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    Archive for the 'Learning designs' Category

    Blended Learning Essentials: Getting Started

    By Clive Young, on 9 October 2015


    ‘Blended Learning Essentials: Getting Started’ is a free course, run by a partnership between UCL Institute of Education and University of Leeds, along with a range of colleges and organisations, on the FutureLearn platform.

    The lead educator is Professor Diana Laurillard from UCL, and, while the course is focused on vocational education, you will find much to connect with your own work. We are looking for interested staff to form a UCL cohort to take the course together.

    The course will be in two parts, run over 8 weeks in total. The first part of the course ‘Getting Started’ will ‪start on November 2nd 2015.

    We will be putting together a programme of events to support the UCL cohort and make links with teaching at UCL.

    If you are interested in joining the UCL cohort add your name and join the course at FutureLearn.

    ABC Curriculum Design Workshops

    By Natasa Perovic, on 30 September 2015

    Arena Blended Connected Curriculum Design


    • A 90 minute hands-on workshop to help module teams design engaging learning activities.
    • Teams work together to create a visual ‘storyboard’ showing the type and sequence learning activities required to meet the module’s learning outcomes and how these will be assessed.
    • ABC is particularly useful for new programmes or those changing to an online or more blended format.

    Between March and September we had 11 workshops with 37 teams from SLMS and BEAMS.

    The feedback from participants:

    • “This process was really useful. It helps us think about the modules in their entirety. It is really good how everything maps out in a clear framework like this.“
    •  “We haven’t had such level of detailed discussion as a team. I think the structure and the materials are facilitated well. “
      “It is a good way of focusing on creating the balance within a course.“
    • “It makes you think about: OK , we are going to use this technique, but where, how, for what and how does it fit with everything else? And this is the way into that, I think.“
    • “It helped us formulate in our own mind the course structure. Yes, very useful.“
    • “Made me more conscious of a formative assessment, which really did not occur to me before. “
    • “This has been extremely useful. Not only that we start to think about individual modules and how we can use electronic resources, but it makes us think about the degree together, rather than as separate modules. “
    • “It reminds you of all different formats that you can use, rather than sticking to the same old same old.“
    • “I think it was good to take a step back from the content and look at the varied type of activity. “
    • “We are not trying to be very innovative, but it is a question of being open to new ideas“

    To organise ABC workshop for your programme contact Clive Young and Nataša Perović.

    ABC CD workshop resources:

    The resources are also adapted for ABC CPD and Life learning courses.


    To organise ABC workshop for your programme contact Clive Young and Nataša Perović.







    *Viewpoints project JISC

    **UCL IoE: Laurillard, D. (2012). Teaching as a Design Science: Building Pedagogical Patterns for Learning and Technology. New York and London: Routledge.

    Connected Curriculum

    What is the cost of developing e-learning? Try our calculator

    By Matt Jenner, on 22 July 2015

    Q: What is the cost of developing e-learning?

    A: It depends

    Arghthis answer is not good enough. 

    E-Learning is a big industry, so why does the cost of making ‘some’ feel so mysterious? Increasingly the question of ‘how much will this cost?’ is cropping up. This is a perfectly valid question and one that really demands a better answer than the one above. For too long the response of ‘it depends’ comes up, or something about a piece of string. This isn’t cutting it so after some research (there isn’t much out there) we created an E-Learning Costing Calculator so you can start putting in some numbers and start to see some cold, hard, financials. Hurray?

    Go – play with what we’ve created

    Access E-Learning Costing Calculator on Google Sheets 

    Warning: multiple users will obviously see one another’s calculations but I couldn’t find a better way of doing this while also retaining Alpha status for testing. Ideas welcome in the comments below…

    Images / captures (of the above sheet)

    Main tool, questions and numbers input:

    E-Learning Costing Calculator

    Cost and recovery

    E-Learning Costing Calculator - financials

    Charts for the boss

    Charts for the boss


    Breakdown by role

    Breakdown by role


    If you spend any time in the sheet you’ll notice there are some approximations going on in there (quite a few). It doesn’t produce an exact answer (because it really does depend). I think we’ve been asking the wrong question. We still need to ask – what data do we have to suggest how much e-learning might cost? How can we generalise and remain detailed enough to find ballparks? How close can we get to accuracy? and finally, What are we missing to increase accuracy?

    Disclaimer: so far all the work on this comes from smaller, shorter courses (CPD, continuing education). Moocs and fully accredited courses are slightly different. The biggest problem is to add in some economy of scale (more on this in Maths).

    Seeking improvement

    Firstly – I want people to roadtest this spreadsheet. So please contact me and we can collaborate in Google Sheets (for now). I’m confident we could get a little closer to understanding why and it involves maths, early solutions and more questions.


    Bryan Chapman, Chief Learning Strategist for Chapman Alliance asked in 2010 how long does it take to create e-learning:

    Bryan surveyed 4000 learning development professionals and obtained data (US-based) on CPD and short courses. He created a series of development hour timeframes based on teaching approaches of f2f and three-level e-learning (basic, intermediate and advanced). For each approach he discovered the number of development hours required to create one hour of ‘e-learning’ (vague as it depends on your teaching approach). These numbers were the primary driver to start calculating an idea of costing, and the questions to ask.

    This is the only data found. There’s corporations offering consultancy, and sure they have their ROI models (of course, it’s business). There’s bloggers and co. with their ideas and comments – but nothing with much evidence, especially when compared to Bryan’s work.

    Economy of scale / new vs old

    One problem with all this is that all costs tend to follow the rules of economies of scale. Producing one of anything tends to be proportionally more expensive than 10, then 100, and so on. Logically one hour of e-learning would cost a fair whack – say £15k. But the second should be cheaper, say £10k. Then from here you should see some sliding scales of efficiency. This isn’t so easy to build, so I omitted it in the sheet (for now). Idea welcome on this part.

    New content is probably not the same cost as reusing old. Converting old content vs producing new content both come with different costs. To try and not complicate things it’s best to avoid this question for now, but see a sliding scale could help here – but I don’t know how to calculate the cost of conversion and comparing it to the cost of creation – so it’s lumped in together (for now).


    Running a few generalisations – the data from the Chapman Alliance can be used to start calculating the cost of courses. By taking some known courses, and their approximate costs, we simulated with some UCL courses how much they cost. During a project (UCLeXtend) we had provided some seeding resource to prime the new platform and provide examples to the wider community of what’s possible. Due to the transparency of these courses we could also see how much they all cost, and whether any calculations made were accurate. Sometimes the numbers hurt (never making a profit in this corner…) they also looked kinda accurate.

    This motivated the creation of an E-Learning Costing Calculator – which we’re now crowdsourcing people’s opinions on to improve.


    Armed with one data source (dangerous, I know) I looked to break it back down and discover if it could be reverse-engineered to build a calculator for everyday use. The idea was to ask broad questions within the calculation to then align with the data from the Chapman Alliance’s research. I think there are more questions to ask, but how to also generalise for calculating answers?

    See also

    UCL recently become friends with the IOE. A tool they have is the Course Resource Appraisal Modeller  -it’s much more detailed than this and I think it goes a long way to answering some of the questions I have posed. It also takes a fair amount of time and information to complete it. I can see the validity of both, or (better) one feeding into the other / merging. What do you think? Have you used CRAM? 

    An Example Module in the IOE CRAM tool



    What’s next?

    Please comment on this, in the sheet or in this post (or Twitter). I feel a bit stuck on this now, so feedback is essential to move forward.


    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.

    ABC (Arena Blended Connected) curriculum design

    By Natasa Perovic, on 9 April 2015

    The ABC curriculum design method is a ninety-minute hands-on workshop for module (and programme) teams. This rapid-design method starts with your normal module (programme) documentation and will help you create a visual ‘storyboard’. A storyboard lays out the type and sequence learning activities required to meet the module’s learning outcomes and how these will be assessed. ABC is particularly useful for new programmes or those changing to an online or a more blended format.

    The method uses an effective and engaging paper card-based approach based on research from the JISC* and UCL IoE**. Six common types of learning activities are represented by six cards. These types are acquisition, inquiry, practice, production, discussion and collaboration.


    The team starts by writing a very short ‘catalogue’ description of the module to highlight its unique aspects. The rough proportion of each type is agreed (e.g. how much practice, or collaboration) and the envisaged blend of face-to-face and online.


    Next the team plan the distribution of each learning type by arranging the postcard-sized cards along the timeline of the module. With this outline agreed participants turn over the cards. Each card lists online and conventional activities associated with each learning types and the team can pick from this list and add their own.

    workshop team selecting activities

    The type and range of learner activities soon becomes clear and the cards often suggest new approaches. The aim of this process is not to advocate any ‘ideal’ mix but to stimulate a structured conversation among the team.

    Participants then look for opportunities for formative and summative assessment linked to the activities, and ensure these are aligned to the module’s learning outcomes.



    The final stage is a review to see if the balance of activities and the blend have changed, agree and photograph the new storyboard. graph_s

    The storyboard can then be used to develop detailed student documentation or outline a Moodle course (a module in Mooodle).



    The ABC team is developing a program-level version based on the Connected Curriculum principles.

    Participants’ thoughts about ABC curriculum design workshop:

    Learn more


    *Viewpoints project JISC

    **UCL IoE: Laurillard, D. (2012). Teaching as a Design Science: Building Pedagogical Patterns for Learning and Technology. New York and London: Routledge.

    Etymology of the e- in e-learning? Get out.

    By Matt Jenner, on 12 January 2015

    Based on a Christmas conversation about the etymology of emotion (e- = out, motion = move) my mum blurted out, “ah yes, like e-learning?” I wish! The idea of an externalised expression of one’s own learning, a variant on ‘visible learning’ as a colleague would put it, sounds like a no-brainer. I fear, however, that I must have either never clearly explained what e-learning means to my own mother and perhaps I’ve never really thought about it that much myself.


    I presume e-learning meant the same as email, but evidence suggests it might not be. Electronic-learning, mail, commerce or cigarettes are not necessarily using the same e-concatenation. Wikipedia didn’t have the origin or etymology of e-learning, so in true journalistic style, I added the following:

    “The origin or etymology of e-learning is contested, with the e- part not necessarily meaning electronic as per e-mail or e-commerce. Coined between 1997 and 1999, e-learning became first attached to either a distance learning service or it was used for the first time at the CBT systems seminar. Since then the term has been used extensively to describe the use of online, personalised, interactive or virtual education.”

    Others in the educational technology space have suggested more expressive terms for the mysterious e-. These include “exciting, energetic, enthusiastic, emotional, extended, excellent, educational” by Bernard Luskin or “everything, everyone, engaging, easy” by Eric Parks. If there’s no correct answer, we should enjoy that for as long as it lasts. There’s roots into historical computing and educational theory, but the term e-learning doesn’t even seem that old, which is surprising.

    Externalising learning

    In my experience; too much ‘e-learning’ is still long, scrolling pages of PDFs ad infinitum, raw materials made available via online tools and networks. If it’s supporting traditional face to face, I can live with it. But it’s not learning, not without well-constructed, meaningful learning outcomes and activities. Learning outcomes are critical, they link these resources into genuine learning activities that ‘make visible’ or indeed, put an ‘out’ type of e- into e-learning.

    In an online learning environment how do you, or a learner, know anyone has learnt, or done, anything? Externalised learning is surely the key. The idea of ‘making visible’ is critically important, learners should probably not work in isolation for too long. Personal study can still be highly interactive, and have ample opportunities to externalise thoughts, developments, questions, ideas etc. This is all done via the ‘out’, the externalised visible learning.

    Getting there – the importance of learning outcomes

    I’ve seen far too many course descriptions where the learning outcome is to ‘To be able to understand concept X’. Below is an example of how learning outcomes can vary, while all trying to achieve the same goal.


    By the end of this program, successful students will:

      Learning Outcome Analysis
    Option 1: Not an outcome Be given opportunities to learn effective communication skills Describes program content, not the attributes of successful students
    Option 2: Vague Have a deeper appreciation for good communication practices Does not start with an action verb or define the level of learning; subject of learning has no context and is not specific
    Option 3: Less vague Understand principles of effective communication Starts with an action verb, but does not define the level of learning; subject of learning is still too vague for assessment
    Option 4: Specific Communicate effectively in a professional environment through technical reports and presentations Starts with an action verb that defines the level of learning; provides context to ensure the outcome is specific and measurable

    Source – Examples of Learning Outcomes: Good and Bad

    I’m always so happy when I see one that even includes a challenging verb like analyse, classify, interpret, define, create or evaluate and more, more, more, more, etc.

    Writing good outcomes – the foundations of learning

    Writing good learning outcomes still seems like a continuous struggle, but it will be cracked. It will then result in improved online learning environments, structured learning, planned activities and more visible ‘out’ for the e- in e-learning. Or, well, that’s the plan.

    It’s in your Job Description

    Hopefully by next Christmas I’ll be able to explain to my mother what I do for a living, but she still thinks I work in IT. Which reminds me, I don’t think I finished updating her virus definitions either


    Image credit:

    [1] – Out of my mind 2 – Creative Commons openclipart / Creator: mondspeer