E-Learning Environments team blog
  • ELE Group
    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!

  • Subscribe to the ELE blog

  • Meta

  • Tags

  • A A A

    Archive for the 'Guest Posts' Category

    Introducing Luke Davis

    By Jessica Gramp, on 9 May 2014

    LukeDavisCommunications Manager (Education) Luke Davis is the editor of the Teaching and Learning Portal – a one-stop shop for news, case studies and resources on the subject of teaching at UCL.

    We asked him about his work on the site and how UCL staff can get involved.

     

    What can people expect to find at the Teaching and Learning Portal?

    The aim is to offer everything that a member of UCL staff could need on the subject of teaching. That includes plenty of case studies about new approaches being used inside the university as well as up-to-date news and event info. There is also information on topics such as professional development, learning technologies and education strategy.

     

    What does your role involve?

    Day-to-day, I find out about the latest things UCL staff are doing in terms of teaching and then produce new case studies, features and news stories.

     

    How long have you been at UCL?

    Just three months. It’s a big change from working in a small communications agency, but I’m really enjoying it. There are so many fascinating people doing incredible things, and, of course, education is right at the top of the agenda.

     

    What plans do you have for the Portal?

    I’m currently working with colleagues in Web and Mobile Services to redevelop it. It’s a big job that will involve lots of user research before scouring all the existing content and redesigning the site. The idea is that we end up with a modern, attractive site that’s easy to navigate and full of up-to-date, useful, fascinating content. We’ve set ourselves the daunting target of having it ready in October.

     

    How can UCL people get involved?

    If you do have a story, or even if you’d just like to suggest a topic for me to explore further, please get in touch. I’m always on the look-out for new leads and ideas. And if you want to keep up-to-date with what’s on the site, please sign up to the monthly digest newsletter.

     

    Contact Luke at l.davis@ucl.ac.uk

    Visit the Portal at www.ucl.ac.uk/teaching-learning

    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/

    A Virtual Learning Environment to Facilitate Interdisciplinary Learning

    By Richard Day, on 31 July 2012

     Report on Outcomes of E-Learning Development Grant

    Overall aims and objectives

    The ‘Virtual Learning Environment’ (VLE) project aimed to develop new online tools to facilitate interdisciplinary learning at UCL. The project was particularly aimed at students registered on multidisciplinary Masters courses, such as the MSc Biomaterials & Tissue Engineering, run by the Department of Mechanical Engineering. The objectives of the project were guided by the pedagogical principles that knowledge acquisition and learning are facilitated by interaction and collaboration with peers. To achieve this, the Virtual Learning Environment needed to offer a way of enhancing student interaction whilst providing an opportunity for peer-to-peer learning that offered unique motivational and cognitive benefits, whilst also enabling students from different background disciplines to grasp basic concepts.

    Methodology – Explanation of what was done and why

    Time constraints on a Masters degree course meant it was important to focus the content of the VLE on the fundamental principles necessary for students to grasp key concepts relevant to the course. A VLE was therefore devised to provide online laboratory tutorials (Virtual Laboratory) and an interdisciplinary learning forum (Virtual Journal Club).

    (1) Virtual Laboratory: The Virtual Laboratory was based in Moodle and consisted of a portfolio of tutorials introduced throughout the course that were designed to prime the students (primarily from an engineering background) with the working practises of a Life Sciences laboratory. This involved producing learning material that could be loaded into iSpring presentations, which were subsequently converted into Flash format for uploading onto Moodle. Topics covered included aseptic tissue culture techniques, micropipetting, centrifugation, cell counting and enzyme linked immunosorbent assays. The latter two topics included mini quizzes and data analysis tasks. These materials were developed with the assistance of student volunteers who were registered on the MSc course. Their work on the project involved capturing video clips of someone performing the techniques, scripting, dubbing and editing. The students were remunerated for the cost of their time working on the project.

    (2) Virtual Journal Club: The Virtual Journal Club (VJC) was established in My Portfolio. After an introductory session to the VJC to show its contents and workings, a different student was invited each week to review the strengths and weaknesses of a paper they had selected from the recent literature relevant to a topic covered in the course module. An online discussion was then opened up to the other members of the group who participated by uploading a brief posting onto the blog.

    Project outcomes – Description and examples of what was achieved or produced

    The VLE received positive feedback from students on the MSc Biomaterials & Tissue Engineering course. An Opinio survey was conducted to evaluate the students’ perception of the VLE. These data indicate students generally recognised the benefits of participating in the VLE, despite many of them not having previously used online or virtual learning environments. The VLE received positive feedback from students on the MSc Biomaterials & Tissue Engineering course. An Opinio survey was conducted to evaluate the students’ perception of the VLE. These data indicate students generally recognised the benefits of participating in the VLE, despite many of them not having previously used online or virtual learning environments.

    Opinio survey data from students on the MSc Biomaterials & Tissue Engineering course:

    Virtual Journal Club:

    Virtual Laboratory:


    From a course lecturer’s perspective, the VLE enabled me to cover more topics during the limited time available. This was particularly evident in the practical sessions where the students were more familiar with the concepts being introduced. Having already been introduced to some of the techniques with the online tutorials they became proficient with the techniques being used much more quickly than groups taught in previous years. An encouraging result from the survey was the students’ impression that the Virtual Journal Club helped them review literature more critically. This skill is an important component for their laboratory based research project and was something that was clearly lacking in previous years.

    Evaluation/reflection:

    How did the project enhance student learning?

    The project enhanced student learning by providing an opportunity for students to be ‘preconditioned’ for certain aspects of the course prior to classroom based activities. An example of this occurred with the viewing of a Virtual Laboratory movie clip explaining aseptic technique, which was followed by the practical session. By enabling the students to be familiar with the techniques that would be used during the laboratory practical session, time was saved allowing students additional time to reflect on what was being covered during the session. The feedback from the Opinio survey generally supported this observation.




    How did the outcomes compare with the original aims?

    The outcomes of the project were in line with the original aims of the project. A VLE has been created and this has been positively received by the students. The VLE has provided an additional tool for cross disciplinary learning. The students were more enthusiastic about the Virtual Laboratory compared with the Virtual Journal Club. After the first few students had volunteered for the Virtual Journal Club, subsequent volunteers were less forthcoming. To encourage participation a different approach will be adopted for the coming academic year, whereby the participation contributes to 5-10% of the coursework module mark.

    How did the project benefit the student workers?

    The student workers received training in the production of online teaching aids. They also gained experience in scripting, producing and editing video clips. They also benefitted from financial remuneration on completion of their work.

    How has the project developed your awareness, understanding, knowledge, or expertise in elearning?

    The project has developed my awareness of the benefits and drawbacks of e-learning. However, the former are greater than the latter and I plan to continue developing this side of the curriculum. The planned peer-to-peer learning that the project aimed for will only be fully achieved if all the students are fully engaged. Therefore participation rates of the Virtual Journal Club will be monitored and reminders sent for each individual’s contribution.

    Scalability and sustainability – How will the project continue after the ELDG funding has
    discontinued? Might it be expanded to other areas of UCL?

    Interest in the Virtual Laboratory and Virtual Journal Club has been expressed by other course coordinators at UCL and it is hoped that similar technology will be rolled-out to a wide range of interdisciplinary courses at UCL. The Opinio survey has revealed areas where the VLE can be enhanced in the future, as shown below.

    Dissemination- How will the project outputs of results be disseminated to the department, College or externally?  Are there other departments which would find value in the project outputs or results?

     

    Other members of the department are aware of the VLE and have expressed interest in developing similar strategies for other courses. Additional research questions and developmental ideas are going to be explored in the next academic year. It is hoped these data will lead to a journal publication to enable further dissemination outside of UCL.

    Guest post – Dr Jenny Bunn on DiSARM ELDG Report

    By Matt Jenner, on 29 June 2012

    From Dr Jenny Bunn

    In receipt of an E-Learning Development Grant, Jenny has created DiSARM: Digital Scenarios for Archives and Records Management. Her project aimed to develop a number of digital scenarios to enhance the e-learning opportunities for students on the Department of Information Studies’ (DIS) archives and records management programmes. Below is her report, as a guest blog post:

    This post sets out a question that has arisen as the result of work within the Department of Information Studies to incorporate more e-learning tools and techniques within its teaching. Last year the department was fortunate enough to win an e-learning development grant to undertake a project entitled Digital Scenarios for Archives and Records Management (DiSARM). As the name suggests the project was focussed around the department’s archives and records management programmes and involved the development of scenarios which would enhance both the digital content and context of these programmes. Content, because it is increasingly important for our students to be familiar with a wide range of processes and products employed to ensure the preservation of born digital records, and context, because it is equally important that they should be exposed to methods of teaching and (e-)learning that will enable them to gain confidence and experience of working in an online and collaborative way as part of a global community.

    It is not my intention to describe the project in detail here. Those who are interested in reading more may download the full report. Rather I wish to highlight a question that emerged from the project and which seems to encompass many of the issues raised by e-learning.

    ‘How far can institutions put a boundary around a learning experience?’

    This question is raised, in this form, by Mayes and de Freitas (2007) who also comment that new technologies mean that ‘learning can be socially situated in a way never previously possible’. With the DiSARM project an issue arose in the form of the negotiation of the boundary between the safe controlled environment of UCL’s VLE Moodle and the wider community beyond. Digital preservation is still in an embryonic state so should the students’ messy and often unsuccessful experimentation with it be contained within the walls of the Moodle or out there on the internet for the benefit of the professional community at large?

    This though would seem to be only one of the frames in which it is possible to see the question of a boundary around the learning experience. For example, it would also seem to encompass current debates about Open Educational Resources and increases in university fees, as well as old ones such as that of the relationship between theory and practice. Sadly I have no easy answers to offer, but one avenue that I think might be worth exploring is a way to combine ideas about ‘authenticity and presence’ (Land and Bayne 2006) with those about e-moderation. E-moderation is a subject of much debate (e.g. Salmon 2000) and there is some evidence (Hewings, Coffin & North 2006) of anxiety amongst teachers, in the context of new e-learning technologies, with regards to their ability to achieve the proper balance between not interfering too much so as to stifle learners learning, and yet not interfering too little so as to allow dominant voices to drown out weaker ones.

    One hypothesis would be then that, what was previously a passive and unacknowledged ‘presence’ has now become an active process of, yes moderation, but perhaps something else as well? Perhaps the role of the teacher has always been to make learning visible, to provide the definition or boundary that allows students to see the ‘something’ they are learning, the frame against which to set and assess it?

    References

    Hewings, A., Coffin, C. & North, S. (2006) Supporting undergraduate students’ acquisition of academic argumentation strategies through computer conferencing, Higher Education Academy report. http://bit.ly/N2G2OU [Accessed June 2012]

    Land, R. and Bayne, S. (2006) Issues in Cyberspace Education. In Savin-Baden, M. & Wilkie, K. (eds) (2006) Problem-based learning online Open University Press.

    Mayes, Y. and de Freitas, S. (2007) Learning and e-learning: the role of theory. In Beetham, H. & Sharpe, R. (Eds) (2007) Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age: designing and delivering e-learning London, Routledge.

    Salmon, G. (2000) E-moderating: The Key to Teaching and Learning Online London, Kogan Page.

    Guest Post – Dr Mat Disney on using Adobe Connect

    By Learning Technology Support Service , on 21 March 2011

    Downtown Chicago, 10/4/2003 in ‘real’ colour (RGB)

    Downtown Chicago, 10/4/2003 in ‘real’ colour (RGB) © 2011 GeoEye

    from Dr Mat Disney

    As a Lecturer in Remote Sensing in the Department of Geography I get to talk to (at?) students on a regular basis, something I enjoy. Over the past few years I’ve looked for opportunities to present my research to school students in a range of environments, something UCL encourages through our partnership with City and Islington Academy for example. I’ve spoken at workshops, schools, the Royal Society Summer Exhibition, as well as running hands-on practical sessions and writing about what I do for school science publications (see SEP’s Catalyst for example). It doesn’t hurt that my research is very visual – satellite images, 3D models and animations, fires, trees and so on.

    Recently I had the opportunity to talk about remote sensing to high-school students from under-served communities in Chicago as part of a programme to introduce real-world applications of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) outside their normal curriculum. The students voluntarily attend sessions for three hours on Saturday mornings and interact in real-time via video, interactive whiteboards and instant messaging using Adobe Connect.

    Mat Disney using Adobe Connect

    Screenshot of the session using Adobe Connect

    The Chicago session was co-organised by Ian Usher, a former UCL Geography colleague who is now e-learning co-ordinator for Bucks County Council, and Roxana Hadad in Chicago. I showed the students various satellite images, including some striking high resolution satellite images of downtown Chicago, the Mall in Washington DC showing a large rally that took place in late October, and Stonehenge, and discussed with them what their environmental and scientific applications might be.

    I was very impressed with the level of interaction provided by the software – me in my garden office at home, and them in a well-equipped classroom half a world away. I was even more impressed by how enthusiastic and welcoming the students were. They were very quick to work out what they were looking at – for example the dried up river system around Stonehenge, along with the context and significance. They very rapidly arrived at the idea that Stonehenge might be a prehistoric calendar of sorts.

    Landsat image of Chicago, 10/4/2003 displayed in false colour (near infrared, red, green)

    Chicago, 10/4/2003 in false colour (near infrared, red, green) © 2011 GeoEye

    I think the novelty of being able to interact so directly and immediately with students outside their normal sphere like this is a really powerful way of attracting and maintaining interest. The advances in bandwidth and software tools allow for rich two-way interaction which brings the whole process alive (compared to web-based delivery of video for example). It was a very enjoyable experience, and I really look forward to more activities like this – it’s a great way help bring UCL’s expertise to a wider audience.

    This is a further follow up to a brief report by UCL News in January