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Ideas and reflections from UCL's Digital Education team


Archive for the 'Guest Posts' Category

Guest post – Dr Jenny Bunn on DiSARM ELDG Report

By Matt Jenner, on 29 June 2012

From Dr Jenny Bunn

In receipt of an E-Learning Development Grant, Jenny has created DiSARM: Digital Scenarios for Archives and Records Management. Her project aimed to develop a number of digital scenarios to enhance the e-learning opportunities for students on the Department of Information Studies’ (DIS) archives and records management programmes. Below is her report, as a guest blog post:

This post sets out a question that has arisen as the result of work within the Department of Information Studies to incorporate more e-learning tools and techniques within its teaching. Last year the department was fortunate enough to win an e-learning development grant to undertake a project entitled Digital Scenarios for Archives and Records Management (DiSARM). As the name suggests the project was focussed around the department’s archives and records management programmes and involved the development of scenarios which would enhance both the digital content and context of these programmes. Content, because it is increasingly important for our students to be familiar with a wide range of processes and products employed to ensure the preservation of born digital records, and context, because it is equally important that they should be exposed to methods of teaching and (e-)learning that will enable them to gain confidence and experience of working in an online and collaborative way as part of a global community.

It is not my intention to describe the project in detail here. Those who are interested in reading more may download the full report. Rather I wish to highlight a question that emerged from the project and which seems to encompass many of the issues raised by e-learning.

‘How far can institutions put a boundary around a learning experience?’

This question is raised, in this form, by Mayes and de Freitas (2007) who also comment that new technologies mean that ‘learning can be socially situated in a way never previously possible’. With the DiSARM project an issue arose in the form of the negotiation of the boundary between the safe controlled environment of UCL’s VLE Moodle and the wider community beyond. Digital preservation is still in an embryonic state so should the students’ messy and often unsuccessful experimentation with it be contained within the walls of the Moodle or out there on the internet for the benefit of the professional community at large?

This though would seem to be only one of the frames in which it is possible to see the question of a boundary around the learning experience. For example, it would also seem to encompass current debates about Open Educational Resources and increases in university fees, as well as old ones such as that of the relationship between theory and practice. Sadly I have no easy answers to offer, but one avenue that I think might be worth exploring is a way to combine ideas about ‘authenticity and presence’ (Land and Bayne 2006) with those about e-moderation. E-moderation is a subject of much debate (e.g. Salmon 2000) and there is some evidence (Hewings, Coffin & North 2006) of anxiety amongst teachers, in the context of new e-learning technologies, with regards to their ability to achieve the proper balance between not interfering too much so as to stifle learners learning, and yet not interfering too little so as to allow dominant voices to drown out weaker ones.

One hypothesis would be then that, what was previously a passive and unacknowledged ‘presence’ has now become an active process of, yes moderation, but perhaps something else as well? Perhaps the role of the teacher has always been to make learning visible, to provide the definition or boundary that allows students to see the ‘something’ they are learning, the frame against which to set and assess it?


Hewings, A., Coffin, C. & North, S. (2006) Supporting undergraduate students’ acquisition of academic argumentation strategies through computer conferencing, Higher Education Academy report. http://bit.ly/N2G2OU [Accessed June 2012]

Land, R. and Bayne, S. (2006) Issues in Cyberspace Education. In Savin-Baden, M. & Wilkie, K. (eds) (2006) Problem-based learning online Open University Press.

Mayes, Y. and de Freitas, S. (2007) Learning and e-learning: the role of theory. In Beetham, H. & Sharpe, R. (Eds) (2007) Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age: designing and delivering e-learning London, Routledge.

Salmon, G. (2000) E-moderating: The Key to Teaching and Learning Online London, Kogan Page.

Guest Post – Dr Mat Disney on using Adobe Connect

By ccaalts, on 21 March 2011

Downtown Chicago, 10/4/2003 in ‘real’ colour (RGB)

Downtown Chicago, 10/4/2003 in ‘real’ colour (RGB) © 2011 GeoEye

from Dr Mat Disney

As a Lecturer in Remote Sensing in the Department of Geography I get to talk to (at?) students on a regular basis, something I enjoy. Over the past few years I’ve looked for opportunities to present my research to school students in a range of environments, something UCL encourages through our partnership with City and Islington Academy for example. I’ve spoken at workshops, schools, the Royal Society Summer Exhibition, as well as running hands-on practical sessions and writing about what I do for school science publications (see SEP’s Catalyst for example). It doesn’t hurt that my research is very visual – satellite images, 3D models and animations, fires, trees and so on.

Recently I had the opportunity to talk about remote sensing to high-school students from under-served communities in Chicago as part of a programme to introduce real-world applications of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) outside their normal curriculum. The students voluntarily attend sessions for three hours on Saturday mornings and interact in real-time via video, interactive whiteboards and instant messaging using Adobe Connect.

Mat Disney using Adobe Connect

Screenshot of the session using Adobe Connect

The Chicago session was co-organised by Ian Usher, a former UCL Geography colleague who is now e-learning co-ordinator for Bucks County Council, and Roxana Hadad in Chicago. I showed the students various satellite images, including some striking high resolution satellite images of downtown Chicago, the Mall in Washington DC showing a large rally that took place in late October, and Stonehenge, and discussed with them what their environmental and scientific applications might be.

I was very impressed with the level of interaction provided by the software – me in my garden office at home, and them in a well-equipped classroom half a world away. I was even more impressed by how enthusiastic and welcoming the students were. They were very quick to work out what they were looking at – for example the dried up river system around Stonehenge, along with the context and significance. They very rapidly arrived at the idea that Stonehenge might be a prehistoric calendar of sorts.

Landsat image of Chicago, 10/4/2003 displayed in false colour (near infrared, red, green)

Chicago, 10/4/2003 in false colour (near infrared, red, green) © 2011 GeoEye

I think the novelty of being able to interact so directly and immediately with students outside their normal sphere like this is a really powerful way of attracting and maintaining interest. The advances in bandwidth and software tools allow for rich two-way interaction which brings the whole process alive (compared to web-based delivery of video for example). It was a very enjoyable experience, and I really look forward to more activities like this – it’s a great way help bring UCL’s expertise to a wider audience.

This is a further follow up to a brief report by UCL News in January