Following on from Tuesday’s opening presentation, Dr. Antonella Liuzzo Scorpo and Dr. Jamie Wood repeated their introduction to Xerte, its potential and its positive reception so far – to learn more about this, please take a look at my previous blog post.
Dr. Antonella Liuzzo Scorpo opening with the introductory presentation. Photo by Paige Chapman.
This was followed by Dr. Sarah Atkinson and Adam Bailey, of the University of Brighton’s MA Art, Design, and Media module, accompanied by a live feed of two of their students who shared their experiences with using Xerte at a Masters Degree level. The intriguing module is studied completely online, with many of the lectures streamed through a video-chat program. Very similar to Making Digital History, the MA module at Brighton aims to increase digital literacy through programs such as Xerte. Xerte was optional here, but three of the students on the course decided to use it in their task to create a learning object to teach others. The feedback from the students on this course varied slightly from that on Making Digital History, and it was mentioned that many of the students underestimated the time needed to put together a Xerte object. It was also said that though it has design potential, its current appearance is perhaps not appealing to everyone – but there’s still plenty of potential for future success!
Dr. Sarah Atkinson and Adam Bailey opening their presentation. Photo by Paige Chapman
Sue Watling compiled a blog post about issues with copyright authority, which was also discussed during the workshop. Bob Ridge-Stearn, head of E-learning at Newman University raised this point with the audience during his presentation: many of his students had used images without checking for simple copyright violation, though many of the images they used could have been taken by the students themselves. It may be easier for a student to simply go onto Google images and get the first representative picture, but since many Xerte objects are published, it is best done the “old fashioned” (and much more genuine) way. Bob also explained that the course would incorporate some sort of copyright session alongside the Xerte sessions to make sure that students are aware of such issues.
Bob Ridge-Stearn during his presentation. Photo by Paige Chapman
My overriding response to the day is not identical to the last event; and I was certainly made aware of a wider number of issues concerning Xerte. Although these are small issues which could be solved by a couple more Xerte training sessions; teaching the students how to use more advanced Xerte tools so they can output more complex, impressive Xerte projects would make the software more rewarding and interesting for all who use it. It was praised as a good way of making digital learning materials, though was also held in less regard than PowerPoint. I stand by the point that the two are not meant to be similar; Xerte is far more useful at making digital objects for learning purposes than PowerPoint is, and challenges users to expand their digital literacy to a far greater extent.
The hands on Xerte session similar to that of Tuesday 24th June. Photo by Paige Chapman
See also this blog by Martin Cooke about the workshop.
‘Talking Xerte’ events are crucial to the curation of a project such as Making Digital History, and I attended two of these myself on 24th and 26th June. The former enabled Xerte pioneers to show what they have achieved; the problems they have encountered; and any future plans for their software. The software is still something of a “work in progress” but its vast potential was demonstrated by even the least experienced of users during this workshop. Dr. Antonella Liuzzo Scorpo and Dr. Jamie Wood took to the stage first; Making Digital History being just one of the projects on which they have collaborated. They also work together on one of Lincoln’s History BA modules, ‘East Meets West’, a first year module which introduces Xerte as an assessed group project; it ran for the first time in the 2013/14 year and attained a 100% pass rate on the Xerte assessment. Their presentation was a brief introduction, giving an overview of how the History Faculty at Lincoln is using Xerte, laying down one of the major underlying themes for the day: the advancement of students’ digital literacy.
Dr. Jamie Wood and Dr. Antonella Liuzzo Scorpo during their introduction presentation. Photo by Chris Rollinson. (http://bit.ly/1s3DFy8)
Dr. David Lewis of the Faculty of Biological Sciences and two of his undergraduate students: Alex Byrne and Chloe Choppen, followed this point perfectly with their presentation. It was mentioned that many who study science at degree level may not go on to do a scientific career; so the use of Xerte gives students more evidence of valuable transferable skills to put on their CVs. The same can be said for any subject, History included, that graduates may not find employment linked directly to their BA degree subject, so a varied and challenging course with different assessments (such as the use of Xerte) is a huge bonus. Alex and Chloe have also assisted in the construction of a coherent and thorough Guide Book for the Xerte tool to give new users clear instruction and support. They also gave feedback on Xerte from a student’s perspective, concerning the central skills which can be gained from it: self reflection; time management; teamwork etc. The pair offered extensive feedback on Xerte itself ranging from its positive interactivity to its limited formatting potential.
Dr. David Lewis opening his presentation. Photo by Chris Rollinson (http://bit.ly/1kiUtfF)
Two of the Making Digital History ambassadors, Paige Chapman and Diane Ranyard, also presented at the event. Both have done sterling work in helping grow Xerte in the History Faculty. They are working on bringing important documents to life with Xerte, one of which is the rather lengthy style guide, which has been condensed into an easy-to-use Xerte object. They also pointed out that Xerte made a very good revision source because of its interactivity.
Diane (Left) and Paige (Right) presenting at the event. Photo by Chris Rollinson. (http://bit.ly/TFsyPN)
At the end of the day there was also a chance for the attendees to try their hand at Xerte for themselves. Some had never used it before but the outcome and feedback was all rather positive with regards to Xerte. There were some comments such as ‘it is a bit clunky’, or that ‘the videos don’t load properly’, but there was also a large amount of positive feedback from first time users. For many, Xerte gave the impression of a ‘trial and error’ program, many started by following the guidelines, but carried on without them once they had a feel for the program. On a positive note, it was also mentioned that Xerte was ‘more straight forward than expected’. Overall, Xerte is an extremely useful piece of software to create learning materials and to increase digital literacy; it is a very easy program to understand having learnt the basics, and its developers will be working hard to ensure any problems raised in feedback will be rectified.
Dr. Cairo Hickman (Left) and Sue Watling (Right) using Xerte. Photo by Chris Rollinson. (http://bit.ly/1t289oz)
In my opinion, for it to be used to its potential in university assessments it is important to introduce students to it early on. This gives them the chance to jump the ‘daunting’ hurdle and move on to create even better objects in later assessments.
As you all know the internet is a widely used tool for both teaching and learning. It is common for students to participate in online courses due to their ease and flexibility, however; recently one type has become increasingly popular, a Massively Open Online Course (MOOC). A MOOC is very similar to any other online course, but it has open access to unlimited participants (regardless of their level), interactive elements, and in most cases, is free.
The MOOC which I took part in was called the ‘Archaeology of Portus: exploring the lost harbour of ancient Rome’ which was set up archaeologists from the University of Southampton. The course follows the archaeological discoveries found on the Portus Project and how these show a glimpse of life in Portus, one of the main ports of ancient Rome. Portus was the ‘hub’ that connected Rome to the rest of the Mediterranean. It was a bustling place and has been one of the best preserved areas, and thus this gives historians a clear insight into Roman society.
The MOOC includes a variety of resources ranging from videos, quizzes, articles, maps and photographs and therefore, the participant is very involved with the course. The highlight of the Archaeology of Portus MOOC was the interactive elements to it. The regular videos embedded you into the project and helped make it seem very real. As well as this, the quizzes were very helpful to testing your knowledge at the end of the week to ensure that you took in the information. What I enjoyed most about this MOOC was that it linked closely to social media platforms such as their Flickr, Twitter and blog.
Example of interactivity in the MOOC
Even though the MOOC had the opportunity for discussion via chats and social media, I felt that it lacked real in depth discussions. An open forum for participants to ask questions about Portus would help the MOOC to become more engaging for the students. I also thought that the course began very simply which was not challenging enough for me personally, but this is understandable due to the course being open to anybody at any level.
I think MOOC’s are hugely beneficial to those who may want to study in their own time you only need to dedicate a few hours a week to each one. Personally, I would use them again if there was a topic I was fascinated by. Additionally, I would use one if it was useful in my degree to providing additional background knowledge.
If you are interested in MOOC’s and would like to see an extensive list of those available, click here.