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Digital Education team blog


Ideas and reflections from UCL's Digital Education team


Archive for the 'General Learning Technology' Category

Moodle course rollover for 2024/25

By Eliot Hoving, on 7 May 2024

Course administrators and tutors can now rollover Moodle courses for the 2024/25 academic year.

Please note that Lecturecast sections for the upcoming academic year 2024/25 will not to be available until the 1st of August 2024, after which the new academic year’s sections can be linked to the rolled over Moodle course. 

If you need to rollover a course for the current 2023/24 academic year, then please contact IT services.

Relevant guides: 

Moodle Exam guard

By Eliot Hoving, on 19 April 2024

UCL Moodle has been updated with a new feature called Exam guard.

What is it?

Exam guard will prevent users from editing their course from 10 minutes before the start of a Moodle quiz until 10 minutes after the quiz has finished. Exam guard does this by looking at the “open the quiz”/ “close the quiz”  setting when a Moodle quiz is created. The course editing freeze will only apply where the Moodle quiz is open for less than 5 hours as it is designed to target Moodle quizzes being used for controlled condition exams.

A banner will appear at the top of your course when Exam guard is in effect.

Exam guard banner on a course page

Why is this required?

In the past, when users have attempted to edit and save changes to a Moodle course while a quiz is underway, it has caused serious performance issues while Moodle tries to refresh caches and implement the changes. This issue is particularly bad where a large cohort (300+) are taking the quiz, and has caused exams to be disrupted.

What do I need to do?

Exam guard will work automatically and should have no impact on the majority of workflows. Staff can still post to forums, and mark submissions in other assignments. They can also add user overrides for late minute ECs and SORA students to a quiz.

Staff will not be able to edit course settings or create or edit activities in their course while the exam is running.

Staff will no longer be able to manually release a Moodle quiz by making the quiz visible at the exam start time. This workflow is not recommended or required. A better approach is for staff to set the Moodle “open the quiz” setting to the exam start date and time when creating the quiz. Students will see the quiz item on Moodle but aren’t able to access the questions or begin the quiz before the open date and time so there is no risk your exam is released early.

MyPortfolio and Moodle integration

By i.niculescu, on 15 April 2024

You can now set up and mark MyPortfolio assignments using Moodle! MyPortfolio is UCL’s e-portfolio system, which is now integrated with Moodle assignments. This allows tutors to create assessments where students submit portfolios or pages from their MyPortfolio accounts directly via Moodle Assignments.

Staff can:

  • Set up MyPortfolio as a submission type in Moodle Assignments
  • Mark MyPortfolio entries and leave feedback through Moodle

Students can:

  • Submit a link to their MyPortfolio work via Moodle Assignments
  • Get their marks and feedback through Moodle

Important information:

1. Re-submitting MyPortfolio pages or collections after making changes

  • Tutors only get access to a copy of the portfolio via Moodle Assignments. This process ensures that changes made after the deadline are not reflected in the Moodle Assignment submission.
  • Students must re-submit their portfolios after editing them, as they currently need to do with all other Moodle Assignments e.g. MS Word files.

2. Using MyPortfolio across a whole academic year and/or only for formative work

  • Please encourage your students to share their MyPortfolio work through Mahara. In this way you will always be able to access the latest version of their work. Because the Moodle MyPortfolio integration creates a copy of a page or collection, you will not be able to see any updates unless students re-submit their work via Moodle every time they add something or make any changes.
  • If you need to mark the portfolio at the end of the year, please set up an assignment using the MyPortfolio Mahara LTI only at the end of the course, once students have completed their work.

3. Step-by-step guides

If you have any questions, please email digi-ed@ucl.ac.uk. 

UCL Moodle theme update – Thursday 14th March

By Eliot Hoving, on 8 March 2024

The Digital Learning Environment team have made a number of changes to the UCL Moodle theme to improve the functionality, speed and accessibility of UCL Moodle for students and staff.

The planned update is scheduled for Thursday 14th March between midnight and 4am. There will be a small outage of 15 minutes during this time. The period is a very low usage period so should have minimal impact on students and staff.

A highlight of the key improvements are outlined below.

Course search

Each course now includes a content search in the course index menu (left hand menu on course pages). Students and staff can search by content name or activity type.


Left hand activity menus

Book, Lesson and Quiz menus no longer show on the right side of page where they can easily be hidden by students and lost. Instead they now appear on the left hand side which should improve the readability of the navigation menu.

Footer search

The search for courses and for UCL Moodle content (known in Moodle terminology as Global search) has been moved to the footer and is now available on every page.

Course breadcrumb improvements

The course breadcrumb will now appear fixed on the top of course pages and includes the course icon for easier navigation.

Additional changes:

  • Course index menu (left hand menu on course pages) set to closed by default to avoid distracting students.
  • Notifications redesign with links to view source of notification, images, and persistence of notifications (i.e. not disappearing once read).
  • Messaging UI improvements.
  • Footer user menu.
  • Course section indentation on large screen to create visual hierarchy.
  • Colour changes to course section toggles, expand / collapse all sections button, to create better emphasis.
  • Back to top on all pages.
  • Large tables (e.g. grading) fill full available screen width.
  • Site admin links (those found most used in survey) moved to user menu.

Feedback or questions?

Please get in touch with the DLE team to provide feedback at digi-ed@ucl.ac.uk.

Starting up Stata with personalised options

By Jim R Tyson, on 4 March 2024

There are often things one can do to personalise and improve ones experience with software that involve some cusotmization, and that may be easy on your own machine, but less easy if your machine is managed by the organisation (in this case UCL).  My Laptop is managed by UCL (although I do have some elevated rights).

In an effort to improve my Stata workflow and output, I have several graphing options that I want to apply to all graphis I produce in Stata.  Typically, I want the Title left justified, in black, to take up the whole width of the graph (rather than the plot region) and to appear top left (at 11 o’clock).  The graph region colour should be white with no axis lines for x or y axes and with no fill-colour or border colour.

To simplify this I put these in a global macro ‘graph_opts‘ and add the macro to the start of any graphing command as $graph_opts . Anyone who knows how lazy and inconsistent I am, will already be guessing that while I may aspire to do this, I more often just hack away at my graphs until they look (more or less) as I want.  This is the worst kind of laziness because a little effort in setting this up would make for less work.

So I decided to investigate – could I automate this?  And I can.  At first, my heart sank slightly when I realised I would have to deal with the system paths on my managed machine, but it turned out to be very straight forward.  You can use sysdir on the stata console to find your stata program files folder.  When you navigate to this folder, use dir *.do to check for the presence of the file sysprofile.do -this means you are in the right directory.  Now, create a new do file called profile.do  Any code you add to this file is executed on Stata start up.  Knowing that I added these lines to my own profile.do (I used the Stata do file editor, but any plain text editor such as Windows Notepad would do as well):

// For -twoway- graphs
global graph_opts ///
  title(, justification(left) color(black) span pos(11)) ///
  graphregion(color(white)) ///
  xscale(noline) xtit(,placement(left) justification(left)) ///
  yscale(noline) ylab(,angle(0) nogrid) ///
  legend(region(lc(none) fc(none)))

// For -graph- graphs
global graph_opts_1 ///
  title(, justification(left) color(black) span pos(11)) ///
  graphregion(color(white)) ///
  yscale(noline) ylab(,angle(0) nogrid) ///
  legend(region(lc(none) fc(none)))

Of course you will want to change these to meet your own preferences – which may mean a deep dive into the Stata documentation.  It is however worth it given the time and effort you will save in hacking at graph code (or [shudder] gph files) to ensure that your graphs are all consistently presented in your reports.

Discover your Digital – AI questions added to the Discovery Tool

By Caroline Norris, on 22 February 2024

The Discovery Tool consists of reflective question sets which explore your digital practices and confidence levels.  The main question set looks at overall digital capabilities but there are also additional question sets for staff covering effective teaching and accessibility and inclusion and leadership all from a digital perspective.   The tool can also be used by students and there is a general question set for all students and one aimed at new students.

See below for full details of how to use the tool and upcoming workshops on 23 April and 13 May.

New for 2024 there is now a question set on Digital Skills in AI and Generative AI for staff and a similar question set will be available for students on 20 March 2024.

The staff AI questions are arranged under the following categories:

  • Responsible AI
  • AI and digital proficiency
  • AI and digital productivity
  • AI and information and data literacy
  • AI and digital communication
  • AI and collaboration and participation
  • AI and digital creativity
As with other question sets you get a customised report  indicating your confidence and proficiency in each area represented in a chart (pictured right) and some suggested next steps to develop your skills.
All the reports signpost to a wealth of free resources and these have been augmented with additional AI-focused content.  We have also added customised UCL resource cards which signpost relevant UCL policies, guidelines, resources and learning opportunities.
Want to find out more?  Visit the Discover your digital web page for details about how to use the tool or come along to a workshop to try it out.  We can also arrange workshops for specific groups of staff or students.  Contact us with any queries.