Adventures in Technology Enhanced Learning @ UoP

Category: Learning & Teaching resources (Page 2 of 2)

Grackle for accessible Google Docs and Slides

I was chatting to an academic the other day. We were talking about the new tool in Moodle for automatically checking the accessibility of documents and providing alternative formats on-the-fly. It’s called Blackboard Ally and it’ll even give you step-by-step guidance on how to fix any accessibility issues (hint: click the meter icon for advice and guidance).

A screenshot of a Moodle site displaying the Blackboard Ally plugin and the accessibility icon next to a resource. The accessibility score is high

But wait they said, that’s fine for documents, Powerpoints and PDFs but I use Google Docs all the time, how can I improve those?

Ah, I said, you’ll need to use a bit of Grackle on that. It’s not for grouting your bathroom, it’s for fixing your Google Docs, so everyone can read them more easily.

Grackle comes in two flavours Grackle for Google Docs and Grackle for Google Slides. You just add the extensions to your Google Chrome browser and then launch Grackle from the add-ons menu as you’re creating your Google Slides or Documents.

A screenshot from Google Docs showing how to launch Grackle from the Add-ons, Grackle Slides, Launch menu item

Grackle produces a checklist of common accessibility problems and highlights any of these issues in your documents. It’s usually very straight-forward to fix them.

The most common issues are images without alternative text (descriptive titles of the images), poor contrast between text and background colours and lack of document structure / headings. These are easily fixed and Grackle will show you exactly where these problems appear in your documents.

A screenshot from Google Slides showing the Grackle accessibility advice panel.

Take a look at this website to find out more about the handy features of Grackle.

Disclaimer: Parts of this conversation may have been embellished for entertainment value…

Image Credits: Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

Jason Leung 

Moodle Baseline Launch

Technology Enhanced Learning, Academic Development and DSAA are proud to announce the launch of the Moodle Baseline. The Moodle Baseline is a template and set of best practice advice for Moodle module pages. The release is the culmination of a six month feedback exercise with staff from all faculties along with a pilot with students on Nursing degree programmes.

The Moodle Baseline template features five tabs: welcome, module overview, learning outcomes, reading lists (to launch in the next few weeks) and assessments. Some of these tabs will be automatically populated with data after July 14th in time for the start of the new academic year. The Baseline template will be added automatically when modules are rolled-over or created.

The Moodle Baseline addresses repeated student feedback for more consistency in the layout and content of Moodle modules and makes it easier for students to find key information and assessments.

We hope students and staff find the Moodle Baseline to be a useful tool. Help and guidance information can be found on the following dedicated website. If you have any questions please contact your local Online Course Developers or

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

Student digital experience 2018 – results from the JISC tracker

For the past three years the University of Portsmouth has run the JISC student digital experience tracker – a survey that aims to capture students’ experiences of and attitudes towards the digital environment in HE. I’ve just made a preliminary analysis of the results from this year’s tracker, which ended on 20 April 2018.

One of the useful aspects of the tracker is that it enables us to benchmark our results against the sector. A total of 15,746 students at other English HEIs responded to the tracker, and it’s interesting to compare their experience with the 310 Portsmouth students who responded. (Note: the student profiles of those taking the tracker are slightly different, so the comparison isn’t perfect. We deliberately choose to avoid involving students at L5 and L6, in order to minimise any interference with the NSS. At English HEIs the distribution is ‘flat’: students at all levels take the tracker.)

The good news is that, for almost all the questions posed, Portsmouth students give more positive responses than their counterparts elsewhere! For most questions the difference is only a matter of a couple of percentage points, so it would be wrong to claim there is a statistically significant difference, but in some cases there really is a notable difference. For example:

  • 93% of Portsmouth students rate the quality of UoP’s digital provision as good or above, vs 88% for the sector
  • 85% of Portsmouth students rely on Moodle to do their coursework, vs 74% for the institutional VLE at other institutions
  • 77% of Portsmouth students say that digital tech allows them to fit learning into their life more easily, vs 70% for the sector
  • 76% of Portsmouth students use digital tech to manage references, vs 65% for the sector
  • 71% of Portsmouth students say when digital tech is used on their course they enjoy learning more, vs 62% for the sector
  • 67% of Portsmouth students regularly access Moodle on a mobile device, vs 62% for the institutional VLE at other institutions
  • 67% of Portsmouth students regard Moodle as well designed, vs 56% for the institutional VLE at other institutions
  • 64% of Portsmouth students say online assessments are delivered and managed well, vs 59% for the sector

Even more interesting than the percentages, however, are the students’ free text comments. Students were asked what one thing we could do to improve their experience of digital teaching and learning. From their responses, four clear themes emerged:  

  • Students want lecture capture and/or more use of video
  • Students want a more consistent approach to Moodle use, and a less ‘cluttered’ interface
  • Students want better training/help/support for themselves when it comes to using digital tech
  • Students want staff to make better use of existing technology  

Over the coming months we’ll be considering how best to address these challenges.


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