OMBEA Audience Response System

Attended a webinar demonstration of OMBEA, an audience response system similar to TurningPoint which can use both old-school ‘clickers’ or a browser based response. It seems good, but it didn’t ‘wow’ me. The best part of the system is the ability to upload responses to any quiz or survey to their cloud-based system which saves the results and gives you options to perform some analysis on the data.

I’m not convinced that these traditional audience response systems offer great value for money in the era of online tools such as Socrative, mQlicker and Poll Everywhere, and the ubiquity of smartphones.

At Sunderland we have SMART Response handsets which, for me, typify the problems with them and prove the need to move to entirely software driven solutions such as Poll Everywhere. The response handsets are expensive, the batteries run out (from personal experience, I would estimate that around 5-10% of handsets are not going to work at any given session due to faults like this) and the numbers of handsets we have is a mystery as they are spread out between different departments and faculties which guard them like Gollum. Getting enough together for a significantly sized session can be a nightmare.

Last year I was asked to advice on whether or not to use our SMART Response handsets or an online tool for a conference with an expected attendance of around 200. I recommended Poll Everywhere, but a senior manager was concerned that not all attendees would have a smartphone and thus some may be excluded. So I ran a poll to get some evidence and numbers, the results of which can be found on the team’s blog here. Only 2% of students said they didn’t have a smartphone or tablet, rising to 4% of staff, which I would argue is going to exclude less people than faulty audience response handsets. With Poll Everywhere, which allows people to respond via SMS, I think it’s fair to say you are doing your absolute best to accommodate the 2-4% of non-smartphone users as well. If you really felt the need to go further, well, we are also now in an era where £50 can buy you a pretty decent tablet.

Learning and Teaching Conference 2015

Inspired by the HEA’s ‘Framework for partnership in learning and teaching in higher education’ published in 2014, the theme and title of the University’s Learning and Teaching conference this year was ‘Students as Partners in Learning and Teaching: The pedagogical case for learning and working as partners’.

The conference began with an Opening Address delivered by Professor Julie Mennell, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic), and was followed by the Keynote ‘Learning as a Team: Education that connects students, lecturers and professionals’ which was given by a guest speaker, Dr Marjolein Wildwater, Scientific Manager at HAN University of Applied Sciences, Netherlands, who presented a case study on her experience with involving students directly in the ongoing development of a programme. Next was the Internal Plenary ‘Crossing Pedagogic Borders: Adventures with sketchbooks and stories’ led by Dr Diane Westwood, Principal Lecturer Learning and Teaching, with assistance from two of her students who shared their experience in changing the assessment model in a Psychology programme to one which was based on artefacts and portfolios, an approach which required them to cross the border into the unfamiliar world of the arts. The final session of the first part of the conference was a Question and Answer Panel ‘Talking About Working in Partnership’ where three chairs, Dr Colin Bryson, Director of Combined Honours Partnership, Newcastle University, Andi Albrecht, one of Colin’s students on the Combined Honours Partnership and Gareth Hughes from the University of Sunderland Students’ Union, each gave a short talk on their experience of working with students as partners before being joined by the other speakers from the morning to take questions from the audience.

For the second part of the conference attendees were broken up into strands to attend two workshops and one ‘ignite’ session. The ignite sessions were short, dynamic presentations lasting twenty minutes each with a five minute PowerPoint presentation with slides set to automatically advance every fifteen seconds. Unfortunately I was unable to attend any of the ignite sessions as I had to prepare for the first workshop where I was assisting a colleague, David Archer, with his workshop, ‘Using Mobile Polling to Develop Partnerships’, in which he talked about how he has used Poll Everywhere for real-time interaction with students during lectures. David borrowed a number of tablets and mobile devices that we keep in stock and I was also there for any technical assistance if required. The second workshop I attended was ‘Beyond Feedback: Rethinking the role of students in enhancing teaching practice’ delivered by Dan Derricott and Emily Parkin from the University of Lincoln who presented on their experience with involving students which contained some really interesting ideas such as having everyone on their Executive Board shadowed by a student.

Web and Learning Technology Services were there too. Instead of delivering a session we had a ‘pod’ to ourselves for the entire day where people could come for a break and chat to us about the latest developments with SunSpace and other learning technologies.

The conference was organised and delivered by Academic Development with whom I have a close working relationship and I was able to contribute some ideas for the day. For example, we were initially asked if we could record the morning sessions but instead I recommended the use of our new live streaming service which gave the conference another 50 or so virtual attendees and we received some very positive feedback from viewers. Recordings were subsequently added to the Sunderland Media Library. Also, with a little encouragement from me, Academic Development created a Twitter account and hashtag for the event to encourage audience engagement.

Introduction to SunSpace Storyline

intro_to_sunspace

Created a video-based presentation for new students which runs through all of the key features of SunSpace and includes a short surprise MCQ at the end to try and help reinforce their learning. Initially this was at the request of an academic who wanted something like this for some non-standard modules he has starting now, but it has wider potential so I made it generic to all SunSpace modules and then integrated it into the new module template we’ve been building for academic year 2015/16. It’s probably not complete yet, a voiceover on each slide would be nice for example, but it’s now in a state that’s good to go!

http://solar.sunderland.ac.uk/solar/file/29f3d246-59aa-4f60-9543-6c8577171de1/1/story.html

SLS Mini Conference

A short update from the Director and Assistant Directors of SLS on how we are progressing towards meeting our targets as a service which, as we are nearing the end of the three year service plan, has largely become a statement of fact. This was followed by group workshops where we discussed some examples of how we are meeting our shared behaviours: Teamwork, Customer Satisfaction, Continuous Improvement, Customer Focus and Information Sharing.

Enhancing the Student Experience with Microsoft Lync

polycom_and_kit

At an event at Durham University Business School, Waterstons provided three case studies of how Microsoft Lync can be used in a teaching and learning context, following by a hands-on demonstration of some of the equipment that had been used along with the client software running on a number of different platforms: a Windows PC and Surface tablet, an Apple MacBook and iPad, an Android tablet and a number of smartphones.

Lync is the latest version of what was Office Communicator and includes a number of enhancements, adding video, screen sharing and collaboration tools such as a whiteboard to instant messaging and VOIP functionality.

The first case study was a boardroom exercise, a simulated assessed committee meeting for MBA students which was recorded using a Polycom video recorder, with the recordings then exported and uploaded to Blackboard. The second case study was of a BSc Accounting Programme where students spent a significant amount of time on placement with KPMG. Lync was used to host regular meetings between the university, KPMG and the students. The third case study was on how the Business School had further rolled out Lync following these successes to conduct Viva examinations, overseas student reviews and for general meetings.

In all of the case studies Lync was chosen over the in-house Blackboard Collaborate tool as it was less problematic, not requiring Java to run, and easily available to partners who did not have access to the VLE. Feedback received citied the ease-of-use of the software and hardware, and the quality of the video and recordings.

The case studies were followed by a live hand-ons demonstration with the Polycom video recorder which was used for the MBA boardroom exercises and a large range of mobile devices to demonstrate the client software in action, including a web client which does not require any software to be installed.

Finally we were given a quick overview of how Waterstons are developing the software to find new use case scenarios to further enhance the experience for students, including full Outlook and university timetable integration, VLE integration, and use as a lecture capture tool.

http://products.office.com/en-GB/lync

http://www.polycom.co.uk/products-services/products-for-microsoft/lync-optimized/cx5000-unified-conference-station.html

http://www.waterstons.com

Positive PebblePad Feedback

From a student:

“Excellent, it’s there! thank you so so much for this! I’m so grateful honestly! Thank you so much for helping me :)”

She had lost some work from PebblePad which I was able to recover from the server, with some difficulty. Feedback like this reminds why I love my work; it’s wonderful to be able to help people.

After receiving confirmation that what I had done worked I did a little more experimentation and worked out exactly how and where the backups were being created and then wrote a short procedure on how to recover documents for future reference.