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    Archive for the 'Technology blogs' Category

    Jisc student digital tracker 2017 and BLE consortium

    By Moira Wright, on 10 August 2017

    computer-767776_1920UCL participated in the 2017 Jisc Digital Student Tracker Survey as part of a consortium with the Bloomsbury Learning Environment (BLE) made up of SOAS, Birkbeck, LSHTM and RVC. 74 UK institutions ran the tracker with their students collecting 22,593 student responses, while 10 international universities collected an additional 5,000 student responses

    We were the only consortium to participate in the survey and had come together as a result of institutional surveys, such as the National Student Survey, meaning that the time available to run it independently was short (a month) and we therefore felt that our individual sample sizes would be too small. We treated the survey as a pilot and advertised a link to it on each College’s Moodle landing page as well as some promotion via social media and the Student Unions. The survey generated 330 responses, which given our constraints was much more than we expected.

    The survey comprises five broad areas: Digital access, digital support and digital learning. Most questions were quantitatively recorded, but there were four open questions, which produced qualitative data. We were also able to choose two additional questions to the survey and we selected e-assessment, since that was a previous shared enhancement project (see www.bloomsbury.ac.uk/assessment) and Moodle, since all members of the consortium use the platform for their Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).

    Once the survey closed and we had access to the benchmarking report we ran a workshop for representatives from each of the Colleges in July 2017 whereby the results corresponding to the survey’s open questions were analysed in institutional groups, which facilitated interesting discussions over commonalities and potential implications.

    Sarah Sherman, the BLE Manager and myself, have been working to produce a report which will examine our collective responses to the survey in comparison with the national survey population with a recommendation that individual Colleges independently analyse their own results in more detail. For confidentiality, each College will be presented with a version of this document, which contains the relevant data for their institution only and not the complete BLE data set. A disadvantage of the consortium approach was that we were not able to benchmark individual Colleges to the survey population as the resources would not allow for this. In the future, the participating Colleges may wish to run the survey individually rather than as part of a collective as it was not possible to conduct deep analysis with this data set. 

    markus-spiske-221494

    Although the sample size collected by the Bloomsbury Colleges was small and not statistically viable, there is much we can extract and learn from this exercise. For the most part, our collective responses tended to fall within the margins set by the national survey population, which means we are all at a similar phase in our student’s digital capability and development.

    You will have to wait for the full report for more information on the UCL data collected but just to whet the appetite you can see the key findings from Jisc in this 2 page report: Student digital experience tracker at a glance .

    Finally, you can see this collection of case studies, which features the Bloomsbury Colleges consortium, here.

    Please get in touch with me if you would like to get involved (moira.wright @ ucl.ac.uk)

    Sarah Sherman and Moira Wright

    Jisc/ NUS student digital experience benchmarking tool 

    Jisc guide to enhancing the digital student experience: a strategic approach

     

    Turnitin assignments not resetting properly – issue now resolved!

    By Janice K M Kiugu, on 31 July 2017

    At the start of the academic year and in preparation for the next cohort of students on a course, staff are required to ‘Reset’ their Moodle courses. This removes students work and grades but leaves course resources and activities in place.

    An issue was identified at the end of July that was affecting Turnitin assignments when a Moodle course was ‘Reset’. This has now been resolved. Staff can now reset their Moodle courses. HOWEVER, the process of resetting courses has changed slightly so please read through the guidance provided via this link carefully, paying particular attention to step 4 of the process.

    If you reset your course/s containing Turnitin assignments before 11th August, the Digital Education team suggest resetting them again, to ensure the issue described below does not occur.

    *********************************************************************

    An issue has been identified that is affecting Turnitin assignments when a Moodle course is ‘Reset’.

    At the start of the academic year and in preparation for the next cohort of students on a course, staff are required to ‘Reset’ their Moodle courses. This removes students work and grades but leaves course resources and activities in place.

    Issue

    The ‘Reset’ function in Moodle normally creates a new class ID for a Turnitin assignment and staff should then be able to edit the assignment settings accordingly.  The issue that has been identified is that resetting the course seems to ‘lock’ the anonymous marking setting to  ‘Yes’  making it un-editable.  However, even if the Post date is edited and no submission has been made, student’s names are visible.

    We have reported the issue to Turnitin and they have acknowledged that there is problem and indicated that they hope to have a solution we can implement by the end of the week.

    Action Required (temporary workaround)

    We recommend, where feasible, that you wait until we have a fix in place and refrain from ‘resetting’  your course until we advise otherwise.

    Staff who have reset their courses in preparation for the next cohort of students or any staff planning to reset their courses before the issue is resolved should take the following steps:

    After resetting your Moodle course:

    • Delete the Turnitin assignment(s) that currently exist
    • Create new Turnitin assignment (s) with the required settings

      Guidance and instructions on creating Turnitin assignments are available from our Moodle Resource Centre: https://wiki.ucl.ac.uk/display/MoodleResourceCentre/M20+-+Turnitin+Assignment

    We apologise for the inconvenience caused and will advise when the issue has been resolved.

    If you have any questions of concerns, please contact the Digital Education team by emailing
    digi-ed@ucl.ac.uk

     

    Applying Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Principles to VLE design

    By Jessica Gramp, on 16 July 2017

    Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Principles describe how educators can cater to the needs of students with differing needs, including those with disabilities (CAST 2011). It stems from the social model of disability, which places the problem within the environment, rather than with the individual who has the disability (Collins 2014).
    Technology enables the quick modification of learning materials to meet the specific needs of students (Pisha & Coyne 2001) and online communication can even hide a disability from others. For example, a deaf student who participates in an online discussion forum does not need to reveal they are deaf in order to communicate with peers. This can lower the social and communication barriers that may be experienced when communicating in person. Also, there are many modern technologies specifically developed to help people with disabilities engage with online environments. This means online learning environments are particularly well placed to address the goal of Universal Design for Learning. It is the responsibility of the institutions and developers who maintain these environments to ensure they can be accessed by all.
    While most of the UDL guidelines apply to curriculum design, some of them are relevant to the design of the broader virtual learning environment (VLE).

    UDL principles (CAST 2011) mapped to how a VLE might meet relevant checkpoints

    To learn more, click on one of the Guidelines in the boxes below.

    I. Provide Multiple Means of Representation

    PerceptionLanguage, expressions, and symbolsComprehension

    II. Provide Multiple Means of Action and Expression

    Physical actionExpression and communication
    Executive function

    UDL Principle 1 aims to ‘provide multiple means of representation’  by ‘providing options for perception’, which includes ‘offer[ing] ways of customizing the display of information’ (CAST 2011). This means the VLE should offer the ability to do things like resize text and enable screen-readers to read aloud text to those who have visual impairments or dyslexia.

    Within UDL Principle 2, guideline 4: aims to ‘provide options for physical action’, which includes ‘vary[ing] the methods for response and navigation’ (CAST 2011). This means ensuring all navigation and interaction can occur via a keyboard and using assistive technologies such as voice activated software like Dragon NaturallySpeaking, which recognises speech and converts it to text.
    UDL Principle 3 seeks to ‘provide multiple means of engagement’ by ‘recruiting interest’, including enabling the learner to choose colours and layouts (CAST 2011). There are a number of tools that enable users to change the fonts and colours on a webpage and it is important these are able to be applied. The VLE should also offer the ability to customise the interface, in terms of re-ordering frequently accessed items, placement of menus and temporarily hiding extraneous information that may distract from the task at hand.
    These three principles and the specific checkpoints mentioned above are being addressed as part of the Accessible Moodle project, which aims to make UCL Moodle more accessible. The main ways these are being addressed are through the development of a more accessible Moodle theme, as well as the development of Moodle code itself. Although the project has limited ability to develop this code, suggestions for improvements are being raised with the Moodle development community via the Moodle Tracker. You can sign up and vote for accessibility enhancements to help these get prioritised, and therefore resolved more quickly, by Moodle HQ and other developers within the community.
    The remaining UDL principles are intended to guide the development of more accessible content and curriculum designs, and therefore these will inform the development of the Universal Design for Learning course that is being developed at UCL, to help educators understand how to design accessible learning tasks, environments and materials.
     
    You can read more about the Accessible Moodle project on the UCL Digital Education blog.
     
    References
    CAST (2011). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.0. [online]. Available from: http://www.udlcenter.org/sites/udlcenter.org/files/UDL_Guidelines_Version_2.0_(Final)_3.doc [Accessed 16 July 2017].
    Collins, B. (2014). Universal design for learning: What occupational therapy can contribute? [Online]. Occupational Therapy Now, 16(6), 22-23. Available from: http://eprints.bournemouth.ac.uk/21426/1/Collins.pdf [Accessed 16 July 2017].
    Pisha, B. & Coyne, P. (2001) Smart From the Start: The Promise of Universal Design for Learning. Remedial and Special Education. [Online] 22 (4), 197–203. Available from: doi:10.1177/074193250102200402.

    Cloud services enable How to Change the World student programme to go global

    By Alan Y Seatwo, on 14 July 2017

    For the last four years, the Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (STEaPP) has been running a two-week programme called ‘How to Change the World’ (HtCtW) for undergraduate engineering students in the Faculty as part of the Integrated Engineering Programme. The aim of HtCtW is to enable students to work in multi-disciplinary teams and collaborate to create engineering solutions to an open-ended problem linked to a particular global challenge.

    Due to the success of this format, the programme is being rolled out externally. It was piloted with members of the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) in London in 2016, and now STEaPP is partnering with the RAEng and National Academy of Engineering to run a student programme for a cohort of 150 students (from China, UK and US) at the Global Grand Challenges Summit 2017 in Washington DC on 18–20 July.

    Students will generate their own audio or video podcasts exploring how solving one or more of the Grand Challenges could impact real peoples’ lives for the better. These podcasts will be reviewed and a selection will be promoted across a range of professional networks and media channels, with career-enhancing benefits for participants.

    Five members of STEaPP staff will travel to Washington DC and offer face-to-face facilitation at the Summit. In additional, the department is also offering online learning consultancy to the RAEng that enables us to develop, produce and release online learning materials to support the programme. Based on a ‘flipped classroom’ approach, we are use a combination of the Microsoft Office 365 tool and online cloud storage to set up a password-protected online portal where students can access information and reading materials to prepare for the programme. Using Dropbox’s “File Request” allows students at the Summit without an account to submit their deliverables.

    We are also working with experts in media to give the students some unique insights into how best to communicate their message. Alok Jha (ITV News Science correspondent), Dr Kevin Fong (STEaPP Honorary Lecture and BBC science programme presenter) and Oliver Morton (the Economist) have been tasked with producing an online guide on how to produce a good podcast.

    The use of a range of cloud services enable the partnership of UCL STEaPP, RAEng, British broadcast professionals and US-based organisations to work effectively together to design, develop and deliver this student programme. It is hoped that the experience of this collaborative work will help STEaPP to further develop our expertise in the use of learning technologies in both formal and informal learning curricula.

     

    Alan Seatwo

    Learning Technologist and E-Learning Champion at STEaPP

    Accessible Moodle Theme

    By Jessica Gramp, on 10 July 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 particular disabilities.

    The new theme will address some accessibility concerns by using:
    • Larger fonts and icons.
    • Off-white backgrounds to reduce glare.
    • High contrasting and brighter colours.
    • Making the main content areas more prominent.
    • Using icons, alongside or in place of text, to de-clutter the screen and make it easier to identify important links and information.

    If you work or study at UCL and would like to provide feedback on the initial designs, please contact j.gramp@ucl.ac.uk as soon as possible, using your UCL email account.

    Moodle Summer 2017 Snapshot and Upgrade

    By Annora Eyt-Dessus, on 5 July 2017

    From 17:00 on Friday 21st July 2017 Moodle will be unavailable to all staff and students, until midday Sunday 23rd July. Moodle may be returned to service earlier than this time, however should be considered to be at risk until the Sunday. This is to allow the annual snapshot copy to be created, and update work on the platform to be completed.

    As in previous years, the snapshot allows staff and students to review their past modules in read-only mode, with an initial one month editing grace period for staff to hide content they don’t wish to be visible long-term. You can find out how to do this, and more about the snapshot as a whole, on the Moodle Resource Centre wiki.

    While there will be no major changes to look and feel or functionality, we will be taking this opportunity to perform yearly maintenance and upgrade tasks on Moodle. This is to ensure tools in use are still well supported and keep the platform running smoothly. You can find details of some of these changes in the section below.

    Updates will be posted during the upgrade weekend on the Digital Education Team Blog, our Twitter channel (@UCLDigiEd), and the Moodle News section.

    What do I have to do?

    If your module ends before the upgrade and you would like the snapshot copy to be made available to students then no further action is required. You will simply need to ensure that you hide any content you don’t want to remain visible within the one month editing period.

    You may also want to check if you are using any of the tools within Moodle that are changing this year, so you can plan ahead – see the section below.

    What if my course(s) doesn’t finish before the upgrade?

    We recognise that not all Moodle courses will end before the 21st July. Some run into August/September and others may run later, several times a year, or never stop – and in such cases a manual snapshot can be requested if needed.  More information on the process of requesting can be found in the Moodle Resource Centre wiki on the Manual Moodle Snapshot page.

    What happens after the snapshot?

    Unless it is still running, we strongly recommend that you reset your course in live Moodle and take some time to review your content so it is ready for the next cohort. For more information on preparing your Moodle course for the next academic year, see the following guidance available here: Preparing your Moodle course for the coming year.

    To see the snapshot (formerly archive) for yourself, visit: https://moodle-snapshot.ucl.ac.uk/

    All times are for the UK (BST), for other locations please convert: http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/converter.html

     

    Changes to UCL Moodle during the 2017 Snapshot/Upgrade

    Blackboard Collaborate Ultra
    This new, easier to use web conferencing tool will be installed and available to Staff to add to their courses. This provides the ability to run online sessions with students with polling, group breakout spaces and onscreen annotation. You’ll be able to find out more, after July 23rd, from our updated Blackboard Collaborate guidance on the Moodle Resource Centre. Note that you won’t need to do anything for existing recordings or sessions using the previous version of Blackboard Collaborate – these will still be accessible and usable, but you won’t be able to add any new sessions using the older tool.

    Turnitin Feedback Studio
    A few months ago we alerted you to the fact that Turnitin will be moving all users to its new grading and viewing interface known as Feedback Studio. From 1st August 2017, all users of Turnitin on UCL Moodle will have to use Feedback Studio to view originality reports, grade work and provide feedback. No action is necessary on your part, but you may want to find out more ahead of the changes by reading our blog post about moving to Turnitin Feedback Studio and try out the new version using Turnitin’s interactive demo.

    Moodle Course Menu block
    The Course Menu block previously provided a way to build custom navigation for Moodle courses. However, most of this functionality is now automatically available through Moodle’s standard navigation block, so to avoid confusion and ensure better support, this older tool will be removed during the summer upgrade to UCL Moodle. Again, you don’t need to do anything, as the Moodle navigation block appears by default on all courses and the old Course Menu block will simply disappear. The Digital Education team is currently liaising with owners of departmental templates so no new courses should be created with the Course Menu block.

    Campus Pack
    Campus Pack is a series of add-ons to Moodle that allowed users to create wikis, blogs, journals and podcasts. While these are useful tools, much of this functionality is already present directly in Moodle, or in other institutionally supported e-learning tools. During the upgrade we will therefore be removing the ability to add new instances of Campus Pack tools, to focus support on more widely used tools that provide similar functionality. This will not affect previously added Campus Pack activities, but you may want to investigate our guide around the Wiki activity in Moodle.

    As ever, if you experience any issues, please do let us know by emailing servicedesk@ucl.ac.uk .