ECEL Conference and Poster: A learner-centred induction to Moodle


The “teaching pod” in the University of Groningen’s main hall

Back in October 2012 I attended the 11th European Conference on E-Learning (ECEL) held in Groningen, the Netherlands. This was the first time I’d attended this conference. I presented a poster on our work with the Department of Psychology on their induction programme for the BSc course in September.

The conference was interesting, mostly because it gave some insight into how City’s educational technology perspective is much more teaching-and-learning focused than many other universities’. Many of the presentations I attended were very technology-orientated and I heard people commenting that they would have preferred them to be more so!

I attended some useful sessions: methods for sending students notifications on Moodle updates via Facebook and Twitter; the changing role of the academic in the Web 2.0 world; and an interesting case study on use of blogging for portfolio development.

My poster summarised the word I had done with the BSc Psychology Director of Undergraduate Studies Marie Poirier, to redesign elements of the induction programme for undergraduate Psychology students. There was agreement between the department and our team that induction would be improved by being more learner-centred, less “information overload”, and by giving students more opportunities to get to know staff and each other. Accordingly, we redesigned many of the activities the students take part in during the week. My involvement was mainly in the first day “orientation activities” and in the Moodle induction on the fourth and final day.

Throughout the whole induction week the main principles for the activities were:

  1. To reduce information overload
  2. To manage students’ expectations and help them understand what is expected of them
  3. To start building a sense of cohort community
  4. To build a sense of subject-specific identity

The students’ first task on their first day at university in September was to get into their tutorial groups and meet the other students who had been allocated the same personal tutor as them. After a welcome and a brief introductory talk from Marie they were divided into small groups of four or five. Each group was loaned an iPad which they used to go off and make short videos about each other and about their personal tutor. Many of the students were quite excited and impressed to be given these devices to work with on their first day – however, the main reason we used the iPads was because they allow quick and easy shooting, editing and uploading of video (via iMovie and pre-created private Vimeo accounts), and because students can also use them to research their personal tutor. We had run a similar activity the previous year with Flip cameras and laptops: the iPads made the whole process quicker and easier.

The approach we took with the Moodle induction was to redesign it as a task-based fact-finding activity requiring students to work in the same groups as they had been in on the first day. The groups were given access to a tailor-made induction module which contained activities such as quizzes, choices, questionnaires and practice assignment submission points. (They could also watch the videos they had shot on Monday). The idea behind this approach was to have students simultaneously learn about and use Moodle: to learn how to use its tools and functionality by finding out something about it. We also wanted to address many of the concerns and questions students have about their new course by giving them the chance to find out the answers to some common questions (How do I find out my timetable? How do I submit my assignments? How do I connect to the wifi?). Finally, we wanted the induction activity to be clearly and explicitly tailored for Psychology students: we included links to commonly used Psychology resources and included contact details for key members of staff in the department. Without too much work, similar approaches could be taken for other departments in the School.

For details of how the project was evaluated, click on the link below to view a copy of the poster. If, as a member of staff in the School of Arts and Social Sciences, you’d like to try something similar for your induction, please get in touch.

Poster Final

Apps for creativity in learning

SketchBook Pro app image

SketchBook Pro app image

This week I attended a session on using iPads for education at London Metropolitan University. The session description stated that

Derrick Welsh is playing with iPads for teaching and learning purposes.  He has offered to run a hands-on session to explore how we can create engaging and creative activities with the iPad – and how we can harness its potential for teaching, learning, assessment – and FUN!!

Derrick Welsh is described as an Artist-Technologist. He began experimenting with sending drawings as text messages in 2007 and moved into drawing on handheld touch devices for education. He has worked with schools and youth groups to encourage creativity.

We currently have some iPads in the Schools that are being lent to staff for a few different purposes. These include:
Teaching – e.g. app development in Online Journalism and Cultural Policy and Management; Experimentation – staff have borrowed iPads for a few weeks at a time to see how they could improve their organisation, note taking, presentations etc, marking pilots and administration – for example using dropbox for paperless meetings.

One of the ways we have found iPads most useful in the Schools of Arts and Social Sciences so far is for marking, for example iAnnotate is proving useful for marking student scripts that have been submitted via Moodle.

I was interested in attending this session as it looked at different uses to those we are exploring.
We spent the afternoon looking at a number of different apps – mostly free or with free versions. The group was quite diverse, with attendees from different universities and differing roles from library to teaching staff. Derrick introduced a number of different apps for different purposes. My favourites are below:

SketchBook Express/Pro

This is an excellent drawing application. We all doodled on the same iPad and then Derrick created a fantastic pattern by copying the image and mirroring it. I really enjoyed using this (although I have the pay for version – SketchBook Pro). I can see this being used for mind mapping and visualising. Sandra Seifield, the organiser of the session for London Met, said she felt it would be useful to ask students to draw representations of theories and concepts. I think this is a great idea.

Flip it! Lite and Animation HD Lite

These are free animation apps. You can quickly create and play an animation. I can see this as a way of revising or summarising work.

I personally like the effect of this although I’m not too sure of it’s its educational uses! P – perhaps for revision notes! You type a word or words and then can use them to draw. The app calls it ‘typography art’.

I was glad I attended this session, which highlighted some ways in which creativity can be embedded into learning to help students understand the subject they’re studying.

Image by Penguinpoker uisng TypeDrawing app

Image by Penguinpoker uisng TypeDrawing app

Flip It! animation

Flip It! animation