A virtual extension to your learning environment.
This is the heart of the Ultranet system, the home of the interactive classroom spaces—just like a physical classroom, but available online 24/7. Your virtual classroom is the centre for collaborative learning, where resources are shared and tasks and activities are managed.
Parents can be provided with logins so that they too can be involved in their child's learning.
Tasks & Activities
The integrated Tasks module in Ultranet’s virtual classrooms allows teachers to create and publish activities, including the ability to monitor class engagement and status.
Dynamic task handoutsWe all know about the challenges of “winning the paper war”, but it’s not something that has to be handed down to your students. With the Tasks module, teachers are provided with a way to author and publish their activity instructions, guidelines and rubrics using a digital medium.The built-in Page Editor essentially allows you to create a dynamic web-page as your task handout—so you are no longer restricted to black & white photocopies that blow your stationery budget and fail to engage students. Enrich your tasks with related full-colour imagery, hyperlinks to supporting material or websites, or embed dynamic content such as DLOs.
Track progressThey say timing is everything, and this is particularly true when it comes to completing learning activities. The Tasks module helps teachers and students stay on top of time-management by providing smart visual indicators.When a task is published, both teachers and students will see the progress bar indicating the time elapsed and how long before it is due.As a teacher, when you publish an activity using the Tasks module, you can also call up a class list that displays their task progress using a colour-coded status. So with a glance, you’ll be able to see which students are on track and which ones may require guidance or a gentle reminder.
Integrated messagingWe know that strong communication between teachers and learners contributes towards effective learning, so the Tasks module includes the Messaging feature in Ultranet right within the module.Students can utilise this feature to ask the teacher questions in relation to the task or send in drafts to be checked. Teachers can also contact specific students who may require guidance, message the whole class to provide additional material or offer a task extension (if you’re feeling generous)!
Electronic submissionIf your task involves a digital product as the outcome (e.g. a document, spreadsheet, photo or similar), then why have it submitted in hard-copy when an electronic submission is a better solution?In the Tasks module, students have access to an electronic submission function, so multiple files can be handed in to the teacher as part of the completed activity. Teachers will see an indication of the files submitted on the class list, and can download these in bulk.We even rename the submitted packages to include the student’s User ID and time-stamp of submission, so you can easily differentiate files from different students and record when the work was completed.
Conversations about and around the various topics being studied can be stored, tracked and used to enhance the opportunities to interact.
Conversation threadsEvery Discussion module can be set up to have multiple topics, each of which then break into the individual conversation threads. Threads can be initiated by the teacher to stir a debate, address a peripheral topic or continue a theme that was started in class. Likewise, students can post their questions or express their own opinions, prompting for feedback from their peers. The great thing is that the conversations are recorded and tracked within the module, so teachers can refer to these either in assessing student understanding and progress, or even fostering better class relationships.
Media enhancedNot all conversations have to start with just words. That’s why every thread in the Discussion module has the ability to include media such as photos, videos or audio files.Conversations can therefore be spurred after watching a video clip, or analysis performed on a series of images posted in the thread, or feedback offered after listening to a speech sample—another way to improve the engagement and interaction with topics or ideas.
Voting pollsWith the Discussion module, polls can be set up to allow votes to be cast on a question, idea, issue, viewpoint—or just about anything that encourages participation. Each poll forms parts of a dedicated conversation thread, which means other than just casting an anonymous vote, users can include commentary or feedback in a post. This encourages student expression of opinions with supporting reasoning, plus it stimulates further engaged conversation on the topic.
Moderation optionsSetting up rules of engagement within an online discussions can be just the same as embedding classroom rules and etiquette. Some may have a firm rule on use of informal language or ‘texting’ slang. Others may prefer to encourage free expression… with a watchful eye, of course. To support this, the Discussion module has a series of options built in to allow teachers to configure interaction and posting. With moderation itself enabled, every post submitted by students doesn’t get immediately published, giving teachers the chance to preview the message first before making it available to the whole class or forum. Moderating doesn’t have to be restricted to the teacher though— options are included to promote selected responsible students as ‘monitors’ to help curate the forum. Likewise, participants can be added to ‘view-only’ or ‘block’ lists per topic, so you can control who has access and establish impositions if necessary. Once proper online etiquette has been learned and practised, teachers can then ease back on the moderation controls.
Teachers can easily set up online tests, surveys and reflection forms for their students, tracking their progress as they work through it and analysing the class results upon completion.
Graded testsQuestion forms can be set up in the QuizBox as an online test, allowing teachers to run diagnostics to assess prior knowledge, content revision or as a summative examination.Each form is set up online using the built-in quiz editor. There are three question types provided when constructing your quiz:
- Standard multiple choice – question can contain two or more answer options, but only one can be marked as correct.
- Multiple choice and answer – question can contain two or more answer options, with one or more options being correct.
- Short-answer – question can be answered in a free-form text field.
Collaboration is a key component to any modern learning programme. The Wiki module available on all Ultranet pages brings this popular functionality into the virtual classroom, allowing teachers to easily establish online collaboration on content with and between students.
Automated permissioningAlthough wikis are often about capturing information from an indefinite amount of contributors, in a classroom context teachers need to have some control over this.That’s why the Wiki module is configured to automatically grant edit rights to student users who have signed in, and not to any anonymous page visitors. Additionally, access is restricted to just the Wiki module, so students don’t need to be given general page permissions—and risk accidentally deleting other class content or modules!
Version restorationMistakes are a natural part of the learning process and shouldn’t get in the way of progress.So in the Wiki module, if an edit has compromised the accuracy of the content or inadvertently removed information that was submitted by someone else, teachers can dip into the version history and retrieve the page component required or restore to the previous document state.
Change comparisonsIf multiple contributors have edited a single wiki page, it can be hard to tell where one edit stops and another begins. Fortunately, this edit history is stored within the Wiki module’s database, so teachers can easily preview who made what changes and at what time.When using the compare feature, the changes between the two versions will be displayed using colour coding. Red text with a strikeout indicates deleted content, and green text indicates content that has been added. Users also have the option to add a ‘note’ when making edits, so their reasons can be recorded alongside the version.Using these features, teachers can now tell how much an individual student may have contributed to a group activity, as well as encourage them to reflect on and explain their contributions.
The Resources module available on Ultranet’s class and web pages provides a neat way to quickly share files, links or embed web objects.
File and document linksHow much do you have set aside for your photocopy budget? How much of that is spent on documents that were in a digital form to start off with? Think it’s time to reduce the paper consumption in your school?The Resources module is the perfect starting point in transitioning your class files and materials away from paper copies and documents locked on the server. Upload all the core handouts, worksheets, exemplars or other related learning materials in a digital form straight onto the page. Items can be sorted into folders, so a page can support different ‘categories’ of files.Now students can’t rely on the excuse of having “lost the handout”, and can be responsible for downloading their own copies of content, saving you on photocopying costs—and saving the trees too!
Embed learning objectsGoing one step beyond related web links, some online resources exist as self-contained Digital Learning Objects (DLO). These can vary from simple crossword puzzles, to interactive slideshows or full-blown educational adventure games.Most of these reside in DLO repositories, although you can also find these simply by performing a web search with the appropriate keywords. Wherever they are located, in order to include them within the Resources module, all you’ll need is the web address (URL) to that object.Once inserted in the Resources module, the DLO will load up within a dedicated pop-up window. Once the student is done with the activity, closing the pop-up windows takes them straight back to the Ultranet page they came from.
Easy page publishing
Upload text content using simple drag and drop modules for headings and paragraphs, with format stripping functionality for copying from documents.
Drag and drop text modulesUse drag and drop heading and paragraph modules with a familiar range of editing tools to visually construct page text content. No knowledge of website markup language is required.
Auto-stylingA style template to match your other pages will be automatically applied, making it easy to add new content.
When it comes to searching for answers or information online, learners really need to be mindful of where to search and how to quantify the quality of results returned. The Search bar in Ultranet is a powerful tool that helps provide a starting point for online research by pulling together search results from within Ultranet and also qualified external repositories.
Full site searchAs a Learning Management System, Ultranet can house a lot of materials and resources that are relevant for students doing online research. So the first step would be to see what has been published internally.The Ultranet search checks for matches within the Page Content, Resources, Discussions and News Centre articles. If teachers have uploaded the relevant materials already, students will be able to find what they need using the Search function.
Digital NZ integrationDigital NZ is a powerful aggregator of varied digital content from government departments, publicly funded organisations, the private sector, and community groups. This means search results can include quality approved sources such as public, national and university libraries, city council archives, art galleries and museums (plus many others).The results from these Digital NZ organisations are now available directly within the Search bar of every Ultranet site. With this tool, students can be encouraged to perform research queries from within Ultranet and receive results—such as research papers, manuscripts, videos and other media—that are more likely to be relevant and usable.» Find out more about Digital NZ.
Google suggestionsUsing effective keywords to narrow down search results can be an elusive skill, without which students might soon give up in frustration.To help avoid this, the Search Centre includes an auto-suggest panel powered by Google’s vast and extensive search engine. Related keyword searches and suggestions will appear in this list, which can help prompt students to refine their query to find exactly what they are looking for.Search results for Ultranet content. Digital NZ search results are presented under their own tab, including dedicated content filters.
Improved communication is one of the natural spin-offs from harnessing web-based technology to support online learning. The Message Centre available to all users on the Dashboard provides a centralised and tracked area for managing asynchronous communication between students, teachers and parents.
Email without emailDespite the boom in alternative web-communication solutions, emails are still with us and will stay with us for a while yet. However, they are not always available to users—especially younger students who may not have access to a school-provided or third-party email service.The Message Centre in Ultranet takes care of this by providing an equitable and integrated solution for sending messages and attachments to other users. Conversations are threaded and tracked, and you can send a message to a single recipient or to a group of individuals.
Site-wide integrationThe need to communicate with another user could arise at any point within the online learning environment, so it’s important that the functionality is never far away.The Message Centre is always available from users’ Dashboards and uSpace navigation bar. Additionally, areas such as the Tasks module, Class List or User Admin panel have the Message Centre built-in, so communication can be initiated from numerous areas across Ultranet.
Alert optionsMessage alerts get top level display on the Dashboard, so at a glance you can spot if you have received any new messages since you last checked.For those who like receiving email reminders too, an alert service can be enabled on the Dashboard so that you get notified whenever a message is sent to you in Ultranet.
Abuse reportingItems in the Message Inbox feature the same “Report Abuse” functionality as featured in uSpace. This means any cases of misuse or cyber-bullying can be reported and traced easily. Individual Message Inboxes can also be disabled, so if a particular student has been misbehaving, you can impose a temporary or permanent block on their access to this feature.
Safe social networking
Learning is a social process, and the Web is a social place… so why not bring the two together? The uSpace network built-in to Ultranet is essentially a safe, school-controlled social network that provides users with a place to share and catalogue their learning journey.
One of the key advantages of having a social network as part of the online learning environment is that students get to have a space that they can call their own. The personal profile area in uSpace is about fostering that ownership and ensuring that each student’s individuality can be expressed.
Personalised spaceEach profile has an Overview page that displays all recent activity in the profile sections. Users also have the option to post status updates in this panel.The main “About Me” section includes a page editor that users can use to publish information about themselves, such as their interests, hobbies, etc. It’s the same editor used on Ultranet pages, so HTML snippets can be copied into it to create more unique and interesting profile pages.
Profile questionsSometimes the fastest way to get to know someone is by asking a few questions. Every uSpace profile includes a personalised questions area where users can post and answer key questions about themselves. It could be about your favourite colour, top 5 movies, or what song you just can’t get out of your head—anything that helps your buddies get to know you just a bit better.Question templates can also be created by administrators and published to specified groups of users. So if a user is a member of that group, they will see a new set of questions allocated to them on their profile. Schools can use this in many ways, such as publishing goal setting questions to all students, or basic ‘getting to know you’ questions to help new students familiarise themselves with each other in a new class.
All learning journeys are comprised of individual experiences, draft and completed work samples or products, and sometimes even reflections on these—these are the artefacts of learning. The uSpace Portfolio provides a secure and integrated way to store, manage and share such learning artefacts in a dynamic and collaborative journal style.
Catalogue the learning.The ePortfolio is about capturing learning that take place through the year. Having all of this catalogued in one place means being able to review the progress and the learning journey itself, which is a perfect tool to encourage student reflection and celebrating success. Much like a traditional paper-based learning journal, each ePortfolio artefact is essentially a page, which is sorted into a Section and Chapter. Artefacts can be moved around to another sections/chapters easily, plus users get a web page per artefact to construct and contextualise their work.
Folio page managementePortfolios are meant to be student owned and directed, so as to ensure personal investment in the process and purpose. However, one difficulty with running a 100% student-owned portfolio is that teacher-directed tasks or activities are not easily or uniformly distributed, especially when dealing with a whole class or cohort of students. The Folio Tasks feature in uSpace has been designed to help with this process. Essentially following on from the Tasks module in the virtual classroom, the Folio Tasks module allows teachers to design and publish page templates directly to their students. Folio Tasks also have a start and end time, so students will see the deadline of when an activity needs to be completed. Teachers can then review the submission and publish it directly to the student’s ePortfolio, down to the specific Section and Chapter entered.Another advantage of using the Folio Tasks is that the original copy of the student submission stays with the teacher, whilst a duplicate is sent to the child’s portfolio. That way, should further edits or modifications (or removal) of the artefact be performed by the student on their own page, the teacher will still have the official copy in their archive—particularly useful where copies need to be retained for assessment purposes.
Invite feedbackOne of the advantages of having a social network tied in with the ePortfolios is that it’s a lot easier to share work with classmates or teachers and invite feedback.With the Buddy system in uSpace, users can choose to share ePortfolio artefacts with all their Buddies, only selected individuals, or just to their Teachers and Parents. Visiting users can preview the work, and if it has been enabled for that page, add a comment in the attached feedback area.Students can use this to workshop ideas or help in identifying areas for improvement next time. Teachers can encourage this practice in order to boost student critical analysis of work—especially in conjunction with the official rubric—and use this platform to develop stronger articulation of ideas/opinions amongst students.
Dynamic reportingWith Parent Portal functionality enabled, the ePortfolio is also a great tool for establishing a more dynamic and engaging reporting process.Teachers can attach a formal grade or response to each artefact, which the student has the ability to reply or add to if required.Because parents have automatic access to the portfolio pages when they sign in, they can preview the actual work sample and the teacher’s assessment of it. Parents can then choose to respond or add to the comment, facilitating three-way reporting using clear links to assessment evidence and judgement. That way, parents can plainly see how their child is doing and what they can do to help should this be required.
With the increasing ease and availability of media-capture devices, learning artefacts have started to diversify to include photos, videos and even audio recordings capturing student experiences. The uSpace Media section essentially brings the Media Gallery module from Ultranet’s pages and embeds a personal one on your own profile page, so users can upload and share media artefacts easily.
Visual and audial mediaThe old saying goes that “a picture paints a thousand words.” But how many more words do you get when those pictures can move and have a soundtrack too?Well, you can see (and hear) for yourself using the Media Gallery module, which allows photos, videos and audio files to be uploaded. Teachers can use this to augment lessons with additional materials, visual exemplars, recorded lesson sequences and lectures, or maybe even open it up to student-contributed videos.The Media Gallery supports the following file formats:
- Photo: PNG, JPG, GIF
- Video: AVI, MOV, WMV, MP4, MPG, MPE, DIVX, 3GP, RM, MKV, QT, OGV
- Audio: MP3, M4A, WMA, WAV, OGG
Presentation by albumVarious media files can be organised and sorted into albums, so items related to a particular topic or event can be viewed contextually.Each album can be viewed in Mosaic or Grid view, and has a neat and simple interface to navigate through the contained media via thumbnails. There’s even a built-in slideshow mode, and teachers have access to reorganise the display order of media files and albums.
Optional commentsSupport for user participation has contributed to the strong popularity of Web 2.0 services and tools, and that same functionality is included in the Media Gallery.Authenticated users have the option to comment on photos, videos or audio files submitted within albums. With this feature enabled, students can be invited to share opinions or analyse teacher-contributed media, or maybe just encourage interaction within the class page.
Web optimised conversionOne of the usual complications with publishing media on the web is fiddling with sizes and formats in order to produce a file that is viewable on multiple browsers and platforms without issue. The Media Gallery module looks after this for you by automatically converting your media into a web-friendly format.Photos are automatically resized and placed into the slideshow, so you don’t need to worry about it taking forever to load up a print-sized image.Video and audio files go through our integrated media converter, which produces files that are compressed into a streamable format. Once processed, it means that all viewers have to do is click on your album and start browsing.
The learning process is a constructive process and often involves moments of reflection and review, and often keeping a journal or log of learnings is the best way to achieve this. The uSpace Blogs provide a simple way to facilitate this function and integrate it with the personal profile/portfolio.