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Digital Education team blog


Ideas and reflections from UCL's Digital Education team


Eye eye! 👀

By Janina Dewitz, on 20 April 2021

People often ask me: what happens after #LearnHack? – And often I don’t quite know how to answer this question. So much of what happens with the projects depends on the enthusiasm and stamina of the project teams. Some find funding to develop their ideas further, either through Change Makers or through departmental support. Often projects disappear in the ether of the university and I only find out by complete chance that a project or collaboration is still going years later!

The last #LearnHack, while a bit strange, has had the major benefit that online chatter is easier to continue after the event and keep up with, and so I checked in with Marcus Pedersen a few days ago to see what happened with his AR Eye Model project proposal. Here is what happened:

1. What did you do/what happened?

Remote education has become increasingly popular over the last year due to the ongoing pandemic. This inspired me to think about how we could educate patients and students about the anatomy of the eye and certain eye diseases. From here I set about sourcing some funding to build an Augmented Reality app. After successfully applying for a grant, I then set about developing content for the education app. Firstly, I needed a model eye that could be used as part of the AR environment. Secondly, I needed to develop content on the eye diseases we were going to highlight. Thirdly, I needed to think how I could make this accessible to all.

These three key aspects were supported by attending the Hackathon where I pitched my idea and interested parties then got involved. Ideas that came from the new advisory board then set up after the hackathon allowed for fresh ideas (as well as some well needed editing my spelling as never been great).

Once the group was set up, I could get to work on developing the content.

2. Who has been involved?

I outsourced the app development so I could focus on developing the accessible nature of the app. I contacted the service director at Moorfields Eye Hospital and asked them to write a script on Age Related Macular Degeneation (AMD), glaucoma and uveitis. From here I then found fellows at the hospital to help translate the material. The fellows come from all over the world so I knew we would be able to help many more patients than usual. I then edited these videos including some animation. For AMD we were able to create 33 multilingual introductory videos.

3. Was this in reaction to an issue or request? How did this come about?

The app came about from some research I conducted on remote education. Knowing that post pandemic aspects of remote medical care would continue I thought I could further bolster patients learning from home. Students studying the eye could also use the app to refresh their understanding of the eye as well as learn about the key eye diseases.

4. Why did you take this approach? Was there anything novel in your approach?

I decided to use an App as part of a larger project that includes other modalities of educating patients, careers and family members about eye diseases and the anatomy of the eye. There is nothing novel about using AR in education as it has been around for a while

however, I am interested to see the feedback form those with sight impairment and their ability to interact with the app.

5. What next?

Collect feedback from the audience and develop the app for future patient education. Expand the list of eye disease’s so we can assist more people all over the world.


Have you got a #LearnHack story? Let us know in the comments below.👇

Marking centrally managed exams in 2021

By Steve Rowett, on 22 March 2021

On this page:

Please note that this page will be updated regularly.

  • 19 April 2021 – details of daily drop-ins added
  • 23 April 2021 – clarified that the training and drop ins are relevant to markers, moderators, the Module Lead and Exam Liaison Officers.


As part of UCL’s continued COVID-19 response, centrally managed examinations for 2021 will be held online. Approximately 19,000 students will undertake over 1,000 exam papers resulting in about 48,000 submitted pieces of work. These exams are timetabled, and (for the very most part) students will submit a PDF document as their response. Students have been provided with their exam timetable and guidance on creating and submitting their documents. The exception to this is some ‘pilot’ examinations that are taking place using other methods on the AssessmentUCL platform, but unless you are within that pilot group, the methods described here will apply.

The move to online 24 hour assessments that replace traditional exams leads to a challenge for those that have to grade and mark the work. This blog post updates a similar post from last year with updated guidance, although the process is broadly the same.

Physical exams are being replaced with 24 hour online papers, scheduled through the exam timetabling system. Some papers will be available for students to complete for the full 24 hours, in other cases students ‘start the clock’ themselves to take a shorter timed exam within that 24 hour window.

We start from a place of two knowns:

  • Students are submitting work as a PDF document to the AssessmentUCL platform during the 24 hour window; and
  • Final grades need to be stored in Portico, our student records system.

But in between those two endpoints, there are many different workflows by which marking can take place. These are set out by the UCL’s Academic Manual but encompass a range of choices, particularly in how second marking is completed. One key difference between regular courseworks is that this is not about providing feedback to students, but instead about supporting the marking process, the communication between markers and the required record of the marking process. At the end of the marking process departments will need to ensure that scripts are stored securely but can be accessed by relevant staff as required, much in line with requirements for paper versions over previous years.

There is no requirement to use a particular platform or method for marking, so there is considerable flexibility for departments to use processes that work best for them. We are suggesting a menu of options which provide a basis for departments to build on if they so choose. We are also running regular training sessions which as listed at the foot of this document.

The menu options are:

  • Markers review the scripts and mark or annotate them using AssessmentUCL’s annotation and markup tools;
  • Departments can download PDF copies of scripts which can be annotated using PDF annotation software on a computer or tablet device;
  • Markers review the scripts on-screen using AssessmentUCL, but keep a ‘marker file’ or notes and comments on the marking process;
  • Markers print the scripts and mark them, then scan them for storage or keep them for return to the department on paper.

The rest of this post goes into these options in more detail. There is also a growing AssessmentUCL resource centre with detailed guidance on exams, which will be launched shortly and this will evolve as the AssessmentUCL platform becomes more widely used across UCL.

Overview of central exam marking

This video provides a short (4 minute) introduction to the methods of marking exam papers in 2021. This video has captions available.

Marking online using AssessmentUCL’s annotation tools

AssessmentUCL provides a web-based interface where comments can be overlaid on a student’s work. A range of second marking options are available to allow comments to be shared with other markers or kept hidden from them. The central examinations team will set up all centrally managed exams based on the papers and information submitted by departments.

The video (24 minutes) below provides a walkthrough of the marking process using the annotation and grading tools in AssessmentUCL. It also shows how module leaders can download PDFs of student papers if they wish to mark using other methods or download marks if they are using AssessmentUCL. This video has captions available.

This video (7 minutes) gives more detailed guidance on ‘section-based marking’ where different markers are marking different questions across the submitted papers. This video has captions available.

Annotation using PDF documents

Where you annotation needs are more sophisticated, or you want to ‘write’ on the paper using a graphics tablet or a tablet and pencil/stylus, then this option may suit you better.

Module leads and exams liaison officers can download a ZIP file containing all the submitted work for a given exam. Unlike last year, a student’s candidate number is prefixed onto the filename, and can be included within the document itself, to make identifying the correct student much easier.

You can then use tools you already have or prefer to use to do your marking. There is more flexibility here, and we will not be able to advise and support every PDF tool available or give precise instructions for every workflow used by departments, but we give some examples here.

Marking on an iPad using OneDrive

Many staff have reported using an iPad with Apple Pencil or an Android tablet with a stylus to be a very effective marking tool. You can use the free Microsoft OneDrive app, or Apple’s built in Files app if you are using an iPad. Both can connect to your OneDrive account which could be a very useful way to store your files. An example of this using OneDrive is shown below, the Apple Files version is very similar.

There’s further guidance from Microsoft on each individual annotation tool.

Marking on a PC or Surface Pro using Microsoft Drawboard PDF

Microsoft Drawboard PDF is a very comprehensive annotation tool, but is only available for Windows 10 and is really designed to be used with a Surface Pro or a desktop with a graphics tablet. Dewi Lewis from UCL Chemistry has produced a video illustrating the annotation tools available and how to mark a set of files easily. Drawboard PDF is available free of charge from Microsoft.

Marking on a PC, Mac or Linux machine using a PDF annotation program.

Of course there are plenty of third party tools that support annotating PDF documents. Some requirement payment to access the annotation facilities (or to save files that have been annotated) but two that do not are Xodo and Foxit PDF.

Things to think about with this approach:

  • Your marking process: if you use double blind marking you might need to make two copies of the files, one for each marker. If you use check marking then a single copy will suffice.
  • You will need to ensure the files are stored securely and can be accessed by the relevant departmental staff in case of any query. You might share the exam submission files with key contacts such as teaching administrators or directors of teaching.
  • Some of the products listed above have a small charge, as would any stylus or pencil that staff would need. These cannot be supplied centrally, so you may need a process for staff claiming back the costs from departments.

Using a ‘marker file’

Accessing the students’ scripts is done using AssessmentUCL, which allows all the papers to be viewed online individually or downloaded in one go. Then a separate document is kept (either one per script, or one overall) containing the marks and marker feedback for each comment. If double-blind marking is being used, then it is easy to see that two such documents or sets of documents could be kept in this way.

Printing scripts and marking on paper

Although we have moved to online submission this year, colleagues are still welcome to print documents and mark on paper. However there is no central printing service available for completed scripts to be printed, and this would have to be managed individually or locally by departments.

The evidence about marking online

In this video Dr Mary Richardson, Associate Professor in Educational Assessment at the IOE, gives a guide to how online marking can differ from paper-based marking and offers some tips for those new to online marking. The video has captions.

Training sessions and support

Digital Education will be running regular training sessions running from week commencing 12 April 2021. These sessions will cover marking using the AssessmentUCL platform and alternative marking methods including using PDF documents. The session is relevant to markers, moderators, the Module Lead and Exams Liaison Officer. This session will run multiple times at the following dates and times:

2pm-3pm Monday 12 April (this session will be captioned)
2pm-3pm Tuesday 13 April
11am-12pm Thursday 15 April
2pm-3pm Monday 19 April
2pm-3pm Wednesday 21 April (this session will be captioned)
11am-12pm Friday 23 April
2pm-3pm Monday 26 April
2pm-3pm Tuesday 27 April (this session will be captioned)
11am-12pm Thursday 29 April
11am-12pm Tuesday 4 May
3pm-4pm Wednesday 5 May
11am-12pm Friday 7 May (this session will be captioned)
2pm-3pm Monday 10 May
11am-12pm Wednesday 12 May
2pm-3pm Monday 17 May
2pm-3pm Thursday 20 May
2pm-3pm Tuesday 26 May
2pm-3pm Thursday 3 June

There is no need to book for these sessions, you can just join on the day (UCL Login required).

At least one session will also be recorded and made available for replay with the link provided here in due course.

There are also daily drop-ins that run from 3pm-4pm every weekday (except bank holidays). You can find the link for these and join immediately.

You can of course contact UCL Digital Education for further help and support.

How to enrol staff in Moodle

By Silvia Giannitrapani, on 21 March 2021

As part of the continuous work on Moodle, we have been optimising the roles and enrolment procedures. Specifically we have created a new ‘Category Administrator’ role and reviewed our current roles’ permissions.

Anyone with editing permissions on a Moodle course (including Tutors and Course Administrators) can use the manual enrolment method to grant access to other members of staff to their individual courses.

To manually enrol a user onto your course, from within your Moodle course go to the Participants list and click on Enrol users. In the Enrol users pop-up window, use the Assign roles dropdown menu and choose the relevant role from the following list:

Leader Leader can do anything within a course, including enrolling students, editing content, adding activities and grading students. This role is identical to the Course Administrator/Tutor roles, but with an alternative name.
Tutor Tutors can do anything within a course, including enrolling students, editing content, adding activities and grading students. This role is identical to the Course Administrator role, but with an alternative name. Used for academic staff who require edit access.
Course Administrator Course Administrators can do anything within a course, including enrolling students, editing content, adding activities and grading students. This role is identical to the Tutor role, but with an alternative name. Used for non-academic staff who require edit access.
Non-editing Tutor Non-editing tutors can view and grade students’ work, but may not edit content or alter activities or resources. It is used for academic staff, external examiners and teaching Assistants who can grade student work but DO NOT require edit access.
Staff Observer Can view courses, including hidden courses and activities, but may not grade students, edit content or alter activities. This role may be suitable for staff such as those in the Library, Digital Education or Arena.
Student Students can view course content, participate in activities, submit coursework and view their own grades.

Staff who require access to all Moodle courses within a faculty or a department do not need to be manually added to every course individually. They can be added once to the department’s category and then have access to every Moodle course within that category. Please note: only the Digital Education team is permitted to assign this category level access. Approval from the Head of Department should be sought for any new enrolments at category level as this grants access to a large number of courses.

 To obtain Moodle access to all courses within a faculty or a department, please see the instructions below: 

  • To request Read-only / Non-editing access: A written email confirmation from the Head of Department will need to be sent to Digital Education (digi-ed@ac.uk) to request access for particular staff.
  • To request any editing roles: In order for any UCL member of staff to gain editing category level admin rights in Moodle, they will need to provide written email confirmation to Digital Education (digi-ed@ac.uk) from the Head of Department specifying the member of staff, the type of role and the Moodle category to which they require access and then, they will need to complete the ‘Administering your Moodle’ course, which is available at https://moodle.ucl.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=9682. 

Types of Moodle category roles available:

Category Administrator Course Administrators can do anything within a course, including enrolling students, editing content, adding activities and grading students. This role is identical to the Tutor role, but with an alternative name. Used for non-academic staff who require edit access. Can only be assigned at Category level.
Course Administrator (No E-Mail) Course Administrators can do anything within a course, including enrolling students, editing content, adding activities and grading students. This role is identical to the Tutor role, but with an alternative name. Used for non-academic staff who require edit access. THIS ROLE DOES NOT RECEIVE E-MAIL NOTIFICATIONS. Can only be assigned at Category level.
Non-editing Tutor (No E-Mail) Non-editing tutors can view and grade students’ work, but may not edit content or alter activities or resources. It is used for academic staff, external examiners and teaching Assistants who can grade student work but DO NOT require edit access. THIS ROLE DOES NOT RECEIVE E-MAIL NOTIFICATIONS. Can only be assigned at Category level.
MyFeedback Departmental Administrator Allows Departmental Administrators to view MyFeedback student assessment reports for their department. Can only be assigned at Category level.
Accessibility Assistant Accessibility assistants can view and edit course content, and access Ally’s feedback and course report. They cannot view or edit grades or assignment feedback. Can only be assigned at Category level.
Faculty Learning Technologist Faculty Learning Technologist can do anything within a course, including enrolling students, editing content, adding activities and grading students. THIS ROLE DOES NOT RECEIVE E-MAIL NOTIFICATIONS. Can only be assigned at Category level.

Further guidance on manual enrolments is available at UCL Wiki – M06f – Category enrolment

If you have any specific queries, please talk to your Faculty Learning Technology Lead or email the Digital Education Team at: digi-ed@ucl.ac.uk.

Spotlight on … Moodle quizzes & exams

By ccaazwo and Aurelie, on 8 March 2021

With campus being closed, departments are looking for alternative options to run both formative and summative assessments.

Young person with laptop and headphones

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

The Moodle quiz activity is a great option, which allows you to set a specified Start / End time or have a window-in-a-window, e.g.: 2hr time limit between 00:00 – 23:59 on 1 March 2021.
You can find guidance and recommended settings in our Moodle Quiz Guide.

For both formative and summative quizzes, make sure you let us know in advance by completing the Exam Notification Form, under the Staff Help  menu of any Moodle page. This means we can check your exam does not clash with any planned maintenance, and know who to contact if there are any student queries or technical issues on the day.

If you have any specific queries, please talk to your Faculty Learning Technology Lead or email the Digital Education team at: digi-ed@ucl.ac.uk.

Once more: Accessible documents from LaTeX

By Jim R Tyson, on 7 March 2021

This is blog outlines some changes to the advice I gave previously on how to produce accessible documents using LaTeX. The changes concern the production of PDFs for use digitally, and conversion from LaTeX to HTML.

ISD general guidance on producing accessible materials on its Accessibility Fundamentals pages still holds.

In that previous blog entry, I included as an aim to ‘get as close as possible to producing ‘tagged PDF’ or PDF/UA documents using LaTeX’. This is not currently doable. I replace it with the aim to ‘get as close as possible to producing reasonable accessible documents using LaTeX’. Given the long standing difficulties meeting accessibility requirements from LaTeX source in PDF the advice must be to produce HTML documents when accessibility is required.

In particular, I do not now recommend using the LaTeX package accessibility.sty to create tagged documents. Development of the package has been halted and the author no longer supports its use. If you are interested in the effort to produce tagged PDF from LaTeX source, then you should read this article from the TeX Usergroup newsletter, Tugboat. The author of the package mentioned in the article himself believes it is not yet ready for use in production. But, he writes, “with the tagpdf package it is already possible for adventurous users with a bit of knowledge in TEX programming to tag quite large documents”. I am not adventurous or knowledgeable enough to rise to that challenge.

With respect to mathematical content, I had previously recommended Pandoc which can convert to HTML with machine readable mathematical content. I have since looked more closely at this issue and I now prefer to use tex4ht which has some useful features, including the ability to include the LaTeX code for mathematical content in a page. It is also the package recommended by TUG. There is good documentation on the TUG website. However, tex4ht does not produce Microsoft Word documents from LaTeX, and so Pandoc is still the best tool if that is required. And Pandoc does still do the job if you don’t need extra features.

In the light of these and other issues, I have made the switch completely to using RMarkdown. This allows me to mix lightweight mark up, LaTeX mathematical code and HTML in one document. Using HTML to insert graphics allows me to include alt text which is not otherwise possible.

There is still to my knowledge no solution for presentations made with Beamer or similar packages. Whereas I previously suggested using the package pdfcomment to annotate images on slides made with LaTeX, I do not now since I have discovered that the comments are not well understood by screenreader software.

The current situation means that we can do very little to support colleagues with accessibility issues in LaTeX workflows and especially with respect to presentations and providing alternative text for images, beyond the advice we have already provided.

Further Digital Skills Development dates now available this term

By Jasmin E Mullings, on 15 February 2021

Signpost with 'Digital Skills' written on itHow to book

Please ensure you are using Desktop@UCL or the UCL VPN when booking.

What’s on offer

ISD Digital Skills Development has released new dates for the second half of Term 2 to be offered online via Blackboard Collaborate and Microsoft Teams.

We are offering a wide range of courses covering R, Stata, Microsoft Tools (including Forms, OneNote and Sway) and much more. Highlights this term include:

  • Introduction to Teams & Prerequisite course for Advanced workshops;
  • Excel Essential Skills programme – Orientation session;
  • XMind mind mapping tool – workshop.

This term we are bringing back our popular Software for success and In a Nutshell sessions.

Software for Success sessions are aimed at those starting a new research project, thesis or dissertation and unsure what tools to use for writing up, citation, data analysis etc. These short, lunchtime sessions will help you answer these questions and determine the best way to get up and running.

In a Nutshell sessions highlight a single task in a particular application, such as starting a project in NVivo for example.

We have also adapted our introductory series of Excel Essential Skills Workshops to a self-paced programme with some interactive sessions. Learn more on the Excel Essential Skills Workshops blog post about the new format.

We are also hosting our usual weekly drop-in sessions remotely via Blackboard Collaborate for those who would like individual support on a specific issue. The dates and times of the sessions, along with the direct Blackboard Collaborate link, are available in our ISD Digital Skills Development Moodle course.

Joining a course

Please view the current schedule of courses and workshops below. Once you’ve looked at the schedule and chosen the course(s) you want to book, follow the instructions on the How to enrol on courses blog post to book. Please also view the course description carefully to ensure you have all the information, check for any pre-learning (if applicable) and know how to join the live session(s).

As we will use Blackboard Collaborate for many of our sessions, please watch the 10-minute Participant video guide which explains how to use and what to expect from the BB Collaborate platform.

Once you’ve booked on a course, please visit our Digital Skills Development Moodle course to find any course materials and pre-learning (if applicable). As some courses have pre-learning, please ensure you allow yourself enough time to complete this. Please also download any available course materials in advance of the live session.

We will send out the link to join the session the day before (or Friday if it’s a Monday course) but you can also join directly from MyLearning (see blog post for instructions on how to do this).

Also note that we have added an extra 15 minutes to the start time of our courses to allow participants to test out their audio/connection. The actual course will start promptly on the hour (15 minutes after the advertised time).

More digital skills development opportunities…

Learn online with a vast range of high-quality video-based courses from LinkedIn Learning.  These cover technical skills but also business, personal and creative skills as well.  Visit the UCL LinkedIn Learning page to find out more.

DigiLearn Online is a new library of online videos which covers UCL IT essentials. Topics include remote connectivity, data storage essentials, Microsoft Office 365 applications, and much more. Visit the DigiLearn Online webpage to access the video guides.

Current schedule

Date Start End Class title
16/02/2021 13:45 15:45 DSD: OneNote 2016 – Workshop
17/02/2021 09:45 12:00 DSD: Blogging with Reflect (WordPress-based) – Workshop
17/02/2021 13:45 15:00 DSD: LaTeX: Demo of Overleaf
18/02/2021 09:45 12:00 DSD: Intermediate Statistics with Excel 2016
18/02/2021 09:45 11:30 DSD: Microsoft Teams Workshop 3: Document Management and Collaboration
18/02/2021 10:45 12:00 DSD: Read&Write: Text-to-speech software – an overview
18/02/2021 13:45 15:00 DSD: Microsoft Forms Demo
19/02/2021 09:45 11:30 DSD: Creating accessible Word documents
23/02/2021 13:45 15:00 DSD: An Introduction to R with Rstudio – Part 1
02/03/2021 13:45 16:00 DSD: An Introduction to R with Rstudio – Part 2
12/03/2021 13:45 16:00 DSD: An Introduction to R with Rstudio – Part 3
24/02/2021 13:45 14:30 DSD: Excel Essential Skills programme – Orientation session
25/02/2021 09:45 11:00 DSD: Getting Started with Stata – Part 1 (Orientation and materials)
04/03/2021 09:45 12:00 DSD: Getting Started with Stata – Part 2 (Using Stata)
11/03/2021 09:45 12:00 DSD: Getting Started with Stata – Part 3 (Scripting techniques)
25/02/2021 09:45 11:30 DSD: Creating accessible PowerPoint presentations
26/02/2021 11:45 13:00 DSD: Software for success: Working with Bibliography and Citation Apps
26/02/2021 13:45 15:00 DSD: Pivot Tables in Excel – Demo
26/02/2021 09:45 11:00 DSD: Introduction to Teams & Prerequisite course for Advanced workshops
02/03/2021 13:45 15:00 DSD: Word tips and tricks
03/03/2021 09:45 11:45 DSD: Microsoft Teams Workshop 1: Beyond Basics Overview
04/03/2021 13:45 15:45 DSD: Pivot Tables in Excel – Workshop
05/03/2021 09:45 11:30 DSD: Sway, Microsoft’s modern presentation tool – Workshop
08/03/2021 13:45 15:00 DSD: Excel tips and tricks
09/03/2021 09:45 11:00 DSD: Introduction to Teams & Prerequisite course for Advanced workshops
10/03/2021 13:45 15:00 DSD: Excel Worksheet 1 – Review session
11/03/2021 13:45 16:00 DSD: Managing Long Documents in Word 2016
11/03/2021 13:45 15:30 DSD: Microsoft Teams Workshop 2: Managing & Participating in Meetings
12/03/2021 09:45 11:45 DSD: OneNote 2016 – Workshop
16/03/2021 13:45 15:30 DSD: Microsoft Teams Workshop 3: Document Management and Collaboration
17/03/2021 09:45 11:30 DSD: Vlookup in Excel – workshop
23/03/2021 09:45 12:00 DSD: Advanced Statistics with Excel 2016
24/03/2021 09:45 11:30 DSD: XMind mind mapping tool – workshop
24/03/2021 13:45 15:00 DSD: Excel Worksheet 2 – Review session