Learning Technology

Xerte Online Toolkits Upgrade

July 28th, 2015

On Friday 7th August we will be updating Xerte Online Toolkits to the latest version of the software. The service will be unavailable between 9.00 and 10.00am whilst we carry out the work.

Version 3.0 of the software brings a number of enhancements to the software and addresses a number of issues: we have a new HTML-based editor, a more powerful media library, some new templates and a new look and feel, and more.

We would like to encourage all toolkits users to read the release notes at http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/toolkits/v3ReleaseNotes.pdf.

Twitter Question Shower

July 21st, 2015

Last week I took part in the short open course Flexible, Open, Social for Learning (FOS4L) and one of the tools we used was new to me: this was the Twitter Question Shower. I’ve participated in (and led) many types of discussions on Twitter, from tweetchats to twoocs, but this one was new.

From the explanation for #foschat: “A Twitter Question Shower is a virtual meeting or gathering on Twitter to discuss a common topic. The “upside down” tweetchats last one hour and will be formed by participants showering one another with questions and responding to each other’s.”

Here is Sue Beckingham‘s Introducing question showers using #foschat as an exemplar 

I enjoyed the chats that I got to (two of the four, as I was on holiday last week and for two days was unable to access wifi) and was interested to reflect on how they worked:


  • Despite the free and chaotic nature, pre-reading was required, which focused the topic and the ensuing questions
  • As with other types of Twitter chat, use of a hashtag means you can keep track of everything that’s said using a search (or a relevant tool, e.g., a column in Tweetdeck)
  • Using Q and A as codes for questions and answers works well.
  • As for other tweetchats, the tweets can be archived for reading or rereading later (I like using Evernote and IFTTT for a personal archive): see the Storify for #foschat at https://storify.com/FOSchat
  • There was some facilitation but I’m not sure whether there was any strategy involved in it.
Less positive
  • It is chaotic and messy
  • It’s difficult to participate in, particularly for newbies
  • It’s difficult to keep track of the questions and who is answering which (perhaps a short question code would work, as in tweetchats, although not sure how to ensure that the same code isn’t used concurrently by different people…)
  • Using people’s @names to keep track uses up space in your tweet (as well as the hashtag for the session, #foschat) and is so longwinded that the conversation’s moved on by the time you’ve finished your tweet
  • It wasn’t obvious in Twitter itself who were the facilitators for each one (reminders might have been good). They asked questions to move the discussion on but got a bit drowned in the general questions so it wasn’t easy to know if it was a new question or an extension of a previous one.

I think I would try to only use a Question Shower with experienced Twitter users, so with a particular group I’d probably start with a tweetchat and move on to a shower later in the course. Of course there are always different people involved, and you may always get newbies taking part. Perhaps having a facilitator tweet during the shower about the mechanisms themselves and how to participate effectively would be helpful.  This is definitely a format that could be used in teaching any kind of course, especially if social media is already being used.

Thanks to Chrissi Nerantzi and Sue Beckingham and all their facilitators for a fascinating series of learning experiences.

Helen Whitehead


Moodle upgrade to 2.7 with some new features (July 22nd)

July 9th, 2015

We will be upgrading Moodle on Wednesday 22nd July and Moodle will be unavailable from 8am (UK time) for most of the day.

This is a version upgrade, and doesn’t involve major changes: but it will introduce some new and improved features and functionality including:

  • You can now create better customised learning paths with enhanced Conditional Activities. There’s a new interface for restricting activities and resources by various criteria. Activities and criteria can be combined and you can use Boolean logic such as any/all or and/or. For example, you can now
  • restrict to members of a particular group
  • restrict to students with a particular field in their profile, e.g., course code
  • set up nested restrictions for complex conditional learning pathways.
  • The Gradebook and Assignment have been improved, with some new features that have been requested by many of our users
  • There’s a scroll bar at the top of Gradebook
  • Gradebook search allows for filtering by student name.
  • Maximum marks in standard activities can now exceed 100.
  • The Assignment interface is improved
  • There are a couple of additional features to the online text assignment
  • Teachers can be given permissions to edit or delete student submissions in Assignment
  • You can control when to send feedback during the grading process via a notify students checkbox
  • Improvements to Quiz and Question bank
  • Questions can be duplicated
  • It’s easier to write questions with a new option to ‘Save changes and continue editing’
  • Essay questions can be answered by attaching file(s) rather than typing
  • New logging and reporting features have been added, e.g., you can sort by type of action such as teaching, student participation or administrative

We’ll let everyone know more once your modules have been rolled over ready for you to update for the coming academic session.

A superhero in Learning Technology?

July 8th, 2015

John Horton is a man with an alter ego: it even involves a special costume. John is Learning Technology Senior Project Manager (Pedagogies) in LRLR’s Learning Technology Section. “My job”, he says, “involves liaison with academics to identify common learning themes and requirements across the university. This helps us plan future developments in learning technologies such as Moodle, Rogo, Xerte Online Toolkits and others.”

John’s team includes a learning systems analyst who visits academics to find out what they want from the university’s learning technologies. He also has testers who run the learning technology systems through their paces to be assured that what we’ve produced is what our users want. One of the most useful things he does is pull people’s needs together so that no-one ends up reinventing the wheel. For example he’s currently looking at requirements in various parts of the University for resources to teach students about mathematics and statistics useful for science and engineering.

But he has other strings to his bow. At this time of year he disappears from his office in Pope Building and can be found wearing flowing robes, carrying a ceremonial stick, in a whole new role, as the University Marshal, an appointment he’s held since 1999. The University Marshal is an officer of the University, taking part in University ceremonial. Nowadays this is almost exclusively graduations but also includes events such as the installation of a new Chancellor.

Read more about John’s University Marshal role during graduation – at the Library Matters blog.

Is he a superhero?  Well, one definition of superhero is “one with extraordinary abilities”, and I think we can grant him that.  Watch out for him at graduation this year.

Five minutes with … Clyde Davies

July 1st, 2015

What three words describe you?

Inquisitive, scientific, and impish.

What’s your job role?

I’m the Learning Systems Analyst.  I go out into the business and talk to people about how we can better make our learning systems fit their needs.  Then I take my findings and turn them into something we can deliver against.

Increasingly, I’ve found myself supporting projects outside LRLR, such as the MACCS replacement in the Medical School, and the Book Suggestions process for the Library.  I’m one of those odd techies who can not only code but actually talk to people to find out what they want.  I ask a lot of questions, sometimes very obvious ones.

Tell us something ‘unusual’ about yourself

I used to keep bees as a hobby.  After a couple of disastrous years I gave up but am looking to start again.  Perhaps the Estates Division will let me keep a couple of hives around the back of KMC?

What excites you most about learning technology?

I’ve been here just a year. My last stint working at the University was back in 1991.  Since then the way that technology has transformed teaching is incredible.  Platforms like Moodle have both enabled better teaching and helped to raise the bar.

Also, I sat through some appalling lectures both as an undergraduate and postgraduate, but now a well-delivered lecture, captured and presented on Moodle, is something for the University to take pride in.

Your top tip(s)?

Network, network, network!

Build good relationships with your colleagues and the other people you come into contact with, however fleetingly.

Don’t be afraid to volunteer your time and expertise, no matter how busy you are.

What goes around, comes around.

What do you think will be the most important thing in learning technology at the University of  Nottingham in 2015/16?

From my own point of view, it’s how e-Assessment evolves to take into account our future needs.  There’s a big exercise going on at the moment to find out exactly what e-Assessment means to the University.  My own focus is going to be on summative assessment, especially within Rogō.  Rogō is a remarkable achievement and one which demands that if we build upon it further, we do so solidly and strategically.

What have you learned recently?

I dusted off my programming skills and learned to program Web applications.  I have donkeys’ years of experience in writing software using C# and Visual Basic.NET but up to now had managed to treat Web development as an ‘area of strategic incompetence’.  That is, I was quite happy for someone else to do it.  I was quite surprised to learn how good it was.

This month in the blog: June

June 30th, 2015

Today we review of some of the posts published in June in previous years that might still be of interest:


  • Xerte Online Toolkits – some examples From the Xerte community a collection of examples of Xerte Toolkits and case studies. Lots of inspiration here, on Maths and Biology (one link has disappeared but the others are still useful)
  • Moodle Magic 2: An all-School community page  How the School of Economics uses an all-school Moodle module to disseminate  documents, policies, information, news and announcements about events and information of relevance to all students (and staff). Since this case study was published.


Full-screen toggle button contributed to Moodle community

June 29th, 2015

Another Moodle modification developed at Nottingham that has been accepted by the Moodle community is a full-screen toggle button. This allows any user to hide the side columns (blocks) and make the central column fill the screen.  This is especially useful when viewing embedded videos and SCORM packages, as well as large tables such as when reviewing assignment submissions.

The button was developed in response to users’ comments that it can be difficult to work in the central column as it’s not quite wide enough, even with all blocks docked. We have implemented a one-click solution. Click once to “pop-out” fullscreen, and click it again to return to the view with left and right columns.

All the Nottingham modifications are up and running and available in our own Moodle and have extensive user testing!

The plugin is maintained by Barry Oosthuizen, in the Learning Technology Section. Thanks to Barry for a useful little feature.


Moodle Outage 4th July & Mediaspace upgrade

June 26th, 2015

A day of outage for Moodle is planned for Saturday 4th July (9 am – 5 pm UK time).  The outage is for Information Services to undertake an upgrade on part of the Moodle infrastructure and this will require a day of outage (in Moodle).

An upgrade is also planned (8th July) to the cloud infrastructure behind Mediaspace & Moodle video (media resource) to provide further functionality and better integration with our newest version of Moodle. This may result in a brief period of unavailability for particular videos.

For questions about any of these, please contact learning-technologies@nottingham.ac.uk

Allocation Form Plugin accepted by Moodle community

June 24th, 2015

The Allocation Form plugin developed by the Moodle team here at Nottingham has been accepted into the Moodle community and is available for download and use by any Moodle installation.

While the Tutorial Booking plugin enables students to sign up for a single choice, the Allocation form can be used to provide more than one choice (e.g., “choose three workshops from the following selection”) and/or to have students allocated to their choices fairly based on the overall choices/preferences made by all students. Students make their choices, which can include a choice that they definitely don’t want and once all choices are made, the form is processed.

We at the University of Nottingham are delighted to be able to contribute back to the Moodle community in this way.  Originally developed by Neill Magill, the plugin was prepared for the community by Barry Oosthuizen. Well done to the team.

Moodle Bytes webinar on importing content: Thursday 25th June 9 am

June 22nd, 2015

Join us on Thursday 25 June for a webinar on how to move content from one Moodle module to another.

The webinar will be led by Learning Technology Consultant Angelique Bodart and may be useful for all editing teachers as well as any School staff with roles on more than one module (Category Manager and School Support).

In late June and July we will start creating the modules for the academic year 15-16 and will transfer material from current 14-15 modules on behalf of most people. If you want to know more about this rollover process, or if you want to selectively transfer material yourself, or to transfer material between any other modules, this is the webinar for you to find out more.

There will be plenty of time for any questions you may bring.

Importing Content webinar with Angelique Bodart

Date: Thursday 25th June

Time:  9-9.40 am (UK) /  4-4.40 pm (China/Malaysia)

More information about how to join in at http://workspace.nottingham.ac.uk/display/Moodlehelp/Moodle+Bytes+webinars. (Nottingham only)