Integrated Online Training

One feature we will be rolling out after the upgrade (probably a couple of weeks later) is an integration that facilitates a new approach to online training.

Before the Upgrade

At present many online training courses are hosted on duo (from topics as diverse as Fire Safety to Consent Matters) but it can be hard to find them and ensure that details of any activity on these courses is fed back to other University systems. This is especially important for training where there may be a legal requirement to show that people have received and completed appropriate training (e.g. the Fire Safety example). Depending on your role in duo and which portal modules you have chosen to display on your home page, you may see links such as these which all point at online training courses:

A sample of current portal modules displaying links to training courses on duo

Details of these online courses were only available in duo, meaning that not as many people knew about them as we would like. There are catalogue tools built into duo designed to help you search for courses, but they are not capable of the rich level of filtering by role/job that is needed for this task – e.g. determine what training a third year Biology student who also works in the College bar first of all needs to take, then which other courses are recommended and finally what other courses are available for them to take if they want. To be fair to Blackboard that is not a surprise – it is designed to be a learning management system not a dedicated training management system.

Immediately after the upgrade

After the 2017 duo upgrade in September, all these training-related portal modules are going to be moved to a new dedicated Training tab. This is an interim arrangement until the full integrated training system is rolled out (that requires some final testing of changes to both sides – to duo and the Training Course Booking System (TCBS).

A new (interim) Training tab
As a short term measure to ensure continued access, look for these modules on a new Training tab

There might be some items listed as online training that need moved to become normal courses – e.g. Special Department-wide sites on duo. Members of the LTT are working on that.

By the start of the new academic year

Longer term, the training tab will show a special training tab interface (optimised for mobile devices). When it is first opened it will show you a list of the online training courses that you are enrolled on as a student:

A list showing your online training courses enrolments.

As this list may get quite long there is an easy way to filter the results displayed – by typing into the Search box displayed immediately above the list.

The opened drawer – open and close it using the button at the top right

If you open the side panel at the right of the screen, you can access your current training record, showing every online and face-to-face training course that you have completed at the University (assuming it stores this fact in the TCBS). There is also a link to the TCBS allowing you to search for more courses – note that the catalogue will show online as well as face-to-face courses. These include direct links to automatically enrol you onto the duo course (more on that in a minute). Longer term we’d like this link to automatically sign you in, but that requires some recoding of the current TCBS authentication framework.

The button is only shown if it applies

If you teach on an online training course on duo (i.e. hold an Instructor/Leader role) then there is another button displayed that shows you a list of these courses separately, so it is clear which are training courses you need to complete as a student, and which are the ones that you are designing for others.

Back to duoClicking the home icon at the top left of the screen returns you to the normal duo tabs.

One of the best features of this new integration is that it supports the ability to create direct links to any online training course on duo. These can be accessed from

  • another course in duo (perhaps suggesting related courses which cover a topic in more detail)
  • the catalogue entry in the TCBS
  • a web page
  • an email

In each case they behave the same:

  1. When you click on the link you are taken to duo.
  2. If you are not currently logged in you will be asked to log in.
    login prompt
  3. If you are already enrolled on the course, then you are taken directly to it and can access the content without further ado.
  4. If you are not, then you see a page which invites you to join the course, displaying more information about it (so you are sure this is the link you meant to click on).
    Confirmation page
  5. If you choose to join the course, then you are added and can access the content straight away, without the need for any approval by the staff who wrote it.
  6. Some courses also support self-service removal – e.g. if you later decide that this is not the course for you, then you can remove yourself from it (though note anything you did on the course – including records of any training passed will be deleted).
    Opening the course

Scores showing that you have passed the online training will be fed from duo automatically to the TCBS (not instantly, but probably each night). This will mean that you (and appropriate line managers/supervisors) will be able to see your achievements from the training record in the TCBS.

We hope this will provide a simpler, more fluid training experience for staff and students.

Removing Social Spaces

All the spaces at Durham
It was accessed via My Blackboard

Around 2013, Blackboard introduced a feature called Social Spaces that was part of a suite of cloud tools. You probably haven’t heard about it, let alone used it. To access it you clicked the bottom icon in the list of tools displayed in the My Blackboard tool on duo (shown to the right).

It opened up a range of online spaces where you could share thoughts with others – possibly invitation only (e.g. a University society), across Durham, or even with Blackboard users across the globe. As part of the upgrade planning, we revisited Durham’s list of spaces (note any hidden spaces are not shown here):

All the spaces at Durham

When we looked into the contents of these spaces there was very little going on. This screenshot shows one of the more used sites – which is just a monologue from me a few years back:

A series of posts with no replies

Student feedback has been very clear = turn off features that are not needed, keep the interface simple. In light of that, consider it done – the Social Spaces feature will be turned off as part of the upgrade in September.

More about the 2017 upgrade

Developing Students as Peer Reviewers at Durham University

students working together at computer

Ross Parker speaks to Rachel Simpson and Cath Reading

Students studying Education at Durham University are learning to become peer reviewers, providing formative feedback on the work of their peers. This can lead to greater levels of success, both in student’s academic and professional lives.

In this post I’ll explain how peer review was introduced in this course, the impact it’s made so far and also share some of the feedback from students involved in the project.

students working together at computer

About the Project

Lecturers Rachel Simpson and Cath Reading set about introducing peer review in the 2016-17 academic year. Their focus was to see if it could be used as a mechanism to help students develop graduate attributes and life-long learning skills. The students involved in this action research project were 80 level one students studying BA Primary Education.

For clarity, the focus of this project was peer feedback: students were required to give feedback to each other, but not grade the work of their peers. The latter is another concept: peer assessment.

Putting Peer Review into Practice

To introduce the concept of peer review, Rachel and Cath secured the services of Professor David Nicol, a leading researcher in the field. In his keynote lecture, Professor Nicol discussed how by engaging in peer review, students can develop higher-level skills such as critical thinking, judgment, and autonomy.

Rachel and Cath used Nicol’s Principles of good peer review practice as a framework to scaffold tasks throughout the year. The first task required students to review the work of previous students, which had been anonymised. This gave students the opportunity to review the work of others but without the added worry over what a peer might think – a concern raised by students in an early questionnaire. Details of how Cath and Rachel captured students’ attitudes towards peer review is discussed later in this article.

The main project activity was the Peer Review Block Task. This required each student to capture an audio recording of themselves teaching a short science activity in their respective placement schools. This recording would then be used for both self-review as well as peer review.

The scaffolded nature of the peer review tasks aimed for deeper student engagement as the year progressed. Therefore, by this final task, the students were able to set their own assessment criteria, conducted a self-review and were encouraged to engage in a dialogue with their peers to evaluate the feedback they had received. This process is outlined below in five carefully scaffolded activities:

  1. Decide review criteria
  2. Self-review
  3. Peer-review
  4. Peer-peer tutorial (discussing similar and different points)
  5. Self-reflection after peer-review – establishing future targets

You can view the full peer review block task here.

How did students feel about peer review?

Before any activities were introduced, students were asked about their feelings towards the concept of peer review. Just over half of the group’s responses were negative, stating a number of concerns about the process. This ranged from anxiety over criticising the work of their peers to fears of potential plagiarism. There was also some confusion as to why they were being asked to review the work of their peers – students (at least initially) saw this as the responsibility of the teacher. This was evident in the response of a student, who had first been introduced to peer review during their A-Levels.

“At [the] risk of sounding ‘lazy’ I didn’t feel it was fair that I would have to write my essay and then have to mark it, and another’s work, as well – it seemed unfair.” Anonymous.

After their first peer review task, students were asked whether they found the activity helpful or not, using criteria developed by Cath Reading. Of the students questioned, 88% said it was beneficial receiving reviews. However, only 12% of students identified benefits with reviewing the work of others. They didn’t see how reviewing the work of a peer was helping them; it was just something they were required to do so they all received feedback.

Mid-way through the year when visiting students at their placement schools, Rachel reported that opinions towards peer review had begun to change. When interviewed by Rachel, students reported that peer review was helping them to self-regulate their learning, be more effective communicators, and better understand quality in academic work.

After the final Peer Review Block Task students were asked what they found most useful; giving feedback, receiving feedback or both? The most popular answer was to give feedback. So, what caused this change in students’ perception of peer review from the feedback gathered at the start of the year?

As students got more experience of critically evaluating the work of their peers, they started to see how this was having a positive impact on their own learning. Some students reported working to improve their own understanding of taught materials before they felt ready to critically evaluate the work of their peers. Students also developed the ability to make objective judgments about academic work, by engaging with the assessment criteria. By the end of the year, 100% of comments about the peer review process was positive.

Challenges with Peer Review

Although the peer review project was ultimately well received by students, Rachel and Cath identified a number of challenges that remain. The first of these is students require secure subject knowledge in order to effectively critique the work of a peer. Secondly, they found that students would still seek the tutor’s verification of their peer reviews. There were also students who queried the process of peer review and wanted to see evidence of its effectiveness. A previous study into the effectiveness of peer review is discussed in the article ‘Rethinking feedback practices in higher education: a peer review perspective’  (Nicol, Thomson & Breslin, 2013).

Next Steps

Cath and Rachel will be continuing their work to develop peer review skills with this cohort of students throughout their second year. The process will start again with first year BA Primary Education students in October 2017.

Improved Consistency for Kaltura Users

image of person using laptop and smart phone

Over the past few months, you may have experienced some difficulties playing Kaltura videos on your Mac, iPad or iPhone, with the following error message displayed:

“It seems your browser is blocking 3rd party session cookies which are required for the Kaltura application. To resolve this issue, please update your settings to allow 3rd party cookies.”

This issue was caused by an update to Safari.  We’ve worked with Kaltura and CIS staff from the systems group and are pleased to report that this issue has been fixed – Kaltura videos now play as expected on all common browsers and devices.

Is using a laptop to take notes in a lecture a bad idea?

laptops vs notes

This week members of the LTT discussed a series of papers which compared students’ understanding of lectures (and in some case final grades) comparing those who took notes on paper against those who used laptops (interesting there was little reference to mobile devices in the papers). The study show that if the students using computers try and record the lectures verbatim, then their retention and comprehension is poorer than those who take abbreviated notes. This affect appears most marked in male students, particularly those struggling to master the concepts.  Interestingly in one study where tablets were used (Mueller & Oppenheimer, 2017) where students also used a stylus to write notes freehand, their results were found to be as good as those of students who took hand-written notes.

These papers raised a lot of questions : What about students whose note-taking doesn’t stop after the class – if they later summarise their electronic notes, or perhaps convert them into a mind-map – what affect does this have? What about classes where lecture capture is used, or when notes supplied in advance? Can the observed difference be reduced or even reversed, if students are taught different ways of taking notes electronically? Who should teach students this? Are there things that lecturers can do to help students understand what note-taking strategy might work in their classes?

Plenty to mull over!

We looked at:

May C (2014) “A learning secret: don’t take notes with a laptop” Scientific American, 3rd June 2014.
Available at  https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/a-learning-secret-don-t-take-notes-with-a-laptop/

Mueller PA & Oppenheimer DM (2017) “Technology and note-taking in the classroom, boardroom, hospital room, and courtroom” Trends in Neuroscience and Education 5(3) pp 139-145
Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tine.2016.06.002

Mueller PA & Oppenheimer DM (2015) “The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking” Psychological Science 25(6) pp 1159-1168
Available at: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797614524581

Patterson RW & Patterson RM (2017) “Computers and productivity: Evidence from laptop use in the college classroom” Economics of Education Review, 57 pp 66-79.
Available at  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.econedurev.2017.02.004

Background image credit: Galymzhan Abdulgalimov shared via unsplash https://unsplash.com/photos/ICW6QYOcdlg

New Video Recording Tool for duo

Kaltura CaptureSpace Lite Home Screen

You can now make video recordings from your desktop and upload them directly to a duo Course. Kaltura’s CaptureSpace Lite desktop recorder allows you to create videos that include your computer screen, webcam and audio.

Using CaptureSpace Lite

You can use CaptureSpace Lite to:

  • Record your voice and/or video over a presentation
  • Create a welcome video
  • Create an overview of your duo Course
  • Record a software or lab demonstration
  • Provide audio/video feedback synchronised with student work

You can download CaptureSpace Lite from the duo Home page and install it on both Mac and PC. You are free to install it on your own computer.

If you have any queries about using CaptureSpace Lite, you can contact the LTT by email at itservicedesk@durham.ac.uk.

Turnitin Email Receipt Issue

Turnitin

Some students are reporting that after submitting their work to Turnitin (via duo) they have not received an email receipt as expected. Turnitin informed us that there is an issue sending emails from their servers to some systems, including Office 365. As a result, this is affecting Durham University students.

Note – Student’s ability to submit work is not affected. They just don’t get the receipt by email.

Students can still obtain a digital receipt to confirm their assignment submission. Guidance on how to do this is explained below.

How can I check if I have successfully submitted my Turnitin assignment?

  1. Log into duo and go to the course where you submitted your assignment.
  2. Click on the same link that you used to submit the assignment.
    Turnitin Assignment Submission image
  3. Click on the Download icon and choose Digital receipt.
    Turnitin Download icon image
  4. A PDF version of your Digital receipt should start downloading.
    Turnitin digital receipt image

Association for Learning Technologies Conference 2016

#altc

The ALT conference was held at Warwick University this year, bringing together learning technologists, academics, Phd students and a broad range of others from the UK and beyond. Presentations were based around the theme of ‘Connect, Collaborate, Create’. The following are notes and observations from the keynotes and a selection of the conference presentations.

 This icon flags up items that might be of particular interest to learning and teaching practitioners at Durham.

Day 1

Keynote: In the Valley of the Trolls, Josie Fraser

This opening plenary tackled the issue of online trolling, looking at a few case studies and the part that the media plays. Fraser discussed motivations for trolling, explaining that many online trolls do not believe their own inflammatory rants, but instead are entertained by others’ anger or offence (termed ‘lulz’ by Whitney Phillips in This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things) regardless of the subject. She argued that this kind of behaviour should not push online contributors into ‘safer’ walled gardens, nor is it a reason to abandon anonymity on the web. Rather, educators should ensure that digital literacy directly addresses online behaviour and its implications for the individual and for society.

 Conjuring Helen Beetham’s model of digital wellbeing as encompassing all aspects of an individual’s digital capabilities, she suggested that combating trolling requires a long-term cultural shift that should begin with education.

Collaborate session

Learning the Hard Way: Lessons in Designing Open Educational Resources in, for and through Partnership, Anna Page

This presentation introduced the Open Educational Practices in Scotland project and its evolution as project members worked with external organisations to develop Open Educational Resources (OERs). Learning points ranged from the administrative (e.g. asset registers to ensure that content is copyright-cleared and easily retrieved) to the philosophical (what happens if people use open resources in ways that were not intended?).

The OEPScotland project has also produced its own open online course: Becoming an open educator.

Collaborative technologies, higher order thinking and self-sufficient learning: a case study of adult learners, Clare Johnson

In this study, course lecturers used an amalgamation of Salmon’s Five-Stage Model for online interaction, Gunawardena et al’s Social networking spiral and Garrison’s Community of Inquiry model to develop an online platform to supplement face-to-face learning. Students were observed to reach the higher levels of Salmon’s model, answering each others’ questions and taking responsibility for their own understanding. Learning points included ensuring that tutors posted introductory messages and maintained a presence throughout, and signposting activities and deadlines.

Trends in on-line peer-review, Helen Purchase

This presentation centred around Aropä, a free, online peer review tool. Designed by two academics at the University of Glasgow, it automates the process of distributing assignments for peer review and/or marking. The designers analysed system data and email correspondence to identify trends in peer review, concluding that it is important that students are able to respond to feedback (both informally in reply to comments and formally in submitting revised work). It was also evident that students often required extrinsic reward to engage with peer review.

Aropä looks to be a useful and effective tool, but Durham academics interested in using it would need to ensure that data protection was not compromised, especially where students are concerned.

An online resource to support research students: issues of collaboration, viability and design, Michael Hammond

To help Phd students grapple with the difficult concepts involved in social research theory, academics developed a website where students could move from viewing information (e.g. video interviews), to discussing topics introduced in face-to-face sessions and on the site, to actively curating new content for the benefit of their fellow students. The project seemed to be a success, and it was noted that, while the videos that the team had produced were useful in a number of contexts, the academics’ optimal role (as well as the students’) was to curate rather than to create.

‘Wildcard’ session

University teachers’ experiences, and impact on academic practice, of a course in technology-enhanced learning, Vicki Dale

The University of Glasgow piloted an optional PGCAP module which sought to help academics to evaluate different learning technologies for their teaching. Also addressing themes like digital literacies and pedagogies, the aim was to introduce lecturers to new technologies in a thoughtful and reflective way that would have a long-term impact on their practice. The module leaders felt that bite-sized sessions worked well, giving academics the opportunity to try out new  ideas in their teaching over the course of an academic year.

Computing, Chemistry and Business…Oh My! Learning Technology is everywhereLisa Donaldson and Mark Glynn

This presentation introduced the What works and why? project in Ireland, focused on helping educators and students to evaluate effective use of technology in discipline-specific contexts. The project had a number of streams, including traditional workshops and ‘exploration sessions’, but also innovative teaching projects and the formation and development of Teaching Groups. Student perception was seriously considered, and student-produced videos can be found on the website: What works for students. Participants in the Teaching Groups and innovation projects share their discipline-specific findings online as well: What works for teachers.

The project team explained that Teaching Groups were particularly successful in helping academics to share good practice in a more holistic manner. They emphasised the success that lecturers had when evaluating technology pedagogically, and then embedding it into the design of a course from the beginning.

Create session

Creating a k-fffufffl: fast flipped feedback using feed-forward for learning in labs and assessments, Guy Saward

In this study, electronic voting systems (i.e. ‘clickers’) were used to provide students with quick feedback on summative work. Students completed a multiple-choice test individually and then answered the same questions again via the voting system. This allowed students to gain immediate feedback and to discuss their answers with their peers. A similar scenario was also used with lab and tutorial exercises that small groups or individuals completed outside of the classroom. The lecturers found that students were much more interested in their feedback when received immediately after the assessment, and when they had a chance to discuss it with their peers.

Impact of visualization and learning environment on the effectiveness of interactive simulation, Niels Walet

To investigate the effectiveness of student sketching when working with interactive computer simulations, lecturers in a physics module had some students write about their observations and some draw sketches. Using screen capture, observation notes, interviews and the results of assignments and tests, the lecturers concluded that sketching did have a positive effect on student understanding, and even on their stress levels.

Examining the role of ‘Carpe Diem’ learning design in improving the learner experience in a Western Australian context, Astrid Davine

This presentation reviewed how the University of Western Australia has been using the Carpe Diem learning design process to bring academics, learning technologists and librarians together from the beginning when (re)designing modules. UWA actually took the decision to stop running ‘how-to’ sessions about learning technologies in favour of this holistic approach. The current study investigating the impact of Carpe Diem indicates that academics find value in the process, and will be published when the data analysis is complete.

It is interesting to note that here (as in the What works and why? project), learning technologies were seen as part of the bigger picture from the start. An equally important facet of both of these projects was the opportunity for academics to work together to share good practice and develop innovations in teaching together. This is a theme that emerged at the Inaugural Learning and Teaching conference at Durham a week later, in Contrasting experiences of postgraduate and staff education forums in Earth Sciences (Dr Christopher Saville, Earth Sciences).

Keynote: Education and Neuroscience: Issues and Opportunities, Lia Commissar

Introducing the Education and Neuroscience Initiative, this presentation explored the developing links between research in neuroscience, psychology and education. It also flagged up popular ‘neuromyths’ that have little or no evidence base, such as individual learning styles and the right brain / left brain divide. Commissar encouraged educators to be careful to adopt learning theories that were the result of rigorous research, pointing to sources of information such as the Education Endowment Foundation and the Digital Promise project.

Day 2

Keynote: Code Create Collaborate, Ian Livingstone

Co-founder of the Games Workshop and author of the Fighting Fantasy gamebook series Ian Livingstone discussed his work in the evolving world of gaming and its relationship to education. He emphasised how games in education help learners to develop problem-solving skills in a risk-free environment where they can receive instant feedback. The social nature of gaming, Livingstone suggested, and its experiential nature, make the skills learnt in this context transferable to other environments. He also discussed the importance of teaching coding in schools, as per the Livingstone-Hope Next Gen review.

Connect session

The implementation of Blackboard Analytics: A partnership with academics to improve the Student Experience, Chris Bell

This presentation reviewed how one university implemented Blackboard Analytics and a dashboard application (Cognos) to improve the student experience (defined as ‘attainment, satisfaction, engagement, retention, personal tutoring and progression’). Academic staff opinion was garnered to ensure that useful data would be provided, informing the development of the dashboard. Initial findings showed that academics appreciated the tool and suggested that engaging with analytics could have a positive effect on online course design.

A multivariate exploration for potential predictors of educational achievement in a technology enhanced environment for learning computer programming, Nick Day

This study looked at a number of variables to predict student attainment in undergraduate computer programming modules. It was found that factors like UCAS points were not good predictors, but that attendance and previous resits were correlated with overall marks.

Evaluating Evaluation! – A four tiered approach encapsulating evaluation techniques and methods in staff training and delivery, peer review, participant experience and formal feedback in Higher Education, Rebecca Vickerstaff, Emma Purnell & Liz Mcgregor

Presenters explained how the Academic, Support, Technology and Innovation team at Plymouth University overhauled their training programme using a four-stage model:

  • ensuring consistency across resources
  • introducing a new, long-term participant engagement process
  • evaluating course numbers, feedback and team reflection to make necessary changes
  • reviewing the above process and planning its next iteration

Connections between theory and practice: rhizomatic teaching with digital technologies, Louise Drumm

In this study, academics were interviewed about their use of technology in teaching. The researcher analysed the interviews in terms of how theory was applied to practice, finding that most interviewees drew from a number of theoretical frameworks (some more robust than others). She suggested that it was helpful to draw on multiple theories as well as personal experience, but that academics should be supported in finding evidence-based principles on which to base digital teaching practice.

E-portfolios as communication and sharing tool: students’ perspective, Eman Ghallab

Based in activity theory, this longitudinal study investigated students’ perspectives on the extensive use of an online portfolio tool in a healthcare education setting. The tool allowed students to decide with whom they would share each portfolio object and how that person could interact (e.g. view-only, comment, edit).

Lessons learned for e-portfolios included:

  • Tutors found it useful to be able to give students instant feedback, but needed to manage student expectations about when to expect feedback and how detailed it would be.
  • Both staff and students required training in using the system.
  • The ‘three-click rule’ seemed to apply to e-portfolios as well–material could get lost if buried too deeply.
  • Group submissions needed to be carefully handled to avoid confusion.

Create session

Exploring the educational implications of ‘making construals’, Wiliam Beynon, Steve Russ, Piet Kommers, Hamish Macleod, Rene Alimisi, Ilkka Jormanainen, Russell Boyatt and Emma King

This presentation introduced construals, a broadly-defined term for digital artefacts that allow the user to manipulate multiple aspects of a simulation, model, visualisation, etc. The Construit! project has developed an environment in which those with some programming knowledge can create construals, and where users can engage with them. The intention is that practitioners will be able to easily share their construals as Open Educational Resources.

Connect session

Tracking students’ digital experience: development and use of a cross sector benchmarking tool, Tabetha Newman, Rob Howe, Gunter Sanders, Andy Taggart and Helen Beetham

Representatives from JISC gave an update on the pilot of the Student digital experience tracker, a short survey instrument developed to garner information on students’ expectations and experiences of technology in learning and teaching. The tracker allows institutions to better understand their own students and students across the sector. Several representatives from participating universities and colleges spoke about implementing the survey and their findings (case studies are also available online: Tracker case studies).

The report from the pilot is now available, and interestingly echoed several conference topics including lecture capture, digital literacy and internet safety. JISC are currently recruiting institutions to take part in the next phase.

Day 3

Keynote: Copyright and e-learning: understanding our privileges and freedoms, Jane Secker

Dr Secker, the Copyright and Digital Literacy Adviser at LSE, provided a nuanced perspective on protected content in a digital environment. While likening some breaches of copyright to theft, she emphasised that it does not commoditise ideas themselves, but rather the unique ways in which they are expressed. She also addressed the issue of copyright as gatekeeper, applauding the move to open publishing in academia as an important step forward.

She suggested that educators think about copyright in terms of the following:

  1. Attribution and credit: think of attribution just as you would citations in a piece of academic writing
  2. Value and empathy: remember that every digital artefact originated with a real person
  3. Collaboration and communities of practice: engage with colleagues inside and outside your institution to ensure that you understand your own rights and how to protect your intellectual property whilst being as open as possible

‘Wildcard’ session

How best should a VLE be designed to enhance learners’ experience?, Emmanuel Isibor

This study looked at how an institution customised its virtual learning environment (VLE). Interviews with staff and students revealed that, while tailoring the VLE to the university’s needs was beneficial, customisation needed to occur at the departmental level and within individual subject areas as well.

Learning Spaces: Roles and Responsibilities of the Learning Technologist, Kristian Roger and Sarah Ney

Learning technologists at LSE discussed how they were involved in the design of new learning spaces at the university. Academics, other learning and teaching staff, estates and buildings, the audio-visual team and learning technologists worked together to create learning spaces that met a diversity of needs from the outset.

Those involved in the project found the following book to be helpful in framing their discussions: Learning Spaces in Higher Education: Positive Outcomes by Design, eds D Radcliffe, H. Wilson, D. Powell & B Tibbetts, University of Queensland and the Australian Learning and Teaching Council, Brisbane.

Evaluating Webinars as a Tool for Delivering Lectures and Seminars at Distance in a Healthcare Setting, Daniel Metcalfe

This study compared webinars to traditional lectures, using a student survey. Students overwhelmingly agreed that webinars were as good as or better than face-to-face lectures. While students in the study were dispersed in a fairly large geographic area, which meant that webinars were more convenient, they identified several other advantages to webinars, including re-watching recordings, a more relaxed atmosphere and varied opportunities for interaction.

Designing for Flow, Leonard Houx

Tasked with tailoring a standard VLE for an online programme, instructional designers customised the out-of-the-box platform to improve and streamline the user experience. The following issues were addressed:

  • Clutter and redundancy: unnecessary and repeated information and navigation was removed
  • Your metadata is showing: information that only helped academics and developers was hidden
  • Too many choices: confusing and distracting navigation options were taken out

Strategies for supporting effective student engagement with lecture recordings, Matt Cornock

This study looked at how students at the University of York use recorded lectures, and identified several different types of workflows that they employ (e.g. self-checking, preparation for tasks and revision). It also raised difficult questions about: what lectures are for; what students are meant to be doing during lectures; how lecturers expect students to engage with recordings of lectures; and how lectures relate to other module components and assessment. To help students address these questions, staff at York produced resources to put recorded lectures in context. However, it soon became apparent that the answers were different for every discipline, and potentially for every individual lecturer.

It was concluded that each lecturer should explicitly communicate to students how they are expected to engage during a lecture and with the lecture recording, and how this relates to the rest of the module.

Collaborate session

Gone in a Flash: Adapting to New Technologies, Cherry Poussa, Mike Taylor, Aaron Fecowycz and James Henderson

Learning technologists from the Health e-Learning and Media (HELM) team explained their project of converting over 200 open digital resources from the increasingly irrelevant Adobe Flash. The team described the process of reproducing the materials using HTML5, CSS3 and javascript, testing, piloting and evaluating using feedback questionnaires and data analytics. This project also raised the question of whether, and to what extent, it is possible to future-proof online resources.

Into the Open – a critical overview of open education policy and practice in Scotland, Lorna Campbell

This presentation reviewed current Open Educational Resource (OER) provision in Scotland as part of the Open Scotland initiative. Any organisation that produces digital educational resources is encouraged to adopt policies to make their resources publicly available. Several Scottish universities have developed OER policies, and the University of Edinburgh currently provides the platform for Open Scotland. Other institutions choose to host their materials on their own sites, still fully open to the public.

Secrets of Scale and Adoption: The Value and Impact of Open, Common Data Definitions in Student Success Research, Evaluation and Implementation, Ellen Wagner

The PAR Framework allows the aggregation of data from multiple institutions to attempt to identify variables that are likely to negatively affect student attainment. The goal is for institutions to be better able to support at-risk students as early as possible.

Developing literacies of ‘open’ across an institution, and beyond… Stuart Nicol

This presentation highlighted the work that the University of Edinburgh has done around OERs. The platform itself (Open.Ed) was discussed, but also the work undertaken to educate the university community. This included workshops, integration into the institutional Learning Design framework, and provision of a media management platform to make sharing and licensing simple for staff and students.

Love, hate and online collaboration, Gerald Evans and Rebecca Galley

Based around investigations into student collaboration in online modules, this presentation shared findings from research and case studies that informed a guide for Open University staff. The presenters noted that, while students often complained about group work, modules with collaborative activities tended to have higher retention rates.

Some of the key recommendations are:

  • If introducing a new tool or platform, embed it into the module throughout so that students are confident in using it when it comes to group work.
  • Lead students through simple online engagement, working up to the collaborative task.
  • Ensure that the group activity is linked to module assessment, and has some degree of authenticity (e.g. the type of task that a group of researchers in this field would really do).
  • Support students before, during and after the task, clearly communicating your expectations throughout.
  • Consider how the work will be assessed. Will you mark the product/result, the process, how well the group worked together and/or individual contributions?
  • Evaluate the project while it’s running and when it is finished (data analytics, student surveys, etc.).

Keynote: Being human is your problem, Donna Lanclos and David White

In this slightly subversive double-act, the presenters argued that the role of technology in education has tended to be administrative rather than transformative. That is, the same types of technologies that deal with data and transactions (fee payment, enrolment, marks) are used for teaching and learning. They suggested that this leads to low-risk, input-output scenarios rather than ‘messy’, interpersonal, complex learning.

The presenters challenged the audience to engage with technologies that enhance the nuanced, complicated aspects of transformational learning, and not simply the tools that might make teaching seem ‘easy’.