Now is the Summer of Our New Content?

With the implementation of the college’s new LMS (Canvas) our minds turned to content for it.

This college has a lot of online courses so we use a lot of different e-learning materials at the college currently, and over the last few years these have progressed and developed into items which work well as interactive learning packages. A main thing for this year has been moving the materials of the first year students onto Canvas.

So naturally we had to test the old learning materials out for the new system….

This turned into a trip down the rabbit hole – some items worked but only if used in a specific way, others acted like a blanket response but were temperamental and others worked on the computer and browser options of the LMS but not in the app versions of the apps… not going to lie it was a slight nightmare purely from a presentation aspect.

(Note – We’ve reported back to Canvas and they’re currently working on their systems to improve. They’re brilliant at taking on ideas and have an amazing community in which to get support, the system itself is also brilliant.)

However we found a solution……H5P!!

H5P is the answer, after testing (currently the college and members of the e-learning team have been working on a funded project using H5P for instructional videos) and having a look through all the options and the interactive materials available we found that it can be used as an embedded file on a content page or simply link to it through the external link tool. Presentation and functionality wise it is helping us solve a lot of issues and even develop how we view and use multimedia interactive learning materials.

Realistically we won’t be able to fully explore the potential of these learning material in relation to Canvas, LMS analytics etc till midway through next year, potentially even at the end – around the start of the new academic year 2017/2018.

However we look forward to the time we can fully get stuck in and we’ll keep searching for the latest and most up-to-date learning material creation suites possible. To make it easier for the tutors to do their job and create a blended-learning environment for their students.

~ Laura


Reflection on implementing a VLE/LMS

We can officially say we’re moving to Canvas!

While this was a fantastic move on our part, choosing this LMS over another VLE/LMS works for us – see here for our journey of decision, it has come with challenges (as you would have with any VLE move)

There will always be teething issues with any VLE/LMS move, so a few things to keep in mind before you start the move:

  • Make sure your systems are sorted in the background – they all need to talk to each other and you have a cohesive system network, this will help in the initial run up, integration, automation and general running of Canvas.
  • Make sure your information is up-to-date: Cannot stress this enough, when moving systems and automating systems your core information about courses and tutors needs to be as up-to-date as possible.
  • Have a reliable someone from Management Information Systems – we’re lucky that we have a really great team here which we work with, but if that wasn’t the case the implementation would have been extremely difficult to automate.
  • Already have a game plan set – may seem like an obvious one, but it’s something to think about. What structure do you want in relation to how information is presented in the LMS? How are you structuring the sub-accounts?
  • In the immortal words of ‘The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy’ – Don’t Panic! – If something goes wrong, it can be fixed. Just remember that there’s a test site (for Canvas anyway) and just save all your files to your computer first and then upload them.

However always keep in mind that the short-term hard work and stress pays off in the long-term, and no matter which way you cut it you’ll always get that moving over to a different VLE.

We are working on the background systems (we’re getting there) and the long-term benefits (analytics, format, structure, interface, ease of use etc) are going to outweigh the next few months while we get our act together.

Bring on Canvas!!!

~ Laura

A.R in Education – case and point?

This year has been publicised to be the year of Virtual Reality (V.R) in education, and we fully agree with that with the amount of V.R headsets being released and the development of educational apps.  However this has led to education technology leaving Augmented Reality on the side line.

This may have been a bit of a premature detour from A.R to V.R.


Case and point – Pokemon Go!

I have to admit I got the app myself, so may be slightly biased – I’ve been ridiculously lucky so far and it’s somewhat addictive, walking to hatch eggs and find Pokemon it takes me back to my childhood….but back on point and most importantly (well from an edtech perspective) it’s all Augmented Reality (A.R). It’s mainstream Augmented Reality that people have taken to, there are very limited instructions with the game and are in fact more intuitive and based on a social aspect of users sharing information with each other through social media to learn what to do and how to do it.

So why is this important to education and education technology?

Not only is the game Augmented Reality based, but it’s a worldwide tech that has been greatly accepted by various people on various devices without question. There are a few teething issues, which you would get with any new technology, but it proves that with the right amount of funding (time and money)  and drive creating a worldwide interactive Augmented Reality (A.R) educational application is possible.

The benefits of A.R in education are boiled down to the following:

  • Social Learning – the lack of instructions with Pokemon Go! Have led to users collaborating with each other to learn how to play. This can be applied to most courses of learning.
  • Interactive lessons – makes any lesson practical, learning theoretical physics you can use
  • Portable learning Materials – Depending how the AR works (GPS, 3D mapping, Marker based, Projection based etc)
  • Versatility – you can view the embedded information through any device, whether that’s wearable tech which is the current trend (think smart watches and Google Glasses)  or your smart phone. It can also be used for any subject from science to art.


Now think about the educational benefit to having A.R, and expand it to a global scale.

With the recent break through of Pokemon Go! maybe the idea of global A.R in education isn’t too far away?

~ Laura


NB – For a more in depth look into A.R there are the two links below:

Types of AR

5 reasons for Augmented Reality

To Augmented Reality and Beyond!




To Augmented Reality and Beyond!

So what is it?

As A.R and V.R become closer to being globally accessible through the common market place there seems to be confusion between what A.R and V.R actually are. To make it as easy as possible to understand when we refer to either, I’m going off the following views of A.R and V.R:

Augmented Reality (A.R): is the layering of computer-generated sensory input such as audio, video, images or GPS information on the view of the real-world.

Virtual Reality (V.R): is a fully computer-simulated environment, real or imagined, and simulates a user’s physical presence in there in a way that allows the user to interact with it. This can be done through  video, audio, images and smells.


Like the Throw Back Thursday (or #TBT) of yester year A.R seems to have kick-started in 2012 and been left in 2015. There’ll always be trends in education, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes you have to look at the practicality and uses of said trends. In this case, A.R has been left in the past as V.R has progressed to the mainstream, mainly due to the gaming industries current evolution, this was evident at BETT and Digifest this year.

However it seems that A.R has been massively overlooked.

There’re plenty of uses of A.R in education,  from interactive posters to induction orientations. There are a few bits of research which can relate back to the use of  A.R, here are a few links:

Collaborative A.R  , Metacognitive Learning over the real world via A.R  ,  Student knowledge and A.R , dynamic environment through A.R  & A.R supporting different learning styles

With the launch of A.R companies wanting to break into education such as Blippar, Aurasma and Layar being the main ones, it seems like A.R is being overlooked in favour of V.R.

Here at Myerscough we are currently working on a project between our education department and our e-learning department to further the influence of A.R in the college as a plausible way of getting more information without overloading and creating a more dynamic environment. We’re doing this through a “My Out The Box” incentive which combines the posters and A.R to create information rich posters, which can be scanned by students and staff to get multimedia information. We’re using the Blippar app to help nail the A.R side of the poster. We’ve chosen Blippar as the app due to the educational account  that they offer. After having a look over the different apps available Blippar was found to have more interactions, which could hold more information and there was the ability to add varied media such as video, websites, photobooths etc. This and the ease of use made Blippar the clear winner. So far we only have a few posters out but we are looking forward to fully rolling out this project.

We’re looking forward to using Augmented Reality to go beyond…!



Plickers vs Kahoot

These are both widely used within the College, as they’re both great assessment quiz tools, but as with every bit of TEL and educational technology there are the right times and places to implement tech.

So to use, or not to use: that is the question….

Kahoot and Plickers are both great in their own way for many different reasons. In this we’re going to sum up key strengths and ways to use them based on what we’ve learned here.


  • Great for preliminary starter quizzes in class sessions.
  • Creates an engaging atmosphere through competition, either by the students being in competition wit each other or themselves (there is now a ghost mode which allows for personal best times)
  • Great for BYOD schemes or if there is a bank of tablet devices or laptops for the calss which they can use.
  • Gives statistics on the answers at the end of the session, which can also be accessed at a later date.



  • On the flip side of Kahoot being great for preliminary quizzes, Plickers is great for an end of session assessment review. As it is a student response system students can change their answers, this allows for a true reflection of what they know rather than simply answering as fast as possible.
  • Tutor can see who answered which question, as well as giving statistics for each question, this allows
  • Keeps students engaged as they have to think about which way the shapes to answer the questions are poised.
  • Doesn’t need every student to have a device, just the tutor.
  • Though this may seem like an odd thing to say, as it is not as flashy as Kahoot in it’s appearance, Plickers can be seen as more academic and appropriate for F.E and H.E learners due to cultural expectations.
  • Gives statistics on the answers at the end of the session, which can also be accessed at a later date.


Overall start a lesson with Kahoot and end it with Plickers. Always keep in mind when it would be appropriate, don’t overuse these apps as they can lead to disengaged students, the same with any overuse of a teaching delivery method can. Think about when you need the formative assessment of student knowledge. For example, using Plickers at the end of a module to give a true indication of which topics need revision for exams or using Kahoot to make a topic, which can be seen as quite dry, a bit livelier and more engaging.

Vary which apps you use and keep an eye out for new ones, after all there’s always plenty more technology out there to enhance learning!


What I learned about ‘The Power of Digital’

In a #TBT moment I realised it’s been a month since I volunteered to go to Digifest 2016, so in the style of reflective practice I thought I’d revisit my notes and do a retrospective write up about the day. Digifest is a 2 day technology in teaching and learning showcase run by JISC held in the International Convention Centre in Birmingham, it was called ‘The Power of Digitial’ and lived up to it’s name.

There was a lot of workshops, stalls and sessions going on throughout both days. So it may be worth noting that I only attended the second day (Thursday 3rd March) and this was my Agenda:

09:00 – 10:00 –  The power of digital for teaching and learning

10:00 – 10:30 – Break

10:30 – 11:15 – #HullDtn: a collaborative approach to digital pedagogies

11:45 – 12:30 – Designing and developing great courses together (sponsor session from Pearson)

12:30 – 13:30 – Lunch

13:30 – 14:30 – Having a nosey around at the stalls, meeting new professionals (and some I already knew)

14:45 – 15:45 – Leveraging the digital: capability, capacity and change in HE and FE

My teaching colleague went on the Wednesday and got a few different key ideas from the sessions they attended. For more information on what was on offer on both days, you can find out here.

So in a quick summary style, the key points I took away from Digifest were:

  • The need and use for analytics as a teacher and an educational e-learning professional
  • The importance of Play
  • Networking and open sharing is important
  • Virtual Reality is the way forward in education

Now I know a lot of these seem almost common sense, but believe me, when it’s a relatively new area where previously research has been scarce it’s refreshing to go to a conference with like-minded people. In this case there was research all around you to support the theories it’s easier to safely, and reliably, share and build on the ideas. Like all good research in education it’s always stressed that reputable, valid and reliable sources are key so being somewhere enriched with multiple case studies, research groups and living ongoing cases made information flow freely throughout the day.

09:00 – 10:00: ‘The power of digital for teaching and learning’

This session had a few varied speakers and brought up multiple issues such as learning analytics and play in education.

Now I will admit I only came into the back half of the talk about learning analytics, but the conclusions and atmosphere from the crowd seemed to be positive. The lead on this talk was Ian Dolphin, who is about open source and academia. He suggested that learning analytics are a digital key to students success and the way in which they’re analysed and used is massively important to help advance and develop learning. But there needs to be smart ways in which to do this otherwise we’re simply overwhelming ourselves with data.

The main part I got from the morning session was about the importance of play throughout education, specifically H.E. This mainly may be because I was there for the full talk, the ‘Wondering While Wandering’ session by Chrissi Nerantzi. The research suggested that using play, as a hands-on method of teaching, in H.E encouraged independent learners and engaged them with their subject more than those who were taught via the ‘traditional static’ method, supporting the blended learning pedagogy. There were a few significant points about how to implement play in H.E effectively and the issues that can be faced with introducing play into an academic environment. The main issues were cultural and how there might be negative perceptions of using play in F.E & H.E. This is because it is not a static view of learning and instead can be seen as childish or less academic both by educational peers (other teachers/researchers) and students.  However to combat this notion clear learning objectives must be given, with an evidence based approached used for reflective practice. Chrissi also suggested giving teachers a safe space to try out new innovative teaching ideas, such as a ‘learning laboratory’ without the fear of judgement, assessment and peer observation, but where they can reflect on themselves through recording the lessons to see what worked and what didn’t.

This method of hands-on play teaching lead to a discussion about how it would be viable to use this for educational technology, to help create digitally competent individuals who are ready for the digital working world due to a safe environment to initially learn and/or teach in. The idea of a safe space for the teachers to play, lead to students having more opportunities to use technology and become digitally literate through guided learning in lessons, as the idea of the digital native is not necessarily true. The assumption that people of certain generations take to technology more than others may be true but the fact is that there are still people out there who come from different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds and so may not have the opportunity to play with tech outside of education. Not only that but without context of application on technology the full use outside of simply tech for leisure may be lost. There needs to be understanding as to the reasons why tutors use specific tech for certain things, for example Twitter being used as a medium for CPD. Though this idea of ‘the death of the digital native’ was looked into in depth by Donna Lanclos in a different session, which unfortunately I couldn’t attend.

Moving on to the next part….

10:00 – 11:15: #HullDtn: a collaborative approach to digital pedagogies

It was all about networks, everywhere you looked and everyone I talked to outside of the sessions were all about collaborative working with other e-learning professionals at other institutes.

There was an amazing positive, innovative atmosphere to the day where collaboration and talking ideas out with other professionals was the norm. This was only supported in the #HullDtn: a collaborative approach to digital pedagogies session. Colleges in the Midlands and Southern part of England, specialised and otherwise, worked in a network together to provide technology enhanced learning support across the board. This initiative has lead to shared best practices and advancement of the use of technology within the different institutions, creating a support network for each e-learning team to feed back into and gain something from. The idea of different networks, or one large network to help each other in best practices of technology enhanced learning is appealing as it allows for case studies to be shared, best practice to be shared, ideas about technology to flow and develop further than they could have done in perhaps a single institution.


11:45 – 12:30: Designing and developing great courses together (sponsor session from Pearson)

This was an informative workshop about the concepts between course design and how to implement go through and develop courses effectively. Obviously as it was a sponsored session there was a little bit of a sales pitch however it was only small and didn’t detract at all from the overall workshop. The session lead to some amazing points about how to design a course, pictured below:


It made me think about how we design courses at the college and that we already adhere to most, if not all, the steps. The most interesting thing we have to consider here is that with us moving over to a new VLE the need to keep these points fresh in our mind is integral into making the new VLE a VLE rather than a traditional CMS repository where tutors dump files.


13:30 – 14:30: Having a nosey around at the stalls, meeting new professionals (and some I already knew)

You may have noticed that there was about an hour where I had a look around the stalls. What came from this wandering was the noticeable advancement of virtual reality, robotics, sharing platfroms and making technology mainstream. There was a robot called Neo, assistive tech such as exam readers, lots of virtual reality headsets anything from Google Cardboard to the Occulus Rift but there was also a BB8 sphero, which of course I had to have a play with!

What surprised me was the advancement of the technology for the mainstream, usually considered toys, and what this meant for cultural shifts of technology in education. It made me realise technology has previously either seen to be as either a toy or strictly for scientists….but there is a culture shift that has occurred in the change of attitude towards it. It can now be both for leisure and work, again I refer to Twitter for CPD or following your favourite celebrities or virtual reality headsets, which are being sold commercially, being used for orientation or viewing different worlds – think class trips without the long journeys, health and safety forms etc.

There was also a massive market for Virtual Reality and while unsurprising, this year seems to be about making virtual reality commercial, the idea that it’d be presented for education was interesting. As a general rule for new technology it is sold within education more towards the coding, software and hardware core IT skill sets. So mainly for tutors and  students on IT courses. However at Digifest the presentation of the VR headsets was presented more for this is what it can do, if you can find a way to apply it then go for it. This refreshing approach made it easier to look at the uses of VR at a more objective level, encouraging questions like is this applicable? How could we use it for our institution?…..surprisingly as a land-based college the answers to these questions were yes and in lots of different ways. The idea of VR is to make everything more interactive and as a provider of more practical based studies this really lends itself to our courses. We’re currently working on a project for Augmented Reality and are now looking into different ways we can make our own VR content as it seems like Virtual Reality is another way forward in education  that would suit our needs.

I also bumped into other e-learning professionals, some I knew and others who I networked with, at that point it was nice to see a familiar face and meet new people!

14:45 – 15:45: ‘Leveraging the digital: capability, capacity and change in HE and FE’

The final session I attended brought up an amazing toolkit being developed by JISC to help analyse and develop institutes digital capabilities. There isn’t enough time to go through what the whole project is but you can look for it on the JISC site.
There was emphasis on the term ‘digital capability’ and what this meant. It was not, as a few people understood, to be how capable someone was to use the technology but how open someone would be to using the technology. The overall meaning from the session was that it didn’t mean you had to know everything about technology and how to use it but you were willing to learn and there was a want to learn about the new technology. This linked in with the idea of the death of the digital native idea, where it wasn’t dependent on what generation you are as to how digitally capable you are but rather how open minded you are to learning new technology.

The overall view lead to the need for a toolkit to help measure digital capability. JISC have developed a toolkit used to analyse your institutes’ performance against other colleges, or between faculties within your institution. The whole scheme seemed positive, with the case studies already suggesting that this helped institutes to reconsider how to present and filter technology training throughout their cores to develop the overall digital capability to a higher level than previously done. It can also be done anonymously so that institutes don’t feel like they are in competition with each other but can still see the UK average for digital capability.

Overall thoughts?

Digifest turned out to be a useful conference as a college as it demonstrated ongoing case studies useful to implementation of e-learning, great ideas for design of courses, innovative ideas to how technology is advancing inside and outside of education and last but not least amazing networking opportunities which as a college we are currently undertaking to share best practices and technology use ideas.

I look forward to going to Digifest next year and the opportunities it will bring!

~ Laura

The Uniform Classroom….not what you think

When we talk about uniform we don’t mean there can’t be any personalisation, no posters, no student work, all grey walls…….. no personality. We mean that, from a technology perspective, in an ideal world each teaching room would have the same basic set of tech. For example, all classrooms would have the same capacity to evolve as and when technology does, while allowing tutors to go to any room and use any of the available technology without any unnecessary complications.

To do this you need a uniform technological base room template, so to speak.

How would it be implemented?

We’re all for trying new and emerging technologies so to keep the balance between classroom tech being the same and being static you’d employ trial and error techniques.

New tech could be tested in a beta teaching room, and when understood and found useful to teaching and learning could then be applied to all teaching rooms. I don’t mean “oh look Apple TV/Kindle Fires lets put them in every room straight away”, but that there is the physical IT capacity to have one in there where it can work at it’s maximum potential. What do we mean?…..well gone are the days of VGA cables, where you have to sacrifice sound to get picture. After all isn’t this the age of multimedia teaching? But with the previous future proofing of the room with the internal wiring and break out boxes allowing for future changes, this wouldn’t be as big as a task to implement later down the line.

So what’s the benefit for the students and teachers?

From a teaching perspective: At it’s most basic level the set up would allow for ease of use of technology due to familiarity as the tech set up is the same across every room. It also fosters confidence in using technology effectively to allow for developing digital skills, as tutors would not be put out by technical difficulties (as these would be reduced through the versatility of the rooms). Lesson plans, digital assessment, feedback and resources could be effectively implemented, allowing for further redefinition of teaching and learning.

From a student perspective: They can concentrate on their learning, as the tutor can guide them without worrying about technical glitches. It also means that the students don’t feel demotivated or disengaged due to technical difficulties. This allows for higher engagement from students to deepen their content knowledge and embed digital literacy skills.

Any issues?

Changing the rooms in which teaching and learning occurs, to be uniform, would mean that physically the whole institution would have to change from what they are now to include uniform technologically capable classrooms. To do this may mean more cost in the short term, especially in older buildings (getting the different cables in and allowing for any advancements, by keeping break out boxes easily accessible for IT to conduct further installations or changes in the future) but in the long run it would create a future proof room in which smaller changes could be made. This would allow for saved time, cost and hassle in the future.

How are we setting up our uniform rooms?

We’re currently in the process of creating this environment in the H.E and Teaching blocks in the College to allow for ease of movement for the tutors.

Our Hardware set up includes the following per room:

An Apple TV

An interactive Whiteboard (in H.E)

A projector (in the teaching block)

Breakout box for future cable connections (this can be either hidden or visible)

The Uniform Classroom is not static….

This versatility between different types of hardware (Apple and Microsoft) allows for multiple uses of the same teaching room while being inclusive of different students, in the case of the B.Y.O.D schemes. Similar set ups to this can be viewed across multiple colleges and in newer builds for colleges the idea of this version of a uniform classroom, is a predominant feature. So sometimes the idea of being uniform can be a good thing, in an age where everything is about the individual a uniform base adds a brilliant foundation for developing technology to suit everyone.

Multimedia Teaching

What is Multimedia?

Multimedia is the combination of different media components such as text, sound, image and video. It is mainly used to present information in different formats:
“Multimedia can be used to convey information to people effectively. It has brought fundamental changes to the way people learn, play and find information.” (BBC Bitesize)
Text: A great tool for tutors to act as an inclusive mechanism and increase resource accessibility for those who have hearing issues by clear and concise information in a written format,embedding literacy skills. It’s also another way to engage students on a different level, allowing for different learning styles.

Images:  A great tool for tutors to act as an inclusive mechanism and increase resource accessibility for those who have hearing issues. It’s also another way to engage students on a different level other than simply verbally communicating, allowing for different learning styles. Here are a few examples of uses of images in education.

Audio:  A brilliant tool for tutors to act as an inclusive mechanism and increase resource accessibility for those who have visibility issues. It’s also another way to engage students on a different level other than simply visually. Here are a few examples of uses of audio in education.

There’s a few general formats out there for end product Multimedia, anything from interactive learning packages and videos to simply audio layered on top of an image.

Video killed the audio star…

After our recent visit to the BETT show 2016  we noticed there was a higher preference to using videos in learning over simply adding audio or audio only podcasts, which have previously been used. Not only were videos used to demonstrate ideas, used as a student and tutor content creation tool or simply put on for students because they were having a lazy afternoon, but it was shown about how to use them effectively in blended learning.

One of the talks that stood out to us was the ‘Mooc videos in blended learning practices by Laia Albo’ where it was highlighted that flipped classrooms were not necessarily the way forward but instead a more blended learning hands on approach would be the best way to engage students and increase student progression. This is due to the Multimedia use as an autonomous, flexible and significant learning tool. Videos were used in practical classroom sessions as an instructional aid, where the students followed the instructional videos at their own pace, while replicating the task and the tutors acted as floating facilitators who guided and assessed the students work. To us this rang true of supporting vygotsky’s zone of proximal development theory and Bloom’s taxonomy

But also brought up the idea of, if the tutors are to act as guides, for elearning or mlearning, could it be possible to incorporate the questioning assessment side of the teachers role into the video themselves?

interactive videos?

Previously interactive packages have been designed in complex, time consuming software which may not be compatible with all devices (Apple and Microsoft) This can be  off putting for teaching staff, due to time constraints, but these packages have been widely successful in their use, and though now may be dated, the concept of having interactive packages, which include multimedia components, to be used in blended learning or flipped learning seems to be the future of multimedia use in education.

Now with the introduction of HTML compatible software and websites which lets you easily create, share and reuse interactive HTML5 content online, the prominence of interactive multimedia and it’s uses in education has become much clearer. It’s the way forward, the mix between video and interactivity reflects the cultural norm of being in front a device screen and the pedagogical benefits of video learning It also allows for teachers to be able to use these platforms without having to spend hours creating the resources.

So what does this mean for teaching?

Multimedia is a way of conveying information to people, and to do that effectively it needs to be communicated through storytelling in all sectors, from primary to H.E from onsite to elearning. As teachers, this is part of what they do. Physically teaching itself is a form of multimedia, giving the media of theatre, verbal, written and live action storytelling mixed with interactive questioning through being there to communicate and teach students, to convey the information and encourage learning on the subject at hand.

The introduction of interactive videos could possibly include the assessment side for teachers/tutors to include hands on blended learning  classrooms which allows for more guided learning to occur. Helping students progress through the use of multimedia to engage different types of intelligences in learners. With this in mind teachers should embrace new multimedia technology to encourage their students to learn and be engaged with the course content.



Our VLE Journey

Quick Aside, before we get started:

A quick summed up glossary.

VLE = Virtual Learning Environment: an online College specific location where tutors can put multimedia resources for their students to access.

LMS = Learning Management System: similar to a VLE but with more tracking statistics and analytics available for learners.

ATP = Advanced Teaching Practitioner: a member of the Myerscough teaching team who acts as a digital, teaching and learning champion for an academic area.

So the story so far…..

Basically we’re changing our VLE, it’s been a tough decision but after liaising with tutors and working as VLE admins behind the scenes we’ve realised that our VLE is dying a slow death and can no longer keep up with the evolving needs of our staff and students.

Can you not just fix it…?

Well we’re in a bit of a bind. We currently have a bespoke VLE created by one of our developers, who had put over a few years worth of work into it. However he has now left the college and we can’t find anyone to replace him, most VLEs need a developer working behind the scenes to help them run smoothly and efficiently.

So we’re between a rock and a hard place, we’re minus a programmer so the bespoke system, created from a Moodle base, has no more progression within it and we’re too far away from the original Moodle to simply transfer back. So we have the only option of getting a completely new VLE or LMS which has updates, backups and support.

But which one?

Our first step was to have a look around and talk to other colleges on what they used. One of them came out as the most widely used: Moodle.

Moodle is the system to use! We hear everyone cry…..well we’ve had a look at the latest one (in this point of time it’s Moodle 2.9.3) and we’re not so sure.

It’s a fantastic system, don’t get us wrong. It’s brilliant in initial cost (it’s free to get), great for potential Moodle Moocs, used across many colleges so has an amazing community behind it with a lot of innovative and enthusiastic people pushing it forward, every so many months there’s updates (though this can be a massive disruption for the VLE users, depending on how it’s implemented) and it’s familiar for most staff and students (whether it was used previously in high schools, other educational establishments or simply by staff from previous places of work).

But here’s the clincher….to implement it smoothly and effectively you need a web developer/programmer, someone to constantly work the back end of the VLE.

So we’re back to square one.

If we even took out the developer issue, say we got help from another college; which a few have kindly offered, Moodle just lacks a certain sort of…….appeal?

It’s hard to explain but like we stated before it’s familiar, like many VLEs it’s made too easy to fall into old habits and make it into an online repository, rather than an online learning hub and it’s not exactly the forefront of LMS and VLE software any more. The issue for us is that we’ve had a bespoke system, evolved from Moodle, for so long, that Moodle seems like a step back rather than forward. In a time where technology is taking leaps and bounds to evolve, shouldn’t our virtual learning platform?

Also, on a more cynical note, other VLEs and LMS options usually cost, so Moodle usually always wins from that aspect.

So what happens if you take the cost of out the equation…..?

After extensive research and having previous experience of multiple VLEs and LMS systems, plus what tutors and students want from online learning, there were a few choices which stood out.

Blackboard – Again this unfortunately, though an operational and useful VLE system, didn’t fit with the college. It’s been implemented before here but was changed after a year or so’s implementation. Even the new updated version just didn’t seem to suit our needs.

WebCT  – is a tool that facilitates the creation of sophisticated World Wide Web-based educational environments. It can be used to create entire on-line courses, or to simply publish materials that supplement existing courses. To be used it needs a developer or team of developers, so that’s off the cards.

Sacchi – Though a brilliant system and used by a few universities and colleges around the UK, the issue with it again is that it needs a team of developers, graphics designers and more behind it to run it effectively. In fact those universities and colleges that do currently use it have teams upon teams of developers behind it.

Canvas – a great system used by a few universities and colleges across the world, so has a large and innovative community behind it, updates which don’t disrupt everything every 3 weeks and the best bit… doesn’t need the college to hire developers, as the price paid for the system includes a large team of these.

So for our purposes Canvas is the way forward. However when you put the cost back into it, as this is the real world, Canvas costs a lot of £££ compared to Moodle which is free. You have to start fully comparing the two to see if you’re getting your monies worth, compared to what we already have and what we wanted from the system.

Bloom (current VLE) vs Canvas vs Moodle 2.9.3


Green = has that feature

Yellow = doesn’t have that feature

Blue = Need a developer to implement/progress and maintain that feature


After comparing all the systems on paper, Canvas LMS came out on top. It has all the features we wanted and needed, that’d been asked for previously and pretty much ticked every box.

Next step towards a solution…..

We wanted to see demos of the VLEs in action, the only true way to see a VLE is to see a demo or have a go yourself.

So we arranged a visit to another college (#myeteamontour) to see Moodle, taking with us an Advanced Teaching Practitioner (ATP) for a tutor’s perspective, and had a brilliant demo of how they successfully implemented it. There was some fantastic practices going on with using online facilities, marking systems etc. Again they had a developer behind the scenes working on it all, which was for us, the only downfall. A lot of the parts we loved about Moodle, he had personally designed. The ATP had positive feedback but seemed worried that it could seem overly complicated and that it seemed to be taking a step back from everything that had been accomplished on our custom made VLE.

We then had a demo from Canvas. We again included ATPs, but also included heads of academic areas and some senior management in the demo so that they could get a handle on the LMS. The feedback from the tutors was overwhelmingly positive and included phrases such as ‘this is how a VLE should be’…‘has everything we want and wanted from Bloom (our current VLE)’ and ‘grading online will be so much easier’ From this we realised something we hadn’t counted on, analytics and feedback options are important to teachers more so now then ever. The future of e-learning is now moving away from the VLE and towards the LMS, to be inclusive of collaboration which can be monitored and analysed easily while presenting students with a more interactive online environment.

For us an LMS like Canvas is the solution…

Is Canvas the destination?

For us as a college, yes.

We’re hoping for Canvas and have put forward that proposal, though you never know how these things go! After talking with other colleges who have implemented it, or are currently in the process of implementing it, one thing is clear, after all the calculations for cost in hiring a team of developers, time spent, how the system works, updates and tutor and student feedback, Canvas came out top over all other systems previously used.

We’ve still got a way to go but we’re definitely on the right track……



A few useful links:

Links to Top 10 things LMS buyers need to know:


An interesting discussion from 2009 about ‘The VLE is dead’ definitely worth a watch:


VLE or LMS: Taxonomy for Online Learning Environments:


iPads as Visualisers?

There are many different ways in which iPads can be utilised in blended learning/flipped classrooms or simply as part of a tutor toolkit. Though, as any iPad wielding user will know, the general use depends on the app. You can use it as a presentation tool as the tutor, with and without student devices, or use it as a teaching tool and let the students run with their own devices.

For the purposes of this post we’re interested in only one thing………iPads as visualisers.

The main use of iPads as visualisers has not been looked into as much as we’d have liked, there aren’t that many examples out there or methods of ‘how to’ ( we can’t recall a blog, research paper or other resource specifically going over visualisation in depth)

So here’s two original ways we’ve theoretically, and practically, implemented the use of the iPad based around the idea of visualisation:


1. Overhead Projector/ Visualiser

As a reboot of the old fashioned, overhead projectors of yester year – anyone else remember acetate paper, brightly coloured markers and the awkward 5 minute set up where the teacher dances back and forth to get the projector in the right place on the screen? ( No, just us?) Well the reboot is a bit more advanced than that. You just need an iPad and an Apple TV.

What you need:

iPad or iPhone, BoardCam App (or simply the inbuilt camera app),  Apple TV and Screen/projector.


Mirroring the iPad to the Apple TV you can show whatever you want on a larger screen.

For example:

Here in Motorsport having an engine model in the classroom, they can use the iPad to view specific parts of the engine that the tutor is educating students about, without having to crowd around. Using the BoardCam app means that live annotation can also occur in real time, to allow for more information to be presented.  Visualisation tools have previously been used for enlarging smaller, intricate parts of machinery and taking photos only. Whereas with the versatility and portability of the iPad, it can be used as a visualiser for larger, intricate objects, such as an engine, and then used straight away as a presentation or quiz tech tool.

General examples:

View smaller/intricate objects

Mathematical formulaic working out

Practical demonstrations in real time

Review physical work of students to encourage peer-to-peer review


2. Live Streaming

iPads can be used as temporary CCTV footage to record a room, observation or live stream events . A simple idea, yet effective, without the high costs associated with setting up actual CCTV footage.

What you need:

2x iPads, Periscope app and account, Apple TV and large screen (though depending on the use may not need an Apple TV or large screen)


Use the Periscope app to connect the 2 iPads via a private broadcast. One app in the room you wish to record, and the other kept with the tutor. You can then have a look at the live streaming whenever you need to,

For example:

Animal Studies use this method to show students what true animal behaviour is like without the interference of humans in educational sessions. They use the iPad to go onto Periscope and connect to the Apple TV, showcasing the live feed while being able to switch back to tasks and presentations making it an easy, multiuse tool. The app also allows for the live stream to be kept as a recording, so can be used as a reference resource later on or to be put on the college VLE/LMS for online learners.


General examples:

Useful to use as live streaming on a budget.

Useful to stream live events that are taking place around the world, think educational talks/distance learning.