Digital Education team blog
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    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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    Lecturecast is Changing this Summer 2017

    By Jason Norton, on 17 February 2017

    This is our first communication to our Lecturecast community to let you know that this summer we will be upgrading the Lecturecast service.

    The current platform provided by Echo360 under the UCL brand name of Lecturecast has been in service for 6 years. During this time, Lecturecast has provided students with over 2 million views and recorded over 17 thousand events.

    That platform is now entering its end of life cycle and in order for UCL to provide the best experience to all our users – from our academics and administrators who create and manage content, to our students who use the material to support their learning – we need to replace the system. It is essential that we provide a system that will be fit for purpose and fit for use to meet the requirements and expectations of our Educational Strategy and UCL 2034.

    This summer we will be moving to the latest version of the Echo360 product, which the vendor refers to as ALP (Active Learning Platform), however we will still continue to refer to the platform with the name Lecturecast, but if you hear someone mention the ALP platform we hope you will make the connection.

    The new platform will provide all the existing functionality and benefits of the old lecture capture platform, but with an improved user interface and a greatly improved underlying technical infrastructure. The system also optionally offers expanded functionality in the areas of engagement tools and analytics that will integrate with the Lecturecast capture system and with Moodle, our virtual learning environment.

    On top of upgrading the platform we will also be taking the opportunity to rewrite and enhance the online booking application, which we recognise can be a point of difficulty and confusion.

    More details on the advanced features of the platform will be released over the next few months as our internal project and operational support teams continue to refine them. The project will also be actively engaging with you, our users, through various existing forums, focus groups and other events – as well as providing new online resources and training to support the changes.

    We hope you’ll be excited to see the improvements to this popular service and included below are a few screen shots from the new product to give you a flavour what the new Lecturecast will look like.

    A screen shot of the new Lecturecast player interface

    A screen shot of the new Lecturecast player interface

    A screenshot of the Lecturecast new course homepage

    A screenshot of the Lecturecast new course homepage

    A screenshot of the personal media libray

    A screenshot of the personal media libray

    Effective Curriculum Design Planning: Arena, Blended, Connected.

    By Alan Y Seatwo, on 17 February 2017

    Arena, Blended, Connected Curriculum Design Model

    Arena, Blended, Connected Curriculum Design Model

    Planning is a vital part of the curriculum design process. In 1984, David A. Kolb published his experiential learning theory, which stated that the importance of learning enabled taking the new understanding and translating it into predictions as to what would happen next or what actions should be taken to refine or revise the way a task was to be handled. Providing advice for the planning of curriculum design is an integral part of the role of a learning technologist. It is also one of the most rewarding experiences because it involves working closely with subject matter experts. During planning meetings, discussions on modes of learning, structure and the use of learning technologies are at full flow. Last week, I worked with the Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (STEaPP)’s Head of Department, Dr Jason Blackstock, and Senior Teaching Fellow, David Wright, on digital content development for the department’s 2-week challenge for undergraduates, How to Change the World (HtCtW).

    At the start of the term, some staff in the department attended the ABC Curriculum Design Workshop delivered by Digital Education Team. We decided to use it as a framework for our planning of HtCtW. The two-week intensive programme uses a problem-based learning approach. It requires students to understand a complex global challenge and enables students to demonstrate a variety of their competencies (problem solving, creativity, communication and collaboration) to approach the issue. As part of our planning session, the programme leads laid out a series of learning activities on a chart and put them into different categories: knowledge acquisition, discussion, collaboration, practice and production. The simplicity of the model visually demonstrated the concentration on each type of activity through colour coding and highlighted misalignments in the learning cycle. We could easily see the types of learning content and technologies that will be required at the start, during and end of the programme. This finished plan is also a useful communication tool to explain the structure of the programme, learning objectives, assessment and feedback. The plan will be presented to the next meeting of cohort leads of HtCtW from across the Engineering faculty.

    Feedback from the staff on the usefulness of this model has been very positive. Although they were aware of the model, this is the first time they have used it to structure a programme. Everyone found it very easy to understand and apply. I have no doubt that this curriculum design model will be used again in the department and I look forward to learning more from using it by other colleagues.

    Find out more about ABC Learning Design workshops…

    LinkedIn Masterclass – who do you want to become?

    By Moira Wright, on 14 February 2017

    During the autumn term a group of 20 UCL UG, PG, PGR, PGT and PhD students attended a LinkedIn masterclass workshop series designed and delivered by Miguel Garcia, Global Instruct Manager from LinkedIn. The course consisted of six 2 hour workshops designed to develop the right mindset and enhance skills to enable students to use LinkedIn according to their own needs and interests.
    The benefit of having Miguel Garcia delivering the sessions was apparent from the start – his knowledge of LinkedIn and how it can work for an individual or an organisation – is second to none!

    Watch the video below to hear more from Miguel and some comments and feedback from students here:

    He took his experience of helping customers grow their businesses using LinkedIn and applied this to helping students find and prepare for careers aligned to their personalities, interests, ambitions, skills, and values.
    The first session asked the question Why Should I use LinkedIn? The students were shown how to begin to establish a professional brand, how to find the right people, how to engage with people, and how to initiate and build relationships as well as how they can see and measure immediately the effectiveness of their actions on LinkedIn. The session ended with recommendations on what to focus on and some actions to take in the next seven days.
    Session two was called How do I build my personal brand? and was based on the premise that just because you are a student it doesn’t mean you don’t have experience or a personal brand. This session focused in learning how to showcase the skills and experience gained from student roles, volunteering or part time work in a compelling way to attract recruiters and powerful industry influencers. The students learnt about how to curate content from past experiences for their profile to enhance and improve the way this is shown by using the rich media options available to you on LinkedIn. This curated content along with a professional profile photograph provides a complete profile that is attractive to both recruiters as well as prospective employers.
    The third session How can I communicate effectively? is probably something that most people have struggled with at one time or another – finding the right way to say things and then share them with a global audience can be daunting so this session concentrated on effective social sharing and publishing on LinkedIn. During the session students were sending messages, InMails, introduction and connection requests to begin to build their networks. One key aspect covered in this session was the difference between academic writing and business writing in respect of written posts for LinkedIn and the importance of finding ‘your voice’ to do so.
    The fourth session How should I connect with others? was focused on connecting with the right people in the right way – basically networking effectively. The opportunity for students to connect with professionals, academics and influencers gives them access to unique career opportunities and informs them about the job market and how it works. The most effective students will be able draw on the expertise of their network before applications and interviews giving them unique and valuable insights and information or advice.
    The fifth session How do I use LinkedIn to find a job or internship? is probably why most students signed up. The challenge is not just to find a job but the right career opportunity and something that you will enjoy doing. There are many examples of how others have managed to do this – even when it did not seem very likely. This session showed how by conducting research on LinkedIn you can access career and company pages to get an understanding of an organisation’s culture, benefits and opportunities to make sure they line up with what you are looking for. The session also included how to create a plan to stay in contact with employers so that when opportunities become available your chances are enhanced.
    The final session How can I use LinkedIn to develop the ultimate career plan? was about how to put together a strategy and flexible plan to raise your chances of success in a changing world. The importance of having a long term plan and strategy for how you will use everything learned on the course and use it over the next 6 months in actionable steps. Students will set their own milestones, agree what further learning they may need or where they need to improve. Every student will make a 6 month commitment with regular check-ins to ensure progress.
    The course was totally oversubscribed and I experienced something I never have before at UCL – an increase in participation for the first few weeks – a definite first for me. In fact the course has been so successful we are running it again this term – this time with 40 places available and have moved every other session online to Blackboard Collaborate.
    Miguel has brought with him a set of unique skills and experiences that have greatly benefited UCL students –there really can’t be many who have experience of the full recruitment cycle from both an employers and employee perspective along with such a deep understanding of how a platform like LinkedIn works. Having completed the course students are now confidently and happily making connections, reaching out to prospective employers and building networks of contacts on their own.
    There is usually a distinct lack of control for a graduate who is job searching – they are often limited to contact with a HR department or a recruiter and with most job applications being made online – they seldom get feedback or guidance on why things may not have worked out as the volumes of applicants are far too high to do so. This is one of the many benefits of using LinkedIn – you are much more in control of things and generally the communication is direct and also in real time.
    Nowadays it is increasingly important for students to understand how online recruiting and job searching works – what the pluses can be and also any pitfalls. What has worked so well with this course is how Miguel has perfectly balanced the blend of coaching, activities and presentations – yet still managing to address each and every person’s needs in the group. There have been some quite remarkable transformations during the course and some of the first cohort are now working on a 1 minute video to add to their LinkedIn profile – watch this space!

    Rebooting Learning for the Digital Age (report)

    By Clive Young, on 10 February 2017

    hepireportThe HE ‘think tank’, the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), has just published Rebooting Learning for the Digital Age (PDF 58pp) written by three JISC leaders Sarah Davies, Joel Mullan and Paul Feldman. The report reviews best practice around the world to show how technology is benefiting universities and students through better teaching and learning, improved retention rates and lower costs and though a list of seven recommendations calls on universities to embrace new technology to meet the various challenges faced by the sector.

    While the actual approach is maybe less ‘reboot’ and more ‘refocus’, the report is an astute summary of the main issues and opportunities surrounding digital education in UK HE. It is more grounded than for example the OU Innovating Pedagogy 2016 report and provides a useful benchmark against which an institution such as UCL can gauge progress.

    A range of UK and international case studies indicate how digital initiatives can be used to improve student satisfaction, boost outcomes, retention and employability but still manage costs (so-called ‘win-win’ methods). However this inevitably requires strong leadership and the development of suitably-skilled staff.

    Two underpinning themes are threaded through the report, learning design and learning analytics.  On the first of these, the report comments, “when ‘designed in’ as part of the overall pedagogic approach, technology can be used to enable great teaching and improve student outcomes” and the first recommendation is Higher education institutions should ensure that the effective use of technology for learning and teaching is built into curriculum design processes. UCL has been particularly active in this area with ABC Learning Design, a bespoke rapid-development method that has already been very successful. The second recommendation identifies a real need, UK HE should develop an evidence and knowledge base on what works in technology-enhanced learning to help universities, faculties and course teams make informed decisions, plus mechanisms to share and discuss practice.

    Learning analytics which correlates patterns of student activity with learning outcomes and offer staff the opportunity to identify disengaged and underachieving students is the second main theme of the report. The next two recommendations suggest universities adopt learning analytics and research how the big datasets can be harnessed to provide new insights into teaching and learning. Digital Educaton has of course been looking into this e.g. From Bricks to Clicks: the potential for learning analytics and 8th Jisc Learning Analytics Network. Steve Rowett’s second post links the two themes of the report and the Open University published The impact of 151 learning designs on student satisfaction and performance: social learning (analytics) matters last year showing the remarkable potential of this combined approach.

    The third section of the report provides a useful reflection on the potential role of technology-enhanced in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). It recommends Digital technology should be recognised as a key tool for HEIs responding to the TEF. Providers should be expected to include information on how they are improving teaching through the use of digital technology in their submissions to the TEF. Recognising the risk involved in new methods and the sometimes conservatism of students it adds, “The Department for Education (DfE) and the TEF panel must ensure the TEF does not act as a barrier against institutions innovating with technology-enhanced approaches”.

    The final two recommendations reinforce the institutional prerequisites mentioned above to realise the opportunity of digital education HEIs should ensure the digital agenda is being led at senior levels – and should embed digital capabilities into recruitment, staff development, appraisal, reward and recognition and finally academic leads for learning and teaching should embrace technology-enhanced learning and the digital environment and recognise the relationship with other aspects of learning and teaching.

    New Digital Skills Development dates

    By Caroline Norris, on 7 February 2017

    PhotoFunia-1486390268ISD Digital Skills Development has released new dates for the second half of term.  As usual, we are offering a wide range of courses covering Excel, Photoshop, RStudio, Matlab, LaTeX and more.

    After a successful pilot last term we are pleased to be offering a Data Visualisation in R course again for those with a basic knowledge of working with datasets in R.  Looking ahead to next term we have scheduled our hugely popular Python course led by Research IT Services.  It starts in early May and runs for five consecutive Friday mornings.

    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 24 March.

    Don’t forget….

    IT for IOE 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 specifically aimed at Mac users. New sessions this term include one focusing on video sharing tools and a new advanced Endnote workshop.  There is still some availability on this term’s sessions.  Sessions are now available to book until March.  For a full list of courses and access to bookings visit IT for IOE IT Course Booking.

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

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

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    AI and society – the Asilomar Principles and beyond

    By Samantha Ahern, on 2 February 2017

    This has been quite an enlightening week. I have added my name in support of the Asilomar AI Principles (https://futureoflife.org/ai-principles/) and attended a British Academy / The Royal Society big debate ‘Do we need robot law?’ (http://www.britac.ac.uk/events/do-we-need-robot-law).

    This is against the backdrop of the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee EU rules for the fast-evolving field of robotics to be put forward by the EU Commission (Robots: Legal Affairs Committee calls for EU-wide rules) and reports of big data psychometric profiling being used in the US Presidential election and EU referendum (https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/how-our-likes-helped-trump-win).

    This raises a number of questions around ethics, liability and criminal responsibility.

    A sub-set of AI, machine learning, is ubiquitous in its use in everyday tools that we use such as social media and online shopping recommendations, but only 8% of the UK population are aware of the term, as noted at The Royal Society panel discussion Science Matters – Machine Learning and Artificial intelligence. Recent high profile advances in machine learning, for example AlphaGo, have utilised a technique known as deep learning which predominantly uses deep neural networks, an evolution of artificial neural networks that were first introduced in the 1950s (for more about the history of AI please see: https://skillsmatter.com/skillscasts/5704-lightning-talk).  To all intents and purposes these are black box algorithms as these systems teach themselves and the exact nature of what is learned is unknown, this is known issue where these systems are used for automated decision making.  In addition to this being ethically dubious when these decisions relate to living beings, they may also fall foul of the upcoming General Data Protection Regulations (Rights related to automated decision making and profiling).

    Professor Noel Sharkey has stated that we are on the cusp of a robot revolution.  Robots are shifting from the production line, to our homes and service industries. There has been a lot of development of care robots, particularly in Japan, and is an active area of research (e.g. Socially Assistive Robots in Elderly Care: A Systematic Review into Effects and Effectiveness).  The introduction of robots into shared spaces has an impact on society.

    A lot has already been said and written about decision making processes of autonomous vehicles and the ethics of the decisions made, including myself (https://blog.swiftkey.com/slam-self-driving-cars-ai-and-mapping-on-the-move/), but there are still a level of uncertainty especially with regards to the law as to who is responsible for these vehicles’ actions.  What is less discussed is the potential impact of the roll-out of these vehicles on wider society; for example 3m jobs in the USA alone may be lost due to autonomous vehicles.

    Unlike human beings, AI systems, include robots, do not have a sense of agency (What Is the Sense of Agency and Why Does it Matter?), this can cause difficulties within society as behaviours of robots or autonomous vehicles may be different from expected societal norms, causing a disruption to society and values. It also introduces ambiguity around liability and criminal responsibility.  If an AI does not have an understanding of how its actions are having a negative impact on society, how can it be helped accountable? Alternatively, are the developers or manufacturers then accountable for an AI’s behaviour? This is known as liability diffusion.

    If an AI is capable of learning a sense of agency, what is an acceptable time-frame for this learning to take place in and what will be an acceptable level of behaviour and/or error until sufficient learning has taken place?

    The one thing that is clear, is that these emerging technologies will be disruptive to all areas of society, and could be considered a Pandora’s box but also has the potential to bring huge benefits to the whole of society. As a result there are a number of organisations that are considering the potential impacts of these technologies; these include the Machine Intelligence Research Institute (https://intelligence.org/) and Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (http://cser.org/), plus organisations such as OpenAI (https://openai.com/about/) that are making these technologies available to all.

    For further reading on where we are now and where we are heading I recommend Murray Shanahan’s book ‘The Technological Singularity’ , and Danny Wallace’s documentary  ‘Where’s my robot?‘ .