Thursday, 7 December 2017

Changes to MOLE Assignment Tool

NOTE: If you are providing marking and feedback using the MOLE assignment tool around the date of the upgrade (Saturday 16th December), please be aware of the below changes as the switchover could cause inconsistency in functionality and cause any feedback prior to upgrade to be permanently attached to the document.

Currently the MOLE assignment tool works in conjunction with a tool provider called Crocodoc. It works by embedding the crocodoc tool within MOLE.
The tool provides a document viewer (see below), showing the work student has submitted when accessing it in the grade centre, allowing it to be read online. It also allows you to annotate the document to give the feedback on the student's work.
The crocodoc tool is being discontinued in January so as part of the December upgrade (Taking place on Saturday 16th December) we will be moving to the new Box View. Box is the company that has acquired the crocodoc tool and will be the provider for Blackboard (MOLE). This date is something we cannot control as the tool will expire in early January.
This will bring about a few changes to the online feedback tool, these are:

The tools that surround the document viewer i.e the right hand panel (in green on the above image) will not change.

More of the functionality changes can be seen in the below presentation:

The main functionality changes are:
  • Range of file types that can be submitted and displayed has increased
  • Less annotation options available
  • Print functionality added
  • No longer able to download with annotations
Once we move over to the Box View, you will still be able to access the documents and feedback but the feedback will be ‘burnt in’ to the document i.e. it will no longer be editable or deletable.

The new Box View grading functionality is due to be added to the Blackboard Instructor App in early 2018.
More information on the changes can be found on the Blackboard website.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Retirement of MOLE File tools in upgrade

If you've been on MOLE this week, you won't help but have noticed we have a brand new design with the most recent update. This new look and feel not only gives cleaner, more modern visuals to courses, but also adds some new features such as drag and drop of files, and a responsive design making it easier to view MOLE courses on a range of mobile devices.

You may also have noticed we have retired the 'File', 'Audio' and 'Video' tools. These tools were historic from older versions of Blackboard, and have been superseded with superior ways of doing the same jobs.

The File tool was very limited in the sense it gave a link to files with no ability to add descriptions, or even indication of file size or extension. This often led to poor course design and navigation, with a list of file names without explanation. The example below is an example of a link created using the File tool.

The Item tool allows for a much more flexible approach, as multiple files (displaying file extension and size) can be attached to an Item as below.

Alternatively links to files in the Content Collection can be linked in the Item text.

Both methods allow for files to be delivered with explanation and a context of their use.

Similarly, the Audio and Video tools were not recommended to be used, as these led to large files requiring download, or the use of media players that were dependant on the students' web browser settings. These were also incompatible with mobile browsing. Now we would recommend using Kaltura or YouTube to supply streamed content, either using the Mashup tools in the Text Editor, or pasting embed codes into the HTML of an Item.

Existing content using the tools remain, and can be copied in the Refresh process, although we would recommend ultimately these are replaced using the Item tool in one of the methods above.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Playful Learning Conference 2017

The arrival instructions from the organisers of this years Playful Learning Conference started off as expected - details about accessing the venue by public transport and what time registration began. But things then took a more 'playful' turn:
'This year the toys want in on the action at the conference.  They’re refusing to allow entry unless you bring one of their kind.  As organisers we are not prepared to face the toys’ wrath so we need you to do the following in preparation:

  • Find, beg, borrow or steal a cuddly toy companion to accompany you to the conference
  • Give your toy a creative name
  • Create a twitter profile for your toy'

With my soft toy packed, I set off to Manchester with a certain amount of trepidation! However -  I need not have worried. This was only the second Playful Learning conference, but as an attendee everything felt remarkably well organised and they managed to put together a really wide and exciting range of sessions. 

A particular highlight for me were the sessions exploring Escape Games / Escape Rooms. There are thousands of Escape Rooms worldwide; and whilst they will all have their own unique theming and 'back story' elements, they are all based around the premise of groups solving puzzles to escape an enclosed space. I wasn't aware of these games being used in HE, but actually the concept of an escape game, with students solving puzzles relating to their subject area is a great example of active learning. 

Daryl Peel from the University of Southampton presented at the conference, and has written about creating Escape Games on this blog post

learning how to create an escape room @playlearnconf with @glubsohiunicorn #playlearn17 #theta360 - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Prototyping our escape game

Liz Cable from Leeds Trinity University facilitated an excellent session at the conference, which started off with delegates trying to complete her escape game in a box called 'The Case of the Rocketman'. The game has been played with over 1000 students at Leeds Trinity, and is used as a team building exercise. It develops critical thinking skills, and encourages students to work together to solve problems. I really enjoyed playing the game, and it not only worked well as an icebreaker activity, but also found it really mentally stimulating. It was the perfect way to start a busy day of sessions. 

One great thing about this escape game is that it is relatively portable - there are four boxes of various sizes to unlock and they would all fit in a small suitcase. This means the game could be played anywhere - you don't have to make players come to a specific escape room. It would have been great to play an escape game that perhaps had some subject specific learning outcomes, but I could certainly see how powerful this concept is. One inherent problem with these types of games is that there is very limited replay potential once you have played the scenario, and as I understand it this is something that commercial escape room operators are finding challenging. 

Simon Warwick and myself presented our 'Crys-Tel Maze' session at the conference - we were pleasantly surprised with the amount of people that wanted to come to our session, and we received some good feedback. Our colleagues Bryony Olney & Dr Bobby Nisha from the Department of Urban Studies & Planning at Sheffield presented about their DDCF project. It was great to find out about how students are using 3D Pens to help them visualise structures - and I discovered that I'm as bad as drawing with a 3D pen as I am with a normal biro! These are the 3D Pens that we used

Another highlight was playtesting a Research Methods Game, which was developed by the Centre for Excellence in Learning & Teaching at Manchester Metropolitan University. The game is designed to teach students about different research methods, and requires you to work in pairs to design research methods for a fictional research project. I didn't really know anything about theoretical perspectives or epistemologies before playing (!), so I found it very useful and it certainly gave me a good understanding of the theories involved.

Luckily for the community, the creators have released the game under a Creative Commons licence, so you can download the game for free and adapt it for your own learning and teaching requirements. 

You can see more from the conference on the following Storify pages: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3

So, how did I feel about bringing a soft toy with me to an academic conference? Well, it was quite odd having to first register my toy as a delegate before being able to enter, but it soon became normal seeing people walking around with their teddy bears. It actually provided a really good reason to approach people and start a conversation with them, as everyone had something in common!

Also, people I spoke to about tweeting from their toy account rather than their personal profile also spoke positively about it. It enabled them to be playful and fully join in with the activities, something that they may have not otherwise have done from their personal, professional Twitter handles.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Journal Paper on TELFest

Lunchtime Networking at TELFest 2017
I recently carried out some research into TELFest, our week long festival, here at the University of Sheffield. As part of the research I explored the role of TELFest in supporting the adoption of TEL across our institution and ways in which the event could be improved. I introduced TELFest to our institution in 2014 and as the popularity of the event had begun to grown, I was keen to better understand: (1) The perceived impact of TELFest? (with an emphasis on changes to practice), (2) The ongoing barriers that are preventing changes to practice?, and (3) How the long-term impact of TELFest could be improved and sustained?

Over the years myself we have been dedicated to improving TELFest and the findings from our previous attendees, synthesised with academic research has directly influenced the last two events. One of the things that we have tried to do is to support and further strengthen the community of practice that has grown through TELFest. For example, we have an accompanying online community and earlier this year we set up a 'reunion'. To prevent our community from becoming too insular we have invited colleagues from industry and other institutions.

To find out more, you can access the full paper, which has been published in the Research in Learning Technology Journal:
LATIF, Farzana. TELFest: an approach to encouraging the adoption of educational technologies. Research in Learning Technology, [S.l.], v. 25, July 2017. ISSN 2156-7077. Available at: Date accessed: 19 july 2017. 

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

TELFest App Swap Breakfast

During TELFest I led a really great App Swap Breakfast, which saw colleagues swapping tips on mobile apps used in learning and teaching, accompanied by muffins and coffee.

As promised here is a summary of all the apps that were discussed:

Adobe Capture - A quick and easy way to get a colour palette from a photo, which can be imported for use inAdobe Creative Cloud.

Castbox - A one stop shop for finding and listening to free podcasts

Coggle - Interactive mind-maps.

Co-spaces - An easy way to create virtual reality experiences on a phone or tablet.

Edmondo - Social media-style space for educators to communicate with peers, students and parents.

Flipboard - An attractive and intuitive news aggregator.

Forest - An anti-procrastination app where you grow a virtual tree, which dies if you navigate away from your task, and can be added to your productivity forest, and even add to a real-world tree-planting programme.

Google Keep - A very useful list-making and note-taking tool.

Gravity Sketch - A 3D sketching tool for iOS.

Habitica - A productivity app that uses a retro-RPG feel to make it fun to achieve goals with inbuilt rewards and punishments.

Headspace - A mindfulness app to reduce stress and anxiety (with the great tip that this is free for anyone with a half-price NUS Extra Spotify premium account).

Homeboy - A home security app, but discussed as a possibility for learning and teaching, by setting up a motion-activated "diary room" for student reflection.

Librivox - Free Public Domain audiobooks.

Marvel - A really useful collaborative prototyping app, to create working mockups of systems from screenshots.

Mediaspace Go - The app for viewing and interacting with Kaltura content.

Netvibes - Creates a personal dashboard with all your favourite news, social media, websites and smart devices in one place.

Newsela - Categorises news articles, rewritten for different reading levels, with the ability to add assessment in the form of quizzes and write prompts.

Padlet - Easy way to create a virtual whiteboard for ideas and collaboration.

Piktochart - A quick and easy way to create Infographics.

Post-it Plus - Great app for recording real-world post-it notes virtually.

Quizizz - Quick and easy way to create fun, meme-themed competitive quizzes for classroom interaction.

Sketchfab - A way to share and find 3D models for use online and in VR.

Sock Puppets - Allows you to create and share lip-synched animations.

Tinycards - An app from the makers of Duolingo, which allows teachers to create flash card-based games for learning languages, vocabulary or visual images.

Waterlogue - Turns any photo into a beautiful watercolour painting!

As you can see a huge range of useful apps across the course of the session - and thanks to all the app-swappers! If you've used any of these apps in your learning and teaching, or have some ideas how they can be, then let us know.


Friday, 7 July 2017

TELFest 2017 - Day Five

TELFest 2017 has come to an end, finishing with another day of fun demonstrations and sessions as attendees got their last taste of the University's technology enhanced learning festival. 
Here are our highlights of the final day:

In the breakfast session, attendees got to share the mobile apps they have been using in teaching and learning, giving them the chance to demonstrate to colleagues and hear from others.
Andrew Middleton (National Teaching Fellow) and Ian Glover, both from Sheffield Hallam University, then presented on Active Learning Spaces, discussing the challenges and approaches you can use to make your teaching more active and interactive.

Mr Middleton then talked to us about his session and about TELFest in general.

Attendees then had some fun with Google Cardboard and Virtual Reality, getting the chance to try the budget VR goggles and hear how these can be applied to teaching.

For TELFest's closing keynote, Professor Mike Sharples of the Open University came and discussed in depth the annual Innovating Pedagogies report which he helped to produced. His talk approached many of the major topics in Technology Enhanced Learning and we'd like to thank him for attending.

Mr Sharples spoke to us about the Open University and much much more.

TELFest finished with Innovation Corner, an exhibition demonstrating the latest technology already being used in teaching and allowing attendees to interact with the technology of the future. Stands displaying VR, augmented reality and 3D printing gave attendees one last chance to interact and talk with staff from other departments and institutions.

The week-long competitions finished as well with Michael Trikic winning a GoPro and the daily top tweeters winning medals.

We also spoke to Steve Rowett who came from the UCL to sample TELFest, and he told us why he was so impressed.

Thanks to everyone who attended TELFest this year, and to everyone who presented. We hope everyone found the week as enjoyable and useful as we did and that people will take what has been discussed and implement it in their teaching and learning.
See everyone next year!

Thursday, 6 July 2017

TELFest 2017 - Day 4

TELFest 2017 is nearly over. With just one more day of technology and learning filled fun, lets look at the highlights of Day Four:

The Thursday started with two sessions introducing PebblePad and building workbooks as well as a hands on practical session on exemplary course design.

Today was also the final day of drop-in sessions for Mole Refresh, the project aiming to help staff get to grips with the new features being added to Mole for 2017/18.

Gamification has been a real talking point at TELFest 2017 and today three teams presented case studies about their experiences applying elements of game-playing to teaching.

Firstly, Stephen Davie and Greg Stewart demonstrated some interactive material to engage students in career planning.

A 301 team of Oli Johnson, Jessica Keen and Amy Mollekin then discussed the use of a skills audit and piloted a scavenger hunt-style app.

Finally Olaf Scroth, Paul Buck and Thom White from the Landscape Department told us how 360 degree cameras and drones can explore sites and be used for teaching students.

A TEL Frameworks panel discussion then took place, with Helen Rodger (Sheffield Hallam University), Peter Holdridge (Information School) and Sofia Mansfeld (Student Ambassador) exploring how implementing frameworks around technology in learning both benefits and stifles teaching.

Graham McElearney, Senior Learning Technologist in the TEL team, also spoke to us about Kaltura, the video creating and sharing resource that was launched on Monday.

And after four days of Tweeting, the four daily winners of Top Tweeter were Elena Rodriguez-Falcon (@ElenaRF), Amy Mollekin (@TheFirstAmyM) , Emily Goodall (@DrEmilyG) and today's winner Nicki Newman (@Nicki_newman). The overall winner will be announced tomorrow during the keynote.

We hope to see you all tomorrow for the last day of TELFest 2017, it should be a great final day!

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

TELFest 2017 - Day Three

Day Three of TELFest 2017 saw more discussions and demonstrations on technology enhancing our students learning, looking at social media, online learning and much more. Here’s what happened:

The breakfast session was led by Mark Bradley from the Department of Journalism Studies. He explained how he had been using social media as a learning, teaching and assessment tool and offered suggestions to attendees as to how they could implement this in their own teaching. One idea was the use of Facebook Groups being used to monitor and encourage student group work.

Mr Bradley offered his top social media tips.

Ian Glover came from the Sheffield Hallam University to talk and lead a practical session along with Simon Warwick about different teaching and pedagogical methods. He led an extremely productive discussion as attendees shared the methods and practices they had been using. The ‘Teaching Approaches Menu’ was also launched.

Ian Glover told us more about what he was trying to achieve.

There were several sessions dedicated to the new features of Mole and TELFest held its first ever Poster Exhibition.

Andy Tattersall then chaired a stimulating panel discussion on Openness in education. The discussion looked at how to increase your openness with educational content and why this is important to do so. The Panel consisted of Dr Anthony Rossiter, the head of Faculty Engagement at the University of Sheffield Library Gavin Boyce and Mark Morley of CiCS.

The day ended with some case studies, with Claire Beecroft and Luke Miller (ScHARR) talking about engaging online learners and online communities and Sarah Moore and Layla Croll talking about how to facilitate discussion in an online environment.

And from the Twitter leaderboard, Day Two’s top tweeter was Amy Mollekin (@TheFirstAmyM) and Day Three's Emily Goodall (@DrEmilyG).

We are now over the half way point of TELFest 2017, so don’t miss our final two days of technology and teaching.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

TELFest 2017 - Day 2

TELFest Day Two has come and gone, and with it another host of thought provoking events. 

Here's some of the highlights from Tuesday.

The first session of the day saw Louise Robson discussing Encore (the new name for Lecture Capture at the university) and her journey using this technology in her Department, Biomedical Science. She described how capturing lectures had benefitted her students and not led to any decrease in attendance, as well as talking about interesting features such as the pause button and the ability to edit certain parts of lectures. James Slack and Laura McNally then gave an overview of how the lecture capture works. This is a growing system that is quickly expanding across the University.
Meanwhile attendees were given the chance the play with creative media kits in a session about creating content on your phone. There was also a guide about how to present yourself on camera, with a focus on audio and controlling body language. Attendees Fiona Campbell and Angie Rees told us what they took away from the session: The highlight of the day was the CrysTEL Maze as TELFest used another TV gameshow classic to inform people about the potential of gamification in teaching as well as discussing accessibility in learning. Richard O’Brien aka Graham McElearney played the enthusiastic host role as teams ran around the Diamond in the name of friendly competition. And there was the all-important catering… Sabrine Little closed the day with the launch of her University of Sheffield Enterprise Grant funded project, aiming to aid staff and encourage staff to consider the wider implications and disseminations of their work. And news from the Twitter leader board: Elena Rodriguez-Falcon (@ElenaRF) won yesterday's Top Tweeter prize! See you tomorrow for TELFest Day Three!


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