Branching Activities

Following a request to create branching activities for the BMS Health and Safety Course, we have added an example of a branching activity to the FMS Community so that others can try these out. These activities can be used to present a scenario with a range of options for students to follow, like a choose-your-own-adventure book.

A branching activity was included in the Health and Safety course this year to guide students through a scenario where a fellow student becomes unwell. At each stage, some information and a set of choices is presented. The student clicks through to discover the consequences of their choices, and finally, an outcome is presented. Students can run through the activity multiple times to try out different paths through the scenario.

These activities are built by setting up pages in Canvas to represent each stage and adding buttons that link pages together in the right order depending on the choices.

You can try out an example branching activity in the FMS Community. This example has 13 different pages, including a landing page where students start the activity. The number of pages you need to create will depend on how complex you want your scenario to be.

If you’d like to try making your own branching activity, you can find instructions here: https://ncl.instructure.com/courses/30988/pages/creating-branching-activities.

360° Images

Prompted by the need to show students FMS teaching labs, we have added some information around 360° images to the FMS Community, including example images and how these images are captured, processed and made ready for viewing. This work results in images which can be viewed on screen or using a VR headset.

360 pan of lab showing navigation through the tour
This is a low-quality preview of the real output.

These images have a variety of uses, including:

  • allowing students to view places they may otherwise never see in person
  • allowing students to see facilities such as labs before they arrive on campus
  • students can familiarise themselves with the layout of a room or building
  • taking activities in a safe controlled realistic environment, for example identifying hazards without putting themselves at risk
  • helping students learning at a distance to feel like they are part of the institution

As well as single images, it is possible to connect a series of images to create tours. Users can then click one place to the next in a series of linked 360 images – like in Google Map Street View. Video tours can also be created.

Recently we used these images to provide a virtual induction to FMS labs as part of a health and safety course. To see the full case study, visit the FMS Community.

Accessibility and Ally

This week I have been working on how to improve accessibility of resources, focusing particularly on the four commonest issues flagged by Ally in Canvas. I have been working on the BMS Health and Safety course to check its accessibility. I found that while it’s easy to add an image description in the Ally view within Canvas, I wasn’t familiar with how to correct issues within the PDF itself. After a few searches online, I was able to come up with a guide to help others fix these issues. A quick summary is below. You can access the full walkthrough on the FMS Community.

The four commonest issues I found were; a lack of image descriptions, a lack of headings, the lack of document title, PDFs not being tagged.

Find the Original Document

These can be added under image formatting tools in Word and PowerPoint.

Add or Define Headings

Make sure you are using the built-in style galleries and slide templates to format your document. This makes it easier for screen-readers to understand the structure of the information.

Add a Document Title

This setting lives on the ‘Info’ tab of a file – one that I had never paid attention to before!

Tag your PDF

After you have saved your file, you can also export it to PDF from the option on the same menu. Go to the advanced settings area and you can make sure that your PDF maker will include bookmarks and headings.

You can access the full walkthrough for each of these steps on the FMS Community. More information about Ally and accessibility is available via LTDS.

New Zoom Features Released

Some new Zoom features have been pushed today, a few of which have some clear benefits for users in FMS.

Share Multiple Programs at Once allows you to share more than one window with your audience, without having to share the entire desktop. This will be particularly useful if you need to go between a PowerPoint and a webpage, or another piece of software. You can now do this without worrying about accidentally having your emails pop up! The windows are arranged on the participants’ screens exactly as you have them arranged on your desktop, allowing you to rearrange/overlap or change their relative sizes. The image broadcast will update as you do this. To start sharing multiple programs, select the screenshare of one window as usual, then hold Ctrl and click on any additional programs you’d like to include. When you’re ready, click ‘share’.

Suspend Participant Activity acts as a sort of emergency brake in case of serious disruptions. You can disable all microphones, screen sharing and videos at once to stop any disruptive behaviour and give yourself time to remove the unwanted user without the pressure of ongoing interruptions.

Click ‘security’ and then ‘suspend participant activities’ to halt participant input.

To update your Zoom client, click on your profile picture/initials in the top right of the main Zoom window and then click ‘check for updates’. Follow the prompts to complete the update.

The full list of changes can be seen in detail on the Zoom website.

The FMS Community has more detailed walkthroughs relating to security settings and managing disruptions in Zoom, including downloadable guides.

Creating Buttons in Canvas

We have recently added a page to the FMS Community showing how you can add buttons to your pages. To add a button to your page, you just need to add a little snippet of HTML in the required place, and alter the specifications to suit what you’d like.

You can view the full instructions on the FMS Community page.

The button code is simple to edit following the instructions above, and buttons can be used for a range of purposes, such as navigating forward and back through a course, or links to external resources.

They come in a range of predefined colours, and are automatically formatted to look in keeping with the rest of your content.

Buttons can make your content more visually appealing, and can improve ease navigation through content. If you have a link that you want to stand out, try adding a button to your page!