Our current projects - with big Es and small Ps

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The new academic year has begun and, without a major Moodle upgrade to contend with, it has been relatively smooth. We've added to - rather than hastily re-edited - our collection of Moodle support materials, and our 10 000 + users are now accustomed to both the Moodle 2 file picker and the file name restrictions (read: pedantry) of the Windows servers – previously Linux would tolerate file names produced by cats walking over keyboards.

The course Rollover period seemed to go on for months rather than weeks due mostly to the size of the task and the increased use of Moodle, especially in support of online submission and assessment. Royal Holloway’s new Moodle-based E-Welcome resource for new students meant a much earlier but remote access to the service – long before most academic staff members had made their courses available.

We are now in a more settled place and the requests for e-learning support beyond administration, basic training, and triage are trickling in. It’s more than a trickle though, and one we welcome. Over the next few weeks we will be working on a number of small-to-medium-sized projects, including (at the time of posting):

  • Supporting what seems to be a renewed interest in the use of Clickers / Personal Response Systems, especially among the Science Faculty staff. This may be a good time to resume efforts in identifying and piloting technologies that allow students to participate in lecture activities with their personal devices.
  • Promoting and supporting the use of Turnitin’s online marking and feedback tool ‘Grademark’. The themes of our involvement are streamlining, consistency and collegiality. In particular we are looking at the Rubrics and QuickMark tools – designing, building and sharing them with course teams to provide rich, personal, and timely feedback for students. 
  • Responding to and working alongside academic colleagues who, without using the fashionable terminology, wish to flip their lectures. Although many are interested in using Clickers and our Lecture Capture service Panopto/RePlay, some see value in bring Moodle into the classroom. Building upon the ongoing success of our technology-enhanced English Study Groups, some of our Earth Science students will be using Moodle to organise, capture and present their interpretations of case studies in relation to laws and guidelines in their fields. 
  • Acting upon and supporting a Student Union request for Course Rep visibility in Moodle. Originally, this was conceived as an unworkable desire to have a course rep e-mail link in every one of our Moodle courses. This would have failed because a) not all courses use Moodle, and b) not every course editor would agree with or act upon such a request. A more robust approach is to support a Moodle presence for the Reps by providing them with Moodle spaces of their own - and the skills to make the best use of them. This approach both empowers the Reps and may kickstart our response to the need to involve students in more meaningful ways in e-learning. Our main challenges here are scope, design, deployment and ongoing support. 
  • Finally, we recently ‘won a day's strategic conversation' consultancy on e-learning through a Leadership Foundation for HE initiative called Changing the learning landscape. We will be discussing two very interesting topics; Automated assessment tools, and how to use learning technologies to make our taught postgraduate programmes more flexible as we move into the PG credit framework.

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