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    Archive for the 'Eileen’s Ideas' Category

    A next generation digital learning environment for UCL

    By Stephen Rowett, on 7 November 2016

    At UCL we’ve been pondering what a future learning environment might look like now for about two years. And we are starting to reach some conclusions.

    Our analysis of our VLE – and pretty much all of them out there – is that it suffers from two fundamental limitations.

    Silos – staff and students see the courses they are enrolled for, and generally can’t look over the fence to see something else. In real life, if a student asked to attend lectures for a course they weren’t registered for, we’d welcome their interest, their breadth, their love of learning. In the VLE we tell them that this is impossible. The VLE limits a student’s education to just what they have paid for, just what they deserve, and just what they need to know. All curiosity is lost.

    Control – the teacher sets things up and students do them. No questions asked or even allowed. Forums lay devoid of posts for fear of asking ‘dumb’ questions, or fear of making mistakes. Assignments are submitted with perfunctory duty with the best that a student can hope for getting a green pass on Turnitin and some feedback some weeks later which is ignored anyway as the triumph or the disappointment of the grade awarded is processed. All love of learning is lost.

    So we’re looking for something different.

    And our inspiration came from an interest place – Brockenhurst College in Hampshire. Now they have a very rural catchment area – some students travel over from the Isle of Wight to attend classes. So of course, they don’t travel if they don’t have classes and therefore feel disconnected from the university.

    We realised that part of the challenge at UCL is the same. The distances may be much smaller, but when you are travelling from home or commuting on the Central Line means that the disconnection is just as real.

    So we need an environment that promotes connections. It just so happens we also have the Connected Curriculum initiative which will encourage interdisciplinary research-based education, where students do real, authentic work, not just essays for a teacher to mark. Where group work is the norm, not the exception. Where students are not passive recipients, but actively engaged in enquiry.

    So it’s all coming together. What we want for UCL is an Academic Social Network.

    What do I mean by that? Let’s take each word at a time.

    First, it’s Academic. That means it is designed for education. There are plenty of social networks around – Facebook, LinkedIn and Yammer spring to mind – but they are designed for different things, typically business. Whether it means allowing people to ask questions anonymously, embedding LaTex in messages so mathematicians can speak in their own language, or structuring data to be able to find final-year projects, the platform needs to speak to teachers and students as being something for them. It’s about work, but also all of the other things that happen at university; social clubs, sports, societies, volunteering. It’s a safe and trusted place to be because the user trusts the university and knows they are not the product to be sold and re-sold to the highest bidder.

    It’s Social. Because learning is social. I don’t just mean group work, but the full gamut of human social interaction. If you talk to students in our learning spaces, they are often working ‘alone, together’; that is they are doing individual tasks but just looking after each other. A student who is tired will be offered a coffee; someone will look after your laptop while you go to the toilet. Students are friends with each other on Facebook, but having staff friends is just ‘weird’. We want a space without complex meanings or difficult relationships but where everyone can connect with each other as part of the university community.

    Finally it’s a Network. Universities are big places, and UCL is bigger than most. Networks are a place where you can meet like-minded folk, but also get exposure and understanding of those who study different things, think in different ways, have different approaches to the same challenge. That network extends beyond current staff and students to pre-entry students, alumni, industry and charity partners – all of those that have a stake in the vibrancy and excitement of what a university can be.

    So what are we going to do?

    We’re going to get one.

    That’s quite a lot of work, as we have to do a lot of procurement activities to get what we want.

    But for now, we have students and teachers on the ground talking to peers, understanding needs, working our what it means to be part of the UCL community.

    We’ve done a lot of thinking, some talking and even more listening. It’s an experiment. We don’t know if it will work. Even if it does, it will probably take many years.

    We characterise what we want as follows:

    Characteristics of our platform

     

    It’s our shot at what a Next Generation Digital Learning Environment will look like.

    Many thanks to Eileen Kennedy for her work in developing and evaluating these ideas within UCL Digital Education.

    Blended Learning Essentials has definitely got started!

    By Eileen Kennedy, on 7 November 2015

    A6postcard_digital (3) (1)

    https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/blended-learning-getting-started

    Managing the ambitious Ufi-funded MOOC project that is Blended Learning Essentials has required a leap of imagination. Back in May, we had no video, no scripts, no quizzes, no Padlets, no glossary, no crib sheets, no Digital Champions, no flyers, no tweets, no conference keynotes, nothing built on the FutureLearn platform. Diana Laurillard and Neil Morris had expressed a desire for video of actual teaching with actual learners using actual blended learning techniques in actual colleges and actual private training providers. Where were we going to get that from? And to add some extra spice, by the time Suzanne Scott from Borders College had consulted teachers in the Vocational Education and Training sector to establish what we needed, it was the height of summer, and all the colleges were having a break.

    Thankfully, we had a supremely talented team combining Evans Woolfe Media, who travelled the country interviewing, shooting and editing video, and University of Leeds Digital Learning Team who put it all together, and as if by magic we started to see a MOOC emerge. Meanwhile, Maren Deepwell from ALT was working tirelessly on planning a marketing campaign to beat all others, and plotting accreditation pathways for our learners to progress from the MOOC. In the background, Richard Nelson from Bradford College was assembling a force of Digital Champions to support the MOOC, and creating a plan for how they could do it.

    I was working with further education teachers to make the crib sheets – including the brilliant Wendy Rogers, just retired from a glorious career at Croydon College, Phil Durrant, and my colleagues at UCL Institute of Education – Rebecca Wilson, Tim Neumann and Kit Logan, who also helped to bring them to life in our UCLeXtend Moodle course. Rachel Challen from Loughborough College was thinking about the best way to evaluate the course, and all our other partners in colleges and organisations (AELT, ETF, AOC, Tinder Foundation, NIACE, Sheffield College and Northern College) were contributing to videos and promoting the course to their members. So many people, so much enthusiasm, so much talent! Even so, it was an incredible challenge – six months to launch the first of our two MOOCs to transform the landscape of vocational education and training.

    But finally it is a reality, and we have reached the end of week 1. It was a major feat from our end to be sure, but that was only ever half the story. The participants themselves are the main part of the picture. I am seriously impressed by the energy and insight of the contributions that everyone is making on and off the FutureLearn platform. I have never enjoyed a MOOC so much – the discussion is great. Obviously, it is my favourite subject, but even so – I have to stop myself spending all my time reading the comments, and following the links that people have posted. It is making me think that this project could really change things and it is great to have been a part of it.

    UCL Arena Digital Unit 3: How can we involve students with Campus Pack blogs, wikis and podcasts?

    By Clive Young, on 5 October 2015

    A new unit of UCL Arena Digital is coming!

    CP_Logo_open_big

    There will be some new additions to UCL Moodle from September 2015. Campus Pack will provide a suite of tools comprising blogs, journals, wikis and podcasts that can be used to support students’ reflective, social learning and collaboration, as well as enabling tutors and students to record audio directly into Moodle.

    This unit will guide you through these new Moodle tools, and discuss ways of using them in your teaching.

    The unit will last two weeks, taking 1-2 hours of your time, culminating in an interactive webinar which will allow you to explore advanced features and take a look at what colleagues are already doing with the tools.

    UCL Arena Digital Unit 3 will run October 19th – 30th 2015.

    Live webinar Wednesday 28st October 2015 2 – 3 pm.

    Go to the course.

     

    And relax … reflections on UCL Arena Digital Unit 1

    By Eileen Kennedy, on 18 March 2015

    Asleep at the Wheel

    We built it, but would they come?

    Designing an online course in e-learning for UCL staff has its uncertainties, mostly to do with the big question, is anyone actually going to turn up? The pressures on staff at a research intensive University are multiple and intense. Everyone is juggling so many competing priorities, that taking the time to learn about teaching with technology may be an aspiration never fated to turn into a reality.

    We looked to the MOOC phenomenon for inspiration. If there is one thing MOOCs do well it’s publicity. They make the prospect of doing a course so easy and so enticing, that you can’t help but sign up. So we made our promo video and sat back and waited. We said to ourselves, if we get 30 people, that will be good, but of course, really we wanted more.

    It was with some relief, therefore, when the self-enrolments started to trickle through. We passed the 100 mark fairly early, but we weren’t quite at 200 a day or so before the course was due to start. Never fear, however, because the enrolments didn’t stop. Currently UCL Arena Digital has 214 participants, and people continue to sign up.

    Who were they and what were they doing?

    Painstaking analysis reveals that there were 96 different UCL departments represented. The top 5 departments (by numbers of participants) appeared to be:

    1. Dept of Managment Science & Innovation 11
    2. IOE – Culture, Communication & Media 9
    3. Dept of Security and Crime Science 8
    4. Centre for Prep Studies – Astana 8
    5. Centre for Languages & International Education 7

    In addition to these figures, however, there were 15 people who came from different departments but who all had an affiliation with the UCL Institute of Child Health, and 23 people from the UCL Institute of Education. Honourable mentions too, to the Research Department of General Surgery, Institute of Ophthalmology, SELCS and IOE – Lifelong & Comparative Education, all with 5 representatives each. We had one person from UCL Australia.

    During the Unit, we invited participants to watch some video tutorials and explore resources in a Lesson activity and a Book (both ways of presenting content in Moodle). Then we asked people to share some media they use in their teaching on a Padlet (which is a great, easy tool that resembles putting post-it notes on a virtual pin board). There was a glossary for participants to contribute to, and a discussion to take part in, and a final webinar to share experiences on the Thursday of the second week.

    Click that link!

    By Wednesday 18th March, the Using Multimedia: A Moodle Lesson activity had 1246 views (including 242 tutor views). The Going Further with Multimedia: A Moodle Book resource had 1465 (including 71 tutor views). The Wall of Media (the Padlet) had been viewed 64 times, The Language of the Media Glossary had been viewed 327 times, and the discussion forum “When can the use of media enhance teaching and learning” had 544 views.

    We were overjoyed at the enthusiasm of course participants. We have 16 entries in the Glossary now, spanning 5 pages, 34 posts on the Padlet Wall of Media, including some brilliant tutor-crafted screencasts and lots of great examples from participants’ teaching. The shared Practice space has been filling up too. That’s a blank Moodle course for participants to try out what they’ve learnt if they don’t have somewhere else to practice their skills. What is great about it, is that we can all see that learning has taken place, and it is an encouragement to everybody.

    Now take a break …

    Something else we learnt from MOOCs is that participation drops off sharply after the first week, and continues on a downward slope. It seems that everyone’s intention is good, and the enthusiasm can be sustained for so long, but, inevitably, all the other pressures of life get in the way once more. So, we thought, if we split the course into two week Units, with breaks in between, maybe that will keep people with us. And if you haven’t already enrolled, it means that you still can – and you have time to catch up before Unit 2 begins.

    Unit 2 will start on April 13th 2015 and will focus on Communication

    So get ready for wikis, discussion forums, Twitter and more. If you ever thought of ditching the PowerPoint and doing something more interesting instead, then Unit 2 is for you.

    Enrol here and see you all again very soon.

     

    Make videos for teaching on an iPad…How quick was that!

    By Eileen Kennedy, on 14 February 2015

    Switch on video captions to read instructionssubtitles

    They say that technology moves so fast it is hard to keep up. I discovered the iPad app Adobe Voice at the beginning of the year, after a friend showed me a totally appealing Christmas video her 8 year old nephew had made in minutes.  I immediately thought that the ease with which Adobe Voice enables you to add a voice-over to pictures and text would make it an ideal stress-free way to make teaching videos – an introduction to a course, an announcement at the beginning of the week, a prompt for the class debate, an assignment guide …endless possibilities in a blink of an eye.

    Add screenshots saved to your camera roll

    Adobe Voice allows you to add images from your camera roll. Take a few screen shots of your course on your laptop, or snap something interesting in the street, and save your pictures somewhere you can access on your iPad. That could be a dropbox, a shared drive, or on cloud based photo storage like iCloud or Amazon Cloud Drive. You could even save your PowerPoint slides as images, but that would probably work best if they didn’t contain much text. You can combine words with your own images in Adobe Voice, add icons or access a stock of Creative Commons images from Flickr or Pixabay.com within the app.

    Just talk (but not for too long)

    Recording audio over each slide is as simple as pressing the microphone icon beneath the image and talking. The best thing about the app is that it encourages you not to say too much. Because it breaks your audio into chunks, it comes out more naturally, with fewer stumbles and less need to re-record. If you do re-record, however, that’s easy too. You can add music or not, and select from various themes that put different animation effects into your video, so the end product looks interesting and professional.

    YouTube Capture app for sharing

    In January, it seemed to me that the only drawback was the need to upload the video to Adobe Creative Cloud before you could embed it in your course for your students to see. The video didn’t seem to play all on devices. Yet, thanks to the speed of those technological developments, you can now save your video to your camera roll and use the marvellous YouTube Capture app to upload your video to YouTube in a blink of an eye. You can even do a few more edits like adding subtitles and annotations. How easy is that? Very. So I made this video to show you how I made this video.

    Want more? UCL Arena Digital starts Monday 2nd March..

    If you want to find out more about apps like these and ways of using them in your teaching, enrol on our free online course UCL Arena Digital. The first unit on Multimedia starts on Monday 2nd March 2015 and you can enrol here with your UCL username and password:

    https://moodle.ucl.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=29477

    Spread the word!