Xerte in Health Psychology

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Xerte in Health Psychology Final Report

Project Information

Project Identifier

To be completed by HEA/JISC

Project Title

Xerte in Health Psychology

Project Hashtag

Start Date

23 September 2013

End Date

12 January 2014

Lead Institution

Newman University

Project Manager

Bob Ridge-Stearn

Contact email


Project Web URL


Programme Name

Digital Literacy in the Disciplines

Programme Manager

Terry McAndrew


Document Information


Bob Ridge-Stearn

Project Role(s)

Project lead


27 June 2014



If this report is on your project web site


This report is for general dissemination



HEA – Digital Literacy programme.


Terry MacAndrew for his support throughout

Project Summary

Students used Xerte Online Toolkits in a level 6 Health Psychology module. The module incorporated a problem Based Learning scenario in which students had to create online interactive materials aimed either at counsellors or patients. They created these using Xerte.

Main Body of Report

Project Outputs

(e.g. report, publication, software)
Brief Description and URLs (where applicable)


Blog post providing an introduction to the project and the Health Psychology module



Blog post describing how we provided initial training on Xerte for our students.



Blog post providing a progress report on how the project was going at about the half way mark with students at this point working on their Xerte learning objects.



Blog post providing a progress report towards the end of the project reflecting on various problems.



Blog post commenting on the students’ use of Xerte templates.



Blog post about the students’ misunderstanding of copyright in their projects.



Blog post detailing problems with assessing Xerte projects, in particular issues with exporting the learning objects



Brief blog post about the file sizes of the students’ xerte submissions


Student produced content

Student Produced Learning Object 1

“Your Complete Toolkit for Physical Activity”


Student produced content

Student Produced Learning Object 2

“Alcohol Consumption


Student produced content

Student Produced Learning Object 3

“Introducing health Psychology”


Student produced content

Student Produced Learning Object 4

“Everything you need to know about alcohol consumption”


Presentation / report

PowerPoint Presentation - This presentation was given at the University of Lincoln on 26 June 2014 and provides an overview of how our project went. It might be useful to anyone considering having students use Xerte in a module.

Link blocked by spam filter

Project Outcomes

Outcome Type
(e.g. practice change, production method)
Brief Description (and URLs where applicable)

Practice change

It is accepted that getting students to produce their own digital interactive learning materials has benefits for their learning of the subject matter and their digital literacy.

Production method

We were slightly disappointed with some aspects of Xerte and are not sure whether we will use it again if a more reliable alternative can be found

How did you go about achieving your outputs / outcomes?

  • We took an existing Health Psychology module, which already employed a Problem Based Learning approach, and which asked students to create learning materials for specific audiences and told the students to use Xerte Online Toolkits to create these learning materials. Previously, students had created presentations using PowerPoint. The main impetus for changing to Xerte was to provide greater opportunities for students to enhance their digital literacies and to allow them to create more interactive learning materials.
  • The project was supported technically by the eLearning department which provided a dedicated learning technologist to attend Health Psychology sessions with the students and provide weekly ‘clinics’. Online support was also provided.
  • Our main aim was to create a ‘digital’ learning environment which encouraged students to explore, search for, evaluate and create their own materials. This was achieved and anecdotally we know that the students perceived that they enjoyed the experience, learnt many new life/career-enhancing skills and were able to produce interactive digital learning activities of which they were proud.
  • The aims did not really change but some of the objectives were not met as fully as we would have liked and we will change the way we deliver the module in the future in light of this. (see next section for details).
  • In order to provide Xerte Online Toolkits to the students, we paid for it to be hosted externally and we linked that installation to our University’s VLE to provide our students with accounts on the remote Xerte.
  • We evaluated the project with a mixed method design. We asked students to complete surveys that asked questions about their academic self-confidence and IT ability before the module started, during the module and after it finished. We also conducted focus groups after the module finished and we analysed the students’ critical commentaries.
  • Due to staff changes in the Health Psychology department we do not yet have the results of the surveys, but the qualitative data from the commentaries and focus groups tell us that students enjoyed being productive on the module (as opposed to passively listening to lectures), they appreciated the technical support offered and opportunities to learn practical and useful IT and web-related skills and they felt a sense of achievement in being able to produce professional looking interactive online materials.

What did you learn?

  • That having a ‘technical’ task was both challenging and enjoyable for the students.
  • Students valued the process and the learning objects they produced.
  • It was an excellent way to address digital literacy and gave us opportunities to address issues and skills which these students will need after they graduate and which otherwise would not have been covered in the health Psychology module or anywhere else in the curriculum. (e.g. copyright, permissions, creative commons, linking and embedding media, uploading, scanning, html.)
  • Xerte is a sophisticated and relatively complex tool for students with no IT background. Introducing a large Xerte project in the students’ final year presented quite a challenge for some of them. In future we would want to introduce it earlier – in the first year – and have students creating small more limited projects before being able to choose any template from the many on offer in XOT.
  • Xerte has some irritating bugs – some templates do not work properly and there were issues embedding media on some templates,
  • Xerte’s method of sharing objects, whereby only one group member can open and edit the object at any one time, proved frustrating for students trying to work collaboratively.
  • Xerte learning objects produced by students are difficult to assess when off the server. This was because some of the learning Objects did not display properly. This was normally due to the type of media within them or because of the viewer’s browser’s security settings. In future we will make the objects public on the server and ask tutors, moderators and external examiners to mark them online.

How were the staff and students digital literacies affected/developed?

We do not have the results of the surveys yet so the following is based on personal observations.

  • Information literacy – Students did have to find and evaluate information they found on the web and through other sources. This included information about health and health psychology and also information about learning design and IT.
  • Media literacy – certainly students critically read information presented in various media for this project and the Xerte learning objects do display some creativity. However, generally speaking it was disappointing not to see more creative material being produced y the students – e.g. their own videos, images and diagrams.
  • Communication & Collaboration. Students of course used email to communicate with academic and e-learning staff, however, it was disappointing to note that very few students engaged with the forum on the VLE website that was set up to facilitate discussion about xerte and no students at all engaged with the international Xerte forum on the Web.
  • Career & identify Management – this was not dealt with in this module.
  • ICT Literacy- All students without exception learnt a lot about ICT and adopted, adapted and used digital devices, applications and services. Of these it appears that the services were used most with sites like online cartoon makers being very popular..
  • Learning skills in technology-rich environments were developed easily in this project as all students were forced to engage with the online world, communicating with tutors and each other online and using the VLE and its forums as a base camp.
  • Digital scholarship – scholarship and research were not expected in this module.
  • Pre-requisites for engaging in the challenge… We did not stipulate any prerequisites f or students to engage with this module and it did not appear that any students were not ready for the ‘digital challenge’. However, they were given a lot of support from the e-learning department and were encouraged to help each other. Many students reported that they found the technological tasks very challenging.
  • Will we adopt xerte again next time the module is run? We are debating this at present. Xerte presented some technical challenges for staff (including e-learning staff) and using it with students required quite a lot of support. We are debating whether to use PowerPoint in future as we can still ask students to create standalone, self-running presentations that might be displayed in doctors’ surgeries etc. What we would lose is some of the interactivity and accessibility but we would gain a more well developed application with more online support.
  • The main problems we had with the project was Xerte templates that did not work properly, templates that would not accept and display multimedia properly and an Export function that did not export the learning objects properly so that they would play properly in any browser.

Immediate Impact

  • Whether we continue to use Xerte or not in the Health Psychology module, the idea of getting students to create online interactive leanring objects has been accepted as worthwhile and beneficial for the students, so next semester it is envisaged that we will run the module agan in the same format and use either xerte or something similar. The module leader for this module has yet to return from maternity leave and make this decision.
  • Already another discipline (Information Technology)observed Health Psychology’s use of Xerte and adopted it in one of their own modules in semester two this year. Many of the difficulties faced in health Psychology were not seen in the IT module because students had better general IT skills and experience of working online. IT palns to continue their use of Xerte.

Future Impact

  • Even if Xerte is not adopted by other disciplines, we are hopeful that the PBL approach allied to a web-based interactive online project will be adopted my more disciplines next year. We have other technologies that can be employed, including a lecture capture system which allows students to make videos and screencasts, and through the Changing the Learning Landscape initiative we have been successful in making it policy that all new modules address digital literacies in order to be validated.


  • General conclusions: the project was a success from both students and staff’s perspective. It was enjoyable and useful.
  • Conclusions relevant to the wider community: Xerte still needs more development and more support.
  • Conclusions relevant to the HEA: The initiative – Digital Literacies in the Discupines - was well conceived and supported and the events put on during the course of the project were useful and supportive.


  • Do not have a long intensive training session at the beginning. Have a series of smaller sessions.
  • Use a limited number of Xerte templates and choose only those without bugs.
  • Deal with the difference between copyright and academic referencing.
  • Ensure that the critical commentary is produced and read weekly and thus is a formative commentary rather that a summative reflection.
  • Ensure that students and staff interact across institutions. We felt that our students did not engage with any communities beyond our campus. The project might have enabled this if two institutions had had to agree on a joint project or if a lead institution had offered other institutions the possibility of using its online provision and had designed into its module some sort of cross-institution collaboration.

Implications for the future

  • We are not sure whether we will use Xerte next year but we will definitely use something similar as we definitely believe the benefits of having students produce online interactive learning objects as part of the course provides benefits in terms of enhancing their digital literacies,


  • I do not have references at this time.

Appendices (optional)

  • None