Mar 152017

Dr Indrani Lahiri teaches a second year undergraduate Public Relations module and two third year International Public Relations and Global Advertising Practices modules within the Leicester Media School at DMU.

All three of the modules are assessed using multiple methods, one of which is a group presentation that the students are required to deliver in small groups. Due to the nature of the modules, and from experience of teaching similar modules at a different university, in 2015/16 Indrani sought to find a way to easily record the student presentations on the second year Public Relations module. ‘Public Relations’ will involve the graduates being expected to present in front of a panel or larger audience in industry and recording the presentations provides a resource for students to use for reflection and development. The recordings can also be downloaded and with the appropriate consent from peers, students can use their recording as evidence of successful group work after graduation.

Following a conversation with the ELT Project Officer Indrani engaged with the DMU Replay system as it was important to record both a traditional video feed alongside screen content and audio.

In the lab space available, a high definition webcam with microphone was used to record the student’s audio and the video feed alongside the screen of the PC used to present with.

Building this recording element into the 2015/16 presentation assessment component helped the students to practice their presentation skills in this scenario whilst providing a resource to aid Indrani, the moderator and the External Examiner in assessing the students as well as providing an artefact that the students can keep after graduation.

As the presentations are delivered in groups conversations were held around Intellectual Property Rights and individual consent to use the videos for reflective purposes and/or as part of an online CV. The JISC model consent form was adapted and students were asked to sign a copy of the form to give permission for their colleagues to take and use a copy of their respective video.

Only one student took a copy of their group’s recording in 2015/16 and this was found to be because the adapted consent form posed a barrier. Students wanted to have a copy of their recording but it is suggested that signing the form made this ‘official’ and this put them off engaging with this aspect of the initiative.

Indrani, and the External Examiner, have found having the presentation recordings available to be very valuable and Indrani has received positive feedback from the External Examiner on this use of technology in the assessment activities.

Feedback from the students suggests that although the introduction of the recording technology was positively received, they would have appreciated this earlier in the module. Indrani has recognised the need to engage with DMU Replay earlier on and in 2016/17 rolled-out the use of DMU Replay on the two third year International Public Relations and Global Advertising Practices modules.

Since students found this approach to be valuable, in 2016/17 they recorded their individual presentations from their own space for International Public Relations as an evidence of practical work to showcase their competency as a video blogger. Again this became a part of their portfolio submission that they can take with them as evidence of practical work to job interviews.

Indrani also recorded the assessed presentations for Global Advertising Practices in 2016/17.

The plan for 2017/18 is to further expand the use of DMU Replay and make this available for the Global Advertising Practices module. Recording practice presentation runs, blog posts and the assessed presentation will add value for these students who will be briefed to produce an advertising campaign focused on artificial intelligence and robotics that is based on a real brief from industry. Again, having their recording available after graduation will be valuable when seeking employment.

Alongside Indrani’s use of DMU Replay to enable students to reflect and produce video artefacts to support their employability; Indrani is also using DMU Replay to provide video feedback on other written assessment components – the External Examiner is supportive of this approach.
Assessing students using different modes and providing opportunities for students to reflect on their performance by providing feedback using different tools enables a Universal Design for Learning approach. Students are demonstrating their knowledge in different and more creative ways that align to the learning outcomes and they can also watch their presentation and video blog posts back as part of their self-directed reflective activities.

In 2017/18 Indrani is considering opening the student presentations to a wider audience as part of a Public Relations event. This would provide further opportunities for Indrani to provide feedback or even encourage the student cohort to feedback to each other as their presentations build toward the Public Relations event.

Thank you to Dr Indrani Lahiri for enabling this blog post to be created.

Ian Pettit.
ELT Project Officer.

Aug 122016

Dr Paul Cropper is the Programme Leader for MSc Energy and Sustainable Building Design in the School of Engineering and Sustainable Development, Faculty of Technology. Paul was an early adopter with regard to using the Multimedia Enhancement solution (Panopto) at DMU and he is an e-champion in the Faculty.

This blog post describes Paul’s early experiences of recording, some of the barriers that he had to overcome and Paul’s plans for the future.

Paul teaches two semester 2 Modules; Ventilation and Daylight Modelling, and Energy and Thermal Performance. Both Modules enrol attending and Distance Learning students with relatively small cohorts (approximately 6) attending and 15 plus Distance Learning students per Module.

In 2014/15 Paul experimented with the Multimedia Enhancement solution when delivering classes that focus on the demonstration of a proprietary piece of software. The software is complex in nature and Paul wanted to record the sessions in which the software is demonstrated to provide the Distance Learning students with an insight into these classroom sessions. With the ELT Project Officer, Paul explored the use of the recording software on the classroom computer to record the screen and he also introduced PowerPoint slides as a mechanism to automatically index the screen recording using the Events function. However, this was not successful as due to the classroom hardware set up it was not possible for Paul to project the computer screen with the complex software demonstration whilst viewing PowerPoint slides on the lectern monitor simultaneously.

Paul would have recorded further sessions in semester 2 2014/15 but he was unfortunately not always timetabled to teach in a space where the recording software was installed but following the project roll-out on January 4th 2016 Paul was able to use the Multimedia Enhancement software in any classroom and he seized this opportunity.

Subsequently, Paul has recorded every class on both Modules during the 2015/16 academic year. As described, Paul’s initial aspiration was to provide the Distance Learning students with a more engaging resource that represents the live classroom environment when demonstrating complex software and the Distance Learning students have provided nothing but positive feedback in this respect. However Paul’s small cohort of attending students have also fed back that they value having the recordings available and Paul has even gone so far as sharing recordings between the two Module cohorts in the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) to make the same material available to different cohorts. This approach to recording for everyone and sharing content speaks to DMU’s Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Principles and ideas in that the resources that were initially created with Distance Learning students in mind benefit all students on the Modules; an aspiration of the DMU Replay service that is currently being implemented at DMU ahead of 2016/17.

Paul talked about UDL and DMU Replay specifically when talking about his use of multimedia in the curriculum as this is a high profile change for DMU and Paul wants to support UDL as well as the Distance Learning students and he sees the use of multimedia as one approach to help satisfy these strategic and pedagogic needs.

Although not linked to the use of recording technology, there were two sessions this year that no students attended. Paul did not make any recordings on these occasions but none of the students raised this as an issue which suggests that the students’ non-attendance on these occasions was due to other factors rather than reliance on a piece of recorded material. Furthermore, as the subject material for all lectures is also provided as formal written lessons (in PDF form) students were not significantly disadvantaged by two sessions not being recorded. This demonstrates another advantage of providing material in more than one form, a principal of UDL.

However, although Paul has not experienced a fall in attendance there is some concern that students may see the recording of classroom activity as an alternative to attending as the DMU Replay policy kicks in and Paul does, and will continue to, re-iterate the need to attend as well as make use of recordings in induction week. Paul is also planning to gather specific student feedback with regard to the use of recorded material and its impact during semester 2 2016/17.

Going back to Paul’s aspirations to record complex software and have Panopto automatically create Events within the resource; Paul tried to create some resources at the desk. However, as has been documented before, recording at the desk can feel very different to recording classes and Paul felt that the content he created in this way was not of a standard he would wish to publish and that is easily achievable when recording in a live teaching environment.

The feeling is that when recording at the desk the student expectation may be heightened by way of production value as they may assume that more time and effort has been put in to an at the desk recording than one that is recorded on the fly as classes are delivered. Paul feels that having more detailed notes or a script when recording at the desk may help and he will try this in 2016/17.

Also, thinking about 2016/17, Paul will continue to record his classes but he is planning make use of the Panopto Editor to manually add Events to provide a resource that is navigable in the student view rather than trying to use PowerPoint where he would not usually to create Events automatically.

Outside of recording classroom sessions Paul has also used the Multimedia Enhancement solution in a variety of different ways to enhance his Modules:

  1. Paul recorded a visiting lecturer from Loughborough University to ensure that the Distance Learning students could engage with the lecture;
  2. At the desk, Paul has recorded a presentation based on a Research Project that he is involved in and this has been shared with colleagues in the UK (Loughborough University), the USA (University of California, Berkeley) and India (CEPT University); and
  3. At the request of the students, Paul has recorded materials to support his cohort to understand the requirements of assignments and with report writing, as the technical report that forms part of the assignment can be challenging and having a video resource available that outlines expectations without providing a full example (that could be plagiarised) supports the students in creating their assignments.

In summary, Paul’s early thoughts around recording specific taught sessions for Distance Learning students have grown into Paul being comfortable enough with the software to record all classes in 2015/16 along with supplementary materials and visiting lecturers (at the desk and in classrooms) that benefit all students within the cohorts with some resources being shared.

This is a great example of how a fundamental use of such technology to record classes, similar to that required by the DMU Replay policy, can organically grow into extended use of multimedia in the curriculum and for other purposes such as Paul’s involvement with and recording for the Research Group.

Paul’s top tips:

  • When recording at the desk, produce detailed notes or a script before recording as ‘teaching’ at the desk is harder than it may seem but not impossible with a bit of preparation.
  • Keep re-iterating the message that students need to attend and take advantage of the recordings being made available to help make the most of their learning opportunity at DMU.

Thank you to Dr Paul Cropper for enabling this blog post to be produced.

Ian Pettit
ELT Project Officer.

Aug 082016

Since 2007, Dr Sophy Smith (DMU Teacher Fellow, 2015 and HEA Senior Teacher Fellow, 2015) has been taking a fresh approach to assessing students on the MA/MSc Creative Technologies course at DMU.

In essence, Sophy and the team provide an open choice to the students with regard to what they study, how they are assessed and the format that they express themselves in.

At the beginning of the Major Project module, the students will have a conversation with Sophy and they will firstly decide whether they will go for an MA or an MSc in Creative Technologies. Then, based on the student’s aspirations regarding employability a set of learning objectives and the assessment format will be agreed.

The module is 15 weeks in total with 2 hours per week being delivered by Sophy and the other members of the teaching team. There are also workshops and seminars and a project is started around half way through.

The only rigid assessment component is that the students are required to provide a critical commentary regarding their project however the format of this component is also negotiable. Students do often opt to provide a written critical commentary but some students have also opted to provide a collection of blog posts, a film or any other media.

Sophy began taking this approach on two modules in 2007 but this negotiated approach to assessment is now the norm on all of the course specific modules that make up the MA/MSc Creative Technologies.

As part of the course there are shared modules too and students do not have the choice when taking these modules, only MA/MSc specific modules provide the opportunity to follow a tailored path for assessment.

One example of this flexible approach to assessment includes a student who knew that he wanted to work in the games industry producing Machinima style movies and therefore the module was tailored toward this goal for this student and his project title and assessment mechanism was also focused on this goal.

Linking the assessment to the student’s employability aspirations in this way ensures that students build a body of work throughout the life of the course to show prospective employees and this triangulated approach (linking learning objectives to employability goals and enabling a preferred expression format) is believed to be linked to the high employment rates that the graduates of this course demonstrate.

This tailored model also supports the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in that from the beginning the students are engaging in ways that suit them as individuals and they will be assessed in a manner that plays to their strengths.

Students also feel as though they own their learning experience on this course which helps them to feel motivated and to achieve.

When marking, the learning objectives that were agreed at the beginning of the course are made known to the marker and second marker and the student work is marked against these; alongside general marking criteria in line with PG regulations.

The negotiated learning objectives do align with the learning outcomes on each module to ensure parity and quality standards are upheld and Sophy believes that the success of this approach is rooted in the clarity of the learning objectives.

Typically, the MA/MSc Creative Technologies will attract around 15 students per year and the flexible approach to assessment is now standard across all course specific modules on this course.

There is a new MA Digital Arts that is coming on stream in 2016/17 and this good practice has been carried over to the new course where students will again be able to negotiate their learning objectives and assessment style from the beginning based on their employment related goals.

Thank you to Dr Sophy Smith, Reader in Creative Technologies at the Institute of Creative Technologies, DMU for enabling this blog post.


Ian Pettit.

Apr 122016

The HEA Arts & Humanities conference took place last month in sunny Brighton: there were quite a few interesting ELT-related sessions at the conference which are outlined below plus links to further information.

Jonathan Worth, Newcastle University Open Lab: Synthesising approaches to openness

Excellent keynote by Jonathan Worth from Newcastle University Open Lab: he talked about not just ‘Teaching with‘ the digital, but ‘teaching of the digital.’  Jonathan discussed his #Phonar global photography classes, Phonar Nation, an international initiative enabling young people to take part in their own representation as well as much, much more: hugely inspiring and thought-provoking.  You can read more about his work on using the affordances of social media in teaching here.

Christopher Wiley, University of Surrey: How to use electronic voting systems creatively in arts & humanities teaching

Using electronic voting systems in the context of Dance, Drama and Music to enhance critical engagement.  1.2 abstract here – his presentation isn’t available but you can read more about Christopher’s work, including his role as a Turning Technologies Distinguished Educator here.

Christopher Hall, Sheffield Hallam University: Infographics as module guides (Poster Presentation)

Using infographics to capture an entire module guide on one page – used as a front page in Blackboard and as hard copy.  You can read the poster presentation abstract here.

Infographics as Module Guides

Christopher Hall’s poster showing a module guide presented as an infographic

Sarah Crowson & Simon Denison, Hereford College of Arts: How to build a less formal online learning space

Students felt more ownership of the informal online learning space created in WordPress, and engaged more with this space compared to the the official VLE.  12.7 abstract here and you can read in more detail about Sarah and Simon’s action research project here.

Alexis Taylor, University of Northampton and Phil Perry, University of Coventry:#CovNorth
16.8 abstract here and you can see at #CovNorth the way that students preferred email to Twitter for professional communication.  My favourite quote of the conference came from this presentation: ‘Twitter is for old people’ according to these students at least.

More on the conference website:

Julia Reeve

Jan 192016

Dr Simon Coupland, School of Computer Science and Informatics, Faculty of Technology started teaching a first year undergraduate C++ programming module in 2014/15. Another first for the module in 2014/15 was that Mathematics students were enrolled for the first time – some of whom may never have engaged with coding before.

The C++ module is an introduction to programming and this module underpins the complex threshold concepts that students are required to understand as they progress into areas such as Games Programming. Therefore it is critical that students are offered various ways to construct knowledge in line with their preferred learning style(s) on this module as it does form part of the foundation of multiple undergraduate programmes.

Historically, students on the C++ module were tasked with producing a piece of code each week as part of their lab sessions and the previous member of teaching staff would mark each piece of code individually between sessions.

However, knowing that the cohort could be quite varied this year, Simon sought to provide alternative methods of assessing the lab work that would involve the students collaborating and learning from each other.

Following conversations with the ELT Project Officer, Simon identified that a peer marking model for the student’s lab work would help the students to learn collaboratively, foster relationships in their first year and alleviate Simon’s marking workload as the module attracts a large (100+) student cohort.

Following a session that focused on the use of TurnItIn’s PeerMark solution, Simon set up the following scenario:

  • Each week the students will create and submit a piece of C++ code using a TurnItIn PeerMark link during the lab;
  • The following week the students will create a second piece of code and peer mark a colleague’s code; and
  • In the third week, further code is submitted and the previous week’s is peer marked but the peer marked submissions from week one are released in order for students to see each other’s comments on their work.

This is then a rolling plan with a new piece of code being generated each week for review and release over the three week cycle.

Following the first week’s lab session, all students created their C++ code and submitted it via the TurnItIn link in Blackboard. The following week, the majority of students’ seemed to engage with the peer marking aspect and offered feedback to a colleague via the TurnItIn PeerMark function.

However, after this initial flurry of interest, although all students’ continued to submit their weekly piece, very few students re-engaged with peer marking and this trend continued for approximately six weeks until Simon removed the peer marking element and reverted to the traditional model as despite encouragement the students’ were no longer peer marking each other’s work.

As this is the first year that Simon has taught the C++ first year module there is no benchmark for Simon regarding the demographic of the 2014/15 student cohort but Simon feels as though the following factors may have played a role in the students not continuing with the peer marking aspect of the module

  1. Confidence – this is a first year undergraduate module and Simon believes that although the initial novelty of marking each other’s work was appealing, the ongoing peer marking set up may have been daunting for the students who are both confident and not so confident with the subject.
    Simon did, in a later lab session, encourage the students to buddy up and talk to each other during informal peer to peer sessions away from the lab but students who tried to engage in this activity found that their contemporaries would let them down by not honouring appointments and this physical buddying/mentoring approach has also ceased now.
  2. The nature of the cohort – as recorded, this is the first year that Simon has taught the year one C++ module and Simon feels as though the 2014/15 cohort may not have transitioned into HE quite as well as may be required to understand and handle the value and responsibility of a peer marking approach to lab work. However, having not engaged with previous year’s cohorts in this way Simon has no benchmark to help identify whether this cohort is typical or atypical of a first year C++ cohort.
    Also, 2014/15 saw the first Mathematics student enrolments on the first year C++ module. Traditionally, only students who would have engaged with coding prior to coming to University and who are heading toward a career path that involves coding would be enrolled on this module but this year, students studying Mathematics were enrolled and they may not have had any experience of writing code prior to week one of the module. This widens the gap between those in the cohort who are already confident with coding and those who are not and it is surmised that with a less spikey profile of coding skills across the cohort, the assumed issues relating to confidence driving an unwillingness to engage in peer marking would be reduced.
  3. The technology – whilst the technology supported Simon’s approach on the whole Simon would have liked to have seen an automated approach to identifying who had engaged with the peer marking activity on a weekly basis. With this extra functionality, Simon would then have introduced a scenario whereby students who failed to peer mark in any given week would not be eligible to receive colleague’s feedback the following week or until they re-engaged with peer marking. This may have motivated more students to peer mark if their engagement with colleagues in the previous week could be linked to their work being peer marked the following week but this is an assumption and there is no functionality in TurnItIn to support this scenario.

The experiences documented here are valuable for anyone considering a peer marking approach – the key lessons learned can be summarised as:

  • Ensure that students are fully bought into and understand the value of the peer marking approach ahead of embarking on this journey;
  • Get to know the cohort of students and critically evaluate whether they are at a stage where they will not let each other down (virtually or physically);
  • Look for ways to motivate students to peer mark. For example, should the student marking be linked to their assessment this would motivate them to continue to peer mark their colleague’s work; and
  • Do not assume that all students will always want to engage in this type of peer assessment and collaboration.

Other colleagues in the Faculty of Technology are also trialling alternative peer marking models in 2014/15 and it will be interesting to see how successful or otherwise colleagues have been in engaging students in this type of activity and whether Simon’s experience is typical or not.

Click here to read about Dr Catherine Flick’s experiences of introducing a peer marking model to a second year Introduction to Research and Ethics module.


Ian Pettit

ELT Project Officer

Jul 072015

Andrew Reeves is a Lecturer working with the School of Energy and Sustainable Development. Andrew teaches a number of modules and this short blog post focuses on his practice when engaging with a small cohort of students on the People, Society and Climate Change MSc module.

Andrew’s current cohort comprises of two attending students and nine Distance Learning students. Two of the Distance Learning students who are currently enrolled are able to commit to being online at the same time as Andrew’s timetabled sessions.

The teaching approach that Andrew deploys is one that is grounded in small group discussions and activities to help students construct knowledge and learn from each other whilst Andrew facilitates in the classroom. Traditionally, materials would be made available online for the Distance Learning students to engage with but this year, Andrew has extended this approach by bringing his Distance Learning students into the classroom using Google Hangouts.

Each week, Andrew will start a Hangout and the Distance Learning students will join the Hangout and join in with the discussion based sessions. This contribution firstly helps the Distance Learning students to engage and feel part of the student community but their presence also enriches the discussion as by their nature the Distance Learning students bring different perspectives to the discussion as they are generally mature students who have industry experience to bring to the table.

One of Andrew’s sessions involves a card sorting activity. Traditionally, the attending students would be given pieces of paper and they would work together to achieve the outcome. Using the Hangout in conjunction with Google Sheets Andrew has replicated this exercise online; enabling the Distance Learning students to take part in the card sorting session.

The Distance Learning and attending students who are enrolled on People, Society and Climate Change this year have been very positive about the use of online technology to provide an inclusive experience:

“Thanks so much for including us via Google hangout. I have really felt part of the course and far more engaged than just communicating via email.”

Not only does Andrew find that involving the Distance Learning students in this way helps to deepen the discussions; this practice also ensures that the small group discussion approach is sustainable. As this is a small cohort of students, should one or two of the attending students be unable to participate, having the Distance Learning students present via the Hangout ensures that discussions and activities remain meaningful.

In conversation, Andrew is now thinking about extending this inclusive approach by utilising other tools that may enable discussions to continue in an online space in between the timetabled sessions. This extension of Andrew’s approach would also help should any of the Distance Learning students be unable to attend virtually. Andrew is also looking to pilot this approach in other post-graduate courses with larger student numbers.

Thank you to Andrew Reeves for agreeing to the production of this blog post.

Ian Pettit
ELT Project Officer

Nov 102014

In my experience as a learning technologist in HE there can sometimes be a misconception (and at times assumption) on the part of the teacher that the use of eLearning should inevitably, or to a significant extent at least lead to a more efficient, less labour-intensive work flow. At times, having demonstrated a particular eLearning intervention the question that followed has been something along the lines of “but this means more work for me! I thought eLearning was about making things more efficient?”

This is perhaps an understandable misconception as the implementation of eLearning by definition involves the use of electronic/computer-based technology, generally referred to as IT (or ICT). IT has historically been developed and implemented, to a lesser or greater extent as a labour-saving intervention, to make certain tasks less labour-intensive. Ergo: introducing IT into a particular teaching practice (i.e. eLearning) should ultimately result in less work for the teacher.

But at its core – eLearning is not about creating less work for the teacher – it’s about enhancing teaching and learning.

This is not to say that there aren’t times when the introduction of technology into teaching and learning can potentially, and does indeed lead to a more efficient workflow. But in some of these cases it’s not necessarily about eLearning, what is key here is that the student learning experience is not being enhanced in any significant way. For example, shifting from marking hard copies of essays to marking electronically online (which can be classed as an eLearning intervention) may result in a reduction in time taken to mark the work. But there may be no fundamental enhancing of learning achieved because of this change in practice. One could perhaps argue that if research has shown that students are more likely to read the feedback given to them via electronic marking and feedback than they are with hard copies, then I may have not chosen the best example here – but I hope you can still see my point. Indeed, there can be instances where eLearning does both – enhance teaching and learning and save labour. E.g. implementing eLearning that facilitates more autonomous/independent learning (peer and collaborative learning).

Nevertheless, to reiterate – as its point of departure, eLearning is about enhancing teaching and learning.

Given that there may well be some cans of worms left significantly ajar in what I’ve touched on above. I should perhaps contextualize this via the lens of certain current issues. Given what appears to be a general ‘leaning’ of the HE labour force over recent years (the rounds of voluntary and compulsory severance across the HE sector), one can perhaps understand how anything labour saving would rate high on the priorities of what may be an over-stretched teaching labour force; and given that, in my experience the implementation of eLearning can in some cases lead to an increase in workload, the desire on the part of the teacher to introduce eLearning that isn’t fundamentally labour saving will be diminished. The question, “will this result in more work for me?” may become more prevalent in direct relationship to the labour force ‘over-stretching’ and as a result the desire to engage in the implementation of eLearning will be diminished. Indeed, were we to arrive at a large-scale ‘work to rule’ situation with HE – could we see the ongoing innovation, development and implementation of eLearning across the curriculum becoming an untenable proposition, as teaching staff loading for eLearning does not realistically reflect the investment of time required?

So on the one hand it is important that there is an understanding on the part of teachers as to what eLearning is fundamentally about – Enhancing Learning through Technology (ELT) – and not necessarily labour saving in the first instance. But also an understanding on the part of learning technologists who have a role in catalyzing and driving the implementation of ELT, that the current working environment might lead to a less accommodating attitude to eLearning implementations in direct correlation to the extra time required to implement them.

By Rob Weale

Jul 282014

Chris Knifton, Richard Postance and Helen Rooney from the School of Nursing and Midwifery at DMU have been capturing student role-play sessions on video for use as formative reflective learning materials.

A case study detailing this approach is available on the CELT Hub at:


Apr 292014

A joint venture with POD and UNISON- 19.05.14 to 23.05.14 

CELT activities –  Monday 19th May and Friday 23rd May  between 12.30pm to 2.30pm in Eric Wood 1.13 

This two-hour slot will contain three bite-sized exhibition style activities that will repeat throughout the two hours: 

  1. How to create audio and visual feedback using screencast software.
  2. Using word 2010 to assist navigation of a PDF.
  3. How to set-up your own website/blog in the DMU Commons.
  • (Each activity is likely to last around 15 -20 minutes) 

How to create audio and visual feedback using screencast software – overview

  • In the hands on session you will create feedback videos using screen capture software. This technique creates feedback where students hear the tutor’s voice and inflection, which adds meaning, significance and enhances students learning of the feedback. 
  • You will learn how to: mark an electronically submitted assignment; save it as video file; and upload it to Blackboard. Where your students can download it as a podcast.

Using word 2010 to assist navigation of a PDF – overview

  • Lengthy PDF documents within Blackboard are often left unread by students. By applying Word2010 tools to that document you can enhance the PDF making it easy to navigate and subtract the information required. Applying this to topics, or highlight significant detail, creates an engaging and inclusive PDF for the different learners in your cohort.
  • Using a typical handbook the hands on session will teach you how to: create a template of headings and subheadings; applying them to the document; and save as a PDF.

How to set-up your own website/blog in the DMU Commons – overview 

  • DMU Commons is based on the WordPress platform. It is used by staff and students across DMU to create a blogging platform, web space, and/or social network tool; linking everyone into one online community.
  • This session will demonstrate and provide you with an understanding on the basics of WordPress. Provide a hands on activity that will allow you to: create a DMU commons account; set up and build a website/blog; and how to maintain the site.
Mar 172014

JISC Digital Festival – Birmingham ICC March 11th & 12th 2014

Two days of – interesting conversations, engaging presentations, freebies, networking overload, tea (sooo much tea), familiar faces, new faces, new connections, energized ideas.

The JISC Digital Festival was packed full of interesting stuff about Enhancing Learning through Technology. It had things that would appeal to IT technicians, librarians, learning technologists, teachers, researchers and academics – which meant some fascinating discussions were taking place that weaved in, out, through and around a multiverse of digital practices in education.

What follows is an overview of some of the highlights of the festival as I experienced it – with a focus on the sessions that I attended.

Opening Keynote

Featured a talk from Diana Oblinger – who explored what education might be like if we used the best that technology has to offer.

Points of note:
The notion that higher order learning comes from complex challenges – and these can be digitally delivered through activities such as gamification and scenario-based approaches

There is a growing need (and perhaps an expectation from students) for a more ‘personalised’ and ‘individualised’ learning experience – for example, developing individualized learning pathways, and using automated ‘early warning’ systems to alert students if they are ‘falling behind’, why they are falling behind, and how to rectify this.

An interesting idea was presented concerning competency-based models of learning – which has ramifications for the ‘employability’ agenda. Wherein students, alongside their degree/course/field specific learning could develop a competency portfolio that was a mechanism for demonstrating the ‘transferrable’ skills that they were gaining.

Day 1 – Session highlights

Designing strategically aligned digital credentialing systems with open badges to engage and meet the needs of digital learners

This session concerned the development and use of open badges. It offered some introductory information about the digital badging concept and then proceeded to workshop the production of a digital badge using a ‘new’ JISC Open Badge design sheet (released date – sometime in March 2014) that assists in the initial design process of developing a Badge-based digital credentialing system.

Flipped classroom, or just flippin' technology? Where are we now with technology, student experience and organisational change?

The content of this session was underpinned by the Changing the Learning Landscape project.

Key topics of interest were:

To be aware of ‘ red herrings’ and ‘bandwagons’ – the recent ‘excitement’ over MOOCS was given as an example of this. To be wary of reacting to flavor of the month technologies, or competitive forces such as "our competitors have just installed technology X, so we must have it in order to keep up with them". One way of avoiding such red herrings is to critically assess how the ‘tech’ can be effectively embedded in the curriculum – 'adding value' to the student learning experience.

There was also an interesting discussion around how VLE’s in many institutions appear to be used ‘for the most part’ as information repositories – rather than as resources for structuring learning materials in a ‘curriculum’ sensitive manner.

Promoting feedback dialogue using technology: why, how and lessons learned

This session, which was based on research looking at promoting feedback dialogue, discussed how in many cases feedback to students from their teachers was monologic – that is one-way from tutor to student, and that students may not be adequately 'engaging' with feedback in a manner which informs their acdemic practice. It was argued that a more effective feedback model is dialogic (where there is a two-way ‘dialogue’ between tutor and student). Part of this dialogue is also about encouraging the student to engage in deeper reflection on the feedback given to them.

Two dialogic feedback models were presented:

The university as a hackerspace: Can interventions in teaching and learning drive university strategy?

In this session Joss Winn gave an overview of the Student as Producer concept that has been adopted at Lincoln as a core component of the Undergraduate Teaching and Learning Strategy.

He then went on to introduce the concept of the university as a Hackerspace – and outlined this vision through his ‘experiment’ in creating a cross-university Masters by research based on Hackerspace principles. Joss discussed some interesting ideas around taking an anti-disciplinary approach, in which persons from all disciplines are welcome but the disciplines themselves are not ‘modularised’ or 'partitioned' – it is an open and democratic space. For me it was refreshing and exciting to see such experimental spirit being openly accommodated by a HE institution in the development of a new ‘course?’… And to see that there are still spaces within HE where ‘radical approaches’ are being allowed to ‘do their thing’…as it were.

Day 2 – Session highlights

Understanding students' expectations and experiences of the digital environment

This discussion/workshop session took its point of departure from Phase 1 of the Digital Student Project, which conducted a review into the student experience, and expectations of the digital environment at university.

One of the core themes concerned how we (that is educators and learning technologists) in HE can/should/must help shape the students ‘transformational’ use of digital technology. In other words – students may have digital ‘know how’ but they don’t necessarily know how this applies to their academic practice.

It was noted that there can be an imbalance between student expectations of what the digital environment at university will encompass and their actual ‘digital needs’ with respect to supporting and enhancing their academic practice and their learning. The challenge of this scenario is in responding to what students want based on their experiences outside of University, balanced against what they need to succeed at university and in the digital world beyond.

The workshop section used an interesting scenario-based approach to gather data, having us imagine the university of 2020, and speculating in what ways an institution might fail to reach this balance between expectation and needs; and conversely might succeed in reaching this balance.

Whatever happened to the MOOC?

This session took the MOOC concept as the starting point for a much broader discussion about Open Education, retaining the ‘networked learning’ aspect of the MOOC space and applying this concept more broadly. With seven speakers the tempo was quick fire, but not frantic – indeed there was a refreshing ‘to the point’ succinctness in the presentations.

Key bits:

It’s not about the ‘content’; it’s about enabling learners to learn in a networked world

There is a paradigm shift in open learning from a ‘one to many’ model to a ‘many to many’ model

This many to many model lead to some interesting chat around how, in such community and networked open learning spaces the participants are at times teaching the teachers through what they contribute, or the mechanisms by which they contribute content, or how they organize content in a digitally facilitated manner.

Was great to see my one time colleague Viv Rolfe presenting at this session, still strenuously advocating Open Education.

Digital storytelling for public engagement

This presentation covered with the basic concepts of digital storytelling – comparing and contrasting two particular digital stories and the approaches used, and offering advice concerning best practice in the creation of digital stories.

What I found particularly interesting was how an economy of content (2 mins of spoken words accompanied by a series of still images) could be an effective communicator of ‘a message’. But also that in such economy of content and the basic technical knowledge required to create the digital story, the production of such a resource was not ‘onerous’.  I.e. the value of the output seemed to be significantly more than the effort required to create the output.

Final keynote – Preparing new generations for the digital future – how the world (and business) will change over the next 20 years

Futurologist – Ray Hammond ruminated on the six major trends that he believes will shape society and business life over the next two decades and how this relates to education – through the lens of digtial technology.

He made some intriguing suggestions concerning the difficulties in thinking about how we might proactively shape the future in relation to emerging and exponentially advancing technologies when we do not have an effective ‘language’ to describe, define and ruminate on the potentials of the new technologies – i.e. the pace of development/evolution of language is not keeping up with the pace of technological change. He used the example of the term ‘horseless carriage’ which used to be used to signify a 'car', and suggested that the terms ‘mobile phone’ or ‘smart phone’ were at the same historical point of linguistic development as the term ‘horseless carriage’. Such 'newly emerged' words/terms and what they signify are inadequate in articulating the potentials of what they are defining.

His ruminations also brought home some stark ‘possibilities’ about the significant and radical changes to the ‘way things are’, based on the rapid advance of technology in relation to key global trends, that may well be ‘just around the corner’. And the fundamental role that education and those involved in education will have to play in preparing our learners to effectively engage with a rapidly and radically changing future.

Overall, for me, the conference was a great success. I came away from it with a renewed vigour to continue to do my part in advancing the use of technology for enhancing teaching and learning.

Check out the Digital Dream Wall that gradually emerged from a blank white canvas over the 2 days.


(artwork thanks to the artists at

I think this is an apt visual representation of what the conference achieved. Facilitating not only a sharing of thoughts, ideas, concerns, experiences, abilities, and techniques. But providing the space in which new networks of ongoing communication and collaboration are established – through which, all of these things can begin to ‘synthesize’ into a strong and progressive lattice of shared understanding, knowledge and ability that will continue to have a positive impact on all learning sectors, as we continue our digital journey.

I look forward to what JISC DigiFest 2015 has to offer.

Posted by Rob Weale