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Alternatives for Digital Walls like Padlet

Tim Neumann17 September 2020

Digital Walls or noticeboards have become popular tools for online activities around sharing ideas and media. You may be familiar with Padlet, which is probably the best known example for a digital wall. But as Padlet is currently not provided by UCL, we wanted to examine some of its use cases and look at options within UCL to replicate these types of activities, so we asked some colleagues at the UCL Institute of Education for their input.

What is Padlet?

  • Padlet is a visual virtual noticeboard that allows learners to share text, links, pictures and video, leave feedback and ratings, and rearrange and link shared items.
  • Padlet has become popular for its ease-of-use and versatility: It is quick to set up, and does not require a log in. Learners can quickly add items to a digital wall and make sense by rearranging them manually or automatically.
  • Padlet takes care to present items in a visually attractive way by automatically grabbing images from websites and adjusting image sizes, and it allows connections to be made between related items, thus enabling concept maps.

What is the issue with Padlet?

At the time of writing, Padlet is not accessible and does not conform to the WCAG 2.1 level AA standard. The three main issues are:

  • Keyboard access: Content can be navigated, but neither created nor edited by keyboard only.
    There is currently no workaround.
  • Alternative descriptions: Images, video and links cannot be tagged with alternative descriptions.
    A workaround is to add descriptions and/or transcripts to the main text body of a Padlet post.
  • Low vision colour contrast: The colour contrast of Padlet pages does not accommodate low vision users.
    A workaround in the form of a web app is only available for Chrome/Edge.

What are alternatives to Padlet?

While there are plenty of alternative external tools, such as Lino, Mindmeister, Miro, Pinterest, Trello, Wakelet etc, these tools are either facing similar accessibility challenges, have a more specific range of use cases, or are more complex to use.

Below is a list of typical Padlet use cases sourced from colleagues at the UCL Institute of Education, and potential alternatives with UCL-provided tools where possible. Click on each tab to expand:

Description:

Typical use case for e.g. brainstorming. Having student comments on one single page allows for a quicker analysis, and Padlet’s ability to rearrange comments aids analysis by organising thoughts spacially. The digital wall concept also helps overcome hierarchical organisation of comments.

Alternative Tools:

Mentimeter (Guide), Microsoft Planner

Comment:

Padlet is actually bad at handling long amounts of text.
For short comments, Mentimeter has several display options including a revolving display or word clouds.
If drag-and-drop rearrangement is required, Microsoft Planner offers a card-based display similar to Padlet, which can also handle attachments, but does not display thumbnail images. Horizontal rearrangement needs defined columns.

Issues:

While Mentimeter is straightforward, it is restricted to simply compiling text-based contributions.
In Microsoft Planner, learners must be added to a plan to gain relevant permissions, and they must be logged in at Office 365.

Description:

Co-operative curation of resources under a theme with comments, reviews or evaluation.

Alternative Tools:

Microsoft OneNote, Moodle Glossary, Moodle Forum, Moodle Database

Comment:

The simplicity of Padlet encourages participation, which is not matched with other tools:

  • OneNote is complex to use, but offers superior options to categorise content.
    Media and comments are separate in OneNote and not treated as 'one unit'.
  • Core functions of the Moodle Glossary are straightforward to use for building a categorised resource collection, but the visual design is less attractive, the usability is less immediate, and functions like tags are not wholly intuitive.
  • The Moodle Forum is intuitive, but used as a resource collection, a number of clicks are required to navigate the collection.
  • The Moodle Database can be turned into a versatile media collection database, but its setup needs expertise, and even when templates are provided, support will likely be required.

Issues:

  • All Moodle tools require specific instructions when large media files are being shared, e.g. upload via the Lecturecast button in the Moodle text editor.
  • OneNote requires Office 365 login and specific permissions, which can be facilitated by using Teams.

Description:

Learners compile images, videos, audio, websites and other media web to collaboratively create a multimodal narrative in response to a prompt.

Alternative Tools:

Microsoft OneNote

Comment:

While OneNote good at collating resources and developing structures, it is more complex to use and does not offer the immediacy of managing resources.

Issues:

OneNote requires Office 365 login and specific permissions, which can be facilitated by using Teams.

Description:

Used for example as ice breaker, e.g. “where in the world are you”: Students create a pin on a map to show where they are located (e.g. London) and add a few comments about themselves.

Alternative Tools:

Blackboard Collaborate Ultra Whiteboard (only synchronous)
External: Ethermap, Zeemaps

Comments:

Important for community building and seeing benefits of studying online.

Issues:

Any alternative is likely to have accessibility issues.

Description:

Students use a Padlet wall to make visual connections between ideas.

Alternative Tools:

None.
External: Mindmeister or similar collaborative mindmapping tools

Comments:

Effective activity to facilitate conceptual understanding.

Issues:

No UCL-internal alternative could be identified.

Description:

Students are invited to share their solution to different facets of a problem. Three or more headings are created and students post underneath one or more. Students are then invited to reply to others' posts.

Alternative Tools:

Microsoft Planner, shared Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel document, Moodle Wiki, Confluence (UCL Wiki)

Comments:

Padlet offers high flexibility in expanding or minimising the structure, but may not be the right tool if contributions are text-heavy.

Issues:

  • Microsoft tools require Office 365 login and specific permissions, which can be facilitated by using Teams.
  • The Moodle Wiki requires an introduction to the wiki syntax.
  • Confluence requires a separate login.

Description:

Students collect visual research-type data, e.g. photographic observations, hand drawn maps, which is displayed on a single screen.

Alternative Tools:

Microsoft OneNote

Comments:

Having visual data on one single screen offers analytical insights that put less strain on working memory.

Issues:

The single-screen display of OneNote is not as flexible.
OneNote requires Office 365 login and specific permissions, which can be facilitated by using Teams.

Description:

Presentation of images, pdfs, ppts, videos, audio, etc with ratings and comments for each contribution.

Alternative Tools:

Moodle Database, Moodle Forum, Microsoft OneNote, UCL Reflect

Comments:

Padlet does not require any detailed setup for this type of activity.

  • The Moodle Database can be turned into a customised simple conference resource centre, but its setup needs expertise, and even when templates are provided, support will likely be required.
  • The Moodle Forum is a simplistic option.
  • For OneNote, a structure and clear instructions need to be provided.

Issues:

Moodle tools require specific instructions when large media files such as videos are being shared.
OneNote requires Office 365 login and specific permissions, which can be facilitated by using Teams.


Description:

Using a tool that learners can use in their own practice outside of UCL makes activities more authentic and adds a professional transfer/real-world perspective.

Alternative Tools:

n/a
Example: UCL Reflect

Comments:

Certain tools, including Padlet, have high propagation and acceptance in professional practice, which provides a strong justification for including them in UCL teaching and learning. The adoption of a tool by UCL, however, needs to be balanced with many other factors, and adhere to our policies.

UCL Reflect is based on the WordPress blogging platform, which is an example for a tool that has high global acceptance.

Issues:

The tool may go against UCL policies, most notably on accessibility or privacy, which may raise legal issues around equality and/or safeguarding as well as ethical issues. 


 

We will follow this up with screenshots and descriptions of specific examples.

With contributions from Dima Khazem, Eileen Kennedy, Gillian Stokes, Kit Logan and Silvia Colaiacomo.

Moodle new features – Wednesday 17th September 2020

Jason R Norton17 September 2020

Digi-Ed is pleased to announce the following activities have been released into live Moodle.

Moodle Zoom Integration: 

You can now create a Zoom meeting from Moodle. Firstly, Tutors need to set up a UCL Zoom account. Then in Moodle, a Tutor can simply turn editing on, click Add an Activity and select Zoom to create a Zoom meeting. Students will then be able to join the Zoom meeting from Moodle. The Zoom meeting will appear automatically in a student’s Moodle calendar to help them stay organised.  

To learn how to add a Zoom meeting to Moodle, see the Moodle Zoom wiki page. For guidance on using Zoom, see the Zoom SharePoint site

Guidance on making the correct platform choice for can be found HERE.

 

Other Moodle Changes

The Moodle Hub page has now been removed. When you now go to moodle.ucl.ac.uk you will be directed to the home page of the 20/21 Live Moodle. If you require access to the 19/20 LSA Moodle, this can be achieved by following the link from the Moodle Snapshot page which is located in the Services drop down menu in Moodle. Or from the link in the top block of your Moodle home page once you have logged in.

 

 

We have changed the colour of the Moodle headings after recieving feedback from end users and our accessibility team. The new colour is more accessible for those with some visual impairments and has a better contrast ratio with their respective backgrounds.

Previous Colour

New Colour

 

Further work on a range of other enhancements, are currently underway. To stay up to date with the latest learning technology enhancements at UCL, see the Moodle Release Roadmap. 

Moodle new features – Wednesday 2nd September 2020

Eliot Hoving2 September 2020

Digi-Ed is pleased to announce the following activities are now available on UCL Moodle.

A person marking a checklist off.

The Checklist activity allows staff to create a checklist for students to complete on Moodle. The checklist can be configured to show required and/or optional tasks which students can tick off. Teachers can view and comment on the student’s progress. It is also possible to automatically generate a checklist for all the current course activities and resources on a Moodle course. Further course content can be restricted until a specific checklist is completed. To learn more, see the Checklist miniguide.

MATLAB Grader is now integrated with Moodle. Staff can now add interactive MATLAB coding activities to Moodle for students to complete. MATLAB activities include a range of automatic grading options and analytics on student engagement. Student grades from a MATLAB activity are also captured in the Moodle Gradebook. To learn more, see the MATLAB Grader miniguide.

Book

Interactive Book (a new H5P activity) allows staff to build a book of informational content and H5P activities such as questions, or interactive videos. As with all H5P activities, student responses are not stored in the Moodle Gradebook, however H5P allows for staff to easily create engaging formative activities. Try an Interactive Book example on the H5P webpage or view the UCL H5P miniguide for more information.

The Mass Actions block  is a time-saving block for the Moodle power users among us. When the block is added to a Moodle course, it allows staff to edit several activities or resources on Moodle at the same time. Editing options include hiding, indenting, moving or deleting content. To learn more, see the Mass Action block miniguide.

More Moodle improvements are coming in preparation for term 1 2020-21. To stay up to date with Moodle’s direction and development, see the Moodle Release Roadmap.

Moodle Platform Updates – August 2020

anisa.patel13 August 2020

Moodle Platform Migration

Last night UCL Moodle was relocated from our UCL data centres into the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud. We are very happy to inform you that the operation went smoothly, and Moodle was returned to full service just before 02:00am this morning.

This move to the cloud and a new working partnership with Catalyst IT (a leading Moodle partner), ensures that our Moodle’s infrastructure is now on firm footing for the start of session and the future. Moving forward from this point, that increased confidence in our platform will enable the Moodle team to focus more on delivering functional improvements that directly impact upon our service stakeholders both staff and students.

Please note Moodle will not look any different this morning or have any added functionality as the work was with Moodle’s underlying infrastructure.

 

New Moodle Maintenance Hours

Due to our cloud migration and our new partnership, we will be altering our main UCL Moodle maintenance hours. All planned Moodle maintenance will now take place between the hours of 1am – 4am GMT / 2am – 5am BST on a weekday morning. Exact maintenance days will be communicated on the News ticker of the Moodle homepage and ISD news. Please note this will not impact Moodle LSA or Snapshots.

 

Additional Functionality (LTI’s, Plugins and Upgrades)

The Moodle team will continue to work on aspects of the cloud platform over the next few months. However, the completion of the deployment will now enable members of the team to focus on the backlog of requests that we have received.

These requests for plugins and LTI’s originate both from individuals as well as from project teams and COVID working groups. While we can give no specific timeline for individual items, we are aiming to deliver the majority of known plugin and LTI requests, before the start of session.

Please note that all new additional items must be rigorously tested by the Moodle team, to ensure they do not impact the existing Moodle platform and the data it contains.  Once testing is complete, a decision is made based on the results, as to whether the requested feature can be deployed safely onto the UCL Moodle platform. If you have any specific requests for feature or plugins in Moodle please follow our Moodle customisation instructions at the customisation wiki page.

 

Moodle/Portico Enrolment Block

Moodle has now been connected to the 20/21 enrolment data from SITS. The Portico Enrolment block will be available in Moodle from Monday 17th August to allow course enrolment mappings to commence. For full details on configuring enrolments please refer the following wiki page M06a – Portico enrolments.

 

Moodle 3.9 upgrade

The Moodle team are planning to upgrade from our current version of Moodle 3.7 to Moodle 3.9 prior to the December 2020 closure. More specific information around this deployment will be announced soon.

 

If you have any queries or concerns, please contact moodleproject@ucl.ac.uk

Digital Education

Understanding student activity in Moodle

Steve Rowett7 August 2020

The reduction of on-campus teaching and students studying remotely provides a greater emphasis on understanding how they are engaging with the learning activities within their course.

Moodle does provide some tools for this, and anecdotally they are less well known than they might be. The tools range from a quick check on whether students are accessing a particular course, to a much more detailed view of who has completed which activities within a course. They provide a window into how students are doing but of course are only crude proxies for engagement and learning, and should also be supplemented by other information to understand and support our students as best we can.

Here’s a quick guide to three options based on questions you might want to ask.


When did students last access this course?

You can get a quick report of the last time each of your students accessed your Moodle course. This is particularly useful at the start of term for highlighting students who have never accessed your course and might be having access difficulties and need further support.

To view this report, go to Course Administration -> Users -> Enrolled Users. The Last Access to Course header of this table is clickable so you can sort by this field (clicking once will show those students who have never accessed this course, or have not accessed this course for the longest times, at the top of the table.

Table showing students enrolled on a Moodle course, including their most recent access to that course


Who has or has not viewed or participated in a given activity?

To understand engagement on a specific activity, use Course Participation reports. Find these at Course Administration -> Reports -> Course Participation. You will need to select an activity. In this case, we’re choosing an early activity where students say hello to each other. This is a forum called ‘Getting to know each other’. I select this from the Activity list, and select Students from the ‘Show only’ list, then click Go to get the following report:

A Moodle course participation report, showing that some students have been much more active in a discussion forum than others

This shows your students and indicates whether they have engaged with this activity with a Yes or No. The number in brackets shows the number of engagements, and gives a rough and ready guide, but I wouldn’t take it too literally as different people will normally use websites in different ways. Again the table headers are clickable, so clicking on All actions will order based on that column.

You can drill down a little further by choosing one of the options from the Show actions menu. In this case the options are View and Post. These terms are however slightly misleading, as they count other actions too, but give a broad measure of level of active contribution as compared to reading the work of others.

Finally you can quickly send a message to all students in a No in the actions column, but clicking on Select all ‘No’ and choosing Send a message from the dropdown.


How can I see if students have completed the activities across my course?

Activity completion is a tool in Moodle that lets you get an overview of student participation in all activities in your course. This does need to be set up in advance and is very flexible and configurable.

Once activity completion is turned on for your course, each activity in your course is marked either complete or incomplete for each student. Each activity with then be marked as complete based on student activity in a number of different ways:

  • The student themselves mark is as complete, using a checkbox next to the activity;
  • A simple ‘view’ of the activity marks it as complete;
  • A more complex set of criteria is established to mark the activity is complete. This depends on the type of activity but might be getting a certain mark on a quiz, or submitting a document to an assignment, or posting a message in a forum. These criteria are defined by the teacher on an activity-by-activity basis.

An illustrative screenshot of the report available is shown below. Here you can see that one student has gone ahead of the others, two are up to date, one is a little behind, and one has not completed any activities at all.

Activity completion report in Moodle showing which students have completed which activity according to criteria set by the teacherThe video below explains more about activity completion:

There is a Miniguide on activity completion and also a case study from Jane Burns of using it in UCL teaching.

Reporting across Moodle courses

A limitation is that these tools apply at the level of a Moodle course, which is normally a module, and this limits the ability to get an holistic view of the activities of any particular student. We are very aware of this limitation and are rapidly looking at options for providing a more holistic and student-centred reporting ability.

Lecturecast Transcripts & Captions (ASR)

anisa.patel3 August 2020

What is ASR (Automatic Speech Recognition)?

ASR is a feature of Lecturecast which allows transcripts to be made for recordings published in the system. It is used as an aid to viewers with auditory impairment, where transcripts and captions are shown to be an extremely useful study tool. It’s a common study activity to search large amounts of text using keywords to pinpoint passages of interest. Lecturecast transcripts, which are searchable and synchronised with the recording, allow similar searches of video presentations.

ASR activation in Lecturecast for all modules

ASR will be activated globally in the Lecturecast system for all modules (sections) from Monday 10th August 2020.

Once ASR becomes activated all lectures/video recordings published to Lecturecast modules will be transcribed automatically. This includes any recordings published via Universal Capture if you are creating recordings at home. Once you are back on campus this will apply to all classroom captures taking place in a Lecturecast enabled space.

See below an example of what a transcribed lecture would look like:

Key things to Remember about Lecturecast Transcription

  • No automatic transcript is 100% accurate – you may need to correct it.Staff are under no obligation to correct transcripts. Echo360 provide guides on accessing and using the transcript editor to correct transcripts.
  • Activation of ASR does not create transcripts retrospectively i.e. recordings published prior to the activation of ASR will not have transcripts generated. If you want previous recordings to be transcribed please follow instructions in the Transcripts and ASR Guidance.
  • The point at which ASR is applied is when a recording is shared (published) to a section – uploading a recording to a user’s Library will not trigger the creation of an ASR transcript
  • Inital creation of an automatic transcript takes longer than the processing of a newly published recording – transcripts become available after recordings (usually no more than two hours and often sooner)
  • Once processed, transcripts can be toggled on and off in the viewing interface using the transcript tool icon icon for transcript toggle button.
  • Once a transcript has been created no further work, bar the press of a button, is required to produce captions for a recording – transcripts and captions use the same underlying text & timings file (a .vtt file).

How to Opt-out of ASR?

If you or your staff do not wish to have a transcript associated with your recording(s), you can opt out by following the process in our Transcripts and ASR Guidance.

 

If you have any questions regarding ASR and Lecturecast please email us at digi-ed@ucl.ac.uk

Digital Education