All posts by jennyf

What will we do differently next time?

Having worked with students for a semester and assessed the animations, we now have a ‘to do’ list of what we’ll change for next year:

  • Rooms. we had a bit of a nightmare with rooms bookings and had a mix of computer suites and group work rooms. the group work rooms had a much better layout and were much more conducive to the work we were doing. So next year we’ll focus on getting these rooms, not computer suites.
  • Group work. There are plenty of ways in which we could support group works in different ways, from how we select the groups in the first place, how we support them working as a group to how we discourage coasting. but what is most important is whatever we do do in this regard, we need to make this explicit to the students.
  • Software. The software we used had a schools license, which put a lot of the onus on us for administration. We also have students individual accounts, and they have told us that they’d prefer a group shared account (or software that would allow them to amalgamate their work). This is something we’ll need to re-think. It would also be good to encourage students to use alternatives to the software that we provided.
  • Marking. Watching so many animations back to back became tiring, and in the future we’d break them up a bit more to be able to give our full attention to everyone.
  • Length of animation. We set a time limit of 2 minutes for the animation but a lot came in at around 2 minutes 30 seconds. based on this, and unanimous feedback from students we’ll relax the guidelines to 2-4 minutes next time.

Greenwich here we come: Academic Practice and Technology (APT) Conference: Connected Learning in an Open World

We are very excited to have had an abstract accepted for this conference in Greenwich in July.

Here is a link to the conference

This is our abstract:

During this presentation we will consider our experiences of changing assessment for level 5 students from a power-point presentation to a digital animation. We report on an innovative project that we have implemented over the last twelve months supported by a scholarship from Manchester Metropolitan University’s Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching. The main aims of the project were to explore the use of animation in student assessment and to facilitate students to become partners in the co-production of learning materials.

The 2014 NMC Horizons Report identified that education technology will have a significant impact globally in higher education over the next 5 years (NMC, 2014). Growing use of social media, integration of online, hybrid and collaborative learning, and a shift from students as consumers to creators and partners are three of the key trends. A fusion of more dynamic, flexible and accessible learning approaches are central to the student experience and the report argues for more peer-to-peer collaboration.

Animations are an effective tool in learning and teaching (Lam and McNaught, 2006) and there are a myriad of high quality multimedia materials available online. According to Lam and McNaught (2006), these are accessible for undergraduate students. An initial literature review has identified that there is a gap in information for higher education practitioners about the effectiveness of using animation as a form of learning and assessment. The limited research that has been undertaken relates to science, computer and mathematics based programmes.

Our paper begins with an introduction to the existing research on using digital media as an assessment tool, and the co-production of course materials by students and lecturers. We then draw on our experiences of working with second year under-graduate social care students in developing animations about social care community-based organisations. We discuss our rationale for introducing this form of assessment, engagement with cross-institutional staff, our experiences of learning to animate, the involvement of voluntary and community sector partners and the unanticipated benefits of the project. The research findings that we have gathered will inform further work on the use of innovative forms of assessment.

Birmingham – International Assessment in HE conference

We are delighted to have had an abstract accepted for the 5th International Assessment in Higher Education Conference. This year the conference will be in Birmingham in June. For more information about the conference, have a look at

Here is the abstract that we submitted.

Animate to communicate: using digital media for assessment

In this paper, we report on our use of animation as a contemporary  assessment tool in learning and teaching. The research project, to develop the use of animation in assessment, was funded by Manchester Metropolitan University’s Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching. According to Lam and McNaught (2006), animations are an innovative means of assessment for undergraduate students. The 2014 NMC Horizons Report identified that education technology will have a significant impact globally in higher education over the next 5 years (NMC, 2014). Growing use of social media, integration of online, hybrid and collaborative learning, and a shift from students as consumers to creators are three of the key trends. The key aim of our project was to pilot the use of student-designed animated videos as an assessment tool for undergraduate students. In addition, we explored and tested online animation software, and evaluated students’ engagement and staff experiences of using online animation software to create learning materials and assessment products.

The focus of our paper will be a discussion of the outcomes of the research, and include students’ own experiences of the use of animation. In concluding, we offer thoughts on the new challenges of assessment and the contribution of digital media in a shifting higher education landscape.

Co-producing animations and the amazing Ellie Livermore

Ellie Livermore is the Multi-media Resource Developer for MMU’s Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching. She is now working with us on the animating project providing fantastic support for students in their development of animations for assessment. Ellie has a blog and she has blogged about the seminars in which she has supported students. Here is a link to her blog:

Rochdale Community Champions – Using Animation for Participatory Research in the Community.

Here is a guest blog post by Katy Goldstraw (Phd student and lecturer at MMU and lecturer at Edge Hill university)

Animation is a great fun way of getting your message across. What has struck me is that it captures people imaginations much more than being asked to present research in reports or presentations. I was asked to co-deliver leadership and research training as part of a partnership between Rochdale Community Champions and Edge Hill University. Rochdale Community Champions are a group of volunteers that deliver solution focused, person centred support on a peer-to-peer basis with their community. John and I, working at Edge Hill University, were asked to come and deliver leadership and research training with the champions. We were keen to use training techniques that were accessible, innovative and enabling. Having attended one of Jenny Fisher’s animation training sessions we felt that animation was a great way of sharing research outcomes and intentions.

The leadership and research training was delivered over 4 days with the two fold aim of creating a short animation by day four, as a stepping stone into a longer term participatory research project. The animation was to be focussed around what being a volunteer meant to the champions.
The volunteers loved the idea, we loved the idea – BUT how do we get circa fifteen peoples idea into one animation in four days? Well we did lots of shared discussion, que post it notes & flip chart about how people felt, what they wanted to research and how the animation should look. By day three, we were ready to create the PowToon. I chose PowToon mostly because it seems to me the simplest of tools and similar enough to PowerPoint that I could understand it.

We sat in a U shape and tried to whittle down the pages of notes about what was important about being a Rochdale Community Champion into three sentences. A game of ‘word popcorn’ helped. I had the computer and everything I uploaded was projected up onto the big screen. We created a short five-minute cartoon with the major messages the group wished to share. We chose to create one shared animation, as there was a significant diversity of IT skills and literacy within the room. This way everyone’s voice was heard.

As with all participation, the project was full of ideas and discussion. It was not without conflict with different group members wishing different things to be represented. Trying to create the animation ‘live’ when I have what can only be described as limited skills was hard. I created a draft by the end of day three and then went home and worked on the cartoon to improve the animation. The second draft was then shared with volunteers on day four.
Overall, the process felt very democratic and feedback from volunteers was positive – they really engaged with the idea of representing the community champions in a short and innovative way.

If I were advising others, to include animation in a community research project I would recommend a shared animation and using the ‘first draft’ and they time out to perfect. I found it all quite high pressure being watched by fifteen people whilst a learner myself. However, within that I was pleased that I was able to model a new idea and the very important message that we as a group could create an animation collaboratively.

For more info on the Rochdale Community Champs Project

Accessible Animation

When Jenny, Hayley and I facilitated a workshop at the HPSC teaching and learning conference on 9th January, 2015, on using animation in teaching, learning and research. One of the questions from a participant was: “is animation accessible?”  In brief, the answer was “it’s complicated!”.

There are a number of issues you might want to think about.

  1.  Is the topic you are animating about suitable?

For some people, animation is still seen as a bit of a frivolous activity, animation is often used to convey light hearted information and jokes.  If you are engaging in a serious or sensitive topic, you might want to think about whether animation is the best way to do this.  On the other hand, it is possible to use animation carefully and sensitively to convey very powerful and serious messages.  If you’ve been following the #JusticeforLB campaign, a campaign calling for the NHS Trust responsible for what was found to be the preventable death of a young man with a learning disability, you may have seen this animation: which conveys powerful messages about a serious topic.

  1. Are the representations of people suitable?

The free animation software offers a limited range of images of people you might want to think about this in terms of race, gender, size and dis/ability.  The range of items that you can import is also limited. As Jenny pointed out in the session, there are no wheelchairs available in “Go Animate”.

Some people with learning disabilities may object to being represented in a cartoon-like way.  This is because of a history of a long history of the infantilisation of people with learning disabilities which self-advocacy organisations have worked hard to resist.

  1. How can I make the information within the animation accessible?

There are some general ideas about accessible information that you might want to think about:

  1. a) Think about using a sans seraph font and using 16pt or larger – avoid using all upper case.
  2. b) Allow plenty of time for the viewer to read the information on the animation.  It might help to read the slide out loud slowly and use this to set the timings on the animation.
  3. c) Use a voice over to read the text aloud.  You might also want to think about audio describing the images on the animation.
  4. d) Use pictures to support the text, the pictures should appear before the text on the left hand side rather than on the right.
  5. e) Use plain English.  Avoid technical language or jargon that a lay audience might find inaccessible.
  6. f) Provide a link to a transcript of the animation.
  7. g) Share your animation on YouTube to reach a wide audience

And finally …

We have found lots of people who have found animations an engaging and effective way to share ideas.

If you have any ideas about how to animate accessibly, we’d be really grateful if you would share them on the blog.

Katherine Runswick-Cole

For more information about presenting accessibly read:

  1. Mallett, R., Runswick-Cole, K. and Collingbourne, T. (2007) Presenting Protocols for Accessible Research Dissemination, Disability and Society, 22 (2): 205-7.

Animation workshops at MMU

We have now run three workshops for MMU staff on animating since December 14. The latest one was at the Faculty of Health, Psychology and Social Care’s Learning and Teaching conference on 9th January. Over 30 staff and post-graduate students have participated in the workshops led by Jenny, Hayley and Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole. We began the workshops with an overview of the project, use of animation in learning and teaching, and how animations can be used for research (especially impact). Participants then had an opportunity to use go-animate (the schools edition) and learn some basic skills for animating.

We used survey monkey to find out participants’ pre-workshop experiences of animation in learning and teaching, and post-workshop views on the workshop content. We learned that an hour is not enough time and we need to do longer workshops. Also it is best to use a mouse when working on a laptop, and that google chrome is the best internet platform for using go-animate. Lots of positive feedback:

‘I am very excited about the animation work.  Ellie kindly recorded some of our students reading out their poems, and I wanted to set them to an animation.’ (Dr Kirsten Jack, National HEA Teaching Fellow)

Fantastic! Thank YOU so much (Amanda Clayson, MMU VCS partner)

‘It was just right. i was really excited about what you did. it was very approachable and at the right level for me to go away and do the animation again.’ (anonymous)

In other news, we have been awarded the second instalment of our MMU CeLT project grant as we met the relevant deliverables.

‘A massively successful and inspiring event’

Jenny and Teresa O’Neill developed an animation for the research with Home-Start Manchester South

Positive Communities Research Group Manchester Met University

Group members Rebecca Lawthom and Jenny Fisher hosted an event at Birley Building on 12th November to share the research findings of an evaluation of Home-Start Manchester South. It was a hugely successful evening, and the stars of the event were a mother who is supported by Home-Start and a volunteer who supports her and her family. Community psychology is about the application of research that explores the relationship between individuals and social systems within a community context. The evaluation of Home-Start Manchester South centered the voices of families and volunteers.

A volunteer at the event told us that the researchers ‘just came in and got on with everyone, they listened to what we said, and were not like normal academics.’
Rob Parkinson, CEO of Home-Start UK, gave a presentation. He said that Home-Start volunteers are between a friend and a professional.

The Chair of Home-Start Manchester South emailed us…

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The animating bug spreads …

No, this isn’t a public health warning. More MMU staff are getting engaged in animating. Julia Robinson, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, attended a conference last Saturday. The conference was: Social Justice: Towards a Model of Personal and Collective Empowerment and you can find out more here.

Having got the animating bug from seeing an animation I made at a party, Julia developed an animation for her presentation called:  ‘Working at the Interface of Community and Counselling Psychology’. Here is the animation:

Julia told me: ‘One of my aims was to encourage delegates to think community psychologically in their formulation of client problems and in the planning of their intervention. Presenting a fictitious client story (case study) through animation, proved to be a powerful way to communicate a sense of the whole person beyond the usual text-based representation.The task accompanying the animation was the following:

Listen to the client story.What information is missing? Using the resources you have been introduced to today, try and develop a formulation. What interventions would you plan?

I felt that the application of GoAnimate in this instance, stimulated much discussion around both material and discursive issues pertaining to psychological practice. I hope to develop my skills in using it as a training tool.’

Animation can be used in many ways, and as we keep sharing our ideas, they keep developing. We are about to purchase an educational licence for go-animate to support working with students to develop animations. Watch out for a blog post when we get the licence.