E-Learning Environments team blog
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    We support Staff and Students using technology to enhance teaching & learning.

    Here you'll find updates on developments at UCL, links & events as well as case studies and personal experiences. Let us know if you have any ideas you want to share!

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    Lecturecast Annual Archiving 2015

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 27 July 2015

    Lecturecast annual archiving will be taking place between the 3rd and the 8th August 2015.  During this time the admin interface for Lecturecast will be unavailable, however any scheduled recordings will still take place.

    What happens during archiving?

    During the archiving process all recordings currently marked as either available or unavailable will be moved to the ‘archive’ category. Once they have been moved to this category they will be unavailable for viewing. If you would like any of these recording to remain available to students it is your responsibility to move them back from ‘archive’ to ‘available’. Instructions for un-archiving your content can be found at https://wiki.ucl.ac.uk/x/4w1iAQ.

    Why is this necessary?

    To manage the storage requirements of Lecturecast it is important to delete any content that is no longer required. Any content that is in the ‘archive’ and is older than 2 years is deleted from Lecturecast during our deletion cycles. You can read more about our deletion cycles and the archive process in the Lecturecast Resource Centre wiki: https://wiki.ucl.ac.uk/display/LecturecastResourceCentre/Retention%3A+Archiving+and+deletion+Policy

    Any questions?

     If you have any questions after visiting the Lecturecast Resource Centre then please email ele@ucl.ac.uk or phone the ISD Service Desk (ext 25000).


    Thank you for your co-operation.


    What is the cost of developing e-learning? Try our calculator

    By Matt Jenner, on 22 July 2015

    Q: What is the cost of developing e-learning?

    A: It depends

    Arghthis answer is not good enough. 

    E-Learning is a big industry, so why does the cost of making ‘some’ feel so mysterious? Increasingly the question of ‘how much will this cost?’ is cropping up. This is a perfectly valid question and one that really demands a better answer than the one above. For too long the response of ‘it depends’ comes up, or something about a piece of string. This isn’t cutting it so after some research (there isn’t much out there) we created an E-Learning Costing Calculator so you can start putting in some numbers and start to see some cold, hard, financials. Hurray?

    Go – play with what we’ve created

    Access E-Learning Costing Calculator on Google Sheets 

    Warning: multiple users will obviously see one another’s calculations but I couldn’t find a better way of doing this while also retaining Alpha status for testing. Ideas welcome in the comments below…

    Images / captures (of the above sheet)

    Main tool, questions and numbers input:

    E-Learning Costing Calculator

    Cost and recovery

    E-Learning Costing Calculator - financials

    Charts for the boss

    Charts for the boss


    Breakdown by role

    Breakdown by role


    If you spend any time in the sheet you’ll notice there are some approximations going on in there (quite a few). It doesn’t produce an exact answer (because it really does depend). I think we’ve been asking the wrong question. We still need to ask – what data do we have to suggest how much e-learning might cost? How can we generalise and remain detailed enough to find ballparks? How close can we get to accuracy? and finally, What are we missing to increase accuracy?

    Disclaimer: so far all the work on this comes from smaller, shorter courses (CPD, continuing education). Moocs and fully accredited courses are slightly different. The biggest problem is to add in some economy of scale (more on this in Maths).

    Seeking improvement

    Firstly – I want people to roadtest this spreadsheet. So please contact me and we can collaborate in Google Sheets (for now). I’m confident we could get a little closer to understanding why and it involves maths, early solutions and more questions.


    Bryan Chapman, Chief Learning Strategist for Chapman Alliance asked in 2010 how long does it take to create e-learning:

    Bryan surveyed 4000 learning development professionals and obtained data (US-based) on CPD and short courses. He created a series of development hour timeframes based on teaching approaches of f2f and three-level e-learning (basic, intermediate and advanced). For each approach he discovered the number of development hours required to create one hour of ‘e-learning’ (vague as it depends on your teaching approach). These numbers were the primary driver to start calculating an idea of costing, and the questions to ask.

    This is the only data found. There’s corporations offering consultancy, and sure they have their ROI models (of course, it’s business). There’s bloggers and co. with their ideas and comments – but nothing with much evidence, especially when compared to Bryan’s work.

    Economy of scale / new vs old

    One problem with all this is that all costs tend to follow the rules of economies of scale. Producing one of anything tends to be proportionally more expensive than 10, then 100, and so on. Logically one hour of e-learning would cost a fair whack – say £15k. But the second should be cheaper, say £10k. Then from here you should see some sliding scales of efficiency. This isn’t so easy to build, so I omitted it in the sheet (for now). Idea welcome on this part.

    New content is probably not the same cost as reusing old. Converting old content vs producing new content both come with different costs. To try and not complicate things it’s best to avoid this question for now, but see a sliding scale could help here – but I don’t know how to calculate the cost of conversion and comparing it to the cost of creation – so it’s lumped in together (for now).


    Running a few generalisations – the data from the Chapman Alliance can be used to start calculating the cost of courses. By taking some known courses, and their approximate costs, we simulated with some UCL courses how much they cost. During a project (UCLeXtend) we had provided some seeding resource to prime the new platform and provide examples to the wider community of what’s possible. Due to the transparency of these courses we could also see how much they all cost, and whether any calculations made were accurate. Sometimes the numbers hurt (never making a profit in this corner…) they also looked kinda accurate.

    This motivated the creation of an E-Learning Costing Calculator – which we’re now crowdsourcing people’s opinions on to improve.


    Armed with one data source (dangerous, I know) I looked to break it back down and discover if it could be reverse-engineered to build a calculator for everyday use. The idea was to ask broad questions within the calculation to then align with the data from the Chapman Alliance’s research. I think there are more questions to ask, but how to also generalise for calculating answers?

    See also

    UCL recently become friends with the IOE. A tool they have is the Course Resource Appraisal Modeller  -it’s much more detailed than this and I think it goes a long way to answering some of the questions I have posed. It also takes a fair amount of time and information to complete it. I can see the validity of both, or (better) one feeding into the other / merging. What do you think? Have you used CRAM? 

    An Example Module in the IOE CRAM tool



    What’s next?

    Please comment on this, in the sheet or in this post (or Twitter). I feel a bit stuck on this now, so feedback is essential to move forward.


    New cohort? Please reset.

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 21 July 2015

    With a new academic year approaching after the summer, it is time to spring clean your Moodle courses. Old students need to be removed and (if used) the Portico block needs to be re-activated to bring in the 2015/16 cohort of students. Time to reset and refresh your Moodle courses.

    Whether you are new to this process or not you might have some questions about what needs to happen and why. I will address those below. Please check with your departmental admins if they have any specific year-end procedures in place. Of course if after reading this you are still unsure, or have any other Moodle questions please contact the E-Learning Environments team.

    Why we need to do a course reset?

    Course resets are an essential part of the Moodle housekeeping process because they:-

    • Clear out old student data. (Don’t worry about this being lost – see information about the Moodle Snapshot below)
    • Remove current students’ permissions from Moodle courses (so old and new students aren’t mixed together).
    • Keep our campus licensing agreements at the correct level.
    • Makes existing/current courses easier to manage and less prone to errors.

    What happens if we do not do course resets?

    • We build up irrelevant data in the live database. Moodle still has to sort through this before returning page requests, this slows down Moodle for everyone.
    • We have to count these expired students against our Licensing for systems such as Turnitin, which increase our costs.

    But how do I do a course reset?

    Instructions on how to do a reset are located here in the UCL Moodle Resource Centre wiki.

    Please note that courses with a Turnitin v2 assignment may produce the following error message when resetting: “Default exception handler: Coding error detected, it must be fixed by a programmer”.  This does not prevent the course successfully resetting and we are currently working to stop the error message.

    The Moodle Snapshot (previously called archive)

    For anyone worried about a loss of historical data, please remember on the 17th July 2015 we took the Moodle annual snapshot. This snapshot is a point in time capture of Moodle including all the student data, that is set in a read only mode for you to access as required as a separate instance from live Moodle (previous instances are located here http://moodle-snapshot.ucl.ac.uk/).

    My Course requires a reset at a different period of the year (Postgraduate courses etc.). What do I do?

    For those courses such as Post-graduate, medical and other non-standard timetabled courses and modules please see the following guidance page.

    What about Portico mappings?

    Many courses have a mapping set up between Moodle and Portico to enable the automatic enrolment of students. Course admins can now manage this process via the Portico enrolment block.

    During the Snapshot/Upgrade period, portico enrolment mappings for all courses were deactivated. This means that the nightly synchronization between Moodle and Portico enrolments has ceased to happen. It is the individual course teams’ responsibility to manually turn on, or re-activate, their Portico mappings via the Moodle block. You can find out how to do this from the guidance in the Moodle Resource Centre wiki.

    For courses that follow a standard undergraduate timetable, it is advisable to wait until after the Portico year-end on the 3rd August to reactivate your enrolment mappings. See the reset guidance in the wiki.

    For courses that don’t follow a standard undergraduate timetable, it is up to the course owner whether you want to reactivate your enrolment mappings. If the class list is stable and you aren’t expecting any further enrolments or unenrolments, then you can safely leave them deactivated. See the alternative guidance in the Moodle Resource Centre wiki.

    In either case re-activating Portico enrolments will remove any existing students on the Moodle course who are no longer in the Portico list for that course. It is for this reason we advise you only turn the mappings on after you have reset the course.

    We greatly appreciate your help in this activity any questions please contact ele@ucl.ac.uk

    You said, we did – how student feedback influenced a Moodle space

    By Mira Vogel, on 21 July 2015

    CALT staff and ELE worked together to incorporate Arena student feedback into reworked Moodle spaces. This five-page report [pdf format] is organised around before-and-after screenshots, explains the changes, sets out a house style, and concludes with a checklist.

    When we next ask students for feedback, we hope to find improvements in orientation, organisation and communication. We also hope that the Moodle work, in-person activities and individual study will integrate even better together.

    Conciseness, consistency, glanceability, signposts and instructions were the most important things to come out of this work.

    Learn with Lynda

    By Clive Young, on 20 July 2015

    ISD E-learning Environments are delighted to be hosting Laurie Burruss from lynda.com who will be running three exciting workshops for us on 3rd September 2015.

    Laurie is the director of digital media at Pasadena City College, where she has also been design professor for the past 15 years. Laurie is a professional digital storyteller, and she has developed a rich curriculum in digital and new media. Laurie is also an Education Consultant to lynda.com and will share her expertise and experience with us. Lynda.com is a vast online library of video tutorials supporting learning in software, creative and business skills which is free to UCL staff and currently enrolled students.

    These workshops are for anyone who is interested in incorporating video-based learning into their teaching and how to successfully adopt a blended or flipped approach to learning. There will be opportunities to share ideas, discuss different approaches and create your own lynda.com playlist. Laurie will be happy to discuss your programme requirements during any of the sessions.

    You are welcome to attend any or all of the sessions, please book using the links below. Refreshments will be available throughout the day. Participants are encouraged to bring their own device and to install the lynda.com app where relevant.

    Session 1: The Power of Video & the Moving Image 11:00 – 12:00

    Book here

    In the last three decades, teachers have moved from the four walls of the classroom to the infinite possibilities of the Internet. Online video resources are becoming fully integrated in the learning space and a matter of choice for the student. As well as this rapid adoption of this technology, witness what we have learned about how online video changes and enhances the way we learn. A great online video structures learning around meaning, presents the big picture of the subject matter, and supports it with granular details and steps. Learn “how we learn with video” and about the factors that affect our learning.

    Session 2: Teaching and Learning with Lynda 12:30 – 13:30

    Book here

    Although many educators use lynda.com personally to “keep up” with technology, few explore the many ways to integrate lynda.com’s library into their course subject matter expertise. Effective technology communication skills paired with subject matter expertise and mastery prepare students for “real world” jobs and innovative learning pathways. In this session, Laurie demonstrates several effective solutions for using lynda.com to enhance and create curriculum. You will leave with a variety of templates and solutions for integrating lynda.com into the classroom at the institutional level, the course level and the project level.

    Session 3: Beyond the Classroom Walls: Reinventing Yourself, Your Class, and Your Teaching Methods 14:00 – 15:00

    Book here

    Teaching and learning is changing from what students need to what students want to achieve personally, from textbooks to online aggregated resources, from classroom to cloud. Innovative changes free the teacher to rethink the “classroom.” In this session, Laurie shares her experiences in a spectrum from face-to-face to online learning opportunities, Discover the infinite possibilities in teaching and learning as you reinvent yourself as a teacher!

    Moodle upgraded to version 2.8

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 20 July 2015

    Moodle Upgrade

    We would like to announce that the Moodle 2015 summer upgrade has now been completed successfully and live Moodle is now available.

    One of the core intents of this upgrade is to incorporate functionality for Institute of Education (IoE) staff and students who will be transitioning to UCL Moodle this academic year. Some of the functionality brought into UCL Moodle during this upgrade includes Blackboard Collaborate and the attendance activity.

    Read about these changes and others that we have included in the upgrade on the New Features wiki page.



    The yearly snapshot is now available and an be located with all other snapshots here

    This snapshot will be retained for a minimum of seven years, full details about the snapshot can be found on the Snapshot page of the UCL Moodle Resource Centre wiki.

    Those of you who have been waiting for this process to complete so you can commence your course resets may now proceed.

    Please refer to the Resetting your course guide, also available via the Moodle Resource Centre wiki.



    While the new environment has been thoroughly tested by the support teams there is always a chance that an issue or bug may well exist that we have not encountered. If you have any issues or problems with the new version please email ele@ucl.ac.uk with as much detail as possible and a member of the team will get back to you.