First of all I apologise for the title of this blog, but now that I have your attention, please do read on…
Last week I attended the Xerte Conference at the University of Nottingham. I have been championing Xerte for a number of years now as a tool that both staff and students can use to create rich, interactive multimedia learning objects. Xerte is an open source tool that has grown significantly since the University of Nottingham developed it back in 2008. It is now part of the Apereo community project, which is “a global network of higher education institutions that collaborate to develop and sustain software supporting education.”
All of the sessions were recorded using Echo360 and will be publicly available soon. It is also worth noting that presenters were asked to use Xerte instead of PowerPoint for their presentations. Even if you don’t read all of this rather long blog, I encourage you to look at the Xerte examples from each of the workshops to see how it could be used within your teaching.
The Executive Director of the Apereo Foundation, Ian Dolphin, gave the first keynote of the conference by providing delegates with an overview of what is Apereo Foundation. He talked about the value in open source products “keeping the market honest” and that open communities are diverse and innovative. The Apereo software communities are shaping the “next generation of digital learning environments.”
After the morning keynote there were five groups of workshops to choose from with three workshops in each group, here are the notes from the workshops that I attended, most of which were presented using V3 of Xerte:
An innovative method of delivering problem based learning in clinical education (V3)
Presenters: Michael Randall and Liz Mossop
The Vet School and Pharmacy department use Xerte to present trigger material to their students, encouraging engagement through the ability to add rich multimedia and interactivity to their learning objects. Students safely work through a clinical case until they come to the correct diagnosis. As Xerte offers branching, it is possible to demonstrate what will happen with an incorrect diagnosis but in a safe learning environment.
- Additional information can be added to the Xerte learning object to provide students with more patient information e.g test results, as they work through the case.
- Better to use real actors for role playing videos, looks more professional.
- Add audio to give the clinical case authenticity.
Creating a Community Learning Hub with Xerte Online Toolkits (V3)
Presenters: Julian Tenney and Pat Lockley
Julian Tenney, Xerte Project’s Lead Developer, started his session by talking about DS106, a digital storytelling online course that acts as community learning hub for students to explore and create rich multimedia content. Julian proposed that Xerte could be used in a similar way with an example of a bootstrap template containing an RSS feed aggregator and Twitter widget. It was certainly food for thought and illustrated the diversity of Xerte.
- Xerte is a flexible collaborative tool.
- Aggregating student content using an Rss feed similar to how Moocs aggregate student content.
Flipped Classroom and nano-learning made easy with Xerte Online Toolkits (V3)
Presenter: Inge Donkervoort
Inge showed us some really nice examples of using Xerte to flip the classroom which you can find in the Xerte learning object above. Xerte is an ideal tool for the non-technical amongst us to develop rich multimedia content that can enhance the student learning experience through simple techniques like “spaced repetition.” This isn’t a new technique but a very valid way of tackling the problem that “90% of all information learned in a traditional classroom setting is lost within 1yr.”
- Break the learning down into chunks.
- Keep it short.
- Use “space repetition” to keep revisiting essential information
Sal Cooke OBE has had an illustrious career over quite a number of decades; suffice to say there aren’t many educational organisations who haven’t heard of Sal. I didn’t take any notes during this keynote as it was really about Sal recognising all those that have been involved in Xerte and how she has seen over the years how Xerte has crossed over into non-academic organisations around the world.
Themes, colours and easy customisation (V3)
Presenter: Fay Cross
Fay began her session with the disclaimer that she was a developer not a presenter. That said, she did a really good job of explaining what non-technical users, developers and system admins could do with Xerte V3 . We are scheduled to upgrade to V3 by the end of May 2016.
- WYSIWYG editor is significantly better in Xerte V3.
- Much easier to brand your Xerte learning objects.
- Staff and students can create professional looking re-usable learning objects.
Raising the profile of Xerte in your institution (V2)
Presenter: Alison Christie
An afternoon slot at a conference can be a challenge especially on a warm sunny day, so I decided I would present some Abertay Xerte examples then get participants to use some low-tech post-it’s to write down what they thought were the challenges or barrier and solutions to raising the profile of Xerte within their institution. There was a good mixture of institutions that were right at the start of deploying Xerte and those who had been using it for a few years, so there was a lot of discussion.
Unfortunately I missed the final keynote as I had to catch a train home but the presentation can be found here http://xot.xerte.org.uk/play.php?template_id=2 .
Final Thoughts on Xerte Conference
It was very beneficial to meet other Xerte users and see how they have developed interactive learning objects for teaching and learning. Open source products have come a long way over the past few years and are no longer seen as a high risk option but one that can be collaborative, innovate, diverse and community supported. Of course it is essential to have the necessary resources to support open source tools and that the product meets institutional requirements but they can be as sustainable as commercial tools.
The flexibility of Xerte makes it a very valid tool for all schools at Abertay, whether you want to use it for problem-solving scenarios, drawing conclusions, using it as a revision aid or getting students to create content for their module, it offers something for everyone.
All Abertay staff and students have access to the Xerte server using their username and password at this address http://xerte.abertay.ac.uk/ . Getting started information can be found on our TELS intranet pages.
Note: The other Xerte learning objects from the sessions I didn’t attend can be found under workshop details and resources at the following URL http://xot.xerte.org.uk/play.php?template_id=1
It’s day two of the Association of Learning Technology (ALT) Online Winter Conference which is attracting people from all over the world to “ensure that use of learning technology is effective and efficient, informed by research and practice.” Highlights from yesterday included: Online Patient Stories to Educate Healthcare Professionals, The Mooc survey: Key results so far:Visualised, and To badge or not to badge? More about these in another post.
Today will see webinars and tweechats on Open bages 101, Social Media Data in Learning Practice and Research, Gaming the Conference and our ex TELS colleague Alice La Rooy will be hosting a tweetchat between 12pm-12:30-pm on Choosing technology tools for assessment using the hashtag #altchat. A Tweetchat session (10:30am-11am) by James Clay titled “I don’t have a dog” caught my eye. His blog post tells an all too familiar story of how staff don’t have the time to embed digital technology around the analogy of why he doesn’t have a dog. If we see something as a priority we tend to make the time for it, but who is setting the priorities? I encourage you to read his blog post even if you are a cat owner.
Just for the record, I do have dog:-)
Last week I was at the Jisc Connect more event at Edinburgh Napier, Craiglockhart Campus. A kilted Jason Miles-Campbell (Head of Jisc Scotland and Jisc northern Ireland) opened the day with an introduction informing attendees how Jisc can support us in getting the most out of their services and showcasing innovative practice and best use of technology amongst practitioners in the FE and HE sectors. This was a good opportunity to network with peers and try out the latest technology in Jisc’s ‘Fab Lab.’ Further information on the day can be found on Nicola Osborne’s Edina Blog. The four key areas that Jisc support are listed below with some examples:
Network & Technology : security, Cloud, Connectivity, Procurement
Digital Resources : Learning and teaching resources, Repositories, E-books, Film and images
Advice & Engagement : Single point of contact via our accounts manager, training, subject specialists, communities of practice and peer networking
Research & Development : Collaboration, data and analytics, digital literacy, open access
The event consisted of three strands which attendees could mix and match according to their interests: Capabilities, Connectivity and Student Experience. Two of the sessions I attended focused on the Student Experience, please see notes below:
Innovation and Digital Literacies Champions – Dr Russell Bentley
Deputy Head of Education in Social Sciences and Senior Lecturer in Political Theory
University of Southampton
IChamps was started in 2013 at the University of Southamption with 9-11 students in the first year progressing to now over 40 iChamps. With a successful application to the HEA strategic enhancement programme in 2014, a steering group was created to develop the iChamps further e.g. creating different kinds of iChamps for feedback, sustainability etc. iChamps are recruited from all undergraduate years mostly during the vacation period and work approx. 144hrs per year. Students existing digital literacies are benchmarked using a Kahoot test, based on JISC’s digital literacies framework.
- Working with academic teams to support change development of digital literacy.
- Not assistants, they build relationships between academics and students.
- Partnership based on agreement, clear specification of activity, assurance that student develops requisite skills to achieve the desired outcomes.
- Exemplifying good practice.
- Must demonstrate knowledge and understand of relevant issues.
- Must attend and run workshops on a range of digital skills.
- Well managed online profile demonstrating digital literacy skills.
- Lead by example.
What do the iChamps do?
- Partner for promoting digital literacies in the curriculum.
- Communications beyond the classroom.
- Develop critical thinking.
- Exemplify and promote online safety, security.
- Create content using web tools.
Goals and achievements
- Students are empowered to take active roles in their discipline. Students and academics develop a sense of partnership, part of closing the feedback loop through partner engagement.
- Showcases and promotes -and makes clearly relevant – technology enhanced learning.
- Enhance employability in three ways;skills, confidence,” visualisation,” gives the student an idea of where they have been and where they want to go.
- Sources of funding required to pay students for the work they do as iChamps.
- At Southampton there is high level interest.
- Talking about change agents- changing attitude of academics to see students as partners.
Examples of iChamps work
- Dr Bentley had an iChamp work with him to get his students engaging with social media. The iChamp designed a training course and delivered the training course to the students.
- University of Southampton has had iChamps work on making the best use of the VL and web design.
Students as Active Content Creators using Xerte Online Toolkits – Dr Jane Guiller
Lecturer in Psychology, Director of the School of Health and Life Science Learning Development Centre (LDC)
Glasgow Caledonian University
I was particularly interested in this session to see how other institutions have been using Xerte Online Toolkit (XOT) as a form of assessment. With the withdrawal of the JISC Xerte sandpit last year a business case was put together to support the existing Abertay Xerte users and to grow a community of content creators amongst staff and student. To date only one module has used Xerte as a form of assessment (MT0720A-2013-14).
- Dr Guiller used Xerte in her CyberPyschology module which started in 2009. This module has no exam.
- Aim for students to enhance their digital literacies. Get students to create content for the module and for the public. This fitted in well as an authentic assessment for learning. They would be designing open educational resources.
- Made up 25% of module.
- 30 students initially up to 120 enrolled on CyberPsychology module.
- Varied background of students, not necessarily into tech. Lots didn’t know what an avatar was. A lot of assumptions about what they knew.
- Student kept blogs on VLE, good to see how they were getting on. Made them think about the skills that they were acquiring.
- Met fortnightly on campus and used Second Life for virtual seminars.
- GCU don’t have their Xerte server external facing. Students did report on this in their blog but they did meet up with their groups on campus.
- Students liked the fact support was available for them
- Used Facebook for their discussions.
- Peer support in and between groups. Dr Guiller was surprised they weren’t more competitive.
- Need OER policy.
- Peer assessment using rubrics in Blackboard.
- Editing videos.
- Creating images.
- Quality of student research.
Highlights of JISC’s Fab Lab stand:
- Anatomy 4D – a free augmented reality app available on iOS and Android. Install the app, print out a sheet from the “Target Library” available from the main menu within the app. Lay the printed sheet on a flat surface and scan the image with your mobile device. This short video from YouTube demonstrates the Heart AR functionality. This app would be very beneficial for nursing and sports students at Abertay.
- Googles Cardboard – Cost has been a huge factor in the take up of virtual reality goggles like Oculus Rift but Googles Cardboard brings VR to the masses with a simple, affordable design. Check out PCAdvisor’s list of 11 best Google Cardboard apps 2015 UK. Students could create a virtual reality tour of Abertay that could work with Google Cardboard.
Overall it was a very worthwhile event to meet like-minded practitioners who want to make the best use of technology in teaching and learning. I was impressed with the iChamps network at University of Southampton and felt something similar could work particularly well at Abertay as it ties in nicely with the Abertay Strategic Plan 2015-2020 . It was also an opportunity to meet our accounts manager Mark Owen (I didn’t mention Take That, figured he’d heard that one before!) who is keen to visit Abertay to see how Jisc can support us to make the best use of technology.
If you are interested in creating interactive learning objects, Abertay’s Xerte server can be accessed using your Abertay username and password on and off campus. More information can be found on our NetTLE pages http://bit.ly/1FKm2bn
A couple of weeks ago I attended the 2015 annual European Blackboard Teaching and Learning Conference. This conference is a great place to connect with other Blackboard users. The presentations were an interesting mix with many institutions showcasing how they had customised their learning environments and others providing information on how they use the Blackboard platform to deliver innovative teaching and fully online courses.
Blackboard also used the event to present product updates. The CEO of Blackboard shared the company vision of how they are redesigning all their products to look and feel more like integrated solutions rather than separate standalone systems. It was good to hear details of how the company is working on making Blackboard more customisable to local environments.
Some of the highlights for me were seeing how MEF University in Turkey is delivering all of their courses via the flipped classroom method. MEF is a brand new institution and all their teaching spaces have been designed to facilitate collaborative group working.
Sheffield Hallam presented the findings of their project on how they are using technology to improve student engagement with feedback. More information on this project is available on their blog
I presented information on how the Sociology Division at Abertay has been using the Blackboard Wikis for assessment. There was good interest from the audience, in particular on how the module was using the sign-up groups for the students to organise themselves into the wiki groups – which saves a lot of administration on the part of the course tutors.
A full listing of the conference programme is available online at the conference website
If you are thinking of using new tools in Blackboard next year have a look at the range of courses TELs are providing over summer or get in touch at email@example.com
It’s a busy week for conferences. The Open Education Conference (OER15) took place at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff on 14th and 15th April. More information about open education and OER will be coming up in our next TLE Seminar “What’s New in Learning Technology” on 6th May (book your place), but in the meantime here are some interesting tweets from OER15. Use the hashtag #oer15 to search for all tweets related to the conference.
Electronic Management of Assessment and Assessment Analytics
EUNIS 2015 – E-Learning Task Force Workshop
University of Abertay, Dundee, Scotland, 9th June 2015, 10:00 – 16:00
The workshop will explore how technology can be used to enhance assessment and feedback activities and streamline associated administration and how we might make use of assessment data to improve learning.
The day will be highly interactive and will offer something of interest whether your role is academic, administrative or related to supporting IT systems. As a participant you will have the opportunity to:
- Find out about new developments across Europe
- Share practice and ideas
- Discuss new developments with relevant system suppliers
- Take away tools and techniques that can be used in your own context
- Contribute to some on-going European projects
Across Europe universities are struggling with similar issues of bringing assessment and feedback practice up to date and meeting student and staff expectations:
We will be hearing from:
- Jisc Electronic Management of Assessment (EMA) project, UK
- National project on Digital Assessment, Norway
- TALOE project pedagogic toolkit (europe-wide represented by project partner University of Zagreb)
- LACE project: Learning Analytics Community exchange (europe-wide)
The event is delivered in partnership with: Jisc, Blackboard, Canvas, Brightspace, and PebblePad
Date: 16-18 September 2015
Location: Novedrate (Como), Italy
STEM disciplines maybe interested to know about the following conference from eLEOT. “This conference is designed to allow for the maximum interaction among participants. Our goal is to foster and support commmunication among researchers, practitioners and students.” Full details of the conference can be found on the eLEOT website.
6 April, Paper submission due
1 April, Workshops proposal deadline
1 May, Panels proposal deadline
15 June, Acceptance Notification
6 July, Camera-ready deadline