Bolton College's ILT Projects

As the strategic lead for ILT at Bolton College I am always keen to showcase the ILT projects that are underway across the College. If you wish to learn more about these projects please email me at aftab.hussain@boltoncc.ac.uk.

Bolton College, Deane Road campus
Bolton College, Deane Road campus

Ada Finds Her Voice

  

Ada is representative of a new breed of conversational services that are about to enter the education sector. Their introduction will not only augment and enhance the capabilities of many online services that are found in schools, colleges and universities such as learning management systems, library management systems and information management systems; but they will deliver considerable value to the students, teachers and support teams who will come to rely on them. Conversational services such as Bolton College's Ada have various facets. These are listed below:

  • they act as Oracles - enabling students, teachers and support teams to gather information and insights from around the campus;
  • they act as bridges that connect multiple services around the campus together - enabling improved access to information and services for everyone on the campus; and
  • they act as agents or digital assistants - providing timely advice, guidance, insights and assistance to everyone on the campus. As digital assistants they undertake numerous jobs and tasks on behalf of individuals and teams to support the student body.

IBM Watson Conversation Team Visit Bolton College

  

Members of the IBM Watson Conversation Team visited Bolton College to view Ada - Bolton College's digital assistant for students, teachers and support teams. Students from the College's second year HND Computing programme have been involved in teaching Ada how to respond to questions from fellow students. The project has given them the opportunity to explore natural language processing and the world of digital assistants.

With the support of IBM's Watson Conversation platform Bolton College has been able to offer a digital assistant to support students, teachers and support teams with day-to-day queries or tasks. In the following anonymised example, a student is able to view his or her qualifications by asking Ada. The service has enabled improved access to key datasets that students and colleagues enquire about during the course of the academic year. In this instance, it will offer value to students as they apply for new courses, apprenticeships, jobs or university.

The digital assistant operates across a number of domains. At the present moment in time Ada is able to answer general questions about Bolton College; specific questions relating to the student who is asking the question and subject specific questions on Maths, English and Employability. Here is an overview of the questions that can be asked across these domains.

General questions about Bolton College:

  • When does the summer term end?
  • Where is the exams office?
  • When will I get my exam results?
  • What are the contact details for Student Services?
  • How do I make a complaint?
  • When is the trip to Chester Zoo or to Blackpool?
  • Where can I get a bite to eat?
  • What's happening around the campus this week?

Specific questions relating to the student:

  • What is my timetable?
  • What lessons do I have today/this afternoon/this evening/tomorrow?
  • Show me my qualifications
  • Show me the list of courses that I am enrolled on
  • When is my next exam?
  • Where is my work placement?
  • When is my next assignment due in?
  • How is my attendance?
  • How am I doing with my studies?

Subject specific questions:

  • I need help with ratios/adding fractions or percentage changes.
  • What should I wear for a job interview? In this instance the tutorial that is presented to the student is contextualised to meet the needs of the student.
  • What is a verb or an adjective?
  • I need help with referencing my work.

One of the advantages of using a digital assistant like Ada is that information relating to you as a student is easily available. Students no longer have to open up multiple applications to help them perform day-to-day enquiries, tasks and activities. This is because many tasks or enquiries can be undertaken with the help of the digital assistant. As Ada develops, she will be able to support students with the following jobs:

  • I would like to arrange an appointment to see my subject teacher, tutor or careers adviser.
  • I want to apply for an Engineering course - can you support me with my application?
  • I want to make a payment for the course that I am doing - what's my outstanding balance?
  • What grades do I need to achieve on my remaining assignments to secure an overall distinction grade for my course?
  • Please message my teacher that I am going to arrive late for her class tomorrow because I have a dental appointment.
  • Remind me to see my tutor at 2pm this afternoon.
In these examples there is no need to open a calendar, there is no need to go the College website to view course listings, there is no need to complete an online application form, there is no need to open up a payments page on the College website, there is no need to open the application to view my overall grades on the course and there is no need to open up the messaging app.

Ada in the Classroom

  

One of the most interesting aspects about developing a digital assistant for students and teachers has been the potential for the service to support and enhance teaching, learning and assessment. The learning technology team at Bolton College has conducted research to enable the delivery of the following services through Ada:

  • the ability to deliver personalised, contextualised, differentiated and adaptive learning and assessment materials to each student;
  • the ability to utilise particular elements of the student dataset to deliver personalised learning to each student. Ada's responses to student questions can be informed by multiple variables such as the academic level of the student, the current performance of the student on the course, student assessment data, the vocational setting of the student, the goals and targets associated with each student and more.

This represents a significant milestone for the ILT team because it means that teachers across Bolton College can offer differentiated and adaptive teaching, learning and assessment materials to the student via Ada as well as Moodle, the College's virtual learning environment.

Ada goes live at Bolton College

  

Bolton College's ILT Team is pleased to announce that Ada, the College's digital assistant for students went live on the 6th of April. Ada has been taught to answer general questions and enquiries about Bolton College and she is able to answer specific questions relating to the student who is making the enquiry.

The service marks a significant milestone in the way students at Bolton College will come to engage with College services.

Ask Ada

  

The College's ILT Team is examining how Ada could support teachers and students in the classroom. As we converse with Ada we are discovering that her place in the classroom presents colleagues at Bolton College with a number of exciting opportunities to enhance teaching, learning and assessment.

Ada - Bolton College's Latest Digital Assistant

  

Introduction

The Information Learning Technology (ILT) Team at Bolton College has successfully deployed a number of digital assistants to support the delivery of learning and assessment materials to students. The use of these digital assistants has enabled the personalisation of teaching, learning and assessment at scale. Digital assistants can also be designed and deployed to enhance a range of other services that are used by students and colleagues. One of the projects that the College's ILT Team is currently working on involves the use of a digital assistant called Ada who is being taught how to respond to a wide range of student enquiries across multiple contexts.

Differentiating Content According to Learning Support Need

The ILT Team at Bolton College can now offer differentiated learning and assessment materials to students according to their learning support needs. In one recent example colleagues in the Careers and Learning Support Teams worked together to produce on an online tutorial which offered advice to students about applying for jobs and preparing for a job interview. The teams wanted to produce content that reflected the learning support need of the student viewing the content. For instance, if a D/deaf student is viewing an online tutorial on job interviews the student would see content that provided advice and guidance that reflected his or her learning support need. Students with other learning support needs would see content that is relevant to them. The important aspect of Bolton College's adaptive learning environment is that all students click on the same link to the job interview tutorial. Thereafter, the content is differentiated and it adapts according to the actions taken by the student within the tutorial.

The use of learning support data enables Bolton College to offer its students with a much richer set of learning and assessment materials; material that is contextualised to meet the needs and demands of each student on the campus.

A Window into Learning

Following on from a previous article entitled Start Learning the ILT Team at Bolton College is pleased to announce that it has successfully built a target setting service that enables teachers to set the tutorial or assessment activity that they wish their students to see when they next access their course on Moodle, the College's virtual learning environment.

The new service provides an opportunity for colleagues to improve the way students access tutorials and assessment activities on the College's virtual learning environment. In a mature online course students are presented with a multitude of resources to support their studies. So finding resources can occasionally be frustrating. The new delivery model has the potential to change how students access learning and assessment resources on their online Moodle courses. From the student's perspective, the Moodle course may only be presented as a single 'Start Learning' image or button and nothing more. As students access their online course they simply click on the Start Learning image to access the latest tutorial or assessment activity on the course. From the teacher's perspective, there is a large library of differentiated and adaptive content which sits behind each learning and assessment target set for each student.

This iteration of the modern day codex enables course teams who have a large cohort of students and teachers; typically English and Maths programmes, to standardise the delivery of tutorials and tests.

Start Learning

The ILT Team at Bolton College is currently researching how the College's adaptive learning environment could be used to improve the delivery of online tutorials and assessment activities to each of our students.

One of the most promising options takes advantage of the target setting feature in our adaptive learning environment. In the following scenario students on a maths course are presented with a start learning image. Students click on the start learning image to access their next online tutorial or online assessment activity. Students will be presented with different tutorials and assessment activities according to the personal learning targets set by their course tutor. Later, as students return to their online maths course they will be presented with another tutorial and assessment activity that matches their next learning target when they click on the start learning image.

The following diagram provides a very simplified representation of how online tutorials and assessment activities are presented to each student on Bolton College's adaptive learning environment. As well as querying an ever larger student dataset, the adaptive learning environment will learn from its failures and successes before presenting the most appropriate online tutorial or assessment activity to the student. Since this is an adaptive learning environment, the tutorials and assessment activities will flex, change and adapt according to the behaviour or responses elicited from the student during the tutorial or assessment activity.

The advantages associated with this delivery mechanism are as follows:

  • Tutors have a simple mechanism for setting learning targets for each of their students. The online tutorial or assessment activity that is presented to each student reflects his or her learning target;
  • Students are always presented with learning and assessment materials that support their current learning target;
  • Students do not need to search for course materials. This is particularly useful for courses that have a large and extensive library of teaching, learning and assessment resources;
  • The tutorials and assessment activities that are presented to each student are based on evidence based teaching. This means that students are only presented with their next learning target once they have successfully mastered their current learning target; and
  • The delivery mechanism for presenting tutorials and assessment activities to each student can be automated. Bolton College's ILT Team is currently exploring this opportunity.

The automation of this delivery mechanism is of interest on many levels. Firstly, it enables students to fast track through a course. Secondly, the pace of the course follows the progress made by each student. There may be times when a student accelerates through parts of the course. At other times, the student will proceed more slowly. The third and perhaps the most interesting aspect is the adaptive learning environment's ability to learn which of the tutorials and assessment activities in its content library work. The tutorial and assessment activities that perform well will be ranked high and vice versa. Over a period of time, students would be presented with tutorials and assessment activities that perform well. Fourthly, the delivery mechanism scales well. The solution copes well with a 100 students or 10,000 students. This would suit organisations who wish to harmonise and standardise the delivery of content and assessment across a large number of schools.

Target Setting and Adaptive Learning

Bolton College's adaptive learning environment is proving to be very versatile. One recent success has focused on the platform's ability to use target setting information to differentiate content and assessment activities on Moodle, the College's virtual learning environment. When a teacher and a student agree on a learning target, the tutorial (or SCORM package) that is presented to the student on Moodle reflects that new target.

The use of target setting to inform content and assessment activities on Moodle are particularly useful for courses such as mathematics; were topics are well defined and discrete. For example, a target for learning equivalent fractions could be followed by targets for adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing fractions. Content and assessment activities associated with each target will be presented to the student when accessing the maths course in Moodle. The result from each test that follows each tutorial will be presented back to the teacher and student to inform the next target on the course.

Superficially, it may appear that students on the course will be presented with identitical tutorials and questions; but this is not the case. As students progress through each tutorial the content, questions and feedback that each student sees will adapt to reflect the progress being made by each student. The use of variables such as learning preferences and prior assessment scores will enable the content to be differentiated even further.

Learning Preferences on Bolton College's Adaptive Learning Environment

The ILT Team at Bolton College has recently updated the College's adaptive learning environment so that content and assessment activities within an online tutorial follow the learning preferences of students. Students can select from the following learning preferences via their home page:

Visual - you prefer information and ideas to be presented as diagrams, mind maps, pictograms, charts/graphs, photographs, scrap books;

Watching and listening - you prefer to watch videos or you like to listen to audio podcasts; and

Doing - you prefer to learn by doing things.

Students can adjust their learning preference at any time. For instance, a student may prefer to learn by watching and listening in the morning and learn by doing in the afternoon. So when Bolton College's students open an online tutorial on Moodle, the College's virtual learning environment, the content and assessment activites that are presented to each student will reflect the learning preference of each student.

As the adaptive learning environment collects data on learning preferences and identifies underlying patterns in the way learning preferences change over a given day, week, month or academic year; the adaptive learning environment can be used to automoate the delivery of content and assessment activities based on this data. For example, the data may indicate that students in a given profile have a preference for watching and listening to content in the morning. If this is a long term pattern that is predictable the adaptive learning environment can be used to assign content and assessment activities that matches the watching and listening learning preference for students who match that profile.

Gender specific content on Bolton College's Adaptive Learning Environment

The ILT Team at Bolton College has authored SCORM content that is gender specific on its Moodle Adaptive Learning Environment. One of the recent tutorials that has been completed provides advice and guidance about dressing for job interviews. The tutorial is part of Bolton College's Level 2 employability course. The content is gender specific so the College's male and female students receive content that is specific to them. The adaptive learning environment also adapts content that meets the needs and requirements of transgender students and their preferred gender identify that is registered on the College's information management system.

In the following example we have a slide that advises female students about what to wear for a job interview.

In the slide shown below the advise is directed specifically at the male students within the College. The learning materials, videos and any assessment activities associated with the slide are all gender specific.

The College's suite of algorithms can adapt content based on any variable or field that is stored on the College's information management system. These include the ability to adapt content based on any of the following variables and much much more:

  • students who have a specific support need
  • age
  • the student's long term goals
  • course title
  • department or faculty name
  • entry qualifications
  • diagnostic test results
  • previous assessment scores on the current course; and even
  • historical data for given student profiles

Virtual Digital Assistants at Bolton College

Teachers and student support teams at Bolton College are working with the College's ILT Team to introduce a Virtual Digital Assistant into the classroom to support the delivery of the College's new employability unit.

The employability unit will be delivered to over a 1,000 Level 2 students across all academic departments at the College. Teachers and support teams will continue to develop, author and distribute teaching, learning and assessment material via the classroom and via Moodle, Bolton College's Virtual Learning Environment; but in 2016-17, colleagues will be supported by the College's new Virtual Digital Assistant (VDA).

Put simply, the VDA is a suite of algorithms which query the student dataset to determine the most suitable teaching, learning and assessment material to present to each student on Moodle. The dataset includes variables such as student name, the student's unique ID, department name, course title, gender, entry qualifications for Maths and English, diagnostic test results, on-going assessment data, intended destinations and more.

The VDA will support and enhance the delivery of the wholly online component of the Level 2 employability unit which currently stands at 18 hours. 36 hours of the unit will be delivered face-to-face by teachers and student support teams.

Once the employability unit gets underway the VDA will act autonomously from the teacher and from the student support teams. However, it must be noted that the content and the algorithms that the VDA uses would have been authored by the wider course team. Course content and the VDA's algorithms will be amended as and when required during the course of the employability unit.

My choice of image for this short article is intentional. As the manager of Bolton College's ILT Team I tend to be my team's biggest critical friend; and I recognise that our Virtual Digital Assistant is nothing more than a simple virtual machine. It may carry out hundreds and thousands of calculations per second when assessing the material to present to each of our students; and it may appear to behave intelligently because it always assigns the most suitable learning and assessment material to each student; but our VDA has someway to go before it becomes an indispensable tool for our teachers at Bolton College.

One area for further development will be the use of historical data to inform the VDA. Historical data will include the assessment scores of previous students, assessment scores in relation to each student's profile and student profiling.

ERA Case Study on Bolton College's Adaptive Learning and Assessment Environment

Aftab Hussain - Bolton College (July 2016)

Bolton College's adaptive learning and assessment environment delivers contextualised and personalised TV recordings and other video footage to each student via their Home Page and via the College's Moodle Virtual Learning Environment.

The research and output has been showcased by the Educational Recording Agency in a recent case study entitled Up Close & Personal – the Adaptive Learning Environment at Bolton College.

Our suite of algorithms now allow us to deliver differentiated content and assessment to students based on a wider set of variables such as gender. For example, the ILT Team has authored an employability tutorial that advises students about what to wear when attending job interviews. When students start the tutorial they are presented with gender specific slides. The use of such a variable in our algorithms in our adaptive learning and assessment environment enables the College's Careers Team to deliver content that is relevant, personalised and contextualised to the needs of each student.

Jisc Case Study on Bolton College's Adaptive Learning and Assessment Environment

The research that Bolton College's ILT Team has been undertaking on adaptive learning and assessment environments has been showcased by Jisc in a case study. I also had the opportunity to present our research at a recent Jisc Connect More event which was held at Liverpool Hope University on the 21st of June 2016.

Using learning analytics, the ILT Team at Bolton College implemented changes to Moodle to make it adaptive, giving teachers the ability to deliver differentiated, contextualised and personalised learning, as well as adaptive assessment. Bolton College has coupled Moodle SCORM packages with the wider dataset at the College. Now, when a learner accesses a SCORM package, Moodle interrogates the student’s dataset, which includes information such as learner ID, course title, previous assessment scores, entry qualifications and more, and determines the most appropriate learning and assessment material to present to each learner.

The case study is entitled Improve Your Service Platform (May 2016).

Adaptive Assessment at Bolton College

Adaptive Assessment at Bolton College

The adaptive assessment solution at Bolton College operates on mutiple levels. These are summarised as follows:

  1. Adaptive assessment based on entry qualifications to a course: This is particularly useful when conducting diagnostic tests at the start of a course. The test that is presented to the student is based on the student's entry qualifications to the course such as a GCSE English or a GCSE Maths grade. The test adapts as the student progresses through the test.
  2. Adaptive assessment based on answers during a test: As each student progresses through an online test the questions presented to the student adapt to his or her responses. For example, if a student demonstrates that he or she can correctly answer questions at a particular level he or she will be subsequently presented with questions of a higher level. The reverse applies if a student struggles to correctly answer questions at a given level.
  3. Adaptive assessment based on previous assessment activities in Moodle: Students at Bolton College are regularly asked to complete online tests on their Moodle courses. The results of previous tests are used to inform subsequent online tests taken by each student. Moodle and the scorm packages that make up the online tests are able to instantaneously query the student, his or her unique ID, course title and previous assessment scores before presenting the most appropriate content to each student.
  4. Adaptive assessment based on course title: Occasionally students at Bolton College will undertake online tutorials that are also undertaken by other students across the College. The adaptive learning and adaptive assessment solution at Bolton College enables vocationally specific content slides and assessment activities to be presented to each student. This means that cross Colleges online tutorials on health and safety, induction or employability can be tailoured to suit the vocational interest of each student.

The use of adaptive online assessment at Bolton College has been received well by teachers and students. The feedback is summarised as follows:

  • the use of online feedback during an assessment activity has been particularly welcomed. Teachers can give verbal feedback, via captions on the screen or even via video;
  • the opportunity to repeat similar questions and tasks has been useful to students who wish to practice further;
  • teachers welcomed the opportunity to produce adaptive assessment activities on Moodle, the College's virtual learning environment. Previously, every student on their Moodle courses would have received the same standardised test regardless of individual ability and track record on the course; and
  • teachers can easily track and monitor student progress via Moodle's gradebook.

The ability to scale up adaptive assessment so that it is available to a wider set of courses remains a challenge. For now, colleagues are focusing on producing adaptive assessment materials for cross College programmes which are undertaken by many hundreds or thousands of students during the academic calendar.

Bolton College creates an Adaptive Learning Environment

Bolton College creates an Adaptive Learning Environment

Teachers use virtual learning environments to author and distribute content to their students to facilitate independent study, blended or distributive learning. The limitations of most virtual learning environments mean that teachers are only able to author and distribute a homogenous set of content to their students; regardless of their students' academic abilities, prior learning, prior assessment scores or their chosen progression pathways. This means that most online courses contradict the best practice models of the classroom which promote differentiated, contextualised and personalised teaching, learning and assessment. Many of the world's largest MOOCs also fall foul of the same problem when they present the same content to their tens of thousands of online learners. The same can also be said for many of the courses that are hosted on Bolton College's Moodle virtual learning environment.

The growing use of learning analytics to inform teaching, learning, assessment and student support at Bolton College has enabled the College's ILT Team to devise a solution to this issue that gives teachers the ability to deliver differentiated, contextualised and personalised teaching, learning and assessment via Moodle.

The two main elements that make Bolton College's Moodle virtual learning environment adaptive are adaptive course delivery and adaptive student assessment. Firstly, adaptive course delivery seeks to use a student's personal characteristics and requirements to deliver bespoke content to that student. And secondly, adaptive student assessment seeks to use a student's prior qualifications or recent assessment scores to deliver tailoured assessment activities to that student.

In the following example I explain how Bolton College's adaptive learning environment works in the context of a cross College online employaility unit entitled 'Interview Skills'.

Example: Employability - Interview Skills

Adaptive Course Delivery - Bolton College has eight academic departments which reflect the various vocational programmes offered by the College such as computing, construction, hair dressing, healthcare or engineering. Students from across the College are enrolled on an employability course. As students from the different vocational areas open a Moodle scorm package on interview skills they all see the same introductory slides within the tutorial but as they progress through the tutorial they begin to see content which has been authored, adapted or differentiated to match their vocational area. For example, construction students see content relating to being interviewed for a job on a building site; and healthcare students see content that relates to being interviewed for a post as a hospital nurse. Additional slides may be viewed by students across all vocational areas and other slides may be vocationally specific.

Adaptive Student Assessment - Students see assessment activities that relate to their vocational area. The points scored on the initial part of the assessment inform the type of questions or activities that are presented to a student in the second part of the assessment activity. A student that does well in the first part of the assessment activity is given questions and activites that further stretch and challenge the student. A student who scores poorly on the first part of the assessment activity is presented with subsequent questions and activities that reflect his or her initial assessment score. At all times the student is presented with online feedback that is based on medal and mission.

The Broader Picture
The variables that can be used to inform each scorm package are broad and they originate from multiple datasets within the College such as the College's Moodle virtual learning environment, our Personal Learning Environment and the College's information management system. The list of potential variables include departmental names, course name, vocational interests, student name, gender, age, learning support needs, prior grades and assessment scores, career plans and content preferences; such as video, text, animation or interactive elements. One of the major benefits that can be derived from Bolton College's adaptive learning environment is the ability to personalise content on the larger courses that are undertaken by students and colleagues from across the College; such as induction, employability, maths, English, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) or computing.

This is another example were the application of a wider dataset at Bolton College has either transformed existing services or created new services that benefit students, teachers and support teams.

If you have any questions about Bolton College's adaptive learning environment please email me via Aftab Hussain.

Distributing Contextualised and Personalised TV Programmes at Bolton College

Distributing Segmented and Personalised TV Programmes at Bolton College

Bolton College recently established a service that enables teachers to record TV programmes and distribute them to students via Moodle, the College's Virtual Learning Environment. The College's licence with the Educational Recording Agency enables us to record and distribute TV programmes to benefit teaching and learning. Teachers can record and upload TV and radio programmes from the list of members associated with the Educational Recording Agency such as BBC Worldwide Limited, ITV Network Limited, Channel Four Television Corporation, Channel 5 Broadcasting Limited and others.

Recorded TV programmes are also distributed to students who belong to particular departments or to specific courses. The ability to distribute personalised TV recordings in this manner increases the number of students who watch broadcasted material because the material is vocationally relevant to each student. In addition, students and teachers will be able to select vocationally relevant programmes to be displayed on their home pages via their personal profile on the College's wider service platform.

Personalisation of the TV distribution service has resonance with the student body because it is relevant, appropriate and useful to their studies. It also increases the opportunities that students have to engage with or interact with their courses which ultimately supports student retention and the completion rate for courses.

Data is playing a critical role in the development of new online services such as the College's TV recording and distribution service. The dataset which comprises the student profile has enabled Bolton College to design and deliver personalised and contextualised services to students in a manner that was not possible before. For example, the College's ILT Team is able to distribute TV and radio recordings on computing, artificial intelligence and the World Wide Web to all the College's computing students; and it is able to distribute TV and radio programmes on theatre, film and drama to the College's performing arts students. The growing use of student centered data means that many of the existing services such as the College's video library have been augmented, strengthened and become much more relevant to students and teachers across the College.

Bolton College's TV service is still in its infancy but the service will mature quite rapidly in the near future as we roll out additional services:

  • the TV service will provide notifications to students as new radio and TV recordings are posted to the video library. Notifications will be based on the vocational programme that each student is undertaking or on the media interests of each student;
  • the line that differentiates Moodle, the College's Virtual Learning Environment from the other support services on the Student Home Page will blur as course specific videos are posted to each student's personal news feed; and
  • we will continue to support teachers to record and post their own curated video content to the College's video library.

Recording and Distributing TV Programmes

Recording and Distributing TV Programmes at Bolton College

Bolton College has established a service that enables teachers to record TV programmes and distribute them to students via Moodle, the College's Virtual Learning Environment. The College's licence with the Educational Recording Agency enables us to record and distribute TV programmes to benefit teaching and learning. Teachers can record and upload TV and radio programmes from the list of members associated with the Educational Recording Agency such as BBC Worldwide Limited, ITV Network Limited, Channel Four Television Corporation, Channel 5 Broadcasting Limited and others.

The service complements other media services at Bolton College such as live TV streaming, video conferencing using BigBlueButton, webcam recording and the College's Medial video library. With the advent of these services Bolton College has seen a rise in the use of video to support teaching, learning and assessment. We also use video on the College's Student and Staff Home Pages to promote and publicise news and events across the College and to distribute information, advice and guidance to students.

One of the challenges facing the Information Learning Technology and Learning Resource Centre Teams at Bolton College is to catalogue and tag video content to ease and improve search for students and staff across the College; especially as the video library grows.

The College's video library is part of a much wider dataset which informs personalised and contextualised services on the Student and Staff Home Pages. In the near future students and colleagues will be able to view tailoured video content that reflects their courses and subjects of interest via their home pages.

Bolton College's Push Notification Service

Push Notifications at Bolton College

The use of the push notification service was introduced by Bolton College's ILT Team to promote the use of new and existing services on the College's student and staff home pages. Since my last post about the service in November 2014, we now have the following services that take advantage of push notifications:

  • Messages - Students, teachers and support teams receive a notification regarding the number of new messages received;
  • Assignments - Students receive notifications regarding forthcoming assignments and the dates that they are due in. Students can click on each notification to access the assignment brief which resides on Moodle, the College's Virtual Learning Environment;
  • Calendar - Students and staff at the College receive notifications about forthcoming events that are taking place on College campuses;
  • Library - Students and staff receive notifications regarding reserved books and journals, reminders about returning or renewing library books before their loan period expires and reminders about overdue books;
  • Exams - Students and teachers receive notifications about forthcoming exams, dates and times; and
  • Appointments - Students and staff receive notifications about forthcoming appointments, locations and times.

Live TV Streaming at Bolton College

Live TV at Bolton College

The Learning Technology Team at Bolton College has launched a live TV streaming service on the Student and Staff Home Pages. Visitors to the service currently have access to over a dozen TV and radio channels such as the BBC News, BBC 1, BBC 2, ITV and Channel 4 with plans to increase the number of channels in the near future. The service is accessible over desktop, tablet and mobile devices.

The College's licence with the Educational Recording Agency enables us to record and distribute TV programmes to our students and teachers to support teaching and learning. Section 34 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 enables the College to stream live TV to students and teachers to support teaching and learning.

Bolton College's live TV streaming service complements other services such as our video repository which enables colleagues to store and distribute recorded video content to students and teachers via Moodle, the College's Virtual Learning Environment. Teachers also have the opportunity to record and post webcam footage to their Moodle courses which enables them to introduce units, topics or assignments with webcam videos instead of using lengthy pieces of text to describe course elements. In addition, teachers can record and upload TV and radio programmes from the list of members associated with the Educational Recording Agency such as BBC Worldwide Limited, ITV Network Limited, Channel Four Television Corporation, Channel 5 Broadcasting Limited and others.

The following video details the benefits of the Educational Recording Agency licence.

The Editable Student Profile

Bolton College's Student Home Page is increasingly presenting contextualised and personalised services that are tailoured to meet the needs of each and every student at the College. The reliability of these services is dependent on the accuracy of each student's dataset. To that end the Learning Technology Team at Bolton College has created a service that enables students to update and edit their personal profile via their Home Page. The basic personal profile is composed of details such as the student's name, home address, phone numbers, email addresses, next of kin details, gender etc; but it also prompts students for other details such as career plans which informs the services that are delivered by College's Careers Advisors; dietary information which informs the range of food that is offered by the College's Catering Team and so on.

Avatars

In order to encourage as many students as possible to update their details the Learning Technology Team at Bolton College added the SVG Avatar service to the editable profile. The use of the avatar has proven to be very successful because many hundreds of students updated their details via the Student Home Page soon after the launch of the editable profile on the 14th of March 2016. The editable profile has also been extended to the College's Staff Home Page which has resulted in numerous colleagues updating their College contact details such as office phone numbers, office room numbers, campus locations and so on. The staff profile also provides colleagues with an opportunity to tag their personal profiles. Tags are used to inform other colleagues if you are a College First Aider, a Project Manager, a Maths Teacher or if you have a leisure interest etc.

The editable student and staff profiles have been designed to be responsive so students and colleagues can access and edit their details via their smartphones.

Bolton College's Community Learning Website

Bolton College's new Community Learning Website will launch on the 18th of January 2016. The site has been designed to improve access to the College's community learning programme for residents across Bolton. The site makes use of the following services:

  • visitors to the site can find the location and directions to the College's Community Learning Centres by entering a post code;
  • vistors have access to a search engine that allows them to browse for courses;
  • the site is responsive to all mobile device sizes; and
  • visitors to the site have access to a growing library of resources to support their studies.

The website was designed with the support from Designers Up North.

Bolton College's Community Learning Website

Further developments to the site will include an e-commerce solution which allow students to pay for services via the website. The Community Learning website will also utilise services that are already in use on the College's main student site; such as improved search engine services following further tagging of assets on the site and the development of contextualised services which are time and location aware.

BigBlueButton at Bolton College

In January 2016 Bolton College will launch BigBlueButton as its classroom video conferencing service for teachers and students. The service was chosen because of its close integration with Moodle, the College's Virtual Learning Environment and the ease by which a teacher can set up each web conference. Students simply access the web conference via their course on Moodle.

BigBlueButton is an open source web conferencing system which supports and enhances on-line learning. BigBlueButton enables our teachers and students to share documents, webcams, chat, audio and their desktop screens. It can also record sessions for later playback which can be accessed via Moodle and the Media Channel, the College's video repository.

The following video showcases the teacher's viewpoint of BigBlueButton. For further videos on the service please refer to the BigBlueButton channel on YouTube.



The Adobe Certified Associate Program at Bolton College

In January 2015 Bolton College became a Certiport Authorised Test Centre. The following video has been produced by the College's ILT Team to promote the Adobe Certified Associate program to students and teachers.


A small group of teachers are currently participating in the initial pilot of the program. Students will have an opportunity to qualify as an Adobe Certified Associate from September 2015.

Bolton College set to become a Certiport Authorised Test Centre

In January 2015 Bolton College will become a Certiport Authorised Test Centre. Bolton College has been working closely with Prodigy Learning to deliver a programme which will enable the College to offer Adobe Certified Associate and Microsoft Office Specialist certification programmes to students and teachers.

Student Teacher Messaging Service

Certification programmes will be broadened in 2015 to enable Bolton College's STEM students and teachers to become Autodesk Certified Users.

Push Notification Services

Students at Bolton College regularly receive messages, targets and updates on their unit grades from teachers via the Student Home Page. In November 2014 Bolton College launched its Push Notification service for students. Push Notifications have been designed to improve student engagement with key services on the Student Home Page.

Student Teacher Messaging Service

As services develop on the Student Home Page, Bolton College will use push notifcations to provide timely prompts to students on a wide range of information such as one-to-one appointments with teachers, exam date reminders and reminders about coursework submissions.

The launch of the push notification service on the Student Home Page has increased the number of student visits to and interactions with priority services on the site. As always, the push notification servivce in available on desktop, tablet and on mobile.

Student Teacher Messaging Service

  

In October 2013 Bolton College launched its messaging service for the student and staff home pages. Since the launch of the service the ILT Team has recorded many thousands of messages per month between students and teachers across the College.

Student Teacher Messaging Service

What are the features of the messaging service?

  • Students and teachers do not need to open up any client software to view their messages. Messages are accessed and displayed within the student and teacher home page.
  • Teachers can message individual students or whole class groups.
  • Students and teachers can reply to messages.
  • Students can view all their sent and received messages for all of their teachers.
  • Teachers can categorise messages as general messages, deadlines or submission dates, reminders or exam dates.
  • Since the student and staff home pages are responsive messages can be viewed on desktop computers and on mobile devices.

Student Teacher Messaging Service

The interface for authoring a message is intuitive to use. Students and teachers simply type their message and click send.

Student Teacher Messaging Service

Students and teachers have stated that the messaging service has improved communication with teachers and students respectively and they use the service on a daily basis.

Text Message Services

  

Bolton College's text message service is proving to be an invaluable medium to communicate with students, parents, employers and the wider community. The solution from Blackboard ConnectTxt has enabled the College to utilise the text message service in a wide varierty of contexts.

  • Tutors and students message one another about appointments, one-to-one tutorials, absenteeism and pastoral matters;
  • Tutors and parents message one another regarding student progress and support;
  • The College uses the service to conduct student destination surveys. Response rates have been very positive and the data has been collected in a shorter period of time;
  • The College's business development team messages local businesses and partners to raise awareness of new and updated services; and
  • The College's student recruitment and marketing teams message new and potential students to the College.

The following video highlights the features that are utlised by Bolton College through Blackboard ConnectTxt.


Maths Everywhere Videos and the Media Channel

  

The Media Channel at Bolton College is the video hub for students and teachers. The College recently added 143 maths videos to the Media Channel. These videos were produced as part of the award winning Maths Everywhere project.

The following video was produced to raise awareness of the Media Channel to the College's 14,000 students.


Personalised Content

  

Bolton College's Student Home Page is typically visited by 3,500 students each day. Each one of them sees a different version of the Student Home Page. The ability to deliver personalised content to each student is a core element of Bolton College's online strategy, a strategy that seeks to enhance student engagement with key College services.

We acknowledge that students visiting the Student Home Page go there for different reasons. Some of them are there to access their courses on the College's Moodle Virtual Learning Environment, others are there to access the library catalogue and some might be seeking information about progressing onto future studies or employment.

By creating a unique one-to-one student experience on the Student Home Page, Bolton College has managed to create an environment where its students are more engaged, which in turn has a direct and positive impact on their studies and upon the use of services that are offered by teams across the College.

Bolton College's Student Home Page

At the present moment in time Bolton College's Student Home Page is personalised according to a set of parameters such as the student's unique College ID number, their main course of study or the student's intended destination after the course. As the service develops, Bolton College will personalise the Student Home Page according to the actions performed by students on the page. For instance, if students click on the Apprenticeship vacancies news feed they will be presented with information relating to the Student Job Club which can support their application for the post.

The responsive nature of Bolton College's Student Home Page means that targeted information and services can also be accessed by students on their personal mobile phones.

Recent Moodle Updates at Bolton College

  

Over the last few weeks the Information Learning Technology (ILT) Team at Bolton College has successfully implemented a number of updates to the College's Moodle Virtual Learning Environment.

  • Students and staff at Bolton College have access to a mobile responsive Moodle platform. This enables students and colleagues to view course materials on their smartphones. Bolton College has access to a number of analytical tools which will enable the ILT Team to monitor, record and review the use of Moodle on student and teacher owned smartphones over the coming years. Bolton College's Device Plus One Strategy encourages the use of smartphones to access key College services such as Moodle. The Device Plus One Strategy will play a significant role in shaping Bolton College's device replacement programme.
  • Ephorus Plagiarism Software - with the Ephorus plugin for Moodle, student work that is submitted via the Moodle assignment module is automatically sent to Ephorus. Ephorus scans student work for similarities and the report is available for teachers to view within the assignment module. Teachers can then advise students on the work that they have submitted.
  • The Helix Media Library Moodle plugin has been added to Bolton College's Moodle Virtual Learning Environment. The plugin enables teachers to add or link to video content in the College's new Media Channel which was launched in August.
  • Bolton College's Moodle course creation process has proven to be a simple and effective way to set up Moodle courses for the new academic year, import content from previous academic years and for enrolling students and teachers to their Moodle courses.

Ephorus Plagiarism Software

  

Bolton College has adopted Ephorus, as its anti-plagiarism software tool to assist teachers in identifying where plagiarism in assignment work may have occurred. Ephorus identifies plagiarism of work from other essays that have been submitted within the college, other assignments on line, as well as from books, journals and websites.

Ephorus is a great tool for teachers who are doing their best to tackle plagiarism but simply can’t check every document they receive. With Ephorus, teachers can guarantee the originality of submitted work.

With the Ephorus plugin for Moodle, student work that is submitted via the Moodle assignment module is automatically sent to Ephorus. Ephorus scans student work for similarities and the report is available for teachers to view within the assignment module. Teachers can then advise students on the work that they have submitted.

Bolton College goes mobile

  

September 2014 marks a significant milestone in the delivery of mobile services for the 14,000 students and 700 staff at Bolton College.

Here is a list of web based services that are available on smartphones for students and staff as they start a new academic year at Bolton College:

  • Student and Staff Home Pages. These pages serve as the main portal for accessing all college online services.
  • The college Moodle Virtual Learning Environment. This enables students and teachers to access all teaching, learning and assessment materials associated with their programmes of study.
  • The Media Channel. Bolton College has a growing library of videos that support a broad field of activities such as teaching and learning; the delivery of information, advice and guidance to potential, new and existing students and teachers; and to support publicity campaigns on the college's website.
  • Student records. Students at the college can access attendance records, attainment records and more on their smartphones.
  • News feeds. The Student and Staff Home Pages play host to a number of news feeds for students and staff at the college. The size of the college means that there is a steady stream of news that is posted daily to the news feeds.
  • Office 365. The ability to access Office 365 services over a smartphone supports the college's strategy for delivering ubiquitious services to all students and staff at the college.
  • Other mobile services include the ability for students to access schemes of work, assessment schedules, exam deadlines, messages from their teachers, the Principal's blog and more.

Mobile Services at Bolton College

Office 365

In September 2014 Bolton College will roll out Office 365 for its 14,000 students and 1,000 staff.

As well as being able to check their emails, students will be able to access their College OneDrive where they can create, store and share Microsoft Office files. It also includes a suite of Microsoft Office applications which can be downloaded onto a variety of devices and is completely free of charge during the time that students are enrolled with the College.

Office 365

What is included with Office 365?

  • Email
  • OneDrive
  • Office Online applications
  • Office for PC downloads (Office 2013 applications)
  • Office for Mac downloads (Office 2011 for Mac applications)
  • Office Mobile for iPhone, Android and Windows
  • Office applications for iPad (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote ...)

For Windows devices it includes the following:
Word 2013, Excel 2013, PowerPoint 2013, OneNote 2013, Access 2013, Publisher 2013, Outlook 2013, Lync and InfoPath 2013.

For Mac devices it includes the following:
Word 2011, Excel 2011, PowerPoint 2011, Lync and Outlook 2011.

Helix Media Library

In August 2014 Bolton College will launch Helix Media Library as its new media streaming service.

Bolton College selected Helix Media Library for the following reasons:

  • The Moodle Plugin enables our teachers to post and upload videos from our Moodle VLE.
  • The user interface provides for a great user experience for all our students and teachers.
  • The interface complements our device plus one strategy. Students and teachers will be able to access videos over the traditional desktop and tablet device as well as over their personal smartphones. Our student and teacher home pages are already mobile friendly.
  • The Helix Media Library server will deliver improved media management which means that our videos can be used to their full effect within Moodle and on the College's external website.

Media Channel

The ILT Team will be launching a Bolton College Media Channel for students and staff prior to the start of the new academic year in September 2014.

The Media Channel will act as an aggregation site for all videos that are created by students, teachers and teams across the College.

Bolton College Media Channel

The Media Channel will also be used to showcase our social media channels such as Twitter, Flickr and our College YouTube channel.

The Media Channel will be available via the Student and Staff Home Pages on desktop PCs/Macs, laptops, tablet devices and smartphones.

Next Steps

Bolton College's Next Steps project will deliver targeted Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) to all students in order to support their progression choices whilst studying at the College. When the project rolls out groups of students from across the College will receive bespoke IAG that reflects their current programme of study and their intended destination routes. Hence a Level 1 Construction student will receive IAG about Level 2 Construction courses. A Level 3 IT student will receive IAG about progressing onto Higher Education or about local job opportunities. Likewise a student who is undecided about a future career path could receive IAG about a broad range of courses and career options before making a decision about their next steps.
Next Steps Project at Bolton College

How will Bolton College's Next Steps project be implemented? An Information, Advice and Guidance database will be established which will contain a large number of assets that could be used to inform students when deciding on their Next Steps. These assets will be aligned to different vocational areas and to various academic levels. The database will hold information such as:

  • course information
  • student videos describing their subject or vocational choices
  • links to careers information against specific job groups
  • university open days
  • job clubs at the College
  • careers fairs; or
  • local apprenticeship opportunities

The use of algorithms will determine the assets to be displayed on each student's Home Page. Every student will have a unique set of Information, Advice and Guidance presented to them on their home page which will reflect their personal needs, requirements and future plans.

Next Steps News Feed

Bolton College's Next Steps project is one of many services that will deliver tailoured, bespoke and targetted information to students and teachers. As the student home page continues to develop students will be presented with information that is increasingly specific to them.

General information will include services such as the College news section which provides general news about what is happening around the College. Other general services currently include services such as the College library, student services, learner support and the Principal’s blog.

Targeted information will include services such as the the Next Steps section which will deliver targeted information, advice and guidance and which will reflect the Programme Area, section and level of the course being studied by the student. Other services that fall into this latter category include Moodle, the College's Virtual learning Environment and the College's Learner Management System which delivers unit grades, attendance records, progress data etc to each student at Bolton College. Services that currently deliver general information will be developed further to deliver more bespoke services to students and these will include the College's library management system and Bolton College's Media Channel.

Responsive websites for students and teachers

In March 2014 the ILT Team commenced work to develop responsive websites that would enable students and teachers to access key services over their mobile devices.

Bolton College commissioned e3Creative to produce the artwork and graphics for the new student and teacher facing web pages. The design brief stipulated that the artwork and user interface had to lend itself to the new responsive interface and above all it needed to enhance the experience for all our students and teachers when accessing services to support teaching and learning across the college.

Bolton College has successfully migrated a wide range of student facing services across to the new responsive interface. These include the student and staff news services, the college's student-teacher messaging service and the student support pages. The responsive website also gives students the opportunity to access their assessment records and targets associated with their course(s). The new sites went live on the 28th of April 2014. The college Virtual Learning Environment (Moodle) will join other responsive services in July 2014.

Staff website at Bolton College

Bolton College is promoting the use of the mobile friendly interface through a number of promotional campaigns. We used Video Scribe to generate the following promotional Student Home Page video.

The move to a responsive design for the student and staff websites at Bolton College has enabled the College to realise benefits on many levels.

  • Students show a preference for using their mobile phones to support their studies. Students have stated that they would access Moodle resources more readily over their own mobile device.
  • Mobile devices are always on and always with the student so this reduces classroom delays in accessing networked services over traditional devices such as a laptop. The intimacy and immediacy of using a smartphone also promotes the use of the smartphone in the classroom.
  • The cost of developing and delivering services for a mobile platform are lower. If students show a preference for accessing learning materials and other online services over their own smartphones Colleges like Bolton College will need to review the volume and tyes of devices that they purchase; especially when ubiquitious computing is achieved by students actively using their personal smartphones to support their studies. The ability to access Moodle course materials via a smartphone and to be able to access additional information on the same device adds tremendous value to the overall teaching, learning and assessment experience for students and teachers at Bolton College. Please note that Bolton College is still investing in productivity devices such as desktop computers and laptops to support students with their coursework.
  • The launch of a responsive design for the student and staff websites has had a positive effect on the design and use of online services at Bolton College. Enhanced user interfaces have attracted positive feedback and this is reflected in the rising number of students and teachers who are using the platform via the desktop, laptop, tablet and mobile.

Bolton College News Service

Bolton College's news service provides news from around the College. With one main campus and four Community Learning Centres there is never a shortage of news stories to share with students and colleagues. The main College news feed also acts as a social and historical archive for Bolton College. Archived news stories are accessible from any news story.

Bolton College News

Students have access to the College News Service via their home page. Staff have access to both the Staff News feed and the College News feed via the Staff Home Page. News stories typically include images, videos, surveys and links to internal or external websites.

Staff News Feed

Students and colleagues can post comments on each news story and they have the option to click on the like button if they have enjoyed reading the news story. Site administrators can also view the number of visitors to each news story.

Bolton College recently established the Teachers' Toolkit news feed which enables teachers at the College to share good practice and resources with one another. Bolton College's Take a Chance on Change (TACOC) project also shares this news feed for teachers. TACOC is a successful and long running project at the College which encourages teachers to explore new forms of teaching, learning and assessment both in and out of the classroom. Other discrete news feeds will emerge as the Staff Home Page develops.

Teachers' Toolkit and Take a Chance on Change News Feed

Talking Heads Videos

Bolton College's Talking Heads video project serves as a platform to showcase the voice and experiences of all our students and teachers from across the college. The project has attracted alot of interest across the college and the number of videos continues to grow each month. Here is a sample of videos that have been produced by staff and students at Bolton College.

In the following video students at Bolton College show off their skills in the Beauty, Make Up, Nails and Media Showcase for 2014.

In the following video teachers provide a brief overview of the Art, Design and Interactive Media courses at Bolton College.

In the following video we gain a brief insight about how D/deaf students feel about their studies at Bolton College.

Device Plus One Strategy

The 'Device Plus One Strategy' at Bolton College forms the basis for many of our ILT projects and services. Bolton College has a 2:1 ratio of full time students to networked devices. A programme to deliver a 1:1 device solution for all our full time students would be desirable but at the present moment in time it is not financially viable. Nevertheless, Bolton College has implemented a strategy to develop a range of mobile services which enables students to access services via their personal smartphones regardless of mobile operating system, screen size or web browser. The Device Plus One Strategy delivers ubiquitous access to College services and more importantly it delivers ubiquitous learning for all our students and teachers. If you wish to learn more about ubiquitious computing please refer to the article entitled ambient colleges.

Device Plus One Strategy

The success of Bolton College's Device Plus One Strategy is dependent on our ability to create an intuitive and attractive set of services that can be readily accessed over a wide range of smartphones. Initial feedback from students and teachers has been encouraging. Bolton College utilises a number of analytic tools to monitor the types of devices and operating systems being used to access our online services. During the course of the 2014-15 academic year we will monitor how our online services are accessed and we will take appropriate measures to adjust our change management strategy when promoting our mobile friendly services to students and teachers across the College.