In this section I am going to discuss how I implemented the use of Xerte amongst staff within the University of the West of Scotland (UWS) and its impact on both staff and student learning.
What I done
Since 2010 UWS has had an installation of the free software called Xerte. This enables staff to develop interactive learning objects, which can then be integrated into their online Moodle modules which the students can then access as part of their learning. Various forms of media ranging from; image, video and audio files can be incorporated into Xerte objects along with a wide range of interactions which all lead to enhance the learning experience for the learner. The Xerte objects can be edited by the original creator and shared with colleagues as well, this allows for the co creation of content and peer review. Xerte objects are sustainable and enable the academic staff to edit their objects and keep the content up to date. The Xerte objects alos output to HTML5, which means our students accessing their learning on their mobile devices do not miss out, making it more accessible to a wider audience.
I was and still am involved in rolling out Xerte across the institution on a strategic level, which aims to see an increased usage within the Moodle modules. In addition to this I am also responsible for delivering staff development and support across all 6 schools and I am the lead le-learning developer in terms of taking the software forward within the institution and externally.
In an effort to promote Xerte to the staff I spoke at key events in UWS, and presented presentations on the use and application of Xerte. The team I’m part of run H.I.N.T (Help I’m Not a Techie) sessions, which introduce staff to new technology or software – I used these sessions to introduce staff to Xerte.
One of the main goals of using Xerte was to empower UWS staff with the skillet to create their own interactive learning objects; this was achieved by a series of face to face training sessions and online training sessions I ran. These sessions were aimed at beginners and advanced levels of users, taking them through the process of creating a Xerte learning object and embedding it within their online module.
Due to staff and student feedback, a Xerte installation for students was created in January 2014. This enabled students to create and co-create their own learning objects. These objects are being used as the focus of group related projects in some of the Social Sciences SCQF level 8 and 9 modules.
A number of staff have produced Xerte learning objects which are being used within their online Moodle modules which the students are engaging with. Examples of these learning objects can be found in the case study I produced or the links available in this page.
Positive feedback from students regarding the Xerte learning objects. The students enjoyed using the Xerte objects, as the “learning is self-contained, and you create your own learning experience” said one of our students. They were able to apply the knowledge they gained to their studies, but externally as well to real life situations helping family and friends. More detailed student feedback can be viewed in the case study I produced or the video located in this page.
As I mentioned earlier I have been involved in promoting our use of Xerte externally, to this end I wrote a RSC Scotland Jisc case study which looked at enhancing staff and student learning within UWS. This case study was a finalist in the teaching and learning category at the annual iTech awards and is available through the Jisc website. I have also spoken at two external Jisc events to exchange good practice and information with external colleagues;
- On the 28th of March 2014, Glasgow University, Techdis Friday, I delivered a presentation on how Xerte is being utilised in UWS to a group of fellow e-learning practitioners from HE and FE institutions.
- On the 13th of June 2014, at the national level annual RSC Scotland iTech awards I was involved in delivering a presentation to 50 delegates .This presentation explored how Xerte is being used and its potential – along with examining it’s usage from a practitioners, lecturing staff and student point of view. I presented the portion focusing on the strategic point of view of implementing and promoting Xerte and from a practitioner’s perspective.
- On the 26th of June I delivered a presentation, which focused on Xerte usage within the institution, at our annual Learning and Teaching conference.
Other e-learning practitioners from external HE and FE institutions have been in contact with me regarding our use and application of Xerte since I produced the case study and spoke at the key events.
The UWS Xerte journey still continues, but I have learned valuable lessons that I will take forward and pass onto others. Having worked with a variety of staff with different skillsets and techniques, I would advise to begin with, have a session or multiple sessions if required to focus on the planning of a developing a Xerte learning object. Some staff were overwhelmed by the number of possible interactions and didn’t incorporate any structure into their object. There was no flow of information, learning or assessment to see if the underpinning knowledge had been absorbed by the student. This is why I would recommend the planning sessions focus on storyboarding or mind mapping techniques in order to prepare staff to develop more structured and assessment driven objects, which also use the appropriate interactions and media to compliment the learning.
I would also ensure you have training materials for staff to refer to, even the most confident user can on occasion require documentation or screencasts which refresh their memory and skillset. I’ve found having staff Xerte exemplars to be a very useful tool when trying to demo and in a way ‘sell’ the software to other lecturing staff. If they can see a Xerte object that one of their peer’s has produced, this reinforces the mind-set that they too can produce an interactive and engaging experience for their students by using Xerte.
Obviously UWS has progressed in its use and application with staff and students, however there is still work to be done. Despite the two installations being available, only a few of the 6 schools and bodies of students are having any real engagement with it. I understand Xerte may not be the “one shoe fits all”, but I would like to see increased usage and engagement within our VLE. The technical issues of previous versions of Xerte are no longer a barrier, I think the challenge will be trying to inform lecturing staff both internal and external about the benefits of Xerte and making sure it’s used appropriately and not for the sake of having something “nice” to display some text or images. The other challenge that has emerged is the lack of confidence some staff have with the use of new technology, there is the perception that everything they do when using new technology or software will go wrong. This is where having the training sessions and support materials will be of benefit, one other good support mechanism for staff is key members of staff they can contact in each school if they have any technical queries relating to specific software. In UWS we call these key members of staff “Moodle Champions”, these staff have good IT skills and are usually early adopters of the latest technology and software. They are a good point of contact for staff as they can help answer quires and pass on the knowledge they have learned from us and by working with others.
Going forward I will continue to promote Xerte and support the staff in UWS with the use and application within our VLE. I am also going to expand our Xerte training materials, by having a dedicated module, in which staff can refer to when seeking technical advice and looking for staff exemplars. I can see a bright future ahead as this software allows for not only individual creation, but the co-creation of objects as well for both staff and students. This will encourage team work and peer review amongst staff and students and aids in their learning experience by gaining team work experience and reflective comments in relation to their work. I am relishing the opportunity to take forward the Xerte initiative both internally and externally and share the practices and knowledge I learn along the way.
Please note the above slides were uploaded to Slide Share by my colleague Dr Neil McPherson who was also invovled in delivering the presentaiton.