Tuesday, 27 September 2011

3D experience - LRC / e-learning / IT Inductions

The student induction session that we deliver in the LRC covers the basics of what students need to know to get started in College.  The main aim is that students can come to one place and within the hour they will be able to interact effectively with the systems and resources that they need to learn.  It is important that they get a good start and I feel that an online version of the induction wouldn't work and nor would a traditional talk and tour.
This year we have updated the induction and included a 'wow factor' 3D walk through of the LRC and also a interactive quiz using the Interactive Whiteboard Voting system.

The induction consists of:

  • A 3D walk through of the LRC with events
  • Demonstration and practical 'hands on' activities to log on to the College system, log on to Blackboard, access the appropriate course and resources, accessing the LRC site on Blackboard including help videos of using Blackboard, using the library catalogue, accessing the online databases and e-Book collections and logging onto and using email.
  • An interactive quiz with voting for feedback
The 3D induction experience was created for us by a local company called Amazing Interactives.
We had originally bought the system when part of the Becta Technology Exemplar network with the standard applications but then this year decided to have a custom application created.  They modelled the LRC with all the component parts and it looks brilliant - so realistic - it looks exactly like it (yes, I know that is stating the obvious!).  All the chairs, tables and computers are there and we 'walk' through a route to cover the main areas of the 3 floors.  There are a number of 3D events where things happen and fly out of the screen e.g. books, printing, laptops etc. etc. It's shown on a special screen which can be moved around and you need to wear 3D glasses.  The system itself is stand alone and has 2 projectors.  It is easy to control - just press left mouse button to go forward, press right button to activate an event, no buttons and just move mouse to look around.  It's good fun to use and the students like it.  Some people find it makes them slightly dizzy but in general it's fine.  There are still some parts that need improving slightly and for next year we will change the embedded video clips to make them more whizzy but so far so fab.  
There is another part to it also which is an At Seat Wayfinder which will enable students to use the 3D model to select and find books and other resources and they will be 'walked' to the destination - there will be over 100 different destinations.  This should be available next week.
Here are some photos just taken with my iPhone 

The really cool bits are that it is so realistic especially the stairs and you can see out the window at the football ground and Roseberry Topping and the sunlight.

Week 4 - the term so far

Well, we are in week 4 and it's been a 17 days of ups and downs - luckily mainly ups.  No matter how prepared you are for the beginning of term, and we are pretty well prepared, it still happens like a tidal wave and all you can do is go with it.  This sounds slightly dramatic but I think you need to be a bit manic to cope with it all.
The good parts are that we have had no disasters, we've had lots of students coming into the LRC, logging on to computers, using Blackboard, using e-Books, borrowing books and printing and all have gone away relatively happy.  The difficult parts are that by week 3 you are switching into trouble shooting mode as it becomes busier and situations crop up that you hadn't anticipated.  I don't mind this but I know it is difficult for some people and can only work for a short period of time and has to be backed up with proper processes but I like to think that what ever a student needs to know or do, we can help to some extent.   
Our VLE has worked well in the most part and this is due to the hard work of our
e-learning manager and e-learning technologist - every course that is taught in the College has a corresponding Blackboard course so  everybody uses it.  During inductions we make sure students can get logged on correctly and can find their Blackboard course and access course materials.  Also we access the library catalogue through Blackboard and the online databases and e-Book collections so it plays a big part in what we do.  We have some issues with incompatibilities with Windows 7 and or Internet Explorer 9 but have managed and hope the rest are being worked on asap.  The WebDAV is not working with Win7 for the electronic course file and a few other  issues but I keep chasing them up.
The computers have been working reasonably well although it's taken a while to get MyPC, the computer booking system, sorted.  It's still hanging onto some bookings if users log off rather than shutting down which means we have to check up regularly - all our computers in the LRC, 185 of them are booked at the desk - it seems like a lot of work but it cuts down on problems, helps us monitor usage, works well, and manages the space effectively.  We definitely have more students this year and last week had approx 1400 students per day using the LRC on Tues, Wed & Thurs.  We have turnstiles on our entrances / exits and they work really well - students swipe in with their ID cards and are happy to do so (some even thought they were great) - we get very few 'tailgaters' or 'jumpers' and it manages the space well.  They know that they are coming into a learning area and respect that it is different to a social area.
We've had lots of student reading books especially the graphic novels and manga collections which is pleasing.  There is a good mix of students reading, going on computers and using the study spaces - you need the mix to make it work.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Beginning of term

The new term began on Monday 5th September and we were as ready as we could be.  All staff were back and most things were working. 
We started our LRC / e-learning / IT inductions on Monday afternoon and they have worked really well.  They consist of a 3D experience which is a walk through of the LRC with events then a demonstration and hands on practical part where students log on to the computers, log on to Blackboard and their course, use the LRC Blackboard page including the OPAC, log on to the e-Book collections and search for resources.  Then we have a quiz using the interactive whiteboard voting sets to get feedback.
There is a lot going on and I was worried that it would not be logistically possible, technically possible or might be overwhelming.  However I'm pleased to say it works and the planning that we did has paid off.
The actual sessions have been calmer yet more focused and interesting than previous years.
One part that we have left out this year is the printing - we explain about it briefly but last year we actually showed students how to set up their printing accounts as it is a little complicated and how to print an item but found that they still came back to the desk on subsequesnt occasions as they couldn't remember how to do it.  So this year it is brief explanantion, step by step instructions on the leaflet that students are given and then they can come to the main counter at anytime for help. 
Students fill in a registration card at the end of induction which is needed for the first time they borrow a book - this is laborious for them & LRC counter staff to input the data but the automatic feed of data is still 'pending'. 
There are various computer issues, as there always are at the beginning of the academic year, but they are working and students can get logged on.  We have moved to Windows 7 and Office 2010 which is taking some getting used to for some staff and students.  The move to Internet Explorer 9 has also thrown up some compatiability issues.  Our computer booking system MyPC is working in the most part but hanging on to bookings rather than closing them when a student logs off so that means staff have to make sure they keep an eye on the computers and switch off and reboot if needed.
I was at the ALT conference last week and blogged about it here http://donlantechnologies.blogspot.com/ so it meant that I came into College most mornings and disappeared in the afternoons.  Not ideal but everyone else carried on brilliantly.
On Friday morning we did the first of our Curriculum Liaison presentations for the new academic year.  It was for the Sports, Uniformed Services and Travel & Tourism department.  It went well and we received positive feedback. 
This week we have been busy as even more students have enrolled and started their courses.  More inductions and planning events and activities for the next few months. 

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Association for Learning Technology Conference (ALT-C 2011)

I've had a great 3 days at the ALT conference.  It is definitely the best conference to go to if you are involved in education / learning / technology in any way at all and there are such a wide variety of sessions and events that it's possible to find something of interest all the time. There are fun things, practical workshops, presentations and  serious research.  It is well organised and well attended.
I've blogged about it here http://donlantechnologies.blogspot.com/
It's been a busy week at College too with inductions starting so I've been into work first most days to do an induction session then off to Leeds for the conference.  Will blog more about the inductions soon hopefully before the end of the week.  Tomorrow we've got a Curriculum Liaison presentation to deliver and more inductions.