Monday, 28 March 2011

#QRCode Tour Development Sprint

David an I undertook our first project development sprint last week.  We based ourselves out of the office to minimise any interruptions, allowing the focus solely to be on the QR Code Tour Generator.

The project aims were to create basically two new services, one very reliant upon the other, the two services were:

  • QRTour Service

  • URL Shortening service

We had already created a QR Code Generator which the team decided to build upon, the idea was to create a very easy to author system that would allow users to create a guided tour with with resources and activities located around the area, all accessible by QR Codes.  The system needed to generate a printable PDF document with titles, descriptions, QR Codes, contact details etc. as well as allowing you to return to the tour for statistics and to amend any of the Points of Interest on the tour.

As we are creating QR Codes, we wanted them to be as small and with less detail to allow for quick easy capture via a reader, to achieve this we needed to create a URL Shortening service, therefore the system converting long web addresses into short addresses and then displaying these are codes.

The team decided that we should host our own shortening service as most that are available at the moment are all registered under the shortest domain name available (.ly etc.), and it isn't known how long these services will be available.

The week (21/3 - 25/3) was a very productive week, being out of the office environment does make a huge difference.  We managed to create the following service:

  • URL Shortening Service

  • QR Code Tour Generator

    • Register to create a tour

      • Receive an email with registration details including unique tour ID

    • Create a tour name

    • Add a tour description

    • Add between 1 and 7 Points of Interest (PoI) on the tour

      • Each PoI has a title, description, and resource URI

    • View a summary page of your tour, including QR Code, displayed short URL and link to the stats for each PoI

    • View / Print a PDF document of your tour

      • The PDF generates a cover page giving the tour name and description

      • The PDF then provides a page ready to print of each PoI, these pages contain the tour name, PoI title, PoI description, QR Code, short URI, tour organiser, Elevate details and a disclaimer

By the end of the sprint we managed to have a working system, which is fantastic, it is very much function over form at the moment.  We are now spending the next 3 days "mopping up" before closing the development period, the items being finished off are:

  • Only correct number of PoIs are displayed on summary page

  • Only correct number of PoIs are added to PDF

  • Only 3 PoIs are shown on initial screen, plus/minus buttons are displayed to allow adding or removing of additional PoIs

  • Text edited in email notification

  • Correct header image

  • Basic descriptive text corrected on pages

So, as of Thursday we will have a system that does all the above, and will also allow the user to return to the tour and edit any of the details, using their unique ID.

Below is an image showing a sneak peak of the PDF output:














The team will be looking to have another sprint week in the near future, this will be used to complete the following:

  • Complete styling

  • Complete descriptors and wording on all pages - Help section/tips etc.

  • Different Options for PDF Templates - allowing different more than just tours

    • Requirements being fed from Testing

  • Self Registration blogs

    • Hosted internally - Wordpress MU

  • Tidying of technical code

    • Adding of comments etc.

  • Research dynamic adding of PoIs

    • Currently using 7 predefined PoIs

  • Styling of Short URL Service

We will also be having some user testing over the next few weeks, we will use this feedback to help drive the next sprint.


Thursday, 24 March 2011

A new featured video: Introducing the visualiser

As you've probably noticed, we've changed the featured video. This featured video is one created by the team as part of our Classroom Technologies Series: What stuff is around me? This 4 min video introduces staff to the visualiser, which is standard in most teaching rooms. This tool is often forgotten by staff but very useful for annotating material, problem classes, display material etc., The intention of the video is to demonstrate how to turn it on, click between the computer and the visualiser on the projector.

A visualiser is a powerful digital camera device that points downwards. It is connected to an LCD projector and/or your computer, enabling the teacher or presenter to display objects, documents, pictures etc with superb clarity. Most visualisers allow you to zoom in and out, and when connected to a PC capture the image as a digital photograph or a video clip. (source:

An aside, but also potentially interesting for staff at UCS, is the way the video was captured, edited and distributed. This method used a mobile device (my windows mobile phone) to record the video. I captured the title pages from recording some powerpoint slides in a teaching room in the Waterfront (using Debut Video Capture Software and joined it altogether using VideoPad Video Editor - all available on your UCS desktops) and uploaded to our unlisted YouTube channel. So if you are interested in creating video content on your mobile phone for your learning and teaching, then email us at

Monday, 21 March 2011

Where have all the learning technologists gone?

Members of the Elevate Team (Aaron & David) will not be on campus for the week starting the 21st March. They'll be both working on a software development project, which aims to create a QR Code Tour Generator Service, as an enhancement to our current QR Code Generator Service ( The rationale, for this is to create a web based authoring tool which will allow people to create and modify a set of QR Codes which will enable a linear, location aware learning activity for students to complete using their mobile phones. This service is required for some developments in the History Department (Harvey Osbourne, and Vivienne Aldouns) and the Ipswich Maritime Trust.

This piece of development work focus on the team adopting a new approach to how we develop software. It is based on a Scrum approach.  Scrum is an iterative, incremental methodology for project management often seen in agile software development" ( Hence, the developers, are removed from usual tasks for the duration of the project. As a consequence, we'll be running a reduced support model for Wolsey, and other e-learning tools during the week. We will be checking and responding to emails (

The key dates are as follows;

  • 21st to 25th March >> development and testing on development box

  • 28th March >> user sign off

  • 29th March >> final tweaks, documentation, set timetable / initial objectives for next sprint

  • 30th March >> write report for Elevate Team blog


Tuesday, 15 March 2011

external (netskills) event on blogs and social networking

Just a quick heads up for an event on the 23rd March in Birmingham. The JISC Netskills service are running a staff development event on the 23rd March in Birmingham entitled, "community participation with blogs and social networking". For more information, including prices, see ...


Thursday, 10 March 2011

What are we going to do with our new test and development workstation?

The Elevate Team have recently purchased a workstation as a test / development environment. The workstation is needed to facilitate the growing number of pilots and projects on which we are working (see the projects and pilots area) with staff and students across the network. Outside of the benefit this will give us a much more robust Wolsey (blackboard) test environment before deploying enhancements and upgrades on the live service. The intention is also to explore a number of web based services with staff in around achieving some of their key learning objectives, for instance, e-portfolios, linear learning objects communication and collaboration tools. This will include tools, as the big blue button, Xerte, Mahara, and Wordpress.

If you'd like to know more about these tools, pilots and developments, please email us on




Wednesday, 9 March 2011

So, how do we develop staff to develop effective learning activities?

One of the aims of the Elevate Team is to develop staff in how they integrate innovative technologies to enhance their teaching programmes. This is achieved by a number of different routes. One of which is to work with individuals and teams when they are developing their units. The model is not based on us giving a solution, it is more around the Elevate Team acting as facilitators and sharing good practice. The intention is to encourage staff to be reflective practitioners (which they tend to be), and complete "the design, develop, implement, evaluate, reflect, design" iterative cycle. Within this the Elevate Team can give concrete support through supporting staff on tools, and undertaking the evaluation.

A recent example of this approach has been our role with Helen Hollinworth, as she is developing a "resource intensive distance learning activity" for her students. This approach is also being implemented with the ChYPP Team (Jessica Clark, Sarah Richards and Mark Stallabrass) as we are discussing effective designs for their distance learning programme.

For a discuss of how we might be able to help you, please email us -


Tuesday, 8 March 2011

out and about: Aaron at RSC Eastern VLE Forum

Elevate were invited to speak at the RSC Eastern VLE Forum held at Bedford College on the 4th March 2011, where Aaron presented "Location Aware Learning Activities".  The presentation looked at how QR Codes and GPS could be used to create location aware activities, a video was shown of the Elevate Team's first realtime test of the MyTour app, that combined both QR Codes and GPS services to present users with materials/resources based on their location, also allowing immediate feedback from the user.

The presentation went down very well with the attendees, who were given a chance to discuss their own ideas for the use of QR Codes, these are listed below:

  • Inductions

  • Marketing events, open evenings

  • Access to course guides/handbooks

  • Business cards

  • Emergency contacts

  • Product recognition

  • Registers

  • AA Breakdown location

  • Procedures around factories

  • Instruction to use tools safely

  • Warehousing

  • Treasure hunts

  • Library - information, replacement of paper notes

The slides are available from here: location aware learning activities, we must apologise for the quality of the video included in the presentation, this was done at very short notice with only a flipcam.  A better quality video that shows the true potential will be recorded soon.

After such a good response The Elevate Team are looking to further develop the location aware activities by working closely with the History Division at UCS and the Ipswich Maritime Trust to develop learning activities based around the Ipwich Historic Wet Dock.

Friday, 4 March 2011

A day of presentations: social bookmarking, and the future

I've spent a day of presenting ideas and work of the Elevate Team to different audiences. The first session was an short presentation to the UCS Libraries Group ( The aim of this session was to share how we provide staff and student development programmes, and exploring a number of questions around how we can work (Are there any examples I could use of using social bookmarking across the LNs? What are you doing in terms of supporting staff and students around sharing web resources? What opportunities are there for integrating these with your training materials? Would anyone like to help deliver the programme?). There was some interesting feedback around a use in the UCS Ipswich Library, implementation concerns around staff and student skills, and staff finding the opportunity to develop these learning activities. I did mention, please take advantage of one day a month when a member of the Elevate team will visit the learning network.

In the afternoon, I presented to the Online and Distance Learning Group, with the aim of disseminating the essence of our emerging operational plan for e-learning at UCS for the next 2 years (themes, tools and approaches), and to start a dialogue about the role people play to ensure this is effective. The session slides are available from:

There was lots of discussion around the communication and clarity of message. Including a few good pointers around better use of the physical communication methods. The rest of the session went well, with the ideas of podcasting, e-stream etc., so lots to think about. I'll follow up with Tim Goodchild about sharing some links through the Blackboard Course, including the booking form for the pods, the clickers and little background to Netvibes.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Extending the exhibition beyond the physical space

To raise awareness about QR Codes at UCS the Elevate Team has been working with the Art & Design division and their exhibition co-ordinator. The department were very keen to use QR Codes once they were shown what they can do and how easily they can be created.

Two days after our initial meeting the exhibition "Class of ..." was being displayed at the new Gallery in the Waterfront building, as a quick proof of concept approach was taken to allow us to get in to a position to allow gallery visitors to see how the codes could be used.

A blog was setup which hosted the artists' contact details and the complete catalogue. QR Codes were created using which allowed realtime statistics of number of access, so we were able to track the number of scans made of the codes.

Google Analytics was integrated into the blog giving more in-depth statistical analysis if required.

A poster was also created to be positioned at the entrance to the gallery, explaining what QR Codes are and how you scan them (as shown below)

Due to the short notice of the project it was decided that the codes would only be printed in the catalogue, as well as the codes mentioned above, further codes were created for direct links to the Schools webpages on the UCS website, the gallery's exhibitions list and a link to the Ipswich and Colchester Museums and Galleries website.  Using Elevate's own QR Code generator we were able to track hits to our own webpages thanks to the "query string" that gets generated.

Andy and Aaron attended the private viewing of the exhibition and were on hand to talk about the use of the codes and demonstrate their use.  The idea was very warmly received and gave a number of the artists present some ideas on using them in their work.

Having the codes trackable has been a huge step forward in their use, previously you had no idea whether any of the codes were being scanned, now we are able to get statistics showing their use.

We were very pleased to see that codes in the catalogue were continuing to be scanned after the private viewing, this has given belief that we can take their use forward with the next exhibition, especially as that exhibition is being hosted across a couple of sites.

We will look to use codes to link the physical space with the online world at the next exhibition, closing the gap between the two.  Again using blogs to host the materials has the advantage to allow all visitors to the exhibition to leave comments on each piece of work in realtime.  Standing looking at a painting on the wall you will be able to scan the code next to the painting, read about the artist, the inspiration behind the painting, and then leave your own thoughts and ideas.  As this can happen in realtime, the next visitor will immediately be able to read your thoughts also.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

out and about: Andy at EBI

Andy was an invited speaker at the European Bioinfomatics Institute, Cambridge, on the 28th Feb, where he presented and ran a number of surgeries for staff. The topic was on "enhancing learning through innovative technologies: observations from UCS and beyond. The intended aims were;

  • how can technologies be effectively used to enhance the learning experience of face to face teaching?

  • how to develop an active e-learning community?

  • how can we share good practice?

  • what methods might we employ to evaluate e-learning?

The context or narrative of the presentation was around trying to explain why in UK HE do we continually fail with respect to learning technologies, to move from initiation, to implementation to institutionalisation? So I was applying the work of Collis and Moonen, with the use of communities of practice and integrating personal learning networks to suggest we can do better at the taking local innovation and scaling it to institutional impact. The slides are available from;

The outcomes include a likely return visit by their e-learning Team to further explore approaches to implement technology enhanced learning innovations, and potential of working together.