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Digital Education team blog


Ideas and reflections from UCL's Digital Education team


Learnalong Friday

By Jim R Tyson, on 25 April 2023

As part of our never ending quest to promote digital skills at UCL, I am hosting two sessions on 5 May covering topics that fall outside of our usual Digital Skills Development programme:
Zotero: Citation Power Moves (10 am – 12 pm) and Starting up right with Git, GitHub and RStudio (1 – 3 pm) in the Cruciform Building Cruciform Building B1.15A University College, Gower St, London London WC1E 6BT.

The first of these will be an opportunity for users with some basic Zotero knowledge to share what they do know and to learn new stuff.  I will start by giving a quick introduction to the Citation Style Language (CSL) which is a standard for specifying citation and referencing styles and to support that a brief outline of XML – the standard text-based language for representing all kinds of structured information.  This will also be an opportunity to share how we are using Zotero, to get support with any issues we are facing and to talk about Zotero training needs.  I would be pleased to talk about using Zotero for annotation and reporting for example.

The second session is rather different.  Many R data analysts would like to use git and git-hub with R and RStudio, but even after following online videos and guides, actually setting up your repositories and linking them to your RStudio projects can be a bit daunting; you may encounter problems that no one else has documented or be unsure of the best set up for your use case.  In this session, we will step through – collectively – installing the software (a desktop git client for example), creating projects in RStudio and on git-hub and then setting up a simple and effective workflow.  So this is a practical session where you should end up ready to roll with version control for your RStudio projects.

I hope these sessions will be informal, interactive and above all practically useful, so see you there!


Laptops and people working


Software for Success

By Jim R Tyson, on 2 February 2023

Student research successWhat does it take to succeed in a student research project, or any research project for that matter?

Well, there’s a whole lot of stuff that Digital Skills Development can’t help with, and anyway, you’re all really good at that stuff: the scholarship, the domain knowledge, the research skills.  But, there’s an awful lot that we can offer.

Getting on top of the choices that face you now and planning what tools you will use will allow you to work out what skills you need to acquire and how you are going to acquire them.  And beefing up your digital capability will not only improve your chances of research success, but will add to your capital in an area that employers rate among top desirable job skills.

When people plan research projects, they often forget to work out what software tools and techniques they will use, what skills those tools require, and where they are going to get those skills.  Often, we think it will all just be obvious and somehow it will come together.  Well, in a way it usually does, but with a little planning and foreknowledge, we can transform these decisions from afterthought to opportunity.

Digital Skills Development has six demonstration sessions to put you on the road to software success.  Each session introduces tools to tackle specific tasks for your research project.  We look at:

  1. writing: is there life beyond Word?  Is there any reason to go there?  How do I cope with fussy formatting requirements?
    Upcoming session: DSD: Software for success: Writing tools Fri 17-Feb-2023 12-1pm
  2. using survey tools: which is the best one for your research project?
    Upcoming session: DSD: Software for success: Survey tools Tues 21-Feb-2023 11-12noon
  3. winning with charts: which is the best chart type for your data?
    Upcoming session: DSD: Software for Success: Winning with charts Wed 15-Feb-2023 12-1pm
  4. data visualisation: what tools are available for visually presenting your data?
    Upcoming session: DSD: Software for success: Data visualisation Thu 16-Feb-2023 10-12 pm
  5. data analysis: is it worth learning to code, or can I cope by wrestling with my data in Excel?  I don’t do numbers, how can software help me?
    No upcoming sessions: DSD: Software for success: Data analysis & statistical tools join the interest list to be told about future dates.
  6. managing literature: imagine a world where your library and database searches link seamlessly  with your citation system and a database of annotated PDFs.  That world can be yours.
    No upcoming sessions: DSD: Software for success: Working with Bibliography and Citation Apps join the interest list to be told about future dates.

If you haven’t thought about what tools you will use for each of these tasks, or if you have thought about it but you’re just not sure what to do, these sessions are for you.  There will be demonstrations of different tools and approaches with guidance and discussion of what tool is best for the job.  If you think you know what software you are going to use, then we invite you to come along and  be challenged: there may be tools on offer that could smooth the way to a successful research project.

Now is the time to move beyond those good old coping strategies and tame the software beast.  These sessions will help you do it.