Adventures in Technology Enhanced Learning @ UoP

Tag: lecturer

AI and Higher Education: Is it time to rethink teaching and assessment?

On 22 February I took part in a roundtable debate on the topic “AI and Higher Education: Is it time to rethink teaching and assessment?”, the event being organised and facilitated by Graide, a UK-based Ed Tech company that uses AI to provide improved feedback in STEM subjects. (I dislike the term ‘artificial intelligence’ in this context, but I think I am fighting a losing battle here. In the interests of clarity, I’ll use the term AI in this blog post.) 

Given the recent furore around generative AI, and its ability to create human-like outputs, Graide thought it would be timely to bring together a variety of voices – senior managers, academics, developers, students – to discuss the potential impact of this new technology on higher education. I was joined on the panel by Bradley Cable (student at Birmingham University); Alison Davenport (Professor of Corrosion Science at Birmingham University); Ian Dunn (Provost of Coventry University); Manjinder Kainth (CEO of Graide); Tom Moule (Senior AI Specialist at Jisc); and Luis Ponce Cuspinera (Director of Teaching and Learning at Sussex University).     

It was fascinating to hear the range of opinions held by the panel members and by the 400+ people who attended the event (and who could interact via polls and via chat). If you are interested in my opinion of the technology then you might want to watch a recording of the debate; alternatively, in the paragraphs below, I’ll attempt to summarise my feelings about Bing, ChatGPT, and similar programs.

* * *

It is easy to see why there should be fears about this technology, particularly around assessment: students might pass off AI-generated content as their own. Critics of the technology have numerous other, entirely valid, concerns: the models might produce biased outputs (after all, they have been trained on the internet!); companies will presumably start to charge for access to AI, which raises questions of equity and digital poverty; the output of these models is often factually incorrect; and so on and so on.

But this technology also possesses the clear potential to help students learn more deeply and lecturers teach more effectively. 

I believe that if we embrace this technology, understand it, and use it wisely we might be able to provide personalised learning for students; design learning experiences that suit a student’s capabilities and preferences; and provide continuous assessment and feedback to enable students themselves to identify areas where they need to improve. The potential is there to provide at scale the sort of education that was once reserved for the elite. 

Note the emboldened if in the paragraph above. To obtain the outcome we desire we need to embrace and explore this technology. We need to understand that the output of large language models relies on statistical relationships between tokens; it does not produce meaning – only humans generate meaning. And we need to use this technology wisely and ethically. It is not clear at this point whether these conditions will be met. Instead, some people seem to want to shut down the technology or at least pretend that it will have no impact on them.

I have heard numerous academics respond to this technology by demanding a return to in-person, handwritten exams. (Would it not be better to rethink and redesign assessment, with this new technology in mind?) I have even heard some lecturers call for a complete ban on this technology in education. (Is that possible? Even if it were, would it be fair to shield students from tools they will have to use when they enter the workforce?) 

* * *

Fear of new technology dates back millennia. Plato, in the Phaedrus, a work composed about 370 BCE, has Socrates argue against the use of writing: 

“It will implant forgetfulness in their [the readers] souls. They will cease to exercise memory because they rely on that which is written, calling things to remembrance no longer from within themselves, but by means of external marks.”

Ironically, we only know about Plato’s argument against writing because it was written down.

More recently, some critics argued that the introduction of calculators would impair students’ mathematical ability. (The research is clear: children’s maths skills are not harmed by using calculators – so long as the devices are introduced into the curriculum in an integrated way.)  Even more recently, some people argued that spellcheckers would impair students’ ability to spell correctly. (It seems the reverse might be the case: students are getting immediate feedback on spelling errors and this is improving their spelling.)

Perhaps it is a natural human response to fear any new technology. And in the case of generative AI there are legitimate reasons for us to be fearful – or at least to be wary of adopting the technology.

But the technology is not going to go away. Indeed, it will almost certainly improve and become more powerful. I believe that if we are thoughtful in how we introduce AI into the curriculum; if we focus on how AI can support people to achieve their goals rather than replace people; if we produce a generation of students that use the technology effectively, ethically, and safely – well, we could transform education for the better.  

Credit Image: Photo by Stable Diffusion 2.1

Roles in Moodle

Do you often feel baffled by the many roles and privileges of your role in Moodle. Are you clear about what the definition of your role is and what it allows you to do? For example, do you know the difference between the ‘Non-Editing Teacher’ and the ‘University Admin Staff’ role? Did you know that there’s a PhD student role titled: ‘Student-Teacher’? Have you ever wondered what the difference is between the ‘Unit Reviewer’ role and the ‘External Examiner’ role?

I hope that this blog will give you answers to some of these questions. Although while the roles themselves shouldn’t change, some of the processes might be different in the summer, due to new systems and upgrading. New features are added and old tools are upgraded to improve functionality of Moodle at the end of August, this is when Moodle is taken down for a couple of days. This year the date for the Moodle upgrade is week commencing 24th August. We try to encourage anyone with an active role in Moodle to attend our training sessions, although our sessions cover more then just Moodle. To see the description of all the sessions we run, go to the Department of Curriculum and Quality Enhancement (DCQE) website and click on the TEL Training Calendar. 

Differences between the roles:

The Lecturer 

  • Who is this given to? 

This role is mainly given to content creators.

  • What are the privileges?

The main privileges of this role is the person can add, edit and delete the content within the site. It allows the person with this role to view hidden and visible content, along with being able to complete activities and view student activity reports on the site. This role can also switch between roles so that they can see the view, of a lesser role or a role that is equal to them.

On most sites in Moodle, the Lecturer’ role is given to the person responsible for the information on the module. This is normally the module co-ordinator, but not always, for instance a Project or Dissertation module may have many lecturers updating key information onto the site as each may be responsible for certain areas, or different groups of students. 

The Non-editing Teacher 

  • Who is this given to? 

This role is given to lecturers, who teach on the module, but do not have to update or upload content onto it.

  • What are the privileges?

This role has four privileges, the person can view hidden and visible content, along with the ability to complete activities on the site and the capability to view student activity reports.

The ‘Non-editing Teacher’ role may be given to lecturers and in some cases PhD students who teach on the module, although a new role has been created titled ‘Student-Teacher’ role so that they are more identifiable. The person with this role may be permanently on the module or acting as a substitute, but there would be no reason for them to touch the content on these sites. The ‘Non-editing Teacher’ role is occasionally given to external examiners, rather than the ‘External Examiner’ role, as this role can see hidden content, which the ‘External Examiner’’ role isn’t able to view. 

The Student-Teacher

  • Who is this given to? 

This role is only given to PhD Students. 

  • What are the privileges?

The privileges of this role are very similar to the ‘Non-editing teacher’ the only difference with this role is they cannot view student information including their activity. 

The ‘Student-Teacher’ role is for PhD students who are assisting with the teaching programme of the module. The main reason for the role was PhD students needed a greater level of access than a student, but couldn’t have a ‘Non-editing teacher’ role as they would then be able to see student information.  The ‘Student-Teacher’ role cannot see any of the students activity reports, emails or details for General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) purposes.

The University Admin Staff

  • Who is this given to? 

This role is given to members of the Department of Student and Academic Administration. 

  • What are the privileges?

This role has the same privileges as the ‘Lecturer’ role, they can add, edit and delete the content within the site. They can view hidden and visible content, along with being able to complete activities and view student activity reports on the site. This role can also switch roles whilst on a site so that they can see the view of a lesser role or one that is equal to their role.

The role of the ‘University Admin Staff’ has increased across the university with administrators needing to use Moodle for reporting or analytic purposes as well as inputting some key information.

The Student

  • Who is this given to? 

This role is given to any participant taking the module. 

  • What are the privileges?

This role has two privileges, they’re able to view visible content and able to complete activities.

When students are uploaded onto modules in Moodle through Student Records they are automatically given the ‘Student’ role. The ‘Student’ role is also given to members of staff when they are given access to core training sites in Moodle.

The Student (Interest only)

  • Who is this given to? 

This role is given to participants taking the module who have not been added to the module through Student Records, unless asked otherwise in their request. 

  • What are the privileges?

The privileges are the same as the ‘Student’ role, they’re able to view visible content and to complete activities.

Participants might be given access to this role if they’re taking the module for interest only, or have directly come into the University at a different year and need to view the modules to help understand the content of the course. The ‘Student (Interest only)’ role is used where marks received from these modules are not necessarily going towards their end grades. This role is not linked to the students’ timetable, MyPort etc. 

The Senior Online Course Developer

  • Who is this given to? 

This role is given to the Senior Course Developer 

  • What are the privileges?

As you can imagine this role has all the privileges of the ‘Lecturer’ role and more. They have the ability to change site names and module codes along with adding blocks into categories. This role can enrol some users manually and unenrol non-student enrolled users and add tags which attached cohort of students onto sites. They can also backup and restore existing sites and roll over sites for the new academic year.

The ‘Senior Online Course Developers’ role is a new role, created towards the end of last year. This role has been created to help channel and monitor requests for Moodle accounts, who is assigned what role and why that level of access is needed.  This is carried out in conjunction with eLearn.

   The Online Course Developer

  • Who is this given to? 

This role is given to Online Course Developers.

  • What are the privileges?

This role has the same privileges as the ‘Senior Online Course Developers’ role, the only difference being is they cannot manually add Moodle accounts onto sites.

The Unit Reviewer

  • Who is this given to? 

In the past this role has been given to the Associate Deans (Students) and members of the staff leading on the Blended and Online Development Team. In addition, this role is given to auditors, externally and internally to the University.

  • What are the privileges?

This role can view visible and hidden content.

The External Examiner

  • Who is this given to? 

This role is given to external examiners that are not based at the University. 

  • What are the privileges?

This role can view visible content, completed activities and view activity reports.

External examiners don’t normally need to see hidden content, so it was requested that we create a Moodle role that has the ‘Non-editing teacher’ role benefits without seeing material that they do not need to see.

The Guest

  • Who is this given to? 

The role is given to people who just want to view a module.

  • What are the privileges?

This role only has one privilege and that is to be able to view visible content. 


Roles and Responsibilities in Moodle

Moodle – Roles and Responsibilities Table

Please Note: The privileges shown on this grid are for Moodle version: 3.7.1


Lecturers, do you know you can change the role description in a module?  

If you wanted to change the name of the ‘Student’ role to read ‘Participant’ or the ‘Lecturer’ role to read ‘Facilitator’ or ‘Author’ or even ‘Non-editing Teacher’ role to read ‘Tutor’, it’s easy to do. However, be aware that when you change the role description that everyone with that role will have the new title.  

How to rename the roles:

Click on the module that you wish to make the changes in, then:

  • Click on the Action menu cog (top right hand side)
  • Click on Edit Settings
  • Scroll down
  • Click on Role renaming
  • Find the role and type in the name that you want the role to change to
  • Click on Save and display 

This will change everyone on the module with that role to the new name.

Disclaimer: The privileges of these roles were correct at time of publication. 

which role(s) apply to you?

Image Credit: Photo by Roel Dierckens on Unsplash

Image Credit: Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

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