19 December, 2006

Optivote: Introduction Video

We had a demonstration of the Optivote voting system a couple of months back, delivered by Phil Stanley.

It works primarily as a multiple choise voting system for use in groups, similar to the ask the audience system in 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire?', but it is very flexible.

I recorded the two hour demonstration and it is available as a streamed .wmv file, at 512kbps.

Phil seems to have started creating some screencasts, available on the Optivote site, which also might be helpful.

Digital Video Tutorials: Izzy Video

I've been starting filming a video podcast for LTD, and that has brought into focus my lack of skills in this area.

Izzy Video is a Video Podcast that covers many aspects of creating digital video. If you are doing the same, subscribe to this with iTunes or what ever you use. You can also download archived episodes from the website.

14 December, 2006

ePortfolios: First Steps

The ePortfolios pilot, using PebblePad, is starting about now. There are perhaps 20 students from the Law and Criminology department who have volunteered for the pilot, and we'll be putting sports students on next.

The only training resource I've needed to create is a simple PDF document called PebblePad: First Steps because Pebble Learning provide some decent resources on their web site.

Finally Philippa Butler from the Massey University College of Education, New Zealand has created A Review Of The Literature On Portfolios And Electronic Portfolios which goes into much more depth than I did. I've only scanned it, but it looks like another useful perspective which references a lot of the research around portfolios.

Via: elearnspace

07 December, 2006

From VLE's to Learning Landscapes

Graham Attwell's presentation slides give a good overview of the move from VLEs to personal learning landscapes (which would include the use of eportfolios).

The images on pages 51 and 52 display both models well.

Via: The Wales Wide Web

01 December, 2006

Screencasting: ZDSoft's Screen Recorder

Another piece of screencasting software is ZDSoft's Screen Recorder.

A free version is available. There are fewer options than in Camtasia, and you need to close down other pieces of software that deal with audio to use it (trying to record the screen when using iTunes made my PC crash), but it allows you to record a number of videos directly into WMV format, even quicker than with Camtasia. We could then put them directly on to the streaming server.

If staff wanted to create screencasts, but didn't have copies of Camtasia, this looks like a good free alternative.

Lightscribe Disk Labelling

I've been producing a few CDs to go external, and as I've not got CD labels (I've only just got a CD pen!) they don't look very professional.

So I got quite excited when, watching old episodes of GeekBrief, I heard mentioned the HP DVD 940e Multi DVD Writer. Using HP Lightscribe CDs and DVDs this allows you to quickly and easily burn professional looking labels on the CD/DVD. As we are doing more and more CDs and DVDs, this could pay for itself compared to buying labels.

Have a look at the way the burned CDs look.

30 November, 2006

New Virtual Learning Environment Name

As we are looking at upgrading our VLE from WebCT 4.1, we've been talking about rebranding it. This will mean that any changes in the future can be a little more transparent and all references to WebCT in documents wouldn't all need to be changed to for example Moodle, if we were to go that way.

Webteam called it 'myLearningSpace' on the portal. Personally I think this is a bit misleading as the VLE isn't your space, it's the teacher's space. 'Online Classrooms' would perhaps be more correct.

'myLearningSpace' would be better used to brand an eportfolio system like PebblePad, or a 'Personal Learning Landscape' like ELLG. These are actually spaces owned by the students.

29 November, 2006

Subcribing to a Blog: www.feedblitz.com

In our work at Edge Hill University, we find that getting people to subscribe to blog feeds can be difficult because it seems like a new technology to understand.

If a class was using blogs in the course, and the teacher wanted to keep track of all the posts, they would need to.

If they don't want to use feed aggregators in for example Bloglines or a web browser, they could use www.feedblitz.com

I'm still testing the site, but I think that you register at the site, then subscribe to the blogs you want to keep track of. The service will then email you with the new posts each day (I think). I'll post again when I've tested it.

17 November, 2006

Zamzar: Online File Conversion

I might be worth us keeping Zamzar.com in mind if we, or the academic staff that we are supporting do not have the necessary software to convert certain files.

There is a list of file types supported, and although it is in beta, it has worked OK for me.

If Zamzar doesn't do what you need, try Media-Convert.

Finally, if you want to keep track of it's development, subscribe to Zamzar's blog.

02 November, 2006

Highlights of the SOLSTICE Conference

This video is a one-minute encapsulation of the May 2006 SOLSTICE conference.

SOLSTICE is Edge Hill's Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. It's aim is to help develop a method of course delivery that has the use of technology integrated into it, rather than added on to it.

Either watch the high quality version (.wmv format) or watch the embedded version held on YouTube (below).

Details of the 2007 conference will be available soon.

28 September, 2006

An Overview of E-Portfolios


PDPs and E-portfolios

PDPs have been used at Edge Hill since the mid 1990s (Beaumont, 2003). The aim of them is to support students as they “develop an understanding of their own learning by reflecting on their own learning strategies and by developing their range of learning skills” (Schofield, 2004).

Originally the ‘Teaching and Learning Development’ department had more centralised control over PDP development in the instituation, but they have now been devolved to the individual faculties and HMSAS departments.

I assume e-portfolios will be best seen by us as an extension of PDPs. An extension that, because it is kept online, can allow any element to be made available to selected people, or to be made public. This can also move the focus from just keeping track of your own learning to letting other chosen people do the same, be that teachers, prospective employers, parents, etc. Trent Batson (2006) notes that it is often associated with “assessment, but also with accreditation, reflection, student resumes, and career tracking”. Put in that way it could be seen as a PDP that is not just put together in year one of your degree course, but which develops and helps you track learning over the whole of your life it you want. George Siemens (2004) sees it along these lines when he says:

“portfolios can best be viewed as a reactionary response to fundamental shifts in learning, teaching, technology, and learner needs in a climate where learning is no longer perceived as confined to formal education”.

Batson (2006) also distinguishes between e-portfolios (database-driven, dynamic Web sites) and Webfolios which have been used in the past (static, HTML-driven sites).

Potential Benefits of an E-Portfolio System

Batson (2006) notes that an e-portfolio can act to create a unifying theme for the student and their teachers in a modular degree, perhaps even allowing assessment of work from a range of modules. This could be a way of improving continuity between separate modules, especially if some were studied at other institutions.

Things that are Important from the Way an E-Portfolio System is Used

Batson (2006) notes that the e-portfolio needs to be integrated into the course and modules, if the student is to really see the benefit and get involved. This is complex and would take a lot of time and effort during course design. Academic staff would benefit from support from perhaps ‘Teaching and Learning Development’ and ‘Learning Technology Development’. This would involve the usual technical support, but also just as importantly, advice about integrating it into not only the module. To get the full benefit, their use would need to be integrated in to the whole course and entire learning experience.

Things that are Important from E-Portfolio Systems

If we are talking about a portfolio for lifelong learning, the system needs to allow interoperability between other current and future systems that the student might have access to. It also needs to be transferable to a static web site that can be hosted elsewhere, for when the learner is not a registered student at an institution with an e-portfolio system.

The system needs to be easy for the learner to use and maintain. It must be easy to pick up at first and do the basics, because the learner starting a course has much to take in with learning to use the various online tools, such as WebCT, the institution web pages, the library catalogue and electronic books and journals. All these need some time and a little effort from the students to learn how to use them. I would personally not want to see them having more complex systems to learn how to use, as we might be in danger of seeing the technology get in the way of the learning rather than supporting it.

According to Dave Tosh (2005) ELGG’s vision for e-portfolios includes making it easy for connections to be made and passed on to others in communities. This is not just about recording achievements; this view of the e-portfolio is wider and includes using this base to develop communities who learn together. Their conceptual framework (Chen, et al, 2005) demonstrates how this might work. This would be a further step in the use of such software, and again might involve integration into the curriculum.

Links to Examples of E-Portfolios Systems

Steps in Moving this Forward in the Institution

Mark Schofield has noted that there is a current audit of PDP at the moment. It looks like PDP is not yet fully integrated into the curriculum in some areas, and as we’ve seen argued above that is important to the success of PDPs or e-portfolios.

Any development of e-portfolios would have to follow on from the institutional stance on PDPs. This is good as it would mean the use would be focused. We don’t want to be administrating another system without good reason.

We would do well to get the Academic Staff who have expressed an interest in e-portfolios together along with Mark Scofield in TLD and others from SOLSTICE and LTD to talk about:

  • What we might want to achieve from using PDPs and e-portfolios?
  • Do any off-the-shelf systems meet these requirements or make them easier to meet. Could a simple bespoke system meet those needs?
  • Is it worth doing a small scale pilot using one or more of the systems, including bespoke systems to test usability, time taken to learn and perform regular tasks, use that the students make of it?

27 September, 2006

WebCT: Using the Calendar Tool as a Booking System

I was asked by a member of staff about sorting out a way of booking student appointments using WebCT.

We could look at creating collaborative documents using Writely, but that involves students having more passwords to remember.

Using the WebCT calendar means that the students have less steps to take in order to do what they want to.

I've recorded the process in the screencasts linked to below. They are in .wmv format.

1. Introduction
2. Changing the settings to public
3. Adding an entry
4. How the students add entries

14 September, 2006


You might want to take a look at this…

After mentioning the Apreso, automatic lecture capturing software, in the LTD team meeting yesterday I coincidentally opened an email from one of their representatives. It contained links to a couple of example lectures captured with this software.

Calculus at UMass:

Economics at Temple: http://content.apreso.com/apresos/ClassroomDemo/16181_FOXSP212_2005-01-26_02-40-PM.htm

* These links are best viewed in Windows Internet Explorer with Flash. This is because these customers chose to capture using Windows Media for video. Apreso also support cross-platform video options, such as Flash video.

"These lectures were captured without the faculty having to do anything. The capture started and stopped automatically, everything was digitized, compressed and synchronized, and the navigation thumbnails were all done automatically by the system. Then Apreso posted a URL to the customer’s learning management portal. No camera operators or media specialists needed to be involved. The content was ready for student viewing maybe 15-20 minutes after the lecture took place (basically, the time it took to send the content to the learning management system).”

From my point of view, the significant feature of Aspreso Podcast is the automation - the fact that the physical process/s required to provide lectures online is totally removed from the lecturer. Podcasting itself is not necessarily a complicated idea or process but it does require a level of commitment and consistency which is not always attainable.

If there is a demand for this type of resource, in principal this type of solution (one which takes away all the technological obstacles for tutors) is ideal. However, I don't think that Apreso is a system which we could buy into on a small scale for the purposes of a pilot. Maybe there are others? I'm not sure.

So, because of the level of investment required we would need first to seriously investigate the use of the resource from both academic and student viewpoints. Do lecturers want their students to listen again to every word that was said? Will students value this resource?

Additionally, whilst recording and podcasting lectures may be a straight forward way of incorporating audio resources into a course we also need to further investigate alternative uses for podcasting. I don't know if Apreso can do anything other than automatic lecture capturing? What about pre or post lecture material?

Personally I don’t think that this is going to be the best system for us – as least to start with. But I do think that podcasting itself is worth investigating further.

Some interesting ‘Podcasting ideas for use (and why)’ from Bristol University ILRT: http://www.bournemouth.ac.uk/eds/documents/podcasting_ideas.pdf

Although I did not attend any sessions at the Alt-C conference specifically concerned with Podcasting, some of the concerns and affordances of which were discussed centered on the following:

Pedagogic Value
Academic Resistance
Student Attendance
Student Access

Two points which stuck with me were:

Student Engagement: As a result of audio lectures, rather than intense content recording, students were able to fully engage with the information through noting times of key points.


Academic Resistance: Some lecturers had concerns about being recorded. What if I say something I wish I hadn’t? My flippant comments now available for review!

Further piloting is in my mind the next step. Perhaps automation is the way forward if such pilots prove successful enough to warrant expansion.

30 August, 2006


I've had requests from several members of academic staff regarding using E-Portfolios.

To be honest I've not read much about these, and why people are using them. George Siemens wrote (in 2004) an article, with links that might help start an exploration of this.

I've heard good things from Edge Hill staff (it might have been Jo Shoba) about 'PebblePad' which is an ePortfolio system created by eLearning experts from the University of Wolverhampton and staffed by their graduates. Click on 'PebblePad Presentation Video' on the PebblePad home page for an introduction and then look at the help videos to see what the software looks like to use.

We need to look at making a decision about where we want to go with ePortfolios, as Law would like to start using them this year. It might be good to start a debate by bringing someone in to do a presentation about PebblePad, or to do some research and present it ourselves... this will get a range of people from the institution together, to talk about what we want.

23 August, 2006

Embedding Resources from Video Sharing Sites in WebCT

I've been asked about using these resources in teaching and learning. While downloading and capturing sections of these resources would break copyright law, we can link to and embed videos hosted elsewhere.

For example:


When you are on YouTube.com, look at the 'About This Video' section on the right of the screen. Select the contents of the 'Embed' text box and paste it into the WebCT Text Block on an organiser page.

The result would look like:

Other sites which you might want to use aren't demonstrated here, but if you have rights to access the Developer Community at Edge Hill University, you can see how they work. Choose 'Other Resources' > 'Incorporating Videos from Video Sharing Sites a WebCT area'.

14 August, 2006

Nikon D50 Camera Guide

We now have a Nikon D50 camera for the Learning Technology Development team to use.

If you want to know how to use it, KenRockwell.com has a created a guide to show you how it works and what all the buttons and menu options do.

10 August, 2006

Blogs and Building Online Communities

We are getting more academic staff wanting to look at use blogs in teaching and learning. In my mind, the only current reason we would want to use blogs in HE is to develop communities of learners.

Nancy White on the Full Circle Online Interaction Blog has several posts (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5) about the types of communities that can be developed around blogs. These ideas form a useful starting point for thinking about what we might want to achieve through using blogs, and how we might go about using them in collaboration with other technologies.
Nancy starts off by looking at what constitutes a community, and how that might be different from a network where people have perhaps one off interactions looking for help or assist each other completely impersonally using social bookmarking sites like del.ici.ous.

Indicators of community are looked for, such as evidence of people caring about the development of the group rather than just themselves, group identity and group language. For more about community indicators have a look at who is talking about the phrase through Technorati. This idea if developed further can help us see if the communities that we are trying to develop, are developing to any great extent.

The three types of communities identified are:
  • Communities based around one blogger, who has readers and commenters. Some of these commenters have their own blogs. If the main blog disapeared the community would too.
  • Topic centric communities which might look similar to a network. The blogs in this link to each other, and the fall of one, while taking from the community, would not damage the community a huge amount. There is no centre in this type of community and often events are organised to bring the actors and influencers together.
  • Community centric groups would be based on a single plaform meaning that links between blogs and RSS feeds are used less. The important thing is who is commenting on whose blog. MySpace would be an example, as would I guess, a community based in a VLE with discussion boards and other tools available. These have very clear boundaries as we are used to with WebCT.

Would any academics want a more open community than this third example, with links to other institutions and the students there? Would this be acceptable and could this create a synergistic relationship locally, nationally or internationally between many students studying the same subject or specific area of a subject? If we did want this WebCT would not be the tool to use. We would need something more open.

17 July, 2006

Using a VLE: A Student Perspective

I think we all agree that it is important for those involved in developing the use of technology in the institution, to understand the various student experiences of using the technology.

Campus Technology has an article written by a student at the end of their studies, looking back at their experiences of using Blackboard.

I think that what he says has relevance to Edge Hill, especially the point that when teachers used the VLE sporadically Blackboard went from being benefical to being harmful to the students' learning.

29 June, 2006

WebCT and Pop-up Blockers

Pop-up blocking software is becoming more widely used, and this is causing major problems with off campus students using WebCT 4.1.

We need for formal mechanisms for dealing with this if we are going to be able to cope with using WebCT Version 4.1 for another year.

Meg has found some very useful links via the very useful Dr. C (Dr. C is something I'd miss if we do end up moving to another VLE).

Pop-Up Killer Review looks like a fantastic resource. Sending a student to the Detect Page will allow them to see if they have Pop-Up blocking software enabled on their machines. The Pop-Up Blocker Detector Software available for free from here will talk anyone through how to disable pop-up blocking for many different pieces of software.

We'll look at how we can pass this knowledge on in a simple way to students, as it seems many avoid using WebCT becasue of it. It sounds like not all students ask for help when they come across the problem.

15 June, 2006

blog.ac.uk 2006

I took part in the blog.ac.uk educational conference on the 2nd June. The aim of this get together was to "provide a central point to help focus and drive forward the existence of the UK and web 2.0 educational blogging community"

There are several perspectives on the day out there from Josie Fraser, Stephen Downes, Stephen Powell, Barbara Ganley, Ewan McIntosh, Miles Berry, and various photographers!

Before the conference, my perspective was that I wanted us to get academic staff using blogs themselves, before they will really be able to consider using them in their own teaching. Being at the conference inspired me to think through some further related issues.

Step One: We also need to communicate and demonstrate why and how blogs can improve students learning, to academic members of staff. I think that a list of technologies including blogs with potential uses, and the comparative benefits of each would be a good first step in helping us communicate. This could include links to some more screencasts to demonstrate their use in different situations.

Step Two: I'm not sure that many academic members of staff would be happy to be using externally hosted blogs. I've mentioned using things like Bloglines or Flickr to host blogs and images externally, and got replies connected to issues with control. I guess that means we would have to install blogging software at Edge Hill.

I think there is an obvious use for blogs in professional development courses, currently when the course closes (and our licence requires this) the community closes. A blog could live on after the course for as long as the community wanted it to, and with the professional development courses there would be a reason for it to live on.

08 June, 2006

Digitised Books on Flickr: Punch Volume 9

I was asked by Margaret from the English department to digitise some old volumes of Punch and Boy's Own Paper.

The next question was how to make them available for access. WebCT's Image Database tool was a possibility (see on Edge Hill's WebCT: Developer Community > Other Resources > WebCT Tools - very basic examples > Image Database...) but is time consuming to upload images and they are only available in one WebCT area.

Flickr looked more attractive to me as it has upload software which makes the process of uploading a large number (100s) of images perhaps 20 times faster than with WebCT. Not only that but the images are then available for the whole world to use, in various different sizes. The only drawback was a small monthly upload limit (20 MB) unless you pay (then you get 2GB), which will mean I'll have to upload the images over about 4 months unless I upgrade the account for $25 (about £15).

For example you could link to the image (automatically converted to different sizes) from WebCT:

Cover: Large
Cover: Medium
Cover: Small
Cover: Thumbnail
Cover: Square (which could be downloaded and used as icons in WebCT).

The files uploaded so far are available (out of order) for you to look at.

Finally, another interesting use of Flickr allows you and other people in your group to add annotations to the pictures. This can be used to point interesting things out, or add interesting or important information about the picture.

By the way, there are more images available from Punch 1942-1959 as are details of when each early volume and issue were released.

01 June, 2006

Example Fastrack 2006 WebCT Induction

Here is the 'Example Fastrack 2006 WebCT Induction' course.

It is in .wmv format. If you do not have the software to view it, we recommend that you install Windows Media Player version 8.0 or above.


Introduction to WebCT

Accessing and Using Your Course Area

Resources and Tools

26 May, 2006

Basic WebCT Course Design

Here is the 'Basic WebCT Course Design' course (57 minutes). It is designed for use with WebCT 4.1.

It is in .wmv format. If you do not have the software to view it, we recommend that you install Windows Media Player version 8.0 or above.

Introduction - 9 minutes

Adding Pages and Tools - 22 minutes

Adding Files - 9 minutes

Content Modules - 6 minutes

Other Basic Options - 11 minutes

Please give us any feedback about this course by adding a comment. Thanks.

24 May, 2006

Computer Security Training

I was thinking that if Edge Hill is encouraging people to take part in online courses, we perhaps have some responsibility to make students aware about home computer security.

Not sure what people think about this... whether it is someone elses responsibility rather than ours?

I don't think that we provide anything at Edge Hill, but there are guides out there:

Bradford University's IT Services have guides for students.
James Madison University has comprehensive help.
Carnegie Mellon has home network security pages.
And Lynda.com have 8 hours of videos.

All of these have useful information, but might be on the techie side for many students. Might be another job for Camtasia, but is probably low on our list of priorities.

Accessibility Testing: Colour Blindness

The 'Colorblind Web Page Filter' allows you to enter a URL address, and view any Web Page as it would look to someone with various types of colour blindness.

For example Edge Hill's page looks different for those with red/green colour blindness (pronatopia).

This might be an interesting tool for learning about and raising awareness of accessibility issues in this area.

17 May, 2006

Using Online Audio in Education

If you are interested in using online audio in education, I've tried to collect a list of useful links.

The list covers free software, some videos showing how to subscribe to feeds, and links to sites that are focused on the use of audio in teaching and learning.

Online Skills Audit and Training

We've been looking at developing online training using screencasting software like Camtasia. We've also seen Howard Turpin's skills audit which was created for Faculty of Education students.

I'd like to see the students and staff who use our online training, having different ways to access the training videos that we create. Perhaps browsing the pages for the training they want, searching for the training using a search box, or going through a skills audit to help them understand better what they need to know.

I've started developing something that initially will just cover WebCT and online learning technologies, but may grow to include other aspects of Learning Services training (MS Office, basic IT skills, study skills, e-literacy, ect).

I'm developing a project blog that others who end up being involved in this can join, and would appreciate any feedback on the way it is going, and the scope of it - is this duplicating something else that is done already?

05 May, 2006

Magnatune and Music for Podcasting

If you are looking for free to use music to use in your (non-comerical) podcasts, Magnatune is a music download site that allows you to use its music in your podcasts for free.

Also look at opsound which distributes music under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike licence. You would just need to attribute the work to the creator and your work would have to be distributed using the same licence.

Using free software like Audacity you can easily edit and combine your recordings with music. To load music into an Audacity project you would select the 'Project' menu and then 'Import audio...'.

If you really wanted to create your own music, the GarageBand software on the Macs upstairs in the LINC building makes it very simple.

11 April, 2006

Great RSS to Website Tool: FeedoStyle

We have been using RSS feeds in WebCT for a while now and Alan Seatwo has been experimenting with them in his work with the Community Knowledge Transfer Service. We have been using Feed2JS but now there is a new kid on the block called FeedoStyle.

It allows people to pull any RSS feed into a stylised module on a web page. The idea is to allow blog and other website publishers to include new content directly onto their site in a very easy way. The service is easy to set up and does not require the creation of a user account.

The good thing about FeedoStyle is that it allows multiple feeds on a page something Alan had difficulty doing with Feed2JS.

blog.ac.uk Conference June 2nd

‘blog.ac.uk’ represents the UKs first educational blogging conference bringing together practitioner and research based expertise to explore cutting edge issues surrounding the educational use of weblogs and weblogging software.

It takes place on June 2nd in London and is free. As the blurb for the conference mentions, there are lots of events aimed at first time bloggers with 'introductory level demonstrations and workshops.' However this will be aimed at those who want to take things further.

I think we will be sending someone to this.

10 April, 2006

Online Training 4: Printing Handouts from PowerPoint (2:33 minutes)

Mark Roche has created a quick guide to printing handouts from PowerPoint, as some students were not sure of the best way to do this.

This training is in .wmv format. If you do not have the software to view it, we recomend that you install Windows Media Player version 8.0 or above.

Printing Handouts from PowerPoint - 2:33

05 April, 2006

WebCT Getting Started Guides

In case anyone needs to point students and staff towards them, the Getting Started Guides that we have produced are available online on the Learning Services website guides and support page.

These are written for version CE 4.1, so not all will still be relevant when we move to version 6.0. We hope to look at developing and updating the training guides over the summer.

31 March, 2006

Listen to Cakes! Thanks to Talkr

You can now listen to a machine generated audio version of Cakes. Just click on the 'Listen to this Post' link under each post or subscribe to the feed:


using a Podcast reciever such as Juice.

We've set this up using 'Talkr' which allows you to subscribe to audio versions of blogs, and to create audio versions of your own blogs for others to subscribe to.

Talkr doesn't accept the Atom feed from blogs set up with Blogger like this one. Sending Cakes feed through Feedburner and submitting the resulting Cakes feedburner feed worked.

The audio will only be available for those posts that are part of the current and future feed. The older posts will not be available as audio files.

29 March, 2006

Online Training 3: Updating the Glossary Wiki for the 'PG Cert in Teaching & Learning Support in HE'

We use a Wiki as a glossary for the 'PG Cert in Teaching & Learning Support in HE'. This training shows users how they can make change. The videos are in .wmv format and will play in Windows Media Player 7.1 or higher, but ideally you need version 9 or higher.

01 Introduction - 1:38
02 The Glossary - 1:49
03 Logging In - 2:26
04 Adding Definitions - 3:09

27 March, 2006

Online Training 2: Course Genie 2.0 (61 minutes)

Here is the complete Course Genie 2.0 training.

Again it is in .wmv format. If you do not have the software to view it, we recommend that you install Windows Media Player version 8.0 or above.

01. Introduction - 0:56
02. Installing and Opening Course Genie - 2:54
03. Formatting the Word Document - 5:19
04. Generating the Web Pages - 3:29
05. Setting up a WebCT Content Module - 4:38
06. Menus and Options - 3.18
07. Sections, Pages and Images - 6.54
08. Special Characters - 1.27
09. Tables - 1.57
10. Comments - 0.53
11. Hyperlinks - 2.31
12. Pop-ups - 2.04
13. Metadata - 1.28
14. Accessibility - 2.23
15. Troubleshooting - 0.42
16. Quizzes - 1.21
17. More Styles - 1.22
18. Subheadings - 1.00
19. Glossaries - 1.54
20. Importing the glossary- 1.51
21. Schemes - 1.04
22. Adding Schemes - 2.26
23. Changing the Logo - 5.25
24. Changing the Stylesheet - 2:10
25. The Final Result - 1.14

Online Training 1: Using Mind/Concept Maps to Structure your Assignment

This is the initial version of some training that we've developed using Camtasia Studio. Please give us any feedback in the comments!

Mind/Concept maps have been used for thousands of years to help people think through complex subjects. This training aims to help you start using them yourself to help your learning. The example shown is of using them to help you think through developing a structure for an essay. These files are in .wmv format.

1. Introduction - 1:12
2. Mind Map - 1:55
3. Concept Map - 1:35
4. Essay Title - 4:53
5. Developing the Map - 5:16

13 March, 2006

SightSpeed Video Mail

Mark Roche and Mark Schofield have been using SightSpeed as another possible way of allowing people to take part in meetings that they can't physically get to.

It's benefits are that it seems easy to set up and use (you just need a webcam), it is free, and it allows to make video messages upto 30 seconds long, which you can email to people or blog. I've recorded one as an example.

07 March, 2006

OPML Reading Lists

With all the talk about reading lists in the Postgraduate Certificate course I'm doing, I was interested in looking at how OPML reading lists would fit into this.

OPML reading lists are lists of blogs that you could pass between different blog aggregators (e.g. Bloglines). You might want to export a list to a new piece of blog aggregation software that you want to use, or could pass it between people.

If there are several blogs related to an academic subject, a tutor could keep a reading list on, for example Bloglines, for thier own use. They could export the file and pass the list onto students to add to their own Blog aggregator accounts.

An example of an OPML file can be found on the BlogBridge site. This could be imported into a blog aggregator like BlogBridge (needs installing on your machine) or Bloglines (available online). This file could easily be made available through WebCT for students to use, and it could be displayed in WebCT too.

To display your list of blogs in WebCT you can use the following code in a text block on a WebCT organiser page. This links to the list of blogs that I am subscribed to using Bloglines. If you had a bloglines account, you would change 'id=pfh' to 'id=' your own username (note that your username is different to your login name and > or< tags have been changed to ]or[).

[script language="javascript" type="text/javascript" src="http://rpc.bloglines.com/blogroll?id=pfh&target=blank"][/script]

Thanks to Bruce McKenzie for this code.

In case you are interested in the technical information, OPML stand for Outline Processor Markup Language and is XML based.

06 March, 2006

PD170 Camera Workbook

Adrian discovered this guide to using our PD170 camera. It's been blogged here before, but it seem relevant again. If you are thinking of doing anything with ithe camera and have a couple of hours, this is well worth reading to get you started.

02 March, 2006

Using Wikis as Annotated Reading Lists

We were discussing with certain academic members of staff about reading lists. Some have been considering developing annotated reading lists. These are reading lists that they or their students would add notes and comments to, to share what the books would be best used for.

We’ve developed a Wiki as an example (readinglist is the password if you want to edit it) to show what could be done to enable this. If we created one of these for a module, students would need very little training to make changes to it, and it could be linked to from the courses WebCT area and the courses reading list on the Library Catalogue.

I don’t know how this would work in the context of an undergraduate module, but it feels good to be making connections between the new technologies that are becoming available, and real world situations where we can use the technologies to enable people to do things. Mark Roche is developing an innovative use for blogs as a very simple VLE for those who cannot afford one, which he might report back to us when he’s finished developing it.

01 March, 2006


If you have used podcasts and online audio much, you might have developed a slight frustration that you cannot browse them to find relevant sections, like you can with blogs and indeed any textual information. In my experience this means that listening to podcasts is not a very efficient way to 'graze' your way through relevant information, and personally I just listen to them while performing other tasks that I can do subconciously.

Well the solution to that issue is here thanks to http://podzinger.com/. This increadibly well thought out site, uses voice recognition technology to turn the audio into a searchable text file. So if you search for "Learning Technology", for example, you will get links to the registered podcasts that mention this phrase.

But not only that!

You will be able to see the context in which the phrase was used and you even get a link to that section of the podcast. If you use a podcast reciever you can subscribe to download any future podcasts that use the phrase, which might be an efficient way of searching for relevant information on very obscure topics that are mentioned little and aren't worth searching for regularly.

In my mind, this technology makes podcasts as useful as blogs for information 'grazing' and discovery.

Communication in Difficult Situations

Communication Nation is a sometimes interesting blog, with a noble aim. Today it has an exceptionally convincing article covering how to deal with difficult people and situations positively! Something that we all have to face at times.

24 February, 2006

Stop! Hammer time!

Blogger inform us that MC Hammer is demonstrating mobile blogging with his Blog, using his mobile to send photos, and phoning Audioblogger to send audio messages. Currently the Audioblogger number is in America meaning audioblogging from our mobiles would be expensive.

Until then we can't touch this unless anyone knows another way. Meanwhile today or tomorow I'll try and use Feedburner to see if we can actually start podcasting the lectures we've been putting online.

Helping Students with Pop-up Blocker Issues

We continue to see a lot of problems with people not being able to access things on WebCT due to pop-up blockers on their computers preventing the windows from opening.

The following text can be included in an email to advise students on getting past the problems. It might not be perfect, but it's the best we've written so far...


It sounds like you might have software on your computer that blocks pop-up windows.

You can test this by holding the ‘Ctrl’ key on your keyboard down, while you click on the link.

This should allow it to open. However you might want to solve the problem long term by changing the settings on your computer, so we’ll go through how to do this.

You are probably using an Internet Explorer Web Browser. Go to the 'Tools' menu at the top of the screen, and look for the 'Pop-up blocker...' option. If there is one, you can select 'Turn off pop-up blocker'.

If there is not, or if the problem persits, the following link will help you disable other pop-up blockers on the computer that you are using.

Go to:http://www.webct.com/tuneup/viewpage?name=tuneup_start

On the first page, select the Operating System that your computer is using. It will probably be 'Windows'.

On the second page, select the Web Browser that you are using. It will probably be 'Internet Explorer'.

On the third page, scroll down to near the bottom of the page where there is a section called '6. Disable Pop-Up Blocking for WebCT'. In this section are links to pieces of software which might be stopping the discussion windows from opening.

Hope that is some help, but please get back in touch if you need any help.

Dull Universities can Damage your Brain!

This creating passionate users post looks at the effect of different environments on the brain’s development. To quote, “research suggests is that in unstimulating, unenriched, stressful environments, the brain STOPS producing new neurons”, which I guess is added reason to invest in the college environment at all levels, from art exhibitions to attractive, effective architecture to innovative classroom environments.

Also see the comments on http://goldenswamp.com/2006/02/20/what-makes-kids-grow-new-neurons/

23 February, 2006

CLTR Symposium: E-Literacy

The CLTR Learning and Teaching Symposium on Wednesday 22nd February 2006, had a focus that was quite relevant to our work. I‘ll try to note in these next posts some things that will be worth considering from our point of view.

The ‘round-table’ discussion that I took part in was about e-literacy, and led by Lindsey Martin. The supporting paper was subtitled ‘Providing non-technical support for online learners’, which points towards an idea of what e-literacy might cover.

The discussion looked at how ‘e-literacy’ was different to ‘literacy’ as that term has been understood, and it was noted that the understanding of this term has changed through time. A couple of hundred years ago, someone would be considered literate if they could write their name, whereas now we expect more. It was suggested that in time, e-literacy would be just part of what we mean by literacy. But deciding on a definition will help us move towards that place by enabling informed and directed teaching. Literacy involves understanding and being understood, and as such e-literacy involves understanding and being understood in the digital age.

So what skills do people require to understand and be understood (trying to keep away from basic technical skills as an answer)? Well an understanding of conventions on the web would be an example – knowing how sites generally work (e.g. hypertext), that a picture of a house will take you to the site’s main page, that a blue underlined word is a link… there are probably huge amounts that I take for granted.

E-literacy also moves ideas of literacy away from just looking at text, which reminds us that literacy is only meaningful in particular contexts. I could be able to read books, but struggle to read txt msgs, struggle to navigate web sites (even those using general conventions).

How can we help our students to become more ‘e-literate’? We can help them by designing online materials that have intuitive designs, making the strange digital environment a little more accessible. I guess our ‘Introductory Module’ on WebCT is an example of e-literacy training, and as has been noted in earlier posts online discussion (even face-to-face discussion) requires skills that people will not necessarily come to Higher Education with, and training for discussion could be experimented with.

Here are some links that might have more ideas:

The International Journal of E-Literacy – This has a definition: “the awarenesses, skills, understandings, and reflective approaches necessary for an individual to operate comfortably in information-rich and IT-enabled environments.”

19 February, 2006

Add yourself to our Frappr! Map

Thanks to Frapper! we have added a map where readers of Cakes can add themselves so we can see where you are all from. Click on the "Where are you?" link on the right and get yourself on the map!

09 February, 2006

Online Discussion: Research

Last night Cathy Sherratt and Graham Rogers presented us with some facinating research on online discussion. It will be certainly worth catching them at a conference this year, perhaps if they present SOLSTICE or at Lancaster, because online discussion is something that we use in so many courses. By the time they next present, I think they will have taken their research and findings further.

They have studied the posts in several different groups from the same course, and found unexplained variations with student interaction with online discussions. The presentation was a search for reasons why.

Very basically the groups who posted fewest messages and interacted in a very simplistic way, were posting statements of their own belief, often addressed to the tutor. The group posting most messages tended to engage with each other, posting shorter messages, asking questions, and developing ideas together.

While there are many avenues to go down to further this research, I think one thing that we as the Learning Technology team need to do is to look at the need to give students training in discussing online. Graham Rogers pointed out that discussion, whether online or face-to-face is a complex skill, and I suppose that it is not something that we can necessarily expect students to have developed.

So is 'Being Involved in Discussions' training, something that we can develop online guides and training for? Or should learning those skills be more integrated in the students' courses?

06 February, 2006

Mobile learning and e-books

Personally my experience of ebooks has found while it's great to have access to large number of books, they are generally difficult to use. Downloading a page at a time and using Word Verification every few pages, doesn't allow you to achieve any kind of focus or flow state.

New devices like the Sony Reader look like they might make it easier to read onscreen. Auricle (the elearning team at Bath University's blog) has taken an indepth look at the possible effects of this and similar technologies.

03 February, 2006

WebCT 'Blogs'

From what I remember from the WebCT North-West User Group, WebCT 6.0 has an add on pack which contains blogging capabilities among other things.

There is a short debate on James Farmer's blog about the worth of these WebCT blogs, which is worth looking at (including the comments).

From these comments I'd think it better to set up blogging software on the server, as Warwick have. That seems to have worked well there, and a blogging culture developed. I'd guess that this is because students can write different blogs on the topics that interest them, rather than the subjects and contents being controlled by tutors?

01 February, 2006


Apple have set up iTunesU with Stanford being one of the forerunners to use it.

To access audio that has been made available through iTunesU, iTunes must be installed on your computer. You use it to access audio files from lectures, conversations or whatever has been put on there. The idea is that any university can set a page up, and upload audio files to it.

Visit Burks on Learning and look at the links in turn to follow an interesting debate on the value of using this, rather than other methods of giving access to your materials.

26 January, 2006

Building a successful online community


The 'Creating Passionate Users' blog may be well worth a read if you're interested in thinking of ways to inspire your students.

This post called "Building a successful online community" looks at way that forums on the Web, similar to discussion areas on WebCT are managed. This may be of some interest to you if you are running a WebCT course where discussion is being used to a major extent.

In case you are not very nerdy and find it confusing, 'Slashdot' (aka /.) and 'Javaranch' are web sites/online communities where people discuss computer programming issues.

25 January, 2006

EDUCAUSE Review Magazine: Multi-Disciplinary Teams and Podcasting

EDUCAUSE is in it's own words "a nonprofit association whose mission is to advance higher education by promoting the intelligent use of information technology".

The EDUCAUSE Review magazine is available on-line. While many of it's articles are American focused or relate to IT support rather than our Learning Technologist roles, there are some very interesting ones.

In the January/February 2006 issue it is worth reading "The Myth about Online Course Development", by Diana G. Oblinger and Brian L. Hawkins. This is quite a concise but complex article discussing issues surrounding the development of online courses. The major point being made regards the importance of a multi-disciplinary team approach in the creation of a course, and everyones need to know their role in it. From this they bring up some of the important issues that need consideration at course conception.

The November/December 2005 issue has a very positive article about Podcasting, and the possibilities that can be enabled by it's use. Here in Learning Technology, we have been developing an easy way for Academic Staff to record their lectures, or discussions and put them online in various formats. The next steps that I see are to look at distributing the recordings through RSS feeds and iTunes (as done by Stanford Uni), and creating training for students to begin using these technologies if they don't already.

23 January, 2006

More Screencasting

I'm still quite excited about the possibilites of what we can do with the Screencasting software. We want to create good quality and easy to use training on the website and could perhaps cover WebCT 6, troubleshooting and any FAQs.

Had a look at CamStudio (recommended by Tim in the comments) and it does a good job of screen capture, although you get less control of screen sizes compared with Camtasia. Creating recordings in CamStudio and importing them into Camtasia for finer editing works well, meaning we only need one copy of Camtasia and several people can develop training.

Donationcoder.com have an in depth review of similar pieces of software. Most interesting to me from that article is Macromedia Captivate, which can create interactive tutorials with quizzes and hotspots. It can create much more complex training than Camtasia. While creating this training takes much more time, in the long term Captivate allows more options to easily tweek and update training materials.

Camtasia is a lot quicker to pick up and easier to use. It also encourages a conversational style of narration which I find easier and much more pleasant to follow if it is done well (see also the Creating Passionate Users Post by Kathy Sierra, "Conversational writing kicks formal writing's ass" which kind of makes sense in this context too).

For us, at least in the short term, Camtasia is going to be the way forward. Captivate could be something that we look into over a longer time period. If anyone has access to Edge Hill's 'Developers' Information Base', click on 'Screencasting' for a demonstration training page.

17 January, 2006


I've been using Lynda.com's online training library a lot recently. It's helped me learn to use some new programs quickly and got me through some difficulties. Therefore I was excited to discover the software that they use to create the videos. I was even more excited to discover how easy it is to use.

Camtasia is the name of the software, and it allows you to record your computer screen (some call this a screencast), your voice, and if required, video from your webcam. It can all be recorded live and you can have a recording ready in minutes, or you can edit it and add complexity later on if need be.

I think this could be a major part of our future online training development. It is suited for training to use computers rather than anything else, but it does this excellently.

Below are useful links relating to Camtasia and screencasting.

Purchase educational licences for £80

Examples of training created with Camtasia

Support Site

Video introduction

Getting started guides

What is screencasting - This document by Jon Udell ends with a quote that describes the use of screencasting well. "The blogging revolution has shown that, while there are few professional writers, there are lots of people who can productively use the textual web to communicate their personal and professional agendas. Podcasting is likewise reshaping the audio web, and videoblogging will do the same for the video web. When the subjects of our videos are experiences that intersect with cyberspace, or occur primarily within it, we'll use screencasts to describe and explain them."

13 January, 2006

Auricle Podcasts: ELGG, Blogs and Moodle

The elearning team at the University of Bath have a public blog called Auricle, which contains several interviews with people who work in elearning on its Podcast feed. I found some of these very interesting as they might feed into our work here, and I've summarised them below.

ELGG has come up in conversation and on Cakes before, and March 2005 saw an interview on Auricle with one of ELGGs founders, David Tosh.

ELGG is introduced not as a VLE, or even really as an alternative to a VLE as its focus is not on holding course content at all. It is described as a 'Learning Landscape' and its focus is on providing tools which can be used to build "a community where knowledge transfer takes place".

ELGG gives a lot of control to the learner, to create groups and discussions. It is noted that many institutions would not be happy with giving students this level of control, but also that students who are used to using technologies like Blogs and Wikis are not going to be impressed with many of the VLEs in use, which (in my view) seem to restrict rather than enable in many ways.

Blogs: Warwick are well known for their elearning developements, and there is an interview with John Dale from Warwick from April 2005.

Warwick developed their own blogging software called BlogBuilder, as existing systems didin't do everything that they wanted, and there could have been issues with scaling and managing the number of blogs they wanted to plan for. There are over 3000 blogs on the system, but they believe they can cope with 10s of thousands.

Students at Warwick had always been encouraged to develop their own web pages, but blogging made it possible for those without much technical knowledge.

I think an issue that Edge Hill would be concerned about is what might be said on the blogs. There is no proactive policing of the blogs at Warwick, but the blogs are covered by the acceptable use policy and there is a link at the bottom of every page that people can use to report 'problems' with posts. This doesn't happen very often as people tend to comment on posts and potentially offensive messages are 'neutralised' by plenty of comments stating different viewpoints.

Moodle Migration: Dublin City University migrated from WebCT to Moodle in 2003. Unike ourselves they had only used WebCT in a pilot and so it wasn't as big an issue as it would be if we wanted to. June 2005 saw an interview with Morag Munroe from DCU.

They created a wishlist of what they wanted from a VLE, in close colaboration with the staff who would be using it. From that they created a short list of Caroline, Bodington and Moodle. In case you are interested there is a full list of VLEs on Wikipedia, and DCU if they had to migrate again say that they would be interested in Sakai.

Strengths of Moodle that have been identified by DCU are the user community, the rapid development of new functionality and the Social Constructivist model of learning that underpins its development. Quality support has come from moodle.com. On the downside, issues have come from the rapid development of many tools, meaning that the large amount of choice can be overwhelming for new users. Also functionality for group work needs improving.

10 January, 2006

Displaying an RSS Feed in WebCT

I've created a new How-To Guide. This covers adding a link to an RSS feed, that will display the feed in a WebCT area.

The guide is designed to help WebCT Developers set links up, but may be of interest to developers using other technologies than WebCT.

09 January, 2006

Now that I know PowerPoint, how can I use it to TEACH?


Patric Crispen has put together a presentation about using powerpoint in teaching. He makes interesting points, for example that PowerPoint's 'fancy' capabilities were developed for the business community where the aim is more entertainment than teaching and not for us where the aim is to teach.

He also quotes interesting research findings. For example that students appear to learn less from expanded, fancy powerpoint presentations than pure text slides (see page 33 of presentation), at least on fact based tests.

So in conclusion! He's saying that we should write powerpoint text only (unless images really assist understanding and the text). It is quicker, just as effective and you can save the powerpoint as outline (.rtf format) to give out as a handout, saving time in the creation of these. Take a basic typography or graphic design course and you will be able to create good looking slides with a minimum of images, fonts and colours.

05 January, 2006

Simple guide to Blogs, RSS, Podcasts, Webcams and Video Streaming

George Siemens has pointed us towards a nice little guide created by Will Richardson that covers Blogs, RSS, Podcasts, Webcams and Video Streaming in an easy to understand way. Might be a useful guide to use with less technical academics.