Blackboard Catalyst Award: How Learning Edge helped the win!

The Learning Technology Development (LTD) Team has had a very successful 2014.  We’ve implemented and seen some great things happening with technology enhanced learning throughout the University.  More noticeably the faculty specific tabs and resources generated on Learning Edge and of course the continuing success of all the iSpring resources for staff and students. With this in mind I can’t help but think ‘where we would all be without the training and development to understand and support its use on a daily basis?’.

 

Cast your minds back to early May this year when you might recall that Edge Hill University received a Blackboard Catalyst Award for the Developing Digital Excellence (DDE) series under the University’s Staff Development programme.  Blackboard commended the DDE programme for its dynamic approach and good practice based on its blended provision of staff development with its use of TEL related tools.

 

As part of the award, Blackboard invited myself and Carol Chatten to present a live webinar to an international audience on 16th October 2014.  Here we had the opportunity to share our experiences on creating and managing the Developing Digital Excellence series and of course highlight the areas that enhanced the sessions delivered. The webinar itself was recorded and so you can now have th opportunity to watch it for yourself if you didn’t manage to make it on the day.

 

Access the recording here.

 

If you’ve haven’t attended one of the DDE sessions yet, what are you waiting for? Why not try one of the award winning sessions now by exploring the ‘Staff Development’ area on the staff GO portal today! We have a number of events coming up in the Digital Office and Practitioner strands.

 

Enjoy the recording and hope to see you very soon…

 

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Mark Wilcock & Carol Chatten 

Learning Technology Development Officers

 

 

Engaging learners with Blackboard Collaborate

How the Inclusion Team is using our web conferencing platform to engage students, enhance communication and improve outcomes.

Anne McLoughlin is  the leader of Edge Hill’s dyslexia programme.  The programme is a blended course – mostly online – delivered via our Blackboard VLE and the Collaborate web conferencing system, with some face to face conference days.

I interviewed Anne in September.  This 10 minute recording* is a mini-case study:

[eshare version of the recording and transcript: http://www.eshare.edgehill.ac.uk/5767/]

Here are some highlights:

  • One of the aims of using Collaborate was to give a more engaging experience for remote learners;
  • Sessions delivered with Collaborate are recorded – thus students are able to re-visit the sessions;
  • Collaborate is used for student inductions – with presentations by Learning Services staff;
  • It’s also used for tutorials – attempting to give an equivalent experience to distance students;
  • Issues revolve around students confidence with technology and ‘Java’[2];
  • The Collaborate mobile app has been very reliable;
  • The LTD guides have been useful [3];
  • The support from LTD has been “really good” [4];
  • The feedback from students indicates that Collaborate has made them feel part of the University community.

And, finally, Anne’s advice to staff: “Have a go …, perhaps a small number [of students] to start with, and then just go for it!”  And really finally, Anne’s last word: “I love it …”

BestofTEL_SMALLAnne McLoughlin
Senior Lecturer
Faculty of Education
Professional Development
Extension:  7163
Telephone:  01695 657163
Email: [email protected]

 

Anne would be pleased to discuss her approach to using Collaborate with anyone at Edge Hill – her contact details are above.

If you have more general questions about the Collaborate service or any of the tools within the Learning Edge Suite contact your Learning Technologist (see the Faculty Contacts on this page) or email the LTD Team on [email protected] or 01695 650754 x7754.

*Note that the recording was made on my mobile phone – illustrating the quality that is possible from a device most of us have in our pockets.


[1] Note that I’m creating a blog post on how to have a virtual office link at the end of your signature – so watch out for that in a few days time – or contact one of the LTD team if you want to do it now.

[2] Blackboard have removed the need for Java in the next version of Collaborate.

[3] We have many guides and resources – here are some that we understand have been very useful to colleagues:

Building and teaching in Learning Edge
Blackboard Collaborate: Audio and Video Equipment (Device Guide and Recommendations)
Planning Collaborate Session: An Overview
Introduction by Blackboard: Collaborate Web Conferencing Online Orientation
The LTD Best of TEL Blogs – such as: Collaborating all over the world

[4] Developing Digital Excellence sessions – such as:
Basic Introduction to Blackboard Collaborate (Student Services Webinar) 22/07/14

Using Optivote in Large Lectures for Student Engagement and Enhancing Learning

Optivote HandsetsIn this post Elaine Hughes, Senior Lecturer in Adult Nursing and a SOLSTICE Fellow, tells us about her experience using an Optivote voting system. If you are inspired to think about using this type of system in your own teaching, there is plenty of support and information available to help you get started.

Could you set the scene for us?
“As Kurt Lewin said ‘Learning is more effective when it’s an active rather than a passive process’. Therefore maintaining student engagement and enhancing learning in lecturers of around 140 students can prove to be very challenging. Other than written formative tests there are limited ways of assessing whether learning has taken place at the point of contact. Yet, it is well documented that when learning is fun then it can prove to enhance memory and thus stimulate learning.”

What did you do?
“Before the Optivote system was available for use I still used quizzes in the classroom with rewards for the right answers, usually Quality Street, which proved to be very popular with the students. It clearly helped focus their concentration as they were able to give the right answers after a taught session but whether learning had taken place throughout the class couldn’t be evaluated. What you also couldn’t see were how many got the answers right as not all students would attempt to verbally answer. Cue Optivote.”

Why did you do it? What were the drivers?
“The use of a voting system allowed greater student engagement and allowed me to evaluate whether students had understood the key messages in a lecture. It moved the delivery of sessions forward and I think there are probably many other ways to use this in class which could be measured over a period of time.”

How did you use the voting system?
“Because I teach anatomy and physiology initially Optivote lent itself to these sessions. However I have now used the Optivote system in large groups for a number of years across level 4-6 for sessions for different purposes:

  • for formative quizzes following anatomy and physiology sessions where the end of module assessment included a summative exam
  • as an alternative method of teaching anatomy and physiology, using the questions as a focal point to discuss the reasons for the answers
  • in clinical decision making and delegation sessions where students are asked to rationalise their decisions in practice and used as discussion points”

What was the outcome?
“The use of the Optivote handsets really promoted student engagement with the session content and generated discussion among the groups. In terms of ‘did deep learning take place?’ this is much harder to quantify. However in the module where there was a summative exam the pass rates were higher. To make real claims as to whether this was directly related to the use of technology research would have to be undertaken. However what is evident is the students enjoy this engagement as these sessions are consistently highlighted in module evaluations.”

What were the issues and concerns?
“With any technology within the classroom, especially with so many pairs of eyes watching, the fear is always ‘will the system fail’ and ‘have I programmed this correctly?’ There’s a handy guide to setting up your database and loading in your presentation and questions/responses but I think the first time I used it it wasn’t so simple! Although with practice it’s easy to set up and use, but like everything practice makes perfect – however I still always test it before each use!”

What ‘unanticipated outcomes’ were there?
“I wasn’t sure how the students would react. Would they think it was childish to press the button and vote? Would they want to get involved? Would they see it just like ‘who wants to be a millionaire’ and jump in with their answers? I needn’t have worried. What I actually saw at one point was probably the most disengaged group I’d ever taught sit on the edge of their seats, pointing their handsets at the screen and pressing buttons before the voting timer had even started! I did think that this was just a one off response from this particular group but when I demonstrated the use of the equipment to staff I had exactly same reaction! When students go off task in a class they talk. What I also tend to see with Optivote is lots of chatter with their neighbours, but it’s quite obvious they’re discussing the question that’s been posed to them, especially during clinical decision making as this can get quite animated.”

Did the use meet your expectations?
“In terms of student engagement it certainly has met my expectations. Keeping such large groups engaged and interacting, not just with me but with each other and on the subject content, can be difficult. However assessing if learning has taken place is more difficult. The students certainly remember the sessions but do they remember the content!”

What would be your advice to others trying to do this?
“I’m no techno expert by any means but if technology scares you then just speak to someone who has used it. It literally takes 20 minutes to set up your database and then it’s done. After that it’s a couple of minutes to set up in class. Don’t use it too frequently as it becomes too familiar: that way the students continue to engage with the process. Don’t use too many questions and change your format, it keeps the audience on their toes.”

BestofTEL_SMALLElaine Hughes
Senior Lecturer Adult Nursing & SOLSTICE Fellow

Getting Started with Virtual Reality

A Google CardboardWe have a weekly meeting in Learning Technology Development where we get together to talk about things that have interested or inspired us. Recently I brought along my Google Cardboard so that the team could try out some Virtual Reality experiences.

There is a lot of interest in Virtual Reality at the moment with Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus VR and the development of a wide range of headsets including those which use your phone as a screen and computer, and those which are standalone devices. Google Cardboard is one of those which holds a compatible phone, and is at the cheaper end of the scale as you can make it yourself, or buy it semi-assembled for less than £20.

My Google Cardboard As you can see I’ve added a velcro strap to make it hands free and Sugru to protect it from skin as it was getting used by a lot of people. A Bluetooth controller is also needed to use some Virtual Reality apps, but not all.

There is a dedicated Cardboard app for Android devices which demonstrates potential uses; I’ve looked at this in detail in another blog post. There is also a web page that you can visit to experience more experiments. The easiest way to create basic content yourself is by making Photo Spheres which newer (4.2+) Android devices can create using the default camera app. Another really good Android app to get you started is Tuscany Dive which displays a 3D environment that you can explore, and doesn’t require a controller.

As for possible uses in education we talked about ideas such as allowing new or potential students to view their rooms, or areas of campus, if they cannot access them for whatever reason. We wondered about using the headsets for Augmented Reality; the only AR example I’ve seen is the demo for a Role Playing Game. In the long term we could perhaps do some of the things that we’ve used 3D Virtual Worlds like Second Life for, such as running virtual risk assessments and role plays. Merchant et al (2014) undertook a meta-analysis of research into use of this ‘desktop-based virtual reality’ in education, which might be a good starting point to explore what has already been learned in this area.

We’re still quite a way from these technologies being ready for mainstream use; Gartner’s 2014 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies estimates that it will be 5-10 years before Virtual Reality reaches the Plateau of Productivity. There are also many issues to overcome such as motion sickness. However affordable headsets that use devices that many of us already own, can help us develop a better understanding of what we could use these technologies for in education.

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Peter Beaumont
Learning Technology Development Officer