Adding ‘awesome’ icons to web page in WebLearn

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, most pages in WebLearn 11 use a new icon set: Font Awesome icons. You may well recognise these icons from other websites or phone ‘Apps’. Unlike the previous (‘Silk’) icons these are not images, they are, as the name would suggest, a font. This makes them scalable and colourable (if that’s a word).

Font Awesome icons are open source and can be customised in many ways — size, colour, drop shadow, and anything that can be done with the power of CSS. They can even be made to spin around if that’s one of your hobbies.

Using Font Awesome icons on your pages

To add a Font Awesome Icon to a WebLearn page, open the HTML editor and locate the Font Awesome ‘flag’ icon at the end of the middle row (when using WebLearn on a desktop machine).

You can then select a suitable icon, either search by name or browse by using the scroll bars.

Basic customisation can be effected whilst using the picker but you can use any CSS directives via the “Source” view of the HTML WYSIWYG editor.

That’s all there is too it. Don’t go too crazy with the spinning though!


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Innovative uses of the Lessons tool – free webinar 15 March 2017

The Sakai community has announced an online panel discussion on Wednesday 15 March 2017, about innovative uses of the Lessons tool in Sakai (WebLearn). Oxford University has been using the tool for two years and promoted its use during the WISE project; our team contributed many improvements to the tool to the central Sakai code base.

Join the free online discussion to hear how practitioners at various institutions are using the Lessons tool:

Date: Wednesday 15 March 2017
Time: 15:00 GMT
Big Blue Button link: <
Password: apereo
Join Room 2

The Lessons tool provides an easy way for tutors or other site maintainers to design and implement a structured pathway of learning materials, activities and interaction in a WebLearn site. (See video: Overview of the Lessons tool).

Oxford’s own Dr Lucy Tallents won a Teaching with Sakai (TWISA) award in 2015 for her work in implementing the Lessons tool on a distance course delivered to conservationists and environmentalists in developing countries.

If you have any questions, please contact

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Lecture capture and WebLearn

The Lecture Capture service (called Replay) is now available across the University, after a two-year pilot of the commercial software (called Panopto). This July 2016 blog post provides more information: Replay is now a service.

What are the costs to departments?

The service is free of charge to departments at the point of use. This means that the Panopto software can be installed on any number of computers in any numbers of rooms, or on any personal laptops. The only restriction is that the annual licence fee (paid by IT Services to Panopto) depends on the number of hours recorded and viewed. Therefore access to making and viewing recorded lectures is restricted via membership of a suitable WebLearn site.

What is the difference between recorded lectures and podcasts?

The University’s podcast service has been in place since 2008. It now offers a large collection of audio and video recordings of lectures and other events or series. The majority of recordings are available to the public or as open educational resources. Recorded lectures using Replay, on the other hand, are intended for Oxford students and are restricted via membership of (or visitor access to) a WebLearn site. There are numerous pedagogical benefits for students in being able to listen during the live lecture and view the recording later for consolidation of their knowledge and revision. Usually audio and slides are sufficient, which makes the system comfortable and unobtrusive for presenters (video can be added, but this increases the complexity and cost of equipment).

Can I make my recordings public?

If you wish to make your recorded lectures public, the Replay recordings can be downloaded from the Panopto site as .mp4 files, which can then be made available via the Podcasting service.

What is required in WebLearn?

WebLearn is used as the gateway into Replay, enabling staff and students to use their Oxford single signon accounts. A suitable WebLearn site needs to be created before any recordings can be made. The site maintainer provides student access to the site and uses Site Info > Manage Tools to add the Replay tool. This is an LTI (learning tools interoperability) tool that enables authentication and the link to Panopto. The Panopto software (‘app’) needs to be downloaded (once) onto the presenter’s computer – via the same LTI tool (usually called ‘Recorded Lectures’) in the WebLearn site. The lecturer uses the WebLearn site to initiate recordings, which are automatically uploaded and stored in a corresponding Panopto folder. Students view the recordings by clicking on the ‘Recorded Lectures’ tool in the site.

Is additional training required for WebLearn site maintainers?

No additional training is required.

What Replay training is provided by IT Services?

The IT Learning Centre offers a series of short courses on the use of Replay, ranging from a getting started workshop to more advanced sessions.

More information

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Collaborative authoring of materials

The 2017 version of the annual NMC Horizon Report was launched during the
final session of this years ELI conference. One of the key themes is “Collaborative Learning Approaches” (see Page 5 of NMC Horizon Report Preview, 2017 Higher Education Edition). This is defined as:

Collaborative learning, which refers to students or educators working together in peer-to-peer or group activities, is based on the perspective that learning is a social construct. The approach involves activities generally focused around four principles: placing the learner at the center, emphasizing interaction, working in groups, and developing solutions to real challenges.

It is not well known that all Oxford University staff and students already have access to a collaborative authoring environment known as *Unity. *Unity is a multi-tenant instance of the Apereo Open Academic Environment (OAE), staff and students can sign-in to OAE with the regular Oxford Single Sign-On credentials.

All UK HEIs plus a huge number of worldwide educational institutions (20,000 in total) also have access to OAE and it is possible to create ad-hoc groups containing just Oxford University staff or students or including members from any of the other participating institutions.

These groups can work together on documents, build up libraries of materials and hyperlinks, have on-line discussions or create networks of colleagues, peers or contacts at other institutions.

You can login by visiting or there’s a handy link in the ‘Quick Links’ drop down on every single WebLearn page. OAE works equally well on desktop or mobile.

If you wish to add collaborative exercises as part of a course then we recommend that you add a ‘Web Content’ tool (Site Info > Manage Tools) and set the URL to We recommend that you should ask your students to complete their profile upon first login.

We would be very interested in hearing from anybody who intends to try out collaborative authoring in OAE in their teaching.

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Learning Management Systems – what comes next? A presentation about the Next Generation Digital Learning Environment (NGDLE) by Dr Charles Severance, Mon 27 Feb at 12.30

We are thrilled to announce that Dr Charles Severance from the University of Michigan will be giving a short talk about the “Next Generation Digital Learning Environment” (NGDLE) in IT Services, Banbury Rd on Monday 27th February at 12.30.

This is a version of the talk that he first aired at the Educause Learning Initiative (ELI) conference last week.

A NGDLE was proposed by Malcolm Brown in 2015 [1] and is seen as an evolution of the “monolithic VLE”. It is built upon open learning tools interoperability standards and it envisages a small central ‘hub’ (host) supplemented by an “App Store” of plug-in tools.

Charles has led the development of an open source framework (Tsugi [2] which is a project hosted by the Apereo Foundation [3]) to support this vision.

Please book via this link:

Here’s how Charles describes his talk.

“This presentation will give an overview of the Tsugi project and applications of the Tsugi software in building a distributed approach to teaching and learning tools and content. It is not sufficient to simply make a bunch of small web-hosted things and claim we have “implemented” the NGDLE. We must be able to coherently search, find, re-construct and re-combine those “small pieces” in a way that allows teaching and learning to happen. To do this, each of the learning application and content providers must master detailed interoperability standards to allow us “mash up” and bring those distributed and disparate elements back together. While there has been much said about the ultimate shape and structure of the NGDLE, and there are many current and emerging interoperability standards, there is little effort to build and train providers with usable technology that will empower thousands or hundreds of thousands of people to create and share applications and content that will populate the new learning ecosystem.

In effect, we need to build the educational equivalent of the Apple App Store. Except that it needs to be open and extensible and not depend on a single vendor intent on maximizing shareholder value. This presentation will show how the Tsugi project is doing research into how this works in actual practice. Tsugi is a 100% open source production-ready application and content hosting system that is simple enough to use to allow interoperable and pluggable learning applications or learning content to be built, hosted, deployed and shared by individuals or various-sized organizations.”

Charles is a Clinical Associate Professor and teaches in the School of Information at the University of Michigan. He is the Chair of the Sakai Project Management Committee (PMC). Previously he was the Executive Director of the Sakai Foundation and the Chief Architect of the Sakai Project and worked with the IMS Global Learning Consortium promoting and developing standards for teaching and learning technology.

Full bio:

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Learning Activities to Promote Student Collaboration

Guest post by Lucy Tallents & Jocelyne Hughes

The SHOAL portal will go live in March, following a beta-testing phase in February (to participate in the trial, email  As the release date approaches, we will blog about specific learning activities that feature in the portal, organised into themes such as collaboration, feedback, and support for tutorial-based learning.

In this post, we focus on the use of embedded websites to promote collaboration and the exchange of ideas and information between students.

Collaborative data collection


Problem: On her ‘Exploring data with R’ online course, Lucy Tallents wanted to create a place where students could collaborate to build a simple ecological dataset, which they would use to help them discuss statistical theory and applications.

Solution: After designing a data collection protocol suitable for everyone (measuring five tree leaves collected near their home), Lucy created a Google doc for students to enter the leaf morphology data, and embedded the Google doc within a WebLearn Lessons page.  The instructions for field work, data repository, discussion forum and computer exercises on data analysis are seamlessly connected using the Lessons tool.

Adapt this idea: In a face-to-face situation, students could collect data in a field or laboratory practical, or during library research.   After collating data on Weblearn, students can analyse and discuss in their own time.  Another approach would be to instruct the students via Weblearn how to collect the data in their own time, and upload it to a Google doc ready for a classroom session on analysis or interpretation.

Jointly-edited mind maps

Problem: On a different course, Lucy wanted to encourage students to use mind-mapping to clarify their understanding of wildlife conservation issues.  Mind-mapping software is freely available, but Lucy’s aim was for students to collaborate in creating a mind map together, so that they could learn from each other’s diverse professional experiences.

Solution: Lucy created a skeleton mind map on Mind42 [], and added students as collaborators there, which automatically sent them an email inviting them to edit the mind map.  She linked to the Mind42 website within the Lessons tool, from a page which presented the theory and explained the task in more detail.  Students edit the mind map themselves, adding their own ideas and comments, and working towards a consensus on how different conservation drivers and threats are related.

Adapt this idea: Collaborative mind-mapping can very successfully be used in face-to-face teaching to encourage a more holistic and connected view of a topic, and as a revision aid.  Students can work in small groups or as an entire class, highlighting connections and revealing knowledge gaps.  Another use is to bring together ideas presented in a whole module where lectures are provided by a number of different teachers.  A collective mind map can be created by students to unite the themes presented by diverse staff during the term.

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WebLearn version 11-ox4 released on 31st January 2017

WebLearn was upgraded to Version 11-ox4 on the morning on Tuesday 31st January 2017, we apologise for any inconvenience caused by the disruption.

If you would like to suggest improvements to WebLearn then please do so by contributing to the WebLearn User Voice feedback service.


  • Lessons tool
    • Brand new Checklist tool: add a series of “to do” items and allow students to mark them as complete
    • Collapsible sections: if you give a title to a Lessons page section, then that section can be made collapsible
    • Various UI improvements
    • Firstname surname (instead of username) is now displayed in the Forums summary


  • The Researcher Training Tool (RTT) now works well on a mobile device
  • Many accessibility improvements (courtesy of the Ra11y project)
  • SoundCloud audio files with player can now be embedded within Lessons and other pages – as a side note it’s possible to have private audio files hosted on SoundCloud, they are just like regular file but the URL is private, simple opt to share the file and copy the “embed code”


  • Resources – one can now “Copy content from my other sites” on a mobile device
  • HTML WYSIWYG editor
    • an accessibility checker button has now been added – this allows an accessibility report to be generated for all hand crafted web pages, see
    • will now auto-save is every 3 minutes
    • the style-sheet used when editing is now the same as that used when rendering a page


  • Sign Up tool: users should no longer see an ugly stack trace if their session has timed out.
  • The calendar summary now uses the correct icons
  • Reading list authoring: deleting a top-level section now actually removes it from the page


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SHOAL blog post – Beta-testing

SHOAL_FishImageTesting Testing!

We are excited to announce that in February the SHOAL portal moves into a beta-testing phase!  We invite staff and students to join our group of trial users, to give us feedback on the portal design.  Trial participants will get a sneak preview of the diverse digital learning activities that will feature in the showcase.  Email to join the trial or find out more.

Our original idea for SHOAL aimed to make it easy for staff to re-use and re-purpose example learning activities by importing them into their own WebLearn site.  Once the project began, conversations with experts such as Marion Manton (Technology Assisted Lifelong Learning) and Kate Lindsay, and our own experience, encouraged us to focus on maximising discoverability of resources instead.  This is because we believe that staff are likely to adopt and adapt ideas that have inspired them, beyond using an activity as-is.  By revealing interesting resources and making their creators and usage permissions known, we hope that SHOAL will encourage cross-departmental and divisional sharing of existing resources as well as promoting the creation of new learning activities.

On the technical side, Matthew Buckett at IT Services has developed two new WebLearn tools:

  1. A Metadata tool which allows the SHOAL team to enter and store data on each example learning activity, and
  2. A Browser tool which harvests the metadata and allows staff and students to search it, in order to find learning activities that match their interests.

Each example learning activity will be hosted on its own separate WebLearn site, which will be a special ‘Repository’ site type.  The Metadata tool can be added to repository sites to enable learning activity to be described.  The Browser tool can feature in multiple WebLearn sites, allowing learning activities to be discovered from a variety of places within WebLearn.  Both tools are currently integrated within WebLearn but there is the potential to run them independently if a different VLE is adopted by Oxford in the future.

The SHOAL project now features on the ‘Support’ page of the Digital Education website,  When the portal goes live this will be one route to exploring the learning activities.


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New version of Turnitin: Feedback Studio

turnitinlogoTurnitin has released a major product upgrade that is now available at Oxford University. The new version of the service (which has been live since the afternoon of Monday 16th Jan 2017), is called Turnitin Feedback Studio and offers all the functionalities of Turnitin, but with a simplified, more intuitive interface designed for the modern classroom.

Turnitin Feedback Studio makes it faster and easier to promote academic integrity via Originality Check, and use GradeMark to provide feedback and evaluate student learning. (The PeerMark product is not included in Feedback Studio, but can still be used via Turnitin Classic.)

Turnitin Classic and Feedback Studio are quite similar, however, there are some key differences which are highlighted in this video:

Toggle between the two versions

It will be possible, within the document viewer, to toggle between Feedback Studio and Turnitin Classic until August 2017:

To switch from Feedback Studio to Turnitin Classic you may use the button is at the bottom of the screen:


To switch from Turnitin Classic to Feedback Studio: the button is at the top of the screen:


Integration between WebLearn and Turnitin

Please note that these changes are totally unrelated to the proposed new (IMS LTI) integration between WebLearn and Turnitin. The switch-over to the new integration has been postponed for the time being due to a change in policy by Turnitin. We will keep you informed of any developments in this area. In the meantime administrators may go ahead and set assignments in WebLearn without any concerns.

Useful links:


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Call for Entries: Apereo Teaching and Learning Awards (ATLAS) 2017

apereo-logoThe Apereo Teaching and Learning community is seeking submissions for the annual Apereo Teaching and Learning Awards competition. The award recognises innovation and excellence in the use of digital technologies to enhance teaching, academic collaboration, and student engagement and learning.

If you are thinking of entering then please contact the WebLearn Team. We will be happy to support your application and work with you to ensure the best possible submission. You may find it useful to read this post about the 2015 winning entry ‘Conservation Statistics’ authored by Oxford’s very own Dr Lucy Tallents.

Application Submission

Opening Date: 15 January 2017   Deadline: 20 March 2017

Each applicant needs to submit an in-depth description of the innovative teaching method, practice or strategy, together with evidence to support the claims, based on the award criteria.

The details of how to complete the application can be found at  

Winners will be announced in early April 2017 and recognized at the Open Apereo Conference June 4 – 8, in Philadelphia, PA. Registration and travel expenses will be covered for award winners.

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