Two new tools for monitoring your students’ work

You are all already familiar with the Team Tracking Dashboard, which provides an overview of a team’s work.

There are now two additional tracking tools in LabNbook:

  • The first one allows you to know the work dynamics of a class and it takes the form of a “heatmap” based on the writing time of the teams. To access this map, go to the “Reports” tab, choose a class and a mission. Underneath the list of your students’ reports is a map that looks like this:
  • The second tool details the chronology of a report writing and illustrates the temporal sequence of student interventions on each labdoc. It can help you analyze the collaborative strategies used to co-write the report. To access this map, go to the “Reports” tab, choose a team and click on “Display the writing chronology”. An example is shown below and you can also view a short demo video.

Of course, both of these tools are student support tools, not assessment tools: several students can work with the same account, they can copy and paste large amounts of text in seemingly no time, etc. Thus, we have not included students’ names in these tracking tables.

Your comments will be much appreciated!

Why do students appreciate LabNbook?

“LabNbook is a kind of laboratory notebook where you write everything in it. It’s a kind of follow-up. It’s like making a report on a computer that can be followed by the students and by the teachers. They can go on it to see what we’ve written, and comment on it. It’s pretty handy!”

Interviews were conducted by a speaker (who does not belong to the LabNbook team!) with students for the follow-up of the HTTP project. There is a lot of interesting stuff in them, including why students like working with LabNbook. Below is a short summary, in which we have kept some short verbatims that we find instructive:

  • LNB provides access to all the tools needed to create a report in one place:
    • “But with the diagrams included, with the tables, the equations, it’s all centralised and you can do everything at once. Frankly, that’s nice.”
  • The tools are specialised for scientific work:
    • “Basically we can make curves, we can make our curves, set them up ourselves. And I never knew how to do it. For example, in Excel, I’m sure you can do it, but actually Excel is not necessarily scientific.”
  • LNB allows you to work remotely:
    • “It’s really cool because you can work at home, at the IUT, from anywhere. That’s cool!”
    • “Whereas, for example, the practical work where we have LabNbook, where we don’t have to write [at the same time as we manipulate]. I think they’re not too stressful because you know that if you can’t do it, at least you have time afterwards.”
  • LNB facilitates iterative work:
    • “And even, writing, I find what is practical with LabNbook is that if you can ever write something, then you come back, then you can rewrite in the middle after. Because if you write on paper, you can’t. Here, working with several people, we can add to the middle.”
  • LNB allows you to organise collaboration in group work:
    • “I prefer LabNbook to the classic reports because in fact, when you do a classic report by hand, you quickly find yourself… the one who is doing the report, he’s not even doing the work, he’s writing.”
    • “We divide up the tasks. But it’s not because we divide up the tasks that we won’t work on the other’s question. We divide the tasks, but we still help each other.”
    • “Then there can be several people working on the same file. [No one has to] leave the software for someone else to use it. Here, we are all together on the same project, we can all move forward at the same time, and I think that’s really cool!”
    • “In addition, we can easily see when people have modified something or not. It shows that it has been modified, by the last person who modified it. You can see everything easily, I find it very useful.”
  • LNB helps students
    • by the guidance provided in the assignment (structuring, instructions, etc.):
      “It was more guided on LabNbook: what we had to do, the questions we had to address. Now, it’s a little less so because we’re given more autonomy in writing. But at the beginning, it gave us a good indication of what we had to do.
    • Thanks to the feedback provided by the teachers:
      “Sometimes I saw that the teacher can mark things and interact with us. Sometimes they put questions that can guide us. For example, when our physics teacher, in this case, made annotations, on our report, we had direct access to them. Even now, for example, for the revisions, we have access to it again if we want to look at what was wrong. And I think it’s good that we can get quick and clear feedback.”
  • LNB allows a great deal of freedom of use:
    • “Either you have a really empty page and you have to do everything from scratch. And in that case, it’s good because you can structure it, you can organise it as you like.”
  • LNB is easy to use:
    • “It’s quite easy to use and quite easy to understand. You don’t have to have a manual on the side. I started with it in the second semester because I didn’t do physics in the first semester. At the beginning, it’s a bit of a trial and error process, but then you quickly understand how it works, it’s not very complicated.”
    • “It’s easier than Google Doc where sometimes people can’t open the document because the person who sent it didn’t indicate that it could be modified. Here it’s automatic, so we have everything at hand.”
  • LNB saves time:
    • “On the sheet, only one person writes and sometimes it can be slow. It can slow down. I think it can go faster on LabNbook. And then even for the teachers too, it can be easier.”

Otherwise, in a more general way, this is what we noticed in our monitoring studies

  • Students are very much influenced by their teacher’s attitude towards LNB:
    • If the teacher is not comfortable with LNB or is not convinced of its usefulness, students may not be motivated either,
    • Students are often satisfied with the platform when their teacher uses it to monitor their work and give them feedback.
  • The more students use LNB (different courses, different subjects), the more they appreciate it: the learning phase is over, students acquire routines and the time saving is really tangible. Moreover, some students regret that LabNbook is not used more systematically in their different courses or that they do not have the possibility to use LabNbook on their own initiative by creating reports for courses in which the teachers have not created an assignment (it will come).

To be quite honest, there are some negative points mentioned by the students. The two main ones are

  • Difficulties in using some tools, mainly the equation editor and the data processing tool:
    • for the equation editor we are trying to debug (but it is not always easy because we are not the developers);
    • for the data processing tool, a brand new version, more complete and more ergonomic, will arrive at the beginning of 2023.
  • The impossibility of editing the same Labdoc with several people in a synchronous way: yes… and yet we do not plan to change this behaviour. Advise your students to make small labdocs, that solves the problem!

Track your students’ work more efficiently

One of the advantages of LabNbook is the ability to track the progress of students’ work. However, this follow-up can be time consuming because it implies reading the students’ productions several times even if they have not evolved much. To help you, there is currently a star that indicates if there are any new developments in a labdoc since you last read it (click on the star to make it disappear and indicate that the labdoc has been read). There is now something better to save you time: you can display the changes made to the labdocs since your last reading!

1. In the student’s report, click on the button that highlights the changes

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The report is then “frozen” (i.e. if students change the report, the version that is displayed on your screen does not take these changes into account) and anything that has been added or deleted since you last read it is highlighted.
A demo is available here :

2. Once you have reviewed a labdoc, click on the star to remove it from the labdoc. This will allow you to see only the next changes made by the students during a later review.

3. To stop highlighting changes in the labdocs, press the +/- button or the snowflake if you also want to unfreeze the report so that it synchronizes with the student version.

Note that two limitations are linked to this new feature:

  • the highlighting of modifications concerns, for the moment, only text labdocs,
  • the activation of the highlighting of modifications prevents from annotating the report.

“LabNbook on the go”, 2nd and 4th Thursdays of the month

We are setting up bi-monthly teacher support and advising sessions on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month, from 12:30-1:30pm.

These sessions are face-to-face at UGA or remotely and do not require registration from participants. Just grab a sandwich and come or log in, a LabNbook trainer is on duty.

Detailed information on how to join us is available on the “labnbook-info” mailing list. Don’t hesitate to ask by mail for your subscription to this list.

A successful HTTP-LabNbook partnership

The HTTP project ends this month. Thanks to the partnership with HTTP, LabNbook has evolved in multiple aspects:

  • English translation
  • Addition of a “pedagogical manager” role
  • Improved synchronous student tracking
  • Improvements to the drawing tool, with the addition of several scientific image libraries
  • Improvement of the teaming interface
  • And so on.

Bonus: a picture of some LabNbook team members at the HTTP closing party!

Technical developments of LabNbook

With the LabNbook Meetings taking place, it’s time to take stock of the latest developments in the platform and what is expected to come in 2022-23.

Let’s start with what is, as of now, available in the platform:

  • Synchronous tracking of students by teachers has been improved (all this was detailed in a previous post).
  • V1 of the Moodle-LabNbook connection plugin has been released and sent to administrators of Moodle connected to LabNbook. This new version has been simplified and made more robust. If you don’t see a change in the Moodle interfaces when you create a LabNbook activity, remind your administrators that it’s time to update the plugin!
  • The first login interface allows students to create a LabNbook account via a class code or to link their Moodle accounts to LabNbook. We’ve redesigned the interface to prevent students from creating multiple accounts, which makes it difficult for teachers to manage.
  • The teaming interface has received a complete facelift. This interface is a key part of LabNbook as it allows students to be assigned assignments. We are confident that it is now more explicit and ergonomic, and that teachers’ work will be simplified.
  • Students working on large screens sometimes felt cramped in LabNbook. They can now manage their workspaces by changing the width of their report and the height of Labdocs.
  • The drawing tool has been improved in several ways. The most notable ones concern the image libraries:
    • A new object library has been introduced in process engineering,
    • Teachers can now add objects to the local library of a pre-structured Labdoc in an assignment. These objects can even be added to the generic libraries of the drawing tool if requested.
  • In the report tracking table, teachers can now choose whether or not to display (“out of my classes” box) reports for their students that were created by teachers in classes other than their own. This is especially useful to access reports of students who have caught up with their work in another group.
  • It is now possible to follow the activity of an entire class. To do so, you have to go to the “Reports” tab, choose a class and an assignment in order to display, under the reports table, a “heatmap” of the work of the student teams. Please let us know if this new way of tracking your students is useful.

As for the future, there is first of all what is being realized (some prototypes were presented at the Meetings)

  • It will soon be possible to display the modifications made by the students to their report (Labdocs texts) between two follow-ups of the report by the teacher. Planned production start: September 2022.
  • The data processing tool is completely reworked to improve its ergonomics and to allow automatic adjustments of the data by minimizing the Chi2. Planned production start: September 2022.
  • The equation editor will be improved (ergonomics, bugs). Planned release: September 2022.
  • A tool for evaluating reports using a criterion-based grid is under development. We are trying to make a tool versatile enough to answer all your requests. Planned release: 1st semester 2022-23.

… and what is planned for the near future:

  • We want to connect LabNbook to Shibboleth, the directory of all universities and secondary schools in France. Planned release: October 2022.
  • Labdocs to do code (Julia, Python, R) will be added in LabNbook. We plan to have a prototype in December 2022 and a production launch in early 2023.
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