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Moodle 2: Here’s looking at what’s around the corner

January 17, 2013 Leave a comment

ImageAs has already been posted in educational vignettes, Moodle is being upgraded at City University, London in the next three months. Before that happens, all ed. tech teams are on the go trying to ensure that Moodle 2 gets the full body treatment! This blog provides you with an update on what the Moodle implementation working group are doing to provide staff and students with the best possible Moodle 2 experience.

Those who are fanatical about Moodle will know that the latest version was released in late 2010. This version has been hailed as a ‘more improved version’ and the answer to many of the requests from the community of users and that of the technical developers. As an example discussed before, the way we upload files is most certainly going to be faster and better. The ed.tech team at City University, London is taking a good look at Moodle 2 to make this upgrade an opportunity to reflect on what Moodle can offer as a learning environment, what can change, what needs promotion and what needs attention.

The Moodle 2 implementation working group are testing current functionality to make sure everything is as expected.  They will also be testing new functionality to ensure that we can better support our academic staff and students in using Moodle. The testing involves some use of scenarios on schools experience however this is only replicated in some processes. This will ensure that the tools deliver on what is expected. The testing process described has begun and all ed. tech teams are involved. It is anticipated that the testing will be completed by the end of March.

As we move towards Moodle 2, we will be publishing more details on this in the coming months. We will also be thinking proactively about how staff and students will be trained whilst making sure we spend some time hearing your thoughts, sharing with you some exciting new stuff and generally making sure we are listening to you to make Moodle better than ever before. Please do get in touch with us or your ed. tech team if you are interested in knowing more.

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7 things you should know about Lecture Capture

January 11, 2013 Leave a comment

OTLTWhat is it?

Lecture Capture includes a range of technologies used for digitally recording and distributing lectures. These recordings involve some combination of text, audio and video. The video could be of the lecturer, a whiteboard, a chalkboard, a screencast or any combination of video feeds available (Dey et al., 2009; Gosper, et al., 2008).

Who’s doing it?

Lecture Capture, though still a relatively young research area, continues to gain momentum across the globe. In London, Institutions such as LSE,UCL, Queen Mary and Imperial seem to be leading the way.

What are the Benefits?

While not intended as a replacement for in-class instruction, lecture capture offers three important benefits: an alternative when students miss class; an opportunity for content review, particularly when abstruse topics are introduced or detailed procedures are performed; and content for online course development.

What does the research say about lecture capture usage?

Pennsylvania State University reports on trends in lecture capture research and provides some common reasons for leveraging lecture capture. These include convenience for students, reviewing for exams, enhancing students understanding of concepts from class, note taking and reviewing materials if students miss classes. More studies as well as insights into other universities usage of lecture capture are now being conducted across the board on lecture capture and can be viewed here.

In a recent small scale study of lecture capture of 1,000 students run by the School of Arts and Social Sciences; results showed that 91% of students used lecture recordings and 93% of students said lecture recordings helped their exam revision and assignment preparation.

Why is Lecture Capture important?

Students generally value lecture capture because it gives them the ability to go back and review lecture materials in their own time at their own pace.  This is particularly useful for revision. Through some of the studies reported above, lecture capture may offer additional support for students who speak English as a second language as well as students who may have learning difficulties.

Lecturers value the recording of their lectures because it gives them the ability to help students grasp difficult concepts and provide revision opportunities. Some lecturers worry that students may cut classes in favour of viewing captured lectures.  However recorded lectures are being seen as an opportunity by some lecturers to flip the classroom i.e use class time to conduct group activities to supplement the lecture material.

How does it work?

At City University London, the lecture capture system being used is Echo360. This system is integrated into AV Pods in a few rooms. More information on rooms that contain lecture capture are listed below. Pushing a single button is normally enough to activate the system and begin capturing a lecture. Recordings can be viewed on the web or in formats compatible with MP3 players and portable video devices.

Which learning spaces can I use to record lectures?

The lecture capture working group have enabled the system in several spaces across the Institution. This group intends to expand lecture capture next academic year.  The lecture theatres and other rooms that currently hold the equipment for staff to record material for students are:

Oakden, Geary,Oliver Thompson and ELG19 lecture theatre  and The Mill, Goswell Place.

If you have any further thoughts on lecture capture, please do raise under comments. If you’d like to be part of the lecture capture ‘revolution’ please do  contact your ed. tech team.

Self- and Peer Assessment using Turnitin in SEMS: Cengiz Turkoglu

August 1, 2012 5 comments

Cengiz Turkoglu, a Senior Lecturer in the School of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences, principally teaches final-year undergraduate students and one of the MSc Aviation Management modules, with class sizes usually not exceeding 20 students. Each of his modules uses a similar assessment pattern comprising one coursework plus an examination. For the coursework component, he utilizes the self-review and peer review functions of Turnitin as part of the assessment.

The coursework has an initial deadline of a minimum of 6-8 weeks into the module to allow sufficient time for students to conduct research and write their essays. Once the students have submitted their paper, Turnitin’s PeerMark assignment function allows them to be either paired or randomly allocated another paper, which they are then required to peer-review. Given that there is always a range of standards represented by the students and their papers, one dilemma that Cengiz has faced concerns whether to pair the students randomly or to attempt to group them according to their standard. He never pairs them such that two students are asked to review one another’s papers.

The feedback provided by each student in peer review is subsequently made available to the original author – and the students are made aware at the time of writing that their comments will be released in this manner. At the same time, each author is asked to take a self-assessment exercise that follows exactly the same format as the peer review. As the process is conducted entirely online using Turnitin, it is completely paperless, which reduces the administrative workload and makes for a more sustainable structure.

For Cengiz, self- and peer review are only valuable if they lead somewhere in terms of the assessment process. With that in mind, once the feedback has been exchanged between students, Cengiz gives them a week to undertake further revisions to their original submission should they wish to do so. He asks that they do not rewrite their paper substantively, but confine themselves to minor amendments. Plagiarism of the peer-review feedback is not an issue because all the material is traceable and hence can be attributed. Only after the revised submission has been received does Cengiz mark the work summatively using GradeMark and provide his own feedback.

Detailed assessment criteria are provided, with the marking criteria broken down into six different categories each with their own weighting, of which one category is self- and peer review (worth 10% of the mark). The students are therefore aware from the outset that it is an integral part of the assessment, and its summative nature encourages them to engage fully with the process, since Cengiz’s experience is that students can be very assessment-driven. The questions they are asked for the self- and peer reviews correspond to the other assessment categories, so they judge each other’s paper, and their own, in exactly the same way as the examiner.

Cengiz has found this to be a very valuable exercise. It sets the students thinking about how to frame feedback, offering helpful advice to the author rather than simply giving praise or criticism. It also encourages them to consider issues such as whether the author understood the question and maintained focus, how well they researched the subject, and how coherent the arguments they presented were, based on their own reasoning or factual information they identified during their research. (The criteria matrix used by Cengiz is shown below; this is also entered as the rubric in Turnitin.) While students are variable in their engagement with the process, Cengiz notes that the best self-reviews and peer reviews recognize areas where the submission can be improved.

Turnitin screenshot - criteria matrix

Cengiz argues that the value of this assessment model is that it provides a simulation of real-life scenarios. In safety-critical industries such as aviation, for example, maintenance engineers are expected to inspect each others’ work on a regular basis, and the peer review process is widely used particularly by design engineers. In addition, all engineers should be expected to reflect upon, and to strive to improve, their own performance in order continually to develop themselves professionally. They may not necessarily always receive the most favourable advice from their own peers, so engineering students are prepared effectively for the profession through nurturing skills such as being able to evaluate the feedback they receive and to make their own judgement when taking decisions.

Cengiz justifies equalizing the weightings between the coursework and examination (originally weighted at 30% and 70% respectively) by citing the introduction of the requirements for self-assessment and peer review as a reason to give greater weighting to the coursework component. He strongly believes that examination is not the only suitable assessment method for his modules as the nature of the topics he teaches is such that they require understanding and the ability to apply this knowledge to real-life scenarios, rather than merely memorising content from text books or course notes. After studying on the Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice programme delivered by the Learning Development Centre at City University London, Cengiz has become an advocate of self-directed and reflective learning, and he encourages his students to become more critically self-reflexive so that they can learn from their own experiences.

If you would like to know more about this assessment model, Cengiz is happy to be contacted by e-mail: cengiz.turkoglu.1@city.ac.uk.

Christopher Wiley and Cengiz Turkoglu

Use of the Personal Response System for Formative Assessment in Optometry: Dr Byki Huntjens and Dr Steve Gruppetta

With the recent founding of the University Personal Response System (PRS) Steering Group, co-chaired by Dr Siân Lindsay and Farzana Latif, this would seem to be an opportune time to profile one of the innovative approaches implemented within the University in using PRS technology for formative assessment.

Dr Byki Huntjens and Dr Steve Gruppetta are lecturers in the Division of Optometry and Visual Science who have introduced the PRS to undergraduate students in order that they may receive immediate classroom feedback during Clinical Skills and Optics lectures. A PRS handset is given to the students (against a small deposit) throughout their degree programme, and is registered to their name to enable responses to be matched to individuals. Each lecture features a succession of multiple choice questions (MCQ). Byki’s practice is to start later lectures with a set of MCQs covering the previous topic plus the background reading for the class, and test the students’ understanding of the new topic later on during the lecture. Steve includes material that potentially encompasses the previous lecture, the current lecture, or even paves the way for a new topic to be discussed. The end result is a series of technology-enabled formative assessments.

Although only the group scores are shown during lectures and the progress of individual students is not revealed, the results of the quizzes are uploaded to Moodle each week by topic and the students are thereby able to check their individual score. This enables them to track their progress over time, and doubles as a reminder of the topics to which they need to direct particular attention prior to the examinations. The Moodle grade book also shows the students’ ranking among the whole group, leading some of them to become slightly competitive. Indeed, the element of competition is actively nurtured – the top five students with the highest marks in the year are awarded a prize at the divisional Prize Giving event.

The students have shown excitement during the PRS quizzes and appreciate the immediacy of the feedback, the anonymity of the process, and the way that it articulates the lecture by providing an interlude. Steve has developed the practice of making the PRS quizzes, which he calls the ‘Optics Challenge’, distinct from the rest of the lecture by changing the background of the slide from white to black (see screenshot below). The students’ responses are also used by the tutors to adapt subsequent lectures to the level of understanding of the specific cohort; this has prompted a change of direction on several occasions. In addition, this information has enhanced the support that the tutors are able to offer when students have sought extra help.

The Optics Challenge Leaderboard

Byki delivered a presentation on the use of PRS technology for formative assessment at the Fourth Annual ‘Learning at City’ Conference on 13 June, 1.20-2.00pm (the video is available here).

Christopher Wiley, Byki Huntjens, and Steve Gruppetta
with thanks to Siân Lindsay and Farzana Latif

A Case Study of Interim Assessment in SEMS: Mary Aylmer

Mary Aylmer is a visiting lecturer in the School of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences (SEMS), teaching the CAD part of the module CV1407 IT skills, Communication, and CAD. She has developed an assessment pattern in which students produce five pieces of CAD coursework, each of which involves completing engineering drawings. There are two interim submissions each weighted at 2% of the final module mark, two larger submissions weighted at 16% and 40%, and an end-of-module test also weighted at 40%.

The 2% weighting for the interim submissions is intended to ensure that the students’ early work on the module is taken into account in the final module mark, which helps to focus them to the task. The exercises are carefully graded and enjoyable for the students to complete; they tend to take ownership of their own learning as the assessments are designed such that they are able to determine exactly what is required of them, so they can aspire to high marks.

SEMS CAD CV1407The obvious advantage of this assessment pattern is that it ensures that the students are definitely completing their initial work on the module. This means that they are well prepared for the larger submissions: they have already accrued plenty of experience of CAD in the first few weeks through the interim submissions, and are thereby placed in a strong position to tackle the difficult drawings. In other words, it ensures that they undertake the groundwork first.

The downside to this system for the tutor is that it generates a substantial amount of marking. Mary has also noted a tendency among students to query their marks, even in the case of the 2% submissions which are unlikely to have a significant impact on their overall degree average. It can become very time-consuming to justify marks deducted, particularly with 120 students each of whom submit 5 pieces of work.

Nonetheless, the outcomes speak for themselves. By the end of the module, the students can produce good CAD drawings fairly easily; and they have indicated through their feedback that they enjoy the course, which is very encouraging. While an assessment model such as this may be time-consuming for the tutor, it is evidently worth the investment if it results in robust learning and student satisfaction.

Christopher Wiley and Mary Aylmer

Using Debate as a Teaching Format

July 7, 2012 2 comments

Three years ago at a City University Creativity Workshop I met Kirsten Hardie who teaches Design at Arts University College of Bournemouth. She told me about a method she had invented called “On Trial.” By coincidence, in working with a group of City teachers recently, they quite unprompted suggested the use of a debate format as a method of increasing student engagement.

It was impressive how quickly they came up with a great number of creative ideas to widen the palette of teaching formats. The session focused on devising a learning activity that reflects often currently missing employability skills:

  • Critical thinking
  • Reflection
  • Persuasive communication
  • Self awareness

Devising fresh learning activities to promote employability skills

I took Chickering and Gamson’s 7 Principles for high engagement learning, as a benchmark.  We selected two of these: and participants were also encouraged to identify their own. The focus was on fresh learning activities; new ideas.  Here are some of the resulting creative learning outcomes from the participants.

Fresh  learning activities.

  • Reflection: in action and on action
  • Scenarios, role play and simulation
  • Debating
  • Combined learning with another school (interprofessional  learning)
  • A buddy system

The question is how can we enable great ideas like these to be put into practice? For example using debate in our teaching.

So returning to National Teaching Fellow Kirsten Hardie’s On Trial project that  explores the use of role play and debate in student centred learning. It promotes and facilitates creativity in and through learning. Students work with colleagues to explore and interrogate problematic issues relating to their specialism

“On Trial harnesses popular culture, and the seductive qualities of the courtroom, as experienced through television and film examples (both historical and contemporary), in a creative fashion to help students engage with tough academic issues and wider ethical concerns.”

In addition a fascinating article by Catherine Sanderson discusses and evaluates debate as an assessment and learning strategy to develop critical and reasoning skills and stimulate learning through assessment in first year Biomedical Science and Public Health Students.

Sanderson’s work with first year undergraduates indicates that although it may be tacitly understood that critical reasoning is an essential skill for all students, it is far too often left to the final year as a learning outcome or even reserved for post-graduate studies.

The Reflective Practitioner: shared experience of designing a new module

May 23, 2012 1 comment

In June 2010, City University Careers Service contributed to a conference which included presentations by myself (visiting lecturer at Cass Business School) and PWC’s recruitment team. I asked PWC what were the two major areas where graduates from UK universities fell most short of employer’s needs. The answer from PWC was direct: self-awareness and reflection skills. When I reported this back to Cass undergraduate Dean, Ann Brown, a proposal resulted for a new module was fast-tracked with a view to piloting it as a first year elective in January to March 2011 to the BSc Management. The proposal to the committee approving new courses suggested calling the module “The Reflective Manager”, but the committee had taken the view that it was not realistic to expect first years to become managers just yet, so the final title agreed became “The Reflective Practitioner”.

Due to involvement in existing reflective practice activities at Cass, I was appointed as the module leader. The idea was to take the most relevant aspects already developed, add new material to meet the very different needs of first year students, and organise it into a holistic package. Physical and logistical demands capped the cohort at about 20 students, and all the places were taken up when the module began in January.

I knew that even students volunteering for an elective would not necessarily have any experience of reflective practice, and might be apprehensive about it. So a first design decision was to bring in a visiting business people for most weeks of the module who would talk about their own self-awareness and reflective practice, and hence underpin the initial logic of the module, namely that these were areas of vital importance to employers and to successful executives. Two weeks of the module involved visits, to the Cabinet War Rooms and to the London Metropolitan Archive respectively. Students were assigned tasks entirely related to management, involving “noticing”, close observation, and imaginative oral presentations. These visits helped make the module distinctive and were well received by the students.

Secondly, the Business School had been working over more than five years with reflective journals in a variety of forms, most typically A5 artists’ sketchbooks. Some management students said they felt daunted by the blank pages, so in 2010, an experiment took place with “partly printed” journals. The experiment was successful, so a refinement of this approach was then built into the Reflective Manager module.

The third element consisted of weekly exercises which developed reflective and awareness skills, most typically involving the visiting speaker in some way. There was also time set aside in most weeks to carry out immediate reflections in the journals in class time class, which helped some of the more hesitant students to overcome their block in being “journal novices”.

The fourth and final element was to conclude the module with a public exhibition of student work. There was very extensive documentation of the whole module via photographs. The exhibition planning was entirely the responsibility of the students, and time was set aside in the second half of the module to plan and implement the ideas for the exhibition. I built on considerable experience at Cass of student exhibitions. The whole experience of converting individual reflections and awareness into both individual and collective artefacts to exhibit to visitors was challenging. But the students rose to the challenge, there were many visitors, including from business and the feedback from students was incredibly positive.

One effect of the preparation for the exhibition is that students individually and as a team achieved a second level of integration of thinking, above and beyond their detailed individual reflections and the weekly exercises. For example, they produced very powerful collages constructed from vast pile of photographs printed out as a resource for the exhibition. The artefacts in the exhibition though proposed by pairs of students were voted on by the entire group, leading to a strong sense of ownership to the exhibition by the student group as a whole. This was confirmed as each student was assigned to host one or more visitors, and they showed remarkable assurance in explaining every artefact being exhibited, or the whole journey of the class through the term.

There was overall positive feedback from the student group, but with one note of caution. They felt quite strongly that the module should remain as an elective, as there was a belief that some “left-brain” students might not engage well with a compulsory module, and indeed might undermine it.

As it happens, the course team had separate concerns about just how scalable the module was. In particular the visits were really only feasible for groups of up to 24 at a time. During 2011 the BSc Business Studies was being revamped and it was decided to run the elective identically a second time, in parallel with the BSc Management elective.
This arrangement worked well, not least as the students themselves decided to join forces across the two cohorts and jointly organise the final exhibition. The external visits were again to the London Metropolitan Archive, but also to a new location, the Hunterian Museum, which charts the history of medicine. Once again, students were given investigatory tasks which entirely related to the art and science of management rather than of medicine. So this has run successfully over two academic years and now over two degree courses, needing only very minimal adjustment in the second year.

A final lesson: Reflective Practice can be stimulated by subject specific curriculum which builds on generic insights and activities.

Image:  students at the final exhibition infront of a poster of a business organisation imagined as a human body. Designed by BSc Business Studies students Nitu Rai and Rita Albu, in response to the session at The Hunterian Museum.
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