Having recently attended an e-assessment workshop at Duchy College where I saw a presentation about using Xerte to create educational resources for students with learning difficulties, it prompted me to write about this excellent tool. It has many benefits for the student which I will list in this article, but one of the best plus points for Xerte is that by using the online toolkit, anyone can create a resource which looks great, is very accessible and can be used as a formative assessment or revision tool.
Xerte has been created by staff at the University of Nottingham and as it is an open resource, it is available to download and use free of charge. The Xerte website has some excellent examples of the type of resource which can be created and you can download the online toolkit from there also.
Creating accessible resources.
The presentation at the e-assessment event was delivered by Lisa Featherstone of JISC TechDis. Lisa has many years experience of working with students with learning difficulties. Lisa demonstrated a Xerte object she had created with various learning difficulties in mind. By selecting the link, you will be able to view the template.
Xerte templates allow users to control the colours and font sizes by using the options shown at the bottom of the resource and can be resized by using the tools in the browser. Templates can be navigated by both mouse and by using keyboard commands. There is also a text-to-speech interface available.
Xerte objects can be created to suit all aspects of learning difficulties such as attention and memory recall, auditory, visual and motor. The University of Nottingham has created an excellent template to show examples of this in action.
Using Xerte to create revision tools
Lisa Featherstone also demonstrated a learning object which showed an example of a revision tool. Xerte online toolkits lend themselves well to the creation of a self-contained revision/self-assessment package where key points could be displayed and a series of questions could be asked around the key points. The points could also be summarised at the end of the template, allowing users to recap. This resource can be used over and over by both academics/creators and students. Xerte learning objects are accessible anywhere where users have access to a computer and an internet connection.
Using Xerte online toolkits to create assessments
The online toolkit can create a very effective assessment package which looks professional and is easy to use from a student perspective. For formative assessment, it can be used in the same way as for the revision tool. A content creator could add key points and demonstrate these by adding props such as video or audio content, images which can have features such as drag and drop added and creating a series of questions from multiple choice to text match. For summative assessment, the same format would be ideal, but the only drawback is that Xerte online toolkits have no functionality for recording student activity or marks. However, this issue can be worked around by linking the Xerte template to a QuestionMark Perception assesment from within the Xerte template. Perception is currently the online assessment tool which is used at Plymouth University and is capable of recording student activity. This has been done successfully by the Human Resources (HR) department at Plymouth University. They wanted to use Xerte to create a high quality suite of resources for staff to access online around various HR policies and procedures. The idea is for staff to access the resources and work through the Xerte templates, then answer questions at the end. Because it is essential to achieve a certain score, the assessment at the end is linked to Perception and the mark is recorded and can be accessed by HR staff.
Which disciplines are suitable for using Xerte?
The answer to this one is, all disciplines. The flexibility of Xerte templates allows resource creators to add and embed a variety of different features which can be tailored to suit the particular discipline. For example, Arts could create a Xerte template containing images of famous paintings with accompanying information. Hotspots could be added to the images allowing users to zoom in on a particular aspect of a painting. The University of Nottingham Medical School has been using Xerte to create a series of templates to assist students in principles of anatomy.
If you would like any more information about using Xerte, please contact the Learning Technologies team.