Friday, 28 November 2014

Innovating Pedagogy Report 2014: The Open University

The OU have published their annual Innovating Pedagogy Report (, which explores new forms of teaching, learning and assessment to guide educators and policy makers. They "list ten topics which have the potential to provoke major shifts in practice" (OU 2014, pg 3). There is also significant interest in this annual report from the Elevate Team, as the majority of the ideas will be enhanced and facilitated through learning technologies, as well us disseminating the report and transferring the ideas into our own practice.

From my perspective the report is reassuring with respect to to what we do. There are a number of innovations which are being championed at UCS with course teams, and some course teams are starting to redesign their curriculum to accommodate. This includes, the flipped classroom.

I am particularly interested in the emergence of the Learning to Learn innovation. The report suggests, "what we find difficult are learning what others want to teach us, and managing our learning in order to achieve particular goals and outcomes" (OU 2014, pg 4). Based on this, the innovation requires developing people to people able to be more effective learners. This dovetails really nicely with the innovations which are being piloted by Learning Services (of which Elevate is part), where we are trying to engaged with course teams to better support and develop digital literacies (study skills in old money) within their course timetables. The focus is from the board skills (developing reflective practice, search strategies, selecting the good stuff) to the specific (critical writing etc.,).

Another potential development (which I'd not thought about, although I do participate in and run !!) is event-based learning pedagogy. This offers synergies with our one off workshops. The synergies may develop further as we are looking at potential of gameifying our learning designs, and a number of wider team are running with lego serious play.

Again, a very thought provoking annual report ... Thanks to the OU Team :-)  

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Example of TEL based Learning Scenarios

The Elevate Team have released three Learning Scenario's around simple uses of Technology Enhanced Learning. These cover; twitter for discover and sharing of web resources, group authoring of MCQs for threshold concepts, and the use of LearnUCS group tools within summative group presentations.

A key aim is to raises awareness of the potential uses, however, other aims of the materials is around improving the design to enhance the likely effectiveness of your TEL implementation. Therefore, it includes the visualisation of the activity over time, and the use of a simplified learning design sequence to consider and plan for required resources, responsibilities and communication.

For more information about the learning design sequence, see;
Alternatively, contact the Elevate Team and we'd love to discuss how it might work for you.

With Thanks - Image -

UCS Email Update

The message below is from the IT Services team:

UCS Email Service - Preserving Email on Mobile Devices
Nov 27 2014 9:00AM by Robert Blackett

When we enable the recovered email system cached emails, stored on your mobile device, will be wiped and replaced with the newest contents of your inbox.
You are able to preserve some but not all of these cached emails if the following are enabled:
  • You have a UCS email account configured on your mobile device.
  • You have a second private email account configured on the same device.
  • You forward emails from the UCS account to your private account. - NB: emails with attachments, or embedded links may not be fowardable, due to device limitations.
  • If you have a UCS and private account configured on your mobile, we are happy to assist you in the Infozone.
A further announcement will be put out in the next few hours, about the state of the recovery process.
To re-emphasize the first paragraph: once we re-enable the email service you will lose all cached email on your mobile devices.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

UCS Email Problems - Elevate and Learning Services

Due to a serious hardware failure, the email accounts for Elevate, Learning Services and some individual staff are unavailable.

It is anticipated that the email accounts affected will not be available until mid-day tomorrow (26th November 2014) as our most optimistic estimate. Any emails sent to affected accounts will be stored and forwarded to the relevant account, when service is restored.

In the meantime please contact Learning Services via 01473 338700.

We will update here once we know the mail system is backup and running.

Learning Design Tips for Course Teams: #1 Assessment and Feedback

This set of learning design tips are based around the putting some practical steps to the Nicol & MacFarlane-Dick, Principles of Good Feedback (which I use regular as a starting point with Course Teams).

However, before the tips, I have included some background context via the slides. These look at the why from three integrated perspectives; the Principles of Good Feedback, making time for feedback through the flipped classroom model, and evening out the assessment pattern.

The aims of the following checklist are to act as a discussion point for course teams, e-Learning Developers, Student Representatives, Learning Services and wider stakeholders when considering assessment and feedback within the course design.

These tips have been developed around the Viewpoints Curriculum Development Workshop developed by the University of Ulster. The format is to state the principle, its interpretation by the University of Ulster team, and list some suggested approaches course teams can use to meet this principle.

The hope is, based on this review and the examples used in the checklist the course team can redesign their assessment (summative and formative) process to make it more effective.

Principle: Encourage time and effort on task

To what extent do your assessment tasks encourage regular study in and out of class and deep rather than surface learning?
  1. reduce the size (limited word count) and increase the number of learning tasks (or assessments). Distribute these across the module [with distance learners need to spread the assessments throughout the module]
  2. make such tasks compulsory with minimal marks (5/10%) [need to focus on activity design which facilitates high order learning skills]
  3. give learners online multiple-choice tests to complete and feedback [provide regular, small MCQs and based on the results identify weaknesses]
  4. provide learners with mock exams / assessments so they have opportunities to experience what is required award fewer marks for early assessments or allocate all marks for the later / last ones [this can be incorporated with point 2]
Principle: Clarify good performance

To what extent do learners in your course have opportunities to engage actively with goals, criteria and standards, before, during and after an assessment task?
  1. provide explicit marking criteria and performance-level definitions for all assessments [these can be included as an item associated with the appropriate submission point / activity]
  2. provide opportunities for discussion and reflection about criteria and standards before learners engage in a learning task [as a distance learning course, you could provide a video overview of the criteria, supported with a discussion board activity]
  3. Provide learners with model answers for assessment tasks and opportunities to make comparisons against their own work [release a model answer document - key points, bullet points for student to compare]
  4. Before an assessment, let learners examine selected examples of completed assessments to identify which are superior and why (individually or in groups) [set up an activity where they mark an assessment using the criteria against model answers]
Principle: Deliver high quality feedback

What kind of teacher feedback do you provide - in what ways does it help learners self-assess and self-correct?
  1. provide opportunities for learners to work through problems sets in tutorials - where you can give immediate and timely feedback
  2. give plenty of documented feedback in advance of learners attempting an assessment, ie frequently occurring problems list
  3. give plenty of feedback at the point which they submit their work, ie., release a model answer after submission. Remember, learners are most receptive for feedback when they have just worked through their assessment
  4. ensure feedback is provided in relation to previously stated criteria as it helps link the feedback to the expected learning outcomes instead of providing the correct answer, point learners to where they can find the correct answer
  5. ask learners to self-assess their own work before submission and provide feedback on this self-assessment, as well as the assessment. This might be involving the cover sheet.
Principle: Provide opportunities to act on feedback

To what extent is feedback attended to and acted upon by learners and if so, in what ways?
  1. increase the number of opportunities for re-submission of assessments [for online learners this is technically easy to do, it will be about designing the learning activity to be scaleable from a staff perspective. It might include drafts, or peer-assessment of drafts]
  2. avoid releasing the grade for an assessment or task until the learner has responded to the feedback by commenting on it [can use the journal tool in LearnUCS for the students to comment on their feedback]
  3. ask learners to find one or two examples of feedback which they useful and get them to suggest how it will help them in future assignments [use the journal tool in LearnUCS, and find time to sign this off]
Principle: Encourage interaction and dialogue

What opportunities are there for feedback dialogue (peer and/or teacher-learner) around assessment tasks in your course?
  1. encourage learners to give each other feedback on assessment in relation to published criteria before submission
  2. create peer dialogue by creating group projects. Structure the tasks so they are expected to discuss criteria before submission
  3. use clickers and poll everywhere in class, or other appropriate in class feedback techniques
  4. support the development of learning groups and communities
  5. ask learners (in pairs) to produce MCQ tests with extensive feedback
Principle: Develop self-assessment and reflection

To what extent are there formal opportunities for reflection, self-assessment or peer assessment in your course?
  1. structure opportunities for peers to assess and provide feedback on each others work
  2. use confidence based marking (CBM) where learners must rate their confidence that their answer is correct.
  3. use an assessment cover sheet with questions to encourage reflection and self-assessment before they hand it in. In particular, have they met the criteria, and estimate what mark they think they should be given (and why)
  4. directly involve learners in monitoring and reflecting on their own learning through e-portfolios. These reflections might be included within the low-stakes assessment.
  5. ask learners (in pairs) to produce MCQs over the duration of the module, with extensive feedback
Principle: Give assessment choice

To what extent do learners have choice in the topics, methods, criteria, weighting and/or timing of assessment tasks in your course?
  1. give learners the opportunity to select the topics or extended essays, to encourage ownership and increasing motivation
  2. require learner groups to generate the criteria (or some sub criteria) for the assessment and take these into account in the final assessment
  3. ask learners (in pairs) to produce MCQ tests with extensive feedback for key learning objectives, and let the rest of the group share these. A selection could be used in the final assessment
Principle: Inform and shape your teaching

To what extent do your assessments and feedback processes inform and shape your teaching?
  1. deploy one minute papers (students carry out a small assessment task, like a short answer question) and hand it in anonymously at the end of class. You use this to inform your teaching in the next session
  2. provide opportunities for frequent low-stakes assessment tasks with regular outputs to help gauge progress (online objective quiz with short answer feedback etc., or clickers & poll everywhere when in class)
  3. carry out a brief mid-term survey, so you have time to address major concerns
If you have any questions around incorporating TEL within your Learning Designs, please contact the Elevate Team within Learning Services (
Image - With Thanks -

Friday, 21 November 2014

Helping students understand assessment criteria: Approach #2

The Elevate Team as part of Learning Services provide a number of in curriculum study skills sessions. One module is Scientific Study Skills. This module also requires us to set and mark a formative assessment activity. This is delivered within a flipped classroom model; pre session (one hour, online), the session (one hour, group work) and the post session (two hours, individual formative assessment).

The focus of the formative assessment is two fold; to engage with the content, and engage with the marking criteria. For instance, the classroom based learning activity is group work, where the have to plan their formative assessment, drawing on information provided (pre-session and during the lecture) to answer the question set, given the marking criteria. The plan is generated on a flip chart which is discussed with the tutor.

Given the transparency of the formative assignment within the marking criteria, it is very straight forward to mark using the Rubrics tool within the Assignment (inline grading).

The following videos walk through the learning activity from two perspectives.

What does the student do?

What does the member of staff do?

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Helping students understand assessment criteria

The following shares some good practice with respect to the Elevate Team working with course teams to effectively embed technology enhanced learning within their curriculum.

We were approached by Federica Masieri (Dept STH), about how we might help them implement a project to improve students awareness of assessment marking criteria.

The background was members of the Department had identified this as a potential issues, and prioritised it within annual plan. 

There were a number of requirements;
  1. knowledge transfer around the assessment marking criteria, and support routes
  2. something which would engage and develop students
  3. monitor if students had used it
  4. a solution which could be rolled out across all their modules
The outcome was to develop the activities in LearnUCS around a quiz they'd previously mocked up. The quiz would be feedback intensive. So it would contain, "yes / no questions", and the feedback would contain all the learning materials. The quiz would also allow staff to be able to monitor students activity. 

In the first instance we've wrapped a number of resources around the quiz. So, a new navigation item has been added. This area contains, welcome message and diagnostic quiz. On completion of the quiz, a number of additional resources were released depending on their performance (used the adaptive release feature). These provided students with more directed support (on top of the quiz feedback). The new items included information on how Learning Services could support the student through understanding marking criteria.

Through the copy function within LearnUCS the resource is easily rolled out across other LearnUCS modules.

The next steps include; creating some video stories from students and staff around interpreting and understanding the assessment marking criteria, and enhancing the "where next" from Learning Services to include connections with our Assignment Toolkit, and workshops programme.

Federica and others within the Department will be evaluating the success of the pilot and disseminating the outcomes through a range of channels.