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.

 

 

 

Padlet

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been taking a FutureLearn course called Using Technology in Evidence-Based Teaching and Learning. It’s run by the Chartered College of Teaching and focuses on the use of learning technologies in primary and secondary education. Although the context is different to higher education, it’s been a really interesting and enlightening course. It’s been useful to find out more about the education system that our students have come from, and it’s also good to find out about different tools and technologies that we may not use so much in universities.

Screenshot of a Padlet board

One of the tools that teachers in school use a lot is called Padlet. We know that Padlet is used in universities and there may be Padlet users amongst our readers. However, it wasn’t something that I’d used much, so I decided to take a look at it.

Padlet (https://padlet.com/) describes itself as ‘productivity software’ which makes collaboration easier. It’s designed around the idea of a wall or a board, to which you and users can add cards or notes. The cards can contain text, images, links, videos and files.

To create a Padlet board you will need to create an account – you can have a free account, which provides you 3 boards and an upload of 10Mb. You will also see adverts on this free version. You can sign-in with Google or create your own account. Students can contribute to the boards without creating an account, although if you want to know what who has posted what they will need to set-up an account. Boards can be private or public, and you can control who you invite to post to the boards. (Have a look at our post on polling software and privacy considerations)

There seem to be two uses that are obvious for Padlet – the first is for curation or research type activities, and the second is for collecting feedback for students.

You can find lots of case studies of schools, colleges and universities using Padlet to allow students to collaboratively collect resources and materials. This could be for group presentations and projects or for seminar preparation. A nice example is with Foundation Year Psychology undergraduates at University of Sussex (https://journals.gre.ac.uk/index.php/compass/article/view/714)

Many of us may also have seen Padlets used to facilitate interaction in lectures or presentations. Students can post up their questions to a Padlet wall during a lecture allowing the lecturer to view comments and questions. Used in this way, Padlet has some of the same tools as other polling software. While it doesn’t allow participants to answer questions, it’s a great way of collecting text-based responses. And these can be used later, or archived for future reference.

There’s a very useful set of resources from University of Derby (https://digitalhandbook.wp.derby.ac.uk/menu/toolbox/padlet/). Do be aware that this contains information specific to Derby staff, but you should find the ideas useful. If you’re already a Padlet users, do get in touch; we’re always looking for guest bloggers. Also, you may want to consider putting in a paper proposal for July’s Learning and Teaching conference.

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/

 

Mini Conference: Inclusive Education, Wednesday 10th April, 1pm

Cynhadledd Fer Mini Conference

On Wednesday 10th April, at 2pm, the E-learning Group will be hosting this year’s Academy Mini Conference. The Mini Conference is a smaller version of our Annual Learning and Teaching Conference which allows us to pull together a series of presentations and workshops around a particular learning and teaching topic. This year the Mini Conference has the theme of Inclusive Education.

We’re excited to confirm our programme for the afternoon:

These presentations will offer a series of practical tips and tricks that will help make your learning environments and documents more inclusive. In addition to this, we’ll be looking at how these strategies might be used in practice and within a teaching context.

We hope that you’ll be able to join us for this event. Places at the Mini Conference are limited so please book your place via this booking page.

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.

 

Online polling services and privacy issues

If you’ve already read part one of this series, you’ll know how useful online polling services are to engaging students actively in the classroom (if you haven’t – take a look).

As well as selecting a tool to suit your teaching and learning activity, you also need to take a look at the Privacy Policy of the service you’re interested in. This will help you to understand what:

  • personal data the company in question is collecting about you;
  • what personal data your students may be required to give;
  • information on how your presentations are stored;
  • how and where your data is kept.

https://flic.kr/p/8ouBhQ

Most companies make their Privacy Policy pretty easy to find (on most sites there was a link at the bottom of the homepage under the heading Privacy).

Here are our top tips when using an online polling tool:

  1. We found the Terms and Conditions of most services are fairly short and easy to understand – some even provided an ‘at a glance’ summary of main points.
  2. In the majority of cases, students are not required to create accounts or register for a service to take part in a polling activity. This means that for students, the only information that is collected about them would be details of the browser / device etc they used to access the poll. And this won’t be linked to their name or email address.
  3. In all cases, staff need to register with a service to create and display polls. For the majority of the services, you can either create a username and password, or link to an existing account (such as Google or Facebook).
    1. If you are creating your own account, don’t use your AU password as the password to the polling service. Follow our tips to create a strong, separate password (https://faqs.aber.ac.uk/index.php?id=25)
    2. If you are using an existing account, be aware of the data that may be shared between the two services. Your Facebook or Google account will contain lots of information about you that you may not want to be shared. You may want to look at the settings for the connection to make sure that you are happy with the level of data shared.
  4. Have a look at the rights you have to your polls. Some services allow other users to browse and share presentations, so you may want to consider the visibility of your presentations.
  5. Consider which third parties your data is shared with. We strongly recommend that you choose a service where the data is either based in the EU or where the company has the EU-US Privacy Shield standard in place. And check your preferences – do you want to opt-out of mailing lists, advertising etc.

At present, AU does not have a site licence for an online polling service, so when signing up for one of these services you are signing up as an individual, rather than as a representative of, or on behalf of, AU.

Choosing an online polling tool

Image of students using polling handsets

https://flic.kr/p/9wNtHp

In-class polling or voting is great way to increase student engagement and interactivity in the classroom (for example see: Shaw et al, 2015; Boyle and Nicol 2003; Habel and Stubbs, 2014; Stratling, 2015). It is used widely in both higher and further education, and number of staff at AU make use of in-class polling on a regular basis. In addition to physical Qwizdom handsets available in loan stock, staff are more and more using online polling services such as Poll Everywhere, Socrative and Mentimeter (amongst others). These services allow students to use their own devices (such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops) to take part in polls, give feedback, and ask questions.

The E-learning Group can provide a wide range of information and support for anyone interested in using polling in their teaching. This ranges from advice on how to embed polling into your teaching practice successfully, to practical help on creating and using polls in the classroom.

At present AU doesn’t offer a centrally supported online polling tool for mobile devices. However, there are a wide range of services available, many with free or trial versions. This blog post is designed to help you assess which tool suits you and your students’ best.

  1. What do you want to do? As with all learning technology implementation, the first question you need to ask is ‘what do I want my students to do?’ The service you select will depend on the answer you have. For example, if you want your students to submit questions, or provide written feedback, look for a service that offers more than multiple choice questions.
  2. How many students will be in the class? Many of the free or limited versions of paid-for software have a limit on the number of students they can be used it. Look carefully at the details of what the free version does or doesn’t include.
  3. We also strongly recommend that you look at the Privacy Policy of the service to ensure you know what personal data is collected about you and your students (have a look at our blog post on this issue).

The E-learning Group has produced some information on some services which you may want to look at.

Once you have decided on which service you are using, here’s some of our top tips on successfully using voting in the classroom

  1. Think about your question/s. There’s lots of resources on designing good questions, particularly multiple choice questions. Don’t feel that you have to ask a question that has a correct or incorrect answer. Sometimes a question that sparks debate or shows the breadth of opinions on a subject can be useful.
  2. Using polling as a discussion starter. There are a variety of ways that you can use polling and group discussions together – two popular ways are Peer Instruction (especially the work of Eric Mazur) or Class-Wide Instruction (Dufresne, 1996)
  3. Practice. Have a practice before the session so that you are comfortable and familiar with using the questions and displaying the results. You can do this from your office using a mobile device such as a tablet or mobile phone.
  4. Make time in the lecture. If you are using polling activities in the classroom, make sure you leave enough time to give students to access on their devices, think about the answers and respond. You may also need time to correct misunderstandings or explain the answers.
  5. Let your students know in advance. Make sure that your students know to bring their devices and have them available in class. You can do this using the announcement function in Blackboard. You can also provide links to relevant FAQs such as how to connect to the AU wifi (Android: https://faqs.aber.ac.uk/index.php?id=692, Windows: https://faqs.aber.ac.uk/index.php?id=870, iOS: https://faqs.aber.ac.uk/index.php?id=700 )

There are a whole range of opportunities for using polling – from collecting information on how much the students know at the start of a module, to finding out what topics you need to cover in a revision session. You can also collect opinions, gain feedback on how the lecture is going, or collect anonymous questions. If you’re using polling in your teaching get in touch and tell us more – we may even feature your work on the blog!

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.