Following our October 2019 post introducing the digital exam service, we have a progress update and some news about what’s happening next. Centrally supported digital exam provision (including the OLAF Service, and the Diversifying online exam provision project) is being combined into a single service, and we are reviewing our requirements ready to tender for a system that meets our needs.
Requirement Mapping Workshops will be taking place. The outcomes of these sessions will help to inform the requirements that we will take to system providers. All academic and professional services staff with an interest in digital exams are invited to contribute. Please sign up via the link to have your say!
Tender for digital exam system (30-35 days response time). A set of final requirements will be issued.
April – May 2020
Scoring of tender submissions against requirements will take place alongside user testing of software that meets our mandatory requirements. Look out for updates about how to get involved.
June – July 2020
A provider will be awarded the contract to supply a digital exam system to the University.
Following this, work will be undertaken to move as much of existing digital exam questions and content into the new system as is possible.
The new system will be vigorously tested and integrated with University systems. User guidance and training for all stakeholder will be developed.
Note that August resit exams will need to be taken on paper. If an exam ran in Blackboard or WISEflow the resit will need to take place on paper. This is in part to prevent students having to use a different system to take an August from the one used for the main exam, and in part because testing and implementation of the new system will not have been completed by the resit period.
Digital Exam Service launches with new software – OLAF is no more.
All digital exams previously taken in both Blackboard as part of the OLAF service and in WISEflow as part of the Diversifying Online Exam Provision project will be delivered using the chosen software.
Training will be offered to all academic and professional services staff involved in delivering digital exams, and briefing information will be available for students.
Phil is an authority on assessment and is widely published, including the excellent “The Lecturer’s Toolkit”.
Sally is Emerita Professor at Leeds Metropolitan and regularly keynotes at Educational conferences. Sally developed the National Teaching Fellowship scheme when working at the Higher Education Academy.
Developed in partnership between academic teams in FMS led by Lynne Corner and Professor Dame Louise Robinson, and the Learning and Teaching Development Service, the course are now in their 8th and 3rd runs and consistently get great feedback from learners.
Both courses are open to anyone and are freely available on FutureLearn.
The University is carrying out work to improve the digital accessibility of systems and content across the institution. This includes the module content with Blackboard.
This work started with the Art of the Possible week in July 2019. This week of activity showcased some of the great work already underway in this area and provided useful practical CPD sessions for staff to engage with.
This is being followed by visits to academic units during this academic year to inform them of the benefits and ease of accessible content within Blackboard, and other TEL systems. These visits have started and will continue through Semester 1.
The accessibility in practice workshop that has been developed alongside the Student Wellbeing service the helps staff learn how to create accessible and inclusive learning and teaching resources will be offered to each academic unit, as well as being run centrally.
There is a need to replace WebPA as the University’s VLE
integrated tool for peer evaluation of group work contribution. WebPA is open
source and this leaves the University vulnerable to system failure with a lack
of technical support. There have been a number of bugs and stability issues
impacting on the usability and reliability of WebPA that have caused disruption
for staff and students.
The viability of a number of options has been considered in
order identify a product that has high usability i.e. has a simple workflow for
setting up and managing an evaluation, and that offers as a minimum the same
functionality that is available in WebPA. Buddycheck has been identified as an
option that meets these essential requirements and offers VLE integration.
Buddycheck has a simple workflow for setting up evaluations and allows
customisation of questions, rubrics, terminology and default settings.
Buddycheck is being piloted during Semester One 2019/20. A
number of Semester One modules have signed up to take part but there may be
capacity to support more. If you are interested in taking part in this pilot
please contact LTDS@ncl.ac.uk with details
of the group assessment.
WebPA will remain available in Blackboard until the end
of 2019/20 and users will be supported by LTDS, however the intention is
that it will not be available once the University moves to Canvas at the
beginning of 2020/21.
During 2019-20, Advance HE will be running a series of one-day Innovation in Teaching Practice Workshops.
With teaching excellence still a major focus of the HE sector, and increasing pressures across institutions to respond to policies such as the subject level TEF in England and challenges such as the mental wellbeing of both staff teams and students, Advance HE’s workshops will provide practical guidance on improving your teaching practices working alongside peers from a range of institutions and disciplines.
As members of Advance HE, staff at Newcastle University are able to receive discounted rates for Advance HE development programmes, conferences and events. Although there isn’t central funding for such events, your school may wish to fund relevant opportunities. Whether you are near the start of your career, an academic, a member of professional services, a senior leader in an executive team or working in governance, Advance HE have timely and tailored development opportunities for you and your teams.
Whilst I’m normally on this blog talking about Numbas, this post is dedicated to something else that I take a keen interest in: lecture capture. It describes a pilot project that was funded by the NUTELA group to deploy short, re-purposed ReCap videos in a large engineering module. These were made available to students in addition to the full length ReCap lecture capture, and sat alongside formative tests associated with the content.
A disclaimer, before I go any further… this is a dump of my current thoughts on the topic, and it will save the next person who asks me about ReCap/short videos from suffering me talking at them for an hour! As a result, it’s part project report, opinion piece and tutorial! Despite lacking any focus whatsoever, I hope that you find something interesting…
I have been interested for some time in the use of lecture capture. I originally wasn’t a fan, mainly citing a hatred of hearing my own voice! I have managed to get over that though, and spend a lot of time in computer clusters, where I see first-hand the benefits of ReCap for students. I am particularly fond of telling the story of asking a student which ‘psych-up’ music he was listening to on his headphones before a big class test… he was listening to me giving a lecture!
Whilst the opportunity to catch up on lectures is clearly very beneficial – in particular, as the associated report mentions, for students with disabilities and those competing in elite sport (and I’ll also throw in those with families or caring responsibilities) – it does not appear to be the primary use of ReCap. This aligns completely with what I see in our computer clusters, which is predominantly students using the resource to prepare for class tests and exams.
Let me reiterate that I’m a big fan of the ReCap provision, before going on to make the following two observations:
1) Our current set up of teaching resources is often very siloed within the VLE. Typically a module might have a separate Blackboard folder for each of lecture notes, additional resources, formative assessments, whatever else… and certainly the default is a separate folder of ReCap videos. But if students are revising a topic for an exam, putting practicalities aside, it seems to make sense for the video content on a topic to sit side-by-side with the other course material.
This was just one of the motivations for our course material tool “Coursebuilder” (which will be the topic of my next blog post here as it happens), to have a stronger integration between different course resources. And it is surprisingly easy (after discovering the method as part of this project) to embed videos next to your lecture notes in Blackboard itself. See the Process for creating videos section below.
2) Slightly more pertinent to this post, our ReCap videos are presented to students as a separate video for each teaching session. Again from a practicality perspective, this seems like the only sensible thing to do, but from the student perspective, is this box-set of lectures the best way for the “series” to be divided, if it is being used for revision? Often topics are split over multiple lectures, or multiple topics are covered in one lecture. In maths, the subject of this project, lectures often contain distinct sections of theory and application/exercises. The student might only be interested in one of those when they come to revise.
A note on the indexing of ReCap videos for mathematics… You may have noticed that ReCap videos containing PowerPoint automatically generate a list of contents. Panopto basically identifies section headings in the presentation. In mathematics, it is rare to see a PowerPoint presentation, they are usually delivered using the visualiser or whiteboard, or as a LaTeX document. Content information can be added, but only manually after the fact.
Last Spring, colleagues in engineering maths, David Swailes and John Appleby, approached me to discuss short videos in the ENG1001 Engineering Mathematics module. David had heard of the work of Professor Chris Howls at the University of Southampton, who had successfully used short personal capture videos to enhance a calculus course. We discussed several possible formats for short videos, including something on the lines of what Chris had done, but the nature of the ENG1001 module lent itself to a slightly different and straightforward approach: to re-use a previous year’s ReCap collection. This is because almost precisely the same module content has been delivered (very successfully) over a number of years; last year’s ReCap videos would be almost identical to this year’s.
Do you want to help inform the University’s decision on the future VLE?
The University is well underway with the review of its Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) and following the in-depth consultation that has taken place with staff and students over the past 18 months, the project team have worked hard to ensure the University’s requirements have been captured in the official tender which will be published later in February.
Once we receive suppliers’ responses to our tender, members of the project team will analyse these and will initially determine which suppliers meet our mandatory (pass/fail) requirements. The project team will then score suppliers based on their responses to our highly desirable/desirable requirements.
We need your input….
The quality of the user experience is a very important element to our tender and will have significant weighting in our scoring process. We would really like both staff and students to get involved with this. During April to June, we will have access to test accounts for the systems that have met our mandatory requirements and volunteers will be asked to undertake a series of tasks, assessing each for ease of use, anticipated support required and system confidence.
It is essential that colleagues involved in this process review all systems that meet our mandatory requirements but it is not anticipated that this will take more than half a day. You will have the option of an organised workshop or completing the tasks in your own time and further details will be provided in the coming weeks.
We need representation from both academic and professional service staff with varying degrees of VLE experience from absolute beginners to expert users.
On behalf of the project team, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your engagement throughout the consultation period which has been crucial in getting us to the point of publishing our tender documentation. I look forward to working with you during the next exciting phase.
Since my last post we have held three more focus groups to gather requirements for the University’s future VLE provision.
A group of Professional Service staff from across the University met on the 24th January and had a very productive discussion which resulted in a lot of requirement gathering. This was a more general focus group spanning all themes; course build, assessment and feedback and communication/collaboration. It was very important to hear about the features in our current provision that staff feel are essential. We need to ensure that these are not lost through the procurement process.
On the 25th January we ran the only communication and collaboration focus group as the first session was cancelled due to low numbers. Unfortunately, only half of the staff who had signed up were able to attend but we were still able to gather many requirements. A big focus of the session was on discussion boards which were seen as an essential tool within the VLE, particularly on modules that have online elements. Improving the interface and user experience across many of the collaboration tools was a common feature of the discussions.
Yesterday, 29th January, the second of the assessment and feedback focus groups took place. This was a well attended focus group with very lively discussions. The session had representation from staff who use Blackboard and staff who use the LSE, the VLE used on the MBBS programme. It was interesting to hear about the functionality currently available on the LSE and how this would be useful on other courses outside of the MBBS programme.
We are running one more Course Build staff focus group on 1st February and then two student focus groups with a more general theme on the 15th February and the 21st February. Please encourage your students to sign up by sharing the links below:
The next stage of the consultation phase will be to invite suppliers in (March-April) to present their product to us based on the outcomes of the survey and focus groups so look out for invites to these events soon.