Friday 28 March 2014

Digital literacy events for March 2014 draw to a close ...

This weeks face to face digital literacy events have drawn to a close for March. Firstly, I'd like to thank all those who participated and contributed. Initial reactions from attendees was positive, and we'd connected with over 30 people (staff and students).

The full offered programme is available from,

There were a number of positives which came out from this coordinated programme, including,

  1. it involved staff from the greatest number of professional service teams to date (Elevate Team, Library, Learning Development, IT Services & Careers)
  2. the design focussed on a combined audience of staff and students

The session we ran during the week were;
  • Using ePortfolios as a reflective learner
  • Designing and creating your presentation: Intro to Prezi
  • Working in groups: Online collaborating using Google
  • Using Refworks
  • Why use the flipped classroom in your teaching?
  • ePortfolios for Careers and Employability
We'll be undertaking an evaluation over the next few weeks, and we are now putting the final touches to our online workshops due to be released in May 2014. The session titles will include;
  1. Getting started with Augmented Reality in your teaching (staff only)
  2. Using e-Portfolios as a reflective learner
  3. Getting started with Refworks
  4. Why use the flipped classroom in your teaching? (staff only)
  5. What can objective testing offer your teaching and assessment models? (staff only)
  6. Enhancing your learning through social media
More information around the online programme see the UCS Digital Literacy Programme

Tuesday 25 March 2014

The role of the Elevate Team at validations, re-validations and re-approvals

The Elevate Team are often asked to present at validation events on the theme of "a virtual, e-learning (vle) tour". This isn't quite what we cover, so, if you do asked, what do we cover?

The first point to make is we don't focus on the technology through a tour of your existing or hypothetical LearnUCS modules. I would argue is more effective if it is covered by the course team as they have the discipline context. Therefore, if you have this material, it would be really useful for you to cover this area.

The second point is we'd love to be involved, however, our involvement needs to demonstrate progression in the learning design, and the success of a growing partnership between the teams.

I would usually suggest two roles for the Elevate Team.
  1. a short session on how the course team can effectively implement technology enhanced learning within the wider context of cross team development model we are encouraging at UCS. This session aims to demonstrate developing staff capacity within TEL, evidenced by examples.
  2. if the learning, teaching and assessment models on the proposed programme are technology rich, and/or include a pure distance learning component, it would be useful to have a member of the Elevate Team attend during the course team session.
I've included two recent presentations I have made at validation and re-approval events. As you review them, you'll get a much clearer picture of where we'd place the focus, and the importance of having some relationship with the course team, and learning materials to draw upon.

If you'd like the Elevate Team to be part of your programme's validation, re-validation or re-approval please email

BA SENDS: Validation Event

Social Work: Re-validation

Wednesday 19 March 2014

Mahara Stories - Student's View

Recently we have been asking the users of our Mahara e-Portfolio system to volunteer some time to answer some questions about how they have used the system.

Here is the first of the student's view.

Louise now uses Mahara regularly and states she would now continue to use some sort of electronic portfolio after leaving UCS.

The course Elevate ran, 'e-Portfolios for the reflective learner' was mentioned as being the element that raised her awareness of Mahara before she started using it for her course.

Many many thanks to Louise Kearney for taking the time to help us collect these stories.

Monday 17 March 2014

What can we take from JISC RSC Eastern e-Learning Forum?

The latest JISC RSC Eastern e-Learning Forum was on the 14th March, and was hosted at UCS. The focus was on mobile learning, and in particular managing the roll outs of devices, and integrated learning designs.

The Elevate Team presented on Augmented Reality, Fad or Fab? The slides are below. The focus was on making people aware of the potential of augmented reality within a learning and teaching context, and explaining why it is likely to be a niche learning technology which adds significant value to the learning process within certain disciplines.

Interestingly, when I asked the audience (n = 24);
  • Have you previously accessed an augmented reality based activity? Yes = 74% of audience
  • Have you created an augmented reality aura (aurasma): 
    • Yes with Aurasma Studio (31%)
    • Yes with Aurasma App on Mobile (23%)
    • No (46%).
  • To what extent do you agree with the following statement: Augmented Reality as learning is a fad, it is a marketing dream and not relevant to the delivery of education
    • Strongly Agree - 4%
    • Agree - 39%
    • Unsure - 35%
    • Disagree - 13%
    • Strongly Disagree - 9%
This questioning was really interesting, as it illustrates the awareness and experience of Augmented Reality in the room was high, and a large proportion thought Augmented Reality might offer little in the long term as a learning technology. This questions were asked before I presented.

Two key ideas I took from the session where;

  1. Further develop my ideas of Opinion Leaders in terms of technology adoption through the need to identify these people and run awareness sessions for them.
  2. Looking at digital pens as a means of scaling the objective testing for summative and formative reasons, within the classroom. This would also allow us to include subjective questions within the test in a more sustainable model for staff compared to the current OMR.

Wednesday 12 March 2014

Getting Started with Augmented Reality as a Learning Technology


The primary audience for this discussion are lecturers who are wishing to get started with Augmented Reality within their teaching and learning. The aims of the paper are to answer the questions;
  • What is Augmented Reality as a learning technology?
  • How is Augmented Reality being used in teaching and learning?
  • What do you need to consider if you wish to use Augmented Reality in your teaching?


The Elevate Team work closely with staff and students to encourage, enable and evaluate the use of technology in learning and teaching at the University Campus Suffolk. In particular, to;

  • 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
The Elevate Team have been using the Aurasma Augmented Reality Software since 2011.  Aurasma uses advanced image and pattern recognition technology to identify and understand images and objects in the real world, blending them with rich interactive content such as videos and animations.

What is Augmented Reality?

“First and foremost, augmented reality is a set of technologies that seek to integrate the digital with the real. There are several versions and flavors of AR, but there are certain things that all of these have in common: displays, input devices, tracking, and computers.” - (Carmigniani et al (2011))

The goal of augmented reality is to add information and meaning to a real object or place. Unlike virtual reality, augmented reality does not create a simulation of reality. Instead, it takes a real object or space as the foundation and incorporates technologies that add contextual data to deepen a person’s understanding of the subject. For example, by superimposing imaging data from an MRI onto a patient’s body, augmented reality can help a surgeon pinpoint a tumor that is to be removed. In this case, the technology used might include headgear worn by the surgeon combined with a computer interface that maps data to the person lying on the operating table. In other cases, augmented reality might add audio commentary, location data, historical context, or other forms of content that can make a user’s experience of a thing or a place more meaningful.

Another term that can be used to describe augmented reality is ‘Visual Browsing’. A display is required to overlay the digital material on to the real world. With the fast moving world of technology and the pace that technology improves, both smartphones and tablets are now powerful enough to run augmented reality applications. When using a smartphone or tablet with augmented reality applications you can see why the term ‘visual browsing’ has been coined, you get a sense of visual interacting with your surroundings. You are able to ‘browse’ the available digital content that is displayed to you.

How is Augmented Reality being used in teaching and learning?

By its nature, augmented reality lends itself to a marketing tool. UCS’ first public use of the ‘AR’ was not in the field of teaching and learning, but as a project with the Marketing and External Relations department. UCS launched one of the first University prospectuses with embedded video content.

When researching what other institutions have been doing with augmented reality some of the first examples you will find are along the marketing lines, you need to dig deeper to find the practical examples being used in education.

To answer the question of how is augmented reality being used in other institutions we will draw upon three case studies.

Case Study 1: SCARLET Project, Mimas, University of Manchester

SCARLET stands for Special Collections using Augmented Reality to Enhance Learning and Teaching

“SCARLET demonstrates how Augmented Reality (AR) can bring educational resources to life by surrounding original materials with digital, online content. By adopting a mixed-team approach, with academics, librarians and technical staff, we’re helping UK universities gain knowledge and skills to enhance their collections using AR.” - Mimas website

The initial work of the SCARLET project was to work with the world-renowned St John’s fragment. The small fragment measures less than 9cm in height and is of great importance. It can be confidently dated to the first half of the second century A.D.

Fragment of St. John's gospel

With this piece of papyri being not only very rare, but also very fragile, the John Rylands Library, Manchester where it resides would still like to show this wonderful artefact.

The team at SCARLET worked with academics to make a digital version of the complete manuscript from which this fragment makes up a small percentage. Using the fragment as a ‘trigger’ image for the augment application to recognise, this then overlaid the complete manuscript on the screen of the device, with the real time image from the devices camera.

This enabled students/visitors to hold their device smartphone/tablet over the fragment (in a display case) and to see how the manuscript would have looked if it was an undamaged, complete document.

The SCARLET project has since worked with a number of academics and other institutions to further develop their understanding of effective uses of augmented reality in education.

Case Study 2: Engaging Students at Bromley College

Barry Spence at Bromley College had already been looking at using the Aurasma platform to see how students engaged with augmented reality. Barry created some revision cards that once viewed with an appropriate device, would overlay that card with video, giving the lecturers thoughts on that revision topic.
  • This lead to a successful application for an Innovation Project. The project aimed to;
  • To explore the potential for Augmented Reality to leverage student engagement.
  • The possibility of enriching paper based course materials with voice-overs, animations, videos and images.
  • Investigate the potential of replacing standard A4 course notes.
  • Take advantage of what has become the widespread ownership among students of Smartphone and Tablet Devices in accessing these new materials.

The viability of utilising Augmented Reality technology in support of mobile learning from both the perspective of student learning experience and wider network accessibility.

A double-sided A4 flyer was produced, folder in half to be an A5 leaflet. Each page had specific references to digital material which comprised of a video, two animations with voice overs and a link to a moodle quiz.

The overall effectiveness was measured by each group completing a chart, recording their overall sense of competence before the lecture, after the lecture and following the use of the augmented reality materials.

A prerequisite of the talking part in the project relied upon students owning suitable Smartphone or tablet devices, of the original forty only sixteen had suitable access.

The screenshot of the spreadsheet chart below shows the competence outcomes of the participants 1 (very high) to 10 (very low). An initial visual assessment of the outcome reveals that of the sixteen taking part, four students felt that the inclusion of AR materials had not improved their sense of competence in the subject. However 12 did indicate that the AR had made a measurable impact. Taking the average for improvements gives a figure of 2.42 (almost 25%).

“This was the first trial of using AR here at the College for a single target group. The results gained from the feedback are certainly encouraging. With regard to the five points outlined in the overview for the project, I feel these have all at least in part proved worthwhile as criteria for inclusion in future augmented reality project work.” (Barry Spence 2013)

Case Study 3: University of Exeter - Unlocking the Hidden Curriculum

One of the first uses of augmented reality in education was by University of Exeter. Unlocking the Hidden Curriculum was a Jisc funded project from 2010/11.

The main campus of the University of Exeter is built on a country estate overlooking the city and surrounding countryside. The campus includes a variety of distinctive habitats and is rich in biodiversity. Students and grounds staff have regularly collected data through their programmes of study and conservation activities but this information and knowledge has hitherto remained hidden from the wider community.

The project will enable the campus to function as a ‘living laboratory’ and reveal a dynamic landscape of flora and fauna at any time of day or season to a variety of audiences who wish to interact with this unique location. Using Augmented Reality, the campus will be transformed into an accessible learning resource to support the formal and informal curriculum. Scientific data will be presented in a creative way to interpret the living landscape and promote engagement with Education for Sustainable
Development (ESD).

Visitors to the campus equipped with suitable smartphones/tablet devices will be able to trigger information presented as rich visual and audio media as they explore a variety of habitats and areas of particular interest. This location-specific information appears as an overlay superimposed on a viewing screen fed by the smartphone’s built in camera. (Project website:

Below is a video showcasing the Biodiversity data using the Layar application.

Two of these three case studies use augmented reality in an immersive fashion. Both University of Manchester’s Mimas team with Project Scarlet and the University of Exeter and their Unlocking the Hidden Curriculum take the end user out of their normal environment.

This allows for modification and redefinition of the learning activities, whereas the Bromley College example acts as a substitution of the activity. According to the SAMR model Puentedura (2009) the technology acts as a direct tool substitute, with no functional change.

It would be possible for the Bromley College example to completed without the addition of the augmented reality, although this is the case, it does still give a ‘wow’ factor.

What do you need to consider if you wish to use Augmented Reality in your teaching?

As previously mentioned the pace of change in technology is very fast moving. This has meant that authoring augmented reality applications has been getting easier with each iteration of the software tools.

We are now in a position where you do not need to be a computer programmer or web developer to be able to make some very interesting ‘AR’ materials. Once a platform has been chosen - here at UCS, Aurasma has been the platform of choice - there are two key requirements;
  1. An effective and appropriate Learning Design
  2. Required multimedia and web based resources
AR is just another tool that can be used, as with other tools learning design is king. The activity/resource must be thought through, learning outcomes decided. Planning the use of materials will allow you to think through how you want it to work, and if AR is actually the most effective technology to use.

The actual creation of the augmented reality materials is now all done through a web site. Following a few easy steps means you can create some really exciting materials. For example the workflow below shows the limited number of steps to go from having a couple of resources. One acting as the ‘trigger’ - what your devices recognises and the other as the ‘overlay’ - the action that happens once the trigger is recognised (for example a video plays when a photograph is recognised.

This video shows how easy Aurasma is to author. The video shows how to add a trigger image and overlay video, and then how to make the system recognise them - creating the ‘aura’, which is the name given to process of a trigger image being recognised and the action of the overlay playing.

What are we focussing on at UCS?

An area that has been popular with lecturing staff have been research posters. A number of lecturers have approached the Elevate Team to help develop interactive posters, there have been two main reasons for this.
  1. To included multimedia material
  2. To allow more information if the poster is unaccompanied
Being able to stand in front of a poster, hold up a mobile device to receive a video of the researcher talking through their methodologies or sharing their conclusions, really does bring the materials to life. Below is a link to a Research Poster that went to a national conference. Rather than showing video, this poster triggers audio recordings of students discussing their course. To accompany the audio, keywords from the audio are displayed,

Conference Poster: 

To move this along from being a just passive onlooker, we have been looking at ways of creating more interaction, to engage the cognitive processes. Using ‘overlay sequencing’ in the Aurasma developer studio means we are able to create individual pathways through the materials. In essence we are able have different clickable hot spots in the digital material. This allows us to create quiz questions, that the users selects the answer on screen, to then reveal further digital material.

One example we have created so far is a lecturer posing a question, with multiple choice answers appearing on screen, the user then selects their answer. Another video can then be played giving feedback for the previous answer. Further questions can then be asked, or the user can be directed to more resources. A demonstration of a prototype of this in is below:

The intention in the future is to further develop this approach and combining the approach and lessons learnt from the work at Bromley College.


Looking at the use cases here at UCS and case studies wider afield, augmented reality has not become mainstream as yet. Currently there is a need to find that “killer” application for the technology. One use that will capture the creativity of the subject and lecturers. The one that captures the enthusiasm of the learners, but still has a proven learning design and pedagogical values.

One hope for the future is that an Open Standard for Augmented Reality platforms can be found. This would mean that you are not tied into one platform from one supplier. Currently there are a number of platforms, if you develop your content in one of those, it is not possible for it to be accessed via the others. This would require a huge leap forward, but an Open Standard would also make future use more appealing.


Carmigniani , J. ; Furht , B. ; Anisetti , M. ; Ceravolo , P. ; Damiani , E. ; and Ivkovic , M. (2011) Augmented Reality Technologies, Systems and Applications. Multimedia Tools and Applications 51 , no. 1 : 341 – 477 (Accessed: 31 January 2014)

Vaughan-Nichols , S.J. (2009) Augmented Reality: No Longer a Novelty. Computer 42 , no. 12 : 19 – 22 (Accessed: 31 January 2014)

SCARLET (Special Collections using Augmented Reality to Enhance Learning and Teaching) (2013) Available at: (Accessed 6 March 2014)

Mimas Powering Knowledge (2014) Available at: (Accessed 6 March 2014)

Fragment of St. John's gospel. Available at (accessed: 6 March 2014)

Tuesday 11 March 2014

LearnUCS Scheduled Maintenance Downtime

At set times in the year our LearnUCS managed hosts run an audit on our production environment.   This audit has just been completed and a number of performance enhancements have been identified.  These include:
  • JVM tomcat tuning 
  • DB Data integration indexer tasks
The timing of this audit fits very nicely with the release of CP9, a cumulative patch that fixes a known issue that has recently come to light following a change to Sun Microsystems Java environment.

The Java issue has been previously blogged here and relates to Multiple file uploads and the Virtual Classroom tool.

To complete the enhancements and install the patch, a downtime period of 2 hours is required.  The downtime has been scheduled for:

Downtime: Saturday 22nd March 2014 at 0400am GMT.

We will update nearer the scheduled time.

Friday 7 March 2014

FAQ: Printing your assignment with feedback from LearnUCS

This FAQ is student has a student focus

Increasingly, staff are using LearnUCS to collect your assignments and provide inline feedback and comments as well as an unratified grade. You can access these assignments via the My Grades area within LearnUCS.

A common request is, how do I print out my annotated script as I'd like to read these offline?

The following two videos (no audio) illustrate how to do this using the software available on computers at UCS.

Step 1: Download your annotated file

It is important to select download with annotated comments

Step 2: Use Adobe Reader (installed on UCS computers)

  • Open Adobe Reader
  • Open the file you have downloaded (you'll see all the comments inline with your document. When you print, these become footnotes)
  • Click on Print
  • Select Summarise Comments
  • Print

Wednesday 5 March 2014

Online, real time support on Learning Technologies ... Elevate's Google Hangout on Air

We are trying something different around the provision of support and opportunities to talk to us. For the rest of the academic year, we are offering an online surgery via Google Hangout On Air.

This will provide staff and students at UCS with an opportunity to ask the Elevate Team some questions based around the effective use of the Learning Technologies used here at UCS.

During the session, there will be informal discussions on the tools UCS provides it's staff and students, such as, LearnUCS, Mahara and some of the classroom technologies.

The sessions will run every Thursday (14.00 to 15.00).

To start your conversation, go to

If you wish to ask the presenter/s a question about any on the above, please use the Q&A app and use the ‘Ask a Question’ button to the right of the video (Google Account required). Any general comments or technical queries may be removed from the Q&A stream.

Please note that due to the potential sensitive nature of some of the answer to questions, we may advise during the Hangout that you email us instead.

Tuesday 4 March 2014

Student Inductions 2014 (February Starters)

The Elevate Team attended a total of six student inductions this month to introduce a new influx of students to some technologies they could use to enhance their learning outside of UCS. The tools that were on offer to the students were:
  • Using Twitter as a Personal Learning Network
  • Social Bookmarking with Diigo
  • Collaborative working using Google Drive
There has been a change this year to the lineup of tools, we moved Mahara out of the list of options to choose from and added it as a mandatory item, mainly to raise students awareness of the tool and encourage it's use away from the tools they have to use for their UCS studies. We used to mention it as an option students could pick from to discuss (Chosen using audience response clickers) further in the presentation, however it was a rarely chosen item.

The structure of the sessions runs through a couple of the services here at UCS, we don't run through any how-tos or tutorials, simply highlight the fact they are available and what they provide students.

We then move onto some tools that can be used outside of UCS to enhance the students learning, such as the above mentioned tools.

The idea was to then raise Mahara's profile to round-off the session focusing on bringing in some of those experiences and evidence into an e-Portfolio service. However after answering the influx of questions during and after the demo of two of the tools, we've found we regularly run out of time to discuss Mahara in any great detail.

Taking the above into account, we will look at rearranging the session again to bring Mahara back into the front of the presentation but explicitly removing any attachment to it being a mandatory UCS learning tool and more of a space 'provided' by UCS. We can then adjust the demo accordingly to how much time we have left, as we would rather leave out less important features from the tools rather than lose the pitch we could give Mahara give an allotted position in the session.