A snipping tool allows users to capture a portion of their screen. This can be very useful if you need to share information, create instructional images, report bugs or issues, or save visual content for reference.
Mac: Shift + Command + 4 Creates a thumbnail in the corner of your screen, click it to edit or wait for the screenshot to be saved to your desktop.
Windows: Windows + Shift + S Opens a quick snipping tool and saves the resulting snip to the clipboard.
Iain Keenan presented this lightning talk at the Newcastle University Learning and Teaching Conference 2023. He presented the MOOC we have been working on for some time, and shared insights about MOOC development. The talk is available for Newcastle staff to watch via ReCap.
As well as sharing the course content, structure and research behind the approaches involved, Iain also highlighted how helpful it has been to work alongside FMS TEL to bring the course to life.
To find out more about the course, take a look at the trailer below.
Some of these characters may look more like colour emojis to you – this is because different browsers and devices sometimes read and display the characters slightly differently.
Alternatively you can quickly select emojis in Windows using the following key combination:
Windows Key + . (windows dot)
You will see a popup box with lots of different symbols. Just select the symbol you require. You can also type to filter or search for the one you want. Try Americanisms (such as ‘check’ for ‘tick’) if you can’t find something.
This works in Microsoft apps and some other text input areas, such as the Canvas Rich Text Editor. Screenreaders will read out the emoji’s name, so don’t put them at the start of sentences or titles. Adding emojis like this can help add a splash of colour, or you can use them to visually distinguish types of task or information.
Key codes on a Mac are a little more complex, but this guide can take you through it.
Problems with special characters
Sometimes special characters can cause issues if the document you are creating is being used as a source of data for another platform. Not everything will correctly translate the character outside MS Word. This is to do with how some datasets store the character information, older standards like ASCII do not have a wide selection of special characters available.
A real world example of this would be the uploading of core skill to the MLE (Medical Learning Environment) website. The MLE itself may choose to ignore any characters it cannot translate, which although not ideal, is not a major issue. Unfortunately those core skills are also used in a mobile app that students can record against. The app will simply refuse to display the information. Currently there are processes in place to identify and replace these characters, ideally we would update all our platforms to use Unicodes instead of the older ASCII standard.
Emojis, symbols and special characters might be needed in your content, or you might choose to use them to add extra meaning to your course pages or documents. Sometimes they will display slightly differently on different devices or in different apps. If your content is to be used as a source of data for another program, or copied to other platforms, please try to avoid using them, as sometimes they can cause issues. 🙂
We have a few different Virtual Learning Environments in FMS. You may be familiar with Canvas or the Medical Learning Environment (MLE), but you may not be familiar with Ngage.
Ngage was used in tandem with Blackboard, but since the move to Canvas in 2020 the system has slowly been phased out and will be decommissioned in the next academic year.
A feature used quite extensively in Ngage were the activity elements. These elements were styled blocks which highlighted an actions was required.
We did not want to lose these call to action blocks when we moved to Canvas so we recreated the most popular elements using the HTML editor in Canvas. We built on the original idea by using different colours and styles to represent different tasks or actions. By using the same styled blocks across all courses and modules students can navigate the content with ease, and at a quick glace know what is expected of them. They also help to make the content more visually appealing.
To add even more colour and visual interest we agreed on an emoji for each task and added them to the blocks as well.
Watch a Video
Listen to a Podcast
Q&A or Quiz
Our chosen Emojis
We decided to use emojis instead of icons as emojis can be placed in page titles as well. Adding emojis to page titles gives students a broad idea of what is to be expected that week.
Having the emojis in the titles also allows Instructional Designers and Module Leaders to view the distribution of tasks throughout a course, and quickly know which pages may need updated for the following year. Padlets, for example, need to be remade each year and a quick scroll through the modules area is all that is required to locate all the pages that contain padlets.
Want to make your own blocks?
You may first want to speak with your School or Programme team to come up with a shared theme or design. The blocks work best when used over multiple modules.
Easily add emojis by right clicking in chrome and opening the Emoji window
Recently the FMS TEL Team have been wondering how to keep tabs on events we’re not attending, without confusing the meeting organiser (or yourself!) by accepting them to keep them in your calendar. As Outlook takes a ‘decline’ response as an instruction to delete the event, this can be tricky.
For example, you may be part of a team running a series of demos or teaching, but you have split the delivery between you. It’s useful to know when the events are on, but you don’t need to go to them. Alternatively, you can use this to keep track of meetings happening when you are out of the office, in case you need to check on results, or in case your own plans change and you decide to attend.
We thought there must be a better way to decline a meeting but keep it in your calendar. We searched online and found these instructions.
In your calendar, decline the meeting request as you normally would. Then, you can go into your ‘deleted items’ folder in the mail tab and open up the meeting request again. Next, select ‘accept’ or ‘tentative’ at the dropdown arrow, choosing not to send a reply to the meeting organiser.
Doing this puts the meeting back in your calendar, but you still show as ‘declined’ in the meeting organiser’s tracking. I tend to choose ‘tentative’ so that the meetings look visually different to my other events.
Keeping your calendar full of tentative meetings may make you look more unavailable than you are. You can adjust the settings of the events to say you’re free. That way if anyone needs you, they can see that you’re available. Open up the meeting, and select Show As: Free.
This tip should help you manage complex calendars or use cases. To give your calendaring another boost, consider filtering your invitations and responses into a favourited folder using a rule.
This will let you keep on top of your availability, replies to your invitations and any changes without hunting through your inbox. Instructions on filtering with rules can be found here. You can set a rule to filter based on a ‘type’ of email, which includes calendar updates. We also have a post about email management you may find useful.
Michelle Miller shared her work in digital skills and accessibility at the Learning and Teaching Conference in March this year. This poster shows how you can improve your PDFs’ accessibility using Adobe Acrobat Pro, including common issues flagged by Ally, the accessibility checker in Canvas. All colleagues have access to this software.
This post, kindly provided by Module Leader David Thewlis, discusses the use of OpenShot Video Editor to add overlays into videos for teaching.
Check out the resources section at the bottom of this post for step-by-step guides.
Why I use overlays?
I started my approach to online lecturing by recording in PowerPoint. Then I moved to recording in ReCap/Panopto. Neither were quite right for me, I felt limited in my delivery compared to in-person teaching. I found using props difficult when you only take up a small portion of a screen and emphasis on what really matters can be lost when you can’t feel the energy of the room.
I realised my biggest issue with my lectures was that I was relegated to a tiny corner and the slides had become central.
You want the slides to be condiments to what you’re saying, not be the main event.
Bell Hooks writes about academics hiding behind the pedestal lose engagement with the class. Unfortunately, online lectures can create a similar barrier between us and our students. Overlays is the approach I decided on to help reduce this barrier in my teaching.
I hope I am not the only person who spends hours watching videos on YouTube for inspiration. The videos I found most interesting (even if they were long) were simple speaker focused talks, which showed media when it was helpful. Replicating this type of content was my aim.
What can you use overlays for?
Overlays replace slides by allowing the speaker to have greater control over where and when to place media. You can incorporate pictures, videos, audio, and titles into a single talk with reasonably little skill (I have managed – you can too!). You can choose to direct focus in the frame. Wes Anderson has made a film director’s career out of this skill, perhaps we can learn from it.
Types of overlays:
Picture – these can act very much like slides. Placing them in a corner of the screen, or covering the whole screen can offer different experiences.
Titles – these are text which appears in picture. They can be used as a title, but I like to use them to correct a mistake I’ve made in wording I also use them to throw forward to an idea or call back something discussed earlier in the lecture or course.
Video – adding another video within your video can serve as a much better example than just simple explanation. I have done this a few times with examples of good teaching models recorded by my colleagues. I have also seen some effective uses of people having brief conversations with themselves using picture in picture overlays.
Audio– if you have a flair for the dramatic backing music might help at some point in your talk. Audio Commentaries can also create a richer resource, see our case study.
Emojis – They’re there. Why not?
How I set up overlays
You will require some basic video editing software – I like OpenShot Video Editor. It’s free and reasonably simple. Simplicity is the theme of my advice.
1. Create/choose your media
Create a recording of your lecture using whatever recording device you have available. Errors or issues with the recording can be fixed in the editing process if needed. In this example on YouTube an instructor made a mistake with wording. Rather than re-record the entire video, which is otherwise good value, they corrected with an overlay title.
Making your images can be equally as easy. Saving pictures to an appropriate folder is one approach. I like to insert my pictures into a PowerPoint presentation to give myself the opportunity to get the structure clear in my head. I then save each slide as a picture.
2. Organise your content
Keep it simple and experiment with different formats. Layouts, text sizes, fonts, and colours all can have an impact on what you are communicating. Ensure that your titles are legible, and contrast appropriately with your background. I like the background to be the video of me generally, but I’ve seen solid examples of it being a slide or set of slides.
3. Put the video together
I recommend you take your time editing your first few videos.
Regardless of the software you decide to use I recommend you save your project often! Losing an almost completed video is very frustrating.
You can clip your videos to remove errors. Insert other videos in the middle of your talk. Explore effects if you are delivering a narrative.
The export time can be quite long (mine usually run around 40 minutes for a 10-15 minute video). This is an opportunity to make a coffee, have a stretch, and look away from a screen.
Although it may need more initial time investment it is worth it. Using overlays can add a personal touch to any asynchronous video content.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.