Author Archives: Mark Glynn

eAssessment conference : Using Padlet with a large audience

Yesterday I had the privilege of providing one of the keynote presentations at the eAssessment conference in Scotland

This presentation started with an introduction to Learning analytics, followed by a critical eye on using learning analytics on VLE engagement data. The guts of the talk  however outlined how the data related to assessments collected from three different projects within DCU and then analysed with the aim of improving the student learning experience. Each project has two common threads; making life easier for the lecturer and improving the experience of the student.

The response from the audience was very positive and afterwards I received a lot of positive comments about our modifications to Moodle and how we have used them to capture data on assessments and how we follow up on the data with specific student interventions. More details will follow in the coming weeks on the various Moodle modifications but in the meantime I just want to share my thoughts on yesterdays experience.

It was my second time attending this conference and will certainly not be my last. Organised by Kenji Lamb, David Walker  and the rest of the team at Dundee University this conference is free to attend thanks to the sponsorship from a wide variety of stakeholders in eAssessment. With close to 300 participants the event offers a great opportunity to learn new things and meet new people. From my perspective I had big shoes to fill because the keynotes from last year were the amazing Catherine Cronin and Helen Keegan so I much admit I was a little daunted when I initially got the invite.

I hope to write a paper over the coming weeks on the content of my presentation so this post will instead concentrate on my reflection of the engaging with the audience. I decided to introduce the use of to help engage the audience. I must admit what sounded good in theory didn’t go as well as I wanted in practice. The main benefit that I got from using Padlet was I got more than 30 audience members asking questions or making comments on Padlet. This is something that I feel would not have happened if I just asked people to raise their hand if they had a question. I only realised this morning the additional benefit, I now have a record of all of the questions/comments made during the question, which I now can follow up at my leisure -

There were two main drawbacks both of which with the benefit of hindsight could be easily fixed:

  1. There were several comments posted where people obviously made mistakes, typing only their name with no comment or posting unfinished sentences. So the next time that I use Padlet I will spend more time providing instructions in advance.
  2. The second drawback was that as the participants were all posting comments simultaneously, a lot of comments overlapped one another making it difficult for me to refer to during the presentation. Next time I will just ask for a volunteer in the audience to rearrange the comments every few minutes so they are easy to read.

It was an interesting experiment that I will repeat in the future and one that I only realise now how useful it was.



Moodle Course Design Best Practices

I have just had the pleasure of reviewing the book Moodle Course Design Best Practices by  Susan Smith Nash (@elearningqueen) and Michelle Moore (@michelledmoore) . The book is an easy read and flows very well. The authors have a nice blend of teaching tips combined with technical know how. Broken down over 8 chapters the book starts with an introduction to good teaching design, leaving the technology aside. This in my opinion is what distinguishes it from the majority of books that I have read on Moodle. You can instantly tell that the authors have a pedagogical background and that remains evident throughout the entire book. To that end I would recommend this textbook to anybody that is relatively new to both teaching and new to Moodle. For the more experienced teacher you will still get  a benefit from this book but the first  few chapters will just be revision that you will likely skip over. The structure of the book lends itself very nicely to picking up and dropping down. What I mean is that you don’t have to read it from cover to cover. You can pick it and look at chapters specifically relevant to you at that moment in time – another appealing factor for me. I won’t go through the layout chapter by chapter as you can get that sort of information on Amazon but the meat of this book that will have the widest audience is Chapters 4- 8 with the last four chapters in particular breaking down the content into different types of courses, best practice for self paced independent study, cohort based course, student centred courses and communities of practice. Despite being a self confessed Moodle evangelist (as well as other learning technologies) I still always promote leading with pedagogy first then technology – a trait that is evident throughout this book. So if you have a spare €20 pop over to Amazon and get yourself this bargain.

Supporting the Student Support

The role of the Teaching Enhancement Unit within DCU is typically to support academics in the area of teaching and learning. While the general training and workshops that we offer are open to all staff, the majority of the training is targeted towards academics.Yesterday was more of an exception;  my colleague Dr Pip Ferguson and I delivered a workshop to staff from our Student Support and Development Unit. Based on our experience yesterday both Pip and I strongly feel that this “exception” should and will become more of the norm. Traditionally my counterparts in most universities deal solely with academics whether by direct intent or just due to lack of resources but yesterday reinforced my opinion in the absolute need for my unit to also directly help those that support students.

We ran a two hour workshop with 15 staff providing hints and tips on presenting to students and running workshops. But more importantly the workshop provided a forum where staff were able to share experiences and ask questions. The willingness of the staff to participate and generally engage with the workshop was very noticeable. Several points struck me through the morning, notably as part of an exercise participants were asked to chat to their colleagues about presenting to students. On more than one occasion I overheard people asking their colleagues “what do you actually do?”. I have no doubt that this arises from the fact that we are always chasing our tail and so busy with our own work that we don’t get the opportunity to see what our immediate colleagues do. Even though this particular unit appears very close on a personal level and I’ve always got a good vibe when I walk through their doors (it’s one of the nicest places to walk into within the college) . I believe their unit suffers from the same physical  location condition that we suffer from within the Teaching Enhancement Unit; sometimes people can be just tucked away in their offices, which despite working on the same team  they can be spread across a large area making it difficult for team members to interact and “socially” talk about work. While changing the layout of buildings and re-organising offices can be prohibitive, days like yesterday help address this type of issue. The second point of note was in addition to the very positive feedback received, there was an appetite for more – which is always. So we are following the workshop up by creating a resources page for staff containing these teaching tips/guidelines and providing staff with the opportunity to ask more questions and continue the learning beyond the 2 hours delivered yesterday. The final point that was very reassuring for me was that so many of the good points and suggestions were actually advanced by the participants themselves. To me this illustrated their belief in what they want to do and their interest in improving.

The next step following the set up of this resources page is to plan more workshops and build on the appetite that exists to learn more and to improve the student (and staff) experience



The SAMR model – allowing teachers to describe the ways they integrate technology into their practice

Puentedura (2006) developed a Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition (SAMR) model. It was designed to help educators identify different ways in which they can integrate technology into teaching and learning practices. It also provides teachers with a common language to describe the ways they integrate technology into their practice and enables teachers to identify the specifics of what they do and why. Puentedura’s model can be considered as a continuum from novice level (substitution) to an advanced, ideal level of technology integration (redefinition) to encourage teachers to seek optimal ways to include technology in learning experiences. Not surprisingly, many teachers are still using technology at a substitution and augmentation level because they are attempting to match technology to antiquated curriculum documents.

Concentrate on Feedback instead on Grades

“I got 74, what did you get?”

“How come Mary got more marks than I did?”

These are typical comments that would be familiar to many teachers. In my experience when students receive marks for an assignment they see the mark and pay little or no attention to the feedback provided. Encouraging students to concentrate on feedback instead on grades can be quite challenging.

Read the rest of this entry

#octel MOOC

Introduction & My “Big question”

I’ve enrolled in ALT MOOC with the first challenge being the management of the onslaught of mails, posts and tweets from my enthusiastic classmates. Literally over the last few days 100’s of my virtual classmates have addressed the first activity in the course by introducing themselves and posting their “big question” relative to the course. So heres my contribution to the deluge of information:


Keeping my introduction brief. I work for Dublin City University, where I head up the Learning Innovation Unit (LIU). I would imagine so many people on this course are in a similar position to myself, loads to do and not enough time to do it in. The role of the LIU is to support learning innovation throughout the university so as you can expect we get calls from every corner of the college. It is great role and I’m very fortunate to have a great team, albeit far too small team. We are constantly looking for opportunities to establish collaboration with other third level institutions and as such this is a personal goal that I have for this course. Two technologies that we are interested in collaborative projects would be the use of Moodle in HE and the use of Google sites and Blogger for e-portfolios. . My Twitter id is @glynnmark and for more of a personal background please feel free to visit my linkedin profile –


My big question is very simple how do I engage staff in the use of technology to enhance learning? I have staff with a wide range of abilities and interests when it comes to technology – how do cater for such a diverse audience, how do I measure the success of my team and our work programme. I’m very open to hearing the experiences of others with this and would welcome advice from all corners



Interested in Collaborating on Moodle 2

Everybody connected in some way or another with Moodle is aware that the system has undergone significant changes when it moved from Moodle 1.9 to Moodle 2. Some institutions are lucky to have significant resources at their disposal to cope with these changes – other institutions are not so lucky. Most of us have built up our training and support resources over a number of years. But the advent of Moodle 2 has put everybody onto the same starting point. To that end I have a suggestion for a collaboration. I suggest we sharing resources for Moodle 2. A logical suggestion considering the open source nature of Moodle.

We can potential share training resources i.e. training manuals and screencasts. In theory this level of collaboration is great, in practice though, there can be a great deal of difference between two different Moodle instances so my instructions on how to do x,y, or z is not applicable to your institution. That said, I do feel sharing instructional resources is a very useful idea and potentially a great starting point for collaboration between two or more institutions. However I have a specific suggestion on how to collaborate through Moodle.

I would like to collaborate on Moodle 2 orientated around an initiative led by Napier University in Scotland. This initiative is referred to as the 3E framework. The framework is based on an Enhance-Extend-Empower continuum. This was developed, with illustrative simple-but-effective examples that might be incorporated as a minimum (Enhance), through to uses of technology that give students more responsibility for key aspects of their learning (Extend), and to underpin more sophisticated, authentic activities that reflect the professional environments for which they are preparing (Empower).

The framework is best explained through examples. The link below provides such examples

I would like to support this framework by crowd-sourcing screencast examples/instructions on the various features of Moodle relevant to the example on the framework e.g. if the example under groupwork at the enhance level

  • Make the group working more manageable and ‘visible’ by having each group post a weekly update of progress to a private discussion board visible to the group and tutor” –

The relevant moodle screencasts would be how to create groups and how to post a discussion forum.

If you are interested in either of these initiatives please contact me via the comment box below or via twitter through @glynnmark

Hashtag for higher education in Ireland #heie

Twitter has been the most effective, efficient, and cheapest professional development I have ever come across. However I am not going to use this post to introduce Twitter for professional development or its other potential uses in higher education – there are numerous other websites that have got there before me. However I do want to concentrate on the area of hashtags in twitter. For those not totally comfortable on the concept of hashtags please refer to the video below

As I mention in the video there are numerous education based hashtags that are well worth following. One of the tags top of my list would be #edchatie. This tag is used by educators throughout Ireland from primary right through to third level. Another good one along the same lines, but not used as extensively in my opinion would be #ictedu. Unfortunately one of the drawbacks of such  popular tags with a widespread target audience is potentially a large amount of tweets may be not relevant to you. For example tweets with the #edchatie talking about parents involvements with schools is not relevant to third level educators, in  a similar fashion #edhcatie tweets about CAO is not relevant to educators from primary level.

That said I still gain an awful lot from #edchatie tweets and I will continue to recommend them at every opportunity. Nevertheless as a “call to action” from this post I would like to suggest the creation of a specific hashtag for higher education in Ireland.


If you are involved in Irish higher education please use the hashtag #heie where appropriate

How do I weight assignments in Moodle?

Most teachers give their students more than one assignment throughout the year, the hassle for the teacher is not only the keeping track of all of the grades for the assignments, but some assignments may be worth more than others. Moodle will allow a teacher to grade every assignment out of 100 (because this is something students are familiar with) and Moodle will do all of the calculations in the background working out the individual marks for each assignment and combining them all together once Moodle weights all of the assignments accordingly and presents a total mark to the teacher and the student. The video below illustrates how this can be done

What is Diigo?

Image representing Diigo as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

This posts introduces Diigo and outlines how the social bookmarking tool, Diigo can be used in the classroom

Whiteway, A. (2009). An evaluation of using diigo.Com with students. Retrieved from

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