Mar 262014

Using social media tools to affirm study skills

Zoë Allman is the Programme Leader, Media Production BSc, Faculty of Technology and a DMU Teacher Fellow.

Up until the 2013/14 academic year, one of the modules that Zoë taught was the Social Media and Technology module; the learning outcomes of which are focused on students developing their study skills such as how write group essays, revision techniques and other study skills. The module also focuses on how to write for social media platforms and the importance of keeping an up to date online profile.

Traditionally, when engaging with study skills tutorials, students would work in isolation during lab sessions and in quite a didactic manner, feedback would be given on the pieces of written work that the students had produced. It was obvious to module leader Andrew Clay, supported by module tutor Zoë, that this approach to teaching study skills as part of Social Media and Technology was not pedagogically appropriate as students were seen to have forgotten what they had learnt through the feedback and therefore they set about to innovate the teaching and assessment techniques used in this part of the module.

Andrew and Zoë decided to marry the subject of the module ‘social media’ with the study skills learning outcomes. This made sense as this created a situation where the students would be using the tools that the module is focused on to develop and construct their knowledge relating to study skills.

Students were already using Facebook and Twitter in other modules and in their personal lives so in consultation with the students the module team agreed that Facebook and Twitter would be used as a platform for students to engage with each other and work collaboratively on their study skills – this approach also lent itself to the curriculum as one of the summative assessment tasks is to produce a group essay.

Initially, Andrew and Zoë adapted the traditional approach by building in the use of social media. As a module team they encouraged students to share their attempts at writing in an academic style using a Facebook group. The students found that being able to see and formatively critique each other’s attempts helped them to understand the principles behind academic writing and to learn from each other’s feedback.

This approach helped students to retain what they had learnt about study skills but the breakthrough came when one group of students decided to take their learning into their own hands.

An assignment was set whereby small groups were tasked to produce a piece (written or otherwise) to demonstrate that a specific study skill had been mastered. All groups, with the exception of one, submitted either a written document or a short video in a piece to camera style.

However, Zoë was pleasantly surprised when she reviewed one group’s submission to find that they had taken a popular song, parodied the video, re-written the lyrics and presented a produced ‘pop-video’ style piece that demonstrated fully that they had learnt how to write a group assignment.

The following week, as part of the co-teaching activity, Zoë showcased this submission to the other groups which prompted one group to go directly to the media production studio and create a parody of Beyoncé’s Single Ladies for the following week.

Now, rich multimedia content has become the normal for students working in groups or individually on the study skills assignments as part of Social Media and Media technology. Submissions are now shared and critiqued using the DMU Commons rather than Facebook but the principles are the same and students also use the DMU Commons to blog using the FutureMedia site as championed by Rob Watson, Principal Lecturer.

Andrew and Zoë also encourage the students to Tweet about their learning experience. With guidance from Dr Andrew Clay, Principal Lecturer, Critical Technical Practices, Zoë and the students have been making use of the storification tools in Twitter to build up a chronological portfolio of reflective Tweets that others can see.

Students are also encouraged to stay up to date with social media trends when using these platforms to collaborate and produce pieces for assessment. For example, students embraced the ‘Harlem Shake’ trend and group’s submitted Harlem Shake style videos to demonstrate their understanding – this links to the social media focused learning outcomes of the module as it encourages students to not only use such tools for their own assessment pieces but through using these tools they are also learning how to use them in the context of their course too.

The students enjoy these approaches to teaching and formative assessment, and have taken control of their own learning by pro-actively extending their use of social media by parodying videos and talking about their experiences and the work they have produced in these spaces.

The students described here are all first year students and through these activities they are encouraged to begin to take control of their own learning through these innovative approaches to teaching study skills.

Ian Pettit

Feb 262014

Subhes Bhattacharyya teaches Sustainable Development as part of the Energy and Sustainable Development Subject Group at De Montfort University.

This Subject Group has traditionally pioneered Distance Learning through the use of online materials and a database for communicating with Distance Learners.

Subhes teaches in semester one only and over the summer of 2013 Subhes approached the ELT Project Officer with regard to offering captured lecture content to complement the existing online learning materials.

A discussion took place that identified Subhes’ teaching styles and it was decided that the Panopto lecture capture system coupled with the AV facilities in the classroom would be an appropriate use of technology to capture Subhes’ classes during the first semester.

Subhes uses slides that are projected on screen in class along with the whiteboard and he also shows creative commons licensed videos at the end of class to affirm. Panopto was the choice of platform for this project as it can simultaneously capture slides, screen and (in this case) a video feed from the classroom’s HD camera.

A tutorial was given regarding delivering whilst recording using Panopto and with the absolute minimal support, Subhes has captured an entire semester and made these available online each week, within a couple of hours, via the Virtual Learning Environment.

Subhes found the software and hardware easy to use and intuitive whilst being non-intrusive in the classroom.

Six students have volunteered feedback regarding the captured content and all have been positive. A couple of points to note are that one student was required to install a free browser plugin for Safari on Mac OS and a second student mentioned that on a slow internet connection that buffering did occur. However, these were the only negative points raised and with recent upgrades to the Panopto software that is used at DMU, the buffering issue should be a thing of the past.

Some students did say that although the captures are great and the way that Panopto presents these online is intuitive, they would also appreciate a more traditional, downloadable version for watching offline as well. This links to Subhes’ original aim to provide a suite of different ways to engage with the curriculum as captured content is not a replacement for other online materials but more so a complementary and diverse mix of content that is available quickly is what the students want and value.

Going forward, Subhes is keen to look into other ways in which his classroom activity can be captured and in September 2014 he will start to capture the classroom’s visualiser alongside the screen and slides as Subhes wants to use this technology as an electronic whiteboard rather than pointing the camera at the dry wipe board.

For more advice and guidance in the area of lecture capture, try the Multimedia Production Pathway.



Nov 012013

De Montfort University has recently subscribed to the British Universities Film & Video Council's Box of Broadcasts service – or 'BoB'.

Using their single sign-on credentials, staff and students can log into BoB and record terrestial television and radio programmes from the past seven days as well as scheduling recordings over the seven days to come.

There is also an extensive, searchable archive that holds programmes from 2007 onwards.

The service has been procured by Library and Learning Services and there is a full LibGuide available that talks about how to record programmes, create playlists and share recordings.

However, once recordings are made, staff may wish to make use of these resources within the Blackboard VLE and this post is about the steps needed to embed a BoB video or clip into a Blackboard shell.

Once a programme has been recorded using BoB, it can be trimmed down into a clip or it can be used in its entirety – staff can embed BoB recordings into their Blackboard shell and a how to guide describing this process has been produced.

Ian Pettit.

Aug 212013

I recently took delivery of a new piece of technology from the IT department here at DMU. It’s a telephone… or is it?

Last year DMU started the roll-out of Microsoft Lync to all of its staff members; the vision is that staff will make use of the software to video conference with each other, we will make use of Voice Over IP and we can also manage our time and meetings more effectively due to the integration with Outlook.

From a business justification perspective, all of the points above stand up by way of helping us to be more efficient and save costs but it is the other benefit that this project has ‘accidentally’ delivered that I want to talk about here.

The Centre for Enhancing Learning through Technology (CELT) works independently from the IT support department as part of the Library and Learning Services Directorate at DMU. However projects that the IT team delivers will often have a knock-on effect on CELT’s work and can sometimes deliver unexpected teaching, learning and assessment related benefits.

In order to take full advantage of MS Lync, the IT team has equipped each staff member with a new telephone – I was quite excited to take delivery of mine as my previous device would have been more at home in a museum than on my desk but aside the obvious benefits of clearer sound, being notified when I had missed a call and being able to see when my next meeting is scheduled on the telephone’s screen I also noticed that there are now some new cables on my desk.

The cable I’m really excited about (if I can get excited about a piece of black wire) is the USB cable that now plugs into my PC and the new ‘phone.

This cable not only facilitates the communication between the MS Lync desktop application and the telephone but my PC also now ‘sees’ the new telephone and its discreet devices as devices that the PC can access, control and interface with.

And here’s the point – by providing each staff member with a new telephone and the USB interface, the IT department has given everyone a good quality microphone and speaker that their computer can see and use.

Over the last couple of years, as one of the Enhancing Learning through Technology Project Officers at DMU, I have worked with a number of staff in areas such as creating screencast based resources, providing audio or audio/visual feedback and using screencast technology to provide resources and feedback using a variety of media for Distance Learners and attending students.

One area that has always been a sticking point is the provision of an appropriate microphone and speaker(s) to enable a teaching team to adopt such practice en masse.

Traditionally, I have always advised staff members to look for a mid-range wireless USB headset with microphone as this can double up as a device to be used in the office for recording audio feedback or if staff wish to record their session then the wireless USB headset can also be worn whilst teaching in order to capture audio as part of a lecture capture solution without having to loan or purchase a separate lapel mic’. However, such headsets can cost around £50 each and this cost can be prohibitive.

I have also come across instances whereby teaching staff will be in possession of a microphone but it will be an older 3.5mm jack plug style microphone. This would be ok when maybe using the Windows sound recorder to produce audio files but when interfacing with software such as Expression for the production of screencast type content, a USB microphone is required as in my experience Expression does not interface with more traditional equipment plugged into a jack plug and other applications struggle to pick up the older style microphones at a decent volume (even with a bit of tweaking of the levels).

So this brings me back to my nice new shiny telephone and the fact that when it was first plugged into my work PC it installed a few drivers, talked to MS Lync and did everything that the IT team expected it to; but now, when I open the ‘recording devices’ menu on my PC I see I have a new USB microphone available to use that Expression can also see (or is that hear) as well as other software such as Panopto and the Windows sound recorder.

The ‘phone actually has two microphones, the one in the handset and the one that is built into the body for use in loud-speaker mode, it doesn’t matter which I use when using the ‘phone to record audio on my PC, both deliver very good quality audio and the PC doesn’t need to switch between the handset and loud-speaker microphone which makes using the telephone as a USB microphone really easy – it’s just the same as plugging a USB microphone into a computer and talking to it.

The provision of these telephones at DMU has opened up a lot of potential for staff wanting to experiment with audio and audio/visual resources and feedback as everyone now has a good quality microphone on their desk that will talk to software that is free to use or other centrally supported software and they also have a speaker through which recorded content can be played for checking prior to uploading to the VLE, a real bonus for a project that was focused solely on providing a more corporate style communication tool for staff.

One member of academic staff at DMU is ahead of the game in this respect as his location was equipped early in the MS Lync project. Cormac Norton, School of Nursing, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences has already adopted the use of his new telephone as a USB microphone to add voice to PowerPoint slides – a case study that looks at Cormac’s technique in detail can be accessed on the CELT Hub here.

This experience also highlights the need for people such as myself, who support the use of technology from a teaching, learning and assessment perspective to be aware of the technology that is centrally provided and how technology that might not have been designed or implemented with teaching, learning and assessment in mind can be exploited in order to make a difference.

I’m sure if we all looked hard enough we’d be able to squeeze just a bit more out of the kit that we are supplied to work with every day.

Ian Pettit.

May 092013

This is the draft programme for the DMU Enhancing Learning through Technology symposium, hosted by CELT. If you are DMU staff, or a member of staff at a collaborative college, you can register here:

  • 09.30-09.50: Registration/coffee in HU Atrium
  • 09.50 – 11.00: Welcome and keynote in HU0.08

Keynote presentation: Cristina Costa, The digital economy: lessons for students, tutors and the University (see: and

  • 11.00 – 11.30: coffee, in HU Atrium
  • 11.30 – 13.00: Workshops 1



Session type

Session 1: distance learning, HU2.30

Supporting Work-based Distance Learners: an On-line Study Skills Toolkit

Annie Britton (BAL) and Nicky Drucquer (RBI)

45 minute workshop

Designing effective distance learning

Jenny Carter (FoT)

45 minute discussion


Session 2: Technology and pedagogic change, HU2.31

The iPad show and tell, teaching, apps and sharing how I use it at DMU

Graham Basten

45 minute discussion

Virtual reality: experiences of using avatars in teaching and learning

Annette Crisp (HLS) and Ros Lishman (BAL)

45 minute discussion


Session 3: e-Assessment, HU2.33

Summative on Line Assessment – is this the way forward with assessment now in HE?

Jonathan Merritt and Harish Ravat (BAL)

45 minute discussion

Implementing electronic submission of assignments using grade centre: An evaluation in the School of Nursing and Midwifery

Helen McVeigh (HLS)

45 minute workshop

  • 13.00 – 14.00: lunch, in HU Atrium
  • 14.00 – 15.30: Workshops 2



Session type

Session 4: distance learning, HU3.94

Structured Development For Engaging Efficient Learning

Steve Mackenzie (HLS)

90 minute workshop


Session 5: Technology and pedagogic change, HU2.31

Express yourself, using Microsoft Expression to capture lectures and labs

Participants attending this workshop are asked to bring 3 minutes of teaching slides with them for use in the practical part of this workshop please. If participants wish to keep the content that will be created, please also ensure that a memory stick is brought to this workshop.

Matthew Dean and Ian Pettit (FoT), and Nathan Jeffrey (ITMS)

90 minute workshop


Session 6: Technology and pedagogic change, HU2.30

Content design and curation

Chris Goldsmith

45 minute discussion

A model for online independent learning

Jo Tidswell

20 minute presentation


Session 7: Technology and pedagogic change, HU2.33

Using Screencasts to support teaching and learning

Carolyn Hardaker and Gina Rushin

45 minute discussion

Benefits and challenges of using Journals as project logs

Anthony Eland

20 minute presentation

  • 15.30 – 16.00: plenary: towards a culture of pedagogic innovation at DMU, in HU0.08
Nov 302012

Cacoo ( is an outstanding online collaborative tool for creating diagrams.  With many built in vector graphic basic shapes (e.g. rectangle, circle, Text box), plus office sets (e.g office layout), Web Sets (e.g. site maps), Software sets (e.g. Flowchart, ER diagrams and UML) and the ability to create your own user defined sets there are plenty of shapes to work with.

It is very easy to align shapes and the export options for file saving and printing are excellent.

Anyone can get a free account and get access to a very good online experience. In order to use the great export facilities to any great extent you need to pay a monthly or annual fee. I have managed to get a number of ‘no restriction’ user accounts (for DMU Staff) on an academic plan until July 1 2013.

With live text chatting when collaborating this has a lot of potential as an online collaborative tool for use in teaching and learning – as well as internal group work.

Here is an example of how it has been used in a teaching and learning situation: Although this is related to website design and the teacher is using the tool to demonstrate, with some imagination it could be applied to many topic areas and also can be used for students to design and discuss things amongst themselves.

If anyone is especially interested in using it for teaching and learning in the new year please contact me and I’ll get you signed up to the ‘no-restriction’ account and I’ll work with you to explore the possibilities.

Steve Mackenzie

PGCPD, HLS Distance Learning Design team leader

Tel: 6055 Email:

Jan 242012

SCOOP.It! allows the curation and organisation of online content, so defined as a curation platform it basically allows you to collate and view a topic of interest in 'one' collated space. Hence the title, the platform 'scoops' up content that you are interested in and also allows you to create your own topic. You can  subscribe to the content and receive updates via email. It goes a step further in that it allows you to suggest related content and send URL links as appropraite. I follow a few 'scoops', 'Digital Literacy' and other areas, like OERs and 'e-learning' in general. Other features include, integration with several social networks (FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn, WordPress through direct integration on your WordPress site), and micro-blogging platforms such as Tumblr. It's not always easy to keep abreast in topics that interest you and with so many projects and articles that you may want to follow-up, this is one way!

The below video gives an overview on 'Scoop. It'

Jan 172012

With all the talk about tablets I have been looking into whether the Android or Apple tablet is the better choice for learning and teaching. After identifying a couple of machines that are comparable on technical specification I came up with the table (at the bottom of this post) that compares the two machines. However it soon became apparent that the difference is not in the numbers but in the user experience.

Now, I must stress that I am not a tablet user – I have provided this information based on reviews, content I have found online and conversations I have had with my colleagues – it is really meant to be a summary of my efforts with a bit of my own opinion thrown in. Think of this as the documented thought process I would go through when deciding which to buy.

Reading reviews, it is clear that the Apple is thinner and lighter with more app’s available but there is limited scope for expansion and development due to the restrictions Apple impose on developers and lack of memory expansion slots. It seems as though, although there are less app’s for the Android there is a consensus that this will be remedied over time.

The feeling is that the Apple device is more intuitive if you like the way that it works out of the box but if not you’re stuck with it. The Android is less intuitive for users who have less experience/lower ICT skills levels but it can be customised to suit the user’s needs – you just need someone with a bit of know how and time.

Regarding interfaces, the iPad2 relies heavily on iTunes for transferring files, music and app’s between computer and tablet whereas the Android tablet allows drag and drop and can be treated like a memory stick when transferring files. Also, you can’t browse the device memory on the iPad2 but as the Android mounts as a removable drive (using a Windows PC) then you can see everything on it using your computer.

Experiences here suggest that although there are much cheaper Android based tablets than the Samsung that has been compared here, these can be fragile, certainly in comparison to the iPad2.

My final word is about content. We all know that the technology is merely the vehicle for the content delivery and although the Apple AppStore has more educational app's than the Android Market we must also consider legacy content. Nobody wishes to re-invent the wheel and with our favourite websites, applications such as Xerte and various screencasting software delivering and producing rich Flash content, would we really want to re-create all this for the iPad2 when considering the time this would involve against the time required to customise an Android tablet?

So my conclusion is that if you want flexibility, the ability to customise and fettle using already available programmes and a platform that will deliver your existing resources/content go for the Android. You will need to invest time in making it work for you and your learners but once you master the Operating System, different interface options and perhaps developing app’s it will proide a flexible tool for use in teaching and learning. However if you’re looking for something that already has a lot of app’s available, works straight out of the box with minimal setup and requires less expertise but is not so customisable and is more proprietary then go for the iPad2.

Perhaps the over-riding factor will be local policy. Institutionalised, mass roll-outs of technology do promote consistency and easier sharing of good practice as everyone uses the same kit in a similar way. The Apple iPad2 is the best tablet to go for in this scenario as you won't have to think about how different tablets interface, it will be easier to roll-out tech' support and everyone will use iTunes and app's that do not require Flash. But, this mass approach to implementing technology will stifle creativity and free-thinking – two very valuable aspects of the student experience. Where you wish to encourage students to challenge the norm', think for themselves and develop their own opinions and ideas they must be encouraged to do so and part of this encouragement involves exposure to different technologies. This may give your IT support department a headache but the added creativity and enhanced student experience will be worth it.

Which one would I choose? Surely the answer to that is obvious, I would choose both and let the students make their own minds up.

Ian Pettit
ELT Project Officer



Apple iPad2




Samsung Galaxy Tab Android




















1ghz dual core




1ghz dual core








512mb (accoring to reviews, this has never been disclosed by Apple)




















Screen size




9.7inch 1024 x 768res




10.1inch 1280 x 800res








Wi-Fi + 3G model: UMTS/HSDPA/HSUPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)





Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n)


Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR technology

WiFi a/b/g/n





Bluetooth 3.0


HSDPA 21Mbps  900/1900/2100


EDGE/GPRS 850/900/1800/1900


Jun 202011
Many of us are familiar of using Word to review comments and track changes, but what might not be so obvious is the fact that you can record and give feedback using the audio tool Microsoft Sound Recorder.  Note this program is a utility that is installed with any standard Windows installation and records in a .WAV format.  You can even find the Sound Recorder by clicking on Start… Programs… Accessories… Entertainment… Sound Recorder. 
We can take the simple scenario, student submits an assignment via Blackboard Assignment tool (this automatically creates a column in Blackboard’s Grade Center), note if the assignment is submitted via TurnitinUK you could still give this type of feedback by manually creating a column in Blackboard’s Grade Center for that assignment which will enable you to give feedback by attaching the downloaded file (original student submission in TurnitinUK) and uploading this (with your audio comments) in your manually created column in Grade Center as feedback. It may sound like a lot of work but could save you a lot of time handwriting comments on a lot of assignments! I’ve not seen this done before and would be interested to know what practically others think.
Ok, so I’ve described above some of what would be involved above, now let’s talk about this audio tool in MS Word 2007. If your laptop or PC has a sound card and microphone (I used a Logitech headset which has microphone) you should be able to do this. In MS Word 2007 you can add audio in two ways, the first you can simply ‘Insert Sound Object’ and the second way works with the add comment feature where you simply ‘Insert Voice’ , the latter gives you the option therefore to add some text too in the comments box. The functionality for recording audio in both these methods is the same. You have 60 seconds to record some sound, surprisingly you can say quite a bit in 60 seconds! If you do want to play about with this see further below for more instructions. One thing I did notice is that you don’t get player controls with this (well its only 60 seconds after all!)
To add the ‘Insert Voice’ tool to the ‘Quick Access Toolbar’ this is the very top toolbar on your top left on of the screen:
1. Click the Office Button.
2. Click the Word Options button.
3. Click Customize.
4. Click the drop-down arrow of the Choose Commands From box and from the list, select Commands Not In Ribbon.
5. Scroll to, and then select, Insert Voice.
6. Click the Add button, and then click the OK button.
The Insert Voice button will be available on your Quick Access toolbar, so you can easily add voice comments to any Word 2007 document.





You can use the above steps to add the ‘Insert Sound Object’.

Note that you can still add you own sound files using the Insert Object in Word and can add your pre-recorded audio in this way.
How to Insert and Record Your Voice Comment
1. Once you have added the sound tools in your Quick Access Toolbar.
2. In your Word Document, place your cursor where you want the sound to be and select the appropriate sound tool you want to insert (i.e. Insert Sound Object or Insert Voice)

3. Click the record button (red circle) and record your comment. When you're finished, click the Stop button (black square) and then you can close the sound recorder dialog box. If you choose the Insert Sound Object, a ‘speaker’ icon will appear. If you choose ‘Insert Voice’ the comments box will appear with the ‘speaker’ icon.
Students need to simply select the icons to hear the audio.

It’s important that you SAVE the Word File which includes the audio content.
The below link points to some very useful Add-Ins to MS Word to ‘Engage and Support All Students’ in respect of Inclusive Technologies.
May 242011

With Owen Williams in ITMS, I have been playing around with the idea of a DMU Commons, or a federated set of spaces [blogs] for using, sharing and producing, which users can theme and extend using widgets. DMU staff and students can use their own space on the Commons for blogging or as a website. They can make it public or private, or share it with a few colleagues. You can see what we are thinking about here:

We have been working on the idea that permeability across departments and projects within/beyond DMU demands that staff and students can autonomously contribute to the production of DMU as a University with a clear vision. However, it also focuses upon how open we are as a community. Openness is a critical attribute, and connects to our view of the curriculum, research, partnerships, data, community-working etc.. This open strategy might be captured in a view of DMU as a “knowing University”, framed less by the dictates of the knowledge economy, and more by enabling society/communities to solve problems at a relevant scale and thereby to innovate. Permeability and openness are critical in enabling new spaces and teams to be created, in order to solve those problems. These spaces might be found on an emerging “DMU Commons”. Some matters arising include:

1.    What are our communal structures? How are teams formed and re-formed in order to produce DMU?

2.    Which communities do we serve and how to we connect with them via the Commons?

3.    How do the social relationships between governors, staff, students and communities support innovation and permeability? How democratic/deliberative can we be?

4.    As an organisation, how do we enable multiple cultures through our vision?

5.    How do we manage governance on the Commons? Is consensus possible?

We hope that the Commons will encourage openness in planning, archives, data, networks and technologies, in order to enable Centres, staff, students, businesses, communities etc. to innovate and to exchange ideas. The DMU Commons might include a range of more enclosed spaces for critical data/business confidentiality, but it should enable research projects and outputs, teaching and learning plans, Centre plans, archives etc. to be linked and developed.

The DMU Commons runs on WordPressMU [see:] hosted by the Web Services Team in ITMS [formerly the Library Services' Web Services Team]. The Commons is an emergent place, but we have been supporting project blogs there for over a year:

There are also some examples of staff use of the Commons:

If you are DMU staff/students and would like to play around on our Commons you can create a personal blog/website or register, follow the guidance at:

There is emergent help/guidance on If you can work Blackboard you can work this. Self-help, using the tutorials at, is the order of the day. It's common land rather than private property, after all. However, any issues, email