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Digital Education team blog


Ideas and reflections from UCL's Digital Education team


Archive for the 'Eliot’s Elements' Category

Teaching videos: which platform should I choose?

By Eliot Hoving, on 12 June 2020


As you prepare your Moodle course for next term, in addition to vital asynchronous activities, you will likely want to add a few videos of yourself or a screen recording of your lecture. By now you’re probably aware that UCL has a plethora of technologies. This is partly a necessity, as UCL teaching practices vary so no single tool will get the job done for everyone, but sometimes it’s a little unclear which to use.


To help you decide, Digital Education with help from the Digital Media team and IT for SLASH team has put together this comparison table of the three centrally supported media platforms: Lecturecast, Mediacentral and Microsoft Stream.


The table hopes to clarify some of the common questions; e.g.

  • Does the platform allow students to download recordings?
  • Can I upload a pre-recorded video e.g. a video recorded in PowerPoint?
  • Can I restrict who views the video?
  • Can I see analytics on whose watched the video?


If you need further advice on creating and sharing video, please contact digi-ed@ucl.ac.uk.


Improve your mathematics and science quizzes with STACK

By Eliot Hoving, on 11 June 2020

The STACK question type is now available in UCL Moodle Quizzes. STACK allows for rigorous mathematical assessment. Until now, mathematical questions often needed to be multiple choice questions, but with the STACK question type, students can enter mathematical responses directly into Moodle.

Students can input equations directly into Moodle and see a preview before submitting.

Figure 1: Students input equations directly into Moodle, and can see a preview before they submit.

STACK questions can have multiple parts, and each part can be evaluated separately. STACK  questions can also include randomly generated components, making it a lot easier to create a range of practice questions, and also preventing student colluding during a quiz.

The feedback options for staff are dramatically enhanced. Student responses can be evaluated against a series of tests, with different feedback and grading returned to students based on the test outcomes. For example a student’s response could be automatically graded to receive a mark of 1 if it is algebraically equivalent to the correct answer, but lose a mark of 0.1 if it is not properly factorised, for a total mark of 0.9. There are many more tests as well.

Student feedback can be tailored to their response.

Figure 2: Student feedback can include tailored responses, equations and even graphical plots.

To learn more about the STACK question type, see the STACK Moodle user guide.

If you are interested in receiving support to introduce STACK into your Moodle quizzes, please contact digi-ed@ucl.ac.uk.

STACK training workshops (various) – sign up now!

The team behind the Stack question type, are currently offering training on STACK from Monday 15th June 2020 10:00-12:00 BST. Reserve your place.

Demonstration course now available at UCL

A Demonstration course which includes multiple question types created in STACK for you to test, analyse and adapt is now available on UCL Moodle. The course is based on the excellent STACK demonstration course provided by the creators of STACK.

To get access, please contact digi-ed@ucl.ac.uk

Images courtesy of the STACK Documentation page.


Make your announcements stand out with the Moodle News Slider

By Eliot Hoving, on 4 May 2020

The News Slider is a new feature available in UCL Moodle. It displays up to 7 announcement posts to staff and students. The slider sits at the top of a Moodle course, where it cycles through a summary of each post and draws the attention of students to important course announcements. Student can click through to the post and access information quickly.

News Slider

The News Slider takes a few steps to configure, but once set up it can give your course a nice modern look and greatly improve the likelihood that students will read your course announcements. Find out more by reading Digital education’s guidance.

Minimise eye-strain with the BeeLine Reader alternative format

By Eliot Hoving, on 31 March 2020

The BeeLine Reader alternative format is now available on UCL Moodle for students and staff.

You and your students have almost certainly felt eye-strain from too many hours reading online, or confusion at staring at a wall of internet text and not knowing where to begin.

The BeeLine Reader provides an innovative solution. It works by adding a colour-gradient to text which allows the eye to focus and move along one line to the next. It designed to make reading online quicker and easier on the eyes. Here’s an example.

With the BeeLine Format:

Beeling alternative format. Font colour of text has a colour gradient to help with reading.


Text before Beeline format. Font colour is black.

Example Text: Aerogel by Dr Zoe Laughlin licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

I personally found that it took a while to get used to the BeeLine colours, but thereafter I was able to identify key headings and sentences much more effectively.

You can try out the BeeLine Reader on your UCL Moodle course now. Simply locate a Word or PDF document, click the Ally download icon net to the file name and select BeeLine Reader. Ally will convert the document to an HTML file for you to read in your browser with the BeeLine colour gradient.

Due to COVID-19, students are likely to be reading more content online now that they don’t have access to UCL printing services. BeeLine Reader and Ally’s other alternative formats can greatly assist all students, especially those with specific needs, to effectively engage with digital content whilst supporting their health and wellbeing, so please recommend Ally’s alternative formats to your students. You can learn more about Blackboard Ally by reading the staff guide or promote it to students using the student guide.

New Accessibility Tool lets you customise Moodle

By Eliot Hoving, on 20 January 2020

A new Moodle plugin, the Accessibility Tool, will be available on Wednesday 22nd January 2020 for staff and students.

The tool allows students and staff to customise the appearance of the Moodle platform through changing Moodle’s colour scheme, font style, readability and text size. The tool can help reduce eye strain and improve concentration. Changes made using the tool only apply to the user, and only apply to the Moodle platform, not documents uploaded or stored on Moodle.

Green on Black Colour Scheme:

Moodle platform where 'Green text on a black background' colour scheme has been selected via the Accessibility Tool.

White on Grey Colour Scheme:

Moodle platform where 'White text on a grey background' colour scheme has been selected via the Accessibility Tool.

Text Size – default

Default Text size on Moodle.

Text Size – Massive text size

Massive text size, which is larger than the Default text size.

How to edit your accessibility preferences?

To customise your preferences, simply:

  1. Log onto Moodle
  2. Click on your name on the top right of Moodle to open up the user menu.
  3. Select Accessibility Tool.

Moodle's user menu contains the Accessibility tool option where you can customise Moodle's appearance to suit your needs.

The release of the Accessibility Tool follows on from Digital Education’s efforts to improve the accessibility of Moodle content through training and support and releasing Blackboard Ally. See the Creating accessible content webpage for more detail.

Students and staff can be directed towards this blog post to learn about the Accessibility Tool, or alternatively to the updated Staff guide or Student guide.

If you have any questions please contact Digital Education at digi-ed@ucl.ac.uk.

Check your Moodle course with Ally’s course accessibility report

By Eliot Hoving, on 13 November 2019

Blackboard Ally now includes a course accessibility report for every UCL Moodle course.

The course report shows you:

  • a course accessibility score,
  • a summary of the different types of content on your course, and
  • a list of all the issues identified on your course, including an “easy to fix” summary and a “low scoring content” summary.

Decorative image showing Ally's course report

To view Ally’s report on your course, tutors or course admins simply go to their Moodle course and click Accessibility report under the Navigation block. You can also run the report in the Administration block by clicking Reports and then Accessibility report.

Ally helps you prioritise work and track your progress:

The report allows staff to work through a series of files with low accessibility scores or focus on a single issue that may appear in multiple files.

From the report, staff can view “easy to fix” issues, such as documents that are more easily editable (PowerPoints and Word Documents). Ally considers adding alternative descriptions to images as “easy to fix” because you can add alternative descriptions directly using Ally without the need to download, edit and upload the file. This is a nice time-saver but writing alternative descriptions can be challenging, for advice see our guide on Visuals and use of colour.

The Ally course report will also update over time to allow staff to track their progress.

Ally also flags HTML content on your Moodle course:

HTML content refers to content that is written into Moodle such as text added to a Moodle section, page, book, or label through Moodle’s text editor. Ally can help identify text with insufficient colour contrast and unused formatting that can arise when Moodle content is copied and pasted from Word. However, fixing HTML issues can be challenging so, for now, we suggest staff focus on Ally’s guidance on their documents.

If you have any questions, please see the Blackboard Ally UCL wiki or get in touch with digi-ed@ucl.ac.uk.