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 'Technology blogs' Category

    Turnitin Status and Known Issues Page

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 25 March 2015

    To help keep you up-to-date with the status of the Turnitin service, which is supplied externally by TurnitinUK, we have created the Turnitin Status and known Issues page.

    This page summarises the current known status of the service,  has the official Turnitin Status Twitter feed embedded (to ensure the most up-to-date information) and has a list of current issues that have been reported to TurnitinUK for both V1 and V2 of the plugin. The page will be updated as problems are resolved via upgrades and other fixes.



    MUGSE 3 – London, RVC

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 17 March 2015

    The third meeting of MUGSE (Mahara User Group for Southern England) took place on Friday 6th March, at the Royal Veterinary College in London. Mahara is the software that at UCL we refer to as MyPortfolio, our flexible e-portfolio system.

    The user group meeting had a mix of experiences in Mahara, as well as a mix of learning technology professionals and academics. The group was also lucky enough to have Don Christie from Catalyst in attendance. Catalyst are the company who are responsible for the Mahara project, and they look after the core code and carry out updates.

    The session began with a group round table, with everyone having the chance to contribute problems or question and then the rest of the group offering solutions or answers based on their own experiences. After this there were a series of presentations, including help files and case studies from Roger Emery and Sam Taylor at Southampton Solent University, a look at the April Mahara upgrade from Don Christie and finally Domi Sinclair (me) talking briefly about the importance of getting involved in the Mahara community. If you would like more details about this user group please read the article from Digi Domi and follow MUGSE on Twitter @mugseUK.


    Need to convert wav files to mp3?

    By Jessica Gramp, on 16 March 2015

    How easy is this? Install LameDrop for Windows and you just drag and drop your wav files onto the LameDrop interface (see that tiny white square in the screenshot below – that’s it!) and it converts them instantly. No settings to worry about and the files appear in the same folder as the originals. Easy peasy! So now I can concentrate on pulling together media for use in my online courses.


    You can download LameDrop from: http://rarewares.org/mp3-lamedrop.php


    apple If you have a Mac you can use iTunes to convert your audio files using these instructions.

    UCL Arena Digital – you can still join us for Week 2!

    By Clive Young, on 9 March 2015


    Over 200 UCL colleagues have already joined UCL Arena Digital, our free online course to help improve Moodle skills and enhance your online/blended learning.

    We are in Week 2 but you are still welcome to join.

    The course is fully online and will take only 2-3 hours of your week. The course is made up of three Units. Each unit will last 2 weeks and there will be breaks in between Units. Each fortnight will end with a live online webinar where you can share your experiences with your colleagues on the course.

    The course is designed so you can take all three Units, or simply pop in for the Units that especially interest you.

    • Unit 1: multimedia – the current one – find out how to create and embed media and interactive tools in Moodle to enliven the online environment for your students.
    • Unit 2: communication – discover ways of using tools inside and outside of Moodle you can use to communicate with students and support their collaboration with each other.
    • Unit 3: assessment and feedback – explore ways of using the online environment to create new kinds of assessment and give feedback to students.

    Unit 1 started last week and will continue to Thursday 12 March, when we will conclude with a webinar.

    Even if you missed last week there is still time to get involved and all the materials will also be available afterwards.

    You can enrol at https://moodle.ucl.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=29477

    Log on using your UCL username and password

    Unit 2 will launch in early April 2015 – look out for further announcements.

    The internet is for being social (and for cats).

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 5 March 2015

    The power of the internet, and people’s desire to interact socially have been demonstrated time and time again, and I recently wrote a post for this blog about the power of the crowd. Another example that struck me, and that I wanted to share was that of the Kickstarter project, Exploding Kittens.

    Exploding Kittens is a card game, that received a large amount of funding ($8,782,571) via it’s Kickstarter campaign. The amount of money they received was vastly over their initial $10,000 goal and so money is really not a problem for this project. Within the mechanics of Kickstarter many campaigns offer what are known as stretch goals. These are additional benefits offered to backers if the campaign exceeds certain goals. They are usually designed to encourage funding and will start once the project has exceeded its initial funding target. The Exploding Kittens project had initially refused to do any stretch-goals, however due to pressure from backers they agreed to set up a series of extras that could be achieved by reaching certain targets. As I mentioned before this project received a gigantic amount of funding, and the project team did not want or need any more money. Instead they decided to set a number of social challenges, to get backers engaging in the project and community, as well as to get them interacting with one another and working towards a shared good. These social goals ranged from things such as reaching a specific number of Facebook followers for the project to 100 people in a room having a picture taken with cat ears on. Yet again the backers showed their power and managed to meet even some of the weirder targets to unlock the stretch goals.

    You might not think Exploding Kittens has much to do with education, but it shows the potential for getting people to work together for a shared goal through a series of social targets. One of the projects social goals was to create a Wikipedia page for the Exploding Kittens project. This could be translated into education by setting students the goal of creating a wiki page, on UCL’s very own wiki and then everyone contributing to unlock extra tutorial slots, or more mock exam questions. The difficult part with education is ensuring the goals are tempting enough for students to want to unlock them, without being so important that denying them to students would be unethical. Some of the other challenges that could be used in an educational context include the various photo challenges. You might set a selfie challenge for students to take pictures with certain museum artefacts, or outside buildings of specific historic significance. Perhaps they could then be asked to write a report about why that object or building is so important or their experiences there, or they might have to pick someone else’s selfie to write about. Maybe you could set a group challenge where at least 5 students have to take a picture in a certain location – which would involve them communicating with one another to make arrangements and might help with group dynamics for later project work. These of course are only ideas, and subject experts are much more likely to know what they wish to get out of students. It might just help to think of how we can utilise other popular elements of the internet for an educational purpose and get everyone working together, for the greater good.

    Meet Jess, Jack, Stuart & Heather – realistic voices for free* download

    By Jessica Gramp, on 3 March 2015

    I have recently started listening to my books and papers, rather than reading them. This frees me up to do other things while I listen, such as cook, take a bath or do some tidying up. It also gives my eyes a well needed break from staring at a computer screen or paper.

    As part of an online e-learning course I am helping to develop, I am using the TechDis Jess voice to provide audio files of the commentary, as an alternative to reading. I have had to tweak some of the text – for example, UCL needs to be written with spaces between each letter in order for Jess to pronounce each letter individually and I needed to add a hyphen to CMALT (C-MALT) for it to be pronounced correctly. But for the most part I can leave the text much as it is typed. I then run it through a free, open source software called Balabolka to produce an audio file that participants on the course can download and listen to.

    TechDis Jess and other UK voices (including Scottish and Welsh options) are available from www.jisctechdis.ac.uk/techdis/technologymatters/voices.

    Balabolka is available from: www.cross-plus-a.com/balabolka.htm.

    Listen to a sample:

    Listen on SoundCloud…

    *Staff and learners studying at England’s UK and FE institutions can download the voices free of charge and those at Scottish and Welsh institutions can download local voices.