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Teaching Continuity – a Moodle Toolkit

CliveYoung23 March 2020

Getting started

As we move our teaching materials online, we have is an opportunity to make more active use of Moodle. Moodle is already familiar to students and academic colleagues, but mainly as a repository for module materials and a place to upload assignments. Moodle has many other tools that can help keep your students engaged and learning in the absence of face-to-face sessions. The environment also provides student access to Blackboard Collaborate for online ‘tutorials’, Lecturecast Universal Capture Personal for short video recordings and the UCL reading list service. Both of these tools are key in UCL’s approach to teaching continuity.

UCL already has a well over 100 step-by-step Miniguides to help you set up and use all of the tools in Moodle, but as this may be a little overwhelming, this Toolkit focuses on a few simple enhancements can make a big difference to your students’ online experience.

Baseline

The first priority is always to check courses against the E-learning Baseline. Poor structuring of Moodle is an issue in terms of accessibility and student stress. The Baseline is now well-established at UCL and applying it helps students navigate online learning activities. Attention is particularly drawn to the first five sections of the Baseline;

Surveys show these are the elements of Moodle our students notice most and are often most critical of. They are also the easiest to improve.

How can we do more with Moodle?

This short (5’) video from an earlier post offers some excellent ideas.

The video has captions and a transcript.https://mediacentral.ucl.ac.uk/Play/22870

In addition to Collaborate and Lecturecast Universal Capture Personal, both very important to replace face-to-face sessions, three Moodle-specific ideas are mentioned.

  • The first is Discussion Forums, often considered the mainstay of online learning. Many staff already use the News forum to announce exam dates and times; changes to exams, lectures or seminars; important information about coursework; and special announcements relating to events and when you post a message in the News Forum it will be emailed to enrolled students’ UCL email. The video refers to ‘Learning forums’ can be used for asynchronous discussion (i.e. not ‘real time’) and learning activities. They enable both staff and students to post and reply to posts and are usually are set to allow students and staff to choose whether or not to become or remain subscribed to a forum. We recommend that Question and Answer forums are set up for students to ask questions about the course work or assessment processes. As the video explains, make the purpose of every discussion forum clear, including how students are expected to engage with it and how often staff will reply to posts (if at all). If you want to speak to students in ‘real time’, for example for virtual Office Hours, you might want to try Moodle’s instant messaging style tool, Chat.
  • Quiz is the other popular tool for online engagement. A quiz is a useful way to test or evaluate students’ knowledge and to keep them motivated by letting them see areas for improvement. Marking can be automated on some question types (such as multiple choice). Staff can see a detailed breakdown of results, as well as statistics on how easy or discriminating each question is. It can be used for both formative and summative (credit bearing) assessment, such as in class tests or examinations, but the latter is usually done in a ‘live’ classroom, so for online learning summative quizzes are more normal.
  • Use of external resources will already be a familiar custom for many academic colleagues, but bear in mind YouTube is blocked in several countries, including China. The video also mentions LinkedIn Learning, Box of Broadcasts (log in with your UCL details) and ReadingLists@UCL, all useful enhancements. UCL Mediacentral can be used to host your own videos which can then embedded as links in Moodle.

Moodle: beyond the basics

As always, we recommend you keep it simple and prioritise the essentials, but don’t be afraid to go beyond the basics if you can. Here are a few ideas. If you want to dive a little deeper, the UCL’s ABC method of learning design can help plan how to move learning activities online in a more structured way. You may want also explore beyond Moodle, to Reflect, UCL’s blogging service based on WordPress.

Moodle Resources

  • Book displays collections of web pages in a sequential, easy-to-navigate and printable format. They are especially useful when you have a lot of web content but don’t want it to clutter the front page of your course. Pages can contain links, images, embedded YouTube videos, etc and feature a Table of Contents.
  • Lessons can be used to build structured pathways through learning materials and test knowledge as students make progress. Students usually make choices on each page area, sending send them to another specific page in the manner of a decision tree.

Moodle Activities

  • Glossary provides a course-specific list of terms and definitions. Entries can be linked to words that appear within Moodle, so the definition pops-up when someone hovers their mouse over instances of the word. A tutor may stipulate definitions or ask students to contribute.
  • Database enables tutors to set up form fields that students can then complete to contribute entries to the database. The fields may consist of images, files, URLs, numbers, plain text etc.
  • Hot Question is used to create a hotlist of popular questions or topics from a group. Could be used to seed a discussion forum or a Collaborate session.

Where can I see more?

  1. Colleagues at UCL Institute of Education (IOE) Learning Technologies Unit have put together a Moodle course Moodle Activity Examples – LTU (login required) showing you the tools above in use, together with several others.
  2. They are also in the process of  developing Moving online a very useful resource containing step-by-step workflows on how to move sessions online, with links to further support sources.
  3. The Miniguides site is the place to go to for detailed ideas and information on these and other Moodle tools. Support on other tools is available from the ISD Digital Education webpages.

Futurelearn How To Teach Online: Providing Continuity for Students (Join us!)

CliveYoung20 March 2020

A new Futurelearn MOOC is starting on Monday 23 March designed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The three-week course will explore practical ways to teach and support your students online.

Members of the UCL Digital Education team will be participating on this course and we hope the MOOC will stimulate ‘next step’ ideas for supporting our students..

To supplement the Futurelearn forums we have set up a UCL-specific Teams channel. Teams will be a place to discuss the ideas of the course from a UCL context and add a practical localisation to the UCL toolset. We hope you can join us.

To join the Futurelern MOOC, go to https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/teach-online/

To join in the UCL Teams discussion go to How To Teach Online (FutureLearn MOOC) – UCL community

ABC Learning Design Update

CliveYoung19 December 2019

ABC is the effective approach to curriculum (re)design, developed at UCL four years ago and now used widely not only at UCL but across the HE sector. Well over a thousand colleagues have now had a chance to participate in an ABC workshop. For those still unfamiliar with this ‘sprint’ approach, programme and module teams take part in an engaging hands-on ‘design sprint’ workshop, usually facilitated by UCL Digital Education. In just 90 minutes using a game format, teams collaborate to create a visual ‘storyboard’ outlining the type and sequence of blended and online activities required to meet the module’s learning outcomes. Assessment, cross-programme themes and institutional policies such as the Connected Curriculum can all be integrated according to the needs of the programme/module.

After running pilots in the 2014-15 academic year, ABC was launched as a service in 15-16 and has enjoyed steady growth in numbers of modules (re)designed per annum. As part of UCL’s 2016-21 Educational Strategy we committed to work with 250 modules by 2021. We have nearly reached this already, not counting workshops run by UCL academic colleagues.

Word of ABC soon spread beyond UCL especially as we provide workshop materials for free download. In 2016-18 we were funded by HEFCE Catalyst to both evaluate the ABC method and develop these materials onto a downloadable ABC Toolkit to help other institutions run their own workshops. We ran demos at several JISC Connect More events, ALT-C and international conferences and as a result ABC is now a familiar UCL ‘brand’ in the UK and beyond.

90% of ABC participants surveyed in the HEFCE project agreed their experience was positive and 71% that the workshop enabled them to enhance the curriculum. Many follow-up interviewees commented on the ‘buzz’ in the room and enjoyment of the workshops:

it’s just a fun workshop so it’s colourful, it’s paper based, you’re moving things around and you’re feeling things, people are excited, if there are tutors and there are many of those who actually have a fear of technology type things, well they don’t have to worry about it in a workshop like this, …  it’s alive, you can see it; people are talking and it’s great to see that….

In parallel we have run the workshops for 16 fellow-members of the League of European Research Universities, including at Edinburgh, Oxford, Imperial, Trinity College Dublin, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and the Sorbonne. This networking led to the current Erasmus + project ‘ABCtoVLE’ (2018-2020) investigating both how institutions localise ABC and link it to their online learning environments. This year the UCL Digital Education team have also run workshops by invitation in Warsaw, Zurich, Geneva, Reykjavik and even as far afield as Auckland and Sydney.

The global interest in UCL’s learning design method is wonderful but hard to keep up with, so next year we will focus more on building a sustainable network.

Dynamic teaching using Active Learning Platform tools

Janice K MKiugu22 November 2019

Active learning refers to any learning activity which involves the active participation of the student and it’s not a new idea – Active learning: Quick guide

Beetham H. (2007) notes that  students learn more effectively when they:

  • are active;decorative
  • are motivated and engaged;
  • can bring their existing capabilities into play;
  • are appropriately challenged;
  • have opportunities for dialogue;
  • receive feedback;
  • have opportunities for consolidation and integration.

There are a wide range of learning technologies that can help support the process of active learning. Among those available to UCL staff are the engagement tools within Lecturecast. Staff don’t need to be using Lecturecast for recording to take advantage of these tools. Existing presentations such as PowerPoint slides can be uploaded, and interactive elements e.g. polling slides easily added.

Before, during or after the delivery of the lecture, students are be able to:

  • Flag confusing content;
  • Bookmark slides they may want to revisit during their revision;
  • Take notes – these are personal and only visible to the specific students. Students can later download these notes;
  • Ask questions and engage in discussions;
  • Respond to interactive question slides.

Staff are able to:

  • Deliver lectures with interactive question slides thus making classroom sessions more engaging;
  • View points in the lecture where students may have been confused;
  • View questions raised in class and respond to these either during or after the lecture;
  • Generate in class discussion while lecturing or after the lecture;
  • After the lecture, view student engagement with lecture slides and recordings;

To find out more or to organise bespoke training for teaching staff in your department/programme team, please contact Digital Education: digi-ed@ucl.ac.uk

Useful links

References

Beetham, H. (2007) ‘An approach to learning activity design’, In: Beetham, H. and Sharpe, R., Eds. Rethinking pedagogy for a digital age: designing and delivering e-learning, Abingdon: Routledge. (pp 26-40.)

Higher Education Academy and Centre for Materials Education, 2008, ‘Active Learning’, Higher Education Academy, available from https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/knowledge-hub/active-learning-quick-guide , last accessed 21st November 2019

Digital Accessibility – from Directive to DNA

SamanthaAhern22 July 2019

I have been very excited by the flurry of activity that has been triggered by The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations (2018)   across my own and other institutions. These regulations haven’t really introduced anything new, much of it is covered by existing equalities legislation, but it has shifted the focus. Previously, we could be reactive and in our laziest moments rely on those that needed adjustments to request them. Now, we are required to be proactive. To create content that is accessible by design and follows Universal Design for Learning principles around designing for POUR (i.e., so content is Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust). Aligning with the social model of disability: people are disabled by barriers in society, not by their impairment or difference.

Tweet by Danielle Johnstone describing some of the Lego activity outcomes.Many colleagues I meet are concerned about what the regulation means in terms of workload, what is required of them and how they become compliant. A range of guidance and support is being delivered to help raise awareness and develop the required skills. But, fundamentally there needs to be a mind shift.

Although there are deadlines associated with the regulations, I would argue that digital accessibility is not a compliance challenge but a cultural shift. A move from directive or requirement to part of our institutional DNA.

In a workshop I co-hosted with my colleague Leo Havemann, a participant described Digital Accessibility as being akin to Escher’s staircase, and I believe that they are correct. We will never not need to consider accessibility as part of our learning and content designs, and it may at times be impossible to be 100% accessible to everyone. However, it doesn’t mean that this shouldn’t become part of our day-to-day practice. The recently launched Student Health and Wellbeing Strategy echoes this with Action 1D: Make key concepts related to disability awareness, inclusive learning, health and wellbeing an integral part of relevant professional services staff and Personal Tutor training. Incorporate these concepts into curriculum development, design and governance.

So, how do we make accessibility part of our everyday? The aim of the aforementioned workshop was to crowd-source ideas on how to create the cultural shift, but also to identify what we can do now to help affect our institutional cultures.

Screenshot of tweet by Kris Rogers showing workshop Lego modelFor creating a cultural shift, key themes were to obtain buy-in from senior leadership teams and to embed digital accessibility in induction, training and promotion/development requirements. Making it part of the institutional language and ways of working for all. There was an acknowledgement that we needed to be honest with colleagues that it would require additional effort and different ways of thinking and doing. However, this would reduce over time as a result of skills development, cultural shift and tools to help. There should also be a bottom-up approach facilitated by peer evaluation and creating a network of champions within and across institutions.

With regard to what we can do now, 15% solution, a key theme was walking the talk – demonstrating good practice through our own behaviours and leading the way for others to follow. Training and support were also key themes, as were demonstrating good practice and cultivating empathy.

There may well be dragons to face along the way, but they are worth facing for the creation of a more inclusive and equitable institution.

If you would like to run the workshop at your institution, the materials are available under CC BY-SA 4.0 license: DirectiveToDNA-AccessibilityWorkshop

The materials are also available via OpenEd@UCL.

Compassionate Pedagogy in Practice

SamanthaAhern3 July 2019

Abstract

Compassion can be defined as “a sensitivity to suffering in self and others with a commitment to try to alleviate and prevent it”(Gilbert, 2017). Compassionate pedagogy could be viewed as a response to a growing sense of zombification of the academy. A universal design for education approach to learning design and resource selection, informed in part by learning analytics, could be considered as components of a compassionate pedagogy. However, as compassion requires an innate motivation, it is this motivation rather than a formal framework or policy requirement that makes these activities the actions of a compassionate pedagogue.

Introduction

The development of massified Higher Education and growing concerns around the increasing use of data in both the ranking and management of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) has led to a growing body of scholarly work around the notion of the Zombie Academy (Brabazon, 2016)(Moore, Walker, & Whelan, 2013).  Neo-liberal discourse and approaches to governance and accountability are increasingly commoditizing education and reducing the role of the student to consumers whilst simultaneously stripping the function and roles of our HEIs of their social, cultural and political meanings (Moore et al., 2013).

Simultaneously, there is a growing rise in literature around and a move towards compassionate pedagogy. Compassion can be defined as “a sensitivity to suffering in self and others with a commitment to try to alleviate and prevent it”(Gilbert, 2017). Teachers are said to show compassion towards students if they endeavour to see things from the students’ perspective (Waghid, 2014), however this omits the need for motivation to act in a way that is of benefit for students. This is encapsulated in (Hao, 2011)’s definition of Critical Compassionate Pedagogy: “a pedagogical commitment that allows educators to criticize institutional and classroom practices that ideologically underserve students at disadvantaged positions, while at the same time be self-reflexive of their actions through compassion as a daily commitment”.

Being a compassion pedagogue and developing compassionate pedagogy can therefore be said to be about the day-to-day choices made by educators. These choices will include decisions about learning design, selection of learning materials and the use of data to inform learning design and student feedback.

Compassionate Pedagogy in Practice

The increase in the proportion of young adults attending Higher Education Institutions has led to an increasingly diverse student intake (‘Who’s studying in HE?: Personal characteristics | HESA’, n.d.), however this is not always represented in the curricula or in how the curricula are presented to students.

In recent years there has been growing dissatisfaction with what some students describe as ‘pale, male and stale’ curricula. This has resulted in some high profile student campaigns to decolonise the curriculum at a number of leading UK universities including UCL (‘Why is My Curriculum White?’, n.d.) and Cambridge University (https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/oct/25/cambridge-academics-seek-to-decolonise-english-syllabus), becoming a point of discussion and debate across the sector.

Selecting learning resources and situating learning in a manner that reflects the differing voices, perspectives and experiences of those generating and consuming knowledge are a fundamental part of compassionate pedagogy.

Even if our curricula are representative, how do we ensure an equity of experience for our students? Ableism in academia is endemic and so the concern for equality and equitability is on the increase (Brown & Leigh, 2018).  In 2016/17 12% of students were known to have a disability, many of whom may not have a visible disability (‘Who’s studying in HE?: Personal characteristics | HESA’, n.d.).  Therefore, learning design and design choices made when creating learning resources are also key components of an inclusive, compassionate learning environment. Examples of these choices may include automatically adding closed captions to all videos created by an instructor, avoiding the use of colour to infer meaning, ensuring resources are created in formats that are compatible with institutionally supported accessibility tools or selecting an open textbook as the main course text.

These can both be considered as examples of universal design in education (UDE), where UDE is defined as “the design of educational products and environments to be useable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialised design” (Burgstahler, 2015).  This requires the acknowledgement and consideration of the diverse characteristics of all eligible students, these may include ability, language, race, ethnicity, culture, gender, sexual orientation and age. Therefore, the application of universal design principles can be considered an act of compassion.

For a course at a HEI, the products and environment would include the curriculum, facilities and technology used in the course.  At a macro level this may be choosing teaching strategies, and at the micro, facilitating small group discussions.  For example, when using a learning method such as UCL’s ABC method, the products and environments will include considering the variety of learning types selected, the blend of online and offline activity and the assessment load, both formative and summative. The Learning Designer tool enables you to see how much time is spent on tasks and what percentage of directed time is spent on each learning type (‘Learning Designer’, n.d.). Additionally, tools such as the Exclusion Calculator created by the University of Cambridge enables the quantification of accessibility of resources and helps to prioritise improvements.

The role of data

Learning analytics is an ongoing trend and has been identified as one of the ‘Important Developments in Technology for Higher Education’ for 2018/19 (Becker et al., n.d.). Learning analytics has been defined as ‘the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for purposes of understanding and optimising learning and the environments in which it occurs’(Siemens & Gasevic, 2012).

Higher Education Institutions store and generate a plethora of data about students and their interactions with the institution’s IT services and systems. Some of this data can be leveraged by educators to inform their practice and tailor student support. For example, the Echo 360 Active Learning Platform system enables students viewing recordings to flag content that they find confusing.  This data could then be used by the instructor to inform planning for forthcoming lectures or tutorials.  Demographic data could be used to identify students who may need additional support as they may have a specific learning difficulty or be first in family to attend university. It is also possible to identify students who may be over-using resources in an institution’s Virtual Learning Environment, e.g. repeatedly completing the same formative quiz, that may indicate support is required.

This data can be collated for different purposes; automated actions (e.g. email triggers) or as data for humans (e.g. tutors or students themselves) to interpret. An example of automated actions is Newcastle University’s Postgraduate Research Student attendance monitoring process undertaken by the Research Student Support Team (RSST) and the Medical Sciences Graduate School (MSGS). Of the three emails that can be sent to a student, the Level 1 email is an informal automated reminder sent to a student if there has been no recorded and confirmed meetings within 6 weeks (‘Attendance Monitoring’, n.d.).

However, this does not mean that actionable insights will necessarily be drawn or that action will take place. Motivation is required at institutional and practitioner level to make meaningful use of the data, returning us back to our notion of compassionate pedagogy and a motivation to criticize institutional and classroom practices for the benefit of students. An added complication are concerns around HEIs’ obligation to act on any data analyses, in particular providing adequate resources to ensure appropriate and effective interventions (Prinsloo & Slade, 2017).

Conclusion

In this paper we have discussed how accessible learning design and moves to liberate curricula can be perceived as acts of compassion, however these may be undertaken by non-compassionate pedagogues in response to mandated requirements from institutional management, for example UCL’s Inclusive Curriculum Health Check (UCL, 2018), potentially becoming another part of the zombie academy.

Likewise, we have identified that learning analytics can have a role to play. However, it too needs appropriately motivated institutions and staff to utilise this technology in a compassionate manner.

The key notion that separates compassion from empathy or sympathy is the desire to help, or in some definitions motivation to act.  It is this combination of awareness of others and motivation to act in a meaningful way, that determines whether a pedagogue is compassionate or not. These are not things that can be embedded in a formal framework or policy document, but are a culture and mindset that need to be cultivated.

References

Attendance Monitoring. (n.d.). Retrieved 18 September 2018, from https://www.ncl.ac.uk/students/progress/student-resources/PGR/keyactivities/AttendanceMonitoring.htm

Becker, S. A., Brown, M., Dahlstrom, E., Davis, A., DePaul, K., Diaz, V., & Pomerantz, J. (n.d.). Horizon Report: 2018 Higher Education Edition, 60.

Brabazon, T. (2016). Don’t Fear the Reaper? The Zombie University and Eating Braaaains. KOME, 4(2). https://doi.org/10.17646/KOME.2016.21

Brown, N., & Leigh, J. (2018). Ableism in academia: where are the disabled and ill academics? Disability & Society, 33(6), 985–989. https://doi.org/10.1080/09687599.2018.1455627

Burgstahler, S. (2015). Universal design in higher education : from principles to practice / edited by Sheryl E. Burgstahler (2nd ed.). Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard Education Press.

Gilbert, P. (Ed.). (2017). Compassion: Concepts, Research and Applications (1 edition). London ; New York: Routledge.

Hao, R. N. (2011). Critical compassionate pedagogy and the teacher’s role in first‐generation student success. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2011(127), 91–98. https://doi.org/10.1002/tl.460

Learning Designer. (n.d.). Retrieved 17 September 2018, from https://www.ucl.ac.uk/learning-designer/index.php

Moore, C., editor of compilation, Walker, R., editor of compilation, & Whelan, A., editor of compilation. (2013). Zombies in the academy : living death in higher education / [edited by] Andrew Whelan, Ruth Walker and Christopher Moore. Bristol : Intellect.

Prinsloo, P., & Slade, S. (2017). An elephant in the learning analytics room: the obligation to act (pp. 46–55). ACM Press. https://doi.org/10.1145/3027385.3027406

Siemens, G., & Gasevic, D. (2012). Guest editorial-Learning and knowledge analytics. Educational Technology & Society, 15(3), 1–2.

UCL. (2018, May 11). New checklist helps staff rate inclusivity of their programmes. Retrieved 17 September 2018, from https://www.ucl.ac.uk/teaching-learning/news/2018/may/new-checklist-helps-staff-rate-inclusivity-their-programmes

Waghid, Y. (2014). Pedagogy Out of Bounds: Untamed Variations of Democratic Education. Sense Publishers. Retrieved from //www.springer.com/la/book/9789462096165

Who’s studying in HE?: Personal characteristics | HESA. (n.d.). Retrieved 9 September 2018, from https://www.hesa.ac.uk/data-and-analysis/students/whos-in-he/characteristics

Why is My Curriculum White? – Decolonising the Academy @ NUS connect. (n.d.). Retrieved 10 September 2018, from https://www.nusconnect.org.uk/articles/why-is-my-curriculum-white-decolonising-the-academy