When ‘wiki’ isn’t a 4-letter word…

Normally when you mention Wikipedia to a group of academics, there is at least one who will react, bemoaning students who cite articles from it in lieu of peer-reviewed journal content. Now I have a lot of sympathy with this view, especially as it is usually put forward by people who are passionate about their discipline and scholarship, and we need more of those! I can, however, see how wikis can be used to advance learning.

One such example landed in my pigeonhole recently – a series of case studies from wikimedia looking at how universities are teaching with Wikipedia. You can see it for yourself at http://education.wikimedia.org/casestudies.They provide some great examples: language students translating technical pages into the language they are studying (or from the language they are studying into another; students finding articles that needed updating/correcting and amending the content, with full citations; creating wikipedia pages to support particular conservation projects in a protected area; creating and uploading information videos;  A common feature of these case studies is the value students found in these activities – authenticity, great feedback from people beyond their institution and pride in adding to collective knowledge.

If you want to know more, there is a conference planned in Leicester on the 5th and 6th of September – see http://bit.ly/eduwiki

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Campus Pack UK User Group meeting

Learning Objects Campus PackThe first meeting of the Campus Pack UK User Group is to take place at Birkbeck College, London on Friday, 17th June 2011. The User Group meeting is a free event, run by users for users, and will also include hands-on training sessions from Learning Object’s Dr Nancy Rubin, and Learning Objects will be there throughout the day to answer any questions. 

Durham University has been using Learning Object’s Campus Pack Version 3 for several years (blogs, wikis and podcasts tools) and the Learning Technologies Team have to make a decision on whether to upgrade to the new Campus Pack Version 4.  This new version offers more mobile accessibility, the ability to create personalised templates and has more group functionality.  I will be representing the LTT throughout the day and will feed back to this blog on my findings.

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Is 4 a lucky number?

We have been successfully using the blog, wiki and podcast tools developed by Learning Objects for many years at Durham. Currently we are still using version 3 of the Campus Pack tools, fully integrated into duo (our Blackboard Learn server). A new version (Campus Pack 4), hosted by Learning Objects (but which still integrates with duo)  has been released. More information about it can be found on the Learning Objects website. Members of the LTT will be working with members of the blog and wiki special interest groups in Durham to evaluate this upgrade and plan an implementation timetable.  Of particular interest is their reference to forthcoming support for mobile devices.

If you are a blog, podcast or wiki user (or would like to be) then check out the link and let us know what you think!

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When you are stuck…

We have been reviewing the way we support duo and other learning technologies. For the last three years we have used an internal wiki – duopedia – hoping that staff and students would contribute content as well as consuming it. With a few honourable exceptions, that hasn’t been the case – over 95% of all the edits have been made by members of the LTT. When we asked people why they hadn’t submitted items (or even changed entries or commented on them) they typically gave us one of these answers:

  • I didn’t realise the content was editable
  • I was worried to post something in case my advice turned out to be incorrect,
  • I’d like to but I am just too busy
  • I don’t think it’s my job to do this!

We then asked students and staff where they went for help. The answer was overwhelming – google! Now duopedia isn’t visible to google, so you can’t find the pearls of wisdom it contains via that route. That’s deliberate as some of the screenshots and advice may contain personal details (e.g. the names and email addresses of students) which we shouldn’t be accessible off-site. How then could we help the users who see google as the source of all answers?

This has been a question vexing the LTT for the last few months and so we did a bit of research. We spoke to colleagues in the ITS and the Library about tools they used, and asked learning technologists in other Universities how they supported their users. As a result we are launching a new frequently asked question (FAQ) tool for duo that is visible to google. It even has a browser plugin so you can search the system without remembering the URL!

It will be linked from the Help tab in duo later today. If you can’t wait you can take a look now from this link: http://www.dur.ac.uk/tel.us/ or watch this demonstration:
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Wave goodbye

Google has announced that it has halted development of its innovative Google Wave tool: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2010/08/update-on-google-wave.html

Whilst it is sad that this brave attempt at collaborative communication did not take off in the way they’d hoped, by releasing parts of the code under an open source license, perhaps bits may live on in other applications…

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Student Feedback Methods

Today four members of the LTT joined staff from the School of Modern Languages at their away day. We spoke about ways to provide students with feedback. A copy of the presentation is available below.

Note that this presentation contains links to audio and video files, so we’ve provided written transcripts of these for anyone who needs them.

  1. Slide 75 – Students from Sheffield Hallam and Chester giving their opinion on audio feedback.
  2. Slide 76 – audio feedback example
  3. Slide 77 – video feedback example
  4. Slide 80 – Jing video feedback demonstration
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Sharing good practice – Wiki group work on Inclusion and Exclusion in Higher Education (Sarah Aiston and Julie Rattray)

Julie Mulvey and I recently presented at the North East Regional Learning and Teaching Conference in Sunderland.   We were showcasing the excellent use of a wiki by Sarah Aiston and Julie Rattray for their course Higher Education: Issues of Inclusion and Exclusion.  We generated some good discussion about the ways these tools, and particular visual images can give students new ways of exploring their learning.

The technology let us down on the day (always embarrasing for a learning technologist) but we wanted to share this practice with the attendees through ‘Voicethread’  www.voicethread.com.  The Voicethread below explains how Julie and Sarah successfully encouraged students to explore these issues through collaborative online group work as a formative exercise, before producing individual summative work on the topic.  Click the right arrow at the bottom to move forward through the thread and play at them bottom tp play the main video interview.  Click the boxes at the edge to play the video comments.  The Voicethread consists of some presentation slides giving context and explanation, several video slides showing extracts from an  interview with Sarah, as well as comments from one of the students on the course, and Julie Rattray, the other course tutor.  You can sign up to Voicethread and add your own comments.

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Case studies bank

I’m just starting to put together a bank of e-learning case studies, which we hope will give ideas and inspiration to our colleagues in Durham and beyond.

We started by building on an ongoing project “Using new media to share student learning experiences and good teaching practice” which was kick-started by Durham University’s “Enhancing The Student Learning Experience Award”, which plans to use Voicethread to record and promote good practice, and also facilitate a dialogue between author and audience.

The case studies bank is now live, but it’s definitely a work in progress, and will be edited and expanded in the coming months.

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Upgraded duo’s blog, wiki and podcast tools

Stephen and I have just finished a minor upgrade to the blog, wiki and podcast tools that we run on duo.  These tools are provided by Learning Objects, and are proving increasingly popular and useful, with our users finding a wide variety of ways to take advantage of these flexible tools.

Journal LX iconPodcast LX iconTeams LX icon

The upgrade was to install a minor, bug fix release.  Most users won’t notice any difference, and we were able to complete the upgrade with just a few minutes of unavailability of the blog, wiki and podcast tools, but with no impact to the rest of the duo system.

We chose to upgrade now rather than waiting until the summer, in order to get 3 issues fixed (the upgrade has also fixed a few other minor issues).  In particular, I wanted us to be able to take advantage of fixes to:

  • CP-2692 – In Internet Explorer when editing a wiki or a blog a user is unable to link to an existing wiki page or a blog entry.
  • CP-2700 – Blog and wiki related performance fixes.
  • CP-2663 – Modifying an existing equation in Internet Explorer 8 deletes the equation.

After the upgrade I ran some basic tests to ensure that these tools are all working, and that these 3 issues have been resolved (in reality, CP-2700 is very difficult to assess).

This was the first time that I’ve been involved in steering this kind of a change through the IT Service’s relatively new Change Management Procedure, and having done this it seems to have been a worthwhile exercise in ensuring that changes of this sort only take place when they have been properly planned and are properly co-ordinated, with their impact being properly assessed.

I’ve been planning this upgrade on-and-off since November, so it was nice to finally get this task finished.

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