Tuesday 28 October 2014

Effective Poster Presentations Session

We were recently asked to cover a session about poster design. This is a session we have never covered before as this used to be facilitated by someone who has now left the institution. The aim of the session was to help a cohort of students with their poster presentation assignment.

The previous session was quite tool orientated, revolving heavily around the use of Microsoft PowerPoint with a 'what buttons to click' approach.

We decided to revise what had been done before to introduce students to the more of the planning side. So looking at structure, good practice and design tips, highlighting good and bad examples and more.

First port of call for the session was to ask the students how far they are currently are with poster design, do they have any specific questions that they would like answering? It transpired that they were all quite comfortable with the 'doing' part, they were seeking information such as recommended font size and tips for reviewing what they had done. This fit perfectly to what we had put together as a presentation guide.

Below you can see the presentation we put together for this session.

The presentation weaved it's way through the structure, what they had to think about in terms of design, through to a small 15 minute hands on session to play with what they had learnt, ending in a little direction for further support.

This cohort of students were active and engaged with the subject so getting them into small groups of 3 or 4 and setting the task was quite pleasurable. The task was to mock up a poster based around what they had just learnt on a subject of their choice.

It was nice to see the small groups in full blown discussion about the design, structure with the addition of personal preference items such as colour or orientation.

After the generous time limit, I stood at the front of the room holding up the posters and asked the team to comment on their poster, it was done in a very informal manner as to encourage negative comments as well as positive. I didn't comment on the posters but asked their team and other teams questions around each one. 'What would you have done here?', 'Is this white space for an image?' and jokingly 'Who on earth chose that?!'.

This gave an opportunity for all to comment and highlight some of the ideas we have previously discussed during the session presentation.

Below are the final mock up posters:

The students feedback to this approach was very positive, they mentioned that it gave them an opportunity to explore some of the ideas without the technical barriers and time of doing it in PowerPoint and not having something to stand back and think about.

One student mentioned she struggled to work out spacing of the boxes and text in PowerPoint as the student had to constantly zoom in to type.

I mentioned that maybe first, the student should get the poster laid out how they would like it first in let's say PowerPoint. To help them visualise this I asked the students if they had ever heard of Lorem Ipsum, the printers typesetting dummy text. The students weren't aware of this so I demoed going to the Lorem Ipsum generator at http://www.lipsum.com and how they could use it to 'fill' empty text boxes in their poster to better see how much they need to type. When they are happy with their design, they can simply go into each section and start inputting their real content. Of course they may well have to adjust some bits but it's easier for the eye to see 'Is that too much text?','Does that look right where it is?'.

The session ran well and I even had two students take photos on their phones of the posters they created.

Blackboard Grader App - Overview

I have been aware of Blackboard working on a mobile application to allow grading of student work away from the traditional desktop computing environment for some time.

This first release of the application is now available in the Apple App Store and is called 'BB Grader'.

The app requires that we are using the Blackboard Mobile services building block, which we are, so the app has seamless integration with LearnUCS.

The app allows academic staff to access all of the assignment submission points from all of their modules in LearnUCS.  You are shown each submission point where you can see all submissions, when they were submitted and if they were late.

You are able to communicate with students from the app, as well as make notes into the retention centre.

If you have used the Inline Grading tools on a desktop computer you will be familiar with the tools in the app.  You can use the annotation tool to markup and grade a students submissions, as well as grading via Rubrics if you are using them in your modules.

A nice addition is the ability to record audio and/or video as feedback, this is very straight forward via the tablet.  Once you are happy with the grading you can send the grades back to the Gradecentre, which are then available immediately to either you or the student depending on Gradecentre column settings.

One thing I haven't seen/found yet is access to Safeassign reports, these currently need to be accessed via a browser if required.

Below is a short video overview of the app working.

Please get in touch with the Elevate team in Learning Services if you would like to see the app working in person.

Friday 24 October 2014

Personal, Practical Support - Show & Tell with #Screencastify

I received a support email asking for help on a certain task in LearnUCS.  I was advised that I could reply via email rather than trying over the phone.

One email was sent back to confirm the required support.  Then rather than try and type a response explaining the options or the steps, I decided to make a simple video showing showing the steps to complete the task.

We have spoken about Screencastify as an extension to Google Chrome before but it is such a brilliant, easy tool to use that there was no choice, I would simply open a tab and record it.

The support request was for the different ways you could upload files into LearnUCS, I was aware there was more than one file, so I quickly made a video showing the different ways of uploading and sharing those files.

As this is such a quick and simple tool I could make the video personal to the academic requiring help, in the future I can simply remove/delete the video if necessary.

I wasn't too concerned about making a video too perfect, that could then be shared or used elsewhere, covering just generic information.  Screencastify is so simple, it makes these videos almost disposable.

As an example, the video is below:

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Do clickers improve student learning and result in better grades?

A question often asked by lecturers is, will the use of clickers improve the student learning and result in better grades?

You'd imagine this is a relatively straight forward yes answer. For instance, the theory would suggest it, and the evidence must support it. It is not quite as cut and dry as you'd expect. The research evidence suggests audience response systems have positive effects on performance. Cavdar and Velasco (2013) analysis suggests from a student perspective, clicker tasks helped them understand the lecture, concepts discussed and course material. Although fewer students perceived it helped them prepare for exams. These findings resonate with other research around perceived engagement and actual learning (Oigara & Keengwe (2013), Welch (2013) and Denker (2013)).

However, the positive, impact on learning is in part associated with motivation as students compare their performance to the peers, and are motivated to self improve (Oswald and Rhoten, 2014). A strong message from the literature is the effectiveness of clickers in teaching is strongly influenced by the individual lecturer and the alignment of clickers to the course teams' pedagogical model (Monk, Campbell and Smala, (2013))

If you'd like to discuss how you might use clickers in your teaching, please contact the Elevate Team (elevate@ucs.ac.uk)


  • Brady, M., Seli, H. & Rosenthal, J. 2013, "Metacognition and the influence of polling systems: how do clickers compare with low technology systems", Educational Technology Research and Development, vol. 61, no. 6, pp. 885-902.
  • Cavdar, G. & Velasco, M. 2013, "Teaching large classes with clickers: results from a teaching experiment in comparative politics", PS: Political Science & Politics, vol. 46, no. 4, pp. 823.
  • Denker, K.J. 2013, "Student Response Systems and Facilitating the Large Lecture Basic Communication Course: Assessing Engagement and Learning", Communication Teacher, vol. 27, no. 1, pp. 50.
  • Monk, S., Campbell, C. & Smala, S. 2013, "Aligning pedagogy and technology: A case study using clickers in a first-year university education course", International Journal of Pedagogies and Learning, vol. 8, no. 3, pp. 229-241.
  • Oigara, J. & Keengwe, J. 2013; 2011, "Students’ perceptions of clickers as an instructional tool to promote active learning", Education and Information Technologies, vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 15-28.
  • Oswald, K.M. & Rhoten, S.E. 2014, "Improving classroom clicker practices: effects of incentives and feedback on retention", North American Journal of Psychology, vol. 16, no. 1, pp. 79.
  • Welch, S. 2013, "Effectiveness of classroom response systems within an active learning environment", The Journal of nursing education, vol. 52, no. 11, pp. 653.
With thanks - Image - https://c2.staticflickr.com/4/3467/3250101952_e4e6f4dc75.jpg

Thursday 16 October 2014

Would you like to capture classroom discussions? MindMapping software can help

Following on from a previous post around using MindMapping software (I've started to use MindMup, as it's web based, and integrates with Google Drive) I thought it would be useful to share how to use it within a small, group teaching session (less than 20).

A common task in small group session is to set a problem for the students to unpack, either individually or in groups, and get them to feedback. When I observe this activity the capture methods range from oral only (no visual recording), to using whiteboards or flip charts. There are a number of limitations with these techniques, including, threaded debates (if oral only), and post session sharing issues.

An alternative use, is to use a MindMap tool, the MindMup allows you to record their suggestions in the sessions (software runs through the browser with no installation required), you then save to Google Docs and you can include the link to the final doc in your LearnUCS course.

For more information, see http://www.mindmup.com/, or email learningservices@ucs.ac.uk


The image is captured from the MindMap used in the Level 4 Dance In Curriculum Study Skills Course, Session 1

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Flip, Flip and Away: An example of a blended learning model

The intention of this post is to share a learning design which employs a flipped classroom model. We (Learning Services at UCS) are currently implementing this approach when designing our in curriculum delivery of study skills.

The learning designs is based upon Bloom's (revised) Taxonomy, where the pre-session activities are around the the provision of information and the student building up key information and knowledge around the topic. This is used as the building blocks for the face to face workshop, where the tasks are around applying, analyzing and creating. The face to face tasks are designed around group collaboration, with enable peer learning opportunities and support. The face to face session focusses on active and collaborative learning activities. The post session task is their formative assessment which further builds upon the previous learning activities.

As the learning activity is spread over three weeks, with the largest proportion being delivered online, their includes a number of monitoring points and a communication plan.

If you'd like to know more about how you might use similar approaches within your teaching, learning and assessment designs, please contact the Elevate Team (elevate@ucs.ac.uk) within Learning Services. I would be interested to hear about perceived barriers to stop you deploying this within your curriculum.


Image - With thanks - http://ww2.odu.edu/educ/roverbau/Bloom/fx_Bloom_New.jpg

Friday 10 October 2014

Learning Objects via Google Slides

Following the successful Getting Ahead programme and the social media elements, I thought I would put together a quick 'how to' for Twitter. This taster session followed the same lesson plan as the face-to-face. Talking through the process of creating a PLN (Personal Learning Network) and how flipping an every day too (Twitter) can lead to a great learning experience.
To deliver the materials I wanted a tool that was quick and easier to author, but also easy to make available and multiple places, and then also easy to amend when required.

For this I've decided to try and use Google's presentation tool 'Slides'. The idea being that I would make a presentation that would guide people through a number of tasks, with Google Slides being online and usable through just a browser I thought this should work well.

The huge advantage to being web-based and easy to embed means I can add this 'learning object' to many different places, like here on the blog, or on our 'Support for Learners' page on MyUCS.

It doesn't matter where or how many places it is embedded, I still only need to edit it in one place. These changes are then live where ever it is embedded.

Below is the set of slides that guide people through creating an account, following other users to build a PLN to hashtags and being safe online.  This has been embedded to fit this blog, you can always click the fullscreen icon to the right of the slide picker.

I believe using this tool/technique for small bite-sized learning objects works very well, and is much more accessible than other tools currently being used by our academics.

Wednesday 8 October 2014

Technologies for Learning: Student Inductions 2014/15

We've just finished our Student Induction sessions. As part of the process we collect information from the sessions, and report back. The reflections for 2013 are available from:

After much discussion we followed a similar task and tool mix used in 2013. The slides for this year are below. A new drive this year was to make reference to e-safety and our Social Media Guidelines. During the induction period this was managed through a number of routes, including A5 flyers in their planners, and reference in these sessions.

We also ask a number of questions during the sessions using the Clicker Technologies. The aim of asking these questions is to help create a profile of our new students. The questions and answers are below. The sample population was across five cohorts, and 122 students (out of 963 first year students). The background is 91% had a social media account, 4% did not, and 5% wouldn't tell us.

A question we ask was could they rank the top 3 most common tasks they've undertaken from the list in the last three months. The results indicate for this cohort the most common tasks are; accessing email on tablet / phone, taking and sharing a photo on your phone, writing a word doc and installing an app on your mobile device. This is exactly the same pattern as the 2013 Cohort.

The next question we ask is around if they can classify their technical ability.
  • I’m a power user. I’m very competent with Microsoft Word, I update blogs, I’ve added content to youtube and I use Google Docs (17.4% in 2013)
  • 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 (37.5% in 2013) 
  • 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 (39.9% in 2013) 
  • 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 (5.2% in 2013)
The results (admittedly not statistically significant) indicate there has been a shift from the previous year with more people rating themselves as being more technical (digital) literate.

Given the length of the session varied (from 30 to 60 minutes), we ask the question, where would they like us to place the emphasis. Interestingly, this year, the focus was on Google Docs.
As part of the process, we'll reflect on the session in terms of its effectiveness and focus for the Semester 2 intake.


With Thanks - Image - http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/52/Company_Information_Session_in_Japan_001.jpg

Friday 3 October 2014

LearnUCS Module Issue: Broken Links

We have become aware of an issue with a link that is present in all 2014/15 module areas in LearnUCS.

When a user clicks on the "Assignment Toolkit" link they are presented with an error page.

The issue is being looked at currently, in the mean time it is possible to access the Assignment Toolkit directly with the following link.

Sorry for any inconvenience this has caused, the Elevate Team will update this blog as soon as it knows more.