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    Archive for the 'Technology blogs' Category

    Digital Literacy at UCL

    By Stephen Rowett, on 24 June 2015

    (Posted on behalf of Moira Wright)

    In my notes for this blog are the headings which include student networking, UCL digifest, partnership working, UCL Teaching and Learning Portal, Westminster Briefing and UCL QAA HER, UCL ChangeMakers and Lego. This list is a somewhat typical of the diverse aspects to my newly created role as Digital Literacy Officer at UCL (I think under 2 years still counts as new?). A lot of ground to cover in this post so will try to be economic with my words (for those that know me – no easy thing).

    Firstly some highlights from the London Digital Student Meet-up (LDSM).

    Early in June a group of 50 students and staff from different institutions in the London area met for a morning at UCL to discuss digital literacy and student engagement projects. LDSM was co-organised by LSE and UCL and aimed to provide a platform for student networking it was open to all students. To ensure a high ratio of students the invite stipulated staff were welcome as long as they were accompanied by students.

    London Digital Student Meetup, June 2015

    The event had come about from attending the Jisc CAN conference in April with 3 UCL students. They had participated as panel members and given elevator pitches on the UCL digifest – which they had all worked on as volunteers. Hold the date for UCL digifest 2016 – February 24-26th

    Feedback from the UCL students had been that meeting other students and hearing about their projects had been one of the main benefits in participating. That, and a conversation during the conference with Dr Jane Secker, Copyright and Digital Literacy Advisor from London School of Economics about the limited number of opportunities for students to network convinced us both that an open informal student networking event would pique interest.

    London Digital Student Meetup, June 2015The morning was very informal with a lot of time in the agenda for discussion and networking and a world café table topics and Lego*. From the anecdotal evidence I heard at this event it is clear that student digital literacy projects are proving to be increasingly impactful and insightful for those involved.

    Jane introduced the event with reference to the Jisc six capabilities model. The model is being updated and modified from the seven capability model. The new model (awaiting release) includes wellbeing.

    Peter Chatterton was next up for a talk and group discussion about the Jisc Change Agent Network . There were also updates about the pilot for the SEDA Institutional Change Leader award – which is just about to complete its first iteration this summer – the news is that there are plans are to run it again in the new academic year.

    Helen Beetham then introduced a draft of the new Jisc Benchmarking the student digital experience tool which was made available to participants for consultation. The tool has been designed to provide institutions with a benchmarking framework to help improve the student digital experience – awaiting release – but once complete the tool will then be rolled out to universities via the NUS ‘student voice’ network. The work is part of the Jisc Digital Student project and once launched will really help universities to assess institution provision against existing evidence of student expectations.

    By the end of the morning several things had become apparent to me. And they are, digital literacy must be embedded as a cultural approach in organisations, and is a life-long learning need, that giving ownership to students in this debate is mission critical and joined-up. The other thing was how universal the love of Lego is and how useful a tool it is for engagement*. We have future venues offers from two participants and plans to take them up.

    Work has started on the new Digital Literacy pages for the UCL Teaching and Learning Portal. An exciting first project for the Digital Literacy stream of UCL ChangeMaker projects with students developing content for the student pages. The excellent UCL ChangeMakers programme is making this possible and has just completed its successful pilot year with an impressive list of projects – summaries of UCL ChangeMakers projects are available by following this link . I am really looking forward to working on more digital literacy student projects in the new academic year.

    The Westminster Briefing I attended with Fiona Strawbridge last week in St James was full of useful information for the upcoming QAA Higher Education Review of UCL with the theme Digital Literacy that UCL has self-selected. UCL will present a snapshot of digital literacy at UCL for the review so I was really looking forward to hearing what Gemma Long, Review Manager from QAA had to say. Firstly we heard that the two themes chosen (employability and digital literacy) were chosen as they are ‘areas that are particularly worthy of further analysis or enhancement’ no surprise for anyone – particularly those who had read the House of Lords Select Committee report on Digital Skills which was released in February. QAA seems realistic in where they think universities are in developing digital literacy for their students but the emphasis has to be on staff developing the capabilities and confidence in their own digital skills sufficient to meet the student needs and expectations.

    John Craig, Senior Director Education and Research, HEA talked about the idea of an information society where information expands and becomes more accessible with digitization accelerating this trend and a society that could become victim to Information Obesity “a failure to turn information into knowledge…..as physical obesity is not simply too much food, so information obesity is caused by more than just information overload” (Andrew Whitworth).

    Katherine Ready was next – she is Digital and Information Manager from the Open University shared the really excellent open resource Being Digital – a collection of short activities designed by the Open University Library Information Literacy group for developing digital and information literacy. You can choose developed Pathways where learning is on a particular theme so you can work your way through a topic and gain a deeper understanding.

    Charlie Inskip from UCL Department of Information Studies then discussed some of the findings from research funded by SCONUL as part of a wider project, Research Information Literacy and Digital Scholarship funded by Research Information Network (RIN). The findings highlighted the importance of teaching, research and technical skills in developing resources and a need for library and information staff to continually develop their digital literacy skills. He concluded that ownership of digital literacies should be shared across and amongst institutions and services and is not the purview of one stakeholder and the ever changing and flexible landscape of digital literacy and an awareness of the continuously changing context is required to successfully meet the current challenge.

     

    Footnote on Lego

    *I had been inspired by a presentation I had seen recently which had introduced me to the concept of ‘Serious Lego Play’ . (Alison James at the CRA conference in Plymouth)

    Also noted on 11th June that the University of Cambridge announced plans to establish a (link to) “LEGO professorship of play in education, development and learning” alongside a research centre, with £4 million of donations from the LEGO Foundation – news must have got out!

     

    Introducing the ELE vlog

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 22 June 2015

    In E-Learning Environments (ELE) we have lots of useful and important information we need to communicate with staff (and students) who use our systems. We have various different ways of communicating with everyone who uses our systems (like Moodle, Lecturecast and MyPortfolio) including email, Twitter, Moodle News and this blog. However we also recognise that these are all text based mediums, and sometimes read chunks of information isn’t preferential. To try and make this easier, and offer an alternative way of communicating we are pleased to introduce the ELE vlog.

    We are launching this new vlog (or video blog) on our YouTube channel and hope to post a new video every month informing viewers of the most interesting or important things happening within ELE and our systems. If we get a good response, or have requests, then we may increase the frequency of videos, or make videos explaining particular topics. If you have any ideas of videos you’d like to see from ELE then please comment on this blog post or send us an email to ele@ucl.ac.uk.

    So, without further adieu, please enjoy our first vlog embedded below (and don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more educational and hopefully entertaining content!)

    ELE Communication Channels

    Moodle News: https://moodle.ucl.ac.uk/mod/forum/view.php?f=1

    Twitter: https://twitter.com/UCL_ELE

    YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/LTSSUCL/videos

    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.

    Moodle 2.8 – Summer 2015 upgrade

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 27 May 2015

    For the attention of all UCL Moodle teaching and support staff.

    Moodle Summer Upgrade 17 to 22 July 2015

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    At 17:00 on Friday 17th July 2015 Moodle will be made unavailable to allow the yearly snapshot copy to be created. Once the process is compete the snapshot will be made available for staff and students, this is expected to be completed by 17:00 on Saturday the 18th July 2015.

    We will also be taking this opportunity to perform our yearly upgrade of the Moodle system as previously advertised. The live Moodle service will be returned to service no later than 10:00am on Wednesday the 22nd July 2015, although it is expected that the upgrade will be returned to service earlier than this time. However we need to include an “at risk” time to account for a full restoration of the service if something was to fail with the planned upgrade. We will keep you notified as to when Moodle will become available over the upgrade weekend via the ELE blog (blogs.ucl.ac.uk/ele) and out Twitter channel (@UCL_ELE)

    For new Moodle upgrade features and changes please see the New Features page Moodle Resource Centre wiki.

    If you would like to find out more about the Moodle snapshot (formerly the Moodle archive), including its intended purpose and how you can hide content, please visit the Moodle Resource Centre wiki for more information.

    What do I have to do?
    If your module ends before the upgrade and you would like the snapshot copy to be made available then no further action is required.

    What if my course(s) doesn’t finish before the upgrade?
    We recognise that not all Moodle courses will end before the 17th July. Some run into August/September and others may run later, several times a year or never stop. More information on the process of requesting a manual snapshot can be found in the Moodle Resource Centre wiki on the Manual Moodle Snapshot page.

    What happens after the snapshot?
    Once you have a snapshot copy of your course we strongly recommend you take some time to consider resetting and reviewing your course so it can be used for the next cohort. For more information on preparing your Moodle course for the next academic year, see the following: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/isd/staff/e-learning/tools/moodle/procedures/preparing

    To see the snapshot (formerly archive) for yourself, visit: http://moodle-archive.ucl.ac.uk

    All times are for the UK (BST), for other locations please convert: http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/converter.html

    UniVRsity – augmenting higher education with VR

    By Matt Jenner, on 5 May 2015

    Virtual reality (VR) has been hanging around for the best part of all your life and you’ve probably never tried it. But soon you might – it’s getting close to the mainstream. Gaming is often the focus for immersive technology but movies, simulations, social media, marketing and ‘edutech’ all have eyes on VR; curiously experimenting with what’s possible.

    What is VR?

    “Virtual reality is an artificial environment that is created with software and presented to the user in such a way that the user suspends belief and accepts it as a real environment”
    TechTarget.

    Hanging around the tributaries

    VR is booming in early innovation tech circles and it’s keen to play on the main circuit with the other tech that is taking over improving lives. We don’t know if this will happen, obviously, but for the sake of learning, we’re exploring what’s going on in VR and being in e-learning, we’re doing it with an educational focus. New major technologies don’t tend to come around that often, the Internet was pretty major, as were smartphones and social media. Game-changing, life-changing, readily accessible technology isn’t made easily. But when it comes; you’ll know it.

    VR might not ever go mainstream, and that’s OK. 

    History

    The promise of virtual reality has always been enormous but has never quite lived up to the hype. The idea that you put on goggles, physically go nowhere but transform into anywhere is magical. With modern VR, this is increasingly viable – but that’s not always been the case.

    VR in 2014 – “it was able to cross that threshold into presence where your brain is saying ‘Well, this is real’ and that difference is fundamentally the difference between VR that’s a promise and VR that’s actually here.”
    Cory Ondrejka, co-creator of Second Life and VP of engineering at Facebook

    VR was pretty bad in 1980s/1990s and did not get popular. Computer graphics were pixelated and that has a huge impact on the VR experience. You might remember any of the period between 8-bit games and Sony Playstation / Microsoft Xbox. Gameplay was compelling but the graphics were not close to realistic. The term ‘video game’ has always been slightly jarring; but now in the early 21st Century the live graphics rendering of computer graphics is very advanced; games and videos are becoming indistinguishable.

    Evolution of Lara Croft

    Evolution of Lara Croft 1997 (Eidos Interactive) to 2014 (Square Enix)

    Convergence of graphics and video

    Computer-generated imagery (CGI) has become very popular in the films industry. In early movies — like Jaws — big mechanical contraptions convinced us to be terrified of open water. Jurassic Park and Terminator II used CGI to encourage the real idea of fantasy and global destruction. The movie and games industries are merging; at least in terms of technology and invention. Blending CGI into real scenes has come a long way since Who Framed Rodger Rabbit; it’s now barely noticeable until something crazy-expensive or physically impossible happens. The offshoot of this is one industry can take the advances discovered elsewhere and then apply in their domain (or just gobble them up).

    Virtual Boy by Nintendo and a screenshot of a game. Released 1995.

    Virtual Boy by Nintendo and a screenshot of a game. Released 1995.

    1990 – VR != Popular

    The first steps into VR, mine at least, were to try a ‘Virtual Boy’ from Nintendo. The image above shows what it was like. Few but the dedicated player wanted one of these, Nintendo’s console didn’t sell well and sadly now they are expensive collectable items on shelves and clogging up eBay.

    1990/2010 – VR = wha?

    Mostly silence, ideas brewing and related technology advances…

    2010 onwards

    Oculus Rift released in 2012

    Oculus Rift released in 2012

    Bang – it begins. A particular Kickstarter project got some attention and raised over $2m from a modest $250k goal. The early backers got development hardware and some even had to build it themselves from kits. This, by the way, in development technology circles, only excites people. In 2014 the second development kit for Oculus was released and many more people began to play and make VR. Oculus Rift was leading the field and  many others were joining in.

    MIT Technology Review - VR headsets - how they work

    MIT Technology Review – VR headsets – how they work. Source.

    Oculus and others created headsets which when worn surround your eyes with into a virtually simulated space. When you turn your head, the space changes to naturally turn with you. Look up, see up, go down, yup – down it goes. It’s the same for any other direction. During 2014 Oculus Rift was purchased by Facebook for $2bn. If VR needed extra attention; it got it in 2014.

    Going mainstream – a few challenges

    Google released 'Cardboard' a low-threshold version which converts smartphones into VR machines (kinda...)

    Google released ‘Cardboard’ a low-threshold version which converts smartphones into VR machines (kinda…)

    A good way for tech to be mainstream is for it to be useful and affordable. Google released ‘Cardboard‘, not to directly compete with Oculus, but mainly as a tech-demo / developer eye-opener. Costing more like $20 and using all the wizardry of your smartphone & some lenses, Cardboard proves that consumer-grade hardware is [pretty much] already here. It’s not very physically aesthetic, or comfortable, but it works and it’s in your pocket right now.

    Smartphones might hold a part of the promise for consumer-friendly, cheap, VR and VR-related development. Hardware manufacturers are in a bit of an arms-race to get their smartphone-extenders into people’s homes. But there’s no major killer-app, yet. In other words; no-one knows why they want this & that’s problematic.

    And that’s where we are right now. 

    VR in education

    I would be confident to say this isn’t yet a field. Few people are active in the space of education and virtual reality. But that’s not a reason to be disinterested; in fact this is a great time to get involved, play, learn and understand more.

    Developing VR content

    This part remains tricky – creating multimedia content usually means a lot of talk and tech for the creation, and use of, video, images and text. 3D is not a commonly cited ‘media’ within the multimedia toolkit. Support is specialist/ non-existent and creation costs can grow quickly. This casts doubt over the rise of VR in education; but there’s no evidence to suggest this should remain the case.

    VR and Video

    Kodak SP360 camera records in 360 degrees, playback can then be 'discoverable'

    Kodak SP360 camera records in 360 degrees, playback can then be ‘discoverable’

    Video appears like this in a recording - but is then mapped onto a sphere, so it's then visibly flat again (think: Earth).

    Video appears like this in a recording – but is then mapped onto a sphere, so it’s then visibly flat again (think: Earth).

    Video, largely, is easy to make – turn on a camera and ‘do your thing’. Strapping on a VR headsets puts you in a world which you can be connected to and feel a part of. VR and video means a user can move (turn, pan, tilt) within that capture (or live) experience.

    Kittens

    Yeah, kittens.

    Yeah, kittens.

    In one example the camera is placed in a centre of a cage. Using your head enables you to turn around and watch felines play, eat, sleep etc. I have never felt so small; watching tall humans walk by from my tiny cage. TALK TO ME BIG SCARY PEOPLE! I felt like a kitten. I wondered what do kittens think? Are they scared or just kinda sleepy? Kitten empathy came easily. A similar, more serious but less cute, outcome has emerged at the UN who are using VR to capture life in Syrian Refugees, and the daily life of people.

    Augment, not replace, real

    VR does not replace real experiences. Mostly. Instead you can explore places or things in VR that are just not possible. This might be because of cost, feasibility, scale or simply ‘freedom’. For example travelling to the sun or through the nervous system would be really, really hard, especially if you wanted to return home afterwards. Reliving, interactively, an event or experience is a huge challenge. Seeing every possible angle requires many eyes. With VR opportunities arise that were only imaginable before. VR, however, can be used to just add a new layer, perspective or experience onto the existing.

    In education VR offers chances for connecting, disseminating, exploring or revisiting – and probably more.

    Connect

    Loneliness is cited as a problematic component of distance learning. I am not sure, yet, if VR can solve this challenge. But loneliness can come in many forms; if one is simply not feeling part of a group or culture; then I see this as a very cheap way of connecting someone to their campus, cohort or subject. International flight, as a means of connecting people, seems potentially wasteful. Instead VR might offer opportunities to connect people in ways we’ve never quite had before or just simulate stuff we do right now, meeting, talking, showing, etc.

    Disseminate

    Using VR to share findings with others. A top researcher may never have the time to explore all their findings, patterns, data, visualisations or other outputs from their research. With VR others can explore it as much as they like. There may brew open, shared environments – imagine ‘Physicsverse – a space to dump all your experiments’ simulating known physical rules, VR users can go and play, and combine, all the experiments. Maybe even discover something new..?

    Explore

    A camera can travel to places human bodies struggle with – in VR you can live the experience as if you were there. Gestures might control the robotic camera, and then you’ve got a live, immersive experience. Virtual worlds can be a model of fantasy or mapped out reality. Google have already snapped many of the world’s streets to a level of detail that you can now, in VR, go and walk down.  If you want to…

    Revisit

    VR provides a re-liveable experience for common, or abnormal activities. What is it like to be on the Apollo Space Programme, a kitten (see above), waking into a building, going down a hill on a roller coaster, skydiving from a plane or even being eaten by a cow. Video and models can capture or create the scenery but VR can let you visit time and time again. During each iteration you may focus on a different area; imagine a film where depending on which character you follow the film adapts to your viewing habits. Or you could rewatch that lecture, if you want to =) 

     

    For now

    I honestly have no firm idea but it’s really interesting to try and find out. We have some Oculus Rift and Cardboard VR kit to try and understand what it all means. The future is exciting in this space – but it’s not quite ready yet. VR will remain on the periphery for a little while longer. But don’t let that put you off; it could be quite transformational.

    Turnitin V2 Upgrade 5th May 2015

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 29 April 2015

    Turnitin Version 2 will be unavailable on 5th May 2015 from 08:00 to 10:00 whilst we carry out a routine upgrade.

    There are many benefits to this upgrade, including fixes to existing problems and improvements. These are listed below:

    Improvements:

    •Updating part names in inbox edits the part tab straight-away.
    •Select all option added to Turnitin Assignment inbox.
    •EULA modal window resized in Turnitin Assignment.

    Fixes:

    •Course participation report in 2.6 no longer throws error.
    •Overall grades not displayed to students until last post date has passed.
    •Instructors can submit to a Turnitin Assignment after the due date.
    •If disclaimer is enabled, then the student can not click submit until they have checked the disclaimer.
    •User given warning when attempting to move post date on an Anonymous marking assignment.
    •Spinner added when refreshing submissions in Turnitin Assignment.
    •Empty resubmission can no longer be sent. – Must attach a file.
    •Help text wrapping inconsistency on Turnitin assignment settings page. – I think this works, all the text looks to wrap properly.
    •Validation added so that part names must be unique.

    If you have any questions about the upgrade please email ele@ucl.ac.uk and we would be happy to answer your questions or address your concerns.
    All times are for the UK (GMT or BST), for other locations please convert: http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/converter.html