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    Archive for the 'Technology blogs' Category

    Introducing StepShot Manuals

    By Jim R Tyson, on 8 February 2018

    For a while now, I have been quietly promoting StepShot Manuals (StepShot for short) to my colleagues in ISD. StepShot is a rapid documentation development tool. Which is not nearly as bad as it sounds. StepShot allows you to record an on-screen process – for example, formatting a table in Word or filling out an expenses form – taking screenshots, adding callouts and annotations and writing explanations as you go.

    Some key uses for StepShot include

    • rapid development of training materials and technical documentation
    • developing test scripts for UAT
    • recording test results or bugs
    • creating knowledgebase articles
    • recording process for business analysis and process review

    If you have ever done these jobs, then you might have combined several tools, for example

    a screenshot tool (Windows has one built in), Word, an image editor (Paint or Photoshop), with a workflow like this: take all your screenshots, insert them into word editing, cropping etc as you go, adding explanatory text.

    Stepshot brings all this together in one tool. You set it up to record the activity and select to create a screenshot for mouse clicks or keyboard actions or to use a specific hot key combination for screenshots. As you go through the activity recording images you can also give each a descriptive title and a comment. When you stop recording StepShot opens its editing tool. This latter looks a bit like PowerPoint: your images are listed vertically down the left while the main window allows you to edit an image and add text.

    Click to see the animation!

    This is already a vast improvement on hacking documents together with separate applications, none of them specifically designed for the job, but wait there’s more! StepShot can export your document when you have finished, as Word, PDF, HTML, XML or DITA and can publish directly to Confluence, SharePoint or WordPress. (If they add a PowerPoint option I’ll throw a party). There are simple built in templates for output and with a little effort you can create a customised or branded template.

    So, currently about a dozen people at UCL have taken up a license (UCL staff members can contact ISD Training Administration for licensing information. To use StepShot you do need admin rights on your Windows or Mac PC.). It has been used to create training materials for lecturecast (published on Confluence), it has been used in UAT creating test scripts, it has been used by software testers to record bugs and communicate them to developers. No one currently using it has had more than a two minute informal introduction to the product but people seem to pick up its basic use very quickly. Users report that they enjoy using it as well. The most commone response using it for the first time has been about the immense time savings you can achieve and next about the simplicity of use. One or two people have commented that they don’t really like the look of the output, but this is largely because they haven’t learned how to customise output. I have offered a short workshop on customisation and hope to run it again.

    I have created a Microsoft Team site and I will be keeping in touch with people using it since I have been asked to feedback our experience to the developers.

    Improvements to the Lecturecast Service

    By Janice Kiugu, on 7 December 2017

    The Lecturecast service was upgraded over the summer and we have seen many more lectures being scheduled for recording so far this year – not just due to an increase in the number of rooms where Lecturecast is available, but also in the proportion of events being recorded. As we now draw towards the end of the year and to Christmas, we are glad to be able to share some of the improvements that have been made since the system first went live.

    Lecturecast Moodle Connector block
    The Lecturecast Connector block provides a new way to seamlessly link recordings held under a module code (or multiple module codes) in Lecturecast to a Moodle course.

    Since the block went live, we have continued to try and improve its integration with Moodle and the Lecturecast system. On Thursday 7th December these changes will go live in Moodle, including:

    • The Lecturecast Connector block will no longer overwrite the Moodle course short name. Previously, though it could be changed back, mapping to a Lecturecast section in your course would update the short name to match the section name.
    • The block now displays all Lecturecast sections you have mapped to your Moodle course, which is particularly useful if you have lectures recorded under different module codes.
    • If staff un-link a Lecturecast section from their Moodle course, the Connector block will update within 24hrs to no longer show this as a mapped section.
    • Adding a Lecturecast activity no longer adds an item to the course Gradebook. (14/12/2017)

    Our Lecturecast Connector block user guides have also been updated to include these changes.

    Lecturecast Scheduler
    The Lecturecast Scheduler ties in to existing CMIS timetabled events, reducing the need for duplication of information, and has allowed staff more direct ability to manage the scheduling of their recordings. Based on staff feedback, a number of changes have been made to both the functionality and the interface the tool offers.

    These include improvements such as:

    • Email notifications enabled when there is a change to event location or title in CMIS.
    • More descriptive error messages with hover-over help text so staff know what to do next.
    • A ‘Captured Events’ tab has been added with filter and sort options.
    • Better filtering – based on event start times and the option to clear all filters.
    • The ability to change capture options (recording and availability options) on the ‘Events’ tab, as well as on the ‘Scheduled Events’ tab.
    • Addition of a ‘Version Information’ link in the Scheduler to allow greater transparency of improvements and changes.

    You can find out how to make the most of these improvements using our updated Lecturecast Scheduler user guides

    If you have any questions about the changes, please feel free to email We hope you’ll find that these changes make the service easier to use, but look forward to working to improving the service further in the coming months.

    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:






    TechQual+ Survey at UCL

    By Moira Wright, on 13 October 2017

    In early 2016, ISD (Information Services Division) carried out the first Staff and Student IT Survey using TechQual+. Over 1,000 of you completed the survey, and over the past 16 months we have been working hard to improve our services in response to your comments.

    Below are just a few examples of changes that have been made as a result of the feedback received from the TechQual+ survey run in 2016:

    Wi-Fi                        Three speech bubbles

    A substantial investment in replacing and upgrading our Wi-Fi technology infrastructure

    Service Desk

    We’ve invested in staffing, tools and training to speed up response times and improve quality.

    We’ve partnered with an external organisation and altered shift patterns to provide additional out of hours’ support.


    We’ve rolled out 170+ additional printers over the past 18 months, targeting the busiest areas. This takes the current total to 660 printers. In areas of high usage, we’ve introduced new high capacity printers.


    We have invested in storage and now all staff and students can store 100GB for free.


    We are continuing to invest in additional cluster PCs, and loan laptops where there isn’t space for desktops. We added a further 550 desktops and 60 laptops by September 2017.
    We operate one of the largest laptop loan services across UK universities – 266 laptops across 12 locations – and this year a further 60 laptops were added.


    We delivered 221 courses last academic year, that’s nearly 1000 hours of training with about 3000 people attending.  We are working hard to publicise the courses we offer.

    Audio Visual

    In 2016 ISD invested £2.5m into improving the technology in teaching facilities. Approximately 70 centrally bookable spaces had their facilities updated; this included bringing 43 spaces in 20 Bedford Way up to the standard spec including installation of Lecturecast in approx. 30 spaces.  Lecturecast was also installed at 22 Gordon Street and Canary Wharf (3 spaces each).  We also refreshed the Lecturecast hardware in 12 rooms.

    Drawing of a tablet with 5 stars

    Based on the findings of focus groups at participating institutions, the TechQual+ project has articulated a set of generalised IT service outcomes that are expected of IT organizations by faculty, students, and staff within higher education. The TechQual+ core survey contains 13 items designed to measure the performance of the following three core commitments: 1) Connectivity and Access, 2)Technology and Collaboration Services, and 3) Support and Training.

    The TechQual+ survey will be run again at UCL in December 2017 and we’ll be asking for your help to advertise it to your students, encouraging them (and you!) to complete it. All respondents will be entered into a prize draw with a chance to win some great prizes!

    We’ll be providing more information and communications about the survey closer to the opening date.


    Sneak a peak at the new (more accessible) UCL Moodle theme

    By Jessica Gramp, on 9 October 2017

    As part of a wider Accessible Moodle project, a new UCL Moodle theme is being designed to make it more accessible for those with disabilities. The theme is like a skin (or a wallpaper) that changes the way the text and colours are displayed, without changing any of the content that exists on each Moodle page. As well as changing the look and feel of all Moodle pages, it will provide additional navigation aids in the form of menus, blocks that can be hidden and potentially also docked blocks, which sit to the left of the page for easy access.

    The new theme will be rolled out to all staff and students in the next major upgrade of UCL Moodle in summer 2018. However, we plan to pilot the new theme with students and staff beforehand and once we are confident it works as intended, we will give everyone the option of switching to the new theme in advance of it becoming the default theme for UCL Moodle in summer 2018.

    The Moodle theme is applied to a user account, which means during the pilot period, there will be a mix of some using the new and some using the existing UCL Moodle theme. In Summer 2018 everyone will be switched to the new theme automatically as part of the UCL Moodle Summer Upgrade. The theme is not to be confused with Moodle course formats, which allow you to change the way a Moodle course is laid out.

    I wrote earlier on how the new theme will address accessibility issues. A number of staff across UCL provided feedback on the proposed theme and after a number if iterations, we have now agreed on a design that foremost meets the needs of staff with particular disabilities, as well as being more usable for everyone. As well as working with individuals who participated in the project’s initial focus groups, the E-Learning Champions were also given the opportunity to feed in their comments on the proposed theme and forward this to interested colleagues.

    The proposed new UCL Moodle theme showing collapsed topics format

    The proposed new UCL Moodle theme showing collapsed topics format. Click to enlarge.

    We had contemplated a pink theme, however, blue proved to be a better option for a number of staff with particular disabilities. The blue version was also more popular with those staff without disabilities. The below design shows how the tabbed course format will look, but with blue, instead of pink tabs, menus and links.

    Tabbed course format but the pink tabs, text and menus will be blue

    Tabbed course format but the pink tabs, menus and links will be blue. Click to enlarge.

    The UCL Moodle homepage will be simplified and will provide more space for news relating to teaching and learning at UCL. The menus will be blue instead of the pink shown in the design below.

    New more accessible UCL Moodle homepage, but with blue instead of pink menus

    UCL Moodle homepage, but with blue instead of pink menus. Click to enlarge.

    The Accessible Moodle project team at UCL worked closely with designer Ralph Bartholomew from St Albans Web Design and developer Pat Lockley from Pgogy Webstuff to implement the new theme.

    If you have any questions or comments about the new theme, or would like to be involved in the pilot, please contact Jessica Gramp.

    A new academic year, an upgraded Lecturecast Service (students)

    By Janice Kiugu, on 5 October 2017

    Lecturecast is UCL’s automated lecture recording system with over 115 rooms across the University enabled with more being added through the year.

    The system is designed for course tutors/administrators to electively choose to record their lectures as supplemental resources and share them with their students via the respective Moodle course.Lecturecast is not a replacement for lecture attendance and is provided to complement lectures and provide an additional resource to support student learning.

    There are multiple benefits of Lecturecasting content, including the ability for you to revisit complex material and to engage in discussions outside of the classroom.

    Over the summer, the UCL Lecturecast system was upgraded to a more user-friendly and interactive interface, providing students with more tools to support their learning. When viewing a recording, you can now:

    • Make notes and download them for reference
    • Post questions
    • Bookmark content- this allows students to revisit a particular slide or scene and any notes that have been made
    • Flag content that may be confusing – flagged content is highlighted to the Tutor(s) associated with the course
    • Engage in discussions relating to the lecture with other students on the course

    Further changes have been made to enhance learning and teaching and to make learning more interactive and engaging for students. Staff can now:

    • Use the Lecturecast system to upload supplementary resources created elsewhere in various file formats
    • Create interactive slides that contain question slides
    • View analytics –   to better understand what students find most useful or to help improve future lecture delivery
    • Respond to questions students have posed as well as posting questions to students

    More information about using Lecturecast can be found here:  Lecturecast – Student Guide

    A step-by-step guide to viewing Lecturecast recordings and making use of the additional functionality is available here – Lecturecast Student Guide Learning the Basics

    For information on UCL Data Protection Policy, UCL Computer Regulations (Acceptable use Policy) and  how your data is being used, please refer to our  Lecturecast Information student wiki page.


    For information on how Lecturecast is being used on your course, please contact the relevant Tutor.

    For technical support on using the system,  please contact the ISD Service Desk: Tel: 020 7676 5000, 25000 (internal) Email: