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    Archive for the 'General Learning Technology' Category

    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

    http://repository.jisc.ac.uk/6671/1/Tracker2017insights.pdf

    Please note Appendix C is available on request (moira. wright @ ucl.ac.uk)

    Download (PDF, 820KB)

    Download (PDF, 98KB)

    Download (PDF, 246KB)

     

    Jisc student digital tracker 2017 and BLE consortium

    By Moira Wright, on 10 August 2017

    computer-767776_1920UCL participated in the 2017 Jisc Digital Student Tracker Survey as part of a consortium with the Bloomsbury Learning Environment (BLE) made up of SOAS, Birkbeck, LSHTM and RVC. 74 UK institutions ran the tracker with their students collecting 22,593 student responses, while 10 international universities collected an additional 5,000 student responses

    We were the only consortium to participate in the survey and had come together as a result of institutional surveys, such as the National Student Survey, meaning that the time available to run it independently was short (a month) and we therefore felt that our individual sample sizes would be too small. We treated the survey as a pilot and advertised a link to it on each College’s Moodle landing page as well as some promotion via social media and the Student Unions. The survey generated 330 responses, which given our constraints was much more than we expected.

    The survey comprises five broad areas: Digital access, digital support and digital learning. Most questions were quantitatively recorded, but there were four open questions, which produced qualitative data. We were also able to choose two additional questions to the survey and we selected e-assessment, since that was a previous shared enhancement project (see www.bloomsbury.ac.uk/assessment) and Moodle, since all members of the consortium use the platform for their Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).

    Once the survey closed and we had access to the benchmarking report we ran a workshop for representatives from each of the Colleges in July 2017 whereby the results corresponding to the survey’s open questions were analysed in institutional groups, which facilitated interesting discussions over commonalities and potential implications.

    Sarah Sherman, the BLE Manager and myself, have been working to produce a report which will examine our collective responses to the survey in comparison with the national survey population with a recommendation that individual Colleges independently analyse their own results in more detail. For confidentiality, each College will be presented with a version of this document, which contains the relevant data for their institution only and not the complete BLE data set. A disadvantage of the consortium approach was that we were not able to benchmark individual Colleges to the survey population as the resources would not allow for this. In the future, the participating Colleges may wish to run the survey individually rather than as part of a collective as it was not possible to conduct deep analysis with this data set. 

    markus-spiske-221494

    Although the sample size collected by the Bloomsbury Colleges was small and not statistically viable, there is much we can extract and learn from this exercise. For the most part, our collective responses tended to fall within the margins set by the national survey population, which means we are all at a similar phase in our student’s digital capability and development.

    You will have to wait for the full report for more information on the UCL data collected but just to whet the appetite you can see the key findings from Jisc in this 2 page report: Student digital experience tracker at a glance .

    Finally, you can see this collection of case studies, which features the Bloomsbury Colleges consortium, here.

    Please get in touch with me if you would like to get involved (moira.wright @ ucl.ac.uk)

    Sarah Sherman and Moira Wright

    Jisc/ NUS student digital experience benchmarking tool 

    Jisc guide to enhancing the digital student experience: a strategic approach

     

    Live Captioning and Video Subtitling Service Available

    By Michele Farmer, on 18 July 2017

    Live Captioning for Lectures and Events

    121 Captions is now available to use for these services – they have been added to MyFinance as a service provider.

    For live captioning the process is as follows:

    Book the number of hours you wish from the company – they will only charge you for these hours.

    You will need a laptop set up with a Skype account to connect to their system (the Skype to Skype call is free) along with a Skype Mic (the Disability IT Support Analyst has one for loan if needed). The laptop would preferably be hardwired (via an Ethernet port) to our network – you may need to get a port patched for this, but ISD Network Services will be able to help – please book a job through the Service Desk. Client Platform Services can also help with setting this up – if needed though, please give both services advance warning and log a job through the Service Desk to make sure they are available.  However, in many cases, wireless internet connections should work, but it is best to run a test beforehand to make sure the signal is strong enough.

    The speaker will need to be informed of the setup so they do not wander too far away from the mic whilst giving their speech.

    The end user(s) will need a device (laptop, tablet) and the link (which the company will provide) to be able to view the captions.

    The end user’s screen can be modified (font, colour, etc) and will also have a chat window to feed back to the typist if there are any issues.

    Captioning screen before any font or colour changes

    Captioning screen before any font or colour changes.

    The image above shows an example of basic layout before colour and font modifications.

    The company will also provide you with a transcript afterwards.

    *They also have a new service called 1Fuzion which allows display of captions and PowerPoint slides on the same screen.

    Subtitle your videos for YouTube, Vimeo, staff / college / university intranet

    Upload your video to YouTube (using a private or unlisted setting if necessary). They will download the video directly, subtitle it and email a professional subtitle format file back (with colours / positioning / emphasis / sound effects etc). They just charge for the subtitling and email the subtitle file, which you upload to YouTube in your Video Manager (it takes 30 seconds!). They can send instructions on how to upload to YouTube or Vimeo. Your video can also be embedded on an internal intranet site. The viewer can turn closed caption subtitles on and off as needed without any burning process.

    You would just need to tell them whether you need a closed caption file or a video file with open captions burnt in, whether you want them to use UK or US English spellings, or if you’d like a version with each.

    For an example of how it works in practice, take a look at the RSA shorts on YouTube, switching on the “English captions” using the icon third from right on the toolbar.

    They will email your file usually within 24 hours, Monday to Friday. Orders received after midday on Friday will be delivered by midday on Monday. Weekend delivery can often be arranged, so please contact them if you’re in a rush: bookings@121captions.com

    Closed Captions

    • Subtitles can be turned on and off, as the viewer requires.
    • Suitable for YouTube, Vimeo, staff intranet.
    • Text is searchable by major search engines.
    • Useful to provide viewers with an option to choose subtitles if they struggle to hear your soundtrack or want to watch with the sound off.
    • Least expensive option: They simply provide you with a professional-format timed subtitle file, which you upload to your video.
    • On YouTube, viewers can set the font and size of subtitles which they find easiest to read.
    • Open Captions
    • Subtitles are burnt into your video and are permanently visible.
    • Suitable for all web video platforms.
    • Text is not searchable by Google and YouTube.
    • Useful to provide open access to your video for all, or if your sound isn’t the best quality.
    • More expensive option: As burning-in subtitles involves additional production processes, including the creation and transfer of a new video file, there is an additional cost.
    • You have control over the font and size of the subtitles, which the viewer can’t change.

    Applying Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Principles to VLE design

    By Jessica Gramp, on 16 July 2017

    Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Principles describe how educators can cater to the needs of students with differing needs, including those with disabilities (CAST 2011). It stems from the social model of disability, which places the problem within the environment, rather than with the individual who has the disability (Collins 2014).
    Technology enables the quick modification of learning materials to meet the specific needs of students (Pisha & Coyne 2001) and online communication can even hide a disability from others. For example, a deaf student who participates in an online discussion forum does not need to reveal they are deaf in order to communicate with peers. This can lower the social and communication barriers that may be experienced when communicating in person. Also, there are many modern technologies specifically developed to help people with disabilities engage with online environments. This means online learning environments are particularly well placed to address the goal of Universal Design for Learning. It is the responsibility of the institutions and developers who maintain these environments to ensure they can be accessed by all.
    While most of the UDL guidelines apply to curriculum design, some of them are relevant to the design of the broader virtual learning environment (VLE).

    UDL principles (CAST 2011) mapped to how a VLE might meet relevant checkpoints

    To learn more, click on one of the Guidelines in the boxes below.

    I. Provide Multiple Means of Representation

    PerceptionLanguage, expressions, and symbolsComprehension

    II. Provide Multiple Means of Action and Expression

    Physical actionExpression and communication
    Executive function

    UDL Principle 1 aims to ‘provide multiple means of representation’  by ‘providing options for perception’, which includes ‘offer[ing] ways of customizing the display of information’ (CAST 2011). This means the VLE should offer the ability to do things like resize text and enable screen-readers to read aloud text to those who have visual impairments or dyslexia.

    Within UDL Principle 2, guideline 4: aims to ‘provide options for physical action’, which includes ‘vary[ing] the methods for response and navigation’ (CAST 2011). This means ensuring all navigation and interaction can occur via a keyboard and using assistive technologies such as voice activated software like Dragon NaturallySpeaking, which recognises speech and converts it to text.
    UDL Principle 3 seeks to ‘provide multiple means of engagement’ by ‘recruiting interest’, including enabling the learner to choose colours and layouts (CAST 2011). There are a number of tools that enable users to change the fonts and colours on a webpage and it is important these are able to be applied. The VLE should also offer the ability to customise the interface, in terms of re-ordering frequently accessed items, placement of menus and temporarily hiding extraneous information that may distract from the task at hand.
    These three principles and the specific checkpoints mentioned above are being addressed as part of the Accessible Moodle project, which aims to make UCL Moodle more accessible. The main ways these are being addressed are through the development of a more accessible Moodle theme, as well as the development of Moodle code itself. Although the project has limited ability to develop this code, suggestions for improvements are being raised with the Moodle development community via the Moodle Tracker. You can sign up and vote for accessibility enhancements to help these get prioritised, and therefore resolved more quickly, by Moodle HQ and other developers within the community.
    The remaining UDL principles are intended to guide the development of more accessible content and curriculum designs, and therefore these will inform the development of the Universal Design for Learning course that is being developed at UCL, to help educators understand how to design accessible learning tasks, environments and materials.
     
    You can read more about the Accessible Moodle project on the UCL Digital Education blog.
     
    References
    CAST (2011). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.0. [online]. Available from: http://www.udlcenter.org/sites/udlcenter.org/files/UDL_Guidelines_Version_2.0_(Final)_3.doc [Accessed 16 July 2017].
    Collins, B. (2014). Universal design for learning: What occupational therapy can contribute? [Online]. Occupational Therapy Now, 16(6), 22-23. Available from: http://eprints.bournemouth.ac.uk/21426/1/Collins.pdf [Accessed 16 July 2017].
    Pisha, B. & Coyne, P. (2001) Smart From the Start: The Promise of Universal Design for Learning. Remedial and Special Education. [Online] 22 (4), 197–203. Available from: doi:10.1177/074193250102200402.

    Moodle Summer 2017 Snapshot and Upgrade

    By Annora Eyt-Dessus, on 5 July 2017

    From 17:00 on Friday 21st July 2017 Moodle will be unavailable to all staff and students, until midday Sunday 23rd July. Moodle may be returned to service earlier than this time, however should be considered to be at risk until the Sunday. This is to allow the annual snapshot copy to be created, and update work on the platform to be completed.

    As in previous years, the snapshot allows staff and students to review their past modules in read-only mode, with an initial one month editing grace period for staff to hide content they don’t wish to be visible long-term. You can find out how to do this, and more about the snapshot as a whole, on the Moodle Resource Centre wiki.

    While there will be no major changes to look and feel or functionality, we will be taking this opportunity to perform yearly maintenance and upgrade tasks on Moodle. This is to ensure tools in use are still well supported and keep the platform running smoothly. You can find details of some of these changes in the section below.

    Updates will be posted during the upgrade weekend on the Digital Education Team Blog, our Twitter channel (@UCLDigiEd), and the Moodle News section.

    What do I have to do?

    If your module ends before the upgrade and you would like the snapshot copy to be made available to students then no further action is required. You will simply need to ensure that you hide any content you don’t want to remain visible within the one month editing period.

    You may also want to check if you are using any of the tools within Moodle that are changing this year, so you can plan ahead – see the section below.

    What if my course(s) doesn’t finish before the upgrade?

    We recognise that not all Moodle courses will end before the 21st July. Some run into August/September and others may run later, several times a year, or never stop – and in such cases a manual snapshot can be requested if needed.  More information on the process of requesting can be found in the Moodle Resource Centre wiki on the Manual Moodle Snapshot page.

    What happens after the snapshot?

    Unless it is still running, we strongly recommend that you reset your course in live Moodle and take some time to review your content so it is ready for the next cohort. For more information on preparing your Moodle course for the next academic year, see the following guidance available here: Preparing your Moodle course for the coming year.

    To see the snapshot (formerly archive) for yourself, visit: https://moodle-snapshot.ucl.ac.uk/

    All times are for the UK (BST), for other locations please convert: http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/converter.html

     

    Changes to UCL Moodle during the 2017 Snapshot/Upgrade

    Blackboard Collaborate Ultra
    This new, easier to use web conferencing tool will be installed and available to Staff to add to their courses. This provides the ability to run online sessions with students with polling, group breakout spaces and onscreen annotation. You’ll be able to find out more, after July 23rd, from our updated Blackboard Collaborate guidance on the Moodle Resource Centre. Note that you won’t need to do anything for existing recordings or sessions using the previous version of Blackboard Collaborate – these will still be accessible and usable, but you won’t be able to add any new sessions using the older tool.

    Turnitin Feedback Studio
    A few months ago we alerted you to the fact that Turnitin will be moving all users to its new grading and viewing interface known as Feedback Studio. From 1st August 2017, all users of Turnitin on UCL Moodle will have to use Feedback Studio to view originality reports, grade work and provide feedback. No action is necessary on your part, but you may want to find out more ahead of the changes by reading our blog post about moving to Turnitin Feedback Studio and try out the new version using Turnitin’s interactive demo.

    Moodle Course Menu block
    The Course Menu block previously provided a way to build custom navigation for Moodle courses. However, most of this functionality is now automatically available through Moodle’s standard navigation block, so to avoid confusion and ensure better support, this older tool will be removed during the summer upgrade to UCL Moodle. Again, you don’t need to do anything, as the Moodle navigation block appears by default on all courses and the old Course Menu block will simply disappear. The Digital Education team is currently liaising with owners of departmental templates so no new courses should be created with the Course Menu block.

    Campus Pack
    Campus Pack is a series of add-ons to Moodle that allowed users to create wikis, blogs, journals and podcasts. While these are useful tools, much of this functionality is already present directly in Moodle, or in other institutionally supported e-learning tools. During the upgrade we will therefore be removing the ability to add new instances of Campus Pack tools, to focus support on more widely used tools that provide similar functionality. This will not affect previously added Campus Pack activities, but you may want to investigate our guide around the Wiki activity in Moodle.

    As ever, if you experience any issues, please do let us know by emailing servicedesk@ucl.ac.uk .