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Tag: CPD

Moodle Munch: Feb. 2021


The February Moodle Munch recording. How do they get these up so fast!?

This month’s Moodle Munch had sessions on Universal Design for Learning and use of Office 365 within Moodle.

First up, Suzanne Stone and Ann Marie Farrell from DCU discussed how they went about creating a toolkit for creating Moodle course sites that were built with UDL considerations in mind. They were joined by an academic colleague who shared their reflections on using the toolkit. They had gone from using Moodle as a file store designed to meet their needs as a teacher, to one which put students’ needs first. This included, for example, redesigning content that previously would have been a PowerPoint upload, to an online interactive learning activity using the ‘Book’ tool in Moodle. That ‘using Moodle as a file store’ comment is a very familiar problem!

As an aside, and I’m not quite sure where this came from, someone posted a link in the chat to LibreTexts, an online resource for open source textbooks. It’s very American, but that’s understandable when the US has a huge problem with massively expensive textbooks students are expected to purchase on top of their already huge university fees. I’ve had a wee quick nose through their philosophy section and it seems pretty good. Bookmarked and shared.

Back on topic, the second session today was from Edel Gavan of MSLETB who talked about their Office 365 Moodle integration. Their Teams integration looks better than ours, as it can create a Team for each Moodle course which means that students get Teams meetings added to their Outlook calendars automatically, and they can easily create recurring appointments for, for example, weekly classes. To be fair, I think our systems could do that, but there are features we don’t have enabled by our IT. Edel also showed a ‘Block’ of Microsoft tools in Moodle which has been made available via a plugin to add those. One technical point of note regarding those was that each Microsoft service needs to be configured separately.

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Teaching, Learning and Assessment in a Digital World

100 years of learning theories showing the learner as the active agent
The learner must be the active agent in the learning process

This was Bob Harrison’s inaugural lecture as a Visiting Professor at the University of Wolverhampton. Bob has been in education for over 50 years, and I have known his name in Ed Tech circles for a long time.

His talk was on the dangers of over-emphasising the power of technology as a solution to the problem of online and distance education, and the need to continually relearn the lessons that successful learning, no matter whatever physical distances may be involved, needs to be driven by the learner as the active agent in the learning process, supported by well-designed content delivered by caring and competent teachers. And if I’ve mangled Bob’s thesis in this summary, you can read it more eloquently in his own words in this article, Why there is nothing remote about online learning, published last year. And for an example of how you can’t magically improve online learning just by throwing money and technology at the issue, Wired’s article on the ‘LA iPad debacle’ is a good read.

I thoroughly enjoyed Bob’s lecture, and his dismantling of technological solutionism, neoliberalism in education, and his barely checked scorn for the Department for Education and their fixation on remote teaching.

The screenshot which I grabbed to illustrate this post shows a continuation of the theme of learners as the active agents of learning in the most influential learning theories spanning the past century.

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CELT Team Away Day and Insights

Insights into CELT
Insights Into CELT: Shocker, we’re all introverts

Has there ever been such a phrase as to warm and inspire the hearts of man* as ‘virtual team away day’? Thanks Covid, the gift that keeps on giving.

In the morning we planned our plans for world domination, which all went according to plan. After lunch we had a presentation on Insights Discovery which we had all been asked to complete the week before. Last time around it was a Belbin exercise, because the boss didn’t like Insights, but we have a new boss now who doesn’t like Belbin, and who swears by Insights. So we did Insights. I find them all much of a muchness, and don’t put a lot of stock into them. But then I’m a reflective person with a strong internal locus of identity, so I feel like I know myself very well, and there was nothing in my Insights profile that was shocking, or indeed which had changed much since the last time I did one. Other people in the team did get a lot from it though, they found it interesting at least. I guess it was nice to see all the team profiles together, and though I’ve said ‘we’re all introverts’, we do have a new member of the team who came out all fiery red.

* And women. And enbies. I see you, in all your valid glory.

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Digital Equality Awareness and Impact on Practice

Seven Elements of Digital Literacy
The seven elements of digital literacies, according to Jisc

Maybe it’s the humanities background biasing me here, but all the best training I attend always seems to be deeply interdisciplinary by nature. Sure, the core of this session was about digital equality and things like the different between digital literacy and digital competence, but it really grabbed me when we got into discussion on the nature of poverty, and why and how gender and racial biases get baked into artificial intelligence algorithms.

The ‘Seven Elements of Digital Literacy’ diagram above is taken from Jisc’s Developing Digital Literacies guide, and breaks down digital literacy into media literacy, communications and collaboration, career and identity management, ICT literacy, learning skills, digital scholarship, and information literacy.

Another great resource from this session I am absolutely going to steal for my own work (by which of course I mean appropriate cite), is the Good Things Foundation, Digital Nation UK 2020 infographic which provides research findings in a striking visual format full of data points showing the digital divide.

Finally, some relevant recommended reading. From the session itself, Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez which I read last year and highly recommend, even if trans and non-binary people are seemingly non-existence, never mind just invisible. And one I threw into the conversation, Programmed Inequality: How Britain Discarded Women Technologists and Lost Its Edge in Computing, by Mar Hicks.

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Moodle Munch: Jan. 2021


The January Moodle Munch recording

Welcome to 2021, folks! Let’s hope it’s going to be a better year for all.

Today marked the return of Moodle Munch, with two presentations as always. Mark Glynn from Dublin City University began by discussing some tools and techniques they are using to add some gamification to online modules to improve student engagement. First, the use of formative and summative quizzes, but not just quizzes, the pedagogy around their use, emphasising the opt-in nature of the summative component and giving students the ‘freedom to fail’. Mark presented some interesting research showing both strong positive student feedback and improved pass marks on the formative assessment component with the group of students who had engaged with the summative quizzes. As it should be, but it’s nice to see such strong evidence! Mark then showed us the Level Up Plus plugin for Moodle which can be used to add gamification elements to module spaces, such as progress bars and leaderboards.

The second presentation was from Nic Earle at the University of Gloucestershire who demonstrated the custom electronic marking and assessment system they have developed for managing student assessments, and how it integrates with their Moodle and student records system. They switched over to this system in 2017 wholesale, and again Nic was able to show very positive results demonstrating increased use of the VLE (even before the pandemic), and improved NSS scores.

As always, the presentations were recorded and I have embedded the YouTube above this post.

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Gender Based Violence: Tackling GBV in Strategy

A Helping Hand
Everyone needs a helping hand sometimes. Photo by Neil Thomas on Unsplash

I didn’t realise it at the time of booking, but the Gender Based Violence webinar I joined in October was the first of three. I was able to dip into the second session, but only very briefly as it clashed with teaching commitments. This final session focused on how FE and HE institutions can address GBV strategically, with special consideration on what we can do as staff and students are starting to return to campus following the Covid pandemic.

There were good discussions about the different impact on HE and FE institutions, as FE students don’t tend to attend campus as much or live in halls, and therefore don’t have access to the same level of social and institutional support as HE students; that universities and colleges need to realise and fully embrace the fact that they are not bubbles outside of society, but part of society, and that GBV is something that affects our students and staff, on and off campus; and in making the link between GBV and gender inequality, and how so often we place the burden of emotional labour to address problems on the people who are most affected by them and have the least to give. For evidence, one needs look no further than the makeup of the panel of these sessions and of most Athena Swan boards.

With regards to Covid and lockdown, instances of domestic abuse and gender based violence have increased as people are, or can feel trapped in unsafe domestic situations. Making resources and support available online is well and good of course, but the panel noted that these may not be accessible to people under coercive control, who’s internet access and phone use may be monitored covertly or even overtly.

Whew. Writing this, reflecting on this… it’s depressing and I fell powerless. There are some of those online resources here from the University of Strathclyde: GBV Cards, and a suggestion from the panel was to print out a version of this, the ‘Support for You’ page works, and give to staff and put around campus. There is also the complete Equally Safe in HE Toolkit available here: Equally Safe. The focus is on Scottish resources, as this is a project funded by the Scottish Funding Council.

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Moodle Munch: Dec. 2020


Recording of the two case studies from today

My second Moodle Munch featured two presentations today, the first from Lisa Callaghan at Dublin City University Library who have used H5P to develop an interactive library skills tool, and the second from Ciara Reilly at the Marino Institute of Education who talked about their use of podcasting.

I really need to get H5P working in our Canvas. The tutorial Lisa has developed in H5P replaces a 2013 version made in Storyline, which itself replaced an earlier HTML / Flash version. However, the benefits of the new H5P version seem to come through the deployment of it using a Moodle plug-in called Subcourse which allows the library to create and manage the content centrally, and to get stats on it, a problem they had with the previous versions. I think it’s this method of pushing out content that’s really interesting. Within Canvas we could use Commons to similar effect, but this doesn’t automatically update the content, instead each course which has imported it from Commons gets a notification that a new version is available, and then the option to update. I got the impression that Subcourse in Moodle fully updates the content fully automatically. There was a useful discussion about the types of content that can be produced in H5P, and how accessible each tool and option is. Someone posted a link to this support document which breaks it down.

The second talk from Ciara was on various way of using podcasting to engage learners, such as delivering content in different formats to provide a break from screens, using it for audio feedback, and getting students to produce audio content which from their experience has helped students who are less confident writing to “find their voice”. Again, interesting debate on the pros and cons in the comments. It was interesting to note the increased use of podcasts during the pandemic, something I’ve found anecdotally and which colleagues here seemed to agree on. Ciara surveyed their own students and found that 52% reported listening to at least 4 podcasts per week. They also discussed the technology platforms they have experimented with, including Anchor.fm, Audacity, Vocaroo, and the native audio recording tool in Moodle’s Atto text box editor.

Recordings are available in the embedded YouTube above. They got that up quick, before I finished writing this! Makes me feel ashamed of the month-old draft blog post on my desktop about CanvasCon.

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DSE Training and Assessment 2020

DSE Training Screenshot - Software can make you stressed!
Anyone who makes us use iTrent should be hung, drawn and quartered

After nine months of home working, the University has decided to mock me by making me do my display screen equipment training again. It even had a self-assessment section at the end which it made me complete on the basis of the equipment in the office I haven’t set foot in since March. As an act of rebellion I completed this training sprawled on the sofa with a laptop precariously balanced on my torso with a hot cup of tea to hand. This training stole 36 minutes of my life that could have been spent prepping for teaching next week, or playing Zelda.

I know, it’s serious and I shouldn’t be mocking it, but I’ve done this training so many times! And I’ll be honest, I did learn something new today – static electric shocks can be an indicator of low humidity. I got a question wrong for skimming over this in the training. I’m not sure I need to know this, but the factoid is now firmly embedded in my brain.

I guess I can look forward to my fire safety eLearning sometime soon now, and being thoroughly rebuked for not having multiple types of fire extinguisher in my apartment.

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Moodle Munch: Nov. 2020


Recording of the two case studies from today

I’ve signed up for the winter series of Moodle Munches as I have taken on the admin of a Moodle install for a small charity I’m involved with, and I need to refresh my Moodle mojo! Moodle Munch is a series of monthly webinars which presents case studies on innovative use of Moodle, coordinated by Dublin City University.

The first presentation today was on extending the use of H5P to include student content production. H5P is a rich content creation tool, typically used by academics to create content for students to ‘consume’, but this project within a French language programme, wanted to involve students with creation and achieved this by first tasking them with updating content within a video provided by the programme leader, and then by sourcing their own video and annotating it using H5P. Students for the most part reported this being a positive experience, which included side benefits of improving digital and analytic skills. Going forward they are going to try changing the user interface of H5P to French, so that all work and instructions are conducted in French, as students from this cohort reported that switching from their work and the instructions, French, to the UI of H5P, English, was incongruent. All of this work was facilitated through the university’s Moodle and Mahara integration where H5P content was hosted and student work submitted.

The second presentation highlighted three different ways that content written in Word can be easily imported to Moodle via a couple of plugins which convert the Word content to HTML Moodle pages. First, a simple Word document was imported using the Atto text editor, Moodle’s default. The second was the same or similar process but imported a full 250 page ‘book’ written in Word which Moodle converted to a series of structured pages with navigation – very impressive! And finally importing a Word document to the Moodle quiz tool, with all question options and feedback in a structured table. Word templates to facilitate all of these imports are available online at Moodle2Word.net. All three of these demonstrations seemed to work really well, but of course are reliant on well structured Word documents as the input source. This approach benefits academics as it is often easier to work in Word to create material, and benefits students as the resulting HTML pages in Moodle are more easily accessible and navigable.

Both presentations were recorded and you can watch them in the embedded YouTube video.

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Accessibility Shorts: Page Layout


The Barcarolle from Les Contes d’Hoffmann, one of my favourite arias (see? I’m not just a metal-head!)

Today’s accessibility session covered the importance of using properly nested headings to improve page structure and navigation, especially for people using screen readers who particularly rely on structure for navigation. Also discussed was using a table of contents with links to the content in Word / PDF documents, again to improve navigation. And finally, which was fairly new to me, the WAI-ARIA guidelines – that’s Web Accessibility Initiative, Accessible Rich Internet Applications, for the acronym averse. This is a set of standards for marking up HTML5 web content to improve accessibility, especially web apps.

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