Friday, 24 July 2015

Taming the grade centre with colour

One of those “why didn't I know you could do that” moments that I thought was worth sharing. This is where I find out that I'm the only blackboard user who didn't know about it but here goes anyway.

At the recent North England Blackboard User Group Meeting (NEBUG) there was a really useful presentation from Adam Elce (North Notts college) showcasing the blackboard templates and VLE audit framework they use. His presentation may be worth another blog post in itself but he casually threw in the fact that you can colour code student scores in the grade centre.

Now I've always found the grade centre in blackboard to be an unwieldy beast at the best of times…. very powerful but unwieldy.

In our Legal Practice course we make extensive use of MCQs but the default grade centre just displays numbers that could be out of any total, the quizzes may vary from 3 questions up to 30. A quick visit to the” manage” tab in the gradebook, drop down to “grading colour code” tick the box to enable colour coding then just build your own criteria and colour scheme.

It just so happen in this one we have gone for purple for very high scores, the reds are less than 50% (a fail), dark blues are in progress and various shades represent the grade ranges in between. This was a 30 second job to set up, .

Now the whole grade centre becomes a lot more useful as you can easily see a student’s progress across the quizzes without having to remember what each score was out off. You can of course toggle colour on and off if it all gets a bit too much.

Gareth Bramley, University Teacher on our LPC course writes "the colour coding can usefully be adapted so that it highlights various grade boundaries, and the colours make it a lot easier to assess how the students enrolled on the module have performed in each quiz"

Hope this is useful if you didn't already know about it. Next time I’ll be delving more into reporting from the gradebook and quiz analysis tools.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Handy App: Post-it Plus

Here at the University of Sheffield my role often involves working with colleagues to brainstorm and discuss ideas. To help facilitate this, I often rely on post-its enabling participants to share ideas and skim through the responses of others. If you use post-it notes in this way, like me you probably take a picture of the post-it notes after the event so that they can be shared more widely. One of the problems with taking a picture is that it is difficult to add, edit, or reorder the post-its once you have your picture. So I was pleasently surprised when I came across the 3M post-it app (only available in the App Store), which allows you to do just this.

The app allows you to take a picture of or upload a picture of a 'bunch' of post its. It will then recognise each note in the picture (or let you outline where a note is if the app is struggling to do so). You can then:
  • Edit a note
  • Reposition each note
  • Add a new note
The picture below is from a TEL meets session that we host monthly at the University, the event brings together learning technologists across the institution to network and share ideas. In a recent event we asked delegates to consider what discussion points they would like covered in forthcoming sessions. After uploading an initial picture of the post-it notes to the app,  I have been able to shade out the names of people that suggested an idea to anonymise them (in red).

You can move around each note individually or automatically align them. 
Finally, you can see that I have added some new post-it notes using the keyboard and my finger (for a freestyle look) (see the light yellow post-its in the centre below). 
You can also export the changes that you have made (as an image, powerpoint or word) or share your notes with other users. I stuck with the free version of the app, but for a fee you can have the option to change the the colour of different post-it notes. 

Would you find this app useful? Is this something you will use? Add a comment and share your thoughts! 

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

University Sheffield International College and technology enhanced learning: Developing MOLE Courses and the working relationship

Over the past few months the Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) team here at the University of Sheffield have been working in close partnership with the University Sheffield International College (USIC) in developing their courses on our Blackboard 9.1 VLE (Virtual learning Environment). The VLE here at the University is branded My Online Learning Environment (MOLE). 

Previously, USIC were users of the Moodle platform, and at the point we started working with them, had limited or no experience in the Blackboard 9.1 environment. 

My main contacts for USIC were Barbara Gardener (Learning Technologies Manager), Tom Pyecroft (Learning Technologist) and Laura Murray (Academic administrator). They are all employed by StudyGroup

As there would be no direct migration of courses from Moodle to Blackboard either, we found ourselves in the position of having to start course building from scratch. On the face of it, this sounds like a bad thing, but it represented a great opportunity for us and the module developers in USIC to be able to rethink their curriculum delivery. 

At the start of discussions it was clear that USIC wanted a consistent approach to course design across their programmes. This consistency would help a) ensure students experience with the VLE was uniform and of high value and b) help make course management more efficient. USIC had a number of module developers available to them who would be in charge of developing these courses. These staff, as mentioned above, had some limited or no experience on Blackboard.

So, the first question was... How would we develop this consistent approach to course building, whilst giving the module developers some hands on time with blackboard? ...The answer came in the form of a full day training session for the module developers, at the Corporate information and Computing Service (CiCS) training room (and Hicks Building due to availability!). 

We split the day into two sections, morning and afternoon, with a much needed lunch break in the middle! 

The morning session was dedicated to the “nuts and bolts” of course building in MOLE. We demonstrated the basic elements of course navigation and structure and building/deploying content in the system. Nothing too advanced was attempted, and this was important as often the key to good course design is in making it simplistic.

Staff in the group session wrestling with course template design - Image courtesy BGardener - StudyGroup and USIC

The afternoon session was all about building USIC course templates in MOLE. Barbara had very kindly put together a cards activity that really helped invite discussion and debate. 

The cards activity involved attendees being given a set of 40 cards. These cards contained a single item relating to course design and delivery. For example we had: “All items include descriptive information”, “All grades available through grade centre”, ”A class wiki”, “Formative tests”,”Adaptive release”, “Content collection”. Attendees were then asked to put them into three separate piles:
  1.  Launch - These items should be available at the launch of the courses 
  2. Intermediate - These items could be delivered in the near future but after launch 
  3. Exemplary - These items would require more thought and investigation but are items that in an ideal world they would wish to have in the courses.

MOLE training card activity (3).JPG
Cards used in the session - image courtesy BGardener StudyGroup and USIC
The activity generated some really useful discussion around the key elements that needed to be in the courses from the get go, as well as the higher level content that would take more time to implement. A couple of the key areas covered as being essential (and therefore launch) were:

  •  Use of the content collection in managing overarching programme content 
  • Directing students learning through effective use of adaptive release.

Importantly the theme of exemplary course design (something we are having a real push on in TEL at the University of Sheffield) was woven into both the morning and afternoon sessions. This theme was highlighted in another activity we devised, which involved attendees being enrolled in both an “exemplary course” and a “bad course”.

They were split into two groups and asked to do the following:
  1. Try and improve the bad course
  2. Provide feedback to the group as to what they would do to improve it, if they had the time 
The best thing about this activity was the fact that both groups had some really good ideas around what a MOLE course should achieve. The main idea being to avoid it being a file repository and instead have it enhance learning and encourage collaboration. Both groups again agreed that consistency across courses was key. For example: clearly labelling content with descriptions, formatting, chunking up learning content into manageable sections and displaying it correctly through combined use of the navigation menu and content pages. 

 We finished at 4pm tired, but with a sense that we had achieved some clear ideas about what the USIC courses will look like, and of course it also aided the forging of a good working relationship between TEL and USIC. But we weren't finished there….Day 2 beckoned... 

 The following day saw the TEL team train USIC staff on the use of PebblePad, with demonstrations of the versatile ways Pebble+ can create templates and workbooks, and ATLAS, the institutional space where assignments and assessments can be managed. Some valuable discussions were had at how the system can be used for logging achievements and capabilities, and how workbooks and webfolios can be used to aid student reflection and learning. 

 The module development team also took part in a workshop introducing Smart Notebook software which will be available in all USIC classrooms and enables valuable collaboration opportunities. The team had seen the interactive whiteboards and software previously at a classroom technologies drop in session run for all the teaching and professional service staff in March. 

Many thanks to Barbara Gardener  and Pete Mella (University of Sheffield TEL team) for their contributions to this blog post. 

Stay tuned for more developments over the summer on this topic! 


Monday, 27 April 2015

EMA and the White Rose Learning Technologists' Forum 21 April 2015

I was very pleased to be invited along to the latest WRLT Forum on the 21st April 2015. One of the main drivers for my attendance was down to my involvement with Electronic Management of Assessment (EMA) here at the University of Sheffield; this particular event was dedicated entirely to this theme.

 It was held at York St John University’s Skell Building on a frankly rather beautiful sunny spring day, which made both the University and the City of York stand out even more; a very pretty location!

We were also extremely lucky to have with us Lisa Gray (Programme Manager) and Lynette   Lall from JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee) who would be conducting the EMA workshop with us. Lisa Gray has completed a lot of extremely important work in the EMA arena where Institutions, including ours, are really looking for the ways forward in the implementation of electronic assessment at scale.

We kicked things off with a brief introduction to the Forum by Roisin Cassidy (TEL Adviser) at York St John University followed by the main presentation from Lisa Gray.

JISC - EMA Project Presentation


Lisa Gray Presenting at the EMA WRLT - image courtesy of Sarah Copeland, University of Bradford

Lisa gave the forum an overview of JISC’s EMA project. The presentation started with some background and context, which included the completion of a 3 year technology enhanced assessment and feedback programme. EMA was one of four main themes within this programme, and this background work helped highlight that there were clear tangible benefits to the use of EMA, but that there were also some serious hurdles to jump over in terms of its implementation. This essential background work led onto the EMA study itself.

We were presented with the study’s headline findings which included charts around levels of EMA system integration, variations in business processes and the variability in the take up of e-marking and e-feedback.

In particular we were shown a chart that showed to us very clearly where the main “pain points” were in adoption of EMA.  The top spot on this chart went to system integration (lack of), with staff resistance coming in a close second. Perhaps not surprisingly, student resistance was last on this chart…

Figure 1 - Pain points in EMA

Image courtesy of  JISC. Taken from the "Electronic Management of Assessment (EMA): a landscape review" publication

The study then explored the reasons for the pain in EMA implementation, including the lack of a central joined up approach, and the fact that trying to implement EMA at scale exposes limitations in the technology.

Finally Lisa moved on to the excellent “assessment life cycle” model developed by Manchester Metropolitan University.  You can catch that, and their excellent suite of resources on assessment here.

Figure 2 -The assessment lifecycle


Image courtesy of Manchester Metropolitan University - reproduced under CC license (BY/SA)
Lisa explained how, by breaking down the components of assessment in this way, we can then map the main challenges of EMA into each area which highlights where in the cycle our EMA issues lie. As we might imagine a large portion of them reside in number 5, “Marking and Production of feedback”.

Workshop activities


For our first workshop activity we were asked to work in pairs or small groups. Working off a “challenge sheet” that outlined the main EMA challenges, we were tasked with  reviewing and ticking off the challenges that we thought were causing the most pain. We were then asked to join forces with a larger group to rank those challenges in order of importance (1 - most important, 5 - least important).

Having reviewed all the challenges our group thought that, although there were  no real level 1 (urgent and biggest impact) challenges, there were a couple of level 2 challenges that were the biggest hurdles:

  • Ability to handle a variety of typical UK marking and moderation workflows : We felt that this challenge encompassed a lot of the pain points in adoption of EMA. Certainly within our institution there are many local variations of workflows that, when you apply EMA, it highlights issues such as anonymous marking, double blind marking, and moderation of marks 

  •  Ability of systems to handle off-line marking: Currently, there is only really the Turnitin iPad app that can offer true off line marking. This is quite a limitation when we  consider that offline marking may well offer the biggest step forward in making EMA a solution, that makes marking at least as easy, if not easier than its paper equivalent.

The resulting group feedback to the room generated some really useful discussions around groups pain points, some of which was directed towards either the incompatibility between Institutional student systems and marking systems or the current inflexibility of the technology.

EMA Solutions and workshop 2

As part of the final workshop of the day we were asked to move into four groups to look at each of the projects, decide what detail we would like to see within them and then provide feedback to the room. I chose group 4: the EMA tool kit. You can view the EMA toolkit description and the other projects here.

EMA toolkit

Our group discussed the idea that such a resource should work reciprocally with local Institutional produced resources. For example at the University of Sheffield we have our recently devised TEL Hub  which is continually evolving.  We are looking to  build our own set of EMA resources within the Hub for our Institution, and the content that is within this resource should work in tandem with resources in a centrally devised hub. Whether this be policy, process guidance or case studies. Anything we develop locally could potentially feed back into the central hub.

In addition we felt that it would be important to for hub users to be able to utilise different views or “lenses” on the toolkit to encompass all the different stakeholders: academic staff, admin, learning technologist (or equivalent), and student.

Feedback and Finish

The groups provided feedback to the room regarding the separate projects and three institutions were given a brief moment (due to time restraints) to mention their EMA themed work .

Paul Dewsnap at Sheffield Hallam University: Great work on looking end to end at their assessment and feedback processes:

Joel Mills at the University of Hull: Their use of Sakai (ebridge) to ensure that e-submission from students is captured successfully even if Turnitin is encountering issues.

Phil Vincent from York St John University: Their EMA policy development, and in particular, describing how you can reduce staff resistance to EMA through the deployment of two monitors!

Sarah Copeland from the University of Bradford: The University policy that requires e-submission where practical and for electronic feedback to be given within 20 days. The Faculty of Health studies policy of anonymous e-marking and use of core technologies: Pebblepad, Blackboard and Turnitin for areas of EMA.

We would like to thank once again, our hosts St Johns University of York, for providing with us a fantastic location and to Lisa and Lynette for a fab workshop that has helped provide some much needed light at the end of a dark EMA tunnel!

If you wish to get involved with the White Rose Learning Technologists' Forum, you can subscribe to our mailing list:

Please also see our Google+ Community page  at the link below:

Hope to see you at the next meeting!


Wednesday, 25 March 2015

When is a MOLE Exam Not an Exam?

Photo on a CC license by Marie Coleman via flickr
When it's ajar?
If only it was so simple!

This blog post follows on from my last one that talked about our new MOLE Exams procedure developed by the Exams Team and us.

One of the difficulties that we face here is making the decision about how to classify a MOLE test as an 'exam'. It is very common to use MOLE tests throughout a module's teaching as a core part of the learning materials. Often they are formative tests, there to build and consolidate a student's knowledge, but they are also used summatively to test levels of understanding, and can contribute to the final grade that the student will receive for that module. Sometimes, these summative tests can appear to be very exam-like; they will take place in a room at a fixed time with someone watching over the proceedings to ensure fair play. In this scenario, should this be an exam? Well if we take a look at the University regulations, they say that 'an exam is summative work under invigilated conditions in line with the general regulations as to examinations’.

So does the 'test' to be taken in MOLE qualify by this definition? It it does, then it's an exam, and so the MOLE exam procedures apply. This is good, because suddenly you have access to all that support for booking venues, invigilators and the myriad other things that need to be dealt with for an exam.

So, if your 'test' fails this exam, erm, test, does that mean the MOLE exam procedures don't apply? Well the answer to that is yes and no. Take no first; they don't apply because the Exams Team won't handle the administration of the exam, so rooms, invigilators, and the other stuff, remain the responsibility of the department. No also applies, to a degree, to the specific exam technical support we offer (for example we can't guarantee being able to get someone to the room as quickly as we would for an exam), however, the TEL Team can, and will, still be able to support these higher stake tests, providing we receive the following information with as much notice as possible:
  • When is the test happening?
  • Where is it happening?
  • How many students are taking it?
  • Which MOLE course is it in?
  • Which test is being used?
  • Do you want to use the LockDown Browser? *
If we have this information, we can do our best to ensure that it runs smoothly on the day and should any problems arise will do our best to resolve them.

So when is a MOLE exam not an exam? When it's a higher stake test!


 * We hope the LockDown Browser will be ready to use for the next exams session, however we have no firm date for this yet.

Monday, 23 March 2015

App Swap Breakfast #4 Video and Audio Apps

The latest App Swap Breakfast (ASB) this week at yet another venue, our fourth in as many sessions. This time round we focused on apps and technology relating to video and audio recording, capture and playback. The event returned to a more informal setting and agenda from the previous one that was held at the University TELFest event back in January.

We hosted the ASB in the View Deli Cafe which overlooks large parts of Sheffield and gave colleagues the opportunity to grab a coffee and pastry whilst discovering new apps and technology tips.

We started with Pete Mella from the Technology Enhanced Learning Team who gave a presentation on the collection of useful Adobe Apps. Pete showcased the brilliant Adobe Voice animation tool with a live demo to show how easy it is to get good quality results. Pete showed the 20 or so colleagues in attendance what can be achieved on an iPad (as these apps are only available on IOS sadly) with very little effort. Pete has already blogged about Adobe Voice here and I was especially grateful for Pete showing this tool at the third ASB in January. It was a tool that I had heard about from colleagues but had not tried, seeing Pete’s demo sold it to me. As a result I have used the app to create over 40 short animations titled Research Hacks, which are designed to help researchers use technologies and find smarter ways to work. The collection of videos can be viewed here.

We then had a demo from my colleague Claire Beecroft who showcased a tablet device tripod that we had purchased for ourselves. The tripod cost £20 from Amazon and can be used in a variety of settings from being a camera stand to a autocue for reading text. The one that we have is the iStabilizer tabMount Tripod Adapter available from here. Claire talked about the ease of using such a small, lightweight device and the benefits of using it when all too often people fumble about trying to hold them when recording content.
I gave a presentation on a few tools that had been around for a while but were nonetheless still very useful for staff and students. Firstly I showcased the YouTube Capture app that allows users to record directly from their tablet device and upload straight to YouTube. In addition I showed another tool, that despite not being free, but is worth having in your collection as a teacher or student with Explain Everything - Formerly Explain a Website. This allows users to capture any website and screencast it, the recording will capture the user zooming in and changing pages as well as add their own notes and annotation. Jesrine Clarke-Darrington from the Faculty of Medicine, Health and Dentistry shown how students were using this app to annotate and draw on medical diagrams to explain a problem or intervention. As with many of these apps, you often find that if you cannot devise a good use for them someone else is, and Jesrine proved that very well.

I then showed a tool that was getting much publicity at the moment called Meerkat App. This app allows users to broadcast live or schedule one later to their Twitter followers. A url is created in your Twitter timeline and you can then broadcast live to who sees it, or at least is given an advance link. The tool has much potential and already some major stars are using it for impromptu broadcasts to their fans. The app could be used to broadcast live events and talks to Twitter followers for those who do not have the means to do this within their departments.

David Read gave us an excellent demo of the Swivl robotic platform for learning his department has purchased. The robot hosts a tablet device which can they track the movement of a speaker via a dongle they carry based on their voice. The robot tracks the person through 360% whilst the table can be set up to record the presenter as well. Thankfully my colleagues in ScHARR have now purchased one of these which will be interesting to use. David also talked about two apps/extensions he uses to annotate video. The first one, developed by The University of Minnesota is called Video Ant which allows users to add descriptive and analytical text along the timeline of a video recording. We also discussed which again allows users to annoate videos and save these notes directly into Google Drive.

Graham McElearney discussed the option of using the University’s iTunes U platform to create and store podcasts. At present, iTunes U is all too often seen as a video only platform, yet there are plenty of options for uploading audio versions. There are even occasions where a video and audio version can be uploaded, therefore giving more opportunity to listen to the audio recording whilst travelling.

Claire Beecroft talked about her extensive use of AudioBoom (previously known as AudioBoo) to capture short audio  commentary by herself. Claire uses the app to record audio feedback for students as well as creating segments and audio introductions for modules and lectures. By doing this Claire is able to add an extra dimension to her feedback and interaction with students that goes way beyond that of text.

The latest App Swap Breakfast was a great deal of fun and hopefully attendees took something useful from it. We certainly covered a lot of tech and at times it felt like an episode of The Gadget Show, which is no bad thing. Certainly a big positive for the future of App Swap Breakfast was the number of attendees, the quality of talks and the venue. Certainly the plans will be to run future App Swap Breakfasts at The View Deli from now on. The next App Swap Breakfast is likely to take place in June and will look at the topic of infrastructure and legacy. Without sounding all Olympics 2012 about it, the session will be a platform to discuss how an institution like Sheffield addresses issues like support and purchasing of mobile devices of apps. About how we deal with security and privacy and how do colleagues manage a good work/life balance of using tools that increasingly creep into our private life. Obviously we will look and share apps relating to these issues whilst we sip coffee, looking of the city of Sheffield. What’s not to like?
Apps covered in this App Swap Breakfast

Thursday, 12 March 2015

MOLE Exams - A New Process

Me presenting the new process
Over the last six months, I have been working on a new MOLE Exams process with Jo Hardy, the Exams Team leader in Students Services. Jo and her team are responsible for arranging and running all the exams held at the University, but until recently MOLE exams were not part of this normal process. This has now changed, and we now have MOLE exams fully integrated into the standard exams process.

We ran a pilot with the Faculty of Engineering MOLE exams last year to assess how we could integrate these properly, and then used the outcomes of the trial to develop a complete process that allows both our teams to provide full support from the very beginning right through to the end of the exam process. Although MOLE exams are handled in the same way as a standard paper based exam, the preparation and delivery is obviously very different, so we have developed this new end to end process to ensure that the details in these differences are understood, which makes everything run much more smoothly for everyone involved.

In simple terms, the exam request from the department is made to the Exams Team. If the department has never run an exam before then the Exams Team will put them in contact with us for pedagogical and technical support around building the MOLE test that will be used for the exam. If the department is experienced, then they simply need to build the test in MOLE and wait for the confirmation for the exam schedule, then let us know. We will deploy the test in the course ensuring the configuration of the settings are correct. This means that the Chief Invigilator running the exam on the day does not get any unexpected surprises in the room the exam is being held. Any changes that need to be made to the test after this has happened must be confirmed with us, to ensure that it hasn't altered any of the settings, as this can causes issues on the day.

On the day of the exam, we offer full support but we no longer routinely attend the room, as MOLE is much more robust and we find we are not needed in the room most of the time now. The Chief Invigilators have a direct line to us for support, and we can be in the room in a few minutes if we are unable to resolve the problem over the phone. We trialled this new process during the last exams period in February, and we found it to be a success. We expected some things to require adjustment and we are reviewing those at the moment and will update the process accordingly.

We are also continuing to look at developing the whole area of MOLE exams further. Although there have been no real issues with security and unfair means in these exams, we are looking at introducing a lockdown browser to improve these aspects of the exam on the day. More information will be coming on this very soon.

Overall, the new process is working well. More information about it can be found on the Exams Team web pages (requires a UoS login), and we delivered the first on a short series of sessions to go over this in greater detail and answer any questions people have. The next session will be scheduled soon, and information on that will be available as soon as we know more details.

Clearly we don't have unlimited capacity for the number of students sitting an exam on the day as room space is always a key factor, but  we are saying that if you are interested don't let this put you off,  get it touch and we will help.


Monday, 9 February 2015

White Rose Learning Technologists' Forum 28th January 2015

White Rose Learning Technologists' Forum 28th January 2015

On January 28th we were very fortunate to host the most recent meeting of the White Rose Learning Technologists' Forum, here at the The University of Sheffield. This was the eighth meeting since the group's inauguration on 2011, and was attended by approximately 40 delegates from across the Yorkshire and Humberside region.

Most of the meetings we have held in the last four years have been comprised of presentations from our members, normally focusing on work they have been doing at their member institutions. For this meeting we decided to try something a bit different - a recent survey of our members suggested that some of our meetings should be based around specific themes, as well as allowing our members to showcase our work. The survey generated a list of themes we will pursue over the coming meetings, and for this one we decided to look at Learner Analytics - I suspect like many of us, I know I  an awareness of the existence of analytics, had seen the field discussed in various Horizon Reports, and had some very loose preconceptions of what they were, but no real understanding beyond this. To this end we were very lucky to have Martin Hawksey, Chief Innovation, Community and Technology Officer, from the Association for Learning Technology, who led the majority of the session with a fascinating worksop and presentation that gave us an overview of this seemingly huge discipline.

Martin Hawksey presenting to the group - image courtesy of Danny Monaghan

Rather than paraphrase Martin's presentation here, he has very kindly allowed us to create a screencast recording of the session, available here

Martin has also written an article reflecting on his talk for the LT Newsletter, here

Some of the key messages for me from the session were that it is a huge field, and one that draws from a number of complementary disciplines. Like any field that involves complex analytical procedures, there is always a need to be cautious of not losing sight of the real questions we are trying to address, and that these questions have their root in theory - so there really is no theory-neutral analytical technique - an approach that for me was very reminiscent of my studies on the use of Geographical Information Systems and archaeology. Even the very process of putting data onto a graph or map has its own underlying theoretical assumptions.

After a whirlwind tour of some of the underlying concepts behind analytics - including drawing attention to some important ethical dimensions - Martin introduced us to some very practical applications of analytics we could use for ourselves. Martin has himself done much work on looking at he analysis of Twitter usage. In addition to those 140 characters we know and love, Tweets leave many other footprints in terms of associated metadata which allow them to be analysed. Martin has produced some freely usable tools, based around some clever Apps Scripting in Google spreadsheets. In fact one of our colleagues in the team here, Pete Mella, has been able to put this to good use already, by analysing Tweets generated by students at our two recent Achieve More events - where students come together for large cross faculty  interdisciplinary research projects.

After demonstrating some other tools, Martin wrapped up his fantastic presentation by bringing us back to some fundamental questions - what sort of learners are we trying to analyse, and what are we really trying to understand?

Patrick Lynch conducted another presentation after the break, in which he looked at some application of analytics he's been involved in at Hull, and the Aprero open source projects on analytics. Patrick's work has focused on starting to look at data from VLE usage - and in particular to start trying top understand how analytics might be used to inform learning designs - something that would have wide interest to many of us. Patrick showed us the importance of understanding the link between students behaviour and his analytics data, and how for example a student who prints off all the course material at the beginning of the course to read from paper, may superficially appear not to be engaging with the course, on the face of the data alone.

By analysing the data himself and using i nightly dump of data from the VLE, Patrick is able to have effectively live information, which is always up to date. The datasets he obtains are very large - with over 14.5 million records, and Patrick has used a combination of tools to analyse this, including Excel, and also the powerful Tableau analytics software - the latter f which can be run as a free trial before purchase. Their guiding principle throughout this has been to tray and produce visualisations that will ultimately be helpful to students themselves.

Our final presentation came from Jamie Lepiorz, who presented a short "thunderstorm" style presentation on the Zooscope project, from the School of English at tHe University of Sheffield. The Zooscope is an online database of film reviews, written by students, focusing on the portrayal of animals in cinema. It follows the success of the award winning All About Linguistics module, and develops the students' skills by giving them the opportunity to contribute to an authentic online resource that can be used by their peers.

The idea of the "thunderstorm" style presentation is one borrowed from our  experiences running the Media Enhanced Learning Special Interest Group events. The idea is to give people an opportunity to give a very short (seven minutes or less) talk that enables them to showcase their work, and for our colleagues to find out what each other is up to. We are hoping to carry on using this format, alongside our more substantial themed events.

We hope that this new blended approach to our events will work well for our members - having a specific theme gives us a real focus to the meeting and will hopefully enable members to attend events that can address needs that they can still define for themselves. 

If you wish to get involved with the White Rose Learning Technologists' Forum, you can join subscribe to our mailing list:

We have also just set up  a Google+ Community page  at the link below:

Date of next meeting - 21st April at York St John

We have also created a Google Form to select the theme for our next session - if you wish to come to our next meeting and want to have a say in what theme we choose, please fill in the form below:

We look forward to seeing you at future meetings!

Monday, 19 January 2015

Introducing the TELHub

Last week we launched the TELHub - the TEL team's new web resource. This includes both user guides and information about all the services which TEL support, and a number of case studies from colleagues around the University of innovative and exciting ways they're using technology in their work.

These case studies highlight some of the brilliant work that's going on around campus, where technology is being used in a variety of ways. To just pick out a few, this includes Sam Marsh, on the successful way he has helped implement flipped classrooms in Maths & Statistics; Claire Beecroft, on the use of the free Go!Animate tool to create role plays in medical education; Jeremy Craven, on the use of tablet technology to capture hand-writing in science lectures; Gary Wood on the award-winning AllAboutLinguistics website, where students were tasked with creating a real-world website in replacement of a traditional website; and Andrea Fox on how MOLE has been used to deliver course materials to distance learners in Nursing & Midwifery.

We will be growing the TELHub, and welcome all suggestions for further Case Studies. If you, or colleagues, are doing interesting work with technology in learning and teaching, and would like to be interviewed (whether on camera or not), please get in touch at

Friday, 16 January 2015

Winter TELFest - Day Three

Sorry for the late report this time - I was busy at a PebblePad training day in Birmingham yesterday - but here are the highlights of the closing day of another successful TELFest.

The day began with an App Swap Breakfast, hosted by Andy Tattersall of ScHARR and Graham McElearney of CiCS. This saw colleagues sharing a wide range of mobile apps that they use in Learning & Teaching, fortified by a selection of Danish pastries. This revealed a host of apps that people are using, including organisation apps such as WunderlistTrello and Ideas Catylist, collaboration tools such as Skitch, and media creation tools such as YouTube Capture, Adobe Voice and Voice Recorder HD. The session ended with Andy giving 12 Apps we really should be using in 2015 (many of which also feature in this post from the ScHARR Library blog).

This was followed by a double-header of Turnitin Training by Zafer Ali, with the first session covering the basics of setting up assignments, and the second looking at marking on the iPad using the Turnitin app.

Next, the lunchtime session looked at different ways colleagues have used mobile technology to enhance learning and teaching. Bob Johnston and Graham McElearney began, telling of the development of mobile systems for field work in Archaeology. Beginning in 2006, developing for PDA technology, this work was rendered more or less obsolete with the launch of smartphones, with the same video material now delivered to students' own devices such as iPads via iTunesU for offline viewing, and same devices running GIS and other data collection software. One important tip was to consider the use of whatever system is used with students, to ensure the skills are relevant once they have graduated.

This was followed by a short talk by Nik Reeves-McLaren, of Material Science and Engineering, who told of his use of LectureTools. Inspired by theories of why traditional face-to-face lectures are often an inadequate teaching format, Nik used the system in two new modules, to allow students to interact with the lecture. This was done by allowing the lecturer to pose questions and polls, as well as providing a system for questions and flags of confusion to be asked electronically. Feedback from students was generally positive, with students giving indication they found it enhanced their enjoyment, and would like to see its use expanded. Nik was followed by the School of Law's Claire McGourlay, who was using LectureTools in a similar way, and reiterated the positive feedback from students.

The festival ended with Pete Mella and James Slack giving a talk on the uses for Lecture Recording and Personal Capture, using the University's MyEcho system. The talk gave a practical demonstration of how the software is used, discussion of different ways it can be used, and an exploration of some of the concerns of its use, such as lecture attendance.

And that's it for another festival! Thanks to all delegates and speakers, and we hope everyone enjoyed it as much as we did. Keep your eyes on our newly-launched TELHub for announcements for what's coming up at the next TELFest, later in the year, as well as case studies, how-to guides and much more.


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