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    Archive for the 'E-Learning Baseline' Category

    Joint Faculty Best Practice Event on Digital Education, February 2018

    By Mira Vogel, on 1 March 2018

    Arne Hofmann and Helen Matthews from the UCL Joint Faculty (Arts and Humanities and Social and Historical Science) have hit on a successful format for a practice sharing session. Speakers make brief presentations and then disperse to ‘stations’ around the room so that participants can circulate and discuss. At the end of the event is a plenary discussion.

    The third event in this series had a digital education focus. Sanjay Karia who heads up IT for SLASH kindly contributed display screens for the stations. I matchmade colleagues in Digital Education with the presenters based on interest; they made notes of the conversations (using MS Teams as recommended by IT for SLASH) and I largely owe this blogpost to them.

    The splendid presenters and their presentations, some of which include links to examples of student work:

    • Mark Lake (Senior Lecturer, Archaeology) described undergraduate students blogging for ARCL3097 Archeology in the World  – a particularly gutsy initiative given it was a compulsory module for final year undergraduates in the NSS zone [Mark’s slides as PDF].
    • Riitta Valijarvi (Senior Teaching Fellow, Finnish) talked about her Wikipedia Translatathon, a cultural and linguistic event marking the centenary of Finland which brought together students, Finnish or Finnish speaking staff from UCL, members of the public, and Wikimedia UK staff.
    • Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen (Senior Lecturer, SELCS) discussed students producing digital objects for the Qualitative Thinking module of the BASc [Jakob’s slides as PDF];
    • Jacky Derrick (Deputy Module Convenor, History) described how first year undergraduate student groups produce web sites together on a subject which gets them engaging with London;
    • Nick Grindle and Jesper Hansen (Senior Teaching Fellows, Arena Centre) reviewed their experiences organising peer feedback via the fearsome-looking but actually wonderful Moodle Workshop activity [Nick’s slides as PDF];
    • Maria Sibiryakova (Senior Teaching Fellow, Russian) talked about how the multimedia discuss app VoiceThread can advance the four skills of language learning [Maria’s slides as PDF];
    • Jonathan Holmes (Professor of Physical Geography) and Nick Mann (Learning Resources Coordinator, Geography) on designing digital multiple choice exams [Jonathan’s and Nick’s slides as PDF];
    • Clive Young (Digital Education Advisory Team Leader) on meeting the UCL minimum quality standard known as ‘the UCL E-Learning Baseline‘.

    Here are some of the themes from the event.

    How should students be inducted to new technical platforms? For some cohorts this was hardly an issues and staff soon felt comfortable abandoning the training session at the beginning of the module in favour of a drop-in as the deadline approached. However, there are disciplinary differences and not all groups can be guaranteed to have somebody particularly comfortable with using technologies, so the drop-ins are important.  Based on my own experience inducting some large cohorts to Mahara, if it’s done at all then it’s best done when the students have some vision about what they want to do there – i.e. not at the very start of the module, and close enough to the deadline that there is no hiatus between the induction and putting the knowledge to use. In addition, students seemed to know less about copyright and intellectual property than the technologies, so some modules had incorporated sessions on those.

    How do we assess digital multimodal work? Formative assessment was considered very worthwhile, especially where students were new to the activity. Currently there is sometimes a criterion related to appropriate use of the mode or format, such as “use of text formatting and good quality images and/or multimedia which clearly enhance the text”. Often there is an element of writing in the work which would be run through Turnitin according to departmental policy. I think it is probably fair to say that (like most of the sector) we are in transition to explicitly recognising the distinctive qualities of digital multimodal composition. I have seen how, in many cases, new and potentially challenging practices need to be eased through teaching committees by anchoring them to the accepted standards and criteria – at least for the first few iterations. With time and experience comes new awareness and recognition of distinctive practices which work well in a given context. Jakob’s slides are particularly detailed on this – the BASc have been giving this kind of thing consideration from day one.

    Where should digital multimodal work be positioned in the curriculum? There was a general sense that modularisation tends to isolate digital activities within programmes. This could lead either to them not being built upon (where they happened early) or having their academic validity questioned (where they happened later). Support includes showing students exemplars of blogs and creating opportunities for them to carry out guided marking to help them grasp standards and apply the assessment criteria to their own work.

    What if students question the academic validity of a digital activity? Where new forms of digital assessment are introduced later in a programme, expect students to query whether it is really necessary for their degree. The challenge, summarised by Mark, is to pre-emptively “tackle student perception” by advocating for the activity in terms of student learning and success. Archaeology in the World saw their evaluation questionnaire results slowly improve as the tutors learned to advocate for the activity, and students came to recognise it as useful.

    When can students’ work be public? In cases like the Wikipedia event, the work is born public. In other cases this is something to be negotiated with students – but there is often groundwork to do beforehand. Students need guidance to use media that is itself licensed to be made public. Where the work happens in groups, licensing their work needs to be a joint and unanimous decision with a take-down policy.

    How can different skills levels be accommodated? The intermediate Russian language students were at different levels, which meant that multimedia production such as recordings of poetry read aloud helped them practice speaking (one of the four skills of modern language learning), and the individualised recorded feedback they were given helped them with listening (another of the skills). VoiceThread brought a privacy and timeliness to the feedback which had not previously existed – exposing students to the risk of embedding their mistakes. Another approach to different skills levels is to create groups of students on the assumption that they will either sustain each other in acquiring the skills or divide the labour according to skills, and a third is to give extra guidance to students who need it (as with the Finnish-English Wikipedia Translatathon).

    How can the new practice be made to work first time? When the Arena Centre pioneered large scale use of the Moodle Workshop activity for peer feedback, they worked closely with Digital Education – we made those early deadlines our own, and together we prepared for different contingencies. As well as working closely with Digital Education, Geography subjected their digital examination to a number of rigorous checks involving academic and professional services colleagues, students, and internal and external examiners. Digital Education has produced the Baseline to support the quality aspects – these are not intuitive. One participant remarked to me later that he had been skeptical, bordering on resentful, of the Baseline until he started working through it, at which point he realised how useful it is.

    What do students get out of the digital side of things? Some indicative comments from Jakob’s students: “learnt to consider digital content in a very different way”; “through creating a Digital Object rather than a traditional essay, I was able to engage with our topic at a much deeper level”, and “I have also developed transferable skills”. Mark received correspondence that the activity “really made me think and synthesise in a new way”. Nick’s and Jesper’s Arena participants have been very positive about giving and receiving peer feedback.

    ~~~

    There are a few things I’d change about how I organised the event. One is that either it should be extended by half an hour (to two hours) or else the number of speakers should be reduced. As it was, we overran and I was very sad to have to cut off a very interesting plenary discussion just as colleagues were beginning to really want to talk with each other. Another is that teaching languages has a distinct set of needs which justify a dedicated event. I might also consider asking the presenters to circulate rather than the participants (though I can see pros and cons there).

    That aside, it was a lively, spontaneous, humorous, sophisticated event which balanced different sets of needs – educational, disciplinary, colleagues and students. It is so often the case that when colleagues have the opportunity to seek each other out based on mutual interest, the fruits soon make themselves evident. One participant told me he went from the event straight to his department’s Staff Student Consultative Committee where he proposed an idea which was accepted. “That’s impact”, he said.

    The E-Learning Baseline becomes Policy

    By Karen Shackleford-Cesare, on 10 October 2017

    E-Learning Baseline and BaselinePlus logoMost of you will be familiar with the UCL E-Learning Baseline. The Baseline sets out the minimum expectations for e-learning provision for all taught programmes and modules at UCL, with a focus on Moodle. Since 2011 the Baseline has been recommended ‘good practice’ and is already widely used. In July, however, the Education Committee upgraded its status by approving the following policy:E-Learning Baseline and BaselinePlus logo image

    “The e-learning presence for every taught module will be reviewed against the UCL E‑Learning Baseline as an institution-wide activity [as of] 2017/18. The review will be repeated every three years, with the exception of, those modules which fail to meet the Baseline, or are new or substantially revised modules, which will need to be re-evaluated the following year”.

    The ‘e-learning presence’ applies mainly to the use of Moodle, but includes other tools where used.

    The new policy includes within it the requirement that lecture materials are made available 48 hours ahead of class (not part of the printed 2016 Baseline).

    What happens next?

    Starting this academic year, module leads are required to ensure their modules are reviewed against the Baseline. We anticipate most module teams will already have met the Baseline voluntarily, for example by using compatible departmental templates, and this will be a quick check. For others it will be an opportunity to reconsider and refresh the online content. Read detailed information about the E-Learning Baseline and advice on how to use it to enhance your e-learning provision.

    Why has the Baseline Become Policy now?

    We know UCL students value online provision and any complaints nowadays usually relate to how the use of Moodle is still too variable in their courses. The Baseline was highlighted for positive comment in the 2016 QAA Higher Education Review (HER) report. However, students continue to comment on poor information presentation and design in Moodle. In the 2016 IT survey, students called for more standardisation and use of templates, commenting on the need for more staff to use Moodle properly and effectively. Some representative quotes were:

    • “I would just encourage information to be presented visually in an organised manner that emphasises important information.”
    • “The usual problem: everyone is beavering away doing their bit and what is presented is a large number of silos of impenetrable information which makes anything useful absolutely impossible to find.  Ask some students to hang around at the end of studies and write an online handbook for you.”
    • “Moodle can be designed much more effectively and can be organised better.”
    • “Sometimes it is difficult finding the course material we need on Moodle though that would probably be lecturers’ faults – tell them to be clear or lay out instructions.”

    Where can I get help?

    Digital Education is leading in the implementation of this policy and can support individuals and departments to help them meet the requirements of the baseline. Please contact digi-ed@ucl.ac.uk for assistance. More about the implementation framework and processes across UCL will be disseminated in due course. We are also developing a set of easy-to-use support materials including an online tool to check your modules.

    Remind me what is in the Baseline

    The UCL E-Learning Baseline key covers ten areas and represents ‘good practice’ by UCL departments, collected over many years :

    1. Structure – lay out a course clearly to enable navigation and ease of use.
    2. Orientation – ensure that students understand what is expected of them.
    3. Communication – ensure effective and consistent online communication.
    4. Assessment – present assessment requirements and provide guidance on avoiding plagiarism.
    5. Resources – present, label and manage supporting resources; lecture materials to be made available 48 hours ahead of classes.
    6. Cross-platform compatibility – ensure files and resources are accessible on a range of platforms and devices.
    7. Accessibility – ensure that resources are fully accessible to all including students with disabilities.
    8. Legal – model good copyright practices and comply with data protection legislation.
    9. Student active participation – (for students studying wholly online) encourage students to share resources, interact and participate online.
    10. Quality assurance – evaluate online provision to enhance quality.

    E-Learning Baseline checklist

    More Information

    You can also request hard copies of the baseline booklet to be delivered to your department.

     

    Sneak a peak at the new (more accessible) UCL Moodle theme

    By Jessica Gramp, on 9 October 2017

    As part of a wider Accessible Moodle project, a new UCL Moodle theme is being designed to make it more accessible for those with disabilities. The theme is like a skin (or a wallpaper) that changes the way the text and colours are displayed, without changing any of the content that exists on each Moodle page. As well as changing the look and feel of all Moodle pages, it will provide additional navigation aids in the form of menus, blocks that can be hidden and potentially also docked blocks, which sit to the left of the page for easy access.

    The new theme will be rolled out to all staff and students in the next major upgrade of UCL Moodle in summer 2018. However, we plan to pilot the new theme with students and staff beforehand and once we are confident it works as intended, we will give everyone the option of switching to the new theme in advance of it becoming the default theme for UCL Moodle in summer 2018.

    The Moodle theme is applied to a user account, which means during the pilot period, there will be a mix of some using the new and some using the existing UCL Moodle theme. In Summer 2018 everyone will be switched to the new theme automatically as part of the UCL Moodle Summer Upgrade. The theme is not to be confused with Moodle course formats, which allow you to change the way a Moodle course is laid out.

    I wrote earlier on how the new theme will address accessibility issues. A number of staff across UCL provided feedback on the proposed theme and after a number if iterations, we have now agreed on a design that foremost meets the needs of staff with particular disabilities, as well as being more usable for everyone. As well as working with individuals who participated in the project’s initial focus groups, the E-Learning Champions were also given the opportunity to feed in their comments on the proposed theme and forward this to interested colleagues.

    The proposed new UCL Moodle theme showing collapsed topics format

    The proposed new UCL Moodle theme showing collapsed topics format. Click to enlarge.

    We had contemplated a pink theme, however, blue proved to be a better option for a number of staff with particular disabilities. The blue version was also more popular with those staff without disabilities. The below design shows how the tabbed course format will look, but with blue, instead of pink tabs, menus and links.

    Tabbed course format but the pink tabs, text and menus will be blue

    Tabbed course format but the pink tabs, menus and links will be blue. Click to enlarge.

    The UCL Moodle homepage will be simplified and will provide more space for news relating to teaching and learning at UCL. The menus will be blue instead of the pink shown in the design below.

    New more accessible UCL Moodle homepage, but with blue instead of pink menus

    UCL Moodle homepage, but with blue instead of pink menus. Click to enlarge.

    The Accessible Moodle project team at UCL worked closely with designer Ralph Bartholomew from St Albans Web Design and developer Pat Lockley from Pgogy Webstuff to implement the new theme.

    If you have any questions or comments about the new theme, or would like to be involved in the pilot, please contact Jessica Gramp.

    Preparing your Moodle Courses for 2017/18

    By Janice Kiugu, on 14 September 2017

    STAFF – Preparing your Moodle Courses for 2017/18

    Many staff have already started preparing their modules on Moodle to try to give students the best possible environment for learning and getting to grips with new material. With the start of term one fast approaching, we wanted to remind all staff of some of the key steps to follow during set-up and review of Moodle modules.  Guidance is provided below for Moodle courses where student activity was completed before the Snapshot was taken on 21st July 2017 as well as for Moodle courses where student activity may have continued beyond this point.

    Modules where student activity finished by 21st July 2017 (mainly UG)

    • Student data and assessment from the past year should have been captured in the Moodle 2016/17 Snapshot: https://moodle-snapshot.ucl.ac.uk/16-17/ . You may want to check your modules to confirm that content that should be hidden has been, and any assessment data you may need is available to you.
    • Reset your course in live Moodle to ensure no data or students from the last cohort remains before new students are enrolled – Find out how to reset your course.
    • Make sure to update your content, in particular any assignment submission dates for this year, and that any links are not broken. Find out how to update Moodle Assignments: and Turnitin Assignments.

    **If your Turnitin submission inbox does not display the column headings, you may want to clear your web browsers cache and cookies.

    • If required, activate Portico enrolments in your module so that students are automatically enrolled – Find out how to activate Portico enrolments here.
    • Once your course is updated, make sure it is visible by going to the Settings for the course.

    Modules where Student activity continues/continued beyond 21st July 2017 (mainly PG)

    • Do not reset your course! – as students have been active after the date of the snapshot and this data will not have been captured elsewhere. Check the Moodle 2016/17 Snapshot version of your course to confirm: https://moodle-snapshot.ucl.ac.uk/16-17 . If you are still unsure get in contact with us using the email below.
    • Request a new course to use for this year’s teaching – include the url of the original course if you require content to be duplicated.

    Accessibility of e-learning – 10 key points from the free OU course

    By Jessica Gramp, on 13 June 2017

    The UK Open University (2006) provide a useful introductory course, called Accessibility of eLearning, that will help you understand how to create accessible e-learning experiences that provide access for all. The course can be completed online, or downloaded in a number of common file formats, including for e-readers and as a PDF.

    I would strongly suggest either completing the course, or reading the course materials, but if you don’t have time I’m going to summarise the key points in this post:

    1. In 2006, disability affected 10-20% of every country’s population, and this number is growing.
    2. In 2006, 15% of the UK population, over 16 years old, self-declared a disability.
    3. A disabled person is one who has a mental or physical disability that has a substantial, long term (12 months or more), adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.
    4. Around 1 in 10 men and 1 in 200 women have red-green colour blindness.
    5. UK Universities are legally obligated to make reasonable, anticipatory adjustments to ensure those with disabilities are not discriminated against.
    6. There are two views of disability. The medical model describes the problem of disability as stemming from the person’s physical or mental limitation. The social model sees disability as society restricting those with impairments in the form of prejudice, inaccessible design, policies of exclusion, etc.
    7. Accessibility is about both technical and usable access for people with disabilities. For example, although a table of data may be technically accessible by a blind person using a screen reader, they may not be able to relate the data in each cell to its column or row heading, so the meaning of the data is lost in the process, rendering the table unusable for that person.
    8. Computers enable even severely disabled people to communicate unaided, giving them independence and privacy that is not possible when they need to rely on human assistants.
    9. When communicating online, a disability may not be visible, removing barriers caused by people’s reactions to the disability.
    10. Creating accessible learning environments helps everyone, not just those with disabilities. For example, products that can be used by blind people are also useful for people whose eyes are busy*.

    *This last point reflects my own preference for listening to academic papers while running or walking to work, when I would be otherwise unable to “read” the paper. As a student and full-time employee, being able to use this time to study enables me to manage my time effectively and merge my fitness routine, with study time. This is only possible because my lecturers, and many journals these days too, provide accessible documents that can be read out loud using my mobile smartphone.

    This list brifly summarises the key points I drew from the OU’s Accessibility of eLearning course and demonstrates some of the ways we, as developers of online courses, can make better online learning experiences for all our students, including those with disabilities.

    References

    Open University (2016) Accessibility of E-Learning. [Online]. Available from: http://www.open.edu/openlearn/education/professional-development-education/accessibility-elearning/content-section-0 [Accessed: 13 June 2017].

    Creating a Moodle Template based on the UCL E-Learning Baseline 2016

    By Jessica Gramp, on 14 March 2017

    The Digital Education Advisor for BEAMS, Jess Gramp, worked with the E-Learning Champion for Science and Technology Studies (STS), Christina Ogunwumiju, to develop a Moodle course template that meets the UCL E-Learning Baseline 2016.

    Christina then applied this baseline to every Moodle course in the department using the Moodle import feature. This means students now have a more consistent experience across modules. They can now easily find their learning resources and activities because they appear in common sections across their Moodle courses.

    Jess developed a guidance document for staff, to show them how to meet the baseline when using the template. Complying with the list of items on the template guide (which only number 18) is a lot quicker than having to make decisions about how to adhere to all 30 items on the the entire baseline checklist, without the guidance of template text.

    You can view and download the template guidance document below. If it doesn’t load, please refresh this page.

    Download (PDF, 298KB)

     

    If you would like to develop a Moodle template to improve consistency in your own department, please contact Digital Education at digi-ed@ucl.a.uk.