Following an update by Talis to the resource/reading list deployment tool for all virtual learning environments, Digital Learning have recently updated the Talis Aspire Resource Management deployment tool within Learning Space. How you add your resource lists in Learning Space for Study Block 1 23/24 onwards has changed.
The update does not affect new or existing resource lists created in Talis and will not alter the student user experience when using resource lists in Learning Space.
As a result of the update there is now a new Talis resource list deployment tool within Learning Space that you will need to use to add your existing lists to modules for Study Block 1 23/24 onwards. The update includes a small change to how staff add lists, with an updated setup menu and a change of icon.
What about lists in previous modules?
The old Talis resource list deployment tool will remain, this will allow access to lists within previous modules as normal, no action is necessary. However, lists added using the old deployment tool should not be imported into any modules for Study Block 1 23/24 onwards.
Within your module; in the top-right of the screen toggle on editing.
Within a section click ‘Add an activity or resource’.
Select ‘New Talis Resource List’ from the activity and resource selection menu.
Click the ‘Select content’ button. The list for the module should automatically appear but if it doesn’t you can use the Talis search facility to find it.
Once you have the correct list click the ‘Embed List’ button to the right of the list to add it within your module. If you are embedding sections from the list, for example weekly reading, you can do that by clicking ‘Select Section’ then embed the section you need.
Click ‘Save and return to module’ once you are done.
Importing old lists
You shouldn’t import lists from older modules. If you wish to reuse content you still can, there are two options when importing:
Select only the elements you need when exporting and exclude the old Talis resource list. This is the recommend method if you don’t need everything in the module.
Import everything and selectively delete any activities or resources you don’t need including the old Talis resource list.
For further support with Learning Space, please get in touch with the Digital Learning Team via firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, please refer to the numerous help guides found on our Knowledge Base.
It’s been great getting feedback on the new Learning Space design since we upgraded on the 4th. We’ve been taking on board any feedback and answering questions where they’ve arisen. As a result we figured it could be useful to share some tips and tricks.
Customising your view of modules
Following the recent upgrade to Learning Space the guidance below shows you how to access, organise and sort your modules for easy access.
Access my modules
To access your modules, click the Learning Spacelogo (top left).
This will take you to My Modules which is effectively the new home page.
Once on your My Modules page there are a number of filters that you can use to find the modules you are looking for.
The default view in My Modules displays ‘All’ courses that you are subscribed on but can easily be filtered to show courses that are ‘In progress’, ‘Future’, ‘Past’ or ‘Starred’.
To apply a filter, click ‘All’ and select the option you want. This will filter out other courses making it easy to locate the courses you are looking for.
Search for a module
Enter the name of a course into the Search box to retrieve it.
You have the option to sort courses on your My Modules page by name or last accessed.
If you are enrolled on lots of courses the ‘Star’ option is a great feature to use to reduce the number of courses displayed on your My Modules page. You can ‘Star’ any courses that you are enrolled on regardless of whether they are in progress, future or past, so it’s a useful option if you need regular access to specific courses.
To ‘star’ a course, click the 3-dot icon and select ‘star this course’.
Note: If your courses are displayed in Card view, the icon will be in the bottom right corner of the tile, if in List view it will be at the end of the row.
An important thing to point out if you do use the ‘Star’ option, is that you will need to ‘Star’ all courses that you want to appear in my Modules as only ‘Starred’ courses will be displayed.
Customise your module thumbnail image
Learning Space now allows you to set images that are visible in staff and student My Module pages.
Style of Image We suggest that you avoid any busy images – simpler images will often be more effective.
Copyright Ensure you own copyright for the image you use or that it is available under a suitable licence e.g. Creative Commons.
Relevance Make sure the image is relevant to your module so as not to confuse staff or students.
File Size Ensure your image isn’t too large in terms of file size or resolution and is appropriate for your module. Images should have a minimum width of 1024 pixels but no more than 2000 pixels
Aspect Ratio Images should have a 2.7 : 1 aspect ratio. The width of the image should be about 2.7 times the height. You can achieve this using the ‘crop’ tool using photoshop or similar applications. If your image is taller or shorter it might get cut off at the bottom or side.
How to change the thumbnail
If you are a member of staff and wish to do this follow this steps
Go into one of your modules and turn edit mode on
Go to settings
Upload an image in the Module Summary Files section under Description.
Sample thumbnail image
You can use the following image as a template / guide for size and dimensions from which to create your own module thumbnail. Right click to save a copy of it. The size is 1350px x 500px
On July 10th 2023, Panopto will go live for Falmouth University.
At Falmouth we have had a long-running gap in our digital toolset for a dedicated video and audio hosting platform that provides proper integration with Learning Space and Falmouth Learn, and can facilitate student submissions without resorting to external tools
Panopto is the market leading platform in this space, serving around 80% of universities in the UK. You may know it from other institutions as a lecture capture solution, but Falmouth will not be implementing lecture capture. We are adopting it purely as a video hosting platform to replace (and upgrade) Microsoft Stream, and to reduce reliance on external tools like Youtube and Vimeo.
For everyday users
Everyday users will benefit from Panopto’s simple, educationally-focussed user interface.
All Falmouth and FXPlus staff and Falmouth students will have a ‘My Folder’, a private folder to upload content. From here, videos can be dragged and dropped to module folders, added to playlists, or shared directly within and outside of the university.
Panopto integrates fully with the VLEs, so each module in Learning Space generates a module folder in Panopto which grants access to only the staff and students on that module. These folders inherit permissions from the VLEs, so no admin burden of asking to have staff added, and no hassle of setting sharing permissions for huge groups of students.
But don’t worry, if you need to every video, folder, playlist, and even a randomly selected group of your videos can be shared with specific users.
Panopto has an incredible search function which not only returns video titles and playlists, but also searches through the captions of every video that a user has access to and returns these results with timestamps for where the keyword has been mentioned. It even recognises written words on Powerpoint slides and automatically generates video chapters which are also returned in searches.
Panopto has far superior built-in editing capabilities than Microsoft Stream. Videos can be top-and-tailed, middle sections can be ‘removed’, and additional videos can be inserted. All from within Panopto.
All editing is non-destructive, so the original video remains intact behind the scenes even when your edited video is live. This allows you to make different edits each year that you deliver content, or just acts peace of mind if you want to see how a video cuts together without committing to permanent damage.
Panopto offers us a great new feature where you can add quizzes to a videos -these are visible when viewed in Panopto.
The quiz options include
Multiple Choice (one correct answer)
Fill In the Blank.
These quizzes are configurable, so you can choose whether students have to get the correct answer to progress in the video, or whether you’re just gathering data on how fully they understand a concept.
Embedding Links or YouTube Videos
Panopto allows you to add links to external content through URLs at certain points through the video / audio. It is also possible to embed YouTube videos as part of your own content – something that could be useful if you wish to provide some related information.
Panopto shines in its accessibility features. Every video is automatically machine-captioned (to a higher level of accuracy than Stream) and has a much more stable interface for manually editing captions. Existing caption files can be uploaded to videos for anyone who’s already put in the work of manually correcting hours of existing content.
Custom dictionaries can be added to Panopto to recognise commonly used words, and although this will not be configured for launch, it will be investigated going forwards by the Digital Learning team.
Caption display can be adapted by end users to suit their own needs (size/colour/position of captions) and when videos are opened within Panopto captions are displayed as a transcript to the left of the video.
Panopto accepts a huge range of file formats including audio-only files which can be uploaded directly in exactly the same way as videos.
This is great news for anyone wanting to create podcast lectures (a huge time saver, and good if you don’t like to see your face) over videos, not to mention for music staff and students who can use the platform to host and share music files in exactly the same way as video, or even a combination of the two.
There is great potential for Panopto to be used at Falmouth for sharing of audio recordings and discussions / analysis to take place through the use of timestamped discussions, bookmarks or notes, a bit like often takes place on services such as SoundCloud.
Panopto isn’t just a video hosting platform, it comes complete with its own recording apps, including a downloadable app for Windows and Mac (which will be added to the Self Service Portal), as well as the browser-based Panopto Capture to bypass downloading anything at all.
These capture apps are powerful enough to record cameras, screen, microphones, computer audio, and can record multiple cameras at once if you’ve got a complex hardware setup. For any multi-input capture, end users can toggle between screens, cameras and slides while viewing the end video.
For Falmouth Online
As well as everything above, staff working on Falmouth Online courses will benefit from improved workflows with the Digital Learning team through Panopto. Videos will be added to Panopto and all work can be done on them in situ. Panopto Capture can simplify recording workflows, and the built in editing functionality (not to mention quizzes) means that most editing can be performed within Panopto.
Core course content will still be delivered inline with the production schedule and embedded into Canvas by Learning Technologists, offering all of the benefits of Panopto to your students. But Panopto’s integration with Canvas means that staff and students can share videos within Canvas forums or announcements.
It also means that amended videos could be delivered to students without involving the Digital Learning Team if a critical change needed to be made outside of enhancement windows.
Panopto for Assessment
At the time of launch Panopto will be able to facilitate student submissions, and provide a safer, more secure platform for video and audio submissions than Falmouth has had access to before.
Much like they do now with other platforms, students will be able to upload content to their ‘My Folder’ and share a link in a word/PDF document to submit to a Learning Space/Falmouth Learn assessment. In truth the greatest benefit will be when things go wrong, with better data on when videos were submitted, and the Digital Learning team will have access to students’ videos to fix issues, instead of assessed work being hidden in external tools like Youtube.
This also raises the important point of retention of student work, which will finally be possible within a unified platform instead of needing to download and store video and audio content elsewhere to conform to University regulations.
Understand how your videos are used
Panopto provides powerful statistics that can be used to better understand how and when your videos are being watched / interacted with. This provides further opportunities to improve your video content should you notice that for example all views drop off after a certain period of time – perhaps the video could be shorter or split into smaller bitesize chunks.
In a previous post, we explored the benefits of ThingLink – a very handy application available to staff at Falmouth University. It supports course teams in creating learning resources with interactive images, videos and 360° media. In this post, Digital Learning’s Hamish Adams meets Jill Weeks from the Fashion and Textiles Institute who has been using the tool to create a series of interactive workshops.
Jill is the senior technician for garment construction and has been working with students to develop their solid technical grounding in the key skills, professional practice and knowledge required for entering the fashion industry. These key skills involve nothing short of sewing machine mastery, and the motivation to use ThingLink came from the sheer size of her workload. There are seven workshops in garment creation – shirt, swimsuit, soft tailoring jacket, ski jacket, shirt dress, denim jeans and men’s tailored trousers. Each workshop can be broken down into a multitude of detailed steps that need to be executed safely and correctly by a cohort of roughly 60 students each year. And there’s only one Jill!
To tackle this, Jill has developed a set of ThingLink resources which students have been able to refer back to, again-and-again throughout their studies for the last 10 years.
What exactly are the FTI ThingLink resources?
The FTI resources are the equivalent online versions of the garment construction workshops. Each one is a series of instructional videos embedded into an image of the finished garment.
In the ThingLink below you can see the example for the Men’s Tailored Trousers. The numbered tags 1 – 10 relate to each step of the garment construction. These tags are interactive and when clicked on, play an instructional video on how to create that part of the trousers. Very simple and effective.
Jill created the videos over the course of two days using a basic point and shoot camera. She created a chart of what sequence the videos should go in and then embedded them in the background image in ThingLink. The background images of the garments were drawn up by the FTI CAD technicians so they were accurate representations of the kinds of patterns the students come across in the classroom-based workshops.
These resources have been used regularly by FTI students for the past 8 years and post-pandemic have become even more useful for students.
“They can be used as a stand-alone resource, for students to learn at their own pace or as a step-by-step aid to work alongside if they are in the workshops in person,” says Jill “and this year some students are choosing to learn some elements just from this resource alone. This just goes to show how useful they’ve been.”
The reason they work? They’re simple. Jill has taken the core skills that make up the foundation of practical knowledge for fashion students and used ThingLink to organise them in a clear and accessible way.
How do I use ThingLink?
If you are a member of staff at Falmouth University and would like to see how ThingLink can support your teaching, please get in touch with Digital Learning email@example.com We can set you up with ThingLink and provide any support you might need with media creation or utilising existing learning content.
In this article Digital Learning’s Hamish Adams takes a good look into how ThingLink can be used to organise your existing learning content, improve interactivity, extend its lifespan, free up your time AND improve student engagement. Tall order? Not at all.
Since 2020 there has been a plethora of educational technologies that claims to make things simpler and more interactive for students. A limiting factor has always been the time to learn new technologies to create resources. Bearing this in mind, ThingLink is a great user-friendly tool for easily transforming your existing learning content into long lasting, interactive resources. The platform is user-friendly enough not to eat up valuable time nor induce any tech-related anxieties. Before looking at some examples from around Falmouth University and other HE institutes, here’s a summary of what ThingLink can offer both staff and students:
What is ThingLink?
ThingLink is a web application available to staff at Falmouth University. It allows individuals to create learning resources with interactive images, videos and 360° media.
What kind of content can I create with ThingLink?
You can place tags in images, videos, 360° images and 360° videos. These tags can contain a wide range of text and media, so pretty much any existing resource you may have. A good example would be an image of a physical space that is regularly used in teaching. Insert tags with text or video guidance explaining any processes or equipment. This can then be embedded into a course module page for students to access anytime they need.
The example below was made using existing Fashion Institute resources embedded into a series of 360° images. If you wanted to try creating a similar image, basic 360° cameras are available to book from Falmouth Stores. A great starting point would be the GoPro Max. It’s easy and fun to use.
What are the benefits of using ThingLink over other tools?
ThingLink learning objects are fully responsive and work well on all devices, from small phones to large touch screens. ThingLink makes it possible for academics and support staff to offer their students engaging learning experiences outside of their physical facilities. Virtual learning spaces can be shared to Learning Space or Learn, viewed on desktop, touch screens, or VR headsets.
The platform is also flexible enough that new resources can also easily be developed using the ThingLink app on a mobile device so you can create and share resources wherever works best for you. They also provide you with a simple Statistics feature to help you understand how students interact with your resource – which tags have been accessed the most, overall views and time spent on the resource. Very handy.
Are ThingLinks accessible?
Yes. ThingLink is integrated with Microsoft’s Immersive Reader, which means all text descriptions, lessons, virtual tours, infographics, and videos created with ThingLink’s new editor now come with an integrated reading tool and automatic language translation capability. As a bonus, each ThingLink created comes with an additional version called the Accessibility Player – see the link underneath the ThingLink example on this page. This is a special viewing mode for all ThingLink resources designed to better meet WCAG web accessibility standard.
How do I use ThingLink?
If you’re a member of staff at Falmouth University and would like to see how ThingLink can support your teaching, please get in touch with Digital Learning firstname.lastname@example.org We can set you up with ThingLink and provide any support you might need with media creation or utilising existing learning content.
Thursday 18th May 2023 13:00 – 13:30 join Digital Learning for a demonstration of how ThingLink can be used and a chance to ask any questions. Register for the webinar here: An introduction to ThingLink
In response to multiple requests during the pandemic the Digital Learning Team developed a reusable template to facilitate exhibitions which has continued to be popular with staff and students thanks to its clean layout and simple use. One fantastic example, now entering its third consecutive year is the Miniatures showcase, an extra-curricular exhibition run both physically and digitally for Fine Art students and staff by Senior Lecturer Simon Clark.
This article aims to highlight the good practise of the Miniatures showcase journal and inspire future use of the Journal exhibition template in other disciplines. Journal is Falmouth University’s blogging platform, powered by an educational instance of WordPress called CampusPress. Journal is used for a variety of learning and teaching purposes across different disciplines in the University including personal scrapbooks, online portfolios, and multimedia forums.
In Simon’s own words “The Miniatures showcase is a virtual gallery featuring miniature artworks by fine art students across all 3 years (and some staff too). It supports a physical exhibition that is currently taking place in Grays Wharf gallery in Penryn.
It came about because the first miniatures exhibition we organised was postponed due to the pandemic. We decided to proceed with the exhibition virtually so that we could still celebrate the students’ work remotely during lockdown.”
Simon reflects on the benefits of continuing to run the digital showcase in parallel with the physical exhibition, now that the exhibition is in its third year and lockdown restrictions have lifted.
“…the first miniatures exhibition we organised was postponed due to the pandemic. We decided to proceed with the exhibition virtually so that we could still celebrate the students’ work remotely during lockdown.”
“We’ve continued to use the showcase to support the physical exhibition for a number of reasons.
The showcase gives students a chance to see each other’s work in the build-up to the physical exhibition. I encourage students to upload their projects before the deadline so that they can start having critical conversations about their work before it goes on public display.
The showcase also cultivates a sense of community/participation. Students can be intimidated to submit work for a public facing show, but once they see their peers uploading work, they are more inclined to want to get involved.
The showcase also allows the curators to gather all the essential info about the artworks featured in the exhibition: names, titles, materials etc…
Finally, the showcase functions as a website for the exhibition. It allows students to provide links to social media and personal websites etc, and they can also share artist statements and further information about their specific projects.
We link to the showcase via a QR code on display at the physical exhibition. Members of the public have used this to get in touch with the artists directly, and a number of sales have been agreed in this way. And once the exhibition is over, the showcase holds all the documentation of the exhibition in one place. Each year the project comes around, I use the previous year’s showcase to promote the exhibition to students.”
“We link to the showcase via a QR code on display at the physical exhibition. Members of the public have used this to get in touch with the artists directly, and a number of sales have been agreed in this way.“
It would have been easy to treat the digital showcase as a temporary solution during the pandemic, and return exclusively to the traditional physical exhibition when lockdown restrictions were lifted. But by evaluating and identifying the benefits of the showcase and continuing to run it in parallel, the digital showcase improves many aspects of the exhibition experience for organisers, artists and attendees.
Miniatures is a great example of Falmouth University’s blended approach to teaching, where successful online practises which were devised and piloted during the pandemic have been combined with traditional teaching to improve experiences for everyone involved.
The Exhibition Journal template is currently used in a number of Fine Art and Architecture courses for internal exhibitions and shows, providing an online space where finished or in progress work can be shared or displayed within a class, a course or beyond.
Get in touch with the Digital Learning Team if you’re keen to learn more or incorporate an online exhibition into your teaching.
This week 3 members of Digital Learning, Roo Pescod, Dave Pollard and Robert Stillwell headed to Birmingham to attend the 2023 JISC Digifest conference.
This year AI is was a prominent theme given the recent hype surrounding chatGPT and the concerns about it’s potential to have significant impact both positively and negatively. There has been a recent scramble around the sector to improve tools that detect plagiarism in order to mitigate an anticipated increase in use of AI created content within assessment submissions.
The keynote on day 1 was an inspiring talk by Inma Martinez who is a leading authority in the fields of digital technology and machine intelligence actively working as an advisor to business and government internationally. She confidently demonstrated the breadth of her knowledge and expertise through her talk.
There is understandably a lot of anxiety about the potential impacts of AI within both society along with our field of education. Martinez began by discussing the way chatGPT had been irresponsibly unleashed online bypassing all the usual ethical rules of AI testing. In her opinion this was done intentionally by silicon valley to create hype around AI technologies which it certainly has succeeded in doing. She highlighted a number of the issues around chatGPT including the fact it was It was an unfinished system and contained significant bias.
Martinez then continued with a more positive reminder of the fundamentals of what AI can offer and why it could have such significant positive impacts for humanity – namely it’s ability to identify patterns within huge data sets, something well beyond human capability. Then followed a reminder about what AI’s weakness and why humans partnering with AI systems is key – tacit knowledge, situation knowledge and experience.
The talk then moved into a discussion about the potential opportunities that AI could afford education. Utilising it’s strength in identify patterns through large data sets it was highlighted that AI could be used to identify not only struggling students but help support them in their areas of weakness in ways that suit their individual needs or preferences. Of course in order for this to be possible requires much progress to be made in terms of learning analytics and data quality.
As a team, a significant part of our remit in Digital Learning at Falmouth is online course development. This is another area that AI could have implications for – identifying areas of courses that could be improved and making suggestions for those improvements. AI also offers the potential to create smart content to optimise the way you teach and how students are learning. It could be possible for every student to have content delivered to them in a personalised construct and format that suits their preferences and level – likely based on previous analysis of optimal methods based on performance of outcomes.
Another area of discussion in a few sessions was how do we address the subject of AI generated assignments. Fear of technological developments is certainly nothing new. It questioned the importance for retention of information vs the ability to locate and critique information and use it in a meaningful way – e.g. does the recall of information make a doctor effective vs what you do with it and the importance human soft skills and instincts. Universities in general have very rigid structures and processes designed to efficiently process essay submission. It is one of the most time and cost efficient ways of assessing but likely for many students not the most effective or fairest way of measuring knowledge attained and comprehension. There could be a need for these was of assessing to change radically should we choose to not accept and embrace AI content generation.
In a panel session I attended there was talk of using AI to create a starting point- for example, in creative writing. Rather than dealing with a blank page, having something you could then modify or build upon could really help some students or even practitioners in general. A key skill going forward will be the ability to critique content created by AI rather than simply trusting it as a truth.
Another very important point made in a few talks including the keynote by Martinez was in importance of digital access and inclusion. It’s vital people aren’t left behind with these rapidly technological developments.
One thing that was also made clear particularly in the session with Martinez was the increasing importance of creative thinking. This feels particularly pertinent at Falmouth and I feel our values of being creative, connected and courageous are as relevant as ever.
Another take away from the conference for me was the excellent session I attended by Lev Gonick, chief information officer, Arizona State University. They are doing some fascinating work looking to impact their community and improve access to learning but whilst there are clearly significant differences between such a huge US university and Falmouth. It was interesting to hear about how they had flattened much of their hierachy in order to be able to work in a much more agile way to respond to challenges and innovate more effectively.
However, I felt a key message was the importance of being willing to take risks in order to innovate. I feel these don’t always need to be at large financial expense either, small interventions for example using existing tools in original ways have the potential to deliver positive impacts. ASU have been incorporating AI within their curriculum for a few years now but it was interesting Gonick highlighted use of AI within creative writing specifically.
It is easy to forget that AI features are already widely in use across the education sector. For example in institutions using Office365, (a few I’m sure), Microsoft Word has a number of AI enhancements already built in. In one of the panel conversations I attended it was pointed out that students could be in a position later this year where our own institutional tools could cause students to create work that is in breach of our own assessment policies. Clearly we need to react to these developments quickly.
The second day of Digifest coincided with International Womens Day and featured a fantastic keynote by Prof Sue Black. An emotional and inspiring journey through her life and career demonstrating the importance of supporting women in developing their digital skills and confidence and huge impact that can have on future generations through her #techmums social enterprise. This also led me to reflect on the many talented women we have within our Digital Learning Team and the invaluable part they play in our team culture and the work we deliver.
This my first conference attendance since joining the team at Falmouth and felt proud of what we are looking to build here. Whilst the is always a lot that can be improved, I feel that we have much of the right ambition, skills, strategy and people to really aspire to innovate and create meaningful, effective and inclusive blended and online learning.
My key take aways were in summary
Rather than fear tech developments such as AI, think creatively about how you can include them in your teaching / assessment
AI will likely deliver real world tools that our students will need to be able to understand and utilise these technologies in their professional careers – we should be preparing them for this.
AI has the potential to improve access to content and how we create and deliver online learning along with identifying and supporting struggling students.
Accessibility, equality and inclusion are more important than ever to ensure we don’t end up with divided and disempowered sections of society.
Taking risks and being innovative will lead to huge changes and potential improvements in how we use technology in education
Large organisations could increase their agility and abilities to handle change through flattening hierarchy and encouraging collaboration
Falmouth University is going through a period of rapid growth, by significantly increasing the amount of online degrees that we offer to students. This offer already includes an impressive variety of creative courses including degrees in Visual Communications, Creative Writing, Fine Art, Indie Game Development, Comedy Writing, and many more.
Delivering effective online learning environments for creative courses requires online solutions to support students through their studies. Where traditional campus-taught courses may find students sharing studio space, having group seminars, or working with physical artefacts that can be shared and annotated, synthesising these learning experiences online takes a different approach.
Many of our online courses resolve this by using a WordPress blog provided by CampusPress which we call the Falmouth Journal. WordPress is an extremely powerful website building platform, on which over 43% of all websites are built (w3techs.com. (2022)). Working with industry standard software like WordPress helps to improve digital skills and gives students great experience for future self-employment or working in the creative industries.
Falmouth Journal fulfils many roles across different online courses, depending on their needs. Some courses provide private online blogs for weekly tasks, some blogs are open to other students to share and comment on each other’s work. Academic staff can access student journals to comment on work and check in on student progress.
We have tailored the Falmouth Journal blogging experience to keep it as simple and effective for students and staff as possible. We have incorporated student guidance into the tool, and embedded an introductory quiz into our VLE to ensure that every student has an equal opportunity to learn the basic WordPress skills they will need to use their journal.
All online courses use the same templated Journal that students take with them for the duration of their course.
When students arrive, their site front page includes guidance to get them started and category headings in the menu referring to the type of work they will be creating on the course. Work can also be categorised to keep the journal well organised over the course of study.
Journals can be lightly customised by students, and all sorts of media can be uploaded into blog posts and linked, providing a good range of formats for displaying and sharing work.
Example 1: Falmouth Online MA Fine Art – Sharing work and receiving feedback
A great example of the default template for Falmouth Online working well is the MA Fine Art course.
The importance of Journals for this course is driven by the nature of the work being produced (physical visual art, or art that produces visual artefacts), and the logistics of distance learning. Where students studying Falmouth’s traditional on-campus Art courses are provided with studio space to create and show their work, online students create their work all around the world and need to synthesise the natural sharing and conversations which happen when staff and students are physically in the same space.
Journal’s layout and multimedia capabilities are perfect for this, allowing students to share pictures of work and blog about how their practise and artworks are evolving, as well as providing space for reflection on their own and other artist’s work
Importantly this doesn’t refer exclusively to finished work. Part of artistic practise is experimentation with ideas and materials, skill sharing, and investigation. The Fine Art journals offer a curated look at what the students are working on, rich with images and reflection.
The Fine Art course leader was pleasantly surprised by the success of Journal on the online course.
“The students really like it, and started using it much more than we expected. Because of that we’re spending a lot more time sharing work in Journal than in the forums”.
This enviable culture of sharing didn’t happen by accident, and has evolved through dedicated engagement from the staff on the course. What has made these journals so successful is that students are incentivised to post because they know that staff are regularly looking at their Journals and giving feedback through the platform.
When academics on other courses tell me that students are not engaging with their Journals, I always talk about Fine Art. Rather than seeing student disengagement as a failing of the technology, the design, or the students, I think it is important to ask the question: what are students are getting out of using their journal?
In my experience, students engage with Journal for two reasons:
Because they are required to (i.e. when the journal is an assessed artefact)
In order to receive feedback from academics when they share work
Although Fine Art’s journal is not assessed, they manage to combine these two motivations by integrating use of the Journal as a core part of the course. Fine Art students absolutely have to use their Journals because it is the platform where they share their work.
Notice that these motivations are both about using Journal to share work. The biggest mistake I’ve seen in Journals that fail is that academic staff expect students to create blogs posts that nobody is looking at.
Example 2: Architecture online exhibition space
Although the vast majority of Falmouth Journals use the same individual template, there are some other supported uses which fulfil different learning and teaching needs. One example of this is the Online Exhibition template, pioneered by the Architecture department during the Pandemic.
Staff wanted a way to simulate small mid-term exhibitions that all years of the Architecture courses previously participated in to share their work with staff and students in the department.
The template we designed is a shared Journal, where every student can create their own ‘project post’, curate the content, and categorise it by their year of study. The front page shown in the screenshot acts as a filterable catalogue, with one image from each project displayed alongside the student’s name. Each project has its own comments section where staff and students can comment on student work.
The template has since been used by other courses for similar internal exhibitions, and some common themes of support have arisen through that use.
Where individual journals are structured into the fabric of online courses, students are supported to use them by embedding a short course of instructional videos within a concept checking quiz in the VLE. Thereby teaching students the basics of Journal before they need to use it. With the one-off nature of the Online Exhibition template, this structured introduction usually doesn’t exist, and therefore the burden of teaching students to correctly use the Journal falls on the academic staff.
Connected to this, the workflow for students follows a specific process of creating a project, giving their name as the title, correctly categorising it, and adding a featured image, all of this before adding the content of the project. Any of these steps that go wrong need troubleshooting by the academic, so ideally the Journal needs a member of academic staff to take responsibility for the exhibition. In fact, the most successful examples have been curated entirely by an academic, with students supplying their work and the academic uploading it to the Journal themselves.
As always with Journal, this is a successful example because it is being used to share work and to give and receive feedback. Although again this isn’t an assessed piece of work, engaging with Journal is essential to participate in the exhibition, so there is sufficient impetus for students to engage.
When used well Journal can be a useful tool for sharing work and facilitating feedback online for a range of tasks. However these individual portfolio and group exhibition templates are simply tools, the learning experiences that students engage in still need to be well planned, structured and nurtured by staff.
Before using Journal it is important to remember that there is a staff and student learning curve which needs to be considered, and an ongoing admin commitment for academic staff. If students are not seeing the benefits of the platform they may not be motivated to use it, so staff need to be checking in and giving feedback throughout a module in order to maintain that motivation.
As useful a tool as Journal can be, there are many situations where simpler, lower time-cost tools like Padlet, MURAL, or simply a discussion forum are more suitable platforms.
Designed to facilitate collaborative peer to peer feedback, the template can be used to facilitate peer review activities in online sessions and face-to-face classes, and can be deployed as a live or asynchronous activity.