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|

SADL project presents at European conference

Dubrovnik's famous cave bar

Relaxing on the last night

Last week the work of LTI and the Library’s Student Ambassadors for Digital Literacy (SADL) project reached a truly international audience when I presented with Maria Bell  at the European Conference on Information Literacy (ECIL) in Dubrovnik, Croatia. The conference brought together delegates from Europe and beyond (59 countries were represented) to share research and practice in supporting information literacy was attended by teachers, lecturers, librarians and researchers in the field.

Some of you may be more familiar with the term digital literacy but essentially information literacy is helping people find, evaluate, manage and communicate information in all its forms (not just digital) and while technology plays a role in how many of us interact with information, we were urged by one of the conference keynotes, Michael B Eisenberg, not to focus on technology too much as it will change! Information literacy is recognised by UNESCO as being a foundation for lifelong learning and for democracy and they also see it as a human right. We heard about information literacy in the townships of South Africa, its role in health education (where many of us can find something online about their latest ailment!) and in the recent Scottish referendum, where people were swamped with information from both sides of the campaign but perhaps lacked the critical abilities to make sense of it.

October 30th, 2014|Conferences, Research Skills|Comments Off on SADL project presents at European conference|

Questions for clickers

At LSE we use the voting system called Turning Point so I went along to the 2014 Turning Point conference in Manchester to find out what other institutions are getting up to with voting technology.

Peer instruction

The keynote speaker was Dr Eric Mazur, Professor of physics at Harvard University.
Unsurprisingly as the developer of peer instruction teaching he was a very engaging lecturer and soon had everyone in the room animatedly discussing physics concepts.  Dr Mazur demonstrated how PRS can be an effective way to get people engaged and excited about learning.  Rather than simply being quizzed students are required to discuss and explain their answers with each other before the question is re-polled.  This builds in time for learners to reflect on the concepts in the lecture and if you frame your questions right, the ability to transfer knowledge from one context to another.  Data from Dr Mazur’s lectures indicates that students are better at learning from each other and even those that originally have the incorrect answer often clarify their thinking when articulating it to others.

Flipping roles – student sourcing questions and answers

One of the most important aspects of using voting in teaching is coming up with good questions.
Dr Simon Lancaster Professor at UEA argued that concept based and challenging questions are essential to get students to invest in the voting process and his talk demonstrated that questions that divide participants and invite debate get the most responses. He urged lecturers to ‘flip roles’ and source the clicker questions and possible answers from students themselves. In addition to asking your own students to suggest questions he recommended ‘PeerWise’ as a free online resource:

Asking questions in qualitative subjects

A range of ‘PechaKucha’ style presentations by humanities lecturers at University of Manchester gave several examples of academics who are using voting technology even when there isn’t always a ‘right answer’. They found that voting activities helped them to:

See the video with examples from lecturers here:

Team based learning using clickers & scratch-cards

The final session discussed ‘team based learning’ (TBL) that is going on in the University of Bradford. Much like flipping, they have attempted to move the subject knowledge out of the classroom so that contact time can be used to work on problem solving using the course content. They use a purpose built room and rather than lectures or seminars they have one session which is divided into three parts:

Individual preparation + team discussion + class discussion

Self testing using clickers

Students are set preparatory material to review ahead of the class. Students use the clickers to carry out individual tests at their own pace which make sure that they have done the preparation. The advantage of using the clickers is:

  • The results are linked up directly to the VLE so teachers can view the responses as they are submitted and work on feedback on common problems while the students are working on the next task.
  • Students can access their marks and the correct answers almost instantly after the class.
  • It is self-paced so students with learning difficulties can take as long as they want on each question and so far has eliminated the need to make individual arrangements.
  • It minimizes cheating as students sit different versions of the test paper.
  • It encourages students to complete the preparation before class. N.B. These individual scores are summative so marks are all recorded on the VLE and used to calculate the final mark.

Team discussion

  • Students work in groups to discuss the questions and reach a consensus on the solutions – using scratch cards to check their answers and calculate their teams score.
  • N.B Teams have 24 hours to submit an appeal to any question if they believe the content is wrong or the question is poor.
  • The teacher then goes over concepts that were not well understood using the results from the individual testing.

In class activities

  • Teams use the knowledge from the first two exercises to work on significant problems.
  • Every team works on the same activity and then reports back to the whole group with the reasoning for their choice enabling instructor facilitated discussion. ‘Often in justifying their choice , or arguing with a team that selected a different answer, teams achieve deep learning of the concepts in the initial reading and enhanced their ability to apply that knowledge to a problem’.

If you are interested in using voting technology in your classes or lectures please see our website for more details or contact

October 8th, 2014|Conferences, Tools & Technologies|Comments Off on Questions for clickers|

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|

Open educational practices benefit us all

On Thursday, I attended the FOSTER Discovering Open Practices event jointly organised by the libraries at LSE, King’s College London (KCL) and Queen Mary’s College, London (QMUL). The event aimed at promoting open access and open academic practices to early career researchers. It was an eye-opening experience, which showed me how current publication practices affect early career researchers desperate to make their mark in academia.

I was particularly struck by Joe McArthur’s (@mcarthur_joe) presentation. Joe is the Assistant Director for from the Right to Research Coalition, and having recently graduated from UCL, had the frustration of not having access to research fresh in his mind. He  talked about how publishing firms behind prestigious journals often force researchers to hand over the copyright for years of hard work, (80% of which is publicly funded), only to restrict access through paywalls leading to profit margins for Springer and Elsevier which even the likes of Microsoft and Google would be envious of. And the costs seem to keep going up. Joe mentioned that costs have gone up 400% in the last 20 to 30 years, and the average subscription for a health science journal is now $1482 a year. Researchers are not only restricted from accessing vital research but sometimes also forced to turn to illegal file sharing to be able to complete their own research, with possible legal consequences for the researcher.

September 8th, 2014|Conferences, copyright, Research Skills|Comments Off on Open educational practices benefit us all|

The North American perspective: the same, but different


Photo from Flickr taken by astrangelyisolatedplace

A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to attend a conference in Portland, Oregon, held at Portland State UniversityLibrary Instruction West is an information literacy conference and I was representing a national committee called Co-PILOT that I helped to set up, and LSE. Co-PILOT is a community of practice which encourages those teaching information and digital literacy to share their teaching materials as open educational resources (OERs). This helps to share resources, saving us all reinventing the wheel across higher education and hopefully encourages good practice. I was speaking at the conference about work this group have been doing in the UK, educating others about how to find good quality open resources you can re-use and how to use Creative Commons Licences to licence your own work, so others can use it. I got involved in OERs about four years ago when LSE led the DELILA project, which led to us sharing a number of teaching materials owned by LTI and LSE Library in the national repository of OERs, Jorum.

Working in Learning Technology and Innovation, I was on the look out for new ideas for teaching and innovations. We often think that exciting things are happening in North American universities that we need to be aware of in the UK. I certainly came back with a sense that things are different, I’m just still trying to pin down exactly how. There were over 250 delegates at the conference from a wide range of US and Canadian universities, community colleges and schools. In my first blog post written during the conference I was struck by the differences in terminology we use in UK higher education compared to across the Atlantic. People had quite different job titles so the majority were instruction and outreach or information literacy librarians (not subject librarians or academic support staff) I also met instructional designers (what LSE would call educational developers) and educational technologists.  Those differences suggested to me that academic support services are set up slightly differently in US and Canadian universities. However, people did talk about the same issues we deal with in LTI, such as how to engage academic staff, how to embed digital and information literacy effectively into the curriculum, how to be innovative in teaching and use technology appropriately.

Conference round-up: learning development and information literacy

I’ve been to two conferences in the last month that I thought I would share with readers of our blog some of the highlights. At both conferences I was presenting as well as attending, sharing some of the work we’re doing at LSE. Before Easter I presented at the Association of Learning Developers in Higher Education (ALDinHE) conference in Huddersfield. Learner Developers are what you once might have called ‘study skills tutors’ who help students with reading, writing and academic practice and in the digital age technology plays an increasing role. You can read my longer blog post about this event, but a highlight was a chance to hear Etienne Wenger-Trayner’s keynote. He created the term ‘Community of Practice’ which is a theory of social learning developed by studying apprentices and how they learn as much from their peers as from their mentor. There were a lot of papers around the theme of digital literacies and it was great to share our experiences of the SADL project at LSE. I also really enjoyed a workshop where we got to design our ideal learning space for students, which was a little like the activity we did earlier this week at the IMT Staff day.

The other conference that I attended was the Librarians’ Information Literacy Annual Conference (LILAC) straight after Easter, which was held at Sheffield Hallam University.

May 21st, 2014|Conferences, Teaching & Learning|Comments Off on Conference round-up: learning development and information literacy|

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|