On the 6th,7th and 8th September 2016 I was one of the learning technologists lucky enough to attend the Association of Learning Technology (ALT) Annual Conference at the University of Warwick. The conference theme was ‘Connect, Collaborate, Create’ with many parallel workshops on different topics. The keynote presentations were interesting and engaging and I was particularly struck by the keynote by Jane Secker (LSE) titled ‘Copyright and E-Learning: Understanding our privileges and freedoms’ (Video of this presentation available on YouTube). Jane argued that copyright is about ethics and respect for others ideas and is a fundamental part of information and digital literacy. She argued that creative commons licences were critical in preserving our ‘open commons’.
One of the topics of the workshops throughout the conference was learning analytics (LA). The JISC definition states “learning analytics refers to the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about the progress of learners and the contexts in which learning takes place”. Whereas the Higher Education Academy stipulates that “learning Analytics is the process of measuring and collecting data about learners and learning with the aim of improving teaching and learning practice through analysis of the data”.
One of the presentations I attended was titled ‘What can we learn from learning analytics? A case study based on an analysis of student use of video recordings’ presented by Moira Sarsfield and John Conway from Imperial College, London. They presented the results of their research into students use of video recordings of lectures across a range of subject areas. Their research found that students use of lecture recordings varied considerably with some students viewing parts of the lectures, whilst others viewed all the lectures. Interestingly, the time of the year students viewed the lectures also varied with some subjects using the videos for revision more than others. As a result of the research there are actionable insights to provide advice for students to view recordings early and maintain application through the course. However, student success was not directly correlated with viewing lecture recordings in this research. As we are launching a pilot of lecture capture next year it was interesting to consider the analysis that could be made of the student viewing to help improve teaching and learning.
Another presentation I attended was titled ‘Embedding ePortfolio in the Curriculum’ and was presented by Emma Purnell from the University of Plymouth. She outlined their use of the PebblePad workbook at the University. We have had PebblePad for 3 years at CCCU, but it has been used primarily within the Health and Wellbeing and Education Faculties. These case studies included use in a Business module to provide evidence of students skills and use for collaboration and group work for employability. Plymouth University have begun a project to provide a workbook for all students for each graduate attribute that could be shared with their personal tutor. This institution-wide project illustrates how an e-portfolio can be used to support learning for all students.
Overall it was an interesting and thought provoking conference to attend. As is often the case at conferences, one of the most useful things was to be able to meet and network with colleagues from other institutions.
On the 28th July 2016, Blackboard Accessibility Manager JoAnna Hunt led a webinar titled ‘Making Blackboard modules and content accessible for all’. This webinar was timely given the changes to the DSA allowance in the UK.
JoAnna highlighted how inclusive learning approaches benefit all students. However, it was acknowledged that there are challenges outlined in building an inclusive classroom. One of these that we are addressing at CCCU includes a ‘knowledge and skills gap’ for staff and ‘ongoing support for staff.’ These challenges are currently being addressed at CCCU through a working group which is looking at the implications of the changes in DSA funding for students and staff. Look out for staff development workshops around developing an inclusive curriculum and a new tab in Blackboard containing a link to an Inclusive Learning and Teaching Blackboard site.
The diverse needs of learners were outlined in this webinar including Cognitive challenges, Visual Challenges, Physical Challenges and Hearing challenges and the impact of these different challenges was on student learning was outlined. As JoAnna states:
‘There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Inclusiveness does not mean all students doing the same thing the same way. It means enabling everyone to achieve the same goals.’
There are things that can be done pedagogically to assist students using Blackboard (you may already be doing some of these)
Make the course outline available.
Define your learning outcomes.
Provide explicit instructions.
Include collaborative learning.
Use differentiated activities where appropriate in the curriculum.
In terms of content you put into Blackboard, the following checklist is useful:
Ensure images have alternative text – this means that visually impaired students using a screen reader know what the images are.
Limiting the use of animation to where it is critical to learning.
Ensure Microsoft Word and PowerPoint documents are properly structured.
Ensure PDF documents are accessible.
Ensure colour choices have proper contrast (e.g. dark text on a light background).
Do not use tables for formatting as these are read differently by screen readers (i.e. only use tables for data).
The aim of this webinar was to help staff think through their pedagogy and understand how they can make adjustments.
Plickers is another free online voting tool that can be used to engage students. However, where it differs from many other online tools is that it combines an app that the instructor downloads (free of charge) with paper/cards that the students use. This means that students do not need any technology to take part so no student is disadvantaged if they do not have a smart phone/tablet. The student registers their vote using specially designed cards. The camera in the app ‘reads’ these votes which are fed back to the tutor and can be displayed on a computer screen in real time if you want the students to view them.
How to use Plickers
Instructors create a free account with Plickers and download the app which available via Apple or Android. N.B. Please ensure that you select ‘iphone only’ when searching via the Apple store even though the app will work on ipad
You can print out cards (free) or order them online. Each card has a unique number which you can choose to assign to students by name or the students can be anonymous. You can add classes and assign students cards through the Plickers website. New questions can be created in your ‘Library’ within the website and organised into folders. The questions can include images and are either multiple choice or true/false. The instructor uses the app to select the question to be answered and clicks on the camera icon to scan student’s responses. The cards are rotated by the students to select their answers.
Free and easy to use software Students do not need any technology as they do not download an app
Tutors can view a report of the questions and how they were answered
You can assign students to cards or use anonymous voting
Immediate results can be made visible to students via the Plickers web page
Limited to 63 users
Limited question types (MCQs, T/F)
Not integrated with powerpoint
Need wifi access
Need sufficient lighting to enable the camera to pick up images
Audience response systems can be used to increase student engagement. As a lecturer you are able to adapt content in response to student answers. It could be used to stimulate debate and discussion and it can be used to help students interact throughout the lecture and enhance learner motivation.