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Digital Education team blog


Ideas and reflections from UCL's Digital Education team


Archive for the 'Web 2.0' Category

The power of the crowd

Domi C Sinclair12 February 2015

A strong operating principal for the internet is faith in people power. This is not just for organising activism or anything world changing, but for doing everything from crowd-funding projects (Kickstarter, Indiegogo) to crowd-sourcing the webs best posts and news (Reddit). Now there is a new use for crowd power, Forekast, the crowd-sourced calendar.

This online calendar works on the basis of users submitting dates to the calendar and then voting for ones they think are interesting. This way you can see what big events are happening both on and offline. Forekast is broken into a number of subcategories, including technology, education and science. The technology category includes funding deadlines for Kickstarter projects, conferences and the known dates for important technology related policy decisions.  The science section includes a lot of the same things as the technology section, but with the addition of things such as dates for live-streamed talks from NASA and natural events (such as meteor shows and eclipses).

When you find an event you are interested in you can choose to up-vote it and receive an emailed reminder before it happens. You can also elect to get reminders on certain social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or Google+). There is the option to localise your events to many global locations, including the United Kingdom, although this doesn’t make much of a difference as most of the events are listed as global, normally because they are taking place online or on a certain day and are not geographically sensitive.

Regardless of whether you find this specific tool useful or not, the online world certainly seems to be embracing the old adage, ‘two heads are better than one’. With the massive reach of the internet it seems that a few million heads are better than one at finding out what is hot and what is not.

List of websites mentioned in this post:

Forekast: https://forekast.com

Kickstarter: https://kickstarter.com/

Indiegogo: https://indiegogo.com

Reddit: http://reddit.com/

Facebook: https://facebook.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/

Tumblr: https://tumblr.com/

Google+: https://plus.google.com

Video competition showcasing students’ research

Natasa Perovic9 January 2015


All UCL Faculty of Brain Sciences Masters students were invited to submit a two-minute video that summarised their research. The aim of the competition was to showcase the high quality research being conducted by Masters students and to provide an opportunity for students to develop the necessary skills to make their research accessible to the public.

Students were instructed to answer the following:

What is your research question?
What have you found in relation to your question?
Why is it important?

The entries were of a  high standard and demonstrated the excellent work taking place across the faculty. Four students particularly impressed the panel of judges with their ability to communicate their message in a clear and engaging manner.

The winners of our first Masters Video Competition are:

1st place:

Tara Brah (MSc Biology of Vision, supervised by Prof Shin-ichi Ohnuma). How do we make the third eye?


2nd place:

Giulia Borghini (MSc Cognitive Neuroscience, supervised by Prof Vince Walsh and Dr Marinella Cappaletti). Alpha stimulation effects on working memory and inhibitory abilities in elderly


Highly Commended:

Nathan Hayes (MSc Developmental Neuroscience and Psychopathology, supervised by Dr Helena Rutherford). The Impact of Maternal Substance Use on Neural Processing of Social and Non-social Feedback


Highly Commended:

Seray Ibrahim (MRes Speech, Language and Cognition, supervised by Dr Michael Clarke and Dr Duncan Brumby).   Involving child communication aid users in the development of communication aids

More information:  Poster about the competition http://www.ucl.ac.uk/slms/education/education-domain/documents/posters/video_competition_showcasing_research.pdf by Dr Jennifer Rodd and Dr Alex Standen

Little Thought, Big Consequences

Domi C Sinclair7 January 2015

It can take very little time to write an online post, but such a post could have very big implications. Those implication can be either very good or very bad so it is always recommend that however little time it takes to type, you should always think before you tweet.

There is a story in the news today about a Bristol stockbroker who tweeted an apparent poor-taste joke that he had hit a cyclist with his car on the way to work. Later that same day he was fired from work. He has also been contacted by the local police who are now investigating whether he negated his duty to stop and if there are any witnesses. This man’s life has been turned upside down all for a ‘joke’ that might have gained a groan or chuckle from his friends but was never appropriate for a public platform. This is why I post by the mantra, if you would have to look around before you said it out loud, or would say it in a whispered voice don’t post it online. Everything else, think about it, type it, read it out loud, think about it again and then if you’re sure, post it.

As the article details there is also some scrutiny on the company who fired the man in question, and whether they acted too swiftly. If there was no hit-and-run and this was, as claimed by the man, a poor taste joke then his only offense is not thinking, is that really a sack-able behavior?

You can find out more about improving your own digital skills and read some social media success stories on the UCL ELE wiki pages. If you have any questions about social media use in education then please contact ELE, alternatively if you have any thoughts about this post you can leave a comment, we always love to hear from you.



Helping us to help you

Domi C Sinclair16 December 2014

When you have a problem or question E-Learning Environments (ELE) are always more than happy to hear from you, and will do all we can to help you as quickly as we can. However, this process can be slowed down if we don’t have all the information we need to investigate your problem, or answer your question. So here are some top tips for what to include in an email/ ticket to ELE, so you can help us to help you.

1. Course name (and link)

UCL is a large university with hundreds of courses, and even more modules. Therefore it is very difficult for us to investigate a problem without knowing the name of a course/ module, so that we can look at the problem and try to replicate it. A lot of problem solving is reverse engineered, so we will try to replicate the problem for ourselves and then figure out what is wrong, by using our familiarity with the components of the technology. It is also helpful to include a link to the course/ module in question, as sometimes these are not obvious when searching in Moodle/ Lecturecast. Asking for the course name is always our first step, and so by including this in your original email then you will save time and help us resolve the problem faster.

2. Activity/ resource name (and link)

As well as there being a lot of courses at UCL, individual courses may have more than one of a particular activity, such as a Turnitin assignment or forum. It will take ELE extra time if we have to search through all of them to find the problem, and it also means that sometimes we are not always sure if we have found the problem. By including the name and location of the activity in the original email ELE can go straight to it, and get to work determining the problem.

3. Screenshots

When we look at a course, it might not always be possible for ELE to replicate a problem. This might be because the issue is related to a particular browser you are using, or due to permissions on your account. As these parameters might not apply to ELE we may not be able to see the problem, which makes it much harder for us to help with the answer. If you can take a screenshot (using the PrtScn key) and then paste that into a document and send it as an attachment, it will help us see the problem and any error messages you are receiving. It can even mean that we can answer the question or give a solution straight away upon seeing the screenshot.

4. Error messages

Screenshots of error messages are good, but if you can’t take one then including what an error message says will help ELE to diagnose and resolve the problem. It also helps us if we have to deal with any third party suppliers (such as Turnitin).

4. Specifics

A summary of the problem is best as ELE might not have a lot of time to read a long email, and it may be possible to determine and resolve an issue with only a few key details, listed above. However it can also help to be specific. If you are reporting a problem then list what steps you are taking that are causing the problem, which buttons are you clicking and in what order? Details are also helpful if you are asking a question about a new activity you’d like to start, but you’re not sure which tool to use. If you include specific details about what you want to do then ELE can suggest the tool that fits your needs best.

By following these tips you will have an easier and quicker experience with ELE, and we will be able to get through more problems or questions in less time.

Please feel free to send your queries to ELE via our email address, ele@ucl.ac.uk

Lynda.com is now available at UCL

Jessica Gramp7 October 2014

Want to learn how to edit video on your iPhone or iPad, use excel to analyse your research data, or find a job online?

UCL is currently trialling Lynda.com for 12 months and depending on the uptake this may be extended.

Lynda.com contains online resources to help you improve your software, technology, business and creative skills. It can be used for staff development, or to help students learn new skills that are useful for university and the workplace.

UCL has a premium subscription, which means you can download content to watch offline on your mobile device and you can also download any files required to complete the exercises.

To access Lynda go to Lynda.com and in the top right hand corner click “log in“, then go to the “Log in through your organisation or school” box on the right hand side and enter “www.ucl.ac.uk” This takes you to the UCL Single sign on page where you have to enter your UCL credentials, once successful you are returned to Lynda.com.

The direct link to the UCL login is here bit.ly/ucl_lynda

ISD will be developing web pages and information for users over the next week. Please note that there may be some brief technical outages initially while the system is configured specifically for UCL, however, we do not expect this to stop people using the service overall.

Take a look at the following ‘Moodle Essential Training’ to get an idea of what Lynda.com offers:



Summits and Horizons, 9th June 2014

Vicki Dale16 June 2014

Last week saw the final session in the current series of Summits and Horizons, a seminar series jointly organised by the Centre for the Advancement in Learning and Teaching (CALT) and E-Learning Environments (ELE). Appropriately, the session focused on the predictions of the 2014 NMC Horizons Report, in the context of use of emerging technologies to support teaching and learning at UCL.

Fiona Strawbridge highlighted the trends, challenges and emerging technologies identified in the report:

Trends Challenges Technologies
Near term (1-2 years):

  • Ubiquity of social media
  • Integration of online, hybrid & collaborative environments

Medium term (3-4 years):

  • Data-driven learning (analytics)
  • Students as creators (makespaces and hackspaces)

Far term (5+ years):

  • Agile approaches to change (students as entrepreneurs)
  • Evolution of e-learning as a viable alternative to traditional face to face teaching

  • Low digital fluency of staff
  • Lack of rewards for teaching versus research


  • Competition from new educational models such as MOOCS
  • Scaling innovation within historically conservative institutions


  • Expanding access to higher education
  • Keeping education relevant for the future workforce
Near term (1-2 years):

  • The flipped classroom
  • Learning analytics – using big data to drive and support student learning

Medium term (3-4 years):

  • 3D printing
  • Games and gamification

Far term (4+ years):

  • The quantified self – using smart technology to track your daily activities
  • Virtual assistants – lifelike interactions with technology

Fiona’s slides, and a video précis of the report are also available.

Ros Duhs highlighted the need to consider the relevance of what students are learning at university for the future workplace, and stressed the importance of authentic learning, teaching and assessment strategies.

Janina Dewitz considered recently emerging technologies including semantic aware applications and smart objects (predicted in the 2009 NMC Horizons report) and affective computing. Her take on these technologies was that although many are being taken up by the consumer market, they have yet to make a substantial impact on higher education. Janina also mentioned individuals’ right to privacy and the lack of trust surrounding commercial access to their personal data. Similarly, students may object to the transparency associated with learning analytics; there is also the difficulty of measuring learning online since learning happens all the time and in other places.

Clive Young presented the results of a survey ELE conducted with teaching staff about their use of external cloud-based tools. The survey revealed that a large range of external tools, which are used personally, are also being used to support teaching, research and administration, but more support may be necessary to increase adoption beyond the early adopters. The results are being reported in more detail in another blog post.

Nick Grindle looked back at the technologies predicted in earlier NMC Reports. While some technologies such as mobile computing and apps, cloud computing and geo-everything have materialised within the predicted timeframe, one area which has still to reach its potential is gaming and gamification, first mentioned in the 2005 report. This is one of the themes of the forthcoming call for submissions for the E-Learning Development Grants, so hopefully at UCL we can make progress in this area.

A closing panel discussion highlighted the role of the Arena Scheme, in partnership with ELE, in promoting digital scholarship. There was also a discussion about the importance of the institutional learning environment for security and support in using e-learning. While Moodle works extremely well and is very highly rated by students, we should be alert for the emergence of other platforms which might best serve longer-term future needs. Finally, thanks were given to Moira Wright for overseeing the successful and smooth administration of all nine sessions this year.