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Remote but not solo, Moodle and Group Work

Samantha Ahern24 June 2020

Social learning is an important part of the learning experience for students. It enables knowledge consolidation and application, and opportunities for cross-curricula and inter-disciplinary learning. In addition, through working in groups students are able to develop valuable employability skills such as collaboration, communication, problem-solving and negotiation. However, group work can be tricky to design and mange effectively and needs careful consideration. I recommend reading: Burke, A. (2011). Group work: How to use groups effectively. Journal of Effective Teaching, 11(2), 87-95.

Moodle can be used to facilitate this rich learning experience through use of the group feature. Separate groups allow students to contribute and see work within their own groups,  visible groups on the other hand allow students to only contribute to their own group work but they can view work taking place in other groups.

The following activities could be set up for collaboration amongst groups of students:

  1. Forum: create a forum (just one),  assign students to groups, students will only see post made in their group,  give students a clear task. – staff can review what is happening in each group. For more information and links case to studies see the Discussion Forums MiniGuide.
  2. Chat: group chat sessions-  create a space where students can arrange to meet and work collaboratively on a task. For more information see the MoodleDocs article Using Chat.
  3. Glossary: In groups or as a cohort build a glossary of key terms that students may encounter on the course. Might be really useful e.g for medical terms. Each time the term is used on the course a defintion will be highlighted. For more information and links case to studies see the Glossary MiniGuide.
  4. Database: share resources and entries e.g. create a collaborative resource bank, or peer review of shared work. For more information about how to use databases and ideas for usage see the MoodleDocs article Using Databases.
  5. Workshop: enables students to peer review work submitted by others. Students can be assigned work to review or students can be assigned work to review randomly. There is a lot to be considered and set-up for the effective use of Moodle workshops, their use needs to be carefully planned in advance for them to be a meaningful part of a module’s design. For more information see the Moodle workshop for peer assessment MiniGuide.

Related Arena case studies

Some of these case studies make use of Moodle, others do not. But all discuss an element of group work that could be modified for a Connected Learning and facilitated via Moodle.

 

Open Education and Teaching Continuity

Samantha Ahern and Leo Havemann15 May 2020

Open Education practices and resources have become increasingly important of late. Sharing what we have learnt and changes that we have made in our approach to digital pedagogy and learning design are important in helping create the best possible learning opportunities for our students. In addition, as students may not have access to all the resources available via campus, now is a good time to re-use, share and create open educational resources. For instance, selecting an open textbook will enable greater access to a textbook resource.

Ongoing support

UCL Digital Education are continuing to run a series of online drop-in and training sessions. A full list of all upcoming sessions is available on the DigiEd team blog. In addition, a series of how-to videos are available via the E-learning wiki.

Arena centre colleagues are also hosting a range of online drop-ins. Details are given on the Teaching Continuity webpages.

SIG update

All OpenEd@UCL SIG face to face meetings are suspended for the forseeable future, including both SIG meetings and the monthly informal meet-ups.  Instead we will be keeping in contact via our SIG space on Teams and the mailing list. We are have already held one successful remote meeting and we will advertise upcoming meeting dates and times via our Teams space.

Resources

There is a wide range of fantastic resources available that can be utilised by you and your students. Some of these have been created by colleagues within UCL, some have not.
Please share any OER that you think will be useful to colleagues via the OpenEd space on Teams.

Things to read or watch

Some fantastic guidance is being provided by a range of experts at present to help with the transition. Included here are some great things to read to help inform your practice moving forwards, plus just some great reads related to open education and practices. All listed items are open access.

 

Is it time to get wiki’d?

Samantha Ahern21 April 2020

The Wikimedia Foundation is a nonprofit organisation that hosts Wikipedia amongst other free knowledge projects. At present there are 12 projects, but the projects of particular interest to educators are:

  • Wikipedia – the online encyclopedia;
  • Wikidata – an open database and central storage for structured data;
  • Wikimedia Commons – a host of media files and their metadata;
  • Wikibooks – a collaborative, instructional non-fiction book authoring website.

These can be used in a variety of ways to develop skills. Wikimedia UK have produced a report mapping engagement with the projects to existing digital skills frameworks in the UK, which can be read on Wikimedia UK’s website: https://wikimedia.org.uk/wiki/Education.

Wikimedia at UCL

UCL has hosted a number of Wikipedia edit-a-thons, recent events have included:

  • Teaching translation through Wikipedia, 2015;
  • WCCWiki Workshop, September 2018;
  • International Women’s Day wiki edit-a-thon, May 2019;
  • TrowelBlazers Wikimedia Edit-a-thon, November 2019.

The interdiscplinary BASc  course  core module BASC0001 Approaches to Knowledge requires students to contribute to the wikibook ‘Issues in Disciplinarity’. This assessment was first introduced in 2018/19 with publication of the initial Open Education Resource and Open Access book: Issues in Interdisciplinarity 2018-19. This assignment has become an ongoing assessment and this year’s students have been contributing to Issues in Interdisciplinarity 2019-20. More information about the project is given in the Wikimedia UK blog post University College London undergraduates will create their own course text using Wikibooks.

However, Wikimedia projects are not generally used within a teaching and learning context. This is unfortunate as Wikimedia projects can be used to create authentic tasks and assessments that align with the Connected Curriculum.

Wikimedia in Education

Wikimedia UK and the University of Edinburgh recently combined forces to produce the ebook Wikimedia in Education. This ebook outlines how Wikimedia projects can support the development of students’s digital capabilities. But, more importantly, it provides 14 case studies from a range of disciplines and institutions on how they have embedded Wikimedia projects in their courses.

It is hoped that these case studies will inspire further use of Wikimedia projects in Higher Education. I am hoping that this will be the case within UCL.

OpenEd@UCL

If you are interested in Wikimedia projects or open education more generally you are invited to join the OpenEd@UCL community. You can do this by joining our MS Teams team OpenEd@UCL. The purpose of the team is to share ideas and resources. It will also be a communication channel between the OpenEd@UCL core team and the wider special interest group. This will include information about upcoming meetings and updates on activities.

To find out more about UCL’s institutional repository for uploading, publishing, storing, and sharing Open Educational Resources visit the Open Education at UCL pages.

Lecturecast: Viewed and understood?

Samantha Ahern16 April 2020

For many staff and students Lecturecast is a regular feature of their teaching and learning experience. With the transition to remote provision, it has become one of the core tools. Either via new captures using Lecturecast Universal Capture Personal or the release of previous captures to current cohorts.

How are students interacting with these captures and what could this tell us about their understanding?

The Active Learning Platform (ALP)

Lecturecast is UCL’s internal branding of Echo 360, the service that we use for lecture capture. The Echo 360 Active Learning Platform, ALP, provides a range of features, not just the hosting of lecture recordings.

The interactive features of the platform include:

Recently a number of UCL academic colleagues, Prof Andrea Townsend-Nicholson, Prof John Mitchell and Dr Parama Chaudhury, took part in the webinar Live Panel Discussion: Is it Time for the University Lecture to Evolve?. During the discussion the system’s interactive features are touched upon.

These features can help students manage their learning, but can also provide you with an insight into your students’ understanding. Most of these features can be used for re-released and personally captured content, they do not neccesarily rely on a live teaching event.

More information is available in the ALP Resource Centre.

Analytics Reports

The Active Learning Platform, much like Moodle, collects a lot of data about interactions with the platform. There are a number of analytics reports available to you as the course instructor.

These are:

Video analytics

Screenshot showing the video analytics and overlaid heatmap for an example video

Example: Video analytics and heat map

Particularly useful information is the unique number of views, average view time and the heatmap overlay. The heatmap identifies the most commonly viewed segments of the video.

Course analytics – Classes data

Screenshot of Course analytics - Class for an example course

Example: Course analytics – Classes data

This gives an overall view of video and slide deck views, student interactions and confusion flags enabled. The confusion flags are particularly useful as it allows you to gain an insight into what students are potentially not understanding. You are also able to review students’ performance in embedded polling activity. These could then be used to inform future sessions or the provision of additional resources.

Course analytics – Student data

The same information as for the class, but for individual students.

Screensot showing Class Analytics - Students for an example course

Example: Course analytics – Student data

Insight?

All of these data will enable you gain an insight into how your students are interacting with resources and potentially identify any sticky topics. However, as always they only tell part of the story and should be used with caution. For more guidance on using these analytics please review Digital Education’s Lecturecast Data Analytics Guides.

 

Moodle: How do students use yours?

Samantha Ahern15 April 2020

Moodle is what UCL uses for it’s institutional Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). It is an important part of the student experience and facilitates blended learning. How integrated Moodle courses are with the overall delivery of  modules vary, but all courses should meet UCL’s E-learning baseline.

Your Moodle courses will contain a variety of resources and activities, but how do we know what students are engaging with and when? Are any changes you’ve made to the course having the desired effect?

This is where Moodle reports can help.

Moodle reports are available to tutors and course administrators of a Moodle course. There are six reports available in the Course administration block in your Moodle course. These are:

  • Accessibility Report,
  • Logs,
  • Live Logs,
  • My feedback,
  • Activity Report,
  • and Course Participation.

The four reports that are most useful are Accessibility Report, Live Logs, Activity Reports and Course participation.

The Accessibility Reports is the report produced by Blackboard Ally and will open in a new window. It will give you an overview of the accessibility of your course, a breakdown of the content types and show you the accessibility scores and number of issues for each item in your course.

Information about the Live Logs, Activity Reports and Course participation report are available in the UCL Moodle Staff Guide. 

Why should we be interested in these reports?

By regularly reviewing reports we are able to identify the following:

  • Identify which resources students are using
  • The pattern of student usage
  • An indication of student engagement

I’ve said indication as Moodle interaction in and of itself does not determine how engaged a student is with their course or the course materials.

Resource use

Activity report example - how views of a resource and how many unique users have made those views.

Activity report examples

This a section of the Activity report for one of the Moodle courses I administrate. The report shows how many views each resource has had and the number of unique users who have viewed it.

We can see that Share Accessibility Ideas has had 24 views by 7 users, on average each user has looked at the page 3 times. Although it is as likely that 1 person has viewed it 18 times and everyone else just the once.

Although we won’t know the exact usage, it does give us an indication of what recources are popular and what is revisited. This will enable you to identify what resources students are accessing and what they are not choosing to access or unable to identify as being important.

As always, statistics only tell part of the story, but they give you a jumping off point for further investigation including student feedback.

Keeping on track

Activity completion tracking will give you an indication of your students’ activity within the Moodle. It will help you identify those students that are potentially off-track.

Course participation report showing activity completion for a section of the course

Course participation report example

Activity Completion report showing with students have completed which tasks.

Activity Completion report example

The Activity Completion report is available on courses where course completion is enabled. Where this is the case you can specify the tasks to have a completion status. A completion tick box will be located next to the activity. These can be set to manual or automatic completion. This can be especially useful where there are core activities you want students to complete or access.

The Course participation report is available for all courses. The report enables you to review who has completed All Actions for each Activity module within the course. The Activity module optins will vary depending on the content of your course, as shown below:

Activity Module list for Course participation report illustrating inclusion of Books and Lessons in addition to Forums and Quizzes

Activity Module list for Course participation report for Course A

Activity Module option list for Course participation report of a course with less variety of resource type.

Activity Module option list for Course participation report of course B

As you can see for some items on this list there is no real notion of completion. So in some cases this may indicate that a student has accessed that particular resource. In this report so can also specify the time period of review, from 1 to multiple weeks. From this screen you are able to send a message to a student or group of students, providing a feedback opportunity.

Note of caution

Moodle reports enable course administrators to monitor activity in the course and to see what resources in the course are or are not being accessed. These may be used by course teams to support your teaching and learning and must be used in compliance with the UCL privacy policy for students.

Although they may be used to identify students that potentially need additional guidance or support, this should not be done in an automated manner and should not be the sole data used for this purpose.

UCL does not have a definition or policy relating to “engagement”, in addition, attendance with regards to Moodle is not associated with UCL’s attendance policy. These data therefore cannot be used in  a punitive manner with regards to Personal Tutor interventions or any of the academic regulations, policies and procedures applicable to all UCL taught and research students (UCL Academic Manual).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digital Wellbeing: A guide for staff and students

Samantha Ahern27 March 2020

Tea pot with sugar pot & milk jug

To borrow some words from Dickens:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

No doubt, this is very much how the current period feels for many of us. There are some fantastic things happening in local communities and in our sector, but for many of us it is also the worst of times. Some of us are away from home, or our usual support networks, our routine has been disrupted and there is a constant air of uncertainty.

Its ok, to not be ok. More now than ever. We are being asked to increasingly engaged with digital tools and media, some for the firat time, and this can have a massive impact on our wellbeing. So how do we support our wellbeing whilst adapting to new ways of learning and working?

Teaching Continuity

Guidance for staff

One of the recurring themes in the wellbeing literature across all student groups, K-12 and Higher Education, is the importance of being known by their teachers. Students who feel that their teachers know them and their capabilities are less anxious and perform better than those that do not. Being seen.

With many students distributed across the globe, how do we let them know that they are seen? Both in our support for them and in planning our teaching continuity activities.

It is hard to know where your students may and what technologies they will have access to. They may have a laptop, but may also have limited access to a good internet connection. You also need to consider what additional needs your students may have, see our post on Accessibility and Teaching Continuity.

At the same time, you will be working from home, often not at a proper desk and may be looking after others in your household. It’s important to factor in and support your own wellbeing.

Some things to think about:

  • Be kind. To yourselves and your students. Expect to be less productive, there’s a lot going on.
  • What are the key things your students need to know – the key learning objectives and threshold concepts?
  • What is the simplest way of enabling that learning to happen?
    • Talk to Arena and Digital Education colleagues. Check what support is available via the Teaching Continuity pages.
  • Video is great but its exhausting and requires good internet access.
    • Does the session need to be live? Pre-record where you can, its both less stressful and exhausting.
    • Keep videos short.
    • Do you have students that need captions or transcripts?
    • Can you provide the information in an alternative way e.g. a reading or set a research task.
  • Show your students you care – send them an email, arrange virtual office hrs – doesn’t have to be video, could be an advanced forum or chat in Moodle.
  • Don’t try to replicate everything online, it isn’t the same and shouldn’t be.
  • Be clear with your expectations.
    • Remove or hide any unneccessary content on your Moodle course. Some of your students will try do or read everything.
  • Write yourself a schedule, include plenty of breaks and non-screen time.
  • Talk to your colleagues – virtual coffee mornings or meetings, make use of the chat in MS Teams. Why not take part in an #LTHEChat or catch-up on previous chats?

Guidance for students

First, breathe. There’s a lot happening and a lot changing on a daily basis. We understand that you are doing your best in very difficult circumstances. Keep in contact with your friends and loved ones as much as possible, remember we are physically distancing.

We recommended that you regularly check the Contunuing to learn remotely guidance as it is being regularly updated. It provides some basic guidance around how to get started and learn effectively online as your tutors switch to teaching in a digital format.

The student mental health charity Student Minds have produced some additional coronavirus guidance on looking after your mental health.

Please also check the Support for Students FAQs on the UCL Advice for staff and students who may have concerns about the outbreak of coronavirus web page.

There is additional guidance and support available from Students’ Union UCL including FAQs.

Staff wellbeing

Working from home can be difficult. Whether you’re teaching, researching or in an academic-related role things can be difficult and at times isolating. It’s ok to be less productive than usual.

Firstly, check out the Support for Staff FAQs on the UCL Advice for staff and students who may have concerns about the outbreak of coronavirus web page. This is the key information hub.

Review the Remote working – tools and best practice guidance, this is generic guidance for all those working from home. In addition, UCL Workplace Wellbeing have produced some support resources. In addition, SLMS have collated some nice resources for coping with Working in a Crisis.

Childnet International have a range of guidance on digital wellbeing for children and young adults, including a Digital Wellbeing pack for parents. It is increasingly important that we are mindful of everyone’s digital wellbeing at this time. Especially as we are spending increasing amounts of time online. You may also want to review this Jisc blog post Looking after your own, and others’, digital wellbeing .

General guidance

5 ways to wellbeing: Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning and Give

Taken from: https://whatworkswellbeing.org/about-wellbeing/how-to-improve-wellbeing/

At this time its important to remember that we are actually being asked to physically distance ourselves from colleagues and loved ones, not socially distance. Remain socially connected is essential to our wellbeing and will help reduce and sense of loneliness or isolation.

The first thing is to limit your exposure to the news. Only check the news once or twice a day for key updates, any more than this is unneccessary and may only increase any anxiety.

Secondly, take a break from your smart device. Put it in a box for an hour. Go do something else: read a book, do some colouring, if you have one go out into the garden. This will help reduce the sensory and cognitive overload.

Thirdly, if you are fit and healthy and its permitted, get outside. Exercise, even if it’s just a walk around the block can work wonders to enhance your mood.

Fourth, check out the Blurt foundation’s resources, inparticular the Coronavirus Helpful Hub.

Fifth, the NHS Every Mind Matters website now has 10 tips to help if you are worried about coronavirus.

UCL has published a range of guidance aimed at both staff and students to support you during this time:

References

  • Dickens, C. (1859). A Tale Of Two Cities By Charles Dickens. With Illustrations By H. K. Browne. London: Chapman and Hall.
  • “Not by degrees: Improving student mental health in the UK’s universities”. (2017), IPPR, 4 September, available at: https://ippr.org/research/publications/not-by-degrees (accessed 6 September 2017).
  • O’keeffe, P. (2013), “A Sense of Belonging: Improving Student Retention”, College Student Journal, Vol. 47 No. 4, pp. 605–613.
  • “PISA 2015 Results (Volume III): Students' Well-Being”. (2017), , Text, , available at: https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/education/pisa-2015-results-volume-iii_9789264273856-en (accessed 13 November 2019).
  • https://whatworkswellbeing.org/about-wellbeing/how-to-improve-wellbeing/