This case study talks about a pilot run by Janet Jackson and her students in Environmental Sciences from the School of Science & Technology, whilst on 2 field trips to Wicken Fen and Stonehenge.
The main aims of this pilot were to allow the students to document and reflect on their findings whilst in the context (in this case the field trips), and then to access and re-use that information outside of the context.
Students enjoyed using the devices, particularly for photography and video, which helped them to record a lot of data very easily. 80% of the students said that the app was ‘easy’ or ‘very easy’ to use.
Learning across contexts – mobile for fieldwork (case study, PDF 638KB)
This case study reports findings from a pilot run in stage 2 of Foundation Art and Design (Nov 2011-Feb 2012) by Jayne Corfield in the School of Arts.
Online spaces in NILE, which are easily accessible using mobile technology, were set up for students to document and reflect on their work anytime, anywhere, across any context.
Learner generated contexts – mobile for anytime anywhere learning (case study, PDF 511KB)
Please note: this post is focused on iOS (Apple) devices, as the nature of this operating system can make transfer of files more difficult than it is on other platforms, e.g. Android. That’s not to say though that you couldn’t also use WebDAV with an Android device.
What is WebDAV?
WebDAV (or Web Distributed Authoring and Versioning) is a technology that allows you read and write access to a shared folder on a server. Basically, it means that you can download files, read them, change them and upload them again (although it can also do lots of other clever things with files too).
Using WebDAV with staff shared (Novell) drives
Ever wondered how you can get to the files on your shared drive via your iPad? Here’s how.
- Get the WebDAV Nav app. It’s free.
- In your iPad browser (probably Safari), go to http://www.northampton.ac.uk/netstorage. Log in.
- Tap on the little notepad icon, next to the logout (open door) button. The web address (URL) of the page you are viewing will change slightly.
- Select and copy the URL.
- Go into the WebDAV Nav app, and click the ‘plus’ icon at the top right of the screen.
- Give the location a name, e.g. ’School Shared Drive’, and paste in the URL in the Server URL field. Add in your username and password. On the next screen you should see your shared drive folders.
Ok, so you now you can get at the files you had stored there. But what if you want to upload something?
Well, lots of apps have a ‘Send to WebDAV’ option built in. In Pages, for example, when you have a document open you can go to ‘Share and Print’ in the settings (top right), and choose ‘Copy to WebDAV’. The iWork apps (Pages, Numbers, Keynote) will transfer these files directly for you. The first time you do this, you will need to enter the server information, exactly as you did above. After that, this information will be stored for you (unless you choose to Sign Out each time).
Some other apps, like iAnnotate for PDF, will give you an ‘Open In’ option, but then don’t allow you to enter the server address within the app. In this case, the upload is a two part process. Choosing the WebDAV option from the sharing menu here will copy the file to local storage on the iPad.
You then need to go back to the WebDAV Nav app, navigate to the folder where you want to upload the file, and then click the hard drive icon at the bottom right of the screen to pick up the file and upload it.
Using WebDAV with NILE
It’s also possible to use WebDAV to upload files from your iPad into NILE. If you have the iNorthampton and/or Blackboard Mobile Learn apps, you will already know that you can add new text-based content items in to module sites (as long as you have instructor access). However, on Apple devices, the ‘Attachments’ button currently only allows you to pick up image files, from the camera or photo library. WebDAV will allow you to get different types of files in to NILE from your iPad, although you may still need to do some fine tuning on how you present these files to students, using a standard web browser (from a desktop or laptop computer). Here’s how.
In your module site on NILE, go to the Control Panel and click on the double right arrow button next to the ‘Files’ heading. You should see the file storage area for that site, where all of the attached files are kept. At the top right, click on the ‘Setup Web Folder’ button.
Copy the Web address that is highlighted on the next screen – you can use this as you did with the server address details in the steps above. Any files uploaded using this link will appear in the Files area of this course on NILE. Unfortunately this doesn’t let you display the files in a content area for the students to view, but it does mean that the file is transferred into NILE ready to be used. When you log in from your desktop or laptop, you can create an item, and choose the file from the course Files area.
Hints and tips for using WebDAV with NILE:
Each module will have its own URL. If you’re using the WebDAV Nav app to upload files, you might want to set up each of your NILE sites, so that you can add files into the right courses. However if the files you are uploading are mostly from iWork apps, which transfer files directly, then you may prefer to choose one module on NILE that you want to use as a storage point for uploads, to save you having to sign out and re-enter a different URL every time you want to upload something to a different course. Once the file is in NILE, you can create the content item or link in that course, and then use the ‘Move’ function (from the dropdown menu) to pick which module site you want to move it to.
Being able to add your own notes to PDF files can be really useful, whether they are lecture notes you want to add your own thoughts to, documents or journal articles you have downloaded for your own research, or student or collaborative papers that you need to feed back on. There are many different options available for this. Here are a few we found.
iOS (Apple) apps
neu.Annotate is a free app that will allow you to open a PDF file (e.g. from email, the web or a cloud storage service like Dropbox), and annotate it using typed text or freehand annotation in a range of colours, as well as adding shapes, stamps and images. You can even add whole new pages, and annotate those too. The annotations are saved as part of the PDF, which can then be sent out by email or saved back to Dropbox.
iAnnotate PDF is an advanced tool with lots of options, including the usual highlighting and annotation. It can be set up to sync with Dropbox, but also has it’s own sync tool, called Aji PDF service, that allows you to set up a live link to a folder directly on your PC or Mac. This allows you to batch download original files, and then batch upload your annotated versions.
There is also an iAnnotate Lite version of this app for Android.
GoodReader is an app that can handle many different types of files. It’s really a file management tool, that allows you to access PDFs, Office and iWork files, images, video and even archived web pages on your iOS device. It can collect together files from a range of sources, including Google docs, Dropbox and iCloud, and let you read, organise, annotate (PDF and txt only) and re-upload them. It’s pretty complicated, as apps go, but if your files are a bit all over the place, this might be a good one for you. The PDF annotation here is kind of a bonus.
Again, there are a number of options available. Features vary, but all of the following will allow you to mark up, type on and highlight PDFs, as well as fill in PDF forms. In order of price at time of writing:
- ezPDF Reader includes text-to-speech and the ability to view audio and video files if they are embedded in the PDF. It also has a plugin to integrate with Google docs.
- Repligo Reader allows you to annotate and send PDF files via email, Bluetooth, Dropbox and Evernote.
- qPDF also allows you to send files via Bluetooth and sync files in Dropbox.
A note on workflows
If you’re planning to annotate a number of files, it’s worth thinking through how you will transfer these to and from the device. Many of the apps listed above will allow you to download files from (and sometimes upload or sync them to) cloud storage services, like Dropbox or Google docs. This saves having to attach individual files to email, but these services also have their own limitations.
We recommend, particularly when working with documents relating to student assessment, that you transfer the files directly between your device and a University computer wherever possible, rather than using a third party cloud storage solution. You may be able to do this wirelessly, using WebDAV or FTP, otherwise you may need to connect your device to the computer. With an iOS device, you can transfer annotated files via the iTunes software for all of the apps mentioned above. If you have an Android device, you may be able to connect it via USB as you would a memory stick, and batch transfer your files.
If you’d like any help on the above, don’t forget you can always contact the LT team.
With thanks to Dr. James Xue, Lecturer in Computing, for the iAnnotate recommendation.
Disclaimer: these posts aim to recommend functionality, not particular products or services. The app world changes fast, and any third party app may not be available forever. Always make sure you have a back-up option.
You will have seen that an overview of the responses to the Mobile Survey have now been published. As part of the survey, we gave staff and students the opportunity to add comments and make suggestions about the University’s mobile provision. Lots and lots of you did this, and we really appreciate your input. We thought you might like to know how we’re planning to take this forward in phase 2 (hopefully Easter) and phase 3 (summer 2012) of iNorthampton.
“Need to be able to personalise the app more”
We included the ability to define your role when using the app from the first launch, to provide a framework for delivery of more personalised information in the future. You will soon be able to rearrange the tools on the springboard to move the ones you use most to the top. More targeted information for staff and current students will be coming in future phases.
“There should be more content from the Students’ Union”
We agree! The SU has been part of the project from the beginning. We are working with them on adding SU news, and the SU Youtube channel in phase 2, and SU photo galleries and events in phase 3.
“Does the app come in different languages?”
Yes. The app is available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, German, Japanese, and Dutch. When the device is switched to a new language the framework of the app will respect that change, however the data supplied from University systems will still be delivered in English.
“There should be more integration with social media (Facebook, Twitter)”
We’re looking into the best ways to do this – whether as part of the news feeds, or by adding integration in other tools. We don’t want to add it just for the sake of it – it needs to go where it will be useful.
“The app is too big!”
We know that storage space is a concern, particularly for Android users. We have a difficult balance to strike between providing the information people ask for, and keeping the app size down. Before the launch of the next phase, we’ll be going through the app and slimming it down as much as we can.
Suggested improvements to current tools:
The main campus maps will be updated for phase 2 – this will be ongoing as changes are made to the campuses and new sites added. We also have the option to add AR features and video and audio tours, these are currently scheduled for phase 3.
“The directory needs to be organised into school areas, and should include the ability to search for services (i.e. ‘accommodation’ or ‘Finance’) as well as names”
The directory tool currently only pulls data from the staff database. This doesn’t provide a single point of contact by service, nor does it include staff who are not paid by the University (e.g. those from partner colleges). We’re looking to integrate other data sources in phase 3.
“The courses section has no information about research degrees”
This is tricky as there is no directory of available courses, as with the taught courses. We’re looking into linking to research degree information on the website instead.
We’re looking to categorise the list of events, to make it easier to find things that interest you. This will require some changes to the way University events are booked in and advertised on the University web pages. Hopefully this will benefit users of the website as well as the mobile version – scheduled for phase 3.
You would like “to be able to check your library account and renew books”
We’re not sure yet whether or not this is possible with the current library system. But we’re looking into it.
“I want to get notifications/reminders from NILE”
This is coming, as part of the Mobile Learn (NILE) part of the app, but it is part of the core functionality, rather than something that is being built specifically for us, so we don’t have a date for it yet. Watch this space and we’ll let you know as soon as we know more.
“Why can’t I get NILE on my Blackberry?”
You can – but you have to get the separate Blackboard Mobile Learn app. It’s not possible to build this into another app on the Blackberry platform as it stands. We’re hoping that upcoming changes to the Blackberry operating system will allow us to improve the iNorthampton experience for Blackberry users.
We are working on improvements to this tool, but the best way to use it is to follow the ‘Add to Calendar’ link, and set up synchronisation between your University timetable, and the calendar tool you use most – this could be the calendar on your phone (for iPhone or Android), MS Outlook, or web-based calendars like Google or Windows Live. Once this is set up, you will no longer need to keep checking the timetables part of the app.
Suggestions for new features
“Please add bus times / traffic information / parking information / car sharing site / taxi numbers to the app”
Northamptonshire County Council have their own app (called NCC) for Android and iPhone, which was developed by staff here at the University. This already has live bus timetables, so we’d recommend you use this if you can. They also supply a text service to send bus times to your mobile. Sadly this does mean that the NCC won’t let us use the timetable data, but we’re looking at including links to the timetables on the website, as well as to traffic information and the car sharing website.
At present we can’t collect the data for how many parking spaces are free at any one time on site, but we have asked Infrastructure Services to look into this for us.
The University does not have a recommended taxi company, so we won’t be supplying taxi numbers, sorry.
“Can we have a tool to report faults in halls?”
We’re planning to include a telephone number for this in phase 2, and investigating a more detailed GPS-based solution for a future development (sorry, no dates for this yet).
“The app should include email, and access to file storage”
We took the decision not to include email, as smartphones already include a tool to integrate this. File storage is a little more complex, as iOS devices in particular do not have an accessible folder structure where files are stored. There are a few web-based alternatives available though. Apart from files in NILE, you can also access documents stored on the web (or in cloud services like Google docs or Windows Live) through a mobile browser. The University is also looking into access to Novell folders (staff personal or shared drives) on mobile devices via the Netstorage tool, watch this space for updates on this.
“It would be great to include links to other apps that are useful for learning”
We didn’t want to bulk out the app with these, as they may not all be relevant to all users. However when we find useful apps, we will be adding recommendations to our LearnTech blog. If you’d like to make a recommendation, or write a guest post, just let us know!
“Opening times and menus for the restaurants would be good, and links to offers from Greggs!”
We’re looking at adding ‘places of interest’ to the maps in phase 3, and this will include all the eating places, hopefully along with opening times and menus. If you want offers from Greggs, they will give them to you – but only in exchange for a like from your Facebook account.
“A tool which shows the nearest free PC would be good”
We know this is possible in theory. Our Infrastructure Services department are looking at monitoring software that can tell whether each PC is logged in or not. Once we have this up and running, we just need to find a way to get that data into the app. Leave this one with us!
If you have further suggestions to share, they are always welcome. Send them to the team at email@example.com.
This annual survey forms part of the Mobile Access to Learning and Teaching (MALT) Project. You can find out more about the project in the Projects area of the LearnTech tab in NILE.
The report provides a brief summary of the main findings of the survey, including an overview of technology ownership among staff and students, trends in mobile use, and feedback on the iNorthampton mobile app.
You can read the report here: Mobile Survey report 2011/12 (PDF 613 KB).
Using mobile devices can give you a lot more freedom in how and where you work. There is a huge range of apps available to help you deliver a presentation (or lecture), as this is a common task in the business world as well as in education. The apps cover everything from preparation to delivery, the downside being that as these are often aimed at the business market, they can be expensive. Here are some of the ones we’ve come across that you might find useful.
Creating/editing your presentation
The slickest choice for this must surely be Keynote, for iOS (Apple) devices. You can import existing presentations into the app, via email or cloud storage services like Dropbox – it will accept presentations created in Keynote (on the Mac) or Powerpoint (on a PC). You can also create a presentation from scratch, including images, tables, charts and animations. It even has an area for presenter notes. If you have an iPad 2, when connected to a video output the presenter display will allow you to see both slide and notes, and your audience will only see the slides.
For Android, Google docs seems sadly lacking in the absence of a presenter view for Google presentations. However, there are other options – QuickOffice or Documents To Go will both allow you to display Powerpoint files on your device for free. Both these apps have Pro (paid) options that will also let you create and edit presentations on the device.
Delivering your presentation
If you want to use your device to deliver the presentation, there are a few different options to consider. You can connect the device directly, using a VGA or HDMI adaptor. This is the easiest option, but it does restrict your movement (which can defeat the point of using the device in the first place). Alternatively, you can connect your device to the presenting computer using wireless or bluetooth:
- You may want to use your device as a simple presenting tool, to control navigation through the slides. In this case, apps like i-Clickr for iOS and Presenter for Android should do the trick.
- If you have the presentation on your device, there are also apps that will allow you to transmit it to the presenting computer. AirSketch for the iPad will allow you to project a whiteboard, images or PDFs (so convert your presentation first), and Scatterslides for Android works in a similar way for Powerpoint slides (note this requires a free client to be installed on the presenting computer).
- If you want to get really clever, you can even use a remote desktop application to run the presentation from your own computer via your mobile device, thus avoiding any embarrassing software version problems or incompatibilities. Apps like Splashtop and TeamViewer can do this for you, as long as you have a reliable connection.
The downside to the wireless connection method is that these apps generally need to be on the same wireless connection as the presenting computer – and to be able to find each other on it. This works fine on wireless that uses keys to authenticate, but often won’t work on secure wireless networks that use a browser login. If you’re planning on trying any of these, we strongly recommend a test run before the day of the presentation.
If you have any comments on the information above, or you’d like to recommend other apps that help you with learning or teaching, please feel free to add a comment or to email the team at LTSupport@northampton.ac.uk.
Disclaimer: these posts aim to recommend functionality, not particular products or services. The app world changes fast, and any third party app may not be available forever. Always make sure you have a back-up option.
Last week I presented on the iNorthampton project, at the Blackboard User Conference in Durham. The theme for the conference was ‘openness’, which links with the key aims of the mobile project – to open up access to information, and opportunities for learning, in new contexts and spaces.
For this session, I focused on two key elements of openness – inclusion (that is, making learning and support available to the widest possible range of users), and making University data more accessible. You can view the slides from the session, titled ‘The University in your pocket’, on the LearnTech Slideshare pages.
Inclusion has been an important concern for the team from the very start of the project. Thanks to the mobile survey that ran last academic year (and is just closing for this year), we are already aware that not all students and staff have smartphones. We’re also aware that some users find using a mobile device challenging. The project team has a number of measures in place to try to address these issues where possible:
- All of the information in the app is available in other places, usually via the University website or NILE. This means that in most cases, the app is simply another option for accessing information, and although it may be a benefit for those who prefer to use smartphones, it is not a requirement for those that don’t. We have also tried to cover as many platforms as possible – there are versions of the app for iOS, Android and Blackberry, as well as a mobile web version for those with other types of phone.
- For users who have smartphones, and who prefer not to use their own data allowance, the University is continuing to extend wireless provision across the campus. The LearnTech team also has some mi-fi (mobile wi-fi) units that staff can borrow for field trips etc., although the coverage, bandwidth and speed of these are still quite limited.
- For specific learning and teaching projects, we have a small number of mobile devices available that staff can borrow, to allow those who don’t have smartphones to take part in planned activities.
- For users with additional needs, we still recommend to staff that they provide alternative options for any mobile learning activity. We are also working closely with the suppliers to test the apps for accessibility*.
- Training and support is available for any users on request.
The other important concern in opening access to University information was in surfacing information from a range of complex University systems, and presenting it in a coherent and user friendly way. To enable this, the project team included key staff from the web team, Marketing, Corporate Information Systems and the Library, as well as Student Services, the LearnTech team, and the Student Union (please note that some of these teams have changed post-PSR). If you would like more technical details about how the data is fed in to the app, please contact the team.
The project team will be getting together next week to start thinking about the next phase of iNorthampton. if you have any feedback you would like us to consider, please send it to the dedicated email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Although there are no independent accessibility standards for native apps, there are some for mobile web apps, and the main platforms all publish their own accessibility guidelines for developers (see this blog post from Henny Swan for more links). With help from Student Services, we have tested the iOS app using VoiceOver (Apple’s built-in screen reading software), with some positive results, although the Android version is currently less readable. We are also working on improving the high contrast view of the app.
The iNorthampton app is developed by a US company. For more information about section 508 compliance and VPAT documentation, or if you’d like to contribute feedback or help us with testing, please contact the team.
For more general information on accessibility and web content, see the Accessible information page on the University website.
For more info on mobile accessibility, see the TechDis Mobile Learning for Inclusive Practice page.
The new Blackberry version has much of the same functionality as it’s Android and iPhone counterparts – it allows you to check maps, search the staff directory, get updates on news and events, and more. And you can download it for free now – just search for ‘iNorthampton’ on the Blackberry App World.
Unfortunately we haven’t yet been able to include the library search in this version, due to differences in the way apps are built for the Blackberry platform. You’ll notice also that the iNorthampton app for Blackberry doesn’t include the mobile version of NILE, but the good news here is that mobile NILE is still available for Blackberry users. Simply download the separate Blackboard Mobile Learn app, which is also available free from the App World, and search for Northampton on the first screen.
The iNorthampton app is a work in progress and we’re always keen to hear your feedback. Help us to improve on future releases by adding your comments to this blog, or emailing them to us at: email@example.com.
Why have I suddenly got two blog tools appearing in my NILE site?
The blog tools that we have always had in NILE are actually plug-ins (that is, they are made by a different software company to the people who make NILE, and are literally ‘plugged in’ to the NILE platform). If you have used blogs in the past, you will be familiar with the ones that look like this:
These tools are still available for you to use – you will see this option referred to as ‘Campus Pack blog’ in the tools list in your NILE sites. Sadly though this tool does not yet work so well with the mobile version of NILE in the new iNorthampton app. So for those of you who would prefer your students to be able to blog on the move, we have also switched on the blogging tools that are built in to NILE. You will now see extra options for ‘Blogs’ (or Blog Link from the Collaborate button) and ‘Journals’ in your NILE site.
What’s the difference?
The built-in blog tools are better at some things, and worse at others, in comparison to the Campus Pack plug-in blogs. Here are the main things you need to know:
- Both tools will allow you to have a group blog, or a private blog that can only be seen by the individual and the tutor. In the Campus Pack blog this is a setting in the blog tool when you create it, whereas the built-in version has two separate tools for this – the ‘blog’ tool for open groups or shared individual blogs, and the ‘journal’ tool for private individual or group blogging.
- If you are dividing your students into groups within your NILE site, the built in tools will allow you to create a blog and/or journal for each group when you create the group. With the Campus Pack tools, you have to do this separately – create the groups first, then create the blogs and allocate them.
- Both tools will allow you to create a column in the grade centre and specify grades for students’ work. The built-in blog and journal tools will allow you to add grades within the blog itself, while you’re checking the posts. This feature is not available in the Campus pack tool.
- The built in tools do not currently have an RSS or email subscription option, or an export option, and they do not have granular permission levels (for example, allowing non-members to view a group blog). If you need this kind of granularity, please ask the team for advice.
- The built in blog and journal tools are easy to access on a smartphone, via the iNorthampton app. The Campus Pack blogs do not currently display well in mobile browsers.
Tell us what you think
If you are a regular user of blogs in NILE, we’d love to hear your thoughts on either or both of these tools. Please send us any questions or comments at: LTSupport@northampton.ac.uk.
Switching tools off in NILE
Don’t forget that if you only want to use one of these tools, you can switch the other one off to avoid confusion (or if you prefer, you can switch off both!). To do this, go to your Control Panel and click on Customisation, and then Tool Availability. Remove the ticks for any of the tools you don’t use in your site.
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