The University of Northampton will become only the fourth UK university to host a Hydra Immersive Learning Suite in the very near future. A control room, three syndicate rooms and plenary room in the Naseby building at Park Campus will allow agencies in Northamptonshire to engage in a range of scenario-based training activities.
The Hydra foundation is a community of users from all around the world who share resources across a range of subjects – from counter-terrorism to child protection (see the Hydra Foundation site for examples). The system is ideal for developing and evaluating multi-agency procedures in a realistic but safe environment.
Teams are presented with a range of audio and video based material during a session and are required to record their decisions as the exercise progresses. The control room can monitor the activity of each team and vary the material they receive accordingly. At appropriate points, a subject expert can review decisions with the participants in a plenary session.
There is a licencing requirement which restricts the use of the suite to exercises which involve at least one emergency service, but this should not be seen as an onerous restriction. The development of innovative multi-disciplinary training at the University is an exciting prospect.
What: The School of Social Sciences Technology Expo shared good practice to enhance teaching and learning within the school and beyond, with representatives of other schools observing. Nearly 30 participants attended and enjoyed hearing about their peer’s experience of using technology to enhance teaching and learning.
Links to the currently available presentations (PDFs of the PowerPoint slides) can be found below. More details on the presentations will be posted separately as mini case studies.
When: 15th May from 2:00pm to 4:00pm
Where: HLT3, Park Campus
1:30 – 1:45 SaGE Experiences : Graham Mitchell
1:45 – 2:00 Voice feedback using GradeMark : Julia Brydon
2:00 – 2:15 Panopto : Rob Howe (standing in for Nick Hartop)
2:30 – 2:45 Flipped lectures Catherine Fritz
Between July 21st 3pm BST and July 22nd 3am BST , NILE will be upgraded to the latest version. For any issues with timings please contact Rob Howe
More details at: http://blogs.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/2013/05/05/nile-summer-upgrade-2013/
2013/14 NILE sites now available
The 2013/14 NILE sites are now available to use and area based on the template discussed at SSECs
More details at: http://blogs.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/2013/03/13/201314-nile-site-templates/
Organising your courses and modules in the sites box within NILE
To make ‘My Sites’ far more useable, click the cog icon at the top right – then tick the box next to ‘Group by Term’ to arrange sites by academic year. You may also wish to untick any sites you do not need to see on the homepage; and/or click and drag in the first column to change the order the sites are listed in.
More details at: http://blogs.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/2013/05/07/organise-your-my-sites-box-on-your-nile-homepage/
Planning for 2013/14 NILE sites
Rachel McCart is working with the team till July to assist academic staff with migrating and setting up NILE sites for the 2013/14 academic year. She is specifically, administrating site copies, merging modules and setting up Turnitin for 13/14 NILE modules – requests for work on modules within the current academic year are being dealt with by the rest of the team.
For more details: http://blogs.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/2013/03/13/201314-nile-site-templates/
Assisting with status updates and Turnitin submissions
The LearnTech team have added a widget in the top right corner of the NILE screen to display the current time and date in the UK. This is to help overseas students to determine the correct deadlines to work to for online submission.
We have also added a box on the login page to notify users that the NILE and Turnitin services are (or are not) working normally. We will change the image to a red cross if there are any problems with either of the systems. At all other times a green tick will be displayed.
New Library Account Service
The new ‘My Library Account’ box embeds live library account information onto your NILE homepage.
More details: http://blogs.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/2013/04/17/new-%E2%80%98my-library-account%E2%80%99-service/
LearnTech Training sessions
A range of training to assist staff with SaGE, NILE and other learning technologies is now available.
More details at: http://blogs.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/2013/04/24/learntech-training-may-june-2013/
Video – Out with the old and in with the new
The University has now acquired the Kaltura Video Streaming platform which is used by institutions worldwide and will provide a solid base for future work involving video along with a tight integration into NILE. As part of the migration to this new tool, LearnTech are phasing out the old Video Library Server (VLS) which has been used in the past. All those who have uploaded content onto this service have been contacted and advised on the process to transfer files.
For an overview of Kaltura please look at http://corp.kaltura.com/
SaGE (Submission and Grading Electronically)
Results of SaGE survey and further planning
SaGE survey and feedback are now available on the SaGE blog
More details at: http://blogs.northampton.ac.uk/sage/2013/05/05/sage-survey-findings-and-moving-forward/
Results of 2012/13 mobile survey
The results of the 2012/13 mobile survey are now available and are informing future developments of iNorthampton and mobile services more generally at Northampton.
More details at: http://blogs.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/2013/04/19/2013-mobile-survey-%E2%80%93-response-and-actions/
LearnTech Staffing and Communications update
Since the last newsletter, Rob Davis has left the team and been replaced by Simon Thompson. Simon will pick up responsibilities as key contact for Social Sciences.
Rachel McCart is working with the team till July to assist staff with migrating and setting up NILE sites for the 2013/14 academic year. She is specifically, administrating site copies, merging modules and setting up Turnitin for 13/14 NILE modules – requests for work on modules within the current academic year are being dealt with by the rest of the team.
The full team list is at: http://www.northampton.ac.uk/info/200309/technology-enhanced-learning/1160/contact-us
A new support email address has been created for the team for any Learning Technology related issues (LearnTech@northampton.ac.uk) . All emails sent to the old LTSupport email address are now being forwarded on to the new address.
The JISC 2012 paper on Extending the learning environment provides information which assists in informing the review process of VLEs.
Earlier in 2012, Northampton went through a VLE review process and the notes and links below may be of interest to institutions which are going through a similar process. I have sub-titled this post ‘Caviar or Red Herring’ as the process may be seen as either a quality opportunity to ensure that you have the best product (the Caviar) or an opportunity to spend significant time comparing products with very similar functionality (the Red Herring) – you may not be sure which you have until you get to the end of the process…..and could end up with a mix of the two !
** Please note that the review below was conducted early in 2012 – all products mentioned were reviewed at that time and have changed significantly since in terms of functionality and version. **
We started the review process with a number of key principles:
- The institution is committed to reviewing its virtual learning environment to ensure suitability for purpose and cost effectiveness.
- Any change must enhance the student experience. Staff and students should evaluate the options and be involved in the change decision. Dedicated and nominated staff within the Schools should be allowed time to review the options with the support of their Dean.
- The change process can be disruptive for staff and students due to the migration needed. This can be mitigated though recruitment of dedicated staff to support the process.
- Whether we maintain the current platform under the current VLE or move to an alternative platform, the review is an opportunity for staff to fully engage with all students and University stakeholders.
- Material and structure should be reviewed and improved where possible. Templates and support will be provided and staff will engage with these. Additional long term support will need to be considered.
- All platforms under the VLE should be externally hosted at present to provide maximum uptime.
[The decision to go hosted with the current VLE (Blackboard] was made in 2007 based on the need for high level system availability which could not be guaranteed with internal hosting. This decision was based on Northampton’s internal culture and infrastructure. It was decided at the time of the VLE review that the system should be maintained as a hosted operation]
As part of the process we were aware that several other institutions had conducted VLE reviews in the past year and contacted these to obtain a copy of their findings – some were more open than others (for obvious reasons).
This brief report is a summary of the six VLE reviews which we were able to obtain.
Reviews were instigated by either / and:
- Issues caused with current internal hosting
- An impending significant upgrade to the current system
- A perception that a move will save money
Four of the six will continue to use Blackboard; one is moving to Moodle on cost grounds; ** are considering moving to Moodle.
Uptime is considered a key issue for all reviews and most are considering, or have already moved to hosted option regardless of the product chosen.
Functionality reviews have tried to compare the latest features of each system and there is an inevitable cross over between them. Analysis of the reviews seems to indicate that Blackboard currently has a more intuitive structure ‘out of the box’. Flexible designs may be achieved in Moodle.
All reviews have noted that there is a ‘transition cost’ which pushes up the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). Moodle options necessitate the need for a developer (or team) in house to make best use of the system and customise the interface.
The majority of academic staff within the reviews noted no pedagogical advantage in moving from Blackboard to Moodle and felt that any such a change would present a significant risk to the current status of the University’s core business and its likely future development. Retraining would be needed in any transition.
** noted that staff development and training needs were often overlooked, or severely underestimated in transitions. They had migrated to Moodle as a perceived cost saving.
- The TCO of any migration is fully costed
- Staff and students need to be fully consulted in current and future needs
- Regardless of the option chosen – staff need to be fully supported and encouraged to make best use of it. Some current poor student reviews within the current VLE were prompted by poor academic engagement with the system rather than any lack of functionality.
- The review process must review the latest available version of each VLE.
- Considering the current IT infrastructure, we need to maintain a hosted solution regardless of the option selected.
The final report which was presented to the University Executive Group summarised the 4 month review process. Please note that some confidential details have been removed for obvious reasons.
The decision to remain with Blackboard for a further three years was based on a wide range of factors and not just the basic cost. The TCO which included price, cultural issues and migration meant that the decision was the best for Northampton at that time. I’m fully aware that other institutions will conduct reviews which will be conducted within a completely culture and with different needs which will lead them down a different path. We will be looking for a formal review again in 2014/15 – let’s hope that this is a ‘Caviar’ experience.
For further details on the review process please contact Rob Howe
Gill Gourlay – Senior lecturer in Marketing and Entrepreneurship has the challenge of marking around 350 level 4 papers with a marking team of 6 tutors. Marking criteria for this assignment already existed and Gill and the team used paper based rubrics to mark the work in previous years.
With varying benefits and challenges the team successfully marked and fed back to all students. Have a look at the case study for more details about the process: Using NILE (Blackboard) Rubrics to mark Turnitin assignments
Sally Laurie – Senior lecturer in Marketing and Entrepreneurship has been using innovative technology within NILE for a few years now. Over the last academic year Sally has started to use the Rubrics tool within NILE to evaluate her students’ work using existing marking criteria based on the UMF guidelines and learning outcomes for each module.
With support from Learning Technology, Sally has successfully used rubrics within a classroom, while students present, to mark and feedback on their work. Moderation also took place at the same time.
The case study describes all the details, benefits, challenges and key points: Using NILE (Blackboard) Rubrics to mark Presentations
The default My Sites box on your NILE homepage is an unhelpful, alphabetical mess. We attempted to alleviate a little bit of the ridiculousness by prefixing site titles with ’12/13′ last year so at least all your 12/13 sites will appear at the top of the box, but we have come up with a better solution! It’s called ‘Group by Term’ and you can enable it on your own NILE homepage by following these instructions.
Hover your mouse over the My Sites box and click on the cog icon at the top right:
In section 1 of that screen, tick the box next to ‘Group by Term‘:
So far, we have two Terms set up on NILE, one for the 12/13 academic year, and one for 13/14. You can specify which one(s) you would like to be displayed in your My Sites box (Show Term), and also whether you would like see the Term, by default, in its expanded or collapsed state (Expand Term) – click on the image to zoom in.
Choose whichever options you require, click Submit and you will see a better organised My Sites box:
Between July 21st 3pm BST and July 22nd 3am BST , NILE will be upgraded to the latest version.
Currently Northampton are on Blackboard 9.1 service pack 9. The upgrade will take us up to service pack 12.
Whilst during the academic year mainly security fixes are applied, annually we need to ensure that NILE is at the most stable version with the latest features to benefit staff and students. Our hosting contract provides us with at least 99.9% availability for NILE 365 days a year providing we ensure that we maintain our version.
The new version contains new functionality which will be of use to staff and students and ensure that NILE is maintained as an advanced virtual learning environment to maximise the student experience.
For more details on the main changes then please follow the links below. Major new features were included in service packs 10 and 12. Service pack 11 just included a number of minor improvements. Please note that the July upgrade may not contain all of the changes depending on the feedback from the focus group.
*SP 11 was a maintenance service pack that included fixes and improvements to features introduced in Service Pack 10.
A list is available for those that wish to check browser compatibility with SP12.
A staff and student focus group is being consulted on the changes which are being introduced. If you would like to join this group then please contact Rob.Howe@northampton.ac.uk.
This case study describes using the Xerte online eLearning Authoring system to develop resources for a blended learning course.
The aim was to increase the quality of communication of the module content, through interactive learning opportunities for distance learners. It was also anticipated that supplementary materials for other modules in the School of Education could progressively be provided in this format.
Case Study (case study, PDF 515.6 KB)
This case study describes using Panopto and iPad for easy and mobile recording of student assessments.
The main aim was to record student assessments and upload immediately to our VLE, minimising editing and publishing while maximising availability for external moderation.
Case Study (case study, PDF 171.6 KB)
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