By Natasa Perovic, on 1 November 2014
E-Learning Environments team blog
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Archive for the 'General Learning Technology' Category
By Mike J Allinson, on 31 October 2014
Woke up, fell out of bed
Dragged a comb across my head
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup
And looking up I noticed I was late
Found my coat and grabbed my hat
Made the bus in seconds flat
I was invited by Revolabs to give a presentation to their European distributors, from the perspective of an end user using their audio products in higher education. This was my inaugural presentation outside UCL. I thought it might be interesting to share this so others can understand some of what I do. I have to say what follows is not every day but does capture some of the more interesting aspects of my role.
The group meeting was held at Abbey Road Studios in studio 2 which in the 60s and early 70s was where the Beatles recorded all of their albums, hence the title and opening lyric on this blog
In 2010 due to the growth of the mobile and smart phone industry the demand for extra bandwidth for these products became clear. So the Government seeing an opportunity for lucrative revenue gathering started looking at the radio-frequency bandwidth to see how they could achieve this. They decided the sensible thing to do was to move the bandwidth currently occupied by radio microphones.
Along with the entertainment industry this put huge pressure on higher education who were seeing a growth in the use of radio microphones for medium to large teaching spaces. At that time there were two channels we could operate radio microphone frequencies in. Channel 69 (854-862MHz) and Channel 70 (863-865MHz). In 2012 the government sold off Channel 61-69 to the telecoms industry for their expansion into G4. This subsequently moved licensed radio frequency of channel 69 to channel 38. This meant that any microphone equipment that was bought to operate on channel 69 was now obsolete. Providing you had been using this bandwidth with a licence there was a government refund to help towards replacement equipment operating on new channel 38. Some Universities took advantage of that offer but it was and administrative nightmare. Many universities operated on the free channel, Channel 70. The problem operating on Channel 70 was the systems is in close proximity to channel 69 where there was potential for interference from the G4 network.
Channel 38 required people to restock the radio microphone systems and be drawn into a recurrent costs for licensing. From UCL’s perspective location in central London had drawbacks of being relatively close to the West End theatre. Therefore after much deliberation we decided to look to alternative technology. This is where our partnership with Revolabs began.
Revolabs are Unified Communications Company based on the east coast of the United States. Their microphone systems operate on the DECT system (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications) as opposed to UHF (Ultra High Frequency). DECT has a dedicated license-exempt band in most countries worldwide and also ensures that the microphone platform has high spectral density, allowing up to 40 microphones in a single space without mutual interference or spurious effects. DECT delivers high quality 15 kHz audio bandwidth with automated set-up and frequency management. It also extends the range of radio microphones up to 100 metres without requiring line of sight to the transmitter. Many users of other radio microphone systems are faced with significant frequency management issues that are difficult to solve with limited budgets or in-house expertise. DECT’s automatic frequency band allocation ensures that microphones can be ‘paired’ with the receiver(s) with a simple button press.
We started to replace our UHF mic systems with the Revolab solo proved effective in medium size teaching spaces and was a good solution for sound capture when using lecturecast. We found the early solo versions were not suitable or powerful enough for larger teaching spaces so kept our legacy UHF systems in those larger spaces. Over the past 3 to 4 years Revolab have significantly improved the technology and quality of their mic systems, the HD executive and now the HD elite have an excellent remote management systems that allows us so much more control and flexible management that we are happy to install these in all teaching spaces.
The response from the audience, who consisted of major distribution partners for Revolabs from all across northern Europe as well as senior executives of Revolabs from the US was very positive. One of the largest HE institutions in the US to embrace this technology is MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). So I think we are in good company.Pleas feel free to check to the products we are using athttp://www.revolabs.com/products
Learning Spaces AV specialist
University College London
By Mira Vogel, on 14 October 2014
Moodle now gives any staff member in an editing role the ability to create up to 15 test accounts for up to 15 days. These are easy to set up from any Moodle course area. They are assigned a student role in the Moodle course area where they are set up, but their creator can use them across other course areas they edit.
What’s the point of these?
As Moodle editors, test accounts can help you understand the how the materials and activities you set up in Moodle will be encountered by your students, beyond what Moodle’s ‘Switch Role To’ function affords. Specifically they let you:
- anticipate students’ needs when making design decisions in your Moodle area.
- reassure yourself about exactly what students can access, eg when you’re hiding or revealing elements, when using Groups and Groupings, or using the Gradebook to give assessment feedback.
- familiarise yourself with the way things display to students eg Quizzes, the Gradebook, Forum posts, email alerts.
- anticipate student questions and author instructions accordingly, for students from their point of view.
- discover important insights when experimenting with something new in Moodle; interacting with the new thing in one or more student roles, then logging back in as editor to see whether it works as intended from a tutor point of view.
How can they help?
- you can test and check as you go along – in other words you can play, experiment and build your confidence within Moodle.
- you’re independent and don’t have to rely on colleagues to pose as students.
- you can design your Moodle areas from an authentic student perspective, which hopefully makes them easier to use, which in turn means fewer student questions and more student satisfaction.
- if you want to persuade your colleagues to try something new in Moodle, you don’t have to rely on their imaginations or optimism so much – you can actually show them, and even let them log in and play.
What can you do with them?
A few of the things you can only do with confidence if you can log in as Test Students.
- Testing bulk enrolment into Groups.
- Testing the difference between separate and visible Groups.
- Testing what privacy looks like for your private Forum.
- Testing whether the things you need to be selectively hidden are displaying as anticipated (and whether they are available when the time comes for them to be revealed).
- Testing whether your Grouped resources and activities are displaying to your different Groups and Groupings as intended.
- Testing whether emails from news/announcement forums are working, and how they behave, so you can instruct students about settings in a way appropriate for your course.
How can you get some?
There are instructions in the Moodle Resource Centre.
Anything else to know?
The accounts are only for Moodle and cannot be used to access other UCL services requiring full user accounts.
By Jessica Gramp, on 9 October 2014
UCL Engineering’s Learning Technologists have been supporting rapid changes within the faculty. Changes include the development of several new programmes and helping the uptake of technology to improve the turnaround of feedback.
In late 2013, the UCL Engineering faculty invested in a Learning Technologist post in order to support the Integrated Engineering Programme (IEP), as well as the other programmes within Engineering departments. Since then two Engineering departments, Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (STEaPP) and Management Science and Innovation (MS&I) have both employed Learning Technologists to help develop their e-learning provision. These posts have had a significant impact on the e-learning activities. To evaluate impact on the student learning experience we are collecting information and feedback from students throughout the academic year.
These three roles complement the UCL-wide support provided by the E-Learning Environments (ELE) team and the Learning Technologists work closely with the central ELE team. This relationship is facilitated by Jess Gramp, the E-Learning Facilitator for BEAMS (Built Environment, Engineering, Maths and Physical Sciences) who co-manages these roles with a manager from each faculty/department. This arrangement enables both formal input from ELE to the departmental activities and plans; and for the learning technologists to receive central mentoring and assistance. Without this structure in place it would be difficult to keep these roles aligned with the many central e-learning initiatives and for the learning technologists to liaise with the technical teams within ISD.
The initiatives developed by these staff include: designing and implementing Moodle course templates; ensuring adherence to the UCL Moodle Baseline; running training needs analysis and developing staff training plans; delivering e-learning workshops; working with staff to redesign courses, as well as developing them from the ground up, to incorporate blended learning principles; delivering one-to-one support; and working with academics on e-learning projects.
Engineering now have a Moodle template that provides a consistent experience for students using UCL Moodle to support their learning. This template is now being used on all IEP, MS&I and STEaPP courses and all new Engineering Moodle courses from 2014/15 onwards will also use this template. In some cases the template has been modified to meet departmental requirements.
Engineering Faculty Moodle template (click to enlarge)
See how MS&I have modified this template and described each feature in their MS&I Moodle Annotated Template document.
Moodle Baseline course audit
In MS&I all Moodle courses have been audited against the UCL Moodle Baseline. This has enabled the department’s Learning Technologist to modify courses to ensure every course in the department now meets the Baseline. The template document that was used to audit the courses has been shared on the UCL E-Learning Wiki, so other departments may use it if they wish to do similar. You can also download it here: Baseline Matrix MSI-template.
Training Needs Analysis
In STEaPP a Training Needs Analysis was conducted using both a survey and interviews with academics to develop individual training plans for academics and run training workshops specific to the department’s needs. The survey used for this has been shared with colleagues on the UCL E-Learning Wiki.
Staff e-learning training and support
In STEaPP a Moodle Staff Hub course has been developed to support staff in their development of courses, including links to e-learning support materials; curriculum development advice; and links to professional development resources. This course has now been duplicated and modified to assist staff across Engineering and within MS&I. If any other UCL faculties or departments would like a similar course set up they can request this be duplicated for them, so they may tailor it to their own requirements. This and other courses are being used to induct new staff to departments and are supported by face to face and online training programmes. The training is delivered using a combination of central ELE training courses and bespoke workshops delivered by Engineering Learning Technologists.
E-assessment tools to improve the speed of feedback to students
In MS&I the average turn around for feedback to students is now just one week, significantly shorter than the four week target set by UCL. In order to support this initiative, the department has adopted a fully online assessment approach. This has been achieved predominately using Turnitin, a plagiarism prevention tool that also provides the ability to re-use comments; use weighted grading criteria to provide consistent feedback to students (in the form of rubrics and grading forms); and mark offline using the iPad app. The use of this tool has helped staff to reach the one week feedback target and to streamline the administrative processes that were slowing the feedback process. The Learning Technologist in MS&I has recently arranged workshops with the majority of MS&I staff (including those who are new to UCL) to demonstrate how Turnitin can be used to deliver feedback quickly to students. Several modules within the IEP are also using Moodle’s Workshop tool to enable peer assessment to be managed automatically online. The use of this and other e-assessment tools is saving academics and support staff significant time that used to be spent manually managing the submission, allocation and marking of assessments.
Technical e-learning support
While the ELE Services team continues to be the main point of contact for technical e-learning support within Engineering, the local Learning Technologists are able to provide just-in-time support for staff working on local projects. The Learning Technologists are also able to provide assistance beyond what is supported by the central E-Learning team. This includes any development work, such as setting up specific tools within Moodle courses (like the Workshop tool for peer assessment) and setting up groups in MyPortfolio. Development work like these activities fall outside the remit of the central E-Learning Environments team. Also, because the Engineering Learning technologists are based within the faculty, they obtain a better knowledge of local working practices, and are therefore better equipped to understand and support department specific requirements than the central team is able to.
Project support and funding
The local Learning Technologists have worked with academics within Engineering to develop bids for Engineering Summer Studentships and other projects, including the E-Learning Development Grants that are distributed yearly by ELE. The successful project proposals have been supported by the local Learning Technologists, which has meant a greater level of support has been provided to the grant winners than has been possible in previous years.
Using technology to support scenario-based learning
The Learning Technologist for STEaPP had a unique opportunity to work with staff during the development of their curriculum to ensure that technology was considered at the very outset of the programme’s development. In MS&I the local Learning Technologist has helped to develop a scenario-based, blended-learning course that is now being used as an exemplar of how other academics may redesign their own courses to empower students in their own learning (both electronically and face to face) and provide authentic learning experiences. Many Engineering programmes are already using project-based work to provide students with authentic learning experiences and assessments and this is something the Learning Technologists can work with academics to develop and enhance further.
Trialing new technologies
Several e-learning systems have been trialed within Engineering significant input from the Engineering Learning Technologists, including the mobile e-voting system (TurningPoint ResponseWare) for up to 1000 students; and peer assessment of upwards of 700 student videos within the IEP. The successful implementation of such large scale trials would have been difficult without the support of the Learning Technologists.
E-Learning equipment loans
One of the common problems with technology uptake is ensuring staff have access to it. Engineering have invested in a number of devices to enable (amongst other things) offline marking; video capture and editing; and presentation of hand drawn figures during lectures. Equipment is available for loan across Engineering and also within STEaPP and MS&I. These include laptops, video recording and editing kit (such as cameras, tripods, microphones and editing software) and iPads. The maintenance and loaning of these are managed by the local Learning Technologists. They are also able to provide advice and assistance with the use of these devices, especially in terms of multimedia creation, including sound recording and filming, and editing of videos to enhance learning resources.
Working closely with E-Learning Environments and each other
One important aspect of these roles is that they have close ties to the ELE team, allowing for important two way communication to occur. The Engineering Learning Technologists are able to keep abreast of changes to centrally supported processes and systems and can obtain support from the central E-Learning Environments Services team when required, including receiving train-the-trainer support in order to run workshops locally within Engineering departments. Similarly, ELE benefit by an improved understanding of the activities occurring within faculties and departments, and accessing the materials that are developed and shared by the Learning Technologists.
Each week the Engineering Learning Technologists share any developments, issues, and updates with each other and the E-Learning Facilitator for BEAMS. The result is a strong network of support for helping to problem solve and resolve issues. It also enables resources, such as the staff hub Moodle course and Moodle auditing matrix, to be shared across the Faculty and more widely across UCL, enabling the re-use of materials and avoiding duplication of effort. The importance of the strong working relationship between the Engineering Learning Technologists became apparent during UCL Engineering’s How to change the world series. During an important final-day session all three Learning Technologists were involved in resolving technical issues to ensure the voting system operated correctly in a venue with incompatible wireless provision.
UCL staff and students today operate within a rapidly changing educational environment. Both staff and students are expected to understand how to use technology in order to operate within an increasingly digital society. There is a huge number of self directed online learning resources available (such as MOOCs and YouTube videos) and increasingly flexible work and study arrangements are being supported by enhanced technology use. As more staff see the benefits that technology can bring to the classroom, and true blended learning becomes the norm in many areas, it is going to be more important to implement appropriate support structures so staff have the resources to understand and work with these emerging technologies. It is equally important that students are supported in their use of these tools.
The Learning Technologists within Engineering are in a unique position to understand the opportunities and issues arising in the classroom, and react to these quickly and effectively. We have already seen numerous outputs from these roles. These include a video editing guide to help academics produce professional looking videos for their students; the use of tools within Moodle and MyPortfolio on a scale not seen before with large cohorts of over 700 IEP students; and an exemplar of how scenario-based learning can be supported by technology in MS&I. While these outputs have been developed in reaction to local needs, they have been shared back for others to use and reference, and therefore they benefit the wider UCL community.
As we see more of these roles implemented across UCL, we will begin to see more dramatic change than has been achievable in the past. One of the plans for the future involves running student focus groups and interviews to better understand how Moodle and other e-learning systems are helping students with their studies and how provision can be improved. The Engineering Learning Technologists will continue their work with local staff to help their departments to use technology more effectively and improve the student experience.
By Natasa Perovic, on 9 October 2014
BoB (Box of Broadcasts) National is an innovative shared online off-air TV and radio recording service for UK higher and further education institutions.
Staff and students can record any broadcast programme from 60+ TV and radio channels. The recorded programmes are kept indefinitely in an media archive, which currently stores over 1 million programmes and are shared by users across all subscribing institutions. The archive also includes searchable transcripts and one click citation referencing.
The recordings can be set before or after the broadcast (30 day recording buffer). The programmes can be edited into clips and shared with others. They can also be embedded into Moodle.
To start using BoB, log in with your UCL user details http://bobnational.net/
News for Lecturecast users: Direct booking is introduced and the Lecturecast Resource Centre gets a make-over.
By Rod Digges, on 18 August 2014
A new booking form, linked into the Lecturecast system allows UCL staff members to schedule recordings for portico registered modules directly.
Staff wishing to book non-portico module recordings should email email@example.com
The Lecturecast resource centre has been substantially updated, giving more detailed information about a number of existing and new topics. We very much hope that the UCL Lecturecast community find the resources both interesting and useful – included is new information about:
- Live webcasting and an invitation to join with ELE in a preliminary study of its potential for teaching at UCL.
- The new personal capture client – the PC version is even more user-friendly with a completely new look and feel. The lastest Mac version is more reliable. (PC users should download the latest personal capture software from Lecturecast the old version will no longer automatically update).
- A new embed facility allowing Lecturecast recordings (voice and display only) to be embedded in Moodle and other web pages – much like embeding a YouTube video.
- How Lecturecast course instructors can use EchoCenter pages to access viewing figures.