Learning Technology

New Test Your Text Turnitin dropboxes

May 12th, 2016

turnitinAs we near the end of the semester we know that there is a vast increase in the number of assignment submissions through Turnitin. This includes Test Your Text. To speed up students getting their similarity reports, we have taken action to replace the Test Your Text module in Moodle with a new one, and with brand new assignment submission dropboxes.

This should improve performance for all students. A few students who submitted yesterday through the old boxes may now no longer be able to access their originality report. In such cases students should submit again in Test Your Text – the submissions will not match against previous ones.

Digitising and Visualising: recordings of T & L Seminar on 4 Nov 2015

May 11th, 2016

The topic of our session on Wednesday 4th November 2015 was digitising and visualisation, images and identification.

Susan Anderson (GEM) talked about the “virtual microscope” developed in 2009 and currently used by about a thousand students around the University.

The subject of Jon Henderson’s talk could hardly be a greater contrast – ground truthing digital images of underwater sites and how they can be turned into three-dimensional visualisations.

List of Teaching and Learning Seminar Recordings

T & L Seminar Wed 18 May: What do the UST, DUST and the STN network do at the University of Nottingham?

May 10th, 2016

Ever wondered what the University Senior Tutor does … or the Senior Tutor Network? Perhaps you’ve never heard of either. A new University Senior Tutor was appointed earlier in the year (Pam Hagan) and, for the first time, a Deputy University Senior Tutor (Gaby Neher). Gaby will attempt to answer these questions – and others – during her talk and, with Pam in the audience, the two will then take questions from the floor.

Date: Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

Time: 12.30 p.m. with hot drinks from 12:15 p.m.

Location: Room A39, Sir Clive Granger Building, University Campus

To be sure we have enough tea and coffee, please email laura.dominguez@nottingham.ac.uk if you intend to be present.

See https://mediaspace.nottingham.ac.uk/channel/Teaching-and-Learning-Seminars/37375801 for recordings of past talks. (UoN login required.)

Final note: the last talk of 2015–2016 (on two recent NOOCs) will take place on Tuesday (not Wednesday), May 31st.

4 good reasons to optimise the size of your images in documents

May 5th, 2016

When creating documents, it’s always good practice to include in them only images that are of an appropriate size. For example, there’s hardly ever any need to upload the original 10MB photograph that your modern camera or smartphone took. Reducing the size BEFORE adding it to the document is good practice and will keep the size of your document low. This is particularly important if you are storing or submitting it online, e.g., to a Moodle or Turnitin assignment dropbox.

Two ways of reducing that image size are

  1. to crop the image or make it smaller and
  2. reduce the file quality and thus the size.

The online quality of an image doesn’t need to be as high as if you are printing it onto paper.

There are a number of reasons why you should compress images in Office files.

  1. Saves space on your disk storage.
    In this day and age of having many hundreds of Gigabytes of storage readily available, this would seem a non-issue. However, large files have an increased risk of data corruption due to disk failure than small files. Also whilst hard disks are generally very large, USB storage can be much smaller, so to be truly portable file size is very important.
  2. Saves space on institutional disk storage.
    Even corporate or University systems have finite disk storage space, and each person has a finite amount allocated. In your personal file share, in Moodle or as electronically submitted assignments, a smaller file takes up less space.  There are also upload limits built into online software.
  3. For Turnitin assignments for example, 20 MB is the largest file size allowed (40 MB is on the way…).
  4. Documents load faster, and presentations run faster.
    Logically, if you have a number of big images in a document, it will take longer to load into the system, so using small files will mean you (or your readers) have to wait for less time for the file to open. Also large images take longer to draw on screen and when doing presentations this can cause a lag on screen. When students submit assignments, they are quicker to mark if kept as small as possible. Students might even get feedback quicker!

With thanks to Claire Chambers, School of Geography, for the initial document on which this post is based.

Video team wins Learning on Screen Award

April 29th, 2016

Congratulations to Learning Technology’s Video Production team for their success in 2016’s Learning on Screen Awards. The team have scooped this prestigious award for the film From the ‘Just War’ to the Unjust Peace which was produced as part of a suite of films made for the FutureLearn MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) Propaganda and Ideology in Everyday Life.

The free course, which was developed with Professor Maiken Umbach from the School of History, and Professor Mat Humphrey from the School of Politics, as well as colleagues at the British Library, attracted over 12,000 learners on the FutureLearn platform when it first ran last year. If you missed the course the first time round it will run again this spring starting on 16th May: sign up for this award-winning course at futurelearn.com.


This is fantastic recognition for the team who have been consistently praised for their professionalism and the high quality of the service they provide to the University.  If you’d like to work with the team please get in touch.

Submitting assignments through Moodle and successfully using Turnitin

April 22nd, 2016

Coursework submission period has come round again and it’s time to offer you some tips to successfully submit assignments through Moodle including Turnitin.

  1. There is a current known issue that Turnitin GradeMark does not load in Safari browsers – it affects both staff marking and students viewing feedback and the workaround is to use a different browser, such as Chrome. This will be fixed next time we upgrade the Turnitin plugin
  2. We’ve put together a Turnitin and Moodle assignment checklist – checking this BEFORE  submitting will help reduce the chances of your submission not being uploaded.  Particularly check file sizes and file types.
  3. If you have submitted the wrong document it’s usually possible to re-submit it if it’s still before the deadline. Go back to the submission page and overwrite your original submission. It will not match in Turnitin against your previous paper. (It does depend on how the assignment dropbox has been set up.)
  4. (University of Nottingham only for this one)  You can test your essay in the Test Your Text module (it won’t count as a match in your real module). The link is at the top of every Moodle page. This won’t match against your real submission. But remember students have only one originality report in each 24 hour period, so if you are going to test your text, do it well in advance of the deadline.
  5. Give yourself plenty of time – submit well before the deadline to allow for problems and so that the system isn’t as busy as it can get two minutes before the deadline passes.

If you do encounter an issue please contact: learning-technologies@nottingham.ac.uk

Looking at a Turnitin assignment for your receipt and feedback:

Copyright and e-learning: recording of T & L Seminar on 9 Mar 2016

April 20th, 2016

On 9 March 2016 our Teaching and Learning Seminar was on Copyright and e-learning: everything you need to know but were afraid to ask, with Tony Simmonds as our speaker, aiming to bust myths about copyright and map out the real dos and don’ts, giving staff confidence to reuse images, video and text to support online learning. This was followed by a panel session during which the panel members – academics who have faced copyright challenges – fielded questions from the audience.

Will it be OK to use this image in my slides?  If something’s free to view online, can’t I do anything I want with it?  How can I put a copy of this article on Moodle? 

List of Teaching and Learning Seminar Recordings

Gamification and Ludology: recordings of T & L Seminar on 6 April 2016

April 19th, 2016

The theme for our 6 April 2016 Teaching & Learning Seminar was Gamification and Ludology, and their application in teaching and learning.

Games industry veteran Andy Chambers (Games Workshop, Activision-Blizzard) spoke about gamification within commercial settings and its value in maintaining the player base of long-running games such as  World of Warcraft, Warhammer 40,000 and Starcraft. Players have repeatedly shown themselves capable of ‘mutating’ the micro and macro elements of game architecture in these functional environments to produce unexpected results. What could we learn from this about motivation that we can apply ourselves?

Ivan Lombardi, tutor, joined us virtually from Japan to talk about two uses of gamification. Firstly at the University of Fukui (Japan) where Fukudai Hero is a video game-like English class for students of Engineering (with low motivation to take compulsory English classes). It aims to  strengthen the students’ engagement with the class content (usually a range of topics for basic communication in English) by using core game elements like quests, a point system, and free choice. At Nottingham, the online MA Programme in Digital Technologies for Language Teaching includes a gamified module on Game-based learning. Both capitalize on different game elements.

List of Teaching and Learning Seminar Recordings

Inspiration from the Xerte conference 2016

April 18th, 2016

Last Thursday’s Xerte conference (14 April 2016) proved to be a motherlode of inspiration and examples of wonderful Xerte projects from diverse contexts.  Xerte is used by institutions large and small. This map of users is just the beginning (tweet @patlockley to be added to the map if you’re not on it)

The first keynote was from Ian Dolphin who talked about the future, for technology and Apereo and its projects and community members. Sal Cooke, recently Director of TechDis, credited the developers and others involved in the journey of Xerte.

The Xhibitapp was popular. From Joel Reed and James Roscoe, it’s a simple way to create a look and feel – a theme – for your Xerte Toolkit – still in development. They created custom themes for the AgriFood ATP students.

Xerte is used at Abertay University as a mechanism to support students and disseminate information  – it’s easy to embed media content. Alison Christie talked about Raising the profile of Xerte.

At the University of Liverpool Xerte has been used for interactive tutorials in study skills and information literacy since 2009.

Julian Tenney told us how to use Xete’s RSS feeds to create a feed aggregator which could be used as a learning hub for a distributed and connected online course, perhaps along the lines of ds106.us

Accessibility has always been a strong feature of Xerte, and Alistair McNaught reminded us of the key elements. Accessibility requires moving beyond multimodal design to include interactivity & social media. Alt tags on images, key point summary on audio, subtitled videos, scene description and using heading styles are all  ways to format documents appropriately to be accessible.  Xerte has many built-in accessibility features.

Inge Donkervoort (@12ChangeLearn) warned us that 90% of all information learned in traditional classroom settings is lost within a year, and recommended flipped learning, spaced repetition, micro- and nano-learning. The Media Lesson pagetype in Xerte can be used to synchronise video with text and other items (such as Google maps) and finishing up with assessment via multiple choice questions. A five minute nano-lesson could be sent to learners in a responsive form for their mobile devices.

Kent Fire and Rescue Service, Jason Bardell told us, uses Xerte for training for fire service staff and for the public.

In Cardiff, Xerte is used as an ePortfolio assessment solution: an integrated Moodle-Xerte platform is used for the creation and submission of candidate evidence and the corresponding online assessment and external moderation of that evidence.

Student-created learning materials produced in Xerte were also very much to the fore.  When using Xerte with students a certain amount of support is needed to get them up and running – and it helps to give a bit of an introduction to learning design, too.

Kerry Pinny from Lincoln gave their example in the Making Digital History project: “an opportunity for students to communicate their learning to a public audience, using a Xerte object, in the process developing a range of digital and other skills.” “We learn better when we relate our learning to others.”   Xerte’s simplicity is one of the advantages when using with students.

In Nottingham Biosciences students were using Xerte in a compulsory professional skills module  (about a third of the 150 students decided to use Xerte for the final learning object creation assessment). Task details and example: Where can a degree in Nutrition take you?

Liz Mossop is using Xerte in the Vet School, Nottingham, and Michael Randall in the School of Health Sciences, Nottingham, is using it, both  in problem-based learning, to drip feed information in order to help groups make a clinical diagnosis, and then making medication recommendations, with students also creating virtual cases.  The decision tree template comes in useful here.

Steve Stapleton was making ebooks with Xerte about Business Sustainability – which raises the question – what IS an ebook? A Xerte object has moved a good way from the traditional book format – but shouldn’t we embrace these possibilities? Ebook is a contradiction in terms perhaps?

In the last session of the day, the community was joined by Marcella Oliviero who has won the Apereo Atlas prize with a Xerte object for language teaching. Many congratulations!

Teaching & Learning Seminar: Facilitating online learning: Wed 4th May

April 12th, 2016

Our next Teaching and Learning Seminar is our annual visit to Sutton Bonington to coincide with the monthly Farmers’ Market. The speakers will all focus on facilitating online learning, both in wholly online and in blended courses.

James Roscoe is part of the AgriFood Advanced Training Partnership (AATP). The AATP offers a number of distance learning courses for professionals working in the agrifood industry. Many of the courses consist of standalone learning resources, but recently more active facilitation techniques have been brought in. James will report on the impact these have had on the students as well as the implications for facilitating their forthcoming MOOC on ‘Antimicrobial Resistance in the Food Chain’. [Edited as Joel Reed is no longer speaking.]

Christine Lee, who recently completed a PhD in the School of Education, has taken part in facilitating and evaluating NOOCs. She will talk about her practical experience and how it could inform facilitation of blended and online learning within the University.

Sally Chappell is involved with both distance-learning and blended MSc courses in the School of Life Sciences. She will talk about her plans for gamification within Moodle to encourage student participation (including geo-based treasure hunts), as well as touching on other approaches she has tried over the last year or so.

Date: Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

Time: 12.30 p.m. with hot drinks from 12:15 p.m.

Location: Room A33, Food Sciences Building, Sutton Bonington Campus

To be sure we have enough tea and coffee, please email laura.dominguez@nottingham.ac.uk if you intend to be present.