Friday, 28 February 2014

Providing online, real time drop-in surgeries for staff and students: google hangouts

The Elevate Team offer a number of support routes including Drop-in Surgeries in various buildings, at various times for various audiences (staff and students). This have various levels of success :-)

We are aware this approach has a number of limitations, in particular, geography (excludes the learning network), and time (not very flexible). Therefore, we will be piloting the use of Google Hangouts to offer an online, real time, surgery for both staff and students to ask questions around support and development of technology enhanced learning.

The aims are

  1. to provide a regular, online surgery for all staff and students across UCS
  2. further develop are knowledge around effective uses of Google Hangouts (web conferencing) to transfer to course teams and curriculum design
  3. explore if this service could be offered within core support hours (9.00 to 17.00)

In the initial period the "office hour" will be every Thursday, 14.00 to 15.00. We'll be distributing a short url to our Google Hangouts event page. We'll be using the on air facility to enable the session to be recorded and the use of Q&A feature. The recording will to allow us to slice up the session as video guides, and auto archive to our YouTube channel.

The use of Hangouts on Air will mean it is more open (a good thing), however, it will mean we'll not address certain questions which will lead to potential data protection issues. Those areas will be dealt with off line.

Participation can be through two routes:

  1. view only - you will need to simply go to the URL and watch
  2. ask questions - you will need to access the event with a google account

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Screencastify - A Google Chrome Screen Capture Extension.

For those of us who use Google Chrome and make use of the plethora of extensions that are available I'd like to raise your awareness of one that we have come across which you might find useful.

Screencastify is an extension to the Google Chrome browser that lets you very quickly and simply record what's going on in either a single 'Tab' or your complete desktop, including audio.

The extension itself is very easy to use and there aren't a lot of options to configure. Once installed you simply click the extension icon and click record. Once you have finished you can click stop.

Once you have recorded your video it stores the video locally within the extension, here you can choose to download it for further editing or, and this is a major bonus, upload directly into your YouTube.

We have tested a few screencasts with this and are happy with the results. You can even present from Google Slides or PowerPoint and as long as your record the 'Desktop' you will record the presentation and of course any audio voice over that accompanies it. This has the potential to replace the use of Debut here at UCS as the primary method of recording the screen, we will be in discussions with IT Services here to investigate the options.

If you use Google Chrome and would like to use Screencastify you can install the extension from Chrome's Web Store - Screencastify on Google Web Store

Monday, 24 February 2014

Online webinars on using Clickers in Teaching and Learning

An increasing number of people at UCS are using clickers in their teaching, and the Elevate Team are working with course teams on developing more effective learning designs which combine clickers (face to face teaching) and online (LearnUCS).

For instance, a learning design might be at the end of a set of lectures around a key theme, the lecturer would like to assess the level of understanding within the class. However, the lecturer is keen this isn't simply them providing a number of questions. One potential solution is;

  • Create Groups in LearnUCS, with Group wiki tool
  • Auto enrol 4 students in each group
  • Each Group must write two MCQs. This must include 5 answer options, the correct answer marked, why the correct answer is correct and why the group thinks it is a good question
  • Select 5 questions across all the groups
  • Group activity - one clicker amongst three students
Post Session
  • Upload saved powerpoint to LearnUCS
  • Create a quiz using the unused questions
There are a large number of different opportunities for you to use Clickers in your Teaching and Learning Models.

We are pleased to say, the company who develop the clickers (TurningPoint Technologies) are running a number of online support and development webinars during 3rd and 7th March. See the link below, and note ... at UCS we use the Powerpoint Polling option.
We'd encourage you to attend one of the above sessions, and if you have any questions, please contact the Elevate Team and we'll help embed this within your teaching.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Elevate Team Staff Development Videos: February, 2014


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 one which is less well known tool.

How to use the tool

How to create a random block of test questions

If you are using the quiz engine (objective questions) for formative feedback activities, you can add a random block of questions to your test. This is intended to reduce the likelihood of students getting the same questions as each other, or if you allow the student multiple attempts, of getting the same questions. The following Blackboard guide illustrates the idea

How to create a blog

The blog tool offers a number of exciting opportunities within your teaching and assessment model. The following video guide illustrates how to set up a blog on your course.

Learning Design Considerations

The following video is based upon the ideas around making your assessment pattern more even:
If you'd like to discuss how you might use these tools in your teaching, learning and assessment, please email the Elevate Team (

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Workshop: Designing a technology enhanced feedback and assessment pattern (a win, win for staff and students)

This workshop is part of the PGCHEP Module 2 programme at UCS for new lecturers.

The following would be of interest to lecturers, staff developers and curriculum managers.

The workshop design focusses on engaging participants to make a more informed decision around how they might use technology enhanced feedback and assessment.

The emphasis is to encourage lecturers to select a current module they are teaching, articulate the assessment and feedback model (summative and formative), and redesign the module based on conversations, and as an outcome of the workshop.

The discussion around the opportunity of a win, win, draws on the context of current good practice across the UK HEIs, incorporating, the principles of good feedback, making time in the classroom for discussion, and the benefits of more even assessment patterns. A theme running across these areas are the concepts of feedback and feed forward.

The benefits of a more even assessment pattern were based on the findings of the ESCAPE Project, at the University of Hertfordshire. I'd encourage you to watch the video linked below.

The discussion shifts to a few examples of where appropriate design has enabled technology enhanced assessment. For instance, the screenshot below highlights how the assessment pattern has been evened out through replacing an essay with a set of short answer and MCQ papers. This aims to reduce the stake, increase the frequency, and the quantity and quality of feedback and feed forward to the student without a significant increase in staff workload. These type of examples were used to stimulate discussion and creative ideas across the group. It is not viewed as the solution, but more a point to start discussions.

Screenshot from workshop

The final aspect of the workshop was for the lecturer to revisit their module assessment and feedback model to redesign to incorporate these new possibilities.

The slides of are available below.

If you have any questions how you might do this, please email the Elevate Team (

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

What is the role of eBooks: The UCS Students’ Perspective

The aim of this blog post is to identify what students at UCS think about eBooks within their learning.

Summons search tool
Our stories suggest the majority of students at UCS have heard of eBooks and most of those have had some use of them. Interestingly, they accessed eBooks via desktop computer using the Summons (UCS Library) search tool. Accessing via this tool tended to limit eBooks to text intensive versions.

The results of our small sample survey highlights most students haven’t experienced a multimedia, interactive intensive designed eBook.

The Elevate Team would like to work with specific subject areas that they believe will be more engaged with multimedia eBooks, for students that are less classroom based.

An emerging idea from this work is there is a clear need for text intensive ebooks which support face to face teaching and learning models. There is also a niche area around creating more multimedia rich and interactive intensive eBooks. This is likely to be where students are learning off campus.

The recommendations are:

  1. Work with a specific course team who have a large amount of off campus learning to explore the opportunities of creating eBooks
  2. Research and test eBook authoring tools
  3. Develop a more enhanced eBook as a prototype for effective multimedia and interactivity intensive learning designs


The aim of this short research project is to better understand eBooks from the students’ perspective. In particular, what do students think an eBook is and what role does it have in their learning?

There are a number of related discussions at UCS around eBooks. 

  • IT Services are aiming to reduce printing costs at an institutional level. Part of this solution might be to provide course and programme handbooks as an eBook version.
  • Library Services are a large owner of eBooks currently, there are many advantages to the Library owning eBooks compared to physical stock around space, budget and availability issues. 
  • The Elevate Team have been exploring effective learning design within interactive and multimedia elements for distance learning courses. 

Before going ahead and dedicating a lot of time and resource developing new content, the team needed to find out how eBooks were currently perceived and if indeed there was a need for full blown highly interactive eBooks within the institution.

This report will hopefully answer these questions and help steer any developments in this area.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Group Peer Assessment

We were recently given a task by a course team here at UCS to look at how they could incorporate technology to enhance their assessment model for group work which involved a peer assessment element.

The first tool that springs to mind is the Self/Peer Assessment Tool (SPAT) that's available in BlackBoard (LearnUCS), however after our initial meeting with the team it became clear this wasn't going to work.

The SPAT in LearnUCS allows a textual assignment or activity to be distributed, depending on settings, to the rest of the cohort, each student being given one or more of the other students work to grade and feedback upon. Students can be given model answers to support textual questions and help aid them in their peer assessment.

The course team however needed a solution that would work for groups of students. Where each group would peer assess each individual in their group without it being anonymous.

These were the requirements:
  • 7 Groups
  • Each group working on a Poster
  • Need to assess the final product (Poster)
  • Need to assess the process of collaborative working
  • Peer assess each other by giving a score (%) based on input to the group work
  • A process to highlight students not pulling their weight in the group
Eldan Goldenberg -
The flow would be each group working together on a poster, at the end, a practical presentation of the poster will reward 20% of the final mark from the lecturers observation. 10% of the final mark will be given to students to distribute between themselves based on who they feel contributed to the creation of the poster activity. The other 70% of the students mark is built up through other assignments.

The Elevate Team huddled and came up with a mixed face to face and online solution for the course team. This consisted of using two tools available in LearnUCS.
  • Group Wikis
  • Journal Tool
Our proposed methodology would consist of each individual student using the Journal Tool to record reflective pieces throughout the creation process of the poster, private to themselves and the lecturer. Using the Journal Tool in this way gives the student the ability to reflect on the positive elements of the activity and highlight any other members of the groups lack of involvement.

The group would collectively add-to and amend the Group Wiki page a draft of the final poster, this would essentially become a 'working' area for the group. A lecturer could then go into the revision history and check individuals or groups activity.

The face to face element of this process would see each group of students presenting their poster to their lecturers, after this they would be instructed to sit in their group and discuss (Peer Assessment) who would get a cut of the final percentage for their contribution to the poster. The students would be advised that if they all feel they contributed equally, the score is spread evenly. Once an agreed final score is set, a designated 'scribe' would then update the group wiki page with the scores.

If someone has been highlighted as not contributing to the group activity, a lecturer can support students concerns by reviewing the revision history on the wiki and the journal tool where they could see if students raised specific issues.

This helps weave the process through many elements, a technology enhanced working or draft area, a reflective element and a face to face peer assessment element of which the result is posted back to an online environment to close the activity down.

We will work with the course team to make sure this process is supported and will gather their feedback at the end of the activity.

Monday, 10 February 2014

LearnUCS SafeAssign Issues

The Elevate Team have been alerted that there appears to be an issue with SafeAssign.

When uploading zip files via Direct Submit most, if not all are being rejected as an Unsupported Format.

We have raised this as an issue with Blackboard Support and we will update once we know more.

Friday, 7 February 2014

The technologies that are shaking up education – in pictures

The Guardian recently published technologies that are shaking up education. These are available from;

First observation was a pat on the back as we (UCS & Elevate) are involved in the use of three (clickers, augmented reality education applications, and lecturer capture) and we have had conversations with Arts & Humanities around potential external funding for 3D printing.

The second observation is, wouldn't it be nice is we had some Google Glasses ... they discuss a really nice application in Medicine. I'd suggest there are application as UCS within Science.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Getting started with the flipped classroom teaching model


The aim of this discussion is to help teaching staff at UCS contextualise a flipped classroom teaching model and identify what tools might facilitate ‘flipped classroom” within their learning designs. Therefore, it is not intended to be a definitive introduction to this fluid topic, and after reading this you are encouraged to contact the Elevate Team to discuss your ideas further.

The Elevate Team encourage staff to think about a flipped classroom teaching and learning model. This includes supporting and developing individuals and course teams to achieve their objectives.

The discussion addresses the following questions;
  • what is a flipped classroom?
  • what educational context underpins a flipped classroom?
  • what technologies might facilitate the flipped classroom at UCS?
  • how might it work in practice?
What is the flipped classroom?

Educase (2012) suggest the “flipped classroom is a pedagogical model in which the typical lecture and homework elements of a course are reversed.

Short video lectures are viewed by students at home before the class session, while in-class time is devoted to exercises, projects, or discussions. The video lecture is often seen as the key ingredient in the flipped approach, such lectures being either created by the instructor and posted online or selected from an online repository.

While a prerecorded lecture could certainly be a podcast or other audio format, the ease with which video can be accessed and viewed today has made it so ubiquitous that the flipped model has come to be identified with it.

The notion of a flipped classroom draws on such concepts as active learning, student engagement, hybrid course design, and course podcasting. The value of a flipped class is in the repurposing of class time into a workshop where students can inquire about lecture content, test their skills in applying knowledge, and interact with one another in hands-on activities. During class sessions, instructors function as coaches or advisors, encouraging students in individual inquiry and collaborative effort”.

This definition is useful, however, you might question if the pre-session activity has to be a video. You might not want to follow this very prescriptive model. For instance, the pre-session activity could be journal review, short MCQ, social bookmarking activity or discussion board activity. The important aspect is the learner is able to draw on the pre-session activity within your classroom session.

The Centre for Teaching, at Vanderbilt University suggest there are four key elements to a flipped classroom which need to be incorporated within the learning design.
  • Provide an opportunity for students to gain first exposure prior to class
  • Provide an incentive for students to prepare for class
  • Provide a mechanism to assess student understanding
  • Provide in-class activities that focus on higher level cognitive activities
A cautionary word is highlighted in the image at the start of this post.

What is the underpinning educational context of its use?

The educational context of its use can be explored through a number of different routes. The following is not a definitive list.

Bloom’s Taxonomy

In the context of Bloom’s revised taxonomy (2001), it means students are undertaking the lower levels of cognitive work (gaining knowledge and comprehension) outside of class, and focusing on the higher forms of cognitive work (application, analysis, synthesis, and/or evaluation) in class, where they have the support of their peers and instructor. (from Vanderbilt University)

Constructivist Learning Models

The constructivist learning models are often referenced when designing approaches for students to acquire higher order learning skills.

“As long as there were people asking each other questions, we have had constructivist classrooms." (Brooks, 1999 from UCD Teaching and Learning Team)

Constructivism theory can be broadly divided into:
  • Cognitive (individual) constructivism: ideas are constructed by the student through a personal process
  • Social (group) constructivism: ideas are constructed by the student through interactions with others (peers, lecturers and others)
It could be suggested these two easily transfer to a flipped classroom context with the learning design incorporating the strengths of both. The Table illustrates the relative importance of the learning model with the mode of delivery.

Post Session

The relative strength of the learning model in terms of implementation within the modes of delivery can be weaved into the learning designs. For instance, the learning design should focus on cognitive processes within the online components (pre and post), as these are more readily implemented to online learning spaces. While, the social learning processes are readily suited to the face to face teaching context.

What technologies at UCS might facilitate the flipped classroom?

There are a number of technologies available at UCS which will help facilitate a flipped classroom;

Before the session (Online)

This should encourage students to access knowledge for understanding and applying before they attend the session. This would involve completing learning tasks and activities. In terms of motivation it is useful to design the learning activity to enable monitoring. This might be through including discussion board activities or short MCQs.
  • Video (including talk over powerpoints, and open education resources)
  • Readings (including links, articles or student generated content)
During the Session (Classroom)

The face to face time is used for creating, evaluating and analyzing the knowledge gained from the Pre-Session Activity. The following technologies should enable discourse and debate.
  • Audience Response Systems (Clickers)
  • Text Walls (Twitter, Poll Everywhere)
  • Bring your own devices (Student Smartphones to take and share photo or video evidence)
  • Flip charts and write on walls (depending in your teaching room)
  • Visualiser
After the session (Online)

This should cement the learning outcomes and bring some form of closure. This might involve you or the student making summaries.
  • Course blog
  • Summary recordings
  • Links to further reading
How might it work in practice? Reflections on IMDSCF003

The following is based on a lecture in IMDSCF003-13S1D (Communication and Study Skills).
The assessment model is a peer assessed formative assessment task (500 words). However, given a large proportion of the students are unlikely to have any previous experienced of peer assessment the learning model needed to provide opportunities for students to apply the marking scheme to example work. This required dedicating a large proportion of the lecture to this task. To create time, the session was flipped.

Pre-Session Activity

The pre-session activity was designed to take about 1 hour. The screenshot for LearnUCS illustrates the adopted process.

There were four tasks which needed to be completed, Including, knowledge transfer tasks (video), gathering information from students (quiz) and scaffolded reading (journal articles). The emphasis of the learning model was around cognitive constructivism.

The quiz task was an open question which aimed to gather information from the student. It also acted as a monitoring tool for the lecturer.

When reflecting on the activities it could have been enhanced with more thoughtful questions around the videos. This would have provided individuals with some scaffolding in terms of what they should take from the video.

Classroom Session

A key point within a flipped classroom model is to use the material in the pre-session activity within the lecture. This is strongly associated with the need to provide feedback and motivation.

Therefore, the lecturer applied a number of approaches to encourage (sign post) the pre-session activities within their assignment and motivate engagement. For instance;
  • on one slide I included the names of those who had completed the pre-activity quiz (reference a big hands up), and on the same slide the percentage of the students who hadn’t logged in (easily identified using the LearnUCS Retention Centre).
  • the next slide was a selection of response to the quiz question which I discussed within the framework of the question.
  • I encouraged all students to re-visit the LearnUCS module where I’d added an item which listed all the quiz responses.
  • I made reference to the pre-session reading when discussing a framework for effective implementation
  • It also created a significant amount of time in the lecture session for the peer assessment activity. This included, talking through the marking criteria, and group work to mark a number of exemplars (using the clickers to quantify the discussion).
Post Session

The post-session activity was to include an item in LearnUCS which summarised the group peer assessment grades and the model the grades from the lecturer.

This is a simple learning design which re-enforces the elements of an effectively flipped classroom;
  • Provide an opportunity for students to gain first exposure prior to class - video and scaffold readings
  • Provide an incentive for students to prepare for class - motivation through communications
  • Provide a mechanism to assess student understanding - clickers and class discussion
  • Provide in-class activities that focus on higher level cognitive activities - clickers and class discussion
There is also the opportunity to add a fifth element
  • Provide an opportunity for activities to be closed: closed down with summary of class outcomes to allow the individual student to reflect upon
Where next for you?

You are strongly recommended to contact the Elevate Team at UCS to discuss your ideas further, and ensure you have all you need to ensure you can effectively flip your classroom. Alternatively, the Elevate Team will be running an online course around flipping your classroom, see:

  • Educase (2012) Seven things you should know about the … Flipped Classroom, available from: (accessed on 28th January, 2014)
  • Centre for Teaching, Vanderbilt University, Flipping the Classroom, available from (accessed on 28th January, 2014)
  • Teaching and Learning Team, University Campus Dublin, Educational Theory: Constructivism and Social Constructivism, available from: (accessed on 28th January, 2014)
  • The Elevate Team, University Campus Suffolk (2012), An illustration of why and how you might flip your classroom, available from (accessed on 28th January, 2014)
With Thanks

Monday, 3 February 2014

Where have all the e-learning developers gone?

Just to mention, Aaron and David are off this week (week starting 3rd Feb) on a e-learning development sprint. The aim of this sprint (short, intensive piece of work) is to write a report around some key aspects of e-books. The broad question are;
            • What do students understand by the term e-book?
            • How do students think they might be used to enhance their learning?
            • How are e-books being used at other UK HEI’s?
            • What e-book authoring tools are available?
This sprint will help align some of our previous work which has focussed on working with staff to develop multimedia rich, highly interactive e-books. We are very keen to align this approach to current student perceptions and needs.