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    We support Staff and Students using technology to enhance teaching & learning.

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    Archive for the 'General Learning Technology' Category

    Mahara Hui UK 2015

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 12 November 2015

    Earlier this week I attended the Mahara Hui UK 2015 which took place down in Southampton between the 9th and 10th November 2015. Mahara Hui UK is the title of the official UK Mahara conference – Mahara being the software that is used for MyPortfolio at UCL. To honour Mahara’s New Zealand roots the conference is referred to as a ‘Hui’, which is a Maori term for a social gathering or assembly. The conference is held annually in different locations around the UK and features a variety of talks and workshops on all aspects of Mahara.
    There is also a lot of Twitter activity during the conference and you can review post with the hash-tag #maharauk15 to see what people were tweeting.
    As with most conferences, there were some key themes that seemed to emerge and repeat over the 2 days of the conference. The key themes were learner control and learning versus studying. Let me explain these in more detail. The first subject, of learner control, seems like a natural topic of conversation for an online portfolio tool, and it has a few strands. Firstly there is the tension and apprehension that can occur for both tutors and students in allowing them (the learner) to have complete control over their content and use of the MyPortfolio system. This can often mean increased freedom of expression, and a change in dynamic to give the student ownership of their work. This tension seems to occur more for first year undergraduate students, and can be an important part of the transition from the FE mindset to a HE one. The second strand of this discussion of learner control is more what can happen when you move past the apprehension and successfully hand over the reins. Once this dynamic shift occurs we can start to explore the benefits of huetagogy (self directed learning). As well as having immediate benefits this approach can help set students up to be successful life learners – particularly useful if they decide to continue a passion for academia/ knowledge as a researcher.
    As for the second main theme, learning versus studying, this also comes back to the concept of huetagogy in many ways. It is about allowing students to undertake tasks and activities (which could be assessed) that encourage them to learn, perhaps through practical application, rather than simply studying by memorising the necessary information to pass tests. Learning involves engagement with the subject matter and is likely to be perceived as more fun and enjoyable – as well as installing retained knowledge into the learners mind. Online portfolio tools, such as MyPortfolio can be really useful in facilitating this, either by being the vessel on which the learning occurs, or by acting as a portfolio to collect and curate examples and evidence of learning – which may include videos of practical techniques being performed correctly, in lab selfies or copies of artefacts produced. Curation was another important topic. It is important to teach students how to curate work, so that the portfolio does not become a scrapbook of ‘everything’ but is a thoughtfully selected collection of examples of work/ evidence that has value and demonstrates the best of the students abilities.
    There were many examples of use of Mahara (MyPortfolio), a number of which seemed to focus on transferring a traditional paper portfolio, which may be bulky and heavy to carry around, into the electronic system. Two examples of this that were presented were from Colin Bright, a lecturer in Social Work at Southampton Solent University and Jaye Ryan, a lecturer on a nursing course at Birmingham City University.
    Finally, another benefit of the conference was the ability to hear about new features in both the latest version of Mahara (MyPortfolio) version 15.10 (which UCL will be upgrading to later this month) and the next version, planned for April 2016 – version 16.04.
    New features for Mahara 15.10 include:
    • Responsive design – so that it works on all devices
    • An edit button on each group homepage – so that it is no longer necessary to go into the pages section and edit from there
    • Group journals – rather than journals being unique to individual portfolios
    • Next and previous buttons in collections
    • A drop down menu for collections, which replaces the tab navigation

    More developments are planned for version 16.04, although at the moment nothing is confirmed and these are just idea. Some of the ideas include:

    • The ability to have a single page in multiple collections
    • Combining the page & collection interface (to make it simpler to use)
    • A revamp of  navigation – this would aim to make it simpler to find different functions/ sections
    • The inclusion of CSS for HTML export – this would mean that exported pages/ collections would retain their theme and look the same as they do online
    • Quicker editing of pages

    There is also a planned revamp of the mobile app MaharaDroid to make it work on multiple platforms including Android, iOS and Windows phones. This is planned for release in April 2016 and will see a rename of the product (to match the multiple platform capabilities).

    Compared: MyPortfolio and Campus Pack

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 9 November 2015

    Having a lot of tools to use can be a mixed blessing. On one hand it is great to have such a selection to choose from, whereas on the other it can be confusing and overwhelming. In E-Learning Environments (ELE) we aim to help you navigate the myriad of tools and find the one that’s right for you. In this post we will be looking at MyPortfolio, Campus Pack and Moodle. If you haven’t heard of some of these tools before, then don’t worry I will start by introducing them so you can get a better idea. You will see that although they have some similar functionality they can serve different purposes.


    MyPortfolio is our online portfolio platform at UCL, it is based off of Mahara open-source software. Originally this was billed as an employability tool, due to it’s CV builder function, however it has evolved and can do a lot more than just online CVs. At it’s core MyPortfolio is an individually owned space, that gives students a place to work and control their own content. This can be done privately and then shared at various different levels, from public, to groups or just a single user. MyPortfolio is available to everyone with a UCL username and password, and can be used independently or as part of studies and assessment.

    Some of the key functionality it contains are journals, ability to upload files and embed external content.

    MyPortfolio is great for allowing students to create their own portfolio of content, whilst working with the flexible layout and using images to create their own design. Within MyPortfolio it is possible to create a ‘Collection’ which forms a mini website, with tab or side bar based navigation. In the past students have relished the opportunity to let their creativity flow and created impressive pages which really utilise the flexibility MyPortfolio affords.

    Groups are another popular feature, allowing students to collaborate on pages and communicate using a forum. If there is any nervousness about creating shared work, then it is possible to create pages in a personal portfolio space and then share a copy with the group – ensuring the student retains an original as evidence of work.

    Most pages and collections in MyPortfolio can be exported as either HTML or LEAP2A (which is a specialised portfolio format), so that they can be stored or transferred to other hosting locations. It is also possible for students to maintain access to MyPortfolio if they ensure after graduation that they continue to update their password as required.

    You can access MyPortfolio directly through the web address https://myportfolio.ucl.ac.uk


    Most people will be familiar with Moodle, this is UCL’s virtual learning environment (or VLE) it is our core online learning tool. If you are still unfamiliar with Moodle then you can learn more, and get to grips with the basics by taking our Getting Started with Moodle online course.

    Although Moodle does have the ability to run blogs, it is not as good as the MyPortfolio journals, or the Campus Pack blogs (which we will talk about in the next section). Another feature you can find in both Campus Pack and Moodle is the wiki. This offers a collaborative space for students to work together to create a document or shared resource. It offers some tracking capabilities, so that you can track changes and see what each students has contributed. The UCL Moodle Resource Centre has more information about the Moodle blogs and wiki.

    As well as the above, it is possible for external services to be embedded or linked into Moodle via LTI  (Learning Tools Interoperability) using the External tools feature. You can read more about this in the UCL Moodle Resource Centre wiki.

    Campus Pack

    Campus Pack is a set of tools that work through Moodle. This makes them useful as they can be used from within a Moodle course, rather than having to go to a separate website. You can find all of the Campus Pack tools under the ‘add a resource or activity’ menu in Moodle.

    There are a series of tools available through the Campus Pack integration with Moodle and these include; wiki, blog, journal, podcast and LTI. The wiki tool is a nice collaborative space where students can work together as a class or in groups to create content. It has nice tracking features so that you can see who has done what work and when, which may be useful when grading group work. Unlike MyPortfolio, where blogs and journals are basically the same tool (the journal) in Campus Pack there is a distinction. Blogs are designed to be more open and shared, they can be set up on a course, individual or group basis. Journals within Campus Pack are intended as private reflective spaces, where only tutors can see what students have written.

    The podcast tool is the most unique within Campus Pack as it’s functionality is not replicated elsewhere. The podcast tool will allow you to record audio directly in to Moodle, rather than having to record on an external device/ program and upload it. This makes it very quick and easy to create and share sound files with a course.

    Finally the LTI tools allows you to embed external content that is LTI compliant. As mentioned above this functionality is also available in Moodle via the External tools function, and is probably easier to use this.

    You can find out more about Campus Pack on the UCL Moodle Resource Centre wiki.

    Additionally you can learn more about Campus Pack through Unit 3 of UCL Arena Digital titled, “How can we involve students with Campus Pack blogs, wikis and podcasts?” This unit has just finished but remains open for access. Participants can watch video tutorials, see (and still take part in) a Campus Pack wiki activity, read (and contribute to) a Campus Pack blog, and see a recording of a webinar where Tim Neumann (Campus Pack expert) discusses ways of using the tools for collaboration and assessment with UCL colleagues.

    As well as the tools mentioned above, which as looked after by the E-Learning Environments team UCL also offer a number of other spaces such as the UCL wiki and UCL Personal Web Service.

    If you are interested in any of the above services and think that you could utilise them in your teaching and learning please contact the ISD Service Desk for more information.



    Turnitin UK User Group – October 2015

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 30 October 2015

    Last week I attended the annual Turnitin UK User Group, which this time was hosted in Westminster, London. The user group gave me (and by extension E-Learning Environments/ UCL) an opportunity to ask questions directly to Turnitin and to learn more about up-coming developments to the system.
    A focus of the day was the large amount of restructuring and staff changes Turnitin have gone through over the last year. This means they have now created a dedicated team for Moodle and have moved to an agile product development framework called Scrum. Hopefully this will mean that any required bug fixes or feature changes can be carried out much more quickly than in the past (when they were using the Waterfall framework), however only time shall tell. They were also keen to emphasise that the huge scale of the changes is still sinking in and it could take a bit more time for them to fully adjust.
    What’s new?
    One of the much anticipated features that has been added to Turnitin version 2 (V2) is the ability to email non-submitters. This means that even in anonymous marking mode, you can easily email a reminder to all students who have not submitted.
    Unfortunately it looks like it will still be a while until the highly requested ability to carry out double blind marking is available. Turnitin currently estimate it won’t be available until 2017. Apparently this is due to very localised demand for such a feature, with the UK & Australia being the only places that require it. As Turnitin is a global service they often have to dedicate their resources to enhancements that will benefit all of their customers. At least it is still in their plans, and we will continue to pressure them to make the feature available as soon as possible.
    Accuracy was mentioned as one of the companies key priorities, which you would hope it would be as they market themselves as a ‘plagiarism detection’ service. In light of this they are working to expand and improve their database, which student submissions are matched against. Currently the database includes:
    • 57 billion web pages
    • 143 million STM journals
    • 570 million essays
    • 26 million students

    They are aiming to improve this with a new deeper crawler called ‘Walker’, which not only goes deeper into webpages and documents but also has the ability to crawl Java script links.

    Turnitin Next
    After the version 1 and version 2 plugins will come Turnitin Next, which should offer a better experience for both staff and students. UCL are signed up to the beta programme so that we (ELE) can get our hands on this new product first and make sure that it is suitable for use with the rest the UCL community before releasing it live on Moodle. As we start to learn more about this new product and review it within the team we will be sure to keep you all updated.
    The new integration leads to a re-vamped document viewer and grading interface that looks in, the promotional videos, like it will be a lot easier to use. Everything is controlled by a single side panel, rather than having to switch between tabs as in the current document viewer. This new viewer also includes features such as:
    • Formatting for bubble comments
    • Context menu when adding an in-line comment
    • Rubrics represented as sliders
    • Thumbnail view to navigate document
    What else?
    Some of the other items on Turnitin’s tentative roadmap (which they stressed is subject to change) are:
    • Non integer grades – estimated to arrive in  Q3 2016
    • Individual extensions – estimated to arrive in Q1/2 2016

    They also said that they were planning to launch a research project into how group work might be facilitated in Turnitin. As this is only at the very initial stages I would caution it will be a while until anything is produced (if ever depending on the outcome of the research). For group submissions I would still recommend Moodle assignments, you can find out more about how this works in the UCL Moodle Resource Centre wiki.

    What’s your digital footprint?

    By Adrien Desjardins, on 19 October 2015

    A treat for the students of UCL Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering: an insightful and enjoyable presentation by Jessica Gramp and Moira Wright of E-learning Environments (14 October 2015).

    Jess and Moira presented on the concept of a digital footprint, and how it’s so important for students. They showed how it can be valuable for showcasing skills, but also how it can lead to trouble if not watched carefully.


    With clickers integrated into the presentation, it was fascinating to see students’ responses in real-time.

    Jess and Moira highlighted ways for students to get engaged with contributing content for the UCL community (e.g. UCL Student Blog) and also for receiving content (e.g. Lynda.com). As a follow-up to last year’s event, we met several very thoughtful students who went on to get challenging internships in this space. Fingers crossed for the same outcome this year.



    Jess and Moira, many thanks!

    – Adrien Desjardins / Mohini Nair
    Department of Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering, UCL

    View the slides from this session below, or access them on SlideShare.

    Introducing: Campus Pack

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 17 September 2015

    E-Learning Environments (ELE) are pleased to announce the introduction of Campus Pack to Moodle.

    Campus Pack consists of four main tools; blogs, journals, podcast and wikis – all of which can be submitted for assessment. You can find them under the ‘add an activity or resource’ menu in Moodle.

    If you would like to find out more about what Campus Pack can do, or how to use it please visit the Moodle Resource Centre wiki, where we have created some guidance: https://wiki.ucl.ac.uk/display/MoodleResourceCentre/M48-+Campus+Pack

    Although some of the functionality is similar to other UCL tools (Moodle activities or MyPortfolio) Campus Pack has a very friendly and easy to use interface.

    Please check back to the ELE blog soon, for a comparison of MyPortfolio and Campus Pack.

    If you have any questions please email ele@ucl.ac.uk.



    UCL lecturers on video

    By Clive Young, on 10 September 2015


    Once confined to a few teaching enthusiasts and specific disciplines, over the last decade video, audio and interactive media have become an increasingly mainstream part of UCL’s academic repertoire.

    Media has definitely become part of many of our students’ study processes.

    Students consistently report that video content assists their learning, either as a revision tool or as a new way of engaging with material. Student demand for example has largely driven the growth of lecture capture. More broadly the success of Khan Academy video-based MOOCs and especially at UCL Lynda.com has helped digital video become recognised as a means to support high-quality academic learning. Key to this is integration with Moodle enabling any media to be enhanced by other online resources and support.

    Media itself has become easier and cheaper to produce, edit, store and deliver, enabling both our academics and students to become producers with ‘media literacy’ is widely becoming identified as a valuable education and research asset.

    Tony Slade and Clive Young from the ISD Learning, Teaching & Media Services team have been working on a project this year to develop a UCL Educational Media service. The research project investigates how and why lecturers use video and what their future video requirements are for successful student teaching. Interviews have been compiled with staff project examples to form case studies. An education producer, Mike Howarth was commissioned to produce the content for the research project

    The team has have found widespread use of media to change the way we design programmes. Media seems to act as a catalyst enabling new blends of virtual learning and conventional delivery to create rich media and face-to-face learning experiences. ‘Flipping’ is also increasingly considered at UCL as a way to maximise the educational opportunity of face-to-face learning.

    For examples of these ideas, follow the links below to six short video case studies on UCL’s T&L Portal.

    As a bonus if you are asking yourself “Can using free online video tutorials through lynda.com enhance my teaching?” try this additional case study.