What am I?

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Last entry in 2012

Times have been busy, moodling calmly (and sometimes not so calmly). Looking back working with Moodle has proved to be interesting and an overall good experience, except for one thing: the gazillions of settings which not only require test procedures galore. They also require recommendations, because what's good for one purpose does not necessarily fit others. That's why they are available, and that's what makes Moodle a flexible, powerful and on occasion also tiresome (!) tool.

I think so far we've only scratched the surface of what's possible to achieve in terms of blended/online learning in Moodle, and in many cases this will suffice, because there's a lot more to learning than online tools and techniques, as much as I love them. I just realised how extremely little time for reading, studying, staying in tune with what's going on around us I managed to find in the past 6 months ... on my list is - for example 'Faceted Id/entity: Managing representation in a digital world' by Danah Boyd.

Oh well. Not much to add, planning to close down my work computer soon. For the coming two weeks it'll be like this:


back in 2013!

Monday, 15 October 2012

What's in a DMeLD?

I should know the answer - after all, DMeLD (Digital Media and eLearning Developer) is my job title. We've been given this title in the latest re-structuring process in 2011. I'm asking now, more than a year later - where's the developing? Where are the digital media? And - last but not least - where's the eLearning? Currently it's all about Moodle. Our new VLE. I always liked Moodle. It's open source, it's flexible, it's expandable. But NOT in the way we're using it here. It's disempowering. First of all, our system is hosted by another University. So each and every little change has to be begged for with the host. But that's by far not all. Within our establishment it's not only hosted by another establishment, but it's run by our IT department. If we establish some kind of setting that would make sense we can't put it in place ourselves. We have to put in a request. So there's a neat little chain of requests then...

Never mind all that. It's worse to be thrown back to a situation where the main priority is getting on top of what's called 'the technology'. I really don't mind it in principle. Firefighting is ok when trying to cope with a new system. But in our role as DMeLDs we're more and more reduced to that role, and that role only. And is it real or just my imagination that I'm looked at with great suspicion if and when - as a simple DMeLD - I'd like to achieve more than just that. Learning design, developing digital media, advising on best practice in using virtual environments now seem very much the things of the past. And I'm beginning to question if there will ever be a future that is different? I observe in my surrounding that 'being serviced by DMeLDs' is - understandably - what our customers want. And I do very much understand why. It helps them to get on top of their own workload, after all. Will that finally be the last straw, and - in the process - turn DMeLDs into glorified administrators? Is it just me seeing it all like this? Once upon a time, I wrote an article about the DMeLD role in Brookes. I submitted it for publication in the Brookes eJournal for Learning and Teaching (in May 2012). It was - sort of - accepted, but never published. Why? Nobody bothered to tell me. Perhaps it's important to state that all views and opinions published on this blog are solely mine...

PS This is a link to a version of the short article about DMeLDs at Brookes I submitted for publication in BeJLT

Monday, 17 September 2012

"It"

"It" is our Moodle environment. And while we're discovering it's flexibility and capacity on a daily basis from the designer site, it seems a very slow process to open it up to our users. The ones who've been manually added seem quite content so far, only a few questions from students, mostly regarding pop-ups being blocked.

Started writing this a few days ago, and no, there isn't time to reflect and contemplate at all. After waiting for "it" to go live, we're now busy sorting out requests and questions, and finding last minute solutions. I haven't got much time to write about 'course design with Moodle', but luckily I found someone who's started it. It's (a) David Jones on his blog:

http://davidtjones.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/thinking-about-moodle-course-design/

Lots of links to follow up in his post - one day ...

Friday, 20 July 2012

Friday and no Moodle

Brookes Moodle is currently undergoing maintenance. This made me realise that Moodle is literally eating most of my DMeLD time, because today it has been blissfully quiet. Okay, it's Friday as well, but still. I did in fact even have time to get back to Articulate Storyline. And realised that the training sessions are already quite a while ago, hence I will have to find my way back into it. Another proof that technology requires to have your hands on it on a regular basis, it seems.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Articulate Storyline Conference, Leeds, 24.05.2012

Why am I reporting 'backwards' on my blog? This event in Leeds took place 2 weeks ago, why wait so long until writing about it? It wasn't only the usual time problem. This time, the main reason was a slower 'digestion' process of all I heard about Articulate Storyline (and other things) at the Conference. Was the journey worth it? I do think so! There's now an excellent conference resource available including recordings and presentations, and it's all done in Storyline, of course! What follows here on this page is just a short summary with a couple of things I picked out for myself ...

Storyline!  - but not for everything!
Most importantly, I was reminded of the fact that e-learning needs to be designed, and the design has to be intentional, or - as Tom Kuhlmann put it: 'Avoid the Frankencourse', comparing e-learning courses to Frankenstein, i.e. 'stitching stuff together from various sources at random'. Instead look for clear art direction and style, produce templates and slide masters, create a prototype (more persuasive than storyboard) - some slides to show look and feel to give your audience a sense of the final product. And don't forget consistency. So far so good, but more importantly, I liked the motto 'Tap into the Visual Voice': Start with design mapping:
  • Check out a set of areas: elements, typography, people, colours! 
  • Come up with some slides for look and feel: prototyping
  • Sense of "person" important to reinforce emotional connection
  • Starting with brainstorming - what's the topic?
Visualisation!?
Brainstorming can start with 'visualisation' - look at images related to your topic:
  • Visualise - images from different areas, representing a variety
  • Identify a set of image covering the topic in different ways
  • Establish the one that is spot on, yet provides a new and striking aspect "eye-catching"
Lots of little useful tips were interspersed in Tom Kuhlmann's presentation: There are always neat little free tools available to help you, for example Kuler for great colour schemes (add colour swatches to photoshop), or Pixie, a tiny programme which picks the information of any colour on your screen. Or screen capture tools like Jing, which I use almost every day ... Download free icon sets at Icons etc. or search for icons with Icon Finder. A very useful site for fonts is for example 'dafont', and there are lots more. I personally also like fontspace. During our little workshop exercise our chosen topic was 'weather', and in seconds I had a nice font for it (thanks to my ipad!), called DK Zonnig font.

A 'just for fun' tip on the side: Download RIBBON HERO 2, a plugin for MS Office 2010 which teaches some Office Skills in an entertaining way!

Dragos Ciobanu (the guy in the white shirt in the picture below) seems to have an amazingly positive energy for all things e-learning, including Articulate Studio and Storyline, and he told us that the University of Leeds has more than 200 licences for the software already, and he's hoping for lots more! He and his colleague Tamara Bloom did show some examples of what the licences have been used for:
Access Articulate resources at the University of Leeds at:

Alan Williams, Nottingham, reported about a BLS resource created with students, starting with story boarding. In his comparison of a student group and a tutor group he found that both groups had quite different approaches. As far as I understood he asked himself if students can develop resources. He found that this question can be answered with a 'yes' when their work starts with already established resources, and the students translate them into learning packages.

It seems important for me to note here that resources created with Articulate gained an overall  positive feedback from students. Some tips for creating resources, based on student feedback:
  • Not too much to read per slide
  • Good and imaginative use of images
  • Video/audio clips: no longer than 5 minutes
  • Internet links with guidance
  • Task pointers which allow working offline as well
Apart from the fact that it was very encouraging to spend a whole day in the company of people who are pretty enthusiastic about what they're doing - which is all related to e-learning - the impressions and information I gathered gave me a great start into my own storyline 'story'. Can't wait to get a licence soon, to   further explore the main Storyline features - working with triggers, layers, states and variables. Last but not least - one of the Storyline highlights is its HTML 5 output for iPads and other mobile devices!

Friday, 1 June 2012

HEA Health Sciences Conference Nottingham 2012 - some thoughts

The conference on 31 May 2012 had its focus on TEL, the Framework for Technology Enhanced Learning, published in November 2011 by the DH. It sets out the future directions of technology enhanced learning and emphasises potential benefits it has for patient safety and enhanced patient care.


Simulation, of course, has an important role to play in health care education, and ASPiH (Association for Simulated Practice in Healthcare) did attract a lot of interest and attention as the new communication network for everyone involved in simulated practice. It evolved from two other organisations, i.e. NAMS (Association of Medical Simulators) and CSN (Clinical Skills Network). (Note to myself: look into joining the SIG (Special Interest Group) for Technicians and Learning Technologists within ASPiH.)


One important topic that came up during Q and A sessions in the big auditorium was the availability (respectively un-availability, see below) of a great many e-learning resources. It seemed to be a commonly agreed request that people who invest time and skills in finding valuable resources and publish their findings should be in some way rewarded. Something like 'digital fellowship' was mentioned in this context. It was also requested that generally only projects with an 'open access' policy should receive funding in the future. The NHS has produced a great variety of relevant e-learning packages. A lot of them can only be accessed by owners of an NHS email address. It was good to hear that there seemed to be a consensus regarding the urgent request of creating resources as OER (Open Educational Resources).


The micro teaching sessions did reveal that here in Brookes we're already doing quite a few things considered as good practice elsewhere, for example using video with OSCEs (which were then called 'VOSCEs') and using web-based conferencing systems. For my own research the Sheffield experience of Serious Games in medical education was relevant, demonstrating an interactive resource involving decision making trees. The decision making was based on short video sequences. I can easily imagine that this resource manages to draw students into the learning process, and that it's very effective. So that's something to learn from. However, it's a bespoke solution which involved at least one year development time, which included a software developer ... hence it's not sustainable from my perspective. My quest 'how to create resources which 'draw students in' yet are affordable is therefore ongoing ...

Friday, 11 May 2012

Short résumé of my visit at CELE, Coventry University


CELE stands for ‘Centre of Excellence in Learning Enhancement’ at Coventry University. This is where I visited Andi Brooks and three of his friendly colleagues on 3 May 2012. It was good to be in a room where learning technologists have room (and I do not mean the physical space alone!) to develop, explore and research technologies which can be beneficial for the learning and teaching process, as well as creating artefacts. Andi and I talked about a whole variety of software packages to create visually attractive multimedia applications. Currently he is trialling 3D, the open source tool Blender. Of course, he uses an iMac for his development work. He's got a PC on his desk as well, but the layer of dust on it makes it rather unlikely that it's being used much. (Will we ever have an iMac in the LT department here at HLS in Brookes?) 

What's up?


It's not all about 'playing', there are real projects in the pipeline, for 'real' customers. But the focus is definitely on development as opposed to servicing. There are a couple of other learning technologists in the faculty, whose job it is to look after the VLE, and they also support lecturers in all things learning technology related.  

Andi and I discussed previous projects, where he identified free and easy to use software to develop case studies and scenarios - packages like Muvizu (animation software),  SketchUp (3D modelling software) in combination with 3D warehouse, as well as Poser (3D character animation).  When deciding on the tools it's always a matter of combining them in whatever way is practical and brings good results, and often appeal (3D or 2D?) has to be weighed against feasibility. A huge factor are always time constraints, of course. In this context, the limited choice offered by free packages, especially with regard to characters, makes them unsuitable for healthcare scenarios (example: Muvizu), and finding work-arounds is exactly what can be so time-consuming. Additionally, different platforms have to be taken into account, hence some energy also goes into exploring and working with jquery mobile.   

Examples of products Andi worked on are listed in the CiPEL Learning Object Catalogue, look for example for a title called "The Street", a collection of family scenarios suited to explore inequality issues within interprofessional learning in health care.

Complementary role share

What struck me during my visit was how useful it is when members of a team can take on different roles while working on a project. This kind of complementary expertise is for example shared between Andi and his colleague Sean Graham. Sean is strong in coding, while Andi's focus is on digital filming and visuals, but in fact they both are also good in each others specialities!

Some resulting thoughts and questions

For potential future developments, I would like to put a strong emphasis on visuals, to attract users. How does time investment come into this? How can this be sustainable? How about using tools literally (almost) everyone can work with, like for example Articulate Studio? This can make things look rather streamlined - boring? Using templates is in principle good, and increases consistency. But variety is also necessary to keep learners awake. How to achieve a good balance?

Last but not least

Where should the learning technologist (or DMELD) role tend towards: Servicing or creation? What's better from the student perspective? 

And very very last, my very own little bit of jealousy again. (Before reading on please note: I don't care if this sounds like plugging a specific product!) Andi introduced me to ibooks author. Used to create beautiful multi-touch books for iPad. That's something I'd like to try, definitely!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Moodling on ... still calm

Discovered today that Moodle has an excellent user tracking functionality, which will be useful if and when used for the right purpose. Also discovered a few more useful Moodle resources. One refers to a problem Moodle users experienced when Moodle was upgraded to version 2: the 'loss' of the 'Course Files' area. This will also apply to our move from CE8 to Moodle 2, because CE8 works with a File Management area. I found the explanation given in Mark Drechsler's presentation on slideshare very helpful indeed:

http://www.slideshare.net/mark.drechsler/moodle-20-files-an-inconvenient-truth

Thursday, 19 April 2012

DMeLD in co-operation with hatstand productions

Together with hatstand productions (run by a 15 year old), we produced a video for the Movement Science Group in our faculty to introduce movement studies:



Maybe we do need more input from young people in our work?

Friday, 30 March 2012

Moodle - it's beginning to take over ...


Now that the Moodle training schedule in HLS has been published and we already had quite a few requests for our hands-on training sessions, it's become very real that some questions are in need of answers in a fairly short time span. And the training has to run alongside this kind of 'problem solving'. One question concerns all our current so-called 'portals', which should be 'metacourses' in Moodle. Should 'metacourses' provide a programme level entry into Moodle? In which case: could they take over what currently our induction wikis provide? I envisage for example that this kind of 'programme entry' metacourse could be accessible to everyone. It would contain links (among other things, of course) to all the modules related to the programme, but the links can only be used by people who are enrolled. This and other questions need to be considered when deciding on a structure for the Moodle provision in our faculty. And it seems that this structuring task is one to be tackled by Learning Technologists (cum DMeLDs) in each faculty, but I'm not quite sure if I understood that correctly?

Re training: The Brookes Moodle Quickstart guide is done, and it's supposed to form the basis for our hands-on training sessions. But I've just decided what I really want to start with is the 'digital identity', i.e. how to set up your profile in Moodle, and how to see other people's profiles! That's one big improvement which comes with Moodle: it can be more 'personal' than Blackboard CE8, and we really should put an emphasis on this difference. Or at least I think so. I seem to remember that I mentioned this before in our Learning Technologists Forum.

So much for today, which - luckily - is a Friday. Ah, and by the way, I just created a new site:

https://sites.google.com/a/brookes.ac.uk/random-moodle-collection/




Thursday, 15 March 2012

The importance of un-mediated feedback ...

Just back from a feedback session with students about learning packages created with Articulate. Articulate has a variety of options on how engage interactions (created with one part of the Articulate Studio package called Engage) can be set up. And again, when 'publishing' a product there are options (and different combinations thereof) to choose from. Getting it right ain't easy, and trying to do so can get you stuck in a dilemma:


Hence the direct feedback from users is invaluable. But the feedback itself doesn't necessarily provide the 'correct' solution, because often there isn't one that fits all. Very important point taken: try to realise as much freedom for users of learning packages as possible. Even if it comes at the cost that learners might 'miss out' on something.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

An extra day - leaping!

Difficult to decide what to do today. The 29th of February is bound to have an entry in this blog, that's one thing. Will write as I go along, let's see what comes out of this 'bonus' day.

Just started to tackle the 2nd case study in the POOLP project. It always takes time to gather all the bits and pieces because there's always too much time going by when working on a project. How much nicer would it be to be able to concentrate on a project and get it done without having to pick up the pieces from the last time I worked on it ...

Bob (Pomfret) has sent new graphics this morning. That's always what gets me going. Having visuals including a permission to adapt them makes it so much more enjoyable to do the job!

Okay - lots of interruptions today, as usual, but part of the preparation for case study 2 is done. More tomorrow. Planning to see 'The Wistleblower' in UPP. On screen tonight as part of the 10th annual human rights film festival in Oxford!

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Definitely tough stuff

Learning the 'ins and outs' of a new VLE can be quite tiresome. Most of the neat solutions and work-arounds which I discovered over the years in Blackboard cum CE8 need to be re-learned and/or re-invented. The key phrase in my previous sentence is 'over the years'. Finding equivalent solutions in Moodle has to be done in months, I'm afraid. Today I discovered that there's no such thing as 'fill-in-the-blank' questions in Respondus with a 'Moodle' personality, because there's no such question type in Moodle. There's a 'cloze' question type, which could perhaps be used to replace 'fill-in-the-blank', but it requires a complicated syntax. My solution for today was to replace 2 'fill-in-the-blank' questions with 'matching' questions. My head is aching. Editing in Respondus is still pretty awkward. Nothing seems to be just simple and straight forward. Downloading questions or quizzes into Respondus? Uploading them to Moodle - how to deal with question sets? Formatting in Respondus or in Moodle? How does RADAR fit into this equation? Anyone around with experience in uploading and linking to quizzes in RADAR? Where should the editing be done?

And there are so many more open questions ...


Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Learning Technologies Fair 2012

Went there on 26 January, meant to summarise my discoveries ever since, and didn't find the time. The young guys in the picture below certainly would have deserved a larger audience, but their presentation was late in the day:


For today, I've got to call it a day - fresh start tomorrow!

Friday, 20 January 2012

IT questions

Resolution: Spread the news that I am not employed as an expert for IT questions of all sorts. I do like answering questions, but please let them relate to using learning technologies. Would it improve my working day by quite a lot if the questions were varied, they would sometimes surprise me, and occasionally they would contain some new 'stuff'? Oh well, with the move to Moodle everything will be new. Let's hope it'll also be just a little bit different.

Am thinking about Web 3.0 (many people call it the semantic web), and was amused by the fact that wikipedia has its contribution re Web 3.0 within the entry for Web 2.0. Only discovered this coincidentally when checking if wikipedia is up and running again. Pleased to say: it is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_2.0

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Wikipedia Blackout

No wikipedia today! A 'blackout' day to raise awareness that "the US congress is considering legislation that could fatally damage the free and open Internet", see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page

Personally, I can get on with all things wikipedia today, though - the German language version is still available. Normally there's hardly any occasion to use my German here in the UK, but today it could be different :-) 


Tuesday, 3 January 2012

3 January - first day at work in 2012

Looking out of the window in the morning:


Looking out of the window in the afternoon:


In between looking I managed to get some work done. Mostly catching up with emails and projects. Tried (yet again) to somehow make a connection between different google accounts to have a 'combi' Google+. It didn't quite work. Google keeps asking me to do 'stuff', today it wanted me to replace my blogger profile with my Google+ profile. Exploring this option got me into the above mentioned 'combi' question. Technology eats time. Yet - overall not a bad start.