Should you use twitter, or any other social media for learning and teaching?

We’ve really enjoyed all the lunch time drop in sessions this week. It’s been great to hear from colleagues (in particular Nigel Craig and Ken Anderson) about how they are using tools such as TurnitinUK in their practice. Thanks to all who came along and contributed to the discussions. But, all good things have to come to an end. In our final drop in session this week we turned our attention to social media.

Although we are seeing more and more of our colleagues using social media (in particular twitter) as part of their learning and teaching, we are aware that there are still colleagues who are unsure about it. Our staff guidelines for using social media in learning and teaching provide some general guidance. Social media has the potential to create fuzzy boundaries between one’s professional and personal life. That said, twitter in particular can be really useful.

Having a module #hashtag, can allow you and your students to share information and resources. You can embed a twitter feed directly into a module in GCULearn.  You can have online support sessions using twitter, which in turn can be share and/or built up into additional resources.  Just before the session we spotted this (on google+ – another social media channel).  So, if you’re wondering about twitter,  why not follow the flow chart to see if you should give it a try? Picture of flow chartThe Blended Learning Coffee Club will now go back to monthly meetings. If you have any suggestions for topics you’d like to know more about or if you would like to share anything you have been doing, then please let us know via the comments.

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Rubrics: the good, the bad and the genius column

Another day, another coffee club drop in session. For our penultimate drop in session this week, the topic of conversation was Rubrics.

Once again Jim Emery, assisted by John Smith (Learning Technologist, SHLS)  got things started by giving an overview of what rubrics are, and examples of how they can be set up and used.  These slides from Jim’s presentation at the Blackboard Conference early this year give an overview.

Rubrics are marking grids, which explicitly breakdown the marking scheme and criteria for a particular assignment.  This not only helps modules teams to develop more consistent approaches to marking, but as rubrics should be shared with students, can make the marking process more explicit to students too.  Our quick overview guide to rubrics provides some more information.

Ken Garner, Senior Lecturer in Media and Journalism then gave a very entertaining presentation about his use of rubrics in Turnitin, and how he and his module team have evolved their practice over the past 4 years.  Ken shared some examples of marked work which gave a really comprehensive illustration of how you can combine a rubric, QuickMarks and comments to give rich feedback.  Each year the module team review their rubrics and adapt the criteria and marks in light of their experiences over the past year. Choosing criteria weighting does involve a bit of experimentation and trial and error. As well as improving consistency of marks across the teaching team, using rubrics has reduced the need for marking meetings as module leaders can easily check the status of marked/unmarked assignments.

The rubrics and marking criteria are expanded within programme and module handbooks (all available through GCULearn), and before each assignment a copy of the rubric is given to each students in class where staff explain the marking criteria.

Some of the discussions around the demos included the fear that this “mechanised” approach would remove the ability to award credit for creativity. However, as Ken pointed out, you can always add a “genius” column for exactly that:-)  Of course there are limitations, and rubrics may not be appropriate for all assignments.  The more complex the breakdown of marks and criteria the less useful rubrics can become. However for Ken, and growing number of others across GCU and beyond, rubrics combined with QuickMarks and comments are providing a very useful way to provide better and more consistent marks and feedback/feedforward for both staff and students.

QuickMarks, comments, feedback and feedfoward #GCUBlend

In our third lunchtime drop in session this week Jim Emery gave an overview of some of the increasingly popular uses of TurnitinUK.

Whilst the myth of Turnitin being a plagarism detection service persists (as Sam Ellis pointed out in his guest post yesterday, it’s not) in practice it is increasingly being used not solely for text matching, but for its marking and feedback capabilities.

In a very interactive and discursive session Jim illustrated the how to set up and use QuickMarks ( a set of common feedback responses) and illustrated how you can add more personalised feedback to quickmark comments, as well as use additional text comments and overall summary feedback. You can also audio feedback (clips of up to 3 minutes).

More and more course teams are developing a common set of Quickmarks which they develop together and share. This helps improve consistency of feedback and feedforward.  Sharing QuickMarks is still slightly clunky as you have to export and download a set of quickmarks, email it to who ever you want to share it with and they have to import and upload it back into Turnitin.  However, the time spent creating and sharing quickmarks can have paybacks when marking and meeting the 21 day turnaround for students.

There was also discussion around how students like the fact that they can more easily access electronic feedback, and that they are more inclined to revisit an electronically marked paper once they have digested the all important final mark.   Although it can seem (and in cases is) time consuming to set up, there can be pay backs for both staff and students in using these features offered by Turnitin.

TurnitinUK is integrated into GCULearn, however setting it does need a bit of time, so we would advise not leaving the set up til the hour before you release you assessment to students. Marks are also automatically stored in GCULearn in GradeCentre. If you don’t want your students to see marks for any reason, then it is possible to do that, but it does involve a bit of checking/unchecking of options. We would advise speaking to your school Learning Technologists and they will can take you through the process.

Our quick guide to setting up Turnitin gives an overview of how to set up an assignment as well as links to video tutorials, and the school Learning Technologists can help with any issues you may have.  Each paper that is submitted into the system is given a unique ID number, so it is possible to find papers that may have mysteriously disappeared. We have also created a quick guide for students on how to submit Turnitin assignments, which may be handy to point your students to.

Emerging from the discussions were some top tips including:

  • don’t use turnitin with Internet explorer (in fact try not to use internet explorer for anything 🙂 )
  • if you have an ipad download and use the app
  • remember to hit the “Roster Sync” button when before you exit/when you go into the system to sync your marks
  • if you want to give audio feedback, check you have a microphone on your computer/tablet

In our next session we’ll be looking at Rubrics which can be a very useful starting point for creating shared QuickMarks.

A Seasoned Practitioners Use of TurnitinUK

Our week of informal meetings on aspects of blended learning and technology covered the use of TurnitinUK by an experienced user. Nigel Craig ,based in our School of Engineering and Built Environment, outlined his use of TurnitinUK with regards to the submission of MSc projects since 2008. I was going to summarise the main points of the discussion but my colleague Sam Ellis ( @numbereleven) was kind enough to pass on his takeaway from the meeting.

TurnitinUK: some things I’ve never thought about before

 This week, I went to the lunchtime coffee club on plagiarism and TurnitinUK. I have been an inveterate user of TurnitinUK for coming up to ten years, but it turns out that I may have been an inveterate misuser all along. The first big learning point I took away – an obvious one, really – is that TurnitinUk isn’t a plagiarism detection kit… no no no, it’s simply a text matching tool. The subtleties and nuances are still in the eye of the assessor.

And this means that it’s not much use skimming a pile of submissions for the high similarity scores. These won’t tell you all that much. As Nigel Craig pointed out at the lunchtime meeting, a 2% chunk of a 15,000-word dissertation is 300 words – a whole page. Many of us demonstrate the TurnitinUK software to our students, in an effort (I suppose) to demystify the assessment process and to demonstrate to them exactly what constitutes plagiarism.

But something I’ve never done is explain to my students why a similarity score of 40% might be perfectly alright, while a similarity score of 10% might see the student hauled in front of the Head of Department. It’s all a matter of context, of course. So accustomed are we to ‘following the numbers’ that scores of, say, 20% or lower rarely arouse concern. And yet they should. If large chunks have been lifted, with no attempt to cite or acknowledge, then alarm bells should start ringing.

One solution to this problem is to use ‘classic view’. This was my real take-home piece of homework. ‘Classic view’ gives you a breakdown of all the matched text (the stuff you’re used to seeing in the right-hand column), but then puts the entire submitted text beneath, with all matched text colour-coded. Now, in an instant, you can judge how large the chunks of matched texts are, and whether you have a case of plagiarism on your hands. Just scroll down and down. Brilliant.

I still think the best way of avoiding plagiarism is to a) set very clear and simple rules, and keep repeating them, and b) ‘design it out’ at source. My simple rules are that if you use someone’s idea you must credit them, and if you quote someone you must cite them. ‘Designing out’ can be done in a number of ways. I often give students unique (or even hypothetical) case studies to interrogate, which means that the established literature becomes a bit less of a crutch to lean in. I also avoid using words like ‘explain’ and ‘describe’, preferring verbs such as ‘justify’ and ‘analyse’ instead.

A good habit I got into was asking history students to relate their work to personal experience or current events. This seemed to be a good way of encouraging them to take data and information, and turn it into knowledge (and even wisdom!). This approach also had the benefit of developing their skills through the prisms of reflection and employability. And when the writing is personal, the students can’t even copy from one another…

Sam’s views understate the robust approach Nigel takes to his use of TurnitinUK He does a live demonstration to his students of how the software works and explains why he uses it in his assessment practice. A more  controversial point is that he does not allow his postgraduate students to see their originality score at the time of submission. He argues that students at that level should not be plagiarising and so do not need to make a prior submission to get their score. Most participants were surprised to hear this because they allow students the opportunity to submit drafts in order to help them reduce their score or even better improve their academic writing skills. Nigel’s challenge was how was this process supported. The responses varied from students work on the feedback themselves to reduce their score to actually meeting with the member of the module team. There was a concern raised about resource issues about allowing students multiple submissions without some degree of academic intervention.

So in a quick hour, many of us were challenged in our use of TurnitinUK in terms of benefits for both staff and students. Then someone raised the issue of ghost writing and how it could be detected. Just like TurnitinUK, it’s all dependent of academic judgement of the whole student and their work.

GCULead  hopes to use Nigel’s experience in future activity at GCU.

..and another thing!

There has been an issue on standardising on a name for the originality service provider we all know and love. Some people still refer to it as Submit (pre- VLE integration days) , Turnitin, Turnitin UK or even TurntinUK. This post has used the latter because GCU uses the service as an integrated building block within out VLE and it renders as TurnitinUK. TGCUL.

Sway-ing and blending beyond content

The first of our week long lunch time drop in sessions yesterday took a look at some simple and free to use tools that can help to enhance presentation and get people to re-think how they can represent and/or create new content and of course most importantly learning activities.

Over the session we explored a couple of tools that we’ve been experimenting and using over the summer – Blendspace and Sway.

Blendspace allows you to “create lessons in 5 minutes“.  It’s a simple grid interface where you can  drag and drop videos, webpages, pictures, text into a sequence for learners to follow. There is a (limited) commenting  facility, and some more responsive/social  features such as a like button. It is primarily aimed at the primary school market, but as with everything it can be used in all educational sectors. It is particularly useful if you have a structured activity (perhaps for a flipped teaching session). Being able to drop web pages directly into the resource is quite handy and during our discussion we also thought that you could use it to create topic resource banks.  We’ve used it to create quick guides for Turnitin for example.

screenshot of turnitin guide for staff

One of the appealing things for us it that it embeds well into GCULearn. Just copy the embed  code it generates into a content area and you have something that looks a bit more attractive and engaging for users. I also think the structured nature of the building content does make you think more about the design of activities.

The other tool that I’m really becoming impressed with is Sway from Microsoft.  It is more of a text layout tool, but again it embeds nicely in our VLE. Sway can be particularly useful if you have a lot of text and you want to make it more appealing visually (yes, I know a bit “style over substance” but having something that looks nice can make a difference for learners and teachers alike). The interface is pretty simple and is mainly drag and drop and you can add videos from a range of sources. We’ve used it to create a slightly more exciting 10 Ten Tips list for using GCU Learn our staff help page.

A “neat” feature of Sway which could be really handy is that you can upload a powerpoint presentation and it splits out all the images and allows you to add text to them. So instead of just uploading you powerpoint to your module, you could upload it into Sway, maybe just keep the key image and add some additional resources/links and commentary. Again that could be a very useful resource both pre and post lecture/workshops.  Yes, you could of course use the notes facility in powerpoint to do that, but be honest – how many of us do that?

With both tools, you also get the added advantage of having an external URL so if, like one of our colleagues mentioned yesterday, you have new work based students,  you could potentially send links to content/activities before the students are fully registered and can access GCULearn. They both have the usual sharing facilities via Facebook, Twitter etc. With Sway you do have to have an outlook/exchange (or if you’re old skool like me) hotmail account to register to use the service.

Teaching teams might want to think about creating an authoring email that can be shared. We’d also recommend that you write your content in outwith either tool so you have source document, and in the event of any changes to pricing/access etc you can easily recreate any resource in another service.

Of course, the other good thing is that you can start to put a CC licence on resources and make them OERs.  As ever if you have any thoughts/ideas or examples of using either we’d love to hear about them.

Blended Learning Coffee Club Week

Forgotten how to do anything in GCU Learn over the summer? We know the feeling. Next week (24-28th August) the Blended Learning Coffee Club will be running informal, lunchtime drop in sessions throughout the week to help staff get back up to speed for the start of term. Monday: Beyond content; Tuesday: Interpreting TurnitinUk findings, Wednesday: TurnitinUK and Gradecentre; Thursday: Using rubrics and grading forms; Friday: Social media and any other questions.

We’ll be in H116 from 12 -1 every day (there may be some building work background noise).

As ever if you let us know you are coming along we’ll buy you a cup of coffee. Just email sheila.macneill@gcu.ac.uk .

New Padlet app now available

I know many colleagues here in GCU are using Padlet within their modules, and we are all big padlet fans in the Blended Learning Team.This week things have become a bit more padlet-tastic with the launch of their i-pad app. If you haven’t used padlet before, this post from Richard Byrne suggests five possible ways you could use it for learning and teaching, including blogging, bookmarking and group discussions. One of our favourite uses of Padlet was as a digital wishing tree in our open event, GCU Games On, during the Commonwealth games last year.

If you have any examples of how you use padlet then please share in the comments. And remember you can embed a padlet wall directly into a page in GCULearn, just copy and past the embed code into the HTML editor in any content area.

screen shot of padlet wall