Digi Know: Battle of the Forms – Google V Office 365


So, back in June Microsoft released Forms in Office 365 for Education, which fulfilled a gap in the Microsoft product range that Google had been offering since 2012. Using forms is a quick and easy way to create a survey or quiz and be able to analyse and evaluate responses almost immediately.

Microsoft are still relatively behind in developing this technology and currently only provide it for education, not the general public or for enterprise. However on the plus side one can fully integrate all Microsoft products now without relying on external sources such as Google Forms or Surveymonkey, this is a big plus where consistency is essential.

Let’s compare the 2 products:


In my experience of using forms (Google) in the classroom, being able to provide a visual alongside a Question has been vital in providing test questions and so Microsoft not offering this simple option in their forms product is a big oversight and something that I hope will be added soon. The possibilities that Forms opens up in a classroom setting, alongside other Office 365 products such as OneNote and the Class Notebook is encouraging to a more dynamic approach providing a synergism between the Tutor and the Student.

I did experience some further frustration the other day when a colleague asked me to share with her a form I had created in Office 365 Forms. After about 5 minutes of clicking (and swearing) I Googled (Oh…the irony) the problem. You cannot have a co-author or collaborate on one form in Office 365 forms, hmmm bit of a problem when collaboration is key to good academic practice!

The ability to Upload Files in Google Forms is, in my opinion, a massive game changer. As a long time user of the Google for Education suite this feature embodies what Google Apps for Education is about and that’s a seamless integration of the products into a student’s user experience.

Come on Microsoft, I’m batting for your team now!

Using videos in forums for an online course’s student formative assessment


Yasu Kotera (left), Wendy David. UDOL Online Counselling. University of Derby Online (UDOL).

Students from around the world were studying on the University of Derby Online course in Counselling Skills. Part of the assessment involves students recording their counselling sessions for tutors to view and feedback on. Course Resources is limited in the way it handles large files, especially videos, so Yasu and Wendy were pleased to use Media Gallery (Kaltura) as a way of sharing video. In this case, students recorded a short video, usually on their phone, and shared it by embedding it into a forum. This allowed tutors and peers to comment on the video.


In this screenshot, the uploaded video is displayed over the forum which contains a dialogue between the student and tutor.

Yasu comments “I manage the counselling programmes at the University of Derby Online Learning. Our programmes include video assessments, where students record their counselling sessions and the tutors and peers make comments on them. We used to mail those DVDs to evaluate their counselling skills, but as the programme expanded, it just became unfeasible. Then we started to use a file transfer system, but it still took a lot of time to up / download the videos. We had been trying to find a scalable and secure way to conduct the video assessments, and heard about Media Gallery. Media Gallery enables students upload their video easily in a secure way, and the tutors and peers can see and make comments to improve their counselling skills. This is really crucial in the counselling studies online. We are planning to use Media Gallery more in our programmes

Mitigating cancelled lectures with Panopto Lecture Recording


Elaine Conway. Senior Lecturer in Accounting and Finance. College of Business, University of Derby.

Elaine used Panopto Lecture Recording to save the day when she was unable to attend lectures on campus due to an accident. Nearing the end of term, and with students preparing for final exams and assessments, she suddenly became unable to attend a face to face session, and instead used Panopto to record her lectures that students might otherwise have missed due to being rescheduled or having run out of teaching time.

Elaine recorded the presentations at home on her computer using Panopto. These were then uploaded and published directly into Course Resources ready for viewing by the students.

The result was that the students were able to get the materials on time and not miss any crucial information for their exams, and Elaine now has recordings she can use again with just a couple of clicks in a future module.

She said “Overall, the students were appreciative of both the lecture and seminar recordings I made and they have been viewed. I also have the recordings as resource for a future class to help in their revision also. Panopto is a good tool, and as with all tools, not perfect, but it certainly allowed me to deliver to my students despite my incapacity.”

HEA STEM (Computing) event

On Friday 21st February, individuals from across the length and breadth of the United Kingdom gathered at the University of Derby for an HEA STEM and Computing seminar/workshop. The event provided attendees with a space in which to consider how large-scale approaches to teaching, assessment and feedback might be facilitated in innovative ways. In total there were 4 presentations which acted as prompts to generate discussion and debate around a range of themes.

The first presentation by Dr Rachel Long of Oxford Brookes University showcased examples of her work in providing feedback to the formatively assessed work of Computing students. Her work focused on a program generating mathematical problems for students to solve and seek feedback on. The discussion following her presentation addressed areas such as transferability to other disciplines and how to maintain student interest in formatively assessed work. The second presentation was given by James McDowell from the University of Huddersfield. He provided examples of how he uses video feedback with Computing students to support their assignment work. James demonstrated examples of how he encouraged students to use screen capture technology to reflect on their work, identifying not only what they had done but how and why. After the lunch break, proceedings were started by Dr Trish Murray from the University of Sheffield. Trish discussed the Global Engineering Challenge, a large-scale teaching approach bringing first-year students from across Engineering disciplines together to work on simulated problems from industry. The aim of the initiative is to provide students with collaborative spaces to develop professional skills, which alongside academic knowledge, prepares them for life before and after graduation. Working in teams, the students choose problems to work on and demonstrate solutions they believe will solve them. The final presentation of the day was given by Jane McNeil and Beverly Cook from Nottingham Trent University. They provided insights into their experiences to date as part of the SCALE-UP project, aimed at exploring the role of Enquiry Based Learning (EBL) with large classes. They discussed some of the spatial and technological issues involved in re-configuring learning spaces to meet the needs of more active approaches such as EBL. Beverly also discussed her own observations, as a Computing lecturer, concerning the benefits and challenges of EBL.

The event provided a lively discursive environment in which audience members were able to interact with presenters in order to gain a sense of why they did what did, not just how they did it. During proceedings, individuals used the presentation themes to share, discuss and build on practices in an effort to support each other. There were many questions raised throughout the day, notably ‘How do you generate scalable teaching, assessment and feedback models which still remain personal to individual students?’ What do you think?

The Media and Learning Conference (Brussels, December 2013)

I attended the Media and Learning Conference 2013 in Brussels at the end of December and found it really thought provoking and enjoyable. It was great to discuss current issues and share practice with participants from all across Europe and the US (I think there were participants from 27 different countries.) I really struggled to pick between the parallel sessions throughout both days, such was the relevance of each topic.


The underlying theme of the conference was Media Literacy and the ‘urgency of embedding digital and media literacy skills amongst the European workforce.’


During the opening plenary, the ‘modern world’ was addressed, with the discussion around whether dramatic and radical change or gradual systematic adaption within the education sector was the right way forward to meet the needs of today.


The representative from the Flemish Ministry of Education and Training in Belgium (a last minute replacement so didn’t catch his name) urged us to take a step back and really put ourselves in the shoes of a teacher/lecturer who wants to incorporate more media based initiatives in their classroom. Diving in to a world where it’s likely their students are more well-versed, the uncertainty of what others are doing in their teaching, the sense of responsibility that comes with the encouragement of recommending and using tools such as Youtube with their students- all factors among many more that could lead a teacher to see using media as making a ‘brave’ choice. For me, this emphasised the importance of ensuring that we share the great work our academics are already doing across the schools, as a means of reassurance to the less experienced/confident people in faculty.


Professor Renee Hobbs (Harrington School of Communication, Rhode Island, USA) had identified a set of ‘motivators’ through assessing teacher’s attitudes to media. When it comes to the reasoning behind and preferred usage of media tools within their teaching, they could be anything from a ‘trendsetter’ (the want to meet students ‘where they live’ by connecting the classroom to popular culture) to an ‘activist’ (encouraging students to use media to ‘address real-world issues.’) We discuss the importance of learner autonomy quite frequently so it was nice to think about teacher preference.


(To find out what kind of ‘motivator’ you are take the test at http://quiz.powerfulvoicesforkids.com)


There were some interesting discussions throughout the day around the use of lecture capture and presentations from institutions who have rolled it out on quite a large scale and those who are at the earlier stages of implementation. We had a discussion around the use of video within it and whether or not this component was actually needed (software typically contains the options of slides with audio, video- which is usually of the lecture itself if it was recorded live or the lecturer presenting to a webcam or similar, plus a means of navigation through the lecture.) Research done at the University of Eastern Finland tracked student’s eye movement when shown a captured lecture and hotspots were equal in measure around the slide content and the lecturer presenting. It was argued that as so much of a proportion of communication is visual, a view of the lecturer was an important element, but it was also argued that there’s no evidence it actually aids learning, even if student’s ‘like’ it. Some institutions have totally gone down the slides and audio route for the ease of rolling out lectures in large quantities.


Thinking about video use in HE in general, we debated the use of both simple and quick un-edited video and of higher-end production (a debate which has cropped up more than any other for me during my time in HE!) as well as looking at quality and what this means in terms of video.


Strong views were held in both the ‘quick and simple’ and ‘planned and scripted’ camps and most agreed there is value in both methods. An academic’s preference was also highlighted as an important factor in this choice- some being comfortable to switch on a webcam and address their students directly and distribute it self-sufficiently, whereas others embrace the scripting and direction from a production team.


Although the quick vs scripted debate was not new to me, in contrast to past debates, ‘quality’ seemed to be universally defined as quality of content instead of quality in a technical sense, which was music to my ears. The quality of video in a technical sense was thought of as a given, owing to the standard of today’s recording devices and available bandwidth. Something that was visibly and (especially) audibly high quality was seen by a lot of us as a minimum standard, the structure and relevance of the video content being the most important factor


As the case usually is, there was a lot of discussion around justifying video use in terms of assessing it against learning theory. It’s relevance as a component of recent trends such as the ‘flipped classroom’ model, the importance of it within social learning theories/participatory teaching methods and assessing it in terms of learning styles were all popular debates. These are no doubt very valid and important topics that underlie nearly everything we do as part of a Technology Enhanced Learning department. However, what I’ll take away with me is that there is a shift now towards the thinking that media with learning ‘is happening’ and that this is equally as important as theory behind it’s justification. No matter why or how we use it, culturally it is part of our every day lives and therefore is a part of education.


Overall, a very worthwhile conference and good to see some of the work going on at the Medea Awards Ceremony in the evening. I left with a lot of confidence in what we are doing here at Derby and excitement about all the new projects and initiatives that we will start in 2014.

Augmented Reality as Master

Below is a recently released student film that seems far more interesting that the Google’s Project Glass.  Some of the highlights are at 1:15, where the real-world environment is turned into a game, and the main talking point at 3:07 – when the dating app comes in.

Sight from Sight Systems on Vimeo.

However, despite the unsettling ending (which you might expect from Science Fiction) the reference to Master in the title of this post isn’t Master-Slave.  It’s in reference to Augmented Reality’s potential uses in the Master-Apprentice relationship – learning under individually tailored, guided instruction.

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The trouble with Drag and Drop is…

“I want it to be more interactive”, I hear them cry…

It is almost impossible to count how many times I have heard this statement, normally given by a willing teacher with the right intentions in mind. The trouble though is that interactivity has a very bad name!

Repeat after me…

Interactivity is not a mouse click…
Interactivity is not a mouse click…
Interactivity is not a mouse click…

Maybe a little over the top, but hopefully it gets a point across. Too many times it is assumed that by digitising the odd learning activity or by adding some pictures and video, the content will spring into life, entertain and satisfy. 9 times out of 10, it won’t.

So what then?

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Making learning easy

I just wanted to share a few free, open, online learning resources that seem to be doing things right.  They aren’t necessarily doing anything too original, but they do have some qualities that make them noteworthy – perhaps the most common of which is making learning easy.


W3 Schools is an excellent long-standing example.  It fits in that position that is part-learning part-reference, and provides a wealth of information on all of the major web technologies.  There had always been people generously creating various tutorials and making them available on their personal websites, but both the volume and quality of content on W3Schools makes it exceptional.  There are a few things is seems to do to make the learning easy:

  1. Structure: On the first page of the website, all of the content categories are listed down the left-hand side; and are grouped by use.  All of the content can be followed as a linear course, but you are still only three-four clicks away from any specific topic that you want to look at.
  2. Sandboxes: The examples section allows you to try out what you’ve learnt directly on the site.  You type something in (HTML, CSS, MYSQL etc.) and see the result instantly.

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