Category Archives: vle

Browser tools in support of formal learning

Arrived slightly late (had been talking about the educational possibilities of Jaiku with a fellow delegate). I missed the introduction of the session, it is now the hands on part (which I have now finished(ish)).

I do quite like Google Personalised Home Page and there are other options such as Netvibes which I know some people like.

Google Personalised Home Page

I would ask why VLEs such as Moodle don’t have the flexibility and functionality that you find in iGoogle.  It’s also a pity that there isn’t a standard for widgets (or gadgets) that allow them to work on iGoogle, Dashboard, Vista sidebar, etc…

Embedding audio into PowerPoint presentations

If you have created a PowerPoint presentation and added some audio files, say an audio track or a recording from the British Library Archival Sound Recordings collection you may find when you upload the presentation to a website or your VLE that the audio files are now “missing”.

This is because PowerPoint has an option that for files bigger than a certain size it will link to them rather than embed them. This is fine if you play the presentation from your laptop or computer, but rather annoying for a learner who has downloaded the presentation from the VLE and is attempting to play the presentation at home.

In PowerPoint 2003

Tools > Options > General Tab

Embed files screenshot

Link sounds with file size greater than <insert a number which is larger than the size of the audio files being used>

I tested this on our Moodle VLE and it worked a treat. I would guess that later and earlier versions of PowerPoint have a similar option.

YouTube introduces advertising…

So there I was blogging about how we use video on our VLE where I did mention that some of the staff were using YouTube.

Now one of the nice things about YouTube was the “lack” of “in your face” advertising, however it is now looking like that could be a thing of the past!

Video advertising has started on the YouTube website, its owner – internet giant Google – has confirmed.

Google said it had designed the way the adverts work on the video-sharing website to be as unobtrusive and undisruptive as possible.

The adverts will begin 15 seconds after a user has started to watch a video, but only on 20% of the screen window.

Google said the advert would then disappear within 10 seconds if the user had not clicked to watch it.

Read more, source BBC.

Video on the VLE

I have over the years looked at how we can store and use digital video to support and enhance learning. Generally small video clips seem to work better online (just look at the success of YouTube) rather than whole programmes.

Though having said that I am currently enjoying the BBC Archive trial and the BBC iPlayer beta and on both of those I am watching full length programmes. However I am watching it for entertainment rather than educational – raises another question, is there a such a stark difference between entertainment and learning these days?

We are storing video clips we use on the VLE (we use Moodle) using the Flash Video format. Though some staff are using YouTube or TeacherTube.

Our Flash video generally streams “okay” both inside and outside the college.

I have found that using Quicktime H.264 encoded files results in a similar file size, but much better quality. This was particularly evident with the Italian Language programme I used as my example, where the audio was out of sync with the video when using Flash video which would have proved difficult for language students to follow the foreign language.

h.264 video

However it does require that the client have Quicktime installed and though this is a free download for users outside the college, the Quicktime player we have installed on college machines is not capable of playing H.264 content.

The main advantage of encoding H.264 was the time it took to encode the files. Though quality and final file size were also advantageous.

To encode a 15 minute MPEG2 Freeview recording took around 15 minutes on my iMac.

To encode the same 15 minute MPEG2 recording as a FLV file took about five to six hours… and then I needed to create a Flash object which contained the FLV video file.

We now have a 15 minute limit on files just because anything longer will take too long to download. For those video recordings/files we put them on DVD and allow the students to view them via a DVD player.

Longer term for larger videos we are aiming to have a media/video server, but this will be mainly aimed at streaming internally.

Travelling through time…

We never have enough time, however I have managed to find the time to spend some time talking about time…Over the last ten years or so I have been supporting staff in FE in the use of learning technologies, all the time when I run training sessions though I hear the following comments:

“I don’t have the time.”

“When am I suppose to find time to do all this?”

“I am going to need more time.”

There are a few options when it comes to time and finding the time.

First option, double your working hours each week, this will give you more time for work, less for home, but remember it has to be for the same money!

Second option, don’t sleep! Sleep is somewhat overrated and think of all that time you are wasting sleeping, when you could be doing so much more. We live in a world which never sleeps according to an overused cliché.

Third option, use a time machine, such as the Tardis or H G Wells’ time machine and travel back in time to catch up on all the time you need, you might break a few laws of time, but I won’t tell.

TARDIS

Seriously though, time is finite and fixed. We can’t change the amount of time we have. All that is possible is prioritising how we use our time and working more efficiently

Everybody already uses technology to save time. People drive to work rather than walk. There are microwaves and fridges in staff areas which means it is possible to save time over lunch. Telephones enable quicker and easier communication and for planning meetings and contacts it can save time. Video recorders allow us to time-shift watching television programmes. Kettles avoid having to light a fire to make a cup of tea!

Everyday we use technology to make our lives easier and to save time.

Often learning technologies can be used to make our lives easier and importantly save time.

Do you give your learners any type of formative assessment, do you find the marking takes a large amount of time, or do you use valuable contact time, getting the students to mark each others’ assessments, or do you not bother as you don’t have the time? You can put assessments on a VLE and it can save time, as the VLE will mark the assessments for you. Importantly such formative assessment will allow you to identify learners having difficulties which can impact on retention and achievement.

Do you spend time finding or copying resources for students who missed a session, or have lost them. How do you cope with differentiation or providing a personalised learning experience in addition to this. By using a VLE and uploading interactive whiteboard notes, handouts, presentations, your learners will be able to find and access the resources they need at a time and place to suit them, saving you time and making their lives easier. However if you also provide additional resources, links, digital online collections, you can start to provide a differentiated and personalised learning experience which will challenge the more able learners and support the learners with greater needs.

Why not think about what you do have time for? What I mean by this is how do you prioritise how you spend your working week? How much time do you spend planning lessons and how much time do you spend creating resources for your lessons?

The following topics are covered significantly across many vocational and academic areas across the college. Do you create resources for these areas yourself, or do you use other peoples?

  • Customer Service
  • Health and Safety
  • Marketing
  • Study Skills
  • Equal Opportunities

Sharing makes sense and saves time. So how do you share when one of you is based at different sites on a multi-site college? You know I am going to say through the VLE don’t you?

How do you share when you are based in a college in Gloucestershire and somebody else is based in a college in York. You know I am going to say through JORUM don’t you?

Working together, both internally and externally, can have significant impact on the speed and quality of delivery. The ability to bring high quality expertise from different disciplines to share good practice, develop ideas and address learning and implementation strategies can be highly effective. Synergy means that working together produces better results than the sum of the parts working individually.

But I hear you cry, “I don’t like using other people’s stuff…”

I know, but I am 100% certain that everyone does use other people’s stuff not just now and again, but all the time. When you photocopy a page from a book or an article from a journal, that is someone else’s stuff. When you use an article from a newspaper or a journal, that is someone else’s stuff. When you show a video, that’s someone else’s stuff.

We use other people’s stuff all the time. Building on the work of others is a valid way of working. It is how academic research is undertaken, building on the work of others.

Using other people’s stuff saves time.

Time is valuable, but we can’t increase the time we have, we can prioritise how we spend our time and use technologies to save time. We all use technology everyday to save time and make our lives easier.

Learning technologies can be used to save time, make our lives easier in the college; as well as enhance learning, improve retention and increase achievement for our learners.

100 ways to use a VLE – #29 Homework or Home-based Study Task

You can use the VLE as a “home” for non-classroom based activities. These can be undertaken by students at home, in the library or at a time and place to suit the learner.

  • Add NLN Object into a package on the VLE and ask students to go through the object as preparation for the following week’s lesson.
  • Add NLN Object into a package on the VLE and ask students to go through the object as a homework task.
  • VLE will track student usage and assessments.
  • Use follow up activities to support homework task.

100 ways to use a VLE – #33 Preparation

It is very useful for a student to undertake reading or similar before the lesson, it prepares them and gives a background to the topic of the session.

Often in a course you may require students to read a chapter from a textbook in preparation for the next session.

You can do something similar with resources on a VLE.

Resources you could ask your students to read or go through could include one or more of the following:

• NLN Learning Object;
• resource from Ferl/QIA website;
• resource downloaded from the JISC JORUM repository;
• a specific web link (or selection of web links);
• a resource you have created and uploaded to the VLE;
• a series of questions to ascertain the previous knowledge.

One of the advantages of a VLE is that the use of the resource by learners can be tracked so you will have an idea of who has actually done what you asked.

A specific example of this to show how you can do this.

For the GCE AS History you need to study the Russian Revolution.

NLN History Learning Objects 

There are a range of NLN Learning Objects which cover History and one covers 1917 – the year of revolution: The failure of the provisional government and the success of the Bolsheviks.

Prior to starting the topic you could ask your students to look at and read the learning object on the VLE in the same way you may get them to read a chapter from a book.

They will then be able to have a background to Russian Revolution of 1917 which will enable you to focus on the issues rather than starting from scratch.

100 ways to use a VLE – #39 Virtual Lessons

You can use a VLE as a starting point for a classroom session, allowing you to quickly access web sites, NLN materials and presentations, etc..  with the advantage that you can also allow your learners to access the “lesson” again on the VLE at a time and place to suit them…

You may already be familiar with using PowerPoint on a laptop and a data projector in a classroom situation.

If you have internet access you can use the VLE as a lesson planning tool with the ability to quickly access notes, NLN materials, PowerPoint presentations, web links, images and so on…

Of course once the lesson is there (whether it be a set of links, a package or a chapter) the learners can access the “lesson” again at a time and place to suit them.

Learners who were absent from the lesson can also access the “lesson” therefore avoiding the need to find out what they missed and thus saving you and them time.

Evidence shows that using a VLE in this way actually improves attendance at sessions rather than as you might think result in a drop in attendance.

The lesson  can be extended on the VLE through adding additional resources and web links; and the use of discussions groups to continue and further any discussion in the classroom. These virtual discussions can certainly benefit reflective learners and those that lack confidence to speak in class but are happy to write down their views and opinions.

This lesson will also be available for the rest of the year, supporting revision for example.

The lesson will also be available next year, saving time on preparation and planning.

The VLE will never replace classroom teaching, but it can be used to supplement and enhance a classroom session that was never possible before.

100 ways to use a VLE – #86 Filing Cabinet

You may already have a filing cabinet (or a cupboard) which you store copies of your assignments, handouts, briefings and other paper based resources.

You may have a folder on your desk which students can access copies of missing resources.

You may already give your learners access to this file storage and allow them to pick and choose which paper based resources they need.

You do though need to ask the questions:

  • how do learners access the resources, do they need a key or authorisation?
  • what happens when a copy runs out, who prints out and copies the resource?
  • who identified that a resource has run out?

The advantages of placing electronic copies of resources on a VLE are:

  • the resources are available all the time from anywhere, whether that be home, work or college;
  • as they are electronic copies, they never run out, you don’t need to print or copy them again;
  • students can have multiple copies, one at home and one for college;
  • you can specify if resources are available all the time or for a set time;
  • you will be able to find copies for yourself so allowing you to access them from home or work if they need updating.

The VLE is a powerful asset and tool for teaching and learning, but even using it as a simple file storage area can prove to be an advantage to yourself and your learners.

The VLE is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year from any internet connected computer.

Using technology does “improve learning”

Becta have just published their report on the £34m test bed project.

The key message from the report is:

Having a high level of technology for learning equipment in a school or college will dramatically improve performance, so long as there is the right support and enthusiasm to embrace it.

In terms of FE, there was recognition of the value of VLEs (or learning platforms) in enhancing and supporting learning.

In the further education colleges it was found that learning platforms extended students’ learning into the home, and the management information systems provided greater efficiency and effectiveness for managers and teachers.

The BBC is reporting on the story and they pick up on the fact that though there was greater success in the primary and secondary schools, the impact on FE was marginal, there was little change.

It can be difficult to measure the impact of technology on retention and achivement, but there is now much more evidence that it can and does make a difference.