ERDP Project: Exploring AI

As we develop our understanding of AI and its capabilities, we are looking at how advancing technologies such as ChatGPT might assist colleagues and students with day to day tasks. FMS TEL team members Simon Cotterill, Gemma Mitchelson and Michael Hughes succeeded in securing ERDP funding to explore such possibilities.

Project aims:

  1. To enable staff and students to access contextualised and personal data via AI machine learning software
  2. To investigate a process for generating AI responses in a more ethical way 
  3. To improve the University’s understanding of AI machine learning in an HE context.

We are investigating use of contextualised data, formatted​ with natural language, optimized for A.I. For example, using a student’s programme and module information, their timetable data, and MOF information to assist the student in accessing key information more easily.​ Later this could be enhanced with richer information, such as programme/module study guides, VLE course information and other sources. via APIs. Likewise, a chatbot for staff could draw together University, Faculty and School-specific information.

An exciting new feature to be explored is that of agents (aka ‘Assistants’) and their ability to take on different functions and different personas; effectively acting as a small workforce to support, user needs. Up to now, most of us are familiar with having a conversation with a single agent, yet there is growing scope for multi-agent use. In the visual below you can see an Ai Agents overview from Chat Dev. By setting instructions and ’embedding’ information into the system users can encourage each agent to behave differently. For example, “You are a member of the Design team who will come up with simple ways to achieve a set goal”, “You are a CEO who will talk to the CTO on what steps should be taken to achieve X,Y and Z.”…

A picture showing agents positioned in various roles, lead by a virtual CEO.

image source: https://github.com/OpenBMB/ChatDev

The technologies are evolving very rapidly. At an “AI Sprint” in late November, the FMS TEL team were able to work with newly released features from OpenAI; these make the embedding of customised information and personalising Assistants (agents) much more accessible. These and other new features support the integration of AI features within other systems. As such, there is likely to be a proliferation of new AI products and plugins based on these features – and hopefully eventually within the systems supported by FMS TEL. All work in our project will be cross-referenced to our university principles on AI which can be accessed here:  Artificial Intelligence (AI) | Learning and Teaching @ Newcastle | Newcastle University (ncl.ac.uk)

There are challenges to consider; in particular those related to Data Protection, which we continue to review. There are also financial considerations when using external AI services like OpenAI or via Azure API, which are metered (pay according to use), rather than fixed price plans, which need investigating as part of our intended trial/pilot.

We are in the early stages of fact-finding but will be reaching out to FMS schools in the new year with an invite to workshops to share our proof of concept.

ReCap (Panopto) is moving to the Cloud!

Find out what the move to the cloud means for you – it’s all good news!

(Article reproduced from LTDS Newsletter)

In July 2023, the University will upgrade the ReCap service to the latest version of Panopto (the software that provides ReCap) and transition the service to being cloud hosted.

To achieve this there will be a period of downtime for ReCap during week commencing 24 July 2023. NUIT and Panopto are finalising the exact dates and duration of this downtime and further details will be communicated to colleagues when available.

All current functionality for the service will be maintained and existing content migrated to the cloud hosted service in line with the University’s retention policy (6 years for teaching room recordings and indefinitely for other content e.g. ‘My Folder’ content, conference recordings).

The benefits of upgrading include:

  • Improved copying within Canvas – making sharing links to recordings from previous years easier and quicker for colleagues, with automatic updating of links reducing the number of students encountering error messages.
  • Improved live streaming functionality – facilitated by the capacity provided by cloud hosting.
  • Captioning improvements – including an update to automatic speech-to-text that has improved ASR captions quality, and additional functionality within caption editing including ‘find and replace’ and confidence highlighting.
  • Distributed recording – allowing presenters in different locations to join the same recording.
  • Better integrations with other centrally supported software –  including Zoom, Teams and H5P. A programme of communication will take place in the coming months to make colleagues aware of the downtime. During the 2023/24 academic year, we will also provide support in using the upgraded and new functionality.

Please send any questions about the upgrade, or any other aspects of the ReCap service, to ltds@ncl.ac.uk.

An invitation to review Audience Interaction Systems (AIS)

In 2022 a task group was set up to review our centrally supported audience interaction system, Ombea. As part of our remit, we are establishing user requirements for a system of this type, and inviting other suppliers to demonstrate their own AIS systems.

All the systems that will be demonstrated are established suppliers with experience of working with higher education institutions and could be viable options to replace Ombea, therefore colleague opinion of the available options is very important. After initial consultation, we have five suppliers who are interested in sharing their product.

The systems and dates of the demonstrations are:

  • Poll Everywhere – Tuesday 7th February 15:00-16:00
  • Vevox – Wednesday 8th February 14:00-15:00 
  • Slido – Friday 17th February 15:00-16:00
  • Kahoot – Monday 20th February 10:30-11:30
  • Mentimeter – Wednesday 8th March 12:00-13:00

To book a place to attend any of the demonstrations or to request links to the recordings please complete this booking form. After attending the demonstrations you will be sent a short form to complete to tell us what you thought of the system.

Any queries about the demonstrations or AIS review should be sent to the project team via ltds@ncl.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

New Digital Exams Software: Inspera

Inspera Assessment was selected as our digital exam system following a rigorous procurement process, which began with requirements mapping workshops in February 2020, attended by over 60 academic and professional services staff.

In 2021/22 Inspera will be the standard tool for centrally supported digital exams, and will be used for all modules that have a present-in-person digital exam in MOFS (with the exception of any specialist digital exams that require Numbas).

Inspera will be available for additional new digital exams from 2022/23 onwards. There will be opportunities during the academic year to see demonstrations of the software and learn more about the new types of assessment it makes possible. To discuss a potential new Inspera digital exam please contact digital.exams@newcastle.ac.uk.

Further information on preparing for exams in 2021/22 and the types of assessment possible with Inspera is now available on the Inspera pages of the Learning and Teaching website. This also includes information on how to prepare students for Inspera digital exams and links to student facing resources on the Academic Skills Kit webpages.

Webinars and in person workshops are now open for bookings.

For any queries regarding Inspera please contact digital.exams@newcastle.ac.uk.

The Hyflex Teaching Model

In response to the global pandemic, we have found ourselves faced with unprecedented challenges and a need to rapidly adapt our teaching delivery to accommodate students working remotely. Currently, we are aiming to return to a ‘business as usual’ model but in reality, there may be circumstances where some students are still unable to be present in person (PiP). Our international students are one particularly vulnerable group facing a continuous level of uncertainty regarding travel opportunities and restrictions. With this in mind, colleagues at INTO Newcastle University devised a delivery approach encompassing the Hyflex Model.

What is the Hyflex Model?

“The hybrid flexible, or HyFlex, course format is an instructional approach that combines face-to-face (F2F) and online learning. Each class session and learning activity is offered in-person, synchronously online, and asynchronously online” (EDUCAUSE, 2020). The main aim is that no student is disadvantaged, no matter which format they select. INTO Newcastle’s take on this approach was to connect PiP students with online peers through use of a camera, microphone, tripod and a hosting site such as Zoom or Teams. Asynchronous delivery is not a part of this approach. Session plans, pace of delivery and learning outcomes had to be adjusted because of the changed learning environment. A sample of FMS staff were able to experience this approach in real time at a training session delivered by INTO Newcastle’s Pre-Sessional Programme Manager, Darran Shaw. They gave the following reflections:

Overall

“While in no way perfect, this approach is something worth experimenting with”.

“The relatively cheap equipment was functional and would allow 3-way engagement”. 

Audio-related 

“I chose to join the ‘online’ part of the class via the Zoom meeting link on my phone. This was quick and easy to join, though we would possibly need to think about which accounts students have on their phones – whether they could join with their personal or university accounts. Once in the meeting I had minimal problems with sound or hearing the classroom participants. I can imagine this being difficult if the quality dropped though – even small cut-outs in the signal or sound pickup can make understanding difficult. This is even more of a concern for students joining who have poorer internet access, or who do not have English as a first language”. 

“To enhance the experience, I felt that the quality of the audio was the most important.  The levels of concentration required to filter out background noise and focus on the primary speaker is very tiring and difficult (this was already experienced with recorded lectures prior to COVID and even more diverse with academic recording or conducting zoom classes from their own PC over the last 18 months).  For those in the room, sound from all participants was equal and what we would expect, but it was not picked up equally by the microphone for those on-line.  Repositioning the single microphone was a trade-off to pick up more participants at the expense of reduced quality of the primary speaker. This could be enhanced by investment in a multiple microphone set up”.

“When the purpose of the teaching session is inter-participant communication, eg seminar, then we need to experiment more with all participants (PiP and remote) using zoom-like breakout rooms and headsets. In small classrooms/lecture theatres this is easier to control and can be achieved for lecture and seminar teaching”. 

Video

“Having a visual link to speakers and the PiP class gives an important feeling of participation and value.  I do not think the quality of the video is as important as the audio. Having said that, from the experience of this session a visual link to whoever is speaking makes it easier to focus on what is being said and allows non-verbal communication”.

“I feel it would also be good to have sight of the teacher and the class simultaneously. We spoke about this being important to pick up on cues when online participants can speak. We can see how easy it is to forget the online participants”.

Etiquette

“Appropriate etiquette is important and become vital for large class sizes. Emphasis should be placed on respect for other users, time management to attend equally (IT/bandwidth allowing) and professional level of engagement.  The latter should be specifically mentioned in Graduate Skills and academics should be allowed to comment on student engagement (recognising this is aspirational as it is almost impossible for one lecturer to monitor for large classes)”.

Top Tips for future Hyflex classes

  • There is a risk that an ‘us and them’ divide will form so it is recommended that staff look at mixing online participants and groupings in breakout rooms. PiP students could take turns signing in to Zoom/Teams calls.
  • A major requirement is sound. It would be worth investing in a few microphones to ensure the sound quality is equal between the participants in the room and the teaching lead. There would need to be potential wire issues and feedback issues sorted out. This is of fundamental importance due to the extra concentration and effort needed of online participants to hear what is said in the room. It is worth considering the use of a microphone that could be passed around easily.
  • Having multiple users logged on to zoom in the same physical space increases the chance for echo/feedback and therefore users need to experiment with the set up.
  • Whilst a hi-spec system, such as that available in the Boardroom is desirable, a low-cost camera recording the whole class will enhance feeling of participation, ‘time and place’ for learning.  The primary speaker can use a second camera (laptop or phone).  The two logged on as separate users.
  • Ground rules are needed: when to speak, recapping when unheard would be important, etiquette when joining a classroom remotely and being expected to participate fully as if present in person (but not in pyjamas or lying in bed).
  • Consider pre-planning task set up instructions. It may not always be obvious when students need to be looking at the shared screen, the speaker’s video input, or a gallery view of other online participants.
  • Be open-minded. Experiment with colleagues and test out the experience to determine what makes it easier for the teacher and the students. 

With thanks to the session leaders and participants: Darran Shaw, David Broadbent, Geoffrey Bosson, John Moss, Paul Hubbard, Luisa Wakeling, Eleanor Gordon

Resource: EDUCAUSE (2020) Available at: https://library.educause.edu/resources/2020/7/7-things-you-should-know-about-the-hyflex-course-model

360° Hidden Hotspots for Formative Assessment

A combination of 360° interactive images and interactive hotspot formative assessment tasks have been used to greatly enhance the Health and Safety lab training materials delivered in the School of Biomedical, Nutritional and Sport Sciences.

Within the school, there is a range of labs used in practical sessions. In previous years, preparatory Health and Safety Materials have been distributed on paper, or via PDF, however, one of the challenges of this mode of delivery is that some students do not necessarily engage with this material, resulting in some students not being well-prepared to work in these potentially hazardous environments.

These resources have now been moved to Canvas, and are available as general basic lab health and safety training in their own module. This module is targeted at Stage 1 Undergraduate students, though Stage 2 and 3 also have full access to the module for revision purposes. The module includes training on

  • Basic Health and Safety
  • Fire safety
  • General chemical, biological and physical hazards
  • General lab safety
  • Codes of practice

As well as module resources, there are also 360 lab tours that students can use to familiarise themselves with the lab environments, clicking through the images to ‘walk’ around the lab they might be using in the future.

A low-quality version to illustrate what students see when navigating the lab in 360.

The course concludes with quizzes and some ‘hidden hotspot’ tasks that students can use to test their own knowledge in hazard identification tasks. Interactive images like the one above have extra information inserted, which means that when students click on certain areas, information is displayed.

The interactive hotspots are created using the tool Theasys – 360 VR Online Virtual Tour Creator. One of the main advantages of using this tool is that the hotspot areas are hidden, meaning students have to explore the images in greater depth to discover the hazards. While there is a cursor change when a student hovers over the right spots, this is still much more hidden than in other tools, which highlight the hotspots with circles or other icons.

After the students have finished exploring the image, they can reveal all of the hotspots to find any they may have missed, allowing them to test their own knowledge. This could be enhanced even further by setting a Canvas quiz in the module or asking students to write a summary of the hazards found.

In addition to assessing students formatively, these 3D images and hotspot tasks provide a chance for students who may be anxious about the lab environment to explore these areas virtually first. This helps to minimise the risk of students being overwhelmed by the new space. Pairing the input with the virtual tours and, crucially, the chance to check knowledge builds confidence for all students, helping them feel well-prepared and knowledgeable about the lab environments before they even cross the threshold.

Resources

Previous blog post on 360 images

Theasys

Moving Lab Health & Safety Online

In September 2020, the School of Biomedical, Nutritional and Sport Sciences launched their new Laboratory Health and Safety Module.  This online package was designed to give Stage 1 students an induction into key areas of laboratory health and safety, but also as a revision resource for Stages 2 and 3. Future content development will look at additional resources specific to the later stages of study.

Development of this module required a complete redesign of laboratory health and safety resources, moving from paper-based module handbooks to interactive, online blended materials. We had to establish an infrastructure to support both staff and students with this change. We also used key design principles and frameworks to facilitate user engagement with interactive resources.

A collaborative team was formed between the Faculty of Medical Sciences Technology Enhanced Learning team (FMS-TEL) and the school of Biomedical, Nutrition and Sport Sciences (BNS) to amalgamate technological, pedagogical and content knowledge.

Our Goals

Student engagement: Academic staff were finding it difficult to monitor student engagement with the paper-based module handbook and laboratory code of conduct and wanted to have a more standardised approach to ensure that all students are aware of and complying with health and safety requirements in the laboratory.

Blended Learning: We did not want to simply replicate the paper materials into a digital format, so a lot of time was spent thinking about blended learning pedagogy.

New and interactive Resources: Access to the new VLE, Canvas, provided us with a more sophisticated platform to produce an interactive module with new approaches to learning.

Staff Autonomy: We did not want to rely on external tools and specialist software otherwise upkeep and editing would be a challenge once staff handover was completed.

The Project Roadmap below summarises key milestones from the project:

An overview of the project roadmap including project brief, design process and consultations.
Click on image to enlarge

Achievements

Clear Signposting and Navigation

The intention is that students can dip in and out of sections in whichever order they prefer. However, the laboratory safety section was divided into three ordered segments:

  • Arriving at the lab
  • During the lab practical
  • At the end of the lab practical

Multi-disciplinary

Some resources cover all three strands of Biomedicine, Sport and Nutrition so we decided to host one course for all. Subject specific materials are clearly labelled. We attempted to introduce lock and release and mastery pathways so that students would only access their own subject areas, however some students are multi-disciplinary so this did not work. Also, there was too much of a time delay with the Canvas mastery pathways function that we felt this was not appealing to students.

Humanising/Personalisation

We felt it important that students could connect with key staff members and that video welcomes would achieve this.

  • Videos from a laboratory demonstrator
  • Welcome video from Head of School and H+S Officer

Interactive Resources

It was always planned that we would use 360⁰ images to allow students the opportunity to become familiar with the laboratory environment before attending in person. This is to help alleviate some of the anxiety that our students experience when first entering a large laboratory space.

  • 360⁰ lab walkthrough tours
  • 360⁰ interactive images

Innovative assessments

Canvas enabled us the opportunity to embed and host new online interactive assessments.  

(i) 360⁰ hotspots hazard identification

We wanted to create a hazard identification exercise in a safe environment. 360⁰ images allowed us to create an interactive digital version of the laboratory with a number of hazards included. This would not have been safe or possible to do in a physical laboratory space.

The 360⁰ materials were hosted externally on theasys.io There are many tools which allow you to add hotspots to 360⁰ images but the problem is that they are never hidden. However, with the ability to upload custom hotspots in theasys we were able to create and upload a transparent image to use as an invisible hotspot.

(ii) Branching Scenarios

Branching scenarios allow students to make decisions in a safe online environment, helping them to understand the consequences of their choices.

Self-management of learning

We added features to encourage students to monitor their own progress:

  • Standalone units to encourage self managed learning and flexibility
  • Colour-coded and branded sections for ease of navigation
  • Clear learning objectives for each section
  • Section progress bars
  • Content release based on complete action e.g. minimum score in Health and Safety quiz

For future developments, we are considering how we may be able to generate course completion certificates or Digital Badges.

Student Feedback and Canvas Analytics

The new course went live in September 2020 for the start of the academic year with 1176 students enrolled. Canvas analytics indicates good interaction at appropriate times.

  • 21st Sept 28,230 page views
  • 12th October 40, 676
  • January access showed a peak of 26, 997
A data image showing a large proportion of students agreeing the module is user friendly.
A data image showing a large proportion of students agreeing the module is easy to navigate with appropriate images and accessible on all device types.
A data image showing a large proportion of students agreeing the interactive resources were helpful.
A data image showing a large proportion of students agreeing they were taught something new. And 50% of students agreeing having all three subject strands together was useful.