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Category: 2020

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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