Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Microsoft Forms

I'm still trying to unpack the multitude of components of Office 365 and map them onto a vision of a loosely-joined VLE. Last week we figured out that OneNote Class Notebook (an administrative tool for OneNote) is an LMS add-in rather than a freestanding product. It's not clear whether the new Microsoft Forms is the same or not, but I'd certainly like to get my hands on it and kick the tyres.

Microsoft Forms - a new formative assessment and survey tool in Office 365 Education

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Student peer review

Peer review I'd love to add a peer-review layer to a module I teach in which student write research proposal - but with the salami slicing of module credits, who's got the time?

Student peer review: enhancing formative feedback with a rebuttal. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 13 Jun 2016 doi: 10.1080/02602938.2016.1194368
This study examines the use of peer review in an undergraduate ecology programme, in which students write a research proposal as a grant application, prior to carrying out the research project. Using a theoretical feedback model, we compared teacher and student peer reviews in a double blind exercise, and show how students responded to feedback given by each group. In addition, students wrote a rebuttal for every feedback point before re-drafting and submission. Despite students claiming they could tell if the reviewer was a teacher or student, this was not always the case, and both student and teacher feedback was accepted on merit. Analysis of feedback types and rebuttal actions showed similar patterns between students and teachers. Where teachers differed slightly was in the use of questions and giving direction. Interviews with students showed the rebuttal was a novel experience, because it required a consideration of each comment and justification as to why it was accepted, partially accepted or rejected. Being a reviewer helped students to learn about their own work, and it changed the way they understood the scientific literature. In addition, some students transferred their new peer review skills to help others outside of the ecology programme.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Unpacking a little more Microsoft Office 365 confusion

Office 365 Yesterday I wrote that I found Office 365 confusing. Digging around, I found this about some of the different options available:

  • Office 365 is a subscription service that includes the most recent version of Office, which currently is Office 2016. It comes with the applications like Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, plus extra online storage and ongoing tech support.
  • Office 2016 is also sold as a one-time purchase, which means you pay a single, up-front cost to get Office applications for one computer.
  • Office Online is the free version of Office that you can use in your web browser. Try the Office Online apps.

It seems to me that any movement towards Office 365 as a VLE replacement is a group work requirement. Office 365 has groups:

On a related theme, I clearly need to get to grips with the OneNote Class Notebook, all the more so because MS has just announced that this is now available for Macs.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Microsoft Office Mix

Office Mix Microsoft Office Mix looks interesting, but after 5 minutes of scratching the surface, seems to have holes in it.

Doesn't currently work on Macs? (it's not even fully cross-browser compatible). It's not clear if it works with Office 2016 on OS X or not. That may have just killed it.

It's not clear what MS means by "polls". They seem to mean multiple-user input quizzes for online presentations (as in "Facebook poll"), rather than live event polls a la TurningPoint - but I may have got that wrong?

Welcome to the Future? Microsoft OneNote

Microsoft OneNoteThe past 20 years of my interaction with educational technology is a story starting with radical experimentation with the Internet (not quite an Outlaw phase because nobody cared), then gradual codification into an institutional tool, another brief period of radical experimentation (Edupunk phase), and finally settling quietly into the bigbox institutionally-owned VLE because a) Facebook was just to difficult to scale and b) it worked, even if imperfectly. Now, for various reasons, that bigbox phase might be coming to an end and I'm starting to think about what I would like to replace it. (Not that what I would like means much.)

Do I want another bigbox (everything in one place, just "works", inevitable compromises and frustrations) or do I want a more agile collection of individual tools (inevitable compromises and frustrations of moving from one space to another)? The answer is I don't know. Just like the referendum, neither option is very palatable so which is the least worst?

There are institutions using Microsoft Office 365 as their VLE. We had an immediate need to get students to write project diaries, so rather than use older solutions we decided to experiment with Microsoft OneNote as a gentle toe in the water. What follows is very much first impressions after one week.

As an old skool Microsoft Office user, I currently find Office 365 confusing and threatening. Because namespaces (Word, Excel, OneNote) overlap in desktop/mobile cloud domains, I don't know where I am all the time, and more to the point, I don't know where my/student data is. Although the user interface is fine (if a little simplistic), other aspects of the system are real ugly. An example of this are system-generated URLs - which frequently contain the word Sharepoint (be afraid, be very afraid), whereas other URLs to the same classes of student-generated resources contain the words SkyDrive. Are these equivalent or not? Sharing is clunky - the price you pay for moving out of the bigbox - and notifications non-existent (so far, unless I've missed something), so resources start to look like silo destinations you have to track down and visit individually. Dashboard? What dashboard?

I hope these are just the ramblings of a tired academic at the end of a long hard year, and by the time Office 365 "clicks" with me I'll be happy to wander off into the sunlit uplands of the future. It's very important that everyone remembers that this contemporary reflection is intended to capture my current feelings so that I can assist others in future, and be able to look back on this and laugh at my naivety. Alternatively, it is possible that the future is a horrible as both sides in the referendum debate say that it will be.