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    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.