ALT North East User Group – 2019

In a first, I didn’t just attend the meeting this time round, I hosted it at one of the University’s nicer enterprise suites at Hope Street Xchange. Working with Graeme and Julie who are the North East’s key contacts with ALT, I took care of the practicalities – venue, IT, parking, lunch – while they organised the agenda and speakers.

In the morning we had presentations from our regional Turnitin account manager who presented on their new Authorship Investigate tool which is designed to help detect instances of contract cheating, followed by a presentation and discussion from Jisc on changes to the EU’s Accessibility Regulations which we as an institution will need to respond to over the next year.

In the afternoon representatives from each institution attending gave a short presentation or talk about what interesting projects we have going on. I talked about using Trello with the team to better organise our workload, and the rollout of Panopto across the University which is now in full swing.

I’m pleased to be able to say it all went very well, with only one minor lunch hiccup which was quickly resolved. Hopefully this will be something we can do on a regular basis going forward.

Panopto User Training

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It’s official. Contracts have been signed, Canvas integration has been tested, and now we’ve had our first batch of training for Panopto, the University’s new lecture capture system which we’re branding internally as reVIEW.

This session covered how the system will be accessed and used by Viewers (students, essentially), and Creators (lecturers). There wasn’t a lot to cover for Viewers. We’re planning on having everything integrated through Canvas, so it’s just a case of navigating to the relevant item or accessing the reVIEW tool in the menu. Playback speed can be varied between half and twice speed which is nice, caption styles can be customised, and the search functionality is impressive – it doesn’t just work on text, but also for spoken terms thanks to a machine speech-to-text engine.

It is possible for students to be given access to create their own videos by using ‘Assignment’ folders which can be configured for them by module tutors, and simple quizzes can be added at any point throughout videos to check comprehension. Results for which can be fed back into the Canvas Gradebook.

There was much more content for Creators as would be expected, covering recording and editing. Recordings can include multiple sources, including any webcam and mic connected to the computer – and more than one source – PowerPoint presentations, and your entire computer screen. Recordings are uploaded to Panopto’s servers progressively which will help in a lecture theatre environment where people need to get out quickly for the next class. Editing and post-production is done through the web using HTML5, no plug-ins required, and it is possible to edit individual sources in isolation as well as the entire video.

Closed captions can be added automatically based on the speech-to-text engine which Panopto is using to drive the in-video search, but it is also possible for Creators to request a variety of human transcription services which are contracted for separately. We’ll soon discover how well it can handle academic language and the interesting range of accents we have in this neck of the woods.

ALT North East User Group

Attended the ALT North East user group today at Durham Castle* to network and share practice with learning technologists from universities and colleges across the region.

A representative from Jisc was there to provide us with an update on their Learning Analytics project, which continues to look ever more impressive every time I see it. This was followed by a demonstration and talk about Special iApps which have been created to help children with special educational needs. Then we had two sessions on the use and value of Microsoft Teams in education, one from a Microsoft representative and one from a colleague at Teesside who have been using it in the wild with good results. Finally there was a demonstration of the survey tool BluePulse via webinar.

* The castle was nice. Really nice.

Canvas UK HE User Group

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Isn’t it nice that the University are letting me get out and about again? In London for two days for the UK HE User Group today and CanvasCon Europe tomorrow.

Today was really useful. Around 40 of us from all over the country at St George’s Medical School in Tooting sharing our experience as Canvas users. In the morning we had a demonstration of anonymous and moderating marking from colleagues who are currently piloting it with positive results, though they noted that they have found a limited number of ways to circumvent the anonymisation. However, as they are all quite obscure and difficult they remain confident in the tool and are rolling it our further. It will be interesting to see how Instructure’s offering here compares with Turnitin’s pending anonymous and moderated marking tool.

Also in the morning we had some group discussions on different ways of using Canvas for assessment and feedback to stimulate discussion and share ideas and best practice.

In the afternoon we were joined by representatives from Instructure who gave us updates on their developments and allowed us to grill them quite freely. This is always an excellent opportunity to use our collective influence to nudge Canvas in a direction which helps to address the needs of the UK sector. The anonymous and moderated marking tool for example, is something that was proposed by, and has been driven by this group.

Instructure provided us with a progress report on our Top 10 priority development list from last year, as shown in the photo above, which shows ‘Non-Scoring Rubrics’ and ‘Analytics to include Mobile App Usage’ as complete, and most of the others in the design or development stages. Finally, we voted on the new Top 10 list for 2018-19. From a long list of suggestions collated prior to the User Group, each person at the group was allowed to vote for three issues, and I voted for QuickMark style functionality in SpeedGrader, improved Group functionality, and the ability to set Notifications by course. All things which I’m being pressed for by our academic community at Sunderland.

Canvas UK User Group

Attended the Canvas UK User Group in Birmingham representing the University of Sunderland for the first time. I’m told that when this group started a few years ago it was half a dozen people around a table, now it’s a room of 30 from institutions all of the country. Very useful for networking and getting tips and tricks from established users – little things like the fact that you can open up content pages to allow anyone to edit them, effectively turning them into wikis, and learning about the kinds of problems other users have had, for example that notifications can’t be customised on a per course basis. An institution that migrated to Canvas a couple of years ago had a lot of complaints about that from staff, but I don’t think it will be an issue for us as we’re moving from a VLE that had no notifications system at all, so it’s an enhancement request for us rather than a loss of functionality.

By far the most useful part of the day was the access we had to technical people from Instructure and the roadmap and plans they shared with us. I knew that Crocodoc was due for replacement for example, but I didn’t realise it was happening quite so soon (next week!) and I saw the replacement tool for the first time. Looking forward to Quizzes 2, Blueprint courses and the changing functionality around muting assignments. A little disappointed to learn that the quick marks functionality from Turnitin’s Grademark isn’t going to be implemented in Speedgrader, as we’ve already had academics raising that with us. Also noted an interesting looking screenshot in the roadmap which showed Mahara loading within Canvas, similar to how the Turnitin LTI displays. We would love to have that kind of deep integration, but there were mixed messages about Mahara, with some people reporting that the latest version of the integration was still broken. The slide was in the roadmap though, so hopefully something that we can look forward.