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Open Education’s Fantastic SHED Show

On 24 November I attended the joint SHED (Scottish Higher Education Developers) and JISC event on Open Education, in Glasgow. Speakers from various Scottish universities (and other educational organisations) presented on a range of topics related to the idea of making higher education available to all.

The highlight for me was Sheila McNeill from Glasgow Caledonian University, who explained how her team had created GCU Games On, an online learning ‘event’ centred on the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, and done so within a matter of weeks. An off-the-cuff suggestion, made in a meeting on 11 June, had become an online space with activities ready to start on 10 July. Although the resulting ‘event’ was modest in scale, it indicated a can-do attitude and absence of organisational barriers that I found most encouraging.

The event included:

  • Course content taken from various subjects related to the Games, e.g. sports science, some of which was converted into interactive activities;
  • A mix of social media channels to allow participants to contribute, including Twitter, Gmail, Trello and Padlet;
  • Use of Open Badges (see later in this post) to reward completion of activities.

There were no blogs or discussion forums, since there was no staff resource to support such things. A total of 211 people took part over 3 weeks, sending 424 tweets, and reaction was good, particularly the way participants embraced the idea of badges. Sheila admits that the enterprise was “pedagogically suspect”, but they learned a lot by turning around such an event in such a short time, and are now ready to do something more interesting next time.

I liked this not so much because of the event itself, but just in seeing a working example of “event-based learning”. I think LSE could do something very interesting in this area, with online learning focused on specific political and world events (elections, summits, outbreaks, wars), aiming to provide a space where people can learn about the background to events as they unfold, while contributing to a live debate around them.

Another interesting presentation came from Kerr Gardiner of the University of Glasgow, who gave an overview of Glasgow’s foray into MOOC provision. Glasgow’s are working with FutureLearn, and followed this process:

  • Initial staff meetings to gather ideas and discuss approaches
  • Call for bids from academics and departments
  • Selection of successful bids done by the senior management team, thus guaranteeing buy-in
  • £15K allocated per MOOC – but see below for more on costs
  • Production done by local teams, but with centralised oversight and media production

The interesting aspect of all this was the cost. That £15K covers copyright costs and GTA wages amongst other things; but it doesn’t include the costs of in-house media production, nor an awful lot of uncosted academic effort. It’s clear therefore that the figure of £15K is a red herring, and Kerr hopes to look into this further, to estimate the “true hidden cost” of a MOOC.

Another lesson was the need for specialised copyright support. Since MOOCs are so visible, developers need to be extra careful about obtaining rights. The fact that MOOCs were being done by separate groups, and the lack of centralised copyright expertise, meant that it all proved expensive.

Finally, Celeste McLaughlin from the (soon-to-be-defunct) JISC RSC for Scotland talked to us about her use of Open Badges to incentivise and accredit CPD activities. Open Badges can be awarded for achievement of certain criteria, and those viewing a person’s badge online can click it to find out what those criteria were.

Some examples used for online courses were “Completer” and “Influencer” badges. Completer is given for finishing an online course, but only upon completion of a post-course reflective summary, based on a template. The template asks questions such as “what ideas will you take forward from this course into your work?” and “what challenges do you anticipate in using these skills?”. Full engagement is encouraged by the use of minimum word counts, completed exemplar forms, and negotiation with the participant.

The Influencer badge, meanwhile, was awarded to those voted by their peers as having contributed most meaningfully to an online course. The promise of achieving this badge seems to have increased markedly the level of contribution to courses.

Sheila recommended the JISC Open Badges Design Toolkit as a good place to start.

Overall, then, more fantastic than bobbins: an interesting and varied day, attended by a friendly and helpful community of practitioners – much like the M25 Learning Technology Group that we have here in London.

November 25th, 2014|Conferences, Open Education|Comments Off on Open Education’s Fantastic SHED Show|

E-assessment Scotland 2014

On 5 September I attended this one-day event at the University of Dundee, billed as the UK’s “largest conference dedicated to exploring the best examples of e-assessment in the world today”. LSE has an growing interest in e-assessment (which we might define as the use of IT to facilitate assessment processes), with various pilot projects on the go this year.

Total e-assessment

With that in mind, one presentation in Dundee proved a real eye-opener for me. Linda Morris, an academic in University of Dundee’s College of Life Sciences, told us that by 2015 the College will have moved to the point where all assessment, across all 4 years and including final exams, will be done online. Furthermore, this marks the end point of a journey which started a long time ago – in fact they already were using e-assessment for all 1st-year courses by 2003! I felt more than a little embarrassed, to be honest.

The drivers for this change were simple: More students, asking for more feedback, and fewer staff. The paper-based assessment regime was becoming completely unmanageable. A fully-online system means no paper, remote access for markers, progress tracking, and easy distribution of feedback. It is also popular with students, many of whom have fallen out of the habit of writing at length by hand (and whose writing may be barely legible as a result).

Dundee’s system uses a combination of Exam Online for essay questions and QuestionMark Perception for other question types. This system supports all the forms of submission they need, as well as all their marking requirements: blind marking, multiple markers, inline comments, and marking workflow.

Do people like it? Yes. Linda says “once you start down the road of e-assessment, you won’t get anyone to go back”.


Various vendors were on hand to promote their wares: Surpass, Cirrus, QuestionMark and MyProgress, amongst others. However, I found it hard to see what, if anything, these tools would offer us that Moodle does not already provide. In fact, in some cases the feature set seemed much thinner than that of the Moodle quiz tool.


Peter Reed of the University of Liverpool started the day by identifying institutional problems with the introduction of e-assessment. Such a move is often done in a piecemeal manner, perhaps in response to NSS scores, and as a result fails to be transformational. He also pointed to a lack of flexibility in submission practices, which may assume that all submissions are documents, and prevent students from submitting other digital artefacts.

In thinking about e-assessment at the institutional level, he encouraged us to apply Brookfield’s “4 Lenses”. This theory proposes that any teaching and learning activity should be evaluated from four different perspectives: self-reflection, students, literature (i.e. theory and evidence) and peers (i.e. staff).

For example, through the student lens, we should think about the week-on-week burden of assessment. An assessment won’t be an effective measure of student achievement if that student has 3 other, more pressing assessments, in that same week. This can be countered by spreading out the assessment load: instead of a single high-stakes assessments at the end of module, spread out lower-stakes assessments through the term. Similarly, through the peer lens, we need to think about assessment load across different programmes and different years. Where there are multiple assessments from different sources in the same week, administrative staff or markers may be unable to cope.

In the other keynote, Mark Glynn of Dublin City University spoke about “assessment analytics”, proposing that the “click data” that VLEs typically provide are of limited value, and that assessment data is what will provide really the useful analytics. Such analytics may be Descriptive (what happened), Diagnostic (why it happened), Predictive (what’s gonna happen) or Prescriptive (what should happen).

I had a problem with one of his ideas for such analytics: to show students how they had performed in relation to their peers. This would be beneficial to the student, he claimed, because they could tell whether 75% was “good” in the context of the overall marking on their assessment. I found this rather depressing; 75% should mean “good”, regardless of how the other students performed. If it does not, then it means we do not know how to mark properly: the percentage grades we assign have no inherent meaning, and assessment becomes simply a process of sorting students into order of achievement, rather than determining how well they have achieved the objectives of the course. The use of technology to patch up these failures of assessment is not exactly inspiring.


This was a worthwhile conference, with some valuable insights into what other institutions are doing in this area. The day conference was followed by a longer online programme, which is ongoing at the time of writing.


September 15th, 2014|Conferences, eAssessment News|Comments Off on E-assessment Scotland 2014|

The Flipping Conference

On 29th April 2014, the University of Bath held the UK’s first conference on “flipping”. Flipping is the practice of taking the information content of a traditional lecture, and delivering it to students in some other way (e.g. video). This then frees the face-to-face time in class to allow the teacher to interact with students, and the students to interact with each other.


Flipping in action (CC Ffion Atkinson on

This short conference brought together teachers who have flipped their own lectures, those like myself who encourage and support teachers in doing so, and those who are thinking about trying it. Often, as a learning technologist, I find myself at conferences where I am surrounded by people who are at one remove from the classroom, so it was great to be at a conference where the majority of participants were themselves actually teaching in higher education. The conference came out of Bath’s Flipping Project, which is a concerted effort to promote, support and enhance the practice of flipping at Bath.

The morning parallel workshops focused on three distinct areas: What is flipping? for the beginners, Flipping with learning technologies covering the means of delivery, and So what do you do in the lecture room?, which was the main question I had come with. This session turned out to be rather similar in structure to the “Flipping lectures” workshop I run at LSE with Kris Roger (see the end of this post for more details on that). The session was led by Dr. Helen King from Bath, who presented us with 3 common concerns that lecturers often have about flipping, and challenged us to come up with some answers. Some of the thoughts that emerged from my group and the wider room are below:

 If I provide the content ahead of time, they won’t come to class

  • As with any learning innovation, it is important to explain your learning theory to students, so they know why they are being asked to do this, and why they will benefit if they engage
  • Hold back some content, or information about exam etc., to be revealed in class
  • Emphasise that the class provides an opportunity for asking questions
  • Provide opportunities for the students to feed back on the teaching and to articulate what they need as learners
  • Provide clarity about what they should expect to get, and to do, when they come to class
  • Put assessment-relevant activities into the classroom – so what they do in class will directly help them get a better mark.
  • Introduce elements of gamification and competition, e.g. shotgun presentations on a prepared topic, with prizes on offer.

How do I know they are talking about the work and not gossiping?

  • One teacher uses a “Ball of destiny” – which he throws randomly to someone in the class, who then has to speak on the current topic (this sounds like rather intimidating behavior to me…)
  • Use a roving mic, and get groups to report back to the cohort on the topic at hand
  • Wander about the room, listen in to conversations, join in, ask questions

How do I know that they are learning?

  • The answer to this is another question: How do you know that they are learning now? When you’re lecturing, or in fact doing any kind of teaching, how do you know that they are learning? This is a much broader question than one about flipping.
  • Use online quizzes to track progress
  • Set and assess coursework
  • Use clickers in the classroom to gauge understanding

Helen noted here that one of the benefits of getting lecturers to engage with the idea of flipping, even if they don’t actually do it, is that it means lecturers are reflecting on their teaching and talking to each other, with the focus on what students are doing in class. That has very much been our experience with our flipping workshops at LSE, where we get a group of lecturers from different disciplines discussing their approaches to teaching. That in itself is valuable, even if only a small number of them actually go ahead and flip their lectures.

Some more general points that emerged from the workshop:

  • We need to prepare students for flipped content, by providing plenty of warning and preparation. When a whole module is flipped, run a trial run for one session in a previous module.
  • Flipping is not so different from the traditional model. We already expect students to do follow-up readings to complement their notes after a lecture. In the flipped model, they are doing that work before the lecture, instead of after it.
  • Doing a controlled study is difficult, because in order to be ethical you need to populate groups voluntarily, which may lead to uneven groups or to selection bias.

In the afternoon came the swap shop sessions where flipping case studies were presented. Two lecturers from Reading University, one in linguistics and the other in entrepreneurship, presented their results of flipping:

  • The entrepreneurship lecturer found a very slight decline in results overall after flipping, but noted that his EFL and dyslexic students were raised up to a similar level as other students. Meanwhile, the linguistics lecturer found a general improvement in results across all groups.
  • The attitudinal survey results from entrepreneurship students were improved right across the board, even in areas not associated with flipping.
  • The linguistics lecturer found that flipping proved popular with Chinese students. This surprised her, as she expected their previous educational experience would make them less comfortable with this approach.
  • The flipping was heralded well in advance (it started in week 5, but was heavily trailed from the outset).
  • Students valued seeing video of the lecturer; they much preferred this to audio-only as it made the content seem more personal. Also, the low-ish production values and absence of editing (no topping and tailing, all hesitations and mistakes left in) seem to create a more ‘human’ feeling to the video content.
  • Some students who did not engage at first were eventually won over by the sense that they were missing out on something in class. The linguistics lecturer said that she would behave in class as if everyone had done the pre-work – no allowances were made for those who had not done the work.

I followed this with a case study of an LSE course in Business Transformation and Project Management, where several lectures were flipped by providing students with a filmed interview with an expert practitioner from the “real world”, and then using the lesson time for a Q&A session with that same expert. These are baby steps compared with some other institutions that are flipping entire modules, but they do serve as case studies to encourage others.

I came away from this conference with the feeling that in terms of understanding the possibilities and pitfalls of this approach, we already know what we are doing at LSE. Now we just need some more lecturers to try it out! If you’re an LSE lecturer, and you want to give it a try, please get in touch with us at, or express interest in our next workshop (LSE users only), which will be scheduled any day now.

May 8th, 2014|Conferences|Comments Off on The Flipping Conference|

Moodle Moot 2014

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle, by Roel Wijnants on

This year’s Moodle Moot took place at Edinburgh’s Corn Exchange on 15-16 April. The inventor of Moodle, Martin Dougiamas, was in attendance (accompanied by his kids), and he popped up everywhere, participating in panels & discussion groups and giving his usual “what’s next for Moodle” keynote. This gave us an overview of the new features in Moodle 2.7 (released this month):

  • New events and logging model – allowing for more detailed logging, more control over logs, and event-driven actions.

  • New text editor: Atto. This has been built from scratch, so it’s very tightly integrated with Moodle. It uses HTML5, is very accessible, and has a built-in maths editor based on MathJax, so no server binaries required.

  • Bootstrap-based themes only, by default, so Moodle works properly on mobile. The old themes will still work, but are deprecated.

Also, this Moodle will be an LTS (long-term support) release, with fixes being published for 3 years instead of the usual 12 months.

Martin also previewed plans for 2.8:

  • Complete redesign of gradebook and grading plugins

  • Improved, usable forums (led by Stuart Lamour, of whom more later)

  • Simpler navigation

  • A new “element” library, to make development simpler and more consistent

One common theme this year was responsiveness on mobile devices, and a frequent contributor was Bas Brands, the creator of the Moodle Bootstrap themes. Bootstrap is a CSS/Javascript framework, developed for Twitter, that has been used to create responsive themes for Moodle. Since Bootstrap uses the JQuery javascript library, and Moodle is committed to the YUI library, Bas had to do a lot of rewriting of functions. Furthermore, the new Bootstrap 3 framework is a complete rewrite of Bootstrap 2, so a lot of the work will have to be done again…

Now Moodle works well on mobiles, why do we need an app? This was the question asked at the mobile discussion panel. Martin’s view was that an app should allow for offline use, and should facilitate the collection of data and pushing of those data to Moodle; not that the app does either of those things well at the moment, so there is a lot of work to be done on that front. Furthermore, Moodle only have one FTE developer assigned to the app at the moment, so unless the rest of the community steps up, the app is likely to remain limited. On the bright side, it will soon work with CAS authentication, so we’ll finally be able to use it at LSE.

Another major theme was usability. Stuart Lamour, who was behind the unique look and feel of the University of Sussex Moodle, popped up all over talking on this subject. He quoted research done by Brad Frost, which showed that users of websites ignore everything on the page except the central content they are looking for – in other words side blocks are pointless. Elsewhere he argued for an approach to course design whereby teachers are encouraged to ask “what do my students need?”. At Sussex they surveyed students to this effect and found that they wanted a clear, logical layout that corresponds to the teaching that goes on in class and that reflects the personality of the teacher. They therefore started using a single-page layout, with all content inline where possible; they moved all updates and messages to the top, so students see what’s new as soon as they arrive at the page; and they made profile pictures larger, to make the content and discussions more “human”.

Later on, a panel session on usability brought out the following points:

  • A general agreement that students want different systems to look different, so that they know where they are. Glasgow City and Dublin City both said they had found evidence to this effect.

  • We debated ‘Theory X vs. Theory Y’ approaches: should we prevent teachers from doing anything dumb with HTML, or should we let them do what they want and they clear up their mess afterwards? The consensus was that we use interface design to encourage them to take a clean and  simple approach, but allow them to do more complicated things if they need to.

  • The use of tables for screen layout is still common, and text editors still encourage this approach. What is needed is a text editor that allows teachers to easily do layout properly, using div tags.

  • There was some debate around on-screen descriptions. These are needed by first-time users, to be able to understand the context of each item on the page. But thereafter, does it just become clutter? No clear agreement emerged.

Finally, “Moving Moodle Forwards” was another panel session with Michael de Raadt and the ubiquitous Bas Brands, discussing how the community can help developers via the Moodle Tracker. Some useful nuggets here:

  • Votes are only really relevant for improvements; bugs are prioritised on the basis on severity, not votes.

  • Fixes are welcome in any form – the gold standard is to provide a github link for the fixed code, for each active Moodle branch. But the silver standard (uploading a patch as diff files) or bronze (posting the fixed code as a comment) are also welcome.

  • Process for bug fixing is as follows: Triage (is it a bug?); Development (assigned developer does the fix); Peer review (different developer checks the fix); Integration (developer adds it to active branch); Testing (automated and human)

Another good Moot overall. I was impressed, as ever, by the developments being made and by the spirit of sharing and mutual support that pervades this conference.

May 2nd, 2014|Conferences, Tools & Technologies|Comments Off on Moodle Moot 2014|

Moodle User Group

On Tuesday 18 March, LSE hosted the Moodle User Group (Greater London), or ‘MUGGL’, the get-together for learning technologists and others who are using Moodle to enhance teaching and learning at universities inside the M25. Here are some notes from the meeting.

Online Moodle training

The session opened with presentations from Ben Audsley of the Royal Veterinary College, and Eileen Kennedy of the Institute of Education, both of whom are running moderated online courses as an alternative to the usual face-to-face Moodle training. This reflects a similar project at LSE, Using Moodle: Online, which is currently in its pilot phase. This is a useful opportunity to share experiences between the 3 institutions (and with Goldsmiths, as well, who are also running such a course).

Reporting tools

Jess Gramp (UCL) demonstrated a great reporting tool for Moodle. This can be pointed at a duplicate of the Moodle database, and it will produce a report for a given category, showing the types and levels of activity going on in each course. The report is organised in pedagogical terms, with columns relating to collaboration, discussion etc., so you can quickly see which courses are actually making the most of the features of Moodle. Jess will be sharing this with us at LSE, and we will try to generalise it for use here and beyond.

In a similar vein, Andy Konstantinidis from King’s College demonstrated “KEATS Analytics”, an Excel sheet that can import a downloaded Moodle log file, and perform various analytics on it. He later shared this with everyone on the MUGGL mailing list, so we can all take advantage of his work.

Sharing good practice

Stephen Malikowski from St. George’s has set up Virtual Learning Activities, a collection of exemplars published via on WordPress, and he invited contributions. These are real activites created by lecturers on Moodle (or other VLEs), and demonstrated in context. Rather than making the courses public on their host VLEs, they are presented as case studies by way of screenshots or screencasts, allowing for the framing context to also be presented.

Minimum standards for Moodle courses

Rose Heaney from UEL led a panel discussion on minimum standards. The main theme emerging was that what works well is to involve students; to work with them to understand what minimum they expect, and using them to create standards and communicate them to staff. Several universities are using some form of rating system for courses, allowing students to review and rank their own courses.

Here in CLT we have often been wary of such approaches, worrying that minimum standards can turn into simply “what all Moodle courses look like”. However, Jess Gramp said that the experience from UCL is that minimum standards can sometimes push teachers to go further; i.e. once they’ve started on the improvement journey, they keep going.


March 24th, 2014|Conferences|Comments Off on Moodle User Group|

Moodle Moot 2013

Does winning a quiz really merit such a trophy?

Does winning a quiz really merit such a trophy?

Last week I attended Moodle Moot in Dublin, which was an interesting, enjoyable and very well-run event. The major highlight was my team, The Sugababes, winning the quiz and the ridiculous trophy you see opposite.

Some other highlights are below:

Michelle Moore (RemoteLearner) presented her Moodle course for teaching teachers to use Moodle, and giving them the tools to continue learning about it. This course (“My Moodle course – an experiment in social constructionism“) is available for download from the MoodleMoot site. We’ll download this to see how it compares with our own design for an online Moodle course.

Features include:

  • Course review glossary (where teachers post reviews of each other’s courses)
  • Best practices glossary
  • A single “how to edit Moodle” lesson
  • An assignment in which teachers have to update their own profile
  • Tasks where students use existing online resources to investigate Moodle’s capabilities
  • Teachers are put into small groups with specific roles: e.g. project manager, reporter, spy (to go and see what other groups are doing)
  • A weekly web conference, in which the groups report back

Elsewhere, there were several presentations about using IMS LTI to connect Moodle with external tools, for example WebPA, and exhortations to developers to build LTI into their software. A big list of applications that use LTI is available on the LTI website. This is an area we should probably be looking into more. There was also a presentation on LIS (Learning Information Systems), which is a data interchange protocol for integrating with student record systems, but which doesn’t seem to be very mature or widely adopted.

In the Pecha Kucha session, Mike Hughes from City showed some usability testing they had done, which was mostly interesting for the approach used – i.e. to have an academic sit in front of a computer and talk out loud as they did things on Moodle, while being filmed on webcam and with their mouse actions captured. This seemed like a good way to find out how staff really use Moodle.

Helen Foster proposed some ideas for custom roles for students, to give them specific responsibilities: such as, forum moderator, assignment grader, question creator and ‘naughty student’ (a way to withhold forum posting rights from a student who has posted inappropriately!)

In one of the plenary sessions they used a format they called ‘fishbowl’ (but I would call it ‘party’). The initial setup is a familiar one whereby 4 invited panellists at the front hold a conversation around a theme. However, a 5th chair was available for anyone from the audience to come forward and join in. At that point, one of the panellists would retire from the panel but remain on hand to return if the audience participation dried up. I didn’t attend this session but I gather it worked well.

Tim Hunt (OU) demonstrated two question types, STACK and Pattern Match. The STACK question is a way to allow students to submit equations as their answers, using a simplified text format. The question converts their text into a Latex equation and asks them to confirm that this is what they meant, before submitting. Multiple correct and incorrect answers can be predefined for a question. Pattern Match uses a sort of simplified regular expression that is optimised for matching natural language answers to questions. By accounting for different phrasing and synonyms, the question can assess the students’ free-text answers. In extensive testing, the algorithm achieved 98-99% agreement with human markers.

Martin Dougiamas’ keynote was the usual look forward at where Moodle is going. He stated up front that “the tools can be much better, and they will be”. What’s coming up (some of this already in 2.4):

  • “Universal cache” which will greatly improve performance
  • SVG (vector-drawn) icons throughout
  • An improved course format framework, making it easier to design new ones
  • Blind marking
  • Fast and complete logging of all actions
  • A new Moodle app, using HTML5 and getting its data through secure web services. He showed a prototype and suggested that perhaps in future Moodle should look like this (i.e. like an app) on the web as well.
  • New RWD themes
  • Survey 2 – a consolidation of survey, questionnaire and feedback tools
  • Ability to install plugins directly from the interface

Alex Walker from Glasgow City College gave a primer on theming with some useful tips about inspecting CSS. Particularly nice is the 3D element viewer in Firefox, which shows you the web page as a contoured map, with nested elements laid on top of their parents.

Pieter van der Hijden did his review of using gaming in Moodle. He does this every few years, and the conclusion always seems to be “Moodle’s not a lot of use for gaming”. LTI seems to be the best hope for using Moodle as a front end for educational games.

Davo Smith (Synergy), father of drag-and-drop upload, showed some new developments:

  • Realtime quiz – a sort of PRS within Moodle, with questions, a timer and results displayed immediately. But it seemed a clumsy way to do PRS to me.
  • PDF annotation assignment – allows a PDF to be uploaded and then students or teacher can annotate it with comments and scribbles, much as you can in Acrobat.
  • Drag-drop images and text – an extension of drag-drop, so images dragged onto the interface are displayed inline, and text dragged on becomes a label.

Paolo Oprandi and Stuart Lamour (Sussex) demonstrated some of the interface redesign that they have done in Moodle 1.9 (and involves some core hacks). Stuart is a user experience expert, and bases his design on the idea that a web application needs to have a “call to action” that makes it clear to the user what they are expected to do. In Moodle, a new course is just a blank page with no obvious call to action. Their version presents the new course editor with a text editor so that they can start by adding a welcome to the course, and more or less forces the user to add images. Their course format is like the “Pages” format where each section is on a separate page. Some nice touches, like in-browser resizing of images using the canvas element. They also have tight integrations with other systems, so reading lists and lecture recordings are displayed inline. The reading lists are brought in from Talis Aspire by simply scraping the Talis pages, but there is hope that future APIs will make this process more robust.

Finally, a team from Cass Business School at City presented their work on obtaining student feedback on Moodle. They made some good points at the start about student surveys, which:

  • Focus on satisfaction, not learning
  • Focus on modules, not programmes
  • Focus on teaching, not learning

Their approach therefore, while it did include surveys, also included a team of student participant-observers (but details of the research method were a bit sketchy). Some findings:

  • A tension between the need for consistency and the need for innovation
  • Need for a notifications system to alert students to new content
  • Need for drivers of forum use: e.g. teachers must use them, participation must be expected.
  • Students preferred tools for groupwork are, overwhelmingly, Facebook, email, Google Docs and Dropbox. Moodle doesn’t compare. This is because the former are seen as more user-friendly and are more familiar to them.

I think Moodle Moot is my favourite conference. It’s so focussed, everyone is very positive and moving forward all the time with new things, and there’s a distinct absence of ego.

February 28th, 2013|Conferences|2 Comments|

Time to flip?

“Flipping” the lecture is an approach that has been gaining popularity in UK education recently. It means providing students with a video recording in lieu of an actual lecture, and then using the timetabled lecture period to do something more interactive with students.

One pioneer of this approach is Carl Gombrich, director of the Arts and Sciences programme at UCL. In his words, “it is a no-brainer to me that generally students get more than double the benefit by seeing your lecture on a video … and then have a full hour in which to discuss their thoughts on the video.” You can read more in Carl’s reflections on a year of flipped lectures.

CLT would love to hear from any member of lecturing staff who would like to try something similar at LSE. The Echo360 lecture recording system enables not only recording of live lectures, but also personal recording from the desktop, so your video lectures can be a more intimate affair. If this sounds interesting, please drop us a line at

January 11th, 2013|Announcements, Images, Audio & Video|Comments Off on Time to flip?|

Software Surgeries

Software Surgeries logoCLT, along with IT Training, the Library and the Methodology Institute, is contributing to the new Software Surgery, a drop-in service where LSE staff and students can get training on specific software and web applications.

We cover:

  • Statistical Software: SPSS and Stata
  • Qualitative Analysis: Alceste, Atlas.ti, and Nvivo
  • Microsoft Office: Access, Excel, Outlook, Powerpoint, Word
  • Learning Technologies: Moodle, lecture capture, electronic voting systems etc.
  • Library Technologies: Endnote, e-journals and online data sources

Drop in on the day, or book in advance via the Training and Development System ( and you can jump the queue when you arrive. A member of the team will be on hand to help you learn what you need to solve your particular problem.

The surgeries take place on Tuesdays, 13:00-14:00 during term-time, in the Library Training Room (R08) on the Lower Ground Floor of the Library.

December 13th, 2011|Events & Workshops (LTI)|Comments Off on Software Surgeries|

Moodle Moot 2010

Moodle Moot 2010 logo

On 13-14 April I attended Moodle Moot 2010, hosted by ULCC at the University of London’s Senate House.

I didn’t find it as enlightening as last year’s Moot at Loughborough, but it had its moments, and I believe my colleagues were luckier in their choice of parallel sessions, as further posts here may reveal.

The first keynote was by Sugata Mitra, speaking about his “Hole in the Wall” studies. His presentation was excellent and inspiring, and can be seen on the MoodleMoot videos page, but as he’s done it many times before and much has been written about it already, I don’t really need to add. Later, Martin Dougiamas, on Skype from New Zealand, gave his now-traditional “What’s in Moodle 2.0” presentation, which was pretty much the same as last year’s as far as I can remember.

As for the parallels, not a lot to report, but a couple of presentations caught the eye. Eoin Campbell highlighted the clumsiness of the Moodle question-editing interface, and introduced a way to allow teachers to quickly and easily create quizzes by entering the questions, answers and feedback into a table in Word, and then converting that to Moodle questions at the press of a button (

Pieter van der Hijden talked about the potential of Moodle for running educational games and simulations. It was surprising how much of the scaffolding required to build a simulation could be supported using basic Moodle features, but what’s missing at this stage is the ability for users to store variables within Moodle, and a simple scripting language to allow those variables to be processed. These are pretty fundamental to simulation, and it doesn’t look like they will be native to Moodle any time soon. I did wonder, though, whether one couldn’t just use JavaScript and cookies to get around this limitation.

Overall: not bad. ULCC did a good job of running the show. I especially liked the no-nonsense approach to the evening entertainment, consisting of canteen-style tikka masala, a pub quiz and a free bar all night.


April 26th, 2010|Conferences|1 Comment|

A Word in your Ear

A Word in your Ear was an excellent one-day conference on the use of audio feedback (AF) in higher education.

The keynote was by Bob Rotherham, who as leader of the JISC/Leeds Metropolitan project Sounds Good, has become the go-to man for AF for the UK. I was already familiar with the Sounds Good outputs, but it’s the way he says it that makes the difference. A really good, engaging, no-nonsense speaker. Bob tried to move the agenda on by pointing out that we all know now that most students like AF – it’s been demonstrated time and time again – but we don’t know whether it is actually more educationally effective than written feedback. Unfortunately I didn’t get the sense that any of the other presenters were trying to answer this question, or even proposing ways in which it might be answered.