Xerte is a fully online tool for creating interactive learning content, available to all University staff and students.
Xerte underwent a major upgrade in summer 2016, which greatly enhanced its functionality and ease of use. It was upgraded again in autumn 2017, with a number of new features including flash cards, interactive text and better integration with the duo Grade Centre. We plan to review the latest version to decide whether to upgrade again this year.
How much is it used?
215new projects have been created since June 2016.
53 new people have begun using Xerte since June 2016.
The Xerte Guides & Videos page was visited an average of 27 times per month so far in 2018, three times as often as in 2016.
What is it used for?
90% of projects were created by staff and include learning and training resources.
10% of projects were created by students, mostly as assessments.
What do students say?
While students didn’t mention Xerte specifically in the 2018 Student Digital Experience Tracker survey, they were positive about the types of features that it offers:
32 Durham students named online quizzes as useful course activities.
94 Durham students said that online tools for learning were useful in their study.
100 Durham students cited online video as useful for learning.
Have there been any issues?
Xerte has a few minor bugs that are flagged in the user guides.
In 2017-18, there was only one IT service desk incident involving Xerte.
Ahead of the release of the 2018 Durham Student Digital Experience Tracker survey results, Malcolm and Candace were invited to speak about how we used the Tracker at Jisc’s Connect More event in Newcastle on 10 July 2018.
Open to first- and second-year undergraduates and taught Master’s students, the survey received 877 responses. This was a representative number for this group (with a confidence level of 95% and a confidence interval of 3.19), and the data reveal that this was largely due to two emails that went out while the survey was open.
SPSS was used to analyse the quantitative data. Even simple frequency tables were useful in gauging student attitude toward digital. For example, here is how students responded when asked ‘How much would you like digital technologies to be used on your course?’
The Tracker allowed each institution to create its own questions as well, and we asked students about online assessment. This revealed that the majority of students liked almost all types of online assessment, although some types are rarely used at Durham.
This question also provided an unanticipated insight into the types of assessment that students expect: many students who had not submitted an assessment online considered it inappropriate to their subject.
The Tracker survey allowed us to benchmark student responses against last year’s Durham survey and against this year’s responses from all participating universities and from Russell Group institutions. Significance tests revealed where Durham was ahead or behind for every multiple-choice and Likert question in the Tracker. For example, when asked whether they had access to reliable wifi whenever they needed it, Durham students were significantly less positive than last year, but more positive than students at other UK universities.
Correlations for composites
SPSS made it easy to get overall impressions of student responses. For example, if multiple questions that measured a similar attitude were all strongly correlated (p < .01), they could be combined into a single composite to represent that attitude generally.
We used Nvivo to analyse the free-text responses, coding over 2,500 discrete comments into cascading categories. This was extremely useful in drawing out individual student experience narratives and in quantifying trends.
The most popular free-response topics could then be mapped back onto student responses in SPSS, allowing for correlations between multiple-choice responses and free-text responses to be discovered. A striking example is the strong correlation between attitude toward the use of digital technologies on courses (as shown above) and free-text mentions of in-class polling as a useful digital activity. Those who did not mention in-class polling as useful…
…had a significantly less positive attitude toward technology use in courses than those who did.
Look out for the full Durham report, which will be available on this site soon! Stakeholders across the University will also be approached to discuss deeper analysis that would be particularly useful to them.
As we prepare for a new academic year, we’ve been looking at how different learning technologies have been used in 2017-18 across the University. First up is Turnitin, our application for assessment submission, originality checking, marking and feedback.
In August 2017 Turnitin introduced Feedback Studio, an upgrade to the marking and feedback interface. Over a quarter of all submissions at Durham were marked with Feedback Studio. A few people reported experiencing issues, and Turnitin responded by adding a button to toggle the High Resolution view on or off.
How much is it used?
113,071 documents were submitted to Turnitin in 2017-18.
This represents an average of 7 submissions per taught student.
Submissions to Turnitin have been slowly but steadily increasing over the past five years:
What is it used for?
31,704 scripts were marked in Feedback Studio in 2017-18, 28% of all submissions.
75% of these included general feedback.
Markers used an average of 6 bubble comments and 3 Quick Marks per script.
Originality reports were run for almost all submissions.
What do students say?
(All student feedback from 2018 Student Digital Experience Tracker survey)
93% of Durham students who submitted essays online liked it.
Only 9% of Durham students disagreed that online assessments are delivered and managed well.
Have there been any issues?
Turnitin experienced service degradation several times in 2017-18, totalling 8.5 hours, and unscheduled outages totalling 7.5 hours. There were also approximately 30 hours of scheduled maintenance.
The IT service desk received 98 calls from staff and students about Turnitin in 2017-18, which translates to roughly one call for every 62 duo sites that use Turnitin submissions.
On the evening of Friday the 29th of June, CIS staff will perform the annual upgrade of duo. Upgrading duo allows us to keep the system secure and up to date with the latest web browsers, as well as allowing us to apply a series of patches and introduce new features.
For fans of version numbers, we will be upgrading duo from Blackboard Learn 2017 Q2 cumulative update 5 (Release 3200.0.5-rel.6+3dd6b56) to Blackboard Learn 2018 Q2 cumulative update 1 (Release 3400.0.1-rel.90+b74efee).
This introduces a number of bug fixes, a couple of new features and one much requested improvement – full width display.
Full Width Display
As part of it’s adoption of responsive web design (sensible resizing and reformatting of content so that pages work well on laptops, desktops, tablets and mobiles) in 2016 Blackboard chose to implement a maximum screen width of 1300 pixels. If you displayed duo on a screen bigger than that, then grey bars were shown on either side. This is a common feature of many websites – you’ll see this behaviour on many WordPress blogs, the University website, etc. It makes the maths for calculating where things should go simpler, but it can make the text harder to read than it should. This was particularly apparent if you tried to display duo using one of the new high resolution projectors in a teaching room, or on a big monitor on your desk. It also makes tasks such as grading harder because much of your screen is effectively unused.
The good news is that Blackboard have now done away with this and after this upgrade duo will resize to fit any screen size. Some extra intelligence has been applied to the display of the grade centre – if you are using a very wide screen, rather than just displaying the same number of columns, but making them really wide, duo will actually show more columns, which should mean less scrolling around.
Every year we create new courses on duo for staff to use in the new academic year. If the module has been taught before, then the duo course is a copy of the old one. Staff need some time over the summer to update any content, alter the dates of deadlines, etc. and so these courses are automatically set as unavailable. This really means unavailable to students – staff can access them so they are able to make the required changes. Before they can be released to students, staff need to remember to change the course settings. Blackboard have added a handy padlock icon to show staff the status of the course and alter it with a single click:
Note the padlock is only shown on standard course module pages, (the one with What’s New, Tasks, etc. on it) so if you have changed the landing page of your duo course to point to the announcements tool or a standard content page then you won’t see it. Ah well, Blackboard giveth and they taketh away …
New Attendance Tool
For many years, Blackboard users have been asking for an Attendance tool. Well there is one now. It uses a special attendance column in the Grade Centre and allows you to mark a student’s attendance at a given event (e.g. a tutorial). This updates their percentage attendance score. Blackboard have plans to integrate this with webinar tools such as Blackboard Collaborate and other third party tools which could automatically update this same score.
Once you get your head round it, it works quite well, It is explained nicely in this video (if you can stomach the jangly background music).
Note the video refers to both versions of Blackboard – at Durham we are using “classic” Learn, not Ultra.
As ever, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with any member of the Learning Technologies Team.
Kaltura, the online video platform for learning and teaching has recently been upgraded to the latest version. The upgrade fixes a number of bugs and offers the following new features:
The way Kaltura videos appear in duo Courses has been improved. Previously videos displayed as thumbnail links that opened a small pop-out video player. Now videos appear fully-embedded providing a more intuitive video experience for users.
Please note, this change will only affect new Kaltura media items added to duo. It will not update any existing videos you have previously embedded.
Improvements to Video Quizzes
The upgrade has brought some improvements to video quizzes. Where previously you could only add Multiple Choice questions, you can now add True/False questions and also Reflection Points.
Include Videos in Email Announcements
If you use duo Announcements, you now have the ability to embed Kaltura videos that will show in emails.
This post is to inform you that the old Webcam Recording Tool in Kaltura will be removed on Monday 26th March 2018. You can still use Kaltura to make webcam recordings using the CaptureSpace Lite desktop recorder.
The Webcam Recording button was left available for ease of access, but this tool started to cause issues for our users as it uses dated Flash technology that is no longer supported by most modern browsers.
To provide a consistent experience for all users, the Webcam Recording tool will be removed. CaptureSpace Lite will be the recommended tool for all your recording needs.
Where can I get advice?
If you want to discuss the implications of these changes, or how to make use of Kaltura for learning and teaching then don’t hesitate to get in touch with any member of the LTT via the IT Service Desk.
On Tuesday, 30 January at 7 am there will be a period of downtime for approximately 20 minutes plus an at risk window until 8 am, whilst Pebble Learning will be upgrading Pebblepad to the latest 1801 release. This upgrade features a new text editor – the main difference is that the formatting bar appears towards the top of the page and is always visible once the user is editing a text block. It provides better copy and paste, more fonts and other fixes. There are also a lot of accessibility enhancements behind the scenes. Please note that Internet Explorer 10 is now an unsupported browser.
Updates with regards to work for assessment- a new feature is a banner appearing at the top of a submitted asset indicated that it has been submitted – also if an editing deadline has been reached and the asset locked then this will also be indicated by a banner.
A new update to the Kaltura editor is being released on January 14th, 2018. This replaces the current clip and trim features in the old editor. The new Kaltura Video Editing Tools offer a one-stop-shop for all timeline editing needs.
What has changed?
In the old editor, the Create Clip, Trim Video and Add Quiz options were all accessed through different locations, meaning a somewhat disjointed experience for users. These tools have now been consolidated into one simple user interface making it easier and quicker to edit video.
The new editor is built in HTML5, meaning better compatibility across modern browsers without the need for additional plugins.
Kaltura have also incorporated a number of accessibility shortcuts into the Editor, meaning videos can now be edited using keyboard shortcuts without having to rely on the use of a mouse.
What do I need to do?
Nothing. Kaltura are turning-on the editor for all users, meaning the old editor will no longer be available. This will not have any impact on your existing videos.
For guidance on using the new Kaltura Editor, please visit the following guides:
If you only ever use Turnitin assignments in duo (as a student or member of staff) then you can ignore this post. It refers to the built in Blackboard Assignment tool and specifically the part of this that is used to render the student’s work on screen and add comments. The grading and rubric functions are unaffected. These changes affect existing and new assignments.
Why was a change necessary?
The Blackboard Assignment tool used a third party service crocodoc to provide the rendering and mark-up features. This tool was bought over by another company (Box) and they have announced the end of life for the old crocodoc tool on January the 15th 2018. As such Blackboard users have no choice but to move. In the duo upgrade carried out on the 6th of January we applied patches to allow us to switch from crocodoc to Box. This allows you to see but not edit old crocodoc annotations, and use the new Box tools on any unmarked work now or in the future.
What has changed?
The new tool supports more formats (now including video) but at present has fewer annotation options (though Box promise they are working with Blackboard to expand these). The Box tool adds the ability to Print annotations but removes the ability to download them. We expect to see pressure from users result in more improvements soon. This post from Blackboard documents every change.
Where can I get advice?
If you want to discuss the implications of these changes then don’t hesitate to get in touch with any member of the LTT via the IT Service Desk.
The annual Social Media in HE Conference (#SocMedHE17) was held at Sheffield Hallam University on 19 December. Universities from across the UK and beyond were represented by both staff and students, with presentations on a wide variety of uses of social media in higher education. Highlighted here are just a few key topics that emerged throughout the day:
Social media is used across many different streams of HE activity, including: marketing to potential students; institutional and departmental communications with current students; dissemination of research; student support and retention; careers news and advice; library updates; and alumni relations.
Universities’ social media policies should aim to address all uses of social media. While most institutions’ policies focus on academics’ personal use of social media and on marketing campaigns, many do not provide guidance on other uses, such as recommending/requiring student engagement. This leaves some staff unsure of the extent to which they can use social media for teaching or communications with students.
Student privacy is a key concern when implementing social media initiatives. Expecting students to engage with social media at any level involves, at the very least, requiring students to creating public online profiles. This, and any activity that follows, has implications for the student’s privacy and online personae. Care should always be taken to ensure that students are clear about exactly what they are posting online and, wherever possible, alternatives to public involvement.
Student preference for when and how social media is used should be carefully considered. Institutions can fall into the trap of assuming that students want to use social media to engage with the university because they choose to use it outside of their studies. This isn’t always the case, and consideration should be given to individual student preferences as well as those of the student body as a whole.
Both staff and students should have opportunities to learn how to best use social media. Safe, responsible and effective use of social media is increasingly important for students to grapple with, and this can be both explicitly and implicitly embedded into the curriculum as well as taught as part of a larger ‘digital literacies’ initiative. Staff members should also have the opportunity to develop their own social media knowledge and skills, which will in turn enable them to take the lead in deepening student understanding and use.
Both staff and students should have opportunities to develop meta-skills for adapting to new technologies generally. As the digital world changes so rapidly, development like that suggested above should ensure that students and staff possess the skills to evaluate and experiment with any new platforms and technologies–including social media–that might emerge in the future.