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R S C Newsletter

a bi-annual update from the Regional Support Centre West Midlands

Issue 6 – Autumn/Winter 2010

Contents RSCs Join JISC Advance On 1st August 2010 JISC Regional Support Centres (RSCs), which guide and support the deployment of technologies for learning providers, became part of JISC Advance.

and Sustainability. Additionally, the West Midlands region has identified four regional priorities; Initial Teacher Training, Learner Voice, Strategic Development and Staff Development.

JISC Advance is a not-for-profit company which delivers ICT support services for the Further Education, Skills and Higher Education sector on behalf of funding councils.

We recognise the wide scope of these areas but as always, our focus continues to be in supporting the use of technology in teaching and learning. The RSCs cannot do this in isolation and key to our continued success will be to work collaboratively with JISC Advance services and national partners. This will provide us with a tremendous wealth of knowledge and experience to offer learning providers, but perhaps more importantly, offers greater operational and financial efficiency.

The advent of the RSCs into JISC Advance creates a broad and resourceful national service combined with the regional strengths and local relationships of the RSCs. Through joining JISC Advance, the resources and advice of the Regional Support Centres are now complemented by a range of specialist services within the same organisation. These are: JISC Digital Media, JISC infoNet, JISC Legal, JISCMail, JISC Netskills, JISC Procureweb and JISC TechDis. RSC Priorities The Regional Support Centres were launched in August 2000 and have been offering support to the post16 education and training sector for the last ten years during which time, there has been significant change in the use of technology. The RSCs, with JISC Advance, have identified a number of priority areas for our future work. These are: Business Processes, Procurement, Shared Services, e-Safety, Inclusivity

Keeping a finger on the pulse of changes in technology is a challenge for us all. In the current economic climate, finding time and allocating resources to support and nurture innovative teaching is probably a tougher challenge. This is where our regional team can help. The content of this newsletter is typical of the ways in which the team share knowledge and good practice to help learning providers save time and money.

1. RSCs Join JISC Advance 2. Latest e-Learning Good Practice From Our Region - Regional Survey Results 3. Meet the RSC Team: HE Co-ordinator - My StudyBar Saves Organisations ÂŁ500,000 4. Online Tutorials for Finding Images and Videos - A Guide to Screencasting 5. LSIS Introduce Regional Development Managers - Save Yourself Time Online: RSS Feeds 6. Getting the Most From Moodle - RSC Launches Networkin-a-Box 7. Apple iPad is a Hit with the RSC - iPad Alternatives 8. Forthcoming Events - Green Tips From the Team - Coming Soon - Online Delegate Packs

I hope you find it useful and as always, we welcome contributions and feedback. Greg Vivash, Manager, RSC West Midlands Stimulating and supporting innovation in learning

Latest e-Learning Good Practice from Our Region

Regional Survey Results

Since the last issue of our newsletter, a further 3 case studies from the region have been published on the Excellence Gateway: South Birmingham College: Low-cost text messaging solution helps attendance monitoring and learner-staff communication Halesowen College: Getting more for less – saving costs with an open-source telephony system Shrewsbury College of Arts and Technology: Increasing staff engagement with the VLE To read these case studies in full, and view more examples from our region, visit If you have an example of e-learning that you would like to share, please contact Kirsty Hill, Information Officer by e-mail at:


The survey revealed that the RSC has made an impact across many areas

This year, the RSC ran a regional survey amongst our learning providers to get thoughts and feedback on the service we provide. Like previous surveys, the results were very positive. We wanted to get an overall picture of various aspects of our service and asked a number of questions covering how you like us to communicate with you, what kind of support you would like to see us offer in the future, and what impact we have made since the RSCs began in 2000. We also gave you the chance to comment generally about the service you have received. An overwhelming 98% of respondents felt that RSC West Midlands offered value for money and that visits made by the team were useful. Learning providers also indicated that RSC West Midlands has made an impact across a number of organisational areas relating to ILT.

Providers were also given the opportunity to express the key challenges facing them in their role. The most poular responses were e-safety, learner voice and measuring impact - all themes that the RSC will be supporting during the next year through events, advice, newsletter features and useful resources on the RSC West Midlands wiki. Further comments from respondents included: “Keep up the good work.” “How did we manage without you? Your service has brought so many organisations together and helped us to progress in this ever evolving world of ILT.” “I’ve always received very good support from colleagues at RSC West Midlands. If nothing else they have helped us to keep perspective in a rapidly changing world.” Commenting on the survey results, Greg Vivash, RSC Manager says, “I am grateful for the time sector staff have taken to complete the survey and delighted with the responses to our service provision. Our aim is to work closely with stakeholders to continue to offer high quality regional support and value for money.”

Meet the RSC Team: HE Co-ordinator Hopefully I can use my expertise and knowledge to bring a valid contribution to my new team here in the West Midlands, the wider RSC community and of course the learning providers I will work with. What areas of e-learning particularly interest you and why? All of it! We live in exciting times where technology is making rapid advances and changing sometimes in unexpected ways, which in itself is interesting and constantly provides new potential to explore.

RSC West Midlands welcomes Christa Appleton, our new HE Co-ordinator, who joined us in August. Here, Christa tells us a bit about herself and her e-learning interests. Tell us about your background and how you got involved with e-learning I worked in FE for more than 10 years moving initially from Learning Support, to qualifying as a lecturer and teaching groups of students with learning difficulties. Alongside my teaching, I developed a personal interest in the use of technology to enhance learning and I became the ILT Champion for my team, exploring new technologies and resources. My teaching practice broadened to include delivery of IT training and my enthusiasm for technology, coupled with my teaching background, led to a post in the college’s Learning Development Unit delivering staff training and mentoring in all aspects of e-learning. I then moved to Staffordshire University working for the Learning Development and Innovation Department as the e-Learning Models Co-ordinator (a one year post to cover staff secondment). I stayed on at the University as a Learning Specialist working on various projects, including the JISC funded OER project (institutional strand OpenStaffs) and continuing to offer webinars and workshops for staff and the wider e-learning community.

As my background is in teaching I am interested in pedagogical value and the practical user side of technologies rather than the technical. I’m particularly interested in tools that support the learning cycle such as using VLE’s effectively, web 2.0, mobile technologies, e-portfolios, multimedia (podcasts, images and video) and Second LifeTM – it has unique educational potential for immersion and engagement in learning activities. I also think Communities of Practice provide valuable opportunities for informal learning and support in a positive way. What plans do you have for the role and what kind of support will you be offering? Meeting the learning providers to find out how I can help them. I will also be working with other members of the team in all areas of our services ie. general support and workshops. As the HE Co-ordinator I will be paying particular attention to issues relevant to HE provision and how technology can be made use of effectively for teaching and learning for the benefit of HE students and their staff.

My StudyBar Saves Organisations £500,000

MyStudyBar is an initiative supported by the JISC Regional Support Centres and JISC TechDis. It is primarily designed to support learners with literacyrelated difficulties, such as dyslexia, although it offers potential benefits to all learners. MyStudyBar consists of a suite of portable open-source and freeware applications, assembled into one convenient package. Easy to install, simple to use, handy and effective, MyStudyBar provides comprehensive learning support at the desktop, where it’s needed. Since its launch in March, MyStudyBar has been downloaded more than 4,000 times, saving organisations over half a million pounds – this is based on a value of commercially-equivalent software. Andrew Edis, ILT Co-ordinator, New College Nottingham says, “We have already distributed 16,000 USB sticks containing free and open source software from RSC Scotland North & East, right across the college. I must say I’m impressed with this – in times of financial squeeze the fact that MyStudyBar is open source is a major plus.” To download MyStudyBar or any of the EduApps family visit:

How can the RSC WM community contact you? You can contact me by email: or phone 01902 518931 You can also find me on Twitter – @ Christa_line, Facebook (Christa Appleton) and Slideshare www. 3

Online Tutorials for Finding Images and Videos

JISC Digital Media, in conjunction with the Virtual Training Suite, have launched two online tutorials: Internet for Audio Resources and Internet for Video and Moving Images. The tutorials, which are free to use, will help staff and students to source suitable audio and video content for teaching and learning. They have been funded by JISC Advance. Dave Kilbey, Training Co-ordinator at JISC Digital Media said, “the emphasis of the tutorials is on finding copyright-cleared resources, which are available free of charge; facilitating users with quick, hassle-free access to a vast range of online audio and video resources.” Also available is the previously launched tutorial, ‘Internet for Image Searching.’ To view the tutorials and see the current JISC Digital Media events schedule, visit the training page at:

A Guide to Screencasting Screencasts are videos of activity on your computer, to which you can add a voice-over and sometimes a webcam image of yourself. Screencasts are well suited to short demonstrations of common tasks, such as searching a library catalogue, or logging on to a VLE. The videos can be hosted remotely on a site like Youtube, or downloaded for local storage and streaming across a network. The video files produced by many screencasting tools can often be edited further in a video editing package. Benefits - Great for delivering routine training to large numbers - A tool for reinforcement: learners are provided with an explanation of something which they can watch as often as they like - Screencasts create a sense of connection with learners at a distance: “look over my shoulder at what I’m doing.” - Screencasts are easy to do and you have a choice of free software, as well as versions to buy.

Screentoaster: Intuitive, webbased tool, which requires Java. Videos can be downloaded or hosted on YouTube or Screentoaster; subtitles can be added. Camtasia Studio: This is a charged-for product, but includes a wealth of features, helping you create professional looking video presentations, which can be saved in a wide variety of formats. asp More information JISC Digital Media have created a useful ‘how-to’ guide: This article explains some of the software options:

Drawbacks - Free software is usually limited to 5 minutes recording time - On their own, they are not interactive, but you could include a screencast as one resource in an interactive session - Hearing impaired or deaf learners should be offered alternatives. Many screencasting tools allow captioning to be used, which helps accessibility.

ScreenToaster User Interface

Popular screencasting software Wink: Free, with a good range of features and easy to use. Only produces videos in Flash or EXE formats. A Demonstration of How to Search Google Effectively


LSIS Introduce Regional Development Managers

The nine new LSIS Regional Development Managers (RDMs) to support the Improvement Adviser Service (IAS) are now in place. The IAS provides consultancy support for all types of provider, other than school sixth forms, helping them raise performance levels across the range from poor to excellent. The service originated with the 2005 White Paper on learning and skills which promoted the set up of a ‘rapid response unit’ to deal with failing providers. Over time, the service was extended to providers who simply wished to improve performance.

- Provide LSIS with better data on the state of the sector; raise the LSIS profile/brand awareness amongst providers with less contractor input/influence; and facilitate links between providers and provider networks - Facilitate the sharing of effective practice - Act as conduits for LSIS-provider two-way information, helping shape and develop the LSIS portfolio - Listen to the sector voice. The RDMs will support providers to look at quality improvement for their whole organisation, through volunteers and those who are furthest from their last inspection or for whom data signals concerns. Any organisation in receipt of former Skills Funding Agency (SFA), or Young People’s Learning Agency (YPLA) funding who would like to volunteer for an organisational health check, should contact their RDM or Sue Yeomans, head of the Improvement Adviser Service.

The new RDMs will support providers in each English region to obtain the best advice and support on quality improvement, promoting the whole menu of LSIS programmes and services. One of the new services they will offer builds on ‘organisational health checks’ undertaken by partner delivery organisations. In addition they will: - Diagnose potential problems before they become substantial/ intractable – part of ‘risk assessment’ and a phased staged support programme, especially for the worst performing providers - Work more closely with Beacons to encourage them to play a greater role in supporting other sector organisations - Identify colleges in need of improved financial health - Work with delivery partners to bring IAS closer to policy development and current concerns for the associations and networks, to reduce duplication and ensure shared use of resources

Save Yourself Time Online: RSS Feeds

Many websites use RSS technology to “push” updates out to users, who subscribe to the updates, known as an ‘RSS feed.’ RSS can be a real benefit to anyone who needs to visit many different websites in a day and helps you manage the flow of information across your computer. To make use of RSS feeds, you’ll need to identify websites which offer the service - look out for the RSS logo above, or use an RSS search engines (an example is listed below). You will also need an RSS reader to manage your subscriptions - you can use the in-built one in Firefox or Internet Explorer or why not try Google Reader ( reader)? Allen Crawford-Thomas, our e-Learning Adviser for Teaching and Learning says, “A particular favourite RSS feed for me is the BBC Technology at:

Sue Blake

Sue Blake, LSIS’s Regional Development Manager for the West Midlands, said ‘LSIS enjoys a good working relationship with the RSC network, and shares its interests in promoting high quality e-learning materials and opportunities to share effective practice across learning and skills providers in each region’ Contact Sue by e-mail at: sue. or call: 07920 710584

He adds, “Almost every day this site posts news about items such as the latest devices, developments in social networking and issues about privacy and connectivity.” Useful links: - a search engine enabling you to search blogs and other RSS feeds - lists all the available UK newspaper RSS feeds - a short video introduction to RSS on YouTube. 5

Getting the Most from Moodle

RSC Launches Network-in-a Box Service

Many learning providers in the region use Moodle as their virtual learning environment (VLE), yet how do you measure the impact on the learner’s experience? A good place to start would be to evaluate how much Moodle is actually being used. Fortunately, Moodle maintains logs of all its activity, and if statistics are enabled, reports on activity can be produced. While useful, the Moodle statistics utility is somewhat limited, and not very user-friendly. To assist learning providers in measuring the impact of Moodle, RSC West Midlands has launched a project to develop a working prototype of an application that analyses Moodle statistics and presents the results in the form of pie and bar charts. This is to enable ILT practitioners to present Moodle statistics in a form more easily accessible to SMT, and ultimately give senior managers the facility to extract Moodle statistics without needing to consult ILT. At the end of the project, participants will receive a Moodle statistics reporting application customised to their environment. See the screenshots below from our prototype application.

The RSC has recently launched a new service for learning providers who conduct training in locations that do not have an existing network infrastructure. ‘Network-in-a-Box’ will allow providers to set up their own portable network from equipment loaned by the RSC. The service may be of particular interest to Adult and Community Learning and Work-based Learning providers where teaching can often take place in venues such as church and village halls where there is no infrastructure, and schools where access to the network is restricted. As part of the service, participating providers will receive a demonstration from our Technical Adviser to show how to configure a shared wireless or mobile broadband connection, and connecting a Powerline Ethernet network. Participants will also receive, as part of the loan agreement, network equipment consisting of: • An 8-port (wired) network switch • A pair of 85 Mbps Powerline Ethernet switches • Five Category 5 Ethernet patch cables

For more information about the project, contact Colleen, our Technical Adviser using the contact details opposite.


The equipment is available on a 4-week loan period. Colleen Romero, the RSC’s e-Learning Adviser for Technical Infrastructure says, “The idea behind introducing this service was to show how easy it can be to set up a network from scratch. I also wanted to help remove some of the barriers faced by learning providers who teach in locations which are not geared up for e-learning, or where they don’t have permission to log onto the network.” She adds, “Participants may be asked to provide feedback via a survey at the end of the loan period. This will help us to signpost and share experiences amongst learning providers and allow us to find out the impact of the service.” If you would like to borrow the equipment and recieve a demonstration on how to set up the network, please contact Colleen by e-mail at colleen. or on tel: 01902 518978

Apple iPad is a Hit With the RSC! there may be some validity in that. Also, subject to some scrutiny is the iPad’s inability to multi-task, but personally I found that being limited to one task at a time can actually be quite helpful as it reduces distraction.

The he Apple iPad Home Screen

Theresa Welch, our Work-based Learning Adviser takes a look at the latest device from Apple that’s taking the world by storm. “I thought hought Christmas had come early for me this year when I was offered the chance to try out an iPad, to evaluate its potential use for teaching and learning. Advertised as “...being able to do things no tablet PC, net book or e-reader could...” I was excited to see what this latest offering from Apple might offer your average learner. My initial thoughts (and those of several of my colleagues) were just how easy the iPad was to use. Like the iPhone, it uses apps (small software applications, designed for specific tasks) which are available through the ‘apps store’ on iTunes. Many of these apps are free or can be obtained for a relatively low cost allowing you to pick and mix those bits of software you are most likely to use. It’s worth noting that at over £400, the iPad itself is certainly not cheap. However, the device is portable and sleek, and, like the iPhone, it has a touch screen which offers access to your apps directly from the desktop no complex menu structures to navigate, thereby reducing its learning curve. There has been some criticism that the arrangement of icons could make better use of available screen space and as my own number of my apps grows, I agree

In terms of support for education, I believe the strengths of the iPad come through in its facilities for accessing various types of web content (albeit minus Flash, which is limiting), its wide range of apps for education (including Wikipedia, language apps, science apps etc) its multimedia capabilities and its portability. It could be used by learners wishing to access the web, check e-mail, maintain an e-portfolio, read electronic books and course notes, watch instructional videos, listen to podcasts and make use of the growing number of apps for education. I’m a lifelong learner and so far my iPad has not left my side. It’s my connection to a world-wide web of information that can scaffold and support education whether college based, work based, adult and community based or otherwise.” There’s a wealth of information available on the web that outlines the technical specifications of the iPad, along with its main features. Visit for more details.

iPad Alternatives

Looking for new resources to use in teaching and learning? Try some of these free options: The Archos 9 PC Tablet

URL shortener - . Fed up with unwieldy links? Since the launch of theweb iPad, rival manufacturers Sign up forhave a freeproduced account to their own equivalents, create shorter web links,some track the being cheaper progress of yourthan linksApple’s and access product. all So,your if you are unsure shortened links. about the iPad, why Screen capturing not toolexplore – www. some of these alternatives: . Create your own videos of onscreen actions Archos 9 PC Tablet in one simple click. Useful for screen screen casts and With acapturing slightly smaller screenruns casts, thandemonstrating the iPad, this device demonstrations, tutorials Windows 7 and allows you toand drag and drop files wirelessly or lectures. via a USB stick.engines. If you are Visual search looking for an alternative search Asus eeePad engine to aid visual learners, try these two options: Due for release in 2011, the eee Pad has a built in Webcam with – see support for Skype. It also hasyour results as screenshots an optional keyboard dockwhich so cancan panbe and zoom the you device used likelike a a map. Allows you to create and standard laptop. share a ‘workpad’ for saving and Samsung Galaxy Tab annotating search results. This iPad alternative has a –presents smaller screen and weighs less thumbnail search results through than the Apple device. It runs the a 3-D cube interface. Android operating system, has a higher screen resolution than the iPad and includes a built in camera. Archos 7 Home Tablet Unlike other Archos devices, it has no hard disk so is only 12mm thick. It has drag and drop functionality, and a micro SD card slot allowing you to increase storage capacity up to 32GB. Coming soon....

Globe - Just One of the Many Apps Available for the iPad

HP Slate Dell Mini 5 Blackberry PlayBook


Forthcoming Events

Green Tips from the Team which means we dispose of our computing and other equipment responsibly.

For full details, visit the events page at:

4. What’s your carbon footprint? We have looked at some organisational auditing tools. Some elements are out of our direct control so we focus on things that we can change. Try the tool at

October • Heritage Users Forum • Creating Resources Without the Internet! November • Mini Moodle (online) • Specialist Colleges Forum • VSphere Training • IT Managers Forum • Introduction to Second Life • Assistive Technology Training • Moodle Users Forum • Out in the Open: Discovering and Sharing Freely Available Educational Resources • Learning Technologies Forum December • Virtual Worlds in Education Forum • Blackboard Users Forum • Support Staff Webinar: Changing Staff Roles • e-Safety Webcast January • Midi Moodle (online) • Assistive Technology Training • Second Life - Next Steps • e-Safety Webcasts • Introduction to Moodle for Teacher Trainers • Using Technologies to Support the Learner Voice

Contact us JISC RSC West Midlands Technology Centre Wolverhampton Science Park Glaisher Drive Wolverhampton WV10 9RU Tel: 01902 518982 E-mail: Web:


This newsletter is printed on recycled paper

Here at RSC West Midlands, we are doing our best to be greener about our work. Here are some things we are doing to reduce our CO2 footprint. 1. Printing. We have asked all staff to print on both sides of the paper and in black ink and to set these as default. We have also reduced the amount of printed newsletters and only print on recycled paper. 2. Switch it off! We remind each other to switch monitors off at the end of the day and the last one out switches off the printer (multifunction device) and any lights that we have control over. 3. Reduce, reuse, recycle! Some recycling is done centrally (aluminium cans, paper and glass) and in addition, our office has bins for recycling everything else (mainly plastics and cardboard) which a volunteer kindly takes to the recycle centre. We also adhere to the University of Wolverhampton’s policy of following Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations (WEEE) 2006,

5. Are you ‘green aware’? Whether you are a big organisation or a small team, everyone can be ‘green aware.’ If there is no one officially responsible for green issues, ask for a volunteer to keep the environment on the agenda. Allocate at least 5 minutes in staff meetings to talk about electricity bills, heating, recycling to keep the momentum going and to gradually change people’s habits. 6. Procurement. When we order equipment and other materials, or are organising events in venues, we check their green credentials. Does the company or venue have an environmental policy? Does the kit have an Energy Star label or a TCO label? These are just some ways we are endeavouring to make a difference. If you would like further information on any of the above, please get in touch with Jane Edwards by e-mail at You can also find out more about sustainability on our wiki at

Coming Soon - Online Delegate Packs In a further bid to be more green, the RSC is introducing online delegate packs. Delegates who sign up to an event will recieve a delegate pack via e-mail before the event instead of a printed copy when they arrive on the day of the event.

The delegate pack will contain information such as the event agenda, and links to relevant publications, forthcoming events, the RSC website and wiki. To find out about the latest forthcoming events, visit our events page at:

JISC RSC WM Autumn Newsletter 2010  

An update from the JISC Regional Suppor Centre West Midlands - featuring the latest e-learning developments, forthcoming events and the late...

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