On Thursday 27th September I attended the Turnitin Summit, held at the impressive Sage Gateshead.
This event was eagerly anticipated by many of us working in the area of electronic management of assessment (EMA) in UK HE, as Turnitin were to demo their new advanced marking functionality. Having been previously involved in some product development sessions with colleagues from Turnitin I had some idea of what we could expect, but it was great to see a live demo showing what has been built.
The new version has many much-needed features, including improved support for sharing marking between multiple markers, double and double blind marking, and also an option to allow release of feedback prior to release of marks. Sector beta testing is due to take place in Q1 and Q2 2019, with general availability scheduled for Q3.
As Bill Loller, VP for Product Management, mentioned when introducing the demo, this development is a real testament to some excellent partnership working between the company and UK clients, which, on the evidence of the day, will deliver some really tangible benefits for us.
Another area of EMA which Turnitin are working on is support for moderation and I attended a useful session later on where we were able to feed in to this development.
I was also interested to hear Marc Daubach, Chief Revenue Officer & SVP Customer Success, mention Turnitin’s recent acquisition of Gradescope, a company which have been developing solutions incorporating AI-assisted marking.
Although my main focus for the day was assessment, there were also updates on the new “Authorship Investigation” product, designed to address contract cheating, and the “Code Investigate” tool, which checks similarity of software source code, currently in development.
On the 14th June Neil Davey – Teaching, Learning and Collaboration Spaces Team Manager, and I attended the UCiSA Beyond Lecture Capture event. This event focused on how lecture recording has impacted both student learning and enhanced their experience.
Session topics include:
- Research on the student learning experience with lecture capture
- Student feedback panel session
- Analysis on usage of lecture recordings compared to grades
- Moving from the traditional lecture to the flipped
Many of the talks expanded on what we have seen at Bristol and the supporting research –
- Students love lecture capture
- They use it primarily for revision and enhancing their notes
- Audio quality is key
- Good Data is paramount – students do not like lectures with no point of reference in the title
- Incomplete coverage of rooms is frustrating for them
- Impact on attendance is a concern of academics
- Induction for students is needed at a point they are most receptive – ideally contextualised by academics rather than delivered in the abstract
I did hear a couple of things that surprised me, for example both the University of Sheffield and York had high percentages of students that watch the recordings all the way through circa 40%. How do we test what we think we know and what questions should we be asking of the data both quantitative and qualitative we have already gathered to see if our assumptions are correct.
While not an exhaustive list –
How many of our students watch the whole recording?
How are closed caption units used – does this differ from other recordings?
Is there a positive impact on student well being e.g. reduced anxiety when lectures are recorded?
How do we quantify any affect on attainment?
A couple of weeks ago I went along to OER18. There was a lot to like about the event and so much I’d have loved to hear more about. Here are some of my favourite ideas from the talks I attended…
Helping staff understand copyright for reuse
Glasgow Caledonian found that understanding copyright was a barrier to their staff reusing content so made a quick, self-service copyright advisor. It’s very easy to use and has a traffic light system to indicate whether you can go ahead, need to investigate further, or can’t use the resource. The advice is cc-by licensed so could easily be repurposed, and they are currently developing an HTML5 version.
Approaches to institutional repositories
Southampton have developed EdShare for managing and hosting open content, with EdShare Hub now being developed to bring together content from the institutions using EdShare. It has been integrated into their systems and processes with their comms and marketing team use EdShare behind their iTunesU and their medical school having MedShare. For further information see this presentation on EdShare from the ALT 2017 Winter Conference.
Edinburgh have an OER policy but they don’t have an institutional repository. Resources are shared on whichever online platform is most appropriate. They have accounts on Vimeo, Flickr, and similar services and through this approach hope to encourage true openness and adaptability. They also have a media asset management platform called Media Hopper.
Teaching API’s through Google Sheets
Microlearning: TEL cards
Daniel Hardy and Matthew Street from Keel showed us the cards they had produced to promote various practices to staff. These sit within the VLE. The TEL cards code is available on GitHub.
In the Breaking Open session, we were given a series of provocations relating to who is excluded from or disadvantaged by open education practices. I like the way we (in groups of 6 or so) were asked to interact with these provocations:
- Choose one of the statements to work with
- What is the worst case, the worst things that could happen
- What could you do to make that worst case happen?
- What are you doing that might be contributing to the worst case?
The session worked well, although on my table at least there seems some defensiveness and a fixed idea that: open = good. I appreciated having contributors videoconference in and form their own virtual workshop table for the activity. Further information including the provocations are on the Towards Openness site.
The final keynote was left open and people were invited to, during the event, come forward if they would like to give a 5 minute reflection during this session. Honestly I was a little sceptical about how this would work but it was fantastic. I was particularly pleased to see two of the people whose earlier sessions I had found most interesting, Taskeen Adam and Prittee Auckloo, giving their take on what they had seen.
Inspiring student projects
Addressing shortage of materials / perspectives through OER
Lorna Campbell, in her keynote, mentioned an Edinburgh project addressing lack of materials around LGBT+ healthcare, with students adapting existing materials.
Welsh Wikipedia content
Jason Evans, National Wikipedian at the National Library of Wales, works with university and school students to help them write and contribute to Welsh-language wikipedia. Basque universities have used a similar model with their students.
Moving witch trials data to Wikidata
Ewan McAndrew from Edinburgh talked about working with MSc Data Design students to move an existing Access database of information about witchcraft trials onto Wikidata to make it available to researchers. Students also produced videos using the data.
Geoscience Outreach course
Stephanie (Charlie) Farley from Edinburgh talked about a course within Geoscience on co-creation of OERs. Students are paired up with community organisations, schools, etc and work to produce a piece of science communication or educational resource for that group. Students have produced events and apps and board games, as well as video and learning materials. The university hires student interns over the summer who work with selected students to polish their projects and promoted them as OERs.
On Friday 23rd March, Mike, Naomi, Robyn, Han and I headed over to Bath for the latest GW4 meeting of minds. As decided in the previous meeting, the main topics for discussion were e-assessment and portfolios, but we also discussed MOOC development and learning analytics. Unfortunately, no one from Exeter could make it up this time, so it was us from Bristol, along with colleagues from Bath and Cardiff. As before, we used Padlets to pool ideas and discussion points as we discussed in smaller groups.
Portfolios seem to be a common focus (dare I even say, headache). Bath and Cardiff have been using Mahara, and have been trying to overcome some of its limitations in-house. There was a strong feeling that none of us have found a portfolio which delivers what we need, and that if we ganged up on the providers they might be able to find a solution. The next step is to try to define what it is we do need from a portfolio, which tools we use (or have already investigated), and what we can do to find a common solution. Some immediate themes were e-portfolios as assessment tools (and how they integrate with current systems), GDPR implications, students being able to share parts of portfolios externally and internally, and how long students can have access to their portfolio.
As something we all have experience of, to a greater or lesser degree, there was inevitably quite a bit of discussion around MOOCs. We talked about the processes we follow to develop MOOCs, and the different support we provide to academics. For example, Gavin from Bath showed us how he uses Camtasia to produce videos in house; in fact, he was able to knock up an example of such a video in 20 minutes during the session, with mini interviews and shots from the day. We also discussed the data we get from FutureLearn, and how we all find it difficult to do anything with that data. With so much information, and not much time, it tends to become something we’d all like to do more with but never quite find the time for.
The discussion also retuned to an idea we’ve been kicking around GQ4 for a while, that of a collaborative MOOC. We discussed the idea of perhaps making courses for pre-entry undergrads, or students embarking on PhDs, or perhaps staff development and CPD courses for new academics (which Cardiff are already building a bank of in FutureLearn). The idea of creating small modular courses or MOOCS, where each of us could provide a section which is based on our own expertise and interests, was also popular…let’s see how this develops!
Tools and systems around e-assessment was also a common theme. As well as thinking about Blackboard assignments, use of Turnitin and QMP, there was also talk about peer assessment tools and practice and adopting a BYOD approach. It seemed that we all had experiences of e-assessment being very mixed, with huge disparity in adoption and approach within our institutions. We’re all working on e-assessment, it seems, for example our EMA project, which is quite similar to that of Bath. However, other trials are also going ahead, such as Cardiff’s trial of ‘Inspera‘. I think we’re all keen to see what their experiences of that project are, as the Scandinavian approach to e-exams has often been heralded as the future!
For the future, we discussed more of a ‘show and tell’ approach, where we could get a closer look at some of the things we’re up to. There was also talk of upping our use of communication channels in between meeting in person, particularly using the Yammer group more frequently, and perhaps having smaller virtual meetings for specific topics.
It wasn’t decided who would host the next session, particularly as Exeter weren’t represented, although we did tentatively offer to host here at Bristol. But, seeing as Bath really did set the bar high for lunch expectations – with special mention to the excellent pies and homemade cake – if we do host I think we’d better start planning the food already…!
Heading to London for the ABC mini event on Friday 9 February at UCL, I was a tiny bit apprehensive. This curriculum development tool was something I have used, in various forms, but without ever actually seeing how it should be ‘properly’ done, or ever receiving any training from Clive and Natasha, who came up with it. What I soon found was that our renegade use of the tool wasn’t in fact that renegade.
The morning session, where I got to actually try to develop a course using the tool, was pretty reassuring. It turns out I had actually been running the sessions ‘properly’ after all, which I would say is testament to how straightforward and logical the tools are to use.
After being on the other side of the table during a session, I learned how enjoyable it is to make such visible progress in such a short time. I also realised how much you have to remember if you end up talking through a whole sequence of learning without noting down the detail (ie, before you ‘flip the cards’). By the time we came to adding detail, we all had to try and remember what we’d had in mind. This is definitely something I’ll bear in mind the next time I run a session.
As well as the hands on session, hearing about what others have been using the method for, and what they had learned from it, was inspiring. The main things that stuck in my mind were:
- How useful the method is as a review tool (as I had previously used it to design new courses). It helps people visualise and recognise all the great things they already do, before thinking about how they might want to develop their course for the future. The act of discussing it with others surfaces long held beliefs and assumptions which might no longer apply. When redesigning a course, unit or programme, I can see how helpful this might be.
- Secondly, this tool is really effective at a programme level. The evaluation of individual courses or units seems to take on a new dimension when done in a room with all the units and courses in the programme being evaluated at the same time. Without asking people to do this explicitly, connections between units can be spotted and developed, duplication can be discussed, and people involved across the whole programme can start to get a real sense of what the students’ experience of the whole programme actually is. A ‘ground-up’ programme development seems to happen, which is more holistic and sustainable than a ‘top-down’ directive.
For our purposes, this certainly seems like a useful tool for two big projects that the University of Bristol is tackling: programme level assessment, and embedding the Bristol Futures themes into the core curriculum. Being able to quickly map where things already happen, and then talk about it in an open and positive environment, could be a really engaging way to get these conversations started. Let’s see where learning our ABCs can get us…
Notes from Suzanne Collins and Suzi Wells on using the ABC cards in Bristol. This talk was given at the ABC mini conference, UCL, London, 9 March 2018. See the ABC Learning Design web pages for further resources.
Suzi: Trialling ABC as a tool in workshops
I first came across the ABC curriculum design method while browsing UCL’s digital education pages looking for ideas. It immediately appealed. My background is in structuring and building websites, and I had used paper-based storyboarding in that context.
First trial: a single unit
Colleagues were enthusiastic and we started looking for contexts to trial it. An academic approached us with a view to involving us in significantly redesign a unit and we suggested the ABC approach.
As a tool for discussion, and for engaging a more diverse group of people – two academics, two learning technologists, one librarian, and someone else – it worked very well. They were very engaged and all could contribute. Although they couldn’t agree on a single tweet.
But we didn’t complete all the activities in the time. We also didn’t talk to them about how it should fit in to the overall development cycle and didn’t have much opportunity to follow up on what next. To me it felt like there was less value in talking about a single unit in isolation, that there would have been more benefit if we’d been working on a programme.
It was a useful tool and an enjoyable session but it wasn’t right yet.
Second trial: developing online courses
Not long after that we were asked to get involved in developing three online courses which would be promoted to our own students, as well as to the public more widely. Each course would be developed by a group of academics from a variety of different disciplines, many of whom had not worked together before.
The timescales were extremely short (by university standards). The academics involved were extremely busy with their existing work. These courses had to be innovative, transformative, cross-disciplinary, interlinked, approachable by anyone, essentially self-sustaining … and should encourage the development of transferable skills. No small ask.
Having pitched their ideas and been selected to lead or participate, the teams were assembled for an initial one day event. As part of this we ran several short sessions. We asked them to do an elevator pitch (they resolutely failed to follow the instructions on this). We also did a pre-mortem (imagine it’s a year down the line and these projects have been an absolute disaster, tell us what went wrong – very popular and a great way of surfacing problems and clearing the air).
We then ran an ABC workshop, with three tables myself and my colleagues Roger Gardner and Mike Cameron running a table each.
We modified the cards slightly to make them more platform-focused. We also added a time wheel to each week. Students would be expected to spend three hours a week in total on these courses and from conversations we’d had with the academics we knew that they were veering towards providing three hours of video a week (plus readings and activities). We wanted to focus attention on how students would spend their time.
We attempted to fit all this within an hour, because that was all the time available in the schedule.
For stimulating discussion, getting everyone to contribute, and shifting focus towards the student experience it worked well. The teams understood it and could work with it quickly. We were definitely over-ambitions about how much we could get through in an hour. Added to this, it was too early in the process and teams still had divergent or vague ideas about content (even on a big-picture scale) which couldn’t be resolved in a short time available.
One interesting finding was about the value of pushing people through the process. The other two facilitators used the framework and cards but took a more freeform approach, allowing discussions to run on. I was much stricter, pushing people through the activities. At the end of the day my group were the only one who asked to take the cards away and declared that they would use it themselves. Working through all the activities seemed to help people see the value of the process (though of course that may not mean that the discussion was more valuable).
Suzanne: Using ABC throughout online course design
My experiences of using the ABC method came later in the process of developing these online courses. My colleague Hannah O’Brien and I worked intensively with the three course teams, and we turned to ABC to help us do that. When we started, there were a lot of ideas, too many in fact(!), and we tried to find ways to get those ideas somehow on to paper, so that we could all evaluate them, and work them into a course design.
We ran a series of shorter, small group ABC sessions, using the modified cards from Suzi and Roger’s previous session. The courses were going to end up in the FutureLearn platform, so the course design by nature needed to work in a linear sequence of weeks of learning. In each week, we needed a series of ‘activities’, which were made up of different ‘steps’. Anyone familiar with FutureLearn can tell you that there isn’t a great deal of choice for what these steps are: a text article, a video, a discussion, a quiz, or a limited selection of external ‘exercises’.
What the ABC sessions highlighted early on for our teams was that having lots of video and articles explaining ideas might look jazzy, but is all very similar (and not very active) in terms of learning types. We all noticed there was far too much of the turquoise ‘acquisition’ happening in courses which were designed to develop skills such as communication and self-efficacy.
To help our academics come up with alternatives ideas for how students could, within the limits of FutureLearn, have a more interactive and challenging learning experience, we also created a bank of good examples, which we called our ‘Activity Bank’. As we worked to try and think of ideas for collaboration, or inquiry, for example, we could direct them to explore these examples, and adapt the ideas for their own purposes.
Overall, the ABC ended up being a useful tool to get everyone talking about the pedagogical choices they were making in a similar way. We could map the learning experience quickly and visually, so that we could prototype, evaluate and iterate course designs. It also kept us all clearly focused on what the learners were doing during the course, rather than how amazingly we were presenting the materials.
Since then, I’ve found myself returning to the ABC tools and ideas regularly. The learning type ‘colours’ got quite embedded in our way of thinking and documenting learning designs. They cropped up in a graphic course design map created to demonstrate the pedagogical choices for the online courses (see below), and are now doing so again in a different context.
This new context, and the next big project for me is the Bristol Futures Optional Units. These are blended, scalable, credit bearing, multidisciplinary, investigative units, open to all students, around the Bristol Futures themes of Global Citizenship, Innovation and Enterprise and Sustainable Futures. So, no small ask, once again.
For this, the ABC cards have been tweaked again, this time to generate ideas for both online and face-to-face ideas for course elements, to allow for a flexible and student-choice driven learning experience. How can we provide a similar learning experience for students who might end up taking the unit in very different ways? We’re in the early days of course design, but I imagine that we’ll end up using the ABC workshops in various forms during the coming year!
In all, the ABC has become a bit of an ace up our sleeves. When we need temas to work more collaboratively, when we need the focus shifted back to the student, when we need to make progress rapidly and efficiently, even when we come to evaluate learning design – the ABC tools seem to provide us with a way to talk, act, design, and iterate.
On Friday 9 March myself and my colleague Suzanne Collins made our way to UCLs London Knowledge Lab, round the back of Lambs Conduit Street, to attend a mini-conference on the ABC curriculum design methodology developed by Clive Young and Nataša Perović.
It’s something we’ve been using an adapted version of at Bristol for just over a year, so it was great to see Clive and Nataša in action at the masterclass, and to hear about the great work being done at Glasgow, Canterbury Christ Church and Reading.
Some useful points from the day:
- Glasgow have been using an online tool to make an electronic version (and have templates available)
- Canterbury Christ Church have used PowerPoint to create an electronic copy while the workshop runs
- Other coloured stars have been added to make visible: places where they engage with the education strategy; developing employability skills; other priorities (identified by the course teams)
- Who is in the workshop is critical. Do you have students? Library staff? A critical friend?
- It’s not just us – everybody adapts the cards (sometimes they even change the colours).
During the morning session people talked about using the cards with students, to allow them to design the course. One speaker suggested using them with evidence of BAME / gender engagement (in different types of activity), to address the way the course works for different learners. It was great to see how quickly people picked up the idea and started taking it on as their own.
Lots of potential and positivity. I look forward to seeing how the network grows.
Last Friday, Han, Mike and I attended a GW4 event in Cardiff, where the main topics on the agenda were students as collaborators, and shared projects that we can embark on together.
The day started with brief updates from each team:
- Have a new space for learning and teaching experimentation
- Are working on a Curriculum Design Toolkit, as part of which they are looking at unbundling content to work in different ways for different markets
- Have a Learning Hub Showcase (http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/learning-hub)
- Have funding that students can bid for, for teaching projects
- Ran a Summer Intern Project – one of which focused on advice in how to use lecture capture
- Had a blank course rollover with a new minimum standard
- Have a major curriculum design project upcoming
- Are moving towards programme-level assessment rather than modular
- Have new funding for staff and students to work together
- Are championing a flipped learning approach
- Have a placement student
- Are working on a ‘Litebox project’ (http://blogs.bath.ac.uk/litebox/) where students create an environment where the whole University can learn about new and existing technologies for use in learning and teaching, and share their experiences of them
- Are expanding their distance learning postgraduate numbers
During the second part of the day, we talked about students as producers. Splitting into small groups, we shared our experiences, challenges and tips for working with students on both accredited and unaccredited courses. It was widely accepted by the group that collaboration with students is mutually beneficial. Students are able to move from being passive consumers of knowledge to genuine partners in their education, and we as professionals have a lot to gain from the expertise, connections with other students, and knowledge of life at the university that students can offer us.
The experience of working with students a Bristol, Bath and Cardiff has been positive but limited. All three universities have hired student interns in the past, but would like to do more in terms of making ‘students as producers’ a key underpinning concept in accredited courses. The expectations of ‘what university learning will be like’ puts a dent in the willingness of students to engage with accredited collaborative projects. We discussed how students may see universities as institutions of teaching rather than of learning, particularly as tuition fees have risen, and expect more teacher-to-student time for their money. Our group talked about introducing the idea of innovative learning techniques earlier in students’ degree programmes, and even on pre-university open days, in order to change the expectations of students from traditional lecture-based learning to problem-based modules and more.
For the last part of the day, we talked about projects that the GW4 could collaborate on, and contributed to this padlet board. We all shared ideas, then each of us cast three votes for the projects we’d like to see most. A common theme was the sharing of knowledge and expertise in areas like FutureLearn, ePortfolios and case studies. We also talked about working together to put pressure on companies or to bid for shared funding in order to improve practice in ways that wouldn’t be possible for a single institution.
Bath have volunteered to host the next meeting in February or March, in which we’ll talk about ePortfolios and assessment.
Last Thursday I caught the 8.44am cross country to Plymouth to attend the first Games and Simulation enhanced Learning (GSeL) Conference. GSeL is a newly formed interdisciplinary research theme group, part of Plymouth University’s Pedagogic Research Institute and Observatory (PedRIO).
Plymouth University 2nd November 2017
The main event was on Friday the 3rd, but a session billed for the previous day – ‘Hackathon: VR for Non-programmers’ sounded promising. So, I ventured down a day early to channel my inner geek. I’ve got a basic (but rusty) understanding of coding so hoped that the ‘non-programmers’ tagline was true. Turns out the session was well designed for those with little to no experience. Michael Straeubig expertly guided around 15 attendees with differing skills through the process of creating a simple VR equivalent of ‘Hello World’ over the course of 2 hours.
Sounds complicated? Yeah, sort of – but Michael’s laid-back-whilst-enthusiastic delivery helped fill in the gaps and moved at a steady pace we could all keep up with. He guided us through creating our first scene, adding in various 3-dimensional objects, altering their size and colour. Setting up a local server on our laptops via atom.io, we were able to move beyond viewing the 3D space we’d programmed and view it on a pair of budget VR goggles (Google Cardboard) on our smartphones.
It was a great primer for dipping toes/feet/legs into creating simple VR spaces from scratch using free tools. The a-frame project files supplied had additional examples of how to extend and develop. I don’t mind admitting I spent a large part of the rest of the day tinkering. A Michael drily observed during the session, we’d become ‘cool coders’.
Games and Simulation enhanced Learning (GSeL) Conference
Plymouth University 3rd November 2017
A day of talks and workshops based around the use of Games and Simulations, both real-life and digital. Some personal highlights for me included:
Professor Nicola Whitton’s keynote ‘Play matters: exploring the pedagogic value of games and simulation’ which tapped eloquently into themes like Failing without Consequence and motivation/engagement through playing games.
Matthew Barr (University of Glasgow) ‘Playing games at University: the role of video games in higher education and beyond’ – a great talk about his work with ‘gaming groups’ and the benefits cooperative video game playing brought students. “If I ruled the world, every student would play Portal 2”.
James Moss (Imperial College) ‘Gamification: leveraging elements of game design in medical education’ – some brilliant examples of using scenario based games in medical education. ‘Stabed to Stable’ involved scenario/persona based learning, a horizontal whiteboard, post-it notes and pens, with students clustered around trying to map out processes (checks/actions) they needed to go through, whilst James periodically helped guide or threw related spanners into the works. An overhead time-lapse video showed a dynamic session in action. A second game involved teams becoming the ‘medical officer’ helping a team of characters climb Everest. This simulation included mountain noise recordings (incrementally getting louder), random wildcards presenting challenges, lighting changes and James squirting participants in the face with water.
Michael Parsons (University of South Wales) ‘Keeping it Real: Integrating Practitioners in a Public Relations Crisis Simulation’ – shared his experience running a real-time simulation for PR students. Students attempted to handle a recreation of the infamous Carnival Triumph ‘Poop Cruise’ in the University’s Hydra Minerva Suite. The simulation used news report recordings, archived social media posts and live interaction with actors via telephones over several ‘acts’ to simulate a PR teams attempts to handle a particularly disastrous voyage. It all went well till the passengers were close enough to land to get mobile phone reception (and access to social networks).
The conference presented a feast of examples of using games and simulations in teaching and learning. From creating crosswords to utilising digital badges to recognise achievements to data visualisation in Virtual Reality, the place was abuzz with ideas. The focus on the potential of play and gaming to engage students meant the event had something for everyone, whether die-hard techy or strictly analogue.