Wednesday 21 December 2011

A year in the life of the Elevate Team blog

The Elevate Team blog is the central communication tool for the Elevate Team. It is the communication channel which helps us meet our broad aims;

  • Help staff to integrate innovative technologies to enhance their teaching programmes

  • Share innovation and good practice through facilitating an active community

  • Evaluate the impact of enhancements on the student learning experience

  • Develop and pilot ways to enhance and develop learning through innovative technologies

Therefore, a question for us is, to what extent is it being used, and our people engaged with it?

In terms of use, we have focussed on disseminating the enhancement aspects of our activities, and less around service news (performance and availability) of our key services. We are seeing regular blog posts from the team, and the wider UCS teaching community. An encouraging development is the re-tweeting of some blog posts. This indicates a sharing of innovation and good practice. An aspect which we've not encouraged, but do need to, is the use of comments. This is important if the tool is to facilitate an active community.

So, back to the questions at the start? Well, a quick  review of Google Analytics indicates people are engaging with the blog. A fuller picture is evident from:

We are seeing an increase in absolute visitors per month, with over 670 in September 2011. It is encouraging to see the return rate (vs new visitors) is nearly 50%. Therefore, over the year, one out of every two visits was someone returning to the blog. In terms of where these people are located, we are clearly focussing on our region (which is want you'd expect), with the vast majority of people accessing the resource from Ipswich, London or Norwich. Interestingly, we do have an increasing international following, with the people in the USA, Brazil and France regularly being in the top three locations. This international dimension is evident from the image, which indicates we have had visitors from all over the world

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Interactive poster experiment - why does the price of a coffee change?

We have been interested in exploring the idea of developing Interactive Posters, where we would use both QR Codes and Augmented Reality to enable the reader to connect to additional multimedia based learning material. A scenario might be where a student submits a poster as part of an assignment, this includes quick scan links to resources, raw data, literature reviews, simulations and models. This would enable them to layer in a richer experience. Alternatively, it might be researchers disseminating their findings.

An example is linked below. The plan to pin a number of these posters around campus and monitor the usage during January 2012. We are interested in seeing a number of things, for instance does anyone actually scans them, access the resources and submit their feedback? However, a key driver for this piece of work is as a proof of concept for demonstration to staff at UCS.

A second piece of work will include using the Aurasma application to deliver of the enhanced functionality.


Wednesday 14 December 2011

Wiki, Blogs and Podcasts - License Expiry Message in Wolsey - RESOLVED

Unfortunately we are still waiting for the license key to arrive from the software vendors, which has been delayed, resulting in an expired license.

Both staff and students will receive a warning page when trying to access Wikis, Blogs and Podcasts that are provided through the Learning Objects company.

Apologies to all for this inconvenience, I will update here once we know more.

All licenses have now been updated so this message will no longer appear.

Monday 12 December 2011

SafeAssign Downtime - 27th December 2011

We have received notification that SafeAssign will be taken offline on December 27th for maintenance and performance upgrades.

Below is the message we have received:

The SafeAssign service will be unavailable on Tuesday December 27, 2011 from 2:00 PM until Tuesday December 27, 2011 at 8:00 PM. SafeAssign is being taken offline for a maintenance upgrade. Upon completion of this upgrade, the RSS feed will be updated to indicate SafeAssign is back online and available.

This maintenance upgrade will improve hardware failover and upgrade the software. In conjunction with version 2.4.11 of the SafeAssign Building Block to be released at the same time, this software upgrade will include several maintenance fixes, including:

  • SafeAssign now displays submissions for courses that have larger rosters and SafeAssignments without significant delay. GMNIBB- 163

  • SafeAssign now allows downloading of SafeAssignments that contain the forward slash (/) character in the titled. GMNIBB-168

  • The correct Feedback file is attached on the SafeAssignment grade. GMNI-249

We are hopeful that the 3rd point above will resolve the long running issue that we have had regarding feedback not staying associated with the correct students.

During this outage SafeAssign will be unavailable. End-users will not be able to submit papers through SafeAssign during the planned downtime and will receive an error message if they attempt to do so. SafeAssign Originality Reports will not be available to Instructors or Students during the planned downtime, nor will Instructors be able to access SafeAssign DirectSubmit. Please make end-users aware of these limitations. Use of SafeAssign can continue as normal after the planned downtime are complete.

Please do not re-submit
SafeAssign is experiencing regular delays due to load on the system. In one sense, the cause of these delays is quite simple: the rate of papers being submitted exceeding the speed with which SafeAssign can process papers. Submissions go into a queue, and are processed in a first-in, first-out order. When the submissions are entering the queue faster than they are processed, a backlog builds up. Normally, SafeAssign catches up on that backlog when the submission rate drops below the processing rate. However, because of record high usage we've been pretty consistently running over capacity 24 hours a day for several weeks now (except for the US Thanksgiving weekend). So the system never fully has the time to catch up, resulting in turnaround times of 12-24 hours in many instances.

Given projections from historical usage, the significant delays of 12-24 hours or more will continue through the first week of December and then rapidly ease off in mid-December as the semester closes. Clients should expect that they will not see any significant improvement in turnaround times before mid-December. Please do not re-submit papers that have not received a matching report to prevent creating an even larger backlog.

From a development perspective, the current focus on SafeAssign is scalability and improving turnaround time of submissions. We hope to be able to deploy further improvements in this area early next year. 

Thursday 8 December 2011

SafeAssign not Returning Plagiarism Score Reports

We have received notification from Blackboard that the SafeAssign plagiarism software has had a technical problem and was taken offline to be reconfigured.  The service is now backup and running, but a large backlog of submission has occurred.

This means that if you have had or have due, student submissions, the plagiarism reports will not be produced as quickly as normal, we have had some reports taking over 24 hours at present.

Unfortunately there isn't anything that can be done to speed up the process, we just need to wait for the reports to arrive.

Sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.


I have just received more detail from Blackboard:
SafeAssign is experiencing regular delays due to load on the system. In one sense, the cause of these delays is quite simple: the rate of papers being submitted exceeding the speed with which SafeAssign can process papers. Submissions go into a queue, and are processed in a first-in, first-out order. When the submissions are entering the queue faster than they are processed, a backlog builds up. Normally, SafeAssign catches up on that backlog when the submission rate drops below the processing rate. However, because of record high usage we've been pretty consistently running over capacity 24 hours a day for several weeks now (except for the Thanksgiving weekend). So the system never fully has the time to catch up, resulting in turnaround times of 12-24 hours in many instances.

Given projections from historical usage, the significant delays of 12-24 hours or more will continue through the first week of December and then rapidly ease off in mid-December as the semester closes. Clients should expect that they will not see any significant improvement in turnaround times before mid-December.

From a development perspective, the current focus on SafeAssign is scalability and improving turnaround time of submissions. In 2011-2012, we have a two-phase project to improve performance. Phase 1, executed over the summer, was replacement, upgrade, and expansion of the entire hardware environment in which SafeAssign runs. This was necessary to assure being able to move SafeAssign forward. However new/additional hardware is not the sole solution to the problem, as some bottlenecks in processing are a result of the application itself. The second phase, underway this fall and into 2012, is a detailed performance analysis of the SafeAssign application itself to determine the bottlenecks in the processing that continue to create backlogs/slowdowns, and to identify the associated development effort to rectify those bottlenecks.

There are some improvements that have already been identified. We will be put these initial improvements in place as soon as possible. At this time, though, we are not able to quantify the impact of these planned changes on turnaround time, as the performance analysis is ongoing.

Tuesday 6 December 2011

Using Clickers in Teaching and Learning

As we near the end of the calendar year, we've seen a steady growth in interest for the clickers (audience response systems) at UCS Ipswich. Between September and December 2011, we have had 28 bookings (excludes bookings for Student Induction), from 13 people (so lots of repeat bookings).

There seems to be more discussion around effective use of Clickers in face to face teaching to promote more student interaction, feedback and reflection. To help this process, when asked where should I start when thinking about using Clickers in my teaching, I'd suggest the following the following guide, coffee and cake. This spend time on discussing the effective implementation plans. The summary from the Instructors guide to effective use of personal response systems (clickers) in Teaching, is

  • Clickers are not a magic bullet – they are not necessarily useful as an end in themselves. Clickers become useful when you have a clear idea as to what you want to achieve with them, and the questions are designed to improve student engagement and instructor-student interaction.

  • What clickers do provide is a way to rapidly collect an answer to a question from every student; an answer for which they are individually accountable. This allows rapid reliable feedback to both you and the students.

  • Used properly, clickers can tell you when students are disengaged and/or confused, why this has happened, and can help you to fix the situation.

  • The best questions focus on concepts you feel are particularly important and involve challenging ideas with multiple plausible answers that reveal student confusion and generate spirited student discussion.

  • A common mistake is to use clicker questions that are too easy. Students value challenging questions more and learn more from them. Students often learn the most from a question that they get wrong.

  • For challenging questions, students should be given some time to think about the clicker question on their own, and then discuss with their peers.

  • Good clicker questions and discussion result in deeper, more numerous questions from a much wider range of students than in traditional lecture.

  • Listening to the student discussions will allow you to much better understand and address student thinking.

  • Even though you will sacrifice some coverage of content in class, students will be more engaged and learn much more of what you do cover.

  • When clickers are used correctly, students overwhelmingly support their use and say they help their learning.

You can access a full copy of An Instructors Guide to the Effective Use of Personal Response Systems (Clickers) in Teaching from University of British Columbria from


Friday 2 December 2011

Visual Browsing & Augmented Reality - An update

I just wanted to give a quick update on the app that we used for the quick demo shown in this post "Visual Browsing and Augmented Reality", we have a number of teams at UCS interested in this technology.  One of the teams is the Marketing department who are looking to "spice up" the next prospectus, allowing prospective students to get a much more media rich experience just by picking up a printed hardcopy prospectus.

The real reason for this update is due to an update to the Aurasma Developer Studio, Aurasma are now allowing you to re-skin their app with your own branding.  So instead of getting users to download the "Aurasma" app from the app store you can point those users to the app store to download the "UCS" app, it will have full branding, splash screens, icons all of our own design etc.  As well as that, if you chose to you can also download the "Kernel" to allow you to embed the Aurasma technology into an existing app.

This is a really good step forward, and I'm sure will enhance the experience for many.

Currently this development is for iOS devices, but Aurasma are expecting to release the updates for Android devices soon.

Thursday 1 December 2011

sharing and displaying ideas using iBrainstorm on the iPad

Aaron and David have been exploring the use of iBrainstorm to share a note from one iPad / iPhone / iPod to an iPad to be projected. The scenario would be around collecting ideas from students during a face to face teaching session (assuming they all had i-devices ... which is unlikely). In fact, we will be using it at the Learning Resources Development Day in January, 2012. In this scenario people will be working in pairs to answer a number of key questions. Their answers will be written on their ipad, and flicked (the power of the finger) to the session facilitators iPad for projecting. The notes will be arranged (clustered) by the presenter and we'll share the outcomes as a record of the activity.

So given our actual need, what is it and how does it work?

There are two applications which will need to be installed on an iPad (see The iBrainstorm app which acts as the master to be run on the facilitators device, and the iBrainstorm Companion (which is the iPhone app but can be run on an iPad) which lets the audience send notes to the presenter.

We'll feedback on how it went after the Elevate Team have run the iPad training for the Library and Learning Development teams at the end of this term.

Thursday 24 November 2011

Review of using the iPad to annotate student work for feedback

As discussed in earlier posts. I have been piloting the iAnnotate iPad app to enable me to provide annotated feedback to students who submitted via the VLE. The following discussed a piece of work students submitted to me after I gave a lecture on a Foundation Degree Course in the Division of Science and Technology, for a communication and technology module.

The students were required to submit a short piece as a formative feedback exercise around the effective using a web 2.0 technology to enhance their learning. As an aside, the majority chose YouTube and Facebook. So we need to include these technologies more within our student induction, support material and staff development programme.

Overall, I got 60 submissions of around 500 words each. They submitted them via Wolsey (Blackboard Assignment Manager). After which I downloaded them, uploaded to Dropbox, accessed dropbox on my iPad, opened in iAnnotate, marked, saved back to Dropbox and then uploaded to Blackboard.

Some key observations of the process

Marking in the iPad:

  1. My annotations where typed text, therefore, the software enabled me to very easily achieve the task. Given the nature of the question, there was soe generic feedback around referencing. Therefore, I simply copy and paste this feedback it all assignments which required it.

  2. I found I could mark the assignments where I liked, and it was easier as I didn't have the bundle of paper to manage

  3. Reading on screen was fine. As the file is automatically converted from doc(x) to pdf, some of the re-formatting was poor

  4. The typing was fine, in terms of speed, accuracy and comfort. However, it was short paragraphs.

Overall, having marked lots of assignments by hand, I found this to be more satisfying. That said, I was only providing a simple feedback. For instance, no diagrams or images.

Managing files and the process:

  1. This is were I made my main mistakes. The process is very easy, however, a limitation of the iAnnotate software is how it manages and displays files. So, not realising this I simply uploaded all the work into one folder and opened in iAnnotate. However, i then got into all sorts of problems finding where I'd got up to. Especially as I marked a few at a time. Consequently, I'd suggest in dropbox you create a number of sub folders and allocate 10 scripts to be marked in each folder. This extra step at the start will save lots of work later :-)

  2. Another tip is to include a sub folder in Dropbox called Annotated scripts, and upload the annotated (completed) scripts to this folder. This separates the student work from those you have marked, which again makes it easier to manage the return to student process.

  3. It does help to mark the scripts in a wi-fi area. This means you can complete the whole process (dropbox >>> iAnnotate >>> dropbox) in one step. You can mark off-line, however, you will later need to sync the annotated scripts to dropbox. I tried this and missed a few, therefore, causing me more admin problems later as I had to check against the gradebook.

  4. The upload from Dropox to the Assignment Manager was straight forward, as each submission adds the students username to the file name. A potential issue I can see , with no simple solution, is the need to keep the a list of the grades by student for each submission. The problem being if you use the grade area in the gradebook, it can be very labour intensive to open the annotated script to get the grade to input. Therefore, I'd suggest given the results are unratified, to only include the grade on the annotated script and not re-key into the grade space within the gradebook.

Where next:

I've been working with course admins and lecturers in the Division of Science ad Technology to widen the pilot. Therefore, we will get more input on the effectiveness of providing feedback for disciplines and submission types where text box feedback is not appropriate.

The evolving work flow is available below via the link. However, if you'd like to discuss how you might get involved in the pilot at UCS, then email us at

Emerging workflow >>>




Friday 18 November 2011

Remote Docs

Up to recently, I have been relying on dropbox or emailing files to myself as means of getting files from my UCS account onto my iPad.  This has often required advance planning to ensure I have the documents I need at a particular time.

A couple of days ago I thought I would try the RemoteDocs facility available from the useful links section of the Wolsey home page.  On PCs this allows me to download and upload documents from my UCS home directory - a very useful facility when I am working from home.  Accessing this on the iPad through safari has a reduced functionality compared to on a PC - it only allows the downloading of files onto the iPad.  However, this could be very useful when quick unexpected access to a specific file is required.

The interface is simple to use.  However, for some reason only the first 21 characters of filenames are displayed and there is no indication of file types other than the file names (given my habit of naming files fully, this is quite a big issue for me!).

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Mindmapping on the iPad

In the past I have found mind mapping software an effective tool both personally and with students.  For example, a couple of years ago I completed a sequence of lectures that would feed into an exam with a 30 minute exercise where I encouraged each student to form their own mind map of the content that had been covered.  Not only did this enable them to identify and revise the module contents but it also provided a tool they could use in their revision planning.

I looked for an app to allow me to generate mindmaps on the iPad. and found 'Simplemind' to do what I was looking for.  It has a simple functionality - easy to use.  The free version allows the generation and storage of mind maps - fine for use in the classroom.  Buying the full version (£2.49) allows the maps to be disseminated through email or pictures.


Capturing lectures, student presentations etc.,

There is a growing interest from staff at UCS around recording their lectures or student presentations. For instance, a recent request is to record student presentations which are to be assessed (by two internal assessors, and an external examiner). This would mean the external examiner would get the opportunity to view it, while student would be enhanced feedback as they can view the comments with their actual presentation. Alternatively, you might want to record a guest lecture and make this available via your Blackboard course.

In practice this is very straight forward, the important part is to manage the files to ensure copies are archived etc., The solution is simple, and based around using equipment available at UCS. Including;

  • Debut Video Capture Software

  • Wireless Lapel Mics

  • YouTube Unlisted Staff Channel

A thing to remember is, ensure you have permission, you have a clear process you are going to follow, file archive in place and have noted down what could go wrong and how you are going to reduce the likelihood of it going wrong.

If you'd like to discuss how we (Elevate) might help you in terms of recording lectures, or student presentations, please contact us, at


Tuesday 15 November 2011

How might use technology to enhance your learning and teaching?

The Elevate Team will be running a number of 30 minute taster sessions (introductions) to a number of technologies you might be interested in using in your learning and teaching. These are open sessions, so anyone can attend, both staff and students. They will start promptly at the time stated, and all sessions will leave plenty of opportunity for you to ask us questions, and share ideas.

The aim is to focus on the task we are trying to achieve and work through a technology which will let you easily complete the task. So the session will cover certain defined tasks, illustrating how the technology can be effectively used, and raising some of the issues around their use.

The sessions are;

  • Working effectively in groups using Google Docs (Monday 5th Dec in W116 at 12.00 to 12.30 & Thursday 8th Dec in WLT1 at 12.15 to 12.45)

  • Developing your subject knowledge through creating a private learning network through Twitter (Tuesday 6th Dec in WLT2 at 13.00 to 13.30)

If you’d like more information please email

Monday 14 November 2011

mobile podcasting from an iPod Touch

The Elevate Blog has recently been exploring many aspects of using the iPad (media tablet) in learning and teaching. One of the requested uses was to capture videos of lab work and discussions for later analysis. This discussion made me think, perhaps people should re-visit the use of an iPod Touch. The advantages being, it is much smaller (so always in your pocket), is much easier to handle as a video recorder than an iPad, links up to YouTube for uploading and offers excellent wi-fi connectivity.

This tool is not only in your back pocket, but it is so easy to use. Interestingly, the management of the files on youtube is the most interesting in terms of developing scaleable solutions. For instance, as a member of staff, or a researcher you might want to create an account a new account on YouTube just for this activity. You can then upload all your work related videos to this area (channel). This will allow you to share you videos (assuming you want to) much easier with people.

So, I'd suggest if capturing video is one of your requirements, you might want to look at the iPod touch, as opposed to an iPad.

Sunday 30 October 2011

Getting student work onto the IPad for annotation via iAnnotate

I'm continuing to have success with the use of iAnnotate for annotating students electronic work. However, the question needs to be asked, how do you upload the student work onto the iPad, and how do you share the annotated file with your student after you have annotated it?

The answers are very straightforward.


In terms of download, I have used a account. This includes a free iPad app. The process is, I get the students to submit to Blackboard using the Blackboard Assignment Tool. In the gradebook, I find the column associate with the assignment, click on the down arrow, and select Assignment Download File.

This will display a screen where all the submitted assignments can be downloaded in a zip file. After downloading the file I upload it to my file space and double click on the file name. This will unzip the files, and I can access them as individual files via wi-fi on my iPad.


Once I have annotated the files in IAnnotate, I save them back to my account. Then on a desktop computer, I again access the course gradebook and upload individual feedback (the save PDF) for each student.




Thursday 27 October 2011

Using iAnnontate on the iPad to provide individual formative feedback

As part of a Foundation Degree Course in the School of Science I've presented a lecture on Technologies for Learning. This session included the option for students to submit a short reflective formative assignment around the effective use of a web 2.0 technology to enhance their learning.

The work flow is the student work is submitted to Blackboard. I download and upload them to my I access the file in on my iPad and open in iAnnotate PDF. After which I upload the annotated script back to, to be uploaded to the Gradebook in my Wolsey course.

After opening I annotate the document. For my first pilot I have used just the comment tool. This is where I click on the comment box, click on the assignment and type in my comments.

I must say, this all worked very well, and I managed to complete the process from a cafe ... not a desktop computer or bulky laptop in site. Adding typed comments was very straightforward. The only problem I had was hooking back into the UCS network to upload the annotated scripts. The final stage of mapping the feedback to the person will be completed on a desktop back in the office.

The outcome annotation is illustrated below


This option displays the comments in line with the text.

Overall, the process can be simplified with the use of the Course Admin to achieve economies of scale. The next stage will be to look at different feedback options, ie., free text, and audio.




Tuesday 25 October 2011

University of Leeds Casebook: L&T - worth a coffee break

One of the activities in my "What can Wolsey do for my teaching" session I run as part of the e-Skills for e-Learning Course is to widen our horizons in terms of how people have been using VLEs in their teaching at other UK HEIs. To do this, I simply pick another UK HEIs case studies area and encourage staff to spend time reviewing the case studies. The one I used yesterday was the University of Leeds Casebook. This site covers case studies from two perspectives, the learning and teaching focus (Assessment, Evaluation, Supporting Students etc.,) and technology (VLE, Audio, Mobile, Quiz tools etc.,).

I'd suggest if you have time over a coffee, to kick back and browse through the case studies to give a heads up on potential uses, success and failures. See

If you'd like to discuss how these ideas might be included within your teaching, simply email us at We look forward to hearing from you soon.


Monday 24 October 2011

Getting going with the iPad

I have had my own iPad for a while and mostly so far have been using it for personal organisation at work. This mostly involves using Gmail, Google calendar and syncing with the iPad over the wifi at UCS which works fine. For a ToDo list I used to use Evernote but have since migrated to Wunderlist which I now have on phone, home PC, macbook and iPad. Very simple interface and organises things well into categories. Also emails you each day with what is due to be finished that day (also free).

I usually try and use a textbook & pen/paper when doing anatomy and physiology tutorials with students, but thought I would give the iPad a go. I used the DK Human Body app (£9.99) which is a good app which covers the basics of all the systems (inclidea information and on each system). The students I used it with liked the visual nature of the app, but it was quite restrictive when you wanted to explore a particular area of physiology in more depth, as the options were limited. Nothing above a laptop except portability. However, we started to use the YouTube app to look at heart sounds and ascultation and together we found some great videos. The students were quite happy to pass the iPad around and search together with no tutorial from me. Very simple interface. Like the portability here. Certainly not going to replace the in depth nature of text books to answer questions, but good to bring aspects of physiology alive.

Used the Garageband to record audio for a podcast, but it has a limit on how long each audio section can be recorded for which I did not realise and lost most of the recording! However, have since downloaded a couple of audio apps to try and record podcasts. The garageband does allow you to edit podcasts pretty well, but does not output in mp3, so you do have to convert unless happy to upload in mp4 format.

Next on the list to try is the ShowMe App.

Sunday 23 October 2011

Elevate Development Sprint: October 2011

As the initial rush of the start of term starts to subside, it is time to unleash David and Aaron on another development sprint, for the week starting the 24th October.

This sprint will focus on further developing our QR Code Quiz Engine, with the hope of getting it in a position so we can share it with other institutions, and across the Learning Network. The main thrust is to enhance the end user functionality, so they can;

  • Create a Quiz

  • See Summary of Quiz

  • Edit the Quiz

  • Run The Quiz

  • See Results of Quiz

  • Create multiple quizzes (Bound to single unique userid)

  • Reset results per quiz

These requirements were collected from a number of sources, including a very successful workshop we ran at the recent ALT C conference at the University of Leeds.

If you have any questions about this development sprint please email us at As with all development sprints, David and Aaron will be off campus, so please ensure al communication comes through the Elevate Team email. We'll update you with the outcomes, the good and the bad :-)

Friday 21 October 2011

iPad Update October 2011: Science, Technolgy and Health

Ironically, I couldn't post this using the iPad because it wouldn't allow me to select 'Your Stories' from the category list (wouldn't scroll the list).

Anyhow, so far the iPad has been used during timetabled sessions, with some great outcomes...

Session 1: The iPad was used during a formative practical assessment in the exercise physiology lab' in JHB. The session involved the students rehearsing key practical competencies (that are later part of a summative assessment). The iPad allowed for their rehearsals to be very easily filmed. The students were then able to watch their attempts immediately after completion, at which point feedback could be provided (including pausing, rewinding, etc. etc.). Doing this with a usual camcorder is much, much more awkward. We were saving the files and then playing them simultaneously to highlight improvements. Students liked this a lot!

Session 2: Another practical session, which involved continuous data collection, which is often difficult to record. Old fashioned pen/paper can get muddled (large data sets), and using a desktop (obviously) or even laptop can be cumbersome due to moving round the lab/area of data collection. So, we used the iPad to allow for complete freedom of movement whilst collecting data (both me and the students). We used Google Docs, which ALMOST worked well. Aaron has since helped with the problem, but it seems that Mobile Safari and Google Docs does not like converted MS Excel spreadsheets. We were attempting to add data as it became available, which would continuously update calculation cells and graphs associated with row/column ranges. However, it wouldn't allow us to save or share the document, which meant typing all the data cell-by-cell onto a desktop after session. Apparently it's a Mobile Safari thing, and using a 'form' - like the Elevate SARE questionnaire - associated with row entry in a spreadsheet is a better method of attack! Hope I've described that well enough Aaron. Still, at least the actual continuous data collection was made easier - just need to iron out the sharing process.

In the coming weeks, I am going full steam ahead and attempting to create some tutorial videos with ShowMe - like YouTube Education videos.

Thursday 20 October 2011

Smart Pen for iPad/iPhone #eFun

I've just seen this article and thought it might be of interest to our growing number of tablet users, specifically the iPad users.

Having spent some time with lecturers talking about how they can use these tablets to help with their teaching, a number have asked about the availability of a stylus and whether you can use them to write on the tablet.

With the technology that is used for the multi-touch devices - capacative technology - a normal stylus doesn't work due to the requirement of electrical properties from the human body for the screen to know where you are touching.  You can purchase a type of stylus that replicates this electrical property, but they are only as accurate as a finger with regard to writing.

The Engadget article states
Want to write on your tablet without all of the requisite finger grease? How about a stylus? Too pedestrian? What about a Smart Pen? Better yet, what about the aPen A5 Smart Pen? eFun's peripheral includes a stylus and a receiver that hooks into your iPad or iPhone's 30 pin connector, digitizing your handwriting or drawings via a number of compatible apps, including the company's own free Studio Basic Light. The A5 is set, broadly, for a release some time in 2012, and should run you around $99 whenever it actually hits the market.

This is a really interesting concept and may work well with our eFeedback & eAssessment iPad project.

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Opportunities for your staff development: JISC Online Events

There are a couple of JISC online events coming up which you might find really useful.


JISC Webnar: Curriculum Design - changing the paradigm
2nd November, FREE

see >>>


JISC Online Conference: Learning in Transition
22nd to 25th November 2011, £50 Registration

See >>>

Keynote speakers include:

David Puttnam, Lord Puttnam of Queensgate
Bill Rammell Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Plymouth University
Mike Sharples, Professor of Educational Technology at the Institute of Educational Technology, The Open University
Ewan McIntosh CEO, NoTosh and expert speaker on finding creative ways of using emerging technologies in education


Wednesday 12 October 2011

Out and About: Aaron at RSC Eastern eLearning Forum

I spent Friday 7th October at The Moller Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge attending the JISC RSC Eastern eLearning Forum. I was really looking to the event as the programme looked really interesting, I was especially interested in the Focus on Augmented Reality (AR) by University of Exeter, as this is an area that we are working with at the moment.

Dale Potter gave a really enjoyable presentation around the work that the University of Exeter having been doing in the AR field, particularly their "Unlocking the Hidden Curriculum" work with Layar and the eco systems around their campus.  Dale started by talking about the types of AR, marker and location-based.  Dale demonstrated a really fun way of explaining what marker AR was, a member of the audience was brought to the front, a marker icon was placed on their chest and they were then stood in front of a webcam that was projected on to the screen.  When the webcam identified the marker it displayed all the major body organs overlaid on the projected image, so we were seeing the audience member in real time with an image of organs placed roughly in the correct positions.

From here we looked more at the project that has been run at Exeter and a demonstration video was played, shown below:



This was a really interesting session, it was nice to see what other institutions are up to in the same field as us, it was also really helpful to hear that Exeter have released some of the code from the project on their website, as well as making available an AR Resources Toolkit.

The next session was titled "The Virtual Dropdown Menu" and was run by Adam Blackwood of RSC South East.  This session was looking at new technologies and the way they can make gain accesses to resources quicker/simpler, the text below is from the programme:
Spatially-sensitive information will become increasingly more important over the next few years as the technologies become more ubiquitous on mobile devices. This short online session provides an outline of these technologies, giving participants a ‘heads up’ on what you might consider for further developments within your own organisations.

People are already becoming familiar with QR Codes to enhance hand-outs, objects and learning opportunities; some organisations are using Bluetooth; and some are just starting to look at Geo Fencing, Geo Tagging and Augmented Reality solutions. In addition, further newer technologies are appearing on the horizon. All these will be examined in this short time trip into the future of ‘The Virtual Drop-Down Menu’.

This again was an interesting sessions as it is also an area we have been working, with our QR Code Tour and Quiz Generator.

After a very nice lunch we resumed with a presentation from Geoff Stead, Head of Innovation at Tribal.  The presentation was entitled  "m-learning: aligning the present with the future", and was looking at the work that Tribal are doing with mLearning, we were shown a video of the work that Tribal have been doing for the US Government, looking at improving the communications of workers in distaster zones.

Below is one of the last slides from the presentation, showing tips for success with mLearning materials.



The event was really worthwhile attending, it is always good to see what others are up to and to hear their experiences as well as the thoughts of those other attendees.  It is also good to know that UCS isn't being left behind with its work in these areas.

What is the Future of Technology in Education?

Great question, no clear answer. However, you can find out more by watching the presentations at this years Future of Technology in Education event at ULCC. The recordings and other suff is available from:

A key message for us (the Elevate Team) is to

  1. work with others at UCS to ensure our learning technology software mix is appropriate and fit for purpose for the next few years

  2. ensure the support and development programmes are in place, including digital literacies

  3. work with others to understand and develop local models around how we can take advantage of the trend around internal and external hosted tools


Tuesday 4 October 2011

Issues with Wolsey and Internet Explorer 9

Recently Microsoft has released its latest version of Internet Explorer, IE9.  Unfortunately this latest release has compatibility issues with a number of websites, including Blackboard that powers Wolsey.

You may notice some of the following issues:

  • Drop down menus not working

  • Issues with Gradebook rows/coumns

  • Unable to reorder items

Not all users are experiencing all the problems, some experience none of the above.  We would recommend not upgrading to IE9 in the short term, if you already have upgraded or you are accessing Wolsey from a computer that you do not have control of, you will need to put IE in to "compatibility mode".


You can find more information about "Compatibility Mode" here.

For a more stable browsing experience we would recommend using a different browser, both Firefox and Chrome offer a much more pleasant experience and both are freely available.

Showme Ipad App: can now download videos as mp4

As we are rolling out a number of iPad projects around feedback, for which we are including the ShowMe App, I'm glad to say the ShowMe app (web interface) includes a download options. This downloads as an MP4 file. This file can then be uploaded to your YouTube channel. Why do you ask is this important? Well there are a number of reasons, including;

1.  it will allow better integration within Blackboard, compared to the iFrame model ShowMe offers. For instance, if you have created a short video which provides some generic feedback to students. Instead of adding the link to your Wolsey course, you can now embed the video within the course page. I'd suggest this means the student is more likely to watch it.

2. for reducing the risks of using web 2.0 services, especially new ones such as ShowMe, which aren't established. You can now get your creations out in a format which you can re-use in other web based services. This is very important, as it means I can get the the benefits of using ShowMe (which are many), in the knowledge if I have a back up process I'll not lose or be locked in with all my fabulous feedback videos.

If you'd like to know more on how to do the processes involved, please email

Thursday 29 September 2011

iTune Vouchers for your own iPads

Just following up on the previous post about using the Elevate Team's iTune vouchers (£15.00) each enable you (UCS staff) to buy and reflect on iPad Applications to use in your teaching and learning.

The pilot will work as follows; we'll put out a call (this is the first), where we make upto 5 vouchers available. The expectation is, you will keep a log of observations (using a wordpress blog), and be prepared to present a short sessions (10 minutes, 10 slides) at an event of uses of tablet devices in learning and teaching at UCS. This will be sometime in December, 2011. There are two applications you will be expected to explore, these are the ShowMe, and Iannotate PDF. Apart from this, the rest of the voucher (about £10.00) is yours to spend on applications which are appropriate to you.

To apply, please email (assuming you are a UCS staff member, directly involved in Teaching), outlining how you are expecting to use the iPad in your teaching, which application you have identified, and agreeing to complete the reflection and observations.

We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Monday 26 September 2011

Elevate supporting iPad (tablet) projects at UCS

Recently, Andrew Revitt via the ILTS fund purchased three iPad2’s for exploration in Teaching and Learning at UCS. These have been passed to the Elevate Team to manage the loan and coordinate the projects.The aims for us is to explore how the iPad can be used  to enhance the assessment and feedback process at UCS. Therefore, the support we’ll be providing will focus on promoting the use around this area.

The model will be based around using a few applications, and adopting a cloud computing approach. As opposed to a desktop replacement / extension model. So applications we’ll be supporting and recommending are;

  • File storage: Dropbox

  • Notetaking: Wordpress or Evernote

  • Word Documents: OfficeHD or Google Docs

  • Presentational: KeyNote

  • Annotation Tools: ShowMe & iAnnotate PDF

  • Mind Map: iThoughtsHD

  • Video Distribution: YouTube (unlisted channel)

A second wave of projects will be to support those who already own an iPad, but we’ll provide iTune vouchers to purchase the following software (or very similar):

  • ShowMe

  • iAnnotate PDF

The role of the Elevate Team is to support the assessment and feedback agenda and not the iPad per se. Therefore, we’ll not be over technical support, or suggesting applications outside those mentioned above.We will also run a number of session during the academic year, which will disseminate and share how people have been using tablet technology in their teaching and learning. We will also be running a number of short sessions around achieving certain common tasks.

So, what about those who are not using Apple based devices? We’ll we’ve a number of Android devices available, so please contact us about those.

To find out how you can get involved in these projects, please email us at

New students, learning technology and digital literacies

During the Student Induction period the Elevate Team have been running sessions across UCS on how technologies can enhance your learning. As part of this we have used the Clickers (Turning Point) software to gather information.The aims of using the clickers included; demonstrating a technology they will use in their learning, and a rough snapshot across the first year student on technology use, and their perceptions.

Over 11 induction sessions (UCS Ipswich only) we collected a total of 617 people (students) votes on a number of questions.

The questions focused on the following key areas;

  • what technology have you used in your learning?

  • are you registered on Web 2.0 technologies?

  • how would you rate yourself in terms of technology?

The outcomes indicate the need to develop effective student development programmes around technology based learning and digital literacies.

In terms of what tasks they have completed previously in their learning, they where asked, “previously had you completed any of the following in your studies?”a) Been told to access some web based reading resources
b) Had to submit some work electronically for marking
c) Maintain an electronic portfolio

The results (n = 590), indicated the majority of the audience had been instructed to use web based resources in their learning (45.9%, and 33% when combined with answer b). While the number who had previously been exposed to electronic portfolios was very low (1.4%).

It must be stated the question design was poor, as it did not include a not used any of these options, and the multiple answer made it difficult to identify patterns. However, it did give an indication of low awareness around what is an e-Portfolio. A message which must be taken on board when staff roll out Mahara within their teaching.

An increasing trend within teaching is the combined use of internal and externally hosted software. For instance, our Induction focused on how students could take ownership of their learning and use Web 2.0 technologies to achieve a number of learning outcomes. A simple indicator of engagement with Web 2.0 technologies was to ask, have to a facebook account? The rationale being, if yes, they must have created an account, and therefore, engaged with Web 2.0 services. The results indicated our student base has engaged with Web 2.0 technologies, as 85% have a facebook account, 10% do not, and 5% would not say (n = 599).

A limitation of this question was they might not be on Facebook, but use other Web 2.0 services. This question didn’t accommodate this scenario.

The final question focused on how students perceived their confidence with using technology. They were asked how they would rate themselves, as either a technology (software) power user, novice, happy amateur or being anxious.

The definitions were as follows:

  • I’m a power user. I’m very competent with Microsoft Word, I’m a master of the pivot table, I update blogs, I’ve added content to youtube and I use Google Docs

  • I’m a novice. I’m very good as some aspects of Microsoft Office, I read lots of material from web sites, I access multimedia (video and audio) online, and I have used skype

  • I’m a happy amateur. I tend to use UCS computers and software, and share most of my word documents as email attachments. It meets my needs

  • I’m rather stressed and anxious when it comes to technology. I don’t feel in control, and what I’m currently doing isn’t very satisfactory

The key differences (when we explained to students) was the power user was a content creator, compared to the novice. While the happy amateur tended not to use intranet based information.

The outcomes indicate the majority of students rate themselves (n = 617) as a novice (66.3%), compared to a happy amateur (17.3%), a power user (11.5%), or rather anxious (4.9%). Many observations can be drawn from this, including we tend to have a new intake who have a really good grounding in software (desktop and web based).  It also indicates the need to devote resources to a well designed student support package, as 22% are not engaging with web based material would rate themselves as anxious and stressed with respect to technologies in learning.

Overall, there are some lessons we need to take on board. Although, these are good indicators for learning technologies, there are still a large group of students, who are not confident or digitally literate, around the use of externally hosted solutions. Therefore, we do need to ensure our student support mechanisms are fit for practice.

Lastly, the ice breaker question … how did students like our shirts? This question was asked by the Elevate Team member when they ran the session. The majority didn’t care (67.9%), while 5.3% hated it! The sample was 585 people ... a lesson for use next year.

Student login problems

Just a quick post to inform everyone that student's can't currently login to the UCS network, IT Services are currently looking into this issue and we'll update when we know more.

These problems of course affect our Wolsey VLE for students.



Tuesday 20 September 2011

Visual Browsing and Augmented Reality

An area that the Elevate Team are looking into at the moment is the overlaying of online, virtual resources with real world, physical items.  We'll be looking to work with our School of Science, Technology and Health, in particularly the division of Science and Technology where researchers are doing some very interesting work with international status in the field of regenerative medicine.  We'll be looking to take some of their data to make scientific posters come to life, with the overlaying of video and 3D graphics.

When we talk to colleagues we are currently talking about the "Harry Potter" effect, where newspapers etc. have moving pictures and stories.  We are currently working with our Marketing department to help them bring their next prospectus to life, we are hoping this will also bring the technology to the forefront and allow a wider audience to see what is possible, below is a quick demonstration showing what we doing:



The above example uses the brilliant Aurasma app, available on both iOS and Android devices, currently the iOS device is more advanced.  The app allows you to tag an image/part of an image, and the associaten a number of images/videos and actions to it.

Once the app recognises the image it plays the appropriate resource.  Currently this is all local to the device you are using when creating the "auras" via the app, but it is possible to apply for a developer's account.  We have a developer's account and this allows us to create "super auras", these are hosted on the Aurasma servers and means that any device in the world that subscribes to our channel is able to view the auras.

This is a new field for us, and one we believe it could be very exciting, we are very much looking forward to using this within the Learning and Teaching arena.

Elevate Newsletter: September 2011

Our three bullet newsletter for September 2011

  1. The Mahara e-Portfolio is available at UCS (http:/ This service was funded by ILTS money, and is being used to support the Graduate Head Start Programme. However, it is also available for those who need their students to maintain an e-portfolio for assessment purposes.

  2. GoTo Webinar is available at UCS. This service is a dedicated desktop conference tool which is externally hosted with GoTo Meeting ( This will allow you to connect people and places virtually. It is perfect for teaching, small group seminars, 1-2-1 support and meetings. This service was funded from the Elevate Team Software Budget. For more information about how you can start using this simply email

  3. Staff development - hub & spoke model. The pilot of the hub & spoke model worked really well with ECS over the summer. This involved a learning technologist being based in the Division to support staff and projects. For you book this service, Heads of Division need to email Andy Ramsden (

For more information, please email us (

*Resolved* RSS Error in Wolsey Assessments Folder

Status: Resolved

Fix: Not required, fixed at system level



We have become aware of a problem within the "Assessments" folder on all Wolsey modules.

Issue: The 2011 modules template included an RSS feed that pulls all the Online Submission FAQ information from the UCS FAQ Engine.

Description: This is a dynamic link that loads the RSS feed when the Assessments folder is viewed, we are currently experiencing an error that states there was no data found, as show below:

RSS Error Image

We believe the problem is linked to the maintenance work carried out on the FAQ Engine on Friday 16th September, when the system was offline all day for maintenance, it appears the RSS feed has been cached by Wolsey when there was no data available.

Status: Open - Elevate Investigating

Fix: Currently no fix

Work-around: Re-enter the javascript code to reload the feeds


Monday 19 September 2011

A role for the Elevate Team within the Student Charter

The UCS Student Charter has just been released, and is available from:

Even though the Elevate Team is  focused on Staff Development, we still have an important role to play in ensuring the Student Charter is delivered at UCS. For instance, we have a direct role in;

  • regular continuing professional development for its staff. Through the provision of generic workshops, having team members based on Schools & Divisions, and the provision of online, just in time learning materials.

The focus of these will be influenced by the Student Charter, NSS actions plans etc., The topics will be around enhancing the quality of our teaching through appropriate technologies, and feedback and assessment.

In response to the Student Charter, we'll also be providing more FAQs ( around both the institutional owned software, and providing more direct student support on the effective use of non-institutional owned software, such as ways of effectively using web 2.0 technologies to assist in the promote effective independent learners.

If you'd like to discuss how the Elevate Tea can help you in terms of the Student Charter and your NSS action plans, please contact us via

Friday 16 September 2011

Monitoring Attendance & Registers

Our Academic Services (AS) office are looking at ways they can make lecturer's life easier, especially where registers/attendance monitoring are concerned.  Our Management Information Team are looking at electronic swipe card devices in certain rooms, as well as a mobile unit, currently this is a relatively small pilot project.

We have been asked what tools are available in Wolsey to help, Blackboard doesn't come with many features for this, we do have a 3rd party building block, that does do some of what AS are looking for.  With the changes that are happening to Wolsey in the coming months and the fact that we are looking to reduce what 3rd party/undocumented building blocks we have, we have advised against the use of this tool.

After a chat between myself and Andy we decided to have a look at making a very quick, simple low risk system just using Google Docs.  Initially we have taken one module, creating a spreadsheet in Google Docs, created a form that has one "checkbox" question for each student on the module.   There are 4 options for each student/question, these give the lecturer the option to choose whether the student was:

  • P - Present

  • A - Absent

  • L - Late

  • AA - Authorised Absense

This doesn't take very long to setup, even though we are using a manual process to create the form, once you have created the first student/question you can use the "duplicate" option and just change the name for each new student.  If this pilot/idea is liked we will spend a bit more time looking at scalability and how this can be automated.

Using the form means it is a very simple process for the lecturer to take the "register", the screenshot below (student names removed) shows the form on a computer/laptop:

As you can see, a very simple form with tick boxes.  We then thought it would useful if the lecturer could take the register using their phone or tablet device, when attempting this, it became necessary to zoom in a little to make the form more user friendly.  To make this unnecessary we have created a website using Google Sites, enabling the mobile friendly option, we embedded the form into the webpage, which when accessing via a mobile device makes the form much easier to view, as shown below:

This removes the need for the lecturer to have to try and zoom in to enlarge the form.   Once the form is submitted it immediately saves the data to the spreadsheet, with each submission being a taught session/lecture having its own row in the database and the students attendance marked in their own column, as shown below:

Now using the Google Docs sharing options this document can be accessed by whoever requires access, lecturers, course administrators etc.

To improve this spreadsheet further we decided to run some very simple conditional formatting over it, it gives any viewer of the document a very quick guide to a students' attendance.  Using traffic light style colours we can now see the formatted document below:

As well as the above, we can also utilise the "Summary Responses" feature in Google Docs, this gives a long term summary of each students as seen below:

We are due to meet with Academic Services early next week to demo this concept, we already have a lecturer lined up to pilot it with one of his modules, we look forward to comments back from these potential users.

Friday 9 September 2011

A sea change in using QR Codes

The School of Arts & Humanities have just finished the Waterline Exhibition in the UCS Waterfront Gallery (see It was very interesting to observer the extended use of QR Codes in the Exhibition Catalogue. Throughout the printed material there where a number of QR Codes linking to individual artists web sites (see below), the UCS School of Arts & Humanities and the Exhibition material.

A couple of observations for others to think about when thinking through how they would use QR Codes, are;

  1. there wasn't any QR Codes in the exhibition space, so you couldn't stand next to an exhibit and scan the code, you'd need to scan this from the catalogue.

  2. the catalogue included a section on explaining the QR Codes, however, there was no link or reference to how to install the QR Code Reader on your phone

  3. the QR Codes where very large, so it would be better to use a short url service

  4. the QR Codes linked to various web sites, some of which would display better than others

I'd suggest trying to address these for the next time would enhance the user experience, and encourage people to scan the codes. That said, there are lots of positives, this is being driven by them and not the Elevate Team, and a quick look at the logs does indicate some have been scanned :-)

Thursday 8 September 2011

Mahara@ucs is here .... The UCS e-portfolio

I'm very glad to say we have started to roll out the Mahara e-portfolio system across UCS. The URL is

As this is a pilot project, we have implemented for students where they would use their UCS username and UCS default password. While UCS staff need to request an account via the link on the Mahara home page.

If you would like to discuss how you might use Mahara and e-portfolios in your teaching please email us at

Wednesday 7 September 2011

The start of Student Induction Season

The start of September brings with it the colder winds and rain, as well as the start of Student Induction season.

This year we have changed how we deliver our induction sessions to new students, in the past we have mainly concentrated on a basic point and click around Wolsey,  spending up to an hour showing students how to move around the VLE, what each tab does and where they can find things.  New for 2011 we are trying to incorporate a much wider area of interest, as the relatively newly formed Elevate Team, we want to show students more of what is available to them, to help them enhance their learning experience.  Not only with institutionally owned systems such as the VLE and ePortfolios, but many of the Web 2.0 technologies that they can own themselves.

Our sessions are planned around the following system/ideas

  • Welcome and aims of session

  • A simple question to get them used to the Audience Response System

  • A question asking about technology uses during previous study periods

  • A question about Facebook usage

  • A question asking how the students would categorise themselves as technology users

  • Giving information about Institutionally owned software

    • Wolsey - VLE - A 10 minute screencast is shown, showing what Wolsey is and how it can be used

    • Mahara - ePortfolio -  A short cartoon video showing what ePortfolios are

  • Information about Individually owned software

    • A vote is taken to see where we should emphasise the next part of the session, choices are:

      • Using Personal Learning Networks - Twitter

      • Social Bookmarking - Diigo

      • Reflective Blogging - WordPress

      • MindMapping and/or Google Docs

    • Depending on the result of the vote we spend time talking through them in order, showing our own examples and real time use

  • A QR Code is on the final slide that loads the presentation if scanned


To date, we have run two of these new sessions, both David and I ran one each on the first day, these were run at the same time, hopefully allowing us to demonstrate the excellent collaborative features of GoogleDocs, but unfortunately the sessions didn't run completely to plan.

The two sessions were quite different, David and around 10 students in a small teaching room, where I had around 80 in a large lecturer theatre, overall we left that our sessions both ran well, although my session probably not quite as well as David's.  The smaller more intermate nature of David's session seems to fit better with way in which we choose to run them, I find that larger groups in bigger spaces tend not to interact or take part as much as the smaller groups.  However, they all seemed to really enjoy using the "clickers", it made them feel part of the session.  We both suffered from Powerpoint crashing on the same slide, the last voting question, unfortunately losing the session data that we were hoping to use after all sessions were finished.

David's group really enjoyed the session and at the end, the students were really starting to see how they could use these Web 2.0 technologies to help in there teaching, it sounds like it was a very productive session.  My session was slightly less productive as I suffered from the previous speaker over running by some time, then finding out half way through my presentation that the students had to "get a bus in 10 minutes".  Although this wasn't ideal, overall I think the students were taking in what they were seeing and could see how these technologies could help their learning.  Unfortunately with my session starting late we were unable to demonstrate the collaborative features in GoogleDocs, but I was able to show how it works and show version/history controls in documents.


Overall I think this new format to our induction sessions really does work, it opens up students' minds to the potential solutions out there for them.  Also, the materials that we've produced to use in these sessions, can also form the basis of other sessions and FAQs.

Tuesday 6 September 2011

QR Code Quiz Engine ... Well received at ALT C

I'm currently at ALT C (association of learning technologists conference) where I was presenting as part of the JISC workshop to launch "Emerging Practice in a Digital Age - A guide to technology enhanced institutional innovation", which UCS is a case study under the theme of moving thinks forwarded.


As part of the session I ran today, I set a location aware learning activity where they would be exploring coastal processes as part of a field trip. This would involve the member of staff placing a number of QR Code around a location which linked to multiple multiple choice questions around the processes they would be seeing (long shore drift, coastal erosion, wave types). They would complete these on teams. Their responses would be stored on the server. The feedback they would get in the location would be a link to a YouTube video which explained the appropriate process.

On return to the study centre the session leader would run a feedback session, drawing upon a new reporting developed by David and Aaron. So not only can we see the total scores, but we can access a web page for the dynamic responses by question (number of correct answers, total submitted attempts). This will enable the staff member to identify and prioritise the questions teams where having wrong.


I'd suggest the inclusion of this report closes the feedback loops, and ensures the activity meets the principles of good feedback, outlined by Nicole & macFarlane-Dick (2006).

Interestingly, there was a lot of interest around the development and deployment of qr code formative assessments. The audience was particularly impressed when they released you could simply steer the QR Code to URL of quiz engine, such as quiz in Moodle or Blackboard :-)

Wednesday 31 August 2011

Review of "the use of QR Codes in Education: A getting started guide for academics"

As part of an ILTS project at the University Campus Suffolk (UCS), I was required to review and update a paper I wrote in November 2008, entitled “The use of QR Codes in Education: A getting started guide for academics”

The original paper is available from the University of Bath >>

After re-reading the paper and thinking of the changing landscape over the last three years, I’ve drawn a few observations in terms of evaluating if the original paper is still fit for purpose.

The overall message, is yes, it is still valid for a lecturer starting to explore the potential of QR Codes in their teaching.

I'd suggest the paper is still relevant, as many lecturers are not aware of what a QR Code is, and what it can offer as a potential learning technology. Therefore, the broad answer to … what is a QR Code, how do you create one, how do you include one within a powerpoint is still appropriate. The introduction written in 2008 can be supplemented with other resources, including 7 things who should know about QR Codes (

However, with  there are some points I’d change if I was re-writing the paper today. These are;

  1. In terms of the creating a QR Code, the process outlined hasn’t radically changed. However. there are a number of interesting developments since 2008;

  • the development of web browser plug-ins, which will allow you to generate a QR Code from the page you are viewing.

  • the emergence of QR Codes being auto generated from short url services, such as BitLy, or Google.

  • ability to generate QR Codes through the QR Code reader software on your mobile device.

  1. I’d suggest the developments by the short url services have the greatest potential for the lecturer creating their own QR Codes. Given most people will be using a QR Code to link to a web based resource, there is a need to shorten urls in QR Codes so they are easier to scan. This means this type of services offers a really useful way of creating and managing QR Codes. At the time of writing, I’m particularly impressed with the BitLy Service (

  1. A further observation is around their use in Education. For instance, the paper developed the idea of accessing just in time content in lectures via scanning a QR Code from a presentation or using them as part of classroom feedback sheets. I’d suggest time has clearly demonstrated these are currently not viable in practical terms, for instance,  not being able to consistently scan a QR Code from more than 2 meters away, or viable given moderate technology ownership and awareness. Hence, a QR Code only option will not enable access to resources in a medium sized teaching space. It would be much more effective from the students perspective of just including the short url in a classroom based teaching situation.

  1. There is a need to question the proposed views around what does it offer as an educational learning technology? The paper suggested a number of scenarios, however, the reality since November 2008 has been the main developments have been around e-administration related activities (see Subsequently, there has been little design and development of QR Code based (location aware) learning activities across the sector. This is an obvious strength of the technology, given they can provide a simple means of developing location aware activities. I’d suggest a re-write of the paper would focus on developing Scenario 3: Integration within an alternate reality game, into the development of location aware learning activities. This is an emerging interest in this area at UCS.

  1. The final observation is the paper gave a sense of being on the cusp of exciting developments with QR Codes … I still remember, my optimism at the time of writing in 2008. However, over the three year period there hasn’t been a significant adoption of the technology with respect to learning activities in UK HE. So, what can you (the lecturer) who is developing their QR Code learning activities learn from this trend? I’d propose two key lessons;

  • the student body isn’t yet familiar with what a QR Code is, they aren’t aware of about installing QR Code Readers, and the access of mobile phones on multiple wifi networks is problematic for students. This does create a significant the need for a lecturer to be willing to invest time and effort into supporting students through the initial learning process.

  • Ineffective learning design resulting in low motivation to participate in the activity. When reviewing a QR Code activity, I often question if I (as a student) would be motivated to spend my time and money completing the activity. On many occasions I draw the conclusion, no. Therefore, a key observation for lecturers, assuming they want to develop effective QR Code learning activities, is to ensure the learning design is appropriate.

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Report: Observations from the UCS FAQ Engine

We've authored a short report on usage statistics for the UCS FAQ Engine, see,  Reports and Publications area of this blog (

"The outcome suggests the FAQ engine is being used, interms of FAQs being written and accessed, and these are being positively received by the FAQ authors. The perception is the FAQ service is adding value to those teams who are using it"

The UCS FAQ Service is available from


Monday 22 August 2011

QR Code Treasure Hunt: Staff feedback

The feedback from staff who participated in the QR code treasure hunt ( was mixed and very illuminating: 49% felt that it was an improvement over a traditional paper-based treasure hunt, emphasising the potential of QR codes as an engaging learning tool and 51% disagreed. A further analysis revealed that those who disagreed focused on the technical failures such as difficulties with scanning software and in accessing WiFi or GPS networks.

Comments from staff at UCS who took part in the treasure hunt reveal an awareness of the potential of the technology, tempered with guidance as to how the experience could be improved for students:

“It was fun and good to do something different. If this is going to be carried out during induction then the WiFi needs to be heavily promoted during this time so students can log on.”

“The use of mobile technology seemed really relevant considering it is to be used more widely for communication with students. It was useful to gain a first-hand insight.”

“We couldn’t get our team’s smartphone to work.”

When asked haven taken part in the QR Code treasure hunt are they likely to scan a QR Code if they saw one in the future? The responses (n=27) tended to be equally spread, 41% responded yes, and 59% no.

Interestingly, when asked to explain their answer there was fewer positive comments. Many focused on poor technology ownership. While, the positive responses tended to include explicit reference to the additional information being relevant to them.

So as a course team wishing to develop QR Code based learning activities, what can you take from this? I'd suggest the findings imply the need to devote significant time to supporting people on the technical side, especially around recommending (supporting) a QR Code reader, making sure you have consider any GPS blackspots, ie. see if you can get phone reception where you are going to place your QR Code, developing a clear set of instructions for people to follow and providing a practice QR Code for students before the event.


Thursday 18 August 2011

Student Induction Video: Getting to know Wolsey at UCS: An absolute beginners guide

As you are aware, the Elevate Team will be supporting staff with their module inductions to Wolsey. This is through a set of FAQs, and a short introductory video ( If you'd like to discuss your student module induction needs please email us at


Student user accounts re-enabled

For your information, the student accounts on Wolsey have been re-enabled. We are working with IT to reduce the likelihood of this occurring again. We are sorry for any inconvenience this has caused, as Blackboard was unavailable for students upto 1.00 pm this afternoon. If you have any questions, please email us at

Wolsey, Student Enrollments & SafeAssign Gradebook

I'd just like to add a little more detail around an earlier blog post.

As mentioned, a feed file failed last night which disabled student accounts in Wolsey. ITS have manually enabled these accounts, however, there are likely to be some consequences as some students maybe missed, will take time to work through the system. A likely consequence is information within the Gradebook on many courses which use SafeAssign Submissions will not display, due to accounts being disabled / re-enabled. Please note, this information will not have been lost.

We are working on the situation in the short term, however, on the assumption the feed file works this evening then the situation will automatically right itself by the morning.

I'll update this afternoon with more information.

I'm very sorry for any inconvenience this is causing. If you have any questions, please email the Elevate Team (

FYI - Users on Wolsey: Not syncing from SITS

This is a quick heads up, you may find you student enrollment on Blackboard (Wolsey) courses is out of sync by 24 hours. This is due to the sync between SITS, AD and Blackboard not occurring last night. This should be rectified this evening. We'll keep you posted.

Wednesday 17 August 2011

FAQs for the ShowMe iPad App

I've just released a page of FAQs based on questions asked by me and others around the ShowMe app. These are available from:



Tuesday 16 August 2011

Using the ShowMe App for storyboarding learning materials

The Elevate Team are developing a number of talk over screencasts with the intention of developing individuals (staff and student) in the potential use of learning technologies. An issue with these is the design and development time for early iterations, ie., story boards, walk throughs, and opening these up for feedback from various parties before creating the final version.

Traditionally, a large amount of time is involved in creating and publishing early versions using computer based screencast software, such as Camtasia. Therefore, I'm now using the ShowMe app on my iPad as a means of removing the need for a computer (with mic, screencast software) to create and share prototypes etc., For me this provides a significant time saving as I can request make quick changes, and respond to feedback.

The approach is to capture various screens, record and make available as a private recording (only those with url can access it). Once people have accessed the video they can collaborate electronically, or we can review it face to face. An example is available at >> >> this is the basis of our student induction video for Wolsey at UCS. As you can tell, the audio is poor (beware the room you record it in), however, at this stage the focus is more around the overall narrative.

I'd suggest this approach is transferable to other situations where people are collaborating on the creation of screencast learning materials and generic feedback as standalone learning objects. For information, on how you might want to use this, please email us at


Friday 5 August 2011

Removing the need for a computer for screencasting with the ShowMe App from an iPad

I recently discussed the use of the ShowMe App with some Library Staff who have iPads and want to create some video based FAQs on databases. They rather liked the product, and the creation process, all except the process of getting the images onto the iPad. I smiled and said well I take a screenshot using Jing on my PC and then upload to Dropbox, to download to my iPad. The reason for using JING is so I can capture exactly want I need. However, they all looked blankly at me, and I thought, there must be a better way. The better way is as follows;

  1. on your iPad, take a screen grab (to capture the screen image or take a screenshot in iPad, just press the Home button and Sleep/Wake (On/Off) key at the top of the mobile device simultaneously at the same time) of the image(s) you need, ie., the library database, or VLE page you are accessing in Safari. This stores the image in your saved images section.

  2. to edit the photo (crop and rotate) use a photo application on your iPad - I use Chop Suey.

  3. open ShowMe, access the image(s) and start the screencast, publish and share the link


Wednesday 3 August 2011

Exploring feedback options on an iPad: the ShowMe App

We are continuing to look at the potential of small / tablet technologies for staff to efficiently and effectively generate feedback (generic of individual). I've just created a short screen recording from my iPad using the ShowMe App.

My latest creation explores the idea of creating the screencast around a number of images (in this case around 10). Therefore, it is not simply free drawing and audio, but a more structured presentation.

The final product is available from: - and is a walk through of how to create a quiz in Blackboard.

The process was relatively straight forward;

  1. create the screen grabs on the computer (I used Jing on my Mac)

  2. move these images to Dropbox

  3. open the iPad, open Dropbox and save the images to the iPad

  4. open up ShowMe, open up the image

  5. start recording

  6. upload finished recording, and add link (announcement) to the course

The process of adding more than one image was to use the pause button for the recording, clear the whiteboard, open the new image, size it appropriately, and start the recording.

This was all in terms of the creation process. However, there are a few caveats. One is the strength of ShowMe is the simplicity of use, which includes no editing options. This is a potential weakness for the way I combined 10 images in to a linear narrative. You will need to have planned (semi scripted) the session because if you are 10 minutes into the recording and make a serious mistake you will need to start all over again !!

The strength of this solution for the person creating the feedback can do it from the comfort of their sofa - therefore, I didn't have issues with a microphone, computer, managing and converting file types, and saving into the VLE. For me, this overcomes as significant barrier to participation ... as the iPad and ShowMe app overcomes a lot of technology issues.


Tuesday 2 August 2011

Annual Rollover Update

Just a quick update on the progress of the annual rollover, a day late, apologies for that.

Everything has gone very well, all 11/12 modules pulled through from SITS, staff rollover of enrolments has happened.  There appear to have been a small number of staff not having their enrolments copied across, but we have planned for that by giving lecturers a form to request new modules.

We are now creating any new custom course areas that get requested, so all is running smoothly.

Add to this the training of the Course Admin teams and we are well set for our handover of administrative processes, all in all, a well planned and implemented summer is well under way.

Thursday 28 July 2011

Ready for the Annual Rollover

The Wolsey Summer Plan is progressing well, we are on schedule to have everything completed for the deadline of Monday 1st August.

Tomorrow, Friday 29th will see us start the process of importing all new 2011/12 moules in to Wolsey, we will then run the final process of the staff enrolment rollover, automatically adding lecturers to their new modules.  We have some new challenges this year as we are losing the Content Collection later in the year, we are making this document store read-only from Monday, saving any new modules from being populated with Content Collection items.

We have so far managed to train half of the Course Admin Team, the others are booked in for 4th August, to allow us to complete the Wolsey Devolution of administrative tasks.  This training allows Course Admin Teams to manage the enrolments on the module that they administer.  This in turn allows them to dip in and out to add announcements rather than being enrolled on hundreds of modules.

We have also created new forms allowing easy management of staff enrolments on different modules, as well creating a new read-only view of the Custom Course database, allowing Course Admin teams to search the database for course IDs.

I will update more on Monday :-)


Tuesday 19 July 2011

Elevate Team and Student Induction for specific courses

We'll be providing a slightly different approach to student induction to e-learning tools at the individual programme or module level for the 2011/12 academic year. One of the key reasons for this is effectiveness. Generic inductions offer little engagement to students, and are difficult for central teams to provide as we don't know the specifics of the course, it's delivery or assessment strategies. Therefore, the focus will be on working very closely with lecturers staff to ensure they are able to provide their own student induction. This will include, ensuring there are appropriate exit strategies to more help.

A typical example would be to develop a 30 minute session which a member of the course team can deliver, which includes video (screencasts), and is mapped closely to what the student will be using over the first few months of the course.

Outside of the staff controlled tools (Wolsey) we'll also be providing a number of video based introductions for students on tools they might wish to use as part of their own, personalised learning network.

For student induction we are offering the following service;


We'll support lecturer staff to design their Wolsey specific induction sessions (but we do not run them ourselves) - we'll direct staff to appropriate student support material (video based how to guides) which they might use, and to enhance effectiveness we'll encourage staff to make them very specific on actual uses within the first month of starting the course. The design will be dependent on the type of tools they'll be using in the short term. Therefore, a generic provision of Wolsey induction is not likely to be effective. In some cases, staff might want to provide an online induction in the initial period.

Mahara (e-Portfolio)

Given the Mahara service is a pilot, we'll be more hands on in terms of our support for student inductions for this tool, through the provision of a 20 minute taster session

Student "owned" e-learning tools

The Elevate Team will be providing a number video tasters around using key technologies which could add value to the student experience. These technology tasters will include;

  • enhancing your learning and personal learning network through Twitter

  • opening up opportunities for collaboration using Google Docs

  • social bookmarking using Diigo


Great Yarmouth: Technology enhanced feedback and assessment workshop

As part of Great Yarmouth's HE Conference, I ran a workshop (18th July) on using technology to enhance feedback and assessment workshop. The slides are linked below. I thought the session went well, and let them decide on the focus. They decided to spend the time looking at e-submission, e-grading/e-return and e-feedback. We did spend a few minutes on objective testing using Blackboard.

We'd be very happy to run similar workshops for staff within UCS Schools and across the Learning Network.

Friday 15 July 2011

Wolsey Summer Plan

2011/12 will see a number of changes to the way Wolsey is used at UCS.  Wolsey is built upon the Blackboard Learn platform and UCS currently has the complete suite of 3 systems, they are:

  • Learning

  • Community

  • Content Collection

We will be moving to an installation of just the Learning system, removing the Community and Content systems.

This means we will be losing some functionality, listed below:

  • Communities

    • Intranet

  • Documents tab

    • Shared content

    • Version Control

  • System-wide Discussion Boards

    • The Wall etc.

  • Domains

    • Module/Community Organisation

    • Module/Community Permissions

  • Work Flows

  • Applicant Portal

  • Alumni Portal

The two biggest losses of functionality to users are the Communities and Documents.  Although this functionality is being removed from Wolsey, a new Intranet is under development with an “Intranet Group” being setup and looking at what UCS requires from an Intranet.

The other big loss is the “Content Collection” which handles and controls all of the content stored within the “Documents” tab.

We will be making the “Documents” tab read-only from Monday 1st August 2011, this means you will not be able to upload any new documents to the content area, you will also not be able to link your course/module or community to any documents already stored in this area.

This does not however stop documents being uploaded into Wolsey.  We have created an FAQ to help users remove their documents and how to upload using the “Local Attach” option.

These FAQs can be found here:

2011/12 Module Access

All 2011/12 modules will be available in Wolsey on the 1st August 2011.

We will be using a 'rollover' technique that will copy lecturer enrolments from 2010/11 modules on to the new modules.

Any modules that you have a lecturer role on, on the  29th July 2010, you will be a lecturer on on the 2011/12 version.  If you require access to any modules that you current are not enrolled on, you will need to request access via a form at the following address:

Add lecturer form

This year we will not be rolling over the custom courses, if you require the amalgamation of modules to create a single area containing more that one module you will need to request this via the following form:

Add custom course form

Please make sure you use the two forms linked above, as we will be unable to respond to individual emails during this busy period.

Course Admin Teams

We are also working on improving the process of adding lecturers to modules, the first step is the creation of the forms above and how these forms will be handled.  We have created new roles within Wolsey allowing Course Admin teams to have a system role allowing them to control access to modules they have responsibility for.  This new process will remove the Elevate Team from becoming a bottle neck.

We are creating a new Module Template this year, including more online support for students submitting work online, this support will be available directly from the “Assessments” folder within all modules.

Online Submissions

The Elevate Team are currently running a pilot with a groups of students to try and improve the online submission process for both staff and students.

UCS has experienced a number of problems with the use of SafeAssign as its online submission point, from work being lost to the student’s receiving incorrect feedback.

This streamlining of the online submission process uses the resources in Academic Services to have a more constant application of the system as well as saving lecturers a number of additional tasks.

New Login Page

We are working on redesigning the Wolsey login page, this page is only visible when access Wolsey from outside of the Ipswich campus.  We will be displaying RSS feeds from both the Elevate blog and from the FAQ system.

The idea behind the redesign is to make more relevant information more visible from the login screen, using RSS feeds means that the information will always be up to date as it will load the latest posts and FAQs from the relevant sites dynamically.

Other Summer Works

Along with the above programme of works we will also be undertaking an annual “spring clean”, truncating and clearing out a number bloated database and log files.

This work will be completed during a normal “Patch Friday” system downtime period, meaning there will be no additional downtime.