Blended Learning Course week 3

This week focused on three topics: VLE, Open tools and open educational resources (OER), and there were some interesting activities to help us learn the topics.

The first activity I’d like to highlight is giving an example of my learning activities through VLE tools and describing the impact it had on learners, and sharing the example on the VLE padlet wall; then critique another participant’s example from my perspective. This activity required us to practise many skills:

  • Reflective thinking on my own practice and pick a proper example.
  • Making online presentation. I decided to make a PowerPoint presentation through video as it is easy for people to follow my example. I could practise my presentation skills.
  • Publishing a post on Padlet, which is an easy-access open collaborative tool.
  • Awareness of public presentation and writing.
  • Critical thinking on my understanding of a topic.

Combining with some case studies, the exercise of selecting open tools to support learners helped me to rethink why adopt a tool. We encounter this kind of question a lot. People often ask us why we can’t use A, why we have to use B, Is B better than A, I cannot see B is better than A, etc. Apart from the elements of the service situation, it has to benefit users (especially learners) in the specific context. I need to help users to see the choices based on a thoroughly understanding of their use case. There are many open tools for different purposes (e.g., presentation, reflection, collaborative writing), personally I like Google tools, Vimeo, Audacity, Prezi, and WordPressSocrative as an interactive tool that allows users to answer questions, is new to me. I will have a look at it and learn the differences between it and Xerte Online Toolkits.

The third activity is that we had an online Q&A session on YouTube. It’s a good opportunity for us to interact with the educators, which reduced the learners’ isolated feeling when took an online course. It’s an excellent example that shows how technology is used to engage learners. Although I was late to join the session, I could read the chat history and watch the part I missed easily. One thing I noticed is that I couldn’t see how many other peers were watching it and on the Chat during the YouTube Live streaming. I learned a bit of how to broadcast with YouTube Live after the session.

I have a page in my blog which lists free online resources for educators. I haven’t updated it for a few years. The study in this week reminded me to keep such information up-to-date. They are on my to-do list now. I’m glad to refresh my knowledge about OER, and particularly like Neil‘s clarification about OERs and Open Access resources.

OERs should not be confused with Open Access resources: the latter also includes e-resources available on websites, but for these resources copyright and permitted usage is either unclear or not defined at all.

Like previous weeks, I enjoy reading comments, organising my thoughts and writing down, and learning from others. A few interesting conversations called my attention:

  • using Facebook in teaching and the inclusive issues for Chinese students in such scenarios;
  • discussions through forum in VLE or Whatsup, the differences?
  • advantages and disadvantages of OERs.

Open Source Applications in the Education Sector

I’m glad to read the “Open Source Options For Education” written by Mark Johnson, OSS Watch.  It’s a very useful collection of open source software.

There are many software applications titled “Open Source” in the market. I think it needs to have criteria for choosing the application in the educational context first, such as based on what LMS standard requirements. Here is an introduction to Open Source Software and Open Standards by DCC.

I list some open source tools/projects I recognised in the UK education sector.

  • eXe – a freely available authoring application that assists teachers in the publishing of web content without the need to become proficient in HTML or XML markup.
  • GIMPSHOP – a modification of the free and open source graphics program GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP), with the intent to replicate the feel of Adobe Photoshop.
  • Helix – Media delivery platform (see Cardiff University Media Library)
  • JISC – web conferencing toolkit
  • openair – open-source tools for air pollution data analysis. The project is led by the Environmental Research Group at King’s College London, supported by the University of Leeds.
  • Pencil Project – a free and open-source GUI graphics (prototyping) tool.
  • WebHuddle – fully open-source server-based web conferencing system integrating text chat, VoIP (one-to-many), PowerPoint presentation, live annotation, application sharing, polling and recording in a secure environment. (Also see wikipedia resource: A comparison of web conferencing software).
  • Udutu – a free online course authoring tool designed to integrate with social media platforms. (see e@lboro)
  • XMind– a free and open source Mind Mapping tool.

Open source geospatial resources hosts a resource for users and developers in the open source mapping community. I had a quick look at the links, it has very useful web resources. For example, GRASS GIS project provides GIS software suite used for geospatial data management and analysis, image processing, graphics and map production, spatial modeling, and 3D visualisation. MapServer is an Open Source platform for publishing spatial data and interactive mapping applications to the web.


My friend told me that her old laptop got virus and someone helped her install a strange free OS that she doesn’t know how to use. She even doesn’t know how to call it. I immediately guessed it is Ubuntu. Six years ago I came across this product as a free Ubuntu disk was in the lab. I didn’t try it but remembered it. Nowadays, it spreads quickly and its applications are all free and open source. Actually, I’d like to try the Ubuntu Edge after read the post “Ubuntu Edge: A case of mistaken identity“.

I, Librarian

I, Librarian is a PDF manager, a free and open source web application, which enables individual researchers or a small group of researchers to create an annotated library of scientific PDF articles. It enables smart browsing and fast searching in reference data and PDF files, and includes an advanced tool for mining scientific literature from PubMed, PubMed Central, NASA ADS, arXiv, IEEE Xplore, JSTOR® and HighWire Press®.

Peer/Self Assessment tools

Aropä is a web-based system that supports peer review activities in large classes. It was designed by John Hamer and Helen Purchase.

Blackboard Self and Peer Assessment building black is a tool designed to facilitate the objective, analytical, and learning comprehension skills of students.

CASPAR was funded and developed by Bournemouth University as an online solution for self and peer assessment with a particular emphasis on the media practice discipline.

iPeer is an open resource application for ​rubric-based peer evaluations. It is actively developed at the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology (CTLT) at the University of British Columbia.

Online Peer Assessment Software designed and developed by Dr Nathan Clarke & Dr Paul Dowland

PeerWise is an online learning tool that supports students in the creation, sharing, evaluation and discussion of assessment questions.

SPARKplus is a web-based self and peer assessment kit. It enables students to confidentially rate their own and their peers’ contributions to a team task or individual submissions.

STEAM is an open source web-based peer evaluation tool.

Turnitin PeerMark is a tool for staff to conduct electronic peer review assessments.

WebPA is an open source online peer assessment tool that enables every team member to recognise individual contributions to group work.

Workshop is an interactive activity in Moodle where students can view, grade and assess their own and peers’ work.


Authoring Tools

Seven Top Authoring Tools” occurred in my search. The term “Authoring Tool” is somehow misleading as it’s not word processing software but a web content creation application. Also terms such as “web authoring tool”, “web page authoring tool”,”course authoring tool” and “e-learning authoring tool” do not help too.

Well, I prefer using “web content management tools” or “e-learning development tools”.

The definition provided by W3C  is clear,

“Authoring tools are software and services that people use to produce Web pages and Web content. “

An explanation in the article “A Review On Authoring Tools” written by Khademi, M., et al is clear too.

“… a program that helps you write using hypertext or multimedia applications and enable you to create a final application merely by linking together objects, such as a paragraph of text, an illustration, or a song….”

There are some sources listing useful authoring tools below. I won’t call them authoring tools, but put them under the LCMS.