Learning Technology

Phew! What we did last summer

October 8th, 2012 at 04:10

This time of year is always a busy one. New students, new modules, new systems, new services… it’s all new, upgraded and in full use. It barely gives anyone in the University time to think and digest what has happened. As such, perhaps if only in blog form, for the summer just gone, between Olympic glories, summer holidays, tennis grand slams and England football disappointments, the Learning Technology Section’s summer looked like this…


It should come as no surprise that the main development this summer was the rollout of Moodle as the University’s central VLE. Moodle now provides online learning support for 61.5K students and 8.5K staff in three countries. Working closely with staff across the University and international campuses, for the first time a single VLE is now used across all schools. This includes training all staff, school-based consultancy to develop consistent module structures, promotional events, creating online support materials and a number of enhancements and plugins to replicate previous features and tools available in other systems in use across the University. This has been a huge undertaking and the list of features now available in addition to the core Moodle offering includes:


1.             University Resources

Block added to all courses that has a library catalogue search (campus specific), link to library location information and link to centrally provided study (support) resources e.g. Managing your students, finding information etc.

2.            Module Resources

Block that can be added to all modules that provides a link to the module catalogue for the module it is in, and the reading list service. Each link can be individually enabled/disabled.

3.            Business School

A Block that is added to all Business School Modules that links with Nexus, providing direct access to the limited amount of functionality that the Business School are still delivering in Nexus.

4.            Participate

Block that enrols you onto the module (that you have access to already via another method) as a student. Used with Bulk Role Assign.

5.            Curriculum Map PlugIn

Enables Curriculum Mapping Information in the Moodle interface so that you can drill up and down Learning Outcomes. See below for details of the new Curriculum Mapping engine.

6.            Echo360 Echo Center

Links to the Echo Capture technology and displays lecture capture recordings that match the module ID.

7.            Medical School Formulary

Links to multi-dimensional (and multi-functional) drugs database that is used in medicine courses. Provides glossary function as will link to drugs in a Moodle course.

8.            Medical School Search

Google powered search of the medical subsection of Moodle

9.            Medicine Course Tutor Meeting Confirmation

Link to a specific page on the NLE where students indicate attendance at a tutorial meeting.

10.          Module Navigation

Block that allows you to jump directly to any topic area in the shortened course view I.e. Just top topic and the numbered topic

11.          Open Educational Resources

Puts a search box for Open Educational Resources into the course. Search powered by Xpert (UoN Developed Tool).

12.          Section Navigation

Facilitates that the linear navigation through all content in topic. Used to replicate Learning Module operation from WebCT.

Course Formats

13.          Calendar Course Format

Creates a course view where each event in the University central timetable system is represented in collapsible form in the course list (oldest at the top). Materials can then be added to each teaching event.

14.          Collapsible Topics Format

Creates a course view where the topics can be open and collapsed to clean the interface.


15.          Absence Form

Tool that facilitates reporting of missed attendance at teaching events. If using the calendar format absence ‘notes’ can be attached to a teaching event. Absence notes are stored in the system and visible by the editing teacher.

16.          Allocation Form

Tool for allocating students based on a preference model. Students are given a number of options to choose from and these are rated most desirable to least desirable. System will random shuffle students many times to get the best fit of students getting their choices. Supports a do not want where students will not get that option.

17.          Turnitin Assignment

Provides mechanism to submit files to the cloud hosted Turnitin Plagiarism Matching Service.

18.          Tutorial Booking

Creates tutorial signup sheets with slots in them that have spaces to which students can reserve.

19.          Vote

Provides first past the post or alternative voting tool.


20.          WebCT Migration Tool

Allows the import of files into Moodle from a file store of all files in WebCT.

Admin Tools

21.          Auto Create Users

Tools that takes overnight (incremental) data from Saturn and process them to create user accounts inside Moodle.

22.          Auto Enrol Users

Tools that takes overnight (incremental) data from Saturn and process them to enrol users inside Moodle.

23.          Bulk Role Assign

Tool that will apply enrolments onto a category (nightly) based on a search expression on the user profile. E.g. “Where Source of data = uk-saturn”


24.          JMOL

Molecular Modelling Filter running on any pdb file uploaded into Moodle

25.          Latex

Outputs Latex entered in Moodle as Maths equation


26.          Base Theme

Current Design of Moodle. A new design is in development with Marketing and Communications and a demo site will be made available for feedback.

27.          School Themes (Banners)

School Specific Banners at the top of module pages

28.          Course Overview Plugin

Rework of Module Listing on My page that allows more than 21 modules to be viewed. Supports alternative ordering.

29.          Language Pack Adjustments

Edited Moodle terminology to align more effectively with University requirements e.g. Course to Module

30.          Moodle Calendar & University Timetable Sync Engine

Puts University Timetable events into Moodle calendar. Future update will include making this optional to reflect local requirements.

However, that’s not all and scheduled enhancements in the very near future  include…

  1. Equella integration, providing local storage for files in the international campuses and synchronisation across all three sites.
  2. Rogō integration
  3. Xerte Online Toolkits integration

As well as the establishment of Moodle Extenders and Developers (MEAD) community for supporting all future requests, extensions and community based developments.

We regret that there have been teething issues at times and apologise for any inconvenience caused; however, it is pleasing to see the take-up of Moodle increase daily.


Not only have we developed new tools and features for Moodle this summer, but Rogō our e-assessment tool has also seen the release of a new version in September including improvements to security, student view, centralised exam scheduling and area question types (students can now draw around an area for their answer). This year Rogō was also released under an open source licence with partners across 5 Universities exploring the benefits of our home-grown system.


Curriculum mapping engine

A new development this year was the creation of a new curriculum mapping engine. Designed and built in partnership with the Medical School, Vet School, Engineering Faculty and School of Nursing and Midwifery, the new system provides a powerful way to describe the curriculum structure from high-level programme level learning outcomes to granular sessional learning outcomes. The mapping engine is now integrated within Moodle and provides a number of different views onto the curriculum map, including heatmap view and hierarchical structure.


Xerte 1.8 and HTML 5 Xerte (for use on tablets like the iPad)

Xerte Online Toolkits has been upgraded to version 1.8, with a host of new features. The upgrade takes the number of templates to a total of 75 (from 55 previously). For users deploying Xerte Online Toolkits in their own institutions, the new version brings support for internationalisation, making it easy to deploy the software in a different language. For a full list of features see here (http://titanpad.com/xertenewfeatures).

Version 1.9 is now in development, with work underway to allow Xerte Online Toolkits to deliver content in HTML5 (JISC funded through the Xenith project), and new work to support the production of ePub format ebooks. The second Xerte Project AGM will be held at the University on Oct 10th and 11th, and there may be some tickets left: http://xerteprojectagm.eventbrite.co.uk.

Video edit suites

The Video Production Group have completed the upgrade of all the hardware / software in the edit suites, and the team eagerly anticipate the delivery of two new cameras. The edit suites machines had reached the end of their life: the upgrade has delivered up to date dedicated HP workstations and Avid software, and the suites are available for anyone to use. The Video Production Group can provide full training in all aspects of video production to staff and students: contact the team for further details.

Open Nottingham

Open learning continues to be an important area for us, with two new OER projects funded by JISC under PARiS. Building on the success of previous open learning initiatives at the University, the multi-element PARiS project aims to move Open Educational Resources (OER) into non-traditional areas for the University and the Higher Education (HE) sector as a whole. Projects included working with the Ear Foundation to develop OER to support teachers, parents and care providers of children with cochlear implants, and new materials on the subject of sustainability in the curriculum. The latter has recently been redeveloped as an iBook (click here to see blog post), providing a rich and visually attractive way to engage with open resources on the iPad.

Xpert Attribution

The team have also been working on a JISC funded extension to Xpert to enable users to add open licenses to their own images and upload to sites such as faceBook, Twitter  and Flickr. Watch this space for more news….


We have also supported the rollout of Echo360. Lecture recording using Echo360 is now available in more locations across all University campuses. The enhanced features such as live webcasting capability and student bookmark/discussion around the recordings are proving popular.

This alongside the day job of training, consultancy, filming, content development, maintenance and promotion, it has been a busy and exciting time for all.


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