Latest Event Updates
Jisc has recently circulated the following update regarding their Digital Student Project –
“As part of the Jisc Digital student project, we have recently carried out interviews with 12 students from across further education and skills, higher education and with learners who are studying online.
The Digital learner stories are inspirational stories from learners sharing their experiences of how technology has supported their educational journeys.
It is hoped that these learner stories will:
- inspire and encourage learners to try new things
- showcase the rich diversity of digital practices available to learners
- demonstrate the importance of supporting digital learning practices in all their diversity
- argue for investment in digital access, on the basis that this make a real difference to learning outcomes
- encourage teaching staff to develop a range of approaches, and to work with students to fully exploit the technologies available for learning
- offer evidence to decision makers about how technology is supporting learners and enhancing their educational journey
A report compiling all the themes arising from these interviews and building on the work of the Digital student project as a whole will be published shortly.”
Digital Health Modules: A Unique Approach to Module Development
Following the successful first delivery, Andrea Charters (AQD) interviewed Alison Hampson about her experience of designing and delivering the innovative Digital Health modules.
The Digital Health modules were a brand new delivery intended to give an in-depth understanding of how technology can be used to support health and/or social care outcomes. The modules were designed to support the fast developing area of Digital Health within the NHS, and are aimed at individuals interested in developing technology within the health and social care arena.
Alison felt that, the “digital nature of the modules required the wider use of available technologies as, in my view, if you are going to encourage people to use digital health what better way to get them thinking in that direction than experiencing and taking part in digital learning”.
However, the subject was so large that Alison didn’t feel that any one person had all the required skills, and thus, she believed she would get much better results from an interdisciplinary team approach using the expertise of different people. Alison was particularly keen to include the services of an AQD Learning Technologist as I she wanted to deliver a module which was both cutting edge and demonstrated our expertise to enhance the student experience.
“The team approach proved to be very successful and we delivered the modules using various formats” such as:
- Videos uploaded to a discussion board; each student created a short film sharing their reasons for joining the module and future plans for development which were uploaded to a discussion board for comment by tutors and peers
- External presenters recorded via Skype for Business uploaded to Medial and streamed via Blackboard
- Instructor-only discussion board for team communication
- The application of a template design, ensuring consistency across all modules
- Staff discussion board; capturing comments from students and reflections on deliveries i.e. lessons learnt
- Lectures were recorded and uploaded to Blackboard
This, in turn, developed individual team members’ confidence and experience of using different approaches and delivery methods.
Q. It was rewarding to see how ideas were developed and translated into actions, and new approaches embraced, what was the enabling factor?
The support we received; talking theoretically about the types of technology available is really interesting but getting it into operation is where you (AQD) have really helped us. The team may have had an idea but you have been able to give us the mechanism to translate ideas into action and advise us how to do it. For example, students uploading the videos they had taken on their phone to the Blackboard site via a discussion board, because you have the expertise on exactly how that was done you wrote the guidance and uploaded it to Blackboard. This made it much easier and we can now do that in future modules, the information you created can be reused.
Q. I have noticed that some members of the team are expanding the experience with digital health into their own modules.
I took on this module in this context because of the opportunities to learn from each other and for the benefits it would bring to everyone, myself included. We had people in the team that were used to working with you and your service so were motivated to take that further, we had people in the team who haven’t done as much face to face teaching and people who have got less experience of digital health.
It was also an opportunity to update my own knowledge of running a module which is good for me as a Head of Department in terms of future developments, I can now take forward ideas and bring digital technology to the forefront of my mind when considering future opportunities.
Q. Is this a format that can be used across all programmes, not just when the topic is around digital health
Definitely, I have discussed this with one of the team and we consider this to be an almost best practice approach as it’s the whole team working together, developing ideas, applying various delivery methods and evaluating outcomes.
It’s a model that I’m sure we would all love to roll out across all the modules due to the benefits, however consideration should be given to:
- Appropriate level of team communication/time constraints
- Workload balancing model – will the hours be accurately reflected?
- Team agreed working methods
I do believe this would be an effective approach for modules running for the first time, for example following validation.
Student feedback on the modules has been very positive, and engaging with the technology has built their confidence. They have commented very, very positively on the different things we’ve used such as Skype for Business for the presentations. Skype For Business has probably allowed us to have a better range of presentations as we wouldn’t have been able to get the experts into the classroom. It’s thrown up the practicalities of using Skype; the pros and the cons as to what works as well also how you can get round problems.
The team included Alison Marshall, Director- Cumbrian Centre for Health Technologies, Health and Science, Susie Wilson, Senior Lecturer in Occupational Therapy, School of Rehabilitation & Public Health, Elaine Bidmead, Research Fellow, Cumbrian Centre for Health Technologies, Andrew Sullivan, Development Manager (CaCHeT), CaCHeT and Andrea Charters, Senior Learning Technologist, AQD.
Lisa Smith recently took over the leadership of several modules on the Practice Development Framework. Some of the modules have some face to face elements but others are delivered totally online.
Structured materials and resources are provided via Blackboard with the main learning and interaction takes place through weekly ‘thread work’.
These are structured topics of research which the students need to post their findings on.
There is also the expectation that they will also read and respond to work posted by their peers and in this way they learn from each other.
What was the challenge you were trying to address?
As a distance learning module with a large number of students (60+) I was looking at a way to manage the Discussion Boards better. I give individual feedback to threads, and found it hard to keep track of the Discussion Board postings I had already marked.
I also wanted the students from all levels of study (5, 6 and 7) to work together as I felt they would all benefit from seeing all the work submitted by their peers. The approach of putting them into smaller groups depending on their level, defeated this objective.
What did you do/implement?
I sought assistance from Sarah Ruston in AQD who suggested using Blackboard Blogs rather than a Discussion Board. The rationale for this suggestion is that:
- you can instantly see exactly what each student has posted
- unread posts are ‘flagged’ so you quickly know which you have already read
- whether anyone has commented on each blog posting
Essentially, students can post their thread work and easily choose another student’s work to read without having to scroll through large numbers of posts as was the practice on a discussion board.
What advice would you give to others looking to implement something similar?
Seek advice from the learning technologists!
The experience was excellent and well received by students, a number of points came to mind when considering this question:
- With a large number of students it is easier to see who has submitted and who hasn’t Rather than having to scroll down through large numbers of threads you can just click on each student’s blog and read their work and the comments of other students.
- The students themselves are still able to easily engage.
- When marking thread work you can see who you have read and those who have submitted since the last time you accessed the blog.
There was very little to be negative about but if I had to identify something, it would be the absence of an edit feature after feedback has been posted. If you have written something and want to correct it after submitting it, you cannot simply go back and edit it. You have to copy your original comment, delete it and then paste it into a new comment with the edits. This is only a very minor negative though.
Words of warning
If you are going to implement Blogs, make sure you do it from the outset. I decided to introduce this approach after students had already engaged via a Discussion Board.
I quickly realised I would struggle with this particular module as I had so many students on it. So implemented the Blog for week 2 of the thread work. Some students got a little confused with the new process, however we gave them a lot of guidance on how to submit, but some still got a little lost.
Make sure that the ‘Group Blog’ feature is turned off (if you are using Groups in your Blackboard site) as this will give students two places to submit to and cause great confusion – learn from my mistake!
Have you adapted/changed anything subsequently?
All my modules now use Blogs for threadwork submissions.
What is the evidence on the impact of students and their learning?
At first the students need a little help to navigate the blogs but this settles down quickly. Both the major’s and minor’s modules showed a high level of interaction between the students. A recent student evaluation mentioned that they enjoyed using the blogs.
What do you plan to do next?
Use blogs for all thread work in the future.
How the blog looks to users:
An example blog posting and related comment:
There are a number of learning technology system changes expected to happen prior to the start of 2017/18;
- PebblePad moving to version 5
- Turnitin GradeMark moving to Turnitin Feedback Studio
- Blackboard upgrade and theme change
- Medial moving to version 5
Details and descriptions are subject to change, and more information will be circulated as necessary and as it becomes available.
- Our current version of PebblePad is being moved to the latest version (V5) over the summer
- The underlying technology moves from Flash to HTML5 – more accessible, and in-line with browsers that are phasing-out/removing Flash support
- Accessible on all devices, such as smartphones and tablets
- Redesigned, and simpler interface
- ATLAS remains unchanged
- All Assets move across
- Our current version is no longer being developed, and will be phased-out shortly
Support & communication
Workshops for staff will be delivered over the coming months. Some have already taken place. Those who attend will have access to V5 via a temporary account that will remain available to them until the upgrade.
There are many “how-to” guides directly on the new home page. We will produce a transition guide, which will be applicable to staff and students.
Most users will move across on Monday 7th August, however, any reassessment students will be left on V3 (current system) until they have resubmitted, and will be moved at the end of August.
- GradeMark interface is being updated to Feedback Studio
- Same features, but improved use of space
- Easier to add comments & Quick Marks
- Can now add clickable URLs to feedback – support pages, documents etc.
Support & communication
A transition guide will be produced to help staff move to marking via the updated interface.
Some of the features can be seen on Turnitin’s demonstration site.
We are able to switch-on this feature at any time, with a forced change to all users initially planned from Turnitin by July 2017. We are checking current timings for this forced switch; however, the current proposal is to make the move at around the same time as the Blackboard upgrade (i.e. late July / early August).
We will be looking to perform our annual upgrade of Blackboard over the summer. There is no licence-cost impact to upgrading to a newer version of the system. All upgrades bring security improvements, as well as support for newer versions of client software and systems (browsers etc.). However, an essential reason for needing to regularly upgrade is to ensure full support for the system for the up-coming academic year.
The upgrade will bring some new features and an updated colour scheme and theme change.
Regarding the theme, we are proposing to move incrementally towards the – desired – responsive web design theme as it develops. The proposal is a move towards the look-and-feel, but maintaining the course design options for a period of time (these themes need to be turned-off when we move totally onto the responsive design).
The last two upgrades have happened towards the end of July / early August, and the proposal would be to do the same again (these upgrades didn’t appear to cause any major disruption issues). Blackboard should be on Managed Hosting by the time of the upgrade; this should offer more flexibility and options for upgrade timings.
- System update to version 5
- Updated and fully responsive interface redesign
- HTML5 player by default (Flash fallback still an option)
- Multispeed playback (i.e. 2x)
- Multi-bitrate playback
- Version 5 is required for MediaLecture (if we were to consider this option)
- More customisation & branding options
- Live-stream workflow improvements
Support & communication
Much of the current interaction with Medial is via the Blackboard building block, rather than directly through the interface. The main changes via this route will be the new options on the player, and the switch to HTML5. All the web interface features will still be there, just with an enhanced interface.
Support and upgrades of Medial is included in our annual licence. The upgrade is carried out remotely and is expected to take less than an hour (updates in the past have been around 15 minutes, with actual video playback disruption less than that). We just need to book an update “slot” with the vendors. As there isn’t a test system for Medial, updates always carry a slight risk, and we only see the changes at the same time as all system users (we rely on their demo server to view some of the potential feature changes ahead of the move).
Student Success: Adding Value through ‘Learning Gain’
This year’s Learning and Teaching Fest will be held on Tuesday 20th June 2017 on our Fusehill Street campus. The theme of this year’s Fest is “Student Success” Adding Value through ‘Learning Gain’ a topic which covers a broad spectrum of practice and will allow us to showcase some of the best and most original practice at UoC and our partner institutions.
Adding Value through ‘Learning Gain’ is becoming an increasing focus as a way of measuring success in higher education and is one of the aspects the TEF (Teaching Excellence Framework) assessment framework considers as teaching excellence (Jan 2017, TEF, Higher Education Funding Council For England).
Learning Gain can be defined and understood in a number of ways. Broadly it is an attempt to measure the improvement in knowledge, skills, work-readiness and personal development made by students during their time spent in higher education (Feb 2016, Learning gain, Higher Education Funding Council for England).
The conference is looking to share learning and teaching practice from across the UoC and our partner institutions which adds value through learning gain to enhance student success. We are looking for contributions in the following key areas identified in the Learning, Teaching and Assessment Strategy review:
- The learner
- The learning environment
- Curriculum design
- The Academic role
- Partnership working
Presenters will be scheduled within 30 minutes’ slots (maximum 20 minutes presenting, with time for Q&A/discussion).
Presenters are asked to explore the evidence of the impact and or effectiveness of their practice on adding value to the student experience. They will also be encouraged to frame the work within the new Learning, Teaching and Assessment Strategy.
Presentations may be single or joint with colleagues or students. We highly encourage co-presentations with students.
Abstracts should address the following:
- What were you trying to enhance?
- How did you enhance your practice to address this?
- What is the evidence of the value added to the student experience?
- How is this underpinned by current thinking in the literature?
Successful participants will be notified by email by Thursday 27th April 2017.
“The best way to eat a bunch of grapes” Supporting School Direct students at a distance using PebblePad
The Core Science PGCE began to use PebblePad several years ago to track trainees’ progress whilst they were on placement. This was a small-scale pilot to try to improve communications whilst trainees were on placement.
Prior to adopting the system, when trainees went on placement their record keeping and tracking was historically not very satisfactory. In Peter’s words: “everything felt really asynchronous – trainees went on placement and came back and that was it – there was no ongoing dialogue”. Very few trainees kept in touch whilst in school so tutors didn’t really know how the trainee was progressing until they visited them on site. Trainees were also expected keep a weekly reflective log to regularly reflect on their teaching delivery and record mentor meetings. In many cases, this did not happen. “There was no real sense of trainees keeping on top of things and they would write things retrospectively once they returned from placement, which was far from ideal as the reflections were much less meaningful”. The Science team found the use of PebblePad a bit of a breakthrough as, even though not in ‘real time’, there was much more of a sense of this ongoing dialogue regarding a trainee’s progress. Such was the success of this small pilot, in 2013/14, the whole core secondary PGCE team adopted PebblePad for use in this way.
Moreover, the trainees’ use of PebblePad was extended to incorporate an ongoing portfolio of evidence and reflections with regard to their workplace learning across both phases of their ‘in school’ training. This work was shared to a secure area which allowed university personal tutors access to monitor trainees’ progress and gave tutors the ability to offer feedback and suggestions in a timely manner. Staff could also offer prompts if trainees seemed to be falling behind. Most trainees engaged with this process extremely well and saw the benefits of using a system like PebblePad, but sadly there were a few that didn’t. Anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that those trainees that did engage made the most rapid progress. Of course this could be due to a multitude of other, unrelated factors and dispositions. In a similar way, some tutors engaged well and really saw the benefits of working in this way
With the advent of School Direct from 2014 onwards, where trainees are based in schools and ‘learning on the job’, the university needed a robust way to track trainees’ progress whilst they were largely in schools. It was decided to use PebblePad as the system was already established across the programme and most staff had a good working knowledge so one barrier had already been addressed.
As an aside, and around the same time, the PebblePad system was upgraded and the new version introduced many enhanced reporting features and functions behind the scenes, which most of the teaching team did not know about until they were demonstrated. Peter calls this serendipity:“We started using PebblePad in one way then, when staff saw its worth, it was then re-designed to get the best out of the trainees and provide a rich vein of data for the programme”
On the School Direct programme, at the outset, trainees begin by observing taught lessons, then they move on to delivering lessons themselves. They are constantly observed by mentors and have targets applied regularly. All of these ‘occurrences’ are meaningful learning moments that trainees needed to capture and reflect upon straight away. If trainees did not complete the reflections soon after the occurrence (as was largely the case in the pre-PebblePad days), they would almost render the experience worthless as new learning would be occurring all the time. Reflection is arguably a fundamental skill for a professional. Peter said “our aim was, that by getting trainees to complete the weekly reflections in the workbook, we would produce better teachers at the end. Having dialogue throughout (between trainee and University Partnership Lecturer) made the learning more meaningful, targeted and progressive”.
What did you do/implement?
A bespoke workbook was created for the School Direct trainees and, using adaptive release, pages were released at certain points during the year. Staff were careful not to ‘over-face’ the trainees with too many pages at the outset so just the pages needed for the first term were released at the beginning. Peter refers to this as the ‘thin end of the wedge’ – make the workbook simple and easy to use and then release more complex material in stages. It was important the everyone became comfortable with the software before ‘raising the bar’ in terms of the tasks.
“You cannot eat a cluster of grapes at once, but it is very easy if you eat them one by one” (Roumain)
Trainees needed to develop their skills very rapidly, therefore short support videos were provided outlining what trainees needed to know. This support resource was created in PebblePad and linked to the first page of the workbook. It showed trainees how they could fill in their weekly reflections and how to document targets set by their mentors. Ultimately, the aim of the workbook was to develop trainees’ reflective skills throughout the course.
Have you adapted/changed anything subsequently?
“We refine the workbook each year and sometimes ‘in year’ which is the absolute strength of using workbooks. Also, the reporting function is extremely powerful and the ability to collect data is another of PebblePad’s selling points. The university can download this vast amount of this accrued data to spreadsheets and disseminate it simply to where it’s needed. This was the feature that the more reticent staff were sold on“.
“Pebble Pocket is awesome!”
The mobile app is very versatile for School Direct trainees, and is used, for example, to record transcripts of mentor meetings. When trainees meet with their mentor, they have a conversation and agree targets. A paper-based form is completed which they both sign. The trainee is able to take a photograph of this form with their mobile, and send it directly to their PebblePad asset store using a Wifi connection. This form can then form part of their QTS (Qualified Teacher Status) evidence and added to their workbook.
School based mentors can see a real benefit with this process. In the past, they would’ve held the meeting with their trainee and the trainee was then expected to go away and write up notes of the meeting ‘after the fact’. Mentors were never fully sure that all information was being recorded in trainees’ portfolios, especially if reprimands or hard targets were issued. Now, the mentor knows that the meeting is being documented in a much more realistic way.
What is the evidence on the impact of trainees and their learning?
PebblePad is not currently used for ‘formal’ learning as such, but is more of a developmental tool to enhance reflection skills which, in turn, arguably enhances their learning. Peter would like to develop this area in the future as he feels there is a lot of potential to use PebblePad in a more formal way.
Impact on Staff……
In addition to the School Direct workspaces, Peter has also created a Quality Assurance workspace just for academic staff to use. Each time they visit a school, the university tutor will fill in an electronic form and send it to the workspace for that school. This is a really simple and efficient way to keep all information on a school in one place and is especially useful for consistency if there are staff changes either in school or at the university. It will be especially useful outlining where a school possibly needs to improve and when Ofsted carry out their inspections.
What do you plan to do next?
“I don’t know, but as soon as someone presents a problem, my immediate thought is ‘how can we do this in PebblePad”
Staff can see when a student last accessed their workbook and also how complete it is (%age figure).
An example of a Secondary PGCE workbook with feedback.
NB Feedback can be added as free-text or an electronic feedback form can be designed and used:
An example of the electronic feedback form staff filled in when marking students’ work:
“Rebooting learning for the digital age: What next for technology- enhanced higher education?” (HEPI. 2 Feb 2017)
The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) has recently published a new report entitled “Rebooting learning for the digital age: What next for technology- enhanced higher education?”.
The report makes seven recommendations that HEIs should consider to make the most of the advantages and opportunities that digital technology can offer; even stating that technology can help support TEF’s three main components, namely teaching quality, learning environment and student outcomes.
The report recommends that technology-enhanced learning (TEL) should be built into the curriculum design process to ensure effectiveness, and that best-practice should be evidenced and shared to help support TEL use and continued adoption. A focus on digital capabilities is also recommended, as this is a key component of graduate employability; increased digital skills across the institution also helps drive TEL and the digital environment.
TEL can have a positive impact on learning outcomes when it is “designed-in” as part of the overall pedagogic approach. The report also discusses and recommends learning analytics to help measure engagement, increase retention and potentially predict outcomes.
There are many examples from across the sector within the report that help substantiate the arguments and recommendations being made.
Overall a very interesting read, with strong recommendations for making the most of TEL within Higher Education.
You can find out more on the HEPI website, which also includes a link to the report in PDF format – http://www.hepi.ac.uk/2017/02/02/rebooting-learning-digital-age-next-technology-enhanced-higher-education/
Use of a common course-specific Blackboard template (all Conservation modules)
Traditionally each module leader on the Conservation provision had set up his/her own module Blackboard site. This had the effect that equivalent content was in different locations on different sites and caused considerable confusion for the students. The problem was exacerbated by the fact the many teaching staff did not have access to Blackboard sites other than the ones they were teaching on which provided limited opportunity for exchange of best practice. Sarah Ruston (AQD) helped design and share a common template for all Forestry and Conservation Blackboard sites to standardise the look and the navigation.
The template provided an effective way to standardise the layout of the module Blackboard sites while at the same time enabling module tutors to customise their sites (e.g., by including custom banners and colour schemes). The latter was important so as to avoid students (and staff) getting confused as to which Blackboard site they were accessing at any given point. Student feedback about the standardisation was very positive and the new layouts were welcomed at the staff-student forums. The exercise also had the benefit that now course leaders and external examiners were now automatically enrolled on the relevant module Blackboard sites.
The title of this year’s conference – the 17th Durham Blackboard Users’ Conference – was “Ticked Off – Towards Better Assessment & Feedback”. The event was held at the Durham University Business School.
There was an interesting mix of presentations throughout the two days, as well as opportunities to discuss ideas and issues with colleagues during breaks.
The opening keynote was Susie Schofield from the University of Dundee. Susie felt that students could avoid bad teaching, but not bad assessment; emphasising the need for clearly defined assessment criteria.
Susie said that feedback can be harmful – too much, too complicated, too late etc., and that feedback shouldn’t be too positive or too negative. There is also a difficulty in getting students to engage in feedback – they tend to be interested only in marks.
Good feedback should be dialogic she argued, but acknowledged that moving to this approach could cause friction within organisations as it could be seen as a redistribution of power.
She went on to describe a case study where a cover paper was produced for each assignment. Each student was expected to complete the cover sheet, self-evaluating on various criteria and stating what aspect of the assignment they would specifically like feedback on, as well as whether previous feedback had helped inform this assignment. This cover sheet was formatively marked.
On receipt of the marked assessment, there were some additional questions for the students, asking them to comment on the feedback.
Susie stated that the results were better engagement with students & tutors, improved feedback and improved assessment literacy.
There are some more details of the case study here;
Other presenters at the conference discussed different tools and strategies that they had used to support assessment and feedback within Blackboard.
One talk was on gamification, which was described as the use of game-thinking to help promote learning and problem-solve. Some examples of how behaviour can be influenced by taking a game-based approach were shown, and these can be found here; http://www.thefuntheory.com/, with one example below
I also went to presentations around system reporting and the use of design to help promote consistency.
Overall, a very informative and enjoyable conference with plenty of ideas.
I was asked a few months ago if I would like to present at this years ALT (Association for Learning Technology) Winter Conference by means of a Webinar.
Initially I had my doubts as I am unaccustomed to presenting in my role and didn’t feel best positioned to do so. However, as I would be covering our recent WordPress projects regarding iLead and our Knowledgebase, I felt confident I could deliver an engaging and informative webinar.
My proposal was accepted and so on Tuesday 6th December 2016 I gave a 30 minute presentation (iLead by Example) including Q&A’s to around 30 candidates using Blackboard Collaborate and I talked about our journey with WordPress, why we embarked on the project, our findings and future plans.
One of the questions asked was, “Why didn’t you consider any other in house project software?” and that was one of the main drivers for taking the WordPress project on as we wanted our staff to be able to find information readily without the need to log into multiple platforms and trawl through pages of content that may not have been relevant. For example, historically we’ve had content spread across StaffNet, Pebblepad, Blackboard, the Cumbria Academy among others, the majority requiring staff to log in and also having very poor search results.
With our wordpress sites, content has been structured, classified and tagged making the process much easier and delivering the search results immediately.
Another candidate also asked if there were any concerns about the openness of iLead and our Knowledgebase? I eluded to the fact I’d taken a James Bond approach to other institutional Blogs over a period of time and found a number of them were open and accessible and we didn’t have any concerns following suite given there was nothing published which could be deemed sensitive information.
I had some very positive feedback after the presentation and felt what we’ve achieved with WordPress so far has great potential and benefit to out staff.
Overall, I found the event rewarding and encouraging to be part of the ALT community.
A recording of the Webinar is available from https://sas.elluminate.com/p.jnlp?psid=2016-12-06.0322.M.D574DD90053F8FDDD45415894225D9.vcr&sid=7565
More on our WordPress journey can be found on a Pebblepad Webfolio here.