Learning Technology

Five minutes with… the Faculty and School Support Learning Technology Consultants

May 23rd, 2019

The Faculty and School Support team are a front line team of Learning Technology consultants who work closely with academic colleagues and students to help embed the use of digital learning tools and online pedagogy across the university. They are part of the Learning Technology Section in University of Nottingham Libraries.

What 3 words describe our team?

Innovative
Committed
Friendly

And a few more: Dynamic, Tenacious, Professional, Motivated, Fun

Tell us something about the Team

  • One member holds an award in wines and spirits
  • Three of us are horse riders
  • A couple of us enjoy dancing of various kinds…
  • We can sometimes be seen boating on the lake or trying out local food establishments
  • We are supportive of each other and value each others’ areas of special expertise

What excites you about learning technology?

  • The people I meet
  • Every day is different, bringing a new challenge…
  • … And there’s always something new to learn
  • The potential to transform students’ lives via their experience of learning

Tell us about a project you’re currently doing

  • Helping set up a new Medical School in Lincoln
  • Working with Microsoft to identify how best to use Office 365 and Teams in teaching and learning
  • Helping a module convenor with reflective video submissions
  • Supporting dissemination of the good practice presented at our recent teaching and learning conference
  • Developing an initiative to develop students’ digital capabilities
  • Supporting a project to develop a learning design protocol uniquely suited to the University

Your top tip(s) for our users?

  • Don’t be afraid to ask us a question! Just framing the question can inspire the answer
  • Everyone here has a strong suite of tools available to us – utilise the correct tool for the job, and if unsure talk to the team
  • Technology doesn’t always work perfectly first time but please persist – and we are here to help
  • Make use of the extensive Moodle Help resources

What do you think will be the most important thing in learning technology in the next few years?

  • Online marking and Artificial Intelligence
  • Moving services to the cloud
  • Rise of personalised and tailored learning based on big data
  • Convergence of technologies for learning, life and work

What have you learned recently and how?

  • I learned a lot more about student diversity during an online course I ran for staff across our three global campuses
  • I learned a lot about the way our Malaysian colleagues work, getting inspiration and ideas, during a recent trip.
  • I’ve learned from experience that steaming wallpaper off a ceiling is far worse than steaming it off a wall
  • Via a DSE learning package I learned that sitting at your desk for too long is dangerous to your health – I’ll be circulating advice.

Top tips to make your learning materials more accessible #1

May 17th, 2019

With new digital accessibility regulations now in force since September 2018, HE institutions are required to be proactive in providing fully accessible websites – which includes VLEs such as Moodle. This provides a real opportunity to review and improve learning materials  for students and others. New websites must be compliant by 23 Sep 2019 and existing websites by 23 Sep 2020. So now is a good time to start making sure that any materials uploaded to Moodle are compliant.

Here are some recommendations for creation of documents (many of which apply to text and Pages in Moodle as well):

DO

  • Use a plain, evenly spaced sans serif font such as Arial,  Verdana, Tahoma, Trebuchet, Calibri
  • Ensure font size is at least 12 point (in Moodle use default paragraph text rather than imposing a size)
  • Use dark coloured text on a light (not bright white) background. Make sure the contrast ratio is sufficient (our Moodle format design is created to be as accessible as possible, so the default will be compliant). To check contrast, try printing in black and white.

DON’T

  • Avoid using colours for meaning – especially red/green combinations – as some people can’t see colour
  • Avoid using text over images (or provide an alternative way of accessing that text)

For headings:

DO

  • Use larger font size in bold, lower case.
  • Borders can be used – but avoid text boxes.
  • Use a meaningful title
  • Use the styles in Word to create a structure – similarly in Moodle use the headings under the i icon

DON’T

  • Don’t use underlining and italics: these tend to make the text appear to run together. Use bold instead. (Underlining on a web page implies a link – don’t use it unless that actually is the case.)
  • AVOID TEXT IN BLOCK CAPITALS: this is much harder to read.

For layout:

DO

  • Use left-justified with ragged right edge. (Again, Moodle’s defaults are good practice.)
  • Lines should not be too long: 60 to 70 characters.
  • Line spacing of 1.5 is preferable.
  • Use bullet points and numbering rather than continuous prose.
  • Use page numbers and create bulleted or numbered lists using the Office menu button and built-in styles not just symbols and spaces.

DON’T

  • Avoid narrow columns (as used in newspapers, and not allowed in Moodle).
  • Avoid cramping material and using long, dense paragraphs: space it out.
  • Avoid starting a sentence at the end of a line.

Writing Style

DO

  • Use short, simple sentences in a direct style.
  • Give instructions clearly. Avoid long sentences of explanation.
  • Use active rather than passive voice.
  • Be concise.

DON’T

  • Avoid double negatives.

Graphics

DO

  • Pictograms and graphics can help to locate and enhance information – make sure you give an overview in the text of the visual elements that you want students to gain from an image so that no one misses out.
    Here is an example:
    Graphic Accessibility Example
  • Use alt text to describe an image if needed
  • Lists of ‘do’s and ‘don’ts’ are more useful than continuous text to highlight aspects of good practice.
  • For long documents include a contents page at the beginning and an index at end.
  • Use meaningful hyperlinks not ‘click here’

DON’T

  • Avoid abbreviations if possible or provide a glossary of abbreviations and jargon.
Check your documents
Use the Microsoft Office Accessibility Checker to find and fix the elements within your document that are not accessible. This can be found under File > Check for Issues

More information

Show, Hide or Stealth Activities – Moodle for Spies!

May 10th, 2019

Every item, resource, activity or section in Moodle can be:

  • Visible to students (Show)  or
  • Hidden from students (Hide)

Now there’s a third option: what I like to think of as “stealth activities”! This shows up in the settings for staff as:

“Available but not shown on course page”

An item like this is not visible to students where it is actually sited on the page but it CAN be linked to from elsewhere.

For example, you could have text or a graphic in a label that links to that resource (which now becomes a “stealth resource”), or you could link to it from a Book.

If an item is set to “Show”

If an item is set to “Hide”

With editing on,
how editing teachers see the item and options   (Options “Show and “Make available” are possible)

With editing off how editing teachers see the item (greyed out and a purple notice)

Students see nothing at all.

If an item is set to “Make available”

With editing on,
how editing teachers see the item and options   (Options “Show and “Make unavailable” i.e. Hide  are possible)

In this example the Blank Moodle course planning document is linked from the text “Course planning document” in the label above it.

With editing off how editing teachers see the item (with a purple notice).

Students do not see the item itself.

However the link in the label is still available and will work if students click it.

If you put in a link to a Hidden item then the link won’t work for students.

They get an error message.

You can also restrict access by date, by membership of a particular group, or by a field in their user profile. If it’s hidden it can be completely hidden, or it can be partially hidden: students can see it’s there but not access it. You can even make access to an item conditional on having completed something else: more on that on our next blog post where we’ll use it to add an acknowledgement of a plagiarism statement before students see the submission dropbox.

Turnitin (& Moodle) assignment submission checklist

May 9th, 2019

We are often contacted by students worried about why their submissions to assignment dropboxes are not succeeding. For best results here are the guidelines:

Your document: please check

  • Filename consists of no more than 40 characters (you may get an error message if filename is too long: it will be “XML Response could not be parsed”)
  • File size less than 40 MB
  • Number of pages less than 400
  • A minimum of 25 typed electronic words
  • Filename must not contain unrecognizable (non-alphanumeric) characters in the submission title, such as & , . ( ) % # ‘ “ / \ – { } [ ] < > : ; @.
  • Must not contain spaces between e v e r y   l e t t e r
  • There have been reports that headers have prevented students from being able to submit their assignment. If your submission is not initially accepted please remove the headers and try submitting again.
  • If at all possible, keep to ONE column of text per page and avoid fully justifying text
  • When adding a title please keep it relatively short as long titles affect the rendering size of files downloaded from Turnitin such as feedback.
  • Accept or reject all changes/edits in your document and switch off Track Changes before submitting it (if you don’t do this, Turnitin will match everything in the deleted and formatted text, thus falsely inflating the similarity index)
  • Must be one of the following file types (If you’re having difficulty save as a PDF and try that)
    1. Microsoft Word® (.doc / .docx)
    2. OpenOffice Text (.odt)
    3. Google Docs via Google Drive
    4. WordPerfect®  (.wpd)
    5. PostScript (.ps/.eps)
    6. Adobe® PDF  (if a scanned document it must contain at least 25 typed words that can be highlighted) (Recommended format) - scanning guidance can be found here
    7. Microsoft PowerPoint® (.pptx, .ppt, .ppsx, and .pps) (Will be converted to static PDF)
    8. Microsoft Excel® (.xls and .xlsx) (Will be converted to static PDF)
    9. HTML
    10. Rich text format (.rtf)
    11. Plain text (.txt)
    12. Hangul Word Processor file (.hwp)

Note – Turnitin may ‘accept’ other filetypes, but they do not generate a similarity report nor can they be marked by GradeMark, so please stick to the filetypes listed above. PDF is recommended.  Specifically the following are not supported:

  1. Microsoft Works (.wps).
  2. Apple Pages file types.
  3. Spreadsheets created outside of Microsoft Excel (i.e. .ods).
  4. Open Office files saved as .doc, or Google Drive .odt files
  5. Microsoft Word 2007 macros-enabled files .docm (.doc and .docx are fine)
  6. Zip files may be accepted but cannot be rendered and are not recommended. If you need students to submit multiple files, it is better to use a Moodle assignment.

System requirements

  • Microsoft® Windows® Vista Service pack 1, Windows® 7,
  • Mac OS X v10.4.11+
  • 3GB of RAM or more
  • 1024×768 display or higher
  • Broadband internet connection
  • Firefox 15+, Chrome 23+, Safari 5+, Internet Explorer 9, 10, 11 (Not Internet Exlorer 8 or below)
  • Internet browser set to allow all cookies from Turnitin.com/Submit.ac.uk
  • Javascript enabled
  • Firewall must be set to allow
  • *.moodle.nottingham.ac.uk
  • *.turnitin.com
  • *.submit.ac.uk
  • *.edgecastcdn.net
  • *.edgecast.net
  • Pop-ups must be enabled: ensure that your browser allows pop-ups from submit.ac.uk and moodle.nottingham.ac.uk
    Many University computer room computers have popups disabled when you first log on. Check for an error message and the option to allow pop-ups from these sources.
  • While submitting

    • Before submitting (or marking) Turnitin for the first time you will be asked to agree to TurnitinUK’s terms and conditions (popups are required for this)
    • If you are using a Mac we would recommend using a browser other than Safari, at least until you have accepted the user agreement – e.g., Chrome or Firefox.

    Successful submission and receipts

    Turnitin will send you an email receipt which you will recive in your University email inbox.

    Also when you have submitted successfully, a popup will appear showing the Turnitin Paper ID and the first part of your text (this is unformatted but your file will retain the formatting). Recommended: Note down the Turnitin submission ID number or print that web page (Use the “Print Screen” button).

    As well as the emailed receipt, Turnitin also provides students with the ability to print a digital receipt at any time, once you have submitted. Click on title of your submission from the same page where you submitted your assignment.

    The Turnitin Document Viewer will open showing the document you uploaded. Click on the ‘Download’ icon (highlighted below)

    and select the ‘Digital Receipt’ option to download and print your digital receipt.

    Originality reports and similarity scores are normally generated within 10-15 minutes but a second submission to the same assignment within 24 hours will be delayed for 24 hours. If Turnitin is busy reports will also be delayed. (Submission will show as “Pending” while the report is being generated.)

    Note – some assignments may be set up by lecturers to NOT show originality reports to students.

    Your submission has been unsuccessful if:

    • There is a Submit to Turnitin button
    • You get an error message or see a paper title but not the Paper ID

    There is likely to be something wrong with your file – go through the requirements above then click Submit paper to resubmit a new file.

     

    Unsuccessful submission of assignment to Turnitin

    If you attempt to submit your assignment through Turnitin and the following message appears in your submission screen: Submit to Turnitin then your submission has not been received by Turnitin.

    Please click on the link to ‘Submit to Turnitin’ and hopefully this will then submit your assignment, however if this does not work we recommend you go through the submission checklist (listed above) to ensure there is nothing listed that is preventing your submission from being successfully uploaded. If this still does not work then please contact learning-technologies@nottingham.ac.uk.

    Variables in Xerte Online Toolkits

    April 29th, 2019

    Xerte Online Toolkits includes an optional property called ‘Variables’ – a powerful yet under-used feature which can help add variety to projects and increase the chances of them being reused by students. Instead of hard coding a calculation or example onto a page, such as 1 + 2 = 3, variables allow you to instead use a + b = c where the value of each of these variables is calculated and inserted (according to the parameters set by you in the Xerte editor) when the project is viewed. This means that every time a project is viewed a new set of questions or examples can be displayed, helping to ensure that students understand the logic behind what they are learning rather than just memorising a single example.

    The Xerte editor allows you to set a number of parameters that are be used to calculate a variable’s value on each view of the project. A value can be chosen from between minimum and maximum figures (at an increment of your choice), a value can be chosen randomly from a list, the number of decimal places and significant figures can be selected and specific values can be excluded from being allowed. Variables can also be created that rely on the value of other variables.

    More information

    See the Variables in Xerte Online Toolkits Guide for more information about how to start creating variables in Xerte.

    Fay Cross

    For University of Nottingham users, Xerte Toolkits can be found at https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/toolkits/

    Using Moodle Assignments for Group Work

    March 19th, 2019

    Moodle Assignments are really flexible and useful when setting up submission of groupwork. Set up an assignment for groups, and any member of a group can submit, and it will appear against all the other members of the group.  Mark one assignment and the marks and feedback appear against all the others in the group automatically. (Or you can, if you wish, choose to mark them separately.)

    It does rely on a few key actions:

    • Always use a grouping for group assignments – i.e. tell Moodle which particular set of groups are going to be used in this assignment.   If you don’t do that, Moodle will use all the groups, and will be quite confused if students are members of more than one.  For example, where there is one set of groups for group submission of a project plan, and also groups for Assurance of Learning – students will definitely be in the first set of groups, but only a proportion will also be in the second set.

    Groupings

    In the case above, the group assignment is set up to use the grouping “Group Assignment” – which will ignore Set A and Set B

    • Set up groups BEFORE submission. Submissins cannot be adjusted if made before the groups are sorted out. To be sure, hide the dropbox until the groups have been organised.
    • Stress to students the point at which they cannot change groups. It is very difficult to move students between groups after submission – Learning Technologies will attempt to move them in an emergency, but there’s no guarantee it will work, so it’s much better to be safe by fixing the groups before submission.
    And a big caveat:

    Don’t mark with Turnitin blue pencil/Feedback Studio.  The link with Turnitin is only intended to provide an originality report and similarity score. Although it appears possible, it is not advised to mark using Feedback Studio within Moodle. Turnitin does not recognise groups, and the feedback may not properly cascade to the other members of the group.

    There are lots of ways to mark a Moodle Assignment that can be used for your group, including:

    • Feedback Comments – typed text
    • Video or audio feedback via the MediaSpace button
    • Uploaded files, which can include a feedback form or rubric document, and/or an annotated version of the submission produced with Track Changes or a PDF annotator
    • A rubric that calculates the marks for you

    For more information see our Help website:

    How to enable group submissions in a Moodle assignment

     

    Libraries are changing: A new way to borrow books

    March 18th, 2019

    In April 2019 University of Nottingham Libraries are upgrading the library system. This is part of a big project to improve student experience in libraries. The changes we’re making are in direct response to your feedback. The new system will be easier to use, quicker and more effective.

    Importantly, when you’re trying to find library resources, we’re ensuring that everything is in one place – NUsearch. So no more linking to another website to request a book, no more clicking several times to get to your journal article, and no more signing in multiple times to view it when you’re off campus either.

    Before we make this change, we wanted to make you aware of some information that you might lose when we upgrade the system.

    As we are moving to a new system, UNLOC (the University of Nottingham Library Online Catalogue) will be shut down on 12 April 2019. Everything that currently exists in UNLOC, and more, is available in NUsearch – our online discovery tool.

    As of Monday 15 April, the following data will disappear from NUsearch.

    • My Favourites
    • Loans History
    • Inter-library loans history
    • Saved searches and search alerts

    If you are planning on using this information – whether it’s for quick reference, or to build up your bibliographies – you will need to take the following action:

    • My Favourites – you can export this by clicking on the three dots next to the record and following the instructions. We have put together a step by step guide, which can be viewed on our website.
    • Loans History – these cannot be exported, but you can make a note or take screen shots on NUsearch.
    • Inter-library loans history – these cannot be exported, but you can make a note or take screen shots on UNLOC.
    • Search history – these cannot be exported, but you can make a note or take screen shots on NUsearch
    • Saved searches and search alerts – these cannot be exported, but you can make a note or take screen shots on NUsearch. When you are on NUsearch, click on the saved search to re-run it. You will open up the search and allow you to see what filters you have applied.

    The Libraries appreciate users’ patience and offer apologies for any inconvenience. They hope you’ll see, once it goes live, how much better the new system is.

    Introducing help.turnitin.com

    February 22nd, 2019

    Turnitin have advised us that from 9 March 2019, their help website at guides.turnitin.com will no longer be available. Instead, help.turnitin.com will become the new help and guidance site for Turnitin. (For University-specific guidance see the end of this post.)

    • New features: Users can now view refreshed and reorganised content, filter their search results by their product e.g. Feedback Studio, and use the language selector on the homepage to view available guidance in one of our 19 supported languages.
    • Bookmarks and new links: From 9 March, any bookmarks and saved links to guides.turnitin.com will redirect automatically to the help.turnitin.com homepage. To update your bookmarks or any links in your own guidance, check out this list of new links to Turnitin’s most frequently accessed guidance.

     help.turnitin.com will soon include:

    • A known issues section for Turnitin integrations such as the one with Moodle
    • A student guides refresh to add levity and clarity

    If you have any questions, suggestions, or concerns about the new site, please email guides-move@turnitin.com.

    Our own guidance on using Turnitin should be the first stop for University of Nottingham users, as it’s customised to our own installation:

    Anonymous forums in Moodle

    February 15th, 2019

    We are occasionally asked about how staff can set up anonymous forums in Moodle.

    At the time of writing there is no official anonymous forum in Moodle. The Moodle space is designed to be, like the classroom, a safe learning community where students feel OK to speak, and there are ways to build that type of community online should you wish to know more.  To some extent it is better to train students to be confident to ask questions – and even to facilitate each other in asking questions.  This will substantially support their learning. And after all, they will not be anonymous in the workplace.  One route to this is:

    • Put the answers to emailed questions on a forum so they have to look there, they don’t get an email back
    • Facilitate students putting their questions in the forum / or in an FAQ
    • Make the instructions clear, design the activity carefully to promote participation, and encourage posting whenever possible
    • Answer only in the forum/FAQ

    Having said that – and there is evidence to support the use of both anonymous and named forums – there are still occasions where anonymous responses are useful.

    In Moodle you can set up a Database activity in which, while staff can see who has posed questions, you can exclude the student name for view by other students. You can also use the FAQ (done via the Glossary tool) where students can add Questions and you can edit and add answers which all can see.  If you would like to try any of these please let us know and we can point you at some examples.

    Example of a Database resource used for anonymous questions

    Anonymous Database

    Example of a Glossary resource used for anonymous FAQ

    You can also use Office365 to set up forms on which students can submit anonymous feedback, but this would need to be transcribed in some way and put into Moodle manually.

    One genuinely anonymous activity in Moodle is Feedback, however neither the questions nor the answers can be made visible to other students. It’s a questionnaire which can compile responses for you, and which can be set up to be completely anonymous even to users with the highest level of permissions in Moodle. To share the answers you would need to copy and paste them into a visible activity or resource.

    Anonymous Feedback

    The Learning Technology Team have also looked at various Moodle plugins which allow anonymous forums or questions: however, such plugins are often not appropriate in our Moodle installation – it’s one of the largest in the world, which brings its own issues. For example, many of the advertised solutions use one single Anonymous account for all anonymous posts. In a University the size of ours (we currently have 66,200 active users), the number of people using it would soon crash a single account!

    We are still looking at possibilities and hope to have more options in due course.

    There are alternative external third-party tools of various kinds which are a replacement for forums and/or allow students to post anonymously.  It rarely encourages participation, if students are reluctant, to send them to an outside third party site where they have to create yet another account.  Usually, even if integrations are offered with the VLE (Moodle), then they don’t offer much more than existing forums, except for the anonymous possibility.  It should be borne in mind that:

    • posts on external websites are not kept on University systems for later review and record-keeping
    • such websites and services can disappear at any time (we are speaking from bitter experience!)
    • they may not be usable on our China campus or in other countries from where our global community of students access our resources
    • it is your responsibility to ensure that the systems are GDPR-compliant and secure.

    Whatever you do, it is certainly the case that just setting up a space will not necessarily encourage students to participate. If you build it they won’t just come. They need to be guided and motivated to do so. And that’s where we can help, for example, see our Online Facilitation and Designing for Engagement course, itself online over two weeks (https://training.nottingham.ac.uk/Guests/GuestCourse.aspx?CourseRef=ONLINETEACH&dates= ).

    Working online more comfortably #3: More accessible ways to use Turnitin Feedback Studio

    February 5th, 2019

    The Turnitin HelpDesk passed onto me a good tip for those who prefer or need a larger font when creating or reading Bubble comments and general feedback in Feedback Studio.

    First open Notepad and paste into it the following code:

    <font size=”+2″>Test</font>

    Keep Notepad open

    When marking, each time you create a new bubble comment. copy and paste that code into it. Then delete the word Test and type whatever you wish. The text will stay large as you type. If you need it even larger, use “+3″ or more.

    The same trick works in the Text Comments box.

    Hopefully this might help some of those who find it a strain on their eyes to do online marking.

    All posts in this series: