Friday, 29 November 2013

LearnUCS Quick Hit: Item Analysis - Tests

A little know feature that was added during our upgrade is the "Item Analysis" tool.

Item analysis provides statistics on overall test performance and individual test questions. This data helps you recognise questions that might be poor indicators of student performance. You can use this information to improve questions for future tests or to adjust credit on current attempts.

The video below shows how to use this very straightforward but powerful feature:

New students in the School of Arts and Humanities take a quick test after having a health and safety briefing.  This year the test has been created in LearnUCS and the students have started taking the test, below are some screen shots showing the results of the Item Analysis in the test.

The image below shows the quick break down of the test, giving a summary to date.

The image below shows the more detailed information of all questions.  You can see the question at the bottom students have had more problems answering correctly than the others.  From this screen you can click on the question to check that the answer is setup correctly, or to decide if it needs amending.  If you were to make a change you can have the question auto-marked again to correct the scores. 

This tool offers a powerful feature for those that are already using the Test/Quiz engine or a new incentive for those thinking of using it.

As always please email if you would like to discuss your use of LearnUCS.

Out & About: Aaron at the JISC Eastern VLE Forum

I spent the 15th November at the JISC Eastern VLE Forum, hosted at City College Norwich's rather nice St Andrews House campus.

The programme (below) looked interesting and I was especially interested in the Badges session.

Session Name
Arrivals and refreshments
Arrivals and refreshments
Welcome Introduction
RSC Eastern News Update
RSC Eastern News Update
Around the region
Around the region: Informal achievement use of badges?
Refreshment break
Show and Tell
Charlie Williams: Conditional activities and badges in Moodle
Bedford College
Moodle Grade Tracker: project outcomes
Blackboard course integration
setting up Blackboard for course integration. Chris boon
Show and Tell
Making courses on your learning platform more engaging
Jaki Houston, British Racing School

Unfortunately there were some changes due to travel and illness problems, but the day started with a good update from Malcolm and Ryan from Jisc Eastern.

The session that had caught my eye was sadly one of those that had fallen foul of illness, Charlie Williams was unable to attend.  So we started the pre-cursor discussion, there was a good 'Around the region' chat that was focussed on 'Informal achievement use of badges'.  This was very interesting, my very first thoughts on badges last year was that they might not fit into HE and that they would work better at a much younger age group.

Another thought I have had for the couple of years that I have been attending the Jisc Eastern's VLE Forum, was how different I/UCS felt, the majority of attendees are either FE or Adult/Work-based education providers.  Often being the only university attendee I feel that that has allowed UCS to research, develop and try things that other institutions don't get the opportunity to.

Therefore I was expecting badges to get a cheer and a huge pat on the back, but I was quite mistaken, as my tweet from the event below shows:

Those that contributed thought there was little value to badges and how they could be implemented.  I spoke about how UCS was developing its new digital literacies provision and that we are planning to use Open Badges as a way of certification.

Staff and students at UCS will be able to sign up to a number of core workshop and then pick and choose from a selection of specialist workshops and masterclasses.  Badges will be awarded for attendance and a number of these badges will add up to completion of the course.

Our VLE - Blackboard - has the ability to award badges that are compatible with Mozilla's Open Badge framework, meaning that anyone that is awarded with a badge can submit that to their Mozilla Back Pack that means they can be centrally stored in the cloud and show whenever the user chooses.

After the 'Around the region' chat, Malcolm did a great job at short notice in giving a more general presentation about badges and what his experiences were (the night before) of creating some.  One of the resources that Malcolm found informative was  Below is a (very poor) photo of some of Malcolm's resources.

There were also good sessions from the chaps at Bedford College showing off their impressive Grade Tracker plugin for Moodle and an informative show and tell from the British Racing School talking about creating more engaging content.

Overall, it was another interesting day and I am looking forward to the next.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

UCS based case studies which share emerging ideas around technology enhanced learning at UCS

One of the aims of the Elevate Team is to help facilitate a community of practice around the appropriate use of technology enhanced learning at UCS. To help achieve this (and the requirement to assess the impact of the Elevate Team) we have authored a number of case studies around specific themes which draw on practitioner stories.

So, if you are lecturer at UCS, what can you gain from these? I'd suggest these offer an excellent heads up on the diverse range of technology enhanced learning being developed at UCS. As a counter balance to LearnUCS, and reflect the diverse e-Learning Landscape, these case studies do not focus on LearnUCS.

For instance, Dr Kulbir Birak, Senior Lecturer, Psychology, comments
The OMR (paper based exam) has allowed us to evaluate and assess students understanding of a wide range of biological and behavioural psychology topics that other types of assessment would not allow us to do. Equally, with large cohorts in the IMDPSY111 Foundations of Biological and Cognitive Psychology module where we incorporate the OMR it allows us to assess a wide number of students and provide grades in a relatively quick time, as well as identify areas that we can provide general feedback on.
You can access the case studies as follows:

Impact of the Elevate Team (2013): Facilitating technology enhanced learning at UCS

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Mahara Upgrade Complete!

Good news everyone! The Mahara Upgrade this morning went well and we are now running a latest stable version of the Mahara e-Portfolio software.

A few notes to users:

If you already had a Mahara account but never logged in, you will need to register for a new account again as all 'Never logged in' users have been removed to help with statistics tracking with current users who use the system.

All UCS staff or students can now register for an account, all you have to do is go to and follow the on-screen instructions.

As we have moved to a new registration model where you can choose your own username, current users who still have an 'S' or 'E' number can change their username by clicking on their 'Settings' option to the top right of the screen when logged in.

If for any reason you have forgotten your password you can have it reset by clicking on the 'Lost username / password' option under the login box. You will then need to put in your username or UCS email address in the format of 'S' number followed by, e.g -

Encountered a problem after the upgrade? Email the Elevate Team for support or use the 'Contact Us' option at the bottom of the Mahara page.

Start building your e-Portfolio today by following the link below and registering for an account!

UCS' Mahara e-Portfolio Service -

Monday, 25 November 2013

Mahara Upgrade Tomorrow!

Just a gentle reminder that UCS' e-Portfolio Service Mahara ( will be put into maintenance mode just after midnight tonight (25th Nov) and the service will not be available until midday on the 26th of Nov.

This will mean you will not be able to login, please make sure all work is saved prior to the switch off.

An announcement will be made when the service is back up and running.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

How might the integrated use of Rubrics in LearnUCS enhance feedback and student learning?

The Elevate Team have been discussing ideas around assessment and feedback models with lecturers using the seven principles of good effective feedback as the framework. The following outlines how LearnUCS Rubrics might be used, and maps this back to the following principles:

  1. helps clarify what good performance is (goals, criteria, expected standards)
  2. facilitates the development of self-assessment (reflection) in learning
  3. provides opportunities to close the gap between current and desired performance
  4. provides information to teachers that can be used to help shape the teaching

So, before we start, what is a LearnUCS Rubric?

They are a marking scheme, which can be made visible to the student before they submit work, and you can use when marking the assignments. A Backboard quick guide is available: Rubrics

The following illustrates their potential. It is based on a formative assessment for Level 4 students. The activity is intended to reflect on the potential of technology to enhance their learning in a safe and sustainable manner.

It can be argued the provision of a rubric (marking scheme) will help student clarify what is good performance, through making the goals, criteria and expected standards transparent.

So, how can the Student see the Rubric (mark scheme)? When you associate a rubric with an assignment or activity, and ensure you have set visibility to yes, a button will be accessible for students. See below;

If the student clicks "View Rubrics" the Rubric Detail will appear.

Therefore, if you have provided a detailed rubric, the more information the student will receive. Note, in my example, as it is formative assignment I am only focussing on a broad pass or fail. However, you can add as many columns and rows as you like.

As you'd imagine the creation of the rubric is time consuming process compared to simply uploading the marking scheme as an item in LearnUCS. However, there are a number of other benefits from the use of rubrics. For instance, when you are marking the work you can use the Rubric, with a free text box to base your feedback around. This is illustrated below, where the assessor selects the individual criteria, adds the grade and provide written feedback.

Importantly, this will still allow you to use the other feedback options associated with the assignment tool. Such as file upload, or inline grading.

This approach will help the student more effectively collect and understand their feedback as it maps to various the elements of the marking scheme, their text and your feedback.

In terms of the seven principles, it will,
  1. facilitates the development of self-assessment (reflection) in learning
  2. provides opportunities to close the gap between current and desired performance

The student view of the marked Rubric, with your text based feedback is illustrated below. This will give a quick indicator of the works strengths and weaknesses.

Finally, how might the use of marked rubrics help provide information to teachers to help them help shape their teaching? It is possible to access a Rubric Report for a particular assignment which will give you the breakdown by criteria and spread of grades. This will provide evidence of performance across the cohort based on your marking criteria.

So, where next? Hopefully this has made you more aware of the what Rubrics are, and how you might use them within your teaching, learning and assessment models. If you'd like to get started using Rubrics, then email to start exploring their potential.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Important Mahara Upgrade Update!

Due to unforeseen circumstances our host ULCC will NOT be upgrading our Mahara installation tomorrow as planned. 

This has been rescheduled for next Tuesday, 26th November.

Google Hangouts & Hangouts on Air

We are currently investigating alternative options for our paid-for video/web conferencing tool, we didn't have to look far to see what Google Hangouts could offer as each of us in the team use a fair amount of Google tools as it is. After experimenting with both Google Hangouts and Google's Hangouts on Air we were astonished with it's ease of use and feature sets.

For those who are unaware, Google Hangouts are private areas where communication can be purely text, multimedia or a video hangout which can be done with up to 10 people, all while being able to share desktops, collaborate on Google Drive documents and watch YouTube videos together. You can find out more using the link at the end of the post.

Google Hangouts on Air however allows the above to be publicly broadcast live from the hosts public profile with the added bonus of the whole video being archived direct to YouTube where people will always be able to access it for future reference. There are also added apps which are available for the on Air version, most to compliment the now 'live' status.

One of these feature's we'd like to focus on is the Q&A tool. This tool essentially allows the public, as long as they have a Google Account, to ask questions to the host/s of the hangout using a very simple interface. The user doesn't need to be invited and can't participate in the hangout discussion, however when a question has been asked it gets sent to the host of the hangout to review. Other users can also ask questions but also +1 other peoples questions, the highest rated questions climb to the top. The host can dictate what questions to answer and simply clicks the question when they are ready to answer it, once answered the host simply clicks 'Done' on the question and that's that, the question has been answered.

If you don't have a Google Account you can still access the live video feed and all of the questions, now here it gets really clever, the user can now click on any of the answered questions and the video will automatically skip to the relevant section in the video where that particular question was answered.
You can see below the publicly available Hangouts on Air we conducted to demo this simple but incredibly powerful feature.

And here you can see the view from Aaron who was asking the question.

The whole process from setting up a mock event, scheduling the Hangout, running the hangout and using the Q&A tool was incredibly simple.

After an initial install of a small plugin which is necessary for anyone hosting or participating in the video broadcast, there was little reliance on heavy technology (It was ran from a cheap small Chromebook, accessed on institution laptop, etc).

Once the hangout had finished it was automatically available for viewing within YouTube making an archive incredibly accessible to anyone. There wasn't a complex setting up of mics or webcams and there was zero clutter on the screen from tools or settings that weren't used. The interface was effective and really intuitive.

Hangouts at it's very basic level, with its quick and easy features, whether its text or video, would be a great communication tool for lecturers who want to use video conferencing for personal tutorials or support.

Plus what we have learned using Hangouts on Air we feel this would also cater brilliantly for Webinars, distance learning, group tutorials, knowledge bases, video FAQs, visiting lecturers and more besides.

If you would like to find out more about the benefits of Google Hangouts and Hangouts on Air, you can check this link -->

Friday, 15 November 2013

Elevate Team Staff Development Videos: November 2013


Given we are all becoming multi-modal learners - The Elevate Team are organising some support material through a featured videos series. These videos will be created by either the Elevate Team or other people, including other e-learning teams, or software vendors. We are organising these by month, and focussing on how to use the tool, or learning design considerations.

Our selection criteria will be to focus on one tool which is used regularly at UCS, and also focussing on a less well known tool.

How to use the tool

How to create and manage an announcement in your LearnUCS course: Blackboard created

Elevate Team Notes: This does not just illustrate how to create an announcement, but also how to manage them. This is important as the announcement is a key tool to communicate and provide support in your LearnUCS course.

How to create a rubric for grading student work: Blackboard created

Elevate Team Notes: The rubric feature is seldom used at UCS. The tool allows you to include a marking criteria with in a LearnUCS activity. It has potential for peer review and assessment activities using the Blog or Wiki tool.

Learning design considerations

Supporting the seven principles with LearnUCS: Blackboard created

Elevate Team Notes: This focussed on Chickering and Gamson (1991) seven principles of effective undergraduate teaching practice. An interesting approach around the learning design and navigational structure. I did think it lost its way in terms of the seven principles. Lots of tips and ideas are available. It is very long, however, the content is covered in about 30 minutes.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Have you thought about Laurillard's Conversational Framework in yourTEL learning designs?

I recently attended the Heads of e-Learning Forum meeting at City University (

There were a number of presentation aimed at my role, however, one with a much wider audience was the keynote was by Prof Diana Laurillard. This covered a wide range of topics, and one which I had forgotten around the Conversational Framework. The presentation did make me reflect we are not using this within our effective learning design workshops.

To give a context, Laurillard proposes the business of effective education is based on a client relationship between the lecturer and the learner. This should be viewed more in the context of a personal trainer or solicitor, than a mass consumption approach.

However, this creates a point of tension within the learning design. How can we design a personal learning experience within increasing classes, especially as more learning is being undertaken online. The conversational framework can be used to help design appropriate learning activities which use appropriate tools.

I have included the slides, the conversational framework starts on Slide 7. The session was recorded and this should be released soon.

On a more practical perspective, for those who are working with objective testing for both summative and formative processes a discussion emerged around the concept of concealed MCQs. This flips the learning design of MCQs to make the student more active in the process. This is important as MCQs are often criticised for not making the learner work (think) hard enough.
Another useful resource for lecturers and staff developers was the Pedagogical Pattern Collector (

This (so the web site states) is an online tool that has been developed as part of the LDSE project. It provides (1) a 'Browser', for exploring a set of pedagogical patterns (lesson designs/learning designs) in their generic form, and also interpreted for 3 different discipline topics; (2) a 'Designer', for either creating or adapting a pedagogical pattern, which then analyses the overall nature of the learning experience you have created.

The Elevate Team will be exploring this resource over the next month.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Masterclasses: what we covered ...

We ran our Masterclass events on the 12th and 13th of November.

These covered a range of topics, in a number of different formats.

However, some people are wondering how the Masterclass differs from a taster session or a workshop or drop in. So to help people understand the difference, and in preparation for the next set of institutional wide Masterclass sessions. I've included a few links to the supporting documents below. As is evident they are intended to open discussions in the group to enhance the opportunities for us to learn from each other. We do map these ideas to certain technologies, and we try to have the information case study focussed.

For instance;
I hope that helps to clear up some confusion between our different staff and student development formats. If you have any questins, please contact us,

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Mahara Upgrade Spotlight - Week 3.. Part 2!

Following from our earlier post about the changes to the portfolio editing section, here is a quick update about some housekeeping, and an a little bonus!

This upgrade, apart from introducing new features and streamlined functions, gives us an opportunity to tidy up the current set of user accounts and settings. Part of this process will be to purge all user accounts that have never logged in.

By default every student at UCS has an account on Mahara, however this model is changing to a self-registration process where staff or students can register for an account if they wish to use the system.

To tidy up any redundant accounts on Mahara we will be deleting any account that has never logged in to the system.

If you are a current student who wishes to use Mahara after the upgrade, instructions will be available on the front page on how to register for an account.

As an added extra for those who do use the system, we will be increasing your upload limit to 250MB, currently users have a set 50MB limit :)

Mahara Upgrade Spotlight - Week 3

Only one more week left until Mahara gets upgraded on Tuesday 19th of November!

In the meantime though we'll have a quick look at how portfolio editing has changed.

The way you create each portfolio page hasn't changed, simply a few interface changes and some streamlining has taken place with the upgrade to make sure the process is and easy one.

Firstly when you used to create a portfolio page in the old version of Mahara the first page you were presented with was the adding of content page, however this left many people with an 'Untitled' page until they changed it. Now with the upgrade, when you create a new portfolio page the Title and Description are the first bits of information you edit. See Figure 1 below

Figure 1

When editing a portfolio page after the upgrade, you will notice that the main menu now persists throughout the editing process, making navigation seamless throughout using Mahara, to make this possible, more room was needed to make the editing space not feel cramped. This has been done by consolidating the portfolio artefacts into a side menu instead of the usual menu in the middle of page, see Figure 2 below.

Figure 2
 The process of dragging and dropping each element you require into your portfolio won't change.

We hope these changes, although small will help streamline the portfolio creation and editing process.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Technology Enhanced Learning Masterclasses: 12th & 13th November

The Elevate Team are running two masterclass sessions this week. These sessions are designed to give more focus on specific approaches or tools. They will cover both the rationale for the enhanced learning activity as well as the how.

Each topic is designed to last 30 mins, and we are rolling three topics into each session.

12th November, 10.00 to 11.30 in W315

  1. Using the peer assessment tool in LearnUCS
  2. How might I use a tablet (iPad or equivalent) in my teaching, learning and assessment?
  3. What is the LearnUCS retention centre, and why might it be useful for a lecturer?

13th November, 14.00 to 15.30 in W315

  1. How can I extend my teaching and assessment using web conference tools?
  2. I've used clickers for multiple choice questions in class, so what else can I use them for?
  3. What does LearnUCS offer as a learning and teaching tool?

These are drop-in sessions, so there is no need to book. If you need any additional information, please email

Thursday, 7 November 2013

LearnUCS (Blackboard) Video Guides

Blackboard have released some new video guides on the latest features in the Learn platform.

A selection of these videos can be seen below, it is well worth reviewing some of these features and tools, at the bottom of the page are further links to more videos.

Below are links to some more videos from other channels within Blackboard TV.

Are you a student where English is your second language? If yes, thisfree online course might be for you :-)

Are you a student at UCS and is English your second language? If yes, the University of Reading are providing a free course on "A beginner's guide to writing in English for university study". As mentioned this course is free, and provided as a MOOC (massive open online course), through the Future Learn platform (

The short course is a 3 hour commitment for four weeks, and on completion you will receive a certificate of achievement.

This course will provide you with a brief introduction to academic writing, enabling you to gain an awareness and understanding of some key features of this kind of writing. You’ll learn using a mix of video, on-screen examples, discussions, and quizzes.

You will develop some proficiency in a few key areas of ‘academic’ grammar, learn about the stages in essay writing, and produce an essay of your own. We will teach you how to organise an essay, use academic writing style and cover key areas of grammar, so that by the end of the course you are able to write a good, basic academic essay.

Throughout the course, we will analyse some examples of academic writing that have been produced by some of our former students, to show the improvements that can be made to an essay. These improvements are made by guiding and instructing the writer in the areas of content, organisation, language and the process of planning and drafting an essay.

The Elevate Team have not evaluated the course, however, given this is developed by the Univeristy of Reading, this implies it should be appropriate.

If you sign up and complete the course the Elevate Team would love to hear your thoughts and experience of this form of learning.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Mahara Upgrade Spotlight - Week 2

Only two weeks until Mahara gets upgraded!

This weeks spotlight we'll have a peek at the new look and feel of Mahara. This time around we have decided to go completely standard with the graphical user interface (GUI). Before we had a UCS branded blue theme as seen in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1
The new upgrade will revert back to what we call a 'Vanilla' theme, basically the default theme the Mahara software comes with, this has several benefits:

  1. With it being a standard theme we can utilise already available tutorials and video guides.
  2. Alleviate any extra development work when upgrading having to make sure a custom theme still works.
  3. Makes moving between potential Mahara systems easier.
Mahara's default theme is green in colour and has the enhanced dropdown menus to aid navigation as seen in Figure 2 below.

Figure 2
As you can see the main menu structure has persisted throughout. We hope this upgrade will bring a slicker and smoother navigation experience.

Upgrading to the latest version also brings with it a new responsive framework which detects the screen size you are accessing the site in and adjusts the layout accordingly. If you were to access the site from a mobile device it will adjust the menu and content to a more easily viewable and manageable size as seen in Figure 3 and 4 below.

Old - Figure 3
New - Figure 4

As you can see from the screenshots above, taken on a mobile device, the current UCS Mahara install on the left (Fig 3) half the content is off the screen, however Figure 4 shows that with the new software content has been adjusted to fit into the screen meaning the user will not have to scroll across the screen to access features.

Friday, 1 November 2013

JISC - ebook challenge: Lessons for UCS

The JISC have recently published the findings (ongoing) of the challenges of eBooks in Academic Institutions (

The goal of the “Challenge of ebooks…”project is to help orientate senior institutional managers (our primary audience) and to support institutions in the effective adoption and deployment of ebooks and ebook technology. As a consequence the project helps to support the wider ambition to enable improvements in the quality and impact of teaching, learning and research and meet rising staff and student expectations.

A key message from the project to date, in terms of the creation of ebooks is the need to take a cross team approach, based around Learning Technologists, Academics and Librarians. Interestingly, we have started this at UCS with a discussions Heritage resource (ebook). This has introduced an very exciting dimension with the need to include dynamic content within the ebook.

The intention of this project will be to develop a workflow, and UCS style as a proof of concept for course teams to follow. The expectation is to develop this resource, and document the lessons learnt during December 2013.