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!).

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    Introducing Karen Shackleford-Cesare of Digital Education Services

    By Karen A M Shackleford-Cesare, on 13 January 2017

    Karen headshot 11-JUN-16Karen is a member the Digital Education Services team. She joined UCL in December 2016 from the University of Roehampton. She, along with other members of her current team, supports and advises on the use of a range of technologies including the University’s core learning and teaching applications namely, Moodle, Turnitin and MyPortfolio. From February 2017 she will act as service lead for the latter two.

    Her professional interests include student motivation and engagement, e-assessment, (including peer and ipsative assessment and feedback data analysis). Also, improving the usability of, and productivity gains from learning technologies.

    Karen is a Fellow of the HEA and also has experience of being an academic having been a lecturer in Management Information Systems at the University of the West Indies, teaching undergraduates in both face-to-face and distance modes. Although, she acknowledges that learning technologies may not be able to compete with the “pulling power” of an academics’ infectious enthusiasm for their subject to motivate students, she is confident that used strategically they can disrupt and transform both learning and teaching in HE. Hence, Karen is keen to work with UCL academics and colleagues to prove it.


    Moodle Assignment Grading Issues

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 20 January 2017

    We are currently aware of issues with the Moodle Assignment* grading interface. When trying to load a submission after clicking ‘Grade’ the screen freezes, this is happening across all browsers.

    This does not affect offline grading, except rubrics which do not work. If you would like to learn more about offline grading you can do so in the UCL Moodle Resource Centre wiki:

    ISD are currently working to investigate and resolve this issue, however presently there is no estimated timeframe on when this will be resolved.

    Our sincere apologies for any inconvenience caused by this.

     *This only affects grading within the Moodle Assignment activity. Turnitin assignments are not affected by this issue.

    Book review: ‘Digital Video – A manual for Language Teachers

    By , on 13 January 2017

    This review has been contributed by Paul Sweeney, Instructional Designer, UCL Institute of Opthalmology.

    Digital-Video-coverDigital Video – A manual for Language Teachers

    Nik Peachey

    Cost: £4.99

    Format: iBook or PDF from

    Who is this book aimed at?

    All teachers of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) also known as ELT and related disciplines of ESL and ESOL.

    Anyone teaching languages to teens and adults

    Questions any language teacher might ask before buying a resource book:

    Will I learn something? Will it save me time? Will it become a useful addition to the (digital) bookshelf?

    Answers: Yes, yes and yes

    Questions for any language teacher might ask about buying an educational technology themed resource book:

    Do I need a certain amount of experience in order to be able to make use of this? Or – for more advanced practitioners –  Is this only for beginners? Will I still learn something?

    Answers: No, No, Yes

    Why should I buy a book about exploiting digital video?

    Because online video is an increasingly important part of everyday experience. Everyone is viewing and sharing more video than ever before. So what? There is also an ocean of text and images washing over us. The relevance to education is? The point is that most of us are already sufficiently empowered to deal with text and audio. Those of us who are so inclined can tweet, blog, Facebook, Instagram etc. to our heart’s content and many educators are taking advantage of a plethora tools to explore associated educational benefits. Video is different. Where to find resources (apart from YouTube)? What tools to use? What approaches to take? That is what this book offers help with.  Lots of resources, tools and techniques even the savvy may not have known about. Very practical suggestions, all linked to pedagogy and learning outcomes. There is no “tech for tech’s sake” here.

    Is this only for English as a Foreign Language (EFL / ELT) teachers?

    The resource reviews are more focussed on the core audience but the majority is of use to language teachers anywhere and quite a few sections of general interest to teachers of any subject where bringing video into the classroom and student creation of video offers potential.

    I am less experienced with video or learning technologies. What does this book offer me?

    • Video tutorials (hosting a video online/ downloading videos / embedding videos in a webpage / muting audio / adding subtitles / creating QR codes / creating a video slideshow)NB you need to be online to access these.
    • Technical help in selecting editing tools and hosting sites
    • A clickable glossary throughout which picks up lots of the key digital terms – examples of words glossed – apps / applications / synchronous / asynchronous / target language / URL / QR code / LMS interlocutor / paradigm.
    • A good range of comprehension and creation activities to try out with step by step instructions.
    • A list of resource sites to explore.

    How does this support more experienced teachers?

    All of the above is useful for most audiences but experienced users can benefit from is a helpful overview to jump around easily. There are also sections on ‘cool tools’ and application reviews.

    So far so positive. Any negatives?

    • For a higher education audience, the Approaches to Learning chapter (Chapter 4) may come across as simplistic although this does not detract from many of the sound points therein. The real value of the book is the tutorials, tools, sample tasks and resources.
    • The tutorial videos don’t work offline.
    • In this fast-moving environment, some of the tools and resources listed are no longer available. Three out of approximately twenty resources fall into this category.
    • Two out of the academic resources fall into this category at time of writing (November 2016) and Also one of the kids resources

    Anything else about this book?

    In keeping with his frontier-gazing, guru status in some circles, the author adopted what he termed a Publishing 3.0 approach Firstly he used crowd-funding to sign up a number of guaranteed readers in advance – which also explains why there is a discreet sponsor stamp on each page.  Secondly he self-published which inevitably led to a few rough edges but for £4.99 who is arguing?

    And finally

    Coincidentally, this is the second excellent book on the subject produced for the EFL / ELT sector recently.  Language Learning with Digital Video (Cambridge University Press) is an excellent addition to this new field and, like the Nik Peachey book, has won an award or two.

    Moodle Emergency Outage 11 Jan 2017

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 11 January 2017


    Due to the ongoing performance issue with UCL Moodle, there needs to be an emergency outage of Moodle to make changes to its resources and configuration.

    This outage will take between 18:00 and 18:30pm today (Wednesday 11th of January).

    ISD technical teams are continuing to work on this issue and the changes we are making tonight are hoped to alleviate if not fully resolve the performance problems. Work will continue on the problem until we are satisfied that the root cause of these issue has been identified and resolved. Once we have reached that point we will update the Moodle Designers list with full details of what the issue was, how it was resolved and what is being done to ensure there is no repeat occurrence.

    The Digital Education team will update as required ISD service news, Moodle home page news and tweet via the @UCLDigiEd to keep email notifications to a minimum.

    Please accept our sincere apologies for the disruption. If you have any concerns specifically in relation to Moodle examinations or quizzes that you have taking place this week, which you have not already contacted Digital Education about, please contact the ISD service desk 0207679000 and ask to be put through to the Digital Education team.

    Walking in a data wonderland

    By Samantha Ahern, on 9 January 2017

    So where do we begin? Straight down the rabbit hole or some contextual rambling?

    The contextual rambling.

    I have recently been thinking about the logic puzzles, syllogisms, of Charles Dodgson and the literary work of his alter-ego Lewis Carroll – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  This and discussions with my colleague Dr Steve Rowett lead me to explore Anastasia Salter’s project Alice in Dataland (  Alice in Dataland is an experiment in critical making, an exploration guided by the question: “Why does Alice in Wonderland endure as a metaphor for experiencing media?”

    Down the rabbit hole.

    Exploring Anastasia’s project has generated some questions of my own; What if data is Alice and data analysis is Wonderland?

    It has been noted that each new representation of Alice has showed her in a new and different way, it has been argued that these changes have added to our interpretation.  Is this also true of our analysis of data, or do we see “different truths” through different lenses of our analysis? In other words, do our analysis of data add to understanding by providing insight or do we alter the narrative told by data by how we choose to analyse or visualise it.

    In August 2016 theNode ( reported on the kickstarter campaign #BarBarPlots! with the focus of the campaign being how to avoid misleading representations of statistical data.  This follows on from a 2015 ban on null hypothesis significance testing procedures by the journal Basic and Applied Social Psychology, which was discussed in an article by the Royal Statistical Society (

    Do these analyses constitute re-imaginings of the data and like the use of Photoshop and other media tools described by Salter re-imagine Wonderland or data analysis as a remediation of reality through a different lens?

    When data is collected over time to create user profiles, and potential in learning analytics creating identities through narratives (data analysis and visualisation), again noted by Salter: “it is through narrative that we create and re-create selfhood” (Bruner, Jerome. Making stories: Law, literature, life. Harvard University Press, 2003.).  Are these generated identities subject to “defamiliarization of perception”; threatened by time as new data received alters our models and the story told? I am not sure, but it is an interesting thought.

    white rabbit


    Digital learning opportunities for the New Year

    By Caroline Norris, on 9 January 2017

    PhotoFunia-1478191983Did you know that as a UCL member you get a fantastic range of learning opportunities for free?  These include face-to face courses and workshops, demonstration sessions and online learning.

    Digital Skills Development

    We offer a wide range of courses covering Excel, Photoshop, RStudio, Matlab, LaTeX and more.

    This term we are introducing a new style of session.  Our ‘workshops’ take a new approach to learning by presenting you with a problem to be solved and encouraging you to use your prior experience, web searches, in-application help and fellow participants to find a solution to the task. By the end of the session you will have improved problem-solving skills, an increased knowledge of the topic, a ‘suggested solution’ to the problem you worked on and some resources and guidance for further learning. Our first workshop is in Excel Charting later this month.

    For a full list of courses and a link to the booking system visit the student course catalogue or the staff course catalogue (you will need to follow a further link to get to the actual booking pages).  Dates are currently available up to and including Reading Week.

    IT for IOE IT Training

    IT for IOE also offer training in a wide range of digital tools including screencasting and video editing, blogging and Twitter, mind mapping and presentation tools, with some sessions are specifically aimed at Mac users. New sessions this term include one focusing on video sharing tools and a new advanced Endnote workshop.

    Sessions are now available to book until March.  Visit the IT for IOE IT Training pages for more details and a link to the bookings page.

    Online video tutorials

    We have a vast range of high-quality video-based courses available at These cover technical skills but also business, personal and creative skills as well.  Visit the UCL page to find out more.

    One-to-one help

    Not sure what you need or have a more specific issue you would like help with?  You can also come along to one of the Digital Skills Development drop ins if you want more individual support.