Learning Maths Independently – A new type of online course

Link to the Maths4Us Learning Maths Online resources
How can we reach adults who want to use online learning resources, but don’t have the digital skills and confidence to do so?

We explored this last year as part of the NIACE Maths4Us programme. One of the outcomes was a set of brilliant, highly interactive pre-level 2 maths resources appropriate for adults. We also started to think about how we might help adults to find relevant resources and how they could be supported with their online learning. I explored some ideas in a blog post.

People who are already working with adult learners may hold the key to improving access and confidence. They may be professionals, volunteers or friends who can help learners to take the first step towards independent learning by finding and collecting resources that are specific to an individual’s needs, and then ‘being around’ to provide support and encouragement.

We are now in a position where we can trial this approach by offering an online course aimed at tutors, trainers, volunteers or even family members who are supporting someone with their maths learning.

If you or someone you know might be interested in taking part please contact Sally Betts, maths@ideas4learning.co.uk, who is working with a group of specialists and experts to design and deliver this course. Details below.

Course Aims

To support the development of maths skills in people currently below level 2 by helping those working with them.


Participants will:

  • explore strategies and methods to develop independent learning skills
  • see and experience a range of online maths resources suitable for adults working below level 2
  • create a collection of online maths resources relevant for their own learners
  • use a resource/s with a learner(s) and produce a learner story

Target audience

This course is intended for anyone wants to know more about encouraging independent learning in others using online maths resources. You may be involved with formal (e.g. learning provider) or informal (e.g. at home, volunteer, social club) delivery of maths.


Course dates – 3 – 21 November 2014

Explore, Week 1 (commencing 3rd Nov)

We will explore the wealth of maths online resources and we will be discussing the challenges you are having and approaches you are using with learners. This week you will be identifying at least one learner to work with over the next three weeks.

Gather, Week 2 (commencing 10th Nov)

We will be looking at different ways you can gather maths resources into groups for different purposes. This week you will be making a collection and trialling the resource with a learner.

Sharing, Week 3 (commencing 17th Nov)

This week we will share experiences and tips from using the resource collections with learners. We will continue to explore ways to encourage independent learning using online resources and also look at how learners can create their own collections. This week you will write a learner story. This should be completed by November 24th and uploaded onto Moodle.

Course delivery

The course will be delivered online, using a combination of a Moodle VLE and Webinars delivered through Adobe Connect. Each week Moodle will provide information and ideas around the weekly topic which will include the use collaborate tools to enable sharing of ideas and experiences. You will receive a certificate of participation.


The Webinars will be recorded and made available via Moodle. The Webinars will take place each week on following days and times:

  • Thursday 6th November 12:15 – 13:00
  • Wednesday 12th November 12:15 – 13:00
  • Thursday 20th November 12:15 – 13:00

Time Commitment

You will need to set aside approximately 3 hours a week.

Pre course check list

To make the most and participate fully in this free course you need to be:

  • working with Maths learner/s below Level 2
  • able to demonstrate the resources to learner/s and for them to be able to access the resources for independent study
  • prepared to trial the resources with learner/s throughout the course
  • able to write a Learner story about the learner when trialling the resource
  • able to access Moodle and Adobe Connect


Places are limited, so book now by contacting maths@ideas4learning.co.uk

We look forward to welcoming participants. Please do share this post with others in your organisation who may be interested.


accessbilityA packed webinar on VLEs and ESOL. One of the reasons I personally was keen on this theme was the hours spent trying to get learners to remember their college passwords and then trying to do an ‘interesting’ activity. By the time I had managed to get around to everyone and got them to re-enter their password for the third time it was already the end of a rubbish lesson. But I still think of the ‘ideal’ VLE as a place were learners (and staff) have the chance to interact and learn creatively. What I have picked up from talking to curriculum and e-learning staff is that a consistent institutional and curriculum team approach, as well as meticulous planning, is needed. Technologically facilitated delivery can offers great benefits, such as accessibility and flexibility, but there does need to be a lot of attention to detail.

That brings me to Sally Betts’ presentation about ‘ VLEs for all’, an ETF funded project to develop the accessibility of Moodle for all learners. Here there was that attention to detail and some strategies that would have been really useful for me as I struggled with my classes. Keeping in mind some of the points that people mentioned in the pre-activity; Sally talked about ideas such as communicating with IT support to override the automatic password creation and then developing a class plan for setting up passwords that are individual yet have some common prompts that the teacher can use to remind all learners. Sally also mentioned creating groups by using the group function in Moodle for differentiated learning. Also mentioned was Poodll, an audio and video-recording tool specifically created for language learning, though you will need to get your technical support on board with this as it is a Moodle plug-in.Infact, one of the initial questions we asked on the webinar was how supported people felt with their technology, if they had someone to turn to in a moment of technological need and it was very nice to see that the majority did feel supported; certainly communication and co-operation with technology support is vital. Lastly, we ourselves can also bring external tools in and embed them into Moodle such as Padlets but also, Xerte learning objects (all mentioned before in a previous ESOL webinar click here). Another major concern that  people expressed in the pre-activity was how clunky and unattractive the design of their Moodle was, so to help with this we heard about Xtlearn; a great visual way of putting resources onto Moodle and another good tip is using Moodle’s picture grid format for easier navigation. To find out more here is a Xtlearn collection from Sally with a summary of the useful tips she suggested: VLES for all.

Next, for those of us who do not have access to Moodle or want to try something else, Diana Tremayne told us about her use of Edmodo. There has been a lot of clamouring for a presentation on Edmodo as people have heard how easy it is to use. Indeed, the overall impression is that Edmodo’s friendly interface is great for both tutors and learners, particularly at lower levels. A bit like Facebook, it is a free web based tool and one of its winning point is that you do not need an email to sign up, which is often a barrier for some ESOL learners. Furthermore, it is easy to post onto and it has lots of assessment tools such as polls for instant feedback and quiz functions, which seem easier to set up compared to Moodle. There is also the option to use Open Badges (Click here for our December session where we talked about Open Badges) and also a great place for teachers themselves to share resources and ideas. Edmodo is available as a mobile app as well! Though someone did point out that even if it is such a great tool some institutions are not too keen about using external learning platforms; the line between ‘institutional’ and the outside world is blurred and concerns are raised about who is in control of what. However, maybe using something like Edmodo could be a strategic way to get lower level learners comfortable with the concept of on-line learning before slowly transitioning them onto Moodle and its higher functionality. Again highlighting the importance of communication as it is a question of balancing the risks that would need to be discussed across the organisation. Russell Stannard’s Teacher Training Videos has some good tips about setting up Edmodo.

It is good to know what else is out there and to prove that Moodle is not the only major VLE in town we got some input from Richard Calderdale about the state of the art latest generation VLE called Canvas, which does look impressive. I had heard about Canvas in a presentation from a South African school with SEN learners and how effective it was, particularly in terms of accessibility. Richard used screen share for a quick tour and it certainly looks very smooth with a clear layout; again familiar functionalities are there like setting up groups, quizzes and so forth. In addition there are other features such as an integrated video function that has great potential to be used as a ‘language lab’, it also has a conferencing tool with whiteboard. It would certainly be great to be able to experience Canvas within an ESOL context.

Finally, the last presentation was from Colin who told us about a start-up project at Strathclyde University called Micro-phonics; an ESOL pronunciation tool that can be integrated into Moodle. Pronunciation seems to be one of those things that newer teachers often do not feel very confident teaching. Yet even if someone does use the right grammar and a lot of vocabulary but does not use any sentence stress, for instance, it can really affect communication and comprehension. This web based tool has been created to help teachers and learners with this and to increase the effectiveness of ESOL teaching overall as it uses video, animation and images to blend individual elements of speech together to teach letter-sounds as well as handwriting. There are various functionalities including one for learners to record themselves and it also has loads of lesson plans and quizzes, all with a word database dictionary. You can find out more or if you want to get involved with the University of Glasgow research then do contact Colin@micro-phonics.com.

This was a quick overview that in no way covers it all so if you do want to hear more then click here for recording and presentations of this webinar (and past webinars)  available until December.

Next webinar will be on the 14th November ESOL in the community

Our latest e-Bulletin: September 2014

Jisc RSC London’s September 2014 e-Bulletin

If you are a supported learning provider you can also subscribe to our mailing list, just email admin@rsc-london.ac.uk

(Please note a correction has been sent out for an item in this e-bulletin. The event  Hybrid Reality Technologies and Techniques: A Guide to Best Practice,  costs £75 per delegate and not as stated in the e-Bulletin. Apologies for any inconvenience.)

Tips for getting the best from your project partnership

A Guest Post by Laurence Elliott, ILT & Learning Resources Coordinator at Morley College

Underpinning agreement in ACL Consortiums

A recent straw poll of London region Adult and Community Learning providers seems to indicate that most don’t use formal Consortium Agreements (CAs) during projects or have templates for these. Templates do exist online but using these directly without tailoring them to your own project’s needs is not recommended (see ‘Creating a Consortium Agreement’ by Andrew Charlesworth for useful information on formal CAs). Adapting these types of documents obviously requires legal expertise, something which smaller institutions may or may not have in-house. Given that formal CAs do not appear to be the norm in ACL consortiums – what can providers put in place to help underpin agreement on projects?

For many projects the bid submission (incorporating comprehensive work plan, clear milestones, clearly defined outputs etc.) will be the key project document underpinning agreement. These are best developed in a process involving all members of the consortium. The lead institution should ensure agreement before the document is submitted and this can sometimes be difficult to achieve when writing to a short deadline. The process will be easier where established relationships exist through previous collaboration. Consortiums with clear and well-structured bids are still likely to benefit from an initiation stage in which to refine and extend the document.

If for some reason it hasn’t been possible to involve all partners in the bidding process then developing a project initiation document (PID) before work starts is likely to be useful. The draft document may be largely developed by the lead institution but should be fully discussed and agreed by project leads from all the consortium providers. The PID needs to be developed to a level of detail sufficient to maintain control of the project. Consortiums may adopt in-house approaches to projects or tailor a methodology like PRINCE2®. Guidance on scaling down project methodologies is available; see for example ‘PRINCE2® for small-scale projects’ by Chris Ferguson. As a living document the PID will be subject to revision as the project progresses.

Roles and responsibilities should also be agreed during the initiation stage. Producing detailed descriptions for these can seem like overkill, especially on small projects. However, issues can arise even on internal projects where lack of prior agreement around roles can cause unnecessary overlap and duplication. These may be verbally agreed rather than being formally signed off but should be documented. It can be useful to define clear roles and responsibilities for sponsors too as not all managers have extensive experience of this project role.

Steering groups have a key role in maintaining agreement across the consortium. The constituent members will vary but groups should meet at regular intervals to agree decisions around budget, strategy etc. Regular face-to-face meetings are important to help build working relationships and smooth out differences between organisational cultures. Videoconferencing may be an alternative or supplementary option for consortiums with a wide geographic spread, otherwise a central location may be preferred to ensure the maximum number of members can participate. Scheduling software like Meetomatic can be useful for coordinating complex availability in consortiums with several project partners.

Continuity in terms of consortium representatives will support the work of the steering group and ideally all should be involved from the beginning of the project to encourage a sense of ownership. Issues can be experienced where organisations join a project late. Latecomers may feel outside an established group and feel frustrated that they cannot input meaningfully into shaping the project. Project Leads need to have a certain level of delegated authority to participate effectively in decision making. Those with less experience are likely to require greater support in their role. Steering groups can provide this to a certain extent but can’t compensate for deficiencies in institutional backing.

In addition to consultation during the bidding process it can be useful for the project manager in conjunction with Jisc to visit all consortium providers early in the project. This can create the opportunity for a wider range of users and interested parties to be consulted and ensure greater buy-in to the project. Stakeholder buy-in can in turn translate into increased support for individual project leads. Wherever possible, meetings and training events should take place at all members of the consortium to maintain and develop the profile of the project.

Although all projects are unique, some common features of successful projects emerge in discussion with colleagues:

  • A need for clarity is identified as a key requirement, including clear project documentation and guidance around roles and responsibilities.
  • Establishing effective project governance with a steering group which meets regularly and operates in a professional and collegiate manner is also important.
  • Good working relationships and trust built up through informal collaboration and knowledge sharing can be a sound foundation for potential partnerships.

Consortiums formed on this basis are likely to arrive at a consensus more easily.

Useful links

Creating a Consortium Agreement’ by Andrew Charlesworth

PRINCE2 for small-scale projects‘, by Chris Ferguson, Novare Consulting


Capturing e-Factor – the next best thing to having been there! (with thanks to Ron Mitchell)

Jisc RSC London's e-Factor 2014

Were you inspired by a particular e-Factor showcase that you attended and would like to view it again or share it with colleagues?

Did you miss a particular showcase that you really wanted to attend or heard from colleagues that it was really good?

As well as sharing all the presentations, related resources and commentary for each of the showcases on our event pages we have also uploaded the video recordings of the selected showcases we captured on video. It wasn’t possible to capture all the showcases but those we did capture are now available and together with the commentary and copies of presentations are the next best thing to having been there!e-Factor hands logo

Thanks to Ron Mitchell, our associate adviser, for his work in capturing and editing these clips.  Ron has also contributed some observations on the business of capturing useful resources from events such as e-Factor, where…

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