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    Archive for the 'Moodle' 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.

    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 .

    Accessible Moodle wishlist

    By Jessica Gramp, on 20 June 2017

    The following outlines recommendations from the Accessible Moodle project to improve the accessibility of UCL Moodle for disabled students and staff, as well as improve usability for all users. These have been informed by focus groups with disabled students and staff; analysis of how UK websites adhere to accessibility guidelines; and research of relevant journal articles and accessibility guidelines.

    Our primary aim is to ensure Moodle is technically accessible using assistive technologies including ZoomText, JAWS screen-reader, Read & Write, Dragon NaturallySpeaking voice recognition software, as well as other assistive technologies commonly used at UCL. In addition, keyboard-only access should be fully supported. It is also important that UCL Moodle is usable for those with disabilities, as well as the wider student and staff community.

    In order to develop these recommendations, the project team ran focus groups with UCL students and staff with disabilities, to find out what they found difficult to use within Moodle and what suggestions they had for improvements. I have blogged previously about the background to the project and the outcomes of these focus groups.

    A number of sources were also referenced to see how Moodle could be made to better adhere to accessibility guidelines. The most important of these are the following three guidelines from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) :

    • Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA for making Moodle and its content more accessible.
    • Web Accessibility Initiative – Accessible Rich Internet Applications Suite (WAI-ARIA) for designing Moodle so users of assistive technologies, like screen-readers, can navigate and read its pages.
    • Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG) for making the Moodle rich text editors more accessible.

    A number of websites were also analysed to compare how each of them implemented W3C guidelines.

    The list that follows is a wish list, which may not all be implemented, but gives us a guide for how we might improve Moodle. Although there are many other elements that are important, but not mentioned below, the following makes a start of improving the interface for disabled  and non-disabled users alike.

    We are taking a multi-faceted approach to resolve the issues identified, and work is likely to be ongoing, but here’s a list of changes we’d like to see made to make Moodle more accessible.

    Assistive Technology compatibility.

    The following recommendations are likely to require implementation at multiple levels, so don’t easily fit under any single development areas below. The project aims to achieve the following:

    • Content and editing features are available to screen-readers, or suitable alternatives are available – e.g. offline marking in Word enables in-line marking for assessments.
    • Navigation is straight-forward, with content appearing before menus and appropriate headings, links and lists being utilised to enable easy navigation using common screen-reader features. E.g. the list of module tutor names under every Moodle course name in the search results means that hundreds of links are listed to screen-reader users and sighted users are overwhelmed by irrelevant information which needs to be scrolled past, and which is particularly problematic for those with dyslexia.
    • All images have alt tags (even if these are empty), or in the case of icons that supplement text, they use ARIA tags to tell screen-readers to ignore them.
    • Accepts user input using voice recognition software, like Dragon Naturally Speaking.
    • Enables magnification by ensuring the pages display well when the browser is zoomed in or when zooming software is used.
    • Visible focus when using the keyboard (tab, space, enter and arrow keys) to navigate.
    • Supports the use of OpenDyslexi font, available as a browser plugin to help those with dyslexia read text.

    A multi-faceted approach

    The following five areas outline the different ways in which Accessibility improvements can be made to UCL Moodle.

    1. A new, more accessible UCL Moodle theme for use on desktop and mobile devices.
      • Minimise clutter, by enabling blocks to be hidden and removing extraneous information.
      • Position elements for optimal access. E.g. ensure the login is prominent and important course features are easy to access.
      • Simplify the menus, by showing relevant links only to relevant users. E.g. staff see different links from students.
      • Improve the course icons by making them larger and clearer. E.g. the maximise block link is not intuitive.
      • Show alerts to users – e.g. explaining that editors can drag and drop files, warnings of Moodle outage periods.
      • Improve navigation, e.g. by enabling links to key areas that users expect.
      • Use high contrasting colours on a pale background that is easy to read for those with dyslexia (e.g. not white).
    2. Changes to Moodle configuration.
      • Configure text editors so they encourage accessible content design. E.g. offering heading styles 3-5, removing the inclination for people to add heading 1 and 2 tags when these are used at higher levels within Moodle pages.
      • Enable global search (assuming this does not negatively impact performance).
      • Allow students and staff to personalise the interface by enabling courses to be moved up and down on the My Home page, hide and show blocks, maximise the screen or use a default width better for reading and dock blocks.
    3. Enhanced Moodle features.
      A number of plugins to Moodle exist that make Moodle more usable and improve accessibility.

      • Implement and configure user tours to help users understand how to use Moodle and point to help with accessibility features.
      • Install the course checks plugin to help staff create an accessible Moodle course – e.g. checks for assignment due dates in past, courses not reset, broken links.
      • Implement a Moodle course site map so students can easily see what is available on a course on one page.
      • Enable importing content from Word, which some users find easier to edit within than Moodle.
      • Pilot the Blackboard Ally plugin to help in the creation of more accessible learning resources and course structures.
      • Install the Office 365 plugin to make it easier to author, organise and link or embed content into Moodle (coming to Moodle core in v3.3).
      • Enable staff to add icons to help signpost particular areas of their course and help people who prefer these visual cues, as opposed to having to read excessive text.
    4. Improved training, staff development and support.
      • Develop a course for Moodle editors so they understand how to develop accessible Moodle resources and activities.
      • Develop an online course to explain how Assistive Technologies can be used with Moodle (e.g. regions for JAWS, browser plugins to show a reading ruler, change fonts to OpenDyslexi font, improve colour contrast).
    5. Improved interfaces by proposing enhancements to Moodle HQ and iParadigms (who provide Turnitin).
      • Adequately signpost links showing (new window, document, external/internal etc) automatically.
      • Enable users to personalise their experience by allowing them to choose their own course format, set blocks to particular colours.
      • Improve assessment interfaces, such as the Moodle Assignment rubric functionality and display.
      • Flag new items on the Moodle course page (allow this to be enabled/disabled in user preferences).
      • Improve the Moodle calendar – e.g. size, reliance on colour, clicking month to access full screen.
      • Improve the discussion forums – e.g. showing the entire thread when replying, the accessibility of the email alerts it sends.
      • Fix Moodle heading tags.

    The UCL Digital Education team, staff in Disability Support teams and staff from IT for IoE  are slowly working through each of these five strands to make improvements to virtual learning experiences at UCL for those with disabilities. Many of these improvements will also benefit other Moodle users, since accessibility cannot be considered in isolation from usability, so this means an enhanced user experience for everyone!