Feb 062013

It's encouraging to read that there are so many ways in which Campus Pack can support collaboration in a course as well as supporting a space for having e-portfolio's. Here at DMU we are seeing an increase use of Campus Pack and recently I assisted Peter Chimkupete (HLS) to pilot out using the Campus Pack wiki to support the 'Professional Skills' module in Biomedical Science. Previously students provided their evidence in paper format. We've now transferred this to the Campus Pack wiki where each student has their personal private space which only they and their tutor can view. Some work went into setting up the wiki template and therfore preset pages were added to the wiki. These included 'Reflection Log' and 'Evidence of Achievement' pages. This wiki was created once with the templates and was then made available to all students on the course. Preparation was key, the wiki was unavailable whilst developing the pages in the wiki, once the wiki is made available to students then any changes would mean going to each student wiki. However there were no issues in changes made later to the wiki!

One of the useful features that Campus Pack provide is allowing the tutor to see which 'wiki's' (assigment) have been started by students and those that have not been started and throughout you get to view the latest activities on the wiki. One thing I found really useful when setting up the template for the wiki, is that you can 'lock' pages that you don't want the students to edit. This is a really useful feature as the 'Evidence of Achievement' will be 'locked' once the tutor has 'signed off' the work. Tutors can leave comments on the wiki if they wish to and students can make use of the rich 'text box editor' and add content in different formats if required. Students on the module are actively using the e-portfolio now and I will post back to give an update!

Campus Pack offers Web 2.0 tools such as blogs, wikis and audio podcasts which we have intergrated in Blackboard to enhance the learning experience. Learn more here about Campus Pack and its features

Other External Case Studies:
Campus Pack at the City University of New York

Campus Pack Case Studies


Nov 302012

Cacoo (https://cacoo.com/) 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: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDiOW8zL9NE. 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: smackenzie@dmu.ac.uk

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: https://our.dmu.ac.uk/about/

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: http://wordpress.com/] 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: https://our.dmu.ac.uk/administration/

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

Feb 082011

Are you a visitor or a resident on the Web.  Do you treat the web as a place to log on, get the job done and get off quick before you waste too much time or before people get to know too much about you? or are you happy to hang out in online spaces, just interact and generally enjoy yourself socializing with friends, colleagues and even strangers with mutual interests.

This is one of the topics we have looked at as we kicked off the first week of the UCPD web enhanced practice module – ‘Implementing web 2.0 tools’. The inspiration for the enquiry was davowhite’s Visitors and Residents presentation.

See here: VisitorResident on Prezi

For the students It’s all part of looking at Web 2.0 and Social Media Culture and particularly trying to relate it to business and organisational settings. We’ve been wondering about the importance of businesses/organisations being residents on twitter and facebook. It tied in nicely with this article recently tweeted by Thilo Boeck in relation to Universities and Social Media (http://www.smmmagazine.com/blog/2010/12/07/will-social-media-courses-enable-a-cultural-shift-in-higher-education/)

Its an interesting article – It makes you start thinking about DMU and whether we are residents in the Twitter and Facebook spaces. My own perception is that there is a growing band of DMU employees who see value in being resident and that we may be nearing a stage where a review of where we are at with social media and how it can be harnessed may allow us to push on further and take advantage of this powerful medium.  Strikes me also that it would be interesting to see how we do actually compare to other universities in social media usage and exploitation of its benefits.

But i digress, back to the start of the module and good to see that the students are now building on module one ‘understanding web 2.0 tools’ and taking the plunge to get out there and experience Social media tools for themselves. All the students have acquired their own blog and are going public with their thoughts and ideas (can be a bit scary for some), many have been introduced to working in the easy to use wiki technology that is freely available. Whilst Building on their Diigo Social bookmarking skills, we have also got our own facebook group, a dedicated blackboard area for discussions and a chance to compare the various ways of interacting in all these arenas.

The first three weeks of the module are related to Web 2.0 Culture and Practice. This weeks topics have been succinctly summarised by student Lisa McNicholl in a Prezi presentation.

Next week we’ll be taking a closer look at online reputation management and privacy issues. You can keep up with what’s going on with the course here http://www.netvibes.com/stevemac121#UCPD_WEP. If you are interested in participating in the future please let myself or programme leader Richard Hall know and we’ll provide more information.

Jun 222009

Beloved by celebrities from Stephen Fry to Britney Spears, the social messaging service, with its limit of 140 characters, is now a global phenomenon and, as the Iranian crisis has proved, a powerful political tool

When President Barack Obama wasn’t concerned with swatting flies or wrestling with Congress last week, he had something else on his mind. Despite the political wildfire spreading in Iran, State Department officials were hamstrung by America’s difficult relationship with Tehran: they wanted a way to influence events on the ground without getting involved in them. And so they turned to the internet.

Read More…

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