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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    2016 Horizon Report

    By Clive Young, on 5 February 2016

    It’s that time of year again. Every year the NMC Horizon Report examines emerging technologies for their potential impact on and use in teaching, learning, and ‘creative inquiry’ within the environment of higher education.

    The report, downloadable in PDF, is compiled by an international body of experts and provides a useful checklist trends, challenges and technologies in the field and provides a useful benchmark of what is most talked about at the moment.horizon2016

    The key trends identified in the in the short term are

    • Growing focus on measuring learning
    • Increasing use of blended learning designs

    Longer term trends are: advancing cultures of innovation, rethinking how institutions work, redesigning learning spaces and a shift to deeper learning approaches.

    Key ‘solvable’ challenges are the same as last year

    • Blending formal and informal learning
    • Improving digital literacy

    More difficult challenges are; competing models of education (e.g. competency-based education in the US), personalising learning, balancing our connected and unconnected lives and of course keeping education relevant. “Rewarding teaching”, from last year seems to have been, ahem, solved.

    The important developments in educational technology they identify are in the short term are

    • Bring your own device (BYOD), same a last year
    • Learning analytics and adaptive learning

    Longer-term innovations are; augmented and virtual reality, makerspaces, affective computing (interpreting/simulating human emotions) and robotics.

    As usual there are useful commentaries and links throughout. Once again, encouraging that quite a few of these ideas are already being implemented, trialed and discussed here at UCL.

    Summer Works – New Data Centre, Moodle Snapshot and Upgrade.

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 3 February 2016

     

    This year UCL Information Services Division (ISD) is closing one of its data centres in London and relocating the technology and services that run from that location to a new state of the art facility in Slough.  This is a major undertaking by ISD and nearly all services from finance and HR through to the Digital Education services such as Moodle, Lecturecast and MyPortfolio are impacted.

    In order to complete this exercise all Digital Education services will be required to have a limited period of downtime to make the switch from one location to another.

    To ensure we minimise the downtime and to avoid two shut-down dates, we intend to combine the migration exercise with our normal yearly upgrade and snapshot process.

    As you may be aware from previous years, we normally advertise a period of 5 days of possible outage for our major Moodle upgrade (Friday evening till Wednesday Morning). This year we intend that this period will remain unchanged and that we will complete both the snapshot, upgrade and the data centre migration within the 5 day period. It will be our intention to restore services as early as possible within this 5 day window.

    Moodle Snapshot and Upgrade

    In response to the survey that went out to all our Moodle course tutors and administrators asking for your least inconvenient downtime window we had 201 respondents, I thank all of your who responded for doing so.

    There is never going to be one date that is ideal for all users, however the survey does highlight the dates which would appear to have the least impact for the most number of users. We have also run internal reports within Moodle to identify the period with the least or no current Moodle/Turnitin submissions planned.

    The selected date range is from: 6pm Friday 22nd July > 12pm Wednesday 27th July 2016

    Please let me make it clear that the period that students will be without ANY access to Moodle will be less than 24 hours (Friday evening > Saturday lunch time). This is the time taken for the team to create the Snapshot which is then made immediately available.

    The Snapshot is a complete copy of the live Moodle and provides students with “read only” access to ALL of the material they had prior to the snapshot being taken.

    What the Snapshot does not provide is the ability for students to take part in activities, add to or change Moodle for example the following activities cannot be done:-

    • Submission of assignments via either Moodle or Turnitin
    • Quiz based activity
    • Posting new forum topics or replies

    Please take account of this when planning Moodle activities during this period.

    After the Snapshot is made available there will be a period of time when the current, live version of Moodle is unavailable to allow for the upgrade and migration to take place.  During this time, students will be immediately redirected to this version upon entering the normal Moodle URL.

    The publicised outage will be until 12pm Wednesday 27th July, as this “at risk period” is required in case any issues arise. The “at risk period” should be treated as if the service were unavailable and no Moodle dependant activities planned for that period.

    If the chosen date range affects your course significantly in regard to Moodle usage that cannot be resolved by the use Snapshot e.g. a critical assignment submission or Moodle Exam date that cannot be altered, please contact us at digi-ed@ucl.ac.uk and we will work with you to provide the best possible alternative solution for your requirements.

    Join us on CMALT 2016 – UCL’s popular digital education certificate

    By Clive Young, on 27 January 2016

    Association for Learning TechnologyDo you use Moodle, Turnitin, Lecturecast, Opinio, My Portfolio, the UCL Wiki? Do you use Email, text, Facebook to contact students, do you read or contribute to blogs or Twitter etc. or use other technologies to support the student learning experience?

    If so, why not try UCL UCL’s professional portfolio in e-learning?

    Now in its fifth year at UCL, CMALT is a chance to learn about, share and implement good practice in the wide range of technologies that support our students’ teaching and learning.

    Working together with colleagues from across UCL was helpful in terms of discovering and developing good practice”.

    CMALT is a national peer-based professional accreditation scheme developed by the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) and an opportunity to certify your growing skills and experience in learning technology.

    1. What does it involve?

    Completion of a descriptive and reflective portfolio of about 3,000 words, demonstrating your knowledge in four core areas: operational issues (constraints/benefits of different technologies, technical knowledge and deployment); teaching, learning and/or assessment processes; the wider context of legislation, policies and standards and communication/working with others, plus one specialist option subject. We will run monthly workshops to discuss and work on the core areas of your portfolio, and provide you with a mentor from our team to support you as you complete your certification portfolio.

    1. How long does it take?

    It takes about six months from start to submission and it takes around 25-35 hours in all to complete including around 15 hours contact time. The 2016 cohort will start in February 2016.

    1. How much does it cost?

    It costs £120 to register as a CMALT candidate under the UCL scheme (normally £150). In many cases the candidate’s department covers this fee.

    This is an excellent opportunity to support your professional development with lots of support available.

    There will be a lunch time meeting to provide further information for prospective participants next week on Wednesday 3rd February 2016 from 1pm-2pm in Chandler House, room 118. All staff are welcome. If you are interested in CMALT but unable to attend this meeting please contact a.gilry@ucl.ac.uk

    Introducing Digital Education – the new name for E-learning Environments.

    By Fiona Strawbridge, on 21 January 2016

    We’ve changed our name! RIP E-Learning Environments; welcome to the world, Digital Education!

    Why have we done this?

    Our remit has broadened in the last year as the IT Training team has joined us, so Digital Education better reflects the scope of the whole team’s work. The

    Your Name here - Image credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

    Image credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

    name change also aligns better with our institutional Education strategy. More broadly, ‘digital this’, ‘digital that’ and ‘digital the other’ seem to be replacing IT, ICT and e- in common parlance and our sister teams in ISD have also now renamed for 2016 – Creative Media Services are now Digital Media, and Web & Mobile Services are now Digital Presence.

    What does it mean for your services and support?

    There have been no changes to the teams or the brilliant support from us that you have all be accustomed to. Only the names of the teams have changed:

    • Digital Education Core Services (formerly E-Learning Services)
    • Digital Education Advisory (formerly E-Learning Advisory)
    • Digital Education Futures (formerly E-Learning Developments)
    • IT Training (watch this space – name change coming…)
    • Learning Spaces

    If you need to contact us to get support, our email is now digi-ed@ucl.ac.uk (this replaces ele@ucl.ac.uk)
    Our blog is now: http://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/digital-education/
    And we’re still wading through our website editing links, but for now you can still go to http://www.ucl.ac.uk/isd/services/learning-teaching/elearning-staff to find out more about the team and our services.

    What’s next?

    Of course changes like this take a while to bed in – we still catch ourselves referring to ELE, and we’re having to update lots of links and documentation (ok – there have been quite a few unforeseen consequences!)  But we are very pleased to bring in the new year with our new name.

    For now, we hope the change to Digital Education acts as a reminder that digital technologies are woven into the fabric of the way students learn and teachers teach as well as our institutional strategies. We continue to look forward to working together by blending the digital with education and making UCL excel at delivering world class teaching and learning to its students for many years to come.

    FIXED: Issue with Turnitin post-dates for anonymous assignments

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 21 January 2016

    Before the Christmas break we contacted you to say that we had identified and confirmed with Turnitin UK there was bug with Turnitin assignments set to anonymous marking.

    At the time we advised against editing the post-dates on assignments as this was linked to the problems.

    We are now pleased to announce that Turnitin have contacted us to confirm the problem has been resolved permanently. Last night they applied a fix to their part of the system (which is where the problem was occurring).

    This means it is now safe to change post-dates without losing grades.

    If you do experience any problems please contact the ISD Service Desk.

    How can you teach online if you’ve never experienced learning online?

    By Matt Jenner, on 20 January 2016

    Distance Learning doesn't need to be lonely. Image Credits; By loungerie on Flikr

    Distance Learning doesn’t need to be lonely.
    Image Credit: By loungerie on Flikr

    Teaching online requires different approaches to a traditional classroom environment (as does the learning). Teachers who are not prepared or do not know what is involved in the development and implementation of an online course will result in “negative outcomes for students and faculty” (Caullar, 2002).  As Open University expert Derek Rowntree (1992) explains, most newcomers to ODL [open and distance learning] need to develop new knowledge, new skills and very often new attitudes and dispositions.  Students and staff need to be oriented to the differences in learning online and the change in role and approach for both the teacher and the learner (Palloff and Pratt, 2002). It’s recommended to provide staff development opportunities in online teaching (ibid) and that should come at a later stage, but I think a crucial step precedes it:

    How can you teach online if you’ve never experienced learning online?

    You must try it. I’d also recommend absorbing what’s around you as well  – talk colleagues already active in this space, look for existing resources and participate in relevant networking events. But crucially; join an online course, or ten, and experience it yourself.

    Learn online: Take a free course

    There is a growing range of free online courses in which you can use to experience being an online learner. The huge selection of free open courses can be searched and filtered by using Mooc aggregators such as Course TalkClass-Central and Mooc-list. UCL has a partnership with a UK-based Mooc provider FutureLearn and has a growing selection of courses. But you should explore other courses too and you should feel free to sign up for any that interest you – even if you don’t complete them (it’s OK!). Closer to home there’s also a selection of courses on UCLeXtend – UCL’s public-facing e-learning platform – which you can discover from searching the Life Learning course finder and filtering (on the left) to Format > Online and Cost > Free.

    Notable courses

    Getting started with Moodle (via UCL Moodle) provides an introduction to UCL Moodle and e-learning and provides the basic skills required to set up a course in Moodle.

    A6postcard_digital (3) (1)Blended Learning Essentials (via FutureLearn) – created in partnership with UCL and University of Leeds, this is a free online course designed to help you understand the benefits of blended learning and how to make more effective use of technology to support your learners.

    UCL Arena Digital (via UCL Moodle) – three short courses with each lasting two weeks. Each fortnight will end with a live online webinar where you can share your experiences with your colleagues on the course. Topics: multimedia, communication & assessment and feedback.

    Teaching online open course (via Brookes.ac.uk) – offered as a free mooc from Oxford Brookes University (and offered as a 10 M-Level credit option, if desired) and is an intensive introduction to supporting student learning in online environments.

    (star) Your mooc mission: try to complete one mooc. Sounds easy? Tell us how you got on in the comments section below.

    Learning from colleagues

    Venturing into the world of distance learning is a bit different to that of face to face teaching and you may want to seek guidance from those who have already trodden the ground before you. Within your department you may know colleagues who are running their own distance learning courses, there should be someone within your wider faculty or school. If not, you could look at UCL’s Prospective Student’s course finder for PGT and filter by ‘Distance Learning’ – then try contacting a course team from there. We also run regularly ‘Forum’ events (sign up to the ‘Distance Learning and Life Learning Network’ below).

    Join local networks, forums and communities

    With representation from all schools the Distance Learning and Life Learning Forum is a community of practitioners from across UCL who are all active in the area of fully online courses and blended learning for taught programmes and CPD/short courses. Or, you may want to form your own departmental, faculty or school-based distance learning groups. These may grow from the ground up, out of teaching committees or via many other ways. Regardless, if you would like UCL Digital Education or CALT to sit on these groups, do get in touch and we can come along too.

    For more information we recommend you sign up to the Distance Learning and Life Learning Forum. Note: This can only be done on the UCL network or via remote desktop/VPN.

    Connect with support teams

    Teams such as Centre for Advancing Learning and Teaching (CALT) and UCL Digital Education have trodden this ground before, and are always happy to hear your ideas, share experiences and help you design, plan, promote, develop and evaluate your distance learning courses. They will listen to your ideas and suggest others to talk to, approaches to take, resources to work through and even courses you can take online to get you started with distance learning.

    Get in touch with them from their respective websites – CALT and UCL Digital Education

    Next step

    So – ready for your mission? If you have any questions you can always contact us, or leave a comment below.

    Note: this page is an excerpt from the UCL Distance Learning wiki which contains more pages on planning, designing, building and teaching on an online course. 

     

    References:

    Cuellar, N. (2002). The transition from classroom to online teaching. Nursing Forum,37(3), 5-13. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/195001677?accountid=14511

    Palloff, R.M., Pratt, K. (2002). Lessons from the Cyberspace Classroom. 17th Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning. Retrieved from http://www.uwex.edu/disted/conference/resource_library/proceedings/01_20.pdf

    Rowntree, D. (1992). Exploring Open and Distance Learning. Kogan Page.