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Digital Education team blog


Ideas and reflections from UCL's Digital Education team


Archive for the 'General Learning Technology' Category

Improving the accessibility of Moodle content with Blackboard Ally

EliotHoving11 September 2019

Blackboard Ally Logo

UCL has acquired a new technology called Blackboard Ally to help improve the accessibility of content within Moodle, in line with UK legislation.

Ally runs within Moodle to provide alternative file formats for students and accessibility guidance for staff.

It will be launched prior to the start of term on Wednesday 18th September.

Alternative formats on demand

Ally uses machine algorithms to convert common file types to alternative formats with no extra effort required from staff. For example, a staff member can upload their lecture slides as a PowerPoint file to Moodle, and Ally will subsequently and automatically offer students the option to download the file in its original format or a range of alternative formats including audio (mp3), PDF, ePub for eReaders, or Braille reader format.

Alternative formats are essential for certain students and provide advantages to all students. Ally’s alternative formats allow for multi-sensory learning which can have benefits to educational outcomes and well-being. For example, at universities already using Ally, students have converted lecture slides to audio for listening to during their commute and to help them revise.

However, alternative formats will only be as accessible as the original source file. You should therefore always ensure you follow best practice when creating your content.

Helping staff identify where accessibility improvements can be made

Ally also provides staff with an accessibility score and guidance on common files within Moodle including PDF, PowerPoint and Word documents.  This includes files already present within Moodle and new files as they are uploaded. The accessibility score and guidance are available to staff but not students. Using Ally and Digital Education’s guidance on creating accessible content, staff will be able to identify and improve the accessibility of their teaching resources.

You can learn more about Ally by visiting the UCL staff guide on Blackboard Ally and by watching Blackboard’s video below:

Students can be directed towards UCL student guide on Blackboard Ally.

Keep an eye on the Digital Education blog for updates.

If you have any questions relating to Ally, or you would like a demonstration for your Department, please contact digi-ed@ucl.ac.uk.

Do you have the skills?

SamanthaAhern11 September 2019

HeDecorativere in Digital Education we know that UCL’s student body is a diverse group with an equally diverse educational background. We also know that digital skills are an essential tool for everyday life and will support your studies.

We are therefore pleased to announce the launch of our new Moodle course Digital Skills Awareness@UCL.

This awareness course outlines the key digital skills you will need for your studies. It will not give you the digital skills – it is for avoiding surprises that make you say “no one told me I needed to know that!”.  It offers tips and advice from a variety of sources, including other first year students and university support staff, as well as helpful links and videos from around the internet.

But this is only part of the picture.

In our Moodle course Digital Learning@UCL, you will learn about the digital tools and services that you will encounter during your studies. This will include everyday services such as Moodle and Lecturecast, our lecturing capturing service, as well as the student blogging service UCL Reflect. The course also provides information about study support services and how to get started with IT services here at UCL.

To find out more about the development opportunities available to you visit the Digital Skills Development webpages.


Lecturecast Update(Summer 2019)

Janice K MKiugu6 September 2019

For those new to UCL, Lecturecast is UCL’s automated lecture recording system.

It is designed for course tutors/administrators to record their lectures as supplemental resources and share them with their students via the respective Moodle course. Lecturecast is not a replacement for lecture attendance and is provided to complement lectures and provide an additional resource to support student learning.

Guidance on using Lecturecast is available via the Lecturecast Resource Centre

Preparing for 2019/2020

  1. Staff can now schedule recordings for the 2019/2020 academic year. Note that to schedule a recording, the event must be timetabled via CMIS, take place in a Lecturecast-enabled teaching space and be less than 4 hours long. Staff will only be able to schedule events taking place within the next 3 months (on a rolling basis).
  2. Ensure you unlink mappings to old Lecturecast recordings from your Moodle courses(s) and add a new link/mapping (s) for the 2019/2020 sections.

New for 19/20

You may notice a few improvements to the Lecturecast system for the 2019/2020 academic year. These include:

1. Student Analytics are now updated more frequently

The student engagement data on the Analytics tab in Sections (when viewing the list of recordings in Moodle) is now updated at least hourly (instead of once daily). Student interactions with class media and with the section as a whole are provided throughout the day, allowing staff to view data with closer to real-time status.

2. Schedule recordings for non-teaching events

It is now possible to schedule recordings for non-teaching events. The events must be CMIS timetabled, occur in a Lecturecast enabled room and be less than 4 hours long.

As these events are not associated with a module code, the recordings will be placed in the personal library of the staff member scheduling the recording. Staff can then download the recording and upload it onto a streaming server such as UCL Media Central.

Note:  Lecturecast is designed mainly for the recording of lectures. If you are looking to record a special event e.g. an inaugural lecture, conference and need a high quality recording then please contact Digital Media services video@ucl.ac.uk who provide video and editing services.

3. Universal Capture replaces Personal Capture

Action may be required:  If you are still using Personal Capture, please upload all video recordings immediately and install Universal Capture.

‘Universal Capture’ which is now available to download via the Lecturecast interface has replaced ‘Personal Capture’. Personal capture is no longer supported or available to download.  The Universal Capture tool allows staff to record audio, video and their laptop displays in much the same way as the Personal capture system but with a greater degree of reliability. Content is also packaged and uploaded as you record, meaning that the completed recording is available much sooner. To download Universal Capture, use the ‘Downloads’ link available from the settings icon in the Lecturecast section. A video demo of Universal Capture is available on the the Echo360 support pages.

4. Pilot of automatic transcripts for Lecturecast recordings

Over the next few months, Digital Education along with several volunteers from across the university will be running a pilot of the Lecturecast ‘automatic speech recognition’ (ASR) functionality. ASR has the potential to provide invaluable support for students with hearing difficulties but can be a useful additional resource for all students. However, the system needs to be tested with a range of voices, accents, and subjects, including those with discipline-specific or specialist terminology, in order to assess the accuracy of the resulting transcripts and how much work might be involved to correct them. The project has been prompted by the legislation that came into effect last autumn to ensure that digital content is accessible by everyone, and we would also like to explore how useful students in pilot groups find the service.

For more information,contact digitalaccessibility@ucl.ac.uk


To sign up or register an interest in upcoming training sessions, use the links below.

Useful resources:

Moodle Summer Upgrade 2019

Jason RNorton6 August 2019

Overview of the Moodle 2019 Upgrade

UCL Moodle has now been upgraded to Moodle version 3.7. This upgrade brings several important feature enhancements as well as multiple minor changes across the platform. The most important of which are detailed below. More general information can also be found on the Moodle Resource Centre wiki page.

Due to the scale of changes moving from version 3.4 to 3.7 Digital Education will be continuing  to update our documentation on the Moodle Resource Centre throughout the summer period, however all features are fully documented on moodle.org at Moodle 3.7 Official Documentation if you require immediate guidance on a specific feature that is not detailed on the UCL Moodle wiki.

We are also aware that there are still a few outstanding issues with the Moodle theme (look and feel) that we have not complete before the release of the new version on 26th July and these known issues are listed on the wiki at the known issues web page and will be resolved in the next two to three weeks during our weekly Tuesday maintenance window. This wiki page will be updated as the issues are resolved and workarounds provided.

Please report any issues that are not listed in on our Known Issues page to digi-ed@ucl.ac.uk. The Moodle teams will continue to work on the platform adding features and fixing bugs and upgrading the platform as part of business as usual activities through the 19/20 academic year.

Supporting Accessibility

A significant amount of work has gone into enhancing Moodle’s accessibility of its activities and plugins. The majority of these changes will not be apparent unless you use accessibility tools to navigate Moodle, as these changes are done within the underpinning technologies of Moodle’s layout, design and navigation.

The Digital Education team will be adding Blackboard Ally before the start of main academic session to support the creation of accessible documents and the creation of alternate formats for students. More details on Blackboard Ally for UCL will be communicated via the Digital Education blog and via direct email over the summer, a general overview of what Blackboard Ally is can be found at the following link What is Blackboard Ally?

Two Moodles Over Summer

This year also sees the first time that we have had to maintain two live Moodle’s over the summer period to ensure the completion of Late Summer Assessments And UCL Summer Schools (LSA) within the correct cohorts and courses. When you go to moodle.ucl.ac.uk you will find yourself at our landing hub page where you choose either the LSA Moodle or the new academic year Moodle. This hub page will only be active until the end of the LSA period (October) at which point moodle.ac.uk will take you directly to the front page the 19/20 academic year Moodle.

The new Late Summer Assessment Hub is show below, click the correct button to take you to either the LSA Moodle 18-19/UCL Summer School 2019 or Moodle 19/20

Moodle Hub Page Image

For full details on the use of these two Moodles and Late Summer Assessments please see Digital Education Late Summer Assessment Blog

Next Steps: Course Resets and Getting Ready for the new Academic Year

As we have now completed our Moodle upgrade, all your work for the last academic year will be captured in the Moodle Snapshot 18-19 and will be editable up until 20th September once the Late Summer Assessment Period finishes. We would now advise you to start resetting your courses that have completed their yearly cycle or are no longer in use on the Moodle 19-20 instance. This would not apply to Modules such as postgraduate, medical and other non-standard timetabled courses.

The reset process has changed slightly with a few additional steps. Please ensure you read the following blog post on Moodle Course Resets Process 2019, to find clear instructions on how to reset your course and the changes to the course reset process.

Once you have completed your course resets, please see the New Moodle Checklist document to ensure you are ready for your new academic year.

Overview of all new Features in Moodle Versions 3.5 to 3.7

Below please find links to detail pages on the key new features within Moodle that have been added from 3.5 – 3.7

Moodle Docs, whats new in Moodle 3.7 Overview

Moodle Docs, whats new in Moodle 3.6 Overview

Moodle Docs, whats new in Moodle 3.5 Overview

Key Enhancement Focus: The New Moodle Dashboard


Link to Moodle 3.7 dashboard documentation on Moodle.org


If you have any questions or require pedagogic or technical support in the use of Moodle in the support your of teaching and learning activities, please contact the Digital Education team via email at digi-ed@ucl.ac.uk

Moodle Course Reset Process – 2019

Anisa I YPatel26 July 2019

As we have now completed our Moodle upgrade, all your work for the last academic year will be captured in the Moodle Snapshot 18-19 and will be editable up until 20th September once the Late Summer Assessment Period finishes. We would now advise you to start resetting your courses on Moodle 19-20, that have completed their yearly cycle or are no longer in use .

DO NOT Reset your Moodle course if teaching will continue past the Snapshot date
(26th July 2019) or you have Dissertations that will be submitted over the summer period. If this is the case, you should follow the non-standard reset instructions.

Also note that Late Summer Assessments/ UCL Summer Schools should be completed in Moodle 18/19. We advise that you hide your course on Moodle 19/20 if you are using Moodle 18/19 to complete LSA’s.

If you have completed your course reset and did not read the new instructions below, please go back and complete the additional steps.

NOTE:  The reset process has changed slightly. Please read through the following to see the changes:

Why we need to do a course reset?

There are many reasons to do this. Primarily course resets are an essential part of the Moodle housekeeping process, clearing out old data and preventing our systems from being weighed down by unwanted content.

What happens if we do not do course resets?

In short, Moodle will be slower to load content and will have an overall derogated performance, due to excess dead data clogging up the system.  Courses that have not been reset will also have two different cohorts of students on them with no easy way of separating them.  Makes it less Messy!

How do I do a course reset?

Instructions on how to do a reset for undergraduate courses are linked below:

Step 1: Course Reset for Undergraduate courses

The process has changed slightly. Please note you must now carry out the additional steps briefly outlined below:

Step 2: New Additional Steps (these are also explained in detail with guides in Step 1 linked above):

  1. Hide your course in Moodle 19-20 if you have a Late Summer Assessment running in Moodle 18-19 or a UCL Summer School in the snapshot.
  2. We now run Moodle with yearly instances – during your course reset you must add the new academic year for the course full name in the suffix for e.g. ECON0001: Economics of Financial Markets (19/20)  and the course code/short name in the suffix for e.g. ECON0001_19-20
  3. Unlink old Lecturcast mappings and create new ones  for 2019/20
  4. Reset your Turnitin dates – edit assignment Start, Due, Post and Cut off dates
  5. Reset any activities with start/end dates such as Quizzes, Workshops, BB Collaborates.
  6. Ensure your assignments are set up with Moodle Grade Scales which are in use
  7. Remove and Re-activate Portico mappings – Note. The automatic updating of enrolments in Moodle from Portico is currently unavailable until 20th August. 

If you wish to keep existing students on a Moodle course (for example masters course, courses with an end date after 26th July) then please DO NOT reactivate the Portico mappings.

The Moodle Snapshot

For anyone worried about a loss of historical data, please remember on the 26nd July 2019 we took the Moodle annual snapshot. This snapshot is a point in time capture of Moodle including all the student data. This year as we are running Late Summer Assessments and UCL Summer Schools 2019, the Moodle Snapshot 18-19 will not be read-only until October 2019.

My Course requires a reset at a different period of the year. What do I do?

For those courses such as postgraduate, medical and other non-standard timetabled courses and modules please see the guidance for non-standard reset process.

For any questions regarding Course Resets please contact digi-ed@ucl.ac.uk

Once you have completed your course resets, please see the  Moodle Start of Term Checklist to ensure you are ready for your new academic year.

BLE CMALT scheme opens for 2019-20

Caroline ENorris16 July 2019

Certified Membership of the Association for Learning Technology (CMALT)
Introductory meeting on Wednesday 31st July 2 – 3.30pm

UCL is part of the Bloomsbury Learning Environment (BLE) and staff at UCL are able to join the BLE cohort to gain CMALT accreditation.

CMALT is the professional accreditation scheme developed by ALT (the Association for Learning Technology) for anyone whose work involves the use of learning technology.  The scheme enables candidates to:
● have their experience and capabilities certified by peers;
● demonstrate that they are taking a committed and serious approach to their professional development.

What is involved?
Accreditation is achieved by successful submission of a reflective, online portfolio, which evidences skills and experience in learning technology across four core areas and a specialist area.

Who undertakes CMALT?
In the past four years, nearly 80 staff members from across the BLE partners have set off on their CMALT voyage – with many achieving their CMALT accreditation. Previous cohorts have comprised academics, course administrators, librarians, learning technologists, careers advisers and other professional support staff who all have a strong interest in technology to support learning.

Further details about CMALT can be found in the prospectus.

Introductory session
There are now three levels of CMALT: Associate, CMALT and Senior, which have slightly different requirements and are based on the experience of the individual candidate. These levels will be described the introductory meeting.  We will also explain what accreditation means and what is involved in achieving it through the BLE scheme.

Attendance will not be taken as commitment to undertake CMALT ¬- it is purely an introduction. Those who do decide to take it forward will join the 5th BLE cohort, working together with colleagues from across the partnership from Thursday 26th September 2019. Monthly sessions will be scheduled to take place on a Thursday lunchtime at the end of the month.

Book your place
If you would like to attend this introductory meeting, please complete this short booking form

If you are unable to attend this meeting, but are keen to find out more (or would like to join the cohort) please sign up anyway to register your interest.