Monday, 18 August 2014

LearnUCS 2014/15 Module Template - Focused yet Flexible

We have used module templates in LearnUCS for a number of years, they allow us to pre-build materials into all modules/courses that get released for the new academic year.

Once a template is created and then used to generate new module and course sites, those module are then set to that content.  UCS are a managed hosted client of Blackboard's, so we have no write access to the central databases, making global changes to modules/courses not possible.

Following a small review of the VLE, we were aware of feedback that was suggesting more timely, focused support for both staff and students.  Being timely, means that content needs to change at different points of the year.  This in turn makes templates difficult, as be definition they tend to be static once created.

This year the Elevate team have taken a different approach, meaning the content in the templates can be changed, globally.  We are able to be both focused and flexible, to achieve this we are using RSS feeds from this blog.

We have setup three keyword labels:
  • StudentsLearnUCS
  • StaffLearnUCSSupport
  • StudentSubmissionLearnUCS
We have a RSS feed building block in LearnUCS, this has been deployed three times in the template:
  • Assessment Folder
  • Help Folder
  • Staff EMA Support Folder (hidden from students)
Any blog post that uses one or more of those labels will mean that post is automatically displayed in the list of FAQs in one or more of the folders in every module/course.

The advantage of using RSS to control support page content is that we are able to amend, remove or add new content at any time to the 1300 module sites in LearnUCS.

We are able to make them timely, by re-ordering them or adding new content to the top of the list to coincide with assessment times.

By changing the date of the post to the blog, enables us to re-order the FAQs.

Below is an image showing how they are displayed in the module sites.

This year we have also introduced a new menu item, as shown below:

This set to "hidden", so it is only available to academic staff and not students.  This area again pulls in support material from this blog via RSS.  These materials are designed to offer support specifically for EMA - Electronic Management of Assessments.  These new materials were designed after an EMA review this summer, which showed that academic staff were asking for more support material.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Open Badges Generator & Issuer - Feature Updates!

This is a small blog post to update everyone with some recent developments with our Open Badges Generator & Issuer.

New Features:

  • Badges issued now reference a unique 8 character ID instead of a row number. This will allow us to maintain a clean data sheet and be able to sort issued badges without disrupting any non issued badges.
  • Badges can now have an expiry date. We really wanted this implementation as it allows us to tag certain badges for expiry to indicate a need for refreshing skills periodically.
  • Removed the need for the external proxy script.
  • Unified some naming conventions
  • Adjusted some guideline notes
The source code has been updated to the latest version, previous versions can be found using GitHub's own version control.

Here is the link to the guide:

This documentation is provided on the basis that the viewer has some technical knowledge of Javascript Syntax, basic Google Apps Script and basic HTML/CSS knowledge.

And here is a link to the updated source code:

Monday, 11 August 2014

2014/15 Modules Released

Modules for academic year 2014/15 have been released late this afternoon.  Academic staff should contact their course administrator for access to these newly released modules.

Please see the blog post here for help with rolling content over from a current module.

These modules now contain a menu item that is only available to staff, this area contains a list of FAQs that help support academic use of Electronic Marking of Assessment (EMA) features.

Content Rollover - 13/14 to 14/15

We will be releasing the new 2014/15 modules tomorrow, 12 August 2014.  Once these have been released academic staff can request access via their course administrator.

Once academic staff have access they can start to populate the modules with content.  This can be done in two ways, individual items can be copied from one module to another, or a bulk "module copy" can be completed.

The video below shows both of these routes for copying.

All 2014/15 modules are being created as "unavailable", meaning they need to be set to available before students can access them.  The end of the above video shows how to make a module available for students.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Small things do matter: some reflections on 2013/14

The following snippets capture how the Elevate Team have been working with individual at UCS to explore how they might enhance their teaching and learning.

This is part of our wider commitment to evaluating the impact of the service we provide. The aim is not to focus on large scale projects (this is done elsewhere - see link), but the intention is to capture small scale interventions which have had a positive impacted on practice.
Theme What were they wanting to achieve? How did we help? Did it work? Who did we work with?
Capturing student presentations for summative assessment A request was to record student presentations. These presentations would contributed towards their final marks. Stephen want them recorded to enable him to provide more specific feedback, and provide access for the external examiner.
Our role was to record the student and the presentation, edit the films to ensure the audio was acceptable, and forward the links to Stephen to share as required.
The feedback from Stephen was very positive, it allowed him to focus on different aspects within the actual presentation as afterwards he would re-visited the presentation.
This intervention should have enhanced the feedback and assessment process.

Stephen Sawyers
Using social media: Twitter The Elevate Team facilitate workshops during the student induction period to raise awareness of a selection of technologies a student might use to enhance their learning.
One of the activities we develop is to use Twitter as a Personal Learning Network to gather insights, resources and discourse from other students, practitioners, professionals and peers.
Some very positive feedback was captured from one of the students in a blog post.
The feedback shows that our session was transformational for some students. Based on this and other sessions we are exploring alternative delivery methods to widen opportunities.

More info
Sharing resources: Diigo Trevor wished to enable his students to more effectively share, and annotate web resources which they’d discovered.
The software we suggested was Diigo. To help the implementation, we trained Trevor, we wrote a short student guide, we attended a session with the students to support them, and answer questions. We also provided a follow up support session.
The outcomes seemed positive, the students shared resources they’d discovered and left comments to help contextualisation.
Trevor Grimshaw
Course Validations The Elevate Team support course teams as they prepare materials for validations and approvals. We have been exploring the different models we could use.
After discussion with Allison, we attend a course team meeting, and developed a support plan. This involved providing some bespoke training sessions to the team on the effective learning designs for technology enhanced learning. This includes both online and face to face teaching. In addition, we discussed the likely student support requirements and potential solutions.
This led to enhancing members of the course teams through introducing new ideas and developing their technical skills.
In addition, an outcome was to collaborate on the development of an online taster course.

Allison Boggis
More info
Creating and embedding multimedia resources The Elevate Team were asked to support the creation of an online presentation for students to access anywhere, anytime. After speaking with Nickey Rooke we were aware that the presentation was currently in an online unfriendly format.
To get the most out of an online presentation the Elevate Team worked with Nickey to use a screen capture tool to allow the presentation and Nickey’s voice to be captured and synchronised. The end result was a video of the presentation as it appeared on screen, with Nickey’s voice overlayed talking through the presentation.
The advantage of this approach is that we were able to embed the video into LearnUCS meaning the video was accessible to all students on any device. As well as this, as this was a video, the students had full control of the rate at which they watched. They have the ability to pause, rewind, fastforward etc. allowing them to engage much more with the content of the presentation.
Nicky Rooke
Formative objective testing The request was to design a number of regular formative assignments to monitor student progress, and provide more focussed feedback. This feedback was going to be provided in the classroom setting. The learning design was informed by a flipped classroom model.
After discussing the pros and cons of various options with Will, the selected approach was to use the LearnUCS quiz engine. We trained the lecturer on the quiz engine, and discussed question management, re-use etc. We also provided ongoing support through the module.
The feedback from the lecturer was very positive, and we have discussed ideas around making the process more effective for the next implementation.
In the wider context this approach has encouraged more use of MCQs in summative assignments.

Will Thomas
Peer Learning & Assessment We were asked by the Social Work team to help them identify the best way to engage students with group peer assessment using LearnUCS.
After some initial talks it was decided to take the most positive elements of both face to face and online solutions.
The students would use the VLE to collaboratively draft up a poster presentation, groups would then present and peer score each other face to face. The end discuss would be put up onto group wikis for each group to sign off.
The end result was a collaborative effort between the e-Learning Developers and the Social Work team. Initial feedback has been very positive and we haven’t had any support queries regarding the process or technology involved.

Sue Taplin
More info
Extending the classroom: Google Hangouts The Elevate Team were approached to provide advice and support for real time, online lectures, allowing external speakers to engage with UCS students. We met with the course team to discuss and complete a requirements capture, so we would know exactly what their needs were. This introduced a new element to the scenario, they wanted the lecture to be broadcast live, publically, but then to have a closed discussion, just between the lecture theatre and the external presenter(s).
Two weeks before the lecture we created a Google Hangout event in Google Plus, this creates an event page where both external presenters and students can sign-up to the lecture. Then a few days before the event we had an appointment with the external presenter(s) to invite them into a Hangout, allowing them to familiarise themselves with the tool.
Google Hangouts allows you to choose when to start broadcasting, this means once the first part of the lecture was over, we could stop the live broadcast and only those in the lecture theatre and the external speakers could communicate, allow for questions without fear of personal information being publicly broadcast.
After the broadcast was finished, the Hangout’s recording is processed and it becomes available from the event’s page that was originally set up, allowing students to review their time with external subject specialists.

Sarah Housden
Enhancing reflection: Mahara As part of our Digital Literacies Programme we run an online course called e-Portfolios for the reflective learner. The course designed introduces the students to what e-portfolios are and what being a reflective learner is all about.
We had 14 students complete the course and one student was willing to be recorded about how effective the tool (Mahara) had been and what she was now using it for.
The feedback was positive as the student states she is now using Mahara regularly to record her reflections to use in her course.
More info
Course Team Training Sessions As an ongoing commitment to develop staff across the Learning Network we provide ad hoc sessions at their colleges.
A request from Paddy Shaw at Great Yarmouth was to run a session during their HE Professional Discussion Day.
The two hour session was delivered to eight lecturers. It covered a range of topics, which were weaved together within a flipped classroom narrative.
The feedback was positive, and Paddy said the session was well received. We’ll follow up with individual sessions during September and October, 2014.

More info
Audio feedback using iPads (iAnnotate) A request from a course team was to pilot a more innovative feedback model for a formative assignment compared to current approach which was text based feedback.
After discussions with the course team, they wished to try audio feedback.
Our role was to loan a number of iPads, with the iAnnotate software installed. We provided staff training on the software.
We ensured the student work submitted via LearnUCS was accessible on the iPad, and staff could mark it. Afterwards we transferred the annotated work back to LearnUCS, and provided advice to students on how to access their feedback.
The initial feedback from the course team was very positive. The course team are indicating they would like to further explore this area in the future.

Heather Rugg

Image Source:

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Open Badge Requirements

After the recent issuing of Open Badges to those who either took an online course or attended an event here at UCS, the team decided to sit down and discuss what exactly what we would advise for issuing further badges.

We were keen to make sure we weren't diluting the achievement based elements of gaining a badge by simply issuing them to whoever turned up to an event.

For our pilot badges we decided to make sure the participant had to actually participant in someway to the event or course.

For example, the students who took the e-Portfolios for the reflective learner course received there badges shortly after completing the course. During the course the students had to complete a short number of tasks and submit a final portfolio. This was their activity or task to prove that they had participated in the course.

The sentiment that the badge should prove that the participant has been 'involved' in their learning by proving active communication, teamwork or critical thinking was echoed in a recent Edudemic post 'Why The Future of Education Involves Badges' (

"Articulating benefits from general education and extracurricular activities. For general education courses, colleges can use learning design principles to define “soft skill” outcomes and then measure competency against these objectives. Students who demonstrate they have acquired these critical job-ready soft skills will earn job-relevant badges in areas like critical thinking, research, oral and written communication, collaboration, leadership and teamwork."

This is why we advise NOT to simply issue a badge based on lets say for instance simply attending a workshop or conference.

We would suggest, instead, offering up a badge for anyone who wishes to submit a reflective piece based around any key messages they have taken away from that workshop or conference. This ticks multiple boxes, firstly it gets the participant actively involved in their learning and secondly it provides a nice conduit for more in-depth feedback about said workshop or conference. It may well depend on what information you wish to capture however we would advise keeping any reflective piece to around 150-200 words.