Digital Assessment and Feedback – new community, resources and staff

This post is by Rachael Magennis, Learning Technologist, Academic Development.  Rachael joined the Academic Development Team in December along with Steven Fraser. Rachael and Steven are providing dedicated supported around digital assessment and feedback.

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In this post I want to introduce our new  Digital Assessment and Feedback community area in GCULearn

Whether you’re new to GCU or a long standing member, creating submissions and giving feedback on line for the first time can be daunting. To get you on track, our Digital Assessment and Feedback Community (or A&F for short) contains all the information and resources on all topics to do with submission and Feedback.

In line with our Assessment and Feedback Policy, we wanted to create guides on key assessment areas, including;

  • Using the Grade Centre
  • Using Turnitin
  • Rubrics and other grading forms
  • Using Wikis and Blogs and e Portfolios
  • Using Audio Feedback for easier submission
  • Incorporating social media and other alternative online tools for feedback.
  • Getting to grips with our video conferencing tool BlackBoard Ultra as an alternative to face to face feedback.

To accommodate the university target of  100% of online submission (of suitable course work) by the end of Trimester B,  Steven and I will be working with staff to make the transition from paper to online.  To demonstrate how really simple it is, we are running a number of CDP events where you can ask us anything and everything surrounding A & F.

So if you really feel swamped – remember to attend our drop ins, read our handy guides and most importantly, experiment and trial the tools on GCU Learn before hand!

As we build content over the next couple of weeks, we would love you (yes, you) to contribute to our Community. We believe that collaboration and sharing good practice is the cornerstone of learning; so if you have any examples of using assessment and feedback online, add your comments on our sharing practice board.

If you are interested in sharing your practice, for example by developing a case study, then please contact me (  or Steven (  and we’ll work with you to develop one.

All GCU staff can access the community by simply putting “digital” in the search box in the Communities tab in GCULearn and then self enrolling onto the “Digital Assessment and Feedback Hub”.

If there are any additional support needs you can think of relating to assessment and feedback, then feel free to share in the comments below too.



Next Collabo-break session: 30 January 12.30 – GCU Online copyright advisor

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The recording of this session is available here.


Our next Collabo-break session will take place on Tuesday, 30 January at 12.30 Marion Kelt (Open Access and Research Librarian) will be demonstrating the new, award winning, GCU Online Copyright Advisor.

Based the most popular FAQs (frequently asked questions) around the use of resources and copyright, the tool provides a simple interface to help guide staff and students. You can read more about its development here.

The session will start at 12.30, but if you can’t make it, it will be recorded and made available via edShare.

To access the webinar just click on this link.



Annual Celebration of Learning and Student Experience

Along with colleagues from across the university we participated in the University’s Learning and Student Experience celebration on January 24th.

The morning keynote was from Dr Lisette Bakalis, University of Groningen who gave a fascinating overview into Groningen’s approach to the digital student experience.   In a entertaining and  very practical overview, Lisette shared how they are focusing all learning and student engagement through the use of their VLE as a portal. Lisette helpful gave a number of take away messages for us all based on their experiences.

Supporting the Digital Student experience takeaways:

  • Blackboard as a student portal, for teaching and digital exams
  • Improve teaching and learning by teaching tools
  • Hire students to work for your support team

Student portal takeaways:

  • Blackboard as a student portal
  • Organise and personalise to improve user experience
  • Supports both students and teachers

Teaching and learning takeaways:

  • Blackboard courses customised with 3rd party tools
  • All educational activity organised and connected
  • Improve teaching and learning by teaching tools

Digital exams takeaways:

  • Blackboard as a digital exam platform
  • Improves written student work
  • Less examination time
  • Usable for both formative and summative exams

Supporting the digital experience takeaways:

  • Blackboard as a student portal, for teaching and digital exams
  • Improve teaching and learning by teaching tools
  • Hire students to work for your support team

You can view the slides for the presentation by following the link below

The afternoon keynote, “Enhancing the Student Experience”,  focused more on home based activities and developments. Led by President Kevin Campbell  and VP (SEBE)Chris Daisley from the Students Association, this was a very interactive and engaging session. Kevin and Chris highlighted the importance of academic advising and clear communications in supporting the student experience.

It was also great to hear how the GCU Student Partnership Agreement is becoming increasingly recognised at national and international levels as an world leading example of student/staff/institutional commitment to partnership working and the student experience.

In between the keynotes there were a fantastic range of presentations showcasing the excellent and innovative teaching practice that is taking place across the university. Themes covered included: assessment and feedback, internationalisation, academic advising, online learning, the Common Good, student life, school collaboration, accessibility, enhancement themes, innovative teaching.   There were also a range of poster presentations and interactive demonstrations.

You can get a flavour of the day from some collated tweets below.

Guest post: Fighting the fear of copyright with the GCU Online UK Copyright Advisor

This guest post is from Marion Kelt, our Open Access and Research Librarian.

Fighting the fear of copyright with the GCU Online UK Copyright Advisor

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My name is Marion Kelt and one of my many tasks is to act as Copyright Advisor at GCU. With the rise of online courses and transnational education there has been an increase in the number and types of copyright enquiry. Another aspect of my job is to promote the building and use of OERs (Open Educational Resources). One of the main barriers to their uptake is a general fear of copyright and licensing issues. They are the elephant in the room, we all know it is there, but nobody wants to admit it exists!

We developed an online copyright advisor to help staff and students to quickly answer the most frequently asked questions on commonly used resources. We also wanted to share the result with the wider academic community, as we felt that it would be a useful tool which could be easily customised to fit the needs of different institutions. It is available here.

The other reason to develop a system was to save myself from having to answer the same questions repeatedly, and to provide a 24-7 resource to help enquirers with the more straightforward questions.

It all started with our list of FAQs. As you know, we often build FAQ pages which are then ignored and our users ask us anyway! We had been keeping a note of enquiries so we could reuse answers, but started wondering if there was a way that we could use it to develop an online resource. Of course we looked around to see if there were any OERs which could either do the job, or be adapted to suit. Although we did come across some, they did not quite meet our needs and were tied to institution specific software.

We decided to tackle FAQs on seven types of resource:

  • Audio files
  • Book chapters
  • Computer code
  • Journal articles
  • Maps
  • Video files

First we developed flowcharts of questions and answers, then we developed a list of text answers to the questions and a glossary.

We found that one or two people working together was not enough, so we formed a group. It was made up of:

  • Me (Copyright Advisor)
  • Susan Cunningham (Library Admin)
  • Toby Hanning (Systems)
  • Nicky Stewart (Systems)
  • Elinor Toland (PURE Repository)

This helped with the logical flow of questions and ensured consistency of language. These documents are available here.

We built the advisor using iSpring software which was compatible with edShare. We already had a licence for it and it integrates well with PowerPoint. It was simple to set up the questions and paths through the system. The main snags are that iSpring only allows forward navigation, and that it was not clear how to restart the advisor if you had another question. We later found that refreshing the browser or hitting F5 restarts it.

The design is very plain at present, though we do have plans to improve this in the next version. We aimed to keep our answers as positive as possible, suggesting alternatives rather than forbidding certain actions. Some of the answers can be a bit “wordy”, so we added traffic lights to give quick visual cues to our users. We also added links where possible, so we link to the licenses we refer to, the library web pages and our own quick copyright glossary.

Screen Shot 2018-01-23 at 09.14.43We are now on version two of the advisor and are promoting it to the GCU community. We have made the advisor available under a Creative Commons (CC) license, so if you like what it does, you can download a zip file of the content and adapt it for your own purposes. If you would rather start from scratch, but use our workflows and texts as a starting point, feel free! They are also available under CC licence. I found that developing these was the hardest part of the project – we spent many hours in a small room arguing about copyright. The good news is that we have done it so that you don’t have to!

We would love you to look at the advisor and use it as much as you want. We would welcome your questions and feedback, even if you are pointing out mistakes that may have slipped through the net! You can contact me at , I’m always happy to chat!

Staff Support for Digital Assessment and Feedback

As part of the University’s commitment to improving assessment and feedback practice, the following drop-in CPD sessions will be presented by the Academic Development team this month:

  • Thursday, January 11:  Introduction to Online Submission
  • Tuesday, January 16: Introduction to using Rubrics & Quickmarks
  • Thursday, January 25: Digital Feedback with Turnitin Feedback Studio
  • Tuesday, January 30: Getting started with Audio Feedback

All sessions will take place from 1pm to 2pm in room H116 of the William Harley building.

Guides to Digital Assessment are available under the Staff Help Tab in GCULearn, and directly from the Digital Assessment Padlet wall.

A series of workshop sessions will also be offered to departments in line with the roll-out of the new laptops. 

New laptops and Windows 10

The new Windows 10 laptops and peripherals will be distributed by IS on a departmental basis between January and May. To support staff as they receive their new laptops, the IS Training team has created a series of online help resources.

For those who need additional support, the team will host the following lunchtime drop-in sessions from 1pm to 2pm in room H023 (IT Training Room):

  • Monday, January 15: Windows 10 Laptop Support Session
  • Monday, January 22: Windows 10 Laptop Support Session
  • Monday, January 29: Windows 10 Laptop Support Session

These sessions will provide hardware and peripherals guidance, and operating system assistance. Staff attending these sessions should bring their new laptops with them.

For more information, please contact Professor Linda Creanor, Academic Quality and Development:

Christmas Collabo-break – 12 Apps of Christmas #GSBS12Apps

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Missed the session? Catch up with the recording here.

Join us next at 11 am next Wednesday, 6 December, for a special Christmas collabo-break session. Johnny Briggs (Learning Technologist) GSBS will be sharing an overview of the GSBS 12 Apps of Christmas event.

Everyday from 1 December the team will be sharing an app that can help with some aspect of learning and teaching.  We may even get a preview of some of the apps still to be revealed.

You can find out more by joining the 12 Apps of Christmas community in GCULearn. Watch the video below for all the details.

You can join the session by following this link, and as usual the session will be recorded and you will be able to catch up here.

(click on the image to watch the video)


Evolving Carpe Diem #sedaconf

GCU has a long standing history with the Carpe Diem learning design methodology.  GCU was one of the original pilot institutions Professor Gilly Salmon worked with as she was developing the process.  It is now a cornerstone for our approach to learning design. Like a number of other institutions, we have developed and modified the process to suit our context.

Over the past year we have been in discussions with a number of colleagues at other institutions where we have shared our different experiences and approaches. One of the first outputs of these discussions was a joint workshop, Evolving Carpe Diem, with Julie Usher, University of Northampton, at this year’s SEDA conference in Cardiff.  Unfortunately Linda and I couldn’t make it to Cardiff in person, but we did join remotely via Collaborate Ultra.

However, just in case the technology gods weren’t on side we, in true Blue Peter fashion, prepared a short intro video and narrated slides, links below.  Many thanks to Julie for running such a great session at the conference and to everyone who participated.

Next Collabo-break session: Digital Assessment and Feedback, 22 November

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Our next online Collabo-break session will take place on Wednesday 22 November at 12.30.

Professor Linda Creanor will be leading the session which will focus on the new University Digital Assessment Policy. Linda will be giving an overview of the developments, support and University level targets for the next academic year.

There is no need to register just click on this link to join the session.   Before you do please ensure that you use either the Google Chrome or Firefox browsers and have a look at this quick overview guide.

Don’t worry if you can’t make the session, it will be recorded and available via edShare.

You can also access related policies, guides, and resources on Assessment and Feedback here.


Guest post: New, open, staff digital learning guides

The GSBS Learning Technologists have recently published a set of online guides focused on a number of digital learning tools including GCULearn, Turnitin Feedback Studio and Collaborate Ultra. All of the guides are available for anyone to access via edShare (links at the end of this post). Elizabeth McGlone, Learning Technologist, explains more in this guest post.

It was great to get another learning technologist on board in our team in June this year – not least because it immediately killed two birds with one stone!  Simultaneously, we had another resource to support a staff of around 160 – which can be challenging when there’s only two of you – but also a whole new skill set!  Another resource meant more opportunity to be proactive in investigating new technologies.  I had briefly explored flipsnack while looking for an online flipbook solution but had never had the time to experiment with it, so it was timely and resourceful when my new colleague took the opportunity to do this.

Supporting our staff happens through individual face to face support as new technologies can understandably be daunting and our kinesthetic learners are supported as a group in a lab setting.  However the time consumed in offering this support can often mean that there is no time to create physical training resources that would both suit the more independent learner and act as a learning consolidation resource following face to face learning.  A new team member with a background in design meant we had the opportunity over the summer to create staff user guides using his bespoke template incorporating a GSBS blended learning branding.

We were able to launch these guides at our GSBS Digital Assessment Event in September and having them printed as a glossy brochure made them so desirable that all available copies were commandeered on the day!  We now have guides ranging from the setting up of digital assessments and online marking using Turnitin Feedback Studio, as well as guides to enhance the delivery of blended learning using collaborative tools such as wikis, blogs and podcasts.  We will continue to build and develop these at quieter periods in the academic year!staff_guide_mock-up

Not only do we offer the guides as a physical hard copy that can be taken away from training sessions but using the aforementioned flipsnack software means they can also be viewed as online digital flipbooks, with an additional option to download as PDFs for storing offline.  The guides are stored in edShare as open educational resources so that we can embed them within our Better Blended Learning Community in GCULearn , and also share them with the rest of the university community and the world.

So, now we have this dynamic online software to support staff learning new technologies, are we making our own physical contributions to staff redundant?  While endeavouring to develop the digital capabilities in the staff we support, we use technology.  But technology doesn’t replace people, people enable the advancement, innovation and success of technology which in turn supports successful learning and teaching.  These guides are just another part of the support we continue to offer to our colleagues within the school, university and beyond.






Thinking about joining things up with ThingLink

I am always looking for simple ways to present or perhaps represent content, links and well “stuff” in general.   Over the last couple of months I’ve been having a play with Thinglink.

Thinglink is an web based application that allows users to enhance images and videos with hyperlinked content.  So you can take an image, and then “tag” it, to create hotspots which link to related resources/additional information. For example if you had a map you could tag specific buildings/parks and provide links to related resources and additional information like this.  In a similar vein, I can imagine an interactive guide to a lab/specialist equipment.

I have used it to enhanced a diagram illustrating the work of our department which is now part of our website.  More recently, I’ve used it to create a more visual, interactive guide to some support resources for the Collaborate Ultra web conferencing system.

There’s also the ability to tag videos and create 360 videos, but you have to pay for that level. Just now I am finding the free to use version more than adequate for my needs.  The subscription version also includes more sophisticated “education” specific functions, like setting up groups.  However, I don’t really have a need to do that just now.

The finished resources can be easily shared on line and also embedded in GCULearn.  So, another little tool to think  if you have an image that you would like to enhance or have a some related web links that you would like to contextualise. Or you might think about getting students to use it to create some digital artefacts.

If you have any thoughts or have used Thinglink,  we’d love to hear them in  the comments.