Rolling out ‘MyOutTheBox’

I have worked on an unfunded project called ‘MyOutTheBox’ with Dale Munday from our Teacher Training team here at the college.

In this project we wanted a different way to make information available to staff in an interactive manner without having to be logged into a college networked computer or limited through desktop/laptop use. We wanted something that could be accessed by anyone, through any device. After a talk about what was wanted we chose to use the Blippar Augmented Reality online software and app.

So the brief was to share best practice and ideas between staff (and potentially) students. At the college we have CPD days in which teaching staff can share best practice between themselves. This can be done via specific sessions or through a casual workshop known as a ‘Teach Meet’ this is where teachers can share best practice with each other. For this project Dale recorded the Teach Meet sessions and then uploaded them to YouTube. Once this was done I created a poster for the A.R and used the Blippar Hub online tool to layer the A.R on top of this, linking to the videos and adding extra information to the poster via the computerised/augmented layer. When this was tested, approved and ready to go we rolled it out across college.

Some key points found in rolling out ‘MyOutTheBox’ :

External Marketing: Use social media in conjunction with the A.R. We’ve used twitter, leading to networking with others using A.R, seen how others have implemented it and reached an audience within the college we may not have reached before due to tutors being on social media.

Internal Marketing – Cannot stress this enough, it’s all well and good to spend time and effort on creating an amazing learning resource, but with any edtech like A.R you have to tell people about it. Whether this is through internal emails to let everyone know it’s gone live, CPD sessions to show people how to use it, putting information about it on any digital signage you have around the college, simply telling people about it via word of mouth or any/all of these options you need to advertise it to everyone. Sometimes blanket coverage works best to catch a wider audience, more is more in the initial stages.

Remember a CTA – A call to action (CTA) is needed to ensure that passersby, students and staff are aware that the poster/place is linked to Augmented Reality. This is so that it’s clear what to do and how to do it. A simple visual instruction like a instructional info graphic/image works best. Put it on the poster/place to highlight that it’s somewhere A.R is used. We based this off of Blippar’s guidance and created a Myerscough specific CTA. Here is the image we used below:

thumbnail_Step 1 and 2 My out the box

Have advocates – This links to internal marketing, get as many people on board as possible to encourage others to use (and even develop) the use of the new edtech. Luckily we have Dale and a few others who have seen the use of A.R in education and how they can use it or get their students to use it to enhance learning. There is a poster outside of the Teacher Training office which is a ‘MyOutTheBox’ A.R poster were teachers and students going into/past the office can see videos on new edtech used around the college and staff encourage students to create A.R based posters for their H.E dissertations and research projects.

 Setting clear roles  – If someone wants an A.R poster created, don’t tiptoe around the issue, if they don’t have the skills get it done then ask someone who does (obviously as really nicely as possible and accredit them – here it’s the e-learning team) Set out what you’re going to do. An example is Person A will collect/record the info, Person B will put said info together and sort out the A.R. These roles need to be clear from the start, otherwise time could be wasted.

Set clear expectations – Treat it like any project and set clear expectations, dates and goals. What did they want from the A.R? What extra info do you/they need? What kind of Multimedia do they want?  Who’s the audience? When does it need to be done for? With these clear expectations.

Communication – keep everyone involved up-to-date with how things are progressing, what needs to be done and where you are with expectations.

Overall it’s been an effective resource, there a few people using it both staff and students. However as we haven’t concentrated much effort into marketing it internally it’s not taken off as early or as rapidly as we would have liked. However in the new academic year I’m working on another A.R poster to add to the collection, I’m hoping with a push on internal marketing and gaining a few more advocates we can make this a campus wide learning resource.

Here’s to hoping!

~ Laura



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

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:


Apple TV not just a Fad

There seems to be some confusion as to Apple TVs; what these mysterious devices are and why should educators use them? After having a look into them for F.E and H.E educators it became apparent they are actually quite versatile pieces of tech.

So first things first, what is an Apple TV?

According to Wikipedia ‘’(it)…is a digital media player and a microconsole developed and sold by Apple Inc. It is a small network appliance and entertainment device that can receive digital data from a number of sources and stream it to a capable TV for playing on the TV screen. Apple TV is an HDMI-compliant source device’’ or as I like to call it, a little black box. From this little black box you can mirror your iPad to the Apple TV, to show what’s on your iPad on a larger board/projector or screen. I’m not going into a full flung ‘how to set up an Apple TV ’ scenario as this isn’t about that, it’s about how to use it in education.  However if you’re curious about set up and the technical ‘how to’ Here’s a quick guide.

Got it, so how do I use it in education…?

The most common two questions we get asked at e-learning, when introducing something new, is ‘How am I supposed to use this?’  and ‘well this (insert name of technology from about 5+ years ago) does that, why should we replace it?’ naturally demoing Apple TV was no exception. In this case it was SMART Boards, White Boards, Projectors and iBoards. Ok, ok I know some of these are more recent than 5+ years ago but I’m making a point and, realistically, they are basically the same thing. It’s a projector/large screen attached to a computer……

So as I was saying…… ‘they’re just a replacement for SMART Boards/iBoards I hear you say?’ Well yes and no. You can use it to present information in the same manner and it is a lot cheaper than a SMART Board (great for those thinking about pinching the pennies) but it also does a lot more than that. The next question of ‘How am I supposed to use that?’ was solved with a lot of research and a bit of creative thinking on our part. The e-learning team (that’s us!) gave demos on how to implement Apple TVs specifically for the different Academic Areas at the college. Here are a few examples discussed from around our institution:

  • Presentation tool: One of the first training sessions on Apple TV we did as the e-team was with General Education. They brought up some great points about wanting to present information while still maintaining ease of workflow for students, no redirection to YouTube and then coming back to students 5 minutes later to find they’d gone off task watching cat videos. We found that with the use of Apple TV and a dedicated tutor iPad (even if it was only for that session) meant as a tutor you can present information while still being able to move around the class. It makes for an ease of workflow between presentation and activity (not a clunky stop/start motion that most tutors may be currently working with) while allowing the tutor to integrate themselves into the classroom, allowing for effective classroom management. This is done using presentation apps mirrored to the Apple TV which would allow for activities to be fed into them, such as Nearpod. A brilliant tool for both GCSE, F.E and H.E sessions.
  • Visualisation: After the initial catastrophe of setting up the Apple TV for our second session (we’d gone in blind and didn’t bring the right cable, so setting up was as close to a Benny Hill sketch as I’ve ever physically seen) the session got off to a flying start, with highly engaged staff and some brilliant ideas going back and forth. After running through AirPlay and different ways to use the Apple TV, it was found that Motorsports used visualisers. These had their limits due to apparatus size and object constraints (only small objects could be shown and there was limited portability)  but essentially the theory of a visualiser to have for magnifying detailed objects to a larger audience, in this case students, was ideal for their Academic Area. We as the e-team, with this information in mind, demonstrated visualisation apps on the iPad, which could mirror to the Apple TV intricate details on objects such as engines, nuts and bolts, and larger machinery, while allowing for annotation. Due to the portability and size of the iPad it means tutors are not restricted to what they can show. So an iPad can be used to focus on larger models of machinery which can then be zoomed in on, as well as smaller objects in sessions. The Apple TV allows for the iPad to mirror the visualisation app onto the larger screen so that students can see what their tutor is explaining in detail, with written real time annotation and without having to crowd around an object. Problem solved with an extra tool thrown in (real time annotation). This method of visualisation can be transferred across Academic Areas, great for practical disciplines.
  • Interactive Classroom: With most of the training sessions we did, tutors’ realised that you could create an interactive classroom with students. Flipped classrooms or reflective practitioner activities can be used via app smashing and then students can showcase their work by mirroring it to the Apple TV, done through both individual and group work. This can then lead to student lead discussions on what they’ve have done, area specific theories and small group to whole class work. All the while the tutors can be the educational guides for their students learning, maximising learning and understanding, think Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development. This is great for GCSE, F.E or smaller H.E group sessions, where there’s enough time for an activity and discussion/s (say about 1 hour+).
  • Assessment: Though this is still a theoretical application, and we only briefly touched upon this in training, it would be great for individual practical based education. Using the iPad to record the information, the Apple TV can show the detailed work the student is doing without being intrusive. It also allows for staff to view what the student is doing in real time for the classroom observation, in a larger detail on screen via the Apple TV, all the while recording what is occurring as another form of evidence. It means that if it is not a formal assessment, when the student goes wrong the member of staff can show on screen where they went wrong without being obtrusive of the students work.

So overall, from what we can see here at e-learning, Apple TVs are not a fad but are in fact the next step in the evolutionary chain of technology enhanced learning. It’s a move away from the SMART Board and allows for new activities, previously unimaginable, to be used in the academic environment.