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Check your Moodle course with Ally’s course accessibility report

EliotHoving13 November 2019

Blackboard Ally now includes a course accessibility report for every UCL Moodle course.

The course report shows you:

  • a course accessibility score,
  • a summary of the different types of content on your course, and
  • a list of all the issues identified on your course, including an “easy to fix” summary and a “low scoring content” summary.

Decorative image showing Ally's course report

To view Ally’s report on your course, tutors or course admins simply go to their Moodle course and click Accessibility report under the Navigation block. You can also run the report in the Administration block by clicking Reports and then Accessibility report.

Ally helps you prioritise work and track your progress:

The report allows staff to work through a series of files with low accessibility scores or focus on a single issue that may appear in multiple files.

From the report, staff can view “easy to fix” issues, such as documents that are more easily editable (PowerPoints and Word Documents). Ally considers adding alternative descriptions to images as “easy to fix” because you can add alternative descriptions directly using Ally without the need to download, edit and upload the file. This is a nice time-saver but writing alternative descriptions can be challenging, for advice see our guide on Visuals and use of colour.

The Ally course report will also update over time to allow staff to track their progress.

Ally also flags HTML content on your Moodle course:

HTML content refers to content that is written into Moodle such as text added to a Moodle section, page, book, or label through Moodle’s text editor. Ally can help identify text with insufficient colour contrast and unused formatting that can arise when Moodle content is copied and pasted from Word. However, fixing HTML issues can be challenging so, for now, we suggest staff focus on Ally’s guidance on their documents.

If you have any questions, please see the Blackboard Ally UCL wiki or get in touch with digi-ed@ucl.ac.uk.

UCLeXtend platform migration

JoannaStroud25 October 2019

In recent months staff from Digital Education have been engaged in a project to migrate the public-facing short courses platform, UCLeXtend, to a new hosting provider. As part of this process the platform will be upgraded to a version of Moodle that offers several GDPR compliant features in addition to an updated interface.

A change of theme

As part of the migration we are also taking the opportunity to refresh the platform’s aesthetic, or ‘theme’, which in recent years has required continued investment to remain functional. This change will mean that the platform’s existing courses look different, although underlying functionality will remain the same and the content and activities present will not be changed. Course layouts will bear greater similarity to the internal UCL Moodle platform and course teams will have more choice over how their courses are structured and presented. 

The new site theme’s primary differences are as follows.

At site level

  • The UCLeXtend homepage will be refreshed with a change in colours and imagery, in addition to separate buttons for UCL and non-UCL logins (see work-in-progress screenshot below); 
  • Upon login, learners and staff will be presented with a dashboard of their courses. This dashboard can be controlled by individual users, giving the opportunity to highlight recently visited courses and ‘favourite’ or hide courses.

Screenshot of updated UCLeXtend homepage, with photograph of UCL Portico in background and log in buttons visible

At course level

  • Section navigation will move from the top of the page to the left-hand side. The left-hand navigation panel can be expanded or collapsed by the user; 
  • There will be greater control over the layout of each course with course formats; 
  • Courses can feature an illustrative image that is presented on both the course dashboard and as a background upon entry (see work-in-progress screenshot below).

Screenshot of new course layout with expanded and collapsed navigation bar shown

Key information

The migration is anticipated to be completed in the week commencing 18th November 2019 (updated: 13/11). A notice will be applied to the front page of the platform as to the precise date and time and it should be unavailable for a few hours at most. Teams with live courses during this period will be contacted separately with further information about how to manage the transition.

If you have any questions please get in touch with the Digital Education team at extend@ucl.ac.uk.

How to add an image to your Moodle Course Card

EliotHoving23 August 2019

You have probably noticed that your Moodle home page looks different thanks to the Moodle upgrade.

 

The Course Overview now includes a card  for each course, which includes an image. By default Moodle displays a tessellated pattern, but you can add a more meaningful image as follows.

 

Before:

Moodle Course Card View

After:

Moodle Course Card View now with image added.

First things first, get your image ready. We recommend including an image without text as text can appear distorted when the image is resized to fit the card. Your image needs to be rectangular. I used an image that was sized 900px by 600px which I found on UCL’s Imagestore – a free repository of UCL images.

You then need to:

  1. Open your course in Moodle.
  2. In the Administration block, click Edit settings.
  3. Under Course image, upload your image.
  4. Click Save and Display

If you return to the Moodle home page, your image will now display.

 

If you’d like to know more about the Moodle Course Overview, check out the Moodle Dashboard video.

 

Key Dates: Moodle Upgrade, Snapshots, Late Summer Assessments (2019)

Anisa I YPatel21 June 2019

Over the summer there will be a number of outages and changes to the Moodle service. These are needed to deliver:

  • A Moodle version upgrade
  • Yearly Moodle Shapshot and consolidation of previous Snapshots to ensure GDPR compliance
  • URL changes will also be made

A summary of the outages, changes and timelines is provided in the table below:

Moodle Summer Upgrade Overview

DATE WHAT IS HAPPENING DETAILS
25 June 2019 – 11 July 2019 Moodle Snapshot service at risk
  • the number of Moodle Snapshots will be reduced from 7 to 5 years to comply with GDPR data retention requirements
6 – 7 July 2019 Legacy Moodle to become the 17/18 Snapshot
  • the link to the Moodle 17/18 Snapshot will now be under the Services drop down menu on Moodle
8 July 2019 Link to Legacy Moodle (Moodle 17/18) will be removed from the UCL Moodle front page
  • the link to the Moodle 17/18 Snapshot (Legacy Moodle) will now be under the Services drop down menu on Moodle
26 – 27 July 2019 Moodle service outage
  • upgrade from Moodle 3.4 to Moodle 3.7
  • yearly 18/19 Snapshot will be taken
  • 18/19 Snapshot will be made available for Late Summer Assessments (LSA) until 20/09/2019
28 July 2019 URL changes
27 – 29 July 2019 Moodle service at risk
  • avoid any time bound activities such as quizzes or assignments with deadlines that occur during this period
20 September 2019 https://moodle.ucl.ac.uk will take you directly to live Moodle
  • the link to the Moodle 18/19 Snapshot will now be under the Services drop down menu on Moodle

Moodle Summer Upgrade Timeline

 

We apologise for any inconvenience the outages and changes cause.

If you have any questions, please contact digi-ed@ucl.ac.uk

Late Summer Assessments in Moodle

Anisa I YPatel29 May 2019

This year 18/19 sees a significant increase and change in practice to the late summer assessments process:(https://www.ucl.ac.uk/academic-manual/recent-changes/late-summer-assessments-2018-19).

In order to facilitate this change the new 18/19 Snapshot will remain read/write however until the 20th September for the reasons detailed below.

Please note: If you have any assessment due after 20th September 2019, this will NOT apply to you. For example, if you run a Masters Dissertation Module every year this does not fall under this category and you should carry on with your exisiting process by using live Moodle 19-20 for your students submissions.

Change in Practice of Moodle Use and Late Summer Assessments

To facilitate the changing combination of required end of year tasks in combination with the late summer assessments, we now request that all late summer assessments take place within the 18/19 Moodle Snapshot that will be created on the 26th of July 2019.

The reason why we are asking that you follow this guidance is as follows:

  • All associated course content and student/cohort data will remain consistent and associated with the correct Moodle snapshot in this case 18/19
  • Completing late summer assessment within the 18/19 Snapshot allows all the “live” Moodle courses to be reset and normal end of year course activities to take place from the 29th July, so course teams can begin immediately on 19/20 courses
  • Additional Moodle course creation is kept to a minimum within the live Moodle instance, and aids in Moodle housekeeping activities (reducing dead/unwanted courses, improving long term database performance).

What are we doing to facilitate this change?

  • The Moodle 18/19 Snapshot will remain read/write until the 20th September 2019 (2 weeks after the final assessment date for late summer assessments)
  • Digital Education will retain the current two Moodle selection/landing screen however, it will be re-purposed to direct students to the Snapshot Moodle for late summer assessments
  • Digital Education will create a global banner within “live” Moodle directing students to the Snapshot for the duration of the late summer assessment period
  • Digital Education will place other redirection adverts/links within “live” Moodle to highlight to students that late summer assessment activities can be found within the 18/19 Snapshot

How can you prepare for Late Summer Assessments?

If you wish to prepare in advance courses that will have late summer assessments requirements, we recommend the following: –

Signpost in your course that students should be using that Moodle page to complete their late summer assessments.

Within any course where late summer assessments will be taking place create a hidden section and place any material or submission points within that section. This can be done in the current “live” Moodle up until the 26th July 2019 as preparation. Alternatively, it can be done within the 18/19 Snapshot which will be available on the 27th July 2019.

When you are ready to make late summer assessment material/submission points available simply unhide the section within the course on the 18/19 Snapshot.

Details on how to create and hide sections within Moodle can be found in the following miniguide: https://wiki.ucl.ac.uk/x/RgxiAQ

For any questions regarding Moodle and Late Summer Assessments please email digi-ed@ucl.ac.uk.

We also have a page which has some commonly asked questions about Late Summer Assessments which may help:

https://wiki.ucl.ac.uk/display/MoodleResourceCentre/Late+Summer+Assessments+-+2019

 

Improving Inclusivity – observations from the UCL Education Conference 2019

EliotHoving9 April 2019

I had the opportunity to attend the 2019 UCL Education Conference on Monday 1st April 2019. The conference was themed around:

  • Widening participation
  • BME (Black Minority Ethnic) Attainment
  • Assessment and Feedback
  • Supporting student success
  • Digital education and innovations

Although it was April Fool’s day, and Brexit loomed large, the conference was full of sober analysis and creative initiatives.

The opening plenary by Anne-Marie Canning MBE challenged Universities to play a greater role in promoting inclusivity in their internal practices, and in the broader public sphere as powerful and influential institutions capable of bringing about change. A subsequent panel discussion raised plenty of questions over the structural and everyday challenges to inclusivity, including whether inclusivity was a process or an outcome. This set the tone for the workshop sessions for the remainder of the day. I attended three sessions, which were part of the Digital education and innovations stream of the conference. Each session demonstrated a creative and pragmatic way to improve inclusivity in the classroom.

Photo by Kane Reinholdtsen on Unsplash

Multisensory and personalised feedback

Maria Sibiryakova presented her approach to teaching writing in Russian. She highlighted the challenge of teaching to a diverse cohort where students can have different experiences of living in Russia and different interests in learning Russian. In the course, students complete seven mini-essays (500 words each) and Maria provides audio and written feedback to students, which combine to “feedforward” into the next assessment.

Maria presented some of the benefits of using audio feedback, including:

  • Multisensory feedback – hence more accessible,
  • Improves teaching presence – students hear you and your voice,
  • Conversational and personalised feedback, and
  • Often quicker to produce.

Maria used a tool called VoiceThread, which has some intriguing features. It’s also possible to deliver audio feedback using Turnitin Assignment.

Photo by Adi Chrisworo on Unsplash

Open in class discussion with Moodle Hot Questions

Rebecca Yerworth and one of her students, Xu Zhao, demonstrated how Moodle’s Hot Question activity can facilitate in-class discussions.

The Moodle Hot Question activity allows for students to submit questions and/or answers via Moodle on their phone or laptop. This facilitates class discussion by increasing the participation of students who otherwise wouldn’t speak up in class due to personal or cultural reasons. Rebecca moderates the discussion live in class, answers questions, and draws out connections between different student answers. She also finds the Hot Questions activity flexible to use as it can be enabled in Moodle and switched on with a click of a button when a new discussion is needed.

Photo by Belinda Fewings on Unsplash

Welcoming new Chemistry students through a Moodle module

Dr Stephen E. Potts presented on the development of a Moodle module for welcoming new Chemistry students.

The UCL Chemistry Undergraduate Welcome Page introduces students to the Department, their degree programme, a typical timetable, Lab safety, and even how to submit an assignment on Moodle. It also includes some fun stuff like how to join the UCL Chemical and Physical Society and a collection of molecules with silly names. The module is designed to be delivered completely online, so is Baseline+ compliant, and is released to students when they are registered but before they arrive on campus.

I found the module was a great example of making Moodle look good (yes, it’s possible!). It was visually enticing, clearly structured, and combined quiz activities, video, text and image to engage students. The course has received positive feedback so far, and Stephen plans to build on the module, possibly to include multi-lingual content. I was also really impressed by the virtual tour of the Department. Students click through main buildings and labs, in a similar manner to Google maps, and can also click on information points to view location specific information. The tour was created using a 360 camera and Google Poly.

These three presentations demonstrated some of the everyday ways that inclusivity can be improved through teaching practice and technology. They also showed that improving inclusivity can often be accomplished as part of improving student engagement overall. There was much more to the conference than can be summarised here, and you can read the conference Abstracts to find out more. A tremendous thank you to all the organisers and presenters!