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Date: 030608 From: Holmfirth High School (JG) To: Digitalbrain PLC/ Kirklees LEA Subject: 3 years on - A full review of the digitalbrain learning platform, and suggestions for our future Learning Platform output specification.

Desirable

Required

Essential

HOME PAGE Log in

Log in box on the page? Having a button or link to a separate log in page slows the process of logging in. Page refreshes to the school HOME page? Why? If a user is logging in usually this is so they can access content personal to them. Why can't the log in take users directly to trier personal home page? This will encourage users to use the features and tools personal to them. Usernames are different to email addresses. Most web applications now use email addresses as default usernames. Email addresses are more likely to be remembered and easier for pupils to use.

Banner and logo

The banner and logo sections are separate? Surely ONE space for a complete banner which includes the logo (if needed) would be easier to change and use less code?


Tool Bar

Many defunct or unused features remain? • e-learning? • File? • Tools º Get media º Get Book º Email - This is a duplicate º Calendar - This is a duplicate • Log in/ out icon? • Inform - This does not add the link automatically? And why is it called INFORM? Surely it is a way to SHARE and should be called such. • Account Admin - This is a duplicate, if users were directed to their personal home space, this is where account admin can be accessed.

Calendars

When events are shared or assigned to multiple users, these events should show in their personal calendars too.

Search

The platform needs a search tool. This should allow users to search for any related content/ files(types)/ media(types) by filters. It should also allow the users to search within trier own school platform as well as within the LEA. If content (when added or created) asks for it to use Tags this would help searching for content be more relevant. Age and ability relevance should also figure within an advanced search criteria. For example: A Ks3 student looking for content and resources for a geography/ volcanoes project should be able to filter by: School- platform/ Ks/ Subject/ keyword Searches performed should be archived so that users can see what content has been searched for before by them and other users.


Upon finding resources and content, users should have the options of sharing their findings with other students via url, email and by sending such content into web folders.

If resources found are going to be of use for future reference, users should be able to save copies inside their own webspace.


After finding resources and content users should have the ability to rate it, or DIGG IT, and add comments/ reviews about the content to allow other users opportunity to decide how relevant the content is for their own needs.

Personal HOME page - Contemporary e-learning

Access to e-learning (a better name would suit such as - Manage Learning) should be listed on the list of icons. The record of achievement, target setting etc.

e-mail

Along side the email icon should be an indication of new mail (how many, unread etc.

Groups

Surely for pupil accounts this should be a Friends list, a place to see who is online, friend requests, visitors to pupil home pages perhaps with a message board?

Courses and Communities

Via the icons a drop down menu should be in place to allow users to go directly to specific courses or communities rather than loading a separate page?


Forums

There is a link to the list of active forums via the forum section. Why is this needed? More code which slows down the platform. Remove the duplicate.

Webspace

A drop down menu to allow quick access to sub folders and content would speed up the process and perhaps encourage users to store work online rather that to local PC's or network areas.

News

Although the news feature is useful, I don't think it was wise to replace the buddies list with this. Perhaps a smaller module for the News and the inclusion of a buddies or Friends list to allow users to see who else is online in trier year group, courses, communities etc. This will help encourage communication and collaboration. Removing the buddies/ friends list was a big mistake, bring it back!

Shortcuts

Great idea, but as the links open in the same window, and often links created are to external websites this takes users away from the platform! Not good, surely these links should open in a new window or tab within the platform?

Calendar

The calendar (in summary view) only displays appointments and not tasks! If the calendars are going to be used surely tasks should also appear? Also if content is added into an entry this can only be seen by going to the calendar which takes users away from their home page, surely if content can be seen by hovering over entries in calendar view, this should also work when viewing the calendar summary to allow users to see content within entries without going to the calendar itself.

Email Folders

Nice idea but far too slow and clumsy. Yes they work, far too slowly. Use of these needs to be much quicker and easier.

FCK Editor

The editor uses a different set of tools to the LMP editors? Why is this? • A HTML option is required to allow code snippets to be quickly added. • Smiley faces should also be features as with the forum editors.


Attachments This feature needs to be streamlined, the interface has recently changed making use a little awkward. Why cant the attach file link take users straight to their PC? Perhaps a right-click option allowing attached files to be removed etc. Preferences

When adding a signature, the option to add an image or graphic should be allowed as should the ability to add a link.

Contacts

When selecting contacts, it is not possible to select multiple contacts using different letters? Why not?

Flagging

A feature should be possible to allow emails to be flagged using custom criteria.

Search

An ability to search emails that are stored in folders should be possible by keyword, date, subject, sender or flag.

Groups Buddies or Friends

Why does this not allow the option to import friends from other social sites, msn etc?

Collaboration Right-Click options should allow more features such as: • email • IM • Share files

Courses Course listing An indication of progress/ marks and comments should be indicated if any new activity has taken place by teachers to allow pupils to go directly to recent activity.


Template/ look and feel

The whole look and feel of the course home page is severely dated. This has not been updated in line with the new contemporary home, forum and calendars. If the course feature is to gain any street credit (and face it, street cred is needed if we want pupils to use them) these require a severe overhaul in their appearance.

Tools

These are not high profile enough and some are not needed by the students. Having such icons present is confusing. • Live Discussion - Why can this not be an option within the forum? • Forum - There is already access to the forum below the main page. • Group folders - Why do pupils need these? They can see who else is online via the buddies list. • Calendar - The calendar (if used) is accessed via the calendar summary. • Online Poll - Do pupils need this? • Resource cabinet - Content in here is made available by teachers/ leaders within assignments, this should not be seen pupils. • Assignments - Far to small, much better to have a large icon (like used on the contemporary home page) • Markbook - As above

Calendar

When assignments are due these appear in the calendar. Great, but users click on the link, they then need to click another link just to get to the assignment which they could do via the assignments icon anyway. The links shown in the calendar should take the user straight to the assignment on the first click rather than into the calendar. Why dont the due assignments appear automatically inside the pupils personal calendars? If a pupil is made a member of a course then any events inside the course calendar should appear in their own calendar to allow them a direct link from their home page straight to the assignment that requires attention.

Course home page

Far too restrictive, why is the image size restriction in place (737px)? This results in a lengthy process for inserting banners and other media. If a school chooses to default its platform to use the full screen then all other features such as the course home pages should adjust to allow such media to be inserted and used.


Assignments

These are very difficult for pupils to use. The main issues are with submitting work for marking. Confusion sets in when multiple files are required for submission and using the two different types of submitting options. • WORK ON THIS ASSIGNMENT - What is this? It allows pupils to add work into assignment folders. So why not simplify it by using a FOLDER icon? • SUBMIT WORK - This needs to be simplified. Replace the submit work button with a relevant icon (our pupils understand icons!) When this is clicked pupils should then have simple, clear instructions on what and how they should send work for marking. When assignments are created it should allow the creator to determine if a folder of work or a single file is required. This will prevent confusion as when the submit work ICON is selected it will either allow the user to send a single file from their PC or automatically select the folder for that assignment. • Currently if the BROWSE uploaded files button is selected it then displays all folders of assignments on the course? Surely if a user has clicked on the SUBMIT WORK icon on an assignment the only folder required to submit is the folder for that assignment! • Width of the assignment page - This is restricted to the narrow width, and without the need to mess about this is not easily overcome, if a school sets its platform to use full width, this should also change the dimensions of assignment pages. • Inclusion of mobile phones - Users should be able to submit media into assignments directly from their mobile phones. For example, an art student takes a photo of their work on their phone, transfers the media from their phone to a PC, then locates the media and submits it. Surely this could be sent as MMS or wifi? • After submitting work - Users return to the assignment page, they then need to click on the DONE button? Surely it would be more efficient if they were directed to their MARKBOOKS so they can check marks, the work they had submitted, comments and feedback? • Assignment notification - When an assignment has been set an email function that allows the teacher to send a reminder including a link to all pupils of the group should be possible.


Markbooks Teacher/ Leader

Grade Criteria - This is not functional enough for NC levels. For example when marking work, teachers only have the option of indicating a number or mark. But, NC levels operate a tier such as 6a, 6b and 6c. there is no way for teachers when marking work to give such grades. Grade indication - This is only dependent on the amount of progress pupils make and not reflective of current or average levels as given. Therefore pupils current levels are hindered by the time or duration spent on the course. Overview Markbook - Although the data available is okay, more functions that allow teachers to motivate with work are required such as: • An email link • A note link • An sms link

Student markbooks Teacher/ Leader

Time online - This is only used if the READ MATERIAL feature is used. As this feature is not required as links to resources are best embedded on relevant sections of the assignment page, this feature does give an accurate indication of time spent by pupils online. This is however a crucial tool. Why cant users time online be calculated from the time that the assignment page is accessed, and totaled over a duration of time and instances? This would give a truer reflection of the amount of time pupils were accessing and using the assignment content.


Markbooks - Trophies/ Rewards - On the teacher markbooks a trophy is indicated Pupil/ learner when pupils reach the pass mark. This does not appear inside the pupils markbook. For motivational reasons alone surely this should appear. Pupils respond well to this, unless the teachers markbook is shared with the pupils they do not see the same goals achieved. Course Mark - This only shows the student a level based on the amount of progress on the course. So should the course have many assignments, the true grade/ level is not shown to the pupils which can be very harming to pupils motivation. Assignments - When the Assignments tab is selected, this indicates if the pupils have submitted work, even if they have submitted the wrong work/ file. Surely the green tick should only appear after the teacher has marked the work? An option that allows the student to email or send a request for help should be available within this feature. As it is, it only allows students to view progress and does not allow the students to make contact or ask for help remotely. When submitted work has been marked by a teacher an email should be automatically sent to students email to inform them of such which includes a link to their markbooks so they can read marks and comments. An email alert should be sent to students when deadlines are near automatically. Feedback - Pupils should have an option to add feedback and comments about their work which shows up on teachers markbooks and via email automatically.

Communities Look and Feel

The whole look and feel of the community home page is severely dated. This has not been updated in line with the new contemporary home, forum and calendars. If the community feature is to gain any street credit (and face it, street cred is needed if we want pupils to use them) these require a severe overhaul in their appearance.

Calendar All users that are made members of communities should have their personal calendars automatically updated with any events.


Tools

These are not high profile enough and some are not needed by the students. Having such icons present is confusing. • Live Discussion - Why can this not be an option within the forum? • Forum - There is already access to the forum below the main page. • Group folders - Why do pupils need these? They can see who else is online via the buddies list. • Calendar - The calendar (if used) is accessed via the calendar summary. • Online Poll - Do pupils need this? • Resource cabinet - Content in here is made available by teachers/ leaders within assignments, this should not be seen pupils. • Shared Area - This should automatically appear as a link inside users WORK folders?

Forums Attaching files

When files are attached, they do not appear prominent enough and can be easily missed. Icons should be used and clearly placed at the top of the post rather than the bottom.

Making notes

The notes feature should be linked to the forum to allow notes to be created and attached to forum posts.

Notes Export

The editor needs to include an export feature that will allow users to export notes to a variety of formats such as PDF, doc, txt etc.


Share

Notes should have options to share via HTML code, email link and url. These options should appear neatly inside the editor or via right click function.

Link

When trying to link the 'Make a note' feature to icons within an LMP the link does not automatically recognise the user who is logged in. This is strange as when the INFORM tool is used in this way, it does recognise the user and not the creator? Developers should be able to insert such features into any LMP or other page within the platform.

Webspace Default storage folders

The webspace folder would help users if by default it contained sub folders for different file types such as: Docs, Images, Audio and Video.


Drag and Drop Users should have the ability to drag files and content directly from their PC desktop and folders on and into webspace.

Bulk Upload

Users should be able to upload multiple files/ folders. Although the webdav feature allows users to do this, it requires another log in and requires files to be pushed rather than pulled.

Sharing

Any file should have sharing options (similar to Notes (above)). Either via icons when in folder list or by a right-click option.


Embed

An option to allow online content to be embedded into LMPs should be possible making the development of content much quicker.

When a folder is selected When a file is selected SMS/ MMS and A link to webspace folders should be made to allow users to send content directly from handheld devices via SMS or MMS. Or by email link email as attachments.


Exporting files Files stored in webspace should give the users the ability to export to a variety of formats. File types and appropriate alternatives should be automatically recognised. For example a .doc file inside a web folder should recognise that alternative formats would be:

Calendar Adding new events

To add new events into personal calendars from the home page, users need to go inside the calendar to access the calendar tools. By adding a drop-down menu and/ or right-click function to the calendar heading users should be able to select a variety of actions such as add new appointment/ task.

Viewing events

To view the content inside calendar events via the summary view (home page) users need to go inside the calendar where by hovering over events details are shown. Why can't this be performed in the calendar summary view?


When events, appointments or tasks are selected from within the summary view on personal home pages, why can't these details display inside the summary view. This will allow users to continue using their home page. Adding users to events

When adding users to an event or task, such events do not appear inside added users personal calendars. What is the point of adding users if they are unaware they have been added? This needs to work.

Scroll bars in month and week view

The scroll bars have disappeared on the cells in IE6. Even in IE7 only the arrow buttons appear. This makes it very difficult for users to check contents quickly.

Tasks

When viewing task details, should any editing or changes be required, users need to go into edit mode. If the Progress can be changed why not the status and/ or priority?

Status indicators

A colour code to indicate status would be helpful to quickly identify and overdue tasks. An email alert with task details included would help users manage any set tasks, students could use this to set HWK and assignment reminders. SMS Alert should be an option for set tasks/ events.


Sharing tasks

When other users are added to tasks they can change the status or progress? and, like appointments these do not appear automatically inside personal calendars.

When multiple calendars are shared, other than colour codes their Shared Calendar Filter is no simple way for users to filter the shared calendar. A filter is crucial to allow users to focus on specific events, tasks and appointments. Sharing Calendars

When users are made members of courses or communities, any events made in these calendars should automatically appear inside personal calendars, without needing the user to manually visit the course/ community and use the share option. A range of collaboration tools should allow users to share calendars in more ways.

DONE button

Currently when the calendar is finished with and the user clicks on the DONE button this takes the user into folder listing. This needs to be fixed.

Attaching files When making an event users should have the option of adding files and notes. Embedding HTML is also required Tabs

The recurrence and advanced tabs make the process of completing the event lengthy. These do not, and should not be separate features. Why can't these options be on the same page as the main editor?


Navigation

If users wish to view two or more months prior to the current date it requires the users to perform multiple clicks on the back button. The drop down menu provided only allows users to view months in the future.

Search

Users should have an option to search for events via key words to find events quickly if needed.

Main Page of personal space Activities and learning tools

This editable area requires a radical re-think. Gone are the days when students are happy to display a red sports car or pink poodle. If students are going to use these spaces we should be looking towards the My Spaces and Bebos. Give the wings and they will fly! Where are... • • • • • • • • • •

The learning tools? The personal media players? The blogs or personal diary's? The visitor guest books? The whiteboards? The Video conference tools? The media recorders? The online applications? The friend requests? The proper IM?

These are all available, most of them totally free too. Students will use the platform if you give them things to do!


Learning tools

• • • • • •

• Media Player

Dictionary Encyclopedia Theasarus Calculator Translator - Languages and weights/ measures etc Conversion tools - To convert file types allowing users to access content using programs and applications they have access to. Mind Mapping

This is essential. A media player which supports multiple file types to allow students to listen and watch media in any format. When media is added into relevant folders inside webspace (Audio, Video or Picture) the media player should give the users the option of selecting a folder of media from their webspace and play the files within in using a flash player that can be viewed on any OS. The media player should allow users to share, link, download and embed content. A full screen feature is required to allow media to be viewed using a full screen. The media player should be accessible by developers of the platform to be dropped into an LMP, Course, Assignment page or Community as a flash file.


Blogs/ Diary's

A feature to allow students to keep a daily blog or diary should be a key feature of their home pages. It should be provided with a full editor that allows images, audio, video and HTML to be added easily. Users should be able to make the diary private or public and visitors to users home page should have the ability to request permission to view it, rate or digg it and leave comments/ files/ links.

Visitor/ Friends guest book

A place for visitors to leave comments, messages and DIGGs on users home pages. New comments should display and an option for an email/ sms notification should be possible. Visitors should be able to leave files and links. Different levels of access/ permissions should be possible to allow owners the ability to allow or not comments to be posted.

Whiteboards

An interactive whiteboard will allow users to communicate in alternative ways. This should allow collaboration for multiple users to see and use the whiteboard at the same time. Files and media should be able to be dropped onto the whiteboard for users to share content and resources and annotate.

Video Conference

This should be a standard feature of users home areas. Most students have access to a webcam and although this feature used to exist, it was never really developed well. This needs to return as an option via home areas, IM and discussion forums. The Whiteboard (above) should be accessible from within the Video conference work area.


Media Recorders

A multi-function media recorder is essential. This will allow students to record via microphone, screen, webcam or 'What you hear/ see' from the PC. Recordings should be saved automatically into designated webfolders (Picture, Audio, Video) and the media recorder should allow the user to select specific folders to record into. The media recorder should also use a range of collaboration tools to allow recordings to by quickly shared via links, email, sms, HTML and options to send recordings directly into Courser markbooks should be possible. The recorder should include an editor that allows users to edit recordings such as trimming, slitting, overlapping with the ability to add text, insert images and other audio/ video. Recordings should also be allowed to be exported to a local PC in a variety of video/ audio formats.


Online Applications

A set of applications that allow students to conduct work is essential. By providing students with access to applications online their work can be accessed and used quickly from within one place. • A word processor - See Buzzword, Zoho, google docs • A spreadsheet - Zoho, Google docs • A database - Zoho • Presentation - Zoho, SlideShare, Flauntr When files created using these applications they should save by default inside personal webspace. Equally when the applications are opened users should be able to load up previously saved files from within the application. When users are viewing contents of their webspace, a right-click or icon option should allow the users to open the file inside the application. All files should be able to be exported via a variety of file types from within the application and shared easily by link, email, HTML. Collaboration should be possible, so is a file is shared with other users it can be edited and worked on at the same time by multiple users. An indication of which, and when users have edited files should be visible and different levels of editing should be granted to users by the author. All files created should give authors the ability to publish into a shared area to allow other users the ability to search for files made within the applications. Comments should be able to be added to files for marking/ mark up purposes. Any files created using the applications should give the user the option of sending/ submitting directly into an online course markbook for marking. Picture, Audio and Video editing applications are also essential for the creative subjects to use a learning tools, but also for the students to use for creating and presenting work in media-rich formats for all subjects. • Image Editing - FotoFlexer, PhotoBucket, Wiredness, Pixenate, SlashUp • Audio Editting - Splice • Video Editting - EyeSpot, Jumpcut, PhotoBucket


Friend Requests

Users should have the option to give permission to other users (or not) to view not just their home page, but any item, file, resource. Different levels of access should be possible such as Public, Private, Read Only, Read and Write etc.

IM

The instant messenger is far too dated and un-pupil friendly. Why is this. IM is perhaps the most used Internet tool by our youngsters, surely you have noticed? If ever their was a carrot and stick scenario this is it, how could you have missed this?? This MUST get an improvement and it should rival any of the many IM's out there. It should invlove all features as mentioned for the video conference feature.

Avtar

Users should have the option of using an avtar in place of the yellow..... thing. A selection of standard avtars should be provided for the younger pupils, but the ability to create and use own avtars should be possible. The avtar should be displayed on anything created or associated with the user throughout the platform in email, fourms, IM, attached to tagged documents and files, media, on users home pages, markbooks, calendar entries etc.

The main editable page should have multi dimensions

This area should have a multitude of sides/ tabs which can be viewed without refreshing the whole page so that access to all other features remains in place. For example page one may be the blog/ diary, page two may be the personal media player, page three may be the media recorder, page four may be the online applications and so on. Users should have the ability to create new pages/ tabs and add/ edit them to contain whatever content they wish. Pages should have the option to control access so that some pages are private and some are public etc. See Jooce for a fine example and a clever webtop.

DB Learning Platform Review  

Review of digitalbrain's learning platform with indicications of required improvements to performance, features and userbility.

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