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    Archive for the 'e-Learning Development Grants (ELDG)' Category

    Research and Education Space (RES)

    By Jessica Gramp, on 28 May 2015

    RESMark Macey ( works on a project named the Research and Education Space (RES) as the Education Engagement Manager, which is being developed through a partnership between the BBC, Jisc and the British Universities Film and Video Council (BUFVC), who share the goal of  building a platform that indexes and aggregates materials available for education and research use.

    The RES project aims to help teachers and learners find online teaching resources in all subject areas and at all levels which can be relied on. RES is building an open, accessible catalogue of online educational resources that can be used in both Primary, Secondary, HE and FE teaching, either directly within classroom materials and on electronic whiteboards or in materials developed by educational publishers and software providers. The aim is for RES to make student’s learning more interesting, varied, colourful and informative and to allow teaching to become more enriched across different levels and subjects.

    The RES project is in a developmental phase and research is needed to make the offer as rich and as useful as possible to those in education.

    Mark is planning to hold research groups (made up of teachers from different subjects and across the HE/FE sector) in late June/ early to mid July in White City, west London (dates and times TBC depending on availability of attendees). It would be great to know if this is something that might be of interest and if you might be available and interested to attend to offer your knowledge and experience. If you are interested then please let Mark know (at the above address) what dates you can and can’t do in that period. The meeting is likely to be 4-5 hours. Travel expenses will be paid and there is a fee paid for a replacement teacher or direct to you – as well as tea, coffee, sandwiches and copious biscuits 😉

    There are more details about RES below and on the attached Word doc and Mark would be interested in talking with you once you have read about the project. He is available to answer any more questions you might have.

    Read more about the project here (PDF 368KB)…

    UCL Engineering’s learning technologist initiative – one year on

    By Jessica Gramp, on 9 October 2014

    UCL Engineering’s Learning Technologists have been supporting rapid changes within the faculty. Changes include the development of several new programmes and helping the uptake of technology to improve the turnaround of feedback.

    In late 2013, the UCL Engineering faculty invested in a Learning Technologist post in order to support the Integrated Engineering Programme (IEP), as well as the other programmes within Engineering departments. Since then two Engineering departments, Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (STEaPP) and Management Science and Innovation (MS&I) have both employed Learning Technologists to help develop their e-learning provision. These posts have had a significant impact on the e-learning activities. To evaluate impact on the student learning experience we are collecting information and feedback from students throughout the academic year.

    These three roles complement the UCL-wide support provided by the E-Learning Environments (ELE) team and the Learning Technologists work closely with the central ELE team. This relationship is facilitated by Jess Gramp, the E-Learning Facilitator for BEAMS (Built Environment, Engineering, Maths and Physical Sciences) who co-manages these roles with a manager from each faculty/department. This arrangement enables both formal input from ELE to the departmental activities and plans; and for the learning technologists to receive central mentoring and assistance. Without this structure in place it would be difficult to keep these roles aligned with the many central e-learning initiatives and for the learning technologists to liaise with the technical teams within ISD.

    The initiatives developed by these staff include: designing and implementing Moodle course templates; ensuring adherence to the UCL Moodle Baseline; running training needs analysis and developing staff training plans; delivering e-learning workshops; working with staff to redesign courses, as well as developing them from the ground up, to incorporate blended learning principles; delivering one-to-one support; and working with academics on e-learning projects.

    Moodle Templates
    Engineering now have a Moodle template that provides a consistent experience for students using UCL Moodle to support their learning. This template is now being used on all IEP, MS&I and STEaPP courses and all new Engineering Moodle courses from 2014/15 onwards will also use this template. In some cases the template has been modified to meet departmental requirements.

    Engineering Faculty Moodle template (click to enlarge)

    Engineering Faculty template

    See how MS&I have modified this template and described each feature in their MS&I Moodle Annotated Template document.

    Moodle Baseline course audit
    In MS&I all Moodle courses have been audited against the UCL Moodle Baseline. This has enabled the department’s Learning Technologist to modify courses to ensure every course in the department now meets the Baseline. The template document that was used to audit the courses has been shared on the UCL E-Learning Wiki, so other departments may use it if they wish to do similar. You can also download it here: Baseline Matrix MSI-template.

    Training Needs Analysis
    In STEaPP a Training Needs Analysis was conducted using both a survey and interviews with academics to develop individual training plans for academics and run training workshops specific to the department’s needs. The survey used for this has been shared with colleagues on the UCL E-Learning Wiki.

    Staff e-learning training and support
    In STEaPP a Moodle Staff Hub course has been developed to support staff in their development of courses, including links to e-learning support materials; curriculum development advice; and links to professional development resources. This course has now been duplicated and modified to assist staff across Engineering and within MS&I. If any other UCL faculties or departments would like a similar course set up they can request this be duplicated for them, so they may tailor it to their own requirements. This and other courses are being used to induct new staff to departments and are supported by face to face and online training programmes. The training is delivered using a combination of central ELE training courses and bespoke workshops delivered by Engineering Learning Technologists.

    E-assessment tools to improve the speed of feedback to students
    In MS&I the average turn around for feedback to students is now just one week, significantly shorter than the four week target set by UCL. In order to support this initiative, the department has adopted a fully online assessment approach. This has been achieved predominately using Turnitin, a plagiarism prevention tool that also provides the ability to re-use comments; use weighted grading criteria to provide consistent feedback to students (in the form of rubrics and grading forms); and mark offline using the iPad app. The use of this tool has helped staff to reach the one week feedback target and to streamline the administrative processes that were slowing the feedback process. The Learning Technologist in MS&I has recently arranged workshops with the majority of MS&I staff (including those who are new to UCL) to demonstrate how Turnitin can be used to deliver feedback quickly to students. Several modules within the IEP are also using Moodle’s Workshop tool to enable peer assessment to be managed automatically online. The use of this and other e-assessment tools is saving academics and support staff significant time that used to be spent manually managing the submission, allocation and marking of assessments.

    Technical e-learning support
    While the ELE Services team continues to be the main point of contact for technical e-learning support within Engineering, the local Learning Technologists are able to provide just-in-time support for staff working on local projects. The Learning Technologists are also able to provide assistance beyond what is supported by the central E-Learning team. This includes any development work, such as setting up specific tools within Moodle courses (like the Workshop tool for peer assessment) and setting up groups in MyPortfolio. Development work like these activities fall outside the remit of the central E-Learning Environments team. Also, because the Engineering Learning technologists are based within the faculty, they obtain a better knowledge of local working practices, and are therefore better equipped to understand and support department specific requirements than the central team is able to.

    Project support and funding
    The local Learning Technologists have worked with academics within Engineering to develop bids for Engineering Summer Studentships and other projects, including the E-Learning Development Grants that are distributed yearly by ELE. The successful project proposals have been supported by the local Learning Technologists, which has meant a greater level of support has been provided to the grant winners than has been possible in previous years.

    Using technology to support scenario-based learning
    The Learning Technologist for STEaPP had a unique opportunity to work with staff during the development of their curriculum to ensure that technology was considered at the very outset of the programme’s development. In MS&I the local Learning Technologist has helped to develop a scenario-based, blended-learning course that is now being used as an exemplar of how other academics may redesign their own courses to empower students in their own learning (both electronically and face to face) and provide authentic learning experiences. Many Engineering programmes are already using project-based work to provide students with authentic learning experiences and assessments and this is something the Learning Technologists can work with academics to develop and enhance further.

    Trialing new technologies
    Several e-learning systems have been trialed within Engineering significant input from the Engineering Learning Technologists, including the mobile e-voting system (TurningPoint ResponseWare) for up to 1000 students; and peer assessment of upwards of 700 student videos within the IEP. The successful implementation of such large scale trials would have been difficult without the support of the Learning Technologists.

    E-Learning equipment loans
    One of the common problems with technology uptake is ensuring staff have access to it. Engineering have invested in a number of devices to enable (amongst other things) offline marking; video capture and editing; and presentation of hand drawn figures during lectures. Equipment is available for loan across Engineering and also within STEaPP and MS&I. These include laptops, video recording and editing kit (such as cameras, tripods, microphones and editing software) and iPads. The maintenance and loaning of these are managed by the local Learning Technologists. They are also able to provide advice and assistance with the use of these devices, especially in terms of multimedia creation, including sound recording and filming, and editing of videos to enhance learning resources.

    Working closely with E-Learning Environments and each other
    One important aspect of these roles is that they have close ties to the ELE team, allowing for important two way communication to occur. The Engineering Learning Technologists are able to keep abreast of changes to centrally supported processes and systems and can obtain support from the central E-Learning Environments Services team when required, including receiving train-the-trainer support in order to run workshops locally within Engineering departments. Similarly, ELE benefit by an improved understanding of the activities occurring within faculties and departments, and accessing the materials that are developed and shared by the Learning Technologists.

    Each week the Engineering Learning Technologists share any developments, issues, and updates with each other and the E-Learning Facilitator for BEAMS. The result is a strong network of support for helping to problem solve and resolve issues. It also enables resources, such as the staff hub Moodle course and Moodle auditing matrix, to be shared across the Faculty and more widely across UCL, enabling the re-use of materials and avoiding duplication of effort. The importance of the strong working relationship between the Engineering Learning Technologists became apparent during UCL Engineering’s How to change the world series. During an important final-day session all three Learning Technologists were involved in resolving technical issues to ensure the voting system operated correctly in a venue with incompatible wireless provision.

    UCL staff and students today operate within a rapidly changing educational environment. Both staff and students are expected to understand how to use technology in order to operate within an increasingly digital society. There is a huge number of self directed online learning resources available (such as MOOCs and YouTube videos) and increasingly flexible work and study arrangements are being supported by enhanced technology use. As more staff see the benefits that technology can bring to the classroom, and true blended learning becomes the norm in many areas, it is going to be more important to implement appropriate support structures so staff have the resources to understand and work with these emerging technologies. It is equally important that students are supported in their use of these tools.

    The Learning Technologists within Engineering are in a unique position to understand the opportunities and issues arising in the classroom, and react to these quickly and effectively. We have already seen numerous outputs from these roles. These include a video editing guide to help academics produce professional looking videos for their students; the use of tools within Moodle and MyPortfolio on a scale not seen before with large cohorts of over 700 IEP students; and an exemplar of how scenario-based learning can be supported by technology in MS&I. While these outputs have been developed in reaction to local needs, they have been shared back for others to use and reference, and therefore they benefit the wider UCL community.

    As we see more of these roles implemented across UCL, we will begin to see more dramatic change than has been achievable in the past. One of the plans for the future involves running student focus groups and interviews to better understand how Moodle and other e-learning systems are helping students with their studies and how provision can be improved. The Engineering Learning Technologists will continue their work with local staff to help their departments to use technology more effectively and improve the student experience.

    Pre-enrolment access to Moodle

    By Jessica Gramp, on 19 September 2013

    MoodleAccess to Moodle can now be obtained up to 6 weeks before new students start at UCL.

    Once students have accepted and met the conditions of their offer, they will receive an email from UCL inviting them to pre-enrol. That means students can start engaging with pre-enrolment activities, such as orientation, inductions and pre-courses, to help them hit the ground running from their first days at university. See:

    Some staff have developed pre-enrolment Moodle courses to ensure students have the prerequisite knowledge they require to successfully complete their studies.

    One example is the Pre-Maths Bridging Course for Physics & Astronomy students. Written as an interactive presentation on a Moodle page, this course helps students to prepare for their Maths subjects through quizzes and appropriate feedback.

    Another example is the Math Booster Course that is currently being developed for Engineering MSc students. This Moodle course incorporates lecture notes, worked examples and quizzes. Both of these courses have been developed with funding from the UCL E-Learning Development Grants scheme.

    The UCL Transitions Programme includes a Transitions Moodle course that students can access to help them prepare for university life before they get here.  It includes videos, student profiles and information about: London, study skills, budgeting, UCL Museums and collections, libraries and how to prepare for lectures and seminars.


    PeerWise – Report on Outcomes of e-Learning Development Grant

    By Kevin Tang, on 8 June 2013

    PeerWise – Report on Outcomes of e-Learning Development Grant#

    by Sam Green and Kevin Tang

    Department of Linguistics, UCL


    In February 2012, we obtained Teaching Innovation Grant funding to pilot the use of PeerWise on one module and would like to extend and embed its use. PeerWise is an online repository of multiple-choice questions that are created, answered, rated and discussed by students. PeerWise involves students in the formative assessment and feedback process and enables them to develop a number of key skills which will enhance the employability of our students, including negotiating meaning with others, cross-cultural communication, and analytical and evaluation skills as they engage with the work of their peers.

    Overall aims and objectives

    Since we had excellent feedback on our pilot course, we aimed to extend the use of PeerWise to another three large and diverse modules for 2012/13. In doing so we would investigate any accessibility issues as well as the possibility of integrating PeerWise with software used by our students, e.g. software to represent syntactic structures. The PGTAs would adapt the material developed in 2011/12 to provide guidelines and training and further support to PGTAs and academics staff running modules using PeerWise, and run introductory sessions for students. In addition, they would support the PeerWise assessment process, which in turn would contribute to the module marks. The PGTAs would also be involved in disseminating the project outcome and sharing good practice.

    Methodology – Explanation of what was done and why

    Introductory session with PGTAs:

    A session was held prior to the start of term with PGTAs teaching on modules utilising PeerWise, run by the experienced PGTAs. This delivered information to PGTAs on the structure and technical aspects of the system, the implementation of the system in their module, and importantly marks and grading. This also highlighted the importance of team-work and explained the necessity of participation from both the teaching team and students. Materials were also provided in an introductory pack to new PGTAs to quickly adapt the system for their respective modules (see Dissemination below).

    Introductory session with students:

    Students taking modules with a PeerWise component were required to attend a two-hour training and practice workshop, run by the PGTAs teaching on their module. After being given log-in instructions, students participated in the test environment set up by the PGTAs. These test environments contained a range of sample questions (written by the PGTAs) relating to their modules. This demonstrated to the students the quality of questions and level of difficulty required, as well as the available use of media. More generally, students were given instructions on how to provide useful feedback, and how to create effective and educational questions, as well as being told about the requirements of their module.

    Our PGTA - Thanasis Soultatis giving an introductory session to PeerWise for students

    Our PGTA – Thanasis Soultatis giving an introductory session to PeerWise for students

    Our PGTA - Kevin Tang giving an introductory session to PeerWise for students

    Our PGTA – Kevin Tang giving an introductory session to PeerWise for students


    Dissemination (See below)

    Course integration

    In its second academic year, PeerWise was integrated with modules with the following requirements:

    • compulsory for both BA and MA students (previously only BA)
    • students were informed that they would work in teams to create questions
    • work individually to answer questions
    • workload divided into six weekly deadlines
    • questions to be based on that week’s material

    In the pilot implementation of PeerWise, BA but not MA students were required to participate. BA students showed more participation than MA students, but the latter nevertheless still showed engagement with the system. Therefore, it was decided to make PeerWise a compulsory element of the module to maximise the efficacy of peer-learning.

    Following meetings with CALT member Dr. Rosalind Duhs, it was decided that students should work in ‘mixed ability’ groups, due to the difficult nature of creating questions. However, to effectively monitor individual performance, questions were required to be answered individually. Deadlines ensured that students engaged with that week’s material throughout the course; this simultaneously spread out the workload and resulted in an effective revision tool (see below for use of PeerWise for revision by MA students).

    Technical improvement

    PeerWise allows images to be hosted, but this is restricted by the size of the image. Embedding of YouTube clips is an option, but there is no capability to embed/upload sound or video files directly to PeerWise. To circumvent this, a conversation with Domi Sinclair (ELE services) revealed that we could use an existing UCL system to host and link media not supported by PeerWise. All UCL students have a ‘MyPortfolio’ account, and this is customisable to allow external links etc. which can be anonymised (for MCQ usage). Instructions were provided to PGTAs to pass on to students.

    Project outcomes – Description and examples of what was achieved or produced

    To evaluate the outcomes of the project, we used the data clearly provided by PeerWise for analyses of students’ performance.

    Active Engagement

    Using the PeerWise administration tools, it was possible to observe student participation over time. This revealed that students met question creation deadlines as required, but not always in a rushed manner; they often worked throughout the week to complete the weekly task. In addition, questions were answered throughout the week, revealing that students didn’t appear to see the task purely as a chore. Further to this, most students answered more than the required number of questions, again showing their willing engagement. The final point on deadlines was that the MA students (who had an exam as the final part of the module assessment) used PeerWise as a revision tool entirely by their own choices. Because they had created regular questions throughout the course of the module, they had created a repository of revision topics with questions, answers, and explanations

    Active Engagement

    Active Engagement

    Correlations with module performance

    PeerWise provided a set of PeerWise scores which is composed of individual scores for question writing, answering questions and rating existing questions. To increase the total score, one needs to achieve good scores for each component.

    The students should:

    • write relevant, high-quality questions with well thought out alternatives and clear explanations
    • answer questions thoughtfully
    • rate questions fairly and leave constructive feedback
    • use PeerWise early as the score increases over time based on the contribution history

    Correlations  between the PeerWise scores and the module scores were performed to test the effectiveness of PeerWise on student’s learning. A nested model comparison was performed to test the effectiveness of the PeerWise grouping in prediction of the students’ performance. The performance in Term 1 differ somewhat between the BA students and MA students, but not in Term 2 after manipulations with the PeerWise grouping with the BAs.

    Term 1:

    The BA students showed no correlation at all, while the MAs showed a strong correlation (r = 0.49, p < 0.001***)

    MA Students - Term 1 - Correlation between PeerWise Scores and Exam Scores

    MA Students – Term 1 – Correlation between PeerWise Scores and Exam Scores

    In light of this finding, we attempted to identify the reasons behind this divergence in correlation. Having consulted with the TAs who allocated the PeerWise groups (three students per group), it was found that the grouping with the BAs was done randomly, rather than by mixed-ability, while the grouping with the MAs was done by mixed-ability. We, therefore, hypothesized that mixed-ability grouping is essential to the successful use of the system. To test this hypothesis, we asked the TA for the BAs to regroup the PeerWise group based on mixed-ability, this TA did not have any knowledge of the students’ Peerwise scores in Term 1, while the PeerWise grouping for the MAs largely remained the same.

    Term 2:

    The assignment in Term 2 were based on three assignments spread out over the term. The final PeerWise score (taken at the end of the Term 2) was tested for correlation with each of the three assignments – Assignment 1, 2 and 3.

    Three correlation analyses were performed between the PeerWise score with each of the three assignments.

    With the BAs, the PeerWise score correlated with all three assignments with increasing levels of statistical significance – Assignment 1 ( r = 0.44, p = 0.0069**), Assignment 2 ( r = 0.47, p = .0.0040*) and Assignment 3 ( r = 0.47, p = .0.0035**).

    With the MAs, the findings were similar, with the difference that Assignment 1 was insignificant with a borderline p-value of 0.0513 – Assignment 1 ( r = 0.28, p = 0.0513), Assignment 2 ( r = 0.46, p = 0.0026**) and Assignment 3 ( r = 0.33, p = 0.0251**).

    The effect of PeerWise grouping

    A further analysis was performed to test if the PeerWise grouping has an effect on their assignment performance. We did this by doing a nested-model comparison with PeerWise score and PeerWise Group as predictors and the mean assignment scores as the predictee. The lm function in R statistical package was used to build two models, the superset model which has both PeerWise score and PeerWise Group as the predictors, and the subset model which has only the PeerWise score as the predictor. An ANOVA was used to compare the two models, and it was found that while both PeerWise scores and PeerWise grouping were significant predictors in the superset model, PeerWise grouping made a significant improvement in prediction with p < 0.05 * (See the table below for the nested-model output)

    Analysis of Variance Table
    Model 1: Assignment_Mean ~ PW_score + group
    Model 2: Assignment_Mean ~ PW_score
      Res.Df    RSS Df Sum of Sq      F  Pr(>F)  
    1     28 2102.1                              
    2     29 2460.3 -1   -358.21 4.7713 0.03747 *
    Signif. codes:  0 ‘***’ 0.001 ‘**’ 0.01 ‘*’ 0.05 ‘.’ 0.1 ‘ ’ 1

    Conclusion for the project outcomes

    The strong correlation found with the BA group in Term 2 (but not in Term 1) is likely to be due to the introduction of mixed-ability grouping. The group effect suggests that the students performed at a similar level as a group, this therefore implies group learning. This effect was only found with the BAs but not with the MAs, this difference could be attributed to the quality of the mixed-ability grouping, since the BAs (re)grouping was based  on Term 1 performance, while the MA grouping was based on the impression on the students that the TA had in the first two weeks of Term 1. With the BAs and MAs, there’s a small increase of correlation and significance level over the term, this might suggest that the increasing use of the system improves their assignment grades over the term.

    Together these findings suggest that mixed-ability grouping is key to peer learning.


    A questionnaire was completed by the students about their experience with our implementation of PeerWise. The feedback was on the whole positive with a majority of students agreeing that

    1. Developing original questions on course topics improved their understanding of those topics
    2. Answering questions written by other students improved their understanding of those topics.
    3. Their groups worked well together

    These highlighted the key concept of PeerWise – Peer Learning


    How did the project enhance student learning?

    Our objective statistical analyses together with the subjective feedback from the students themselves strongly indicated that the project enhanced student learning.

    How did the outcomes compare with the original aims?

    Enquiries to the PeerWise development team revealed that there are unfortunately no options for accessibility for users with e.g. poor sight. General suggestions were made to these students on ways to increase the screen viewing size, but this remains an issue, albeit mostly with the PeerWise development team.

    PGTAs and also course organisers attended the training provided, and found it beneficial enough to utilise PeerWise as a component on their module. The experienced PGTAs remained available for assistance, although the user guide proved to answer most questions for new users. The above graphs and tables display some of the successes regarding students’ progress through their modules using PeerWise.

    One highly useful and partly unexpected beneficial outcome was the subsequent creation of a revision system for students taking exams at the end of the module, made out of the questions, answers, and explanations they submitted as part of their PeerWise participation. As explained above, this repository of information was used by students in their preparation. Further, this collection of questions and answers aimed at (indeed, made by) student-level comprehension provides a large ‘databank’ of questions and answers, along with explanations, within topics for staff to utilise in subsequent years. Difficulties in question creation and answering, and common mistakes in understanding being made by students can also be spotted and dealt with along the course of the module.

    As mentioned below, ‘dissemination’ of experiences and introductory information on using PeerWise was successful and well-received.

    How has the project developed your awareness, understanding, knowledge, or expertise in e-learning?

    One important experience is the recognition that peer learning – using e-learning – can be a highly effective method of learning for students, even with low amounts of any regular and direct contact from PGTAs to students regarding their participation. The statistics above reveal this nicely.

    However, although we deliberately took a ‘hands-off’ approach, we found it necessary to be considerate of the aims of the modules, understand the capabilities of PeerWise and it’s potential for integration with the module, and importantly to plan in detail the whole module’s use of PeerWise from the beginning. Initiating this type of e-learning system required this detailed investigation and planning in order for students to understand the requirements and the relationship of the system to their module. Without explicit prior planning, with teams working in groups and remotely from PGTAs and staff (at least, with regards their PeerWise interaction), any serious issues with the system and its use may not have been spotted and/or may have been difficult to counteract. Because of the consideration however, serious problems didn’t arise in the system’s use.

    As mentioned, the nature of the work (remotely from staff and in groups) meant that students might not readily inform us of issues they may have been having, so any small comment was dealt with immediately. One issue that arose was group members’ cooperation; this required swift and definitive action, which was then communicated to all relevant parties. In particular, any misunderstandings with the requirements were dealt with quickly, with e-mails sent out to all students, even if only one individual or group expressed concern.

    Dissemination- How will the project outputs of results be disseminated to the department, College or externally?  Are there other departments which would find value in the project outputs or results?

    During the implementation of PeerWise under the e-Learning Development Grant, a Moodle site for staff and PGTAs was created with the help of Stefanie Anyadi, Teaching and Learning Team Manager at PALS. This hosts presentations by other universities using PeerWise; a detailed report on the implementation at UCL (in the Department of Linguistics); a user guide for staff, PGTAs, and students; and a ‘package’ for easy setting up of PeerWise for any module. To disseminate and publicise this information, a talk was given by Kevin Tang and Sam Green (the original PGTAs working with PeerWise) introducing the system to to staff within the Division of Psychology and Language Sciences. This in turn was video recorded as a ‘lecturecast’, and is also available on the Moodle page. Subsequently, as part of CALT’s “Summits and Horizons” lunchtime talks, thanks to Dr Nick Grindle, an invited updated talk was provided to those interested in teaching with e-learning, with a focus on peer-feedback, which was also video recorded.

    The dissemination materials can be found here:

    Scalability and sustainability – How will the project continue after the ELDG funding has
    discontinued? Might it be expanded to other areas of UCL?

    The division-wide presentation mentioned above advertised the use and success of PeerWise to several interested parties, as did the CALT lunchtime talk. As the experienced PGTAs have written their experiences in detail, have created a comprehensive user-guide, included presentations for students and new administrators of PeerWise, and made this readily-available for UCL staff and PGTAs, the system can capably be taken up by any other department. Further, within the Department of Linguistics there are several ‘second-generation’ PGTAs who have learned the details of, and used, PeerWise for their modules. These PGTAs will in turn pass on use of the system to the subsequent year, should PeerWise be used again; they will also be available to assist any new users of the system. In sum, given the detailed information available, and current use of the system by the Department of Linguistics, as well as the keen use by staff in the department (especially given the positive results of its uptake), it seems highly likely that PeerWise will continue to be used by several modules, and will likely be taken up by others.



    A Virtual Learning Environment to Facilitate Interdisciplinary Learning

    By Richard Day, on 31 July 2012

     Report on Outcomes of E-Learning Development Grant

    Overall aims and objectives

    The ‘Virtual Learning Environment’ (VLE) project aimed to develop new online tools to facilitate interdisciplinary learning at UCL. The project was particularly aimed at students registered on multidisciplinary Masters courses, such as the MSc Biomaterials & Tissue Engineering, run by the Department of Mechanical Engineering. The objectives of the project were guided by the pedagogical principles that knowledge acquisition and learning are facilitated by interaction and collaboration with peers. To achieve this, the Virtual Learning Environment needed to offer a way of enhancing student interaction whilst providing an opportunity for peer-to-peer learning that offered unique motivational and cognitive benefits, whilst also enabling students from different background disciplines to grasp basic concepts.

    Methodology – Explanation of what was done and why

    Time constraints on a Masters degree course meant it was important to focus the content of the VLE on the fundamental principles necessary for students to grasp key concepts relevant to the course. A VLE was therefore devised to provide online laboratory tutorials (Virtual Laboratory) and an interdisciplinary learning forum (Virtual Journal Club).

    (1) Virtual Laboratory: The Virtual Laboratory was based in Moodle and consisted of a portfolio of tutorials introduced throughout the course that were designed to prime the students (primarily from an engineering background) with the working practises of a Life Sciences laboratory. This involved producing learning material that could be loaded into iSpring presentations, which were subsequently converted into Flash format for uploading onto Moodle. Topics covered included aseptic tissue culture techniques, micropipetting, centrifugation, cell counting and enzyme linked immunosorbent assays. The latter two topics included mini quizzes and data analysis tasks. These materials were developed with the assistance of student volunteers who were registered on the MSc course. Their work on the project involved capturing video clips of someone performing the techniques, scripting, dubbing and editing. The students were remunerated for the cost of their time working on the project.

    (2) Virtual Journal Club: The Virtual Journal Club (VJC) was established in My Portfolio. After an introductory session to the VJC to show its contents and workings, a different student was invited each week to review the strengths and weaknesses of a paper they had selected from the recent literature relevant to a topic covered in the course module. An online discussion was then opened up to the other members of the group who participated by uploading a brief posting onto the blog.

    Project outcomes – Description and examples of what was achieved or produced

    The VLE received positive feedback from students on the MSc Biomaterials & Tissue Engineering course. An Opinio survey was conducted to evaluate the students’ perception of the VLE. These data indicate students generally recognised the benefits of participating in the VLE, despite many of them not having previously used online or virtual learning environments. The VLE received positive feedback from students on the MSc Biomaterials & Tissue Engineering course. An Opinio survey was conducted to evaluate the students’ perception of the VLE. These data indicate students generally recognised the benefits of participating in the VLE, despite many of them not having previously used online or virtual learning environments.

    Opinio survey data from students on the MSc Biomaterials & Tissue Engineering course:

    Virtual Journal Club:

    Virtual Laboratory:

    From a course lecturer’s perspective, the VLE enabled me to cover more topics during the limited time available. This was particularly evident in the practical sessions where the students were more familiar with the concepts being introduced. Having already been introduced to some of the techniques with the online tutorials they became proficient with the techniques being used much more quickly than groups taught in previous years. An encouraging result from the survey was the students’ impression that the Virtual Journal Club helped them review literature more critically. This skill is an important component for their laboratory based research project and was something that was clearly lacking in previous years.


    How did the project enhance student learning?

    The project enhanced student learning by providing an opportunity for students to be ‘preconditioned’ for certain aspects of the course prior to classroom based activities. An example of this occurred with the viewing of a Virtual Laboratory movie clip explaining aseptic technique, which was followed by the practical session. By enabling the students to be familiar with the techniques that would be used during the laboratory practical session, time was saved allowing students additional time to reflect on what was being covered during the session. The feedback from the Opinio survey generally supported this observation.

    How did the outcomes compare with the original aims?

    The outcomes of the project were in line with the original aims of the project. A VLE has been created and this has been positively received by the students. The VLE has provided an additional tool for cross disciplinary learning. The students were more enthusiastic about the Virtual Laboratory compared with the Virtual Journal Club. After the first few students had volunteered for the Virtual Journal Club, subsequent volunteers were less forthcoming. To encourage participation a different approach will be adopted for the coming academic year, whereby the participation contributes to 5-10% of the coursework module mark.

    How did the project benefit the student workers?

    The student workers received training in the production of online teaching aids. They also gained experience in scripting, producing and editing video clips. They also benefitted from financial remuneration on completion of their work.

    How has the project developed your awareness, understanding, knowledge, or expertise in elearning?

    The project has developed my awareness of the benefits and drawbacks of e-learning. However, the former are greater than the latter and I plan to continue developing this side of the curriculum. The planned peer-to-peer learning that the project aimed for will only be fully achieved if all the students are fully engaged. Therefore participation rates of the Virtual Journal Club will be monitored and reminders sent for each individual’s contribution.

    Scalability and sustainability – How will the project continue after the ELDG funding has
    discontinued? Might it be expanded to other areas of UCL?

    Interest in the Virtual Laboratory and Virtual Journal Club has been expressed by other course coordinators at UCL and it is hoped that similar technology will be rolled-out to a wide range of interdisciplinary courses at UCL. The Opinio survey has revealed areas where the VLE can be enhanced in the future, as shown below.

    Dissemination- How will the project outputs of results be disseminated to the department, College or externally?  Are there other departments which would find value in the project outputs or results?


    Other members of the department are aware of the VLE and have expressed interest in developing similar strategies for other courses. Additional research questions and developmental ideas are going to be explored in the next academic year. It is hoped these data will lead to a journal publication to enable further dissemination outside of UCL.

    Guest post – Dr Jenny Bunn on DiSARM ELDG Report

    By Matt Jenner, on 29 June 2012

    From Dr Jenny Bunn

    In receipt of an E-Learning Development Grant, Jenny has created DiSARM: Digital Scenarios for Archives and Records Management. Her project aimed to develop a number of digital scenarios to enhance the e-learning opportunities for students on the Department of Information Studies’ (DIS) archives and records management programmes. Below is her report, as a guest blog post:

    This post sets out a question that has arisen as the result of work within the Department of Information Studies to incorporate more e-learning tools and techniques within its teaching. Last year the department was fortunate enough to win an e-learning development grant to undertake a project entitled Digital Scenarios for Archives and Records Management (DiSARM). As the name suggests the project was focussed around the department’s archives and records management programmes and involved the development of scenarios which would enhance both the digital content and context of these programmes. Content, because it is increasingly important for our students to be familiar with a wide range of processes and products employed to ensure the preservation of born digital records, and context, because it is equally important that they should be exposed to methods of teaching and (e-)learning that will enable them to gain confidence and experience of working in an online and collaborative way as part of a global community.

    It is not my intention to describe the project in detail here. Those who are interested in reading more may download the full report. Rather I wish to highlight a question that emerged from the project and which seems to encompass many of the issues raised by e-learning.

    ‘How far can institutions put a boundary around a learning experience?’

    This question is raised, in this form, by Mayes and de Freitas (2007) who also comment that new technologies mean that ‘learning can be socially situated in a way never previously possible’. With the DiSARM project an issue arose in the form of the negotiation of the boundary between the safe controlled environment of UCL’s VLE Moodle and the wider community beyond. Digital preservation is still in an embryonic state so should the students’ messy and often unsuccessful experimentation with it be contained within the walls of the Moodle or out there on the internet for the benefit of the professional community at large?

    This though would seem to be only one of the frames in which it is possible to see the question of a boundary around the learning experience. For example, it would also seem to encompass current debates about Open Educational Resources and increases in university fees, as well as old ones such as that of the relationship between theory and practice. Sadly I have no easy answers to offer, but one avenue that I think might be worth exploring is a way to combine ideas about ‘authenticity and presence’ (Land and Bayne 2006) with those about e-moderation. E-moderation is a subject of much debate (e.g. Salmon 2000) and there is some evidence (Hewings, Coffin & North 2006) of anxiety amongst teachers, in the context of new e-learning technologies, with regards to their ability to achieve the proper balance between not interfering too much so as to stifle learners learning, and yet not interfering too little so as to allow dominant voices to drown out weaker ones.

    One hypothesis would be then that, what was previously a passive and unacknowledged ‘presence’ has now become an active process of, yes moderation, but perhaps something else as well? Perhaps the role of the teacher has always been to make learning visible, to provide the definition or boundary that allows students to see the ‘something’ they are learning, the frame against which to set and assess it?


    Hewings, A., Coffin, C. & North, S. (2006) Supporting undergraduate students’ acquisition of academic argumentation strategies through computer conferencing, Higher Education Academy report. [Accessed June 2012]

    Land, R. and Bayne, S. (2006) Issues in Cyberspace Education. In Savin-Baden, M. & Wilkie, K. (eds) (2006) Problem-based learning online Open University Press.

    Mayes, Y. and de Freitas, S. (2007) Learning and e-learning: the role of theory. In Beetham, H. & Sharpe, R. (Eds) (2007) Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age: designing and delivering e-learning London, Routledge.

    Salmon, G. (2000) E-moderating: The Key to Teaching and Learning Online London, Kogan Page.