Monday 28 April 2014

Introducing Open Badges in Mahara

This is a small post to raise your awareness of a new feature which we've introduced to UCS' Mahara e-Portfolio system. Open Badges.

If you are weren't aware, an Open Badge ( is a Mozilla backed, open standard framework for defining web badges, in all senses similar to a physical badge you used to get in Boy Scouts or Girl Guides.

A badge can be rewarded to an individual for any number of different achievements. Previous pilots and projects over the last couple of years in the higher education sector have been run to promote an achievement or evidence system based around the use of badges, some have used in house bespoke systems, however, there is growing evidence of using a central 'Backpack' like Mozilla's OpenBadges standard. For example:
'Seton Hall – Created campus wide badges for students who participate in campus events. It’s pretty neat because students can simply swipe their ID card at events to earn the badges. They have another program where freshman earn badges by attending mandatory freshman events.' (Croom, A (2014)) -

Well, now you can import and visualise a collection of your own badges into your Mahara e-Portfolio page. You can follow the steps below to import your badges:

If you don't have a Mozilla Backpack, follow this link --> and register using an email address. If you already have a backpack you can skip to the next step.

  1. In Mahara, go to your 'Profile' option under the 'Content' tab
  2. Navigate to the 'Contact Information' section
  3. Make sure the email address listed is the same as your Mozilla Backpack one, if it isn't, click the 'Add' button and add a the address you used to register for your Mozilla Backpack
  4. Click 'Save Profile' at the bottom of the page.
  5. You will need to validate your new email address (email will be sent)
  6. Go to your portfolio page you wish to add the badges to
  7. Click the 'Edit this page'
  8. Click the 'External Content' option
  9. Drag the 'Open Badges' (Shield icon) onto your portfolio page
  10. Depending on what badges you have (if any) you will see what 'Collection' you wish to add.
  11. You may need to create a collection in your backpack which is public. 
Any badges you are rewarded with, wherever they are from will now appear on your portfolio page.

Friday 25 April 2014

Developing course team capacity for TEL: Applying the online course taster approach

The Elevate Team continue to work closely with Lecturers to provide just-in time development and support for the use of Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL).

This is very effective at the individual level, however, the approach does create some challenge with respect to providing a more consistent implementation of TEL at the programme level, and misses out on the creativity generated through team developments.

Consequently, the Elevate Team are piloting a course team approach in conjunction with our existing individual support model.

The new model is being piloted with the BA Special Educational Needs and Disability Studies (BA SENDS) programme being led by Dr Allison Boggis. This is a recently validated programme and offers a wonderful test bed. The primary aim is to develop staff’s capacity to more effectively adopt technology enhanced learning, to more effective share ideas and good practice across the team and provide better focussed discipline specific curriculum support.

The approach is very simple, all you need to do is invite the Elevate Team to attend your course meetings. The potential outcomes of this simple approach are significant. For instance, with the BA SENDS team we’ve designed and delivered a bespoke workshop on the opportunities of TEL within assessment and feedback, we were better prepared to support the validation process, and we’ve collaborated with members of the course team to develop a number of online learning activities.

The latter development is really exciting as it has created the opportunity to develop and share good practice using a team based approach. We are developing a set of online taster courses designed to support course admissions. The first course is intended for prospective students to self enrol, and complete a set of stand alone learning activities.

Reflecting on the process it is evident some individuals and the course team have embraced a large number of new ideas in an easily digestible, discipline specific way. They’ve been exposed to a more integrated learning design which uses the appropriate tool for the job. This is really important as it facilitates lecturers to internalise how they might use similar approaches within their learning activities, while reassuring them of the support from the Elevate Team. The learning designs included;
  • the use of quizzes within the learning design using the Blackboard Test tool
  • integration of student learning logs using the Blackboard Journal tool
  • chunking of learning tasks through the Blackboard been Reviewed function
  • use of the discussion tool for collaborative learning
  • multimedia intensive design with the use of third party and home grown videos
For the course team a valuable part of the learning process has been the wider course team in the peer review process. This has identified opportunities for enhancements and disseminating current practice.

To access the taster course, simply

This process of developing capacity within course teams for technology enhanced learning fits into a wider TEL curriculum development process. The broad process illustrates the cross team development focus and the way it fits into the long term development of individual (click on the image).

So, you must be asking yourself, how can your programme benefit from this new approach? The answer is very simple, contact Andy Ramsden (e-learning Development Manager) to invite a member of the Elevate Team to join your course team meetings.

Thursday 24 April 2014

How to engage the Public with Research from PhD Students

Yesterday I supported the Graduate School by running a 45 minute workshop for their PhD students.  The workshop looked at how they engage the public with their research.  The main topic of the workshop looked at Social Media and online tools that would enable the creation of communities to allow the building of a Personal Learning Network.

As the workshop was only a 45 minute session I decided to target some specific tools, these were:

  • Blogs
    • Wordpress
    • Blogger
  • Twitter
  • Google +
  • Facebook
The idea I wanted to get across was to use a blog as the base/central hub for materials and content that they want to share.  The use of a blog would allow for ease of posting and therefore sharing.  Blogs also have keyword tagging built in, allowing for easy searching in future.

Once a blog post has been made, the other tools come into their own, sharing that blog post via Twitter, Google + and Facebook really opens up the reach, allowing many more people to find and engage with it.

We went through how to create an account and how to use each tool, in the case of Google + and Facebook it was about creating a public group rather than a personal page.  In the world of Web 2.0 and beyond it is very easy to linkup and integrate these systems, allowing a single blog post to automatically be tweeted and shared on G+ and Facebook.

One real advantage of Google + is that it will inject anything shared public directly into Google Search indexes rather than requiring Search Engine Optimisation and crawling.

As the session drew to an end, I felt the group were enthused and would take up the challenges posed and start to look at using these tools.  After the session I was pleased to have the following exchange on Twitter with one of the attendees.

Friday 11 April 2014

The 'Open' Augmented Web

In a recent blog post titled 'Getting Started with Augmented Reality in Education' I mentioned in my conclusion that one hope would be for an open standard.

I have read with great interest about the work that BuildAR are doing with their titled "Augmented Web".  BuildAR have been developing an open standards AR system, this means that you can embed AR into your website and use most new devices with the latest browsers on to access the AR material, rather than needing to download a specific app.  The browser also has no need for any plugins.

BuildAR says:
  • It's based on open web standards
  • It's built upon our open source awe.js library
  • It can support a wider range of 3D models
  • It can support a wider range of special effects
  • It can support 3D/spatialised audio
  • And best of all you can add it to your existing website
Below is an example of marker tracking running in standard production Chrome browser on a Nexus 4.

It's clear that in some ways, the Augmented Web is now where Mobile AR was back in 2010 and it's currently accelerating at an amazing pace. When you look at the interactivity and 3D capabilities, it's already equal to and in some cases beyond today's proprietary Mobile AR browsers. Furthermore, the fact that it runs in mainstream web browsers means it will rapidly be available to a much larger audience than proprietary Mobile AR ever was.
This development has huge potential and as BuidAR mention in the quote above there is a much larger available audience for AR content in an open web browser.

One current issue is for Apple users and the fact that Apple currently don't support the open WebGL standard that this new system.  There is growing need for open standards and the inclusion of WebGL on Apple devices.

Exciting times ahead, I will keep this blog updated of further developments.

Tuesday 8 April 2014

Screencastify Update

A few weeks back we blogged about an excellent extension to the Chrome browser which allowed you to capture what was happening in your browser tab or on your desktop. You can read that blog post here ->

However there have been some important developments we would like to share since our last post.

Firstly, we felt after a bit of use that the storage options were a bit limiting, you could only upload to YouTube for instance. So we decided to head over to the developers support page and we requested that an option to upload to Google Drive would be handy, as we all use Google Drive as our main tool for storage. Low and behold a week later we received an email saying this had been implemented!

Secondly, there has been a new feature that has recently cropped up, one that we were eager to see implemented. Picture in picture webcam mode. This basically, if selected, will record your webcam and put it in the bottom right hand corner of what you are recording.

This is an amazing addition to Screencastify, this will help us promote it's use as a 'voice over presentation' capturing tool.

And thirdly, but more importantly. Screencastify works on the UCS networked machines! You will need to find one with Google Chrome installed then install the extension from the web store
--> Screencastify on Chrome Web Store

Friday 4 April 2014

Out & About: Aaron at JISC Eastern VLE Forum

I spent Friday 28th March at the JISC RSC Eastern VLE Forum, hosted at Epping Forest College (EFC).

I was looking forward to the day as there was a good spread to the programme.

I was interested with a number of sessions and the opening one by Vikki and Richard from EFC was one of those.  I've been through two VLE branding launches here at UCS and it was good to see how others have handled the process and how different they have been.

I liked the creation of a character as part of the brand, it helps people connect and giving that character a name allows further connections.  We did something very similar with the original UCS VLE, "Wolsey".

Also as part of the first session EFC introduced a system that they were piloting with a small number of courses with lecturer Richard Matthews.  This system was to work alongside the VLE, although it replicated most of the features, but with a much nicer, more user friendly environment.   The system 'Edmodo' has been designed very closes to look and work like Facebook, which tends to be used by lots of young people.  The system did look and work nicely, I can see it working well with small groups of students, but it appears from first looks like the system won't scale.

As I write this I'm not sure of any APIs to allow automation of student/lecturer accounts or course enrolments.  Another interesting topic that was raised was whether Edmodo being an American system, fully hosted in the States was covered by any Safe Harbor Agreements as any EU/UK data held there could cause lots of problems.

Richard's Prezi presentation can be seen here.

After the very useful 'Around the Region' chat we had lunch and with the start of the afternoon programme came sessions of interest.  First was Charlie Williams from Oaklands College and was speaking about improving the user experience of VLEs by small tweaks to CSS and making options easily available where needed.  Charlie also spoke about creating impact with systematic use of activities, Charlie showed an example of where an electrical course was using quizzes to create that impact.

The final session of the day was from Steve Catton who had come up from RSC South East to talk about a couple of hot topics, Flipping the Classroom and Mobiles.

This was a session I was looking forward to, but I'm not sure the session really covered the topics mentioned in its title.  Firstly I'm not sure if everyone in the room was complete aware of the term or what was meant by it.  But Steve never really spoke about the technique and how it can be used.  The session was based around a Moodle course area, or as Steve preferred to call it, a Moodle Classroom.  Steve showed the course area and how he had used an icon set, so students would know that wherever they saw certain icons, they would always need to do the same type of work.

Steve did mention the use of responsive templates in Moodle, making the site more mobile friendly and a number of attendees were keen to make note of this.

I was hoping for a bit more on 'Flipping the Classroom' and to see some good uses of tools and activities.  Steve's presentation can be found here.

Overall it was another good day, it is really good to see what others are upto around the region, although we are one of the only attendees that have no FE involvement, it is still good to share experiences.

Looking forward to the next event.