In the spring of 2017, Anna Johnston (Assistant Professor, Centre for Foreign Language Study) began work on a fully digital course introducing key themes in the study of language. Aimed at a broad range of learners, the course was designed to allow participants to engage at their own pace.
The following were identified as essential for the online course:
- Provide text and PDFs dynamically
- Include hyperlinks, images, video and audio in engaging ways
- Provide check-points such as quizzes and activities for self-assessment
- Allow for surveys and asynchronous discussion
The Learning Technologies Team suggested several solutions, including a duo Learning Module with Kaltura videos; Office Mix; and Xerte. The former two options, however, did not provide functionality like clicking through content in different ways, syncing audio and video with other content, varied learning activities, or accessibility choices. Xerte met all of these requirements, but did not have survey or discussion functionality. And unlike Office Mix, it did not include a video recording feature.
Because of all the features that Xerte did provide, it was decided that this would be used to form the basis for the online course, with duo discussion boards, videos made with Kaltura, and third-party survey sites filling in the gaps. As Durham students would be the first users, they would access the course via a link on a duo site. This made it easy to go directly from Xerte to discussion forums on the site, as the students would already be logged in. While the videos created in Kaltura could not be automatically displayed in Xerte as they could be in duo, once produced they were easily embedded into the Xerte project. Finally, the surveys were limited to multiple choice questions and so using a third-party tool (SurveyMonkey) did not compromise student privacy by storing personal data on external sites.
All of the tools used were free to Durham University members. As with any video recording project, there was a small cost involved in purchasing a high quality headset.
Anna designed a highly interactive online course within a relatively short period of time. There is a steep learning curve when using Xerte, as the development platform is not terribly intuitive, but almost all of the features she wanted were included–in one way or another!
Xerte is a recommended platform for online learning projects at Durham.
Things to Watch
- Activity retention: Xerte does not typically record learner activity beyond the current session–every time a user closes the Xerte window, any results are lost. If you would like to use Xerte to record completion of online learning and/or assessment scores, please contact the Learning Technologist for your Faculty, as there are options for this if needed.
- Embedding external content: Although Xerte offers several options to embed external webpages or images, most browsers will treat this as suspicious content and hide it or show an error message. However, embedding YouTube, Kaltura or other video content will not cause any issues.
- Copyright: As in education generally, the rules around the use of others’ images, audio and video in digital learning are not always clear. When you create a project in Xerte, you take responsibility for the use of any third-party content. See our Copyright guidance for more information.
If you have any questions about Xerte, Kaltura or duo, or would like advice on designing online courses yourself, please contact the Learning Technologist for your Faculty.
REVIEW DATE: June 2017