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Author: sonya

New Student Induction Video and Getting Started

Student Induction to Canvas, by Me

I made this. I don’t get many opportunities for pure video creation / editing because we have a specialist in the team, so this was fun and a nice change of pace for me. I broke it up and did separate recordings for each area which I stitched together in iMovie, then uploaded to Panopto and added in the closed captions and bookmarks.

Related, I’ve also spent this week working on a new version of the Getting Started module which we have on Canvas and that all new students are automatically attached to. Updated content, some new pages on new systems we have and ways of working that have changed as a result of the pandemic, and new icons to match the look and feel of our new standard module template and other student induction materials we’ve been putting together.

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SharePoint Training

Preview of the new CELT site on SharePointScreenshot of the new internal CELT site on SharePoint

Had some training from our Web Team today on SharePoint which we’re now using to replace what previously passed for our intranet, My Sunderland, which was made with Atlassian’s Confluence. It wasn’t a bad system, just dated, and now that we’re moved the campus over to Office 365 everyone has been migrating over to SharePoint. SharePoint itself looks pretty straightforward to edit and update, and I’ll have the chance to do that over the next few weeks as I update the pages and content that I’m responsible for. I liked the style guide that they’re asking people to follow, and that they’re going to enforce review dates for content. Not a problem we’ve particularly had ourselves, but a lot of content in My Sunderland could be very out of date.

Attached screenshot is of the new CELT site as it currently appears, with content migrated straight from My Sunderland – those header icons will change, and underneath that there are sections for News and Events, which will be a much better way for us to share our staff development programme.

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COVID-19 Return to Campus Training

Optimism ClosedMood. Photo by Nick Bolton on Unsplash

Ooh, exciting times! I say exciting, but I think the correct emotion is apprehension. This was a short, self-paced eLearning package which the University has put together now that many staff will be returning to the office. The content was fine, largely about the measures they are taking to ensure social distancing is possible, especially in shared working environments such as labs. What troubled me about it was what was lacking, specifically the non-existence of anything pertaining to getting to and from campus.

This, like much of the material that has been circulating internally around the return to campus, has an unstated premise that people drive to work. I have seen many comms about parking arrangements, for example, not a single thing about public transport. There’s an argument to be made that the University isn’t responsible for its employees outside of the campus, its immediate area of control, but it would be a brave argument to make! I’ve fed this back to the Powers That Be, but nothing has come of it.

And since I’m veering wildly off-topic here I’m going to stick with it… this type of online learning which we are occasionally asked to complete always bothers me because I spend half my time spotting errors of formatting and bad design, and thinking about how we could have put this together better! But alas, we have our work cut out for us with academic content and support. Which despite all of this we’ll be continuing to deliver from home for the foreseeable future, barring special events.

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Accessibility Shorts: PDFs

An Actual AcrobatPhoto of an actual acrobat by Ameer Basheer on Unsplash

With the new legal requirements for public bodies to make their websites accessible coming into effect this month, we’ve been working with an external partner, Little Forest, on making enhancements to our website and VLE. They’ve started running a series of short webinars for us, each covering specific topics. This one, not the first but the first I’ve been able to attend, was on how to make PDFs more accessible. Specifically, by running documents through the ‘Make Accessible’ Action Wizard in Adobe Acrobat Pro DC (urgh, what a name…).

It was useful, it’s not a tool I knew about before today, but our academics don’t create PDFs in Acrobat, they use the ‘Save as PDF’ option in Word / PowerPoint. I asked the question about that, and was told that if the original Office document was itself accessible, then the PDF export would be as well, and that’s going to be the topic of a future webinar.

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Job Opportunities

Sign saying 'Now Hiring'Photo by Free To Use Sounds on Unsplash

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 emergency, my service are recruiting for an entire new team of instructional designers. 11 posts in all, five instructional designers, five graduate interns for content development, and one co-ordinator to run the new team. The jobs are fixed term for 6 months, and the closing date for applications is the May 7th. (Working remotely from home of course…)

For full details and to apply, please follow this link to our vacancies home page:
https://jobs.sunderland.ac.uk/vacancies.aspx?cat=927

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Honorlock Demonstration

Screenshot showing Honorlock features in Canvas
Screenshot showing Honorlock features in Canvas

Due to the ongoing apocalypse, we’ve been looking at software solutions for managing online proctoring, or invigilation as we should call it in the UK. Honorlock gave a live demo of their solution in Canvas last week, but I wasn’t able to attend so I caught the recording this morning. I don’t see any reason why it couldn’t do the job, but it left me with a lot of questions and concerns.

To begin with, all of the examples and demonstrations provided were based on the Canvas Quiz tool. They explicitly stated in the webinar that it only works with the classic Quiz tool, not Quizzes 2.0, but there was no mention of whether or not it could work with the Assignments tool. As our primary context for looking at this is around an essay assessment, that could be an issue for us. We could use the File Upload question type in a Quiz, but that doesn’t have Turnitin integration which we use for almost all written submissions.

But I was more concerned with some of the features of the service, many of which struck me as, charitably, overkill, but the word I really want to use is creepy. The two most egregious of these, to me, were the compulsion to install a browser plug-in which only works in Chrome, a privacy disaster of a browser which I would argue is unethical to compel students to use. The other was their ‘Search and Destroy’ feature which, if enabled, will allow the proctors at Honorlock to search the web for the questions in your exam and then take them down with DMCA notices. Furthermore, they will then create what they called ‘bait’ sites with your questions to entrap students.

Some of their other features just left me wondering how well they would actually work. Such as requiring students to take a 360 recording of their room, which is fine if you’re on a laptop, but I would struggle with my hefty 27 inch iMac… They also claim to be able to detect the use of mobile devices, but that wasn’t in the demo and I don’t know how well that works. Finally, recording students’ screens, which in the latest versions of MacOS at least, requires a security override and restarting the software in question.

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It’s the End of the World as We Know It

The World is Temporarily Closed - sign on a cinema called the World
Photo by Edwin Hooper on Unsplash

I came home today with an iMac and half of my office in the back of a car. Officially the University is talking about being shut down till after Easter, but I can’t see us being back for a couple of months. COVID-19 has hit home, and not just at work, I now have a friend who’s brother has it and is in a bad way. We live in scary times.

But, this is a work blog, so, work… I’m fortunate to have as secure a job as one can find these days, and educational institutions are arguably one of the best placed sectors of society able to work from a distance. We’ve been preparing for this possibility for the past couple of weeks, running daily workshops on the available tools to teach via online and distance learning, that means mostly Panopto and BigBlueButton in our case. I feel like my job has changed quite considerably. There’s a lot of new work we’re having to do very suddenly to get our systems and staff ready, and a lot of the things I had scheduled have had to be cancelled or indefinitely delayed. I’m also having to prepare for the possibility of finishing out the current round of teaching on the PG Cert online.

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LTA Workshop: Gamification

Photo of a slide with game design tipsPhoto: 10 things game designers know (and educators should!)

Attended the much delayed LTA workshop on Gamification today, from Kathy Wright of Advance HE. It was a very useful day which combined the pedagogy and theory behind gamification and game-based learning with practical activities that we could adapt to our own teaching. The thought that has stayed with me was the point that education is already a game, just usually a bad one, as students have limited agency, it’s poorly balanced, and often not fun. I discovered a nice new tool, Twine, for non-linear storytelling, and there are a couple of piece of research I’m going to be following up, Reid’s ‘Psychology of the Near Miss’ being one.

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Speedwell OSCE Training

Some further on-site training from Speedwell today, this time on how the tool can be used to deliver OSCE and MMI testing – that’s observations of clinical practice and multiple-mini interviews which we use to interview potential medical students. Training covered both configuration and live marking, including how to manage breaks and how to have a spare iPad for a non-configured marker to be able to step in.

We also learned about some new features coming to Speedwell which sound pretty good – the ability for multiple markers to moderate and agree a final mark to record in the system, and ‘killer questions’ which means that students have to pass the specified question as well as the exam / interview as a whole.

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Speedwell Train the Trainer – Advanced

MCQ Exams Meme

The team and I had follow-up webinar training from Speedwell today recapping some of the basic functionality now that we’ve been using if for a few months, and looking at some of the more advanced features which are currently available, and some which are going to be available to us from next week when we upgrade to the latest version of the web app. This will relocate much of the functionality of the admin system, such as checking student performance and running reports, to the system which end users (academics) access through the browser.

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