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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    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

    And relax … reflections on UCL Arena Digital Unit 1

    By Eileen Kennedy, on 18 March 2015

    Asleep at the Wheel

    We built it, but would they come?

    Designing an online course in e-learning for UCL staff has its uncertainties, mostly to do with the big question, is anyone actually going to turn up? The pressures on staff at a research intensive University are multiple and intense. Everyone is juggling so many competing priorities, that taking the time to learn about teaching with technology may be an aspiration never fated to turn into a reality.

    We looked to the MOOC phenomenon for inspiration. If there is one thing MOOCs do well it’s publicity. They make the prospect of doing a course so easy and so enticing, that you can’t help but sign up. So we made our promo video and sat back and waited. We said to ourselves, if we get 30 people, that will be good, but of course, really we wanted more.

    It was with some relief, therefore, when the self-enrolments started to trickle through. We passed the 100 mark fairly early, but we weren’t quite at 200 a day or so before the course was due to start. Never fear, however, because the enrolments didn’t stop. Currently UCL Arena Digital has 214 participants, and people continue to sign up.

    Who were they and what were they doing?

    Painstaking analysis reveals that there were 96 different UCL departments represented. The top 5 departments (by numbers of participants) appeared to be:

    1. Dept of Managment Science & Innovation 11
    2. IOE – Culture, Communication & Media 9
    3. Dept of Security and Crime Science 8
    4. Centre for Prep Studies – Astana 8
    5. Centre for Languages & International Education 7

    In addition to these figures, however, there were 15 people who came from different departments but who all had an affiliation with the UCL Institute of Child Health, and 23 people from the UCL Institute of Education. Honourable mentions too, to the Research Department of General Surgery, Institute of Ophthalmology, SELCS and IOE – Lifelong & Comparative Education, all with 5 representatives each. We had one person from UCL Australia.

    During the Unit, we invited participants to watch some video tutorials and explore resources in a Lesson activity and a Book (both ways of presenting content in Moodle). Then we asked people to share some media they use in their teaching on a Padlet (which is a great, easy tool that resembles putting post-it notes on a virtual pin board). There was a glossary for participants to contribute to, and a discussion to take part in, and a final webinar to share experiences on the Thursday of the second week.

    Click that link!

    By Wednesday 18th March, the Using Multimedia: A Moodle Lesson activity had 1246 views (including 242 tutor views). The Going Further with Multimedia: A Moodle Book resource had 1465 (including 71 tutor views). The Wall of Media (the Padlet) had been viewed 64 times, The Language of the Media Glossary had been viewed 327 times, and the discussion forum “When can the use of media enhance teaching and learning” had 544 views.

    We were overjoyed at the enthusiasm of course participants. We have 16 entries in the Glossary now, spanning 5 pages, 34 posts on the Padlet Wall of Media, including some brilliant tutor-crafted screencasts and lots of great examples from participants’ teaching. The shared Practice space has been filling up too. That’s a blank Moodle course for participants to try out what they’ve learnt if they don’t have somewhere else to practice their skills. What is great about it, is that we can all see that learning has taken place, and it is an encouragement to everybody.

    Now take a break …

    Something else we learnt from MOOCs is that participation drops off sharply after the first week, and continues on a downward slope. It seems that everyone’s intention is good, and the enthusiasm can be sustained for so long, but, inevitably, all the other pressures of life get in the way once more. So, we thought, if we split the course into two week Units, with breaks in between, maybe that will keep people with us. And if you haven’t already enrolled, it means that you still can – and you have time to catch up before Unit 2 begins.

    Unit 2 will start on April 13th 2015 and will focus on Communication

    So get ready for wikis, discussion forums, Twitter and more. If you ever thought of ditching the PowerPoint and doing something more interesting instead, then Unit 2 is for you.

    Enrol here and see you all again very soon.


    Assessment & feedback – links from the Joint Faculty E-Learning Forum

    By Mira Vogel, on 20 November 2014

    This morning UCL’s Joint Faculty E-Learning Forum – that’s Arts & Humanities and Social & Historical Sciences – met for the second time. The first meeting had focused on assessment and feedback, so ELE gave a brief presentation on our actions since then and recommended avenues colleagues in departments could pursue.

    This post provides some resources to support those, which you can also find in the presentation from the meeting below.

    Student engagement with assessment feedback

    Our discussions with students suggested low awareness of feedback release dates and our investigations revealed patchy engagement with feedback.

    • What can we find out about student engagement with feedback? Turnitin provides some basic information to staff about student engagement with feedback. Each assignment inbox has a student response column containing either a dot (no engagement) or in the case of students who reviewed their graded paper in GradeMark for longer than 30 seconds, an icon of a person with a check mark. For a fuller picture of how long it takes students to visit their feedback, check more than once – for example, one day, one week and one month after feedback is released. Moodle Assignment has a different process: in each assignment’s Settings block, click Logs and filter actions by View.
    • Since Moodle and Turnitin don’t alert the students automatically, it’s important to use the News Forum or other communication channel to draw students’ attention to feedback when it becomes available.
    • ELE have guidance for Moodle Assignment on how to delay providing a numeric mark, to encourage students to engage with feedback. With Turnitin this cannot be done as a bulk process, though there are workarounds.
    • Turnitin UserVoice and Moodle Tracker are available for users to contribute and vote for ideas (to create an account on Turnitin UserVoice, enter your UCL email and you should get an option to create account). For example, on Turnitin UserVoice see ‘Feedback released prior to grades’, with a corresponding item on the Moodle Tracker. Do contribute your ideas and votes.
    • The solution to low engagement may lie in rethinking assessment design so as to incorporate dialogue about earlier feedback. Jisc has gathered assessment and feedback principles and provides support for the design of assessment such as the University Of Ulster’s Viewpoints. Where there is anonymous submission, ELE has guidance on Turnitin aligned with the marking policy which enables you to lift anonymity between marking and external examining, so as to enable dialogue with students. We are in the process of preparing corresponding guidance for Moodle Assignment.

    External examining

    Efficiency gains? Efficiency losses?

    Advocacy with third party software providers






    Have you met BoB?

    By Natasa Perovic, on 9 October 2014

    Box of Broadcast

    Box of Broadcast

    BoB (Box of Broadcasts) National is an innovative shared online off-air TV and radio recording service for UK higher and further education institutions.

    Staff and students can record any broadcast programme from 60+ TV and radio channels. The recorded programmes are kept indefinitely in an media archive, which currently stores over 1 million programmes and are shared by users across all subscribing institutions. The archive also includes searchable transcripts and one click citation referencing.
    The recordings can be set before or after the broadcast (30 day recording buffer). The programmes can be edited into clips and shared with others. They can also be embedded into Moodle.
    To start using BoB, log in with your UCL user details http://bobnational.net/

    Rationale for UCLeXtend; opening up UCL Moodle

    By Matt Jenner, on 1 October 2014

    For around 18 months UCL has been piloting something new called UCLeXtend. This is a platform for courses that are available to the public. The rationale was simple; getting a computer account for UCL was too heavy-going and cost-prohibitive BUT there were many circumstances where just access to Moodle was the only requirement. We sought to address that with UCLeXtend.

    UCLeXtend homepage - https://extend.ucl.ac.uk

    UCLeXtend homepage  – https://extend.ucl.ac.uk

    I am sure many of you out there would appreciate the challenge; you have an online university environment that’s slowly filling with loads of great things and you want to prise it open, just a bit, so other people can come in too. We were inundated with reasons to do this but generally speaking it was so short course participants can have access to something that resembles a course hub.


    Sure there are many ways to achieve this. Any creative type person can build a webpage somewhere and host a load of content. But that’s not a course hub; it’s a webpage full of content. How can users interact? Social media might provide one way forward, but not completely; there are gaps. While many tools exist out there there remained the need for something more ‘UCL’. Luckily putting branding aside, there are be other reasons to run an externally-facing course hub on internally-facing environments.


    moodle We’ve been using Moodle for about 8 years at UCL and it’s firmly embedded. For UCLeXtend we checked (with some help) a selection of 160 e-learning environments available on the market; and we still settled for another Moodle. Some platforms came close, but with hindsight, they were not appropriate for all use-cases.

    The original goal was to open Moodle to external audiences, and we have now done this. Additionally; UCLeXtend offers the opportunity to run a variety of courses, and what might seem like a small step-change in technical capability it has changed the landscape in which we can play in.


    A public course means anyone can sign-up and become a part. It might be limited in terms of ‘seats’ (places available) but it generally means you attract a wide audience and have a variety of people in the cohort. We built a course catalogue so you can promote a course and direct anyone to UCLeXtend for registration. Private courses are the opposite; they are not listed, they are advertised to a selective group and they hold up barriers to stop just anyone getting in. There’s really valid reasons for both.


    Free courses come with the glamour and appeal of Moocs but do not always have to be on such a scale. A free course may be just trying to reduce the payment barrier to entry, and have no interest in attracting thousands of people. For serious, niche subjects, this is an asset worth bearing in mind. Premium courses are probably on the opposite end of the spectrum. It’s OK to make money and offer a good quality course. They cost money to make and are worth spending money to take. UCLeXtend takes credit cards and payment by invoices.


    Open may be in terms of beer (see above) or as in speech. If an academic wants a completely open course, they can make this in UCLeXtend. Open comes in many flavours, and as long as it’s legal, we can try to support any wild idea that may exist in this space. On a lighter note; it means working with members of the public in an academic space can be supported by a UCLeXtend course. We think this is important. Closed courses are similar to private, they are not designed for everyone; professional CPD is one example, as would a project involving a vulnerable or specialist group. We don’t always want to open the doors to everyone when it’s not appropriate to do so.

    Not courses!?

    Not everyone is building a course, we have resources, workshops and ‘spaces’ already. I am sure we’ll see more variety in the future. Sometimes we have to refer to each use-case as something (course is default) but we welcome the challenge of supporting the ideas of the UCL community, so watch this space.

    Lessons learned

    We’ve got a modest growth happening in this public-facing e-learning environment aka UCLeXtend. It’s being used for a range of things from CPD and Executive Education to public-engagement and open Moocs. We’re looking at using it for disseminating research output (and building this into grant proposals from the outset) and supporting events and groups, UCL and beyond. We are also increasingly aware of the benefits of working in this space; they are proportional to the indirect benefits of being active in this area. We have identified 36 benefits of Moocs from observing and researching the scene and trying to get our heads around it all. We see UCLeXtend as an integral component to UCL’s Life Learning offering, where courses can be offered to people in a range of physical and virtual environments.

    So, where next?

    1. More ‘courses’, users and ideas coming to life
    2. Enhance the platform
    3. Sustainable course development
    4. Share pedagogical experiments (and results)
    5. Evaluate and speculate

    Take a look

    UCLeXtend is available and you’re very welcome to look around, register for courses and see what it’s all about.


    Internal members of staff may want to look at the UCLeXtend 101 space, which will uncover a lot about what’s needed to get started:

    UCLeXtend 101

    Get in touch

    Best contact is extend@ucl.ac.uk for all types of enquiries.

    HEA Senior Fellowship Case Study Series: 2 – Bringing lecture flipping to a new interdisciplinary programme

    By Matt Jenner, on 13 August 2014

    As a four-part series I am openly publishing my case studies previously submitted for my Senior Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy. I submitted my application in February 2014. If you’re interested in this professional recognition programme, please visit their webpages and look through the Professional Standards Framework (PSF). UCL runs an institutional model for fellowships called ARENA, your institution may run one too – speak to people!

    Case Study 2 – Bringing lecture flipping to a new interdisciplinary programme

    As an experienced member of staff I have a wide range of institutional e-learning responsibilities. In 2011 I was an integral part in designing, delivering and evaluating a new teaching style called the ‘flipped lecture’. It’s increasingly thought that lectures do not provide “students a rich and rewarding educational experience”[1]. The flipped model is where “students gain first-exposure learning prior to class and focus on the processing part of learning (synthesizing, analyzing, problem-solving, etc.) in class”[2]. The first academic to explicitly flip their lectures, and put the concept in the UCL spotlight, was Carl Gombrich, director of UCL’s flagship interdisciplinary degree the Bachelor of Arts and Sciences (BASc).

    Carl wanted to put “people back at the centre of the learning”12 and I supported and advised him while we created an active learning, ‘flipped lecture’, environment (A2, A4). UCL’s institutional teaching and learning strategy envisaged the BASc providing “a model for a substantial proportion of UCL’s undergraduate teaching”[3]. Our plan was to create a teaching approach with innovative and sustainable qualities.

    Carl is a capable teacher but he was less comfortable with the technological change required to achieve ‘flipped lectures’. I mentored him through the virtues, and downsides, of the available technological landscape. A barrier emerged within institutional systems which did not support his approach. While retaining alignment with the planned learning activities, (A1, K4) I researched available options and evaluated a new tool called Hot Question[4] based on research from Purdue University[5]. My research outcome delivered a solution which matched the requirements for the BASc and was designed to scale for the institution if flipping increased in popularity. It is now used across 81 courses at UCL (A4).

    Feedback received from Carl has been “In many (most) cases it really does get students thinking about the content of the lectures” and “how sophisticated” some of the student’s questions are. A student on the course commented “once you have the additional time in lectures, you’re going to be able to take advantage of that”9. Another academic commented ‘flipping’ uncovers “the impact of the information we provide for students, and their understanding at a much finer temporal resolution than what was available previously”[6]. One issue that’s arisen is that “so many questions are submitted and so many are of a high standard that it is a bit bewildering to look through them all”.

    I have shared the flipped approach within external communities[7] and Carl’s work has become an inspirational exemplar for staff to experiment with flipped lectures. The technological changes, and teaching approaches have been shared via blog posts[8] and case studies[9], they provide evidence for colleagues to learn from, discuss and adopt. Seeing this as a potential future component of teaching at UCL, it was my role to ensure we built a sustainable model not just for the BASc but for the wider UCL community. By ensuring the flipped lecture was well supported we have seen a growth in popularity across the university’s faculties of Engineering, Social and Medical Sciences.

    (505 words)

    HEA Professional Standards Framework links referenced in this case study:

    Areas of Activity

    • A1 Design and plan learning activities and/or programmes of study
    • A2 Teach and/or support learning
    • A3 Assess and give feedback to learners
    • A4 Develop effective learning environments and approaches to student support and guidance
    • A5 Engage in continuing professional development in subjects/disciplines and their pedagogy, incorporating research, scholarship and the evaluation of professional practices

    Core Knowledge

    • K4 The use and value of appropriate learning technologies

    [1] http://www.brookes.ac.uk/services/ocsld/resources/20reasons.html

    [3] http://www.ucl.ac.uk/teaching-learning/secure-downloads/ILTS.pdf

    [4] https://moodle.org/plugins/view.php?plugin=mod_hotquestion

    [5] https://www.purdue.edu/hotseat

    [6] https://www.ucl.ac.uk/stream/media/swatch?v=5461b59f4751

    [7] https://twitter.com/AndyKons/status/278446517537353728

    [8] http://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/ele/tag/flipping/

    [9] http://www.ucl.ac.uk/teaching-learning/news/carl-gombrich-flipping-the-lecture-theatre