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    Archive for the 'Students' Category

    An academic perspective on blogging

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 8 December 2016

    Words by David Bowler:

    I write a semi-regular blog (updated between weekly and monthly) which covers both interesting papers in my research area, and the teaching that I do to fourth year undergraduates and starting graduates (www.atomisticsimulations.org).  My research is in atomistic simulations, where we model the properties of materials at the nanoscale by taking into account their atomic structure; I apply and develop electronic structure methods, using quantum mechanics to understand the interactions between atoms.  I started blogging to support a book I wrote (Atomistic Computer Simulations, with Dr Veronika Brazdova, also at UCL) but it has developed.  The book is aimed at those starting to use atomistic simulations, and is, so far as we know, unique: it is the only book that contains practical advice on how to perform the calculations and analyse the output

    Last term (first term 2015-2016) I started to post blogs that summarised the discussions of background theory I had with my fourth year students.  I’m supervising four students, and wanted to explore whether posting the content of the sessions would help them, and the wider community.  The experiment has worked well, attracting interest both from my students and from further afield, with 50-100 views per month.

    I recently moved the blog from a local server in the department running WordPress, which I maintained, to GitHub, which provides simple, markdown formatted blogging with LaTex/MathJax for equations and symbols.  This was largely pragmatic (free, low maintenance hosting) but is also tied to the electronic structure code that I develop, CONQUEST (www.order-n.org).  We moved the source code for CONQUEST to GitHub, and having a single site and interface for all my teaching and research activity has been very helpful.

    Blogging and my associated Twitter account (@MillionAtomMan) has introduced me to new people in my research field, and educators across a wide area.  It helps me to keep track of the research literature, and to focus my thoughts within the very broad area that is relevant.  It should also help me with future teaching, focussing the sessions that we cover, and helping my students to know what is coming up.  I would like to explore having my students blog about their research, and the difficulties and interests of doing research, as a form of outreach, as well as giving them a forum for reflection.

    Moodle in the classroom

    By Domi C Sinclair, on 4 November 2016

    Words by Rebecca Yerworth:

    We all know that it is good to make lectures interactive and that there are many tools out there to help us. Various departments have invested in hardware and software to enable students to ‘vote’ or submit other responses during lectures… but how many of us use these tools? I am technically savvy and keen to apply best practice in my teaching, yet I cannot face using them! I want to, I love the concept, but have been put off by the need to install software and setup session specific activations, quite apart from the need to train myself and the students in how to use the systems. There had to be a better way I thought, how about Moodle? I’m used to putting lecture notes on it, and students are used to navigating to the right course page to find them … are there any Moodle activates which could be used within a lecture?

    So I applied for an E-learning development grant, which funded a student (Bindia) to work with me on exploring this.

    We found that “Hot Question” was the simplest and most versatile tool, but also successfully tried out “Choice” and quiz questions where you drag and drop labels on to an image (this worked really well the second time … once we had shrunk the image and shortened the labels so that they fitted on to smartphone screens!).

    I love using the ‘hot question’ activity as a virtual flip chart, and it came into its own during the revision sessions.  I displayed an exam style question on the board, and instructed students to answer part 1 via Moodle. A couple of minutes later there was a bunch of answers simultaneously displayed on the board and the students devices. “Between them these two would get full marks” I commented before going on to describe the strengths and weaknesses of the answers.  One mouse click created a new page in the activity and we moved on to another part of the question, with the previous page save for students to review later.  Students reported how helpful they found this session – and the saved answers that they could look back on later.

    Another activity which received positive feedback from the students was when we used ‘choice’ in conjunction with an on-line multi-choice medical ethics activity. The class worked through the case study together, anonymously entering their guess/answer to each question in Moodle. I then selected the most popular option on the website… “oups, most of us would have acted outside of General Medical Council Guidelines… well done the 10% of you that selected option c.” Having to enter their own choice forced the students to think through these tricky issues, and seeing what the rest of the class choose helped provide reassurance and an understanding of what other students thought.

    We made some user guides, which will be available via the UCL-Moodle help wiki, in the hope that others will be inspired to try out Moodle-In-lectures. If you do, it would be interesting to hear how you got on.

    I will defiantly be using more Moodle in lectures this year. As well as setting up specific activates, I will make sure I have a generically labelled ‘Hot questions’ and ‘Choice’ on every page that I can use and reuse for impromptu activities – like when a student ask a good question and you want to find out what the rest of the class think before providing the answer.

    MyFeedback is now available to all UCL staff and students

    By Jessica Gramp, on 17 October 2016

    The MyFeedback dashboard is now available to all UCL students and staff.

    MyFeedback is a new tool in UCL Moodle allowing students to view grades and feedback for any assessed work across all their Moodle courses, in one place. Personal Tutors can view the dashboard for each student to allow them to track progress and to help to inform discussions in personal tutorials.

    Watch the video on how students can use the MyFeedback report:

    The report helps students (supported by their personal tutors) to better understand the variety of feedback they receive, draw ties between different assessments and modules, and allow them to reflect on their feedback to see how they can improve in future assessments. It also allows module tutors and assessors and departmental administrators to see how their students are progressing within the modules they teach and support.

    MyFeedback Feedback Comments tab

    ^ Click the image to view a larger version of the Feedback Comments page.

    MyFeedback is available to students, personal tutors, course tutors and departmental administrators.

    • Students can view feedback and grades from their assessments across all their UCL Moodle course. They can also add self-reflective notes and copy & paste feedback from Turnitin into their report.
    • Personal tutors can see their tutees’ full MyFeedback reports across all the modules their students are studying. Note: personal tutors will not be able to link through to assessments on courses they do not have tutor access to.
    • Module tutors can see MyFeedback reports for their students containing assessment information for any modules they teach. They will not see any assessments for modules they do not teach (unless they have been granted tutor access to those Moodle courses).
    • Departmental administrators can see MyFeedback reports for all the Moodle courses within categories where they have been assigned departmental administrator access in Moodle. Categories in Moodle will either be for the entire  department, or might be broken down further into undergraduate and postgraduate modules. Staff requiring this access will need to ask their department’s current category level course administrator to assign them this role.

    Sign up to the Arena Exchange MyFeedback workshop on 28th November 2016 to learn how to use this tool with your students.

    You can navigate to your own MyFeedback reports via the MyFeedback block on the UCL Moodle home page.

    Other institutions can download the plugin from Moodle.org.

    Find out more about MyFeedback…

     

    New features on Lynda.com

    By Caroline Norris, on 15 September 2016

    Those who use Lynda.com may have noticed already that there have been some changes to the user interface and some exciting new features have been added.  The next time you log on you will be asked ‘What do you want to accomplish on Lynda.com?’ and guided through a range of options.

    lynda-explore

    Once you have chosen some goals, these will be included in the Recommended section of your personalised profile.  You can go back to My Goals (on the drop-down menu under your name) to change your choices at any time.

    Lynda-dropdown-combo

    Your Lynda.com home page has now been re-organised to make it more streamlined with courses you are currently watching (Continue Watching) and Your Playlist on the left and Popular Learning Paths and other highlighted courses on the right.  The courses section is now tabbed with New, Popular and Recommended sections.

    lynda-content

    If you aren’t familiar yet with Learning Paths, these are sets of courses written by industry experts designed to teach you the knowledge and skills to pursue a particular career or work towards a particular certification.

    Finally, something to look forward to: there will soon be a ‘Popular at UCL‘ tab added so you will be able to see what other users here are enjoying!

    Check out the new features in Lynda.com…

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    UCL students win Jisc Summer of Student Innovation Prize

    By Janina Dewitz, on 9 September 2016

    Know It Wall has been announced as a Summer of Student Innovation winner, bagging £10,000 in funds to further develop their idea in collaboration with Jisc.

    On 23 August, seven of the 15 Summer of Student Innovation ‘Student Ideas’ first round winners beat the competition to secure further funding and support from Jisc to develop their ideas into real products ready for market. Following a four day Jisc run ‘design sprint’ in Birmingham, the student teams went head to head to persuade the judges in a Dragon’s Den style pitch, and we are proud to announce that Know It Wall came out on top!

    Know It Wall aims to make current academic research accessible to the intellectually curious public through the use of text and high quality audio-visual content. So far the team have produced 18 episodes on topics ranging from human memory to the discovery of the Higgs Boson. Team Know It Wall is planning to spend the prize money on producing video content and the development of additional features to the website.

    Feeling curious? Dip right in at http://knowitwall.com !

    Find out more about the project…

     


    The Summer of Student Innovation is in its fourth year and is managed by Jisc. More information is available at https://www.jisc.ac.uk/student-innovation.

    “The competition really does show that students are best placed to address education sector issues, and their innovative ideas are perfect for supporting learning, teaching or research”
    – Andy McGregor, Deputy Chief Innovations Officer, Jisc

    Have you got students with an innovative edtech idea? Digital Education Futures can provide support and mentorship.

    Contact Janina Dewitz, Innovations Officer, j.dewitz@ucl.ac.uk

     

    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.