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Supporting innovation in teaching, learning and learner development at Roehampton

Postcards to myself

Making good use of the Moodle Media Collection plug-in

A while ago, Finola Farrant, a Criminology lecturer at The University of Roehampton, contacted me to find out whether I could suggest a bit of technology that would help her help her students. In a nutshell, she wanted them to submit a ‘postcard’ on which they were to reflect on and engage with their own situations regarding employability in a visual and creative way. She needed students to be able to upload images easily and she wanted others to be able to access and comment on their work.

I wanted to use a more creative format to get students to think at a deeper level about what they have achieved so far and what more they may need to do to be successful in achieving their chosen careers.

Initially we settled on using Mahara, because it seemed like the obvious choice, even though we were a little concerned about running the project outside Moodle.

While conceptualising what the project might look like in Mahara, however, we came almost serendipitously* upon a useful Moodle plug-in called “Media Collection”. We started trialling it immediately to find out if it could work for us.

The first phase of the project has been completed now and I asked Finola to share her experiences so far with us in an e-mail.

The Interview

Q. What exactly was the project you wanted students to complete?

A. The aim of the postcards is to provide students with an alternative way of thinking about and presenting information relating to employability. There are three elements to the project.

postcards - finolaPostcard 1
Students are encouraged to think about the skills, knowledge and experience they already have and this is then presented in a visual format (a postcard) with a brief explanation about what the picture means.

Postcard 2
They are now required to think about a criminal justice-related job they would like to do in the future and to identify the main requirements for this role. A postcard representing this is then uploaded.

Postcard 3
The final element is thinking about what they can do to achieve their desired job. A third postcard is created and uploaded to represent this step.

At the end of the project, students will have created three postcards which would reflect their skills, the work they would like to do and, importantly, what actions they need to take in order to make them more attractive to employers.

At the end of this process students have to write an assessed Employability Report. What I am hoping is that the Postcard Project will raise the standard of the assessed work and that students will have a clearer idea about the importance of thinking about transferable skills, examples to support what they are saying, presentation, and what they need to do to achieve their chosen career on leaving university.

Q. Why did you feel you needed a special tool to get the job done? What did you expect the tool to do?

A. I wanted to use a more creative format to get students to think at a deeper level about what they have achieved so far and what more they may need to do to be successful in achieving their chosen careers. I wanted the tool to aid students’ formative learning and for them to be thinking about the assessment at an earlier stage in the module so that they could make links between their teaching and learning and final outcomes of the module.

So far I’ve not had any queries from students about the technical side of the postcards so am assuming that they are confident about using the system.
Q. What did you decide to use in the end?

A. A Moodle plugin called “Media collection

Q. What does the tool do?

A. As it says on the box, the plugin allows lecturers to create a space for students to submit “galleries”. These galleries can be based on images, audio or video.

Q. How did you use it?

A. The postcards are required at various points in the module. The first one was uploaded by week three and this worked really well as students engaged with the topic and posted a range of interesting as well as visually stimulating postcards. With the brief explanation that students provided I felt I learned a lot in terms of the level of experience and knowledge the students already have.

Q. WeAdding a galleryre you satisfied with the results?

A. We are only part way through the process and I’m looking forward to the next couple of postcards being uploaded, but so far the postcards have surpassed my expectations – on the whole they have been really impressive.

Q. Did the students have trouble creating and uploading their postcards?

A. I was really worried about that! Fortunately I had a number of one-on-one sessions with Moodle support with a member of the eLearning Team who also provided a guide** that was made available to students. I also used the system myself so as to be familiar with it and for students to see an example of what was expected. So far I’ve not had any queries from students about the technical side of the postcards so am assuming that they are confident about using the system. I was impressed by the response from students, the majority uploaded postcards and I have made sure to respond to each of them individually which offers an alternative way of communicating with them.

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* Actually Aleks Macheta, our eLearning Administrator, installed the plug-in and asked us to have a look at it. So our luck had a lot to do with her sharp intuitions for a useful plug-in.

** The student guide to using the Media Collection Plugin can be found here: http://roehamptonlearning.com/user-documentation/237/uploading-images-to-a-media-collection-activity/

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