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Digital Education team blog


Ideas and reflections from UCL's Digital Education team


Countdown to Moodle 4: Introducing New Design and Training Opportunities

By Aurelie, Kerry, Eliot Hoving and Jason R Norton, on 16 May 2023

Welcome back to our fortnightly news release for the eagerly awaited Moodle 4 upgrade. As we draw closer to the upgrade, we’re excited to share our progress and shine a spotlight on new features that will enhance your Moodle experience.

Sprint Update and Progress

Our team has been planning and scheduling Train-The-Trainer sessions. These comprehensive 3-hour workshops are designed to equip departmental and faculty trainers with the necessary knowledge and skills to become Moodle 4 experts. The Train-The-Trainer sessions will be held between 29 May and 30 June, ensuring ample opportunities for our trainers to participate and gain the insights they need to support their respective teams.

Moreover, we’re thrilled to announce that the next version of our theme has been released to the internal test team. The feedback we collect is invaluable to us, and it helps us create a platform that is intuitive, efficient, and user-friendly.

We have also made significant strides in our development efforts. We’ve developed and tested three new blocks, which are now awaiting approval. These features promise to provide a more diverse range of functionalities, further enhancing the dashboard experience in your Moodle site.

Introducing New Navigation and Design

One of the highlights of the Moodle 4 upgrade is the redesigned navigation and aesthetic. We’ve streamlined the user interface to make it more intuitive and user-friendly.


The first thing you’ll notice is the revamped dashboard and its new features. Tailored to your role, the dashboard provides easy access to your courses and their respective activities, such as assignments, forums, and quizzes.

A prominent feature is the ‘Alert’ section at the top of the dashboard. This section is designed to deliver Moodle platform-related alerts, ensuring that you’re kept up-to-date with any important updates, changes, or issues affecting the platform.

Two new additions include the Feedback block, which consolidates all your assessment feedback in Moodle, and a News block that circulates important updates to keep you informed about the latest at UCL.

A standout feature is the new Deadlines section. This presents a timeline of upcoming events and activity deadlines, helping you manage your tasks and commitments with ease.

A screen showing the new UCL dashboard including the alert section at the top, the Deadlines section, and the new Feedback and News blocks on the right-hand side.

The Dashboard features an alert section at the top, the Deadlines section, as well as the new Feedback and News blocks.

My courses

The ‘My courses’ page lists all the courses you are enrolled in, providing a summary card for each one and a progress bar indicating how much of the course you’ve completed (if the course uses completion tracking). This feature is particularly useful if you’re enrolled in multiple courses, as it offers a quick way to navigate between them.

Screen shoing the MyCourses page with several courses cards listed, two of them are starred and therefore appear first in the list.

The ‘My courses’ page allows you to review course progress and provides a quick search and navigation between courses.

Course index

The Course Index is a new feature that significantly improves course navigation. Providing a comprehensive overview of your course’s content and structure, it outlines all the sections and resources available at a glance.

Located on the left side of your screen within a course, the Course Index presents a collapsible format, allowing you to easily navigate between different sections of a course. This makes it simpler than ever to locate the material you need.

The Course Index also interacts with the course completion tracking feature. If completion tracking is enabled, each activity is marked with a small circle. An empty circle indicates an incomplete activity, while a filled green circle signals that the activity is completed. This provides a visual representation of your progress through the course.

a screen showing the course index, including activity completion tracking with small circles on next to the names of tracked activities.

A course index with completion tracking.

Other design changes

A key change to note is the renaming of the “Label” resource to “Text and media area”. This shift in terminology more accurately reflects the resource’s functionality, making it easier for users to understand and utilise it.

In addition, we’ve given Moodle’s icons a fresh, modern look, while maintaining their familiarity to help users easily identify functions and features.

List of activity and resources in Moodle showing he new icons and the updated "Text and Media" resource type.

List of activity and resources in Moodle showing the new icons and the updated “Text and Media” resource type.

Getting in Touch

We’re always here to support you. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to the Digital Education team.

Stay tuned for our next update in a fortnight, where we’ll share more exciting news and progress on the Moodle 4 upgrade. Until then, happy moodling!

The Virtual Learning Environments Team

Countdown to Moodle 4: Roadmap Update and Progress Highlights

By Aurelie, Eliot Hoving, Jason R Norton and Kerry, on 3 May 2023

Welcome back to our fortnightly news release for the highly anticipated Moodle 4 upgrade. As we count down to the upgrade, we strive to keep you informed and updated on our progress. 

In our previous blog post, we delved into the new assessment features of Moodle 4, including quiz and question bank enhancements, as well as timed assignments. Today, we’ll be focusing on the current state of our preparations for the upgrade, scheduled for the end of July. 

Progress Update 

During last week’s planning session (TI planning), our team identified and prioritised the tasks necessary to ensure a successful Moodle 4 release within the last two weeks of July.
Despite our initial projection of a test Moodle 4 instance release to all staff and students in April, we’ve had to adjust the timeline. We now anticipate launching this test platform at the end of May.

We want to share the reasons for this delay. Earlier this month, we released the Moodle 4 test site for our focus group and have been diligently working on the feedback received. Our focus group indicated that the platform isn’t quite ready for a general release, highlighting some areas that require further refinement, which we are now prioritising. Additionally, we’re working to resolve infrastructure issues to guarantee optimal performance of the Moodle 4 test site for all UCL staff and students upon its release at the end of May. 

Here is the updated timeline for our summer upgrade: 

Moodle 4 Timeline showing the availibility of the test platform and training launch in June

Moodle 4 Timeline – Summer Upgrade 2023

We’re committed to delivering an exceptional learning experience, and we expect to launch the Train-The-Trainer sessions to faculty and departments late May, as well as the self-paced Moodle 4 course for all staff who cannot attend trainer-led sessions, by the end of May. 

Getting in Touch 

Should you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the Digital Education team.

We’ll be back in a fortnight with more news and updates on the Moodle 4 upgrade. Until then, happy moodling! 

The Virtual Learning Environments team

Learnalong Friday

By Jim R Tyson, on 25 April 2023

As part of our never ending quest to promote digital skills at UCL, I am hosting two sessions on 5 May covering topics that fall outside of our usual Digital Skills Development programme:
Zotero: Citation Power Moves (10 am – 12 pm) and Starting up right with Git, GitHub and RStudio (1 – 3 pm) in the Cruciform Building Cruciform Building B1.15A University College, Gower St, London London WC1E 6BT.

The first of these will be an opportunity for users with some basic Zotero knowledge to share what they do know and to learn new stuff.  I will start by giving a quick introduction to the Citation Style Language (CSL) which is a standard for specifying citation and referencing styles and to support that a brief outline of XML – the standard text-based language for representing all kinds of structured information.  This will also be an opportunity to share how we are using Zotero, to get support with any issues we are facing and to talk about Zotero training needs.  I would be pleased to talk about using Zotero for annotation and reporting for example.

The second session is rather different.  Many R data analysts would like to use git and git-hub with R and RStudio, but even after following online videos and guides, actually setting up your repositories and linking them to your RStudio projects can be a bit daunting; you may encounter problems that no one else has documented or be unsure of the best set up for your use case.  In this session, we will step through – collectively – installing the software (a desktop git client for example), creating projects in RStudio and on git-hub and then setting up a simple and effective workflow.  So this is a practical session where you should end up ready to roll with version control for your RStudio projects.

I hope these sessions will be informal, interactive and above all practically useful, so see you there!


Laptops and people working


Generative AI: Lifeline for students or threat to traditional assessment?

By Marieke Guy, on 21 April 2023

Our increasingly complex world has made the potential impact of artificial intelligence on education more relevant than ever. Gone are the days when AI’s role in academic assessment required extensive explanation; it has become embedded in our daily lives. This shift has caused a wave of concern in Higher Education as traditional assessment practices risk becoming obsolete.

This post is a version of a one that appears on the National Centre for AI blog. It was reframed using Chat-GPT4.

In March, Russell Group university leaders convened to discuss the impact of AI on education and the implications for the sector. The event, chaired by Kathy Armour, Vice-Provost (Education & Student Experience) at UCL, featured a panel of students from various disciplines, sharing their experiences and insights on how AI tools, such as ChatGPT, have transformed their approach to learning.

Student panel on AI and assessment facilitated by Chris Thomson, Jisc. The panel summary was provided by Kathy Armour, Vice-Provost (Education & Student Experience) at UCL

Student panel on AI and assessment facilitated by Chris Thomson, Jisc. The panel summary was provided by Kathy Armour, Vice-Provost (Education & Student Experience) at UCL

The students’ accounts made it clear that the genie is out of the bottle; AI is now so deeply integrated into their learning experience that it would be futile and dangerous to resist the change. For many, AI has become a “lifechanging” educational companion, offering a level of support that is impossible to ignore. As such, the students argued, returning to traditional exam halls or engaging in an AI detection arms race would be detrimental to their future employability and wellbeing.

It is evident that a collaborative approach between students and educational leaders is necessary to navigate this brave new world.

Prior to the event the students contributed to the drafting of a set of future-proof principles related to AI and assessment, addressing concerns such as relevance, literacy, rigour, transparency, fairness, and human-centred education.

Working with the students to co-design the AI and assessment principles

Working with the students to co-design the AI and assessment principles

The students expressed a desire for their education to prepare them for the wider world and the future workplace, necessitating the adoption of AI in learning, teaching, and assessment. Additionally, students and staff must be supported in developing academic skills in relation to AI, ensuring that learning and development opportunities are not missed. The students pointed to friends who were already creating AI-based start-ups.

Transparency and fairness are crucial when AI tools are used in assessment and marking. Students are particularly concerned about the potential for a widening gap between those who can afford AI tools and those who cannot. This raises the question of whether universities should provide paid-for versions of AI tools as part of their standard IT provision.

Moreover, learning, teaching, and assessment must remain human-centred. AI should enhance, not replace, relationships between students and educators, and AI interactions should promote a pedagogy of care. If students rely on AI to bypass required academic work, it is essential to ask why and provide additional support as needed.

This thought-provoking event demonstrated the importance of engaging in open dialogue with students about the role of AI in education and assessment. As Kathy Armour noted, the challenges posed by AI and assessment are not new; they are rooted in longstanding issues of assessment and curriculum design that continue to challenge the sector. Embracing the potential of AI in education can offer a lifeline to students, but it requires a delicate balance between technological innovation and maintaining the integrity of traditional learning experiences. By working together, students and educators can create a path forward that incorporates AI in a way that benefits all.

The event also featured visionary case-studies from sector-experts on AI: Sue Attewell, Head of edtech and lead at Jisc’s national Centre for AI in tertiary education, Professor Mike Sharples from the Institute of Educational Technology at the Open University and Michael Veale, Associate Professor and Deputy Vice Dean (Education) in the Faculty of Laws at UCL.

Draft principles

Draft principles

Thanks go to those involved in this work:


  • Matthew Banner – Postgraduate in the third year of a PhD in Biochemical Engineering, leading on a student-led partnership project considering assessment design and AI.
  • Sophie Bush – Undergraduate student on History and the Philosophy of Science BSc and lead course rep for Science and Technology studies.
  • Megan Fisher – Second-year undergraduate student studying Economics, with chosen modules in Environmental Economics and Algebra.
  • Rachel Lam – First-year undergraduate law student, serves as a student partner on the assessment design and quality review team.
  • Jennifer Seon – In last year of my part-time master’s programme studying Education and Technology, dissertation will focus on collaborative problem-solving in assessment. Recently interviewed AI expert Wayne Holmes for a podcast with the UCL AI Society.
  • Bernice Yeo – Postgraduate student taking the MA in Education and Technology. Works as an examiner for the International Baccalaureate.
  • Sopio Zhgenti – Postgraduate student studying Education and Technology at the Institute of Education with special interest in Artificial Intelligence.


  • Marieke Guy (Head of Digital Assessment), UCL
  • Zak Liddell (Director of Education & Student Experience, MAPS), UCL
  • Joanne Moles (Head of Assessment Delivery and Platforms), UCL
  • Jennifer Griffiths (Associate Director in the UCL Arena Centre for Research-based Education), UCL
  • Lizzie Vinton (Assessment Regulations and Governance Manager, Academic Services) , UCL
  • Chris Thomson (Programme lead for teaching, learning and assessment), Jisc

Countdown to Moodle 4: Exploring Assessment Improvements

By Aurelie, Jason R Norton and Eliot Hoving, on 17 April 2023

Welcome back to the fortnightly news release for our upcoming Moodle 4 Upgrade. 

In our previous blog post, we discussed the latest developments in Moodle 4, focusing on the enhancements that are set to improve the learner experience. In this post, with Moodle 4 just around the corner, we will be exploring the latest updates in assessment improvements, specifically the enhancements made to the quiz and question banks, as well as the introduction of timed assignments. 

Sprint Update 

This last fortnight has been quieter due to the break, but we wanted to update you on the work we did complete in this last Sprint: 

  • we are releasing a version of the Moodle Theme with UCL data to our focus groups,
  • we are in the final stages of QA for the 1.2 version of the Theme (1.4 is the expected go live version). 

What’s new in Moodle 4? 

Quiz and Question Bank Enhancements 

Moodle 4 sees a lot of changes to the quiz question activity. The new features will allow for more efficient and effective quiz creation, management, and grading, making it easier for educators to create engaging and challenging assessments for their learners. 

This screen shows the improved question bank’s question status, question versions, question comments and question usage.

screenshot of an example of a Moodle question bank with the new features highlighted.

Moodle question bank – new columns


The quiz question statistics are also more visible, now, through the handy ‘responses’ drop-down menu. Question statistics like facility index or discriminative efficiency are now easier to find. 

Responses drop down menu showing the Statistics option.

Quick access to Quiz questions statistics.

These updates include the ability to tag questions, allowing educators to search for and categorise questions. Furthermore, tutors can now preview and edit questions directly from the question bank with a pen icon, and see when the questions were last modified and by whom (see screen capture above), to easily co-write assessment, streamlining the process of creating and managing questions. 

Timed Assignments: a New Feature 

Perhaps the most significant update around assessment in Moodle 4 is the introduction of timed assignments. This new feature allows tutors to set a time limit for completion on assignments, providing a more structured and focused approach to assessment. Timed assignments are particularly useful for assessors who want to simulate real-world conditions, such as exams or other time-limited tasks. 


Screenshot of the timed assignment configuration in a Moodle Assignment

New timed assignment feature – configuration in the Availability section of a Moodle Assignment.

Overall, the assessment improvements in Moodle 4 represent a major step forward for our platform, with significant updates to the quiz and question bank modules, as well as the introduction of timed assignments. These updates will undoubtedly enhance the learner experience, making it easier for tutors to create engaging and challenging assessments that promote learning. 

Getting in Touch 

If you have questions, please do get in touch with If you have questions, please do get in touch with the Digital Education team.

We’ll be back in a fortnight with further news and updates for you. In the meantime, happy moodling! 

The Virtual Learning Environments team

Countdown to Moodle 4: enhancing the learner experience

By Aurelie, Eliot Hoving and Jason R Norton, on 3 April 2023

Welcome back to the fortnightly news release for our upcoming Moodle 4 Upgrade.

This week we’ll update you on what our team has been working on for the last fortnight and highlight a new Moodle 4 feature, more in detail.

What are we working on?

This week we want to share with you our progress with these two aspects:

  • UX (user experience) and UI (user interface)

The team has conducted seven face-to-face interviews with students on user journeys through Moodle, defining possible improvements for our UCL Moodle platform. The team also conducted a survey about UI/UX with over a hundred responses which are being reviewed.

  • Codebase and plugins

Our team is continuing codebase review for Moodle 4, and reviewing UCL plugins to ensure everything works well when the upgrade takes place in July.

What’s new in Moodle 4?

Database activity improvements

The Moodle Database activity had UX improvements. These improvements have been supported by the Moodle Users Association. It now features a useful start page, an improved Image gallery preset, as well as three new presets: Journal, Proposals and Resources.

A database activity in Moodle, showing the strat page with instructions.

Database activity – Start page

These four ready-made presets mean that you don’t have to build a database (adding fileds, creating layout templates) from scracth, but you can now use and adapt the most suitable preset to fit your student’s learning needs.

Database activity - presets listed on screen

Moodle database activity – presets choices

The presets can also be previewed before use so that you can be certain it is the layout you are looking for, and it can then be adjusted to what you need.

Moodle database activity showing a preview of the Journal preset with two dummy journal entries.

Databade activity – Journal preset preview

Have Questions?

If you have questions, please do get in touch with the Digital Education team.

We’ll be back in a fortnight with further news and updates for you. In the meantime, happy moodling!
The Virtual Learning Environments team