Adventures in Technology Enhanced Learning @ UoP

Category: Information (Page 1 of 2)

Similarity scoring is a secondary consideration for online assessment…

Similarity scoring should be a secondary consideration for online assessment. Much more important factors, from my point of view, are ease of marking for academics; access to quality feedback for students; and innovative authentic assessment workflows.

Turnitin are close to monopolising the market on similarity scoring of student papers but many assessment platforms already use Turnitin and Urkund as plugin services to provide similarity scoring.

Where should we be focusing our effort at UoP?

As an institution one of our strengths lies in quiz/question-based assessments. This is particularly the case in the Science and Technology faculties. We have a mature sophisticated platform in Moodle to deliver these types of assessments and a deep level of staff expertise across the organisation, which has developed further through-out the pandemic.

The risk factors for UoP include a need to increase capacity for online exams (or diversify some of our assessment types onto an external platform at peak periods) and the ability to be able to innovate in terms of essay/file-based assessments.

From what I can see, Turntin has stagnated in terms of assessment innovations in recent years and have not yet improved service reliability at key assessment periods by migrating their platforms to a service like AWS. This has been promised repeatedly but not delivered on as yet.

This is potentially a reason why we saw growth in Moodle assignment and quiz usage during the pandemic rather than a big increase in Turnitin usage (trust in the reliability of the service and flexibility of the functionality).

So where could we focus our effort to improve the assessment tools for educators and students to gain the most benefits?

Innovative assessment workflows

Posing a long-form question to a student and easily marking the finished product should be a simple process – and it is on platforms such as Turnitin. However, we are increasingly adapting our assessments to be more authentic: assessments that more closely match how students will operate in the workplace. This often requires more sophisticated workflows and mechanisms, which should still be straightforward for academics to engage with and make sense of if they are to be successful. 

Traditional paper-based exams (potentially bring your own device)

During the pandemic staff were forced to transition away from paper-based exams. Many exams were instead delivered as coursework or window assignments (e.g. a 2hr assignment within a 24hr window) or as question-based quiz exams. When exam halls are available again staff may revert back to previous paper-based solutions. After all, we know how these work and paper doesn’t need charging or a stable wifi connection. However, we can harness this forward momentum with a platform dedicated to supporting timed essay assignments on students’ own devices or University machines. Several platforms offer functionality for students to download assignments at the start of an exam with no need to have an internet connection until it’s time to submit at the end. This could represent a robust, safe exam experience that more closely matches how students study today. Who handwrites for three hours any more? I’d be willing to bet most students don’t.

There are challenges with BYOD (bring your own device) particularly around charging and ensuring student machines are reliable. Many of these challenges can be solved with a small stock of fully charged devices, which can be swapped out to students when needed. Chromebooks are ideal online exam devices for this very reason, due to their long battery life and simple configuration. 

Assessment feedback

Workflows such as “feedback before grades” can help students better engage with their feedback, but better access to feedback for students in a variety of places is also key.

Services that offer a holistic view of assessment feedback, or the ability to extract these comments via API so we can build our own views, are increasingly valuable. This functionality will enable key staff such as personal tutors or learning support tutors to view student feedback as a whole (rather than in silos) to spot key areas to help students improve their academic work.

To round out where I started with this post, providing similarity checking is an important part of modern assessment – but it is a problem that has already been solved, multiple times.

If we make assessment more authentic, more flexible and more collaborative there will be less need for plagiarism detection because students will be demonstrating more of the attributes we want them to leave University with. I accept this is perhaps an overly idealistic viewpoint, as there are a lot of students to assess each year, but this is more reason to explore flexible assessment solutions that can make the lives of academics and students a bit easier.

TEL in 2020

Well … 2020 has been quite a year. The most extraordinary 12 months any of us have experienced. Although 2020 has had its stresses (to put it mildly) I’m proud at how the TEL team has helped the University maintain its mission. Our existing students were able to progress and new students have been able to start their University career. Without technology, that would have been impossible.   

Like many people, we understood the disruptive potential of Covid-19 in late February. By early March we started thinking about the support we could offer if the University had to deliver teaching remotely. We thus had the elearning Tools website ready to publish when the VC sent his email about home working.  

That move to home working affected the TEL team less than many other teams in the University – partly because many of us already had some experience of home working and partly because we work with technology on a daily basis. All we need to do the basics of our job is a fast, stable internet connection. (One team member, stuck abroad when airlines began to remove scheduled flights, spent several days working from Australia. For a while we truly were providing around-the-clock service!) It helped the team enormously that we used SLACK: the platform held a record of our thinking and enabled people to catch up on discussions they might otherwise have missed.  

That’s not to say working at home (or living at work?) was without challenges – especially for those of us who were homeschooling children or who had other caring responsibilities. One lesson I think we learned far too late was this: when we’re working at home we don’t need to be available all the time. Too many of us jumped to respond to a SLACK message immediately or to answer an email the moment it reached our inbox. It’s nice to know our team members are conscientious – but that “always-there” mentality is ultimately self-defeating. And although SLACK enabled us to work efficiently while we were remote, it’s undeniable that face-to-face communication is quicker and less prone to misunderstanding than text-based communication. All that raises an interesting question: when we get back to some sort of normality, will we all rush back into the office? Not many people miss their commute, but some do miss the office environment – so will we work more flexibly, with one or two days spent in the office and the rest working at home? Or will some of us become full-time home-workers?  

Returning from speculation on future events to events that happened back in the spring of 2020: the University started to develop its “Blended and Connected” approach to the new academic year. To support that initiative, the TEL team created the website Preparing for teaching in a blended learning context, with content coming from across the whole of DCQE. We also worked closely with our colleagues in Academic Development to put on the TEL Tales Blended Learning Festival (and more recently a Blended Learning Mini-Fest).

The “Blended and Connected” approach allowed us to address a long-standing complaint from students. In response to our yearly Digital Experience Tracker, students regularly criticised the lack of consistency across their Moodle modules. We now had the chance to develop and implement a templated approach to Moodle. The TEL team also improved the Moodle theme, in light of co-creation work with a group of University computing students studying UX/UI design.

Of course, all those other tasks involved in running a large Moodle installation did not go away because of the pandemic. Integrations with other systems (more of which below) had to be managed, the upgrade to Moodle version 3.9 had to take place, and all of this took place as the University moved from Quercus to SITS. (Can anything be more stressful for a university than changing Student Record systems in the middle of a pandemic?) The SITS project touched most aspects of University life; for us, it required the development of new feeds into Moodle. 

Moodle itself has performed robustly since the start of the academic year, despite routinely serving numbers of students that in previous years would have been considered extraordinary. By the start of December our new Moodle had clocked up 1,264,306 logins and students had engaged in 14,088,187 activities (read/writes). Phew… 

Throughout 2019, discussions and consultations around content capture had taken place (and a new policy on content capture was eventually agreed). We entered 2020, however, in a difficult place. We were concerned about the technologies we had available to support content capture: our existing platforms had reached end-of-life. The team facilitated a number of supplier demonstrations early in the year, with the last demonstration taking place just before the work-from-home directive took hold, and UoP chose Panopto – the most widely adopted video platform within universities. The implementation and roll-out of such a platform would normally take place over the course of a full year, but we made Panopto available (complete with Moodle integration and a support website) within six weeks. Quite an achievement! And the platform is being heavily used: by November, we had 29,793 videos created; 10,464 hours of video created; 736,081 views and downloads; and 97,759 hours of video delivered. Again, phew…    

To support synchronous delivery for the new “Blended and Connected” approach, the University purchased Zoom. And, of course, we were quick to integrate this with Moodle. One useful feature in Zoom, which at that point could not easily be replicated by existing options such as Meet and WebEx, was the easy creation of breakout rooms. (Offering a plethora of technologies that do similar things – Zoom, WebEx, Meet – has the potential to lead to confusion for staff and an inconsistent experience for students. It can be difficult to take options away from people; in some cases, it might be technically impossible to remove options. But – in the interests of a consistent student experience – perhaps we need to be firmer in our recommendations of what tools to use?)

We invested in other tools, too: Padlet to facilitate collaboration; Vevox as an audience response system; and we continued to push Nearpod for interactive lessons. For all of these, we continued to provide our usual training support for staff, and offered face-to-face and small-group sessions – mediated by Zoom, WebEx, and Meet! 

Throughout the pandemic, the TEL team has been active on social media – and the stream of positive, uplifting, motivational messages from TEL accounts were well received during the lockdown. More than one member of staff said the posts cheered them up!

We worked with staff across DCQE to help them create support sites (for example the Wellbeing and ASK sites) and with staff across the University in workstrands, workstreams, and elsewhere. We supported departments in adapting to an online alternative to their usual ‘go-to method’ of face to face presenting such as the Staff Induction Welcome Event for new staff members held by HR. I hope that cross-institution working carries on when we return to some form of normality because everyone agrees it has been beneficial.

What else? Well, we have kept abreast of accessibility issues and our responsibilities under PSBAR. This is a difficult issue for all universities: the legislation was written, I believe, with static content in mind. But a VLE contains rapidly changing content from thousands of users. The sector as a whole is grappling with the implications of this.

We hope to develop our (externally hosted) CPD Moodle. As more people become aware of the platform, more courses are going on there. And we are working closely with CEG Digital, the University’s partners for expanding our DL offering

Questions around analytics and data have been of interest and, when we’ve had any spare time (hah!), we’ve tried to make progress in this area. We have liaised with a Business Analyst on the creation of a Student Engagement and Monitoring dashboard; locally, we have started to look at how to surface useful statistics on the Moodle dashboard. Watch for developments over the coming months! 

I could write much, much more about the team’s attainments – but I’ll leave it there.

We have encountered many setbacks and challenges – inevitably so, given the amount of change that has been implemented over such a short period of time – but the team, as part of the wider University, has achieved so much this year. We can leave the plague year behind us and enter 2021 knowing we have a bright future.

Recap of available support for teaching in a blended learning context

Over the past few weeks TEL and the Academic Development Team have been super busy developing and collating lots of resources to support our colleagues across the University in preparation to teach in a blended learning context.

It is crazy to reflect on the amount of work that has gone on in the last few months – so I just wanted to highlight some key resources and communication channels that we have developed – new and old –  that can support and inform you in the coming weeks ahead as we plan for TB1.

Preparing for teaching in a blended learning context website

Banner for the homepage a lady at a desk looking at her laptop

Information on this site includes:

Learning Well resources to support student wellbeing and inclusion.

elearning tools website

The elearning tool banner which is a photo of part of a laptop, part of a pen and notebook and part of a cup and saucer

This website was set up in the immediate week after Covid-19 lockdown began but is pretty much updated daily with new resources. 

The site covers:

  • teaching remotely guidance on lectures, seminars, assessments etc.
  • elearning tools and how to use them in the correct context.
  • a huge resource bank of relevant articles and other media. 
  • links to upcoming internal and external events to support you in teaching in a blended learning context.

TEL Tales Blended Learning Festival

The TEL Tales Blended Learning Festival banner, which is a big wheel, some festival tents and shapes of people along the bottom

The TEL Tales Blended Learning Festival may well have finished but you can still visit this website and engage with the recorded sessions from this super successful week-long event. 

Training events calendar

We have a wide-range of virtual training sessions covering teaching in a blending learning context and the functionality of tools within Moodle and beyond.

A screen shot of the TEL Training programme with training information, dates, times etc.

Digital Learning Portsmouth

Visit our YouTube channel – dedicated to providing support for Moodle, Turnitin and other interesting technologies that can be used in teaching.

Screen Shot of the banner which is different coloured icons

The TEL Team

Of course, if any of the above doesn’t have the support that you require – please do not hesitate to contact us ( We are a lovely bunch who will do our best to help at all times!

Cartoon images of the TEL Team standing in a row

Our Social Media

Follow us on Instagram and Twitter to keep up-to-date with our posts, sharing information about upcoming events and resources.

TEL's Instagram header including numbers of followers and us following


TEL's Twitter Image including number details of Followers and Following


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

A Dreamer in TEL

Hello, I’m Abigail Lee. Many of you know me as an online course developer (OCD) in the Faculty of Technology. I am still an OCD in Technology, but now, also an OCD in Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL), working part-time in both departments. Yes, it’s crazy and it’s mad. I am mad. Lots of consideration went through my mind before accepting this job: family, health and also being very comfortable with my ‘part-time’ life. However, when I found out that this job is about accessibility, I jumped right in. 

I am a dreamer. I believe dreams can come true. Helping students by giving them the best learning experience and the environment we can offer to inspire them; giving them this little extra helping hand for them to grow and, to realise their dreams is my passion. Accessibility is all about that. It is not just a standard. It is a way for us to realise Inclusive Learning, a way to give everyone the same opportunity to chase their dreams and realise them. Everyone means everyone. It doesn’t matter what ability or disability you have, what background you are from, who you are, where you live, how little time you have; everyone. As long as you have the heart to learn, desire to chase your dreams, you can.

I attended the Sticky RoadShow workshop in June 2018. From the workshop, I have a deeper understanding of the kind of challenges our disabled students face every day just to be ‘normal’, just to access information that many have taken for granted. We often overlook their needs and their struggle because they are the ‘minority’. However, according to the new Government data, “there are now 13.9 million disabled people in the UK. That means disabled people now make up 22% of the UK population – more than one in five.” So, in fact, for every five of us, there is at least one who is disabled. In addition, we have hidden disabilities that are often overlooked or ignored and older people with changing abilities due to ageing. We have to acknowledge this issue, remove barriers and help to solve it by making information accessible. Now that the Accessibility Regulation is in force, there is even more reason to do so.

Moreover, in many cases, improving accessibility benefits all students, not only our disabled students. Students who are carers, students who are working full time, students who are geographically restricted, students with English as a second language, even those who just prefer different ways of learning are benefited. The list is endless, as you will see from some of the examples below:

  • Example 1: A digital copy of a document instead of a scanned one benefits disabled students by being accessible through screen readers. But, that’s not the only group that is benefited by it. In fact, it has made the resources more usable to all students. It made the document easier to read, students can search through the document, find specific content, copy and paste sections of the document, and so on. All these are useful to any student in their learning.
  • Example 2: A good structured document supports screen readers and helps visually impairment students. And, it makes the document more user-friendly to all students. Its additional structure makes it easier to navigate, to work through and process the content. Thus, improve the understanding of the information the document is trying to convey and enhance the learning process.
  • Example 3: Video with captioning or transcripts help students with hearing impairments. However, it also benefits all students by allowing them to search through the video and find specific parts for research or revision, to watch video in noisy environments, or to understand difficult jargon or terms etc. This is especially useful for students who are not native speakers.
  • Example 4: Images with quality descriptions not only helps students with visual impairments, it helps clarify the content and purpose of the image to all students. It also makes the image searchable.
  • Example 5: A fully accessible and responsive website not only helps disabled students navigate around the site and adapt the website to their learning needs, it also benefits any students who just prefer different styles of learning. On top of that, it is mobile-friendly. That means it is easy for all students to consume content anywhere, on any platform – which promotes distance learning and flexible learning. An accessible website also means alternative formats are provided. These alternative formats benefit all students; audio alternative format can be used during a commute or on a run, alternative translated version can help students who are not native speakers and so on.

          I can go on forever but I think you’ve got the point.A photo of a woman taken at sunset, so that the image is a silhouette against the orange and grey of the sky

“ For people without disabilities, technology makes things easier.

  For people with disabilities, technology makes things possible. “

(Radabaugh, 1988)

This is an old quote but it sums up my work and what I dream to archive in TEL perfectly – using technology to make things better, easier, and possible; to enhance accessibility and benefits all. 

It is our University’s vision to become the UK’s TOP Modern University and one of the TOP 100 Young University in the world by 2030. A modern university is an accessible university. A young university should be accessible. This is our dream. I am new to TEL and there is still a lot to learn but hopefully, I can play a small part in contributing to make our dream come true. 

Credit Image: Photo by mohammed alherz on Unsplash

Credit Image: Photo by Isabella Mariana from Pexels

CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) UPDATE: learning, teaching and assessment during enforced absence

Calling all UoP Staff!

In light of recent events the TEL team have been busy collating and developing a resource for staff on how technology can be used to support learning, teaching and assessment during a period of enforced absence.

This eLearning Tools Site –  is a work in progress. We are updating it as and when we receive feedback from staff about what they need in terms of eLearning.

This site is not intended to be the sole resource for working remotely. We hope, though, to draw together relevant resources to help you create and deliver online learning.

As always, we would like you to feedback to us and tell us what you need. Please do so via

Thank you!

The TEL Team

Image credit: Photo by Alex Simpson on Unsplash

Moodle 3.7 – New Features

Each year, over the summer, the University upgrades Moodle to ensure staff and students have access to all the new features and fixes.

In this post I’ll give an outline of the new features in Moodle 3.7 that are most relevant to the University.

  • New Theme updates.

The new theme provides a new look to the dashboard. The courses are displayed by default in ‘card’ view. This can be changed in the drop down menu to either a list or summary view. Courses/Modules can be starred and filtered so that the most frequently used ones are easily accessible. The Timeline block on the dashboard page shows upcoming events from all your sites. This can be demonstrated by viewing the Moodle tour. Reset a tour by clicking the icon at the top of a page. Tour Icon

There is now an in-line reply box, making it quicker to respond to a post. Important discussions can be ‘starred’ at an individual level. This will sort your favourite posts to the top of your list (under any pinned posts). Discussions can also be sorted by reply, latest post or creation date.

There is a new personal messaging space, that allows conversation between users. Conversations can be ‘starred’ and filtered according to importance. The tool also allows for live chat to take place similar to GChat in Google.

When undertaking a quiz, the student is able to clear their choice and change their answer.

If a page has been hidden in a book, it will now display to an academic even with editing turned off. It will appear greyed out, showing that it is not visible to a student.


Education 4.0

On 5 February a group of us met with representatives from Jisc. The main focus of the meeting was to discuss the Jisc Digital Insights service (which allows institutions to better understand the digital experience of staff and students) and the Jisc Discoverer service (which allows staff and students to reflect on their digital capability and, where necessary, access relevant support material). Future blog posts will talk more about how to access these services. In this post, I’d like to reflect briefly on a comment made during the meeting by Stuart Masters, Jisc’s Chief Technology Officer. Steve mentioned that one important focus for him, and for Jisc as an organisation, is to understand what “Education 4.0” might look like.    

You will probably have heard of the phrase “Industry 4.0” – or the closely related phrase “Fourth Industrial Revolution”. This idea refers to a gathering of emerging technologies – AI, biotechnology, cloud computing, internet of things, nanotechnology, quantum computing, robotics, 3D printing, 5G wireless – that blur the distinction between the physical, digital and biological. (For reference, the First Industrial Revolution occurred in the 18th/19th centuries and involved the development of the iron and textile industries, plus steam power; society began to shift from rural to urban, agrarian to industrial. The Second Industrial Revolution is often dated 1870–1914, and saw the creation of new industries – oil, steel, electricity – and the rise of mass production. The Third Industrial Revolution – the change from analog to digital devices – began in the 1980s and we are still living through its consequences.) Some of you, no doubt, will feel there is an element of hype to the phrase “Industry 4.0”; after all, how many times has “the next big thing” turned out to be an unusable piece of kit that people use briefly then throw away once the novelty has worn off? This time, though, there really are indications that this fusion of new technological developments – the Fourth Industrial Revolution – will alter society and the world of work.

If that is the case, how should universities respond? Jisc’s suggestion is that, in order to prepare students for a world transformed by Industry 4.0, we need to be thinking about Education 4.0. That’s fine – but what should Education 4.0 look like?

In a recent blog post on this subject, Sarah Davies of Jisc looked at some tentative steps towards Education 4.0 being taken by institutions. Ensuring that students have strong digital capabilities will of course be important (and, as mentioned above, a future post will discuss work taking place here at Portsmouth in this area) but Sarah also mentioned the importance of:

  • rethinking staff and student roles;
  • reimagining learning environments;
  • giving students the opportunity to create and communicate knowledge; and
  • focusing on student wellbeing.

These are all topics that we might well want to consider in Education 4.0, but Sarah also posts a link to a presentation by Martin Hamilton (Jisc’s resident futurist) to the Education Select Committee Inquiry on Industry 4.0. In that presentation, Martin pointed out that 33% of Key Stage Two pupils fail to meet expected standards of literacy and numeracy; 66% of secondary schools have inadequate digital infrastructure. Delivering Education 4.0 will be made even harder if we can’t even get the basics right.

It’s an interesting question, though. What do you think Education 4.0 should look like?  

Feature image title: Industry_4.0.png by Christoph Roser is licensed under CC BY2.0


Moodle Baseline – A new standardised template for all Moodle modules

In recent student surveys it’s become clear that students want more consistency to the layout of their Moodle modules. Students want it to be easier to find key information such as what the module is about, what they will learn and how they will be assessed.

It’s increasingly important that we present content for students in an accessible way so everyone can engage with content easily.

TEL and AcDev have led a feedback exercise with staff from all University faculties, along with a pilot with academics and students on Nursing Degrees delivered by Science. These exercises have helped us establish what the key requirements would be for a standardised approach to the layout of Moodle modules and the development of the Moodle Baseline template.

The Moodle Baseline represents the basic building blocks for starting to build a Moodle module. Here’s a summary of main tabs available within the template.

The Welcome tab allows staff to add a welcome message to students in html format (this could include a welcome video or perhaps link to a discussion forum).

Welcome tab of Moodle Baseline

The Module Overview tab allows a plain text description of the module to be added.

Module Overview of Moodle Baseline

A list of Learning Outcomes can be added to the third tab.

Learning Outcomes tab of Moodle Baseline

The Assessment Summary tab allows for a description of the assessments that a student will be required to complete. There is also a table to keep track of submissions. Students will be able to see the status of their assessment submissions and upcoming important dates. Staff will see progress bars representing how many submissions have been made along with an indicator of how many assignments require marking.

Assessment Summary tab in Moodle Baseline

All new and rolled-over Moodle modules will have the Moodle Baseline template added automatically from March 1st 2019, giving staff time to add content in advance of September 2019.

When the Moodle Baseline launches on March 1st we will also release a web-based resource for guidance on how to complete the template along with useful best practise advice for populating your Moodle module including topics such as marking online and giving effective feedback.

We hope you find the Moodle Baseline a useful tool for creating rich and engaging Moodle modules. If you have any questions please get in contact at

New Features of Moodle 3.5

Each year, over the summer, the University upgrades Moodle to ensure staff and students have access to all the new features and fixes.

This year there has been a big improvement to the look and feel of Moodle, and a new theme has been put in place. You can read about that work here:

New Moodle theme

In this post I’ll give an outline of the new features in Moodle 3.5 that are most relevant to the University.

Using icons from Font Awesome provides clearer accessible icons.

Anywhere you have the Atto editor you’ll find two new icons (Microphone and Webcam) that allow you to quickly and easily record up to two minutes of audio or video directly into the section you are developing.

This update allows you to share the results of the choice with the students. It can be set up so that the results are available at a specified time and you can decide whether the results are anonymous.

If you are using badges as a reward system within a module, you now have the ability to release a badge depending on the completion of other badges. As you can see from the image in the link above, the three basic badges are: “Super Staters”, “Marvellous Mains” and “Delicious Desserts”. When these are finished the overall category badge called “Vegetarian Cook” is awarded.

Questions can now be tagged. This means a question may sit within one category but be tagged with key terms that could cross over to other categories. The question is then searchable from with the parent category according to any given tag.

  • Essay questions within a quiz – restrictions on file types

Should a file be uploaded to an essay question within a quiz, a range of options are available to define which file types may or may not be allowed.


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