Moodle rediscovered (thank you Moodlecloud!)

It’s been several years since I have developed anything using Moodle, mainly due to being in a non teaching role.

Returning to a teaching/assessing role has been great, however, qualifications move on and I am once again building resources and activities for my learners.

I have been allocated a group of learners who are part way through their qualification and struggling with gathering evidence for communicating via the internet.

I am also looking at learning design and narratives as part of my H800 OU module and thought it would be useful to view this activity as part of a learning design narrative.   My learning design narrative is available on cloudworks.  Here contains some screen shots of my initial activities and feedback from the learners who have been kindly testing this out for me.

Five Activities created in the module

using the internet

Example of a forum post which included inserting a picture

forum picture


Feedback results

feedback results




‘The Networked Practitioner’ Online Conference 2016 – OU H818.

Below is an extract from the Cloudworks page of the OU H818 ‘The Networked Practitioner’ Online Conference 2016.

Conference organiser Dr Simon Ball – Link to conference page below.

‘The Networked Practitioner’ is module H818 of the OU Masters in Online and Distance Education (MA ODE)

The H818 ‘The Networked Practitioner’ online module is part of the MA Online and Distance Education programme run by the Institute of Educational Technology (IET) at the Open University UK. This online conference is presented using OULive (the OU synchronous discussion platform – a bespoke version of Blackboard Collaborate).


  • Terry McAndrew, Higher Education Consultant, former Academic Lead for Digital Literacies in the Disciplines at the Higher Education Academy and Advisor for JISC Techdis and the Bioscience Subject Centre.
  • Bart Rienties, Reader in Learning Analytics at the Institute of Educational Technology at the Open University UK.
  • Helen Beetham, Higher Education Consultant and author of several key Digital Learning reports.

Below are the conference sessions I attended

Session 1: Saturday 13th February

Start Time End Time Speaker Presentation Title
13.00 13.30 Terry McAndrew Keynote Presentation: An Open Future for all – how open education practices and resources can expand knowledge and skills for everyone.


13.30 13.45 Nicki Berry Individual Learning Plans: from paper to online
13.45 14.00 Tommy Ruiz How forums and collaborative learning impact oral proficiency in a Foreign language class.
14.00 14.15 Anita Houghton An Open space: A prototype to stimulate and capture the scholarly activity for FE practitioners delivering HE in FE centres.
14.15 14.30 Maxine Armstrong A flipped classroom on flipped classrooms
15.00 15.15 Anna Orridge Tackling Plagiarism Positively: An Online Resource Bank for Academic English Teachers
15.15 15.30 Laila Burton e-Portfolios: innovative practice in higher education

Session 2: Monday 15th February

Start Time End Time Speaker Presentation Title
18.00 18.15 Elaine Dalloway Do you ever consider copyright when including images and other content from the web in your digital teaching resources?
18.30 18.45 Carol Waites Writing tips for report writers globally
18.45 19.00 John Kerr Can MOOCs propel the OER agenda for educators in South Africa?
19.00 19.15 John Baglow Three Steps to a Collaborative Learning Environment: a module for teachers and trainers in the post-16 sector
20.00 20.30 Bart Rienties Keynote Presentation: The power of (in)formal learning: a learning analytics approach
20.30 20.45 Peter Scott Simple Sense. An alternative approach to Online Tutorials
20.45 21.00 Elizabeth Frost Functional Skills English within Vocational Areas

Session 3: Wednesday 17th February

Start Time End Time Speaker Presentation Title
09.00 09.15 Greg Keating Online Safety: Can Parental Networking combined with Parent Guides assist in keeping Children Safe Online
09.15 09.30 Lisa Hale E-feedback – supporting teachers in their use of Turnitin and GradeMark
09.30 09.45 Sarah Sneddon Learning a musical instrument online – an experiment in learning to play an instrument using only OERs.
09.45 10.00 Kiran Gawali Learning Acitivity Selector: a visual aid and tool for staff
10.30 11:00 Helen Beetham Keynote Presentation: From digital capability to digital wellbeing: thriving in the network.
11.00 11.15 Lesley Hamilton Motivating Learners: using video for Learning and Teaching
11.15 11:30 Chris Gray Open Turf: The effective use of Web 2.0 technologies in creating a collaborative platform for self-determined learning
11:30 11:45 Jennie Augustyniak  How open is the digital environment for disabled students in higher education?


Reflections on my project theme – innovation

The Research Councils UK, are responsible for investing public money in research within the UK. It is the ambition of The Research Councils UK “to ensure the UK remains the best place in the world to do research, innovate and grow business.”   Research Councils UK (2014)

I would suggest that research is therefore seen as a major driving force for innovation and innovation in turn is seen as major driving force for business or economic growth.

“Russell Group Universities are responsible for the vast majority of UK’s world-leading research”   The Russell Group (2014). The Russell Group’s prestigious member Universities are seen as the ultimate place to study and their culture is synonymous with the traditional view of research scholarship.

My project, Open Space was created to stimulate and capture all forms of scholarly activity. When constructing the site with personal examples it was of no surprise that my forms of scholarly activity reflected Boyer’s (1990) application and teaching areas.

In considering whether my project was innovative, I looked at two definitions of innovation as “The process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value or for which customers will pay”.   (2016). The Collins online dictionary (2016)  defines innovation as “something newly introduced, such as a new method or device”.   In both these definitions my project is innovative in respects that it produces a new process, a new combination of tools.

However, when considering the bigger picture, will the innovation within my project lead to business growth?     I can’t see currently how, as it is just a prototype platform, however, if the platform became widely used and successful collaborative projects were developed through the platform then potentially yes.

The second reflection regarding the theme is linked to the four areas of Boyer’s scholarship and further makes me question why research is seen as the ultimate scholarly aim.

I tried to put this in a diagram below to demonstrate the point.  The big question is how does innovation lead to economic growth without the integration, application and teaching?   I am not sure if it can (but would be interested in other views).  A very important secondary point here is that the act of integration, application and teaching can lead to innovation and also potentially economic growth.

I conclude therefore that all four areas of scholarship are very valuable and although research can start innovation without the other areas the ultimate aim of economic growth will not be reached without integration, application or teaching.

Diagram for presentation

What is Scholarship? And how does it relate to Open Space?

This post offers a view of scholarship based on the following three literary texts (full references at the bottom) and my own experiences as a vocational educator. The aim is to establish that scholarly activity can take many forms.

Scholarship reconsidered Priorities of the Professoriate – Enerst L. Boyer

The Digital Scholar – How Technology is transforming scholarly practice – Martin Weller

Higher Education in further education: capturing and promoting HEness. Lee and Simmons.

“The term (scholarly) was first used in England in the 1870’s by reformers who wished to make Cambridge and Oxford not just a place of teaching, but a place of learning”.    Boyer (1990) (pg 15) With the current day prestige Oxford and Cambridge possess in the UK, it is hard to imagine a time scholarly activity had to be actively encouraged.

Boyer (1990) identified four distinct (albeit overlapping) areas of scholarship.

Scholarship of Discovery (research) – He states the discovery of new knowledge is “absolutely crucial” to academic life.    Boyer suggests that discovery is “What is to be known, what is to be found?” (pg. 19).   This paints a picture of very traditional research practices, of controlled laboratory experiments or heavily analysed societal studies.

Weller (2011) looks in more detail at Boyer’s definitions and the impact technology may have on them.   In respect of web 2.0 technologies he concludes that in the area of discovery, “…in general, the attitude of the research community is one of caution and even occasional hostility. “ (pg.62) This suggests that discovery is still a relatively closed area and there is some reluctance to openness and the use of technology.

My personal perspective, as a vocational practitioner is that I find it difficult to have the cause or the resources to tap into the research arena.   This is partly because of the FE culture which I am within and also the vocational nature of the subjects.   My role has been to cascade theories and up to date knowledge about my subjects, not necessarily create new knowledge.  The Higher Apprenticeship programmes I have been involved with often involve participants working full time.   They would like to learn new skills and gain knowledge about their profession. Their aim is not to be become an academic researcher but to be better equipped to do their job function.   That isn’t to say that the groups and discussions don’t create new knowledge by the participants sharing their experience. I don’t view this as discovery in line with Boyer’s definitions. However, this is not necessarily applicable to all vocational subjects, this is just my experience with the level 5 groups I have worked with.

Scholarship of Integration – Boyer (1990) (pg 19) describes integration as “making the connections across the disciplines, placing specialties in larger context, illuminating data in a revealing way often educating non-specialists, too. “     Boyer suggests integration is “What do the findings mean?”

Weller (2011) (pg. 75), suggests that the web 2.0 technologies have had a very positive impact on interdisciplinary work as they are “… easy, cheap and (their) unfiltered production of content which can be shared effectively.”

For vocational learners who interact in a group making connections is highly normal.   It is not necessarily across disciplines but often across organisations. A group may consist of people undertaking the same qualification e.g. management but in different organisations.   Participants will integrate their knowledge.

Scholarship of Application – Boyer (1990) (Pg. 21) suggests that the question of application is “How can knowledge be responsibly applied to consequential problems?”

This is where I feel there is overlap between integration and application. The early example of Managers integrating new knowledge could just as easily be labelled as application in Boyer’s definitions.

Weller (2011) (pg 76) suggests there are several practices within the term application. In Higher Education he suggests these include sitting on committees, inputting into policy, advising charities etc.   This, I suggest is where Further Education and Higher Education differ, especially the work-based element of further education.   The Association of Colleges (2015) quote Parry (2009) identifying that “Colleges tend to specialise in flexible and part-time technical and professional education usually focussed on meeting the needs of the local labour markets…”   For these learners they apply their new skills and knowledge routinely as part of their learning.

In terms of the potential the web 2.0 technologies bring to this area, reflective blogging is just one example of a way to capture the skills development which is in essence a record of application.

Cooch (2015) in writing a blog of Top ten things to try in Moodle compares her top ten recommendations to Blooms Taxonomy.   Reflection and debate (of which Blogging is a tool which enables this) appears as number three,   beaten to the top spots by collaboration and peer assessment.   The suggestion being, the top tools mirrors the desirables of Blooms taxonomy namely, analyse, evaluate and create.

I propose that blogs can be an area to analyse, evaluate and possibly create new knowledge.  Therefore they are valid outputs for scholarly activity within the integration and application elements.

Scholarship of Teaching – Boyer quotes Aristotle “Teaching is the highest form of understanding” and he suggests that teachers must be “…well informed, and steeped in knowledge of their fields.” (pg. 23)

This seems to be quite a basic expectation that teachers need to be well informed. However, web 2.0 technologies do bring new possibilities and to some degree make it easier to stay informed.

Lea and Simmons (2012) suggest that due to various agencies such as the Learning and Skills Development Agency, Further Education practitioners have been participating in the ‘Scholarship of Teaching’ for a long time.   Perhaps, more so than Higher Education institutions.   In FE there has been a great deal of emphasis on measurement against externally set criteria.

Weller (2011) suggests that the many approaches to teaching and learning were “…developed in a different age..” and there has been a shift to an abundance of content and the use of networks in learning.   Teaching in the digital age (just as learning) may require different skills.

One very important challenge within the scholarship of teaching is the adoption of the new technology to enhance teaching and learning. I have been surprised by the slow uptake of digital teaching skills over the last decade.   I commenced my Masters in Online and Distance education in 2004 and fully expected that the last decade learning programmes would have been effectively blended with the new technologies as a matter of normality.   However, this does not seem to be the case. It is my opinion that in FE perhaps this is for the same reason that the research agenda has been on the back burner.   The pressures of external measures and the year on year amendments to qualifications funded by the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) have seen some areas having to adopt short term goals.   Priorities have been surviving the year without budget cuts.


Boyer (1990) suggests “….scholars are academics who conduct, publish, and then perhaps convey their knowledge to students or apply what they have learned.”   He discusses that the latter functions don’t necessarily follow from the research activities. Theory can lead to practice, but also practice can lead to theory.   He considered teaching at its best to shape both research and practice. He concludes (pg. 24) that what is needed is “…a more inclusive view of what it means to be a scholar – a recognition that knowledge is acquired through research, through synthesis, through practice, and through teaching. “

Lee and Simmons (2012) conclude “In reconceptualising research to include a much wider range of activities it offers a prospect to FE teachers that they do not have to aspire to be the type of researcher who ploughs an isolated furrow away from the distractions of teaching.”

Weller (2011) (pg 184) concludes “In this period of transition the onus is on us as scholars to understand the possibilities that the intersection of digital, network and open approaches allow. If Boyer’s four main scholarly functions were research, application, integration and teaching, then I would propose that those of the digital scholar are engagement, experimentation, reflection and sharing.”

I conclude digital technologies are paving the way for new forms of scholarship to be considered and valued. This is the ethos behind the Open Space website.   It combines free tools in a way that can be used to stimulate and capture a variety of scholarly activity. It isn’t my suggestion that platforms such as Open Space could represent or replace the academic research stage, however by focussing on Boyer’s other three areas of scholarship I hope it can go someway to demonstrating the value of these areas.

Comparing Open Space to Weller’s proposed aspects of a digital scholar I conclude that it demonstrates engagement (through learning new technical skills and engaging with new developments via twitter feeds), experimentation (the combining of tools is an experiment, measuring impact of activities), reflection (blogging regarding impact of the engagement and experimentation) and sharing (through being in the public domain.)


Boyer, E. (1990) Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate. New York: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Cooch M, (2015) Top Ten Things to Try in Moodle, (last accessed 25th January 2016)

Lee,J. and Simmons, J. (2012) Higher Education in further education:capturing and promoting HEness, Research in Post-Compulsory Education, 17(2), 179-193.

Weller, M. (2011). The Digital Scholar: How Technology Is Transforming Scholarly Practice. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Retrieved November 16, 2015, from

Tools used to create Open Space

Word Press site and blog tool


No 8 in the 100 Tools for learning 2015

Hosting site which hosts blogs for free.

Easy to use and set up. Some restrictions on features when using the free package.

Can be used to reflect on informal or formal learning activities.


Enables anybody to set up their own blogging site.

Can capture the details of activities.

Through the comments may also be used to stimulate scholarly activity of others.

The action of reflecting on activities can in itself stimulate more scholarly activity.



No 1 in the 100 Tools for learning 2015

Networking which enables you to keep up to date with your connections.


Open space shows the last two tweets.

Option to tweet on front page and  can easily follow to the person to see more.

Can stimulate activity by following people with the same scholarly interests.

Can capture as is record of engagement with a community outside of an organisation.



No 42 in the 100 Tools for learning 2015

Social Bookmarking which enables links to be stored for future use.


Acts as an online library or resources

It stimulates activity by grouping together in one place links and tagging them for future reference.

Google Docs


No 4 in the 100 Tools for learning 2015

Can be used to create documents, forms or spread sheets. Can be shared by links. A variety of access settings e.g. read only or read/write.


One document can be set up and shared to many who can collaborate within the same document, thus stimulating and capturing activity.

New Year – New Apprenticeship reforms

Webinar –  18th January 2016.

I have listened to many of Nick Linford’s webinars. He speaks on behalf of Lsect.   Often they are in response to funding changes with Apprenticeships or first reactions to white papers etc.

Below are the key points which I think are important from the New Year, New Apprenticeship webinar.   The full set of slides is here   (Link added to this page after permission gained from Nick Linford).


Points Discussed                                      Possible impact
Apprenticeship LevyTo be paid by large employers by April 2017.

This represents 2% of employers in the UK.   For a company the size of Tesco this may represent in the region of £50 million contribution.

Still uncertain how the smaller (98%) of employers will pay for their Apprentices.


Large employers paying into the pot will be keen to use their allocated money so will be likely to become pro-Apprenticeships (if not already)

May have an impact of organisations targeting programmes at large employers. This seems to at odds with the work over the last few years to provide incentives for small employers to hire Apprentices.



Public sector targets

If an organisation has 250 plus employees there will be a target of 2.5% of employees to be Apprenticeships.


NHS is already committed to more Apprenticeships than the 2.5% target (aiming for 6%)


The size of public sector organisation in terms of funding terms is always subjective. In terms of funding requirements currently, schools are not seen as part of the Local Authority, even though staff are employed by the local authority.   Some organisations my use technicalities to ‘opt out’ of being a large organisation.



Quality inspections


Levels 2 and 3 will continue to be inspected by Ofsted


Higher levels will be monitored by the HE quality regime.



Will this lead to providers segregating the different levels?

Functional skills requirements


Level 2 Apprenticeships remaining requirement to achieve level 1 Functional skills, with working towards level 2.


Level’s 3 and 4 Apprenticeships must achieve level 2 functional skills before the end point assessment.


New functional skills qualifications due to be published in 2018.






Level 4 requirement has changed as currently not included in the framework.   This I imagine has the potential to change.   Functional skills were included in Apprenticeships at Higher levels up to July 2013. They were then removed from the frameworks (with the understanding that candidates could demonstrate competence at level 2 before enrolment).



New standards/Old frameworks

 There are 71 new standards ready to deliver.   Government would still like to switch off the old frameworks but a date for this hasn’t been confirmed.





At first glance of the list it appears that the generic skills of business admin, customer service and   management have been segregated to different professions.   E.g. a financial customer advisor, financial administrator.


There seems to be a lot of higher level Apps in the list.   On the current frameworks there are good progression routes. E.g. in Leadership and management there is a level 2,3,4 and 5 Apprenticeships. The new standard is a level 6 degree Apprenticeship with a four year duration.   This may be off putting for some candidates but the chartered Management status will appeal to others.



Institute of Apprentices


Small board, fully operational by April 2017. Will be maintaining the standards.


Digital Apprenticeship Service


Will help employers find providers aiming to be fully operational by October 2016. (pilot starting in April 2016).   This will be seen as a business critical system.








All organisations delivering Apprentices need to engage with this.




Any grade provider can now provide these.   If an organisation doesn’t use its allocation it will be reallocated by the SFA.


National Apprenticeship Service


Employer support function, may return to a broker relationship. Providers should let NAS know if they are interested in working with large employers.

Success measures


Piloting destinations to be added to the success criteria.   Increase minimum threshold from 60% to 65% success rates.


Conference – Abstract



Research is often seen as the ultimate aim of the scholar, Boyer (1990). Universities pride themselves in leading the way in the field of research, the forerunners of innovation and discovery.   In the UK, there are several types of organisations which deliver Higher Education. These comprise Universities (including the prestigious Russell Group), training providers delivering Higher Apprenticeship and also Higher Education (HE) Centres based in Further Education (FE) colleges.

HE Centres within FE colleges serve a different purpose than traditional Universities. They are often responsive to local labour demands, specialise in technical and flexible part time programmes and increase participation in Higher Education, (Association of Colleges (AOC) 2015). Fostered from these differences are cultural differences.   HE centres are born out of the FE (teaching) culture and not the HE (research) culture.

The AOC (2015) in response to addressing these differences are overseeing a Scholarship Project aiming over the next three years of building a framework to support staff in HE centres become more scholarly.  The project proposal outlines Boyer’s (1990) four areas of scholarly activity, namely, discovery (research), integration, application and teaching.

The Education sector is facing a considerable amount of change. FE colleges are undergoing area reviews which could lead to college mergers, (Dept for Business Innovation and Skills 2015). Becoming more research focused and firmly establishing themselves in HE is strategically desirable as HE taps into different funding streams.   Within Universities there are proposals for a teaching excellence framework to focus on the teaching within Universities, (Times Higher Education 2015). The result of these developments may result in FE becoming more research focused and HE becoming more teaching focused.

The development of digital technologies is also driving change within education. There are an increasing number of tools available which can deliver and promote learning in innovative ways. Jisc (2015) and The Russell Group (2015) both discuss open access policies which encourage data sets to be published. Digital technologies have enabled data sets to be available quickly in a global arena.  Jisc (2015) state that the open access policy will promote innovation and economic growth.

Perhaps now marks a new era of education, traditional organisational culture is blurring and technology is driving openness. It is with these drivers in mind that I aim to deliver a resource that can stimulate and capture any type of scholarly activity.

Open Space is a platform which can be built by any practitioner regardless of institution, using free web based tools. It will engage practitioners in digital and open practices which mirrors the era that students are now learning in. The prototype will include an area to create an individual online library, use networking tools to keep up to date in their field and an area for reflective blogging and collaboration.   Using these tools will not only stimulate but capture scholarly activity irrespective of institutional culture – current or future.

The presentation will be an overview of how these tools are combined within one platform to engage individuals without institutional boundaries.  It will show examples of activity which can be captured to demonstrate all the four types of scholarly activity.

Conference Link

Open space: A prototype to stimulate and capture the scholarly activity for FE practitioners delivering HE in FE centres

Conference 13th February 2016 in cloudworks – click here to view more


Association of Colleges (AOC) (2015) – last accessed 29th December 2015)

Boyer, E. (1990) Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate. New York: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Department for Business Innovation and Skills (2015) Policy paper, Post-16 education and training institutions review, published, July 2015 (last accessed 29th December 2015)

Times Higher Education (2015) – 4/8/15 Teaching excellence framework (TEF): everything you need to know last accessed 29th December 2015

Image – Mastermlndsro –


Thank you Simon Ball (OU tutor) for the valuable feedback.

How to network your blog?

Good question…. and also a chance to try out a way of collaborating via google docs.

Click Here to add your thoughts.


“blogs are like Marmite”


“Blogs are like Marmite” This was a comment I received when I first floated the idea of using blogs, to capture scholarly activity.   Our love/hate relationship with blogs is a sentiment I can relate to.   I have avoided writing blogs for a long time. However, over the years I have gained a great deal from reading blogs, both personally and I’m fairly sure to some degree professionally. However, if I was asked to pin point what I have gained, I probably would struggle to identify an individual blog or its impact.

Looking into the issue of how vocational practitioners can capture scholarly activity, blogging I believe is the logical answer. An academic may embark on a research project what does a vocational practitioner do?  Commonly, we attend update events regarding the qualifications we deliver. We aim to partake in industrial updating (although this can be hit and miss). At best an NVQ assessor can assess part time and continue working in the profession. Other forms of activity in the vocational world include, standardisation and moderation activities and also expanding the qualification range. All these can be captured easily on a CPD log, however, where is the impact of these activities and do they represent scholarly activity?   I am hoping that through a series of blog posts on this site, I can demonstrate that  these activities can capture scholarly activity.

So why is a blog the logical answer? It’s reflective nature has greater potential to capture impact than a more traditional CPD log.

How often will I blog?   I have a list of over ten blog topics which I would like to produce immediately. These are based around one activity each blog with the aim of relating the said activity to a scholarly aim. After this initial flurry of activity I will be scheduling writing once a fortnight and keeping a log of activities to blog about.

How to blog? I am new to blogging, this is my first attempt. I have read the below two blogs on blogging (and there will be plenty more openly available). I am hoping that my skills will evolve with time.

Learning to blog is one of my scholarly activities, how to measure its success is a different story.

Image obtained from – Image obtained here

Apprenticeship Conference 2016

Picked this up from twitter

I would love to go, however, not sure my organisation will pay.   Will be monitoring the back channels and hopefully gain a feel of what’s happening.