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    Archive for the 'Innovation' Category

    A next generation digital learning environment for UCL

    By Stephen Rowett, on 7 November 2016

    At UCL we’ve been pondering what a future learning environment might look like now for about two years. And we are starting to reach some conclusions.

    Our analysis of our VLE – and pretty much all of them out there – is that it suffers from two fundamental limitations.

    Silos – staff and students see the courses they are enrolled for, and generally can’t look over the fence to see something else. In real life, if a student asked to attend lectures for a course they weren’t registered for, we’d welcome their interest, their breadth, their love of learning. In the VLE we tell them that this is impossible. The VLE limits a student’s education to just what they have paid for, just what they deserve, and just what they need to know. All curiosity is lost.

    Control – the teacher sets things up and students do them. No questions asked or even allowed. Forums lay devoid of posts for fear of asking ‘dumb’ questions, or fear of making mistakes. Assignments are submitted with perfunctory duty with the best that a student can hope for getting a green pass on Turnitin and some feedback some weeks later which is ignored anyway as the triumph or the disappointment of the grade awarded is processed. All love of learning is lost.

    So we’re looking for something different.

    And our inspiration came from an interest place – Brockenhurst College in Hampshire. Now they have a very rural catchment area – some students travel over from the Isle of Wight to attend classes. So of course, they don’t travel if they don’t have classes and therefore feel disconnected from the university.

    We realised that part of the challenge at UCL is the same. The distances may be much smaller, but when you are travelling from home or commuting on the Central Line means that the disconnection is just as real.

    So we need an environment that promotes connections. It just so happens we also have the Connected Curriculum initiative which will encourage interdisciplinary research-based education, where students do real, authentic work, not just essays for a teacher to mark. Where group work is the norm, not the exception. Where students are not passive recipients, but actively engaged in enquiry.

    So it’s all coming together. What we want for UCL is an Academic Social Network.

    What do I mean by that? Let’s take each word at a time.

    First, it’s Academic. That means it is designed for education. There are plenty of social networks around – Facebook, LinkedIn and Yammer spring to mind – but they are designed for different things, typically business. Whether it means allowing people to ask questions anonymously, embedding LaTex in messages so mathematicians can speak in their own language, or structuring data to be able to find final-year projects, the platform needs to speak to teachers and students as being something for them. It’s about work, but also all of the other things that happen at university; social clubs, sports, societies, volunteering. It’s a safe and trusted place to be because the user trusts the university and knows they are not the product to be sold and re-sold to the highest bidder.

    It’s Social. Because learning is social. I don’t just mean group work, but the full gamut of human social interaction. If you talk to students in our learning spaces, they are often working ‘alone, together’; that is they are doing individual tasks but just looking after each other. A student who is tired will be offered a coffee; someone will look after your laptop while you go to the toilet. Students are friends with each other on Facebook, but having staff friends is just ‘weird’. We want a space without complex meanings or difficult relationships but where everyone can connect with each other as part of the university community.

    Finally it’s a Network. Universities are big places, and UCL is bigger than most. Networks are a place where you can meet like-minded folk, but also get exposure and understanding of those who study different things, think in different ways, have different approaches to the same challenge. That network extends beyond current staff and students to pre-entry students, alumni, industry and charity partners – all of those that have a stake in the vibrancy and excitement of what a university can be.

    So what are we going to do?

    We’re going to get one.

    That’s quite a lot of work, as we have to do a lot of procurement activities to get what we want.

    But for now, we have students and teachers on the ground talking to peers, understanding needs, working our what it means to be part of the UCL community.

    We’ve done a lot of thinking, some talking and even more listening. It’s an experiment. We don’t know if it will work. Even if it does, it will probably take many years.

    We characterise what we want as follows:

    Characteristics of our platform

     

    It’s our shot at what a Next Generation Digital Learning Environment will look like.

    Many thanks to Eileen Kennedy for her work in developing and evaluating these ideas within UCL Digital Education.

    Moodle in the classroom

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 4 November 2016

    Words by Rebecca Yerworth:

    We all know that it is good to make lectures interactive and that there are many tools out there to help us. Various departments have invested in hardware and software to enable students to ‘vote’ or submit other responses during lectures… but how many of us use these tools? I am technically savvy and keen to apply best practice in my teaching, yet I cannot face using them! I want to, I love the concept, but have been put off by the need to install software and setup session specific activations, quite apart from the need to train myself and the students in how to use the systems. There had to be a better way I thought, how about Moodle? I’m used to putting lecture notes on it, and students are used to navigating to the right course page to find them … are there any Moodle activates which could be used within a lecture?

    So I applied for an E-learning development grant, which funded a student (Bindia) to work with me on exploring this.

    We found that “Hot Question” was the simplest and most versatile tool, but also successfully tried out “Choice” and quiz questions where you drag and drop labels on to an image (this worked really well the second time … once we had shrunk the image and shortened the labels so that they fitted on to smartphone screens!).

    I love using the ‘hot question’ activity as a virtual flip chart, and it came into its own during the revision sessions.  I displayed an exam style question on the board, and instructed students to answer part 1 via Moodle. A couple of minutes later there was a bunch of answers simultaneously displayed on the board and the students devices. “Between them these two would get full marks” I commented before going on to describe the strengths and weaknesses of the answers.  One mouse click created a new page in the activity and we moved on to another part of the question, with the previous page save for students to review later.  Students reported how helpful they found this session – and the saved answers that they could look back on later.

    Another activity which received positive feedback from the students was when we used ‘choice’ in conjunction with an on-line multi-choice medical ethics activity. The class worked through the case study together, anonymously entering their guess/answer to each question in Moodle. I then selected the most popular option on the website… “oups, most of us would have acted outside of General Medical Council Guidelines… well done the 10% of you that selected option c.” Having to enter their own choice forced the students to think through these tricky issues, and seeing what the rest of the class choose helped provide reassurance and an understanding of what other students thought.

    We made some user guides, which will be available via the UCL-Moodle help wiki, in the hope that others will be inspired to try out Moodle-In-lectures. If you do, it would be interesting to hear how you got on.

    I will defiantly be using more Moodle in lectures this year. As well as setting up specific activates, I will make sure I have a generically labelled ‘Hot questions’ and ‘Choice’ on every page that I can use and reuse for impromptu activities – like when a student ask a good question and you want to find out what the rest of the class think before providing the answer.

    UCL students win Jisc Summer of Student Innovation Prize

    By Janina Dewitz, on 9 September 2016

    Know It Wall has been announced as a Summer of Student Innovation winner, bagging £10,000 in funds to further develop their idea in collaboration with Jisc.

    On 23 August, seven of the 15 Summer of Student Innovation ‘Student Ideas’ first round winners beat the competition to secure further funding and support from Jisc to develop their ideas into real products ready for market. Following a four day Jisc run ‘design sprint’ in Birmingham, the student teams went head to head to persuade the judges in a Dragon’s Den style pitch, and we are proud to announce that Know It Wall came out on top!

    Know It Wall aims to make current academic research accessible to the intellectually curious public through the use of text and high quality audio-visual content. So far the team have produced 18 episodes on topics ranging from human memory to the discovery of the Higgs Boson. Team Know It Wall is planning to spend the prize money on producing video content and the development of additional features to the website.

    Feeling curious? Dip right in at http://knowitwall.com !

    Find out more about the project…

     


    The Summer of Student Innovation is in its fourth year and is managed by Jisc. More information is available at https://www.jisc.ac.uk/student-innovation.

    “The competition really does show that students are best placed to address education sector issues, and their innovative ideas are perfect for supporting learning, teaching or research”
    – Andy McGregor, Deputy Chief Innovations Officer, Jisc

    Have you got students with an innovative edtech idea? Digital Education Futures can provide support and mentorship.

    Contact Janina Dewitz, Innovations Officer, j.dewitz@ucl.ac.uk

     

    2016 Horizon Report

    By Clive Young, on 5 February 2016

    It’s that time of year again. Every year the NMC Horizon Report examines emerging technologies for their potential impact on and use in teaching, learning, and ‘creative inquiry’ within the environment of higher education.

    The report, downloadable in PDF, is compiled by an international body of experts and provides a useful checklist trends, challenges and technologies in the field and provides a useful benchmark of what is most talked about at the moment.horizon2016

    The key trends identified in the in the short term are

    • Growing focus on measuring learning
    • Increasing use of blended learning designs

    Longer term trends are: advancing cultures of innovation, rethinking how institutions work, redesigning learning spaces and a shift to deeper learning approaches.

    Key ‘solvable’ challenges are the same as last year

    • Blending formal and informal learning
    • Improving digital literacy

    More difficult challenges are; competing models of education (e.g. competency-based education in the US), personalising learning, balancing our connected and unconnected lives and of course keeping education relevant. “Rewarding teaching”, from last year seems to have been, ahem, solved.

    The important developments in educational technology they identify are in the short term are

    • Bring your own device (BYOD), same a last year
    • Learning analytics and adaptive learning

    Longer-term innovations are; augmented and virtual reality, makerspaces, affective computing (interpreting/simulating human emotions) and robotics.

    As usual there are useful commentaries and links throughout. Once again, encouraging that quite a few of these ideas are already being implemented, trialed and discussed here at UCL.

    Innovating pedagogy – 2015 trends report

    By Clive Young, on 9 December 2015

    Innovating-Pedagogy-2015-cover-large-211x300

    Innovating Pedagogy 2015 is the latest annual report from the Open University highlighting new forms of teaching, learning and assessment with an aim to “guide teachers and policy makers in productive innovation”.

    The scope is similar to the US Horizon reports, but presents a useful UK perspective.  It is of course sometimes difficult to differentiate the meaningful from the merely modish in such futurology (see for example Matt Jenner’s analysis of Horizon’s trend-spotting). However such reports definitely have an impact on the discussion around technology in education, even if initially only at the level of “buzz-word bingo” for those in the know. A fellow learning technologist last week accused me of “incidental learning” when, during a pause in our teaching session, he caught me reading a random handout left over from some previous class.

    The current crop is;

    1. Crossover learning – connecting formal and informal learning
    2. Learning through argumentation – developing skills of scientific argumentation
    3. Incidental learning – harnessing unplanned or unintentional learning
    4. Context-based learning – how context shapes and is shaped by the process of learning
    5. Computational thinking – solving problems using techniques from computing
    6. Learning by doing science with remote labs – guided experiments on authentic scientific equipment
    7. Embodied learning – making mind and body work together to support learning
    8. Adaptive teaching – adapting computer-based teaching to the learner’s knowledge and action
    9. Analytics of emotions – responding to the emotional states of students
    10. Stealth assessment – unobtrusive assessment of learning processes

    A fascinating list with several novel concepts (to me anyway), the report gives a quick overview of why the OU thinks these are or may be important and includes handy links to further reading.

    The authors also identify six overarching pedagogy themes that have emerged from the last four reports: Scale, Connectivity, Reflection, Extension, Embodiment and Personalisation.

    Digital Literacy at UCL

    By Moira Wright, on 24 June 2015

    In my notes for this blog are the headings which include student networking, UCL digifest, partnership working, UCL Teaching and Learning Portal, Westminster Briefing and UCL QAA HER, UCL ChangeMakers and Lego. This list is a somewhat typical of the diverse aspects to my newly created role as Digital Literacy Officer at UCL (I think under 2 years still counts as new?). A lot of ground to cover in this post so will try to be economic with my words (for those that know me – no easy thing).

    Firstly some highlights from the London Digital Student Meet-up (LDSM).

    Early in June a group of 50 students and staff from different institutions in the London area met for a morning at UCL to discuss digital literacy and student engagement projects. LDSM was co-organised by LSE and UCL and aimed to provide a platform for student networking it was open to all students. To ensure a high ratio of students the invite stipulated staff were welcome as long as they were accompanied by students.

    London Digital Student Meetup, June 2015

    The event had come about from attending the Jisc CAN conference in April with 3 UCL students. They had participated as panel members and given elevator pitches on the UCL digifest – which they had all worked on as volunteers. Hold the date for UCL digifest 2016 – February 24-26th

    Feedback from the UCL students had been that meeting other students and hearing about their projects had been one of the main benefits in participating. That, and a conversation during the conference with Dr Jane Secker, Copyright and Digital Literacy Advisor from London School of Economics about the limited number of opportunities for students to network convinced us both that an open informal student networking event would pique interest.

    London Digital Student Meetup, June 2015The morning was very informal with a lot of time in the agenda for discussion and networking and a world café table topics and Lego*. From the anecdotal evidence I heard at this event it is clear that student digital literacy projects are proving to be increasingly impactful and insightful for those involved.

    Jane introduced the event with reference to the Jisc six capabilities model. The model is being updated and modified from the seven capability model. The new model (awaiting release) includes wellbeing.

    Peter Chatterton was next up for a talk and group discussion about the Jisc Change Agent Network . There were also updates about the pilot for the SEDA Institutional Change Leader award – which is just about to complete its first iteration this summer – the news is that there are plans are to run it again in the new academic year.

    Helen Beetham then introduced a draft of the new Jisc Benchmarking the student digital experience tool which was made available to participants for consultation. The tool has been designed to provide institutions with a benchmarking framework to help improve the student digital experience – awaiting release – but once complete the tool will then be rolled out to universities via the NUS ‘student voice’ network. The work is part of the Jisc Digital Student project and once launched will really help universities to assess institution provision against existing evidence of student expectations.

    By the end of the morning several things had become apparent to me. And they are, digital literacy must be embedded as a cultural approach in organisations, and is a life-long learning need, that giving ownership to students in this debate is mission critical and joined-up. The other thing was how universal the love of Lego is and how useful a tool it is for engagement*. We have future venues offers from two participants and plans to take them up.

    Work has started on the new Digital Literacy pages for the UCL Teaching and Learning Portal. An exciting first project for the Digital Literacy stream of UCL ChangeMaker projects with students developing content for the student pages. The excellent UCL ChangeMakers programme is making this possible and has just completed its successful pilot year with an impressive list of projects – summaries of UCL ChangeMakers projects are available by following this link . I am really looking forward to working on more digital literacy student projects in the new academic year.

    The Westminster Briefing I attended with Fiona Strawbridge last week in St James was full of useful information for the upcoming QAA Higher Education Review of UCL with the theme Digital Literacy that UCL has self-selected. UCL will present a snapshot of digital literacy at UCL for the review so I was really looking forward to hearing what Gemma Long, Review Manager from QAA had to say. Firstly we heard that the two themes chosen (employability and digital literacy) were chosen as they are ‘areas that are particularly worthy of further analysis or enhancement’ no surprise for anyone – particularly those who had read the House of Lords Select Committee report on Digital Skills which was released in February. QAA seems realistic in where they think universities are in developing digital literacy for their students but the emphasis has to be on staff developing the capabilities and confidence in their own digital skills sufficient to meet the student needs and expectations.

    John Craig, Senior Director Education and Research, HEA talked about the idea of an information society where information expands and becomes more accessible with digitization accelerating this trend and a society that could become victim to Information Obesity “a failure to turn information into knowledge…..as physical obesity is not simply too much food, so information obesity is caused by more than just information overload” (Andrew Whitworth).

    Katherine Ready was next – she is Digital and Information Manager from the Open University shared the really excellent open resource Being Digital – a collection of short activities designed by the Open University Library Information Literacy group for developing digital and information literacy. You can choose developed Pathways where learning is on a particular theme so you can work your way through a topic and gain a deeper understanding.

    Charlie Inskip from UCL Department of Information Studies then discussed some of the findings from research funded by SCONUL as part of a wider project, Research Information Literacy and Digital Scholarship funded by Research Information Network (RIN). The findings highlighted the importance of teaching, research and technical skills in developing resources and a need for library and information staff to continually develop their digital literacy skills. He concluded that ownership of digital literacies should be shared across and amongst institutions and services and is not the purview of one stakeholder and the ever changing and flexible landscape of digital literacy and an awareness of the continuously changing context is required to successfully meet the current challenge.

     

    Footnote on Lego

    *I had been inspired by a presentation I had seen recently which had introduced me to the concept of ‘Serious Lego Play’ . (Alison James at the CRA conference in Plymouth)

    Also noted on 11th June that the University of Cambridge announced plans to establish a (link to) “LEGO professorship of play in education, development and learning” alongside a research centre, with £4 million of donations from the LEGO Foundation – news must have got out!