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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.

Social Media in Higher Education 2016 (#SocMedHE16)

Domi C Sinclair23 December 2016

Last week was the Social Media in Higher Education 2016 conference, which I was fortunate enough to attend. This was the second year of the conference which took place at Sheffield Hallam University, as it did last year also. The first thing that struck me about this conference was both the variety of different skills and usage levels that the various attendees and presenters had with social media.  Some people where slightly more advanced in their usage of social media, whereas others were just beginning.

During the conference itself there were 3 key themes that struck me, which I will talk about in more detail in this post. The things that struck me most where;

  1. The importance of students as co-creators
  2. An interesting debate about ‘lurkers’
  3. Discussions about Professionalism

Let’s start by looking at the first key theme, students as co-creators in more detail.

1.The importance of students as co-creators

One of the benefits of social media is that it’s interactive and so anyone can be a content creator. This makes it a powerful tool when used with learners, as they can learn by doing, creating content and even sharing it with the wider world and external subject experts. By engaging in this way student are raising their personal professional profile in their chosen industry and gaining experience. There is also another interesting side-effect of this, especially in relation to projects that are co-run with students, and that is the equalising of staff and students.

Although there may still be a slight hierarchy on social media, it does tend to place all those using it on a more even platform. Connecting celebrities with fans, and experts with learners whilst enabling them to ask questions or engage in conversation they could not normally have. This idea of students as ‘co’-creators can be really empowering for learners and help develop a confidence and passion for enhancing their learning. Social media as a platform for learning has been seen to encourage heutagogy as it put the learner in a more powerful position of control over their connections and output.

2. An interesting debate about ‘lurkers’

One of the discussions I found more interesting was a discussion about ‘lurkers’ on social media platforms, that is learners/ participants who do not actively participate in discussion or other activities but instead only view content. There were three main talking points around this topic; terminology, definition and impact.

The first discussion is one of terminology, should we use the term lurkers or does this have pejorative connotations? Is a better term, ‘silent participants’ or ‘passive learners’? Does it really matter what we call them? Personally, although I don’t mind the term ‘lurkers’ I do see why some would see it in a negative light and I think maybe ‘silent participant’ is a better term. Although the words we use do have significance, it is also important not to become too distracted by talking semantics at the determent of promoting good pedagogy.

The next point to consider is what counts as lurking? This seemed obvious to me, but as we moved into a group discussion on the topic it seemed that there are varying opinions on this. Some consider complete inactivity to be lurking, as in someone who reads conversations and consumes other content but does not themselves produce anything to share. This was more my view of what silent participation was before the session, and remains so after. However, I was slightly surprised to hear some proposing that those who ‘like’ content but do not offer content are lurkers. The level of engagement that is required to be shown for someone to be considered active, seemed to be something that everyone did not agree on, but it is a valuable conversation to continue having.

Finally, it is important to reflect on whether lurking is a bad thing. Do we need to consider ways to ‘lure’ those who lurk into the conversation and encourage them to actively engage? Would this enhance their learning, or are there some people who are happier and just as effective when they are consuming content, rather than producing it. If everyone where producing content, then is there a limit on how many people can be in a class? Surely at a certain class size not everyone can talk at once without diluting the conversation. How do we strike a balance in this case? Personally, I think that all participants should feel they have the opportunity to contribute and engage. For those who are hesitant or resistant we should investigate more closely what is holding them back.

3.Discussions about Professionalism

The final thing I want to talk about is the many discussions and presentations that focused on professionalism in the use of social media. This is a very natural topic to be considering in this sort of setting as social media puts learners in the public eye, and what they post could have effects long past their degree.

The main takeaway here was to avoid simply scaremongering. There are potential risks, and plenty of horror stories but if these are focused on too much in guidelines or workshops it puts social media in a very negative light and can understandably make students resistant or hesitant about using online tools.

Instead of focusing on the risk, it is good to present students with a realistic balance between the potential risk, so they are aware, and the positive impact social media can have. There are many success stories of students getting job offers and securing careers through their use of social media to share examples of work and connect with employers.

Overall it was an interesting conference, although it did not add a great deal to my personal understanding of social media, it did prompt me to reconsider some topics that I had not been as actively thinking about (such as the ‘lurker’ debate). If anyone is interested in exploring the use of social media in education then I would recommend looking one of the many excellent books produced on the subject, or contacting the Digital Education team who may be able to offer some advice.

6 top tips to help you build your Twitter following

Jessica Gramp14 November 2016

Last week as part of the UCL Doctoral Schools’ Digital Identity and Scholarship course, Jessica Gramp from the Digital Education team ran a Tweet for a Week activity to help staff learn to use Twitter (see #ucldias). One of the questions asked by the participants was how to build a strong Twitter following.

Here are 6 top tips to help you build your Twitter following:

  1. TweetUpload a picture and fill in your Twitter bio with a bit about yourself – a mix of professional and personal interests is usual. You might link these to hashtags.
  2. Follow those with interests similar to your own.
  3. Use hashtags to attract more followers.
  4. Link to your Twitter from your other networks. E.g. LinkedIn, Facebook, email signature, business cards, websites.
  5. Tweet media, such as video and images.
  6. Track your most popular tweets using Twitter Analytics.

See 10 ways to build a large, quality Twitter following…

 

Have you got questions, ideas or experience here?

If so, please do share them, either via the Twitter hashtag #elearningUCL or (for UCL staff and students) via the UCL Moodle Users forum.

Communicating and collaborating

Domi C Sinclair11 July 2016

Whether it is a tutor wanting to communicate with their students, or students wanting to connect with one another for support or group work, the ability to communicate and collaborate with others effectively is critical to university life. Thankfully there is a plethora of ways this can be done, using both external tools or those hosted by UCL.

One such internal tools is called MyPortfolio. It is an online portfolio tool, that also facilitates connections and collaboration via profile pages and group spaces. One of the really great things about MyPortfolio is that it also allows you to easily embed a wide range of external content, so the limits of what you can do with it are your imagination.

Why not check out our MyPortfolio YouTube playlist to find out more.

Introducing the new E-Learning Baseline

Jessica Gramp7 June 2016

UCL E-Learning Baseline 2016The UCL E-Learning Baseline is now available as a printable colour booklet. This can be downloaded from the UCL E-Learning Baseline wiki page: http://bit.ly/UCLELearningBaseline

The 2016 version is a product of merging the UCL Moodle Baseline with the Student Minimum Entitlement to On-Line Support from the Institute of Education.

The Digital Education Advisory team will be distributing printed copies to E-Learning Champions and Teaching Administrators for use in departments.

Please could you also distribute this to your own networks to help us communicate the new guidelines to all staff.

Support is available to help staff apply this to their Moodle course templates via digi-ed@ucl.ac.uk.

We are also working on a number of ideas to help people understand the baseline (via a myth busting quiz) and a way for people to show their courses are Baseline (or Baseline+) compliant by way with a colleague endorsed badge.

See ‘What’s new?’, to quickly see what has changed since the last 2013 Baseline.

 

Feature Focus!

Domi C Sinclair8 March 2016

There’s a wide web out there, with lots of possibilities to be achieved by utilising the plethora of creative and helpful online tools. MyPortfolio is a great resource to pull all of this external content together, in one easily viewable and shareable space. To compliment the external tools, there is also a lot you can do with internal tools such as journals and files. Once you are happy with your page(s) you can even choose a Creative Commons License to help make your content more easily shareable, and help create a bigger impact with your work.

To see a demonstration of some of possibilities of what you can embed and create with MyPortfolio check out our Feature Focus! MyPortfolio collection.

Explore. Play. Learn.