Applied GCSEs Update

The Applied GCSEs in Business and ICT were a huge hit when we introduced them 2002. Recently, they have languished somewhat as they have moved from the old Paperless School platform to Yacapaca. Now, the move is complete, and I’d like to update you with the resultant changes:

Business

Price reduction
I have reduced the cost from £25.00 per student to just £9.95 per student. The development costs are all paid off, and I would rather see the two courses continue to be used than worry about squeezing the last drop of profit out of them. The photocopy master course packs will now be sold separately.

Find the courses on Yacapaca (requires login)

Which versions to use
The Paperless School version will be discontinued over the Summer Hols. If you are locked into that and not experiencing problems, there is no reason to change until then.

The ePortfolio Pilot Project is being wound up now, but tasks assigned within it are quite safe until August. If you are already delivering through Yacapaca, I recommend you move to the integrated tasks right away; they simply work better, and have much easier marking.

Business Encyclopedia Glossary…
…is finally fixed. In the end we did the decent thing and rewrote the program from scratch.

The message board…
…has been permanently scrapped. That is one feature that never lived up to expectations.

Access controls
I am determined to keep everthing on Yacapaca absolutely free, which means that access to the course activities is free. We do still need to charge something for these courses, so to controll access we are putting password protection on the Business and ICT Encyclopedias. If you are a current customer, you will shortly be receiving an email with your password details for this.

Major update to Yacapaca

This evening we installed a major update to Yacapaca. The new features turn it into a general-purpose assessment platform that does everything paper-based assessment did, only better. We have been working towards this for two long years, and you cannot imagine how happy I am to finally see it come to fruition.

You will find the new features represented throughout Yacapaca by icons. Here is what they are, and what they mean.

The Yacapaca assessment types

short-text test Short-text test
Tests that are quick to write, administer and mark. These tests work in just the same way as their familiar paper equivalents, but they save a lot of time.
ePortfolio ePortfolio
As students work through a course, they collect all the relevant material in one place. Unlike a paper file, you can monitor, comment and mark at any time. At the end of the course, the student can download the entire portfolio into an attractive standalone website on CD to send to the examiner, or just keep as a record.
free-text survey Free-text survey
Find out what your students (or their parents) think about any topic you choose. Traditionally, the pain of surveys is collating all the answers afterwards. Yacapaca does it automatically, as they are entered. The free-text survey is very flexible and easy to set up, but it does not analyse the results, only compiles them
Quiz Quiz
The original core of Yacapaca. Multiple-choice tests with a range of question types: choose-1, checkbox, location, cloze, drag’n’drop. Tests can include formative feedback and they are presented via a range of attractive animated templates.
Website Website
Get your students to build complete websites using our online tools, then export them to the school’s intranet server (or anywhere else) to show off to their friends. View the sites remotely yourself as they are being built, and help students improve them by commenting on each page
Multiple-choice survey Multiple-choice survey
The multiple-choice survey uses the same question-types as the quiz, but with the right/wrong answer notion expunged. Multiple-choice surveys take longer to set up than their free-text siblings, but they analyse the results as well as collating them. Which is better really depends on the number of people you expect to survey.

Of course there are not yet many examples of the new assessment types in the Assignments list, but it is dead easy to create your own. Simply join an appropriate author group, and away you go. The author homepage now makes it especially easy to get started once you have joined the group.

Author-group homepage

Credit for all this is due to the hardworking Chalkface programmers; in particular Sergej (team leader) and Igor (wrote the pilot scheme), but also Vic, Alex, Max, Sasha, Vika and several more without whom Yacapaca would still be but a twinkle in my eye.

Update: I have had requests for examples of student output. Here are some from last year.

ePortfolio Exemplars

We’re still piloting our free ePortfolio system, but I thought you might like to see some of the work students are doing on it at the moment. These three examples, each from a different school, make great illustrations of the range of possibilities in the system. They are produced by students of different attainment levels, doing different courses, in three very different schools.

I have anonymised the names to John Smith/Jane Smith, but otherwise left them completely untouched as the students produced them. Note that only one of the three examples is actually a finished piece of work.

So here they are, specified as
Teacher: School: Task

I’ve added the download links for two reasons. First, to demonstrate one of the features of the system; you can view ePortfolios direct online, or download them to CD as some exam boards require. And second to enable you to investigate the file structure should you wish to.

My thanks, for permission to publish, to the teachers and students involved. The free ePortfolio system is available as part of Yacapaca.


Click to enlarge

ePortfolio integration

This evening we are uploading the next major improvement to Yacapaca. The ePortfolio is now integrated into Yacapaca for both teachers and students.

Teacher module

As teacher, you will see a ‘gateway button’ in the Yacapaca banner. This will take you into the ePortfolio module. You will find most of it self-explanatory, but please do refer to the ePortfolio Instructions if you get stuck.

There are assessment tasks on the system already for DiDA, the GCSEs in Applied Business and Health and Social Care, and ICT for ABE. But over and above that, it really is extremely easy to create your own ePortfolio tasks.

Student module

The student ePortfolio module is integrated via a new button in the top left of the banner. This leads to a list of all ePortfolio assignments, from where the student proceeds into the specific task. That list will be empty until/unless you set some assignments.

We’re not charging a bean for the ePortfolio until September, so if you want to know what the possibilities of ePortfolio working are, now is the time go and have a play! It has so many creative possibilities that it’s really up to you how you want to use it.

Theresa Kinnison's ePortfolio mini-FAQ

Theresa Kinniston asked so many questions in her comment on my last post that I decided to pull them out into a mini-FAQ. Strictly a QAOO (questions asked only once).

How do you create a new card and therefore have new tasks?

There may be a terminology issue here. You create a new Task under the “Create New Task” tab. Cards are subsidiary components of Tasks. As a task author, you create cards by adding questions. The student will see a separate Card for each question.

You can also allow students to add blank Cards as they go along. For example, DiDA’s rules require that students starts with an almost blank eportfolio, and decide for themselves how to structure it.

I suppose this is a standard process in Yacapaca?

The Task/Card structure really only pertains to the ePortfolio component. We are working on integrating the ePortfolio more closely into Yacapaca, but the teaching requirements for subjective vs. objective assessment are quite different, and the structure of the software has to follow that.

Can you upload graphics, if so how do they appear?

Task authors (i.e. teachers) can incorporate graphics using standard HTML in the instructions. There is no provision for you to save the graphics on our server, but you can easily use a photo-upload service such as Flickr.

Students can upload any type of file to each Card, if that has been permitted by the Task author. They can then incorporate viewable file types (jpg, gif, png) into the eportfolio using standard HTML.

There is an added wrinkle here. As teacher, you may not want students putting all their energies into beautification until they have the raw content written. So there are two modes – Draft and Layout. Layout tools are only available in Layout mode, and the teacher decides when to switch this on.

What control does the student have over the portfoloio, since this is one of the guiding principles that Becta and DfES are working with, for e-portfolios?

Lots, if the Task Author permits it. Our model for student control was My Space, which is such a riot of teenage-ness that I don’t even dare to link to it here for fear of triggering schools’ hormone filters. On top of unrestricted HTML, students can even get into the CSS and amend that.

That said, it is worth stating that we designed this as a general-purpose subjective assessment tool. By leaving just three tickboxes blank, the author can use it to create simple short-text questionnaires. I have seen a worksheet converted from MS Word to ePortfolio in 10 minutes, and observed the lesson when it was used, too. Very simple, very effective.

Like that facility for peer review.

Peer review is on the development plan, but not implemented yet. So far, we only permit teacher review.

Am enjoying looking at your resources, and like the model of sharing that you have developed.

Thank you! All Chalkface has ever done in its 16-year history is collate and organise the work of teachers, for other teachers. The web offers new ways for us to do this, which I think is a contribution that we are uniquely-placed to make.

Do you have many users from FE or ACL sectors?

Not many, but there are some. There are also primary schools, home schoolers, out-of-school projects, business trainers and some bods whom we haven’t a clue what they are, but they seem to be finding use for it anyway.