Day 2: Making over your module: Inspiration?

Furnishing and decoration mood board with yellow and grey theme. Includes fabric swatches, furniture

Furnishing and decoration mood board with yellow and grey theme. Includes fabric swatches, furniture
“Yellow Grey | Decor8 contest” by shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

Building on this week’s Learning X theme of Module Makeover take a moment to think about how you approach giving your home a makeover or doing a spot of decorating.  Some of us like to keep things simple and take the easy approach, going for cream or magnolia walls in every room.  For others giving a room a makeover is serious business.  Home interior magazines and design blogs are scoured, Pinterest boards created, interior designers and retailers are followed on Instagram whilst YouTube and TV shows serve as further inspiration. Building on all this research some individuals make mood boards, get swatches of fabric, tester pots of paints.  Meticulous planning and research goes into the makeover process. All this research helps inspire and generate ideas.  Certain designs and colour schemes standout and get copied, adapted, remixed and given a personal spin to reflect individual’s personalities.  Some follow the latest design trends, others like to freshen up with more timeless styles or create new trends to fit the function of the room and the mood they want to create.

How does this process compare with how we approach our Modules in the VLE?


As each new academic session starts in many cases modules in My Dundee just get rolled over with a splash of magnolia on the walls to cover up the scuff marks.  The reality is that often that’s all there’s time to do!  Lack of support and training are also problematic and in a sense perhaps the checklists that have sprung up in many institutions are a way of ensuring that despite these issues there’s a degree of consistency in the student experience.  VLE module checklists are important, but with so much potential to try something new and innovate it’s important that they don’t also limit us and stop us from being bold and ambitious and from experimenting with new online learning design approaches.

So what’s possible? Having thought about module checklists yesterday let’s move on from simply thinking about the VLE as a filing system housing core module information.  To do this move the focus away from the VLE and a specific technology and look more closely at how you want to teach and what you want your students to learn.  Think about whether the digital space and digital tools can help support and enhance your teaching and the student learning experience. Could the application of technology in your teaching help overcome any challenges that you currently face or help address issues raised by students in course feedback?

Just as looking at design features in magazines and blogs can inspire your home decorating we’re very conscious that the same holds true when designing your Module in the VLE.  One of the limitations we have currently is that we can’t share modules in My Dundee so it’s difficult to explore what others are doing and to see examples of creative and innovative use of the VLE and other tools to support learning.  We plan to change this over the coming year but in the meantime in the next section we’ll point you to some examples from elsewhere to see if they might help provide some inspiration and give you some ideas that you can take and remix in your own module.

Are there things you’d like to add to your online module or that you’d like to try or aspects that you’d like to improve?  Keep a list of these things or start to make a list once teaching starts again.

Perhaps you need some inspiration.  The University of Aberystwyth runs an annual Exemplary Course Award, to share good practice across the University.  Aberystwyth has been running this for several years and found that the exemplary practice is being spread to other courses as a result.  Take a look at the awards page and some of the video presentations from the award winners to see if there’s anything that you can take and apply to your own module.

Another place to seek inspiration, or confirm how not to do things, is to take a look at some of the MOOCs, Massive Open Online Courses, that are free to enrol on.  MOOCs are available across the whole range of higher education disciplines so you should be able to find something that relates to your own teaching area. It’s also worth looking at MOOCs that are outside our discipline as you might find ideas and approaches that aren’t common in your own domain but with a bit of tweaking could work well and make a useful addition to your module.  To explore some MOOCs check out the following:

For a MOOC with a difference check out CLMOOC – an open, collaborative, knowledge-building, learning and sharing experience,with a slightly more creative approach to designing and supporting online learning.

As you take a look at these various examples it’s also worth reflecting on how you learn and your own wider experience of using online learning and technology.  What have been the good experiences, what made them good, is there anything in these experiences that you can take and apply to your module?  Are there also things you’ve not liked, why haven’t you liked them?  As you think about your own personal learning consider the different aspects of your learning, knowledge, skills and professionalism.  Are there different learning theories and philosophies that can come into play and help to shape the design of the learning in these domains? Can technology also play a role to facilitate some of that  learning online to complement what you do in face to face teaching and help your students develop as more self-directed learners?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

One of the criticisms levelled at the use of technology in education is that its adoption and application haven’t always been informed by scholarly evidence.  There’s also a view that the technology is acting as the agent of change rather than the teacher.  With this in mind one of the objectives of Learning X is to signpost some of the educational literature. To help with this we’ve created a Learning X group on Mendeley to share some of the research that we refer to and other publications that we think might be of interest and help to inform practice.  You can join the group and add to the collection that’s that there.

A couple of papers to check out are:

Follow and join Learning X on Mendeley to explore and contribute to the collection.

Today’s link is to Jane Hart’s top 200 tools for learning.  For the past 10 years Jane has been collating a list of the top 100 tools used in learning based on the votes of learning professionals involved in academia and learning and training more broadly.  You can explore the current top tools and read how other learning professionals use them.  If you delve deeper into the site you can see how these tools have moved up and down the list over the years.  What’s interesting is how many of these tools are used by educators to support their own personal learning and their role as a teacher/trainer, they don’t just use the tools with their students.  You’ll notice that Jane is also polling for the 2017 top tools so you can also submit your own personal top 10 learning tools.  The slideshare below walks you through the 2016 top 200 tools for learning and you can also check out the best of breed across different categories of tools in 2016 on the website. If you’re interested in some of these tools and need any support to look at them further do be in touch.

Day 5: Adding Interactivity 2 (Communication)

Figures linked by lines

Figures linked by lines
Created by Open Clip Art Vectors, shared on Pixaby with CC0 licence.

Today, we’ll focus on communication, both between students, and from staff to students. To start, though, lets think about the welcome message. Earlier in the week, Natalie looked at a welcoming message. We’ll start by looking at some ideas for getting video communication going.


Welcome video

A welcoming video can be very powerful, not only for distance learning students, but also for campus based students, who may be looking at the module before the first class. Blackboard has a list of the type of things that work well in an introductory video – and have a look at the first link in that which is a Prezi going into a little more detail, including some practical suggestions for when you are creating them.

Student videos

One way to get students to interact could be to get them to create their own videos – we are currently investigating video platforms that would allow students to create and upload videos to a server (more on that when we have it fully up and running). For the time being, however, we have Kaltura. Students can create a video on their phones, and then upload using Kaltura to a discussion post in My Dundee. Simply click the “Mashup” link, select Kaltura, and then Add New on the next screen.

Alternatively, students may prefer to upload to YouTube, but they need to think about privacy issues; a video uploaded to Kaltura is only visible to those within the University who have the link.

Lecture preparation videos

Witton (2017), looking at pilot of video capture at Wolverhampton, found that the most useful type of pre-recorded videos, according to the students, were lab demonstrations of what they would be doing in practical classes.

Here at Dundee, we’ll be running a similar pilot this academic year – as already noted, we’re in the process of setting this up – more when we have got it all in place. However if you are interested in finding out more, comment below or contact eLearning. We also have a (very wee!) video production team, who may be able to help you – contact eLearning if you want to find out more.

Synchronous video

For a number of years now, we have had Blackboard’s Collaborate video conferencing system. This has been difficult for some users, as it involved the installation of a Java based client. For the past year or so, we have had access to Blackboard Collaborate Ultra – which has a much newer technology base. If you have new versions of browsers it will work without any need to install anything. (If you have an older browser, you’ll have to have Flash installed). It also works on Android and iOS phones/tablets.

Collaborate Ultra is updated frequently, so, even if you looked at it 6 months ago, you may well find it has newer features; below is the latest video Blackboard have produced to outline its key features (August 2017)

We have looked at video – though by no means all possible uses of video. Are there others that you have used or are considering using with students?

How else do you get students to engage with each other? How much do you find they engage with it? Do you feel it matters if they don’t?

We also have a range of tools available via Office 365, many of which can be used by groups of students. One tool that you may like to have a look at is Class Notebook. You may also have spotted that once you have signed into My Dundee – you’re automatically signed in to Office 365 (and vice versa), now that UoDIT have started to implement Single Sign On.

There are many other ways that you could get students to collaborate – we used Jane Hart’s top 200 tools as the link of the day in an earlier post; she links to many collaborative tools.

Students, if you are reading this – how to do you engage with other students? Online? Offline? Do you use different methods for communicating with classmates to those you use for communicating with your friends and family? How would you like staff to communicate with you?

Collaborate Ultra

Related research

Byrne, A. (2016). Podcasting for Learning and Assessment in Undergraduate History. Compass: Journal of Learning and Teaching, 8(12). doi: Also applies to other disciplines!

Manathunga, K., & Hernández-Leo, D. (2016). PyramidApp: Scalable Method Enabling Collaboration in the Classroom. In K. Verbert, M. Sharples, & T. Klobučar (Eds.), Adaptive and Adaptable Learning: 11th European Conference on Technology Enhanced Learning, EC-TEL 2016, Lyon, France, September 13-16, 2016, Proceedings (pp. 422–427). Cham: Springer International Publishing. This article looks at how collaborative tools can be used with very large groups, to get discussions going, without overwhelming individuals.

Other materials

The NMC / Educause have published their horizons report for over 10 years, this summarises the 2017 Higher Education report. Communication and Collaboration are seen as being key. The full report is available to download online. 


While Sugata Mitra focuses on children’s learning, the points he make apply to everyone; regardless of age. This is a TED speech he gave in 2013.



Learning X 2017-18 Season kicks off with Module Makeover

Building on the success of last semester’s first Learning X series theme on Copyright, we’ve planned a whole Season of Learning X for the 2017/18 academic session.  If you missed our first series, Learning X is our online approach to supporting learning and teaching in a digital world and consists of short and snappy online guided learning activities relating to everyday learning and teaching practice.  By developing a themed approach we hope that groups and individuals can learn together and develop learning conversations and networks.  The beauty of delivering this online is that you can join in when you want and the content will always be available.  We’re developing Learning X as a hybrid pedagogy approach and each series will be accompanied by a complementary workshop so that staff can meet up and ask further questions, get additional advice, tips and support.

The new season kicks off on Monday 7 August with a Module makeover series designed to help you get your modules ready for the start of the new session. Module makeover will encourage you to think about developing a module checklist to ensure you have all the key information ready to view for your students.  It will also point you to online learning on the web to help inspire you and highlight some tools and approaches that you might not be aware of. There will also be a Module Makeover workshop/surgery on Wednesday 9 August from 10.00-12.00hrs in the Eduzone in the Library.

The Learning X 2017/18  season Semester 1 schedule continues as outlined below.

28 August: Copyright – this series returns refreshed for a rerun with an accompanying workshop on 7th September.

2 October: Learning Footprints – this series will explore concepts such as digital residents and visitors together with personal learning environments and networks and also discuss privacy and safety in digital learning habitats.

9 October: Digital Scholarship – here we’ll be making use of the Open University’s OpenLearn module on the Digital Scholar to help highlight how we can harness digital approaches to our work around the scholarship of learning and teaching here at Dundee.

In semester 2 we’ll go on to explore themes such as learning design and assessment and we’ll publish dates for these once they’re confirmed.  In between our Learning X series  we’ll also be publishing one-off episodes to in response to direct requests we receive from the learning and teaching community and also focussing on innovative teaching approaches.

If you have suggestions for other topics and themes that we should be looking at over the next year please let us know.