Monday, 30 November 2015

A lecturer perspective on peer assessment

When it comes to student learning, there is no activity with greater impact than how you design your course assessment. We all know that it works best when it facilitates meaningful and engaged learning by allowing students to participate in the process and gain timely and relevant feedback. It must be fair, accurate, and manageable for those undertaking it, and this is no easy task.

There has been much written in recent times on innovations in assessment. Lecturers have long been striving for new ways to make it more valid, transparent and diverse (Race, 2007). Asking students to review and give feedback on each others work is one such approach. With the advent of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), this practice of allowing students to assess and give feedback on each others work has grown in prevalence (Bali, 2014). Surely, it makes sense that students would benefit from understanding the criteria of an assignment so well that they could appraise the work of others for quality.

But introducing peer assessment can seem to be a daunting and hazardous prospect. How well do students undertake this task- would they be too harsh or too generous in their comments? Would they benefit from seeing their own mistakes and others? What other outcomes does it bring? And most importantly - how easy is it to manage?

We spoke with Michael Coyne, in the School of Law at NUI Galway about his experience in using peer assessment with students, and heard about the benefits it brought. The result is a short three minute interview.
Watch Michael's video interview here.

Bali, M (2014). MOOC Pedagogy: Gleaning Good Practice from Existing MOOCs”, MERLOT. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 10, 1, 44-56.
Race, Phil (2007). The Lecturer's Toolkit: A practical guide to assessment, learning and teaching. 3rd edition, London: Routledge

Additional Resources: 
Blackboard's Guide to Peer Assessment
CELT Resources on Peer Assessment
JISC Exemplars of Peer Assessment

See more showcase videos

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

The 5 x 12 apps of Christmas

12 Days. 12 Apps. 10 minutes per day.

I've just signed up (again) for the 12 apps of Christmas #12appsDIT offered by the Learning, Teaching and Technology Centre at DIT, and facilitated by Frances Boylan. This was launched last year (and I blogged about it at the time) based on a similar initiative at Regent's University London.

Each morning over 12 weekdays, starting Dec 1st 2015, a page will be released that reviews a particular mobile app and explores it in terms of how it could help students personalise their learning. Like an advent calendar, every day you open a new door and see what's behind it.

This year the DIT folk are focussing on personalisation of learning, and are inviting teaching staff and students to take part. Already more than 600 people have registered. Why not sign up too?

As well as #12appsDIT, Chris Rowell of Regent's University London, has launched Christmas 2.0 #RUL12AoC.
Aimed at academic and academic support staff, this open course offers to cover the basics and some more advanced tips on using 12 educational apps.

You can sign up for the RUL course, which is offered via Blackboard's Open Education platform.

Meanwhile, the University of West London has also launched their 12 apps of Christmas open course #UWL12Apps. This course aims to inspire you to explore how you can use your smartphone or tablet in education and beyond.

In case 3 apps per day isn't enough for you, the University of Brighton has also launched a satellite cMOOC of #RUL12AoC, with hashtag #12brightapps.

So, starting on 1st December, with a new app (or 4) every weekday until 16th December, you could learn about the educational possibilities of up to 48 apps. At that stage, we could all do with a rest!

Update (18 November): Thanks to Chrissi Nerantzi (@chrissinerantzi) for alerting me (in the comments below) to another 12 apps  offered by Manchester Metropolitan University Library. This course, which does not need any registration, promises engaging hands-on activities, top tips and support from expert facilitators. Staff at MMU are also encouraged to participate in #RUL12AoC for the experience of an online course, with a suggestion that a common hashtag #12AoC is used.

That's a potential 60 apps, although I suspect there'll be a certain amount of overlap.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

How to effectively engage students through video

Last term we spoke with Mary Barrett, at NUI Galway, about her involvement in a project that created short screencasts within Blackboard for students. Along with her colleagues, she was looking for something to explain the technical nature of the subject, in additional to lectures and tutorials, for students. They arrived at a solution of working through problems on screen, narrating the process, and explaining steps involved. The resulting recordings allowed students to access these clarifying steps again, and again. Each screencast became a very valuable and engaging resource for learning.

Behind the scenes is a technology called Kaltura Desktop Recorder, which enables you to quickly and easily recording your screen or lecture and upload online to share privately in Blackboard, or with a wider audience on MediaSpace or other public video channels.

Watch Mary's video interview here.

You can see some further examples of their results on and read more about Mary's Accountancy Nuggets project on the Explore project website.

Monday, 2 November 2015

NUI Galway on Wikimedia Commons

The quad at NUI Galway
The Quad by Malbe554
Just over a week ago I had a workshop for academic staff (on the PG Diploma in Academic Practice module in Learning Technologies) where we discussed the use of wikis in teaching and learning. As well as demonstrating how Blackboard wikis work and might be used to support collaborative group work, I also tried out a Wikipedia familiarisation session, in the style of Martin Poulter. This was based mostly on the talk I gave at EdTech earlier this year, on Academic Writing and Wikipedia.

The purpose of the Wikipedia familiarisation session is to highlight certain academic qualities of Wikimedia articles - the quality scale, citation guidelines, peer review, authorship, collaboration. I also talked about some of Wikipedia's sister projects, hosted by the Wikimedia Foundation, that can be used to enhance teaching and learning activities, such as Wikiversity, Wiktionary, Wikinews and Wikimedia Commons.

To add a practical element, without a full-blown editing session, I asked each person in the group to take one or more pictures (using a smartphone or other device) of the place where he/she works, and to create a wikipedia account in advance of our workshop. During the workshop, then, each person uploaded a new media file to Wikimedia Commons, which was later tagged with National University of Ireland, Galway.

This had the advantage of each person creating an account and making a real contribution to Wikimedia Commons. Moreover, the collection of images of NUI Galway has been expanded and enhanced.

Some of the newly uploaded images are below. As you can see, they have all been made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license.

Old Civil Engineering Building
By Theorydave (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Office view of the Quadrangle, NUI Galway
Office View of the Quadrangle
By Kardoy1 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Earth & Ocean Science NUIG
Earth and Ocean Science, NUIG
By TiernanHenry (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Áras de Brún
Áras de Brún
By Niallmadden (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Aras Moyola, NUIG
Aras Moyola
By Mary R Mulry (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, 28 September 2015

Digital Storytelling at NUI Galway

 For the past six years, Bonnie Long, in the School of Education, has been pioneering a novel approach to encourage teachers to reflect on their professional practice, as part of their studies at NUI Galway. We caught up with her before the summer to ask her a little more about her approach of using digital storytelling as part of the formal curriculum.

The result is a three minute long interview with Bonnie, that explains in more detail. Watch it here:

Bonnie Long talks about digital storytelling in Higher Education

Friday, 24 July 2015

Summer Holidays

Earlier this week I became aware of #blimage - a challenge to write blog posts on learning, inspired by particular images. You can read more about the challenge from Steve Wheeler in his post Blimey, it's #blimage. Since then, there have been #blimage blogposts appearing all week, and I'm barely keeping up with them!

Following David Hopkins' post Desks of Doom, David challenged me to get involved.
To be honest, my first reaction was "I haven't got time for this", but actually, David's challenge image aligns nicely with my current phase of work. So, I decided I'd use the opportunity to get something written.

Birmingham Airport Departure Lounge (gate 14/15) 

Image by David Hopkins on flickr
I've been in plenty of departure lounges while travelling; sometimes for work and sometimes on holiday; sometimes as a solo traveller and sometimes with colleagues, friends or family. This one, at least, has seats - unlike some areas used in the past by Ryanair.

What I see here is not a dull, depressing scene. It's likely that, just minutes before, this area was full of people, old and young, excited about the journey ahead of them. In another few minutes, the space will begin to fill up, and the cycle will begin again.

This image shows just a snapshot in time, but it's a time when it's possible to take stock of the space - maybe do some cleaning up or perhaps rethink the whole area in terms of upgrading, arrangement and facilities. That type of upgrade activity can only take place at a quiet time, like the moment depicted.

So, why does this image align with my current phase of work? Well, I think it looks quite like the scene I can see out of my office window. I am lucky to have an office on the ground floor of a very central building, that looks out on one of the busiest areas of the campus: just outside the library, with the main university restaurant just down some steps, and many of the university's lecture theatres in easy reach. During the teaching year, there is a magnificent buzz, with students and staff milling around, grouped together in clusters, rushing from one space to the next. It is constant, and a perfect reminder to me of the main purpose of the university. To be part of the scene is energising, and I can't help but feel motivated by the anticipation of the crowd.

View from my office window
 But just now, this is how it looks. If you look hard, you'll see there are a couple of people outside the library entrance, and I do see people walking up and down the steps. There are people around, as evidenced by the collection of bicycles in the rack, but nothing like the buzz during term. It's hard to imagine that, in just over a month, this place will be teeming with students. Some of them may even be excited about the journey ahead of them.

So, what has me so busy? Well, this is my team's time to do all the necessary maintenance and updates before the term begins. We can only do this work at this time of year (and possibly a much shorter window at Christmas).

In addition to our ongoing support for staff, we have 4 fairly big projects scheduled over the summer including various upgrades to current technologies (VLE, video technologies, lecture capture, language labs), which entail development of new training resources and documentation. We are working on a completely new website (due to launch end of next week) and are planning a full schedule of training for academic staff for the second half of August. Some of our efforts will be visible to and appreciated by university staff, and we look forward to supporting their work in the new academic year.

Will the students notice any difference when they come back in September? Possibly not, or not immediately. A bit like improvements in an airport waiting lounge!

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Learning Resources and Open Access in Higher Education Institutions in Ireland

The National Forum for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education has published 2 focused research reports today. One of these is the outcome of a project, led by Angelica Risquez at the University of Limerick, and involving a team of people from University of Limerick, Dublin Institute of Technology, Mary Immaculate College, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, and National University of Ireland Galway, looking at the current state of Open Educational Resources in Higher Education in Ireland.

This report provides a considered account of some of the key issues which influence the sharing of open educational resources. These include questions of awareness and understanding of open educational resources at individual as well as institutional level, and the value placed on openness as a positive incentive for academic engagement. Acknowledging the complex interplay between these factors, the study suggests important practical steps to take forward OER engagement, including: awareness raising; professional development for academic staff; capturing excellent OERs and continuing relevant and targeted research to support particular OER initiatives.

The full text of the report is available from the National Forum website.

From the report:

This project, a national analysis, set out to examine strategies for sharing open education resources (OERs) to enhance teaching and learning in Irish higher education. Drawing on the collective expertise and experience of colleagues, with on-going involvement in open education resources, the study explore current practices and potential approaches for future sharing of resources. The experiences gained through the National Digital Learning Resources project were also considered, along with options for the management and discovery of digital teaching and learning resources through local repositories. As part of the exploration focus groups were held with selected groups of academic, library, educational development and educational technologists.

 Consequently this report provides a considered account of some of the key issues which influence the sharing of open educational resources from primary data gathered and also from a survey of current research literature. The relevant issues incorporate questions of awareness and understanding of open education resources at individual as well as institutional level, and in particular the value placed on openness as a positive incentive for academic engagement and sharing. Alongside the increasing growth of social media and online sharing platforms which have altered the way resources are shared amongst some groups, there is also the question of how in an Irish context distinctive institutional missions and approaches can determine levels of OER engagement. Acknowledging the complex interplay between these factors, the study suggests important practical steps to take forward OER engagement, including: awareness raising; professional development for academic staff; capturing excellent OERs and continuing relevant and targeted research to support particular OER initiatives.

As a member of the project team, it was an honour to work again with such a dedicated group of people and it's great to see the report being launched.

A related presentation can be seen on slideshare, from the EdTech conference in UL in May.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Research Seminar with Caroline Kuhn H.

Supporting students in developing their digital research skills

Thursday, July 16th, 11am – 12noon, AM 207 
 (Arts Millennium Bldg.) 

Presented by visiting scholar Caroline Kuhn - Institute for Education, Bath Spa Univ

How can universities encourage and support students in developing their digital research skills — in particular through the design and implementation of their own Personal Learning Environments (PLEs)? Caroline Kuhn will share research from her current PhD study in this area and looks forward to engaging in discussion with participants. 

Further information:
Twitter: @carolak 

Any questions?
Please contact Catherine Cronin

On the afternoon of July 16th, you might also like to join the #GREAT15 Conference, also being held at NUI Galway. 

Update (27 July)

We are delighted that Caroline's seminar was recorded and can be viewed online.

Caroline has also written a blog post based on the discussion following her talk last week.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

More on Getting Real about Virtual Learning...

We've finally gotten around to uploading Doug Belshaw's keynote from last month's symposium...


Monday, 22 June 2015

#celt15: Getting Real about Virtual Learning

Last Friday (19th June) was our CELT Symposium on the topic Getting Real about Virtual Learning. It was a fantastic day (despite the weather) with about 200 participants and plenty of learning.

Twitter at #celt15

Thanks to the twitter team (@gramcgrath, @marloft, @allaboardHE, @catherinecronin, @rosenidhubhda, @TELtales) and all the lovely tweeps at the conference, there were almost 1200 #celt15 tweets on Friday alone, and we trended in Ireland for most of the day!

The quality of the backchannel was quite amazing. I've created a semi-structured archive of all the comments and pictures using storify, which gives a sense of the day.

A beautiful TAGSExplorer visualisation of all the tweets for the hashtag was created by Martin Hawsey's Twitter Archiving Google Sheet (TAGS). From here you can find the top tweeter from the conference (@iainmacl) and the top conversationalists (@worried_teacher and @sharonlflynn). TAGS also produces a searchable archive of the conference tweets.

Keynotes at #celt15

Both Sian Bayne and Doug Belshaw gave very exciting and thought-provoking talks at #celt15. These have been recorded and we should be able to make them available soon.

In the meantime, Doug has already made his presentation available on Slideshare:

Identifying, scaffolding, and credentialing skills in an ever-changing digital environment from Doug Belshaw

And Sian Bayne's paper Teacherbot: Interventions in Automated Teaching is also available online.

Presentations from the event

At least one presenter has shared his presentation using Slideshare. If anybody else has shared their presentation, please let me know and I'll add it here:

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

#celt15 Instructions to the twitter team

This is based on the original post by @derekbruff who has kindly given his permission to re-blog. It's an updated version of the #celt13 instructions, posted on this blog 2 years ago.

Hello #celt15 twitter team (you know who you are) and thank you for agreeing to take part. We're looking forward to an active twitter stream at #celt15 again this year and you will play a big part in keeping the backchannel going. What does it mean to be on the #celt15 twitter team? Glad you asked....

  1. Take a few moments at several points during the day (during keynotes, during sessions, whenever) to share highlights of the conference.  What are you learning?  What useful resources are you hearing about?  (Include links when you can!)  What questions or answers are occurring to you as you  participate in the conference?
  2. Don't forget to use the hashtag! It's #celt15.
  3. You’re encouraged to tweet some photos of the conference. Having some photos in the Twitter steam makes the conference experience more concrete for folks not there.
  4. Feel free to be critical when appropriate, but please always be civil.  If one of the keynotes, for instance, turns out to be a big dud (unlikely - given that we've got Sian Bayne and Doug Belshaw), let’s not have any harshtagging or tweckling.  (See
  5. Engage with other #celt15 Twitter participants, including those not physically present: respond to questions and add value when you can.
  6. Finally, if a conference participant new to Twitter starts asking you about Twitter, be ready to share your experiences. The conference is all about new skills, so demonstrate how Twitter can be a part of it.
I am already collecting an archive of all the tweets related to the hashtag, using Martin Hawksey's excellent Twitter Archiving Google Sheet (TAGS). As of this morning, two days before the conference starts, there are already more than 300 tweets in the archive. Who will be top tweeter this year? And who will be top conversationalist? Watch this space to find out.
#celt15 is the official hashtag of the 13th Galway Symposium, entitled Getting Real About Virtual Learning.


Wednesday, 3 June 2015

The Kaltura Connect Education Virtual Summit 2015

The Kaltura Connect Education Virtual Summit took place last week. All the sessions are now available to view on demand, so it you have a little bit of time, head on over to the VOD site to watch.

My own talk User Engagement and Learning Outcomes: How NUI Galway is Changing the way Students Learn Inside and Outside the Classroom is available, though I have brought myself to watch it yet. Hopefully the technical guys worked their magic and I don't look as completely nervous as I actually felt at the time.

The powerpoint slides from the talk are available on Slideshare and embedded here: