Guest post by Teodora Lazar
On the 2nd of June, UCL’s Digital Education ran #LearnHack 4.5, a day of problem solving, tackling challenges around technology and learning. Students and staff from different departments in UCL came together in BaseKX to solve a challenge, share their ideas and make new connections. What started as being an event that aimed to explore how technology is being used for teaching and learning, became a common ground where students and staff can work together towards achieving a common goal.
#LearnHack 4.5 tackled 3 challenges, pitched and voted before the event. Two of them where technical challenges, and the other one was conceptual. The different formats of the challenges were chosen democratically in order to ensure that students from all backgrounds can contribute to the final outcome. Mixed teams, formed on the spot, worked towards bringing forward the best solution for the challenge, competing against each other at the same time
Kicking off with a presentation of all the challenges, the participants got the chance to understand them, ask questions, and form their teams. The challenges were:
UCL Intranet for Students by Saskia Cebrian Guerrero & Fabian Urban
“As a new student at UCL, it was very difficult for me at the beginning to find the library services, where to pay my bills, maps, my schedule, events from the UCL Union and Moodle, since they are all in different-not linked platforms. I think its necessary that students know from the very beginning all the important links and information from the university in an integrated platform. And that is my idea, to create an Intranet designed by and for students.”
Predicting when assets will fail by Peter Jones & Rebecca Allen
“To use data from UCL’s Estates team to build a predictive model that will assess which assets are likely fail, enabling predictive/preventative maintenance.”
Hacking #LearnHack by “the #LearnHack organising gang”
“The aim of #LearnHack is to bring the whole of the UCL community together to solve some of its problems from the bottom up or the inside out (however you prefer to look at it). Every event is an opportunity to make a real difference to how we do things in the areas of teaching, learning and campus life. While both ticket sales for the event and feedback by past attendees have been consistently great, attendance hasn’t always been so fantastic. Why is this and what can we do to build a more self-sustaining community moving forwards?”
The rest of the day was a good opportunity to have a lot of fun while debating, prototyping and working as a team. The participatory format and the friendly environment enabled collaboration and lots of discussion about ways to tackle the challenges. Even if the day was very labour intensive and tiring, the food, snacks, drinks and sweets provided kept everyone going. Also, the wonderful culture of community and collaboration remains a constant characteristic for each and every #LearnHack.
Being an event that explores the topics of learning and technology, two optional workshops were delivered throughout the day in order to nourish the learning and knowledge sharing atmosphere. The first workshop, ‘Primer on Visual Abstracts’, explored how to increase the impact of one’s publication, through image conceptualisation. Meanwhile the other one, ‘Putting it all together: R and R Markdown’, investigated how one can combine formatted text and analysis code to build up-to-date reports. These workshops were a good way to learn some new skills, but also to take a well-deserved break from all the hard work to solve the challenges.
The final presentations were the moment when each team introduced their solutions, ideas and prototypes and told everyone about their findings. Through presentations of just a few minutes, the teams managed to prove that they came up with tangible, creative and useful solutions to every challenge. Even more, they all handled the questions coming from the public and the jury like pros.
The solutions to the challenges were:
Make #LearnHack Great Again by Team ‘Something Cool’
This team responded to the challenge Hacking #LearnHack by creating a strategy plan to improve the reach, recognition and impact of future #LearnHacks. They also responded to this conceptual challenge through a technical measure, by creating a prototype for a brand new website.
Maintenance System by Team Regatta
The app that Team Regatta came with responded to the ‘Predicting when Assets will Fail’ challenge. They decided to tackle the issue by creating an app that could be used by the UCL staff to report maintenance issues. They designed a centralised system through which data could be stored in a easy to use, and easy to analyse manner.
Predictive Analytics by Team Broken Assets
This team decided to build a model to evaluate the probability of assets failure, so the problems could be fixed before even happening. They analysed the data by taking into account the historical maintenance and the environmental factors. The approach that this team took was very data heavy, since they managed to map out most data sources throughout the day.
Intranet for Students by Team Lime Pair
Responding to the challenge of building an intranet for students, team Lime Pair built their prototype that would incorporate on the same website page, all online resources that are vital to all UCL students: Portico, Moodle, Library Services and others.
#LearnHack proved once again that it not an event for techies only. Don’t be fooled by the name. This one day hackathon brings together researchers, creators, artists, visionaries, thinkers, designers, inventors, dreamers and many others.
You don’t identify with any of these? No problem, we are always open to new suggestions.