ALT NE User Group – November 2019

Photo of an IBM 360 Mainframe Computer

Photo of an IBM System 360 outside our room

Attended the ALT North East User Group today at Newcastle University. This meeting was themed around accessibility which was suggested after Jisc’s talk at our last meeting and the dawning realisation about how much work this could have on learning technology departments.

All attending institutions gave an update on what we are doing to ensure that we meet our obligations, ranging from panicked nothing to creating fully custom eLearning packages for delivering maths learning resources digitally and online – that from Newcastle University who have developed a solution using a combination of open source packages including MathJax and Pandoc. East Durham College’s virtual reality sensory rooms to support students on the autistic spectrum with overstimulation was really impressive. One of the things they’re using is SafeSpace Easy Access, a freemium Cardboard compatible virtual reality app.

Another highlight of the day came from an external guest from Blackboard who demonstrated Ally working in Canvas. Ally is a tool that can not only check course content for accessibility issues – not just web content, but materials including Word, PDF and PowerPoint files – but automatically convert that content into a range of different formats to meet different access needs. For example, it can perform optical character recognition (OCR) on PDF files which are scanned images, turning them into text, and convert text to speech.

Resuscitation Quality Improvement System


Demonstration of the RQI System

I had a meeting this morning with our paramedic programme team about how to integrate various distinct systems they have into a new digital Practice Assessment Document to replace the multiple binders full of paper which trainee paramedics have to assemble at the moment. I have some thoughts on this which I’m sure I’ll write about in future as this comes together, but for today I just wanted to share the Resuscitation Quality Improvement system I saw, which is another one of those quite fabulous, albeit niche, technologies we have scattered around the university.

RQI is a mannequin made by Laerdal Medical that is used for training people to perform CPR, but this one has over 40 sensors inside it hooked up to a computer that gives you realtime feedback on things like how regular and deep your chest compressions are. It’s great! Watch the attached video to see it in action.

Authorship Investigate Demo

Had another demonstration of Turnitin’s new Authorship Investigate tool today. This time they came to visit us for the benefit of our head of service.

Further to what I’ve written about this before, new features or things I’ve learned today includes the fact that this isn’t integrated into either the VLE or Turnitin’s Feedback Studio which we currently use, but rather is a standalone application that only nominated individuals would have access to. This would typically be people working in academic misconduct departments who could use Authorship Investigate as a tool to help their investigations. Turnitin are, however, working on a kind of early warning system that could be used to identify papers which have potentially been procured through contract cheating / essay mill services, similar to the existing similarity report. Academics could then ask for those papers to be investigated further. This is, however, some way off at this time.

Some new things Authorship Investigate can use in checking papers includes citation styles, font and text styles, and the language of the document, e.g. UK / US English, and whether or not this has been changed or doesn’t match previously submitted papers by the student in question.