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Digital Education team blog


Ideas and reflections from UCL's Digital Education team


Archive for the 'Digital literacies' Category

Do more digital with your teaching and assessment

By Caroline Norris, on 17 January 2023

Table with laptop and person in foreground gesticulating. Person in background.Do you want to try something new in your teaching or assessment?  Are you concerned that your materials aren’t as accessible and inclusive as you would like them to be?  Why not come along to one of our short online* training sessions to learn a new skill, improve your teaching materials or explore new assessment methods?

Add more interaction to your course by using polling software like Mentimeter for Continuous Module Dialogue or to engage students either during class or asynchronously between sessions.  You could also Use online whiteboards to encourage student interaction or ask students to collaborate on projects using Microsoft Teams: get a Beyond Basics Overview or learn about Document Management and Collaboration.

Digital Accessibility is a vital part of making your course inclusive and we have courses on Enhancing the Accessibility of your Moodle Courses, Creating accessible PowerPoint Presentations  and  Creating accessible Word documents.  You might also want to ensure you are following Best practice for video captions and transcripts when sharing multimedia.

Liven up your course with more multimedia content by learning how to do Basic video editing using iMovie on a Mac or Record a narration over your PowerPoint on a PC to convert your  Mixing deck and microphonepresentation to video.  You could also come on our Podcasting made easy workshop or our series of workshops for making a film using your iPhone (Planning, Filming advice and Make a short film) and pass these skills on to your students so they can create multimedia content as part of their course.

If graphical content is a challenge, our beginners courses in Basic image editing using free tools can get you started with existing content while An introduction to free graphic design tools and Creating Infographics using free web-based tools are a great way to start creating more original content without having to buy expensive software.

Finally, if you’ve never done Digital book-making, it can be great for digital storytelling and Sway, Microsoft’s modern presentation tool is another interesting option for presenting your material in new ways.  These can also open up new possibilities for your students and the ways in which they present their coursework.

We’ve cherry picked a few courses below that might be of particular interest, but for our full schedule of upcoming courses visit Digital Skills Development News on the Digital Education blog.  If you subscribe to the blog you’ll get regular updates from us and our other Digital Education teams. Click on the link(s) below to book a place or add yourself to the interest list to be informed about upcoming dates.  More details about how to book, how to join sessions etc. can be found on our Practical Course Information page.  If you aren’t sure what training you need and would like individual support and advice we also have a regular drop in during term time.

*All sessions are online via Microsoft Teams unless otherwise indicated.

Add more interaction and collaboration

01/02/2023 10:00 11:00 DSD: Mentimeter for Continuous Module Dialogue (CMD)
08/02/2023 10:00 11:00 DSD: Use online whiteboards to encourage student interaction
02/02/2023 10:00 11:30 DSD: Microsoft Teams Workshop 1: Beyond Basics Overview
08/03/2023 10:00 11:30 DSD: Microsoft Teams Workshop 3 – Document Management and Collaboration 

Make your content more accessible

24/01/2023 14:00 15:30 DSD: Creating accessible PowerPoint Presentations
02/03/2023 10:00 11:30 DSD: Creating accessible PowerPoint Presentations
24/01/2023 14:00 15:00 DSD: Best practice for video captions and transcripts
31/01/2023 14:00 15:30 DSD: Creating accessible Word documents
09/03/2023 14:00 15:30 DSD: Creating accessible Word documents
02/02/2023 14:00 15:30 DSD: Enhancing the Accessibility of your Moodle Courses

Use more audio-visual content

25/01/2023 14:00 15:00 DSD: Basic video editing using iMovie on a Mac
25/01/2023 10:00 11:00 DSD: Record a narration over your PowerPoint on a PC
02/02/2023 14:00 15:00 DSD: Podcasting made easy – workshop
07/02/2023 10:00 11:00 DSD: Planning a short film
07/02/2023 14:00 15:00 DSD: Filming advice for a short film
14/02/2023 10:00 11:00 DSD: Make a short film using your iPhone

Create and edit graphical content

31/01/2023 14:00 15:00 DSD: Creating Infographics using free web-based tools
15/02/2023 10:00 11:15 DSD: Basic image editing using free tools (Demo)
21/02/2023 14:00 15:00 DSD: An introduction to free graphic design tools

Present material in new ways

08/02/2023 14:00 15:00 DSD: Digital book-making
25/01/2023 10:00 11:30 DSD: Sway, Microsoft’s modern presentation tool – Workshop
21/02/2023 14:00 15:30 DSD: Sway, Microsoft’s modern presentation tool – Workshop

Please note that the above dates and times were correct at time of publication but are subject to change.  Follow the links provided or check our latest schedule for the definitive current schedule.

Hybrid meetings – how to do them successfully

By Caroline Norris, on 19 October 2021

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last year or so (well ok, lockdowns did feel a bit like that sometimes) you probably know what a ‘hybrid’ meeting is. Just in case, though, it’s a meeting where some of the participants are in the room and some are joining via a digital platform like Teams or Zoom and are therefore ‘remote’.   

One school of thought is that you should avoid hybrid completely, but realistically it’s going to happen, especially now we are gradually going back into the office and most of the people attending a meeting may well be in the same physical location.  In this case it would be absurd for them all to join remotely from their separate desks when they could be sat in a room together.   

So how do you ‘do hybrid’ well, so that everyone feels included? 

Disclaimer: Note that this guidance is focused on meetings rather than teaching, which is covered in Steve Rowett’s very comprehensive blog post on Basic hybrid teaching in UCL spaces.

Meeting preparation 

Wherever possible, share resources such as presentations or documents beforehand.  This is good practice for meetings anyway and makes them more inclusive and accessible for everyone.  Make use of collaborative platforms such as Teams to start a discussion and get input prior to the meeting.  

aerial view of laptops and mobile devices on a table with people sitting around themTechnology 

Getting the technology right is key.  For the richest experience, everyone in the room should join via Teams or Zoom, not just the remote participants, so that everyone can be seen on camera.  However, it is vital that there is only one microphone and one set of speakers in use to avoid the dreaded feedback cacophony!  If the number of people in the room is small and you are quite close together, you can usually just use the audio equipment on one person’s laptop, the obvious person being the chair of the meeting.  If the meeting is bigger or people are very far apart, you can use a conference speaker, such as those made by Jabra (other brands are available).  Practise the setup in advance of the meeting and check people can be heard at the furthest distance from the microphone.   Some UCL meeting rooms also have room cameras, microphones and speakers which can be used and some are even ‘Teams enabled’ so the room itself can join the Teams meeting.

It probably goes without saying, but don’t forget to share your screen for remote participants.  It’s easy to forget this, especially if you are using a large monitor or projection to share your screen in the room. If you want to share ideas using a whiteboard or post-its then opt for a digital interactive whiteboard for everyone to use.

Starting the meeting 

  • Set clear expectations of what is expected from people at the start of the meeting.  How should people indicate they wish to speak? Are you using the chat and if so, for what?  If everyone is on a device you can ask everyone to use the raise hand feature in Teams/Zoom.  Another option is for people to actually raise their hand or use both, particularly if not all remote participants are visible on camera.  Make sure that the people in the room know to speak loudly and clearly. 
  • Do introductions if it is a first meeting of the group or membership has changed.  This can help everyone to feel included in the meeting. 
  • Encourage everyone to participate and to let you know straight away if there is something they can’t see, hear or understand due to being remote. 

four people sitting in a booth looking at a laptopIncluding remote participants 

It’s important to make a special effort to make remote participants feel included.  Depending on the size and nature of the meeting and the balance of remote and in room participants, you may find the following helpful: 

  • Have a ‘co-pilot’ who can read out any questions or feedback in the chat and alert the chair to anyone who wishes to speak or if anyone is unable to hear something being said. 
  • Call on remote participants by name to check if there is anything they wish to add to the conversation, especially if the matter being discussed is particularly relevant to them.  You may want to ask them first, so they don’t feel like an afterthought. 
  • Describe what is happening in the room if remote participants won’t be able to see it.  You may also need to repeat some of what is said in the room or say who is speaking if they are not on camera.  Even things that are irrelevant to the main business of the meeting (like someone fumbling around with cables to connect to the projector) should be explained so that remote participants don’t feel left out.   
  • Be aware of what remote participants see. Even if everyone in the room is on camera, remote participants can’t see where people are in relation to each other or other objects in the room. Non-verbal interactions between people or pointing to something in the room probably won’t make sense to remote participants.  Make a point of looking at the web cam especially when you are speaking to help make remote participants feel connected. 
  • Set aside a bit of social time, either at the beginning or the end of the meeting, for participants to chat to each other.  Traditional meetings where all the participants are in the room usually have a few minutes where people are arriving and can say hello to each other before the meeting begins so find ways to incorporate this into your hybrid meeting too.  Starting meeting a few minutes after the hour can give people time to have a comfort break, move between rooms etc. but also allow for this social element to happen. 

Most importantly, be ready to adapt and change as you go along and find what works best for you.  Expect a few hiccups to begin with, but in the long run hybrid meetings can give you the best of both worlds so it’s worth persevering!

RStudio v1.4 – new stuff

By Jim R Tyson, on 16 June 2021

I am a massive fan of RStudio.  Not just for R development and data analysis.  I use RStudio a lot in writing learning materials, recently for R, but also for Pyton and Stata using literate programming techniques and the learnr package (yes, you can include Stata code in markdown documents with a little work!)

There are a whole bunch of (no doubt wonderful) things in this Preview release that I haven’t yet bothered to look at, but somethings have got my immediate attention.

The visual markdown editor

I have mixed feelings about this. I know that visual editing – that is, something partway towards WYSIWYG, a la Word – is appreciated by lots of people, but I loathe it. I took up LaTeX a long time ago to get away from Microsoft Word (and, not to boast, I am a very proficient Word user). But, even I found that 90 per cent of the time, LaTeX was too complicated for what I needed. Hoorah for Markdown.

RStudio actually provided my first introduction to Markdown and I revelled in it from the beginning, especially combined with Pandoc: one source many ouputs! At last the world was beginning to understand.  Write in one simple lightweight format and get HTML, PDF, DOCX and other formats automatically.  And of course it put literate programming within easy reach of all R programmers and learners. With the learnr package writing R study materials is a breeze.

But, still some people don’t like plain text editing. Well, the 1.4 Preview shows off the new visual editor. It’s not a complete WYSYWIG offer like Word, but it does show you a live close to end-result preview and has menus to formatting, layout, tables, images, citations. If you really don’t like typing text this may be just what you are looking for to push you that last step into literate data analysis with R and RMarkdown.

Inserting citations with Zotero

Yes, zotero users can now use the source editor to insert citations with point and click – just like Word users. There is no need to first export the references to a BibTeX file first – RStudio handles that for you. Using BibTeX is another thing that people have sometimes mentioned when talking about the difficulty of writing in Rmarkdown.

New Python functionality

And then, oh joy, the new python functionality. I find that very few people are aware that it’s a breeze to combine Python and R code using Rmarkdown documents, although it may take some effort to understand all the set-up requirements for python chunks at first: it took me 15 minutes the first time I tried to run import numpy as np!

Now, this new release adds tools for configuring python, conda and virtual environments. For me the real advance though is somewhat simpler: now you can see python data objects in the RStudio environment pane and view python dataframes in the normal way.


The last of the new features I know I will use is the introduction of ‘rainbow’ parentheses. Nothing to with Pride month apparently, just adding colour coded bracketing to help you balance your parentheses.

Time to give R (and Python) with RStudio another look

If the user interface has put you off moving to R and RStudio, then now is definitely a time to have another look. Especially for Stata users, complexity and ease of use really aren’t a reason to prefer Stata any more and the move to R coding really isn’t that difficult.

Access to Coursera for a limited time only

By Caroline Norris, on 13 May 2020

UPDATE: As of October 2020, UCL is now on the Campus Basic Plan

This allows you access to one free course per year and unlimited ‘guided projects’.

To explore guided projects:

  1. Go to the Browse page in Coursera
  2. Choose a topic or skill e.g. Data Science
  3. In the Filter by: area, choose Guided Projects from the Type menu.
  4. Click Apply.

coursera logoCoursera is an online platform providing courses on a wide variety of subjects, created in partnership with universities around the world.  During the Covid outbreak, Coursera is offering free access to some courses to universities for a limited period and Digital Education has set this up for UCL staff and students.

To take advantage of this limited time offer, go to UCL’s Coursera page and register using your UCL email address by 31 July 2020.  You must complete your learning by 30 September 2020.  It is possible that this offer might be extended beyond this but no further information is available at this stage.

Important notes

  • This offer does not include ALL courses on Coursera, only about 90% of courses.  If you choose to sign up for a course outside of the offer and there is a cost involved it is up to you to meet that cost.
  • UCL is not a formal partner of Coursera and does not currently offer courses on the platform.
  • Coursera is not available in Iran, Sudan, Crimea, Cuba, Syria, North Korea for legal reasons.

Detailed instructions for signing up

  1. Go to UCL’s Coursera page
  2. Click on Join for free and then switch to SIGN UP as shown below:
    Important: do not try to LOG IN if you are registering to use UCL’s Coursera for the first time.
    This service isn’t linked to your UCL account in any way – you need to use your UCL email address to sign up but you are creating an independent account with its own password.coursera sign up message
  3. Submit the form by clicking Join for Free.
    You will be asked to agree to terms and conditions and will be sent an email with a link to confirm your email address.
  4. When you next log in you may see a banner message asking you to join the UCL program.
    coursera join UCL program message
    Click Join Program.

Accessing UCL’s Coursera program

When browsing courses, make sure you are always looking at UCL’s Coursera program.  You may need to switch from seeing all of Coursera’s courses to the UCL program in the top left corner.  You will see a small pink UCL logo next to the Coursera one if you are in the right place.

screenshot of coursera dropdown menu

If you have followed the steps above and you still have queries then please contact us at isd-digiskills@ucl.ac.uk and we will endeavour to answer them.


Developing your Digital Pedagogy

By Samantha Ahern, on 6 March 2020

Much has been written about the need to develop students’ graduate attributes and employability skills, in particular students’ digital capability.

In order for us to develop digitally capable students, we first need to be digital pedagogues. For us to be able to identify, use and select or de-select appropriate technologies that support and are truly a part of our pedagogy, we need first to develop our own digital capabilities as educators.

The European Union have done a lot of work on digital capability/competency frameworks, and have produced a framework specifically for educators – Digital Competence Framework for Educators (DigCompEdu). This is much more targeted than the Jisc Digital Capability framework.

EU DigCompEdu Areas

Image source: https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/digcompedu

In addition, a range of open access professional development materials have been produced for Higher Education directly linked to the DigCompEdu framework. In particular, FutureTeacher 3.0 and EduHack.

Future Teacher 3.0

This is an Erasmus+ funded project that had collaborators from the UK, Netherlands, Belgium and Norway. The project produced three main tools linked to the DigCompEdu framework predominantly aimed at developing the digital competencies of those delivering or supporting teacher and learning in the UK and Europe.

These tools are:

  • Digital Thermometer
    • A self-assessment questionnaire
  • Digital Compass
    • Analysis of current compentencies based upon Digital Thermometer responses and a recommended development pathway.
  • Digital Journey
    • A series of 10 online modules for teachers who use little ICT in their lessons and 10 modules for already experienced teachers.

The online module content does not map directly to UCL specific technologies but still covers all the key content.

In the video below from a Digital Education Showcase meeting I outline why I particularly like the DigCompEdu framework and provide some more information about Future Teacher 3.0 and played Jisc’s video about their Digital Capability Framework.


This is also an Erasmus+ project, it is run by Politecnico di Torino (Italy), Universidad Internacional de La Rioja – UNIR (Spain), Coventry University (UK), Knowledge Innovation Centre (Malta) and ATiT (Belgium).

This project combines an online programme with EduHackathons where teaching professionals will learn how to produce digitally-supported learning experiences and will have the opportunity to experiment with creative models and approaches to teaching and learning, with a focus on fostering collaborative learning and student engagement.

Institutions are required to register to participate and in doing so run the EduHackathon event in the way prescribed.

However, you can access the EduHack online course without registering as an institution. You can register as an individual if you want to obtain a certificate of learning. The course has 4 main topic atreas, these are:

  • Digital Resources,
  • Teaching,
  • Assessment
  • and Empowering Learners.

Like the Future Teacher 3.0 materials, these are based upon the DigCompEdu framework.

Digital Education and Digital Skills Development

In addition to the generic resources described above, a wide range of training is provided by Digital Education. This includes UCL specific training on the teaching and learning tools that we support such as Moodle, LectureCast and Reflect. A wide range of online guidance is also available via the E-learning wiki. Full details of the E-learning training available for staff are available on the ISD website.

Digital Skills Development provide a training programme that can be accessed by all staff covering popular tools and software available on Desktop@UCL and Desktop@UCLAnywhere. For details of upcoming training please see the recent blog post Develop your digital skills this academic year – new dates released

Online resources to help support teaching continuity

As we are unable to deliver face-to-face sessions to support colleagues with the transition to online delivery of their courses we are provding a range of additional support:

Additional Resources

The Coursera hosted Mooc Get Interactive: Practical Teaching with Technology  from the University of London and Bloomsbury Learning Exchange is a 3 week course.

Each week focuses on a particular topic:

1. Using multimedia for teaching and learning
2. Encouraging student collaboration
3. Formative assessment and feedback

Seeking inspiration?

However, if you are looking for ideas on how to move towards or increase the use of e-learning tools in your teaching you might wish to review the ABC learning design process. In particular, review the learning type cards as these suggest digital approaches to learning.

There are also a number of case studies on the Teaching and Learning portal that discuss how a range of tools have been used by colleagues across the institution. Examples include:


New Digital Skills courses for 2020

By Jasmin E Mullings, on 9 December 2019

IMPORTANT: Please note that the UCL booking system closed on 15th January.

When the new training booking system (MyLearning) goes live in mid-February, you will be able to book onto sessions scheduled from 2nd March onwards. If you want to be informed about the opening of the new system, enrol on our Moodle course.

A full list of course dates for this term can be found at the end of this blog post.

ISD Digital Skills Development has released new dates for the first half of Term 2. As usual, we are offering a wide range of courses covering Excel, Photoshop, R, Stata, and more…

This term we have our Software for success sessions again and three new 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.  Book a place on a ‘Software for success’ presentation.

In a Nutshell sessions highlight a single task in a particular application, such as loading survey data into NVivo for example. Book a place on an ‘In a Nutshell’ presentation.

We have added new sessions for our highly popular  Creating accessible documents course.  Making documents accessible is important for everyone, whether or not they have a disability or impairment. In this session you will learn how to make your PowerPoint, Word, Excel and PDF files more accessible. To find out more about creating accessible content, please visit our dedicated web pages.

See below for our current schedule of courses and workshops.

More digital skills development opportunities…

Digital Skills Development at IOE offer training in a wide range of digital tools.  Sessions are open to all UCL staff and students.  Highlights this term include:

  • Creating Accessible PowerPoint presentations,
  • Presentation Translator – add live subtitles to your presentations,
  • Introduction to Stop Motion Studio animation (iPad app).

Other sessions include Microsoft tools such as OneNote, Sway, Teams and SharePoint.  You can also learn more about EndNote, Pivot tables and VLookUp in Excel, mind mapping, infographics, video editing and much more.

Visit the Digital Skills Development at IOE booking system for details and to book.

Learn online with a vast range of high-quality video-based courses from LinkedIn Learning. This is the new platform on which we are now hosting Lynda.com content. These cover technical skills but also business, personal and creative skills as well.  Visit the UCL LinkedIn Learning page to find out more.

Not sure what you need or have a more specific issue you would like help with?  Come along to one of the Digital Skills Development drop ins for more individual support.

Current schedule

For a full list of courses and workshops take a look at our course catalogue.

Sessions available now:

Date Start time End time Course/workshop
13/01/2020 13:00 14:00 Software for Success: Bibliography and Citation
21/01/2020 10:00 13:00 Getting started with Stata (Part 1) (RESERVE LIST ONLY)
22/01/2020 10:00 13:00 Getting started with Stata (Part 2) (RESERVE LIST ONLY)
22/01/2019 16:00 17:00 Excel Essential Skills – WORKSHOP 1 (RESERVE LIST ONLY)
24/01/2019 11:00 12:00 Word Essential Skills – WORKSHOP 1 (RESERVE LIST ONLY)
24/01/2019 12:00 13:00 Word Essential Skills – WORKSHOP 1
27/01/2020 14:00 16:00 Creating accessible documents (RESERVE LIST ONLY)
28/01/2020 10:00 13:00 Getting started with SPSS (Part 1)
29/01/2020 10:00 13:00 Getting started with SPSS (Part 2)
03/02/2020 13:00 14:00 In a Nutshell: Better Tables in Markdown
04/02/2020 10:00 13:00 A Quick Introduction to UNIX
04/02/2020 14:00 17:00 Excel 2016 Essential Skills (STAFF ONLY) (RESERVE LIST ONLY)
05/02/2020 16:00 17:00 Excel Essential Skills – WORKSHOP 1 (RESERVE LIST ONLY)
07/02/2020 11:00 12:00 Word Essential Skills – WORKSHOP 1
07/02/2020 12:00 13:00 Word Essential Skills – WORKSHOP 1
06/02/2020 10:00 13:00 Getting Started with Markdown
10/02/2020 13:00 14:00 Software for success: Writing tools
11/02/2020 14:00 17:00 Further UNIX
12/02/2020 16:00 17:00 Excel Essential Skills – WORKSHOP 1 (RESERVE LIST ONLY)
14/02/2020 11:00 12:00 Word Essential Skills – WORKSHOP 2
14/02/2020 12:00 13:00 Word Essential Skills – WORKSHOP 2
13/02/2020 10:00 12:00 Creating accessible documents (RESERVE LIST ONLY)
18/02/2020 10:00 13:00 Intermediate statistics with Excel 2016 (STAFF ONLY)
19/02/2020 10:00 13:00 Using Excel 2016 to manage lists (STAFF ONLY)
24/02/2020 10:00 12:00 Creating accessible documents
24/02/2020 13:00 14:00 In a Nutshell: Survey Data in Nvivo – the absolute truth
25/02/2020 10:00 13:00 Managing Long Documents in Word 2016 (STAFF ONLY)
25/02/2020 14:00 17:00 Charting with Excel 2016
26/02/2020 16:00 17:00 Excel Essential Skills – WORKSHOP 1 (RESERVE LIST ONLY)
28/02/2020 11:00 12:00 Word Essential Skills – WORKSHOP 3
28/02/2020 12:00 13:00 Word Essential Skills – WORKSHOP 3

Sessions available to book from mid-February once MyLearning goes live:

Date Start time End time Course/workshop
02/03/2020 13:00 14:00 Software for success: Data analysis and statistical tools
02/03/2020 17:30 20:30 Introduction to Matlab (Part 1)
03/03/2020 17:30 20:30 Introduction to Matlab (Part 2)
03/03/2020 10:00 13:00 Advanced statistics with Excel 2016
05/03/2020 10:00 13:00 Introduction to Photoshop CS4
11/03/2020 16:00 17:00 Excel Essential Skills – WORKSHOP 2
12/03/2020 17:30 20:30 Introduction to Matlab (Part 3)
13/02/2020 17:30 20:30 Introduction to Matlab (Part 4)
13/03/2020 11:00 12:00 Word Essential Skills – WORKSHOP 4
13/03/2020 12:00 13:00 Word Essential Skills – WORKSHOP 4
16/03/2020 13:00 14:00 In a Nutshell: Survival analysis in R
17/03/2020 10:00 17:00 An Introduction to R with RStudio (Parts 1 and 2)
18/03/2020 10:00 13:00 Data Manipulation in R with Rstudio
19/03/2020 14:00 16:00 Creating accessible documents
23/03/2020 10:00 17:00 An Introduction to R with RStudio (Parts 1 & 2)
24/03/2020 10:00 17:00 LaTex with NatBib
25/03/2020 10:00 13:00 Introduction to Visualising Data with Matlab
25/03/2020 16:00 17:00 Excel Essential Skills – WORKSHOP 2
27/03/2020 11:00 12:00 Word Essential Skills – WORKSHOP 5
27/03/2020 12:00 13:00 Word Essential Skills – WORKSHOP 5
26/03/2020 14:00 17:00 Data Visualization in R with ggplot2