Unveiling Role Play North: A Dive into Specifications

Infographic Process

Image by Trang Le from Pixabay

In a world where the demands on medical professionals reach an all-time high, the need for effective communication has never been more crucial. Imagine a scenario where physicians must deliver devastating news to a patient—news that could alter the course of a life, news that might even imply the end of life. I have often wondered how people can deal with that as part of their job. I found out through my first project as a Learning Technologies Developer at the University with the redevelopment of an web service that helps facilitate roleplaynorth (RPN).

RPN provides a crucial role in preparing our MBBS students to deal with those types of scenarios. Through tailored and realistic scenarios they help in the theory of good communication, transitioning customers to be ready to apply these findings in practice.

In the first of a series of 3 posts about the redevelopment of RPN, we’ll look at the following aspects of the project; specifications, system features, and future plans. In this post I will walk you through the specification process.

Specifications: Building the Foundations

Firstly, we looked into what the existing system currently does. Amongst mainly other features it allowed RPN staff to add events and update role players using spreadsheets to manage who was on what event and the role they would play on the event. This information would then be added to the event on system. RPN also had available a separate AccessDB that provided queries required for payroll reports.

Action Function Requirement Document (AFR)

I used a document our team has worked with previously that lists the tasks/actions, function, data requirements to get RPN to think about the whole process and break it down into steps. This document was used to get feedback on how RPN expect the actions to work and gave the opportunity to add tasks if required.

Here’s an example on what that looks like:

ACTION/TASKFUNCTIONDATA REQUIREMENTSNOTES/ FEEDBACK
a) eventsCreate, Update, Delete EventsStart date, End date, description of event
b) event TAGAssign Event Tag to event. This can be used to filter the eventsEvent Tag – Name/Title
c) Add/Remove Role Player – EventOn the events page add a role player to the eventRole Player, EventDoes this need to be automatic or do you want to add them as pending first until they have confirmed participation?
d) ScenarioCreate, Update, Delete ScenarioScenario – title, description

After feedback from RPN, we then converted this document into a more functional focused document. Breaking down actions into tasks allowed us to plan what needed to be developed first, including what actions could be worked on independently or by another members of the team. Here’s what we ended up with.

Role Play North Gannt Chart
Role Play North Development Gannt Chart

From this gantt chart you can see that the Events block (1a, 1b) and the Events Group block (2a, 2b) need to be completed before the Venues block (4a) is worked on. You can also see that once 1a is completed someone else can start work on Role Player Management (3a,3b). We also gave time for testing and reviewing what the new system does, giving RPN staff the chance to influence the build and find bugs. We had multiple testing stages one after the Event Groups and Role Player Management blocks were completed, and another back in April after all listed tasks were completed.

The first iteration included all the fundamental features and actions of the website including, user authentication, role based access, basic management of events and customers and communication tools. Nothing too complicated, but essential to the functioning of the website and a good starting point for any future project.

The above image and the AFR document does not show how long each section took – as due to unknown variables like feedback, change in requirements and staff commitments effected the timeframes. However, with a continuous review process we added weight or complexity to these tasks.

You can also see that 1a, 1b is part of the events block by looking at the legend below the branches and you can see what tasks were completed. We also added a cross next to an item once complete to keep us updated on where we were in the build without digging through the code.

We then created wireframes showing how the new system could work. With the AFR, Gantt Chart and the Wireframes we were able to clearly outline what we intended to build for RPN. In my next post I will go through the features.


Welcoming our new team member

Last month we welcomed Nick Jensen to the FMS TEL team, as Senior Digital Skills Demonstrator.

Nick has joined the FMS TEL team to cover the role of Senior Demonstrator. Nick is co-ordinating a group of PGRs who assume the role of Digital Skills Demonstrators. As part of the wider remit of the department he delivers our digital skills provision, teaching students digital skills and techniques.

Nick brings insider knowledge with him, having previously been a Digital Skills Demonstrator himself for a four-year period from 2019 to 2023.

Using a problem based approach to help students help themselves, Nick and our team offer digital capabilities instruction in sessions that both directly and indirectly support student work (from undergraduate course assignments to PhD theses). We offer more than 100 sessions, serving over 2000 students each year. We deliver sessions both on campus and online.

“Having worked with the FMS TEL Digital Skills team for more than 4 years, applying to the Senior Demonstrator role was the perfect progression. I have previous managerial experience in the Further Education sector, and with my long-term career goals of procuring an academic support role in Higher Education, this role seemed like a logical next step. Since commencing the role some highlights have been running a staff training session for new and returning demonstrators, being involved with a Senior colleague in their interviewing processes and getting to put my own stamp on the teaching resources through re-vamping the content.”

Nick Jensen

We are excited to have Nick with us on the team.

Developing Online Asynchronous Materials – An Associate Lecturer’s Perspective

This year, FMS TEL assisted in the development of learning materials about unconscious bias in healthcare settings. This week we are sharing how we worked with Associate Lecturer Ann Johnson to design and create these materials.

As this was Ann’s first year as part of the module team, it was an exciting challenge to be involved in creating her first set of blended learning materials on Canvas. The process was highly collaborative, and the FMS TEL Team were able to contribute our knowledge of pedagogy – particularly online teaching – and the technical know-how to make the materials in Canvas and ensure they would work as needed.

To start the process, Ann outlined her goals for students, which we were able to shape into learning outcomes. She provided the final discussion topic exercise, and we discussed the issues to be considered as part of that discussion.

“How can I get people to challenge their own thinking?”

We discussed the learning outcomes and concepts, and this meant that I was able to suggest scaffolding activities for students to undertake in order to give students a solid foundation and build their confidence to answer the complex question at the end of the topic.

The design process was undertaken through a series of video calls during which we discussed the materials and reviewed how they worked on Canvas, finishing with a few action points for each of us. We discussed the learning journey in detail and stepped through content logically to ensure clarity. The development phase prompted questions and refinements – such as looking for specific resources or articles that could support the teaching.

“it improved my practice”

Activities added included short text and video input – written and sourced by Ann – which highlighted key concepts. A quiz was added so that students could test their knowledge of these important definitions and concepts. This allowed students to feel confident that they had a good grasp of the basics before applying them to their own contexts.

As an experienced facilitator, Ann identified where students might find the materials challenging, as the topic to be explored has a very personal dimension. We worked together to put in place alternative activities for students who preferred to reflect personally, discuss privately, or in an online seminar that Ann would facilitate.

At the end of the design process, the created materials were approved for inclusion in the module by module leader Fraser Birrell and will be part of MCR8032 in coming years. Working together with FMS TEL enabled the creation of high-quality and interactive online learning resources and allowed Ann to upskill in the area of asynchronous online teaching.

Associate Lecturer Profile

Ann Johnson has been a Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) Advocate, Lay tutor, and facilitator for twenty-five years, researching and creating a Patient Involvement Framework for Leicester University Medical School. She has conducted extensive community outreach in London, Leicester, and Florida USA with the goal of bridging communications between patients and practitioners. She is continuing her work as an Associate Lecturer and PPI Advocate at the School of Medicine.

Read more about the materials we developed.

FMS Feedback – From Excel sheets to detailed online feedback

The MBBS programme collects a lot of assessment information that needs to be displayed in a way that is useful for the students, so that they can improve their grades through focusing on the right areas. They called upon the web skills of the FMS TEL team to design and implement a web application that could take assessment results, process them, and show them to the students in a visual and interactive way.

Using templates

The first step towards this was agreeing a template that the results could be stored in. The types of assessments the MBBS programme uses are varied and quite detailed in their scope. They required a means to take all of this variation and detail and create something useable. The assessment team started by using complex Excel documents to collect and store all the assessments results. Each assessment type (WriSkE, MOSLER, SBA, OSCE…) needed a unique Excel template to store all the student scores and a way to map the assessment structure to the curriculum outcomes.

spreadsheet template
Example WriSkE template

Processing the Spreadsheets

Once we had agreed on the template structure, we could then focus on how we would process them for use in a web application. We planned for the heavy concurrent use the web application would undergo when all the students logged in and tried to access their grades at the same time. The best solution for this was to minimise the use of complex database structures and instead store the results in pre-processed files, one for each student per assessment. The format we chose for this was JSON and this allowed us to rely on the speed of the server to provide the data.

Custom processing scripts were written for each assessment type to create these files. This would mean an administrator from the assessment team could log in to the site, go to the admin tools, choose an assessment type, set up a few settings including a release date, attach the assessment to an uploaded taxonomy (this attached the exam structure to learning outcomes), attach Excel file and process. The site would then go through the spreadsheet and create each assessment file ready for the students.

Admin Upload Form

Display the Results

The final step was to decide how to display this detailed assessment information to the student. We chose to use an online chart library called highcharts. This allowed us to utilise a whole suite of charts and graphs to display the raw results in an interactive way.

One of the core charts we used was quartile (boxplot) graphs, which allowed us to plot the students scores against the cohorts. This means that students can see how they are performing in the context of their cohorts, which many of them appreciate. We also heavily use bar charts you can drill down into, and spiderweb charts that could show the same information in a visually different way. Letting the students modify and change the display to their preferences was also key.

Finally, we added tabs to show the exam structure and an area to which support documents could be added, such as assessor comments.

WriSkE results of a student

Each time a student clicked on an assessment, the site would load their file and convert into a visually rich interface of charts, graphs and links to drill down into the data.

System Success and Expansion

The FMS Feedback system has been successfully used by the MBBS programme since 2014. It is held in high regard by the administrative team who appreciate its flexibility and ease of use. For students, the detailed data displayed allows them to have a very granular understanding about their levels of mastery of individual skills and topic areas, and to spot patterns in their performance. This means they can focus their studies on areas identified for improvement, with a view to increasing their overall competency.

It has since been expanded to cover a few assessments from dental programmes that had a similar structure and process to the original MBBS assessments, such as SBA and OSPE’s.

If you would like to learn more about the FMS Feedback system, please contact the FMS TEL Team.

Your current system is either working for you or against you

As the newest member of FMS TEL. I get the chance to see the products offered by the unit from a different perspective compared to the end user and the existing development colleagues.

A computer monitor in front of a blue background with computer code shown on the display and floating tag, cog, light bulb and magnifying glass.

As the newest member of FMS TEL. I get the chance to see the products offered by the unit from a different perspective compared to the end user and the existing development colleagues. Talking about my first project, a redevelopment of a system designed and launched around 8 years ago. I can see that the current system although designed well at the time, a large part of it is no longer used or fit for purpose given growth and process changes during that period.


Part of the investigation process of any existing project is looking back at what the clients have been using and how they have been using it. This gives you insight into what’s being used and what’s not, where the priority new functionality needs to be focussed.  Engagement with the previous  developer adds to this an understanding of what the purpose of the system and what business needs took priority.


In defence of the previous system; I have been reaching many of the same conclusion in my development processes. Many of the ongoing issues raised by the client; at one point or another were solved and that got me thinking about what the priority was now.


At times we are our own worst enemy when it comes to systems and processes that are no longer serving us. For example, the project I am working on is getting a new tagging system to help organise the systems content. The tags can be attached too many different items to help describe the object.


The tag can also filter the data display, such as being able to select everything with a specific tag in the database. Tags will likely reduce the frequency of updates required too by giving the user the ability to add new database queries by adding a tag to the objects.

This is quite a simple yet powerful feature to put in place for a developer and one that many systems use to provide similar functionality for the end user. But nothing is perfect and as much as I love the tagging system there’s one issue.

The more flexible the system is, the more discipline the end user needs to have to maintain its usefulness. There needs to be a unified effort by the client and the development team which ensures the integrity of the system and limits the fragmentation of the data.

How can we solve this? Well, the end user needs to ensure they are naming the tags something that best matches what they are aiming to do. On top of that everyone in the team need to follow the agreed guidelines too.


For example, say we have event 1,2 and 3. I want to use a tag that best describes them so let’s make a tag called ‘Numerical event’. We tag all three of them. Now I go on holiday and event 4 happens and someone who is covering for me tags this event ‘Numbered Event’. We now have two tags that are similar that are describing two different sets of events, not ideal.


A conscious effort to review what we are achieving during development, but also once in the open with the end user will be crucial to keeping this kind of system working for us.

We will wait and see after the system is handed to the client in December, what worked and what didn’t.  Review, enhancements and re-development are inevitable to limit this becoming another system that works against you!.

The FMS Workload Reporting System (WRS)

Collecting and monitoring data relating to academic workloads

managing workloads

Universities have a responsibility to ensure that the workload allocations in their units are consistent and in line with their policies on workload allocation.

To achieve this there needs to be an accessible tool that can the capture agreed academic activities carried out on behalf of the University.

The FMS Workload Recording System (WRS) has been developed to allow staff to self-report their workload through a more transparent, equitable and collaborative process.

It is anticipated that this will lead to more informed PDR conversations, improved support around career development & wellbeing issues and allow equality diversity & inclusion considerations to be part of workload planning.

So, what does the system collect?

Previous work on collecting information around teaching activities highlighted the following key points:

  • The scope of the system needs to be wider than just teaching related activities
  • The auto population of activities through mining existing data sources was not always reliable 
  • Self-reporting is essential to ensure accuracy of the data collected
  • Each activity needs to be standardised using its own tariff formulae, for example:
                tutees reported hours = no of tutees x 5
                PARTNERS summer school lead hours = (no of students x 0.1) + 10

A working group was set up to specify what activities were to be recorded, each with its own tariff formulae to convert that activity into hours. These activities when they grouped into three distinct areas:

  1. Teaching & Assessment
    • Taught Sessions
    • Assessment & Feedback
    • Tutees & Projects
    • Other
  2. Research & Innovation
    • Research Projects
    • Research Awards
    • Research Applications
    • Others
  3. Management, Administration & Citizenship
    • Unit
    • Faculty
    • University
    • External/Other

The system was developed in phases:

Phase I (4 months)

Develop the website with an individuals summary view and a collection of self-reporting forms, all driven by a database of workload questions and augmented by data from existing sources.

individual workload summary
workload self-reporting forms

Phase II (one month)

Release website to a small pilot group of users to collect user feedback. Development of basic reporting tools (user activities, evaluation reports and cohort workload summaries).

cohort/unit workloads

Phase III (4 months)

Refine any existing usability issues raised by pilot group and develop the advanced reporting & administration tools required for full release.

Phase IV

Full release of the system.

So where are we now ?

The FMS Workload Recording System (WRS) went live in July 2022 to a pilot group of 158 academics.

The next stage (PHASE III) is to review what additional features or changes to the system are required and then prepare the system for its release to the whole Faculty.

Scaffolding Reflection

This article outlines the rationale for scaffolding reflection and describes the developments, which will be available across the University by September 2022.

Structured reflective templates are currently being piloted in NU Reflect. This article outlines the rationale for scaffolding reflection and describes the developments, which will be available across the University by September 2022.

Scaffolding

A picture containing scaffolding, roof. Royalty free image from Pixabay

Scaffolding provides a great metaphor in Education. In the construction industry, scaffolding provides temporary support and helps shape the developing building. Scaffolding was first used as an educational concept, by Wood, Bruner, and Ross (1976) to describe the support given by an expert in one-to-one tutorials – something akin to a semi-structured interview.

Scaffolding is also a useful metaphor in reflective practice. A series of questions or prompts can provide the learner with a structure to reflect on. There are many structured frameworks which can be used to scaffold reflection. Perhaps the best known are Gibb’s reflective cycle (Fig 1). This involves 6 stages, each with questions to encourage the learner to go beyond purely descriptive accounts, to incorporate reflective self-evaluation and also make plans to improve future performance.

Overview of Gibb’s Reflective Cycle

Over time, it is hoped that the use of such frameworks will progressively increase learners’ reflective capabilities. This may be enhanced by sharing, discussion and guidance from educators, particularly in the early stages of developing reflective skills. However, like the use of scaffolding in construction – eventually that structure and support may no longer be needed, after developing as an independent reflective practitioner.

Structure can be a double-edged sword though. Too much structure can reduce engagement (everything else being equal) and long ‘forms’ may be potentially intimidating or off-putting to some. Motivation is key. Aside from the obvious use of summative assessment (itself bringing challenges to ‘authentic’ reflection) – learners need to perceive value and purpose to developing reflective practice. Is reflective practice seen to be valued by the course – is it embedded in the module/programme and referred to by teachers and in course documentation?

In some contexts, particularly many vocational subjects, reflective practice is explicitly required by professional bodies, with clearly defined process which have reflective elements, such as annual appraisals and CPD. In other contexts, without this driver, there are challenges to avoid reflection remaining an ‘abstract’ concept, particularly if there are limited ‘practical’ activities to reflect on. Obviously, clarity of purpose is important. Reflective frameworks can be used (or adapted) for a range of purposes, such as reflecting on an assessment, perhaps before and after feedback, with actions to prepare for the next assignment.

Sharing and discussion of reflection is another dimension – in some contexts, reflection may be purely private, in other contexts sharing with a mentor may be mandatory. Where shared, fostering a ‘safe’ environment for sharing and discussing reflections is particularly important for younger students, whist many (but not all) mature students are more comfortable with this.

Reflective Templates in NU Reflect

NU Reflect https://reflect.ncl.ac.uk is developed and maintained by FMS-TEL, has pedagogic support from LTDS, with academic lead (Patrick Rosenkranz / Katie Wray) and governance via DEC. NU Reflect was launched in September 2021 following a strategic review of ePortfolio. The redesign and rebranding was intended to help promote its core purpose of supporting reflective practice and transferable skills after may years of prioritising developments to support Personal Tutoring. As part of the strategic review, a recurring theme in the staff consultation was the desire for a prospective system to support reflective frameworks. Gibbs reflective cycle was the most widely used framework, used in contexts across all 3 Faculties – though often with minor adaptions for specific courses.

As such reflective templates were developed in NU Reflect and are being piloted in Semester 2 this year, with a view to being made available University-wide for 2022/3. The pilots have three ‘global’ templates available:

  • Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle
  • Driscoll Model of Reflection
  • Four Fs of Active Reviewing

Also, staff can create new templates to meet their particular module or programme requirements.

Pilot of structured templates in NU Reflect

Structured templates are nothing new, and were common in paper-based portfolios. However, there are some key advantages to integrating them in NU Reflect. For example, the reflections can be linked to skill(s) or competency(s) (either the Graduate Framework or programme-level frameworks), which integrates them in the ‘My Skills’ section of the Website . Reflections can also be tagged with course-specified or personal categories. The tools support longitudinal use throughout the student journey, rather than been restricted to an episodic learning event or being compartmentalised in a particular module. As such a learner can accumulate reflections and achievements against skills/categories over time. They also provide choice in sharing (or not).

The pilots are ongoing, but feel free to get in touch if you want to try them out.

References

Wood, D., Bruner, J. S., & Ross, G. (1976). The role of tutoring in problem solving. Child Psychology & Psychiatry & Allied Disciplines, 17(2), 89–100. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-7610.1976.tb00381.x

Gibbs G (1988). Learning by Doing: A guide to teaching and learning methods. Further Education Unit. Oxford Polytechnic: Oxford.

Incorporating Pointing in Recorded Presentations – Motion tracking

This post shows how cursor movement can be used in online presentations to show gesture, and the skills needed to add motion tracked items to video.

As part of the recently launched Exploring 3D Anatomy MOOC, two video presentations were created. These presentations involved explaining diagrams and pictures. One of these recordings had a moving cursor which the presenter had used to explain various parts of the screen, and the other was recorded without a cursor. To improve the clarity of the explanations, we had a request to display a larger cursor over the recorded material, using it to ‘point’ to the various significant areas shown. 

When you’re planning a virtual presentation it’s worth checking if and how the software handles the cursor – some software will use a glowing highlight as you present, some will show and hide the cursor automatically depending on when you move it. The videos were recorded in ReCap, which automatically hides the cursor unless it is moving. The end of the post has links to various guides to help you choose your settings. The rest of this post details the animation process for how a larger cursor was added after the presentations had been recorded. This technique could be applied to other added graphical elements too if needed. 

Creating the New Cursor

As the cursor is used in a lot of animations, there was already a scalable vector graphic image of a cursor available to use. This had been drawn in Adobe Illustrator. The next step was to use After Effects to add the cursor to the video and animate it.  

Tracking the Cursor

For the video with the cursor visible, the motion tracking function of After Effects was used. After identifying the original cursor, the new larger cursor was set to track it. Here and there the original cursor changed colour to remain visible over different backgrounds. It wasn’t necessary to replicate the colour change with the larger cursor, but this colour change did add extra steps when setting up the motion tracking as it needed to be started afresh each time the original cursor had changed colour. For the video without the cursor, the process was simpler as there was nothing to hide or track. As such the animations could be set up from scratch. Based on the clear explanation from the presenter, it was possible to add a cursor to trace the areas being explained.  

Adding the New Cursor

The animations were set up to take place between certain moments of the video – like scenes. Key points in the video were identified and ‘key frames’ added which allow us to set up when certain animations should take place, and how long for. Simple animations such as changing size, position or rotation can be done relatively quickly using these linear key frames. 

Once the start and end points are set, further customisation can be done to change the feel of the animation. For example, in this case, the speed of the cursor should somewhat mimic a natural movement rather than a precisely uniform speed. Using ‘ease in’ and ‘ease out’ (combined as ‘easy ease’) allows for the animation to look a little more natural, and less jarring, as the cursor starts to move more slowly before speeding up and gradually slowing to a stop.  

When moving from point to point it’s very rare that a straight line is the best path to take, usually a slightly curved path can help add a more natural-looking movement. This might be used to instruct a viewer to click a series of buttons, for example. The ‘spatial interpolation’ in After Effects allows for the path of the moving object to be linear (a straight line) or Bezier (curved). The temporal interpolation tool allows for variations to the speed of the movement – a more customisable version of easing. Adjusting these allows for a nice natural pace and movement, and for more creative effects. For example an item moving from A to B may move slowly at first, then speed up towards the middle of its journey, then slow down again before arriving at its final destination – imagine a train travelling between stations!).

In this video the cursor was hidden from screen for most of the video so it was animated manually.
In this video the cursor was tracked (while visible), note the more erratic movement.

Approximating Gesture

The final videos allowed for a clear approximation of gesture to be added to the presentations, mimicking how a presenter might usually point to a screen or demonstrate a movement. While this is something very natural to do in person, you may need to think more about how you use and move your cursor in online presenting. Often it can be tricky to see the cursor, so you may wish to consider moving it more slowly than usual if you are using it to indicate processes or changes. Selecting some form of pointer or cursor highlighting in your chosen software can improve the visibility of the cursor during your presentation, whether recording or in person. On the other hand, you may wish to put your mouse out of reach so that random or accidental cursor movements don’t detract from your content. 

Motion Tracking Demonstration

This video demonstrates the full motion tracking procedure, showing how you can track an object and then map the position of a cursor to it.

Resources

Running an Online Event via Teams – Northern and Yorkshire Rheumatology Meeting 2021

Janet Herdman, Marc Bennett, Eleanor Gordon

This case study covers the running of The Northern and Yorkshire Rheumatology Meeting 2021 (NYRM) using Microsoft Teams. The 170 attendees included a wide range of healthcare providers and students involved in Musculo-Skeletal disease specialisms. These included academics, clinical academics, PhD students, Allied Healthcare Professionals (AHPs) such as podiatrists, nurses and physiotherapists, and other Healthcare Professionals (HCPs), as well as corporate sponsors. The following discusses how the event was set up and run, as well as sharing reflections on the process. Technical guides for the setup are available at the end of the text.

Building Skills, Confidence and Resilience

This event has allowed for the development of skills in IT generally and specifically with running a Team and meetings. Though the initial setup may be a little technical if requirements are complex, after that it is simple to keep things running on the day.

It may seem intimidating to run this type of event as things go wrong sometimes, but this is true for live in-person events as well, it’s just that the solutions are different. It definitely helped that there was an extra pair of eyes to help manage the busier periods when a lot of people were joining sessions.

As with many things, sometimes it’s easiest just to jump in and get started! Though it was a bit of a baptism of fire running such a large and important event as a first try, with the support beforehand and the time to test, the running of the event on the day wasn’t too difficult. Time to practice with the tools and knowing who to ask for help was key in getting confidence to try out the process. Presenters and attendees were patient with the snags, and this is almost always what we find when trying something new. Confidence and resilience have now been developed, and lessons were learned that can be applied to future events.

From Offline to Online

Normally this meeting is held in York as a face-to face conference and it has been running annually since 1994. Attendees can gain CPD points from the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) for attending. As with the offline event, a registration process is undertaken to ascertain who will be joining. While this may seem less important for an online meeting, it is relevant to how roles are set up, and confidentiality.

Requirements for the Conference

Key requirements for the event were:

  • Persistent online space for chatting and housing resources prior to, and for 2 weeks after the event (RCP requirement)
  • Recording attendance (RCP requirement)
  • Session recording and sharing (RCP requirement)
  • Ability to adequately control access to and the flow of restricted information (sponsors’ requirement)
  • Multiple presenters in one call
  • Multiple simultaneous sessions
  • Ability to handle internal and external attendees and speakers

A Single Access Point

The requirement to have an online space outside of the meetings themselves meant that using Teams made more sense. While it would have been possible to run the live sessions via Zoom and have other information on Teams, keeping this all within one app meant the experience was smoother for both attendees and hosts, as they only needed to worry about one login. This is key for our partners in NHS trusts who may not have Zoom on their work computers and may also be dealing with multiple guest logins on multiple services. Attendees with different feature sets available were still able to access everything, as only the basic features of Teams were used. Teams also allows for attendance and session recording built into each meeting, so this requirement could be satisfied without adding Zoom.

Confidential Information

One key aspect of the conference is that the sponsors’ information needed to be kept private to HCPs only, and not be downloadable. In an online setting, access to non-contextualised information in an unmonitored fashion could quickly lead to misunderstanding. To facilitate sponsor participation, a separate SharePoint document library was created, and access was only granted to those who needed it using a SharePoint permissions group. The only people who could download any of the files were the Team owners.

Setup and Testing

The first stage was to set up a ‘sandbox’ or testing area to trial the settings and see how things would work in practice. Various solutions were trialled, including the confidential area and test meetings to try out the software. This was especially important as Janet did not have prior experience of running Teams meetings. Once the setup was decided upon, Marc and Janet built the real Team, ready to invite attendees.

Team Space

Links to individual sessions were posted in their respective areas and sent to participants via email. There was also an overview post with the full day’s agenda available in the ‘General’ channel for all attendees to see.

A test meeting with presenters was run, in which Teams features were tested out with the speakers. This allowed them to become familiar with the software, and also allowed Janet to try using the features ‘live’ – doing simple tasks such as changing speakers’ roles from guest to presenter and managing the lobby.

On the Day

The bulk of work was at session changeovers, particularly at the start of each session. While there was a short handover time to allow for people to take a quick break and join the next call, having more staggered start times for simultaneous sessions would have taken the pressure off, even if this was just 5 minutes or so of difference. It’s worth noting that while Eleanor is experienced with Teams no technical solutions were needed on the day – it was more a case of directing people and sharing links in the right places – anyone could do this with a practice run beforehand.

Some attendees didn’t log in to the meetings with their invited accounts, which meant their presenter settings hadn’t carried over. Thankfully, this could be quickly changed in the meeting itself by updating the meeting options. It’s also worth noting that people do not need to be elevated to presenter in order to respond to questions – the main difference is that presenters can share their screen. Sometimes when people entered the lobby, all of the presenters would get a notification to allow them in – making them seem to disappear from the waiting list because they had already been admitted by someone else. This caused a little confusion for us but didn’t affect the attendees’ experience. In future instances it may be easier to allow everyone into the meeting (managed by one host) and elevate the required speakers’ permissions after the bulk of attendees have entered – this is a good backstop should issues arise with logins too.

After the Event

Meeting recordings were stored automatically to Stream, and then downloaded and uploaded moved to the SharePoint space. This is currently the smoothest way for guest access to video, though Microsoft are making changes to this process for 2022.

Because the meetings were automatically recorded, there was no risk of forgetting to press record. However, because anyone entering the meeting room was able to effectively ‘start’ the meeting, a lot of meeting instances and therefore recordings and attendance lists, were created. Once this was understood, it was easy to find the correct recordings and attendance lists and download them. Next time, meeting settings could be adjusted to only allow few people to start. There is always a debate between auto and manual recording – generally auto minimises risk, but if you do want to use manual recordings, try including a “the meeting will be recorded; recording will begin now” message on an early housekeeping slide to serve as a reminder to yourself to press the record button.

Feedback and Reflections

Generally, feedback for the online event was very good. Speakers’ presentations were praised, and attendees overwhelmingly found the event useful and informative. Though many people did say they prefer to meet face-to-face, having the sessions online meant that some people were able to join when they may not have been able to travel, and some attendees mentioned this as a positive in their feedback. Some attendees did mention that a downside of the online format was the lack of networking opportunities usually associated with the meeting. On reflection, having a social lobby area didn’t quite work, as some attendees weren’t sure of its function – perhaps the online environment makes us feel that we need to have a specific ‘goal’ to join a session, rather than the more casual bumping into one another during break time at a face-to-face event. Some attendees also stayed in the social lobby for a while instead of joining their session. This was alleviated by interventions by Eleanor and Janet. As it was not well-used, and didn’t seem to add to the experience, next time this social area would be left out.

Though the meeting was running through teams, some people found it more convenient to receive email links to the meetings as they were starting. This can be set up in advance by scheduling delivery in Outlook.

As with all innovations, now that the meeting has been run once, it would be less difficult to follow the same format again as hosts and attendees have more familiarity with the process and the software and have gained skills and confidence.

If you are interested in running a similar event, you can find a range of guidance below, and contact FMS Enquiries for further advice.

Resources and Guides

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