Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Social Media for Learning in Higher Education Conference at Sheffield Hallam University.

The Conference has run for a few years but was announced it would be the last time it would be run in this format. A new format will be announced sometime in early 2018.

The morning consisted of an approach called Build your own Conference (BYOC). The idea of this was that delegates could suggest an idea for a session or better still lead it. At the beginning of the day these were assigned to group common themes and allocate rooms.

The first session we attended was around an app swap of learning and teaching. A number of apps were suggested including:
  • Padlet
  • Wunderlist
  • Trello
  • Metaverse
There was a short introduction to Raspberry PI computers and suggested that Code Club was a good place to learn more about coding for a Raspberry Pi.

We then attended a session which used Lego to convey how you personally felt about social media which birthed some weird and wonderful creations.
In the afternoon we attended a session with a round table discussion on the idea of whether Social Media should be used in learning and teaching and what issues should be considered when using it in a learning context. This brought in a number of viewpoints but the consensus was that whilst Social media does seem to mostly have its place you need to exercise caution when using it.

Lastly we attended the TEF Crystal Maze. This used a series of challenges (or zones) to unlock a number of codes. In Turn you gain up to 3 crystals for each task. The winning team is the one with the most crystals.This was a great way to learn a little more about a topic that otherwise can be a little heavy.

Overall the day presented some interesting discussion around social media and its use in higher education. I look forward to seeing whats next for the conference in whichever form it decides to become.

Friday, 19 January 2018

You can hide marks from Students so they can only see the feedback - MOLE Assignment Tool

Whilst looking into something in Grade Centre, I stumbled across a way of hiding the grades from a student initially, so they can only see their feedback, and then revealing the grades at a later time.

This only works using the MOLE assignment tool, and you would need to hide the rubric scores if you were using those, but it does give you a way of allowing access to feedback whilst marks are being moderated.

Click on the link below to see the full guide

Guide on how to hide marks

Friday, 12 January 2018

Durham Blackboard Users Conference 2018

The conference theme
Last week I had the pleasure of spending time in Durham for the annual Blackboard Users Conference. Now in it's 17th year, I've been lucky enough to attend over the last 7 years and it has been a great time to meet people and learn about what is happening across the UK with other Blackboard VLE institutions (MOLE runs on Blackboard Learn).

This year, I was presenting about our move to running MOLE based exams and how it has developed over the last 5 years. I got a lot of questions at the end of my session, so I'll take that as a sign that it went well :)

The conference started for me on Wednesday afternoon with the Blackboard Mobile and Collaborate User Group. This runs as a hybrid meeting, with people both in the room at Durham, and connecting in via the Blackboard Collaborate online collaborative learning platform. This gives us a chance to find out what others are doing with their mobile platforms, find out the issues and problems that arise, and how the challenges have been overcome. An update round the meeting from each institution allowed us to set the scene, and then we had members of the Blackboard Mobile team joining us from the US to present some of the new features that are coming soon, and to take feedback from us on the mobile apps. It's a good way to kick off the conference, and the discussions carried on over an meal in the evening.

Thursday morning saw the start of the conference 'properly', with a welcome from the Durham PVC for Education, and then the usual conference opening from Malcolm Murray, who heads up the Learning Technologies Team in Durham who organise and run the conference. Next up was the keynote from NUI Galway's Sharon Flynn. A long time attendee of the conference, it was great to have a keynote from the community for a change, rather than someone coming in from outside. With the conference theme of 'The Good, The Bad and The Ugly' (the theme is always suggested by the attendees of the previous year) Sharon wove this into her talk about where they had been and where they were heading. Sharon was the inspiration that triggered TELFest for Farzana and myself, so it was lovely to get a mention from Sharon about this during the keynote.Unfortunately illness gave me a late change for the next session, as the presenter I had earmarked to listen to had been unable to make it, so I jumped in the session Urkund were running to show how their plagiarism detection tool has been integration into Blackboard Learn. As we are a heavy user of Turnitin, I am interested to seeing what alternatives are out there, even though there is no consideration in moving away from a service. A spot of lunch is always good as it's a chance to catch up with people as well as actually eating something. I had a number of things I wanted to talk about and these contacts are invaluable in helping us improve how we do things - this year has been no exception in providing this help for me :)

After lunch I went to listen to how Edinburgh approached gathering meaningful data on their student experience. Ross Ward talked about how they had done this and gave me some food for thought on how we can continue to improve our 'UX' since the course refresh. Next up was Dave McArthur from Glasgow Caledonian, who definitely gave the most entertaining presentation of the conference, with much laughter in the room, talking about how they reworked existing content for use in a distance learning programme.The afternoon continued with Jonny Crook and Andrew Gold from Manchester Uni talking about their experiences of using standard course structure, again something that is of interest as we have just been able to introduce course templates for departments this year. Day one finished in Blackboards session on the impact of accessibility. With their new Ally tool looking very interesting, this is an area I think we need to explore in more detail, and with their research findings that around 80% of images did not contain alt descriptions and 1/3 of document had contrast issues in VLE content, it's clear work is needed.

Important networking!
The evening was more time to talk to people over the conference dinner, in the wonderful setting of the great hall in Durham castle. Having been for a few years, I know a lot of the attendees quite well and it's always good to meet up again, and have some fun as well as talk work.

Day two began with the Blackboard keynote from Katie Blot, who gave us an insight into her time with the company and where things are heading. Next up was an interesting presentation from Candice Nolan-Grant from Durham about how then have used a course within Blackboard to offer new users self-guided training. This is something I've been considering, so it was good to see how they had done it, and be able to ask some questions about their successes and failures. Watch this space!Next up was Derby talking about their academic led EMA project, and it was amazing to see how big a project it was. Over lunch I had a Blackboard Usergroup Leaders meeting, which is a very useful time to get together face to face and discuss some of the things we have been trying to do over the previous year, and where we would like to be heading. I run the North England usergroup (NEBUG), which has been around for a few years now and is a very useful addition to the conferences throughout the year. After lunch I was up at the front. The final sessions were a useful insight into the tendering process from John Usher of Blackboard and Jonathan Knight from Keele talking about something we've just begun to implement, and that is the devolving of administration access using hierarchies, which is getting very system admin technical, so I'll not go into any more detail.

Home time
As ever, an excellent conference. I always come away feeling inspired by what others are doing, confident we are working hard to make things better and amazed by the generosity and camaraderie of the Blackboard community in the UK and Europe... Also very tired!!!

Thursday, 11 January 2018

A change to the Editing Tools in Kaltura

On Sunday 14th January there will be a change in the way that we access the editing (trim and clip) tools within Kaltura

The new editor consolidates the 'Trim Video' and 'Create Clip' tools within an easy to use interface. To access the new editor, click on My Media and navigate to a media item. Click on the Edit button, and click Launch Editor.

The new editor interface will allow you to trim the start and end of a video, as well as saving a copy of media item. For instance, this could be useful if you wanted to share a specific section of a video with others.

Image showing how the Actions menu will change

The Interactive Video Quiz editor will also move to the new editing interface. Quizzes can be created by clicking Add New > Video Quiz, and questions are added using the new editor. 

New Quiz Editor view with the timeline zoom controls highlighted

The new editing interface will make it easier to be more precise when trimming videos and adding questions due to the ability to zoom in on the timeline - the zoom handle is circled red in the above image. 

For more information, please have a look at our updated Quick Start Guides

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Changes to MOLE Assignment Tool

NOTE: If you are providing marking and feedback using the MOLE assignment tool around the date of the upgrade (Saturday 16th December), please be aware of the below changes as the switchover could cause inconsistency in functionality and cause any feedback prior to upgrade to be permanently attached to the document.

Currently the MOLE assignment tool works in conjunction with a tool provider called Crocodoc. It works by embedding the crocodoc tool within MOLE.
The tool provides a document viewer (see below), showing the work student has submitted when accessing it in the grade centre, allowing it to be read online. It also allows you to annotate the document to give the feedback on the student's work.
The crocodoc tool is being discontinued in January so as part of the December upgrade (Taking place on Saturday 16th December) we will be moving to the new Box View. Box is the company that has acquired the crocodoc tool and will be the provider for Blackboard (MOLE). This date is something we cannot control as the tool will expire in early January.
This will bring about a few changes to the online feedback tool, these are:

The tools that surround the document viewer i.e the right hand panel (in green on the above image) will not change.

More of the functionality changes can be seen in the below presentation:

The main functionality changes are:
  • Range of file types that can be submitted and displayed has increased
  • Less annotation options available
  • Print functionality added
  • No longer able to download with annotations
Once we move over to the Box View, you will still be able to access the documents and feedback but the feedback will be ‘burnt in’ to the document i.e. it will no longer be editable or deletable.

The new Box View grading functionality is due to be added to the Blackboard Instructor App in early 2018.
More information on the changes can be found on the Blackboard website.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Retirement of MOLE File tools in upgrade

If you've been on MOLE this week, you won't help but have noticed we have a brand new design with the most recent update. This new look and feel not only gives cleaner, more modern visuals to courses, but also adds some new features such as drag and drop of files, and a responsive design making it easier to view MOLE courses on a range of mobile devices.

You may also have noticed we have retired the 'File', 'Audio' and 'Video' tools. These tools were historic from older versions of Blackboard, and have been superseded with superior ways of doing the same jobs.

The File tool was very limited in the sense it gave a link to files with no ability to add descriptions, or even indication of file size or extension. This often led to poor course design and navigation, with a list of file names without explanation. The example below is an example of a link created using the File tool.

The Item tool allows for a much more flexible approach, as multiple files (displaying file extension and size) can be attached to an Item as below.

Alternatively links to files in the Content Collection can be linked in the Item text.

Both methods allow for files to be delivered with explanation and a context of their use.

Similarly, the Audio and Video tools were not recommended to be used, as these led to large files requiring download, or the use of media players that were dependant on the students' web browser settings. These were also incompatible with mobile browsing. Now we would recommend using Kaltura or YouTube to supply streamed content, either using the Mashup tools in the Text Editor, or pasting embed codes into the HTML of an Item.

Existing content using the tools remain, and can be copied in the Refresh process, although we would recommend ultimately these are replaced using the Item tool in one of the methods above.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Playful Learning Conference 2017

The arrival instructions from the organisers of this years Playful Learning Conference started off as expected - details about accessing the venue by public transport and what time registration began. But things then took a more 'playful' turn:
'This year the toys want in on the action at the conference.  They’re refusing to allow entry unless you bring one of their kind.  As organisers we are not prepared to face the toys’ wrath so we need you to do the following in preparation:

  • Find, beg, borrow or steal a cuddly toy companion to accompany you to the conference
  • Give your toy a creative name
  • Create a twitter profile for your toy'

With my soft toy packed, I set off to Manchester with a certain amount of trepidation! However -  I need not have worried. This was only the second Playful Learning conference, but as an attendee everything felt remarkably well organised and they managed to put together a really wide and exciting range of sessions. 

A particular highlight for me were the sessions exploring Escape Games / Escape Rooms. There are thousands of Escape Rooms worldwide; and whilst they will all have their own unique theming and 'back story' elements, they are all based around the premise of groups solving puzzles to escape an enclosed space. I wasn't aware of these games being used in HE, but actually the concept of an escape game, with students solving puzzles relating to their subject area is a great example of active learning. 

Daryl Peel from the University of Southampton presented at the conference, and has written about creating Escape Games on this blog post

learning how to create an escape room @playlearnconf with @glubsohiunicorn #playlearn17 #theta360 - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Prototyping our escape game

Liz Cable from Leeds Trinity University facilitated an excellent session at the conference, which started off with delegates trying to complete her escape game in a box called 'The Case of the Rocketman'. The game has been played with over 1000 students at Leeds Trinity, and is used as a team building exercise. It develops critical thinking skills, and encourages students to work together to solve problems. I really enjoyed playing the game, and it not only worked well as an icebreaker activity, but also found it really mentally stimulating. It was the perfect way to start a busy day of sessions. 

One great thing about this escape game is that it is relatively portable - there are four boxes of various sizes to unlock and they would all fit in a small suitcase. This means the game could be played anywhere - you don't have to make players come to a specific escape room. It would have been great to play an escape game that perhaps had some subject specific learning outcomes, but I could certainly see how powerful this concept is. One inherent problem with these types of games is that there is very limited replay potential once you have played the scenario, and as I understand it this is something that commercial escape room operators are finding challenging. 

Simon Warwick and myself presented our 'Crys-Tel Maze' session at the conference - we were pleasantly surprised with the amount of people that wanted to come to our session, and we received some good feedback. Our colleagues Bryony Olney & Dr Bobby Nisha from the Department of Urban Studies & Planning at Sheffield presented about their DDCF project. It was great to find out about how students are using 3D Pens to help them visualise structures - and I discovered that I'm as bad as drawing with a 3D pen as I am with a normal biro! These are the 3D Pens that we used

Another highlight was playtesting a Research Methods Game, which was developed by the Centre for Excellence in Learning & Teaching at Manchester Metropolitan University. The game is designed to teach students about different research methods, and requires you to work in pairs to design research methods for a fictional research project. I didn't really know anything about theoretical perspectives or epistemologies before playing (!), so I found it very useful and it certainly gave me a good understanding of the theories involved.

Luckily for the community, the creators have released the game under a Creative Commons licence, so you can download the game for free and adapt it for your own learning and teaching requirements. 

You can see more from the conference on the following Storify pages: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3

So, how did I feel about bringing a soft toy with me to an academic conference? Well, it was quite odd having to first register my toy as a delegate before being able to enter, but it soon became normal seeing people walking around with their teddy bears. It actually provided a really good reason to approach people and start a conversation with them, as everyone had something in common!

Also, people I spoke to about tweeting from their toy account rather than their personal profile also spoke positively about it. It enabled them to be playful and fully join in with the activities, something that they may have not otherwise have done from their personal, professional Twitter handles.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Journal Paper on TELFest

Lunchtime Networking at TELFest 2017
I recently carried out some research into TELFest, our week long festival, here at the University of Sheffield. As part of the research I explored the role of TELFest in supporting the adoption of TEL across our institution and ways in which the event could be improved. I introduced TELFest to our institution in 2014 and as the popularity of the event had begun to grown, I was keen to better understand: (1) The perceived impact of TELFest? (with an emphasis on changes to practice), (2) The ongoing barriers that are preventing changes to practice?, and (3) How the long-term impact of TELFest could be improved and sustained?

Over the years myself we have been dedicated to improving TELFest and the findings from our previous attendees, synthesised with academic research has directly influenced the last two events. One of the things that we have tried to do is to support and further strengthen the community of practice that has grown through TELFest. For example, we have an accompanying online community and earlier this year we set up a 'reunion'. To prevent our community from becoming too insular we have invited colleagues from industry and other institutions.

To find out more, you can access the full paper, which has been published in the Research in Learning Technology Journal:
LATIF, Farzana. TELFest: an approach to encouraging the adoption of educational technologies. Research in Learning Technology, [S.l.], v. 25, July 2017. ISSN 2156-7077. Available at: Date accessed: 19 july 2017. 

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

TELFest App Swap Breakfast

During TELFest I led a really great App Swap Breakfast, which saw colleagues swapping tips on mobile apps used in learning and teaching, accompanied by muffins and coffee.

As promised here is a summary of all the apps that were discussed:

Adobe Capture - A quick and easy way to get a colour palette from a photo, which can be imported for use inAdobe Creative Cloud.

Castbox - A one stop shop for finding and listening to free podcasts

Coggle - Interactive mind-maps.

Co-spaces - An easy way to create virtual reality experiences on a phone or tablet.

Edmondo - Social media-style space for educators to communicate with peers, students and parents.

Flipboard - An attractive and intuitive news aggregator.

Forest - An anti-procrastination app where you grow a virtual tree, which dies if you navigate away from your task, and can be added to your productivity forest, and even add to a real-world tree-planting programme.

Google Keep - A very useful list-making and note-taking tool.

Gravity Sketch - A 3D sketching tool for iOS.

Habitica - A productivity app that uses a retro-RPG feel to make it fun to achieve goals with inbuilt rewards and punishments.

Headspace - A mindfulness app to reduce stress and anxiety (with the great tip that this is free for anyone with a half-price NUS Extra Spotify premium account).

Homeboy - A home security app, but discussed as a possibility for learning and teaching, by setting up a motion-activated "diary room" for student reflection.

Librivox - Free Public Domain audiobooks.

Marvel - A really useful collaborative prototyping app, to create working mockups of systems from screenshots.

Mediaspace Go - The app for viewing and interacting with Kaltura content.

Netvibes - Creates a personal dashboard with all your favourite news, social media, websites and smart devices in one place.

Newsela - Categorises news articles, rewritten for different reading levels, with the ability to add assessment in the form of quizzes and write prompts.

Padlet - Easy way to create a virtual whiteboard for ideas and collaboration.

Piktochart - A quick and easy way to create Infographics.

Post-it Plus - Great app for recording real-world post-it notes virtually.

Quizizz - Quick and easy way to create fun, meme-themed competitive quizzes for classroom interaction.

Sketchfab - A way to share and find 3D models for use online and in VR.

Sock Puppets - Allows you to create and share lip-synched animations.

Tinycards - An app from the makers of Duolingo, which allows teachers to create flash card-based games for learning languages, vocabulary or visual images.

Waterlogue - Turns any photo into a beautiful watercolour painting!

As you can see a huge range of useful apps across the course of the session - and thanks to all the app-swappers! If you've used any of these apps in your learning and teaching, or have some ideas how they can be, then let us know.



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