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

    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

    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.

    Now and next from E-Learning Environments Summer 2015

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 15 July 2015

    The second edition of our new monthly vlog series, where we bring you all the most important news from UCL E-Learning Environments. This video focuses on the what ELE are doing over the summer period, as well as some future plans.

    Useful link:

    Moodle Snapshot: https://moodle-snapshot.ucl.ac.uk/

    ELE Blog: http://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/ele/
    Twitter: https://twitter.com/ucl_ele

    Game SIG: https://moodle.ucl.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=21489§ion=3

    Jisc Learning and Teaching Experts Group, June 2015

    By Mira Vogel, on 23 June 2015

    Originally comprising project fundholders from the E-Learning Programme and now more open, Jisc convenes the Learning and Teaching Experts Group three times a year. This meeting – the 35th – had sessions on the student experience, leadership, and students as partners, all with a digital focus.

    Helen Beetham introduced a new NUS benchmarking tool for the student digital experience (not yet released, but see their existing benchmarking tools), and further work on a digital capabilities framework for staff. Each table critiqued one of eleven areas of the tool, and contributed ideas to a twelfth on ‘Digital Wellbeing’.

    There followed a series of shorter presentations including two senior managers describing their respective institution’s digital strategy and approach to supporting digital leadership, along with staff at Reading College who presented on their use of Google, their ethos of ‘pass it on’ for digital know-how, and how staff can indicate that they are happy to be observed (by hanging a green or red coat hanger on the door of their teaching room – paradoxically and unsurprisingly the green one was redundant because everybody got the message and used it).  In case anybody remained unconvinced that there is any urgency to this, Neil Witt (another senior participant) tweeted a recent House of Lords report, Make or Break. The UK’s Digital Future [pdf]. He thinks that for institutions to build digital capabilities will require an HR strategy.

    During lunch I talked with Ron Mitchell about Xerte the open source suite for authoring interactive digital content, and made a note to ask for a pilot installation. I failed to find the roof garden (consulting the floor guide later, it’s close to the bottom of the building) and fretted about a very large fish in a very small tank on reception. Then came a session on cultures of partnership with a panel of students and student-facing roles. Like the previous session, this was full of tantalising ideas like staff being able to choose a student or staff colleague to observe their teaching, and Dan Derricot from Lincoln University starting to think of student engagement as a ladder where the course evaluation form is lower than, say, creating new opportunities. Partnership culture depends on visibility; at first staff need to take a lot of initiative but as students see other students’ work, they are more likely to step forward with ideas of their own. Eric Stoller tweeted this interesting-looking paper theorising student involvement. Jisc has a network of Change Agents and (separately) there is a new journal of Educational Innovation, Partnership and Change with a call for papers.

    Finally the members showcase. I attended Lina Petrakieva’s session on assessing students’ digital stories at Glasgow Caledonian. They had to deliberate about similar things to us, namely whether to require the students to use a common platform (they did) and whether to change the assessment criteria in recognition of the new modes of expression (they did). I caught the end of a talk from the Lisette Toetenel at the Open University about setting up a network to share designs for learning.

    Participants used the Twitter hashtag #JiscExperts15 mostly to amplify the event but with a few conversations sparking – including this one on helping champions and when James Kieft (a runner up for last year’s Learning Technologist of the Year) from Reading College dropped the bombshell / reminded us that they’d turned off their Moodle in 2014 and moved to Google applications. This set quite a few people off – not for reasons of rent-seeking and fear of change though I’m sure we all need to check for that, but business models, orientation, and the risk of abruptly-retired services. It also gave other people a frisson of liberation). I should reassure (?) at this point that there are no plans to turn off UCL Moodle. Then somebody asked what the purpose of learning technologists would be in the VLEless future but the session ended before another round of “What is a learning technologist today?” could get underway. Sometimes I think of these (what we’re currently calling) digital education professional services roles as midwife, sometimes I think of them as more specialised educational design roles in waiting until the ‘digital’ becomes more taken-for-granted. As long as education isn’t served up pre-programmed or decided centrally, the roles are likely to endure in some evolving form.

    Thanks to Jisc and all contributors for a stimulating day.




    Introducing the ELE vlog

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 22 June 2015

    In E-Learning Environments (ELE) we have lots of useful and important information we need to communicate with staff (and students) who use our systems. We have various different ways of communicating with everyone who uses our systems (like Moodle, Lecturecast and MyPortfolio) including email, Twitter, Moodle News and this blog. However we also recognise that these are all text based mediums, and sometimes read chunks of information isn’t preferential. To try and make this easier, and offer an alternative way of communicating we are pleased to introduce the ELE vlog.

    We are launching this new vlog (or video blog) on our YouTube channel and hope to post a new video every month informing viewers of the most interesting or important things happening within ELE and our systems. If we get a good response, or have requests, then we may increase the frequency of videos, or make videos explaining particular topics. If you have any ideas of videos you’d like to see from ELE then please comment on this blog post or send us an email to ele@ucl.ac.uk.

    So, without further adieu, please enjoy our first vlog embedded below (and don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more educational and hopefully entertaining content!)

    ELE Communication Channels

    Moodle News: https://moodle.ucl.ac.uk/mod/forum/view.php?f=1

    Twitter: https://twitter.com/UCL_ELE

    YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/LTSSUCL/videos

    Games, gamification and games-based learning SIG

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 18 June 2015

    Do you have an interest in games, gamification and games-based learning?

    If so we would be really interested in hearing from you, we are looking to put together a special interest group at UCL around these areas. The aim of the SIG will be to encourage interaction and discussion on these topics and others, ranging from research on games and play to their implementation within teaching practice (plus hopefully have a bit of fun along the way).

    Please join via our Moodle page if you are interested in taking part along and we will arrange an initial meeting of the group soon.