPT can generate audio recordings or podcasts. For students who are kinesthetic learners, ChatGPT can suggest interactive activities or simulations that allow them to engage with the material in a more hands-on way.

In addition, ChatGPT can provide targeted feedback and support that is customized to a student’s strengths and weaknesses. For example, if a student is struggling with a particular concept, ChatGPT can generate additional practice problems or explanations to help them master the material.

Overall, the ability of ChatGPT to personalize learning for students with different learning styles and abilities has the potential to significantly improve learning outcomes and engagement. By leveraging the power of AI, educational institutions can create a more inclusive and effective learning environment that meets the needs of all students, regardless of their learning style or ability.

Question 4 Prompt:

Write a 200-word response for a podcast to the question “How can ChatGPT be used to facilitate communication and collaboration among students and teachers in online learning environments?”

Question 4 Answer: 

ChatGPT can play a vital role in facilitating communication and collaboration among students and teachers in online learning environments. One way ChatGPT can achieve this is by creating virtual assistants that can provide real-time feedback and support to students. These virtual assistants can also help teachers by answering common questions, grading assignments, and providing additional resources to students who are struggling.

Moreover, ChatGPT can be integrated into online discussion forums and chat rooms to promote collaboration and engagement among students. ChatGPT can help students connect with one another and facilitate group discussions and peer-to-peer learning.

ChatGPT can also be used to create virtual study groups that can help students collaborate and learn from one another. By analyzing students’ learning histories and performance data, ChatGPT can suggest study partners or groups that are most likely to benefit from working together.

Finally, ChatGPT can be used to facilitate communication and collaboration between teachers and students. ChatGPT can help teachers provide real-time feedback to students, answer questions, and provide additional resources as needed. This can help create a more supportive and engaging learning environment that promotes learning and academic success.

Overall, the use of ChatGPT in online learning environments has the potential to significantly enhance communication and collaboration among students and teachers, creating a more engaging and effective learning experience for all involved.

Question 5 Prompt:

Write a 200-word response for a podcast to the question “How might the use of ChatGPT impact the role of teachers in education, and what skills might educators need to develop to effectively work with this technology?”

Question 5 Answer: 

The use of ChatGPT in education has the potential to significantly impact the role of teachers. With the introduction of AI-powered virtual assistants, teachers can offload certain tasks like grading, answering common questions, and providing additional resources. This can free up more time for teachers to focus on providing personalized and individualized support to students.

However, with the introduction of AI-powered technology like ChatGPT, educators will need to develop new skills to effectively work with this technology. Educators will need to become proficient in using and managing AI tools to create effective learning materials and assessments. They will need to understand how to use ChatGPT to personalize the learning experience for students, as well as how to integrate it into their teaching practices to facilitate communication and collaboration among students.

Moreover, educators will need to develop skills in data analysis to better understand student performance and adjust their teaching accordingly. They will need to be able to interpret the data generated by ChatGPT and use it to provide more effective feedback and support to students.

In summary, while the introduction of ChatGPT has the potential to significantly impact the role of teachers in education, it also presents an opportunity for educators to develop new skills that can help them create a more engaging and effective learning environment for their students.

Question 6 prompt:

Write a 200-word response for a podcast to the question “Could you conclude and summarise the impact that ChatGBP will have on education?”

Question 6 answer:

In conclusion, ChatGPT has the potential to revolutionize education by providing a personalized and engaging learning experience for students. It can help educators offload certain tasks and enable them to focus more on individualized support to students. It can also facilitate communication and collaboration among students, promoting a more inclusive and supportive learning environment.

However, the use of ChatGPT in education also presents some potential drawbacks, such as the risk of over-reliance on technology and the potential for bias in the data used to personalize the learning experience.

To mitigate these drawbacks, educators must be trained in how to effectively integrate ChatGPT into their teaching practices and be able to interpret and analyze the data generated by the technology. It’s also essential to continue to monitor and address any potential issues related to bias and ethical concerns.

Overall, ChatGPT has the potential to significantly enhance the learning experience for students and support educators in creating more effective and engaging teaching practices. While there are potential drawbacks that must be considered, the benefits of using ChatGPT in education are too significant to ignore. With the right approach and training, ChatGPT can help usher in a new era of personalized, inclusive, and effective education.

As a sidenote, I used ChatGPT to create the tweet to accompany my blog post, please see below. The possibilities with ChatGPT are endless!

ChatGPT AI-Generated Tweet

🎙️ Listen to the new Tel Tales podcast generated entirely by AI 🤖🎧 Join us for fascinating stories and insights about AI and beyond. #AIGenerated #TelTales #PortsmouthPodcast #TelTalesPodcasts 🌊🎉

Google in a time of lockdown

2020 marks the fifteenth anniversary of the beta version of Gmail, Google’s first move beyond being just a search engine. Since then Google has created an extensive suite of applications many of which are extremely useful for teaching and learning. In this blog I’ll be looking at some of, what I think, are the most useful apps and why, during the current lockdown, Google can be useful in helping deliver online learning.

Possibly the most useful change Google has made in light of the lockdown was to extend video conferencing (Hangouts Meet)  to all GSuite accounts allowing up to 250 participants in any online meeting. Setting up an online meeting using Hangouts Meet can be done via the Google calendar thus notifying participants automatically. While this particular app lacks some of the functionality of Webex, it is useful for hosting and running a simple meeting or online seminar.

In this time of distributive learning, collaboration can still be facilitated and Google provides tools such as jamboard that will allow students to contribute to online tasks and discussions. Jamboard provides a pin-board style interface onto which students can pin their ideas and contributions to group tasks. While apps such as Google docs do clearly provide opportunities for online collaboration, jamboard provides a tool for more focused tasks with a clear and easy to read interface.

On the Degree Apprenticeship programme, we make major use of G Suite including Shared Drives and Google Docs, indeed without these, it would be difficult to see how we could manage some of the required administrative tasks. The ability to enhance the functionality of some Google products such as sheets, also means that they can be tailored to best meet the needs of our students. For example, all degree apprenticeship students are required to keep a log of their off the job training activities, such as their weekly University sessions, to help them complete these logs we use Google forms linked to Google sheets. Being able to add a script to the sheets means that emails can automatically be sent out allowing course administrators to more easily monitor log entries.

In terms of teaching and learning, one of the most useful Google products, and certainly the most ubiquitous in terms of videos, is YouTube, bought by Google back in 2006. By virtue of having a Google account, all members of the University automatically have a YouTube account. This, combined with the unlimited storage offered by Google, provides staff and students with an invaluable teaching and learning platform. Google’s screen capture app, Screencastify, integrates nicely with Youtube allowing users to edit and then upload directly to their YouTube channel.

So, out of the range of apps, Google provides, which ones are my favourites?

Having worked with apprenticeship students in the Business faculty for over two years, helping them with their ePortfolios, I’ve become a convert to Google Sites. I found the old version while having plenty of functionality, a bit clunky and not that user-friendly, often having to write HTML to achieve what I wanted. A downside of New Google Sites was the lack of template functionality, but this issue is being addressed as the addition of templates is currently in development.

But, on a day to day level, Google docs and Shared Drives have pretty much transformed the way I work, simplifying working collaboratively with colleagues and students. 

The pace of development of Google products is also impressive and I’m looking forward to making use of Smart Compose (https://gsuiteupdates.googleblog.com/2020/02/smart-compose-ga.html) and neural grammar correction, currently in beta. While Word does ship with far greater functionality and even slightly complicated Word documents do not convert well to Google, for the majority of users, the tools available with Docs are generally more than enough and thinglink (https://www.thinglink.com/scene/1282367584611598339) is great for those new to Docs. Google has also made it slightly easier to share documents with non-Google account holders, users can now use their existing email address to set themselves up with Google to enable access to shared Google docs, Sites etc. while a PIN verification system, currently in beta, will remove the need to set up any kind of Google account at all.

The current situation has thrown up considerable challenges in continuing to provide engaging and high quality teaching and learning especially in terms of students working collaboratively, Google clearly does not provide all the solutions required, but its suite of apps are certainly a good starting point.

Image by Saveliy Morozov  from Pixabay

Starting a part-time degree as a mature student

Hello and welcome to my introductory blog which will serve to document my journey into higher education as I undertake a part-time, fully online degree in Graphic Design, which will hopefully only span over the next 6 years, and not the rest of my life. Every few months or so you will see me pop up, documenting my latest module adventures and letting you know what I’ve been up to. 

For a bit of personal background, I went to college for 6 months before deciding it wasn’t for me, fast forward 4 years I found myself working at the University of Portsmouth. 13 years later I’ve worked my way up the ladder into the role of Online Course Developer, a role which I truly enjoy. However, over the years I have looked at my peers and silently wished that I had pursued an academic path after all, but I had accepted that life doesn’t always go the way you expect it to and buried the thoughts back down when they popped up, telling myself that I had too much going on in my life to consider trying to get back into education (and for those that know me will know that this is true for the most part, my life is nothing but hectic!). 

In 2019, I gained my Mathematics GCSE, after attending night school for 9 months, which I had been putting off due to struggling with dyscalculia and the fear of failure. Succeeding in this triggered such a sense of achievement that I started to consider enrolling on a degree, for real this time. I spoke to friends and colleagues for advice and their thoughts as to what they thought I should do. Some felt that it was wise to add to my qualifications, when others would say, well you’re already doing the job and have the work experience, so what’s the point?   

In the end I decided it was now or never, and time to just dive in – I’ve navigated so many major life events as a baptism of fire – so why stop now? I want to undertake this degree not just to better my job prospects, or to become better at the design aspects of my current job, but for me. Because this is what I’m truly interested in and I know I can do it and be great at it. 

So where am I studying? After doing lots and lots of research, and becoming disheartened many times, I discovered the Open College of the Arts (OCA), somewhere I had never heard of before, and after learning more about them, I’m really surprised it isn’t more well known. The OCA was founded in 1987 by Micheal Young, who was one of the founders of the Open University. They specialise in creative degrees delivered entirely online, something that I’ve discovered is very thin on the ground. In 2016, the OCA became part of the University for the Creative Arts (UCA), which in 2019 was named Modern University of the Year by the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide, and is ranked number #13 on the UK’s Guardians University League Table and listed as TEF Gold.

As the degree is delivered fully online, which is perfect for me work-wise, it means that my motivation and time management skills are going to have to exceed my usual levels by tenfold. I know myself well enough to know that my main challenges are going to be just sitting down and reading, and balancing my social life with study time … I’ll have to start taking the advice that I give to students, and like most people I am terrible at taking my own advice! 

However, through the power of social media I already have a ‘study buddy’ that I met through the OCA student community Facebook group. It’s already been a huge help, regardless of the ‘real life’ support that I have, and we are helping each other by sharing ideas and just motivating each other generally. She’s started slightly earlier than me (I’m starting in April) so has let me know what the first assignment is, which is to design three postcards based on your interests and hobbies. Naturally they are going to be the nerdiest postcards ever seen, and I’m super excited about getting started on them.

I’m also very interested to see how this degree is delivered from a professional viewpoint. The only contact I will have with my tutors is via Skype or Google Hangouts, I will be sent my assignments online and will be expected to maintain a learner log. I’m not sure yet what Virtual Learning Environment will be used if any, but the feedback I have read from other students has been very positive, so I’ll also be feeding back on this blog on how the OCAs way of teaching could improve my own practice in certain areas as an Online Course Developer. 

I’m under no illusion that this is going to be hard work, lots of hard work, but I’m ready for the challenge!

Image credit – Photo by Flo Dahm from Pexels

Guest Blogger: Emma Duke-Williams – On changing from academic to educational Technologist

Some of you may remember me – I spent about 16 years at Portsmouth, lecturing in the School of Computing. I’ve now moved to be an Educational Technologist in Dundee University, working as part of a central team. In many ways it seems only yesterday that I left; in reality, it has been more than four years!

The change wasn’t entirely planned. I moved to Scotland for personal reasons and was therefore looking for a job. A combination of 16 years of lecturing (and a few more of school teaching before that) and a lack of a PhD made me decide that I didn’t want to lecture again. However, I did like the contact I had had with staff and students at Portsmouth, so the opportunity of a sideways jump appealed. Those who knew me at Portsmouth will remember that IT to support learning was a key area of interest for me. Indeed, my PGCE in the 80s had included “Computing in the Primary Curriculum” – those were the days of BBC Bs, Granny’s Garden and the Domesday project!

While at Portsmouth I was keen to experiment, and no doubt I drove some in the eLearning team mad with my “why won’t it do …” questions – but I also was free to experiment to see whether something could be done, and students generally went along with my ideas. 

All of that experience has really helped me here! I understand those wanting to push a tool to its limits, to get it to work for the way they want to teach, and that it’s rare to find ‘one size fits all’ solution. That aspect of my role is fun, challenging, and forces me to think about both tools and pedagogic practice. 

However, the greater challenge is supporting all staff to have a good understanding of the tools we have, the functionality on offer, while helping staff decide what’s really needed for their students. When teaching I came across students who found aspects of the subject hard, or didn’t understand why they had to do various things. Academics are no different! 

Do I miss teaching? Not often. I do miss the buzz of enthusiastic students, but I don’t miss the pile of marking – but I’d find this role 100 times harder, had I not had that experience of being on ‘the other side’. 

Personal Tutoring Project

As part of the OfS-funded project Raising Awareness, Raising Aspirations (RARA) staff from a number of teams – Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL), Information Systems, Academic Development, and the Academic Skills Unit – joined forces to develop a platform, website and learning resources to support tutors and tutees in the personal tutoring process.

RARA, a collaborative project between the University of Sheffield, King’s College London and the University of Portsmouth, investigated the extent to which an enhanced personal tutoring system might help reduce the attainment gap for Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) students and those from lower socioeconomic groups. The project had its roots in research (Cousin and Cuerton, 2012; Thomas, 2012; Mountford-Zimdars, 2015) which suggested that such a system could reduce the attainment gap, ‘based on evidence that the personal tutor can play a particularly important role in the academic integration of BME students and students from lower economic groups.’

We used an agile project methodology, drawing on the skills, experience and knowledge across the University. From the start we wanted to create a space for tutors, in consultation with tutors. From these consultations, it was clear that there was a varying understanding of the personal tutoring role across the university. Many personal tutors felt they were not equipped with the knowledge they needed to fulfill their role to the best of their ability, and this was especially true of those new to teaching.

TEL’s main project deliverable was to lead on creating staff- and student-based personal tutoring resources. In August 2018 we launched the website Personal Tutoring @ UoP for tutors and those that support this process. Since this initial launch TEL have been working to develop the site further – a new, more extensive version of the site will launch in February. The site provides information about the personal tutoring role, developing tutees, supporting and signposting tutees, and training resources.

Personal tutoring @ UoP Website

 

TEL have also developed student-facing resources within Learning at Portsmouth – a student website to support transition into higher education. As well as online provision, we also developed a paper-based guide for all first-year, campus-based students to be given at their first tutorial session.

Burke et al. (2016) found that academic staff play a key role in how students construct their feelings about capability, which ultimately lead to success or failure in higher education.

The guides include information for students on how to develop themselves whilst at Portsmouth and also provided contact details of services across the University and their faculty to support them in their studies and in times of personal difficulties.

The end of the two-year RARA project was marked by our University’s first personal tutoring conference for academic staff, and the launch of a RARA personal tutoring toolkit. As an institution we are now well on our way to implementing the recommendations made in the 2019 RARA Report. Student and staff feedback has been positive – the website has not only had an impact at Portsmouth but has formed part of a national toolkit for personal tutors. These have been presented at conferences and have received positive feedback on the clarity of their design. Looking to the future, TEL will continue to work with colleagues across the institution in the development of work in this area so that as an institution we can help tackle the attainment gaps that are prevalent nationally in higher education.

References

Cousin, G., and D. Cureton. 2012. Disparities in Student Attainment (DISA). York: HEA.

Mountford-Zimdars, A., Sabri, D., Moore, J., Sanders, S., Jones, S., & Higham, L. (2015). Causes of Differences in Student Outcomes. Higher Education Funding Council for England, HEFCE. Accessed July 23, www.hefce.ac.uk/pubs/rereports/Year/2015/diffout/Title,104725,en.html

Thomas, L. (2012). Building student engagement and belonging in Higher Education at a time of change: final report from the What Works? Student Retention & Success programme. London: Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

 

Episode 10 – Bartolomeo Meletti from Learning on Screen – Copyright

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Copyright Resources:

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The Game is On

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1709 Blog

Nowhere Land – Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
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Natalie_4.0

Software developers and user interface designers often use storytelling techniques to help them make sense of different features of their system and to help them communicate and explain their work to others. Software developers, for example, write “user stories”: descriptions of system features written from the perspective of an end user of the system. User interface designers often develop “personas” – a written description of a fictional character who represents a particular type of end user.

Jisc, in trying to understand what Education 4.0 might mean, have adopted a similar approach. They have created a fictional character, called Natalie_4.0, who represents a student taking a university course in geography in October 2029. What might a typical study day look like for Natalie_4.0? What opportunities will technology open up for her? By writing a story – “A day in the life of Natalie_4.0” – we can try to get a feel for what the future of educational might be like. Our story would not say that is is how education will turn out; but it can say how education might turn out.    

The twist here is that Jisc have written Natalie’s story not in the form of a written story, as is usual in the software development and UI world, but in the form of a virtual reality experience. I checked out the Natalie_4.0 VR experience at the recent Digifest conference. So – what was it like?

Well, the first thing to say is that the VR technology itself is improving at a rapid rate. Increasing numbers of VR content developers are entering the market and the hardware is getting cheaper and better. The Natalie_4.0 VR experience itself builds on this foundation: it is immersive, and while you are sharing Natalie’s day it is easy to imagine how VR technology could have real educational benefits. (Personally, I don’t believe that those benefits extend to all subject areas. Indeed, in many cases I believe the introduction of VR would be detrimental – it would be a gimmick. Nevertheless, in some niche areas I can see how VR could deliver tremendous benefits.)   

But what about the story itself? Does Natalie_4.0 provide a reasonable guess as to what the student of 2029 might experience? Well, of course we won’t know definitively for another ten years. But for what it’s worth I believe that some guesses will likely prove accurate; others won’t.

The influence of AI on daily life is one aspect of Natalie_4.0 that will, I think, come to pass. The story suggests that Natalie will have access to a personal AI that will help her throughout her day – in her learning as well as in her everyday life. But other aspects of the story seemed to me less convincing. For example, Natalie’s AI organises a live feedback session with her (human) tutor. Well, it will be terrific if turns out that every student has access to a personal tutor; if every student can sit down with a teacher and have a one-on-one session to discuss a piece of work. But how is such a thing possible in a mass education system? Most universities can’t offer that luxury now – why should that change in the future? (It might be that Jisc have underestimated the rate of progress of artificial intelligence; perhaps Natalie’s personal AI will be able to play the role of tutor as well as general assistant?)  

Another AI-related thought struck me as I sat through Natalie_4.0. In the feedback session mentioned above, the tutor uses some gee-whiz technology to provide feedback on … a written essay. Well, technology has already reached the stage where an AI can generate reasonable text in a variety of styles; in ten years time I’m sure Natalie would be able to get an AI system to write an essay for her. (Who knows. Perhaps AI systems will be able to mark essays. Why not cut out the middle-man and have an AI write an essay and a different AI mark it! All untouched by human hands!) In such a world, authentic forms of assessment will become crucial: tutors will need to assess skills that are uniquely human – judgement, creativity, leadership, teamwork, communication. That is the main thing I took from the Natalie_4.0 experience.

Image credits: Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Guest Blogger: Julian Ingle – The Green Zone Rabbit

In the Green Zone, a safe area where politicians live, Hajjar and his friend are hiding in a villa preparing for an attack. To pass the time, Hajjar is looking after a rabbit. When he goes to clean the hutch one morning the rabbit appears to have laid an egg. Absurd events like these run alongside moments of horror and violence in Hassan Blasim’s collection of short stories about Iraq called The Corpse Exhibition.

These stories of the everyday devastation of people’s lives caught in war zones became reality at a recent talk about the work of The Council for At-Risk Academics (CARA) by its director, Stephen Wordsworth. The talk was part of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences’ Learning and Teaching day and was, without doubt, the most moving event I’ve been to at this kind of conference. I’ve just joined the University of Portsmouth and have been fortunate that it’s the conference season. I’ve seen interesting work, met lots of people, who’ve been welcoming and friendly and been to some excellent talks.

What stands out were the accounts of their recent lives by three academics who were supported by CARA (http://www.cara.ngo/). Each of them talked about how their academic careers were closed down by the war in Syria. CARA helped them to escape, got them visas and has found them work at the University of Portsmouth so that they could continue their careers as academics until such time as they can return to their country. Their families and friends remain in Syria.

There has been more debate recently about academic freedom in UK HE, often raising concerns about the introduction of the ’Prevent duty’ in 2015. Under threat was academics’ right ‘to question and test received wisdom and to put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions without placing themselves in jeopardy of losing their jobs or the privileges they may have’ (1988 Education Reform Act). Hearing the stories of these three people, their struggle to survive and to pursue their careers in higher education, put some of these debates – and our privileged position – into perspective.

Julian Ingle has just joined the University of Portsmouth as the new Deputy Head of ASK. Prior to this he worked at Queen Mary University of London as part of the Thinking Writing initiative, and as an educational developer and lecturer at several London universities.

Image credits: Photo by Gary Bendig on Unsplash

Guest Blogger: Lucy Sharp – Sleeping your way to a good degree

This may not be what you think it is, at least I hope not!

Humans and animals all need to sleep, how much, when and where will vary but the constant is that sleep is an essential part to living and learning. The quality and quantity of our sleep is a major indicator of our overall health and wellbeing.

We spend up to a third of lives asleep and most of us know that getting a good night’s sleep is important, but too few make the recommended 8 hours between the sheets. This can lead to having a sleep debt and forgetting the feeling of being truly rested. This third of our life is far from unproductive as it plays a direct role in how energetic and successful the other two thirds of our life can be.

When we’re asleep the body re-energises cells, clears the brain of waste, and supports learning and memory; two pretty important factors when you’re a student. It also affects the way we look, behave, perform and impacts on our overall quality of life. At different ages we need different amounts of sleep. Typically teenagers need at least 8 hours—and on average 9¼ hours—a night of uninterrupted sleep to leave their bodies and minds time to be rejuvenated for the next day. If sleep is cut short or disturbed the body doesn’t have time to complete all of the phases needed for muscle repair and memory consolidation, neither does the brain have time for its complex clean-up operation (brain cleaning). The effect is that we wake up less prepared to concentrate, make decisions, or engage fully in the learning experience.

The sleep cycle follows a pattern of NREM (non-rapid eye movement) and REM (rapid eye movement), throughout a typical night the pattern repeats itself every 90 minutes. In the NREM phase one, we begin to transition from being awake to falling asleep. In stage two the onset of sleep begins where we disengage from our surroundings, heart rate and breathing becomes regular and body temperature drops. Stage three is our deep and restorative sleep: muscles are relaxed, tissue growth and repair takes place along with the release of growth hormones and our energy is restored. After about 90 minutes we enter the REM phase, this is when we dream, our brains are active and our eyes dart back and forth and our body is immobile and fully relaxed as our muscles are turned off.

So there’s a lot going on when you tuck yourself in at night, but of course in reality we don’t always get a full and restful night’s sleep and the impact is far reaching. The effect of a poor night’s sleep may stay with you for about 48 hours. Other impacts are more immediate, such as feeling groggy, irritable and the urge to consume sugary drinks, food and extra carbohydrates. Therefore, if your weight is increasing, try spending an extra hour in bed!

As well as the health reasons for getting a good night’s sleep, there are also the physiological and psychological reasons why sleeping well will help you to study and learn.

Physiologically, a sleepy brain has to work harder and isn’t as efficient as a rested brain. This is due to diverting more energy to the prefrontal cortex to stave off tiredness. The effect when we’re learning is that our short and long term memory is shot. This means the brain holds a smaller amount of information for a shorter period of time. The impact is that we go round in circles trying to remember what we’ve learnt, and we find it difficult to perform complex tasks and sometimes even simple tasks, such as reading text. The common example is reading a body of text and not remembering what has been read, or simply reading the same sentence over and over again. This isn’t a great state to be in when you’re studying at a higher level.

A healthy amount of sleep is needed for the plasticity of brain which is a vital component of our ability to adapt to input. If we sleep too little then our ability to process information is lessened, as is the process of remembering what we have learnt and then recalling it in the future, such as in exam settings.

Psychologically, lack of sleep may be the culprit if you’re feeling low in mood, less enthusiastic about activities you used to enjoy and it can chip away at your happiness. In a nutshell, not getting enough good quality sleep heavily influences your outlook on life, energy levels and emotions. 

A regular sleep pattern is the foundation needed to enjoy life and engage fully with the learning experience. Without it, it can affect health, wellbeing and the learning process, the ability to perform at your best in exams and presentations, and achieve those high marks you know you’re capable of reaching.

Tips on how to get a good night’s sleep:

  • Sleep at regular times this allows the body to get into a routine.
  • Make your bedroom sleep-friendly by keeping it dark, clean and tidy. Your bedroom is for two things; sleep and sex.
  • Wind down before going to bed, switch off the TV and electronic devices. The blue screen tricks your brain into thinking it’s daytime. Install software that enables your computer’s display adapt to the time of day, such as f.lux
  • Calm your body and mind (Mindfulness Exercises for Everyday Life).
  • Try not to spend the night in the library revising and studying. Nighttime activity disrupts the circadian rhythm. This is your body clock, this responds to environmental cues such light and temperature.
  • Avoid caffeine and energy drinks 46 hours before heading to bed.
  • Read University Health Service SLEEP HYGIENE.
  • and Skills for sleep at UoP for more advice.

Image Credits:  Photo by Toa Heftiba and Cassandra Hamer on Unsplash

 

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