Other tools checklist

This checklist is intended to help teaching staff choose tools that are safe and suitable to use with students.

While UWE provides the core tools for teaching and learning and provides support for staff and students using them, it is understandable that staff with teaching responsibilities may want to use additional tools in their work. It is also recognised that teaching staff themselves are often best able to identify appropriate tools for teaching in their particular subject.

The sections below outline the main issues that teaching staff should consider before using an additional tool with students. This is provided to help staff assess and manage the risks of using non-UWE tools. Staff can discuss these with Learning Technologists and other Technology-Enhanced Learning (TEL) staff in order to help them make informed decisions about using additional teaching tools.

Duplication

Is there already an existing tool in use at UWE Bristol which will cover most, if not all, of your requirements? Check the list of supported tools on this website to see what is available.

Essentially this is just a common sense and efficiency issue. If there is an existing supported tool at UWE which meets the requirements, it is best to use what is already available. ‘A supported tool comes with guidance on how to use it and help if things go wrong.

We understand that everyone has their own preferred tools but local learning technology teams are unable to provide any formal advice or support for third party tools that duplicate existing supported tools. They may be happy to share their personal opinions about tools, however, so do feel free to ask!

Duplication also has an accessibility dimension. If, through the student journey, multiple tools are used for the same function ‘function, the student experience will be inconsistent. This inconsistency and the need to learn multiple interfaces may affect how easily a student can engage with an activity, making it less accessible.

Accessibility

Is the tool accessible? Accessibility can be difficult to assess but some things to look out for are:

  • Is there an accessibility statement available outlining how accessible the tool is?
  • Is guidance available on any accessibility features of the tool, such as the ability to change font size, to change background colours, or to have text read aloud?
  • Is the tool navigable by the keyboard alone?
  • Would you be able to provide an alternative format if the system itself causes problems for particular groups?

Also, remember to consider accessibility in its widest sense. For example, a tool that requires lots of data transfer via the Internet is not very accessible to a student whose only device is a smartphone with limited connectivity or data allowance; and if the tool is not available at all on a smartphone, it is totally inaccessible to this student.

Data protection

For a tool to be fully supported at UWE there should be a data protection agreement in place between UWE and the tool provider. For there to be any prospect of a data protection agreement being reached, lots of things must be checked about the tool and its use. These include:

  • Checking if there is a published statement by the product vendor about data protection and, in particular, a GDPR statement.  
  • Will students be required to create an account or to sign in to use the tool? Doing so may entail them providing personal data (e.g. name or email address), which would make use of the tool subject to data protection legislation.
  • Even if students do not have to create an account to start using the tool, in the course of their learning with you, will you require students to include any personal details (e.g. their name or a photograph of themselves)? If so, again this means it is subject to data protection legislation.
  • Where will any data be stored? Is it clear what the data will be used for and whether it will be shared with others? If data is stored or shared outside Europe it is problematic and likely to breach data protection legislation.
  • Do students have the right and ability to see the data collected on them and to have it deleted on request?
  • Is data transfer and storage properly secure?
  • Who is the customer? This is a very important question to ask yourself. Data agreements are laborious to read for every tool but ask yourself the question, ‘Who is the customer?’ If the tool is free, it is unlikely that you are the customer. Unless the product offers a freemium business model where they monetise your use of the product at a later date, it is likely that student data is being used to create profit at some point.
  • What happens to the data once the teaching is over? Do they delete this data or is it stored in perpetuity?

We cannot compel students to give away their personal data nor can we give it away without their permission. This means you will need contingency plans for students to engage in the learning without giving away their personal data. This is a complicated area to navigate, which is why UWE Bristol has invested heavily in providing an assured and compliant core tool set.

Student support

Consider how students will be supported to use the tool you have chosen to use. How will students be helped to get started with the tool and what help will be available to become proficient in using the tool or if something goes wrong?

Although individual TEL staff may be able to provide informal advice or troubleshooting on tools used beyond the standard toolkit at UWE, no formal support or guidance will be available from TEL teams. IT staff are also unlikely to be able to provide support.

Responsibility for supporting students with a tool lies with the teaching staff who use it with their students. It is important, therefore, to think about the following:

  • Do you or the wider teaching team have enough capacity and ability to provide student support?

Does the tool provider or any other provider (e.g. LinkedIn Learning) have useful support guides? Is this tool essential for assessment? What will happen to out-of-hours support needs around the assessment period?

Copyright

Is it clear who owns the copyright of any works created or uploaded into the tool? Has this been made clear to students prior to using the tool?

Staff support

As ‘other tools’, by definition, aren’t part of the UWE core tools set, there is no guaranteed staff support for the procurement and implementation for these tools.

In the first instance, try and find out what the likely demand is for the tool in your department; the larger the number of staff and students that may benefit from it, the more likely a business case can be made, if all other criteria are met.

IT architecture

Will using the tool require any integration with existing IT products or hardware? If the tool needs installation and managing on servers, it is very unlikely this will be facilitated. An LTI integration (enabling the tool to be an integral part of Blackboard) or SCORM integration (which allows for tracking interactions) may be more likely to get support, depending on the importance to the faculty.

Will the tool need downloading or installing to computers? Are there specific requirements on the devices used to run the tools? How realistic are these expectations for students using their own devices? Is the physical location of machines running this software a barrier to using the tool inclusively?

Procurement

Do you need to pay to use the tool? Is there sufficient budget available? Consider what happens if, for example, you are unable to secure funds for additional years of access to the tool – what will happen to students’ work in the tool?

If the tool is apparently free of charge, consider very carefully the Data Protection information on this page.

Mobile devices

Given how many students rely on a smartphone to access university learning this must be given serious consideration. Is the tool available, accessible, usable and secure on a smartphone browser or as an installable app, for both Android and Apple users? If not, many students may not be able to use it.

Also consider how much data transfer is likely to be required, and whether wifi connectivity, essential if large amounts of data are needed, will be required.

What other data does the app need to access to work? Many apps need to access location or image folders to perform their function. Are you making the students aware of this? Do you feel the vendor will be using this information transparently? Always check the small print.

Will you be requiring students to use a mobile device, e.g. a smartphone to use the tool? If so, how will you cater for students who do not have an appropriate device?

Availability and longevity

How confident are you that the tool will be available and for how long? Free tools often change to a paid model when they become popular, or require you to see advertising, for example, or their data protection and privacy terms may change. Tools also disappear, for a variety of reasons. If this happens, consider whether students will be able to export or otherwise access their data or work saved in the tool.

Most cloud-based tools offer Software as a Service (SaaS). This means software and services are updated as and when the vendor is ready. This can happen will little notice. This includes the functionality available to different tiers of user. This is very common as different applications seek to monetise their use. Are you confident you can adapt to last minute changes? Do you have a recovery plan for if the vendor’s changes ruin your teaching plans at the last minute?