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Planning for progress

The first step, before any review activity begins, is to plan. This is where you'll agree exactly what integrations or amendments will be made to the platform, and it will also provide a guidance of timescales for project completion. Before you sit down with your team, it’s important to note down what has worked well with your platform – as well as what hasn’t – since your last review. At CoSector, we always provide support to our customers at the planning stage, and strive to make recommendations based on our knowledge of the sector and our expertise. We can also help you identify any issues that could arise during this process and potentially cause roadblocks. For example, last year we helped the University of Roehampton review their platform, during which the recent GDPR law came into effect. Following this, there were discussions between both teams about GDPR and the steps CoSector has taken to ensure the online learning services comply with it.
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Xavier Briche, head of digital learning services at Roehampton, said of the review:
There has been great communication and reassurance. When we were looking for deep expertise, it was useful to be able to turn to the team at CoSector – University of London. They clearly have the knowledge to answer quite complex queries relevant to our context.

Working closely with your supplier for a smooth implementation

The trick to a smooth implementation is a good working relationship with your supplier. By bringing them into the review at the earliest possible opportunity, not only can they help with the initial planning stages, they can also handle the implementation process for you; installing the new functionality to the platform, or transferring student records as needed. The main benefit to this is undoubtedly the time it frees up for your digital learning team to concentrate on growing other areas of your department, and not having to spend their time implementing the new platform. This is a sentiment echoed by our customer the University of Plymouth, Paul Westmore, director of IT at the university, says:
One of the key things that working with CoSector – University of London has enabled us to do, is provide what we think is an excellent learning environment with very little in the way of dedicated resources from the University itself.
If you are interested in reviewing your current VLE platform please contact us at digitallearning@cosector.com or visit cosector.com   CoSector – University of London   [post_title] => How to plan a VLE review and upgrade [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => vle-review-upgrade-cosector-university-of-london [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-02-07 15:06:56 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-02-07 15:06:56 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://edtechnology.co.uk/dashboard2/?post_type=blog&p=21822 [menu_order] => 1326 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 21432 [post_author] => 63 [post_date] => 2020-01-30 15:30:07 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-01-30 15:30:07 [post_content] => Digital services provider, CoSector – University of London, has teamed up with research information management experts, Haplo, to offer university clients “improved repository solutions” for academic research. Via an online platform, CoSector customers will now have a full real-time picture of the repository, with a one-touch process opening up progress reports and workflow progression. Researchers working on a group project will also be able to store their findings together in one place. “CoSector and Haplo share the same attitudes and ways of working,” said James Silcock, commercial director at CoSector – University of London.
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“[The partnership] will allow our customers to prepare for the next Research Excellence Framework and enable them to have a comprehensive real-time picture of every aspect of their individual repositories, whilst retaining the ethos of the open source community,” he added. The next Research Excellence Framework – the UK’s method of assessing research quality in higher education institutions – will take place next year. “Haplo’s open source repository has been built in close collaboration with our user community,” said Jennifer Summers, the company’s MD and founder. “To be able to team up with a leading organisation like CoSector, who also believe in that collaborative process, is a really positive step in ensuring the technology reflects and supports each institution’s unique requirements.” [post_title] => New partnership bids to offer step-change in academic research [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => cosector-partnership-bids-to-offer-step-change-in-academic-research [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-01-29 15:38:33 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-01-29 15:38:33 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://edtechnology.co.uk/dashboard2/?post_type=articles&p=21432 [menu_order] => 1354 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 13859 [post_author] => 74 [post_date] => 2019-03-18 11:31:11 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-18 11:31:11 [post_content] => Based in south west London, the University of Roehampton is situated across two major sites. It has over 175 years of history and tradition, but it is still important to the academic institution that its services are modern and easy to use. In order to maintain this reputation and support these areas, the university has created a strong Digital Learning department to support technology for teaching and learning and which includes dedicated eLearning, specialist IT and media teams. Blended and online learning are priorities for supporting the university’s diverse student population, as it often hosts assistive technology integrations such as JAWS, Zoomtext and Texthelp Read and Write. Course slides can be uploaded for students who need to take more time to review them outside of lectures, and most virtual learning environments (VLEs) now provide a way of navigating around the course without a mouse and ensure the links and additional files can also be navigated by using keystrokes only. Three years ago, the Digital Learning department at Roehampton decided it was time to enhance one of its key online learning tools, its VLE, as its eLearning team found it to be too static and wanted to engage students and teachers further in the use of online technologies as part of the learning experience. As a result, they were looking for a versatile solution that would allow the integration of new products and upgrades easily, and for the VLE to be hosted by a vendor which provided comprehensive support with any of these amendments or developments to the platform. Moodle was identified by the Digital Learning department as the most suitable platform for its needs, due to its clear and modern interface, but what was more important to the university was selecting a partner to implement and host the platform flexibly, supporting new integrations, and it was vital for the new vendor to prove it could improve on the static service currently provided. CoSector – University of London was selected due to its reputation within the HE community for its versatility and its proven experience in providing all the services required.
Three years ago, the Digital Learning department at Roehampton decided it was time to enhance one of its key online learning tools, its VLE, as its eLearning team found it to be too static and wanted to engage students and teachers further in the use of online technologies.
The University of Roehampton currently works with the CoSector – University of London digital learning team, which includes the hosting and technical support of the Moodle VLE platform. CoSector’s digital learning team is always on-hand to give advice on new integrations and any ideas for developments to the platform, and they can work with the university to create this. Xavier Briche, head of digital learning at the University of Roehampton, said: “There has been great communication and reassurance. When we were looking for deep expertise, it was useful to be able to turn to the team at CoSector – University of London. They clearly have the knowledge to answer quite complex queries relevant to our context.” CoSector – University of London also ensures that Roehampton’s Moodle platform is constantly up to date, and that each summer at the end of the academic year, the platform is rolled over to the latest version. At the end of the academic year CoSector ensures that the old version becomes an archive, and all materials from the past two years remain accessible to students as well, so if a student is in their third year they will still be able to access material from their first year. Roehampton has just reviewed and renewed its contract with CoSector – University of London, a process they worked closely on with their account manager, who was on hand to discuss any alterations they wished to make. Xavier concluded: “When you change host, you are taking a big risk. Although you’re hoping there will be some improvement going forward with your new vendor you just never know. With CoSector we were thrilled. In terms of account management, and the business side of it, it’s proven to be worth the switch.” CoSector – University of London will be at the UCISA Leadership Conference in March. Please drop by exhibition stand 53 and say hello to the team, or take a look at www.cosector.com [post_title] => University of London drives accessibility at the University of Roehampton [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => university-of-london-drives-accessibility-at-the-university-of-roehampton [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-18 11:31:11 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-18 11:31:11 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://edtechnology.co.uk/dashboard2/?post_type=articles&p=13859 [menu_order] => 2055 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 665 [post_author] => 63 [post_date] => 2018-04-25 00:00:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-04-24 22:00:00 [post_content] =>

The virtual learning environment (VLE) is no newcomer to the education sector. Having been used as we know them now for over a decade in higher education, and for decades before that in various digital and non-digital forms, a virtual learning environment is something that is now an expected element of any university course. 

Although educational practices, and, of course, technological involvement have changed over the years, the presence of the VLE has endured in higher education. It has, however, gone through various iterations and usages, and is an element of HE that is constantly being questioned in relation to the benefit it provides to both staff and students. 

First and foremost, it is important to note that the majority of opinion maintains that VLEs remain an essential element of higher education. Despite their ubiquitous nature, many experts in the field seem to concur on what elements make a successful VLE, and how proper implementation and training is the cornerstone of this success. 

For example, Professor Steve Molyneux, Chief Executive at Tablet Academy, maintains that although future-proofing of tech is essential in an HE environment: “Staff development in the effective use of the system is probably even more important, for without this the system really does just become a repository for files.” The use of a virtual learning environment merely as a place to store and passively disseminate content is a gross underuse of its abilities, and “suboptimal use of powerful enabling technologies,” commented Dr Demetra Katsifli, Senior Director, International Industry Management at Blackboard. 

Deciding how and why to use a VLE will ensure a constructive use of the tech, and will avoid the common pitfalls of unsure staff, unenthusiastic students, and a waste of resources

So how can an institution fully harness the abilities of their VLE? And where do they start? First of all, universities need to “talk to users and understand what they want,” said James Silcock of CoSector, University of London. 

Curating feedback forms or focus groups for both students and staff on what their expectations of a VLE are, and what they want to gain from it is an invaluable resource in the planning stages. In research undertaken by CoSector on the subject of successful VLEs, five areas of application were identified as key to this success, including mobile responsiveness, the ease of submitting assignments, cooperation with applications such as Facebook chat and Whatsapp, well-trained lecturers, and ease of navigation. 

Gareth Kirk, Senior Project Manager, IT Services at the University of Wolverhampton, agreed, commenting that the first thing that educators need to consider when choosing a VLE, is to “be explicit about the requirements, business processes and key objectives,” and that these requirements should be tested with the “relevant stakeholders,” namely, staff and students that will be using the VLE. 

Indeed, in order to address the worry that VLEs will be used merely as a ‘dumping ground’ for content, rather than being utilised as meaningful and interactive digital spaces, universities not only need to consider the needs of your stakeholders, but also how the products available can address these needs. Avoiding the dour fate of ineffectuality is something that can be addressed before the VLE is even in place, suggested Frances Quirke, Regional Director at Canvas: “Choosing an option that is easy to use, intuitive and engaging makes it more likely that staff and students will immediately see its benefits, rather than it languishing in the same role as a hard drive,” she says. 

So then, strategy is essential in preparing for the use of a VLE. Not only do you need to figure out what exactly your staff and students will want to use the tech for, but also which options available are most suited to these needs. There are numerous types of VLE on the market at present. Some are purpose-built and maintained in-house, some are open-access and fully customisable by the customer. Each option has its benefits, and as such your decision should largely be based on the specific requirements your institution highlights as most important, and, of course, should take into account the level of in-house support you have at your disposal. 

"The majority of opinion maintains that VLEs remain an essential element of higher education."

For instance, the University of Wolverhampton have historically used their own in-house VLE (WOLF) and have recently moved over to Canvas. This process entailed detailed analysis and tender processes, which culminated in choosing Canvas’ ‘Software as a Service’ pathway, allowing for a more service-oriented approach, greater scalability, while removing a lot of the support and maintenance overheads of the previous in-house VLE. 

However, “the right partner is just as important as the functionality within the product,” warns Gareth. He said: “From a pedagogic perspective, obtaining a solution that is also used by other institutions is enabling better sharing of best practice and the building of a larger community of practice. In our experience, partnering with a good supplier will also enable you to feed into the development and benefit from others doing the same, with new functionality based on research and community discussion.” 

This ‘community discussion’ and subsequent collaboration is surely what makes a VLE so attractive. After all, if it is truly to be a virtual ‘learning environment’, it should allow all the facets of communication and collaboration that education and learning require, rather than merely providing a more streamlined system for content dissemination. “The ‘Deep Pedagogic’ approach of having students engage with content in teams, and create rather than consume, will, I am certain, have a profound impact on leading in the same way as it has with compulsory education in Finland,” commented Steve Molyneux. 

However, it cannot be taken for granted that a shiny new VLE is something that students are necessarily open to. Remembering my own university days, and anecdotes from colleagues and friends, if the initial implementation of a piece of tech does not necessarily work well, trying to relaunch it can be met with a less than enthusiastic reaction. In this case, edtech providers have a duty to “address these fears and prove that there has been significant progress since the ‘bad old days’,” said Frances at Canvas. 

Again, this comes back to the needs of the users, and the institution’s wider strategy. A good way to introduce tech before implementing it across the whole university is to use it to deliver professional development courses, suggests Frances. This way, she said: “Tutors get to experience what it is like to be a student first.” This first-hand experience with the VLE will not only help staff to access the tech as students do, but also to understand what elements of the technology are most (and least) useful in the learning process. 

"Curating feedback forms or focus groups for both students and staff on what their expectations of a VLE are is an invaluable resource in the planning stages."

James Silcock, and Dave Kenworthy, Director of Digital Services at CoSector, suggested that there are also three specific points to engaging students with a VLE that has previously lost its sheen in their minds. First of all, the content needs to be specifically designed to the VLE; “Don’t just ‘lift and shift’,” said James and Dave. Trying to use content designed for traditional teaching within a virtual learning environment, then, is like trying to write on a tablet screen with a pencil. It seems like since they are both educational tools it might work, but really you’re just going to do damage. 

The second key aspect is to find a provider that can help you to alter your content and optimise it for the digital space. There are various VLE providers out there who can talk you through their options, and how each one can address different needs. Before getting in contact, make sure you have an outline of what you want from the VLE in terms of teaching and learning outcomes, and what budget and resources you have available for maintenance and tech support. 

The third point raised by James and Dave to ensure high-quality student engagement, is to entrust as much admin as possible to a trusted provider, so that your university staff can focus on the educational content and academic engagement. 

It seems then, that the period leading up to a VLE’s implementation is as important if not more important than the implementation process itself. Deciding how and why to use a VLE will ensure a constructive use of the tech, and will avoid the common pitfalls of unsure staff, unenthusiastic students, and a waste of resources. VLEs are an incredibly useful tool, and these days, pretty much an unquestionable requirement. But how they are implemented, and what they are used to support within each institution is up for interpretation. As with so many elements of education, one size doesn’t fit all. 

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Broadly, is the education sector managing to stay on top of the current rapid advances of technology?

I think educational institutions are trying to keep up, but it varies for each sector. I would say higher education is doing better than further education in this area, due to larger budgets.
We’re seeing more investment in making software such as VLEs more mobile-responsive. There are also advances in VR and how it can be used in the learning experience, as well as rapid developments in AI.

Do schools, colleges and universities need to work hard to stay abreast of all these advances – or is it more a question of knowing where to focus their energies?
James: It’s really about understanding the student experience. When we bring in technologies that improve this, such as virtual learning environments (VLE) and tech that enables students to use their own devices whilst in their education setting securely, we have to really understand what the student gets out of it.

And how can schools, colleges and universities best future-proof themselves against all the changes to come?

No one really knows what changes are to come. Analytics and the internet of things (IoT) are coming through so rapidly that, rather than trying to future-proof, it’s important just to try and keep on top of these developments. The most sensible strategy is to be student-led, providing technology which supports their learners’ journey by augmenting their ability to succeed effortlessly and intuitively. That may mean operating a more flexible, agile approach to research and procurement.

Can you point to any UK (or overseas) institutions or sectors where advancing technology is being harnessed to great effect?

In higher education we are seeing more learning analytics, which enables us to understand the student journey and to identify which students are at risk of dropping out of their studies. For example, a product called Thrive analyses data on student activity, giving universities the opportunity to intervene early on in these cases. There have also been vast improvements in accessibility and making tech such as VLE available to all students – for example, those with reading or other learning difficulties.

"What both industry and commerce need are students who not only fully understand the technology available, but who also understand human interaction."

Are developments such as gamification, bring your own device (BYOD) and virtual learning environments (VLE) being harnessed effectively?

A lot more needs to be done. Our user research has often found that if the lecturer is not fully engaged with the software, student engagement is also significantly lower. The solution to this is training and support for teachers and lecturers, so that both they and their students get the best use from the tech. 

With BYOD there are obviously security issues, which a lot of educational facilities are trying to work around. Students will be looking to bring their own devices. 

I know there are now courses where they actually supply tablets to students, which could be one way of improving security.

Are schools and universities sufficiently equipped to help their students navigate the quickly-evolving world of social media?

With each set of students, the social media of choice has changed. As more and more platforms become popular, it’s difficult for educators to keep track. For example, mirroring the aesthetics of newly designed co-study areas for students, will Slack become a popular communication platform? The best thing educators can do is to engage and work out which social media platforms are most relevant for their students.

Generally, are we equipping our students sufficiently for life in the technology-rich wider world?

I think we are. Schools are using content-rich products and VLEs like Frog and Moodle, and there’s now a lot more engagement from students being able to monitor and manage their workload online. Equally, we’re starting to see some great innovations in higher education. For example, a surgeon teaching a complex operation to students can now broadcast it live across the globe. This enhances the learning experience and improves employment prospects.

However, you can’t forget the basics, and what both industry and commerce need are students who not only fully understand the technology available, but who also understand human interaction. We risk developing a generation who are very good at interacting with their phones, less so at talking to each other.

For further info on CoSector, please click here.

[post_title] => Tech it or leave it: James Silcock [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => tech-it-or-leave-it-1522939741 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-04-05 15:48:40 [post_modified_gmt] => 0000-00-00 00:00:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 2940 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 5 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 21822 [post_author] => 23 [post_date] => 2020-02-07 15:06:56 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-02-07 15:06:56 [post_content] => A review can help learning organisations make the most of their platforms and help them identify areas of improvement, add exciting new functionalities, or highlight whether another platform better suits their requirements. According to the heads of digital learning teams at a number of UK universities, reviews have become more popular in recent years. In fact, a survey into technology-enhanced learning in UK higher education in 2016, conducted by Ucisa, found that around half of respondents had carried out VLE reviews over the last two years, and a further 44% were planning reviews within the next two years. But what are the steps to a successful review? Here at CoSector – University of London, we regularly help our customers run reviews to ensure their VLE not only meets the needs of students and staff, but also exceeds expectations. Here are a few tips to guaranteeing yours goes ahead as seamlessly as possible:

Planning for progress

The first step, before any review activity begins, is to plan. This is where you'll agree exactly what integrations or amendments will be made to the platform, and it will also provide a guidance of timescales for project completion. Before you sit down with your team, it’s important to note down what has worked well with your platform – as well as what hasn’t – since your last review. At CoSector, we always provide support to our customers at the planning stage, and strive to make recommendations based on our knowledge of the sector and our expertise. We can also help you identify any issues that could arise during this process and potentially cause roadblocks. For example, last year we helped the University of Roehampton review their platform, during which the recent GDPR law came into effect. Following this, there were discussions between both teams about GDPR and the steps CoSector has taken to ensure the online learning services comply with it.
You might also like: New partnership bids to offer step-change in academic research
Xavier Briche, head of digital learning services at Roehampton, said of the review:
There has been great communication and reassurance. When we were looking for deep expertise, it was useful to be able to turn to the team at CoSector – University of London. They clearly have the knowledge to answer quite complex queries relevant to our context.

Working closely with your supplier for a smooth implementation

The trick to a smooth implementation is a good working relationship with your supplier. By bringing them into the review at the earliest possible opportunity, not only can they help with the initial planning stages, they can also handle the implementation process for you; installing the new functionality to the platform, or transferring student records as needed. The main benefit to this is undoubtedly the time it frees up for your digital learning team to concentrate on growing other areas of your department, and not having to spend their time implementing the new platform. This is a sentiment echoed by our customer the University of Plymouth, Paul Westmore, director of IT at the university, says:
One of the key things that working with CoSector – University of London has enabled us to do, is provide what we think is an excellent learning environment with very little in the way of dedicated resources from the University itself.
If you are interested in reviewing your current VLE platform please contact us at digitallearning@cosector.com or visit cosector.com   CoSector – University of London   [post_title] => How to plan a VLE review and upgrade [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => vle-review-upgrade-cosector-university-of-london [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-02-07 15:06:56 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-02-07 15:06:56 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://edtechnology.co.uk/dashboard2/?post_type=blog&p=21822 [menu_order] => 1326 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [comment_count] => 0 [current_comment] => -1 [found_posts] => 5 [max_num_pages] => 0 [max_num_comment_pages] => 0 [is_single] => [is_preview] => [is_page] => [is_archive] => 1 [is_date] => [is_year] => [is_month] => [is_day] => [is_time] => [is_author] => [is_category] => [is_tag] => 1 [is_tax] => [is_search] => [is_feed] => [is_comment_feed] => [is_trackback] => [is_home] => [is_privacy_policy] => [is_404] => [is_embed] => [is_paged] => [is_admin] => [is_attachment] => [is_singular] => [is_robots] => [is_favicon] => [is_posts_page] => [is_post_type_archive] => [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => da70de15c188354a1b6282ea297fc53d [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => [thumbnails_cached] => [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => [compat_fields:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => query_vars_hash [1] => query_vars_changed ) [compat_methods:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => init_query_flags [1] => parse_tax_query ) )
Suppliers

Cosector, University of London

Tel:
What we do

We offer leading edge IT solutions that empower and drive change within the education sector. Whatever your needs, chances are we have done it for one of our 300+ education customers.

Infrastructure services

  • Co-Location
  • Managed Hosting
  • Desktop Support
  • JANET Connectivity
  • Disaster Recovery
  • Out of Hours support and Consultancy

E-learning services

The Bloom team – supporting your Moodle VLE.

Archival and repository technologies

  • Digital Preservation
  • DPTP
  • Samvera and Arkivum

UPCOMING WEBINAR

Why education must take IT security more seriously

Tuesday, November 30, 11AM (GMT)