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 our elearning newsletters.

  • Subscribe to this blog

  • Meta

  • Tags

  • Creative Commons Licence

  • A A A

    Archive for the 'Digital Education' Category

    Gold for Icarus – UCL School of Management Simulator Scoops First Prize

    By Jessica Gramp, on 3 March 2018

    Icarus – a simulation tool developed by UCL School of Management academics – has won 1st prize in the ‘Best use of simulations or virtual environments for learning’ category at the 2017 Learning Technologies Awards.

    Lynsie Chew, Programme Director (MSc Professional Accountancy), and Alan Parkinson, Deputy Director (Education), who initiated and managed the simulator, attended the awards on 29 November where they were awarded Gold 1st place in their category.

    The simulator, which is used in teaching on the School’s MSc Professional Accountancy, simulates running an airport, with users able to control a wide-range of aspects including variables such as the number of runways and the rent charged on retail units.

    Icarus was one of six simulators shortlisted at the 2017 awards.

    The UCL MSc in Professional Accountancy, in partnership with global accountancy body ACCA, is unique in its virtual availability to students located around the world.

    The University approached Unicorn and LAS to design and build a complex and highly immersive simulation which would allow groups of learners from around the world to collaborate and work in teams over different time zones. This was ICARUS – a sophisticated, multi-layered, immersive and above all, realistic business simulation. The judges felt that the choice of an airport as the focus was inspired because of the wide range of businesses and services and the complexities they introduce, that contribute to its success or otherwise. Particularly impressive was the ease with which the simulation can be customised and updated with real world events as they happen and how the impact of what may appear as an isolated incident can affect different parts of the business in very different ways.

    Focusing on demonstrable learner engagement and tangible outcomes required to secure the future of the programme, this project has been an unprecedented success: it boasts a 40% rise in uptake, and 95% student pass rate.

    This post is an amalgamation of  content from the following sites:

    TPCK, data and learning design

    By Samantha Ahern, on 13 February 2018

    Samantha is an experienced educator, technologist and creator.

    This is my standard biog text. Technology is both what I have studied and what I have taught others. The use of technology in learning activities was authentic and integrated into the learning design. Technology, pedagogy and curricula are therefore intrinsically intertwinned.

    For meaningful use of technology in teaching and learning these three elements should form a braid.

    The 2007 paper What is Technical Pedagogical Content Knowledge? is a good discussion of this interplay and is pretty much how I view the relationship between technology and pedagogy.

    When talking about learning and the use of technology in learning I often used the phrase and advocate for ‘pedagogic intent’.

    Its a great phrase, but what does it mean?

    Lecture capture is very popular with students, and increasing numbers of lectures are recorded.  However, there can be a quite passive use of the technology.

    However, it can be used create engagement in the classroom.  The technology becomes part of the pedagogy of the classroom experience.  Our UCL colleague Parama Chaudhury presented a great webinar for the Echo 360 EMEA community on ‘Engaging students with active learning: lessons from University College London’.

    This technology can also be used post session to identify content that is that is either difficult, identified by a flag, or of particular interest to students, that could inform future session planning.

    Additionally, many taught modules have corresponding Moodle courses.  Although the e-Learning baseline introduces a degree of consistency, these vary immensely in their purpose and content types.

    A move towards blended learning designs provides data points that could support post-course review or, perhaps most interestingly, to flag ‘critical-path’ activities (quizzes, forum posts, downloads etc) for intervention in real time. In this case ‘blending’ in online activities becomes an essential part of the student experience.

    This identification of course elements of pedagogic interest of existing learning designs and how resulting questions could be answered by the identification of corresponding data points and analysis can be embedded into the learning design process.

    The upcoming JISC Data informed blended learning design workshop aims to help participants ensure that their blended learning designs are purposeful. It will seek to make explicit the pedagogic intent in a learning design and explore how data can enable us to understand whether or not learner behaviour is corresponding to those expectations.

    Thus returning us to the intertwinned relationship between technology, pedagogy and curricula.


    The purpose of education?

    By Samantha Ahern, on 25 January 2018

    “Were all instructors to realize that the quality of mental process, not the production of correct answers, is the measure of educative growth something hardly less than a revolution in teaching would be worked.”
    John Dewey, Democracy and Education

    Over the last few weeks I have attended a number of events, but they have all the same common thread.

    They have left me asking two questions; firstly, what is the purpose of education and secondly, what do we mean by learning?

    This has reminded me of comments made by Peter Goodyear in his keynote at the 2017 ALT Conference regarding learning spaces, ‘attributes and qualities of spaces do not determine the learning and outcomes and objectives’ and ‘it’s what students actually do that effects what they learn .. can not be designed’.

    In the #IOEDebates event What if… we really wanted evidence-informed practice in the classroom? Gert Biesta (Professor of Education and Director of Research, Brunel University London) noted that ‘Teaching is: Open, semiotic and recursive’ and this makes teaching a messy business. We can remove the messiness but would this reduce teachers to technocrats and create an education environment of uniform conformity, evidence must not become another thing to tell you what to do.

    Professor Biesta went on to ask ‘What do we want education to work for:’

    • Qualification?
    • Socialisation?
    • Subjectification?
     This had parallels to discussions at the debate What is a university education and where is it going? where Lord Willetts discussed the wider benefits of Higher Education:
    How do these benefits relate to the learning or the learning gain that takes place within our universities?
    Many of the presentations at the HEFCE open event Using data to increase learning gains and teaching excellence hosted by the OU primarily focused on non-subject knowledge gains and employability.
    HEFCE define learning gain as ‘an attempt to measure the improvement in knowledge, skills, work-readiness and personal development made by students during their time spent in higher education.’ ( They go on to state that measuring learning gain will ‘contribute to a broader international understanding about the value of higher education, and help governments shape their policies and investments accordingly.’.
    So what is primary purpose of learning within our institutions? Can this learning be effectively measured?
    I don’t know. All I do know is that I now have more questions than answers about the nature of learning and the purpose of a university education.

    Developing Digital Scholarship at UCL

    By Moira Wright, on 23 January 2018

    The next UCL Digital Literacy Special Interest Group (UCL DL SIG) will be taking place on Friday February 16th from 2pm – 5pm (ticket link at the end of this post).

    Digital content is increasingly being used in learning, teaching and research across the Higher Education sector. This has led to a significant change in research practices across disciplines, which include knowledge creation and dissemination through social media and repositories. Complex software tools are being used for data analysis in Arts and Humanities as well as Sciences, and large data sets are being made available to the research community, leading to a blurring of the organisational and support responsibilities of academic stakeholders. This timely event takes a look at digital scholarship at large, and considers new initiatives and opportunities within UCL to address the challenges associated with this disruptive shift.

    Event Programme

    Developing Digital Scholarship: Emerging Practices in Academic Libraries – Alison MacKenzie, Dean of Learning Services at Edge Hill University and Lindsay Martin Assistant Head of Learning Services at Edge Hill University.

    The impact of digital on libraries has extended far beyond its transformation of content, to the development of services, the extension and enhancement of access to research and to teaching and learning systems.As a result,the fluidity of the digital environment can often be at odds with the more systematic approaches to development traditionally taken by academic libraries, which has also led to a new generation of roles and shifting responsibilities with staff training and development often playing ‘catch-up’. One of the key challenges to emerge is how best to demonstrate expertise in digital scholarship which draws on the specialist technical knowledge of the profession and maintains and grows its relevance for staff, students and researchers.

    From digital scholarship to digital scholar  – Alison Hicks, Lecturer UCL Department of Information Studies.

    Drawing on her experience working as an academic librarian in the United States, Alison’s presentation centres on the capacities that are needed to participate in practices of digital scholarship, as well as the inherent risks and challenges of engaging in open and networked spaces.

    Introduction to Digital Scholarship and Open Research – Daniel van Strien, Research Data Support Officer UCL Library Services.

    Daniel will be presenting on a session which aims to help participants make a practical start in practicing open science and digital scholarship he is a Research Data Support Officer within UCL Library Services with an interest in digital scholarship and new approaches to research.

    Where’s your digital at? – Moira Wright, Digital Literacy Officer, UCL Digital Education.

    With an interest in student digital and information literacy skills for employability. Moira will be talking about the Jisc Digital Capability Discovery Tool and how to get involved in the UCL beta pilot.

    Research IT Services – Tom Couch, UCL Research IT Services (RITS).

    Whilst many of the existing users of Research IT Services are pushing for more of the same but better, the broadening base of digitally engaged researchers from different disciplines requires more experimentation with new technologies and services. Tom Couch reports on some recent projects that have helped RITS to engage and support new groups of researchers.

    Please use this link to book your ticket via Eventbrite

    We’re using the Jisc definition of digital literacy: ‘the capabilities which fit someone for living, learning and working in a digital society’.
    The UCL DL SIG was created for UCL staff to promote the use of technology in learning, provide a platform to ask questions, exchange ideas and also to get support from colleagues beyond UCL Digital Education.

    Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

    Where’s your digital at?!

    By Moira Wright, on 22 January 2018

    Discover your digital capabilities! The Digital discovery tool helps you to reflect on your digital expertise and confidence. Find out how to make digital technologies work for you – and get noticed for the skills you have already.

    The tool is a self-administered quiz about professional digital practices in education. Workshop participants will receive a personalised report based on their responses with links to resources and guidance. The tool is designed to be reflective, informative and developmental – it’s not an objective measure of an individual’s digital performance.

    UCL staff are invited to participate in one of three workshops of the beta pilot with an opportunity to use the tool and provide your feedback to JISC.

    Places are limited for these sessions and a sandwich lunch will be provided.

    Sign up via Eventbrite use the links below:

    Thursday 8th February 2018 from 1 pm – 2pm

    Tuesday 20th February 2018 from 1pm – 2pm

    Monday 26th February 2018 from 1pm – 2pm

    A version for students is planned for March 2018 and we’re keen to give students at UCL an opportunity to participate in the pilot. If you would like to discuss running departmental workshops (either staff or student) please contact Moira Wright.


    JISC digital capability discovery tool

    Photo by Emily Morter on Unsplash

    Jisc digital capability discovery tool

    By Moira Wright, on 2 November 2017

    UCL will be participating in the beta pilot of the Jisc digital capability discovery tool for staff and students which will run from December 2017 to May 2018.

    The Jisc digital capability discovery tool has been designed to support staff across higher and further education and skills. It helps individuals to identify and reflect on their digital capability – particularly in relation to their work roles – and to develop their confidence through tailored feedback, ‘next steps’, and links to resources. Questions and feedback are mapped to the Jisc Six elements digital capability framework to provide a holistic view of the skills required. The discovery tool can also help managers and team leaders understand what support would be most helpful for their staff.

    The tool uses the platform and has tailored questions with one set for students and one for staff. The questions have been designed to capture the digital capabilities required to be successful in an educational context.

    Users of the tool will respond to a series of questions that allow them to reflect on the digital skills they have already acquired and identify possible new ones. Feedback will include a digital capability profile and a summarised list of suggested actions.

    Jisc Digital Capability Profile 2image Jisc Digital Capability Profile image

    We’ll be making more announcements in the next couple of weeks providing information on how students and staff at UCL can access the tool.

    If you would like to get involved in the pilot at UCL please contact Moira Wright.


    Additional links:
    Jisc Building digital capability project site:
    Jisc Digital Capability Blog: