What’s New in Learn

Following this year’s Learn rollover (23rd and 24th July) there will be several new features appearing in Learn:

  • Timeline tab to appear alongside the ‘My Modules’ dashboard, which gives students the ability to display outstanding activities in date order. This tab is effectively a checklist – as soon as an assignment is completed it will no longer appear within the activity list. Watch the three minute video to learn more about the timeline tabhttps://youtu.be/mmzmNTK2Ww4

  • Reminder to grade alert is now an option that can be enabled within the Learn Assignment Activity. The alert will trigger a notification that grading is due. Watch the four minute video for an updated look at the Learn Assignment tool://youtu.be/09V8IyiNQ1Y

  • Collapsible comments, similar to those available within Turnitin Feedback Studio, are now available within the Learn Assignment Activity. Watch the one minute video on how to do this: https://youtu.be/_6EqV63hkJc

  • File type restrictions allow you to specify what types of files should be submitted within the Learn Assignment and Workshop activities in Learn. A list of file types will be presented for you to choose from within the activity. Watch the one minute video on how to do this: https://youtu.be/-M2vWx3-7bQ

  • Stealth Activities – A way to neatly create ‘orphaned’ activities that are hidden but available via a link. Watch the two minute video on how to do this: https://youtu.be/Z8e3BSopTg8

You can see/test out these features on the Mount Orange demo site – https://school.demo.moodle.net (login as a teacher using the username: teacher and password: moodle).

Changes to TurnItIn for next year

The Learn interface to TurnItIn is changing next year.  When the new edition of Learn is released on July 22nd, all TurnItIn assignments will need to be re-created for the new session.  This is no different from previous years, although the software will look slightly different (see: Changes to Turnitin ).

A six-slide PowerPoint presentation is available to show students how to submit coursework using the new TurnItIn assignment.  It may be added to a module as a standalone resource or incorporated into a lecture presentation.

  • If your module uses a TurnItIn assignment activity, a new instance of the activity will need to be created in the 2014-15 module, just as you should have created a new activity last year.
  • The new TurnItIn assignments will be created with a new version of the software, and work through a new TurnItIn account.
  • As usual, students involved in the SAP will use last year’s edition of Learn (which will be called Learn13) and the old 2013 TurnItIn assignments will still work.

What is Learn for?

Learn12 screenshot

I was challenged a couple of days ago by an experienced academic colleague who said he had no idea what Learn (Moodle, if you’re reading this outside Loughborough) is actually for.

I was rather taken aback by this as it seemed to me that this should be obvious. But then, I’ve been supporting e-learning in Higher Education continuously for 12 years so for me the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) is a focus for most of my work. Considering the question more objectively, I have to acknowledge that for some colleagues the purpose of a VLE may be more obscure.

There is a functional description within the ‘Tools for Teaching’ section of this blog at https://blog.lboro.ac.uk/elearning/?page_id=1293 and this provides a condensed version of the message we try to get across within the New Lecturers’ Course and other CPD workshops, such as the ‘Introduction to Online Support’. Support is available to academic colleagues – both technical (via the learn [at] lboro.ac.uk helpdesk) and pedagogic, from the E-learning Officers and Quality Enhancement Officers in the Teaching Centre. This very blog (and the new Teaching and Learning Blog) provide an ever expanding set of case studies and other resources.

In some respects, it seems to me that asking the question “What is the VLE for?” is like asking “What is the teaching room for?” As with teaching rooms, the VLE provides you as the module tutor with an environment that enables a variety of activities to take place. It’s up to you how you use it, as long as your use goes beyond the Minimum Presence agreed by the University Learning and Teaching Committee.

For the last 5 years or so, coinciding with the rise of social media, some experts have been forecasting the demise of the VLE (see, for instance, http://serials.uksg.org/content/55k7732dthrq6gk1/?genre=article&issn=0953-0460&volume=20&issue=1&spage=31 ). But, perhaps because change in HE (and institutional systems in particular) takes longer than in some other domains, there is no sign of this happening anytime soon. For a balanced summary of where we are now with regard to Web 2.0 tools supplanting institutional VLEs, see Stephen Walker’s blog post on the subject.

Puzzled by file upload in Learn12 / Moodle2?

Moodle FilePicker
Colleagues with modules on Learn (Moodle 2, for people reading this outside Lboro) will by now be aware that the way files are managed has changed. We recognise that the new approach to file management in Moodle 2 has caused some frustration among module tutors familiar with the approach in previous versions of Learn / Moodle. We’ve now produced a PDF you can can print out and keep at your desk to help you maintain your module pages. You can download the PDF guide here. (Print it out and fold it into three vertically.)

Dragging and dropping files in Learn / Moodle 2.2

In the new version of Learn based on Moodle 2.2, you can now drag-and-drop files from your desktop directly onto the module page (ie avoiding the need to upload a file first then link to it). You can even select multiple files to drag-and-drop at the same time. This is now the quickest and most intuitive way to add or update resources on your module page.

In order to do this, you need to use a compatible web browser – Google Chrome, Firefox or Safari NOT Internet Explorer. Loughborough staff: as IE is the supported Windows browser on campus, note that this advice applies if you are using a Mac in your office, or if you are working on your home PC.

Initial Trials of Ephorus

This is a Dutch software app which claims to do much the same as TurnItIn (TII), only cheaper. A trial was set up whereby 20 files which had already been passed through TII were put through a demo version of Ephorus.

The results:
• The Ephorus demo account that was being used only checks against the internet. The full TII account used checks against the internet, publications and past submissions.
• In no case did the two systems come up with the same percentage matching text, or the same list of primary sources.
• In 7 out of 20 cases, the matching text scores would lead to the same conclusion by the tutor even though the numbers weren’t the same. In the other 13 cases, the scores were radically different, with Ephorus scores typically much lower than TII.
• In the one case where text from foreign-language websites had been used, Ephorus was demonstrably better than TII (Ephorus scored 62% for the 100% plagiarised text, compared to 31% for TII).
• Whilst Ephorus seems to be better with foreign-language texts, TII has better coverage of English-language publications. This supports Ephorus’ comment that their European-language database is currently much better than their English-language database.

The conclusion is that the use of Ephorus can be justified for checking foreign-language texts, and maybe as a second opinion on tricky TII cases. The reports generated by Ephorus are similar to those produced by TII, available online and as PDF documents.

• Ephorus accepts the same file formats as TII, and takes typically 5 minutes to process a document.
• The Ephorus display shows the matching text, but doesn’t show which bit goes with which source, making it difficult to check the context. It can show alternative sources for the same text, and allow you to skip a source (e.g. an earlier draft), but these facilities are hidden (so infrequent users would forget about them and require re-training).
• File storage is organised on a per-tutor basis, whereas per-class would be better. Not clear how well the user interface would cope with large volumes of coursework. However, these problems go away if the Moodle add-on is used. This adds controls to the standard single-file upload assignment activity so that all submissions are automatically checked and the score made available on the marking page. This is equivalent to the TII Assignment activity.
• If you use the web interface rather than the Moodle (Learn) interface, the Ephorus administrator has to create all tutor accounts, and all of the individual assignment accounts – precisely the scalabilty nightmare that we use the TurnItIn Assignment activity on Learn to avoid. The Learn integration would get around this.
• Ephorus’ adverts are rather naïve in claiming to prevent plagiarism – we are trying to wean people off the idea of ‘plagiarism checking’ and towards ‘text-matching’ because matched text may have been correctly cited, whether or not it is enclosed in quotes.

Learning about Learn online quizzes

Felipe Iza uses Learn Quiz for formative assessment with Loughborough University first year Electronic, Electrical and Systems Engineering students.  He and his colleagues introduced a series of formative assessments throughout the course of their module designed to motivate and provide feedback to students, and to keep the module tutors informed of progress.  Using Learn, the University VLE as the delivery mechanism, the tutors were able to automate the process to accommodate a large cohort of students.
Year of students: First year (Part A)
Number of students in cohort: 150

Felipe discusses the reasons behind introducing the quizzes, the positives and negatives, and the response to the quizzes from both students and staff which would be interesting to all considering using an online quiz.  He has also used a template to generate multiple randomized questions within his subject area.

For further information please view a presentation doc from Felipe at: Felipe_Iza_Learn_presentation
Or you are welcome to contact Felipe directly on: F.Iza@lboro.ac.uk

The Elluminate roadmap

You will know that Elluminate and Wimba were both taken over by BlackBoard earlier this year, and merged into a new concern called BlackBoard Collaborate.

At an online webinar yesterday, the plans for the new company were outlined.  A total of 236 people attended the session, which used Elluminate as its platform.

It very quickly became clear that Elluminate was the senior partner in the merger.  It had always been the larger company, and it was obvious that the new joint product (codenamed ‘Gemini’) would be based on Elluminate Live!, not Wimba Classroom.

Work has already begun on Gemini, which seeks to merge the capabilities of Elluminate Live!, Wimba Classroom and Wimba Pronto into one product by the end of 2012.  The new product will be a free upgrade to all existing customers, and would be both “browser-based” and “Java-based”. Support for Wimba Classroom will cease in 2013.

  • All existing VLEs with integrations to either Elluminate or Wimba would continue to be supported.
  • Video quality would be improved using Wimba’s technology, but retaining Elluminate’s low-bandwidth capability.
  • Echo cancellation would be improved to support sessions with both local and remote participants
  • By summer 2011 the Gemini phase 1 product will be available to Elluminate users, incorporating some (configurable) improvements to the user interface.
  • By summer 2012 Gemini phase 2 will include Wimba features: a content repository allowing session resources like whiteboards to be stored, shared and re-used, and also archive movies of sessions will be available in .mp4 files.
  • By the end of 2012 Gemini will support mobile devices in the iPad/Android class.
  • Gemini will continue to use the SAS server system, Plan! and Publish!  as currently used by Elluminate, but will be hosted in several locations (sounds like Wimba’s UK servers will become Gemini servers)

From our point of view, changes will be minimal, since we already use Elluminate Live!.  We will simply get an improved and expanded system.  There was no word in pricing other than that Gemini will be a free upgrade for existing users.

Cloning modules on Learn

Image of two sheep of the same breed as Dolly

Copyright ShellieAnne - used under CC attribution/ non-commercial / no derivatives

When updating your Learn modules, has the following thought occurred to you:

I need to find a way of somehow cloning my Learn sites ABC101 and ABC102 since they are basically the same course, bar the assessment.  

That’s exactly the query that came through to learn@lboro yesterday. Here’s the response from the Learn team:

What we can do is create a parent module that has ABC101 and ABC102 as child modules. 
We’d create the new module on Learn and call it something like:


The content that should be shared across the two modules will go in the new META module, while the assessments should sit in the respective child modules.  
We can create this new module and clone all of the content from ABC101 into the new META module then delete the content from ABC101.
The students will have an extra module in their module list so you should advise them to use the META module for
resource and communication and then the other child modules for assessment hand-ins.
  If you’re faced with a similar situation, and it sounds as if this approach would work for you, get in touch with learn [at] lboro.ac.uk .

Countdown to Rollover!

No, nothing to do with the National Lottery and mega jackpots – just a final reminder that the annual ‘rollover’ of Learn from one academic year to the next takes place on Monday 19th – Tuesday 20th July, during which time Learn will not be accessible.

If you haven’t done so already, please notify us as soon as possible via learn@lboro.ac.uk of any:

– module code changes;

– modules which need to be kept active;

– any other concerns you may have.