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Digital Education team blog


Ideas and reflections from UCL's Digital Education team


Have you met BoB?

By Natasa Perovic, on 9 October 2014

Box of Broadcast

Box of Broadcast

BoB (Box of Broadcasts) National is an innovative shared online off-air TV and radio recording service for UK higher and further education institutions.

Staff and students can record programmes from 65+ TV and radio channels.  The recorded programmes are kept indefinitely in an media archive, which currently stores over 2 million programmes and are shared by users across all subscribing institutions. The archive also includes searchable transcripts and one click citation referencing.
The recordings can be set before or after the broadcast (30 day recording buffer). The programmes can be edited into clips and shared with others. They can also be embedded into Moodle.
To start using BoB, log in with your UCL user details http://bobnational.net/

TLN: Audio and Video in teaching

By Fiona Strawbridge, on 21 January 2010

This week’s TLN meeting focused on the use of multimedia in teaching and learning and included presentations from practitioners and supporters from UCL and Oxford University.

Multimedia at UCL

Patrick Robinson from the Multimedia team in Learning & Media Services (formerly Media Services) kicked things off with a review of UCL’s support and plans in this area. He mentioned the Lecturecast project which will roll out facilities to record all lectures in UCL’s 20 largest lecture rooms over the next 18 months. Other newsworthy items are:

  • The forthcoming GO service – a system for delivering key information to smartphones (starting of course with the iPhone, but soon to include a large number of other devices) based on ‘CampusM’ which has been launched successfully at Sheffield and a couple of other institutions.
  • Plans to select and pilot a desktop webconferencing service.
  • Introduction of live streaming to mobile devices of lunch hour lectures and other high profile events.

Oxford’s dreaming Steeples

We were then joined by Carl Marshall from Oxford University who runs the Steeple project which involves the Open University and Cambridge University as main partners, along with UCL and a few other institutions. Steeple encompasses podcasting, open content and iTunes U. Like UCL, Oxford was one of the first UK institutions to use iTunes U and they have an impressive 1500 academics actively podcasting, many on a regular basis. They have had an amazing 2,000,000 downloads and indeed some academics have become minor stars through this medium!

Carl outlined three categories of use – High End – professional graphics, camerawork, production, careful editing; Low End – tends to be audio-only content, often recordings of real classes, minimum production effort; Middle Ground – anything inbetween!

As we know at UCL once podcasts are in iTunes U and people download them they are ‘out there’ – so branding is important (we watermark ours). It is also important that folk ensure that they don’t include anything which isn’t legal, decent, honest and truthful (copyright, IPR, libel etc etc). At Oxford it is up to the individual academic to ensure that their podcast is up-to-scratch, but the head of department is ultimately responsible.

Carl mentioned a couple of interesting future developments:

  • KERMIT – a 3D walk-around environment which he described as being like the weatherman with green screen (hence the name I guess) for projecting graphics.
  • CHIRPING – provision of audio feedback in addition to written feedback for students.
  • KITTENS – an asset repository.

Carl’s vision of the future is one of the ‘pocket university’ with widespread availability of open content – making all sorts of academic material available free of charge, under creative commons licences, to all.

UCL’s Language Space

Sibylle Nalezinski from the Languages of the Wider World CETL talked about a couple of nice uses of audio and video in language teaching. One example was the use of video clips followed by questions on what was said in Moodle – this type opf resource may take some time and effort to assemble, but may be reused many times in classes. Another one which sounded like fun was a group of English for Academic Purposes students who had produced a radio show – which they were then able to send to their friends and family at home. They had included interviews with each other about their experiences as new students and this aspect had proved bonding for them as a group. Sibylle’s final example was an audio recording about cooking made by a spanish student in her kitchen, complete with culinary sound effects!

Leadership in Medical Teaching and Training

Dr Jean McEwan from the department of surgery entertained us and made us feel our ages by talking about Generation Y (aka the net generation, or digital natives) and how their early immersion in technology has furnished them with different expectations and preferences from digital immigrants (anyone born before 1980, including baby-boomers (pre 1964), generation X (1964-1980)). She pointed out that most of those educating medical students were baby-boomers. Working with other senior academics in the Medical School Jean has put together what appeared to be an excellent one-day face-to-face training day, which is backed up by 9 days of Moodle pre-study (including lots of media and thought-provoking exercises.) Oh and all participants were provided with an iPod Touch pre-populated with some of the materials (and instructions to ask their kids or a student if they couldn’t work out how to use it :D).


Jason Norton from the LTSS talked about the new Lecturecast service – systems for recording lectures and making them available online in a variety of formats. The recordings can be made available almost immediately with no editing, or the lecturer may edit them via a web interface – usually this just involved topping and tailing to remove the chatter at the start and end of a class. The results can be made available in one or more of a range of formats – audio only, audio plus slides/visualiser, video of the lecturer plus slides, video of lecturer only. They may be streamed (i.e. drip-fed live to a computer – like the BBC’s iplayer) or made available for download perhaps via iTunes U as a podcast, or through Moodle or a web page. The Chemistry department call their library of recorded lectures their ‘time machine’.

Next steps for Lecturecast will be to roll it out to 20 lecture theatres at UCL, and to add automated recognition of text from slides to allow students to search for the right spot in a lecture.

All in all a most enjoyable session.