Archive for November, 2012

Open Source Student Peer Marking Software for Group Assignments – WebPA

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Depending on the work ethic of the academic involved, group assignments can either be a valuable learning opportunity for students or ham fisted (and pedagogicaly unsound) way to reduce marking load.

A major problem for anyone using group assignments is how to assess individual contributions.  Getting some kind of peer review, while not being foolproof, has been found to be a useful solution.  It still requires additional teaching time but a number of software applications have sprung up to streamline the process.

WebPA is a free open source solution coming out of  Loughborough University and the University of Hull, funded by JISC.  It is being used or investigated by 20 or so universities, mainly in the UK.

You’ll still need to load it onto a server and maintain it so it does come with some costs, but based on a quick look I don’t they would be that significant.

WebPA is an online automated tool that facilitates peer moderated marking of group work. Students carry out a group task set by the academic tutor and follow this by an assessment on the performance of the group.

A ‘weighting factor’ is generated for each individual group member which is derived from each student’s input against defined criteria. Based on the total mark given to the group task, assessed and allocated by the academic tutor in the usual way, the weighting factor is then used to moderate marks providing an individual mark for each student.


To get an idea how it works watch the ‘Facilitating peer and  self assessment’ video

Linking Lectures theatres via desktop video – Google Hangouts

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Forget the previous posts on linking lecture theatres, Google Hangout is the new winner.

We shifted to ‘Google’ a couple years ago so all our staff and students have access to Gmail, Docs, Drive, Sites and Calendar .

We now have Google+ available as an ‘opt in’.  Like many I’m not totally convinced by the social networking bit, but Hangouts are another story.

It handles eight video locations at once (soon to be fourteen), plus file sharing, text chat and screen sharing (vision not control), all on a platform that all our staff and students immediate access to.

google hangout

Me and all my friends

This is also a winner for cross campus student consults and research supervision.

The video quality is acceptable, (perhaps not as sharp as the previous winner Polycom).  We did have some performance problems soon after we went live with it but it seems OK now.  That might be something to watch out for.

The only additional thing I’d like to see is the ability to record, which is important if academics want to re-purpose a session. The public hangouts (Hangouts on Air) are recordable, but not the private ones.  I know there are recording programs like Camstudio, but when it comes to academic adoption every additional hurdle is  another reason to not go ahead.

Overall it seems to do pretty much everything I want.

Weekend funny – A little something for students waiting for their results – Failure the movie

Friday, November 23rd, 2012


Quick tip – Converting .MTS video files

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

I recently did a presentation on Blended Learning.  It was  recorded on a Canon HD camcorder which outputs .mts files.

I wanted to edit it on an old version of Premier Pro (2.0) but unfortunately Premier Pro doesn’t recognise MTS files, and my goto program, Format Factory, failed to convert it.  I don’t use this file type so I didn’t want to shell out for specific conversion software.

Eventually I just imported it into Windows Live Movie Maker then used ‘Save movie’ to convert it to the highest quality  .wmv (actually WMM doesn’t give you a choice of formats) – 40 minutes of video took about 2 hours to convert.  It will run happily in the background while you get on with other things.

I also dabbled with ‘Any Video Converter’.   It will do the job, but you’ll have to manually set the Frame size, bitrate etc if you want a good quality .avi for editing.  It is quicker (maybe half the time) if you know what settings to use, but if you don’t, I’d go with WMM.

OER Universtiy – for those who are serious about low cost, socially responsible university credit.

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

I have said it before Cours/dacity xMOOCs are businesses who have large debts to repay, they are not social reformers.

There are a few other players such as Edx/Classto Go,  CanvasNet and other who have a different model and are worth looking at.

But surely, if we are serious about a social commitment to education that leads to a real qualification that will help make an actual change to peoples lives we should be looking at the OER University model.

It predates all the xMOOC fluff and is an extension of years of work done by the Commonwealth of Learning.  Unfortunately, no U.S. Ivy League universities or Gates style philanthropists are involved so it has not made the same splash with Forbes and the  New York Times.

The Open Educational Resource (OER) university is a virtual collaboration of like-minded institutions committed to creating flexible pathways for OER learners to gain formal academic credit.

The OER university aims to provide free learning to all students worldwide using OER learning materials with pathways to gain credible qualifications from recognised education institutions. It is rooted in the community service and outreach mission to develop a parallel learning universe to augment and add value to traditional delivery systems in post-secondary education. Through the community service mission of participating institutions we will open pathways for OER learners to earn formal academic credit and pay reduced fees for assessment and credit.

Directed by the core principles of engagement the OER university collaboration:

  • Will design and implement a parallel learning universe to provide free learning opportunities for all students worldwide with pathways to earn credible post-secondary credentials.
  • Offer courses and programs based solely on OER and open textbooks.
  • Design and implement scalable pedagogies appropriate for the OER university concept.
  • Will implement scalable systems of volunteer student support through community service learning approaches.
  • Coordinate assessment and credentialising services on a cost recovery basis for participating education institutions to ensure credible qualifications and corresponding course articulation among anchor partners.

And before you scoff at OER, what do think is underpinning a lot of the current over hyped xMOOC courses? ( xMOOCs = OCW + Cohorts).

If your institutional agenda is really about social responsibility – not about marketing and Me Too,  Fear 0f Missing Out then this the model to get behind.

At the end of the day, this is what most unversities are likely to serve up as MOOCs.

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

Here’s a snippet from Mike Caulfield’s blog.

Coursera, CC-NC, and OCW

“As far as I can tell, there’s not much in this course so far that wasn’t in the original OCW material. I’m a week and a half in, and basically there are the audio lectures that they added on top of the slides. That’s pretty much it.”

“Again, what does Coursera add here? Rocket science? Amazing educational insights? Stanford-level brilliance about about how to tap networked learning?

Nope: time-released OCW (I cant see next week’s materials yet), a set of cohort/peer tools, and an audio track for the slides. Given all we know about online education, it’s pretty odd that this is the game changer that threatens traditional education. But for various social, economic, and political reasons, it is. How very, very, weird.”

Sometimes I think Mike Caulfield and I share the same brain (he would occupy the big thinky part, I’d live in the smaller bit that likes to say ‘yeah, me too’ a lot) .

Clicker Tip – learn from my mistake

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

I just had what my son would describe as an ‘Epic Fail’ clicker session

We wanted people to vote for a range of options, 9 in all.  If they thought all 9 were important they could vote for all 9.
(I can here the people with clicker experience calling ‘oh no, not 9 options.  You poor fool’).

We were dealing with adults, not undergrads, the instructions were clear and repeated 3 times, they had had three prior attempts.

So anyway, what happened is we got results that were frankly bizarre.   We did a show of hands to check a couple of options, and the clicker results were way out.

The problem with clickers is that people can’t see an individual record of what they have selected.  People were clicking the same number more than once, in effect making more than 9 selections.  As a consequence their last 1 or 2 choices weren’t being recorded.

This was compounded by (me) not turning on the ‘vote once’ option.  Which meant that the errors where recorded in the results.  It’s possible that some of these aberrations weren’t errors but attempts to stack votes for their preffered option (many of the participants had a vested interest in the results).   We had people who voted 7 times but only selected 2 options.

We initially thought it was a technical error – too many people voting for too many options at the same time overwhelming the receiver.   But no, it was user error – we were using the wrong tool.

For single responses clickers are fine.  If you want to have multiple responses you need a system where people can see the responses they are making- an online survey (Moodle, Qualtrics,  Survey Monkey, Google Forms), or MeTL (if you’re a Monash person).  This means you need a computer lab, or everyone needs a wireless device.  In the end we used paper.

If you are using paper you can streamline the process using an auto-marking software package like Remark Office.  We have a few licences and it works quite well.