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Working with the Connected Learning Baseline for 2021/22

Clive Young29 July 2021

A major challenge faced  by our learners studying online last year was simply orienting themselves; understanding what tasks to undertake next in a module and how much time to spend on them.

As we move back into more blended delivery, students will have to navigate a rich mix of online and campus-based activities. Clear ‘signposting’ of resources and activities becomes ever more important to reduce stress and guide learners though often quite complex teaching sequences. Pre-Covid, directions could be given verbally during on-campus sessions, but over the last 18 months much of this signposting has had to be provided via Moodle. In this sense, a Moodle course becomes a ‘map’ of the student journey, displaying the structure of each module while also allowing access to its online material and activities. 

We know students who are learning partially or entirely online may feel isolated or ‘disconnected’ from the learning process. It is not unusual for them to be unsure whether they have all the information they need and are doing the right things at the right times. A consistent and ‘friendly’ Moodle course design, with clear labelling of links will students help find specific resources quickly and easily. Learners also appreciate simple instructional direction, describing where, when (and why) to look for resources and how to complete activities. Students can especially benefit from suggestions on how long to spend on each task in order to prioritise and avoid overload. These simple adjustments can reduce students’ confusion and anxiety, enabling them better to focus on learning. 

To make this simple redesign even easier, many departments have aligned with the UCL Connected Learning Baseline which establishes the minimum expectations, or baseline, for Connected Learning in Moodle in 2021/22. Its 10 brief sections address the practicalities of how to arrange and present a course so that it is easy to use, how to help students get the most out of it, how to manage communications, as well as a digestible overview of legal requirements, particularly accessibility. A general, baseline-aligned template (see image) was created by Digital Education which has been adapted by many departments. While there is no requirement to present the course in a specific way, your Faculty Learning Technology Lead (FLTL) will be able to advise if a local template is available. 

Whether a template is used or not – and given everyone’s time constraints – we suggest focusing initially on the first five sections of the Baseline, covering structure, orientation, communication, assessment and resources. These five sections make recommendations for making your course more ‘friendly’, useable, and navigable.  For example, we know that simple welcome videos that provide an overview of the module and/or sections within it are much appreciated by our students. 

Beyond these basics, a real positive outcome of the last 18 months is that staff and students have become much better at using Moodle to its full potential, including for example using quizzes to help engagement and of course including pre-recorded short lectures in Moodle as a springboard for seminars (on campus or online). If you are interested these and other approaches, there is a wealth of help available online  (linked from the Baseline page) and again, your Faculty Learning Technology Lead (FLTL) or Digital Education Advisor should be able to assist. 

ABC learning design and the challenges of online

Clive Young26 April 2021

ABC learning design is UCL’s widely used ‘sprint’ method to help busy university and college teachers review and redesign their courses for blended modes.

Originally run as face-to-face workshops, in just 90 minutes teaching teams work together to create a visual ‘storyboard’ of activities representing the student journey. Assessment methods, programme-level themes and institutional policies can all be integrated easily. International ABC user groups soon emerged to share ideas, translations and localisations.

The Covid crisis impacted in two ways; one positive, one negative.

As even traditionally minded universities were forced to ‘pivot’ rapidly to online learning provision, the advantages of digital modes and the need for learning design suddenly became clearer. However traditional ABC on-campus workshops were impossible. The community responded swiftly by experimented with online approaches.

This academic year Clive Young and Nataša Perović, the UCL originators of ABC, created and trialled their own online version based on Google Jamboard and UCL’s Learning Designer tool.

In a popular webinar last week Clive and Nataša showed how this works and compared on-campus and online versions.

A recording of this webinar is now available via: Zoom

The presentation: ABC LD and the challenges of online Webinar, PDF 4.5Mb

You can also find earlier webinars on ABC

 

Connected Learning – Teaching tools and platforms

Clive Young24 July 2020

Links to the UCL Resource Centres for tools mentioned at the Town Hall today.

Live Teaching

Blackboard Collaborate is UCL’s web conferencing or online classroom platform. It is integrated within Moodle as an activity, providing access to a range of different functions in a live, or synchronous, learning environment. UCL Case StudyUsing Blackboard Collaborate to teach students across the world.

Zoom is coming to UCL and support information will be available then.

Teams, now universally used at UCL for meetings and one-to-one sessions, is not yet recommended for group teaching. There is no Moodle or Portico integration and Digital Education do not have the expertise (yet) support in its use for teaching.​

Virtual Cluster Rooms will provide direct access to cluster room PCs for computer-based classes. They Mirror the physical cluster rooms in virtual groups that will be timetabled in the same way and accessed via UCL Desktop Anywhere. More information and guidance about planning for laboratory and practice-based activities is also being developed.

Live/Asynchonous

Mentimeter (polling) is an online polling, questioning and voting tool that you can use in your classes or presentations, whether they are face-to-face or online, synchronous or asynchronous. UCL has a site-wide licence. UCL Case StudyEngaging students asynchronously with Mentimeter.

Visualisers and graphics tablets can assist online teaching. ISD have a limited stock of visualisers for circulation to lecturers. You can read more about options for writing and showing objectson this digital education blog post.

Asynchronous

Moodle has many tools that can help keep your students engaged and learning in the absence of face-to-face sessions. UCL Case StudyMoodle tools to make your teaching more interactive.

  • Discussion Forums are often considered the mainstay of online learning. Many staff already use the News forum to announce important information. ‘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 to become or remain subscribed to a forum. We recommend that Q&A forums are set up for students to ask questions about the course work or assessment processes. 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.
  • Hot Question used to create a list of popular questions or topics from a group. Participants may ‘rate’ others’ questions. The more votes, the hotter the question and the higher up the list it will appear.
  • 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.
  • H5P is a simple-to-use tool now integrated into Moodle to create interactive content such as drag and drop, fill in the blanks, flashcards, image hotspots, slideshows, games and formative quizzes (the results are not stored) directly within Moodle. UCL Case Study: Creating interactive video training guides in Moodle.

Lecturecast Universal Capture Personal (screen recording) is a stand-alone application which can be used to create recordings (captures). Recordings can include slides (or whatever you choose to show on your computer screen), video of the presenter and audio. Recordings can include slides (or whatever you choose to show on your computer screen), video of the presenter and audio. Lecturecast offers more than just video playback, though. With the Lecturecast Engagement tools,  tutors can set up interactive activities, to engage and support students.

ReadingLists@UCL is an online service that gives students easy access to materials on their reading lists, allowing academic staff to create and update their own reading lists.

LinkedIn Learning provides a vast range of video tutorials supporting learning in software, creative and business skills – all free to UCL staff and currently enrolled students.

Box of Broadcasts (BoB) is Learning on Screen’s on demand TV and radio service for education. The academically focused system allows staff and students to record programmes from over 75 free-to-air channels, and search BoB’s extensive archive of over 2.2 million recordings.

Student-led and collaboration

  • Reflect(WordPress blog) is a form of WordPress, the industry-standard blogging and website-building tool. Blogs may be used to help students reflect on their experiences during study, build a portfolio of their work, collaborate on projects and create public-facing materials. UCL Case StudyMedical Science students use UCL Reflect to create scientific blogs for assessment.
  • MyPortfolio is a very flexible tool which can be used as a portfolio, for blogging, CV builder, social networking system, connecting UCL students and staff and creating online communities. MyPortfolio provides you with the tools to set up a personal learning environment and can also be used to support group work.
  • Office365​, is of course ubiquitous at UCL, but the educational possibilities are not always appreciated. LinkedIn Learning includes a useful overview ‘Office 365 for Educators’.

Learning to Teach Online [LinkedIn Learning course]

Clive Young6 April 2020

As you may know, UCL has access to LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com), a huge range of video tutorials supporting learning in software, creative and business skills – all free to UCL staff and currently enrolled students.

One of these is Learning to Teach Online, a recently-updated 48 minute long introduction to help instructors and teachers to understand the approaches and skills required to teach effectively online. 

As we are going through what is likely to be a significant shift to online learning at UCL, would I recommend it? Yes, I would. Although some of the ideas should already be familiar to UCL colleagues, the course provides a practical (and quick) overview. Most of the main points you need to know to get started are covered, and the course neatly highlights the difference between face-to-face, blended and online methods.

The emphasis on online organisation and communication, ensuring teacher presence, fostering collaboration, accessibility and so on are all particularity sound, and align with UCL’s E-learning Baseline. Much of the advice is in bullet-pointed checklists and only two theoretical frameworks are mentioned, the familiar Bloom’s taxonomy for learning outcomes and the rather useful SAMR model to help us think about technology integration.

I’d obviously suggest ABC to help structure the course, too, but all in all a worthwhile use of 48 minutes (or much less if you speed up the video, as I do!).

Learning Design in an Emergency Part 1

Clive Young2 April 2020

Our teachers are being forced into moving their teaching online very quickly. The initial focus for academics is inevitably be on access, getting themselves and their students online and doing what they can immediately with the institutional tools provided. For most teachers this will be far from full, integrated ‘online learning’ but more an initial digitisation of their existing face-to-face methods.

UCL is mainly focusing on Moodle (already used for resource distribution and to a lesser extent communication), Blackboard Collaborate (for online ‘tutorials’) and Lecturecast (Echo) Universal Personal Capture (short video recordings to replace lectures). The term we use at UCL is Teaching Continuity, emphasising the ‘business as usual’ elements for both teachers and students. Similarly, current assessment plans largely focus on digitising existing time-limited exam practices, although finding alternatives is always recommended.

We might consider this a ‘first stage’ in moving online, the analogy being with the well-known JISC model of stages in development of digital literacies (see image on right). In this model, academics may soon move on from issues of access to tools and simple how-to skills guides. The next stage is likely to how to enhance their online teaching and learning practice and towards attributes such as their role as online teachers. In parallel, our students and staff may soon demand a more sophisticated ‘next stage’ learning experience.

As we progress, learning design becomes especially important. In order to develop true ‘online learning’ in even a simple form, courses will have to be redesigned around online activities. This is likely to be an opportunity to create richer learning designs, and for academics to consider a wider range of practices. Although academics may now have a motivation (albeit external) and focus, colleagues will still be stressed and time-limited, so any (re)design will require very simple workflows, step-by-step guides, checklists and so on.

At UCL and across the HE sector, the ABC ’sprint’ method of learning design has proved a well-evaluated, simple, engaging and productive practical framework to guide academic colleagues this process. The method is built around a collaborative and quite intensive 90’ workshop in which modules teams work together to produce a paper-based storyboard describing the student journey. The key pedagogical core of ABC is an operationalisation the six Learning Types framework of Prof Diana Laurillard (UCL Institute of Education). Using Learning Types has proved a remarkably robust and accessible route into teaching and learning discussion and reflection and shows how pedagogically-informed rapid development learning design is achievable.

The main issue is that ABC was designed as a social, face to face, group-based activity, so we have to rethink how the pedagogic ideas might be presented. The UCL ABC team, working with our ABCtoVLE Erasmus+ project partners are currently investigating online alternatives, with an aim to producing a Toolkit that institutions can localise and use in their own context. Some practicalities will be discussed in the next blog post, but from our experience in the European project we believe ABC should be considered not in isolation but as part of a process of institutional engagement. The full toolkit will most likely comprise three parts,

Pedagogy – Present the Learning Types to academic colleagues as a common language. As we can’t do this as a workshop, we are working on different approaches (see next post).

Technology – What tools are available to teachers? The Tool Wheel is a quick visual approach, linking pedagogy to technology. There are two stages for institutional support teams that can be can be done in either order,

  • Sketch a ‘snapshot’ of supported technologies, comprising the VLE, videoconferencing/virtual classroom, media tools etc. using the App wheel template, the ‘wheel of opportunities’.
  • Make a list of the tools identified and link to local support documentation (videos, web sites, tool guides, ‘how-to’s etc) – can also link to external guides from Canvas, Moodle etc.

Practice – What is effective pedagogic practice using these tools? We want to make use of the guides etc produced by the domain. We are redeveloping the Erasmus+ project site to represent good practice in the six learning types. The project team will list any resources we find that address each of the types. The first stage is to curate, we may be able to write something more definitive in the final report. More information to follow.

Teaching Continuity – a Moodle Toolkit

Clive Young23 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.