Adventures in Technology Enhanced Learning @ UoP

Tag: online learning

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 

S01E07 – Dr Lynn Gribble – Artificial Intelligence

TelTales Podcast
TelTales Podcast
S01E07 - Dr Lynn Gribble - Artificial Intelligence
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In this special AI episode of the Tel Tales podcast, Associate Professor Lynn Gribble discusses the impact of artificial intelligence in higher education, and how assessment can be adapted to become more authentic for our students.

Associate Professor Lynn Gribble is an Education Focused academic in the School of Management and Governance at The University of New South Wales Sydney. Awarded an AAUT citation for her leadership and impact as a digital innovator, she has taught management to large classes of Master of Business Administration and Master of Commerce students for 15+ years and has pioneered the use of voice recordings, audience response platforms and learning analytics to personalise every interaction with her students, increasing both their engagement and learning outcomes. Lynn co-leads Communities of Practice in Online Learning and Innovation, and the 4Cs (A Strategic Approach to Impact) and is a Senior Fellow of the Advance HE UK.

You can read two recent recently published blog posts that Lynn has written on the impact of AI in higher education here…

Overconfident with ChatGPT and Generative AI – Time for our students to think again

https://www.education.unsw.edu.au/news-events/news/overconfident-chatgpt-and-generative-ai

Surviving the start of 2023 in the face of generative AI

https://www.education.unsw.edu.au/news-events/news/surviving-start-2023-generative-ai

You can subscribe to the Tel Tales podcasts on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or listen directly through the Tel Tales website.

Original audio created by Chris Wood for use with the Tel Tales podcast.

H5P Branching Scenario: Students as Decision Makers

Adapting during Covid

Due to covid, students have unfortunately missed out on a lot of practical aspects of their courses, which may have been the main reason they decided to take the course in the first place. The Branching Scenario tool in H5P can be used as a substitute of sorts to allow students to have a more meaningful learning experience.

How have we adapted since last March to try and make our courses more content-rich? The use of videos is far more prevalent than before. Videos are great! BUT we need to also use them in conjunction with other learning tools. If you’re asking students to watch video after video it becomes a passive experience and then we fall into a similar situation when we ask them just to read ppts, notes, etc.

How can we show there is “added value” to our courses? 

Interactivity is key here, good synchronous sessions can help engage students, but often there are issues that mean students are unable to attend or the experience of the session is spoiled by a student’s connectivity issue. It’s important not to neglect asynchronous resources. A mix of both makes for a good module and better student feedback! 

The following branching scenario is more of an asynchronous activity but you could also deploy it in a live session if needed. 

In late October 2020, I was approached by a member of the nursing academic team to film some scenarios within our own simulation suite, to be used as an online resource/substitute for activities that could not go ahead due to covid restrictions. The three scenarios involved a student nurse and a patient (played by actors) and covered various aspects of Patient focussed care. 

Being interested in filming (Read my previous blog post), I jumped at this opportunity but I further suggested that we make certain elements interactive, to put the student in charge of making decisions. They would play the role of the student nurse and based on how the scenario panned out they were given 3 key decisions to make with one “good” and one “bad” choice at each decision point.

Set up and execution

The filming was set for the end of November in Covid secure conditions and two of the three scenarios were scripted to have these decision elements within them. In terms of filming style, I decided to go with a three-camera setup, one on the patient, one on the student and a wide-angle also so that students could see the whole environment these characters were in. If I could do it again I might go for a POV (Point of View) style which might give an even more immersive experience.

The editing process was interesting as I had to be creative in some places where audio quality was not as good as I’d hoped and splicing the scenes to make them run more smoothly.

Creation of the H5P object was in itself very easy to do. Once I had exported the individual video files, it was a case of dragging and dropping them into place within the Branching Scenario editor. I would certainly advise anyone who’d like to do this, to map out exactly how you think it will look beforehand so it makes the actual building of the resource much quicker. 

Did it work? 

I received some fantastic feedback from both the academic in charge and the students who used it. I honestly believe that this could be a way forward in bridging the gap between practical elements and online learning. Whilst these types of resources lend themselves well to medical courses where students will need to take important decisions in their future careers, I can also see that this has a broader appeal in Languages, Law, Criminology, Coaching/management and many others.

If you want to have a go at one of the resources I’ve made, check out this link:

https://portsmouthuni.h5p.com/content/1291197333648269337

(You don’t have to be a student nurse to complete this! There’s no difficult terminology or complicated procedures to understand.)

Lockdown Learning Fatigue – How can we re-engage drifting students

Amy Barlow, National Teaching Fellow and Head of Academic Development reflects on how in TB2 ‘Connection and Belonging’ should be the priority curriculum activities 

Universities first went online in lockdown, March 2020; webcams were fired up, adrenaline was high and we were all navigating teaching from a place of unfamiliarity and novelty while the sun shone outside. Our pets and children became part of the daily Zoom on-screen family as tails hovered across the screen and toys were passed to Mum or Dad during calls. ‘You’re on Mute’ became the unspoken mantra of the working day. Restricted trousers and heels were replaced by comfortable joggers and leggings – it was academia Jim but not as we knew it.

Fast forward to February 2021 and the prolonged need to teach online, during another lockdown (in Winter this time) has resulted in a sense of fatigue for many staff and students. It’s been months since some of our students have been physically on campus and seen their peers and tutors. The ebb and flow of each semester starting and beginning haven’t been felt. They have not experienced the celebratory feel on campus when their assignments are finally all handed in and they have not revelled in the social buzz of navigating their new timetable as teaching resumes and new exciting subjects take centre stage. Lockdown learning fatigue has settled heavily on the shoulders of many and there is a growing concern for their progress when attendance is minimal and much of the well designed self-directed learning is missed, or engaged with, out of sequence. The blend of online tools and the skillset of colleagues, to deliver distance learning is at an all-time high – but how can we bridge the disconnect that seems so apparent for some lecturers staring at empty discussion boards and sitting patiently in silent Zoom rooms?

Studying has become a lonely activity and the multiple ways students orientated their studies previously have stopped. Although on the plus side lockdown has taken away many distractions and time pressures, it has also brought with it a learning environment that has many new barriers especially in terms of mental health and wellbeing. Staying on track week to week and navigating multiple module pages in the VLE is a new method of time management required from students.  In terms of community, the face-to-face interaction and ‘get to know you’ activity which scaffolds peer groups and support structures for students have been diminished. For example, the chats walking out of lectures, the informal opportunity to meet over coffee and a safe space to ask their friends questions are no longer a learning resource available to them. It’s this period of orientation to new modules which is so crucial to the curriculum gaining momentum and to students staying on track. 

Over time, withdrawal from study may escalate into missing a week, or weeks of teaching and then feeling that re-engaging, or attending the Zoom taught session is too much to face. A student, for example, may feel overwhelmed. Some may just feel uncomfortable studying in bedrooms and attending online classes in this private space. Ironically, they are disengaged from the one shared learning experience and readily available support structure which may help them. If they get out of sync with their peers and the module content, it is understandable that they may not want to join in,  feeling embarrassed for not completing the prep work they may have been set. Logging into Moodle may seem daunting when done sporadically – all of sudden there are new posts, everyone is chatting and answering questions and it’s a confusing picture.  This Learning Well resource is useful to help students understand why they may find it hard to concentrate when they are feeling anxious and overwhelmed. It’s on our course and department pages but is a good tool to bridge the subject with them.  Many courses saw at the end of TB1 that all of these factors had resulted in a last-minute assignment panic for many. This was seen when views of recorded sessions spiked in the days prior to deadlines and demand for one-to-one catch up sessions increased. 

Meeting the needs of this students group is new territory for teachers everywhere, who are also battling with their own lockdown fatigue and the challenges of home working. 

So, how can we re-engage students during a time of lockdown learning fatigue?

View our top tips to Re-Engage here.

There is no quick fix. There are, however, some simple steps that can be taken to bring students back into the online learning space. To re-engage and help them all to feel on track – but most importantly relaxed about their studies so they can learn. They need to understand that everyone (including their lecturers)  are sharing the same struggles and anxieties as they are. It’s safe to speak up and share that they feel a bit lost – no one will judge them, they can catch up – it’s all there on Moodle if they feel able to work through the scaffolded learning activities that are set in small chunks. Importantly, they work together as a team to help each other succeed in a difficult time. 

A key recommendation is focusing on the first, three weeks of the module being fun, accessible and social-based around fascinating disciplinary content. This time is make or break in terms of engagement. Then bring in further social, low-pressure activities as the module progresses. Students may not want to keep their videos on during zoom sessions, that’s fine – perhaps a quick wave at the start and a commitment from everyone to communicate with the chat function would help the group to get to know each other. Informal drop-in sessions have been successful in our Faculty of Business and Law to create a social online space to ask the questions that may otherwise seem stupid. For example, setting clear expectations about participation is key, but don’t just tell the students what you expect, ask them to discuss what they think is fair:

Would they like to use their videos during calls? 

Would they expect to contribute to the VLE activities every week or every few days? Are they happy to be part of a group chat (e.g. Whatsapp) just for this group? 

Should all sessions be recorded and available for those who didn’t attend? 

What should they agree to do if they feel they are falling behind?

How will they hold each other to account?

What will the group do if they are confused or have missed content?

Icebreaking and ‘Get to Know You’ activities could feature at the start of each week not just at the start of the module. Many small steps early on can make a big difference – 

Read more at our Re-Engage resources 

Are you struggling with engagement on your module and could use some fresh eyes or advice? Contact your Academic Development Liaison for support :

Faculty of Science – amy.barlow@port.ac.uk

Faculty of Technology – catherine.murgatroyd@port.ac.uk

Faculty of Business and Law – andy.clegg@port.ac.uk

Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries – stuart.sims@port.ac.uk

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences – andre.van-der-westhuizen@port.ac.uk 

 

Credit Image: Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

Learning in lockdown – 5 months on

It’s been around 5 months since I started my degree, and what a time it has been! (Laughs maniacally, cries a little bit).

Seriously, what did I tell you in my last blog? Go read it if you haven’t, but didn’t I tell you my life is nothing but hectic, didn’t I?! I knew things would be tough, but I didn’t foresee a pandemic to be thrown in the mix. As usual, things always go a little bit mental when I start something. But never mind! If we don’t go through upset and discord then how do we grow and learn? I know, like most do, that this too shall pass so what’s more to say and do except for roll up our sleeves and move forward.

And roll up my sleeves up, I have. I’ve just submitted my second assignment and completed 10 different projects. Past Becky was a bit naive and thought this would be a piece of cake. Ah my sweet summer past Becky, how wrong you were. I have learned an incredible amount since I’ve started my online degree. I thought that in my line of work, I would somehow have the magic key that would give me a head start. It didn’t. Like everyone else that studies entirely online I’ve learned the hard way that it is my responsibility to set myself time aside to do things, to get feedback from my peers, friends and family, and to go outside of my comfort zone and experiment and try again. The learning journey is indeed that, a journey, and for this degree, in particular, it’s not about creating the best art, but to show the process. Asking questions like how did I get here? Who is my audience? Will they understand this symbolism? Could I try a different texture here?

Just like the pandemic is teaching us different things about ourselves, and the importance of community, this degree has taught me a lot. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.

Setting aside study time – I’m currently lucky enough to work from home at my desk, and as soon as the clock ticks over 17:15 pm I can get started on studying. I’m really good at it now, but the discipline I’m now practising has been learned…the hard way..as usual. It is so, so important to do this. I like to use Trello and my Google calendar to organise myself.

Finding a quiet place to study – At the beginning of lockdown I was working at my dining table. This got really distracting in the evening (three words, Midsomer Murders repeats). So eventually I commandeered my husband’s desk and got into a far better routine, with no distractions. I’ve also started taking myself out with my iPad on a free, sunny day, studying outside in the sun with a coffee. I’ve found it very freeing and I get so much more done!

Reflect, reflect, REFLECT! – It’s so easy to get wrapped up in something you can get lost in the initial brief and go off tangent. Getting constant feedback from your peers, and stepping back from your project is so important and refocuses what you are doing. To get constructive criticism for your peers and tutors is never a negative thing, it’s all part of the process. It’s also important to be able to show your tutors how you got to your final piece. Showing them a final product is almost useless if they have no clue as to how you got there in the first place!

Communication – Online learning can be a lonely place since you have no bricks and mortar campus to connect with others. I’ve been making the most of the forums, Zoom sessions and Discord channels to communicate. I’ve already made lots of friends and we regularly meet up online to play Drawful! I would have certainly struggled if I hadn’t had these places to chat or share ideas.

So what about the OCA itself? Has it given me food for thought on how we as a university can deliver our online learning better….well, it has and it hasn’t. To be blunt, I had expected an institution associated with a TEF Gold university to be leaps and bounds ahead of us when it comes to online delivery. Well, they are not, in fact, they are only really starting to blossom, in my opinion, along with so many other institutions. What has really stood out is how the student body has found many innovative ways itself to up the ante with communications, but I can see so many things that the OCA can do better with their VLE and that’s why you are now looking at the newly elected student representative in TEL and IT for the OCA Student Association. Because, you know, I don’t have enough to do. But seriously, I really think I can help make a difference working with their TEL team and the student body. I’ll update you all on what has happened with that in my next blog.

I definitely do not regret my decision to study online. My little brain may be working overtime, but I’m enjoying it immensely. I keep seeing lately that there is no wrong path, and it’s so true, so if you’re putting off taking something on like this then do it! 

Until next time, stay safe!

Credit Image: Becky Holman – Southsea Seafront

 

Guest Blogger: Amy Barlow – TEL Tales: Blended Learning Festival is now LIVE

This week the TEL Tales Festival Team are excited to bring a jam packed programme of webinars and online training events as part of this week long event. The past months have seen a huge transformation in the way we teach and we think it’s about time we paused, took a deep breath (or sigh of relief) and pat ourselves heartily on the back. If you’d have shown us, on a crystal ball, in 2019 that the whole university would move to online delivery in the space of a fortnight we would have spat out our tea; that, it transpires, was remarkably possible. The effort, determination, blood sweat and tears that such a transformation required from all staff  is not to be underestimated. We learnt to teach in new ways and our students took it all in their stride. The metrics showing the sudden spike in VLE use, content capture and online webinar instances evidences how adaptable we are as a Higher Education provider. Some may say, educators across school, FE and HE are the unsung heroes of 2020 for pivoting so quickly. 

TEL Me How TicketThe TEL Tales: Blended Learning Festival celebrates the great body of knowledge we have acquired and marks our continued journey into the Blended Learning stratosphere. We’ve been teaching at a distance for decades; now distance learning and our expertise with educational technology is front and centre. Next academic year will not be without its challenges and a continued commitment to high quality online and face to face delivery will shape our teaching and learning going forward. The week makes sure that everyone has access to the ingredients they need to cook up a storm. 

So, what does this week have in store?

I’m personally looking forward to this week’s programme and having a much needed debrief following Teaching Block Two. What have we learnt? What have we gained? What areas do we need to upskill in?

Tea at 3!Each day we will hold ‘Tea at 3’ which is a themed informal discussion. Like so many sector events, we are looking forward to the sharing that happens across disciplines. There will be a selection of webinars covering a myriad of topics and tools – look out for the TEL Me How for more practical training. Many sessions are repeated, including the popular Using the Moodle Template webinar and with consent, we will be able to record everything for those that miss out on the live event.

L&T WebinarsHere are some highlights for the week ahead :

  • Meeting the Challenges of Remote Personal Tutoring
  • An Introduction to Creating Accessible Content
  • Using Vevox to Create Live Conversations with Students
  • Learning Well: Resources for supporting student well-being online
  • The Power of Panopto

We look forward to seeing you there!

Amy Barlow, Head of Academic Development

Don’t forget to follow all the latest festival information and daily line-ups of our sessions on Instagram at @telportsmouth and Twitter at @TelPortsmouth

hashtag info

 

 

Moving online – the experience of Business and Law

The sudden and dramatic shift to virtual teaching and learning has brought not only challenges but also opportunities and for the 120 undergraduate degree apprenticeship students working towards their Certified Management Degree Apprenticeship, staff have worked hard to make sure it’s  ‘business as usual’. 

Although circumstances meant limited time to prepare for the new ways of working, the transition to a virtual environment has, in the words of one apprentice, been a good experience, tutors had access to all their systems and were able to quickly respond to my emails or schedule video calls” 

Clearly, the technology we now have available makes it possible to recreate some of the elements of face to face lectures and seminars, but what has also been impressive is an openness and willingness to try out different ways of teaching using tools that have long been available but not necessarily seen as relevant. 

So what has been the experience in Business and Law? Some lecturers were already familiar with delivering distance learning to military personnel but for most lecturers it was a new experience requiring them to learn how to use new platforms and applications and adapt their resources so they could be more easily delivered online.

Quickly after lockdown, what amounted to a working party was set up to bring lecturers and technical support together online to share ideas and plan how best to deliver the modules online. A variety of elements had to be brought together, for example: what tools to use, how best to structure content on Moodle, how to engage students in a virtual environment, supporting those apprentices working in key sectors, ensuring resources were fully and easily accessible.

From these meetings came these top tips:

  • Don’t be shy to ask for help.
  • If you have time, practice with a colleague.
  • Especially at the start – go for simplicity rather than creativity.
  • It does get easier after the initial learning curve.
  • Whether a video or a quiz, keep it fairly short and snappy.
  • Encourage more informal feedback from your students on their learning experience.
  • Be prepared to respond to change with a degree of flexibility.
  • Don’t be afraid to make reasonable adjustments to your online design as teaching progresses to improve student engagement.
  • Group working (use breakouts etc) to increase interactivity and build relationships .

The team’s top tools include:

  • Screencastify
  • Vevox
  • Google Forms
  • Moodle scheduler
  • Padlet

Supporting staff online has been made easy using Google Meet or Zoom as both allow participants to share their screens. Online help is backed up by the use of a dedicated  Moodle site providing more detailed advice on moving to online teaching. For students, the use of tools like Padlet and Jamboard mean that they can continue to work collaboratively. 

Overall, the experience of the Business and Law Degree Apprenticeship has been positive, in the words of the Director: 

This has been an incredibly busy time, but everyone was determined that our apprentices were going to have an excellent summer term and the feedback has been very good from everyone involved. I am very proud of the team and the apprentices as  they have all shown dedication and professionalism throughout.”

As someone who has worked with educational technology for many years, I have been pleased and impressed with how quickly colleagues have taken to using tools they were not previously familiar with and how this has helped contribute to the positive experience students have had in moving to online learning. 

Acknowledgements 

Would like to thank Liz Sharples, Deputy Course Leader (CMDA) and Becky Quew-Jones Director for their input and quotes used.

Credit Image: Image by Alexandra_Koch from Pixabay

Guest Blogger: Emma Cripps – Digital Resources for Research Students

Hi! My name is Emma Cripps and I am the eLearning Coordinator in the Graduate School. When asking a colleague what I should write my first TEL Tales blog post about, the response was “something you are interested in”. There are a lot of aspects of my job that interest me, but at the moment there is one topic that I am particularly focussed on – the way in which online learning resources are created. 

Having worked with undergraduate, and some postgraduate taught courses for over 8 years, my move to the Graduate School in 2019 required me to approach online learning from a completely different viewpoint. Having previously worked with academics to develop online resources that mostly supplemented face-to-face courses, I am now presented with the challenge of creating fully online, standalone, self-paced learning modules. The Graduate School, through the Graduate School Development Programme (GSDP), usually delivers over 150 face-to-face workshops a year that support postgraduate research (PGR) students at key doctoral milestones, helping them to become independent researchers and employable graduates. Part of my role is to develop some of these face-to-face workshops into online learning modules, that any PGR student can complete at any given time. Whilst to some, this type of online content may be seen as more suitable for distance learners, the content I create is intended for all research degree students. The most popular workshops we run as part of the GSDP can be repeated up to five times in any given academic year, but for students who are busy undertaking research, working on their personal and professional development, teaching, and trying to maintain their wellbeing, along with any of the other daily tasks required of them, it can be difficult for them to commit to attending one of these workshops. And, given the current situation, the online versions of our workshops are now crucially important to our PGR students.

Online resources, now more than ever, play such a huge role in research students’ development. The ability to log on at any time, from anywhere (with an internet connection) and choose what it is they want to learn, allows research students the flexibility to fit their development around their other commitments. With this idea underpinning the work I do, I have not only continued to develop our online workshops, but have worked with colleagues in the Graduate School to curate resources from many different sources, such as LinkedIn Learning, Future Learn, SAGE Research Methods and many more, to ensure that every topic we cover in our face-to-face workshops has at a minimum, one good quality online resource. However, online resources may not always be full workshops or additional resources from other providers. Within the Graduate, we have been able to record aspects of some of our workshops, which we have been doing for over 4 years now, and provide these, along with additional resources from the face-to-face workshops via our Moodle sites. This results in our online provision being quite varied, engaging, and interesting for PGR students.

When thinking about the content I create, manage and recommend to PGR students, I have always used the following considerations as my starting point. In the current situation, and knowing that I will need to develop even more online resources in the future, I believe these are still some of the best questions to ask at the outset when developing online content: 

  1. Is the content actually needed?
    What is it that I am looking to develop, and is it suitable to be created in an online format? Is there an alternative option that already exists, and if there is, does it meet the learning outcomes, the students’ needs, and is it a high-quality resource? There are some workshops that we would not develop into an online format, such as our “Mini Motivation Boost” workshop. This workshop aims to give PGR students some space and time to reflect on their journey so far, and with the support of the workshop tutor, and other PGR students, consider strategies to get back on track with their research. This workshop works so well because of the interaction between research students, their ability to share their challenges, and discuss ways in which they can overcome them. Unfortunately, this would be particularly difficult to capture as an online learning course, and would not give students the same, supportive experience. Going forward, we would look to deliver this type of session as a live, or synchronous, session, but with additional resources to support it, such as a toolkit of resources, Apps, activities and ways to keep in touch that participants can access alongside the synchronous session.

  2. Is the content accessible?
    The next thing I have to consider is the accessibility of the content I am creating or recommending. I recently participated in a webinar hosted by a large North American company who provide software that’s used to create digital artefacts. The title of the webinar was something along the lines of “creative ways to turn PowerPoints into online courses”. Great! A lot of the content I work with starts off as a PowerPoint, so this would give me some really creative ideas for content development. How disappointed I was when the first 20 minutes of the webinar was spent demonstrating how a PowerPoint can be saved as individual image files and uploaded as an image gallery! Not only does this create a completely inaccessible item for those using screen readers and other assistive technology, but it is also not very interesting for learners to engage with! What I am trying to say here is, I think we still have some work to do in how we develop online content that is both interesting to engage with and accessible, but it is possible to do both, it might just take a little more imagination and creativity! 

  3. Is the content usable?
    The term usability describes the “ease of use” (Church, 2015) of a product, and is an aspect of user experience, as is accessibility. When thinking about the usability of online resources, it is important for me to remember that PGR students are going to have to navigate and find this content, with little or no help. Whilst we provide guidance, videos, quick links and more, there will be times when PGR students don’t know exactly what it is they are looking for, or even if it exists at all! Because of this, everything related to the Graduate School’s online learning content must be easily found, easy to navigate, easy to interact with, and work across all devices and systems that students may be using. Not only that, but the actual content needs to be useful (see point 1!), interactive and engaging. There is certainly more I can be doing in this area, but for now, I am working to reduce the amount of searching PGR students have to do to find what they are looking for, and ensuring that there is a consistent experience with all of the online content that we create.

  4. Do I have the knowledge and skills to develop or evaluate the content?
    This final consideration is actually a really important one. I have been working in online learning for almost 10 years now, and the online environments and content that I create have changed so much in that time, as have my skills and knowledge! What hasn’t changed though is the supportive community of online course developers, educational technologists, enthusiastic academics, and engaging professional service staff. One thing I have had to do a lot more in the last year though is network with subject matter experts (SMEs). SMEs have knowledge or skills in a specific topic (“What’s a”, n.d.), and can be a really helpful source of information, feedback and experience. The relationship with SMEs in the Graduate School makes up the foundation of our development programme, and we are always so grateful to the staff who give up their time to support us. I certainly would not be able to create content for the Graduate School without the input and feedback from staff who have a greater knowledge in complex areas of researcher development, and in aspects of online content creation that I am less familiar with.

Whilst this blog post has been written in the context of postgraduate researcher development, and the work that the Graduate School undertakes, I believe that the considerations I have outlined above, and the approach I take to online content creation can be applied across all levels and courses at the University. One additional thing I would like to add is that with the provision of online resources, the number of PGR students attending Graduate School workshops has not decreased, and we were able to support over 2,600 students in our workshops in the 2018/19 academic year. That being said, with over half the PGR students at the University of Portsmouth undertaking their research degree part-time, our online provision is an important support mechanism for any and all research degree students. Given the uncertain future we are currently facing, the provision of online resources will continue to be of massive importance, and you will find me hard at work reviewing, collating, creating and checking all the online content we provide to our PGR students to ensure that it continues to support them in their research, academic, professional and personal development.

References

Church, S. (2015). Usability and user experience. Retrieved from https://www.jisc.ac.uk/guides/usability-and-user-experience

What’s a Subject Matter Expert (SME)? (n.d.). Retrieved from Articulate website: https://community.articulate.com/series/everything-you-need-to-know-about-working-with-smes/articles/what-is-a-subject-matter-expert-in-e-learning  

The Graduate School supports a community of over 1,000 research degree students from across the University, including MRes, Professional Doctorate and PhD students. We offer bespoke training and professional development workshops that allow our research degree students to grow their personal, professional and research skills and career aspirations. We are also the first port of call for Research Supervisors, offering guidance, support, and development events. Find out more on the Graduate School webpages.

Credit Image: The feature image is from the Marketing Portal, and is “Free for use” and “Available for Third Party”. It shows ‘imaging phantoms’ which have been created and used by one of our PhD students, and were showcased at our 2019 Doctoral Festival of Research.

Degree Apprenticeships

A couple of years ago the government made it clear that they wanted universities to offer a new type of programme: degree apprenticeships. These programmes would offer students the opportunity to achieve a full bachelors or masters degree as part of their apprenticeship. Apprentices would be employed throughout the programme, but spend part of their time at university – on a day-to-day basis or in blocks, depending on the programme and the requirements of the employer.

There are a number of attractive aspects of degree apprenticeships:

  • Apprentices will gain a degree without needing to pay student fees.
  • Apprentices are employed, so they get paid a wage throughout the course. (So student debt, which we hear so much about, is much less likely to be a problem for those who take a degree apprenticeship.)
  • Apprentices will gain a head start in their chosen profession.
  • Apprentices will acquire the graduate/postgraduate level skills they need for the world of work.
  • Employers can attract – and retain – new talent.
  • Training costs are co-funded by the government and the employer.

In May 2017, the “apprenticeship levy” was introduced to fund apprenticeships. The levy is an 0.5% tax on the wage bill of any employer with a salary cost in excess of £3 million per year. The levy is expected to generate about £3 billion per year – money that can only be spent on approved apprenticeships.

Given the clear attractiveness of these programmes to prospective students it seems certain that universities, in order to stay competitive, will need to offer an increasing range of degree apprenticeships. The University of Portsmouth has responded quickly to this changing environment by appointing several new members of staff to promote and support the development of degree and masters degree apprenticeships.

One challenge facing our new colleagues is the need to develop learning that fits around work commitments – flexible learning modes such as day or block release, and distance or blended learning. Indeed, it seems increasingly likely that online learning (to enable distance or blended learning) is going to play a key role in the development of degree apprenticeships. It won’t be appropriate for all such programmes – the military, for example, would probably prefer paper workbooks to Moodle-based courses! – but for the majority of employers the offer of an online option will be a prerequisite.

So the appointment of three new online course developers to support degree apprenticeships is highly welcome! These OCDs – Andy Taggart, Daren Cooper and Becky Holman are located with the TEL team in Mercantile House. But they’ll be working with colleagues in the faculties to develop exciting new degree apprenticeship programmes. Initial indications are that they are going to be extremely busy!   

A little bit about the new OCDS

Andy Taggart

“Hi everyone, my name’s Andy Taggart and am really excited about joining the TEL  team as an online course developer, working on the Degree Apprenticeships. Originally from Liverpool, I live in Southampton and have done so pretty much since graduating from university there in 1983. Though I did work for a year in Brussels where I met my wife (we got together after I helped rescue her from a fire in the school where we were both working).

Before joining the University I worked for many years in the sixth-form sector, first as a teacher of History before moving into eLearning, specifically Moodle course development. In relation to online learning, I am particularly interested in exploring how technology can support less able students especially those groups of students who tend to underperform.  I have worked with many staff over the years, using the interactive features of Moodle, to help improve student attainment and to help students in general learn in an interesting and innovative way. After many years of working with teachers in helping them prepare their students for university – it’s going to be interesting to work on this side of the fence.

As part of my OCD work I am hoping to also explore the game elements in Moodle as a way of making online learning fun, engaging but academically rigorous at the same time.

Aside from the actual use and creation of online courses I am also interested in the underlying pedagogy of online learning – how it impacts on learners, how it compares to other methods of learning and how it can support approaches to teaching and learning such as flipped and blended learning. I am also keen to work with academic staff to create videos that can then be embedded into Moodle courses, past experience shows that students do find short instructional videos to be particularly useful.

Outside of work I’m married, have two daughters, two dogs and my interests range from playing the ukulele, reading (mainly history, politics and Scandinavian crime) to real ale.

I am passionate about the use of technology in education and looking forward to contributing to the development of online teaching and learning for degree apprenticeship academics and students.”

Daren Cooper

“Hello all, my name is Daren Cooper and I am looking forward to the challenges ahead working as an Online Course Developer (OCD) for the new apprenticeship degrees.  I am hoping to help create some interesting materials and use some of the skills I have acquired from my time as an OCD in  SSHLS to create attractive interactive content.  Prior to working at the University of Portsmouth I was also a student here and got my degree in Video Production, which I have put to good use since working at the University.  

In the past I have made educational videos and promotional videos for the Faculty of Humanities and have since gone on to produce websites for research projects in various subjects. I’ve worked within education for about 10 years including primary and secondary schools, college and now university.  

I have had a varied career over the years but working in developing online courses has been the job I’ve stuck to the longest (it’s better than bingo calling, the second longest job!). When I am not at work my special powers include carpentry, DIY, video editing and tending the allotment.”

Becky Holman

“Hi all! My name is Becky Holman and I will be joining the Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) team from October as one of the Online Course Developers (OCDs) focused on the University of Portsmouth’s new Degree Apprenticeships.

I’ve worked at the University of Portsmouth for over 10 years now, starting off as an receptionist and working upwards to the role of Administrator. Although I’ve enjoyed all of the roles I have undertaken over the years I have always had a real interest in digital technology and was always keen to move my career forward into a direction where I could pursue that interest. At the beginning of this year an opportunity arose for me to be seconded into the TEL team as an Online Course Developer. I had great feedback from my time in the role and I enjoyed my secondment so much that I began applying for any OCD role that became available… and now here I am!

I am really excited to be joining the TEL team and am looking forward to helping give students the best online learning experience possible by creating interesting content which is also accessible. I am especially looking forward to experimenting with H5P to achieve this.

When I’m not at work I love to read, work on my garden, play video games and (occasionally) run. I’m married and have one dog, who absolutely rules the roost! When I have time I also like to take part in MOOCs but I would really like to be able to undertake a degree apprenticeship myself in the future.”

We would like to welcome Andy, Daren and Becky to the TEL team and look forward to hearing more from them about degree apprenticeships in the future!

Image credits: https://marketing.port.ac.uk/media/

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