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    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

    New Digital Skills course dates for 2018

    By Caroline Norris, on 5 January 2018

    ISD Digital Skills Development has course dates available for the New Year.  As usual, we are offering a wide range of courses covering Excel, Matlab, LaTeX, Photoshop, R and more.  New dates are once again available for Unix courses which were absent from last term’s schedule.

    If you want to develop your spreadsheet skills, our very popular Excel Essential Skills and Using Excel to manage lists courses are back again for staff and Excel workshops covering similar skills are available for students.  To find out more about our workshops, check out our previous Digital Skills Development blog post.  Nearly 80 students participated in these workshops when we introduced them last term and the feedback has been very positive.  Courses in Pivot Tables and Charts are also available for both staff and students.

    Most of our courses take place in computer workrooms so there is no need to bring your own device.  However, please note that you should bring your own laptop for all of our R sessions.

    For a full list of all the courses and workshops on offer visit the student course catalogue or the staff course catalogue.  Visit the student booking system or staff booking system to book.

    If you can’t attend any of the dates we are currently offering or there is no date available for the course you want, enrol on our Moodle course to be the first to be notified about any new sessions.

    Don’t forget….

    Digital Skills Training at IOE offer training in a wide range of apps including Office 365 Teams, Sway and OneNote and tools for infographics, mind-mapping, screencasting, video editing, blogging and more.  Some sessions are specifically aimed at Mac users. Visit IT for IOE IT Course Booking for details and to book.

    We have a vast range of high-quality video-based courses available at These cover technical skills but also business, personal and creative skills as well.  Visit the UCL page to find out more.

    Not sure what you need or have a more specific issue you would like help with?  Come along to one of the Digital Skills Development drop ins if you want more individual support.

    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.

    Learning Analytics as a tool for supporting student wellbeing – Learning Analytics and Student Mental Health & Wellbeing

    By Samantha Ahern, on 20 November 2017

    Learning analytics is defined as ‘the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for purposes of understanding and optimising learning and the environments in which it occurs’(“Guest Editorial – Learning and Knowledge Analytics. Educational Technology & Society, 15 (3), 1–2. Siemens, G., & Gašević, D. (2012)”, n.d.).

    Applications of learning analytics include Early Alert and Student Success, Course Recommendation, Adaptive Learning and Curriculum Design(Sclater, 2017).

    Can and should this learning analytics be extended to identify normative behaviours of students and recognise changes to those behaviours, aiding pastoral support?

    Although much of the data for informing pastoral support is the same as that for Early Alert and Student Success the aims and implications are different. The data needs may also be more demanding. For example, there will be additional considerations around data sharing and protection as mental ill-health is classified as a protected characteristic.

    For inclusion of engagement data from virtual learning environments, this would involve understanding the seasonality of student interactions with online course content, cohort interactions, how a student’s interactions are differing from both their cohort and their own normative behaviour with respect to the seasonality.

    Prinsloo and Slade (Prinsloo and Slade, 2017) note that ‘Not  only  do various  stakeholders  in  the  institution  work  in  silos,  responding independently  of  each  other and resulting  in  overlap and inconsistencies, institutional  sense-making  of  students  at  risk is  also  fragmented’, which may hinder student well-being support.

    Evidence on the effectiveness of learning analytics based interventions in unclear. A systematic review and quality assessment of studies on learning analytics in higher education by the University of Exeter(Sonderlund and Smith, 2017) was only able to include 20 of 560 papers identified due to the methods employed in the studies, only 4 studies evaluated the effectiveness of interventions based on learning analytics. The key recommendation from the review is that more research into the implementation and evaluation of scientifically-driven learning analytics to build a solid evidence base.

    The combination of the lack of evidence of the effectiveness of learning analytics based interventions and the potential negative consequences for both our students and institutions, therefore causes us to question whether learning analytics should be used to support student mental well-being.


    Student mental wellbeing and in particular student mental ill-health is of major concern, with 48% of UK HEIs having appropriate policies in place(Universities, 2015), and continually needs to be addressed.

    An “unhelpful divide” of distinguishing intellectual needs from emotional needs, then students mental health may suffer if the emotional needs are ignored(“What Happened to Pastoral Care? | HuffPost UK”, n.d.). Therefore, pastoral care in addition to academic support is crucial student mental wellbeing.

    The Higher Education Academy UK Professional Standards Framework (“UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF) | Higher Education Academy”, n.d.) dimension A4, Developing effective learning environments and approaches to student guidance,  indicates that student support is an area of activity in which those teaching and supporting learning in higher education should be involved. Additionally, the Universities UK #stepchange(“#stepchange”, n.d.) guidance states that HEIs should seek to promote a diverse, inclusive and compassionate culture as part of their preventive actions.

    Unfortunately, there are a number of inadequacies with the current provision of pastoral care in UK Higher Education Institutions.  I propose that learning analytics can be used to help to address some of these inadequacies by providing timely and meaningful data to personal tutors about their tutees., this is in alignment with the Univerisites UK guidance(“#stepchange”, n.d.) to align learning analytics with student wellbeing. However, this will require action on behalf of tutors, and there are legal questions still to be answered around negligence and failing to act on or engage with information provided via learning analytics.

    Despite the potential ethical and legal issues around using learning analytics to support pastoral care and student mental wellbeing, I believe that this application area that should be explored.


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    Learning Analytics as a tool for supporting student wellbeing – Identifying student mental ill-health

    By Samantha Ahern, on 20 November 2017

    Research has shown that students who are distressed and at risk from mental ill-health will often exhibit one or more of the following indicators concurrently: academic struggles and failures, excessive absences from classes and obligations, excessive substance use, loneliness and isolation, social and interpersonal difficulties with others on campus, changes in self-care and lack of self-care, extreme risky behaviours, inability to tolerate frustration and normal stressors in college, inability to regulate emotions, hopelessness and despair(Anderson, 2015).

    Gemmill and Peterson(Gemmill and Peterson, 2006) have found that internet communication may have the same buffering effects of stressful life circumstances in the same way as non-internet communication by increasing measures of social support and perceived social support.

    This corresponds to findings by Gordon et al. (Gordon et al., 2007) who investigated types of student internet usage (meeting people, information seeking, distraction, coping and email) and four indicators of well-being: depression, social anxiety, loneliness and family cohesion.

    Their findings suggest that it is the type of internet usage, more so than the frequency of use that relates to depression, social anxiety and social cohesion. Using the internet for coping purposes was significantly associated with lower levels of family cohesion and higher levels of depression and social anxiety. Whereas, information seeking and email were positively associated with family cohesion.

    Research into predicting depression with social media(“Predicting Depression via Social Media – 6351”, n.d.), in this instance Twitter, found that social media contains useful signals for characterising the onset of depression in individuals, as measured through decrease in social activity, raised negative affect, highly clustered ego networks, heightened relational and medicinal concerns, and greater expression of religious involvement. It is noted that in order to identify changes in some behaviours, it was important to know the normal behaviours of the user e.g. an indicator of depression is a tendency to be more active at night. To be able to identify if there has been a change in activity the authors defined the normalised difference in number of postings made between the night window (9pm and 6am) and day window to be the “insomniac index” on a given day.

    In summary, these studies show that identifying behavioural changes are key to identifying student mental ill-health, this therefore implies that an understanding is needed of normative behaviours of students.


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