Engage up and running

oxengageOur Engage programme on the use of digital technologies in impact, outreach and engagement is now well under way. Slides are now available online from last week’s presentation on the OxReach crowdfunding platform project, and the considerable engagement required for successful crowdfunding and crowdsourcing (download slides [PDF]).

Slide from OxEngage Crowdfunding presentations showing lots of postit notes with recommendations

Recommendations from OxReach’s slide deck about crowdfunding [link to PDF]

To find out about forthcoming Engage sessions, read on.

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Events calendar on the Digital Education at Oxford website

DES logo from websiteCan you help build a calendar of events for all in Oxford who are interested in educational technologies and techniques, for students, for teaching, and public engagement and outreach?

Chris-Bull_070916_ALT_187-707x530 cropped LM 130217We have started to add events to the Digital Education at Oxford website. These include the #OxEngage series, other events hosted at the IT Learning Centre and national conferences such as ALT-C.

Please send details of future events (including links to relevant websites) to des@it.ox.ac.uk.

Image credit: Chris Bull at ALT-C 2016 (CC BY 4.0).

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Learn to program with the IT Learning Centre

ProgWith the IT Learning Centre you can learn to program either in a class or online.

Below you’ll find a list of our upcoming classroom-based programming courses. We like to keep the classes small so that you get the chance to benefit from the teacher’s expertise; they are all programmers, past and present (and great teachers!). Spaces are limited, so book quickly.

If you are not sure if programming is for you, or you just want to get a handle on ‘this black art called programming’, come along to one of our Programming: Concepts workshops.

If you prefer to learn to program at your own pace, remember that some of the most popular courses in Lynda.com are about programming. Just visit https://courses.it.ox.ac.uk/lynda, sign in to Lynda using your SSO credentials and search for the programming language in which you are interested.

Programming: Concepts for new programmers
Date: 27 Feb 13:00 – 16:00
Cost: Staff £30/Students £15
Read the course description
Book and pay

Programming: Concepts for project managers
Date: 3 Mar 9:15 – 12:15
Cost: Staff £30/Students £15
Read the course description
Book and pay

C++: A comprehensive introduction (2-day course)
Date: 1-2 Mar 9:15 –  17:15
Cost: Staff £140/Students £70
Read the course description
Book and pay

Databases: MySQL introduction
Date: 3 Mar 14:00 – 17:00
Cost: Staff £30/Students £15
Read the course description
Book and pay

Databases: MySQL further techniques
Date: 10 Mar 14:00 – 17:00
Cost: Staff £30/Students £15
Read the course description
Book and pay

JavaScript : An introduction
Date: 17 Feb 09:15 – 17:15
Cost: Staff £70/Students £35
Read the course description
Book and pay

Matlab: A comprehensive introduction (4 half days)
Date: 6, 8 ,13 ,15 Feb, 14:00 – 17:00
Cost: Staff £120/Students £60
Read the course description
Book and pay

PHP: An introduction
Date: 17 Mar 09:15 – 17:15
Cost: Staff £70/Students £35
Read the course description
Book and pay

Pure Data: An introduction to programming
Date: 27 Feb 14:00 – 17:00
Cost: £30/Students £15
Read the course description
Book and pay

Image credit: CC BY-SA http://abstrusegoose.com/ via Wikimedia Commons 

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Technology on tour: coming soon to your department

Version 2

Discussion with a member of Social Sciences at Manor Road

Learning technologists from Academic IT have been giving staff and students a taste of technology at specially organised roadshows around the University. Designed to raise awareness of the Digital Education Strategy, the roadshows allow staff and students to ask questions and try out new technology such as virtual reality (VR). The emphasis is on technologies that have applications for teaching and learning; enhancing the experience in face-to-face, online, or blended scenarios.

Steve and Xav (also known as the ‘WISE Guys’) started by organising fortnightly roadshows at the Manor Road Building and the Mathematics Institute. Each session takes place from 11am-2pm.

Steve and Xav demonstrated a number of technologies:

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Trying out a VR headset in the Maths Institute

So far, the response has been very good. Sixty people have attended the roadshows, including eight academics. Staff and students suggested some excellent ways to use VR, such as field trips, historical scenarios, spatial environments, and visualisation of topology in mathematics.

So, why virtual reality? The learning technologists chose VR as a ‘hook’ to attract interest and let people play with technology. Small groups in the University are already working with this technology for teaching or applied research. During the roadshow, Steve and Xav were also accompanied by Richard Smith (Radcliffe Science Library) who brought along the Library’s VR headsets which have proved popular with students and academics. Richard ran a competition for the best ideas on how to use VR for teaching and learning; already good ideas have emerged, such as data visualisation in 4D applied to social science.

Lessons learnt and next steps:

  • The majority who attended the roadshows were students, partly due to the location near lecture theatres in the Maths Institute.
  • VR was a great hook. However, it tended to overshadow other technologies and methodologies that the team wanted to promote as part of the DES. At the next roadshow, it is planned to use touch-screen technology to demonstrate interactive models.
  • Several staff asked for a mailing list or group (perhaps VR@Oxford?) that could answer questions such as ‘Is VR being used for teaching at Oxford? Who’s doing it? Are there opportunities for collaboration?’
Version 2

Communicating the message

The next roadshows takes place in Maths (on Thursday 2nd February) and in the Manor Road Building (on Thursday 9th February). For more information, read Learning technologists out and about in Maths and Social Sciences.

Image credits: Steve Burholt, Xavier Laurent

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Screen-recording software

Usability CC BY-SA Thomas Link - FlickrUsability – how well a digital tool supports users in carrying out their tasks ‘in an effective, efficient and satisfactory manner’ (Freire et al. 2012) – is a crucial consideration, whether you’re developing a new tool or deciding whether to adopt a ready-made one. One of the many ways to evaluate usability is to ask representatives of your target audience to carry out specific activities with the tool. Recording their actions (with their permission, of course!) saves you from having to take notes during the session and allows you to spend more time afterwards analysing what users found easy – and not so easy.

Peter Robinson of our Educational Media Team lists some of the leading screen-recording software and offers some practical tips. You can also find links to two of our IT Learning Centre courses, including how to use screen recording – also known as screen-casting – in your  teaching.

Replay Lecture Capture

Normally associated with recording lectures, the Replay software (Panopto) can record the computer screen and your conversation with the user as they carry out the specified activities. It automatically sends the recording to a folder in a site in Weblearn. Key benefits are:

  •  It’s supported within IT Services.
  •  You can trim the material afterwards.
  •  You can change the layout of the screen for the output file.
  •  You can work on different computers and save recordings in the same folder.

Training material and support site: http://help.it.ox.ac.uk/replay
Service email: replay@it.ox.ac.uk

‘Built-in’ tools on your computer

  • Windows 10 has a built-in screen recorder in its Game Bar. Although the intended purpose is to record game clips, you can also use it to take screenshots and record users’ actions in any software.
  • On a Mac, the Quicktime player can record screen areas and audio directly to a file on the desktop.

Third-party software

General tips for screen recording

  • Adjusting the display:
    • Make the cursor much bigger in system settings.
    • If the software allows, capture only a small area of the screen. Alternatively, make the overall screen resolution smaller.
    • If using a browser consider making the text a little larger than normal (this might also reveal errors in the CSS).
  • Interacting with users:
    • Get them to follow a series of written steps to complete tasks so that all users are doing the same task.
    • Ask them to be a little slower as they move around the screen.
    • Encourage each user to speak aloud as they do things; in particular, ask them to verbalise any problems or concerns.

IT Learning Centre courses on screen recording

Screencasting and capture: An overview
20/02/2017 14:00 – 16:00

Screencasting: Enhance your teaching
06/03/2017 14:00 – 17:00

Freire, L.L., Arezes, P.M., & Campos, J.C. (2012). A literature review about usability evaluation methods for e-learning platforms. Work, 41, 1038-1044.

References to the third-party products listed in this post do not imply endorsement of them on the part of either Academic IT Services or the University of Oxford as a whole.

Image credit: CC BY-SA Thomas Link via Flickr

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Courses Spotlight: Upcoming Adobe courses – Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign

The IT Learning Centre offers a range of courses to help you create academic and professional publications and websites using Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign.Woman-With-Colorful-Flowing-Clircles-Hair-300px-GDJ-OPENCLIPART

Images: Effective workflowsfor anyone wishing to learn how to manipulate and optimise images.
In this three-hour course we will use Photoshop and Gimp for image manipulation, creating digital artwork, and optimising images for the web. You will be introduced to a model workflow for image manipulation and correction. You will be encouraged to work on your own project so please bring along the necessary resources. Read the full course description

Date: 09/02/2017 09:15 – 12:15
Cost: Staff £30/Students £15
Book and pay for a place

Illustrations: Effective workflows – for anyone who need to produce logos and technical illustrations
In this three-hour course we will use various software packages, such as Illustrator and Inkscape, for creating vector-based illustrations such as diagrams, technical drawings, maps and logos. These vector-based graphics can be scaled without losing quality making them ideal for printed documents. These applications can also be used for simple page layout and data visualisation. You will be encouraged to work on your own projects so please bring the necessary resources. Read the full course description

Date: 08/03/2017 09:15 – 12:15
Cost: Staff £30/Students £15
Book and pay for a place

Desktop publishing: Effective workflows – for anyone who needs to create professional documents
We will cover best practices which will help us design professional, print quality, documents that are easy to maintain. The tool that will be used for the demonstrations will be InDesign, the industry standard DTP tool, however the techniques will be applicable to other tools (such as Scribus). Read the full course descripton

Date: 22/02/2017 17:15 – 20:15
Book and pay for a place

28/02/2017 14:00 – 17:00
Book and pay for a place

Cost: Staff £30/Students £15

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New record for IT Innovation Challenges

IT Innovation Challenges logoThe latest round of the IT Innovation Challenges has just closed for submissions with a record number of ideas being shared. This round, which was open to student only, invited ideas around the two themes ‘teaching and learning’ and ‘student welfare’. Other ideas that bring benefit to the University, its staff and/or students through digital means were also welcome. As the ideas submission stage closed, 47 ideas had been shared on the Oxford Ideas platform (https://oxfordideas.wazoku.com). The ideas had then been viewed over 3,700 time and nearly 200 people had engaged with the ideas, signalling their support and adding comments or questions. This is a considerable increase on previous student rounds, and the number of ideas is even higher than the most popular staff round (45 ideas, Hilary 2015).

The ideas will now be evaluated by the IT Innovation Challenges Panel who will draw up a shortlist and invite the successful students to present a project proposal based on their idea. The shortlist will be revealed at the end of February. Academic IT staff will then be available to help the students by providing advice on how to develop their ideas into a project; identify the resources needed, draw up a schedule of work, prepare a budget, and write the project proposal. Project proposals will be submitted to the Panel in mid-April, and decisions on what projects to fund will be made in May after a ‘pitch event’ where the students get to present their ideas to the Panel. The ideas that have been submitted to the current student round can be viewed on the Oxford Ideas platform (https://oxfordideas.wazoku.com).

The IT Innovation Challenges is a University-wide scheme, part of the University’s IT Capital Plan. This student round is the only one planned for this year. The staff rounds are currently suspended (see post on IT Innovation blog) but the IT Committee will review the decision during 16/17 after the level of funding for overall IT Capital investment going forward has been decided, and based on any other feedback it receives.

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VLE Review: Were you one of a thousand?

Tumisu CC0 via PixabayThe two VLE Review surveys closed at midnight on Friday 27th January, with a combined total of more than a thousand contributions. This is a very gratifying number, and we thank everyone who has taken part. Your responses will be invaluable, both in deepening our understanding of how WebLearn and other online platforms are currently used in the University, and in providing evidence to underpin the requirements for future VLE provision.

A substantial proportion of people indicated their willingness to take part in interviews or other activities in the VLE Review. We will be writing to all of you in due course to acknowledge your expressions of interest, even if we are unable to take them all up.

Image credit: CC0 Tumisu via Pixabay.com

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Replay Lecture Capture: get up to speed (and stay there) with free training

Replay logoThe Replay Lecture Capture team has announced this term’s programme of training for both new and existing users. All sessions are offered free of charge and take place in the IT Learning Centre in IT Services’ offices at 13 Banbury Road.

Introduction to Replay training session

Mon 13 Feb, 12:30-13:30
This session is a short introduction to the software used at Oxford for automatically recording talks and seminars for student revision. The session presumes no prior knowledge of the software or service.

Full description
Book a place

Replay workshops

These informal workshops are intended for existing Replay users who are already familiar with the interface and basics of lecture capture. Proposed topics are listed for each workshop below, but if there is a particular topic not on the lists you would like us to cover (time permitting), e-mail replay@it.ox.ac.uk with your suggestions.

Full description

Mon 30 Jan, 9:15-10:45

  • Setting up a WebLearn site for Replay
  • Setting up a remote recorder in your department
  • Scheduling a recording using the remote recorder
  • Setting up public links and using the live webcast functionality

Book a place

Tue 28 Feb, 14:00-15:30

  • Uploading an audio or video file and manually synchronising PowerPoint slides
  • Advanced editing techniques including copy, split and merge
  • Optimising and configuring MP4 outputs

Book a place

Mon 13 Mar, 14:00-15:00

  • Making recordings available to a subset of students: e.g. for accessibility purposes
  • Enabling the audio search functionality for your folders
  • Closed captions (automated and manual)
  • Setting start and/or end publication dates for recordings (embargoing)

Book a place

Key links

Replay Lecture Capture Service web pages

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VLE Review: Progress report

The start of Hilary Term sees the continuation of the consultation phase of the VLE Review, during which staff and students have been contributing their perspectives on the future of WebLearn. So, this seems an appropriate time to report on progress and introduce the members of the team conducting the review.

Looking back over the first two months

VLE Review posterThe online surveys for students and staff were launched on 20th November, and a combined total of over 400 responses has been collected. They will remain open until Friday 27th January: visit www.it.ox.ac.uk/vlereview to add your voice. In addition, we have conducted face-to-face interviews with 17 members of academic, administrative and technical staff; another 15 individual and group interviews are in the pipeline.

We’d like to give a big ‘thank you’ to everyone who has taken part the review so far. Whether or not you use WebLearn, every contribution helps us to develop both a rounded picture of its current role and an understanding of what the University needs from a VLE as digital education moves forward.

In addition to engaging with staff and students we are working our way through a lengthy reading list. This includes peer-reviewed articles from the research literature, sector reports on VLE usage (‘grey’ literature), the findings from previous Academic IT research (including DIGE 2 and WISE) and materials sent by universities that have recently gone through their own VLE reviews.

Looking ahead

DIGE 1 workshop

Photo taken during the DIGE project. We’re looking forward to equally animated conversations in the VLE Review!

Coming up between now and late February is a progamme of six requirements-gathering workshops and focus groups, as well as a series of usability evaluations of WebLearn. The events will be advertised shortly.

The outputs from all these activities will be a ‘landscape’ report on the current use of WebLearn and a set of requirements for the optimal VLE to take the University into the 2020s. The requirements will be incorporated into the tender documentation that will be sent to potential suppliers, including the current WebLearn team, in the spring.

Who’s who

The composition of the team will vary as the project moves through successive phases; here are the principal members as of mid-January.

The core task of engaging with staff and students falls to Liz Masterman (Senior Researcher, Academic IT) and Ana Matak Siviour (Senior Business Analyst). Liz has been researching into teaching and learning with technology since 1997, during which time she has interviewed academics from universities around the UK as well as in Oxford. Most recently, she was involved in the WebLearn Improved Student Experience (WISE) project. Ana has an in-depth knowledge of college and central University administration, gained both before she joined IT Services and in her subsequent work on the Student Systems Programme (now Education IT Programme). This background is proving invaluable, both in complementing Liz’s knowledge of the academic aspects and in exploring the boundaries (conceptual as well as technical) between the VLE and related systems.

Also involved in our engagement work is Xavier Laurent (Learning Technologist, Academic IT). Over the next few weeks Xav will be running the usability evaluations of WebLearn, in order to ensure that we have rigorous up-to-date information on its ease of use. Xav was a member of the WISE project team, and designed and carried out usability evaluations of the redesigned WebLearn sites with students.

Dave Stewart (Unix Systems Administrator in IT Services) is responsible for producing the non-functional requirements and architecture for the optimal VLE, and will also be providing technical advice and support to the project team. Away from the VLE Review Dave is a member of the team that hosts the WebLearn platform and the University’s mailing lists, among other services.

Keeping us on task and to time is Julia Grieveson, our Project Manager. Julia’s previous projects include overseeing the selection and procurement of a VLE for Oxford University Press, and we are benefiting greatly from her experience and expertise.

From an Academic IT perspective, then, the VLE Review is providing an extended opportunity to collaborate with staff from other groups in IT Services and, thereby, to share knowledge and skills that we can apply in our future work.

Key links

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