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Tag: CPD

Accessibility Shorts: Office Documents

Photo of a Microsoft Office BuildingMods are asleep, post actual Microsoft Offices. Photo by Matthew Manuel on Unsplash

The latest accessibility webinar from Little Forest on Microsoft Office documents was pretty useful, especially with regards to PowerPoint and Excel, and I picked up many tips.

Good practice commonality included filling in all of the properties for author, title, etc., adding alt text for images (of course), and using the Check Accessibility report which, to be fair, though I knew it existed, I haven’t used it a great deal, tucked away in the Review tab of the ribbon as it is. On tables we were advised to keep them as simple as possible, avoiding use of merging or splitting cells.

With regards to PowerPoint we were recommended to always use slides with a Title section and to manually check the reading order as it doesn’t always get this right automatically. A third party tool was demonstrated called Color Contrast Checker from The Paciello Group which does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s free for Windows and Mac OS, though I couldn’t tell if it was open source or not, and works with any application.

Finally on Excel, we were advised to always use the Table tool, rather than relying on the assumption that everyone can see the structure of Excel’s default layout. Stick to one table per worksheet, avoid blank rows and cells, and provide headings and names for each table and worksheet. A colleague asked a question about charts and they advised that these are hard to make accessible, so it’s best to provide a description explaining the data trends to complement any charts you use.

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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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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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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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ALT Winter Conference 2019

Request Map for this blog homepage showing the links out

Participated in ALT’s online winter conference this year, joining five sessions over the two days:

  • Embodying Leadership as a Learning Technologist, Evan Dickerson
  • Allowing Art and Design students to choose their type of session, Jennifer Dettmer
  • MoodleNet: Federated, resource-centric social networking for educators, Doug Belshaw
  • A Review of Privacy and Edtech Tools, Gavin Henrick
  • Learning Design Bootcamp, Catherine Turton

The introduction and preview of MoodleNet was very informative and quite exciting. I was expecting a Mastodon clone, but instead it looks like it’s going to be more of a next generation open education repository. It looked very similar to Canvas Commons, but of course Moodle based and will be able to plug in to other LMSs, including Canvas. Using ActivityPub, it should also be possible to talk to and share resources with other ActivityPub based federated networks such as Mastodon and PeerTube.

I also very much enjoyed the talk with Gavin Henrick about the ethics of having students use freemium online learning tools that, like almost everything on the web now, gather personal data to be sold directly or indirectly to advertisers. One of the tools he introduced us to was Request Map Generator, which will test any website you throw at it and produce a map showing the outgoing connections from that site. Out of curiosity and in the interests of fairness I ran my blog through it and you can see the results above. I use the Shareaholic plugin to add the social media sharing buttons to my content, so I was expecting a lot of connections going out to them, and having embedded a few YouTube videos into some posts there is also a connection out to many, many Google sites, including a huge blob to their DoubleClick ad network.

The web has for a long time now been a compromise between freedom of access, quality, convenience and privacy, driven by the advertising business model. Do I get the balance right on my sites? You’ll never see an ad on here – I run WordPress on my own server – but I do include the sharing buttons because I want people to be able to easily share out my content. I stripped Google analytics off the site a couple of years ago, it didn’t add any great value, but I have taken to embedding videos from YouTube for educational and entertainment value because I as conscious of my blog being very text heavy.

Recordings of all session webinars are available on the conference programme page on ALT’s website.

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Instructure Accessibility Webinar

U Do It Logo

Joined Instructure’s accessibility webinar this afternoon to learn more about what they are doing on the accessibility of Canvas. With regards to the product itself, quality assurance developers assess the accessibility of new features throughout development, then they work with an external agency, WebAIM, to complete their VPAT (Voluntary Product Accessibility Template) to comply with US legislation.

With regards to content, they provide an accessibility checker tool which I learned today wasn’t their own thing, but UDOIT, an open source tool developed by the University of Central Florida. This can check web content, but not files like PowerPoint and Word documents like Blackboard Ally can. Instructure have also recently added Microsoft’s Immersive Reader as a beta feature, which will hopefully become a permanent addition.

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