Showcasing e-Learning tools and their applications

I noticed that over on the Overdue Ideas blog, the Library IT team at Imperial College are soon going to be running sessions where library staff can test of a variety of e-Learning hardware applications within a risk-free environment.

At the University of Bath, we have recently reworked our e-Learning Staff Development programme to include more diverse areas of interest, such as the use of SMS/texting to support large group teaching and the use of Skype to support distance learners. This, in the main, has been disseminated through the e-Learning Seminar Series. In addition, we beginning to use an Audience Response System within all e-Learning staff development seminars and workshops, not only as a means to increase (further) interactivity within sessions, but also as a means of showcasing new such technologies.

I like the approach that the Library IT team are taking at Imperial College. Perhaps, the might be done through the “What can e-Learning do for me?” sessions during semester 1, 2008/2009. In addition, might it be worth running some very informal drop-in sessions where colleagues can drop by and test out some of the technologies in an informal enviroment? I remember the Learning Support team doing something similar earlier on in the summer.

QR Codes

There seems to be a bit of a buzz building up around QR ["Quick Response"] codes at the University of Bath, so Ithought that I’d make a posting highlighting of the areas of it that I find interesting.

Simply put, a QR Code is an extension of a barcode that you might see on a variety of products available in any shop. QR Codes, a matrix code or 2D bar code, have been made popular in Japan were they are used in a number of different contexts. It is possible to embed a website adddress, a mobile phone number or just plain text in a QR Code.

QR CodeThe QR Code on the left is an example of one, and will take you to my profile page on the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Office website. The code itself was generated by a QR code Generator, an example of which is provided by Kaywa. As with any such code, you need access to a QR Code reader, such as the one (once again) provided by Kaywa. More commonly however, QR Code readers can be installed on a variety of mobile phones where the software utlises the camera on a particular phone. For example, I’ve got QuickMark installed on my Nokia E65 mobile phone, which is based on a Symbian 60 OS. However, readers are also available for other mobile phone platforms suchas Windows Mobile 6.

QR Code were intially used for “tracking parts in vehicle manufacturing” [Wikipedia.org], but are now entering the mainstream. For example, a QR could be put on a t-shirt as a marketing tool. Or on a business card to encourage people to visit a particular website – I’m thinking that I should have done this when I got my last batch printed! QR Codes have begun to penetrate the UK retail market too as one blogger has already observed. Ralph Lauren have also jumped on the bandwagon. It is creating a link between the real and virtual worlds.

The Marketing applications of QR Codes are obviously. But what are some of the learning and teaching applications?

  • The e-Learning team have begun to develop in-house, a QR Code generator which automatically appeands a QR Code to the bottom of any Moodle course page that is printed out. This in turn links back to the URL of the page that was printed out. I’ve recently installed the Opera Mobile browser on my phone, and it renders normal websites perfectly. A QR Code could allow students to access Moodle courses very quickly and easily on their handheld device.
  • For e-Learning seminars and workshops, the team have been encouraged to put QR codes on PowerPoint slides used for presentations. This could then be extended to lecturers putting QR Codes in the slides that they use for teaching.

Admittedly, QR codes can look like a really badly pixelised image. As such, the first step will be about raising awareness is to what they are.

Update [1]: Roger Smolski has just alerted me to a QR Code-related online magazine, 2d code. Head there for up-to-date news and analysis.

Update [2]: A variety of uses of QR Codes in different contexts have been showcased on Flickr by mobiusmobile.

Audience Response Systems (ARS)

I’ve recently been given Project Lead responsibility for our institutional pilot of an Audience Response System (ARS) by TurningPoint during the 2008/2009 academic year. TurningPoint is an easy-to-use and interactive ARS which can be used increase levels of student engagement and motivation in a face-to-face learning and teaching context.

An ARS consists of set of small, handheld gadgets [usually called "clickers"] that allow students to participate in lecturers, seminars and tutorials by submitting responses to questions and viewing the responses as a graph.

Given that I’ve recently been on annual leave, I haven’t made as much progress on the project as I would have liked. However, I have begun to work up a project support blog at http://blogs.bath.ac.uk/ars/. For further information, do get in touch with me at e-learning@bath.ac.uk.

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