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    Archive for the 'General Learning Technology' Category

    Learning Analytics as a tool for supporting student wellbeing – Student Mental Health and Mental Wellbeing

    By Samantha Ahern, on 20 November 2017

    Mental health and mental wellbeing has become a key issue both nationally, with the independent Mental Health Task Force launched in 2015(“NHS England » Mental Health Taskforce”, n.d.), and for Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) with the number of 1st year UK domiciled students with a known mental health condition increasing 220% between 2010-11 and 2015-16(“Disability – Higher Education Funding Council for England”, n.d.).

    Table 1: First year UK domiciled HE students with known mental health condition(“Students and graduates | HESA”, n.d.)

    Year Number of students (all levels)
    2015-16 15395
    2014-15 11915
    2013-14 9610
    2012-13 7960
    2011-12 7315
    2010-11 6055

    Most full-time first year students in UK HEIs are aged less than 25yrs (2015/2016: (“Higher Education Statistics for the UK 2015/16 | HESA”, n.d.) Table 4a) and are in the age group 16-24yr olds.

    However, this does not account for those students that develop a clinically-recognisable mental health issue whilst attending HE institutions or those that report facing difficulties or distress. A mental health poll discussed the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Students in December 2015 found that 78% of respondents believed they had experienced problems with their mental health in the last year(“Mental Health Poll November 15 – Summary – Mental-Health-Poll-November-15-Summary.pdf”, n.d.).

    The HEFCE blog post ‘Accommodating mental health’(“Accommodating mental health | HEFCE blog”, n.d.) reported that in 2015, student support services saw a 150% increase in appointments. Also, that approximately 29% of students experience clinical levels of psychological distressed associated with increased associated with increased risk of anxiety, depression, substance abuse and personality disorder.

    The 2014 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS) ((mr) Web Master, 2016) found that 15.7% of adults surveyed were identified with symptoms of Common Mental Disorder (CMD), with an expectation that this would be between 14.7% and 16.7% (95% confidence interval) for the whole population.  Common Mental Disorders comprise different types of depression and anxiety.  Anxiety disorders include generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, phobias and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

    Additionally the APMS suggests that amongst 16-24 year olds, there has been a growing gap in rate of CMD symptoms between men and women. In 1993 the rates were 8.4% (men) and 19.2% (women), increasing to 9.1% (men) and 26.0% (women) in 2014.  In addition, anxiety disorders were found to be more common young women than any other age-sex group(“apms-2014-cmd.pdf”, n.d.).

    With regard to ethnicity, CMD did not vary significantly by ethnic group in men, but did in women with CMDs more common in Black and Black British Women (29.3%), and less likely in non-British white women (15.6%) compared to White British women (20.9%).

    This is particularly worrying as evidence suggests that those who have high levels of depression are less likely to seek help and that depressive symptoms in young people are linked with negative attitudes towards help-seeking for mental health difficulties(“How psychological resources mediate and perceived social support moderates the relationship between depressive symptoms and help-seeking intentions in college students – 03069885.2016.1190445”, n.d.).  The Institute for Public Policy Research(“not-by-degrees-summary-sept-2017-1-.pdf”, n.d.) found that just under half of students who report experiencing a mental health condition choose not to disclose it to their university.

    The APMS also asks participants about suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts and self-harm(“apms-2014-suicide.pdf”, n.d.).  A fifth, 20.6%, of adults reported having suicidal thoughts, with the expectation that this would be between 19.5% and 21.7% for the wider population (95% confidence interval). This was more common in women than men. It was noted that although men were likely to commit suicide, women were more likely to report attempts to do so. Additionally, more women than men reported self-harm.

    The difference in self-reporting rates for suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts and self-harm between men and women are extremely noticeable between 16 to 34 year olds in comparison to other age groups.


    Figure 1: Chart showing % men (M) and women (W) self-reported suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts and self-harm(“APMS 2014: Chapter 12 – Suicidal Thought, Suicidal Attempts, and Self-Harm – Tables [.xls]”, n.d.)

    The authors of the APMS report note that although they did not find any significant differences due to ethnic group they recognised that this may be due sample size limitations and might mask real differences.

    Following a Freedom of Information request from Universities UK, data on student suicide in the England and Wales (among students aged 18 and over) for 2007 to 2011 was released. These data are shown in Table 1: Student suicides in England and Wales (ages 18+), 2007 to 2011.  A University of York report(“Student Mental Ill-health Task Group Report Mar 2016.pdf”, n.d.) noted that while the overall number of students increased across the period, the relative increase in suicides far outstripped the increase in student numbers.

    Table 2: Student suicides in England and Wales (ages 18+), 2007 to 20111234

    Year 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
    Male 57 74 76 90 78
    Female 18 21 33 37 34

    Source: Office of National Statistics

    1. Figures for deaths registered in each calendar year
    2. Data for England and Wales includes deaths of non-residents
    3. Data relate to those classified as full-time students at death registration
    4. Suicide defined using the International Classification of Diseases Tenth Revision (ICD10) codes X60-X84, Y10-Y34

    Self-harming method and reasons for self-harming data were grouped slightly differently, the age categories were 16-34 years, 35-54 years and 55+ years.  Across all age groups, cutting themselves was the most prevalent form of self-harm. This was reported by 84.3% of 16-34 year olds.  This age group (16-34) were also more likely to self-harm in order to relieve unpleasant feelings (81.9%) (which included feelings of anger, tension, anxiety or depression), than reporting self-harm in order to draw attention to themselves (28.6%, for all ages this was 31%).

    With regards to help-seeking behaviour, 16-34 year olds were more likely to seek support from friends and family (29.9%) or GP/family doctor (29.1%) after a recent suicide attempt than hospital/specialist medical or psychiatric service (20.8%) with 51.6% not seeking any help.  37.7% of people who self-harmed received medical or psychological help afterwards, but for 16-34 year olds this value drops to just 31.1%.

    A University of York Student Mental Ill-health Task Group Report (March 2016)(“Student Mental Ill-health Task Group Report Mar 2016.pdf”, n.d.) notes that students’ experiences of higher education have changed over the previous 10 years, which may have an adverse impact on their mental health highlighting three specific factors.

    These factors were:

    1. The rapid withdrawal of financial support for home students and an increasing reliance on loans, and in consequence, an increase in student debt.
    2. The current cohort of students faces a more difficult labour market than earlier generations of students. There is a higher risk of unemployment and insecure employment for those graduating with arts and humanities degree than those studying medicine and subject allied to medicine.
    3. The electronic environment created by electronic communication technologies can expose young people and students to pressures that were avoided by previous generations. This includes cyberbullying and victimisation.

    The Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) report Flexibility for Who? Summary (“flexibility-for-who-summary-july-2017.pdf”, n.d.) states that  younger workers in part-time and temporary work are more likely to experience poorer mental health and wellbeing, with 22% of younger graduates who are overqualified for their jobs report being anxious or depressed, compared to 16 per cent of those in professional/managerial jobs.  Younger workers who work part-time are 43% more likely to experience mental health problems that those who work full-time.

    It has been reported that the most common type of mental health problems at any university or college are depression, anxiety, co-occurring substance problems, eating disorders, suicidal ideation, and self-injury(Anderson, 2015) echoing some of the findings of the 2014 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey.


    Download (PDF, 42KB)


    Jisc digital capability discovery tool

    By Moira Wright, on 2 November 2017

    UCL will be participating in the beta pilot of the Jisc digital capability discovery tool for staff and students which will run from December 2017 to May 2018.

    The Jisc digital capability discovery tool has been designed to support staff across higher and further education and skills. It helps individuals to identify and reflect on their digital capability – particularly in relation to their work roles – and to develop their confidence through tailored feedback, ‘next steps’, and links to resources. Questions and feedback are mapped to the Jisc Six elements digital capability framework to provide a holistic view of the skills required. The discovery tool can also help managers and team leaders understand what support would be most helpful for their staff.

    The tool uses the platform and has tailored questions with one set for students and one for staff. The questions have been designed to capture the digital capabilities required to be successful in an educational context.

    Users of the tool will respond to a series of questions that allow them to reflect on the digital skills they have already acquired and identify possible new ones. Feedback will include a digital capability profile and a summarised list of suggested actions.

    Jisc Digital Capability Profile 2image Jisc Digital Capability Profile image

    We’ll be making more announcements in the next couple of weeks providing information on how students and staff at UCL can access the tool.

    If you would like to get involved in the pilot at UCL please contact Moira Wright.


    Additional links:
    Jisc Building digital capability project site:
    Jisc Digital Capability Blog:






    TechQual+ Survey at UCL

    By Moira Wright, on 13 October 2017

    In early 2016, ISD (Information Services Division) carried out the first Staff and Student IT Survey using TechQual+. Over 1,000 of you completed the survey, and over the past 16 months we have been working hard to improve our services in response to your comments.

    Below are just a few examples of changes that have been made as a result of the feedback received from the TechQual+ survey run in 2016:

    Wi-Fi                        Three speech bubbles

    A substantial investment in replacing and upgrading our Wi-Fi technology infrastructure

    Service Desk

    We’ve invested in staffing, tools and training to speed up response times and improve quality.

    We’ve partnered with an external organisation and altered shift patterns to provide additional out of hours’ support.


    We’ve rolled out 170+ additional printers over the past 18 months, targeting the busiest areas. This takes the current total to 660 printers. In areas of high usage, we’ve introduced new high capacity printers.


    We have invested in storage and now all staff and students can store 100GB for free.


    We are continuing to invest in additional cluster PCs, and loan laptops where there isn’t space for desktops. We added a further 550 desktops and 60 laptops by September 2017.
    We operate one of the largest laptop loan services across UK universities – 266 laptops across 12 locations – and this year a further 60 laptops were added.


    We delivered 221 courses last academic year, that’s nearly 1000 hours of training with about 3000 people attending.  We are working hard to publicise the courses we offer.

    Audio Visual

    In 2016 ISD invested £2.5m into improving the technology in teaching facilities. Approximately 70 centrally bookable spaces had their facilities updated; this included bringing 43 spaces in 20 Bedford Way up to the standard spec including installation of Lecturecast in approx. 30 spaces.  Lecturecast was also installed at 22 Gordon Street and Canary Wharf (3 spaces each).  We also refreshed the Lecturecast hardware in 12 rooms.

    Drawing of a tablet with 5 stars

    Based on the findings of focus groups at participating institutions, the TechQual+ project has articulated a set of generalised IT service outcomes that are expected of IT organizations by faculty, students, and staff within higher education. The TechQual+ core survey contains 13 items designed to measure the performance of the following three core commitments: 1) Connectivity and Access, 2)Technology and Collaboration Services, and 3) Support and Training.

    The TechQual+ survey will be run again at UCL in December 2017 and we’ll be asking for your help to advertise it to your students, encouraging them (and you!) to complete it. All respondents will be entered into a prize draw with a chance to win some great prizes!

    We’ll be providing more information and communications about the survey closer to the opening date.


    The E-Learning Baseline becomes Policy

    By Karen Shackleford-Cesare, on 10 October 2017

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

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

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

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

    What happens next?

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

    Why has the Baseline Become Policy now?

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

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

    Where can I get help?

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

    Remind me what is in the Baseline

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

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

    E-Learning Baseline checklist

    More Information

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


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

    By Jessica Gramp, on 9 October 2017

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

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

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

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

    The proposed new UCL Moodle theme showing collapsed topics format

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Jisc student digital tracker 2017 and BLE consortium – UCL report available

    By Moira Wright, on 11 September 2017

    markus-spiske-221494The UCL report on the data collected from the Jisc student digital tracker survey (see my previous post on this)  is now available.  The survey was jointly conducted by Birkbeck, LSHTM, RVC, SOAS and UCL back in March. Following a workshop in July, and using the Jisc national survey results as a benchmark, we have been able to make some conclusions and recommendations regarding the digital experiences of our students, based on the survey responses.

    You can read more about the BLE consortium in the ‘Jisc Insights from institutional pilots 2017’ report on page 18

    Please note Appendix C is available on request (moira. wright @

    Download (PDF, 820KB)

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