Digital Education team blog
  • We support Staff and Students using technology to enhance education at UCL.

    Here you'll find updates on institutional developments, projects we're involved in, updates on educational technology, events, case studies and personal experiences (or views!).

  • Subscribe to the Digital Education blog

  • Meta

  • Tags

  • A A A

    Upgrade to UCL Electronic Voting System (EVS)

    By Janice K M Kiugu, on 18 September 2017

    Electronic Voting Systems allow staff to make classroom teaching sessions more interactive and engaging. The currently supported system for this at UCL is TurningPoint – with software directly installed on managed teaching computers across central campus and handsets/receivers available for loan from central services. More information about potential benefits, and how the system works, can be found here: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/isd/services/learning-teaching/elearning-staff/core-tools/electronic-voting-systems/#do and here: https://www.turningtechnologies.com/library/

    Over the summer, managed teaching room computers were upgraded to Windows 10 and Office 2016. To ensure compatibility, the TurningPoint software on these teaching machines has also been upgraded to a new version (v.8). While the new version of TurningPoint is very similar to previous versions, there are some changes, and a new licensed receiver will need to be used.

    What does this mean for staff? 

    • Presentations created in the OLD version (TPv5) will run in the new version (TPv8) however, there is no backwards compatibility so once they have been run/used in TPv8 you will not be able to edit or run them in the old version.
    • The old receivers/dongles will NOT work with the new version of TurningPoint. The Digital Education team have issued central services with a set of new licensed receivers. These will be issued when a loan is taken out for the handsets. Note that the new receivers will accept a maximum of 500 responses.
    • Teaching Rooms with built in handsets (Harrie Massey LT, Christopher Ingold Auditorium, Cruciform LT1) have the new receivers installed on the managed PC. If you choose to use your laptop and have updated the version of TP on it, ensure you loan the appropriate dongle from the Central loans desk. If using Cruciform LT1, you can plug in the labelled cable emerging from the teaching podium into your laptop.

    Action required

    • If you use a laptop to run TP, please install the latest version from the software database. You can download TurningPoint version 8 from the ISD Software database: http://swdb.ucl.ac.uk/package/view/id/410 (UCL staff login required), or directly from the TurningPoint website: https://www.turningtechnologies.com/downloads (form to fill out).
    • If you are using equipment loaned by Departmental teams, check to ensure that you have been provided with a new receiver, if you intend to use the managed PC in the Teaching space. (Note: old receivers will continue to work with the old version of the software but you may experience some issues if moving between different campuses and teaching setups.
    • We recommend that you ‘test’ your  presentation before running a ‘live’ session using the latest version of TP and contact Digital Education Services – digi-ed@ucl.ac.uk  if you experience any problems.

    For more information regarding TurningPoint and to access training guides, click here

    Questions or experiencing issues with the new software? Please email digi-ed@ucl.ac.uk.

    Central IT Services Induction for new students

    By Caroline Norris, on 14 September 2017

    ISD_presentation_2017

    Central IT services induction talks for new students will take place on Wednesday 27, Thursday 28 and Friday 29 September from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (last talk starts at 1.30 p.m.)

    Due to a change of room allocation these are different dates and times to the ones that were previously advertised. 

    As in previous years, the talks will take place every half an hour on a rolling basis so students can attend any talk.

    Further details and a recorded version of the talk are available on our student induction page.  Further information for students about IT services can be found on the ISD students page.

    Save

    Save

    Save

    Save

    Save

    Save

    Preparing your Moodle Courses for 2017/18

    By Janice K M Kiugu, on 14 September 2017

    STAFF – Preparing your Moodle Courses for 2017/18

    Many staff have already started preparing their modules on Moodle to try to give students the best possible environment for learning and getting to grips with new material. With the start of term one fast approaching, we wanted to remind all staff of some of the key steps to follow during set-up and review of Moodle modules.  Guidance is provided below for Moodle courses where student activity was completed before the Snapshot was taken on 21st July 2017 as well as for Moodle courses where student activity may have continued beyond this point.

    Modules where student activity finished by 21st July 2017 (mainly UG)

    • Student data and assessment from the past year should have been captured in the Moodle 2016/17 Snapshot: https://moodle-snapshot.ucl.ac.uk/16-17/ . You may want to check your modules to confirm that content that should be hidden has been, and any assessment data you may need is available to you.
    • Reset your course in live Moodle to ensure no data or students from the last cohort remains before new students are enrolled – Find out how to reset your course.
    • Make sure to update your content, in particular any assignment submission dates for this year, and that any links are not broken. Find out how to update Moodle Assignments: and Turnitin Assignments.

    **If your Turnitin submission inbox does not display the column headings, you may want to clear your web browsers cache and cookies.

    • If required, activate Portico enrolments in your module so that students are automatically enrolled – Find out how to activate Portico enrolments here.
    • Once your course is updated, make sure it is visible by going to the Settings for the course.

    Modules where Student activity continues/continued beyond 21st July 2017 (mainly PG)

    • Do not reset your course! – as students have been active after the date of the snapshot and this data will not have been captured elsewhere. Check the Moodle 2016/17 Snapshot version of your course to confirm: https://moodle-snapshot.ucl.ac.uk/16-17 . If you are still unsure get in contact with us using the email below.
    • Request a new course to use for this year’s teaching – include the url of the original course if you require content to be duplicated.

    Jisc student digital tracker 2017 and BLE consortium – UCL report available

    By Moira Wright, on 11 September 2017

    markus-spiske-221494The UCL report on the data collected from the Jisc student digital tracker survey (see my previous post on this)  is now available.  The survey was jointly conducted by Birkbeck, LSHTM, RVC, SOAS and UCL back in March. Following a workshop in July, and using the Jisc national survey results as a benchmark, we have been able to make some conclusions and recommendations regarding the digital experiences of our students, based on the survey responses.

    Please note Appendix C is available on request (moira. wright @ ucl.ac.uk)

    Download (PDF, 820KB)

    Download (PDF, 98KB)

    Download (PDF, 246KB)

     

    What I saw at ALTC 2017

    By Mira Vogel, on 8 September 2017

    I’ve been at ALTC , the Association for Learning Technology Conference 2017. To come, a harder piece to write where I make sense of it all – but for now I’m going to summarise each session I attended, mainly because I really enjoyed hearing from everyone else about what they went to. Incidentally, the keynotes and all of the sessions which took place in the largest room are available to watch on ALT’s YouTube (where there will hopefully be a playlist in due course).

    Day 1

    Bonnie Stewart, a keynote speaker from a non-traditional background, spoke about the exclusions which ensue from only planning for norms. Among many insights she shared was Ronald Heifetz’s about actively distinguishing between problems which technology can solve and problems which require humans to adapt their behaviour.

    Helen Walmsley-Smith introduced eDAT, a tool for analysing the content of online learning activity design. The data  could then be analysed with feedback and retention data to allow a learning design to be evaluated, and successful types in different contexts to be identified. eDAT is freely available. There are early signs that interactivity is related to improved retention.
    Emma Mayhew and Vicki Holmes from Reading described the shift from paper-based to digital assessment processes. Part of a major programme of EMA funding. With eight academic and student secondees, they aim to improve each part of cycle, from better awareness at the ‘Setting’ stage to better monitoring of progress at the ‘Reflection’ stage. They found that the idea of ‘consistency’ was problematic and might refer to satisfaction rather than practices. Their review of other institutions found that the most successful outcomes were in institutions which consulted carefully.
    Peter Alston (Liverpool) discussed how ‘the academy’ does not mean the same thing when it discusses e-assessment. This highlighted the differences between professional services and academic perspectives. Adopting Whitchurch’s (2008) ‘third space’ approach, and the contestation, reconciliation and reconstruction (Whitchurch 2010) around practices, rules, regulations and language.
    Why are the rates of e-submission and feedback at the University of Essex so high? Ben Steeples looked back at a decade of electronic submission and feedback on a platform built in-house, which designed out a number of problems affecting other platforms. Maintaining the in-house system costs £75k a year, but the integrations with e.g. calendar and student records are excellent and the service is very reliable. They expect to develop analytics. I love hearing from in-house developers making large strategically important institutional systems which work well.
    Daniel Roberts and Tunde Varga-Atkins #1637 discussed the minimum standards (‘hygiene factors’) for Liverpool’s VLE, and the development of an evaluation model involving students which could be used with other initiatives. Students are a transient presence who can be hard to reach; different evaluation approaches to involving them included as auditors and in focus groups. Between staff and students at Liverpool there was little mutual recognition of the respective effort which goes into using the VLE.
    One of the stand-out sessions for me, Simon Thomson and Lawrie Phipps summarised Jisc’s #Codesign16 consultation on needs for a next-generation digital learning environment. There was a sense that the tools drive the pedagogy, that they exist to control the academy, and that administration processes were de facto more important than education. Jisc found that students were using laptops and phones had almost equally (only 40% used a tablet). Students arrive at university networked, but the VLE currently stands alone without interfacing with those networks. At Leeds Beckett PULSE (Personalised User Learning and Social Environment) set out to address this by letting individuals connect spaces where they had existing relationships, allowing them to post once and selectively release to multiple places. The data within PULSE is entirely owned by students. When they leave, they can take it with them. Unsurprisingly, student’s expressed no strong desire to integrate personal tools with uni platforms – as ever, educators needs to design use of PULSE into the curriculum. However, the VLE vendor would not give access to the APIs to allow the kind of integration this would require.
    Helen Beetham and Ellen Lessner introduced video accounts of learning digitally from 12 students not all of whom loved technology. The institutional technologies do not come out well in Jisc’s ‘Student digital experience tracker 2017’, but we have no idea whether that is to do with the task design, the support for new ways of learning, or the technologies themselves. Find resources at bit.ly/ALTC17digijourneys.
    Carina Dolch asked whether students are getting used to learning technology. She described the massification and diversification of Germany’s higher education system, and how students’ media usage was changing over time. A survey of 3666 students confirmed that while there was an increase in time spent online since 2012. However – which is hard to explain – the frequency of text media use has been decreasing, as did the use of both general tools (search engines, Skype, etc) and e-learning tools and services (Moocs, lecture recordings, etc). Non-traditional students tend to use technologies functionally tied to their institution, whereas traditional students tended to use technologies more recreationally. Students expressed reluctance to be at the forefront of innovations, and there were more active decisions to be offline.

    Day 2

    I loved Sian Bayne’s keynote about anonymity. She used the demise of Yik Yak the anonymous hyperlocal networking app, to talk about campus networks and privacy. Yik Yak’s high point in the download chart was 2014. In 2016 they withdrew anonymity, which is reflected by a plunge in usage at Edinburgh. Yik Yak restored anonymity shortly before closing in 2017 to no particular regret in the media. It had not been able to use personal data to finance itself. Moral panics about anonymous social media served platform capitalism by demanding that everyone be reachable and accountable. Edinburgh students discussed student life (including mental health), sex and dating, with some academic and political issues. Most students found it a kind and supportive network. Anonymity studies notes the ‘psychic numbing’ which allows most social media users to join up their accounts in the interests of living an “effective life”, inuring them to the risks of surveillance capitalism. Some users resist surveillance by cloaking one’s identity – however this seems over-reliant on other users not cloaking theirs, otherwise the enterprise, relying as it does on personal data, inevitably folds. I can’t see any other way to escape platform capitalism than to organise sustainable resourcing for open platforms such as Mastodon and Diaspora.
    Fotios Mispoulos took a University of Liverpool instructor’s perspective on the effectiveness of learner-to-learner interactions. Most of the research into learner-to-learner interactions happened in the 1990s and found improved satisfaction and outcomes, though there are some counter findings. As usual the particulars of the task design, year group etc were glossed so we may be trying to compare apples and bananas.
    Vicki Holmes and Adam Bailey talked about introducing Blackboard Collaborate Ultra (which we have at UCL) for web meeting at Reading. I thought their approach was very good – to clarify purposes and promote commitment hey asked for formal expressions of interest, they then ran workshops with selected colleagues to build confidence and technical readiness (headphones, the right web browser). These refined designs for meetings around placement support, sessions between campuses, assessment support tutorials, and pre-session workshops, among other purposes. Participants from Politics, Finance, Careers observed positive outcomes. Recommendations include avoiding simply lecturing since students disengage quickly,  designing interactions carefully (rather than expecting them to happen), to develop the distinct presentation techniques, and to prepare students (again around technical readiness and role). 87% of students felt it was appropriate to their learning.
    Beth Snowden and Bronwen Swinnerton presented on rethinking lectures in three redesigned tiered theatres at the University of Leeds. Each ‘pod’ has a mic, top-lighting, and a wired-in thinkpad device which can be used to send responses and also to present via the data projector. Lecturers observed how students who had chatted to each other were more likely to chat with him and to ask questions. Another doubted he could continue referring to the session as a ‘lecture’. Responses to the evaluation survey found that the average time listening to the lecturer was 49%, which was assumed to be less than in the other lecture theatres. Just over half of staff felt that the new lecture theatres created extra work, but more felt they were a positive development. Future evaluation will focus on educational uses.
    [See YouTube University of Leeds “upgrade of teaching spaces”]
    Catherine Naamani looked at the impact of space design on collaborative approaches at the University of South Wales. The flexible spaces had colour coded chairs round triangular tables with their own screen which students could present to using an app, and which the tutor could access. The more confident groups gained more tutor attention while the least engaged groups tended to be international students, so more group-to-group activity needed to be designed. Staff tended to identify training needs with the technology, but not developmental needs around educational approach using that technology.
    Another stand-out session – as digital education strategists and academics at their respective institutions, Kyriaki Agnostopoulou, Don Passey, Neil Morris and Amber Thomas looked at the evidence bases and business cases for digital education. Amber noted academic, administrative and technical don’t speak to each other until the top of the organisation. How do digital education workers influence their organisations strategies? There are four distinct origins of evidence: technology affordances, uses, outcomes and impact. The former kinds of evidence can be provided through qualitative case studies while the latter through quantitative independent control group studies. Case studies are abundant, but far rarer are studies which show evidence of impact over time. Amber urged us to learn the language of ITIL and Prince 2 to “understand them as much as you want them to understand you”. Return on investment, laying out true costs (staff time, supply costs, simultaneous users), use cases (and edge cases), capital spend and recurrent spend) strategic alignment, gains (educational, efficiency and PR), options appraisals, sustainability and scalability, and risk analyses are a way to be ready for management critique of any idea. Neil Morris (Leeds) took the view that using evidence is the most powerful way of making change. Making the academic case first gets the idea talked about.
    Online submission continues to outstrip e-marking at the University of Nottingham. Helen Whitehead introduced ‘Escape from paper mountain‘, an educational development escape game through which staff would understand how to use an online marking environment [see ALT Winter Conference]. The scenario is an assessor who has completed his marking but then disappeared; the mission is to find his marking and get it to the Exam Board in 60 minutes. The puzzles, to be solved in groups, are all localised, sometimes even at the subject-specific level. There are plenty of materials at yammer.com/escapehe.
    Kamakshi Rajagopal from the Open University of The Netherland ran a workshop on practical measures to break out of online echo chambers aka filter bubbles – people from similar backgrounds and strata of societies in the context of an egocentric, personally and intentionally created personal learning network. One group came up with the idea of a ‘Challenge me’ or ‘Forget me’ button to be able to serve yourself different feeds

    Day 3

    (The amount of notes reflects the amount of sleep).
    Peter Goodyear’s keynote was very good. He talked about the designing physical spaces for digital learning, which he called ‘multidimensional chess’. He introduced these as apprentice spaces where students learn to participate in valued practices. While STEM subjects require a lot of physical infrastructure, arts, humanities and social sciences require cognitive structures to learn to use knowledge and work with others. Designers reduce complexity by concentrating on what learners will do in the spaces. The activities themselves are not designable, but the guides and scaffolds are. Active learning risks cognitive overload due to the mechanics of the tasks – the instructions, navigating the task. The activity-centred activity design framework set out how to mitigate this.  Find the slides at petergoodyear.net.
    John Traxler described initial thoughts about an Erasmus+ project to empower refugee learners  from Middle East and North Africa through digital literacy. Few Moocs are oriented to refugees, and those which are depend on the availabilities of volunteers. Engaging in a Mooc obviously depends on digital access and capabilities. Other challenges include language, expectations and cultural assumptions. Digital literacy can be interpreted as employability skills, or alternatively with a more liberal, individualistic definition to do with self-expression. The group is very hard to reach, so it is hard to carry out a valid needs assessment. The project is moonlite.
    Lubna Alharbi talked about emotion analysis to investigate lecturer-student relationship in a fully online setting. Emotions which interfere with learning include isolation and loneliness arising from lack of interaction. To motivate students it is very important for the tutor to interpret and react to emotions. The International Survey on Emotional Antecedents and Reactions (ISEAR) dataset consists of sentences related to different emotions. Synesketch tool.
    Another stand-out, Khaled Abuhlfaia asked how the usability of learning technologies affects learners. In usability research, usability is conceived as effectiveness, efficiency, learnability, memorability, error handling and satisfaction. The literature review was very well reported, and he found that there is far more evidence about the effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction dimensions mostly questionnaires and interviews, while the other dimensions, while important, have been neglected.
    Academic course leaders choose textbooks in a climate of acute student worries about living costs (not to mention the huge debts they graduate with). Viv Rolfe, David Kernohan and Martin Weller compared open textbook use in the UK and the US. In the US open textbook use has been driven by student debt – and in the UK nearly 50% of students graduating in 2015 had debt worries.
    Ian McNicoll talked about the learning technologist role as a ‘fleshy interface’ between educators (who view LTs as techies), technies (who view LTs as quasi-academic), students (as helpdesk staff) and the institution (as strategic enablers).
    John Tepper and Alaa Bafail discussed ways to calibrate designs for learning activities in STEM subjects. These are currently tied to outcomes statements, where outcomes are constructivist – teachers create a learning environment supportive of learning activities appropriate to the outcomes. Quality was operationalised as student satisfaction, which I thought might be problematic since it does not itself relate to outcomes. I also wondered about the role of context for each activity e.g. demographic differences, level which I missed in the talk. The presenters took a systems approach to evaluating quality, through which designs which elicited high student satisfaction were surfaced. Anyone interested in designing educational activities will probably be interested in Learning Designer, which was mentioned in the talk, is really good, and is still being maintained. It’s increasingly rare for software developers to talk at ALTC, so it was good to hear about this. I found this talk fascinating and baffling in equal measures, but fully intriguing.
    Sam Ahern discussed learning analytics as a tool for supporting student wellbeing. One fifth of all adults surveyed by the NHS have a longterm common mental health problem, with variation between demographic groups. The numbers reporting mental health problems on entry has jumped 220% as students numbers have climbed. Poor mental health manifests as behaviour change around attendance, meeting deadlines, self-care and signs of frustration. Certain online behaviours can predict depressive episodes.

    Jisc student digital tracker 2017 and BLE consortium

    By Moira Wright, on 10 August 2017

    computer-767776_1920UCL participated in the 2017 Jisc Digital Student Tracker Survey as part of a consortium with the Bloomsbury Learning Environment (BLE) made up of SOAS, Birkbeck, LSHTM and RVC. 74 UK institutions ran the tracker with their students collecting 22,593 student responses, while 10 international universities collected an additional 5,000 student responses

    We were the only consortium to participate in the survey and had come together as a result of institutional surveys, such as the National Student Survey, meaning that the time available to run it independently was short (a month) and we therefore felt that our individual sample sizes would be too small. We treated the survey as a pilot and advertised a link to it on each College’s Moodle landing page as well as some promotion via social media and the Student Unions. The survey generated 330 responses, which given our constraints was much more than we expected.

    The survey comprises five broad areas: Digital access, digital support and digital learning. Most questions were quantitatively recorded, but there were four open questions, which produced qualitative data. We were also able to choose two additional questions to the survey and we selected e-assessment, since that was a previous shared enhancement project (see www.bloomsbury.ac.uk/assessment) and Moodle, since all members of the consortium use the platform for their Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).

    Once the survey closed and we had access to the benchmarking report we ran a workshop for representatives from each of the Colleges in July 2017 whereby the results corresponding to the survey’s open questions were analysed in institutional groups, which facilitated interesting discussions over commonalities and potential implications.

    Sarah Sherman, the BLE Manager and myself, have been working to produce a report which will examine our collective responses to the survey in comparison with the national survey population with a recommendation that individual Colleges independently analyse their own results in more detail. For confidentiality, each College will be presented with a version of this document, which contains the relevant data for their institution only and not the complete BLE data set. A disadvantage of the consortium approach was that we were not able to benchmark individual Colleges to the survey population as the resources would not allow for this. In the future, the participating Colleges may wish to run the survey individually rather than as part of a collective as it was not possible to conduct deep analysis with this data set. 

    markus-spiske-221494

    Although the sample size collected by the Bloomsbury Colleges was small and not statistically viable, there is much we can extract and learn from this exercise. For the most part, our collective responses tended to fall within the margins set by the national survey population, which means we are all at a similar phase in our student’s digital capability and development.

    You will have to wait for the full report for more information on the UCL data collected but just to whet the appetite you can see the key findings from Jisc in this 2 page report: Student digital experience tracker at a glance .

    Finally, you can see this collection of case studies, which features the Bloomsbury Colleges consortium, here.

    Please get in touch with me if you would like to get involved (moira.wright @ ucl.ac.uk)

    Sarah Sherman and Moira Wright

    Jisc/ NUS student digital experience benchmarking tool 

    Jisc guide to enhancing the digital student experience: a strategic approach