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Connected Learning – Teaching tools and platforms

Clive Young24 July 2020

Links to the UCL Resource Centres for tools mentioned at the Town Hall today.

Live Teaching

Blackboard Collaborate is UCL’s web conferencing or online classroom platform. It is integrated within Moodle as an activity, providing access to a range of different functions in a live, or synchronous, learning environment. UCL Case StudyUsing Blackboard Collaborate to teach students across the world.

Zoom is coming to UCL and support information will be available then.

Teams, now universally used at UCL for meetings and one-to-one sessions, is not yet recommended for group teaching. There is no Moodle or Portico integration and Digital Education do not have the expertise (yet) support in its use for teaching.​

Virtual Cluster Rooms will provide direct access to cluster room PCs for computer-based classes. They Mirror the physical cluster rooms in virtual groups that will be timetabled in the same way and accessed via UCL Desktop Anywhere. More information and guidance about planning for laboratory and practice-based activities is also being developed.

Live/Asynchonous

Mentimeter (polling) is an online polling, questioning and voting tool that you can use in your classes or presentations, whether they are face-to-face or online, synchronous or asynchronous. UCL has a site-wide licence. UCL Case StudyEngaging students asynchronously with Mentimeter.

Visualisers and graphics tablets can assist online teaching. ISD have a limited stock of visualisers for circulation to lecturers. You can read more about options for writing and showing objectson this digital education blog post.

Asynchronous

Moodle has many tools that can help keep your students engaged and learning in the absence of face-to-face sessions. UCL Case StudyMoodle tools to make your teaching more interactive.

  • Discussion Forums are often considered the mainstay of online learning. Many staff already use the News forum to announce important information. ‘Learning forums’ can be used for asynchronous discussion (i.e. not ‘real time’) and learning activities. They enable both staff and students to post and reply to posts and are usually are set to allow students and staff to choose whether to become or remain subscribed to a forum. We recommend that Q&A forums are set up for students to ask questions about the course work or assessment processes. Make the purpose of every discussion forum clear, including how students are expected to engage with it and how often staff will reply to posts (if at all). If you want to speak to students in ‘real time’, for example for virtual Office Hours, you might want to try Moodle’s instant messaging style tool, Chat.
  • Quiz is the other popular tool for online engagement. A quiz is a useful way to test or evaluate students’ knowledge and to keep them motivated by letting them see areas for improvement. Marking can be automated on some question types (such as multiple choice). Staff can see a detailed breakdown of results, as well as statistics on how easy or discriminating each question is. It can be used for both formative and summative (credit bearing) assessment, such as in class tests or examinations, but the latter is usually done in a ‘live’ classroom, so for online learning summative quizzes are more normal.
  • Hot Question used to create a list of popular questions or topics from a group. Participants may ‘rate’ others’ questions. The more votes, the hotter the question and the higher up the list it will appear.
  • Book displays collections of web pages in a sequential, easy-to-navigate and printable format. They are especially useful when you have a lot of web content but don’t want it to clutter the front page of your course. Pages can contain links, images, embedded YouTube videos, etc and feature a Table of Contents.
  • Lessons can be used to build structured pathways through learning materials and test knowledge as students make progress. Students usually make choices on each page area, sending send them to another specific page in the manner of a decision tree.
  • H5P is a simple-to-use tool now integrated into Moodle to create interactive content such as drag and drop, fill in the blanks, flashcards, image hotspots, slideshows, games and formative quizzes (the results are not stored) directly within Moodle. UCL Case Study: Creating interactive video training guides in Moodle.

Lecturecast Universal Capture Personal (screen recording) is a stand-alone application which can be used to create recordings (captures). Recordings can include slides (or whatever you choose to show on your computer screen), video of the presenter and audio. Recordings can include slides (or whatever you choose to show on your computer screen), video of the presenter and audio. Lecturecast offers more than just video playback, though. With the Lecturecast Engagement tools,  tutors can set up interactive activities, to engage and support students.

ReadingLists@UCL is an online service that gives students easy access to materials on their reading lists, allowing academic staff to create and update their own reading lists.

LinkedIn Learning provides a vast range of video tutorials supporting learning in software, creative and business skills – all free to UCL staff and currently enrolled students.

Box of Broadcasts (BoB) is Learning on Screen’s on demand TV and radio service for education. The academically focused system allows staff and students to record programmes from over 75 free-to-air channels, and search BoB’s extensive archive of over 2.2 million recordings.

Student-led and collaboration

  • Reflect(WordPress blog) is a form of WordPress, the industry-standard blogging and website-building tool. Blogs may be used to help students reflect on their experiences during study, build a portfolio of their work, collaborate on projects and create public-facing materials. UCL Case StudyMedical Science students use UCL Reflect to create scientific blogs for assessment.
  • MyPortfolio is a very flexible tool which can be used as a portfolio, for blogging, CV builder, social networking system, connecting UCL students and staff and creating online communities. MyPortfolio provides you with the tools to set up a personal learning environment and can also be used to support group work.
  • Office365​, is of course ubiquitous at UCL, but the educational possibilities are not always appreciated. LinkedIn Learning includes a useful overview ‘Office 365 for Educators’.

Teaching videos: which platform should I choose?

Eliot Hoving12 June 2020

Decorative.

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.

 

Writing when teaching remotely

Steve Rowett22 April 2020

We start this blog post with a short exercise for the reader: search Google Images or an image library for the word teacher.

I hope that you see a range of diverse people in the pictures. But I bet that most of them will have a pen or chalk in their hand, and a board or surface at their side. The act of writing and talking as a form of instruction is perhaps the most commonly perceived characteristic of who a teacher is and what they do.

The move to remote teaching has made writing as a form of teaching more difficult. A mouse may be great for controlling a computer, but it’s hard to use it to write smoothly on screen.

So in this post, we will look at how we might continue to use writing as a form of teaching, even from home.

Before we start, a note on accessibility. Whilst we teach remotely, so of the facilities that our students might have relied upon (like captions, transcripts, note-takers or signers) might not be available, so we may need to make alternative accommodations. Please do think about this before you plan your teaching and contact Digital Education if you would like advice.

Using a visualiser at home

In the classroom or lecture hall, many rooms will have a visualiser (also called a document camera) for showing writing and objects. These are typically hooked up to a projection screen through the AV system and are also captured by lecture capture. UCL uses a mix of table-top visualisers and ceiling mounted visualisers from a company called Wolfvision.

You can also buy more consumer-level products in this category. At home I use an IPEZO VZ-R camera, which costs about £200.

The IPEVO VZ-R visualiser - a sturdy base with a webcam mounted on a flexible hinge.

IPEVO VZ-R Visualiser (source: ipevo.com)

The camera connects via USB and can be used in two ways:

Either method works well, but I’d recommend the latter as webcam video is often heavily compressed. This method works well with all our supported platforms, including Lecturecast (Echo 360) Universal Capture Personal, Blackboard Collaborate and Microsoft Teams.

The camera is compact but sturdy. It has an in-built light, and facilities such as zoom and autofocus, and can capture a surface slightly less than A3. It also has an inbuilt microphone which is likely to be closer to you when you are speaking than one in a laptop.

Control buttons on the IPEVO VZ-R including power, zoom and focus

Control buttons on the IPEVO VZ-R (source: ipevo.com)

The software can control the features of the camera, and can make recordings that you could upload to Lecturecast, for example. The controls neatly get out of the way when they aren’t being used, so that you can focus on the content. The image below shows the auto-focus in operation, clearly capturing a book cover.

IPEVO Visualizer software showing controls and a picture of a book under the camera

IPEVO Visualizer software showing controls

The Visualizer application can easily be shared in a Blackboard Collaborate room, and you can then move the window out of the way and focus on the participants. The image below shows me writing some simple maths on a notepad, captured by the camera, using the screen sharing feature of Collaborate to show this to other participants.

Writing equations which are shared within a Blackboard Collaborate room

Writing equations which are shared within a Blackboard Collaborate room.

IPEVO offer another model, the V4K, for £100, which has a lower resolution sensor (but still good) and no light. Of course other companies are available, and I’ve heard recommendations of Genee and Aver models. These types of visualisers are often used in secondary schools, so any teachers you know may be able to give suitable advice.

One thing I particularly like about the IPEVO models is the design. The one I have folds fairly flat, so is easy to store away, so my living room doesn’t have to look like a lecture theatre. Here’s a comparison of its size when folded compared to a bottle of wine. And yes, it does fit in a wine rack.

An IPEVO VZ-R is about the size of a bottle of wine when folded

The IPEVO VZ-R folds down to the size of a bottle of wine.

Writing on an iPad or other tablet

Using an Apple Pencil on an iPad or a stylus for other devices, you can use a notes or sketch app to write on an iPad. This works fine as a standalone process, but you can also use software such as Reflector or Airserver to mirror your device to your PC or Mac and screen share it as part of a call using Blackboard Collaborate, Zoom etc., or to record it from your screen using Lecturecast Personal Capture. If you have a Mac, you can also plug in your USB to Lightning cable and use Quicktime to mirror your screen by selecting your iPad as the camera source (thanks to Dr Steven Schofield from UCL Physics and Astronomy for that tip).

The short clip below shows Steven leading a revision lecture with his students. He reports that “I gave a two hour live revision lecture today; I was able to use the screen mirroring software to share my iPad Mini screen with the class via Blackboard Collaborate. It went really well and I had good feedback from the students. I think the overall experience is so much better than just talking to prepared slides. ”

Using a webcam

If you have a webcam that isn’t built in to your computer, you can use this too. We’ve tried a couple of webcams and it can work well, but may not have the full controls or handy features like the light that the VZ-R has.

Using a mobile phone

You may have seen tweets where inventive teachers have rigged up their phones to use as cameras. But how do you do this?

Well, IPEVO provide an app for that too. To make this work, you need three things:

  • An Apple or Android phone on the same network as your computer (PC, Mac, Chromebook and Linux supported)
  • An installation of IPEVO iDocCam on your phone
  • An installation of IPEVO Visualizer on your computer

Launch the app on your phone, and then the Visualizer software on your computer, and your phone will appear in the list of available cameras.

The phone can be selected from the list of cameras available in the IPEVO Visualizer software

Your phone shows as a camera in the IPEVO Visualizer software

And here is an example of it in use, with my old IPhone SE acting as the camera:

The final bit is to rig the phone up in a secure way, about 40cm above your desk. You might use a desk mount, or a pile of books, or some blu tack and string, but I’m afraid that is up to you.

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.

 

Learning Design in an Emergency Part 1

Clive Young2 April 2020

Our teachers are being forced into moving their teaching online very quickly. The initial focus for academics is inevitably be on access, getting themselves and their students online and doing what they can immediately with the institutional tools provided. For most teachers this will be far from full, integrated ‘online learning’ but more an initial digitisation of their existing face-to-face methods.

UCL is mainly focusing on Moodle (already used for resource distribution and to a lesser extent communication), Blackboard Collaborate (for online ‘tutorials’) and Lecturecast (Echo) Universal Personal Capture (short video recordings to replace lectures). The term we use at UCL is Teaching Continuity, emphasising the ‘business as usual’ elements for both teachers and students. Similarly, current assessment plans largely focus on digitising existing time-limited exam practices, although finding alternatives is always recommended.

We might consider this a ‘first stage’ in moving online, the analogy being with the well-known JISC model of stages in development of digital literacies (see image on right). In this model, academics may soon move on from issues of access to tools and simple how-to skills guides. The next stage is likely to how to enhance their online teaching and learning practice and towards attributes such as their role as online teachers. In parallel, our students and staff may soon demand a more sophisticated ‘next stage’ learning experience.

As we progress, learning design becomes especially important. In order to develop true ‘online learning’ in even a simple form, courses will have to be redesigned around online activities. This is likely to be an opportunity to create richer learning designs, and for academics to consider a wider range of practices. Although academics may now have a motivation (albeit external) and focus, colleagues will still be stressed and time-limited, so any (re)design will require very simple workflows, step-by-step guides, checklists and so on.

At UCL and across the HE sector, the ABC ’sprint’ method of learning design has proved a well-evaluated, simple, engaging and productive practical framework to guide academic colleagues this process. The method is built around a collaborative and quite intensive 90’ workshop in which modules teams work together to produce a paper-based storyboard describing the student journey. The key pedagogical core of ABC is an operationalisation the six Learning Types framework of Prof Diana Laurillard (UCL Institute of Education). Using Learning Types has proved a remarkably robust and accessible route into teaching and learning discussion and reflection and shows how pedagogically-informed rapid development learning design is achievable.

The main issue is that ABC was designed as a social, face to face, group-based activity, so we have to rethink how the pedagogic ideas might be presented. The UCL ABC team, working with our ABCtoVLE Erasmus+ project partners are currently investigating online alternatives, with an aim to producing a Toolkit that institutions can localise and use in their own context. Some practicalities will be discussed in the next blog post, but from our experience in the European project we believe ABC should be considered not in isolation but as part of a process of institutional engagement. The full toolkit will most likely comprise three parts,

Pedagogy – Present the Learning Types to academic colleagues as a common language. As we can’t do this as a workshop, we are working on different approaches (see next post).

Technology – What tools are available to teachers? The Tool Wheel is a quick visual approach, linking pedagogy to technology. There are two stages for institutional support teams that can be can be done in either order,

  • Sketch a ‘snapshot’ of supported technologies, comprising the VLE, videoconferencing/virtual classroom, media tools etc. using the App wheel template, the ‘wheel of opportunities’.
  • Make a list of the tools identified and link to local support documentation (videos, web sites, tool guides, ‘how-to’s etc) – can also link to external guides from Canvas, Moodle etc.

Practice – What is effective pedagogic practice using these tools? We want to make use of the guides etc produced by the domain. We are redeveloping the Erasmus+ project site to represent good practice in the six learning types. The project team will list any resources we find that address each of the types. The first stage is to curate, we may be able to write something more definitive in the final report. More information to follow.

Video resources for teaching online

Steve Rowett16 March 2020

As part of our work on education planning for 2020/21, we are making a series of videos and screencasts to help you complete common tasks for teaching online. These will be linked from individual web pages for the relevant section, but we thought it might be useful to also pull them together on a single page.

We are making captions available for all of these videos, along with transcripts, but these may appear a day or two after the video is first released without them. This information will be given with each video below. Further videos will be posted here in the coming days.

More detailed guidance on the tools below is given in the Moodle Resource Centre, the Lecturecast Resource Centre and the Blackboard Collaborate Resource Centre.

Finally, this of course a difficult and anxious time for us all. Please use the communication tools within Moodle to provide reassurance and support to each other as best we can.


Simple tips for teaching online

This video (32 minutes) provides a practical guide to teaching online and gives useful advice for teachers and students. Thanks for Dr Zachary Walker from UCL Institute of Education for making and sharing this video.

This video has captions and a transcript.


Moodle

This video (5 minutes) gives five tips for adding extra content and activities to your Moodle course.

This video has captions and a transcript.
This video shows the process for setting up a Moodle Quiz for formative assessments.

This video has captions and a transcript


Lecturecast Universal Capture Personal

This video (10 minutes) takes you through the process of recording lectures or content using your own computer and the Lecturecast Universal Capture software. Thanks to Ian Calder, UCL School of Management, for giving us permission to use this video.

This video has captions and a transcript.


Blackboard Collaborate

This video (17 minutes) shows how to set up a Blackboard Collaborate room within Moodle and use it for a live seminar or teaching event. Thanks to Ian Calder, UCL School of Management, for giving us permission to use this video.

This video has captions and a transcript.

How to use Blackboard Collaborate in your teaching and learning practice

This video (26 minutes) from Lauren Clark, UCL Institute of Education, discusses how the MA in Education programme uses Collaborate to teaching both local and distance students. Lauren offers some ideas for teaching practice and hints and tips for running successful teaching events .

This video has captions and a transcript


Making a video from a PowerPoint with audio

This video (11 minutes) shows you how to take an existing PowerPoint presentation and record an audio narration on each slide. This can then be exported as a video file, which can be imported into Moodle, Lecturecast or Media Central.

This video has captions and a transcript.

Compressing video files using Handbrake

This video (7 minutes) demonstrates how to compress video files using the open-source software Handbrake. This can be used with all videos, but is particularly useful where making narrated PowerPoint videos (see above) produces large file sizes. Such videos can often be compressed to around a quarter of their original size with minimal loss of quality.

This video has captions and a transcript.


Recording your iPad screen for Lecturecast

This video (11 minutes) takes you through the process of using your iPad to record on-screen content and uploading it to Lecturecast. Thanks to Ian Calder, UCL School of Management, for giving us permission to use this video.

This video has captions and a transcript.


Remote working

ISD has produced this video which explains a number of tools available for remote working. This includes Microsoft Office365 tools such as email, calendar, OneDrive and Teams and use of the virtual private network (VPN) and Desktop@UCL Anywhere for accessing central systems and software.

This video has captions.


Blogging with Reflect

Samantha Ahern from UCL Digital Education has created a series of video tutorials on using Reflect, UCL’s service for blogging in teaching and learning.