The new WebLearn Lessons tool enables a better user experience

WebLearn 10 has brought with it the brand new Lessons Tool. This tool allows one to set up a set of step-by-step learning exercises which students can be asked to work through in a structured manner.

Consider this example: without leaving the page, you can ask your students to read instructions, take part in a discussion, watch a video clip and finally answer a few questions to assess how well they understand what they have just learnt.

In the past it was not easy to link a number of WebLearn tools on one page to create a smooth web experience.   The Lessons Tool has now solved this problem!


lessons-what-to-addLessons is a new tool that allows you (as a maintainer/contributor) to organise resources, activities, and media on a single page. Each Lessons page can be customised to suit your needs, including links to other WebLearn tools, conditional release of items and content, etc.

Content from a WebLearn number of tools can be added to a Lessons page including Assignments, Polls, Forums, etc. we will be adding support for Tests in the next few weeks.

The “Add content to the Lessons page” section (see blow) shows the full list of what you can have on a Lessons page.

How it works

If the Lessons tool is not in your site, you can easily add it via Site Info.  Go to Site Info, click Edit Tools, select the Lessons tool and follow the screen instructions.  As you can have more than one Lessons tool in a site, you are allowed to customise the name of the Lessons page.

Once Lessons is added to a site, it appears in the menu on the left hand side.


Develop a lesson

Click on the Lessons page link on the left hand side.  You can rename the lesson or add content to the lesson.


To rename a lesson you should click the ‘Settings’ icon.  Note that you can also configure other things here, for example, the time when the page is available.


Add content to the Lessons page

Go to a lessons page, clicking on “Add Content” allows you to add the flowing content.

  • Add text:  the HTML editor enables you to add text, links, images, video/audio etc. to the page.
  • Add multimedia: embed an image, video, Flash file, web page, etc on the page.
  • Add Resource: upload a file or use an existing file in Resources tool and link to it, or enter a URL to another site.
  • Add Assignment: link to a WebLearn assignment
  • Add Quiz: link to a WebLearn test – not yet implemented
  • Add Forum Topic: link to a WebLearn forum topic
  • Add Question: created embed multiple-choice or short answer question.  The site maintainers/contributors can view the results displayed using bar chart.
  • Add Comments tool: allow Access users to add comments to the page.
  • Add Student Content: create a section where students can create their own pages
  • Add Subpage: create a child page on which you can create content, or links.
  • Add Website: upload a ZIP file with web content
  • Add External Tool: add a tool using IMS Basic LTI

View a Lessons page as a Student

lessons-student view lessons-student-view2

Photos credit: the two Creative Commons licensed images are produced by Longsight company (!prettyPhoto).

Posted in e-learning, Sakai, WebLearn | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

How to move the Home Page text into Resources

If the text for a Home Page has been entered via the WYSIWYG ‘rich text’ editor (rather than linking to a page in Resources) then all links without an explicit ‘target=’ attribute will open in a new tab which is likely to alter the way in which a site’s home page works.

If this causes a problem, then follow this simple ‘recipe’. You do not need to do this if your ‘home page’ is currently a page in Resources.

1 Go to your site and click on the ‘Edit’ icon (pencil and paper)


2 Within the editor panel, select all text with your mouse and press CTRL-C (or equivalent) to copy the text. Make sure you scroll to the bottom of the page to get all text. (You may find it easier to switch to “Source” view to do this.)


3 Click ‘Cancel’ then navigate to the Resources Tool.


4 Create a new HTML page. You may want to create a special folder for this.


5 Paste the copied text into a new HTML page in Resources by clicking in the editor panel and pressing CTRL-V (or equivalent) then save the page (click ‘Continue’).


6 Give the page a sensible name. It is good practice to keep the “.html” extension


7 Complete the Save process


8 copy the URL of this page


9 Edit the Home Tool again, paste the URL into the box marked “Site Info URL” (underneath the editor panel) then save by clicking “Update Options”


10 Your page should look the same as before but will behave better. Check that there is nothing missing and check that the links work. If anything is wrong then repeat the process.

11 If you are happy you may like to remove the original text from your Home page but this is purely optional.

Posted in Sakai, WebLearn | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Major New WebLearn release: WebLearn 10

We are pleased to announce that WebLearn has undergone significant face-lift with a move to WebLearn 10 (2.10-ox1). The upgrade was affected on Tuesday 16th September 2014, we apologise for the disruption that the extended downtime must have caused.


As well as a new look, this release brings a wealth of new features including:

  • Brand new modern, mobile-friendly navigation with the ‘Sites Drawer’ offering quick links to individual tools within a site
  • Peer marking in Assignments tool
  • Brand new Contact Us tool (as recommended by the WebLearn Student Experience study)
  • Sequencing of content and other activities with the new Lessons tool
  • Customisable branding for a department (available upon request, see below)
  • Drag-and-dropping of files into Resources through your web browser
  • Allowing students to submit group Assignments
  • A new Syllabus tool – edit in place, calendar integration, bulk changes
  • Updated Markbook: assign extra credit, new drop highest, drop lowest, and keep highest grade options, hide/show columns in All Grades page and PDF export
  • Add Mathematical notation to web pages
  • Improved Forums tool offering statistics and grading; an option to require users to post before they can read existing posts; word count for messages; and improved permission settings layout
  • New Web Content and Home tools (see below for important information)
  • Support for IMS Learning Tools Interoperability 2.0 – this allows data to be sent back to WebLearn from the 3rd party tool
  • The ability to locate and link to Forum posts and Assignments within the WYSIWYG editor (via Browse Server)
  • Language preference selectable at site level
  • Support for IMS Common Cartridge import (through the Lessons tool)
  • Brand new Site Members tool (aka Roster)
  • Improved Reading Lists: items can be reordered, list items can be files in Resources, fixed many problems with importing
  • Updated WYSIWYG HTML editor
  • Users can record audio in Resources
  • Add movies to HTML pages in Resources
  • Broadcast files to all Drop Boxes
  • Tutorial for first -time users
  • Question pools copied during site duplication in Tests tool
  • Introduction of AntiSamy HTML code filtering to enhance security (on all tools except Resources) – you will see a warning if HTML is removed
  • Plus many many more enhancements

This new version has been subjected to months of testing but, as with other similarly complex systems, there are bound to be some teething problems – some issues that our testing did not reveal. Should you encounter any oddities then we would be very grateful if you could report them to the central team (using the new ‘Contact Us’ tool), ideally with screen-shots. We will attempt to address any outstanding issues over the next few weeks.

The next few sections outline some of the new features and present a handful of known issues that we simply didnt have time to address.

New Navigation

There is a new ‘breadcrumb trail’ and navigation to sites is now performed via the “Sites Drawer”.


To access the “Sites Drawer”, click on My Sites and then click on the symbol to the right of the target site to reveal and jump to individual tools present on the site.


New Web Content and Home tools

The Home and Web Content tools no longer use “iFrames”, this has resulted in a change in behaviour (see below) and have new icon for configuring the ‘properties’ of the tool, this used to be a button labelled ‘Options’. (This is the first step towards removing iFrames from the system.)


On the Home page, you may also see a red warning rectangle appearing at the top right of the screen explaining that some HTML tags have been removed from the page. This warning comes from AntiSamy which is a new library filtering out potentially dangerous HTML tags. AntiSamy filtering is not applied to files in Resources so the procedure detailed below will fix that issue as well.


Change in Behaviour – Important

If the text for a Home Page has been entered via the WYSIWYG editor (rather than linking to a page in Resources) then all links will open in a new tab  which is likely to alter the way in which a site’s home page works.

If this causes a problem, then follow this 3 step ‘recipe’:

  1. edit the Home Tool and copy all the text from within the editor panel then “Cancel” (do not just copy the text directly from the home page, you must open the editor)
  2. paste this text into a new HTML page in Resources, copy the URL of this page; you may want to place this page in a special folder
  3. edit the Home Tool again, paste the URL into the box marked “Site Info URL” (underneath the editor panel) and “Save”

After thoroughly checking that the (new) home page works, it may be an idea to remove the text from the editor window to alleviate future confusion.

You do not need to do this if your ‘home page’ is currently a page in Resources.

We apologise for the inconvenience that this may cause.

Customisable Branding

It is now possible for departments to have their own top banner on all their pages.The following aspects can be configured:

  • ‘backgroundColour’ – colour of main banner (specified as #rrggbb colour)
  • ‘backgroundImage’ – URL of the background image of the main banner (will tile) – store this in a public folder in the department’s administration site
  • ‘imageSource’ – URL of the image at the right end of the main banner – store this in a public folder in the department’s administration site
  • ‘imageLink’ – URL of a website that the image at the right end of the banner links to
  • ‘message’ – the title, if this is not set then it will always be the name of the current site
  • ‘fontColour’ – the colour of the font of the ‘message’ (specified as #rrggbb colour)

This customisation must be done by the central WebLearn team. If you require this service then please send an email listing the various values for the above attributes; ensure that you have stored any images in a public folder in your administration site and place the URLs in the email.

Examples of Custom Branding

The Said Business School: this has the ‘message and ‘imageSource’ attributes set


A site for ice cream lovers: this has the ‘message’, ’backgroundImage’ and ‘fontColour’ attributes set; the ‘imageSource’ attribute has been blanked out.


Known Issues

Unfortunately, as with any major release, there are a handful of known issues that we simply didn’t have time to address. We will attempt to address these issues over the next few weeks.

  • There seem to be a number of problems with Firefox 31.0, you should update to the latest version
  • No WYSIWYG editor in Surveys beta when using Internet Explorer
  • New HTML pages without the “.html” file extension are displayed incorrectly – they have the wrong MIME type, this can be corrected by changing the MIME type close to the bottom of the page’s Edit Details page. It should be changed from “text/plain” to “text/html”.
  • Announcements made to internal subgroups appear to have vanished but actually they are still present but temporarily inaccessible. In order to see the missing announcements, you need to be in the group to which they were posted
  • The “Contact the Helpdesk / WebLearn team” pages in the new ‘Contact Us’ tool should not present a list of site maintainers. The solution is to use the Contact Us link at the bottom of the page instead.
  • The drop down list of contacts is empty when the site contains a maintainer or contributor who has now left the university. Such users are invisible to site owners but not to the WebLearn team
  • Email attachments are not indexed by ‘Search’
  • Some information is duplicated in the pop-up help
  • The Padlock “lock tool” facility is equivalent to the ‘light bulb’ feature, ie, it only hides the tool
  • The Site Members tool (mistakenly referred to as ‘Roster’ in Site Info) does not display members if a site contains one or more Participant Groups
  • The ‘Search Library Catalogue’ pop-up is blocked by most browsers and must be specifically allowed to open (there is nothing we can do about this)
  • The ‘Search Library Catalogue’ facility will not work in Internet Explorer 10 and higher
  • The ‘Sakai Resource Picker’ within a reading list appears to go wrong with certain browsers but in actuality, the resource is added to the reading list just as it should be


Posted in Sakai, WebLearn | Tagged | Leave a comment

WebLearn unavailable on Tuesday 16 September 2014 from Midnight – Noon

It is planned to upgrade WebLearn to version 2.10-ox1 on Tuesday 16 September 2014 from Midnight – Noon (note the extended outage). There will be no service during this period.

This release will bring major changes in both WebLearn and the supporting infrastructure:

  • New user interface
  • New ‘Lessons’ tool: content sequencing, embedding media, inserting assessments, prerequisites, student and group pages and more
  • New ‘Syllabus’ tool with in-line editing, start/end dates, table of contents view
  • New ‘Contact Us’ (feedback) tool
  • A new audio recording widget for the Sakai rich text editor
  • Drag-and-drop files uploads
  • Peer review and group submissions in the Assignment tool
  • ….. and much more

We apologise for any inconvenience that this essential work may cause.

Here’s a sneak-preview of the new front page.


Posted in Downtime, Sakai, WebLearn | Tagged | Leave a comment

WebLearn and Turnitin courses MT 2014

We have planned another full programme of ITLP courses for the new term. The majority of courses are aimed at staff members, but there is one for students on ‘Awareness and avoidance of plagiarism’, which has proved to be very popular.

The programmes for all courses during MT 2014 are provided below, with links to book on those that you might like to attend:

* WebLearn courses:
* Plagiarism (Turnitin) courses:

Remember also the WebLearn User Group meeting (Thursday 16 October, 2:00-4:00) and the Turnitin User Group meeting (Friday 10 October, 2:00–4:00).  (Bookings are required via the links provided.)

Hope to see you there.

Posted in WebLearn | Leave a comment

Highlights of ALT-C Conference

Here is a collection of the highlights from the ALT-C Conference held at the University of Warwick, 1-3 September 2014.

Keynote: Jeff Haywood

(Quote Jeff Haywood: “We JUST NEED a lot more leaning designers/technologists, and they must work as a team.”)

See “Learning technology and groundhog day” – Terry Mayes (1995) – hype of technologies and not much happens. Patience and persistence are important.

See Horizon Report 2014:

  • One year or less: Flipped classroom; learning analytics
  • Solvable challenges
    • Low digital fluency of faculty
    • Relative lack of rewards for teaching
  • Difficult challenges
    • Competition for new models of education

Keynote: Catherine Cronin

We can ask students – how do you work online, what tools do you use, what could we use together in this class, do we want to try a new tool together? E.g. Kahn Academy videos

Keynote: Audrey Watters

Google – Ngram viewer – shows use of a particular word over the years, e.g. ‘luddite’.

Working with academics in terms of learning design

Univ of South Wales: Wales OER strategy:  Champions networks – focus groups to get going

Univ of Manchester Library: Rapid development of e-learning resources. Search: My Learning Essentials (see example on proofreading etc.)


  • Getting the time of Subject Matter Experts
  • Appreciation for expertise
  • Avoiding an info dump
  • Managing feedback from Subject Matter Experts

Univ of Northampton (winners of team award for learning technologists of the year): streamlining design and structure of VLE courses:

  • Quality matters
  • Ed’burgh Napier’s framework

They employed a VLE administrator – liaison point. Copy material across for staff to new site. Admin side of supporting academic staff. What can we do to support you?

Foundation template (bronze)

  • Jan 2012: they came up minimum standards – quality checklist (double sided doc) – they will post it online
  • Rubric used in the creation of the new VLE sites
  • Contextual help for tutors
  • Positive feedback from students – “transparent, readable materials”
  • Less confusion for students
  • Accessibility benefits
  • They are mentors for staff, encouraging them to use the new template

Univ of Liverpool:

VLE minimum standards to avoid student dissatisfaction

Univ of Nottingham, School of Health Sciences:

Used Laurillard’s conversational framework.

Collaborative curriculum development: worksheets and cards – opens up a conversation, in a workshop. Used Ulster’s set of cards to facilitate workshop:

Dave White: School pupils are developing independent learning habits – find the quickest and easiest way to get their homework done. These are the seeds of the skills we want them to develop. They’re almost self-identifying themselves as digital natives – “we’re good at this; we can do this now”.

London Met: Create a group of digital ambassadors – create resources with us. Workshops with digital ambassadors – pay them something.

  • Conversation between staff and students (think about WebLearn ambassadors)
  • Use the students’ enthusiasm to attract lecturers into the dialogue and re-evaluate their practice.
  • Get students and staff into the partnerships. Create a focal point for dialogue… students are enthusiastic and they want to get involved. Want to talk to their lecturers.

How do you share good practice? See website: LondonMet e-learning matrix. (Staff point of view)

University of South Wales: Podcasts of learning technologists interviewing academic staff and providing hints and tips:

‘Electric Sheep’ – 16 episodes, one hour long. Big international audience. Engage with and learn from staff and students.

Two parts: team members each discussed a new website or tool; move on to an interview, discussion section with a new topic each week. How they use tech in their field, which tools they use, how they felt about the use of tech. Pick a particular task or problem that they wished tech could solve, then we came up with a tool to solve it. What they were using and why they were using it – go the participants re-engaged and re-excited.

Learner analytics (LA)

CETIS – Centre for Educ Tech and Interoperability Standards

  • See Cetis conference, June 2014 (good list of issues to consider)
  • Learning Analytics Community Exchange (LACE)
  • Greller, W. & Drachsler, H (2012). Translating learning into numbers: a generic framework for LA. Ed Tech & Soc 15(3), 42-57.

Lecture Capture and video

Set up a few recoding booths – for people to use themselves. Make sure the tools are what academics are used to working with – not something new they need to learn.


University of Southampton: MOOC on the new subject of Web Science. Done through Future Learn.

Who is behind a MOOC? Good team diagram: digital content producers, rights specialists, facilitators, educators, back end s/w developers, front end designers, CURATORS (learning designers) – overall view of it all.

University of Northampton: Open Northampton

Drivers and benefits

  • Belief in openness and sharing
  • Raise profile of the academic
  • Raise profile of the university
  • Improve quality of the material

Reflections on open practice:

  • Design material with openness in mind
  • Raised awareness of copyright
  • DL materials development
  • Reusability and transferability


  • Copyright – esp use of artwork, diagrams, tables
  • Time constraints
  • Concern over ‘losing control of my material’.
  • Concern over ‘is my material good enough’

Archiving policy

Glasgow Caledonian Univ: recommends working on digital strategy and archiving policy. Clear process for archiving modules and making space for ongoing creation of new ones.


WordPress-based system called Sensé

Online survey tool: Polldaddy

Posted in WebLearn | Leave a comment

WebLearn likely to be unavailable on Saturday 6th September 2014

A message from Mike Fraser (Director of Infrastructure Services):

Dear colleagues,

It is planned to power-down the IT Services data centre at Banbury Road on Saturday, 6 September 2014 with the loss of a significant number of IT services.  This outage is necessary in order for Estates Services to replace the end-of-life cooling system, which uses a refrigerant that will be illegal to maintain beyond December 2014; fit a by-pass switch to the data centre UPS to allow us to carry out maintenance on the UPS without the need to shut down the whole data centre; and to undertake mandatory electrical testing. The work is expected to be undertaken from 0800 with restoration of services by 1700. It is likely that some services that cannot be kept running will be powered down the previous evening (Friday 5 Sept) from 1700 onwards.

We are assessing the impact to IT services hosted in the data centre and, where possible, putting in place workarounds in order to try and minimise the overall impact to the University. We do not yet have a definitive list of services that will be unavailable on 6 Sept and so at this point in time all networked services provided by IT Services should be considered at risk on that day (with potential impact on local services). We intend to communicate a list of affected services by 6 August with further reminders leading up to 6 September.

Given the number of individual pieces of hardware that will be powered-down on 6 September, and the risk of hardware failure, it is likely that some services will not come back on line within the expected time period. We will endeavour to maintain frequent communications to IT support staff during any period of service outage.

If you have any immediate concerns or questions please email in the first instance.

With regards,


Posted in Downtime, WebLearn | Tagged | Leave a comment

Peer assessment coming in WebLearn 10

The WebLearn team is upgrading WebLearn to Sakai version 10 over the summer (2014). One of the great new features of the Assignments tool is that it allows peer review and grading (peer assessment). This screenshot shows two students who have each submitted an assignment, and each received one (anonymous) peer review with comments and a grade.

Note that the instructor needs to wait until the review period (specified when the assignment is created) is over, before checking the peer reviews and allocating a final mark:


See more details on this blog post from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill:

Posted in WebLearn | Leave a comment

Sakai Virtual Conference – Call for presentations

Following the earlier notification to ‘Save the date’, here are further details of the Sakai Virtual Conference which has now opened the call for papers: deadline 22 August 2014. See further details below.

Note that the online event on 7 November 2014 will emphasize the use of Sakai for teaching and learning – it would be great if we could have some Oxford academics (or students or admin/library/ITSS staff) presenting a session or two.

Please consider submitting a proposal and keep the central WebLearn team in the loop!

Now Open! Call for Proposals for the Sakai Virtual Conference 2014

The theme of the conference is “Bridging Education with Technology.”  Be the bridge by sharing your expertise with others!

You are invited to submit a proposal for the first ever Sakai Virtual Conference! The premise of the virtual conference is simple: An Online, Sakai Teaching and Learning focused conference to connect with colleagues across the globe and share stories and best practices. You can enjoy interaction with your peers in the Sakai community, all without leaving home!

We are actively seeking presenters who are knowledgeable about teaching with Sakai. You don’t need to be a technical expert to share your experiences! Submit your proposal today! The deadline for submissions is August 22, 2014.

This online event will emphasize the use of Sakai for teaching and learning. The conference committee has planned the following tracks/session types:

  • Faculty Course Showcase – Demonstrate exemplary instructional strategies and course design by showcasing your course.
  • Instructional Design/Support - How do you support your end users?  Share best practices for instructional design, training, and professional development at your institution.
  • Effective or Innovative Practice – Are you using Sakai in a unique or uniquely effective way? Show us your innovative practice.
  • Birds of a Feather – Lead an informal/unstructured online gathering/discussion about a topic of your choice.
  • Student Experience Lightning Talks – Do you have some amazing student projects or perspectives you’d like to share? Nominate a student to provide a 5 minute presentation during a combined lightning talk session.
  • Technical Session – Do you have a topic that would be of interest to Sakai developers or IT staff? Present on a technical topic “under the hood” of Sakai.

The Sakai Virtual Conference will take place entirely online on Friday, November 7. You’ll make your presentation in a virtual “room,” take live questions from the audience, and get the conference experience without the expense of travel. There will be opportunities for networking and informal discussions, as well as a chance to win prizes donated by our sponsors.

Help us make the inaugural Sakai Virtual Conference a great success!

We look forward to your proposal!


Ian Dolphin, Executive Director, Apereo Foundation

Neal Caidin, Sakai Community Coordinator, Apereo Foundation

Wilma Hodges, Sakai Virtual Conference 2014 Planning Committee Chair

Martin Ramsay, Sakai Virtual Conference 2014 Planning Committee Member 


Posted in WebLearn | Leave a comment

Wikipedia editors named in US law suit

Referring to my earlier post encouraging volunteers to write articles for Wikipedia, here is a cautionary tale about a US law suit against four Wikipedia editors by a person who claims they defamed him in an editors’ discussion forum.

[Thanks to Caroll Mitchell for forwarding this link.]

The article describes the support being provided to the editors by the Wikimedia Foundation.

Another link from Caroll Mitchell:

Victory in Italy – Court rules in favour of Wikimedia

Posted in WebLearn | Leave a comment