30th July 2015
by Holex Techlearn

Game-based Learning

Eileen Kirk, eLearning Programme Development Manager for Derbyshire Adult Community Education Service (DACES) has been involved in a European project to improve the communication skills of people in service industries through game-based learning.

They designed resources around a workplace scenario, with the learner taking the part of a character in the story. At certain points, the learner is faced with a situation where they have to make a decision on the action they should take. The route they follow through learning game will vary depending on those decisions.

The game is built around very specific learning objectives and at the points where the game branches (a decision point) it is possible to award and subtract points against the specific skills you are developing.

In the game below, communication skills are being developed. As you look at the game produced by DACES being played, consider what skills it is measuring and how the situations and questions enable that to happen.

At each point a decision is made feedback can be given about the decision made. At the end of the game learners  are presented with their results and can reflect on the areas they may need to improve further. The aim of these branching stories is to encourage discussion amongst learners of the routes they took and the outcomes of their decisions. They can learn from the resource, their own journey and that of others. The eTrees authoring tool enables the tutor to analyse the results so they can support further development of specific skills.

Benefits of game-based learning:

  • They enable learners to work on solving problems and performing tasks that relate to real-life situations.
  • Including the learner as a participant in the scenario gives them an instant attachment to the learning and a sense of responsibility.
  • The gaming element can motivate and engage.
  • The learner is in control of the paths they take and if they repeat the exercise they may follow a completely different journey.
  • The learners reflect through feedback from other characters in the scenario on the actions they take, at that time they make them.
  • If combined with discussion, there is a social element to the learning.
  • They can measure their strengths and weaknesses on completion of the game.
  • The learner analytics can aid the teacher in informing future learning needs.
  • They promote changes in attitude and behaviour

How do you create a branching story?

The scenario posed to the learner must be relevant to them. Your aim is for the learner to learn through the consequence of the actions they take. The learner has to engage with the story for this to happen, so that they consider carefully the actions they take at the decision points. When designing it you need to offer alternative options, avoiding giving totally implausible suggestions. Feedback following an action by the learner should prompt them to reflect on their actions so that they consider their performance during and on completion of the resource.

  1. The game needs to be easy to play from the learner perspective
  2. Decide what learning outcomes the game will cover. Create a scenario and decision points that  focus on specific skills towards those learning outcomes, that way you can award points for each branch at each decision point.
  3. The questions set should challenge the learner, if the options are too easy they will be bored, too hard they will simply guess without thought.
  4. Think about the other characters within the scenario, the dialogue they use is it authentic to a real life situation.
  5. Involve the learner so they participate through the character they are assigned. You want to draw them into the game. Give them a sense of anticipation about what might happen next.
  6. Encourage reflection throughout the game.

If making a game like this it is iimportant to plan it out, you could do this using mind-mapping software or even post-it notes.

Eileen had access to the eTrees authoring tool for the project and the game was built up using different  backgrounds, characters, text, audio and the ability to branch. Simialr games could be produced using Xerte or using the Lesson Tool in Moodle. Quandary offers a basic game-based learning tool.

Useful Links:

eTrees Project website

Xerte Community website

Quandary First aid example 

Quandary More examples

Quandary Information and download

Written for HOLEX by Ideas4Learning Limited

29th July 2015
by Holex Techlearn

Plickers – a way to assess learners out in the community!

Do you teach in venues with limited access to technology or the Internet? If so, Plickers might be the formative assessment tool for you as it only requires the teacher to have a mobile phone.

Plickers is an App that works with both Android and Apple devices. The App works with in conjunction with a set of cards that you can print out freely from the Internet. You ask a question with up to four possible answers (a, b, c or d) and the student holds up their card with what they consider to be the correct answer showing at the top. The teacher opens the App which uses the mobile device’s camera to scan the cards and store the results. Each card is slightly different and so by assigning a student a particular card you can analyse individual responses. Watch the video demonstration:

You register with Plickers on their website and simply enter your questions into a quiz. You can print the responses in Pdf format. A future development that that the Plickers developers a looking into is to enable a .csv (spreadsheet) export of the results.


Print on cardboard and don’t laminate as that causes a reflection when scanning with your mobile device.

How could you use Plickers?

  • During the first session to identify what things people would most like to study
  • At the start of a session to gauge prior knowledge
  • During a session to collect in the responses to a question
  • At the end of the session to capture learning that has taken place
  • At the end of a course to measure progress and achievement
  • During the final session for evaluation purposes
  • During community group learning or family learning workshops as an ice breaker activity
  • For group quizzes

Written for HOLEX by Ideas4Learning Limited

28th July 2015
by Holex Techlearn

Xerte Online Toolkit – What can it do?

Xerte is a content creation tool that enables users to use a wide range of page templates to create multi-media rich and interactive learning modules. The final packages are produced in HTML5 making them very easy to play of different learning devices (mobiles, tablets, laptops and computers) and then can be easily embedded within VLE course pages.

Xerte was originally created by Nottingham University but JISC (TechDis) recognising the potential of the tool had a lot of input into the design of a range of different templates to help produce a tool that supports accessible learning.

Amanda Cooper, Learning Technologist at Gloucestershire Adult Education has been developing learning resources in Xerte to support their contracted out providers. She has taken topic areas that many of the providers need to cover and has produced self-study modules that they can then use within their delivery.

In the video below Amanda shows examples of some of the page templates available within Xerte:

If you don’t have the ability to host the Xerte Online Toolkit n your own server there are organisations that can do this for you such as LearningApps at an educational provider rate.

On Learning Fututres website you can find a whole CPD section on using the Xerte Onlne Toolkit with more examples from practitioners.

If you are looking for a tool that is relatively easy to use, has lots of choice in page templates, is free (with a potential small cost to host externally) and supports independent self-study then Xerte is a good place to start.

27th July 2015
by Holex Techlearn

How do you online test Pre-Entry ESOL Learners?

Ian Walker an ESOL tutor and Curriculum eSupport Tutor at Wolverhampton Adult Education Service wanted to reduce his marking time for pre-entry ESOL learners by creating online self –assessment tests. In the first video, Ian explains that they are using online testing every week to ascertain the progress made by ESOL learners within their Job Centre based groups and demonstrates one of the resources. The resources were created with Articulate Storyline 2 which enables you to build in a screen where the learner inputs their name, this can then be used throughout the modules to personalise the learner’s experience.

Pre-Entry ESOL learners provide a greater challenge to online testing than other learners as their English language skills prevent them from being able to read or write in English. As Ian explained when you show a pre-entry ESOL learner a computer keyboard then it is the same to showing us a keyboard displaying hieroglyphics, we wouldn’t know what to press.

In order to remove this barrier Ian created online resources to teach learners specifically how to use a keyboard and a mouse. The keyboard module had the added benefit of teaching the alphabet as well. In the second video, Ian demonstrates the keyboard module and explains why adding a timer to help him see how long learners took to complete the modules actually added an element of gamification.

Written for HOLEX by Ideas4Learning Limited


24th July 2015
by Holex Techlearn
1 Comment

Teachers need support too!

What do you do when a skilled teacher wants to give up teaching because of the paper-work demands of the job? This was the dilemma faced by managers at Portsmouth City Council’s (PCC), Community Learning Service because of their organisation’s requirements for tutors to keep Course Files (schemes of work, lesson plans and lesson evaluations using standard proformas).
For one dyslexic member of staff, Jenny, the demands of a text-based, paperwork heavy approach had become too stressful. Jenny teaches non-accredited independent living, drama and confidence building courses for LDD leaners. Her style is very learner-led; continually assessing her learners’ needs and progress to inform how she orders and approaches each session. This ability to adapt, changing direction, method or pace comes naturally to Jenny in the classroom and is exactly what her learners.

Taking the potential loss of a tutor seriously, PCC worked with Jenny to identify what her specific needs were and to find a solution that worked for her. The way in which they achieved this was to observe Jenny as she started to plan a new course. It became obvious that Jenny needed to see things visually, she needed to be able to capture thoughts and ideas instantly and then to place them in order but with the flexibility to move them again as needed. Having to stop and concentrate on spellings interfered with her planning process and the use of audio would have been beneficial.

Through observation, a mind-mapping tool became an obvious choice; the one selected was Mindomo (paid version). Jenny has discovered that a single mind map provides her with more than a Course File it not only contains her Scheme of Work (displayed as bubble) associated Lesson Plans (displayed as sub-bubbles) and Lesson Evaluations (audio bubbles) but she attaches resources and links to websites to their associated bubble. All Course Files are online and are shared in the same way you share an ePortfolio, so they are accessible by the Quality and Curriculum Officer for review at any time.

Course tutor file using mindmap software.
The Learning Place was Ofsted inspected in November 2013 and Jenny’s class was observed. Jenny used her course mind map throughout the session to provide the session’s aims and objectives, to quickly access websites and to show and explain activity documents. The Ofsted Inspector asked Jenny to demonstrate the mind map course files to her after her session. She asked Jenny how she used the software, why she was using it and the benefits it bought to her. Following the demonstration the Inspector commented on how impressed she was to see an organisation supporting its staff.

A full case study can be read on the NIACE’s Equalities Toolkit website http://www.equalitiestoolkit.com/content/course-tutor-files where you will find a range of case studies detailing how organisations have made changes for both staff and students.

Written for HOLEX by Ideas4Learning Limited

21st July 2015
by Holex Techlearn

Screen Capture Software – the multi-purpose tool!

Teachers are busy people so it’s great to find a tool that’s quick to learn, easy to use and can be applied in many different ways.

At a recent training event to Manchester Adult Education Service, screen capture software was highlighted as a useful tool for learning, support and assessment. There are many screen capture tools available, the one shown during the session was ScreenCast-O-Matic http://www.screencast-o-matic.com/. This tool is free for 15 minute recordings and as long as you are prepared to have a small watermark that says it was recorded using ScreenCast-O-Matic. The tool is very easy to use and can be run online or downloaded to a computer.Screencastomatic website

Within 5 minutes of an English Teacher being introduced to the tool she knew how to use it and had created not one but two short videos that demonstrated different uses of the software:

Providing video feedback
Giving feedback on learner assignments using screen capture software.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWz3ZPzoOhE?rel=0&w=200&h=113]


  • To highlight areas for improvement and achievement as you talk through an assignment, in much the same way as you would do if a learner was sitting next to you.
  • A learner can revisit the video as many times as they need to.
  • A learner hears your voice, your tone – encouragement etc. Research shows a teacher thinks more about the feedback they provide when giving audio feedback than written. A learner reading written feedback could easily misunderstand the statements you write.
Presentations with VoiceoversUsing screen capture software to adapt Powerpoints to make them more accessible when viewed by learners on Moodle.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEt2WTKJv8c?rel=0&w=200&h=150]

  • Powerpoints don’t include everything you say when delivering them in class.
  • Support for learners who miss a class
  • Support with language skills
  • Remove the need to have Powerpoint or a Powerpoint player on the learner’s device (phone, tablet, computer)

There are other uses for Screen Capture software:

How to Video Guides
Creating video guides for using software.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dYSuszTLO-c?rel=0&w=200&h=150]

  • To enable independent learning
  • To provide recap support between classes or for revision
  • To facilitate pedagogies such as flipped learning
  • For staff training on the use of VLEs, Email, ePortfolio software etc.



 Learner Assignments
Learners record the screen for assessment submission.

  • Assessments that are fit for purpose and can be carried out away from the classroom. for example computer based tasks for apprentices.
  • Learners creating ePortfolios. For example learners talk over a series of photographs of practical activities such as art or cookery to explain what they did and how.
  • Accessible assessment for LDD students.
Learner Support
Learners make their own recordings for support purposes.

  • Learners record problems they encounter using software whilst studying ICT, photo editing or social media etc. to upload to VLEs for discussion, peer support etc. This can help to provide support outside the classroom and on online courses.
Website  and VLE Tours
Recordings made of the organisations website and VLE

  • Induction for Learners and staff
  • Support blended and online learning

Can you add to the list of ideas? How do you use Screen Capture software with your learners or for staff?

Written for HOLEX by Ideas4learning Ltd.

10th July 2015
by Holex Techlearn

Making your Moodle Home Page look more like a Website

When you surf the Internet you get drawn to new items on your favourite website pages, they grab your attention. But how do you achieve that on a Moodle Home Page? With limited time to spend updating the home page information regularly, the page is likely to remain static. One solution is to use a Random Glossary Block as Janet Dawson, an Employability Tutor at Manchester Adult Education Service has done on their front page.

Image showing Manchester Adult Education Service's Moodle Home Page with changing case studies.
Moodle: http://manchesteradulteducation.org.uk/

Each time the page is visited or refreshed the case study changes and promotes their service through a series of learner stories – inspiring new or existing learners.

It is achieved by turning the editing on whilst on the front page – so you will need the Site Administrator to do this.

Create a Glossary and populate it with your learners’ stories, so that the Concept becomes the title of each story/person and the Definition the story itself.

 Add a block and from the options select Random Glossary Entry.

Within the information you then complete to configure the block, you can state which glossary to use to pick up random entries.

 Simple and effective!

Random glossary option in Add a block Moodle menu

 Written for HOLEX by Ideas4Learning Limited

6th July 2015
by Holex Techlearn

QR Codes and Augmented Reality in Family Learning

Last summer the Family Learning Team at Wolverhampton Adult Education Service spent time developing a Family Learning area on the VLE. They filled it with interactive videos, useful links and used it as a way to provide access to the resources that were being used within the sessions. Teaching in schools and community locations meant that computers were not always available to them, so the aim of the resources on the VLE was to support, supplement and extend learning outside the classroom.

They introduced the use of the VLE into this academic year and throughout the year monitored learner logins and collected learner feedback. Initial feedback was positive about the resources, parent/carers particularly liking the fact that they had access to another copy of the resources to use again with their children.

They are now planning to build on this work and make use of QR Code Reader and Augmented Reality Apps in the classroom making use of learners’ mobile phones. Ensuring that the interactive videos they have been producing can be used within the classroom too.

Here Jake Ainger, the Family Learning Lead and an eLearning Tutor at Wolverhampton Adult Education Service talks about the VLE development work and explains their future ideas for using Apps.

As Jake points out at the end of the video, this method of introducing learning technologies and  digital resources in community locations doesn’t need a great deal to make it work. It requires little in the way of technology (the learner’s own mobile phone),the learner doesn’t need a login and it gives instant access to the resource.

The organisation has also seen the potential of Augmented Reality Apps to bring newsletters and course prospectus to life; any images used, including the front cover, can act as a link to videos. Making it possible for current learners to talk about their course and experiences to potential new learners etc.

QR Codes and Augmented Reality Apps can be used in any subject area in so many different ways. They can provide:

  • further information relating to a poster or provide the content in an alternative format
  • an induction tour of the organisation
  • additional support on handouts
  • extension activities or assignments

PETA Limited is currently delivering a Learning Futures project to create video learning hotspots in engineering workshops using QR Codes and Augmented Reality Apps. These hotspots will provide learners with access to self-help support, learning and gamification style self-assessment. The project completes in September and the resources developed to train the Engineers in the use of Apps and the YouTube Editor will then be made available, so keep an eye on the Learning Futures website.

What Apps do you need?

Aurasma, an Augmented Reality App which is used in conjunction with an account on Aurasma Studio. Learners download Aurasma and then follow their teacher’s username. They only need to do this once to get access to all existing and new Auras (resources) that are added by their teacher.

QR Code Generator, there are many for example QRStuff, as a teacher you use this to create the code you then share with learners.

QR Code Reader App, the learner will need one of these on their mobile phone there are many for example Norton Snap.

Written for HOLEX by Ideas4Learning Limited

HOLEX blog

1st July 2015 by HXadmin | 1 Comment

Our HOLEX blog is currently being managed by Ideas4learning. Sally Betts and Barbara Nance are working with our members on digital learning and have been2_fun blogging about the project here https://holextechlearn.wordpress.com/.

The blog will be incorporated in to this site in the near future.






















4th June 2015
by Holex Techlearn

Do you create from new or mashup?

There are so many digital resources available on the Internet or on our computers already that is there actually any need to produce any more?
Yes, if we are to:

  • keep things relevant and up-to-date.
  • Keep developing as practitioners – learning more about our subject area, new pedagogies, technologies and tools
  • Involve learners in the development of resources as part of their learning process

But do we constantly need to create resources from scratch? Unless you’re at the forefront, a pioneer in a new subject, the answer is probably no. There is so much material available already – it doesn’t need to be created again. Now what we need to learn is how to mashup – how to create resources out of materials that are gathered together from the Internet or our own computers. Combining elements to make resources that cover the material in the context and format your learners need.

Xtlearn a social bookmarking tool

Let’s take a look at: Cooking Explained Toad in the Hole , a resource to provide maths support to learners on a cookery course or numeracy learners with cookery. The resource pulls together:

  • A recipe from the BBC website
  • 6 maths ‘how to’ videos on YouTube
  • Two video demonstrations on the BBC website
  • A page on the WikiHow website that explains oven settings
  • The Which guide to oven symbols
  • An online visual dictionary to help understand spoon sizes
  • An online timer
  • A web site that explains about seasoning
  • An online thermometer

The only additional input from me was to explain to the learner why they needed to go to each of the online elements within the resource.

Having found the individual elements for my new resource I needed to gather them together in a structured way and so I used a tool called XtLearn, a social bookmarking site designed specifically for education. At a basic level it allows you to make collections of resources that you find on the Internet and present them in visually appealing ways to learners. However, by using features to add into the mix your own text and documents you can deliver resources and even online courses whether through a direct Internet link or embedded in a VLE.

Content creation tools such as Xerte, CourseLab, Articulate Storyline, as well as tools within VLEs (Book and Lesson within Moodle), continue to develop their functionality making it easier to include Internet based resources such as images, video and even embedded webpages.

In our new world of mashups there are still challenges! We still need to be able to find the nuggets in the first place and we need to know which nuggets we should use and why!

Written for HOLEX by Ideas4Learning Limited