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    Joint Faculty Best Practice Event on Digital Education, February 2018

    By Mira Vogel, on 1 March 2018

    Arne Hofmann and Helen Matthews from the UCL Joint Faculty (Arts and Humanities and Social and Historical Science) have hit on a successful format for a practice sharing session. Speakers make brief presentations and then disperse to ‘stations’ around the room so that participants can circulate and discuss. At the end of the event is a plenary discussion.

    The third event in this series had a digital education focus. Sanjay Karia who heads up IT for SLASH kindly contributed display screens for the stations. I matchmade colleagues in Digital Education with the presenters based on interest; they made notes of the conversations (using MS Teams as recommended by IT for SLASH) and I largely owe this blogpost to them.

    The splendid presenters and their presentations, some of which include links to examples of student work:

    • Mark Lake (Senior Lecturer, Archaeology) described undergraduate students blogging for ARCL3097 Archeology in the World  – a particularly gutsy initiative given it was a compulsory module for final year undergraduates in the NSS zone [Mark’s slides as PDF].
    • Riitta Valijarvi (Senior Teaching Fellow, Finnish) talked about her Wikipedia Translatathon, a cultural and linguistic event marking the centenary of Finland which brought together students, Finnish or Finnish speaking staff from UCL, members of the public, and Wikimedia UK staff.
    • Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen (Senior Lecturer, SELCS) discussed students producing digital objects for the Qualitative Thinking module of the BASc [Jakob’s slides as PDF];
    • Jacky Derrick (Deputy Module Convenor, History) described how first year undergraduate student groups produce web sites together on a subject which gets them engaging with London;
    • Nick Grindle and Jesper Hansen (Senior Teaching Fellows, Arena Centre) reviewed their experiences organising peer feedback via the fearsome-looking but actually wonderful Moodle Workshop activity [Nick’s slides as PDF];
    • Maria Sibiryakova (Senior Teaching Fellow, Russian) talked about how the multimedia discuss app VoiceThread can advance the four skills of language learning [Maria’s slides as PDF];
    • Jonathan Holmes (Professor of Physical Geography) and Nick Mann (Learning Resources Coordinator, Geography) on designing digital multiple choice exams [Jonathan’s and Nick’s slides as PDF];
    • Clive Young (Digital Education Advisory Team Leader) on meeting the UCL minimum quality standard known as ‘the UCL E-Learning Baseline‘.

    Here are some of the themes from the event.

    How should students be inducted to new technical platforms? For some cohorts this was hardly an issues and staff soon felt comfortable abandoning the training session at the beginning of the module in favour of a drop-in as the deadline approached. However, there are disciplinary differences and not all groups can be guaranteed to have somebody particularly comfortable with using technologies, so the drop-ins are important.  Based on my own experience inducting some large cohorts to Mahara, if it’s done at all then it’s best done when the students have some vision about what they want to do there – i.e. not at the very start of the module, and close enough to the deadline that there is no hiatus between the induction and putting the knowledge to use. In addition, students seemed to know less about copyright and intellectual property than the technologies, so some modules had incorporated sessions on those.

    How do we assess digital multimodal work? Formative assessment was considered very worthwhile, especially where students were new to the activity. Currently there is sometimes a criterion related to appropriate use of the mode or format, such as “use of text formatting and good quality images and/or multimedia which clearly enhance the text”. Often there is an element of writing in the work which would be run through Turnitin according to departmental policy. I think it is probably fair to say that (like most of the sector) we are in transition to explicitly recognising the distinctive qualities of digital multimodal composition. I have seen how, in many cases, new and potentially challenging practices need to be eased through teaching committees by anchoring them to the accepted standards and criteria – at least for the first few iterations. With time and experience comes new awareness and recognition of distinctive practices which work well in a given context. Jakob’s slides are particularly detailed on this – the BASc have been giving this kind of thing consideration from day one.

    Where should digital multimodal work be positioned in the curriculum? There was a general sense that modularisation tends to isolate digital activities within programmes. This could lead either to them not being built upon (where they happened early) or having their academic validity questioned (where they happened later). Support includes showing students exemplars of blogs and creating opportunities for them to carry out guided marking to help them grasp standards and apply the assessment criteria to their own work.

    What if students question the academic validity of a digital activity? Where new forms of digital assessment are introduced later in a programme, expect students to query whether it is really necessary for their degree. The challenge, summarised by Mark, is to pre-emptively “tackle student perception” by advocating for the activity in terms of student learning and success. Archaeology in the World saw their evaluation questionnaire results slowly improve as the tutors learned to advocate for the activity, and students came to recognise it as useful.

    When can students’ work be public? In cases like the Wikipedia event, the work is born public. In other cases this is something to be negotiated with students – but there is often groundwork to do beforehand. Students need guidance to use media that is itself licensed to be made public. Where the work happens in groups, licensing their work needs to be a joint and unanimous decision with a take-down policy.

    How can different skills levels be accommodated? The intermediate Russian language students were at different levels, which meant that multimedia production such as recordings of poetry read aloud helped them practice speaking (one of the four skills of modern language learning), and the individualised recorded feedback they were given helped them with listening (another of the skills). VoiceThread brought a privacy and timeliness to the feedback which had not previously existed – exposing students to the risk of embedding their mistakes. Another approach to different skills levels is to create groups of students on the assumption that they will either sustain each other in acquiring the skills or divide the labour according to skills, and a third is to give extra guidance to students who need it (as with the Finnish-English Wikipedia Translatathon).

    How can the new practice be made to work first time? When the Arena Centre pioneered large scale use of the Moodle Workshop activity for peer feedback, they worked closely with Digital Education – we made those early deadlines our own, and together we prepared for different contingencies. As well as working closely with Digital Education, Geography subjected their digital examination to a number of rigorous checks involving academic and professional services colleagues, students, and internal and external examiners. Digital Education has produced the Baseline to support the quality aspects – these are not intuitive. One participant remarked to me later that he had been skeptical, bordering on resentful, of the Baseline until he started working through it, at which point he realised how useful it is.

    What do students get out of the digital side of things? Some indicative comments from Jakob’s students: “learnt to consider digital content in a very different way”; “through creating a Digital Object rather than a traditional essay, I was able to engage with our topic at a much deeper level”, and “I have also developed transferable skills”. Mark received correspondence that the activity “really made me think and synthesise in a new way”. Nick’s and Jesper’s Arena participants have been very positive about giving and receiving peer feedback.

    ~~~

    There are a few things I’d change about how I organised the event. One is that either it should be extended by half an hour (to two hours) or else the number of speakers should be reduced. As it was, we overran and I was very sad to have to cut off a very interesting plenary discussion just as colleagues were beginning to really want to talk with each other. Another is that teaching languages has a distinct set of needs which justify a dedicated event. I might also consider asking the presenters to circulate rather than the participants (though I can see pros and cons there).

    That aside, it was a lively, spontaneous, humorous, sophisticated event which balanced different sets of needs – educational, disciplinary, colleagues and students. It is so often the case that when colleagues have the opportunity to seek each other out based on mutual interest, the fruits soon make themselves evident. One participant told me he went from the event straight to his department’s Staff Student Consultative Committee where he proposed an idea which was accepted. “That’s impact”, he said.

    TPCK, data and learning design

    By Samantha Ahern, on 13 February 2018

    Samantha is an experienced educator, technologist and creator.

    This is my standard biog text. Technology is both what I have studied and what I have taught others. The use of technology in learning activities was authentic and integrated into the learning design. Technology, pedagogy and curricula are therefore intrinsically intertwinned.

    For meaningful use of technology in teaching and learning these three elements should form a braid.

    The 2007 paper What is Technical Pedagogical Content Knowledge? is a good discussion of this interplay and is pretty much how I view the relationship between technology and pedagogy.

    When talking about learning and the use of technology in learning I often used the phrase and advocate for ‘pedagogic intent’.

    Its a great phrase, but what does it mean?

    Lecture capture is very popular with students, and increasing numbers of lectures are recorded.  However, there can be a quite passive use of the technology.

    However, it can be used create engagement in the classroom.  The technology becomes part of the pedagogy of the classroom experience.  Our UCL colleague Parama Chaudhury presented a great webinar for the Echo 360 EMEA community on ‘Engaging students with active learning: lessons from University College London’.

    This technology can also be used post session to identify content that is that is either difficult, identified by a flag, or of particular interest to students, that could inform future session planning.

    Additionally, many taught modules have corresponding Moodle courses.  Although the e-Learning baseline introduces a degree of consistency, these vary immensely in their purpose and content types.

    A move towards blended learning designs provides data points that could support post-course review or, perhaps most interestingly, to flag ‘critical-path’ activities (quizzes, forum posts, downloads etc) for intervention in real time. In this case ‘blending’ in online activities becomes an essential part of the student experience.

    This identification of course elements of pedagogic interest of existing learning designs and how resulting questions could be answered by the identification of corresponding data points and analysis can be embedded into the learning design process.

    The upcoming JISC Data informed blended learning design workshop aims to help participants ensure that their blended learning designs are purposeful. It will seek to make explicit the pedagogic intent in a learning design and explore how data can enable us to understand whether or not learner behaviour is corresponding to those expectations.

    Thus returning us to the intertwinned relationship between technology, pedagogy and curricula.

     

    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.

    New digital skills course dates announced

    By Caroline Norris, on 1 February 2018

    ISD Digital Skills Development have released course dates for the second half of term.  As usual, we are offering a wide range of courses covering Excel, Photoshop, R, Stata, SPSS and more.

    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.

    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 Kick-starting your literature review and 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.

    Digital Skills Development at IOE offer training in a wide range of apps including Sway and OneNote, tools for infographics, mind-mapping, screencasting, blogging, live polling 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 Lynda.com. These cover technical skills but also business, personal and creative skills as well.  Visit the UCL Lynda.com 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.

    The purpose of education?

    By Samantha Ahern, on 25 January 2018

    “Were all instructors to realize that the quality of mental process, not the production of correct answers, is the measure of educative growth something hardly less than a revolution in teaching would be worked.”
    John Dewey, Democracy and Education

    Over the last few weeks I have attended a number of events, but they have all the same common thread.

    They have left me asking two questions; firstly, what is the purpose of education and secondly, what do we mean by learning?

    This has reminded me of comments made by Peter Goodyear in his keynote at the 2017 ALT Conference regarding learning spaces, ‘attributes and qualities of spaces do not determine the learning and outcomes and objectives’ and ‘it’s what students actually do that effects what they learn .. can not be designed’.

    In the #IOEDebates event What if… we really wanted evidence-informed practice in the classroom? Gert Biesta (Professor of Education and Director of Research, Brunel University London) noted that ‘Teaching is: Open, semiotic and recursive’ and this makes teaching a messy business. We can remove the messiness but would this reduce teachers to technocrats and create an education environment of uniform conformity, evidence must not become another thing to tell you what to do.

    Professor Biesta went on to ask ‘What do we want education to work for:’

    • Qualification?
    • Socialisation?
    • Subjectification?
     This had parallels to discussions at the debate What is a university education and where is it going? where Lord Willetts discussed the wider benefits of Higher Education:
    http://blogs.staffs.ac.uk/mikehamlyn/files/2015/06/willetts1.jpg
    How do these benefits relate to the learning or the learning gain that takes place within our universities?
    Many of the presentations at the HEFCE open event Using data to increase learning gains and teaching excellence hosted by the OU primarily focused on non-subject knowledge gains and employability.
    HEFCE define learning gain as ‘an attempt to measure the improvement in knowledge, skills, work-readiness and personal development made by students during their time spent in higher education.’ (http://www.hefce.ac.uk/lt/lg/). They go on to state that measuring learning gain will ‘contribute to a broader international understanding about the value of higher education, and help governments shape their policies and investments accordingly.’.
    So what is primary purpose of learning within our institutions? Can this learning be effectively measured?
    I don’t know. All I do know is that I now have more questions than answers about the nature of learning and the purpose of a university education.

    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