Digital Insights 2018/19: Digital tools and apps useful for learning

In Digital Insights 2018/19 survey, we asked students to give an example of a digital tool or app they find really useful for learning. We thought we will share some of the examples on our blog.

Access AU core e-learning services

 

Research

  • Endnote – reference management software (free to download for AU students and staff)
  • Mendeley – reference management software & researcher network

 

Organize & monitor your progress

  • ApAber– check your timetable, find available computers on campus, see your Aber Card balance, look at local bus timetables and much more
  • GradeHub – a tool to track your progress and predict what marks you need to achieve your degree
  • Asana – is a web and mobile application designed to help teams organize, track, and manage their work
  • MyStudyLife – unfortunately this service is shutting down but try myHomework (app) instead, it will help you to organize your workload

 

Taking notes

 

Study better

  • Forest App – is an app helping you stay away from your smartphone and stay focused on your work
  • GetRevising – revision tools
  • Anki – software for making flashcards
  • Study Blue – online flashcards, homework help & textbook solutions
  • Quora – a platform to ask questions and connect with people who contribute unique insights and quality answers
  • Memrise – a language platform which uses flashcards as memory aids, but also offers user-generated content on a wide range of other subjects
  • GeoGebra – an interactive geometry, algebra, statistics and calculus application
  • KhanAcademy – free online courses, lessons & practice
  • Tomato Timers – ‘Pomodoro Technique’ is a time management method, the technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks

 

 

Digital Insights 2018/19 benchmarking data

As promised in the previous post outlining some of the key findings of this year’s Digital Insights survey for students we will now present you with the benchmarking data from 29 other Higher Education in UK (14560 responses from students).

Having access to the benchmarking data gives us an opportunity to judge how well we are actually doing and determine which issues are specific to Aberystwyth and which are common to all HE institutions in our sector.

Overall, significantly more students at AU rated the quality of this university’s digital provision (software, hardware, learning environment) as ‘Excellent’.

 

 

 

 

In many aspects, the ratings of AU digital provisions were higher than the benchmarking data, however with regard to interactive digital activities such as using educational games or simulations, polling software or working online with others the results were lower.

In the next post from the Digital Insights’ series we will present you with examples of useful learning apps and tools given by students.


Significantly more students at AU responded that they have access to ‘recorded lectures’ at university whenever they need them.

 

 

 

 

Significantly more students at AU agree the university help them stay safe online.

 

 

 

 

 

Significantly more students at AU agree that they can easily find things on the VLE.

 

 

 

 

 

Significantly more students at AU agree that online assessments are delivered and managed well.

 

 

 

 

 

Significantly more students at AU never work online with others as part of their course.

 

 

 

 

 

Significantly more students at AU never use a polling device or online quiz to give answers in class as part of their course.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Findings of the Digital Insights survey running at AU for the second time!

Last year Aberystwyth University took part in the pilot of JISC Student Digital Experience Tracker – an online survey designed by JISC to collect information about students’ expectations and experiences of technology. The 2017/18 pilot has led to a new Jisc service now called Digital Experience Insights.

Digital Insights survey for students run at AU in January 2019. We were very excited about running this survey for the second time, as it enabled us to compare the findings with last year’s result and track our progress on digital provisions.

Below you will see a short summary of some of the key findings. If you wish to discuss them further or get more information on the project, please contact us at elearning@aber.ac.uk.

As you may be aware the Digital Experience Insights survey comes with a benchmarking data from other Higher Education institutions in our sector. The benchmarking data has been now made available and we will share it with you in the next Digital Insights post.

If you wish to read about AU experience of running Digital Insights in academic year 2017/18, take a look at the article published on Jisc website or browse through our previous posts:


Digital Experience Insights 2018/19

 

WiFi

Students’ satisfaction with WiFi increased by 7.3% in comparison to last year’s survey. Although WiFi is still the most common theme in students comment, the number of comments regarding WiFi decreased from 66 last year to 38 this year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

E-books & E-journals

7.7% less students responded that they have access to e-books and journals whenever they need them, this issue has been also mentioned in 19 of students’ comments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blackboard
The issue regarding a navigation in Blackboard seemed to improve. There were only 3 comments about this issue in comparison to 20 last year and 8.2% increase in the question on Blackboard navigation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*The question wording has changed since the 2017/18 survey which could have impacted the ratings.

 

Security
Students are more satisfied with the provisions regarding security issues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mobile devices
The use of smartphone to support learning increased slightly. In the comments, students talked about the need of core services such as Panopto and Blackboard being mobile friendly and about usefulness of apps helping them with their studies. Interestingly, when asked whether they would prefer to be allowed to use their own mobile devices in class only 49% answered ‘At any time’, 45.4% answered ‘Only to carry out class activities’ and 5.6% ‘None of the time’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Use of technology
There is a shift towards using more technology, there were quite a few comments about staff needing more training on the use of technology and there was an increase of nearly 10% of students wanting more technology to be used on their course.

 

 

 

How can we help you with the Blank Course Copy?

Level 2 and Level 3 Blackboard modules for 2019/20 academic year will be created with no content. Previously, year by year the content was automatically copied over for all Blackboard modules.

Preparing the Level 2 and Level 3 modules for the next year will require the module co-ordinators to copy over existing and/or upload new material into the new iteration of their module. All modules will contain an agreed departmental menu template that content will need to be organised under.

We would like to assist staff with preparing their modules as much as we can. We are happy to come to your office or for you to come and visit us. If you would like to book an appointment with a member of the E-learning Group, please let us know a convenient time and place where you would like to meet.

We have prepared these FAQs with detailed guideline on copying different elements on Blackboard and produced the information help sheet below.

We look forward to work closely with all staff and supporting you in any convenient for you way.

 

Using Virtual Reality (VR) in Mental Health

Although individuals using VR are conscious of their experience not being real, the physical and psychological responses induced by it are similar to those experienced in real life scenarios.

Using VR in mental health treatment opens up possibilities of working through responses to problematic stimulus without having to face them in a real life. There is an obvious, practical benefit to it; for example, creating a flight simulation for an individual struggling with phobia of flying is a much easier solution that arranging an actual flight.

Additionally, it allows the therapist to work not only based on the patient’s account but to actually observe their responses. Both therapist and the patient have a control over the stimuli making the treatment potentially safer both physically and psychologically.

‘VR has the potential to transform the assessment, understanding and treatment of mental health problems’ (Freeman, et al., p. 2392). It has been used for assessment and treatment of phobias, anxiety, PTSD, addiction, paranoia, eating disorders and autism. For example, a VR app created at Tulane School of Social Work prevents drug and alcohol relapse in patients ‘by practicing self-control and awareness skills in realistic simulations where drugs and alcohol are present’ (Leatham, 2018, para.13).

Gareth Norris and Rachel Rahman from the Psychology department at Aberystwyth University in collaboration with colleagues in Computer Science have recently done a pilot research project using VR to look at its potential for reminiscing in older adults.

The E-learning Group has acquired virtual reality (VR) headsets and camera for staff to use in teaching and research. You can create immersive learning environments or use already existing VR materials. Book the VR headsets and camera from the library loan stock.

 

References:

Farnsworth, B. (2018, May 1). The Future of Therapy – VR and Biometrics. Retrieved from https://imotions.com/blog/vr-therapy-future-biometrics/

Freeman, D. & Freeman, J. (2017, March 22). Why virtual reality could be a mental health gamechanger. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2017/mar/22/why-virtual-reality-could-be-a-mental-health-gamechanger

Freeman, D., Reeve. S., Robinson, A., Ehlers, A., Clark, D., Spanlang, B. & Slater, M. (2017). Virtual reality in the assessment, understanding, and treatment of mental health disorders. Psychological Medicine, 47 (2393-2400).

Leatham, J. (2018, June 22). How VR is helping Children with Autism Navigate the World around Them. Retrieved from https://www.vrfitnessinsider.com/how-vr-is-helping-children-with-autism-navigate-the-world-around-them/

 

Can I use polling software for Distance Learners?

Following the post on using polling software for teaching we received a query about the feasibility of using polling software such as PollEverywhere or Mentimeter for Distance Learners’ modules.

Please find below the results of our testing and research.

Mentimeter

As every presentation has a different code to access the poll, you can vote even when the presentation is not displayed. However, if not used for live voting, each presentation should only contain one slide. If the presentation includes two or more slides (and it is not displayed by the poll’s author) the participants will only be able to access the first slide.

PollEverywhere

  • PollEverywhere has a function that allows to group questions/polls and change them into a survey which can be shared and filled in by participants in their own time. However you have to make the survey ‘active’ and only one presentation can be active at the time (https://www.polleverywhere.com/faq question: Can I combine multiple questions (polls) into a survey?)
  • There are other online surveys’ tools such as Google Forms or Wufoo. They can be used by unlimited number of participants (which is not the case with PollEverywhere, the limit with the free plan is 25 responders). However, these tools do not have such a variety of questions (particularly in comparison to PollEverywhere) and are not as visually attractive.

Alternative to all above are Blackboard tests or surveys.

Sharing surveys with students:

The link to any of the online surveys could be shared with students via e-mail, announcement or link in the content area on Blackboard (in case of PollEverywhere you can only share one survey at the time, the ‘active’ one).

Sharing results with students:

The actual results’ reporting tools in Mentimeter and PollEverywhere are not available with the free plan. You could share the results with students by taking screenshots of the graphs with responses and putting them up as an image, item or one of the slides in a PowerPoint presentation on Blackboard.

In both, Google Forms and Wufoo you can download the results to Excel. However, if wanting to present results in an accessible and visual way, it would probably be better to use the screenshot method described above. When using Blackboard tests or surveys, you can view the statistics via Grade Centre and either download them to Excel or save them as pdf document.

If you have any questions or suggestion, please do not hesitate to share them with us.

 

Webinar: Instilling Self-Regulation in Learners & Using Sway for Online Learning

Academy Showcase is a space for sharing good practise among staff from Aberystwyth, Bangor and other Higher Education institutions. Every year we run two sessions with two presentations each, one from Aber and one from Bangor. Anybody can join Academy Showcase from their own machines using the link available here

We look forward this year’s presentations and we hope some of you will be able to join us.

 


20 March 2019 at 1pm -2pm

Instilling Self-Regulation in Learners by Dr Simon Payne (Aberystwyth)

We asked AU students and staff questions such as, “Why do students underachieve or even drop out?,” “What distractions do students face that interfere with their best intentions to study and improve?,” and “What happens to ‘turn students off’ from learning and striving to achieve?” The answers were remarkably similar from both groups, suggesting agreement on the problem and potential alignment on solutions. Self-regulation is the voluntary control of impulses which can facilitate or hinder us from achieving our goals. Hence, self-regulation includes the ability to regulate cognitive processes and activities, e.g. to plan, monitor and reflect on problem solving activities. Self-regulation also includes the control of one’s competing/conflicting motivational and emotional impulses and processes, e.g., overcoming social anxiety to contribute in class. Clearly, the development of self-regulation skills will help students achieve their objectives for entering HE. This presentation will provide techniques for tutors to help their students and tutees to be better self-regulators, and introduce and rationalise an ambitious AU-wide programme of studies that target student self-regulation ability.


Using Sway for Online Learning by Helen Munro (Bangor)

 

Sessions will be provided in English.

Polling software: Mentimeter and Poll Everywhere

The E-leaning Group is looking into how polling software can be used in lectures and seminars. Polling software is a great way to increase classroom engagement as it provides interactive presentations ranging from multiple choice questions to live word clouds. With their personal devices (such as mobiles, tablets etc.), students will be able to answer questions, vote and ask queries,which will appear on the presentation slides.  The recent Digital Insights survey, overseen by Information Services, showed that fifty-seven percent of lectures already use some sort of polling software in the classroom.

Some examples of positive comments from students include:

 “Provided quick feedback on what lecture we needed help with”

“Online poll, on parts of the subject asking the class how much they understood. This made it so people put how they actually felt as they didn’t have to speak in class”

“Polls in lecturers keep the students interested”

“It was fun last year when we did online quizzes in the lecture, interactive with each other and then went through the answers question by question on the big screen”

“Method of reviewing prescribed reading material”

The E-Learning Group has found Mentimeter and Poll Everywhere to be especially accessible and reliable:

  • Mentimeter is best used for lectures with larger audiences as it has no limit on participants. With Mentimeter you can create: quick slides, questions and quizzes. There is no limit on the number of quick slides, however with the free version you only be able to create two questions and five quizzes.
  • Poll Everywhere caps its audience at twenty-five so can best work in seminars and workshops. Poll Everywhere provides much of what Mentimeter does with the benefit of having no limit on the number of questions/activities.

There is a guide to creating presentations with both Mentimeter and Poll Everywhere available on our webpages.

AU Digital experience insights survey for teaching staff 2018-19 now open

We have recently closed the Digital Experience Insights surveys for students where we asked about their experiences of digital learning and digital services. We would also like to know how teaching staff experience these services.

There are only about 20 questions that ask about your digital teaching methods and your experience of our digital provision. Please spare ten minutes and have your say so we can improve the digital experience for our staff and students.

https://staffinsights2019.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/aberystwyth-univeristy

Digital Experience Insights 2018-19: How do you rate technology at Aberystwyth University?

For the second time Aberystwyth is taking part in the Digital Experience Insights project aiming to explore our students’ experiences of technology. The project is based on online surveys designed by Jisc and used by different institutions across UK.

It allows us to get better insights on how students use technology and benchmark our results against other HE intuitions in our sector.

We would greatly appreciate your help in promoting this survey to all students: