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Digital Education team blog


Ideas and reflections from UCL's Digital Education team


E-Learning Development Grant (ELDG) scheme – 4 years of successful bids!

14 April 2011

2010_ELDG Berlingieri reportFor the past four years we’ve been given the support of the Office of the Vice Provost to ask UCL staff:

“Would you like to develop the use of e-learning in your teaching?

Do you have innovative ideas but need support putting them into practice?”

It’s been those who’ve responded to this call with creativity, vision, and sometimes strong pragmatism that we’ve then worked with as part of UCL’s E-Learning Development Grant (ELDG) scheme.

This gives funds to further knowledge and experience of e-learning within UCL. It’s previously been used to:

  • support the development of resources
  • evaluation and technology reviews
  • promote innovating teaching methods
  • or even visiting external institutions for inspiration and to compare practice

A strong part of the ELDG process is to share and learn from these experiences so each year we ask successful bids to report back so that other members of the community can build on them. These reports now span four years in total and will definitely be of interest to applicants for 2011-12 funding or staff looking for inspiration to draw on.  Though many projects are still ongoing it’s been great to review the reports for completed projects so far,  now up on the page for: ELDG Reports Successful bids from previous years

Though there are more to come, reports from the 2010-11 session have been more detailed than previously. It’s also been the first to encourage video report/presentations, which’ve been particularly engaging and informative and will now probably be a continuing feature of the scheme.

This year the Office of the Vice Provost (Academic and International) has made available £40,000 to fund ELDG projects, more than ever before. However, this coming academic year is also the culmination of UCL’s efforts to have all taught modules on Moodle to a ‘baseline’ standard. Of course, many modules already on Moodle have been there for some time and have gone well beyond baseline use. Recognising this and encouraging an enhanced use of Moodle is therefore a strong strand in this year’s grants and proposals  including innovative uses of Moodle or combinations with other UCL integrated technologies  are eagerly anticipated.  (See ELDG Themes and inspiration page)

For those thinking of applying for an ELDG grant the deadline is fast approaching (April 28th!) so we suggest looking over these previous years’ successful bids and themes and ideas page to get some ideas, reading criteria for application and then applying.

Last year we received over 40 applications so we look forward to seeing what this new year brings in terms of new practice, ideas and innovation!

If you have any questions do feel free to contact us.

“Social” self-study

Clive Young17 March 2011

Head forst book pageEarlier this year I came across the Head First WordPress book from O’Reilly and was much taken by the “brain-friendly” highly visual, conversational, sometimes jokey layout (see left).  This made me ponder just how friendly our self-study e-learning support material is. We tend to make our documents and videos quite academic and dry, though our live workshops are fun and interactive.

e-Learning consultant Clive Shephard raised much the same point in a blog post this month Can self-study be social? .  He suggests “self-study could feel very much like one-to-one learning if the content was prepared with a degree of personality… written using a conversational tone, with the author’s personality shining through“…maybe I suggest a bit more like the Head First design approach.

Clive puts it bluntly “Web 2.0 content – blog and forum postings, YouTube videos, etc. –  is consumed with gusto because it has personality. Policy manuals, corporate brochures and self-study compliance courses are not, because they don’t.

He concludes “Time for e-learning to get some personality. If it does, even self-study can feel like a social experience.

It seems there is a challenge there for all of us involved in the development of print and online support materials, to move from the dry academic tone towards something that is a little more fun and engaging.

Video and pedagogy – what questions should we be asking now ?

Clive Young10 March 2011

The third ViTAL webinar on video in education took place on 9 March 2011, attracting 42 attendees and generating a lively discussion.

It was presented by Clive Young, LTSS and chaired by John Conway, Imperial.

The slides are here:

The Adobe Connect recording can be found at the following link

Video and pedagogy – what questions should we be asking now ?

Apps and the end of lectures?

Clive Young8 February 2011

Why should we spend so much time memorising this much when the information is easily accessible?

Interesting article in this months medicalstudent – Are iPhone apps replacing traditional lectures? It’s on page 5.

Echoes the comments of Prof Sugata Mitra, star of TED and ALT-C (hole-in-the wall computers etc) when asked asked last year to make three predictions  – in just 2 minutes – about what universities would be like in 2025 – one of the areas he obviously felt quite strongly about was how mobile computing might change medical education.

TLN – David Emmett – e-learning challenges and self-test learning initiatives in a multi-site Australian medical school

Matt Jenner2 February 2011

David joins UCL for this Teaching and Learning Network session from University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia where his role is Senior Lecture in e-learning within the Medical School.

David Emmitt speaks at the TLN

The Medical School has 1,700 students and 10,000 alumni and a staff to student ratio of about one to ten. Their MBBS course is structured with sessions which are based around Problem Based Learning scenarios which are split into several weeks. Sessions support the students, give them advice and help the groups to set up their own infrastructure/roles within their groups. The students were given interactive whiteboards but they actually wanted just pens as the whiteboards didn’t offer them anything and were instead a barrier. The PBL scenarios also made use of video to highlight specific areas of the scenario to help break down the problems for the students.

They have been trailing the use of videoconferencing but this is still in early developments. They also are using Adobe Presenter to record voice over PowerPoint (so you record your presentation in the office and then distribute to your students) and this sends a package which can be read as a .PDF file of comparable size for sharing electronically.

The Medical School used an internally built VLE (virtual learning environment) but have this year have moved into the University of Queensland’s Blackboard VLE. This expanded the opportunities for online learning but also brought along many challenges too. With financial restrictions the University cut down on e-learning support posts which increased the load on the remaining staff. They are looking towards a VLE review and specifically Moodle, so far they have been very impressed and seem confident that the additional freedom of what Moodle can offer in terms of teaching and learning will bring much benefit to the institution, although a lot more work is involved, decisions like this are not that quick or easy!

One of the selling features of Moodle for them is the Lesson activity which allows a structured pathway though content. It presents materials, asks questions, provides feedback and can guide and steer the learner through a pathway instead of just linear content delivery.

In additional, David received an Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC) grant and has been in liaison with Tony Gardner-Medwin at UCL for using Certainty Based Marking and LAPT which offers students a chance to assess their knowledge but also how confident they are of the answer they are giving which reflects in the marks given. In addition, they have been using an experimental self-assessment modification to Moodle which allows the student to select a type of quiz. From a bank of questions the student can make their own quizzes and do it as often as they like. The back of questions is adopting an intercollegiate from the outset so students may get questions on material they have never covered. Luckily the content is organised and so this can be avoided (or be a ‘feature’).

David hopes that in the future the VLE can be a more personalised environment for students, allowing them to record their learning and collect their own materials and add them to their own list of resources or activities which they have used to learn.


Certainty Based Marking – http://www.ucl.ac.uk/lapt/

Teaching and Learning Network – http://www.ucl.ac.uk/tln

Media and Learning 2010

Clive Young29 November 2010

I was at the Media and Learning conference in Brussels last week. The conference is a new spin off of the MEDEA Awards, a competition now in its third year that recognises and rewards excellence in video and media in education. The conference attracted over 250 delegates with a good representation from the UK. JISC Digital Media and JISC Legal were there talking about UK video collections and the legal aspects of lecture capture (known in the rest of Europe as ‘weblectures’).  Blogger Helen Keegan of the University of Salford gave an inspiring keynote on ‘learning ecosystems’, the transformation of ‘passive’ video into a medium for active communication and creation. This was certainly a theme of the conference and other keynotes including Ozge Karaoglu from Turkey (pictured) showcased some stunning work achieved by primary and secondary children across Europe. The main MEDEA award was fittingly won by BBC News for their BBC News School Report which gives 11-14 year-old students in the UK the chance to make their own news reports for a real audience.