27th May 2015
by Holex Techlearn

Delivery through your Virtual Learning Environment

 “A VLE is an individual organisations biggest investment in assistive technology, if you have an easy to use VLE, one that is used effectively it will meet a huge range of needs of a wide range of learners.”

Alistair McNaught, JISC.


  • Learning anytime and any place
  • Ability to use your own device to access it – you may have specialist software that helps you
  • You can revisit learning as many times as you need
  • Missing a lesson doesn’t mean missing junks of learning if the VLE enables you to still access it

Take a look at a course on your Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) and ask yourself the following question:

What type of content is most used in the course?

  • Text (Documents – Word, PowerPoint, pdf)
  • Images
  • Audio/video
  • Quizzes

Does it matter what format the content is, as long as it covers the required learning objectives?

Perhaps this is a question to ask your learners – What are their preferred media types? JISC asked learners with different access needs (blind/visual impairment, deaf, dyslexic and learning difficulty) and their combined least favourite was text. Often the widest used!

Isn’t it more about how the material is created and delivered rather than its format? If accessibility is considered when resources are created, then many of the barriers disappear and better still all learners can actually benefit.

Some examples:

Word document with navigation menu open, showing how heading styles are displayed.

  • Word – if you use style headings when you create a document learners can navigate them more easily whether or not they are using a screen reader. In View, selecting the Navigation bar opens up a menu to quickly access the required section within the document.
  • PowerPoint – Use the notes to write down the key things that you want learners to understand from each slide. If they need to recap or miss a lesson, the contents of the presentation are explained. Alternatively provide audio for each slide.
  • Documents – If using Office, then make use of its inbuilt Accessibility Checker tool. Within your VLE provide a clear explanation to learners why they should access the document – what they will learn and/or what you are expecting them to do as a result.
  • Images – consider carefully the alternative text you provide for any images you upload. What does a learner who can’t see the image need to learn from it? For example, it might be an image of a man but simply writing alternative text “a man”, won’t tell the learner the man is unhappy, asleep, a famous actor.
  • Audio/Video – provide key points covered in the audio/video – you could even give a time to jump to if videos contain different sections.


Useful Tools

Using Heading Styles – WebAIM website

Alternative text on images – WebAIM website

The Virtual Learning Environment – Evaluation Tool for Content (VLE-ETC) created by JISC


Useful documents

Virtual learning environments: an evaluation of their development in a sample of educational settings, OFSTED 2009

Written for HOLEX by Ideas4Learning Limited

14th May 2015
by Holex Techlearn

QR Codes a must have digital literacy skill

These 2D barcodes seem to be popping up everywhere from packaging to bus stops but are we realising their potential in education?QR (Quick Response) codes can be easily created to link to a range of things including websites, audio recordings, videos, text and social media.This variety provides all sorts of opportunities such as:

Information on Posters or Notices

Add QR Codes to information notices to have associated information or text read out. The QR code on the poster below links to an online recording made using the tool Vocaroo.

Vocaroo even has its own QR Code generator.

Mobile device reading QR code
A poster displaying a QR code that links to an audio file. An image showing how Vocaroo allows you to save recordings as QR codes.


QR codes could link course information in booklets to taster courses on your Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) or website, to videos of current learners talking about their course, or to online enrolment.

Open Days

Create QR Code tours for induction by placing the barcodes at various places within the building.
Provide examples of learners’ work with QR codes to hear more about it from the learners themselves.

Teaching, Learning and Assessment

Bring paper-based resources to life by adding a QR code that link to videos.
Provide extra support or extension activities on a subject area by adding QR codes to tasks, projects or assignments.
Provide task sheets that have solutions provided via the QR Code for self-assessment.
On employability courses, CVs could be designed with QR codes linked to a learner portfolio or to their digital CV.
Posters in a classroom could link to videos. For example, an image of a discount sign in a shop could have a QR code that links to a Calculating Percentages MathsEverywhere video on Youtube to support Functional Skills maths learners.


Place QR codes on equipment/tools to explain what it is and how to use it. For example, weighing scales in a cookery class or a digital camera.


 Use a QR Code to take a learner directly to an online survey tool such as Google Forms or SurveyMonkey.

QR Codes are created with a QR Code Generator such as QRStuff and they are read using a QR Code Reader App such as Norton Snap (free).

How are you using QR codes? What other ideas can you think of? Add to this ideas list by using comments.

Written for HOLEX by Ideas4Learning Limited

6th May 2015
by Holex Techlearn

Can’t find the App you want? Make your own!

Image showing three Apps

The Community Learning Team at Portsmouth City Council wanted to provide bespoke English and Maths Apps to support their learners and to encourage learning outside the classroom. When they searched for Apps they realised how many were not appropriate – created for children, American spellings or dollar signs, adverts or they had an associated cost. They were successful in obtaining funding from the JISC Advance FE and Skills Programme and created three Apps in three different ways:

Turning Tables which takes learners through the steps of learning multiplication tables was created with the help of a Portsmouth University final year programming student.

BOGOF The Shopping App provides a tool for learners to calculate the discount on an offer whilst out shopping and tells them how it was calculated. This was created by a commercial developer.

Raising The Standard, a blog for Family Learning converted to an App using a plugin which they worked on themselves. The blog posts encourage parents/carers to support their children in fun learning activities at home.

Image of Apps

During the project the team identified lots of other useful Apps, and discovered that that Apps that support learning don’t fit neatly into a category called ‘Educational Apps’. Instead they categorised Apps into: Study Tools, Communication Tools, Assessment, Teaching Tools and Subject Specific Tools.

They have put together a dissemination package; covering the Apps they made, other Apps they found and training materials for the workshops they delivered. Included in the package is a recording talking about their own and other useful Apps. You can even download the Turning Tables App.

To access the package on their Moodle VLE click the link and login as a Guest with the password: LWA2015

Link: http://moodle.learnportsmouth.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=212

To support the project they also created a Learning With Apps Pinterest Board to share the Apps they’ve found:


Learning with Apps Pinterest
Written for HOLEX by Ideas4Learning Limited

23rd April 2015
by Holex Techlearn

Spot the Difference!

Take a look at the two images below and spot the difference!

Ask yourself:

  • What do you think the user was searching for?
  • What website do you think they were searching?
  • What are the differences in the results shown?

Image of a Youtube media searchAn image showing a search on AccessYoutube


  • The search was Cooking fish
  • Both searches were looking at the YouTube website.
  • The differences – how the search results are presented and no unwanted adverts

AccessYoutube  was created by Mike Thrussell, for students at Henshaws Independent Specialist College. The user interface enables learners to search for videos without displaying those unwanted adverts. Once a video is selected it is displayed, as shown below, so that is becomes the only thing on the screen for the learner to focus on. The tool provides an ideal way to show Youtube videos to the whole class and the large buttons makes it easy to pause a video to ask questions, hold a discussion etc.

Image showing a Youtube video playing in AccessYoutube
This isn’t Mike’s only tool, he’s also created Access Images, image searching tool that displays Creative Commons images only, a Text to Speech tool and an Access Feedback tool. To find out more visit the ACCESStechnology website.

An image showing other Access tools.
Written for HOLEX by Ideas4Learning Limited

15th April 2015
by Holex Techlearn
1 Comment

Here’s the tool that meets both learner and teacher needs!

StudyStack is an online tool that promotes learner choice. Learners can choose from a range of activities, selecting those that meet their preferred method of learning. What’s more the tool does all the work for busy teachers.

In StudyStack you create flip cards; ideal for learning course terminology, revision or self-assessment. The cards might have a question on one side and flipping them over reveals the answer or they could be used for terms/definitions.

You (or your learners) create a single set of flip cards and then StudyStack creates a whole range of interactive activities based on their content.

The range of  StudyStack Tools

Particularly useful are Matching, Crosswords, Type in (gap fill), Quiz and Unscramble. An image showing StudyStacks Scrabble activity

Once you’ve registered for an account and confirm the registration another activity becomes available allowing you to create resources matching words to pictures.An image showing a Target acitivity in StudyStack

The activities could be created for use by the whole class in the classroom (lesson starters, end of session quizzes) or by learners individually during the session or for independent study at home.

Studystack activities can be embedded within a Virtual Learning Environment and the developers are in the process of producing an App.

Written for HOLEX by Ideas4Learning Limited

13th April 2015
by Holex Techlearn


This blog has been set up so that HOLEX Member Organisations can share practice and ideas on the use of digital technologies to support teaching, learning and assessment.