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TEL Sonya Posts

Analytics Report Procedure

As part of my handover arrangements I have had to write a set of instructions on how to compile the learning analytics report I have been responsible for. This document alone was such an extensive piece of work that it warranted a separate project in my handover to do list and took me pretty much an entire day. The resulting seven page, 3,000 word document covers how to update and complete the master spreadsheet, where to find all of the various measures in Google Analytics and Blackboard, and how to create the report on PebblePad usage, the most complex one as it involves database queries and I was handing over to someone with little experience of databases, so the instructions needed to be detailed and precise.

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Handover Documentation

One of my first projects after being seconded to TEL Support was writing procedure notes for my colleagues on the Senior Helpline covering all of the customer support I provide for Blackboard, PebblePad and associated systems. When I was offered the position at the University of Sunderland only a little later this became a much bigger job. Thus to date I have now written or updated some 61 procedures, mostly for the Helpline, a 5,000 word handover document which covers everything else and for which TEL Support will be responsible going forward, compiled a small knowledgebase gathering together every piece of documentation I have on supporting PebblePad, delivered four training sessions to the Helpline, spent an entire afternoon training a willing and brave volunteer on everything to do with PebblePad, and finally delivered a whole day of training to members of the TEL Support team covering absolutely everything I could think of and the aforementioned handover document. And this is just the ‘official’ work, the amount of informal training I have given in the form of additional assistance to individual queries would total days.

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Socrates on Writing

In The Phaedrus, Plato recounts a dialogue between his tutor, Socrates, and Phaedrus which contains possibly the earliest known denunciation of ‘newfangled’ technology, writing. I love it. It makes me smile whenever I encounter resistance to a new learning tool and it reminds me that all technology, no matter how humble, can be used to enhance learning.

“And in this instance, you who are the father of letters, from a paternal love of your own children have been led to attribute to them a quality which they cannot have; for this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.”

http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/plato-the-dialogues-of-plato-vol-1

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Badges

I’ve been experimenting with badges over the past couple of days, inspired by the fact that the ocTEL course is awarding badges for completing certain activities. This is very appealing to me as I am, by nature, a collector, but it is important that they enhance the learning experience and don’t just exist for their own sake. Badges can be used to provide structure and focal points in a course, with a large number of small objectives relatively easy to obtain on their own, incrementally building to a greater goal. I think one benefit of badges over traditional forms of on-going formative assessment is that they feel more tangible, more like little mini-qualifications of their own which can be collected and displayed as evidence of achievement even if you don’t or can’t complete the whole course.

The ocTEL badges are, thus far, and I expect it will continue to be the case, keeping me interested in the course and checking in to the site on a regular basis, when it can be so easy to abandon a MOOC after the initial excitement fades and pressures from other areas take precedence.

Another appeal is the openness of the standard and the fact that you can keep all of your badges from different sources in one place, such as the Mozilla Backpack. Behold, for example, my first set: https://backpack.openbadges.org/share/49e081c9e30cbc0c237ca5430c8e0642/

http://openbadges.org
https://credly.com/
http://www.hastac.org/digital-badges-bibliography

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New Analytics Report

analytics_report

For the past three years now I’ve been running Google Analytics on Blackboard and compiling a monthly report for senior management and steering groups. A standard was agreed for what this should contain by consensus fairly early on and it has changed little since, until a couple of months ago when, due to the changes in management, I was asked to revamp the report to remove some things which weren’t required any more and to report on anything new which I thought pertinent. The biggest change was the request for a ‘commentary’ on each page explaining some meanings and trends. I have also integrated the PebblePad usage by Faculty report I wrote last month into this, as PebblePad has a tendency to be overlooked and almost forgotten about.

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Positive PebblePad Feedback

From a student:

“Excellent, it’s there! thank you so so much for this! I’m so grateful honestly! Thank you so much for helping me :)”

She had lost some work from PebblePad which I was able to recover from the server, with some difficulty. Feedback like this reminds why I love my work; it’s wonderful to be able to help people.

After receiving confirmation that what I had done worked I did a little more experimentation and worked out exactly how and where the backups were being created and then wrote a short procedure on how to recover documents for future reference.

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Twitter Account

Today I created a Twitter account for the team and styled the pages in line with the University’s new corporate blue and orange style. I got the ball rolling by posting some tweets, following some interesting TEL people and companies we have relationships with, and created a couple of widgets to post our tweets and a list into a Blackboard course site, just as a proof of concept really, to demonstrate that it can be done and looks pretty. In due course the idea is to have a public organisation for the team where we will have a blog and news, and a page for our Twitter feeds.

https://twitter.com/NorthumbriaTEL

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Onwards and Upwards

Well, it is now officially official. Everyone who needs to know now knows so I am free to tell the world. After six and a half years, next month I will be leaving Northumbria University to join Web and Learning Technology Services at the University of Sunderland as a Senior Learning Technologist. Happy days.

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New Help Guide Interface – Simple Menu

Our Blackboard help guides have always been hosted on their own little mini-website hosted in a Blackboard organisation, but set to public availability. You can see them here: http://northumbria.ac.uk/elphelp for the student guides, and here: http://northumbria.ac.uk/elphelp for the staff guides. These were created a couple of years ago by the awesome Chris, but with his departure from LTech last year I was tasked with updating or replacing these websites to bring them into line with the university’s new colour scheme and style. I took the originals as a starting point but pared them back to just the essentials (there were lots of extraneous files and code), implemented the new branding, and took the opportunity to make a few improvements.

One of the best improvements I have made is the implementation of media queries in the CSS to automatically adjust the height of the iframe to best match the user’s screen resolution. I did get to a point where I was able to automatically adjust its size to 100%, it worked a treat in Firefox and I was really pleased, until I tested in other browsers and got tiny little windows. I hate iframes. If I had more time I would have created something completely new and truly responsive, but I had to get this done quickly as the eSAF help guides were ready to go live and we have so much other work to do with the upgrade.

Another improvement I have been able to make is to implement Google Analytics tracking code across all of the guides. Previously this was only on the home, or landing page. What I have been able to do this time around is to separate out the tracking code into it’s own javascript file which each one of the help guide pages calls, so that the code only needs to be inserted into the one place.

The eSAF guides have all now been transferred into this template – http://elp.northumbria.ac.uk/bbcswebdav/orgs/ORG1/help-esaf/index.html* – and the Analytics works as I had hoped allowing us to track which guides are being most read. The template can easily be applied to the student guides now, but the content of those all needs to be revised for Service Pack 16, or ‘April Release’, or whatever Blackboard decide the new naming scheme will be, and that will be a massive task.

Still on my to-do list is getting the nested menu working which will be required for the staff guides.

* I know what you’re thinking, and yup we could use a short URL for this one too.

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