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UCL Connected Curriculum Fellows



How can digital technology support the Connected Curriculum?

By Eileen Kennedy, on 28 November 2016

Digital education will be at the heart of the Connected Curriculum. UCL’s education strategy 2016-21 commits establish a digital learning infrastructure that connects students with each other, with staff with research and with the wider world. Digital education will be a key support for Dimension 6 “Students connect with each other, across phases and with alumni” as well as providing tools for Dimension 5 “Students learn to produce outputs – assessments directed at an audience”. My research project as a Connected Curriculum Fellow will explore different ways that technology can help staff implement the Connected Curriculum and help us evaluate the impact of the Connected Curriculum.

There are three broad ways that digital technology can support the Connected Curriculum.

  1. Digital technology can enable staff and students to connect with each other, and to create innovative teaching and learning activities and assignments for students, including using videos, blogs or websites aimed at audiences outside of UCL;
  2. Digital technology can be used to guide staff through the Connected Curriculum and adapt to their needs;
  3. Digital technology can be used to collect examples of teaching and learning activities that staff are putting in place and give feedback to them and their departments about their progress, guiding next steps and providing an overview of where we are as an institution.

Using a design based research approach, I will be exploring each of these ways of engaging with technology in the context of the Connected Curriculum. This year I will be involved in procuring an academic social network and a blogging service for UCL. When these are in place, there will be an opportunity to pilot and evaluate the technology with selected groups. I am also prototyping online, interactive approaches to supporting staff to engage with the Connected Curriculum, and considering ways of gathering the impact of the Connected Curriculum in digital form.

Evaluation of the impact of the Connected Curriculum is important, and there are many data sources we can collect. Wenger, Traynor and de Laat (2011) suggest that evaluation can be useful to teaching staff because they can use it for reflection and guidance, but only if they are able to “recognize their own experience of participation in the results and the process of evaluation” (p. 7). To do this, Wenger et al. propose using a particular narrative format that they refer to as collecting “value creation stories”. These value creation stories will also assist those leading initiatives and cultivating a community of practitioners developing the Connected Curriculum at UCL. In order for this to be effective, the approach to evaluation should:

give them the information they need to make decisions about how to support the development of communities and networks and to maximize value creation. The results should be useful and trustworthy for people and organizations that provide “sponsorship” to communities and networks, that is, to those who give them institutional legitimacy, ensure that they have the resources they need, negotiate strategic alignment, and provide an organizational ear when the outcome requires action on the part of an organization. These stakeholders need to make decisions about investment and institutionalization, which need to be based on reliable and informative data (p. 7).

Collecting staff and students’ assessments of where their programmes are with the Connected Curriculum can be part of the evidence of value creation we need. One of my challenges during my CC fellowship is to make sure we gather the data in the format we need it and channel it back in to enhancing UCL’s engagement with the Connected Curriculum.

Connecting critical thinking skill & Fermi problems

By Frank Witte, on 19 November 2016

Critical thinking usually requires the application of skill and knowledge from a wide range of different fields. It also demands making use of reasonable guesses and estimates of things you don’t know. Our media sometimes play risky games, for entertainment, with their credibility. A Supermoon example and the case for teaching Fermi problems. Read the rest of this entry »

Fractured Realities and Connected Curriculum

By Frank Witte, on 17 November 2016

UCL’s Connected Curriculum identifies  dimensions of ‘learning through research and enquiry’. My research project as CC Fellow focusses on perceptions of these dimensions among students and how these perceptions are affected by the context within which they learn and study. Why would such perceptions matter? And why today maybe more than ever? Read the rest of this entry »

Welcome to the Connected Curriculum Fellows Blog! 

By Brent Carnell, on 12 October 2016

The 2016-2017 session is the third year that we have worked with Connected Curriculum fellows, seconded members of staff from across UCL leading the implementation of research-based education in their own areas of the institution. This year we’re moving away from introducing and engaging (though inevitably that still might need to happen in some parts of UCL), to measuring, evaluating, and researching the effectiveness of the Connected Curriculum so far. What are the cold spots and hot spots within the institution? Are there any departments that would really benefit from support and guidance? What is the uptake of the existing guidance that has been produced? What is the impact of efforts so far? What else is needed to bring research and education closer together, and to ensure that all students can learn through research-based activities?

This blog will be updated regularly by this year’s CC Fellows. They’ll showcase what they are doing to answer some of the above questions. And I’m sure there will be plenty of opportunity for staff, students, and alumni to get involved. Indeed the UCL Connected Curriculum is a shared endeavour.

Oh, and check out this snappy little animation, which offers a concise introduction to the UCL Connected Curriculum!

More soon!

Screen Shot 2016-10-12 at 11.22.19

For more on the UCL Connected Curriculum visit: www.ucl.ac.uk/connectedcurriculum

Authentic multimodal assessments

By Mira Vogel, on 7 October 2016

Cross-posted to the UCL Digital Education blog.

My Connected Curriculum Fellowship project explores current practice with Connected Curriculum dimension 5 – ‘Students learn to produce outputs – assessments directed at an audience’. My emphasis is on assessing students’ digital (including digitised) multimodal outputs for an audience. What does ‘multimodal’ mean? Modes can be thought of as styles of communication –  register and voice, for example – while media can be thought of as its fabric. In practice, though, the line between the two is quite blurry (Kress, 2012). This work will look at multimodal assessment from the following angles.

What kinds of digital multimodal outputs are students producing at UCL, and using which media? The theoretic specificity of verbal media, such as essay or talk, explains its dominance in academia. Some multimodal forms, such as documentaries, are recognised as (potentially) academic, while others are straightforwardly authentic, such as curation students producing online exhibitions. At the margins are works which bring dilemmas about academic validity, such as fan fiction submitted for the From Codex To Kindle module, or the Internet Cultures student who blogged as a dog.

How are students supported to conceptualise their audiences? DePalma and Alexander (2015) observe that students who are used to writing for one or two academic markers may struggle with the complex notions of audience called for by an expanded range of rhetorical resources. The 2016 Making History convenor has pointed out that students admitted to UCL on strength of their essays may find the transition to multimodal assessment unsettling and question its validity.  I hope to explore tutor and student perspectives here with a focus on how the tasks are introduced to students. I will maintain awareness of the Liberating the Curriculum emphasis on diverse audiences. I will also explore matters of consent and intellectual property, and ask what happens to the outputs once the assessment is complete.

What approaches are taken to assessing multimodal work? A 2006 survey (Anderson et al) reported several assessment challenges for markers, including separation of rhetorical from aesthetic effects, diversity of skills, technologies and interpretation, and balancing credit between effort and quality where the output may be unpolished. Adsanatham (2012) describes how his students generated more complex criteria than he could have alone, helping “enrich our ever-evolving understanding and learning of technology and literacies”. DePalma and Alexander (2015) discuss written commentaries or reflective pieces as companions to students’ multimodal submissions. Finding out about the practices of staff and students across UCL promises to illuminate possibilities, questions, contrasts and dilemmas.

I plan to identify participants by drawing on my and colleagues’ networks, the Teaching and Learning Portal, and calls via appropriate channels. Building on previous work, I hope to collect screen-capture recordings, based on question prompts, in which students explain their work and tutors explain how they marked it. These kinds of recordings provide very rich data but, anticipating difficulties obtaining consent to publish these, I also plan to transcribe and analyse them using NVivo to produce a written report. I aim to produce a collection of examples of multimodal work, practical suggestions for managing the trickier areas of assessment, and ideas for supporting students in their activities. I will ask participants to validate these outputs.

Would you like to get involved? Contact Mira Vogel.


Adsanatham, C. 2012. Integrating Assessment and Instruction: Using Student-Generated Grading Criteria to Evaluate Multimodal Digital Projects. Computers and Composition 29(2): 152–174.

Anderson, D., Atkins, A., Ball, C., et al. 2006. Integrating Multimodality into Composition Curricula: Survey Methodology and Results from a CCCC Research Grant. Composition Studies 34(2). http://www.uc.edu/journals/composition-studies/issues/archives/fall2006-34-2.html.

DePalma, M.J., and Alexander, K.P. 2015. A Bag Full of Snakes: Negotiating the Challenges of Multimodal Composition. Computers and Composition 37: 182–200.

Gunther, K. and Staffan Selander, S. 2012. Multimodal Design, Learning and Cultures of Recognition. The Internet and Higher Education 15(4): 265–268.

Vogel, M., Kador, T., Smith, F., Potter, J. 2016. Considering new media in scholarly assessment. UCL Teaching and Learning Conference. 19 April 2016. Institute of Education, UCL, London, UK. https://www.ucl.ac.uk/teaching-learning/events/conference/2016/UCLTL2016Abstracts; https://goo.gl/nqygUH