Friday, July 03, 2015


While effectively we are at that time of academic year when everything is winding up and results being agreed and closed off, it is also the time before everyone begins heading for the sun, distant parts or something else, for staff development sessions. Thinking about this usually gets me musing over training needs and opportunities to introduce and present case studies of new technologies and practice. It was as I began looking at some likely candidates, I came across a very readable and timely posting on motivation, with accompanying six minute pod cast from Susan Smith Nash posted on the Quick Lessons blog, that considers the issue of motivation from the perspective of cognitive psychologists, and looks at comparing some of the most influential theories that include :-
    Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
    Herzberg’s Motivation / Hygiene (two-factor) Theory
    McClelland’s Need for Achievement Theory
I really like this informative and  concise type of blog post, so many thanks to Dr Smith. Hope you find it as interesting as I did.
After just a few iterations of the design for our minted cubes mention in my blog post earlier on, we finally arrived a final version shown here. Given the size of 3cm, a decision was taken to abandon any images in favour of text, which in the end will serve the intended purpose?  Given that one side of the cube requires a lid, obvious really as a means of getting the mints out, this does mean there was less size for text on that side and so we went for a logo. The bottom face of the cube which you are not able to see from this image has information / health warning regarding the mint contents. Please stay in touch if you would like to know how they were received by everyone a desktop concept.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Minted Cubism

As a new round of training comes along, I start to think about how well my training sessions have run in the past ,and to what extent they have achieved their desired effect. A particular request for training that I felt had been covered by timetabled delivery plus the availability of instructional videos caused me to get thinking though. One of the reporting options I have is being able to see utilisation, and in this particular case this did not appear to be so good, so why? Not an easy question, or one that I suspect has a single answer, but from my web design knowledge I am aware of the issues surrounding click-depth, and in this case it was 4. If it turns on depth, then I perceive further accessibility issues developing as the click-depth to our new toolkit resource bank is also 4. So is the solution to raise the level of materials on the site, as with Google, everyone would like to be on the front page. At this point I decide to consider what I would actually like to happen here. Well basically, the materials having a highly persistent visibility. And it was thinking about this last point that led me to consider that maybe I need to have a physical presence, and from that came the idea of what I discovered are called Minted Cubes. Minted cubes are small plastic boxes, filled with mints (the clue is in the name I found), and how does this help me, it helps because each of the six surfaces of the cube has an image, in my case, an image of a resource, please see accompanying image, plus some links below.
So the plan is I hand these out at training sessions and they find their way onto desktops, shelves, computer tops, filing cabinet tops and window ledges, in fact any flat surface hopefully in arms reach. First off I downloaded a cube cut-out template and constructed a model, then copied a random sample of six images from our toolkit pages; see accompanying screenshot. My wider plan is to create cubes for combinations of toolkit resource such as media, presentation tools, gamification etc, in the hope that this may further buy into the psychology of collecting, though I may be a little to ambitious on that one. Anyway, the good news is that following a short presentation, the idea has the green light, and this week we will be putting together the proposals for the first batch. If you have any ideas or experience in supplementing training with merchandise then please feel free to comment or tell us about it.
Bye for now Skipper

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Blended Learning

Maybe its just coincidence, well of course it is, but this week seems to have been full of requests and postings coming my way on blended online learning. 
It all seemed to start off with a request to convert some course options for one of the professional programmes to being fully online, in fact students could in theory even take just the online course as part of professional development anyway, and it was that possibility that raised a whole raft of other considerations. So first off, what are the considerations for moving from class based to online delivery, well I have talked about that a lot over the years on this blog, particular the move away from class support materials written in Word to something more eLearning compliant and for that we have been making very successful use of Wimba Create for some time now, I can recommend it. We soon realised however that an online course should have online payment, online enrolment and of course following that, seamless access to the actual Moodle course itself, all through a new web page on our college website. As you will I am sure know, if you have been through this one yourselves, it very soon gets complicated. However it seems not beyond realisation, as online payment and registration has already been successfully tested, and it appears is in need of an early trial, well here it is then, and we move on, great. So this was not so much actually doing from my perspective, but connecting.
Getting back to those blended learning postings that I mentioned earlier, the first was headed ‘Navigating the Digital Shift:Implementation Strategies For Blended And Online Learning’ by John Bailey, Carri Schneider, Tom Vander Ark.
While written around the Common Core standard, this little eBook is well worth downloading , though I confess that I am yet to read through all 270 pages of it, so I will be including my usual chapter breakdown. The clear and  central role of enduring commitment required to get these processes in place in order to realise the potential benefits makes for a refreshing read,  rather than the all to often throwing of technology at a very long term need and the inevitable consequences I seem to come across in postings. Please free to reply on this one.

Finally, if you find yourself being pushed for justify a blended learning option, then this posting

‘7 Top Blended Learning Benefits For Corporate Training’ from and by Christopher Pappas may be just what you are looking for,  providing as is does a brief and concise outline under the following heading:-

1. It offers the best of both worlds. 
2. It enhances corporate training effectiveness.
3. It simplifies corporate training logistics.

4. It is cost-effective.

5. It allows your employees to have control over their training.

6. It enhances employees soft skills.
7. It facilitates corporate training feedback.

hope you find it useful , and that’s all for now, but please feel free to comment and you may like to follow my Twitter feed Hash Tag SkipperAbel.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Internet Report

Interested as you clearly must in eLearning and so to some greater or lesser extent what is going on re the Internet, then if you have yet to get site of it, the “State of the Internet” presentation running to some 196 slides is going to be a slide turner for you. Delivered by Mary Meeker of Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield, and Byers in May this year, the report brings out a whole raft of key data points that I feel certain you will be grabbing for reference. I found the timeline showing the “Evolution of Content discovery” particularly relevant to any ideas I may be forming on the way forward for design and distributing of content particularly with regard to trending on horizontal / vertical  screen orientation views; that all starts from slide 24 by the way. And if you are of the view that students are always going to be students, then please take a look at the qualities for Generation X and Millennials hiring managers feel they are most likely to posses; this must surely also say something not insignificant about our cohorts (slide 113). In fact you may to look at the the lazy  Generation Y myth ’ of playful, collaboration producing nervousness  of how this 80% of the coming workforce presents challenges to accepted practice and process. Their focus on short term success link to poor commitment is unjustified, they feel there are better ways to work and this should be our driver toward a constructivist pedagogical shift to leverage the affordances of story and online technologies.
Moving forward to the section headed “Connectivity has Changed” (slide 115), makes it start to come real that if we are still living in the world of being defined by location, alluding to the classroom, then it seems to me we should be thinking more in terms of being defined by who we are connected to, and that last point, before you even get to slide 169, take a guess at which country has the highest percentage of mobile Internet traffic, I was surprised; will this and similar trends affect your decisions on eLearning design? let me know please post a reply. Anyway great report, thoroughly enjoyed the read and will most certainly read again, and again.

Please follow hashtag SkipperAbel for more frequent updates on eLearning trends, software and practices.

Bye for now

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Multi-Tenancy in Moodle

Have I considered Multi-tenancy for our Moodle, my quick response to that question was no, actually a new one on me, though I ask  are you already a Moodle mutli-tenancy site? If like myself this was a new, then it seems that multi-tenancy is when the same data / information and content infrastructure is used by different groups or organizations. Which I guess in our case may be applied to the areas of 14 to 16 provision, FE, HE and then Professional Studies, not a particularly unusual combination for a college I would suspect these days. Anyway each of these would become an LMS tenant, each having their own courses, materials and requirements. Without the multi-tenancy concept this would have to be implemented through separate LMS, and I do recall one college not so long ago having five! And the shed load of admin work that with it.

Apparently though Moodle unlike Totara while not being able to fully support the concept, does have a pseudo-multi-tenancy capability by combining the front-page settings with the use of Course Categories, which according to the posting and I quote - can be done by configuring the “Front page items when logged in” setting to Enrolled Courses. With regard to branding courses to specific departments or business units, the Course Categories can be named after the department, and Subcategories can be labelled as Course Topics. Each Category and Subcategory can then be themed separately from the Corporate/Organizational theme. Roles and capabilities can be assigned to specific categories to allow access to edit courses. Additionally, this can be done by inheritance to the Subcategories and courses.

If all this grabs your interest then follow this link From Lambda Solutions and read some more, there is even a free white paper on the subject.
 Finally, I know I have mention Twitter before in my postings, but when I came across this little info-graphic I just had to include it in this weeks roundup. While my own postings to Twitter these days seem be almost exclusively from other social networks, that still leaves me feeling a regular education user of the micro blogger, just hash tag SkipperAbel  my avatar name from SecondLife


Tuesday, July 01, 2014

MOOC Network

Following on from my experience of Mooc's that I blogged on recently, I was more than pleased to discover that the college had been approach to join the QAA MOOC Network and even better that I was invited to be our representative, needless to say an offer that I agreed to with enthusiasm. Our regular contact is facilitated through a Linkedin group and I have conference next month and looking to that, so do please stay in touch for future postings.

And while on the subject of MOOC’s I came across this interesting report collection that I can recommend ‘Ten useful reports on MOOCs nd online education’. Of particular interest to me at the present time was the ‘MOOCs: Expectations and Reality Full Report 2014’, expect a comfortable read with this as it covers some many of the questions that currently have in my mind in 211 pages, so you will need to take a seat for this one.

Others titles available at the resource include the following:-
  • Disruptor, Distracter, or What? A Policymaker's Guide to Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS)
  • MOOCs: Massive Open Online Courses. European University Association Occasional Paper. An update on developments in first paper published January 2013
  • Introduction to MOOCs: Avalanche, Illusion or Augmentation? Policy Brief Published by the UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education
  • The Maturing of the MOOC. Research Paper published by the UK Government, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
  • e-InfraNet: ‘Open’ as the default modus operandi for research and higher education
  • 2013 Survey on Technology and Instruction: Taking the Board to School on Educational Technology
  • eLearning Papers. Issue No.33: MOOCs and Beyond
  • MOOCs and disruptive innovation: Implications for higher education
  • Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs): A Primer for University and College Board Members
Please feel free to comment on this post with your own experience of MOOC's.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Decided to get Mooc'ed

 Having read about them. watched video clips and hovered around the edge of actually registering for one, I finally took the plunge recently and signed up to a MOOC.  The course: - Second Life MOOC  ran from April 1 to 30 2014. 

The theme was connecting online for collaborative learning and teaching through Second Life. The live presentations included speakers reflective process on teaching and learning in fully online and blended learning formats.
Course Highlights included: -
  • Experience Life in Second Life
  • Avatars will Present about their Lives in Second Life
  • Learn how to Teach in Second Life
  • Get Acquainted with Learning Environments in SL
If you were not used to virtual worlds such as Second Life then there were sessions for  beginners and advanced Second Life participants alike. I was also pleased to see that Moodle was being used for asynchronous work with the synchronous side of things handled by WizIQ & Second Life. We also had recordings on WizIQ, Google Drive, YouTube, and Vimeo.
As part of our completion task we were asked to produce a learning resource that would be made available in-world on the subject of connectivism. I must say that I do enjoy Second Life and feel that its full potential as a learning environment is still to be fully explored and this  course really took every opportunity to bring us together in that particular virtual space; most enjoyable.
Our course instructor was Nellie Deutsch on Integrating Technology Toronto, Canada, and she did a great job, thanks again Nellie.

You will see that I have included a small screen shot of my certificate, soon to be placed on my office wall.

I recently posted on the use of games in education and today another guide dropped across my browser that I thought would be a useful accompaniment to the toolkit.

I like this guide because use real-world examples of how game-based techniques can energise online learning programmes and make a positive, measurable impact. Some techniques (such as immersive 3D virtual environments) require substantial levels of investment, while others can be produced quickly and cost-effectively with just a little imagination, planning and game-based thinking. If you're interested in gamifying the provision of learning in your organisation, this guide will give you some useful food for thought.

A few thought provoking facts are included that I thought worth posting here:-

By 2014, more than 70% of Global 2000
organisations will have at least one
‘gamified’ application (Gartner).

By 2015, more than 50% of organisations
that manage innovation processes will
gamify those processes (Gartner).

The average game player today is 37
years old, and 42% of game players are
women (The Entertainment Software

Students recall just 10% of what they
read and 20% of what they hear. If
visuals accompany an oral presentation,
retention rises to 30%. If they do the job themselves,
even if only as a simulation, students
can remember 90% (the Federation of
American Scientists, 2006).

This guide covers:
Why use game-based learning?
Story, characters and goals
Virtual role-play
Avatars and reward systems
Leaderboards, competition and
team games
Exploring virtual environments
Mobile games
Take-a-break games
Acknowledgements and further reading

Well that's all for now, but you have anything surrounding this post that you would like to share then please feel free to comment

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Games and Learning

 Not sure really weer  am with the idea of Game Based Learning (GBL),but then I have yet to try it out. Sure I have been using both Second Life and OpenSim for some years now, but they are for me simulations not games. And so I was pleased stumble across a web site that offered an planning toolkit. Without going into too much detail surrounding the site as there is a lot of advice and case study material, the actual toolkit itself covers the following headings

  • Realism (as opposed to pure fantasy)
  • Complexity and Inclusiveness
  • Learning Focused
  • Flow
  • Time Constraints and Flexibility
  • Requirements
  • Support
  • General Curriculum
  • Generic / Employability Skills

I have read through the material here and it has made me start to think more clearly about the application of GBl, so if you have any experience or views on the subject then please feel free to post a reply.

 I must admit to being a fan of infographics and so when I came across one for the Moodle vle the other day I thought I must include it in my next blog posting. 

Taking a look at countries by registration is a revealing chart, when you take into account the population count of the those countries. I was particularity interested in the 'Top plug-ins in the last year' which were Poodll and Aardvark

In case you have seen these two plugins before Poodll is free and open source and has designed around the needs of  language courses.  The feature comprises a collection of various plugins for the Moodle vle that include audio player, recording audio and video clips, draw pictures directly in real time. You will also find there are really interesting little widgets that include a Flashcard widget, stopwatch, countdown timer, click counter, webcam broadcaster, webcam subscriber, set of dice, audio/video pairs, a calculator and more. 
Aardvark, is a menubar based theme tool set from Bootstrap. If customisation is you thing then Using aardvark you will be able to customise the look and feel of your vle including icons.

if you use either of these on your own Moodle instance then please feel free to reply and lets all know your thoughts

Talking about sharing thoughts here are a some of my own of recent involving what I interpret as a possible synchronicity experience.

From Wikipeadia :- "Synchronicity is the experience of two or more events as meaningfully related, where they are unlikely to be causally related. The subject sees it as a meaningful coincidence. The concept of synchronicity was first described by Carl Jung, a Swiss psychologist, in the 1920s."

I was taking part in a webinar earlier last week, and the presenter mentioned the widespread adoption by both students and institutes of web 1 technology and yet when it came to web 2 such as Facebook and Twitter this seemed to be the domain principally of students. Why was this significant, well because this was not really the focus of the session and yet that was the very same discussion that I was having as I was leaving college that very evening with a colleague. The next morning I get into class and one of my students informs me that the class have been running a Facebook account as a course discussion back channel since the start of the current academic year; so is this an example of Synchronicity I am wondering?

Thats all for now and again do feel free to post you own views and expediences for us all to share.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Moodle 2.5 running and OK

Well we have a Moodle 2.5 instance up and running, so in the last couple of days I have been taking those snatched opportunities to run some testing of resources and browse through the many new features that the versions offers. Given the work that I am focusing on at the moment with implementing eLearning using scorm materials I was more than a little impatient to confirm that the launching and tracking of objects worked as before and of course they do, and why not. As we have been using a system of certification for training for the Moodle courses that I run here at the College using Bronze, Silver and Gold, I thought lets give badges a try and that worked really smooth also, a nice surprise for the other members of the course when they next logged-in. I like the idea of having a choice of Forums and set one of those up and have already noticed that it is attracting some engagement from my colleagues. All in all then looking good, very good.

If you have been following this blog at all then will have come across my posts for links to free tools, and I recently came across an extremely nice list of 321 no less, and so I am sharing that source with you here. if you have any others to add then do please feel free to reply to this posting.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Well worth a Listen

My teacher is an appNot quit a predication but the title of a really informative, thought provoking and even controversial short series of broadcasts from BBC4 Radio by Sarah Montague called My teacher is an App that investigate ‘The classroom of the Future’, ‘The University of the Future’ and ending with ‘An Education Revolution?’ this final episode features a lively debate from a good cross section of interested parties.  I must say the series really gave me valuable insight into the many ways that technology is finding its way into the classroom around the world. Not too surprising there was one case where the application of technology was seen as a means to leverage outcomes while at the same time providing opportunities to rationalise resources, as in teachers, mmm. For the children of Silicon Valley’s hi-tech giants employees it seems that school does not include the use of computers before the age of thirteen! now that one was a surprise that I was most certainly not expecting. I recommend a listen and please feel free to comment.

Since I first began to make use of the Moodle vle here at college one of the activities that I bought into very early was the use of Forums. I use them in-class to acquire research findings, uploading extension activities set during the session, which we then use for presentation and open discussion later in the class plenary, and beyond class time forums are great for maintaining engagement with collaborative projects. And I guess I felt I had the use of forums just about nailed, when recently one of the class suggested that I set up a forum for use purely as an FAQ that could be posted to and answered by myself or other class members, great idea, and it is proving useful to such an extent that I now have an FAQ forum on all my courses. So how about your own use of forums? I see from the Poll I run on this blog ‘Which of Moodles features do you find most useful’ , Forums are the third most popular features of a vle, please feel free to comment.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Running Turnitin for Moodle

A busy half tern for me last week as it turned out because I was scheduled to deliver training for Turnitin to staff on the coming Monday, which is today. There were some technical difficulties with getting the installation to actually work in our version of Moodle, but I am more than pleased to say that Turnitin were really helpful in getting over those problems. We finally had it up and running by Monday 28 Oct, so not a lot of time as it turned out to put those training materials together. If you have not used the Turnitin application yet, then I can certainly recommend it, essentially it functions as a student work submission tool that will allow you to check material for originality ( plagiarism ) and provide grading and feedback using the Trunitin GradeMark. I am particularly impressed with GradeMark as it allows you to attach notes to parts of the student essay from a range of pre-written collections, create your own or even leave in line comments, well worth looking at.

Just looking at the Turnitin website I discovered that in fact there are already some really good quality guides available anyway, but still thought it was worth producing my own based around our particular installation. The outcome rather than my usual bound set of hard copy Click-n-Go guides was a set of four videos.

  • Setting up a Turnitin Activity
  • Student assignment submission
  • Checking for Similarity
  • Using GradeMark

If you are interested in taking a look, I have placed the first of these onto a local web server, which you can see from here.

And did the training session go OK, its seems so.

That’s all from me now, if you have any comments then as usual please feel free to post

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Lesoco trip

eLearning training continues to move along very encouragingly, with a well attended course last Wednesday and my diary filling with appointments for one-2-one mentoring sessions for the first piece of eLearning material package.  This week in particular brought along an excellent opportunity to see how these things are done in another college because on Monday this week I was invited to a LeSoCo meeting at Lewisham College.

Similar to our own deployment they are Moodle based, with implementations of Mahara and Turnitin, along with hosting and custom upgrades from ULCC. Interesting to see the inclusion of a wide range of Google education services including email, blogs and docs. I must admit that Google education does offer some very interesting and tempting features, something to look into for me in the not to distant future.
The blended learning programmes make use of Mahara for eportfolio’s with a mixture of learning material including Scorm packages, tracked using Grade book .

It was encouraging to see that own approach of using Bronze, Silver and Gold training standards was being used, though not surprisingly details for the content of these was different; must get Mozilla badges going soon.
Some interesting discussions developed on the day that included those recurrent themes of how does the inspection process fit into or for that matter support the collection of what could be broadly described as e-processes.
If you have read this blog before then you will have picked up that my subjective measure as to the usefulness of events is measured by the amount of note taking that I complete, and given that the event only lasted 2 hours six sides of a notebook, so all in all good.  When I say note book by the way I am not referring to the Apple kind, why, well because I wanted to try something new, instead of scribbling / keying lines and lines of text, I wanted to try-out a technique that I came across recently called Distance Graphic Recording posting on Elliot Masseys eLearning site. If you have not across this before you may like to give it a try, it certainly reduced my word count and aided later understanding of my own notes.

Thats all now, and as usual, please feel free to comment

Monday, October 07, 2013

Week four and going well

This week is going to be number four in the rollout of the eLearning training. The whole exercise is in fact proving to be extremely worthwhile; the actual sessions themselves are to introduce our staff to converting their desktop materials written in Word and then showing these can be enriched with media and assessments. Of course training in itself is not on its own going to produce the type oif culture change that we are looking for and so at each session I request a topic that will be used, which I am starting to follow up on with a one-to-one session, to assist with both technical and design issues. To address the subject of design , and given the core principles that we are considering here I came across a very useful pdf 'Guidelines for Authors of Learning Objects' by Rachel S. Smith.
If you have not coma across this particular publication before and you are interested in creating Learning Objects I can certainly recommend, main section titles include:

Placing Learning Objects in Context
Creating Learning Objects: Some Practical Advice
Marketing Learning Objects
Evaluating Found Learning Objects
Summary of Guidelines

If you are in the process of introducing these type of change the you may be interested in the an article I found the other day called ‘How to Builda Faculty Culture of Change’ By Robert Zemsky

That’s all for now and please feel free to comment



Monday, September 16, 2013

Training starts for 2013

Following my rounds of staff meetings before the end of summer term last, I have this week started to get the training for elearning underway. I have managed to get a good number if staff from just all curriculum area’s to sign up for a session, the first of which ran this week. If you have been following this blog then you will know that the strategy focuses upon three principle ingredients of delivery framework, content and assessment. This first round of training focuses upon content and introduces the idea of assessment. The idea that you are going to require staff to carryout  major changes to their existing materials is always likely to induce an expected and to be frank understandable level of reticence, however by using Wimba Create, which will convert materials produced in MS Word into Scorm compliant packages, can pretty much neutralise that.

Activities in the session cover the following exercises
  • Word document to learning package conversion
  • Using Metadata
  • Managing Course Settings
  • Basic Styling
  • Embedding Web and stored Media
  • Embedding websites
  • Questions and Feedback
  • Publishing a Wimba SCORM Document
  • Publishing to DSpace
General speaking providing we have no technical glitches the 1.5 – 2 hour has proven to be realistic.

You will notice from the list of items, I include publishing to DSpace. Because Dspace is a preservation repository, and given the fact that we are harvested regularly, this activity seemed to make sense.

Having mentioned technical glitches we did experience one. When embedding a YouTube video into a package I have always made use of the 'Share/ Embed and Use old embed code' option. On this occasion though I hit a problem. First off the  ‘Use old embed code’ simply was not there, so OK find another example and use that. When I did, the generated package would not play the content, we only had a white screen, ouch; have you experienced similar? I found a way around this though. If you go to this site  

and copy the video url and hit the generate but, a number of embed code outputs appear. I found that taking the first one at the top ‘Standard definition embed’, actually worked just fine, phew.
After each training session I am going to provide coaching for everybody on a one-2-one basis, which I think is going to prove valuable for us all including myself, so I will be blogging on just that as we move through the Winter Term, so please stay in touch

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Moodle News

As the testing continues with the move toward Moodle 2.4, the latest set of results following a full test migration do seem to be very encouraging. A full visual review of one curriculum area of 132 Moodle course shows that only 7 have a failed structure, though this represents just over 5%, it is something we shall look into of course. As for single resource failures, and this does not include quizzes and questionnaires, as these were effectively removed prior to the migration, it would seem that the infamous red cross has also appeared for about 5% of resources. Given the clear and necessary requirements of thorough evaluation, full live upgrade is unlikely now to take place until at least the end of the Winter term, and then it seems we shall in fact be looking at a move to 2.5.

While on the subject of Moodle, did you know that there is a Moodle MOOC course about to run. This is a 4 week Moodle introductory course requiring an estimated 8-12 hours of study time. If you are new to Moodle and would like to participate then registration commences on  19th August 2013 for a  1st September 2013 start. Follow the MOOC tradition, if that can actually be inferred, there will be no fees, with successful participants awarded a Mozilla Open Badges course completion badge that they can add to their Open Badges backpack.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Evangelising eLearning, Flipped Classroom

This week is when  I get the chance to evangelise to staff the benefits if adopting an eLearning – Online learning, Blended learning – Flipped learning component to courses. Being able to find testimonies from far and wide that support a range of improvements that may include aspects that range across achievement, attendance, student behaviour and even  staff teaching profiles are not difficult to find and often in the highly accessible from of an info-graphic. Of course when we look at any change / increase to working practice, there emerges understandably a sense of having the time available to implement the recommendations in order to realise the benefits in the first place, as would have been experienced by many of us I feel certain with the introduction of any new technology, take the vle for instance. But then as with now, you try to leverage the advantages, and if time is an issue, then it becomes time saving that you call in as the sweetener.

And so I find myself thinking, OK, the data seems to be there and makes this really worth looking into, but how do these changes manifest themselves in the daily running of classes? Take improved results for instance, would these translate into assignments being of a higher quality at first hand-in, so requiring a reduction in resubmissions; that would be a clear bonus. There are studies that report clear reductions in official disciplinary measures, some by two-thirds! Think of the corresponding reduction in class disruption and board meetings that this could save. Improvements to attendance and the likely impact that this could among other things such as your teaching observation grade; easilly impacted by a poor attendance ratio. Of course these are just speculations on my part, and to get down to the actual drivers in the data, I clearly need to actually meet and talk with practitioners, which hopefully will be taking place in the coming weeks.
As part of my presentation on this, I felt it was important establish a clear link or if you like continuity between historical and current practice and our future ambitions with eLearning. so to this end I created  slide that displayed in a phased style animation how the demands of an eLearning programme were in fact already supported by our vle training. A nice connection this one as it turned out that which has proved very useful during the week.

All in all the week has progressed really well so far, I have three more sessions to run and looking forward to bookings for training across the summer.
Please feel free to reply with your own experiences and ideas.

Bye for now.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

JISC eFactor 2013

I presented at the JISC eFactor2013 this week and naturally took the opportunity to get along to as many of the other parallel workshops that I could oj the day. For my part I was presenting the work that I have been conducting using Augmented Reality with Aurasma; if you have not seen the JISC blog for this then please follow this link. The presentation seemed to go down very well with the audience who took the opportunity to take advantage of the handouts that I brought along to the event in that they all went.

Preparing as we are here at College for the transition to Moodle 2.4, I was particularly pleased to see presentation from Croydon College called ‘Mobile Phone’. Given the number of Smartphones owned by our students, having a reliable means of scaling Moodle to a mobile client has a very strong strong appeal for me. I was therefore very encouraged to learn that the embedded theme can simply be enabled for it to function and screen shots clearly demonstrated both reliability and accessibility, nice.

Flipped Classroom for City of Westminster College, for me turned out to be a really worthwhile session also. Flipped Classroom is of course only a new and it seems Americanism for what many of us, myself included, have been and continue trying to do with the vle; that is get it to work as a vle, not just a course management system. City of Westminster had taken this on and were able to show deployment, but more importantly report on outcomes, which included the very positive impact on course results, and even improvements to teaching profiles; now that’s interesting, I shall certainly be bringing that along future discussion with the Quality Team. And who were the target group that they managed to achieve all this with, well, not as many may expect level 3 IT students, instead level 2 Motor Vehicle; even more ammunition in the drive for change.

There were of course other parallel workshops at eFactor 2013, and if you are yet attend one of these events I would warmly recommend you getting along next year.

Bye for now

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Changing Training


Since we first decided upon Moodle as our vle, training as a means of getting it out there to staff was clearly going to be of some priority. In the first round, using bound notes, I must confess that in my enthusiasm to get people on-board as quickly as possible the sessions lasted around two hours, much to long really and difficult to bolt into a curriculum delivery of 90 minute classes. And so the process was broken down into time scales that would fit into current and even changing session times and took the form of Bronze, basically how to get your course up and running and Silver,
which introduced the web 2.0 features. You may be thinking what about Gold, and indeed there has always been a Gold offering, which focuses on such things as eLearning, Learning Objects etc.

Well moving as we are toward a major 2.4 upgrade, the issue of training also emerges, because lets face it there are some significant differences. The question then arises that after having the Moodle vle around for some years now, do we actually require a formal attendee type of training session, there are colleges I know that have dropped the idea altogether, and so should we follow that lead. I decided that a new approach would be worth pursuing and so to that end the new training takes the form of video material that everyone can simply access at will and use on demand. How though do we authenticate training, with the previous approach it was simply case of qualification through attendance. With the new model I am thinking that staff will be presented with a number of requirements that a course must feature  under the new release, and once they are in place and clearly being used, then an electronic certificate will follow, see initial design.

 How are you handling training with Moodle these days, please feel free to comment, bye for now

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Feeling more competent now thanks

Just to follow up on my last blog where I proposed using a Questionnaire as a means of gaining some measure of session success from students, I took the opportunity to apply the idea in two separate classes this week and you can see the results from the screen shot. Just to recap, the initial impression was taken at the introduction phase and the final impression during the plenary. The material covered in the session 1h 45m, for most represented their first exposure to the topic. From the numbers it would appear that the confidence / competence in each area had more than doubled during a single session, and so I feel this has been a good measure for me and in fact for students who collectively felt that it was of value to them.

Continuing on with with my quest to find useful resources,  I came across an interesting link the other day from named ‘15 Free Learning Tools You’ve Probably Never Heard Of’. The posting describes the collection as ‘under-the-radar free learning sites’. I confess that there are many that I was not aware of and are certainly worth looking into, so do please take a look at this one, and feel free to share your own under the radar sites or apps.

Closing on a somewhat lighter note, are you pod casting your classes? Well I do, though not the whole session, instead I will record (audio only), those aspects of the material that experience tells me often seem to need reinforcing; so basically listen again. The casts themselves seldom exceed a three or four minutes, looking at the hits on the vle, they are ceratianly used. But are they useful? Well it seems from a recent report from one of my students they would certainly seem to be distracting. While driving home, he was listening to one such pod cast to such an extent that he missed the usual motorway turn-off, and instead of arriving home at 18:30, he arrived at 20:15, how engaging was that!
As usual please feel free to comment

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Being able to usefully capture student progress while in a session is without doubt one of those essential ingredients, not only because it allows you to know where they are within the course work, but also as means of informing me on differentiation and last but not least a means of motivation and engagement. I recall a while ago now, back in the days when the pda looked as if it was destined to become the computer in your pocket, I would use an Excel spreadsheet of student name and session dates to award colours for class performance such as green for completed, gold for exceeding expectations, useful, though I confess a somewhat rather loose subjective model. Of course we have dedicated tracking systems in place, but I really wanted something a little more lightweight and so I have started experimenting with the Moodle Target feature that has become available as an Activity option. Quick and easy to use, I simply apply a set of targets for the session, then upon completion students leave comments and I mark as completed. In the event that somebody achieves all the targets, as usual I set about negotiating extension work, and set the new differentiated target. Now if you are reading this and thinking, but that means I now have to think up targets for each session, well not really, I find the targets are in essence the session objectives, though be it couched in a little more detail. I like Moodle Target, and if you have found it useful then do please feel free to post any comments.

While on the subject of making use of Moodle in teaching session, I have been having thoughts on that rather illusive metric, how successful has the session been for me! Not an easy one really, however, could I acquire some useful feedback by using the Moodle Questionnaire Scale rating option? Basically at the introduction, students each select an option between 1 and 10 (with 1 being least) to indicate how competent / confident they are with the specific subject matter we are about to explore, then at the plenary they indicate how this has changed. Has it proved useful, well I have not really had the opportunity to give the idea a good test drive as of yet, so please stay in touch with future postings.

Bye for now Barry