Digital Education team blog
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    Archive for the 'Digital Education' Category

    Review: Automate the Boring Stuff with Python

    By Jim R Tyson, on 4 April 2017

    Author: Al Sweigart
    Materials:
    Book  $29.95 print, $23.95 e-book or from Amazon £15.54 print, £11.39 Kindle.
    Website
    Youtube fifteen free videos from the Udemy course
    Udemy: £50 (Discounted to £10 as at 4/4/2017 ) fifty one lectures following the book

    Python is often said to be a fun language to learn. Programming is sometimes said to be fun to learn. The combination ought to be fun too.  My lasting impression of these materials is that they are fun.

    Learners often find that resources for beginners self-tuition in programming are either daunting, or badly designed, or too simple minded to be of real help. This set of resources scores highly on all of these.

    Automate the Boring Stuff with Python is a book that is accompanied by a website, some youtube videos, and (for pay) a Udemy online course. There are eighteen reasonable length chapters and three appendices. The first ten chapters cover the absolute basics of procedural programming starting with simple interaction with the interpreter (do some sums!) through variables and assignment, flow control, writing functions, complex data structures, strings, input and output and debugging. There are one or two other topics that it was interesting to see dealt with relatively early such as searching with regular expressions and file manipulation – including compression, bulk filename routines – but they are simply explained and they make sense given the intention of the material (automating stuff). The book is well designed and clearly written. The website has the same material but includes an in-line interpreter so that you can type code as you go, make mistakes and correct them, and see the results when, finally, you get it right. I watched the free youtube videos and they were well made with clear explanations as were the other free tasters of the Udemy course.  The youtube videos get a big thumbs up in their comments sections.

    Overall, I think these materials are a good start for a beginning programmer who isn’t intending to become a software engineer. It would suit a learner whose aim is to write programs intended mainly for their own use. It doesn’t cover some topics that are increasingly included in early training for programmers, for example version control or test driven development, but for many learners overcoming the initial barrier to writing some effective code is more important than these aspects of best practice. The use of object methods, defensive programming and more can be tackled later.

    The second part of the book and course introduces the use of python libraries for some common and useful tasks. This section includes a variety of projects including web scraping, working with spreadsheets and word processor documents, integrating email in programs. In a higher education context you might want to include numpy, scipy, matplotlib but there are good tutorials for these – good at least for someone who already has basic coding skills and is familiar with the use of libraries – exactly where someone would be after finishing this course.  They are good choices if you want to learn scripting to automate the boring stuff, maybe periodically grabbing data from a website or a spreadsheet and transforming it before writing to a new file for example.

    It’s particularly nice that the website has an embedded interpreter, but I think you would want learners to move onto an IDE eventually and perhaps in some contexts you might want to replace the use of the in-line interpreter with iPython notebooks.

    Overall this is one of the best resources for beginning programmers I have seen and as a suite of resources it could be easily supplemented and adapted to meet an expanded or amended set of objectives.

    Creating a Moodle Template based on the UCL E-Learning Baseline 2016

    By Jessica Gramp, on 14 March 2017

    The Digital Education Advisor for BEAMS, Jess Gramp, worked with the E-Learning Champion for Science and Technology Studies (STS), Christina Ogunwumiju, to develop a Moodle course template that meets the UCL E-Learning Baseline 2016.

    Christina then applied this baseline to every Moodle course in the department using the Moodle import feature. This means students now have a more consistent experience across modules. They can now easily find their learning resources and activities because they appear in common sections across their Moodle courses.

    Jess developed a guidance document for staff, to show them how to meet the baseline when using the template. You can view and download this below.

    Download (PDF, 298KB)

     

    If you would like to develop a Moodle template to improve consistency in your own department, please contact Digital Education at digi-ed@ucl.a.uk.

    Engaging the E-Learning Champions in the Bartlett

    By Jessica Gramp, on 13 March 2017

    At this term’s E-Learning Champions in the Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment I suggested a new approach where members were asked to answer a few questions on slides about their use of e-learning in their department. This really helped engage the staff, however the questions were a bit repetitive, so I’ve since streamlined the slides.

    The student experience officer who arranges and minutes these meetings agreed that:

    “…they seemed much more engaged, and I think this presentation format works well. It felt as though some real breakthroughs were made for people, which was great.”

    I’m hoping to try this approach in the other faculties within BEAMS: Engineering and Mathematical and Physical Sciences.

    Download (PPTX, 40KB)

    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

    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.

     

    2016 was a busy year for ABC LD!

    By Natasa Perovic, on 22 December 2016

    We facilitated ABC LD workshops in UCL, Glasgow, Aarhus (Denmark), Bruges/Kortrijk (Belgium), Santiago (Chile) and Brisbane (Australia). We presented at two conferences and published a paper about ABC LD.
    Colleagues from other universities also facilitated ABC LD workshops (with our guidance).
    A full list of activities (with nice images!) is available on the ABC LD blog, 2016 summary.

    It seems that 2017 will be an even busier year for ABC LD. Our community members and the workshops planned for 2017 are indicated on the map below.

    ABC_LD community map

    Best wishes for 2017 to all!

    ABC LD blog/