Digital Education team blog
  • We support Staff and Students using technology to enhance education at UCL.

    Here you'll find updates on institutional developments, projects we're involved in, updates on educational technology, events, case studies and personal experiences (or views!).

    Subscribe to our elearning newsletters.

  • Subscribe to this blog

  • Meta

  • Tags

  • A A A

    Archive for the 'Domi’s Discussions' Category

    Communicating and collaborating

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 11 July 2016

    Whether it is a tutor wanting to communicate with their students, or students wanting to connect with one another for support or group work, the ability to communicate and collaborate with others effectively is critical to university life. Thankfully there is a plethora of ways this can be done, using both external tools or those hosted by UCL.

    One such internal tools is called MyPortfolio. It is an online portfolio tool, that also facilitates connections and collaboration via profile pages and group spaces. One of the really great things about MyPortfolio is that it also allows you to easily embed a wide range of external content, so the limits of what you can do with it are your imagination.

    Why not check out our MyPortfolio YouTube playlist to find out more.

    Understanding the essence(s) of portfolio-based learning

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 15 June 2016

    Last week saw the first ever joint AAEEBL and CRA conference, hosted in Edinburgh between 6th – 8th June 2016 whioch was titled, ‘Understanding the essence(s) of portfolio-based learning’. For those who don’t  know AAEEBL is a US based global portfolio organisation, it stands for the Association for Authentic, Experiential and Evidence Based Learning. CRA is a very similar UK based organisation, with it’s name standing for the Centre for Recording Achievement. So, as you can imagine this was a portfolio conference.

    There were 3 key themes that emerged from the conference. These themes kept popping up in presentations and discussion :

    Scaffolding
    Process not product
    Cultural shift/ change

    Let’s look briefly at these themes below, but if you would like a more detailed look them please see the AAEEBL/ CRA Conference 2016 on my personal blog.

    The first theme,  scaffolding, refers to the importance of having structure around portfolio activities. This predominately broke down into conversations about templates and frameworks for guiding staff and students without restricting them. Templates can be useful for giving students a little bit of direction without restricting their creative freedom (depending on the content and detail of the template). They are also useful because, anecdotally, students can find it overwhelming to simply be given a blank space to do with as they please. A template gives students a starting place. In relation to frameworks this was mostly a discussion about their usefulness for staff, to help give them some scaffolding from which to build a portfolio activity into their module or course, either as a single assessment or as an on-going activity to support learning via reflective practice. It was thought that this framework should be fairly high level, meaning it was not too prescriptive and not software dependant.

    This actually leads quite nicely into the next theme, process not product. There was a strong emphasis on focusing on the process and pedagogy of portfolios and not the product (either meaning the final output or the technological product used to facilitate them). It is easy to become distracted by debating whether you are using the best online portfolio system. At the moment UCL use MyPortfolio, which is based on the Mahara platform. As good practice we will be reviewing the use of this platform in the near future, however whether we use Mahara, WordPress or Office 365 the process of running a successful portfolio is the same and the buttons are not as important as strong pedagogy.

    The final theme is perhaps the one that has the biggest impact for portfolio, especially online portfolio adoption at institutions, and that is the need for a cultural shift/ change. This is perhaps best summarised by an analogy that was used by Trent Batson (President/CEO of AAEEBL) at the conference. He was talking about the American automobile and how it took 35 years to become fully part of US culture. First they invented the automobile and it opened up a lot of possibilities, such as people being able to commute more easily for work. But even after this it still took time to build all the roads, parking spaces and petrol stations needed. The idea was proven but it took a lot longer for the infrastructure to become part of daily culture. It is fairly easy to see how this relates to portfolios. There are a number of case studies out there to prove their potential, however the infrastructure to support them is not fully part of the culture of universities. Portfolios tend to expose the learning process which can be an intimidating prospect for both students and staff a like. However, portfolios can offer a very useful reflective space where you can use journals to do written reflections, and also reflect whilst curating examples of work you have produced that you are going to include in your portfolio. Reflection gives us the ability to stop and think about our thinking, and to understand how we can do better moving forward.

    Digital Skills Development courses for next term now available

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 3 May 2016

    New dates are now available for ISD Digital Skills Development courses for the summer term.  Courses cover a range of applications including Photoshop, Excel, Stata, Unix, Matlab to name but a few. New this year we have courses in R with RStudio and an Introduction to SQL.  We also now have an Excel 2013 Essential Skills course which is a good foundation for our other Excel courses. Courses are very popular so book early to avoid disappointment.

    Interested in Reproducible Research?  Come along and find out more.  A lunchtime session entitled  ‘First Tools for Reproducible Research’ will be held on 5th May 1 – 2 p.m. in J Z Young Lecture Theatre (G29), Anatomy building.

    For a full list of our courses and link to the booking system visit the staff course catalogue or student course catalogue  If you can’t find what you are looking for, we have a vast range of high-quality video-based courses available at Lynda.com.  Visit the UCL Lynda page to find out more.

    Not sure what you need or need more specific individual help?  Come along to our twice-weekly drop in sessions

    IT courses for UCL staff and students at UCL Institute of Education

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 28 April 2016

    The summer term training schedule is now available and bookings are now open. To view the schedule and making bookings see: IT for IOE Course Bookings

    The programme offers a choice of mini demonstration sessions, mini workshops and full hands-on sessions and includes:

    • sessions looking at iPad apps, Prezi, blogging, mind mapping, Lynda.com, various web tools and Office 2013 applications
    • new hands-on workshops on Evernote, OneNote, WordPress, screencasting tools
    • Mac sessions looking at Keynote (alternative to PowerPoint) and Office 2016 applications
    • hands-on Endnote sessions

    All sessions take place at the UCL IOE campus, 20 Bedford Way

    Feature Focus!

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 8 March 2016

    There’s a wide web out there, with lots of possibilities to be achieved by utilising the plethora of creative and helpful online tools. MyPortfolio is a great resource to pull all of this external content together, in one easily viewable and shareable space. To compliment the external tools, there is also a lot you can do with internal tools such as journals and files. Once you are happy with your page(s) you can even choose a Creative Commons License to help make your content more easily shareable, and help create a bigger impact with your work.

    To see a demonstration of some of possibilities of what you can embed and create with MyPortfolio check out our Feature Focus! MyPortfolio collection.

    Explore. Play. Learn.

    Watch us!

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 2 March 2016

    As you may or may not know there is a lot of information on Digital Education and our services in the UCL wiki pages, including Moodle Resource Centre, Lecturecast Resource Centre or the MyPortfolio Resource Centre.

    However, there are some resources you might not know about, such as the UCL Student E-Learning Services – which provides useful guidance for students on how to do things such as submit work and interact with Lecturecast recordings.

    We also have a couple of pages that we use to update you, that you might want to ‘watch’. By watching a page on the UCL wiki you will get updates when it is changed. Think of it like subscribing to the page for updates. Just log into the wiki and then navigate to the page you want to watch. There you will find a ‘watch’ button in the top right, alongside the page title.

    Digital Education pages to watch:

    New Feature – We use this page to post about changes to Moodle whenever we carry out an upgrade. A lot of the time these changes are behind the scenes, so we don’t detail these. Instead we link to the official Moodle release notes for anyone who is particularly interested in the exact details. If there is anything notable that has changed this will be listed on the page. You will also notice that there are sub-pages dedicated to each of our summer upgrades. As these tend to be larger upgrades, with more changes we have dedicated spaces to detail all of these changes. ‘Watch’ the New Features page to get notifications when we update the page after a Moodle upgrade.

    Turnitin: Service Status and Known Issues – This page is a great resource for anyone who uses Turnitin. The Turnitin: Service Status and Known Issues page can be used to monitor the state of Turnitin, and is the best place to check if you suspect there might be a problem with the system. There is an embedded version of Turnitin’s own service status Twitter feed, which is where they will post of any outages. The Twitter feed is somewhere Digital Education have to check ourselves as well, so it’s good to check. There is also a table of Known Issues, which we are currently working with Turnitin to resolve. This includes details of any workarounds that can be used whilst the problem is fixed. Additionally you will find a Turnitin Quirks table, this is a list of features in Turnitin that are working as intended but perhaps not as desired by some users. We would also recommend you ‘watch this page’ (see steps above) to be among the first to know if there are any problems with the Turnitin system.