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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    BoB (Box of Broadcasts) National

    By Natasa Perovic, on 1 November 2014


    How are you getting on with BoB?

    Short videos on how to record programmes and create clips and playlists:




    Recording a programme


    Creating Clips


    Additional features

    To access BoB, log in with your UCL user details http://bobnational.net/

    BoB user guide http://bobnational.net/faq

    Etienne Wenger-Trayner @ UCL Storified!

    By Clive Young, on 7 April 2014

    Etienne Wenger-Trayner, the keynote speaker at UCL Teaching & Learning Conference last week inspired a very active on-line Twitter discussion that had #uclteach trending for a while. Here is some of the flavour of that discussion in about 75 tweets. I used the well-known social network service Storify to create the story and timeline below from the #uclteach hashtag on Twitter.

    If you are interested in using Storify in education to collate and curate feeds from social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, try the following links.



    2014 Horizon Report finds six key trends in E-Learning

    By Clive Young, on 7 February 2014

    Every year the NMC Horizon Report examines emerging technologies for their potential impact on and use in teaching, learning, and ‘creative inquiry’ within the environment of higher education. The report, downloadable in PDF, is compiled by an international body of experts and provides a useful checklist trends, challenges and technologies in the field.

    The key trends identified in the in the short term are

    • Growing ubiquity of social media
    • Integration of online, hybrid, and collaborative learning

    Longer term trends are: data-driven learning and assessment, shift from students as consumers to students as creators , agile approaches to change and the evolution of online learning

    Key short-term challenges are

    • Low digital fluency of faculty
    • Relative lack of rewards for teaching

    More difficult challenges are; competition from new models of education, scaling teaching innovations, expanding access and keeping education relevant.

    The important developments in educational technology they identify are in the short term are

    • Flipped classroom
    • Learning analytics

    Longer-term innovations are; 3D printing, games and gamification, ‘quantified self’ and virtual assistants.

    There are useful commenatries and links thoughout. Encouraging that many of these ideas are already being implemented, trialed and discussed here at UCL.

    New assessment and feedback guides from Jisc

    By Clive Young, on 28 January 2014

    jisc-logo-206Four short guides on technology-enhanced approaches to assessment and feedback are now available from Jisc. Jisc – formerly JISC (!) – supports the use of ICT in learning, teaching, research and administration in UK post-16 and higher education. One of its activities is to run projects and produce guidance on a range of learning technology related issues.

    This latest set looks particualrly interesting and practical. The guides “are built on the experiences, approaches and lessons learned from our recent work with over 30 institutions in UK further and higher education exploring a range of new approaches to assessment and feedback“.

    The four key themes covered are:

    Also available is a summary report of Jisc  recent work in this area: ‘Supporting assessment and feedback practice with technology: from tinkering to transformation’.


    The rise and rise of screencasts

    By Clive Young, on 16 June 2013

    screencast_001Over the last few years we have seen a remarkable growth in the use of screencasts at UCL. A ‘screencast’ is simply a dynamic video recording of live computer screen activity. Unlike a screenshot, which is basically a static image, screencasts capture video sequences of clicks and screen changes often enhanced with an audio explanation. The audio can be captured ‘live’ or added on later.

    The method was first popularised in the 90s via the Windows tool ScreenCam (formerly Lotus ScreenCam) designed for software demonstrations and tutorials. Like all modern screencast tools, ScreenCam allowed various visual effects such as zooming, highlighting and labelling to be added. Its main advantage was ease-of-use, requiring no knowledge of video editing and soon became widely used by teachers as a way of converting of PowerPoint presentations to short movies in the the Adobe Flash format.

    In the last decade there has been an rapid growth of screencasting tools, some downloadable like ScreenCam to a PC, Mac or mobile device but many others now recording directly to the cloud so that they can be published via social media. UCL’s institutional system Echo360 (Lecturecast) includes a screencast facility as part of its lecture capture tools, allowing academics to create short videos without needing a live lecture setup. This has provided a logical ‘next step’ for colleagues inspired to move beyond conventional lecture capture, and many use cloud-based services such as YouTube and Vimeo in addition to publishing via the lecture capture system.

    Such recordings are currently being used at UCL in a number of ways, for example:

    • To ‘flip‘  lectures – i.e. pre-record a lecture, publish this material along with an associated feedback channel e.g a Moodle forum or the Lecturecast systems inbuilt discussion facilities and  use  face-to-face time to clarify and discuss issues picked up through student feedback.
    • To produce supplementary materials to live lectures.
    • To record  talks introducing and contextualising areas of study – e.g. talks to students that help to inform choices regarding their direction of study.
    • The production of materials for distance learning.

    In an earlier blog post I reviewed Davis and Hardman’s 2012 report on how short Echo 360 screencasts (up to 10 minutes) could supplement ‘conventional’ teaching such as lectures and labs. They found a number of uses, contextualisation (associated with ‘flipping’), assessment preparation and cohort-level feedback. The approach seemed to be time-saving,  students were happy with the  ‘rough and ready’ production values of scfreencasts and the project identified some difference in marks when students used the the contextualisation screencasts.

    How can you get started? For UCL academic staff with an account on the Lecturecast service the EchoCapture Personal installer can be quickly downloaded for Mac OS X and Windows 32 systems. Recordings are easy to make and edit and can then be uploaded directly to the Echo System Server (ESS) where they can, like recordings made in LectureCast equipped theatre spaces, be made available as streamed and downloadable versions.

    Other screencasting tools: For those happy to go ‘off-piste’ there are lots of screencasting tools out there, e.g. 18 Free Screencasting tools to Create Video Tutorials Some of the more common ones seem to be Camstudio, Jing, Screentoaster, Screenr and Screencast O matic. Screencasting iPads is much less easy but Screencasting Smackdown – Videos in the Classroom  lists several tools. For example the Explain Everything  app provides a useful recordable whiteboard used by several UCL colleages for freehand drawing of diagrams and equations.

    Tips and tricks: Although technically simple, good screencasting needs just a little forethought. A sensible general introduction is is Screencasting 101 – Fundamentals of Screencastin. As a follow up I rather like an amusing 10′ video by Dan Nunez, The 10ish Commandments of Screencasting.- the first of Dan’s Commandments is Hide the Goods! For a more educational focus try Quick start guide to flipping your classroom using screencasting or lecture videos . Screencasting Variety Showcase is a highly recommended recorded JISC conference session on the possibilities of screencasting by Phil Ackroyd (City College Norwich). Finally JISClegal podcasts about Recording Lectures and Screencasts  is a practical ‘how to’ also covering some of the legal, technical and accessibility issues.

    For lots more information on lecture capture innovation visit my Scoop.it site REC:all (recording and augmenting lectures for learning).

    Image by Manuela Hoffman http://www.flickr.com/photos/pixelgraphix/153725264

    Golden OULDI

    By Clive Young, on 5 March 2013

    OUcoursemapConverting conventional face-to-face teaching to online distance learning formats has long been recognised as a dauntingly challenging task for academics and learning technologists alike.  The classroom and the computer environment are both complex, subtle and surprisingly hard to describe, so translating from one mode into the another very different one is fraught with pitfalls, especially for academics with little experience of online course formats.

    As UCL moves inexorably towards more blended and distance forms of delivery, these hard issues are coming up for us, too. Colleagues in departments are keen to develop distance learning modules and programmes but need a lot of personal input from ELE and CALT to guide them. We recognise this is hardly scalable so ELE is piloting checklists to help UCL, timings, contingency, developers identify critical initial questions around market analysis, finances resourcing, staffing, learner profiles, assessment, editing, copyright and so on.

    We are now thinking about tools to help learning design itself and the stereotype question is; “What would the Open University do?”. Although the OU is very different organisation to UCL addressing an hugely different clientele, they actually face similar issues. At an OU event last week I came across their current course planning tools, which are actually based on an open JISC project called OULDI (Open University Learning Design Initiative). The two tools I saw in action were the Activity Profile and the Module Map.

    The Activity Profile is a spreadsheet designed to provide an insight of what kind of learning actually goes on inside a course, identified by different types of learning activities; Assimilative, Finding and handling information, Communication, Productive, Experiential, Interactive/ Adaptive, Assessment. Each activity is associated with familiar Bloom-style ‘process outcomes’ or action verbs i.e. learners will collaborate/engage/explore etc.  The developers are asked to allocate study hours in the face-to-face course against each activity against each activity type. The results often show a skew towards Assimilative activities (e.g. Read, Watch, Listen, Think about, Access, Observe, Review). This is designed to generate discussion about what type of balance developers want in the online course, bearing in mind the online format requires active and preferably visible engagement with the course.

    The Course (or Module) Map gives another perspective, an ‘at a glance’ view of the course or module across four dimensions (see illustration), and is more analogous to some of the materials now being developed by ELE. It captures a brief textual overview of the course activities in terms of the types of learning experience the learner will have, how they will communicate and collaborate with tutor and peers, as well as the guidance and support provided and the nature of any assessment.

    The point of these tools is not to be prescriptive but to stimulate discussion and accurate description of the module so leading ultimately to more ‘aspirational’ designs which make better use of the online environment. I hope we will be able to build some aspects of OULDI into our own learning design processes.

    One final OULDI tool I thought intriguing was the set of printed Course Features Card Sort. This comprises around 45 printable cards to help module teams decide on and describe their course. I expressed some cynicism about giving academic colleagues such materials but was assured that once their own scepticism was overcome, lecturers found the prompts to be useful to capture the intangible ‘feel ‘of a course. If anyone out there wants to try these out, I would be very happy to facilitate!