For those not familiar with Xerte, it is an online tool available to staff at UWE for creating interactive learning materials (sometimes called ‘learning objects’). For examples, see our Decision Tree for assessing student presentations, and our Accessibility resources. For further information see the UWE Xerte User Guide.
Xerte’s 2021 online conference was a hugely inspiring event. The LIU team learned about using Xerte for authentic assessments and problem-based learning, new tips on navigation and branching, tips for using images, how to use variables , how to build escape rooms in Xerte and some exciting new page types.
Make your learning objects attractive, easy to read and easy to navigate. Use an image on the first page (but make sure there is a solid background behind any text, and suitable contrast). If it’s not essential that students view pages in a specific order, you can use the menu connector page type to create a contents list, allowing students to move quickly to the section they need. And use the column page type or have an image to reduce the page width – lots of words on a single line are harder to read than short lines of text.
Change the Navigation option on your learning object to ‘Historic’ , if you want to make it so that when the student uses the back arrow it takes them to the last page they visited rather than the previous one in the sequence. This is useful if you have designed your learning object so that students can skip forward to a certain page, or have used menu connectors. You can also use a ‘Stand Alone’ page if you don’t want it to be part of the normal sequence of pages.
Images can be tricky – you don’t know what size or resolution of screen they will be viewed on. But there are ways to ensure the majority of users will have a good experience. Using a percentage width rather than a fixed width ensures the sides of the image will not be cut off on small screens. Use .jpg rather than .png where you can – the file size is usually smaller so will load more quickly on slow connections.
Make your tests different and repeatable by using variables. These can be text or numeric. Set these up at project level and use them anywhere there is a text field in your page type.
New page types
Version 3.10 will be released soon and will include the following updates:
- Crossword page. Familiarise students with subject vocabulary in a fun way with this new Interactivity
- Timelines page. Present dates and sequential information in a timeline format.
- New functionality on Media Lesson page. You will be able to add hotspots to a video for quizzes or further information.
- 360 degree images. This page type will allow hotspots, including lockable ones – perfect for escape rooms!
There were some impressive examples of how Xerte had been used for problem-based learning for medical students, where a Xerte learning object contained a (fictional) patient’s case notes, test results, images, interviews etc. and students were guided to think about diagnosis and professional practice.
Escape rooms can be just for fun, but they can also be used for learning. We saw examples of how Xerte could be used to make interactive escape room-style games to engage learners and teach them serious subject matter.
What’s next for UWE?
We really hope to be able to make use of a Learner Record Store to do even more with Xerte, including personalising content and better learning analytics that help us to improve learning activities and the overall learning experience for students .