Joined the ALT South webinar on online learning materials and accessibility, in which Tharindu Liyanagunawardena, Chair of the Online Learning Research Centre at the University College of Estate Management, presented a case study of their experience in adapting online learning materials to improve accessibility for students. This was initially in response to students who were having difficulty with particular items within a MOOC, but the lessons learned were adapted and implemented in new templates which were subsequently shared across the institution.
There was some discussion about Blackboard Ally, a tool, or ‘revolutionary product’ according to Blackboard, which can validate the accessibility of learning materials and in many instances convert them into alternative formats such as audio, electronic Braille, and ePub. Ally is available for multiple VLEs, not just Blackboard Learn.
The webinar was also my first experience of Blackboard Collaborate Ultra. Well, it’s certainly an improvement as it no longer uses Java, unfortunately is uses Flash instead. I would hope that that is a stopgap measure in the transition to HTML5, but with Blackboard who knows. In keeping with the theme of the webinar, there was mention of a feature in Collaborate Ultra which allows an individual to enter live closed captions. That is a nice feature.
We’re looking at options for a secure eAssessment system that would be able to replace our archaic EDPAC forms, and ExamSoft were the first company to provide a demonstration and discussion for us this morning. For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, EDPAC forms are the old pink sheets that you complete by penciling in a cross in the correct answer box (and it does have to be a pencil of the correct weight too!) Those forms are then scanned by a machine we dub the bacon slicer and then we spend hours correcting all the mistakes and typing the comments manually. Everything about it is awful, and we’ve wanted to get rid for years, but there are pockets of use where people are wedded to this system and won’t switch to using MCQs in the VLE. So it is for them that we are looking for a new solution.
ExamSoft’s big selling point is that it can be used on student’s own devices, computers or iPads, which their software can completely lock down for the duration of the exam. This means that we could still get hundreds of students in one secure location all taking the same exam at the same time, one of the arguments in favour of EDPAC. Otherwise, ExamSoft is a fairly standard MCQ system. Questions can be tagged according to the subject or taxonomy of your choice, it can export and import from most other similar systems, integrates with Canvas, etc. I was a little concerned about what seemed to be the limited number of question types – I didn’t see drop-down or calculated questions for example – and I have doubts about how successful it could be as a bring-your-own-device solution for us.
It’s one thing for students to willingly have and use their personal devices to complement their studies, but if we as an institution require them to provide their own kit in order to take exams we’re opening up issues of responsibility as well as imposing an additional financial burden. If someone is bringing in their laptop and it is broken or stolen on the way for example, is that on us? Our insurance? Then there is the issue of technical support, both with the ExamSoft software itself, and logistical considerations such as ensuring that we have sufficient power sockets for the inevitable dead batteries (we don’t) and that our wireless network is robust enough to handle hundreds of simultaneous connections in a small area (it isn’t). Providing our own equipment via something like a laptop safe could offer a solution to some of these problems.
Freshly rolled out, our HR’s new online appraisee training module that I created for them in Storyline. We’re developing a good relationship with HR and more work of this kind is on the cards. Storyline is also picking up throughout the university, though Faculties are tending to purchase their own copies for one or two interested people to do the development themselves. The next big one I should be working on after we get through the new semester busy period is for HIV awareness.
It’s finished! The now legendary University of Sunderland Anti-Bribery Act 2010 Online Training module was finally, finally approved by all interested parties yesterday (finally), and the link has gone out to the first batch of people who need to complete it.
I have been working on this off and on for almost as long as I’ve been at Sunderland. The original scoping meeting happened in July 2014 with a due date of September. Delays and competing priorities in our very busy Legal, Governance and Business Assurance department meant that deadlines slipped, many times.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing though. My skills with Storyline have improved considerably over the past couple of years, and this is by far the richest content item I have created, including a very professional voiceover on every slide and, in the most recent enhancement, a PDF certificate generated on the fly upon successful completion of the quiz.
Further to my original video walkthrough of the Opportunities Online system I was asked to create a new version showing the events booking functionality. I split it into three sections and recycled the ‘Logging In’ scene from the earlier content item to save some work and time. I have also continued to work on the style and presentation of these to make them even better, making the image on the welcome slide full screen for a smoother appearance and increased visual impact for example.
We have been developing a new online submission, feedback and marking tool for one of our faculties and I was asked for advice on creating an interactive guide for students on how to submit to the system. I recommended Storyline for which we had just purchased a few licenses on my recommendation, and this is the result. I actually recommended Storyline for another project which is further down the line so I ended up having to put this together at very short notice, it is consequently a little rough around the edges. I will develop a proper template in due course.