Wednesday 18 December 2013

e-Portfolios for the reflective learner - How did it go?

From the 9th to the 16th of December we ran an online course entitled 'e-Portfolios for the reflective learner'. This course has emerged from UCS' new Digital Literacies Programme -, along with another online course based around LearnUCS' quiz engine and objective testing.

For this course however, we used our Mahara system to help and guide students in building an e-portfolio and raising their awareness of being a reflective learner.

You can see the pitch for the course here -

And take a look here to see how we structured the course -

The interest in this course was surprising, accumulating 30 signups, mainly from the student base here and given just a week to signup, I feel this is quite an achievement and I think highlights the effectiveness of our communication channels and use of social media.

We opted for the manual administration of user accounts and group access as we have just undergone a large upgrade and authentication shift with Mahara and wanted to adjust to the new processes first.

Once the student accounts had been created and added to the course group in Mahara they were all notified by email about their new accounts, a video introduction from the course facilitator and a means of communicating back to the facilitator if they had any issues logging in.

Where the course was concerned, there were 8 pages in total, the first page being an introduction to the course, support models and a light touch approach to answering the question, what is an e-portfolio? After the introduction the students are now into the tasks and activities, weaving the students through the why's and how's of being reflective and using the different tools in Mahara to help facilitate this, such as, the journal tool, the planning tool and finally bringing it all together into an e-portfolio page which they submit to the course group.

After submission, they are introduced to the 'Where next?' page which detailed where students could go to find out more about being reflective or other digital literacies programmes they might find helpful.

The support model consisted of the facilitator monitoring the discussion forums (which were used) and messaging through Mahara, which wasn't used much, students were expected to manage their own time with the tasks and had access to all the content from day one.

I'm pleased to say that 43% (13 Students) of the cohort submitted a brilliant array of portfolios, I was even more happy with the fact students had begun to experiment with other elements, such as adding images and videos even though this was not a task or assessed in any way.

Here are some comments from students about the course:

Student 1:
When I first opened Mahara, I had absolutely no idea where to start, however following the tasks has helped me find how easy it actually is to use. I think that I will use mahara more often[sic] in the future, as it will probably help me de-stress and clear my head a little better.
Student 2:
I wouldn't have used Mahara without the e-Portfolios for the reflective learner course. I found it quite confusing at first and wasn't really sure what was meant by terms such as 'pages' and the different content.
I found working through the main features during the short course very useful, and by understanding the main features, the use of other features became clearer.
Student 3:
This experience has been positive for me as I have been able to understand how to become a more reflective learner in a effective and efficent[sic] way. Furthermore, I have been able to identify my learning style, which has benefit me in identifying what skills I need to develop to improve. Although the experience has been positive I did struggle with getting used to the programme, at which some face to face contact would have been helpful in supporting my learning.

You can infer from the above that some students struggle with simply picking up a system and running with it as I guess we wrongly assume the latest generation of tech savvy students should be able to do. I think the way we guided the students through the 'why' as the first priority helped with this transition. Once a student could see the benefits of using the system and being reflective, they were happy to move forward to the 'how' section.

One of the things we were keen to track was how much time was spent not only facilitating the course and supporting students but also the creation and administration of the course, you can see a rough tally for our online courses here -

All 13 students who submitted their portfolios before the end of the course received a Certificate of Achievement for completing the course.

Monday 16 December 2013

Blackboard Issues (16th Dec) Update 1

Following up from the earlier issues:

  • Inline Grading - Staff - The tool is now functioning as expected
  • Text Box Editor - The tool is now functioning as expected

  • Inline Grading - Students - We are continuing testing submissions

Sorry for any inconvenience this has caused.  We will update when we know a timeframe.

If you have any questions, please email the Elevate Team (

Blackboard Issues (16th Dec): Update

We are aware people may be encountering a few issues with inline grading (assessments) and text edit boxes. We are sorting through the issues and starting discussions with Blackboard. We will rectify the situation in as quick as possible.

Sorry for any inconvenience this has caused. I will update when we know a timeframe.

If you have any questions, please email the Elevate Team (

Monday 9 December 2013

Elevate Team Staff Development Videos: December, 2013


Given we are all becoming multi-modal learners - The Elevate Team are organising some support material through a featured videos series. These videos will be created by either the Elevate Team or other people, including other e-learning teams, or software vendors. We are organising these by month, and focussing on how to use the tool, or learning design considerations.

Our selection criteria will be to focus on one tool which is used regularly at UCS, and one which is less well known tool.

How to use the tool

Creating and entering a blog entry: Blackboard created

Elevate Team Notes: The blog tool in LearnUCS offers a number of really useful learning applications. For instance, literature / article review, or reflections on student lessons from a face to face teaching session.

Learning design considerations

An introduction to e-Portfolios: Desire-2-Learn created

Elevate Team Notes: This introduction video to e-Portfolios gives a good context around what is an e-Portfolio and how you might include it within teaching, learning and assessment models. Although it discusses the Desire-2-Learn e-Portfolio tool, the ideas are transferable to UCS's Mahara e-Portfolio tool

Friday 6 December 2013

Wondering about a course design which joins up the face to face and online learning spaces?

Have you been pondering about how you might use the Clickers? or how you might use clickers and LearnUCS? or why do you need to write all the MCQ questions?

If yes to any of the above you might enjoy reading the linked article by Barry Ryan.

Ryan, B (2013) Line up, line up: using technology to align and enhance peer learning and assessment in a student centred foundation organic chemistry module (

The case study walks through the why and the how they applied a range of learning technologies to enhance their module. The article is particularly accessible as it provides tangible ideas and advice around technologies which are available at UCS, and provides additional support to the flipped classroom.

After reading it, if you are wondering how you might design and implement similar ideas within your course at UCS, simply email the Elevate Team (

Wednesday 4 December 2013

OWLET Cancelled

Unfortunately due to unforeseen circumstances this months OWLET by Dr Stephen Bostock on 'Feedback for Learning' has been cancelled. This may be re-scheduled in the new year.

Please check back next month for our 'Quality Enhancement of teaching and learning in the Scottish HE context' OWLET by Professor Terry Mayes from Glasgow Caledonian University.

We apologies for any inconvenience.

Learning technology: what is it good for? Elevate presentation at the ASS TALC Event

The School of Applied Social Science ran its Teaching and Learning Assessment Event on Wednesday 27th at UCS. The Elevate Team was involved as both presenters and attendees. I ran a 30 minute session on "Learning technology, what is it good for?"

The main thrust of the session was for the attendees to think about what is needed for an effective implementation. For instance, the actual technology has a relatively small role to play in effective deployment. The session focussed on;
  • outlining a framework to assess our technology enhanced activity (I used Nicol & MacFarlane-Dick's 7 principles)
  • timeline perspective to effectively blend the learning activities 
  • operationalising the timeline through the learning design sequence
This was based on two levels: the individual activity, and the module design

The slides are available below (note: speakers notes are available the settings cog)

During the rest of the session a number of how might we design ... will technology offer opportunities for ... questions were raised.

A user requirement which we are taking away to mock up for one course team is as follows:
Students work in small groups, on a cross discipline module to create a poster. This poster with supporting presentation is assessed. One of the problems with this activity is some students in the group contribute less than others, and this needs to be identified and considered within the grading.
In further discussion with members of the course team, we thought the poster activity could be further enhanced, through the inclusion of multimedia, if it was an electronic poster (web page). This could be approached as a wiki page, within a group area on LearnUCS. One of the benefits of the wiki is it tracks the actual contribution of individuals. The benefit of the group area is it allows the use of group blogs, which can be used as project reporting tools to evidence contributions.

Relating their activity back to the session I delivered, we'll incorporate the use of the Rubric (mark scheme) for the wiki graded activity, and more continual formative feedback with lecturers accessing their wiki resource.

Tuesday 3 December 2013

UCS online digital literacy programme: December 2013 offerings

The Digital Literacy programme at UCS is a collaborative approach from a number of teams who focus on staff and student support and development. Including, the Elevate Team, The Library and Learning Development.

The work is strongly influenced by the Digital Literacy initiatives at other UK HEIs. In particular, the JISC funded SeePoD project at the University of Plymouth (

The programme provides face to face events (workshops, masterclasses, drop in surgeries), with online sessions (courses, webinars, faqs) with the intention of providing both breadth and depth for learners.
The underlying learning design for the online digital literacy programme is;
  • Effective learning requires the inclusion of all learning models, with particular importance on social (situated - communities of practice) learning
  • Effective online learning requires the student to be active within the process
  • Effective online learning is driven through effective individual feedback
The courses for December 2013, are;
  • e-Portfolios for the reflective practitioner
  • Introduction to the LearnUCS (blackboard) quiz engine
For more details, see the UCS Digital Literacy programme area. If you have any questions, please email Andy Ramsden (

For background information of the Digital Literacy Programme, see