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Category: 2014

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

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Storyline Demonstration

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I’ve delivered a couple of training sessions lately where I’ve been plugging Storyline to people and how we can use it to enhance their learning materials. To help with this I have created a very comprehensive presentation showing all of the major features including all of the quiz and survey question types, interactions and screen and video capture options.

http://solar.sunderland.ac.uk/solar/file/f2dc20ce-f273-440d-b5ea-024e0cb9e0fa/1/story.html

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Pearson PAB (Product Advisory Board) Webinar

Watched a recording of Pearson’s PAB webinar which was held in lieu of the conference in Denver, where they demonstrated many new features which have either been made live recently or are due for release over the coming year. Highlights were the new look Threaded Discussions tool which is being rolled out piecemeal now, the new course dashboard which is going to replace Social Learning Module Home (here’s hoping for a catchier name this time round), the Android app, and the long overdue notifications centre – something which our students are clamouring for. Also tucked away, but of particular interest to me, is the new ‘External Tool’ menu item type which should make it easier for academics to deploy the new version of Turnitin we have been working on, which uses the standard LTI from Turnitin instead of the Dropbox integration which Pearson developed but that doesn’t work terribly well.

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Quick Start Guides for Staff

In conversation with a colleague in Academic Development about how to target new starters and make them aware of all the fabulous tools and services we have to offer, we came up with the idea of having short, one-page ‘quick start’ guides for each of our core tools which would provide an introduction, explain what it was and how it could help, how to access and where to find more detailed information. I wrote the ones on Equella, Turnitin and ClassLive (Blackboard Collaborate) myself, and edited the others to a greater or lesser extent to make the style and content match across the range.

https://my.sunderland.ac.uk/display/sunspace/Quick+Start+Guides+for+Staff

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Looks Like I’m A Keeper

Have been kept very busy over the past couple of weeks with appraisals, both my own and for the rest of the team. I didn’t do the appraising myself, but in conjunction with our service director as, for obvious reason, I don’t know exactly what the team has been doing over the past year. With regards to my own appraisal, this was informally combined with my six months probation review a little early as there is a lot of overlap in purpose and the timing was convenient. I’m pleased to say that it went well and that I am still in gainful employment.

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Customer Support Report

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Something which surprised me about WaLTS when I started was the lack of management information on the work we do to support our customers. There has been a few spot audits to analyse busy periods, but nothing coherent or consistent, so I asked the team to start recording resolved work using a simple form and then presented the results in a report for the benefit of our senior management. Those graphs will take a little time to fill out, but we’re off to a good start.

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Google Analytics on SunSpace

sunspace_analytics

One of my little areas of expertise at Northumbria was providing analytics data and reports on Blackboard usage and it’s something which was missing here at Sunderland, for the VLE at least. Unfortunately the way Learning Studio works it has not been possible to implement Google Analytics tracking code system wide, but I’m not easily deterred! I found a way to embed the code into an announcement on the landing page so that we can at least get client side data: numbers, technology, location and mobile use which is all useful in informing development.

If the report looks a little familiar, well, that’s just because great cooks bake nice cakes no matter what kitchen they’re in!

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Mahara Upgrade

I feel like I don’t post as much as I used to, and part of the reason why is because a lot of my work is now either collaborative or of a project management nature. The new version of Mahara is a case in point. The old version was 1.4, a three year old release, and hadn’t been updated since. A project to upgrade or install a new version had begun before I started which became one for me to push through. The new version, set up as a completely new system because the database on the old one was Postgres and we couldn’t easily migrate it to MySQL, is now available thanks to a team effort from many people in WaLTS and IT Services. Now there is just the small matter of manually exporting 8,000 user accounts to the new one. That’ll keep us busy for a while.

Another good piece of work I have been involved in is the imminent deployment of a new integration of Turnitin, another stalled project which I had picked up, which included writing a fairly comprehensive report for our service director who had her doubts. We just need to do some final quality assurance testing on this and write some new help guides for staff and students and then it will be good to release.

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