Interactive Animated Venn Diagrams

The Learning and Teaching Team contacted us to request an animated diagram showing the relationship between various areas of work, including faculty schools, institutes, and the Faculty Research-led Education Federation (FREF). The resulting page is visible to Newcastle staff here – take a look before reading the rest of the post.

The initial brief included a PowerPoint with the required information, as well as a mock-up of how the final animation could look. As this content was being built within SharePoint, there were certain technical restrictions on what could be done. For example, the site template has a fixed width, and animations cannot be created natively within it. The interactive diagram also needed buttons and links added that would both display additional item information, and also take users to different areas of the site when clicked, such as school and institute homepages.

These requirements meant that the animation needed to be created separately and then shared, and an HTML 5 canvas based animation was the best choice (not to be confused with our VLE Canvas!).

Working from the requirements for the layout, icons were designed/created to match each school and institute. These icons were designed in Adobe Illustrator. Once these had been approved, they were then imported into Adobe Animate where the animation and programming processes began.

Some elements of the animation, such as moving an object or changing its size can be done very simply in Animate with its inbuilt tools and timeline-based animation, however extra coding is needed in some cases, for example when checking variables or adding links and hotspot areas.

After a second round of consultation and changes, the final animation could be uploaded to our teams e-learning repository and then an embed code provided to enable it to be placed on the SharePoint site. The resulting diagram shows how the many organisations inter-relate and allows for a large amount of information to be shared in a relatively small space. Showing everything at once would not be practical. The animation itself cannot be easily understood by accessibility software, however the information is easily accessible via alternative menus on the page.

sample animation of interactive diagram
sample animation of interactive diagram

In this animation, the first stage shows the building of the initial stages of the diagram, and an animated cursor encourages viewers to interact with each section. Next, the three key areas of the Venn diagram become interactive (changing colour as users’ mouse over with a pointer cursor) and users can click around the diagram to explore the further information and link out to the various school/faculty pages. The use of the cursor pointer and the colour change clearly highlights the interactivity to the user.

There are a wide range of alternative uses for this type of diagram, which is commonly used for categorising. Adding the interactive hotspot elements opens up further possibilities, where each individual item can be further explored.

Resources

Introduction to HTML 5 Canvas

Adobe illustrator: https://www.adobe.com/uk/products/illustrator.html

Adobe Animate: https://www.adobe.com/uk/products/animate.html

Link to animation: https://elearning-repo.ncl.ac.uk/uploads/assets/59/Assets/FREF.html

Cropping Video: Removing the date from Screencasts

Over the last year or so most of us will have taken the plunge and recorded a lecture or tutorial to share with students. You may be considering reusing this content for years to come, however the date and time on your screencast will give the game away.

I don’t know if some students would have a problem with a video from last year being used again this year… I would prefer the date (which is visible at the bottom left of my laptop screen) to not be visible

FMS Module Leader

We can do this with video editing software such as Adobe Premier Pro or Final Cut Pro, but what if you do not have access to such software?

At this point most of us usually head to Google to find a free alternative. Trying to find a free online tool can be a little daunting and it’s always worth double-checking the usage terms and privacy policies are reasonable.

We have previously recommended ezgif.com to be used to create animated gifs for instruction and demonstrations. Ezgif don’t store your files or claim any intellectual property rights over anything you upload, and your file is removed from their servers in an hour.

This free content editing website can be used for so much more than just creating gifs. They have a designated area for editing videos, including an easy to use cropping tool.

Digital Image File Formats, and When to Use them

Are you confident that you know when you should use a specific type of image format?

Within FMS teaching and research there is a great demand for clear and detailed images – this could be for purposes such as sharing diagnostic images or microscope views in high clarity, photographs of real cases and examples, or designing something eye-catching to promote your initiative. The detailed guide below explains the types of image formats you may find useful for different purposes.

There are several image formats that you are likely to come across, but what you may not know is that they can be separated into two ‘families’. This guide will help you understand the characteristics of each format, and which situation lends itself best to each.

Before we go into the details of each specific format, let’s talk about the two key families. These are VECTOR images and RASTER images, and while at certain sizes they could look almost exactly the same, their construction is fundamentally different.

Vector Images

Vector graphics are based on mathematical formulas that define geometric shapes such as polygons, lines, curves, circles and rectangles. Because vector graphics are composed of geometric constructions, they are best used to represent more structured images such as icons, line-art graphics and illustrations with flat uniform colours.

File extensions EPS, AI and SVG are examples of this type and are perfect for creating graphics that require frequent resizing such as logos and icons.

Vector-based images are much more versatile than raster-based images, with their most obvious advantage being that vector images are infinitely scalable. This means that the same image could be printed out the with the same clarity at both advertising billboard and postage stamp size. Another advantage is that as they are images that you create from scratch (as opposed to photographic images) they have a transparent background to them by default. If you need a white or coloured background in your file you can simply add a coloured box under your artwork.

Vectors do have a few limitations, such as not handling effects such as blurs, and poor handling of gradients.

Raster Images

Also known as Bitmap images, Raster images are composed of individually coloured square pixels which build up the complete image. As an example – all photographic images are captured as raster images, with TIF, JPGPNG, and GIF all being examples of raster image file extensions.

Pixels have a defined proportion based on their resolution (high or low), and when the pixels are stretched to fill space they were not originally intended to fit, they become distorted, resulting in blurry or unclear images. When you resize raster images by scaling up you will be compromising their resolution, as a result, it is important to remember to save raster files at your required dimensions. Once you make a source image smaller than its original size there is no going back – unlike vector images!

This example demonstrates the different affects that scaling has on both a vector and raster image (logo). Notice how they both look fine at first, but then pixelation occurs.
A note about ‘Resolution’ and ‘Effective Resolution’

Image resolution for raster images is measured in DPI (dots per inch) and this refers to the density of pixels in an image. Websites display images at 72dpi which is a relatively low resolution. By contrast, images that will be used for printing are required to be no less than 300dpi at the size they will be printed.

You can’t just take an image and scale it up dramatically, as it would stretch out and lose quality, as the dots per inch would effectively have been lowered, i.e. the ‘effective resolution’ would be lower.

What is compression and why does it matter?

When you save an image, some files need to be ‘compressed’ to keep file sizes down, as the files themselves would be far too large if this didn’t happen. Some formats are ‘lossy’ and some are ‘lossless’. If image compression is lossy, this means that every time you make an amendment and save, you may lose some quality, sharpness or colour data. The quality of the image decreases in proportion to file size.

Here are details of some of the most common file types you’re likely to encounter:

Raster File Formats

1. JPEG – Joint Photographic Experts Group

JPEGs are an extremely common image file type and as a result they can be used both on websites and in most desktop applications. It is a lossy file format.

Your file may have either the .JPG or the .JPEG extension, don’t worry it’s exactly the same type of file, and the .JPG extension is the most commonly used.

Note: This type of image does not support an alpha channel, therefore can’t have a transparent background.


2. TIF (or TIFF) – Tagged Image File

Mainly used in the print industry, these files tend to be very large high-quality photographic images that feature “lossless compression” meaning the original image data is maintained regardless of how often you might copy, re-save, or compress the original file.

If you have access to Adobe Photoshop, then you have the ability to retain a layering structure within the file. This means that if you put a text layer at the top, you could then move that text around without being destructive to the layer below. The same is true for a native Photoshop file.

Note: Due to the low compression and high file sizes, this type of image should not be used online as it will take forever to load!


3. PNG – Portable Network Graphics

PNG’s are probably the second most common image type after JPGs. They offer lossless compression, so don’t lose quality when resaving or editing, resulting in a sharper image.

If you are preparing an image for a website then this format will probably be your best option as it allows for everything a JPG does but with a much sharper image. It can also handle transparency, enabling the use of a transparent background which is great for placing logos on to images, for example. These are not suitable for professional print purposes though, and are usually of a lower resolution for use online.

When saving these images in Photoshop you can choose between an 8 Bit, 16 Bit, or 32 Bit colour palette however this will be reflected in file size.


4. GIF – Graphics Interchange Format

There was a time when these and JPGs were pretty much the only image formats that you needed to know about however times have changed.

In their standard form GIFs are a pixelated image made up of a colour palette of up to 256 colours. Due to the limited number of colours, the file size is drastically reduced.

An example where these may be used could be some navigational icons on a site or app that require a quick load time.

The rise of social medial has contributed to the use of Animated GIFs, which are essentially a series of frames embedded within the GIF file. This can give an almost video like impression and typically only last a few seconds.


Vector File Formats

5. EPS – Encapsulated Postscript

An EPS file is a vector format that has been designed to produce high-resolution graphics for print. Almost any kind of design software can create/open an EPS.

The EPS extension is a universal file type that can be used to open vector-based artwork in almost any design editor, not just the more common Adobe products.

This safeguards file transfers to designers that may be using different software.


6. SVG – Scalable Vector Graphics

Although all vector graphics are scalable, the SVG file type is specifically named Scalable Vector Graphics because this format can be easily used online with newer technology and higher screen resolutions being introduced.

An SVG file would ensure that the quality of the image is not compromised no matter what device it is viewed on. This could be particularly appropriate for a logo or statistical chart. However, this image format is not intended for professional print purposes.

Note: SVGs can also be used in SVG animations.


7. AI – Adobe Illustrator Document

Adobe Illustrator is used for creating and editing images, rather than for sharing or uploading. Adobe Illustrator documents are the preferred vector graphics format used by designers for creating images for use in all types of projects from web to print.

Adobe Illustrator is the industry standard for creating vector artwork from scratch. It can also be used to export to pretty much any other file type.

Note: Think of these as being the “Source” file. Access to Adobe Creative Cloud is required to open this type of file.


It can be pretty complicated to fully understand the different image characteristics, much more so than it seems at first glance, but this brief guide has provided a better understanding of the standard file types and which are most appropriate for your project.

Conclusion

  • PNGs are very useful for most purposes – they are not lossy, and you can have a transparent background for easy integration to any document.
  • GIFs can be animated, and can also handle transparency.
  • Resolution is only relevant to raster images.
  • Vector images can be scaled up and down infinitely without loss of quality, which is great for logos, graphs and charts.

Exploring 3D Anatomy – A New MOOC Developed with FMS TEL

Over the past few months, the FMS TEL team have been working on bringing a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) to life. The course, Exploring 3D Anatomy, is an active, hands-on, and engaging online course now available to Newcastle students and staff! The course was designed by Dr Iain Keenan of Newcastle University and Mr Leonard Shapiro of the University of Cape Town.

3D spatial awareness is a cognitive function. Improving it improves students’ 3D visualisation ability and spatial skills in anatomy learning.

In our experience, medical, dental, and other healthcare students can experience significant challenges in 3D spatial anatomy. Because of the three-dimensional arrangement of the human body, student spatial awareness can be a major influence on their anatomical education. In this online course, students can practice several  easy-to-follow, hands-on exercises that we have designed to address and improve 3D spatial awareness. Video demonstrations by Iain and Leonard guide students through each activity, which involve the use of  readily available household objects such as a piece of fruit, a jar, or a fork.

As simple as these exercises are to follow and carry out, the effect of such activities on improving 3D spatial awareness can be notable. What’s more, the exercises can be enjoyable too!

The Fruit Exercise: a guided dissection of this 3D object can improve 3D spatial understanding of the anatomical planes.

The practical exercises in the course are demonstrated by Iain and Leonard on video, allowing students to access the content at their own pace. These videos show the exercises in detail and allow students to hear the conversation as the exercise unfolds. Videos are short and simple to follow, and have been captioned by the team to ensure clarity.

Leonard Demonstrating the Fruit Exercise with a Lemon
Iain Starting the Fruit Exercise with a Lime

All Newcastle University staff and students can join the Canvas course, which is structured in three parts and requires around 4 hours of activity in total. We hope to expand access to an extended version of the course in 2022/23. For further information, please contact Dr Iain Keenan.

Contacts 

Dr Iain Keenan, Senior Lecturer in Anatomy, School of Medical Education, Newcastle University 

Mr Leonard Shapiro, Observation and Spatial Awareness Teacher, Department of Human Biology, University of Cape Town 

Further Reading 

This course is supported by the following research: 

Backhouse, M., Fitzpatrick, M., Hutchinson, J., Thandi, C.S. and Keenan, I.D. (2017), Improvements in anatomy knowledge when utilizing a novel cyclical “Observe-Reflect-Draw-Edit-Repeat” learning process. Anat Sci Educ, 10: 7-22. https://doi.org/10.1002/ase.1616

Ben Awadh, A., Clark, J., Clowry, G. and Keenan, I.D. (2021), Multimodal Three-Dimensional Visualization Enhances Novice Learner Interpretation of Basic Cross-Sectional Anatomy. Anat Sci Educ. https://doi.org/10.1002/ase.2045

Branson TM, Shapiro L, Venter RG. Observation of Patients’ 3D Printed Anatomical Features and 3D Visualisation Technologies Improve Spatial Awareness for Surgical Planning and in-Theatre Performance. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2021;1334:23-37. Available at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34476743/

Reid, S., Shapiro, L. and Louw, G. (2019), How Haptics and Drawing Enhance the Learning of Anatomy. Anat Sci Educ, 12: 164-172. https://doi.org/10.1002/ase.1807

Shapiro, L., Bell, K., Dhas, K., Branson, T., Louw, G. and Keenan, I.D. (2020), Focused Multisensory Anatomy Observation and Drawing for Enhancing Social Learning and Three-Dimensional Spatial Understanding. Anat Sci Educ, 13: 488-503. https://doi.org/10.1002/ase.1929

Writing Complex Documents with LaTeX

In FMS and SAgE, students can produce heavily mathematical theses. These can be difficult to manage in Microsoft Word as it is not designed for documents that include a lot of equations and other mathematical notations. Furthermore, theses are often very large documents with each chapter in a separate file. Compiling those chapters into a single document is something that LaTeX is ideal for. It was designed with professional typesetting so that users can focus on their content and not the style of the document.

Here at FMS TEL, we added a session in LaTeX to our catalogue of digital skills sessions a few years ago, and since the pandemic we have transitioned this to a webinar with some interactivity.

LaTeX is an open-source mark-up language so the training sessions are on primarily on learning the LaTeX code. This enables postgraduates to set up their documents from scratch or, more likely, to modify pre-existing templates such as the template that we provide them on the Digital Skills Hub or working a boilerplate paper. The slides used in the session are also provided on the Digital Skills Hub as well as some additional materials used during the session such as the graph files used.

Sessions are in two parts and cover how to set up your document in LaTeX, incorporating comments, mathematics, images, bibliography and references, tables and matrices, and more. There are many different LaTeX editors but the training session is built around the Overleaf.com editor as that is completely in the cloud and therefore nothing needs to be installed to be able to use it. It is free to use unless collaboration is needed with a document or other advanced needs. Skills learned with this editor should be easily transferable to other editors.

We have had a great response to the LaTeX training session. It is always very popular and we get a lot of positive feedback from participants.

Resources

Authentic Assessment

Having a new assessment system (Inspera) offers the opportunity to redesign assessments, and there are many examples of authentic assessment already running throughout FMS.

What is Authentic Assessment?

Authentic assessment covers a wide range of assessment techniques, including setting tasks that students may be asked to undertake in their future careers. It also covers the setting of other purposeful tasks – assessments that have value beyond simply testing knowledge, such as reflective tasks.

During the FMS TEL conference, a session was run that covered several examples of authentic assessment. Examples came from the School of Dentistry, presented by Ruth Valentine and Chris Penlington, the School of Psychology’s Psychology of Religion module led by Patrick Rosenkranz, and the School of Biomedical Sciences, presented by Lindsey Ferrie. The resources can be accessed via the links below.

  • Video and Audio via Panopto directly.
  • Full set of resources on the FMS TEL Community on Canvas and the MLE.

Inspera Resources

Check out our previous posts on Inspera for more information, or read more on the LTDS website and Inspera’s corporate homepage.

Further Reading

Digital Skills Workshops for Postgraduate Students

Are you supervising a postgraduate student? If so, consider recommending Digital Skills workshops to help them with the process of formatting their thesis.

Digital Skills offers a series of four workshops specifically designed to help postgraduate students to format their thesis effectively and efficiently in Microsoft Word to University standards.

Sessions cover the use of Styles, caption and cross-referencing, customising multilevel lists, managing images and tables, modifying EndNote output, and merging chapter files. These skills provide students with the ability to create a successfully formatted thesis.

The first in the series of sessions takes place on 21st October 10-12pm. Encourage your students to sign up now via Workshops. Alternatively, students can complete the tutorial in their own time via the Digital Skills website.

Inspera Launch Events – Updates

Inspera is the new Digital Exam System available at the University. Inspera offers a wide range of features covering a large variety of exam styles. Colleagues wishing to learn more about Inspera are strongly encouraged to attend the event below, and explore the online guidance available on the LTDS website.

Further to our previous post, there have been some changes to the launch events as below.

  • 12 October 2021 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM UK, 5:00 PM-18:30 PM Malaysia (via Zoom)
  • 9 November 2021 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM UK (Ridley 2)
  • 10 November 2021 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM UK (NUBS)

Find out more about Inspera

Digital Exams with Inspera Assessment webpages.  

Inspera Guidance Canvas course, simply click the link to self-enrol.  

LTDS blog post about Inspera

If you have any questions about the launch events or Inspera Assessment, please email digital.exams@newcastle.ac.uk

New Digital Exams System: Inspera

Inspera is the new Digital Exam System available at the University. Inspera offers a wide range of features covering a large variety of exam styles. Colleagues wishing to learn more about Inspera are strongly encouraged to attend the event below, and explore the online guidance available on the LTDS website.

Have you seen the latest updates on Inspera?

Come along to one of the online events for live demonstrations, the chance to speak with our Inspera colleagues and to find out more about uses for digital assessments.

The first rollout will involve modules already using digital assessments.

Find out more

Digital Exams with Inspera Assessment webpages.  

Inspera Guidance Canvas course, simply click the link to self-enrol.  

LTDS blog post about Inspera

If you have any questions about the launch events or Inspera Assessment, please email digital.exams@newcastle.ac.uk

FMS TEL Conference

The FMS TEL Conference ran at the beginning of this month. Fifteen events ran in the week beginning 6th September 2021, with diverse themes covering technology in teaching, technical guides and inspiration, and how we interact with technology as people.

Sessions were attended by staff from Newcastle and from NUMed, with over 150 session bookings across the conference. Feedback from attendees has been positive, and colleagues shared their plans for implementing their learning from the conference.

Many thanks to the session hosts, everyone working behind the scenes, and to the attendees for joining us.

Session resources can be found on our Canvas and MLE communities.