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Alternatives for Digital Walls like Padlet

Tim Neumann17 September 2020

Digital Walls or noticeboards have become popular tools for online activities around sharing ideas and media. You may be familiar with Padlet, which is probably the best known example for a digital wall. But as Padlet is currently not provided by UCL, we wanted to examine some of its use cases and look at options within UCL to replicate these types of activities, so we asked some colleagues at the UCL Institute of Education for their input.

What is Padlet?

  • Padlet is a visual virtual noticeboard that allows learners to share text, links, pictures and video, leave feedback and ratings, and rearrange and link shared items.
  • Padlet has become popular for its ease-of-use and versatility: It is quick to set up, and does not require a log in. Learners can quickly add items to a digital wall and make sense by rearranging them manually or automatically.
  • Padlet takes care to present items in a visually attractive way by automatically grabbing images from websites and adjusting image sizes, and it allows connections to be made between related items, thus enabling concept maps.

What is the issue with Padlet?

At the time of writing, Padlet is not accessible and does not conform to the WCAG 2.1 level AA standard. The three main issues are:

  • Keyboard access: Content can be navigated, but neither created nor edited by keyboard only.
    There is currently no workaround.
  • Alternative descriptions: Images, video and links cannot be tagged with alternative descriptions.
    A workaround is to add descriptions and/or transcripts to the main text body of a Padlet post.
  • Low vision colour contrast: The colour contrast of Padlet pages does not accommodate low vision users.
    A workaround in the form of a web app is only available for Chrome/Edge.

What are alternatives to Padlet?

While there are plenty of alternative external tools, such as Lino, Mindmeister, Miro, Pinterest, Trello, Wakelet etc, these tools are either facing similar accessibility challenges, have a more specific range of use cases, or are more complex to use.

Below is a list of typical Padlet use cases sourced from colleagues at the UCL Institute of Education, and potential alternatives with UCL-provided tools where possible. Click on each tab to expand:

Description:

Typical use case for e.g. brainstorming. Having student comments on one single page allows for a quicker analysis, and Padlet’s ability to rearrange comments aids analysis by organising thoughts spacially. The digital wall concept also helps overcome hierarchical organisation of comments.

Alternative Tools:

Mentimeter (Guide), Microsoft Planner

Comment:

Padlet is actually bad at handling long amounts of text.
For short comments, Mentimeter has several display options including a revolving display or word clouds.
If drag-and-drop rearrangement is required, Microsoft Planner offers a card-based display similar to Padlet, which can also handle attachments, but does not display thumbnail images. Horizontal rearrangement needs defined columns.

Issues:

While Mentimeter is straightforward, it is restricted to simply compiling text-based contributions.
In Microsoft Planner, learners must be added to a plan to gain relevant permissions, and they must be logged in at Office 365.

Description:

Co-operative curation of resources under a theme with comments, reviews or evaluation.

Alternative Tools:

Microsoft OneNote, Moodle Glossary, Moodle Forum, Moodle Database

Comment:

The simplicity of Padlet encourages participation, which is not matched with other tools:

  • OneNote is complex to use, but offers superior options to categorise content.
    Media and comments are separate in OneNote and not treated as 'one unit'.
  • Core functions of the Moodle Glossary are straightforward to use for building a categorised resource collection, but the visual design is less attractive, the usability is less immediate, and functions like tags are not wholly intuitive.
  • The Moodle Forum is intuitive, but used as a resource collection, a number of clicks are required to navigate the collection.
  • The Moodle Database can be turned into a versatile media collection database, but its setup needs expertise, and even when templates are provided, support will likely be required.

Issues:

  • All Moodle tools require specific instructions when large media files are being shared, e.g. upload via the Lecturecast button in the Moodle text editor.
  • OneNote requires Office 365 login and specific permissions, which can be facilitated by using Teams.

Description:

Learners compile images, videos, audio, websites and other media web to collaboratively create a multimodal narrative in response to a prompt.

Alternative Tools:

Microsoft OneNote

Comment:

While OneNote good at collating resources and developing structures, it is more complex to use and does not offer the immediacy of managing resources.

Issues:

OneNote requires Office 365 login and specific permissions, which can be facilitated by using Teams.

Description:

Used for example as ice breaker, e.g. “where in the world are you”: Students create a pin on a map to show where they are located (e.g. London) and add a few comments about themselves.

Alternative Tools:

Blackboard Collaborate Ultra Whiteboard (only synchronous)
External: Ethermap, Zeemaps

Comments:

Important for community building and seeing benefits of studying online.

Issues:

Any alternative is likely to have accessibility issues.

Description:

Students use a Padlet wall to make visual connections between ideas.

Alternative Tools:

None.
External: Mindmeister or similar collaborative mindmapping tools

Comments:

Effective activity to facilitate conceptual understanding.

Issues:

No UCL-internal alternative could be identified.

Description:

Students are invited to share their solution to different facets of a problem. Three or more headings are created and students post underneath one or more. Students are then invited to reply to others' posts.

Alternative Tools:

Microsoft Planner, shared Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel document, Moodle Wiki, Confluence (UCL Wiki)

Comments:

Padlet offers high flexibility in expanding or minimising the structure, but may not be the right tool if contributions are text-heavy.

Issues:

  • Microsoft tools require Office 365 login and specific permissions, which can be facilitated by using Teams.
  • The Moodle Wiki requires an introduction to the wiki syntax.
  • Confluence requires a separate login.

Description:

Students collect visual research-type data, e.g. photographic observations, hand drawn maps, which is displayed on a single screen.

Alternative Tools:

Microsoft OneNote

Comments:

Having visual data on one single screen offers analytical insights that put less strain on working memory.

Issues:

The single-screen display of OneNote is not as flexible.
OneNote requires Office 365 login and specific permissions, which can be facilitated by using Teams.

Description:

Presentation of images, pdfs, ppts, videos, audio, etc with ratings and comments for each contribution.

Alternative Tools:

Moodle Database, Moodle Forum, Microsoft OneNote, UCL Reflect

Comments:

Padlet does not require any detailed setup for this type of activity.

  • The Moodle Database can be turned into a customised simple conference resource centre, but its setup needs expertise, and even when templates are provided, support will likely be required.
  • The Moodle Forum is a simplistic option.
  • For OneNote, a structure and clear instructions need to be provided.

Issues:

Moodle tools require specific instructions when large media files such as videos are being shared.
OneNote requires Office 365 login and specific permissions, which can be facilitated by using Teams.


Description:

Using a tool that learners can use in their own practice outside of UCL makes activities more authentic and adds a professional transfer/real-world perspective.

Alternative Tools:

n/a
Example: UCL Reflect

Comments:

Certain tools, including Padlet, have high propagation and acceptance in professional practice, which provides a strong justification for including them in UCL teaching and learning. The adoption of a tool by UCL, however, needs to be balanced with many other factors, and adhere to our policies.

UCL Reflect is based on the WordPress blogging platform, which is an example for a tool that has high global acceptance.

Issues:

The tool may go against UCL policies, most notably on accessibility or privacy, which may raise legal issues around equality and/or safeguarding as well as ethical issues. 


 

We will follow this up with screenshots and descriptions of specific examples.

With contributions from Dima Khazem, Eileen Kennedy, Gillian Stokes, Kit Logan and Silvia Colaiacomo.

New E-Book on Assessment, Feedback and Technology

Tim Neumann1 November 2017

UCL Digital Education Advisory members contributed to a new Open Access e-book that provides valuable insight into the way technology can enhance assessment and feedback. The book was launched formally on 26th October by Birkbeck College Secretary Keith Harrison, with talks from the editors Leo Havemann (Birkbeck, University of London) and Sarah Sherman (BLE Consortium), three case study authors, and event sponsor Panopto.

Havemann, Leo; Sherman, Sarah (2017): Assessment, Feedback and Technology: Contexts and Case Studies in Bloomsbury. London: Bloomsbury Learning Environment.
View and download from: https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.5315224.v1

 

The Book

E-Book thumbnail

E-Book Cover

The book is a result of a two-year project on e-assessment and feedback run by the Bloomsbury Learning Environment (BLE), a collaboration between five colleges, including the UCL Institute of Education, on issues around digital technology in Higher Education. It contains three research papers which capture snapshots of current practice, and 21 case studies from the BLE partner institutions and a little beyond, thus including practice from wider UCL.

The three papers focus on

  • the use of technology across the assessment lifecycle,
  • the roles played by administrative staff in assessment processes,
  • technology-supported assessment in distance learning.

The case studies are categorised under the headings:

  • alternative [assessment] tasks and formats,
  • students feeding back,
  • assessing at scale,
  • multimedia approaches, and
  • technical developments.

Seven of the 21 case studies were provided by UCL Digital Education colleagues Jess Gramp, Jo Stroud, Mira Vogel (2), and Tim Neumann (3), reporting on examples of blogging, group assessment, peer feedback, assessment in MOOCs, student presentations at a distance, and the UCL-developed My Feedback Report plugin for Moodle.

 

Why you should read the e-book

Launch Event Photo

BLE E-Book Launch Event

As one of the speakers at the entertaining launch event, I suggested three reasons why everybody involved in Higher Education should read this book, in particular the case studies:

  1. Processes in context:
    The case studies succinctly describe assessment and feedback processes in context, so you can quickly decide whether these processes are transferable to your own situation, and you will get a basic prompt on how implement the assessment/feedback process.
  2. Problems are highlighted:
    Some case studies don’t shy away from raising issues and difficulties, so you can judge for yourself whether these difficulties represent risks in your context, and how these risks can be managed.
  3. Practical tips:
    All case studies follow the same structure. If you are in a hurry, make sure to read at least the Take Away sections of each case study, which are full of tips and tricks, many of which apply to situations beyond the case study.

Overall, this collection of papers and case studies on assessment and feedback is easily digestible and contributes to an exchange of good practice.

 

View and Download the Book

The e-book is an Open Access publication freely available below.

For further information, see ble.ac.uk/ebook.html, and view author profiles at ble.ac.uk/ebook_contributors.html

 

About the BLE:
The Bloomsbury Learning Environment is a collaboration between Birkbeck, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), Royal Veterinary College (RVC), School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS),  UCL Institute of Education (IOE), and the University of London with a focus on technologies for teaching and learning, including libraries and administration.
See www.ble.ac.uk for more information.