Friday, 25 February 2011

Online Collaboration Tools

There has been some interest from various areas within UCS to have some Online Collaboration functionality, a couple of the areas that are showing an interest are the School of Nursing and Midwifery, who currently bus many students around the County at a large cost to UCS and our Learning Development Centre, based at Ipswich looking to offer remove study support.

The Elevate Team are looking at many of the potential solutions and were interested to read about the work of Nitin Parmar (@nrparmar) and the eLearning Team at the University of Bath with their use of PaperShow, which offers a type of "digital" paper and a pen that links via bluetooth to your computer.  What ever you write on the paper is displayed on screen, the digital part allows you to control more of the on screen space, as seen below:

Combining this tool with the use of Skype, the Video calling software which allows desktop sharing would mean two people in different locations would be able to both see what was being written on the paper.  The collaboration options are pretty extensive, lecturer to student feedback, lecturer to lecture collaboration etc.

As mentioned above The Elevate Team are looking at many of the available options and if you have a need for Online Collaboration in your teaching, please get in touch by either commenting on this post or by email the team at

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Thoughts from objective testing workshop

I ran the last of the Elevate Teams three sessions for the e-skills for e-learning programme, with a workshop on Using objective testing in learning and teaching. This was designed as an introduction, so we looked at what are the characteristics of objective testing, how it might be used, some principles of effective formative feedback, walked through how to create and deploy a Wolsey Quiz, and a TurningPoint (clicker) quiz, and finally unleased the attendees in groups to design and deploy these objective tests.

The discussion and sharing of ideas was very rich as the exercises allowed us to quickly overcome the technical aspects & perceived barriers and focus on question design, and implementation. Infact, two of the groups didn't follow the instructions of developing objective quizzes around Tea, and instead started to work up quizzes they planned to use in the next few weeks :-)

The feedback forms where positive with the mean response being "strongly agree" to the trainer helping me feel at ease and encouraged participation, while the mean response was "agree" to overall I found the content of the session helpful.

Upcoming staff development programme (Feb to May 2011)

I'm very pleased to announce our emerging staff development programme for March to May 2011. Based on conversations with people we've tried to include a variety of approaches and topics to appeal to all.

So if you are thinking how might you enhance your teaching and learning through the use of innovative technologies, please look at the following.  All our events are free, and open to staff at UCS. To register for an event visit our events page:

So what is available over the next few months?

Our face to face staff development programme includes, workshops (2 hour - computer based), masterclass (1 hour - computer based) seminars (1 hour - non computer based) and drop-in surgeries (in the Infozone - Tuesday and Thursday, 9.00 to 11.00). The topics include;

  • Getting started with using WOLSEY in your Teaching and Learning

  • Enhancing collaborative and group learning through innovative technologies

  • How might I use objective testing in your teaching and learning?

  • Designing and developing location aware learning activities

  • How might I enhance learning through innovative technologies?

  • Enhancing face to face feedback and assessing knowledge using classroom technologies

  • Podcasting: Going beyond simply recording the lecture

  • Using Wolsey (Blackboard) for e-submission, e-feedback and e-grading

Our online staff development programme includes online courses (10 hours of study over 4 weeks), and coffee breaks (15 minute skype conference). The topics include;

  • An introduction to effective ways of using podcasting in your teaching and learning

  • What is Social Bookmarking (Diigo) and how is it being used in Teaching and Learning?

  • What is Twitter (Microblogging) and how is it being used in Teaching and Learning

For more information about this courses, including the learning objectives and the activities, see our staff development area.

To register a place, please visit our area on Eventbrite,

If you have any questions or you are interested in a topic not listed above, please email us, at

Friday, 18 February 2011

Using the OMR Form Return for gathering feedback and assessment

As the Elevate Team start to roll out more staff development sessions we are adopting the UCS Corporate Development Session Evaluation Form. However, we'll be using the FormReturn Optical Mark Reader software to manage the process.

This OMR system is being piloted by a number of people. The primary person is Alison Wright, who uses it manage sets of interview tests. The great advantage of this system over alternatives, such as Wolsey, is you can deploy it where ever you need to, for a high stake exam (one which would be very difficult to repeat) the deployment model is very low risk. The results are available within 10 minutes of me scanning the completed answer sheets as an excel sheet. Alison's model includes negative marking, and the system works out the total score. This means Alison can see at a glance overall and individual performance. The spreadsheet also includes the actual responses. This means over a number of tests the discipline team can review the appropriateness of the questions.

We'll be using it slightly differently. We'll not be tracking people, we'll be more tracking responses. Interestingly, we include one open question which will need to be re-typed into the spreadsheet.

If you are interested in finding out more about if the OMR software we use is appropriate for your needs, please email the Elevate Team (

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Update on progress of ILTS project (QR Codes)

The intention of this post is to overview where we are with our ILTS project. The project proposal and work packages is available from the Projects & Pilots area on this blog.


Some of the proposed work packages have shifted in response to emerging demand and interest. For instance, we allocated resource to support people in the School of Arts and Humanities who have started to implement QR Codes in some activities.

The headlines are, the Elevate Team have

  • implemented a QR Code Generator Service

  • provided a space to support a community of practice around QR Codes

  • supported staff on deploying a QR Code activity, and successfully tracked accesses

  • sort and had feedback on our QR Code Generator Service, and some exemplar learning activities

Feedback on individual work packages

  • WP 1: done:  The UCS QR Code Generator is available from:

  • WP 2: done: The Elevate Blog acts as a central online support space for a community of practice

  • WP 3: in progress: Informed by conversations with staff, the Elevate team are starting to think it might be more appropriate to develop a QR Code tour, than a game engine. We feel there will be more demand. The idea is to work on a more technology inclusive version of

  • WP 4: in progress: the survey is waiting approval via the School of Business and Enterprise Ethics Committee

  • WP 5: in progress: Presented a number of ideas at Blackboard User Conference, Durham University. Received feedback and need to write up

  • WP 6: stalled: dependent on WP 4

  • WP 7: not started: Hope to complete by end of March 2011

  • WP 8: not started: Waiting for the Elevate event management system. Have buy-in from Corporate Development to pilot

  • WP 9: not started: dependent on WP 8

  • WP 10: on going: Started with School of Arts,  enhancing the exhibition / event

  • WP 11: not due

  • WP 12: not due

  • WP 13: not due

How do we use Blackboard in Teaching and Learning at UCS?

As part of the VLE review, I've undertaken a short review of how we are currently using Blackboard at UCS in our teaching and learning.

This is a preliminary review on assessing the methodology (sample size is 91 or 8.4% of current (2010/11) active Blackboard modules). It will be repeated to include a much larger and statistically significant sample size (n=284) in the near future.

The findings suggest the use of Blackboard by staff at UCS is as an online admin support model.

This implies, it is as a repository for electronic information as the focus of the teaching and learning takes place in the classroom. The online material in Blackboard is likely to include; administrative information (such as course announcements, contact information, and calendar dates), the course handbook, readings, teaching material (presentation), and submission of assignments (formative and summative).

In terms of the quality of the learning experience, it can be suggested that if the student did not access the course and only attended the face to face events and was provided a printed handbook their learning experience would not be significantly effected. This is because the learning activities, and assessment and feedback are undertaken in the face to face environment, and could be supported through the module / unit handbook.

The report is available from:

Second Session - Enhancing collaborative and group learning through innovative technologies

The Elevate team ran its second workshop through the eskills for eLearning initiative on Monday, this workshop will now work as a stand alone session in the UCS Spring 2011 Staff Development programme.

11 members of staff attended this workshop, all had been at the previous "Getting started with Wolsey" session and were ready for a new challenge.  The session plan can be found here, as you can see we working running this workshop looking mainly at the tools within Wolsey, rather than trying to cover too many cloud based tools.  I'm sure we will look at running master classes on specific applications.

We started by having a quick discussion of what the attendees though "collaboration" meant, by the nature of the level of this workshop most answer were quite traditional, with the use of chalk boards and other offline tools.  A mention of interactive whiteboards popped up, but no online collaboration tools were put forward.  We then had a chat about some online tools, mainly around blogs and wikis, no one mentioned "Wikipedia", but they had all heard of it.  But surprisingly no one knew what a wiki allowed with regards to anyone editing the page.

All attendees were amazed by this, which led very nicely in to our first activity.  The first activity was to get the attendees top use the available tools as students, to get a feel of what the students do, and how those tools work.

I had previously setup a blog using the Blackboard blog tool, posing a question about coffee, the attendees simply had to reply using the comments feature.  We introduced them to this type of use for the blog tool rather than the discussion board as we are having a growing number of staff moving from the Blackboard discussion board tool as it does become very unwieldy with lots of posts.

Staff have found that students prefer using the blog tools as it is much easier to navigate and reply to the correct posts, the downside is you lose the "threaded"  nature of a discussion board, but so far this hasn't been a negative.

After a few minutes of discussion about coffee tastes, we moved to the next task, using wikis.  For this we used the Learning Objects Team (wiki) tool, at UCS we currently have Blackboard Learn 9.0 which doesn't have its own wiki tool, that 9.1 does.

I had previously setup a wiki, asking the attendees to spend 10-15 minutes researching educational uses of wikis, then asking them to create their own page within the wiki and enter their findings.  After this, I then went in and showed how anyone could edit the wiki pages and create links between them, creating a navigational structure.  Explaining how this tool can be used for so much collaborative work.

At this point a number of the attendees were starting to understand the potential of these tools and how they could use them in their teaching.

I then went through and showed a few live modules that were using these tools and how they were being used, again this reaffirmed the thoughts of the attendees.  We then spent the next 45 minutes with a hands on "follow my lead" approach to actually setting up these tools in a module, this showed them just how simple it is to start using these tools.  The first tool we setup was the Group tool, as this can be a very powerful feature, we then discussed the use of blogs and journals, and the fact that a group blog is not only available to the group, it is possible for others to find and read.  If a group blog is required to be completely private to the group, the journal tool is the one to use.

After this we had a quick discussion based on the question "What is stopping you using this tomorrow?", everyone seemed genuinely enthused by the workshop and were looking forward to trying the tools out, one attendee stayed behind afterwards for a chat about setting up groups and using the journal tool for collaboration amongst those groups.

The attendees really were looking forward to the next workshop "How might you use objective testing in your teaching and learning?" being run by Andy.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

A different approach with Clickers

We are trying a different approach with clickers, where we'll be loaning a set out for 4 weeks to one person. The intention is they'll explore the use within their teaching, while also sharing ideas with staff within their School. I'll follow up to see on progress, see where we can help and capture the emerging story.

The rationale for changing approach is the hope this locally owned model might transfer ideas between staff more effectively compared to the current model.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

'Patch Friday' and Learning Objects Upgrade

We took advantage of the monthly 'Patch Friday' to upgrade the Learning Objects Campus Pack to version 3. We had to move to Campus Pack 3 as the previous version had an issue with dates later than 31 December 2010.

The upgrade went very smoothly and after some user acceptance testing we were happy to make the system live again. We had been informed by Learning Objects that doing an upgrade may have removed any directly links to the tools from course menus, after randomly selecting a number of module areas we found all direct links still intact.

Wolsey was back up and running from 6.15pm.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

First session - Getting started with Wolsey

Yesterday was the first of the Elevate Teams staff development workshops.

Around ten attendees arrived and after a brief introduction we got stuck into the first activity, a quick ten minute discussion about what people thought a VLE was and what tasks they would expect it to do. The usual elements cropped up, collaboration, resources, distance learning etc.. The one thing that wasn't mentioned was the word portal so I spent a couple of minutes describing what a portal did and how UCS has used it's VLE as a portal encapsulating both student/staff intranets, institution wide discussion boards and learning elements into one relevant point of interest.

The next activity on the agenda was a more in-depth overview of how UCS uses a VLE (Wolsey). References were made to the list drawn up from the first discussion we had.

This is where things drifted slightly from the original plan, a large percentage of the attendees had already covered the practical elements we were going to cover, the bulk of this time was instead used as a Q&A session where attendees asked more precise questions such as creating folders and structuring content. We did expand on the use of the 'Send Mail' function within Wolsey.

One surprising element which cropped up in the next activity (What is stopping you using it tomorrow?) was the fact no-one mentioned IT Skills, this has always been a caveat of previous training sessions we gave a few years ago, the main items that did rear their heads were

  • Confidence performing specific tasks

  • Trusting the system

  • Knowing 'The processes'

All of which can certainly be rectified by providing more step-by-step guides and expanding our staff development programme, all of which are already well on their way.

It seems most people were happy going in and having a play :)

The session ended giving attendees a little time to fill in a quick post workshop form, something really for attendees to quickly note what they have learnt, take away and use as they will.

After showing the attendees the support elements and where to go for the support a couple of attendees stayed behind to run through a couple of things, but overall I think most attendees left knowing something new.. which is of course the aim!

We will adjust the session plan slightly to allow us to be more dynamic with the middle practical session.

Check out the session plan - Getting started with Wolsey in your teaching and learning

That's all for now, Aaron will be presenting the next workshop on the 14th and will be covering the collaborative side of Wolsey including groups, Wikis and Blogs.


Wednesday, 2 February 2011

External Funding: JISC L&T Innovation Grant

The latest call from the Innovation Grants is available from JISC

If you are interested, and have an innovative idea you need to contact Andy Ramsden - - (e-Learning Development Manager) to discuss your ideas, and ensure you have institutional support.