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Tutor’s experience of using UCL Reflect with students

Karen Shackleford-Cesare12 February 2020

About Reflect and its User Group

Reflect, UCL’s educational blogging platform, has now had its first birthday and the Digital Education team are delighted that staff from across UCL have enthusiastically taken up the challenge of asking their students to blog, or produce other kinds of online assessment on Reflect.

Digital Education initiated the Reflect User Group (RUG) with its first face-to-face event on Thu December 12th, 2019 from 2-4PM. It was an informal ‘show ‘n tell’ opportunity for staff users of Reflect to compare and contrast their experience of using this tool in their teaching practice. Curious non-users were also welcome as we sought to expand its use to enhance teaching and learning.

We had intended to have the first RUG event in the Spring term, but Reflect user and Russian tutor in SSEES, Maria Sibiryakova asked us to step on the gas (accelerator) to make it happen sooner rather than later. She was very keen to meet fellow Reflect users, exchange ideas and learn of/from their experience and practice.

The tutor experiences showcased

The event showcased the experience of four teaching colleagues who used Reflect in the following ways (click on the bar for more):

  • “Reflect as a portfolio tool” –

    Ros Walford, Lecturer and Maria HadjisoterisSenior Teaching Fellow, IoE

    Reasons for use

    • For students to develop a reflective e-portfolio of their practice whilst on placement
    • To facilitate more "back and forth" between teacher and student than was possible with the paper-based portfolio because it can be accessed online at any time.
    • To eliminate the administrative overhead that managing paper binders incurred.

    Outcomes

    • A template was designed that had all the required sections and included guidance to students on adding content. Hence, each student received the same portfolio structure.
    • Self-instructional video was created to get students up and running with their portfolio, which was effective and reduced the need for face-to-face sessions.

  • "Portfolio assessment using the Reflect platform" –

    Hilary McQueen, Lecturer, IoE

    Reasons for use

    • For students to develop a reflective e-portfolio of their practice whilst on placement
    • To facilitate more "back and forth" between teacher/mentor and student than was possible with the paper-based portfolio because it can be accessed online at any time.
    • To eliminate the administrative overhead that managing paper binders incurred.

    Outcomes

    • A template was designed that had all the required sections and included guidance to students on adding content. Hence, each student received the same portfolio structure.
    • The portfolio template has tabs that usefully break down the requirements for students.
    • It was possible to facilitate access to students e-portfolios by non-UCL staff mentors in the schools where UCL students were doing their placements.

    Wish list

    • A way to check progress – some kind of automatic system that shows what has been done and what is new, and ideally what has been checked as we have to keep separate records, which is very time consuming.

    What I would do differently

    • I would create a table for the observation form and insert ready for use.
    • We would book a computer room and go through how to use Reflect.
    • I would introduce Reflect (now I know how to use it) and ensure that other staff members were there, too.
    • Have a test blog that everyone could add something to (say), just to practice.
  • “Reflect for science blog assessments and showcase portfolios” –

    Nephtali Marina-Gonzalez, Principal Teaching Fellow, Medical Sciences 

    Reasons for use

    • The Department wanted to replace of traditional assessment methods with coursework activities designed to engage students in the research carried out in the Division of Medicine inline with the aims of the Connected Curriculum.
    • To give Year 1 students an opportunity to create a public-facing output that showcased the research done at UCL and their understanding of it in terms suited for a lay audience. 

    Outcomes

    • Students found this activity more engaging that last year’s traditional single answer question (SAQ) exam and general feedback from the students was very positive.
    • There was a significant increase in marks for their blogs across the board relative to past exam grades, (namely, 71.4 +/- 6.1 blogs vs 56.1 +/-15 SAQ). 
    • Students were able to appreciate the importance of broad public engagement to their learning process. One student said:
    “If you can’t explain something simply, you don’t really understand it”.

    For Neph's 5 top tips more about his experience with Reflect peruse his case study and interview

    Wish list

    • Better marking tools that were integrated with Moodle.

    What I'd do differently

    • Give the students several examples of what is expected of them.
    • Invite UCL's Copyright officer to give a lecture to on copyright issues.
    • Utilise the Open tool kit for students that Digital Education's Leo Havemann and Samantha Ahern are developing.
    • Students found communicating scientific concepts in lay terms particularly challenging so the target audience of the blogs will be adjusted according to the level of expertise of the students.
    • Build on our use of Reflect to have our students use it to create a 'showcase portfolio' that will trace their progress and achievement throughout their degree.
  • “The Use of Blogs in Developing Writing Skills in Russian” –

    Maria Sibiryakova, Senior Teaching Fellow, SSEES

    Reasons for use

    • For students to create a language portfolio, which serves as an ipsative form of assessment. They contribute to it regularly and can get feedback from peers and externals as well as their tutor that feeds forwards into their next post.
    • To motivate students  to write more in Russian by:
      • Providing an external audience for their work, not just their tutor
      • Enabling them to see and comment on each other's work – peer review
    • To prompt students to take responsibility for what they write both the:
      • Content they create
      • Language they use

    Outcomes

    • Students were less likely to submit a draft
    • This new form of assessment was as effective as traditional methods, e.g. exams
    • Students developed transferrable digital skills through their use of WordPress

    Wish list

    • Ability for students to see the number of views their posts have had
    • Would like Reflect to have more support for marking
    • To eliminate the need for Turnitin, Plagiarism as a trust issue

    What I'd do differently

    • Incorporate training on academic integrity
    • Include a copyright statement and seek guidance/support from the UCL library.

    For more view Maria's presentation slides.

     

Reflect user support

Krystyna Huszcza, Senior IT Trainer, Digital Education, ISD 

Runs a hands-on workshop at basic/introductory level at least twice per term that is open to all staff and students. No prerequisites are required beyond an assumed comfort level with using word processors and browsers. The course description is presented below and you can find and book a place on the next workshop on the Digital Skills Development at IOE – Course Bookings page.

[Note: Staff wanting to arrange demonstrations or hand-on training for their students (and/or colleagues) at specific times should email digi-ed@ucl.ac.uk].

Blogging/WordPress: Blogging with Reflect (WordPress-based)

UCL Reflect is UCL’s new educational blogging service allowing students and staff to use blogging for teaching and learning. It is in fact a WordPress platform called CampusPress which offers access to many WordPress themes and plug-ins. See: UCL Blogging Service for more information about the Reflect service.

Individual blogs can be requested by staff or students. Teachers can request a Class blog to use with their students in teaching or for assessment. To request a Reflect blog please use the online form available from our wiki page: Requesting a blog

This introductory session will focus on the basics of working with an individual blog and aims to build your confidence for posting blogs and managing your account. It assumes you have very little or no previous WordPress experience. The session will cover many of the basics skills, introduce you to one or two advanced tools/features and point you in the right direction for further training and resources. Topics covered will include:

  • Navigating Reflect
  • Creating posts
  • Formatting text
  • Working with images
  • Scheduling a time to publish posts and reverting to draft status
  • Versions
  • Categories and Tags
  • Themes
  • Widgets in sidebar
  • Pages and Menus
  • What are plugins?
  • Privacy
  • Useful settings and customisations

EARLY BOOKINGS REQUIRED: Please note that bookings for this course are only open until 4 days prior to the course to allow for time for a UCL Reflect blog to be created for you to use in the training session.

If you wish to create a Reflect blog well in advance of the session you may request one by completing the online form found on UCL's Reflect wiki page: Requesting a blog.

One of the things we had hoped to have time for at the meeting was to discuss how the RUG can be most useful to members. Although due to lively Q&A, we didn’t end up getting to that topic, we still want to hear your views on this. Hence, please let us know via our online form. All in all, we think the format of this meeting worked well and we intend to repeat it in the next few months.

Looking forward to the next User Group meeting, we are hoping once again to hear from staff with a range of use-cases for Reflect. Issues which we know people are working on include assessment criteria for Reflect blogs and sites, doing group work on Reflect, and comparing Reflect with MyPortfolio. Of course, if you would like to speak, or hear about particular things please complete this online form, we’ll be notified and get in touch.

Reflect’s Hall of Mirrors

Samantha Ahern31 January 2020

Reflect is UCL’s educational blogging service. It is a WordPress-based platform, hosted by CampusPress. Although Reflect is the educational blogging service, it can be utilised in a number of different ways by both staff and students for teaching and learning purposes. The flexibility of the WordPress platform enable Reflect sites to be structured in any of the following ways, as both individual and class sites:

  • As a traditional blog
  • As a website built from a number of static pages
  • As a website built from a number of static pages with an incorporated public or private blog

In addition these sites can be public, private or accessible to a selected group of users.

Why use Reflect for teaching and learning?

Reflect can be used to support all six dimensions of the Connected Curriculum:Connected Curriculum framework diagram

  1. Students connect with researchers and with the institution’s research.
  2. A through-line of research activity is built into each programme.
  3. Students make connections across subjects and out to the world.
  4. Students connect academic learning with skills for the workplaces.
  5. Students learn to produce outputs – assessments directed at an audience.
  6. Students connect with each other, across phases and with alumni.

 

Reflect could be incorporated into teaching and learning, including assessment in the following ways.

Traditional blogs could be used to:

Example activity: Connected Curriculum Dimension:
Reflect on readings throughout a module or course 1, 2, 4
Maintain a reflective journal e.g. of teaching practice experience 2, 3, 4
Maintain a lab notebook or project journal 1, 2, 4
Produce a short form essay linking learning to current affairs 1, 3, 4

Websites could be used to:

Example activity: Connected Curriculum Dimension:
Co-produce a website on a set topic for a specified audience 1, 3, 4
Produce a showcase portfolio of work 4
Produce an open resource for specified audience 3, 4, 5
Facilitating a citizen science project 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Websites with blogs could be used to:

Example activity: Connected Curriculum Dimension:
Create an evidence portfolio for professional practice and  maintain a reflective journal 1, 2, 3,  4, 5
Create a website to share research project outcomes and maintain a project journal / notebook 1, 2, 4, 5

For a discussion on the use of UCL Reflect for the creation of portfolios, please see: Creating digital portfolios

How is Reflect being used for teaching and learning?

Since its launch Digital Education have sought to work with colleagues from across the institution to support the use of Reflect for teaching and learning, enhancing their digital pedagogy toolkit and the student experience.

To date, two events have been held to showcase the use of Reflect and to facilitate knowledge exchange between colleagues who are currently using and would like to use Reflect.

The first event organised by colleagues in the Arena Centre for research-based education, the Showcase Portfolio event, was held in the North Cloisters on 28 May 2019. The aim of this event was to provide students and staff with an opportunity to see examples of how blogging can be used for educational, professional and personal purposes.

This event was preceeding by a blog post and a case study where colleagues shared how they were using Reflect with their students:

The second event, Teaching and Learning with Reflect, was held in the Christopher Ingold Building on 12 December 2019. At this event staff shared their experiences of using Reflect for teaching and learning with their respective cohorts.

For a  write-up of the event please see: Tutor’s experience of using UCL Reflect with students

More information about UCL Reflect, including FAQs, can be found in the Reflect Blogging Resource Centre. In addition, you may wish to join the Reflect User Group on Microsoft Teams. In this team, colleagues across the institution share news, experiences and related readings to the use of UCL Reflect.

 

 

 

 

Creating digital portfolios

Samantha Ahern7 November 2019

In the last few years I have used a number of online tools to create digital portfolios as part of my continuing professional development, both HEA Fellowship and Associate CMALT.

For these portfolios I have used both MyPortfolio (Mahara)  and Reflect (WordPress).

Both do the job well, but there are differences in the development process and how you approach the development of the portfolio. You are welcome to view the portfolio I created for HEA Fellowship, original MyPortfolio pages and/or Reflect portfolio.

MyPortfolio

MyPortfolio is UCL’s version of Mahara, an eportfolio development tool. Portfolios are created via pages that are linked together as collections.

When you create your pages you have control over the structural layout. You choose from the inbuilt layout options, or you can create your own by selecting the number of rows, then the number of columns for each row and the page width percentage allocated to each column.

MyPortfolio page layout options

MyPortfolio page layout options

This gives you almost total control of the positioning of objects on the page. Any type of object can be added to any of the ‘content boxes’ you have created.

MyPortfolio page showing different content types

MyPortfolio page showing different content types

 

However, you are limited with regards to the look and feel of the pages. You can select from a number of Skins, but these only change the surrounds of the main content. You cannot change the background colour of the background boxes themselves.

MyPortfolio page with Skin

MyPortfolio page with Skin

MyPortfolio page without Skin

MyPortfolio page without Skin

 

 

 

 

 

You do however, have quite granular control over who can view your pages and collections. By default, only you can view your pages. This is good while developing your portfolio if you’re not keen on anyone seeing your work in progress. When you are ready to share your work, you can decide who you want to share with and for how long, a set time period or indefinitely.

MyPortfolio sharing options

MyPortfolio sharing options

There are also advanced options where you can modify the settings relating to comments and copying of your pages.

MyPortfolio advanced options - Sharing

MyPortfolio advanced options – Sharing

Reflect

Reflect is UCL’s blogging service for staff and students. Its primary use is for teaching and learning purposes. It is a WordPress platform provided by CampusPress. For this reason it is not possible to use the WordPress app with Reflect sites.

First and foremost WordPress is a blogging a platform, and this makes it a great tool for reflection and journalling. However, for creating portfolios it is best to make use of pages. You can set a page, as the main first page of your Reflect site giving it the appearance of a website as opposed to a blog.

In WordPress, appearance and layout is determined by the Theme that you have chosen, and will apply to all of your site. You cannot have different themes for different sections. It is therefore imperative that you choose an appropriate them for your site. Think carefully about what you are trying to achieve and the type of content (e.g. text, images and video) that you wish to include.

At present there are over 400 themes available for Reflect. For most sites I would recommend selecting one of themes identified as Accessibility Ready, this will help more users access your content.

Screenshot of Reflect dashboard showing Theme selection options.

Theme selection optionsaccess your content.

However, for portfolios I recommend choosing one of the Portfolio themes and one that best matches the mix of content you expect to include. Themes can easily be changed, so you may need to experiment with a few to find a good match.

Once you have chosen your theme, make use of the menu builder and pages to create the structure for your portfolio. You can group content using parent and child pages.

Pages can be saved as Drafts whilst they are still in development, however they need to be published before they can be added to the menu.

By default Reflect does not have the granularity of access control that MyPortfolio has. However, if you activate the “User Specific Content” plugin you can specify who can see what pages. Otherwise, your site is private or public.

Employability and Connected Curriculum

Both MyPortfolio and Reflect are great tools for Connected Curriculum activities where students are required to create content for an external audience. However, if you are looking to enhance students’ employability skills, I recommend the use of Reflect as WordPress is used widely. In 2015, 25% of all websites used WordPress (https://w3techs.com/) and its market share has continued to grow and is currently used for 84% of all Japanese websites.