Moodle with noodles!

Image of XJTLU.

I recently spent 2 weeks at XJTLU in China supporting new staff with the CPS programme, and with their institutional VLE, ICE (Interactive Collaborative Environment). Is uses the Moodle software rather than Blackboard which we use to run VITAL.  After years of supporting staff here to use Blackboard it was a very illuminating experience to support a new set of staff, in a new country, with a new VLE system!

New staff at XJTLU learning to use Moodle.

Moodle, for those of you not not come across it is an ‘open source‘ VLE system (Blackboard is a commercial for-profit organisation) developed in Australia, but now widely used in many schools, FE & HE institutions across the world.

Moodle is a very straightforward and easy to learn system. Most of the staff (70) that we worked with at XJTLU picked it up very quickly – most not having used a VLE before. Some of the immediate key differences between Moodle and Blackboard include:

  • the ability to create visually & graphically more engaging modules.
  • easy to structure modules in different ways to suit different pedagogical purposes. For example, you can structure a module by topics, time (sessions etc.), social networking or linking to learning design software such as LAMS.
  • all across the software you can see small features which indicate that teaching staff have had an input to the development of the software. For example, it has a built-in ability to change roles to a student to take tests etc. without having to enrol and login with a student test account.
  • it just worked! We didn’t come across any major bugs, admittedly we only supported staff with some of the functions of the software.

Watch this short 5 minute video for an overview to ICE at XJTLU. This video includes examples of online study skills modules development by the XJTLU’s English Langauge Unit. These modules extensively use multimedia, quizzes, coursework submissions, Tunitin etc. to support their English language development.

Nick Bunyan

eLearning Network Meeting 13th July 2011 – Apps for L&T

The last eLearning Network meeting of 2010/2011 took place on Wednesday 13th July and the focus of the meeting was on Apps for Learning and Teaching and mobile stuff in general! Yet again we were really pleased with how many people turned up and contributed to the session.

After a quick update on some e-learning activities (including the upgrade to VITAL on 18th July) we entered a lively discussion about the use of Mobile technologies at Liverpool and where it might go in the future.

Craig Goacher from CSD kindly brought along a few different mobile devices for people to  try. Thanks to Steve McKinnell too for bringing his iPad to demonstrate.

We looked at the Blackboard Mobile Learn app for VITAL on the iPad and discussed what it could and couldn’t do. We then turned out attention to other apps that may be useful for staff and students. Most of the apps on the list that follows have been tried by someone in the group and found to be useful – but please be aware, except for Blackboard Mobile Learn, none of these are “officially” recommended…

Examples of more apps can also be found at  Educational Technology and Mobile Learning.

Note taking:

MS Office type:

Mobile Office
Documents to Go


Mind maps/concept maps:

Reference managers:

Accessing the University:
Remote Desktop


File storage:

I’m certain I’ve missed some that we discussed so please feel free to add to/discuss this list via the comment facility below.

If you’re thinking about an Android mobile device, Peter Miller has looked into the Tabtech (manufacturer Eken) M009s 7″ resistive screen, Android 2.2: and kindly provided some details below…

Note that at this is very much a low-end machine compared to the iPad, i.e. significantly slower, but consideration may highlight some of the support issues associated with Android and help distinguish features that are essential as opposed to desirable, e.g. it lacks GPS, accelerometer, phone-asssociated functionality, ability to display direct to external monitor. Some common apps may not be available, e.g. if the hardware is absent. The resistive screen needs a firm press and does not support pinch-zoom gestures requiring multi-point touch. Supports 16 GB microSD card.

Wifi (not EduRoam as yet). Comes with 30pin-to-USB (x2) and -RJ45 connector for USB memory stick/keyboard/mouse, 3G dongle (some, not all), ethernet. Also direct link to USB port on PC. No display to external monitor.

Known to run (after ~12 days use of device!) — all at no additional cost, some as supplied with device, others as freeware, freemium or adware
— Google Docs and Reader (for RSS etc)
— Documents To Go (viewer for MS Office and PDF files; limited editing)
— Adobe Acrobat viewer
— eBooks: Kindle app; Aldiko app (for Calibre)
— YouTube

— Web browser with support for Flash, iPlayer; can run Xerte learning objects

— Evernote (not tested; required Market cache flush before it appeared as an option)
— AK Notepad (sync with as lightweight Evernote equivalent; supports use of Share to pipe output between apps)
— PubMed Mobile
— Instapaper for archiving web pages for later reading (also Web Scrapbook)
— Seesmic (for Twitter)
— Bb Mobile Learn (attached files need to be saved and viewed separately; haven’t tried editing)
— Thinking Space (commercial Pro version supports Mindmeister API)
— AndTidWiki app for generating personal wiki
— Clipper clipboard manager
— ASTRO File Manager

— DropBox

— WApedia (Wikipedia)

— app for screen sharing ( to get PC version)

There are no apps for MindMeister or Prezi as yet though you can view files after a fashion using the respective Flash-based web viewers. No app for Splashtop.



eLearning Network meeting 7th March 2011

The first eLearning Network meeting since the eLearning Unit (eLU) was created was held on Monday 7th March. We are always very pleased with how many colleagues turn up to these meetings and as usual we were happy to see another full room (35+ people!!) and some new faces :-).

The eLearning Network meetings are open to anyone in the university. We hope the meetings are an opportunity for you to find out what the eLearning Unit and CSD are currently doing and planning for the ‘e-learning future’. More importantly these meetings are an opportunity for you to meet with colleagues and find out what e-learning activities they are involved in.

After some concern over whether the worryingly slow PC would actually launch into action we finally got underway…

The agenda for the meeting covered a range of topics with contribution from CSD and eLU and the group as a whole in a discussion about what should be included in the VLE Review.

I started off by giving a blatant plug  for this blog 😉 and reminded everyone about the different ways that we are trying to communicate e-learning activities and developments across the university. We hope that the elearn-net mailing list becomes a place where staff can ask questions and share ideas so please feel free to post your thoughts and queries. 🙂

Anne Qualter (Head of the eLU) then gave an overview of the plan for the eLU and some of the challenges during the next year. Duncan Brown (CSD) gave details about the new hardware that VITAL will be updated to run on, which should improve performance and stability. Duncan also talked about the introduction of the Mobile Learn software and how this is being promoted throughout the University. We then had a discussion about what should be included in a VLE Review.

Thanks to everyone that attended – we feel this is a very useful way to share information, network with colleagues and hear about your views. Please feel free to post any comments you have about the meeting into the comments option below.

The next meeting is on Thursday 5th May 12.00-1.30pm. We look forward to seeing you then.

eLearning Unit

Workshop Report – VITAL Introduction for Administrators

This fully-booked, two-hour workshop was run in early November for administrative and support staff needing to know how to work with VITAL for their day-to-day role. Some staff were completely new to VITAL and some were attending to refresh skills after not using VITAL for a while. The emphasis of the workshop is to start from the basics and get confidence in finding your way around VITAL and where to turn with any problems or queries.

Over a lunch the team gave an overview of the VITAL system, how it fits in with other University systems, some common problems that occur between these systems and where to find help to get them resolved. We then moved to a computer lab for some hands-on practical work where Dan and Tunde demonstrated the system (with staff following and asking questions in their VITAL account) from the basics of logging-in to the system to topics like:

• How to create an announcement;
• How to upload files such as documents or PowerPoints to VITAL;
• How to create and manage assignments (including Turnitin);
• How to set up groups;
• How to manage a VITAL home page and lists of modules.

VITAL Introduction for administrators: computer lab session

This introductory workshop has proved particularly popular across the University and another session is being run on Tuesday 25th January 2011. This is available for booking now at the EdDev website. It is intended to be a flexible session and if there is anything that you particularly want covering then please do get in touch with the team when you book to discuss your requirements.