Thursday, 28 February 2013

LearnUCS Sys Admin Advisory Group

Monday 25th February the first LearnUCS System Admin Advisory Group met.  This group has grown out of the old Wolsey group after the summer upgrade/migration to the new Blackboard managed hosted environment.

We also have a new member to welcome to the group, Matt Hirst, Senior Course Administrator and Online Submission Coordinator.

The main item on the agenda was to find out from all of our sys admin users how the summer upgrade/migration went from their point of view, we were very pleased to hear it was all positive.

The group also discussed the planned summer 2013 upgrade, where we will be upgrading to SP12.  A demo was shown of our test environment, currently running SP11, a few of the new features were shown and everyone was pleased to hear of the changes to the text box editor, along with the new Video Everywhere feature.

David also spoke about the UCS ePortfolio system and how the learning network could use this tool to complement the VLE.

All members of the LearnUCS SAAG will be shortly be receiving access to the SP11 test environment.

We look forward to the next meeting being as positive.


Enhancing your LearnUCS course: the why and the how

So have you been wondering about how you can enhance your LearnUCS course? Well, the link below shares emerging good practice from the Elevate Team, based on the session we ran for the PGCHEP Module 1 course this week.

The aim of the workshop was to step back and think about your course within a more holistic model. For instance, trying to shift the focus from individual tools and case studies, towards a broader improvement model. The improvement model sets the LearnUCS course within the broader setting of its role with the face to face course. The model aims to answer these key questions;

  • Are you clear on why you are using LearnUCS and what you want to achieve?

  • Have you a mechanism in place to explain the use of LearnUCS to your students?

  • Have you planned in advance the activities and tasks you are going to use? Is this achieveable?

  • Have you draw up a communication plan?

  • Have you designed your course to make it simple for students to find and complete tasks?

  • Are you including your students within your LearnUCS design?

An observation from the session was most of the lecturers identified the key driver for change was they felt they should be using it more effectively. If this is the case with you, your next steps should be contact the Elevate Team ( and we'll happily talk you through some of the possibilities.

The workshop slides are available from:


Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Elevate Team Seminar Series: Session 1

The Elevate Team are running a Seminar Series for ourselves and other members of Learning Resources at UCS. The intention of this sessions is to act as an opportunity for team members to explore a particular issue and share these across the team.

As part of the sharing the intention is to provide the question and output for people across UCS.

Rules: 10 minute presentation, 5 slides only

Aaron: As agents of change at UCS, what message can we take from the case studies for lecturers to enhance their learning and teaching at UCS?

David: What can we (elevate) take from this report to inform our strategy to mainstream the mahara e-portfolio at UCS?

Andy: What is the social constructivist learning model, and what should we consider with our e-learning designs?

The next session will focus on team members walking through online course designs for our Online Easter School. In particular, online course which are content intensive, discussion intensive and a half way house.


Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Tips & Tricks: LearnUCS Text Box Editor

If you have ever tried to add some custom code to LearnUCS you will more than likely have noticed that the text box editor has a mind of its own.  You try to paste some text in, then save the item, to then notice that what you pasted in has changed.  This can be a real problem when you are trying to embed multimedia from another source.

A way around this is to turn the text editor off, this will give you a basic text box that you can then type or paste you embed code into.  When saving this item, as the editor is off, what you added to the box will be kept as it was.

Below is an image showing where the controls for the text editor are:

[caption id="attachment_96773" align="alignnone" width="300"]Text Editor Controls Click to enlarge[/caption]

This button is a toggle between "on" and "off".  Turning the editor off allows you to add codes, mainly embed codes from multimedia sources.

Hopefully you can now add items to LearnUCS and they will work as you expect.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Webinar: Getting started with Digital Media for Assessment

FYI there is a webinar being run by the JISC Digital Media Service on getting started with Digital Media for Assessment, on 19th Feb, at 1.00 PM.

The focus of the workshop is ... Providing feedback on students' work and asessing their progress is a fundamental part of teaching and learning. In this webinar we will explore why using technology in this area is important and discuss emerging methods of communicating with students using digital media.

For more information and links to how to enrol visit;

If you have any questions, please contact the Elevate Team (

Thursday, 7 February 2013

PGCHEP Module 2: Smoothing out the assessment pattern and the role of formative feedback

I just thought I'd share with you that the Elevate Team ran a workshop on the PGCHEP Module 2 programme, on smoothing out the assessment pattern and the role of formative feedback. The workshop aimed to encourage participants to reflect on the assessment pattern within their modules (both summative and formative). We discussed the role of feedback for learning and how it differs from feedback of learning. The workshop discussed various learning technologies which might help you spread the assessment load (pattern), including the use objective testing, group tools (wiki) and peer assessment.

The sessions drew heavily from the "enhancing student learning through effective formative feedback" (

The session slides are available from:



Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Mahara in Numbers

This inaugural stats post is to kick off a monthly look at how our Mahara service is doing from a numbers viewpoint, and potentially how we can change the flow of traffic and probably more importantly, where.

Since our soft rollout to the institution mid 2011 the statistics haven't been awe-inspiring to say the least, however there is some form of rationale behind this, mostly because we were still figuring out what we wanted from the service, it can offer so much but adopted wrongly can cause issues, of which I'll undoubtedly blog about soon.

So let's take a looksie..

As you see from the above graph, the amount of users on the system compared to the number of pages created is quite drastic, however I'd rather personally have a low percentage of students using the service effectively than a gold star stats report where very few students understand the service.

Well looky what we have here! Two very clearly distinguishable peaks in our lifetime stats. Care to hazard a guess at when these peaks, err, peak? You'd be correct in thinking that these do indeed fall on September/November for the past few years, right slap bang when we are doing our student inductions. We push the Mahara service in our student inductions, explain it's effective use and benefits, and it clearly shows students are taking a ganders. Problem is, why aren't they staying?

This is something we need to focus on, the interest is there from students to use it.. next step, get them to stay there and continue using the service.

  • Is there enough follow-up support for students?

  • Are the FAQs enough?

  • Is it quick and easy enough?

Obviously an area I need to work on and I shall report back any progress before if not next months stats post.

To briefly summaries, Mahara is being used, not greatly but it is being used none the less. It's effective use reflected through case studies will come next but that's a different blog post!


Monday, 4 February 2013

LearnUCS System Downtime - Sunday 10th February 2013

Subject: Upcoming System Maintenance (Service Interruption)

Date: Sunday, Feb 10th, 2013

Time: 01:00 am to 05:00 am GMT

Work Type: Deployment of Security Patch

Services: LearnUCS

Engineers will perform system maintenance on the site between the hours of 01:00 am to 05:00 am GMT on Sunday, Feb 10th, 2013.

Please take note that this is a service impacting maintenance occurring on a Sunday when we deploy Security Patch. It comprises of critical product patches which enhance the security and stability of the hosted environment.

Getting started with objective tests in teaching - a 3.5 hour online course

I'm really pleased to announce the Elevate Team are rolling out our first online course, which is offered as an alternative to our face to face workshop, or our unstructured FAQs.

This course is based on our Getting Started with Objective Testing, and lasts approximately 3.5 hours, with a week to complete it. On successful completion we'll send you a Certificate of Attendance.

The rationale for the course is objective testing in LearnUCS (the quiz engine) is probably one of the most under utilised tools with the VLE, and it tends to be viewed as only useful for lower order learning skills. This course aims to challenge this perception as it is argued the tool offers significant benefits as a formative feedback tool.

For instance, in a recent review of the Viewpoints Curriculum Design Workshop produced at the University of Ulster, when reviewing the principles of good feedback section it made constant reference to using objective testing for both formative and summative assessments. There was also reference to more creative learning activities where students are required to create objective tests.

The rationale for this short, online course is there is interest and significant untapped potential for staff to use objective tests in their teaching, learning and assessment. This course will make you aware, update your skills and build confidence in using objective testing in your teaching.

What are the course dates?

The course will commence on the 11th Feb, and run until the 15th. You will probably spend about 3.5 hours on the tasks within the course.

How do you enrol?

We are approaching this differently to our usual model of embedding it with our LearnUCS. This course is actually hosted in CourseSites.Com, which is offered by Blackboard. This means you do not need to be a member of UCS to complete the course, or use a UCS login. We are hoping this will help those across the Learning Network and beyond.

To enrol, simply visit the following URL and follow the self enrolment option.