The Long Road SFC Digital Literacy Course

This course is for students at a transition stage between college and university/employment. It focuses on: digital identity, behaviour and practice and can be used as part of the UK 16- 19 study programme. Students can assess their own digital literacy throughout the course and use this self-awareness to set targets to improve their skills. The course puts a strong emphasis on employability and includes contributions from local employers about the digital literacy skills they look for in job applicants.

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The course has been designed for remote access by students as part of a programme of independent study, using a traditional approach of lessons and activities targeted at an average-level student. In order to avoid a series of read-only content pages with very little interaction required from the student, we have tried where possible to provide students with instant feedback when completing quizzes, for example, so that they can review their own understanding as they work through the topics. However, this has certain obvious limitations. If a post-16 organisation chose to download the course and use it with students already enrolled, the recommendation would be to customise the course by making some of the activities more personalised. This would only require a basic knowledge of Moodle in most instances, e.g. change an offline assignment to an online assignment where the teacher provides personal feedback and grading, customise the discussion forums so that groups of students can communicate with each other in a class or over a college network and which a teacher could moderate.

If the course is delivered as part of a blended learning programme, i.e. with teachers acting as facilitators, students can be encouraged to be independent learners but will also have some access to face-to-face support from a member of staff. This will enhance the student experience by providing more effective, personalised feedback and allow for a more differentiated approach by the teacher.

The graphics for the most part have been created in-house or have been adapted using Creative Commons. The graphics give the course a uniform visual appearance from the top level down right through to the topics and the badges. Other design issues the college Digital Literacy Group agreed on were:

  • A clear, visual header should appear at the top of each topic to illustrate the route the student should take;
  • Each topic should start with simple tasks (read/view only) and move on to harder tasks before a badge is awarded;
  • Verbs should be used to describe each activity, e.g. read, watch/view, do, think, contribute, discuss, share, post, create, answer, write, present, reflect, self-assess;
  • Progression to HE and employment should be highlighted whenever possible.

Each of the topics follows a similar format moving from an introductory Moodle lesson through to two further interactive, reflective tasks.

  • READ/WATCH the lesson
  • DO a task (varies depending on topic)
  • THINK/REFLECT on (varies depending on topic)

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The READ/WATCH Moodle lesson includes:

  • Content pages interspersed by simple questions to test whether students have read/watched;
  • Suggestions for activities offline;
  • Embedded videos and podcasts.

Activities so far include: 7 lessons; 3 discussion forums; 2 assignments; 2 quizzes; 3 questionnaires; 1 glossary; 5 external URL links and 2 read-only resources.

We used our own judgement to check for accessibility with the help of the software Wave which is now an add-on throughout the college for Google Chrome. We also explored the way the course functions and is displayed on a range of devices, e.g. laptops, smartphones and iPads.

We switched our role in Moodle to student whenever we were testing the activities and, at the same time, tried not to underestimate students’ prior knowledge and experience of the digital environment. Our plan in future is to develop the course further so that more self- and peer-assessment is included. This would provide students with the appropriate tools to raise their own self-awareness and set targets for improvement.

There are obvious areas of overlap between digital literacy skills and other areas of the 16 – 19 programmes of study, e.g. employability, higher education progression, core skills (literacy, numeracy and ICT skills) and with examined subjects. There is potential here to promote digital literacy from different angles, e.g. the sociology/psychology of social media, data handling and manipulation, marketing/advertising, political activism, digital creativity etc., to connect with the students’ curriculum interests and specialist areas.

The course will require constant up-dating as changes within the digital environment are happening rapidly on an almost day-to-day basis. We have embedded videos and included links to websites which we have judged to be reliable and authoritative sources rather than attempt to produce original material ourselves which could quickly become out-of-date. To keep up with changes, another suggestion might be to provide opportunities online for teachers and students to collaborate more together to exchange ideas and knowledge. If you manage to download and restore the file, we hope you’ll find the course a useful starting point to adapt and update for your own students to use.

It must be downloaded and restored on Moodle. The course format we have used is ‘grid’. A version of this course is available here: Digital Literacy course for Moodle

Also on the Jorum website for any educational organisation who can access this: http://find.jorum.ac.uk/resources/10949/19946.

Message from our IT Services Department: The Digital Literacy course has been designed to work on Moodle 2.8 and above.  This means that this course is not compatible with earlier versions of Moodle. 

 The developers of Moodle state on their website at https://docs.moodle.org/dev/Releases#Moodle_2.6 that General Bug fixes ended in November 2014 and security updates for Moodle 2.6 will end on 11th May 2015. This follows industry best practice of ensuring that systems are able to be patched and have security fixes applied. 

Dissemination of the Digital Literacy project

Although we are only half way through the project, we’re also beginning to explore how we will disseminate to other post-16 colleges. This blog is an informal part of our dissemination to build up a log of ‘work in progress’. Funding has been provided by the DfE and we have promised to meet the requirements under the delivery strand ‘Providing practical support for teaching and learning’. This in turn has 4 sections:

  1. Alternative curriculum delivery methods;
  2. Teaching support materials (e.g. develop learning and thinking skills)
  3. Innovative curriculum materials to support tutorial topics;
  4. Careers advice and guidance.

Over the next few weeks we will need to concentrate on completing the end product (i.e. the digital literacy course), promoting it to our current students and getting their feedback, packaging it up and publishing it online and then disseminating the results to others at every opportunity. If you work in a post-16 college in the UK and would like to know more about this project, please email moodle@longroad.ac.uk.

Julie Lindsay – E-Learning and Moodle

Designing an online course for independent study

The more members there are in a group, the more difficult it is sometimes to make decisions about a course layout and the visual appearance. There were some features of the Digital Literacy course that were agreed on from the outset. They were that the course would:

  • be delivered online via Moodle;
  • be aimed at the 16 – 19 age group;
  • be suitable for independent study;
  • strive to include ‘responsive design’ elements whenever possible;
  • utilise the features in Moodle for the automatic tracking of student activities.

At our first two meetings, we agreed that:

  • images included on the course should be created ‘in-house’;
  • the topics should follow a similar structure so that students become familiar with the format and understand what they are expected to do;
  • topics should start with read/view activities moving on to harder tasks.

At our last meeting, I recommended that we start by using the Moodle lesson module for the read/view activities. Teachers at Long Road are making really good use of Moodle to build up document repositories for their individual subjects but have sometimes under-used the interactive resources available, like the lesson module. The lesson has 2 page types that the student will see: question pages and content pages. These are basic html pages in which teachers can publish information, include web links and embed video coding. They can add question pages throughout the lesson to test the students understanding.

I showed the group my draft version of Topic 2: Digital Identity using the lesson module. I had identified 2 objectives: for students to explore their own digital identity and to learn how to build a positive online profile.

Topic 2: Digital Identity starting with the lesson module
Topic 2: Digital Identity starting with the lesson module

The lesson was divided into 6 sections:

  1. How a digital identity is created using identifiers and sharing data;
  2. Using Google to find one’s own digital identity and the importance of usernames, passwords, email addresses and online activities;
  3. Positive uses of shared data and the importance of providing accurate information about online identity;
  4. Identity theft and preventive strategies;
  5. Managing multiple personas/identities;
  6. Watching an embedded video on digital identity followed by questions testing whether students have watched it!
Using the Moodle lesson module
Using the Moodle lesson module

The more complex activities – do/reflect/think/discuss – would follow the lesson using any of the other Moodle activities and resources, such as the collaborative wiki to upload students’ work, the glossary and/or discussion forum.

Julie Lindsay – E-Learning and Moodle

More about the Digital Literacy Group

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Image by Kayleigh Blyth
Winner of the graphic design vote
Graphic Design Diploma L3

Each member of the Digital Literacy team at Long Road SFC brings their own skill and expertise to the group and each has their own particular reason for getting involved.

Nick works in the Visual Arts department and is the Course Team Leader for one of our Media Studies courses. He writes,

“I want to be part of a project that hopefully shows that Long Road is keen to try new approaches in terms of how we engage with students and how they can engage with and take ownership for their own learning. I think it’s important that as a group we really address what the overall scope of the course is to be and how that is best communicated both to students, colleagues and those funding the project. It is a very exciting project to be involved in.”

Simon also teaches Media and is a Course Team Leader. He writes that

“Students should have more opportunities to learn how to use creative software and not just those studying Media Studies and Art & Design. I wanted to be part of the project as I feel that students still have problems with some of the IT basics, e.g. a lack of confidence using a Mac, not knowing how to sign out of a shared computer properly or understanding how to navigate a computer.”

The Digital Literacy group has been working together in the initial stages to decide on a consistent format and design for each of the topics. Simon has understandably pointed out that one possible obstacle has been that it can take a long time to come to an agreement when acting as a group, for instancewhen agreeing design principles, and an example of excellent practice would have been useful.

Tom is a Sociology teacher and he writes,

“It is clear that from undertaking research when the group formed, that digital literacy is becoming vital to dissemination in teaching and that all colleges need to forge ahead with implementing it throughout their curriculum. The project has made me reflect personally on approaches to teaching, and how we can better prepare students for the job market or HE. It has already been beneficial in terms of learning new skills, and I’m looking forward to positively influencing both colleagues and students in showing the importance of aspects such as the dangers of social media which I’ve been working on. It has been challenging in understanding how the final course will end up looking, but in developing my own personal digital literacy this is becoming easier.”

James teaches Psychology and he writes,

“I saw this vacancy as a great opportunity to extend my skills in VLE usage as well as something I would enjoy. I am very interested in digital teaching techniques. So far I’ve embarked on creating  one section of the course: Social media literacy. I’ve enjoyed working with others to come up with decent and meaningful activities and sources. I’ve found it hard at times to get my head around the overall vision but I think this will evolve in time.”

Deborah is a Chemistry teacher and represents the college Science Department. She has quickly demonstrated how this opportunity has had a beneficial impact on how the Chemistry Department is now using the VLE. She writes,

“I wanted to improve my knowledge and use of Moodle for teaching and learning but found that I couldn’t devote the time as it wasn’t a priority in the teams I work in. I found that the chemistry team used Moodle only as a repository. I wanted my students to use Moodle in a more interactive way and to have a place where they could find all resources (learning outcome booklets as PDF, PowerPoints as PDF, weekly homeworks as PDFs, videos, links to recommended websites and computer simulations). Since being involved in the project I felt I could devote time to testing out different functions of Moodle. I have changed the format of the AS Chemistry page to be in a grid to improve accessibility. I have tested out the quiz function by making a multiple choice quiz for the students to complete as part of their preparation work for an assessed task on titrations. The quiz had very good feedback from both the students, who found it valuable to get instant feedback on their understanding of titrations, and by the other teachers in the AS Chemistry team, who could see the benefits of easily tracking preparation work but also monitor understanding of their students per question. The second function which I have experimented with is adding a glossary. AS Chemistry students picked a term from the AS Chemistry specification out of a hat and were required to add the definition to the AS Chemistry dictionary section on Moodle. The students were relieved to know that I would first approve their definition before it went live (a function in Moodle) as they were nervous that an incorrect answer could be seen by their peers and make them look incompetent. I now feel more confident transferring my knowledge to the digital literacy project about Moodle’s capabilities.”

Jolene works in the Careers Department and is one of the three members of the group who are part of Long Road’s support staff. Over the past year she has gained the technical skills that have allowed her to upload many of the careers resources and information onto the VLE.  She has found this to be one of the most worthwhile projects she has worked on during her time at Long Road and writes,

“I was interested in being a part of a team that aims to improve and develop students’ digital literacy.  I’ve enjoyed working together to decide how the information will be presented, and to view the group presentations on various DL topics.  Sharing ideas with the group will prove valuable as I work on the Digital Citizen section of the project.”

As part of her regular work, Jolene has many contacts with local employers and higher education. In this role she can add an extra element and writes,

“Alongside working on the VLE, I have been making links with ex-Long Road students, various universities and local employers.  The aim of these links is to learn what is required in order to bridge the gap between the DL skills our students currently have and where they need to be when they begin university or employment. I will be asking ex-students what would have helped them to become more digitally literate during their time at Long Road, and what advice they would give current Long Road students about being better prepared for the future?”

Julie Lindsay – E-Learning and Moodle

LRSFC Digital Literacy Group

A Digital Literacy Group has been set up, so work can now begin designing a self-study course on this topic for students delivered via Moodle. There are 10 members of the group – 7 teachers and 3 members of the support staff. We represent a wide range of expertise from across the college – from visual arts, media, science, social sciences, languages, careers, reprographics and e-learning.

The group were given a ‘starter pack’ at their first meeting which includes the college Digital Literacy Framework (based on the Beetham and Sharpe Framework 2010), an action plan and a revised outline of the course. Members of the group were given a brief reminder about the features on Moodle that could be used to best advantage, and we then discussed the importance of consistency in the visual appearance and structure of an independent study online course. Each section of the course should follow the same template so that students become familiar with the format and understand what they have to do to complete each topic.

Ideas explored by the group were:

  • Use a clear, visual header at the top of each topic to illustrate the route to be taken by the student (we’re lucky to have a member on the group with the necessary skills to do that!);
  • Start with simple tasks (read/view only) moving on to harder tasks before awarding a badge;
  • Select verbs to describe activity – read, watch/view, do, think, contribute, discuss, share, post, create, answer, write, present, reflect, self-assess;
  • Provide students with a progress bar for each topic so they can map their own progress towards a badge;
  • Decide whether conditional progression set by the teacher is desirable or allow a freer approach by the student? Examples: Must the student do e-safety before social media? Self-assess functional ICT skills before investigating employment?;
  • The importance of an attractive/desirable qualification on completion of a topic – involvement of local employers/HE.

The group divided into 4 separate teams and each team chose a topic to focus on over the next 3 weeks. They would present their ideas at the next meeting.

Whilst members of the group have been working together to share their ideas, I have been introducing the topic of digital literacy to a wider college audience. This includes the Curriculum Management Group and Course Team Leaders.

Internal dissemination to teachers included:

1. The results of the Get Connected Questionnaire 2014 completed by students on enrolment day. This is important as it provides us with a profile of students on entry and their previous experience of using IT in the classroom. Question 5 maps the experience of a typical Long Road student with the Digital Literacy Framework.

Question 5 of the Get Connected Questionnaire
Extract from the Get Connected questionnaire

2. Digital Literacy Introduction to CTLs and an activity Opportunities to practice digital skills.

Digitally Literate Course Teams
One of the ppt slides shown at the Course Team Leaders forum

An introduction to digital literacy has also been offered to interested members of the support staff on the next CPD day.

Julie Lindsay – e-Learning

Planning and preparation

The initial planning and preparation for the Digital Literacy course is now complete. A draft course structure has been created on Moodle using the grid format and including 10 topics.

Digital Literacy Course
Digital Literacy Course

We’ve set up a college Digital Literacy Group who will be taking the project forward. Channels of communication have been set up through a Moodle discussion forum and through an Outlook distribution list so that staff can communicate easily with each other over the next few months. Formal meetings at scheduled times are sometimes difficult to arrange, so communication online is essential if we want to maintain a ‘community of practice’.

We’ve also created a shared area on the college network for relevant literature on digital literacy and e-learning. E-learning will play a central role, not only because the end product will be a collection of e-resources delivered through Moodle, but because the project will provide a good opportunity for teachers to explore blended learning. The course will primarily be delivered via a digital platform, but could also include an element of face-to-face support and this will give teachers a better understanding of how they could incorporate blended learning into their examined courses at a later date.

Initial discussions will include:

  • What are the initial training needs of the staff involved?
  • How many badges should we create for students to earn and at what level? What criteria should we set?
  • Have the students been given the opportunity by teachers so far to advance their digital skills in the first term at college?
  • How can we get local employers on board to find out what digital literacy skills they require from college leavers?

Julie Lindsay – e-Learning

Welcome to our ‘Digital Literacy’ blog

We are a sixth form college in Cambridge UK and would like to keep you informed over the next 6 months about a project we are working on. The project is being funded by a DfE grant for sharing innovative approaches to delivering the 16-19 study programme. We are going to create an online course for students on the topic of ‘Digital Literacy’. The completion date will be at the end of March 2015 and the course will be delivered through our VLE Moodle.

We use Moodle version 2.6 and our site theme currently is Clean. We’ve chosen this theme as it has been designed to respond to access via mobile devices and this will be an important feature when investigating alternative methods of curriculum delivery.

The course will be delivered as blended learning and we estimate that it will include about 30 hours of study time. Students will be encouraged to be independent learners but will also have some access to face-to-face support from a teacher.

Digital Literacy covers the skills needed to live, learn and work in a digital environment and we have used the excellent resources provided by JISC to develop a framework in which to operate. The topics we’ll focus on are digital identity, e-safety, employment, 21st century learning skills, the creative use of technology, digital citizenship and also the essential functional skills.

Julie Lindsay – responsible for E-Learning and Moodle at LRSFC