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    Archive for the 'Special Interest Groups' Category

    Now and next from E-Learning Environments Summer 2015

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 15 July 2015

    The second edition of our new monthly vlog series, where we bring you all the most important news from UCL E-Learning Environments. This video focuses on the what ELE are doing over the summer period, as well as some future plans.

    Useful link:

    Moodle Snapshot:

    ELE Blog:

    Game SIG:§ion=3

    Games, gamification and games-based learning SIG

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 18 June 2015

    Do you have an interest in games, gamification and games-based learning?

    If so we would be really interested in hearing from you, we are looking to put together a special interest group at UCL around these areas. The aim of the SIG will be to encourage interaction and discussion on these topics and others, ranging from research on games and play to their implementation within teaching practice (plus hopefully have a bit of fun along the way).

    Please join via our Moodle page if you are interested in taking part along and we will arrange an initial meeting of the group soon.

    Assessment born digital – Sian Bayne at UCL

    By Mira Vogel, on 12 May 2015

    Sian Bayne portraitSian Bayne is Professor of Digital Education in the School of Education at the University of Edinburgh. She convenes the Digital Cultures and Education research group and teaches on the MSc in Digital Education, a fully-online course. At an earlier ELE Assessment & Feedback Special Interest Group (link for UCL people), Tony McNeill from SELCS – a graduate of that MSc – recommended we invite Sian to talk about assessment in a digital age, she kindly accepted, and Anthony Smith (UCL’s Vice Provost Education & Student Affairs) chaired the event. The abstract:

    “The study and production of text is a defining academic activity, yet the way in which texts are shaped and shared in internet spaces presents an intriguing set of challenges to teachers and learners. Pedagogic work with the new generation of web artefacts requires us to work within a textual domain which is unstable, multilinear, driven by a visual logic and informed by authorship practices which are multimodal, public and sometimes collective. How can we critically approach these new writing spaces, as learners, teachers and scholars? Drawing on experience of conducting such assessment within a large, online Masters programme, the talk will demonstrate how assignments born digital can be rich, critical and creative. It will also consider how as teachers we can manage, mark and organise for these assessment forms.”

    Sian’s MSc students have a range of digital skills. As a fully-online course contact is crucial, so students are required to blog frequently for a term, privately by default but shared if preferred, receiving individual feedback in the form of comments on posts. This is necessarily labour intensive for the teaching team since it is intended to replicate the one-to-one tutorial within the blog space, as far as possible. To build students’ confidence and skills with multimodal presentation they’re set a number of formative tasks in advance of higher stakes assessment – for example to rework a passage from Plato’s Phaedrus.

    For high stakes assessment students have a choice – they can submit work in established essay form but have the option to instead work on digital artefacts out on the Web. Where these are public they can bring new and exhilarating kinds of attention, sometimes from the thinkers whose work they are referencing. Increasing numbers of students are choosing this multimodal alternative (a side effect is that the public nature of the work also raises the profile of the MSc).

    Proposals to assess beyond the essay often prompt questions about the appropriateness of other modes for academic communication – as one person asked during the discussion, don’t images and music fall within a cultural domain apart from academia, an emotional realm of implicit meaning and taste – isn’t it more art than scholarly communication? Sian emphasised that multimodal assessment shouldn’t be treated as a special case, and that the MSc assessment criteria are conventional and shared with other postgraduate courses in Edinburgh. Moreover the student work we saw was sophisticated. A student used a screen capture of his explorations in Google Earth and Google Streetview, rhetorical forms attuned to the content of his work on flaneurship. To pose questions about the meaning of originality in a copy-paste age, another fabricated a plagiarised essay with each section linked to its source, juxtaposed with an essay on the same subject which adhered to established norms of academic integrity.

    There was a question about whether assessment criteria conceived with text in mind could adequately comprehend the sensuality and interpretive ambiguity of multimodal work. Sian observed that the MSc assessors were alive to their burden of responsibility to interpret the work. There is a single holistic mark rather than breaking down by criteria, and there is moderation and sometimes third marking. Trust between marker and student is important; students and tutors need to know each other because assessing this kind of work depends on building a relationship between tutor and students. Sian explained that students are asked to propose their own assessment criteria in addition to the regulated ones. There may be much to learn from assessment practices in visual arts when assessing multimodal work in humanities and social sciences. There was a discussion about the role of images – it was clear that they needed to be doing rhetorical work, and students who simply used them illustratively or ornamentally tended to be marked down.

    On more than one occasion Sian observed that “text is not being toppled”. Digital modes aren’t taking over; it’s more a case of what exceeds, rather than what comes after, ‘the essay’. Programmes and institutions who are doing this now are the ones which are willing to experiment.

    If you’re at UCL and want to experiment with multimodal assessment, E-Learning Environments looks forward to working with you. Contact your school’s E-Learning Facilitator to discuss – Jessica Gramp (BEAMS), Natasa Perovic (SLMS), and Mira Vogel (SLASH). At UCL there are plenty of precedents, including Making History (History Department), Internet Cultures (Institute of Education), Digital anthropology, the BEng, and an object-based learning module called Object Lessons (more on the latter to come). See also Laura Gibbs from the University of Oklahoma in a short conversation with Howard Rheingold about how her students retell old stories in new ways.

    Aloha ELESIG London

    By Mira Vogel, on 31 March 2015

     IMG_5505 by Oliver Hine, 2009. Work found at ( summary of the first meeting of the London regional group of the Evaluation of Learners’ Experiences of E-Learning national special interest group a.k.a. ELESIG (and breathe). It took place on Tuesday 24th March, 11.00am-1.00pm, at Birkbeck University of London. The talks weren’t recorded but you can find slides on the ELESIG London Group discussion forum.

    Eileen Kennedy presented a case study on the UCL Institute of Education’s ‘What future for education’ Mooc. The Mooc had a repeating weekly structure of reflection task, a recorded interview, open access readings, posting to a Padlet wall on a theme (‘Where do you learn?’ for example), a Google Hangout, and a review & reflection (the latter was a main way for the Mooc team to gather feedback). Eileen’s study of the learner experience aimed to find out whether the design of the Mooc could enable a dialogic educational experience, at scale, and whether the learning led students to interrogate their prior assumptions. The end-of-Mooc survey yielded some appreciation for most of the elements of the Mooc, but the real-time hangouts were hard to join. Respondents wanted external validation of their learning in the form of a statement of accomplishment and a peer grading system they were confident was rigorous. To supplement this survey data, the evaluation team mapped their findings to Laurillard’s conversational framework, matrix of elements including what the learners did, justification for including this type of element in this situation, the specific role of the element in the Mooc, and the evidence collected or needed. We discussed ways to make the rationale of the course design more explicit to students to help them identify hinge points in their learning. The yearning for attention and recognition raised the matter of the relationship between Mooc providers and learners, and the role of caring. We noted that the Mooc is destined to be packaged up as an on-demand Mooc, which seems to be part of a global trend in response to lack of resource to run it.

    Ghazaleh Cousin presented on an evaluation of the Panopto lecture capture service  at Imperial. Beyond the basic Panopto reports about who accessed which recording and for how long, questions include whether viewing is associated with differences in students’ results, which sessions are most popular, and which days are most popular. Since Panopto’s data is currently quite limited, Imperial are contributing feature requests. We discussed whether students who perform better are watching the videos more. To address this, video could be made which discouraged students from fixating on memorising explanations. We touched only briefly on methods – the team did not have immediate opportunities to arrange questionnaires and interviews, and opted to make sense of the Panopto data as a way to generate deeper questions. At the more challenging methodological end, there was interest in comparing learning from lecture recordings to learning from lecture graphics or lecture pedagogies.

    Damien Darcy presented on uses of video at Birkbeck. Before Birkbeck’s Panopto roll-out, use of video at Birkbeck was sporadic, professional or slightly Blair Witchy, and it wasn’t clear how to record a lecture. Video was treated in a technocentric way isolated from educational concerns of assessment or student engagement. Damien carried out an exploratory study with the Law department, as large scale Panopto users, with a methodology he referred to as ‘guerilla ethnography’. His questions were: was it working, was it used (properly) by staff, how were students using it? He confirmed that decontextualised training doesn’t carry across to the rigours of the lecture hall, and superstitions about how technologies work persist. He related a sense of control, pride and ownership to increasing proficiency. Panopto data showed that peak viewing was often immediately after the lecture, and there were signs that if the lecture wasn’t up quickly it wouldn’t get watched. Watching was often social, often while doing other things, and was predictably uneven with spikes at particular points and particular times related to assessment. As video was normalised student expectations became more exacting, with requests for consistent tagging and titles and the inclusion of an overview. To contain their video initiative, Organisational Psychology had initiated a dialogue with students about what to record – i.e. not everything – and what to leave as ephemeral. Damien’s next steps would be to find out more about student reactions and perceptions, lecturer motivations, and how the identity of the lecture is changing. Methods would include surveys, focus groups, and a range of ethnographic studies looking at changes to the identity of lecture and lecturer. Questions would be informed by Panopto data.

    We then discussed next steps for ELESIG London – in no particular order:

    • Case-making for resourcing evaluation activities.
    • Understanding and negotiating institutional barriers to evaluation.
    • How to take the findings from an evaluation and create narratives of impact.
    • Micro-evaluation possibilities: what kinds of evaluation can you do if you have only been given ten minutes? One day? Ten days? As you go along?
    • Methods masterclasses including ethnography and data wrangling
    • Can learning experiences be designed so it becomes possible to relate a change the evaluation identifies in students to a specific aspect of course design or learning?
    • Incorporating evaluation into developing new programmes.
    • Should the group have outputs?
    • Can we improve the generalisability of findings by coordinating our evaluation activities across institutions?
    • Not encroaching on other London e-learning groups such as the M25LTG – keeping focus on evaluation (e.g. methods, data, analysis, interpretation, politics and strategic importance).
    • Twitter rota for the national ELESIG account by region rather than by individual.

    The coordinators (Leo Havemann and Mira Vogel) will be incorporating these ideas into plans for the next meeting in summer.

    If you are interested in attending or keeping up with ELESIG London goings-on or you’d like to contact a coordinator, then join the London Group on Ning.

    Image credit: IMG_5505 by Oliver Hine, 2009. Work found at (

    MUGSE 3 – London, RVC

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 17 March 2015

    The third meeting of MUGSE (Mahara User Group for Southern England) took place on Friday 6th March, at the Royal Veterinary College in London. Mahara is the software that at UCL we refer to as MyPortfolio, our flexible e-portfolio system.

    The user group meeting had a mix of experiences in Mahara, as well as a mix of learning technology professionals and academics. The group was also lucky enough to have Don Christie from Catalyst in attendance. Catalyst are the company who are responsible for the Mahara project, and they look after the core code and carry out updates.

    The session began with a group round table, with everyone having the chance to contribute problems or question and then the rest of the group offering solutions or answers based on their own experiences. After this there were a series of presentations, including help files and case studies from Roger Emery and Sam Taylor at Southampton Solent University, a look at the April Mahara upgrade from Don Christie and finally Domi Sinclair (me) talking briefly about the importance of getting involved in the Mahara community. If you would like more details about this user group please read the article from Digi Domi and follow MUGSE on Twitter @mugseUK.


    Working with Champions

    By Jessica Gramp, on 10 July 2014

    Clive Young and Jessica Gramp from the UCL E-Learning Advisory team talk about their work with E-Learning Champions. Join the conversation and help us plan our next steps  on the afternoon of July 17 at the E-Learning Champions Collaborative Design Workshop. UCL Champions and colleagues can sign up directly on Eventbrite.

    Working with Champions from UCL E-Learning Environments on Vimeo.