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    Archive for the 'Our Views' Category

    Jisc student digital tracker 2017 and BLE consortium

    By Moira Wright, on 10 August 2017

    computer-767776_1920UCL participated in the 2017 Jisc Digital Student Tracker Survey as part of a consortium with the Bloomsbury Learning Environment (BLE) made up of SOAS, Birkbeck, LSHTM and RVC. 74 UK institutions ran the tracker with their students collecting 22,593 student responses, while 10 international universities collected an additional 5,000 student responses

    We were the only consortium to participate in the survey and had come together as a result of institutional surveys, such as the National Student Survey, meaning that the time available to run it independently was short (a month) and we therefore felt that our individual sample sizes would be too small. We treated the survey as a pilot and advertised a link to it on each College’s Moodle landing page as well as some promotion via social media and the Student Unions. The survey generated 330 responses, which given our constraints was much more than we expected.

    The survey comprises five broad areas: Digital access, digital support and digital learning. Most questions were quantitatively recorded, but there were four open questions, which produced qualitative data. We were also able to choose two additional questions to the survey and we selected e-assessment, since that was a previous shared enhancement project (see www.bloomsbury.ac.uk/assessment) and Moodle, since all members of the consortium use the platform for their Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).

    Once the survey closed and we had access to the benchmarking report we ran a workshop for representatives from each of the Colleges in July 2017 whereby the results corresponding to the survey’s open questions were analysed in institutional groups, which facilitated interesting discussions over commonalities and potential implications.

    Sarah Sherman, the BLE Manager and myself, have been working to produce a report which will examine our collective responses to the survey in comparison with the national survey population with a recommendation that individual Colleges independently analyse their own results in more detail. For confidentiality, each College will be presented with a version of this document, which contains the relevant data for their institution only and not the complete BLE data set. A disadvantage of the consortium approach was that we were not able to benchmark individual Colleges to the survey population as the resources would not allow for this. In the future, the participating Colleges may wish to run the survey individually rather than as part of a collective as it was not possible to conduct deep analysis with this data set. 

    markus-spiske-221494

    Although the sample size collected by the Bloomsbury Colleges was small and not statistically viable, there is much we can extract and learn from this exercise. For the most part, our collective responses tended to fall within the margins set by the national survey population, which means we are all at a similar phase in our student’s digital capability and development.

    You will have to wait for the full report for more information on the UCL data collected but just to whet the appetite you can see the key findings from Jisc in this 2 page report: Student digital experience tracker at a glance .

    Finally, you can see this collection of case studies, which features the Bloomsbury Colleges consortium, here.

    Please get in touch with me if you would like to get involved (moira.wright @ ucl.ac.uk)

    Sarah Sherman and Moira Wright

    Jisc/ NUS student digital experience benchmarking tool 

    Jisc guide to enhancing the digital student experience: a strategic approach

     

    Assessment in Higher Education conference, an account

    By Mira Vogel, on 25 July 2017

    Assessment in Higher Education is a biennial conference which this year was held in Manchester on June 28th and 29th. It is attended by a mix of educators, researchers and educational developers, along with a small number of people with a specific digital education remit of one kind or another (hello Tim Hunt). Here is a summary – it’s organised it around the speakers so there are some counter-currents. The abstracts are linked from each paragraphy, and for more conversation see the Twitter hashtag .

    Jill Barber presented on adaptive comparative judgement – assessment by comparing different algorithmically-generated pairs of submissions until saturation is reached. This is found to be easier than judging on a scale, allows peer assessment and its reliability bears up favourably against expert judgement.  I can throw in a link to a fairly recent presentation on ACJ by Richard Kimbell (Goldsmiths), including a useful Q&A part which considers matters of extrapolating grades, finding grade boundaries, and giving feedback. The question of whether it helps students understand the criteria is an interesting one. At UCL we could deploy this for formative, but not credit-bearing, assessment – here’s a platform which I think is still free. Jill helpfully made a demonstration of the platform she used available – username: PharmEd19 p/ wd: Pharmacy17.

    Paul Collins presented on assessing a student-group-authored wiki textbook using Moodle wiki. His assessment design anticipated many pitfalls of wiki work, such as tendency to fall back on task specialisation, leading to cooperation rather than collaboration (where members influence each other – and he explained at length why collaboration was desirable in his context), and reluctance to edit others’ work (which leads to additions which are not woven in). His evaluation asked many interesting questions which you can read more about in this paper to last year’s International Conference on Engaging Pedagogy. He learned that delegating induction entirely to a learning technologist led students to approach her with queries – this meant that the responses took on a learning technology perspective rather than a subject-oriented one. She also encouraged students to keep a word processed copy, which led them to draft in Word and paste into Moodle Wiki, losing a lot of the drafting process which the wiki history could have revealed. He recommends lettings students know whether you are more interested in the product, or the process, or both.

    Jan McArthur began her keynote presentation (for slides see the AHE site) on assessment for social justice by arguing that SMART (specific, measurable, agreed-on, realistic, and time-bound) objectives in assessment overlook precisely the kinds of knowledge which are ‘higher’ – that is, reached through inquiry; dynamic, contested or not easily known. She cautioned about over-confidence in rubrics and other procedures. In particular she criticised Turnitin, calling it “instrumentalisation\ industrialisation of a pedagogic relationship” which could lead students to change something they were happy with because “Turnitin wasn’t happy with it”, and calling its support for academic writing “a mirage”. I don’t like Turnitin, but felt it was mischaracterised here. I wanted to point out that Turnitin has pivoted away from ‘plagiarism detection’ in recent years, to the extent that it is barely mentioned in the promotional material. The problems are where it is deployed for policing plagiarism – it doesn’t work well for that. Meanwhile its Feedback Studio is often appreciated by students, especially where assessors give feedback specific to their own work, and comments which link to the assessment criteria. In this respect it has developed in parallel with Moodle Assignment.

    Paul Orsmond and Stephen Merry summarised the past 40 years of peer assessment research as ’80s focus on reliability and validity, ’90s focus on the nature of the learning, and a more recent focus on the inseparability of identity development and learning – a socio-cultural approach. Here they discussed their interview research, excerpting quotations and interpreting them with reference to peer assessment research. There were so many ideas in the presentation I am currently awaiting their speaker notes.

    David Boud presented his and Philip Dawson’s work on developing students’ evaluative judgement. Their premise is that the world is all about evaluative judgement and understanding ‘good’ is a premise to producing ‘good’, so it follows that assessment should be oriented to informing students’ judgments rather “making unilateral decisions about students”. They perceived two aspects of this approach: calibrating quality through exemplars, and using criteria to give feedback, and urged more use of self-assessment, especially for high-stakes work. They also urged starting early, and cautioned against waiting until “students know more”.

    Teresa McConlogue, Clare Goudy and Helen Matthews presented on UCL’s review of assessment in a research intensive university. Large, collegiate, multidisciplinary institutions tend to have very diverse data corresponding to diverse practices, so reviewing is a dual challenge of finding out what is going on and designing interventions to bring about improvements. Over-assessment is widespread, and often students have to undertake the same form of assessment. The principles of the review included focusing on structural factors and groups, rather than individuals, and aiming for flexible, workload-neutral interventions. The work will generate improved digital platforms, raised awareness of pedagogy of assessment design and feedback, and equitable management of workloads.

    David Boud presented his and others’ interim findings from a survey to investigate effective feedback practices at Deakin and Monash. They discovered that by half way through a semester nearly 90% of students had not had an assessment activity. 70% received no staff feedback on their work before submitting – more were getting it from friends or peers. They also discovered skepticism about feedback – 17% of staff responded they could not judge whether feedback improved students’ performance, while students tended to be less positive about feedback the closer they were to completion – this has implications for how feedback is given to more advanced undergraduate students. 80% of students recognised that feedback was effective when it changed them. They perceived differences between indvidualised and personalised feedback. When this project makes its recommendations they will be found on its website.

    Head of School of Physical Science at the OU Sally Jordan explained that for many in the assessment community, learning analytics is a dirty word, because if you go in for analytics, why would you need separate assessment points? Yet analytics and assessment are likely to paint very different pictures – which is right? She suggested that, having taken a view of assessment as ‘of’, ‘for’ and ‘as’ learning, the assessment community might consider the imminent possibility of ‘learning as assessment’. This is already happening as ‘stealth assessment‘ when students learn with adaptable games.

    Denise Whitelock gave the final keynote (slides on the AHE site) asking whether assessment technology is a sheep in wolf’s clothing. She surveyed a career working at the Open University on meaningful automated feedback which contributes to a growth mindset in students (rather than consolidating a fixed mindset). The LISC project aimed to give language learners feedback on sentence translation – immediacy is particularly important in language learning to avoid fossilisation of errors. Another project, Open Mentor, aimed to imbue automated feedback with emotional support using Bales’ interaction process categories to code feedback comments. The SAFeSEA project generated Open Essayist which aims to interpret the structure and content of draft essays, identifies key words, phrases and sentences, identifies summary, conclusion and discussion, and presents these to the author. If Open Essayist has misinterpreted the ideas in the essay, the onus is on the author to make amendments. How it would handle some more avant-garde essay forms I am not sure – and this also recalls Sally Jordan’s question about how to resolve inevitable differences between machine and  human judgement. The second part of the talk set out and gave examples of the qualities of feedback which contributes to a growth mindset.

    I presented Elodie Douarin’s and my work on enacting assessment principles with assessment technologies – a project to compare the feedback capabilities of Moodle Assignment and Turnitin Assignment for engaging students with assessment criteria.

    More blogging on the conference from Liz Austen, Richard Nelson, and a related webinar on feedback.

    Live Captioning and Video Subtitling Service Available

    By Michele Farmer, on 18 July 2017

    Live Captioning for Lectures and Events

    121 Captions is now available to use for these services – they have been added to MyFinance as a service provider.

    For live captioning the process is as follows:

    Book the number of hours you wish from the company – they will only charge you for these hours.

    You will need a laptop set up with a Skype account to connect to their system (the Skype to Skype call is free) along with a Skype Mic (the Disability IT Support Analyst has one for loan if needed). The laptop would preferably be hardwired (via an Ethernet port) to our network – you may need to get a port patched for this, but ISD Network Services will be able to help – please book a job through the Service Desk. Client Platform Services can also help with setting this up – if needed though, please give both services advance warning and log a job through the Service Desk to make sure they are available.  However, in many cases, wireless internet connections should work, but it is best to run a test beforehand to make sure the signal is strong enough.

    The speaker will need to be informed of the setup so they do not wander too far away from the mic whilst giving their speech.

    The end user(s) will need a device (laptop, tablet) and the link (which the company will provide) to be able to view the captions.

    The end user’s screen can be modified (font, colour, etc) and will also have a chat window to feed back to the typist if there are any issues.

    Captioning screen before any font or colour changes

    Captioning screen before any font or colour changes.

    The image above shows an example of basic layout before colour and font modifications.

    The company will also provide you with a transcript afterwards.

    *They also have a new service called 1Fuzion which allows display of captions and PowerPoint slides on the same screen.

    Subtitle your videos for YouTube, Vimeo, staff / college / university intranet

    Upload your video to YouTube (using a private or unlisted setting if necessary). They will download the video directly, subtitle it and email a professional subtitle format file back (with colours / positioning / emphasis / sound effects etc). They just charge for the subtitling and email the subtitle file, which you upload to YouTube in your Video Manager (it takes 30 seconds!). They can send instructions on how to upload to YouTube or Vimeo. Your video can also be embedded on an internal intranet site. The viewer can turn closed caption subtitles on and off as needed without any burning process.

    You would just need to tell them whether you need a closed caption file or a video file with open captions burnt in, whether you want them to use UK or US English spellings, or if you’d like a version with each.

    For an example of how it works in practice, take a look at the RSA shorts on YouTube, switching on the “English captions” using the icon third from right on the toolbar.

    They will email your file usually within 24 hours, Monday to Friday. Orders received after midday on Friday will be delivered by midday on Monday. Weekend delivery can often be arranged, so please contact them if you’re in a rush: bookings@121captions.com

    Closed Captions

    • Subtitles can be turned on and off, as the viewer requires.
    • Suitable for YouTube, Vimeo, staff intranet.
    • Text is searchable by major search engines.
    • Useful to provide viewers with an option to choose subtitles if they struggle to hear your soundtrack or want to watch with the sound off.
    • Least expensive option: They simply provide you with a professional-format timed subtitle file, which you upload to your video.
    • On YouTube, viewers can set the font and size of subtitles which they find easiest to read.
    • Open Captions
    • Subtitles are burnt into your video and are permanently visible.
    • Suitable for all web video platforms.
    • Text is not searchable by Google and YouTube.
    • Useful to provide open access to your video for all, or if your sound isn’t the best quality.
    • More expensive option: As burning-in subtitles involves additional production processes, including the creation and transfer of a new video file, there is an additional cost.
    • You have control over the font and size of the subtitles, which the viewer can’t change.

    Applying Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Principles to VLE design

    By Jessica Gramp, on 16 July 2017

    Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Principles describe how educators can cater to the needs of students with differing needs, including those with disabilities (CAST 2011). It stems from the social model of disability, which places the problem within the environment, rather than with the individual who has the disability (Collins 2014).
    Technology enables the quick modification of learning materials to meet the specific needs of students (Pisha & Coyne 2001) and online communication can even hide a disability from others. For example, a deaf student who participates in an online discussion forum does not need to reveal they are deaf in order to communicate with peers. This can lower the social and communication barriers that may be experienced when communicating in person. Also, there are many modern technologies specifically developed to help people with disabilities engage with online environments. This means online learning environments are particularly well placed to address the goal of Universal Design for Learning. It is the responsibility of the institutions and developers who maintain these environments to ensure they can be accessed by all.
    While most of the UDL guidelines apply to curriculum design, some of them are relevant to the design of the broader virtual learning environment (VLE).

    UDL principles (CAST 2011) mapped to how a VLE might meet relevant checkpoints

    To learn more, click on one of the Guidelines in the boxes below.

    I. Provide Multiple Means of Representation

    PerceptionLanguage, expressions, and symbolsComprehension

    II. Provide Multiple Means of Action and Expression

    Physical actionExpression and communication
    Executive function

    UDL Principle 1 aims to ‘provide multiple means of representation’  by ‘providing options for perception’, which includes ‘offer[ing] ways of customizing the display of information’ (CAST 2011). This means the VLE should offer the ability to do things like resize text and enable screen-readers to read aloud text to those who have visual impairments or dyslexia.

    Within UDL Principle 2, guideline 4: aims to ‘provide options for physical action’, which includes ‘vary[ing] the methods for response and navigation’ (CAST 2011). This means ensuring all navigation and interaction can occur via a keyboard and using assistive technologies such as voice activated software like Dragon NaturallySpeaking, which recognises speech and converts it to text.
    UDL Principle 3 seeks to ‘provide multiple means of engagement’ by ‘recruiting interest’, including enabling the learner to choose colours and layouts (CAST 2011). There are a number of tools that enable users to change the fonts and colours on a webpage and it is important these are able to be applied. The VLE should also offer the ability to customise the interface, in terms of re-ordering frequently accessed items, placement of menus and temporarily hiding extraneous information that may distract from the task at hand.
    These three principles and the specific checkpoints mentioned above are being addressed as part of the Accessible Moodle project, which aims to make UCL Moodle more accessible. The main ways these are being addressed are through the development of a more accessible Moodle theme, as well as the development of Moodle code itself. Although the project has limited ability to develop this code, suggestions for improvements are being raised with the Moodle development community via the Moodle Tracker. You can sign up and vote for accessibility enhancements to help these get prioritised, and therefore resolved more quickly, by Moodle HQ and other developers within the community.
    The remaining UDL principles are intended to guide the development of more accessible content and curriculum designs, and therefore these will inform the development of the Universal Design for Learning course that is being developed at UCL, to help educators understand how to design accessible learning tasks, environments and materials.
     
    You can read more about the Accessible Moodle project on the UCL Digital Education blog.
     
    References
    CAST (2011). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.0. [online]. Available from: http://www.udlcenter.org/sites/udlcenter.org/files/UDL_Guidelines_Version_2.0_(Final)_3.doc [Accessed 16 July 2017].
    Collins, B. (2014). Universal design for learning: What occupational therapy can contribute? [Online]. Occupational Therapy Now, 16(6), 22-23. Available from: http://eprints.bournemouth.ac.uk/21426/1/Collins.pdf [Accessed 16 July 2017].
    Pisha, B. & Coyne, P. (2001) Smart From the Start: The Promise of Universal Design for Learning. Remedial and Special Education. [Online] 22 (4), 197–203. Available from: doi:10.1177/074193250102200402.

    Accessible Moodle Theme

    By Jessica Gramp, on 10 July 2017

    As part of a wider Accessible Moodle project, a new UCL Moodle theme is being designed to make it more accessible for those with particular disabilities.

    The new theme will address some accessibility concerns by using:
    • Larger fonts and icons.
    • Off-white backgrounds to reduce glare.
    • High contrasting and brighter colours.
    • Making the main content areas more prominent.
    • Using icons, alongside or in place of text, to de-clutter the screen and make it easier to identify important links and information.

    If you work or study at UCL and would like to provide feedback on the initial designs, please contact j.gramp@ucl.ac.uk as soon as possible, using your UCL email account.

    Accessible Moodle wishlist

    By Jessica Gramp, on 20 June 2017

    The following outlines recommendations from the Accessible Moodle project to improve the accessibility of UCL Moodle for disabled students and staff, as well as improve usability for all users. These have been informed by focus groups with disabled students and staff; analysis of how UK websites adhere to accessibility guidelines; and research of relevant journal articles and accessibility guidelines.

    Our primary aim is to ensure Moodle is technically accessible using assistive technologies including ZoomText, JAWS screen-reader, Read & Write, Dragon NaturallySpeaking voice recognition software, as well as other assistive technologies commonly used at UCL. In addition, keyboard-only access should be fully supported. It is also important that UCL Moodle is usable for those with disabilities, as well as the wider student and staff community.

    In order to develop these recommendations, the project team ran focus groups with UCL students and staff with disabilities, to find out what they found difficult to use within Moodle and what suggestions they had for improvements. I have blogged previously about the background to the project and the outcomes of these focus groups.

    A number of sources were also referenced to see how Moodle could be made to better adhere to accessibility guidelines. The most important of these are the following three guidelines from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) :

    • Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA for making Moodle and its content more accessible.
    • Web Accessibility Initiative – Accessible Rich Internet Applications Suite (WAI-ARIA) for designing Moodle so users of assistive technologies, like screen-readers, can navigate and read its pages.
    • Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG) for making the Moodle rich text editors more accessible.

    A number of websites were also analysed to compare how each of them implemented W3C guidelines.

    The list that follows is a wish list, which may not all be implemented, but gives us a guide for how we might improve Moodle. Although there are many other elements that are important, but not mentioned below, the following makes a start of improving the interface for disabled  and non-disabled users alike.

    We are taking a multi-faceted approach to resolve the issues identified, and work is likely to be ongoing, but here’s a list of changes we’d like to see made to make Moodle more accessible.

    Assistive Technology compatibility.

    The following recommendations are likely to require implementation at multiple levels, so don’t easily fit under any single development areas below. The project aims to achieve the following:

    • Content and editing features are available to screen-readers, or suitable alternatives are available – e.g. offline marking in Word enables in-line marking for assessments.
    • Navigation is straight-forward, with content appearing before menus and appropriate headings, links and lists being utilised to enable easy navigation using common screen-reader features. E.g. the list of module tutor names under every Moodle course name in the search results means that hundreds of links are listed to screen-reader users and sighted users are overwhelmed by irrelevant information which needs to be scrolled past, and which is particularly problematic for those with dyslexia.
    • All images have alt tags (even if these are empty), or in the case of icons that supplement text, they use ARIA tags to tell screen-readers to ignore them.
    • Accepts user input using voice recognition software, like Dragon Naturally Speaking.
    • Enables magnification by ensuring the pages display well when the browser is zoomed in or when zooming software is used.
    • Visible focus when using the keyboard (tab, space, enter and arrow keys) to navigate.
    • Supports the use of OpenDyslexi font, available as a browser plugin to help those with dyslexia read text.

    A multi-faceted approach

    The following five areas outline the different ways in which Accessibility improvements can be made to UCL Moodle.

    1. A new, more accessible UCL Moodle theme for use on desktop and mobile devices.
      • Minimise clutter, by enabling blocks to be hidden and removing extraneous information.
      • Position elements for optimal access. E.g. ensure the login is prominent and important course features are easy to access.
      • Simplify the menus, by showing relevant links only to relevant users. E.g. staff see different links from students.
      • Improve the course icons by making them larger and clearer. E.g. the maximise block link is not intuitive.
      • Show alerts to users – e.g. explaining that editors can drag and drop files, warnings of Moodle outage periods.
      • Improve navigation, e.g. by enabling links to key areas that users expect.
      • Use high contrasting colours on a pale background that is easy to read for those with dyslexia (e.g. not white).
    2. Changes to Moodle configuration.
      • Configure text editors so they encourage accessible content design. E.g. offering heading styles 3-5, removing the inclination for people to add heading 1 and 2 tags when these are used at higher levels within Moodle pages.
      • Enable global search (assuming this does not negatively impact performance).
      • Allow students and staff to personalise the interface by enabling courses to be moved up and down on the My Home page, hide and show blocks, maximise the screen or use a default width better for reading and dock blocks.
    3. Enhanced Moodle features.
      A number of plugins to Moodle exist that make Moodle more usable and improve accessibility.

      • Implement and configure user tours to help users understand how to use Moodle and point to help with accessibility features.
      • Install the course checks plugin to help staff create an accessible Moodle course – e.g. checks for assignment due dates in past, courses not reset, broken links.
      • Implement a Moodle course site map so students can easily see what is available on a course on one page.
      • Enable importing content from Word, which some users find easier to edit within than Moodle.
      • Pilot the Blackboard Ally plugin to help in the creation of more accessible learning resources and course structures.
      • Install the Office 365 plugin to make it easier to author, organise and link or embed content into Moodle (coming to Moodle core in v3.3).
      • Enable staff to add icons to help signpost particular areas of their course and help people who prefer these visual cues, as opposed to having to read excessive text.
    4. Improved training, staff development and support.
      • Develop a course for Moodle editors so they understand how to develop accessible Moodle resources and activities.
      • Develop an online course to explain how Assistive Technologies can be used with Moodle (e.g. regions for JAWS, browser plugins to show a reading ruler, change fonts to OpenDyslexi font, improve colour contrast).
    5. Improved interfaces by proposing enhancements to Moodle HQ and iParadigms (who provide Turnitin).
      • Adequately signpost links showing (new window, document, external/internal etc) automatically.
      • Enable users to personalise their experience by allowing them to choose their own course format, set blocks to particular colours.
      • Improve assessment interfaces, such as the Moodle Assignment rubric functionality and display.
      • Flag new items on the Moodle course page (allow this to be enabled/disabled in user preferences).
      • Improve the Moodle calendar – e.g. size, reliance on colour, clicking month to access full screen.
      • Improve the discussion forums – e.g. showing the entire thread when replying, the accessibility of the email alerts it sends.
      • Fix Moodle heading tags.

    The UCL Digital Education team, staff in Disability Support teams and staff from IT for IoE  are slowly working through each of these five strands to make improvements to virtual learning experiences at UCL for those with disabilities. Many of these improvements will also benefit other Moodle users, since accessibility cannot be considered in isolation from usability, so this means an enhanced user experience for everyone!