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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  • Archive for the 'General Learning Technology' Category

    Etienne Wenger-Trayner @ UCL Storified!

    By Clive Young, on 7 April 2014

    Etienne Wenger-Trayner, the keynote speaker at UCL Teaching & Learning Conference last week inspired a very active on-line Twitter discussion that had #uclteach trending for a while. Here is some of the flavour of that discussion in about 75 tweets. I used the well-known social network service Storify to create the story and timeline below from the #uclteach hashtag on Twitter.

    If you are interested in using Storify in education to collate and curate feeds from social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, try the following links.



    Introducing Chris Holland – UCL’s Copyright Support Officer

    By Chris J Holland, on 28 March 2014

    Chris HollandI’m Chris Holland, the new Copyright Support Officer at UCL. New because I have only been in post for a couple of weeks, but also new in the sense that this is a new post in the UCL Library Teaching & Learning Support Section (TLSS).

    I will be very happy to help with any questions about the copyright aspects of reusing  other people’s work or the rights of UCL authors in their own original work.  My expectation is that the area of E-Learning will give rise to some challenging copyright issues and I am looking forward to providing assistance.

    I am based on the 4th floor of the Science Library and report to Hazel Ingrey.  The main focus of my role is firstly to deliver guidance and support on copyright issues to UCL researchers, teachers and support services. Secondly I will develop and deliver a communication plan to promote awareness of copyright issues to all relevant communities within UCL. This will also involve delivering targeted training on aspects of copyright.

    Should you have any queries about copyright (anything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask!) or if you just want to introduce yourself, please do contact me. The easiest way of doing so is to email copyright@ucl.ac.uk. For general information on copyright please visit: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/library/copyright/

    Using smartphones for filming

    By Clive Young, on 23 March 2014


    As we know there is a growing demand across UCL to create video resources for teaching and learning. However the facilities and equipment to do so are still quite limited, so some colleagues are experimenting by shooting video on phones and tablets. 

    Such devices actually turn out to be quite good tools to use to record and even edit ad-hoc short videos – if used in the right way, of course. While researching some guidance documents I came across these videos from the BBC College of Journalism about how to use smartphones for capturing news stories. I think the basic principles apply equally well for educational video and media. The first focuses on using the smartphone as a video camera.


    Some UCL colleagues are also using short audio-only ‘podcasts’ for example to give feedback. The next video provides some useful tips about recording audio.


    The final video of this series concentrates on using the phone as a stills camera, and while covering some of the same ground, includes a few useful extra stills-only tips.

    If any colleagues are using a smartphone or tablet to create media resources and would like to share their experiences and tips, please get in touch.

    Digital Skills Event at the Department of Medical Physics and Bioengineering

    By Adrien Desjardins, on 6 March 2014

    Digital Skills EventMany thanks to Jessica Gramp and Vicki Dale of E-Learning Environments for their contributions to our Digital Skills event!

    This event was for first, second, and intercalated undergraduate students in the Department of Medical Physics and Bioengineering. It was an opportunity for these students to gain greater awareness about digital skills that are useful for their learning at UCL and their careers beyond UCL.

    Jessica Gramp gave a presentation that included live polling with clickers.

    In an anonymous survey, we asked students about the devices and websites that they find useful for learning at UCL, both in terms of receiving information and contributing to the learning of their peers. We are grateful to Vicki for her insights to create the survey.

    The event closed with a semi-structured networking part, with a view to connecting students outside their academic years and to exchange advice on e-learning.

    Based on the positive feedback that we received from students, we plan to extend the event to include third and fourth year students next year. We’ll follow-up on this blog when we have data compiled from the anonymous survey.

    - Adrien Desjardins / Mohini Nair

    Whatever happened to MOOCs?

    By Clive Young, on 20 February 2014

    moocAttentive readers may have noticed that following all the hype over the last two years MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) seem to have dipped a little below the horizon.

    An interesting time, therefore, for the Heads of E-Learning Forum at the University of Birmingham yesterday to review UK progress so far. The launch of The Open University’s Futurelearn platform late last year, now offering 34 courses, has clearly invigorated UK MOOC activity. Until then the UK MOOC efforts were represented by pioneers University of Edinburgh and the University of London on Coursera.

    Prof Hugh Davis, University of Southampton, reminded us that MOOCs are part of a bigger picture of change in HE, and a report The avalanche is coming early last year encapsulated the fears that HE may be approaching a ‘Napster moment’ where clicks overtake bricks. An authoritative response to this warning however recognized a “well rounded campus-based experience” albeit “enriched and made more efficient by technology” will not go away. However universities should not be complacent but embrace the disruptive potential of MOOCs to “focus on their core competence for which they have long been revered and cherished”.

    This is not simply about making money. MOOCs can potentially provide income generation via statements of completion, paid-for assessments, delivery to industrial partners, sponsorship, paid-for tutoring and so on. However for Southampton, the Futurelearn involvement was initially about enhancing the university’s brand and reputation, by marketing and focusing on strengths. There was some evidence that the MOOOs had indeed attracted students, but the real value was how the process had stimulated discussion about new education models on campus. MOOC academic developers became education enthusiasts and change agents in their departments. The overall capacity of the institution had also improved though the engagement of learning designers, media teams with increased expertise in copyright, course marketing and so on.

    Prof Davis talked about both the global impact of MOOCs, their potential role in developing countries but also how they were increasingly being recognised as informal CPD. He raised the interesting idea of MOOCs embedded in conventional modules. Students would have to sign up on the MOOC but have additional campus-based support, activities and assessment, a kind of ‘flipped course’. Clearly one outcome would be more accredited online programmes, reaching a wider market though increased choice and flexibility. His final message was to  “grasp the opportunity” that MOOCs provide.

    Prof Neil Morris from the University of Leeds, also talking about their Futurelearn implementation reinforced this message. MOOC involvement had enabled the establishment of a specialist digital learning team of graphics, media and animation specialists, learning technologists administrators and marketers. The initial engagement had actually arisen from Leeds’ OER policy and the MOOC was seen as part of a ‘holistic’ OER ecology that on end was the closed Blackboard system on the other a YouTube channel. The Leeds courses were quite short with a participatory, reflective research-based focus and a popular emphasis on digital literacy and study skills. A clear sequential development process had been established with multiple review points. Once again, although only a few MOOCs had been developed the impact on the academic community was high, with over 140 Leeds lecturers subsequently expressing an interest in developing one!


    Mark Wetton and Amy Woodgate form the University of Edinburgh, Coursera pioneers and now also using Futurelearn continued this encouraging message of the institutional ‘collateral’ benefits of MOOCs. Edinburgh had developed (or were developing) 14 courses in a wide range of subjects, like Leeds with an OER drive, but in this case all ‘new as MOOCs’, none being conversions of conventional courses. With such a large number of academic participants (over 60 academics and 50 TAs) the approach seemed to be more community based. Learning design and media development support was available in the first year but there was no imposed template and a general encouragement to experiment with the platform and approaches. academic teams were strongly encouraged to learn from each other, share practice and ask for feedback.

    On-campus benefits listed at Edinburgh included enriched resources for students and better understanding of online learning activities, three new textbooks had been written in addition to journal publications and book chapters. Internal student recruitment had increased, development on a new online MSc had started, interdisciplinary courses and collaborations had grown and an impressive range of international collaborations had arisen directly from the MOOCs.

    In a post last year I suggested that MOOCs represent more than simply online courses, but are a metaphor for wider changes in HE. As they become more established, MOOCs also clearly work as a catalyst for change on campus, an important aspect for any institution considering the next steps in online learning.  

    Critical reading

    Image:  David Kernohan’s “Day of the MOOC” https://mobile.twitter.com/dkernohan/status/250889990828089344?screen_name=dkernohan

    MyPortfolio v1.8.1 – New Features

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 10 February 2014

    On Thursday 20th March we upgraded the MyPortfolio system to version 1.8.1, which is the latest install available. There are many perks to this upgrade, most of which are listed below, and there is also a slightly different theme. Below you will see the new theme, which includes some slightly changed icons.


    The majority of functionality in MyPortfolio remains the same for the upgrade to 1.8.1, with the exception of some new icons. The main change comes in the creation of pages where the edit content bar has been moved from the top to the left of the page and the tabs have been replaced with collapsible menus.  Here is a summary of the other changes:


    • Theme changes, although the layout remains the same it looks slightly different with new icons. This does not affect functionality.


    • New theme continues with new icons, although no change to functionality.
    • Drag and drop files to upload – this is a new feature. You still need to agree to the copyright statement.
    • ‘Browse’ button now labelled ‘Choose files’.
    • CV builder now has option to add attachments to; Education and employment, Achievements, Goals and Skills.
    • Plans can now have tags.
    • Notes can now have tags and attachments.


    • New theme continues with new icons, no change to functionality (except in pages).
    • Edit collection pages now horizontal rather than vertical.
    • Edit layout now includes row. These can be added via Basic options, Advanced options or Create custom layout.
    • There is now an Import tab to allow users to import their own Leap2A files.
    Edit content (within pages) has changed considerably. The options for adding block to the page now appear to the left, rather than above.
    • What were the different tabs are now expandable menus, broken down into Media, Journals, General, Personal info and External. Text box and Image appear separate to these menus.
    • When adding a text box you may also attach a file.


    • Theme changes continue with new icons, no changes to functionality.
    • Group files can now be uploaded via drag and drop; the copyright terms must still be accepted first.

    If you have any questions about the upgrade please email ele@ucl.ac.uk and we would be happy to answer your questions or address your concerns.

    The MyPortfolio upgrade has now been rescheduled from the 11th Feb to the 27th February 2014 from 08:00 to 12:00 to allow ample time for the upgrade to be applied. The system will be unavailable during this time.