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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.

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!

Moodle Snapshot and Summer Upgrade 2019

Janice K MKiugu4 March 2019

As in previous years, Digital Education will be taking an annual Snapshot of Moodle. However, as we have two instances of Moodle running at present, there will be two snapshots. We have highlighted below key dates and some useful information. It is important that you read through this and the links to additional information carefully.

Moodle Snapshot – Legacy Moodle Platform (30th April 2019)

The “Legacy” Moodle platform will become a Moodle Snapshot from Tuesday 30th April 2019. This means that while access to all material will be retained for students, the platform itself will become read only, as per our other Moodle snapshots.

As you are aware through previous communications from the Moodle project, and information posted on the Moodle wiki resource page. The “Legacy” Moodle was kept running alongside “New” Moodle in an open state to facilitate the completion of courses which had started prior to the New Moodle environment, and which had a completion date beyond the start of the academic year 18/19. In majority these were Master level courses, courses that required specific resit requirements, courses that had a specific external marker access requirement and professional service courses.

The last phase of these course migrations, those belonging to professional services, is due to begin. Course owners/administrators will shortly be contacted to ensure the correct current courses are migrated.

The intention is that the “Legacy” version of Moodle will become the Moodle snapshot instance for the 17/18 academic period.

Once the Snapshot of “Legacy Moodle” occurs we will follow the standard procedure for our normal summer snapshots.  We will allow editing rights to tutors/administrators for one month until the end of May, in order for you to hide or edit course content, as per the guidance on the following wiki page https://wiki.ucl.ac.uk/x/bhxiAQ

If you have any specific concerns about the Snapshot of the “Legacy Moodle” platform, please contact moodleproject@ucl.ac.uk using the title Legacy Snapshot.

New Moodle Summer Upgrade 2019 (26th July 2019)

This year’s summer Moodle upgrade will take place from 5pm Friday 26th July and will be completed by 12 noon Saturday 27th July.

This is a much shorter period of downtime than we have been able to offer in the past. This is a result of the significant improvements in our technology and processes made with the introduction of “New” Moodle last year.

This is our standard yearly upgrade when we will move from our current version of Moodle (v3.4) to a new release version, in this case Moodle (v3.7)

The yearly upgrade ensures that we stay on Moodle.org’s supported release schedule, which has the benefit of providing us with software and security patches from Moodle.org.

This upgrade to v3.7 will resolve several issues on the current Moodle version as well as introduce enhancement features such as, forums and the course overview block. Full details of new features and issues resolved will be released over the next few months.

This summer’s upgrade will also return UCL Moodle to one working platform, called Moodle.ucl.ac.uk, with a single landing page.  The “Legacy 17/18 and 18/19” instance will become one of our standard snapshots.

More information will be provided nearer the time.

If you have any query on the summer upgrade, please email moodleproject@ucl.ac.uk with the title Summer Upgrade.

Additional information and FAQs

Globally De-activating Portico Enrolments

Janice K MKiugu26 February 2019

Portico enrolments will be globally deactivated in Moodle on 5th March 2019.  This is usually done six weeks from the start of each term.

How will this impact students on my course?

  • Students who are already enrolled on a Moodle course WILL continue to have access to their course (s) and WILL NOT be unenrolled.
  • Students enrolling on Portico after the deactivation WILL NOT be automatically enrolled  onto the corresponding Moodle course. Students can still be manually enrolled.
  • Students who leave the course WILL NOT be automatically un-enrollled

Moodle and Portcio enrolments

When Portico enrolments are active on a Moodle course, student enrolments on the course are automatically updated overnight to mirror the Portico student list for the associated module. Consequently, students who change courses, or withdraw from their studies permanently or temporarily, are automatically un-enrolled from their Moodle courses. Usually, this is desirable when students change/drop modules within the first few weeks of term. However, if Portico un-enrols students after they have been awarded any grades, these grades become inaccessible, which can be very problematic.

Note: the ‘inaccessible’ grades, submissions and logged activity are not deleted, and can be accessed again if the student is re-enrolled manually. But, when a student is no longer enrolled on a course, there is just no way to view their content.

Why deactivate Portico enrolments?

To reduce the likelihood of this particular ‘inaccessible/missing grades’ problem occurring, Portico enrolments are de-activated globally in Moodle, six weeks from the start of each term.

Can I re-activate Portico enrolments on my course(s)?

Yes. However, please assess whether you risk losing access to some students’ grades before you do this. See instructions on re-activating Portico enrolments

Note: Portico enrolments can be ‘deactivated’ within the course at any time by anyone with Course Administrator or Tutor access, thereby stopping any updates to the list of enrolled users on the Moodle course.

The Lecturecast system has a new interface

Janice K MKiugu23 January 2019

Users of the Lecturecast system will notice that there has been an update to the user interface. The new interface makes finding content and courses easier. It also provides improved search and sort functionality as well a new filtering system.  The change mainly affects staff. Most users may not notice the change but users who frequently access the ‘Library’, now known as ‘My Content’ and who use the engagement tools should familiarize themselves with the changes. The new interface is quite intuitive but if you find yourself wondering where some aspect of Lecturecast functionality now sits, you will find these guides useful.

Note that all content you had access to will still be available.

For any queries regarding this change, please email: digi-ed@ucl.ac.uk

 

Globally Deactivating Portico Enrolments in Moodle

Janice K MKiugu30 October 2018

Portico enrolments will be globally deactivated in Moodle on 6th November 2018.  This is done six weeks from the start of each term.

How will this impact students on my course?

  • Students who are already enrolled on a Moodle course WILL continue to have access to their course (s) and WILL NOT be unenrolled.
  • Students enrolling on Portico after the deactivation WILL NOT be automatically enrolled  onto the corresponding Moodle course. Students can still be manually enrolled.
  • Students who leave the course WILL NOT be automatically un-enrollled

Moodle and Portcio enrolments

When Portico enrolments are active on a Moodle course, student enrolments on the course are automatically updated overnight to mirror the Portico student list for the associated module. Consequently, students who change courses, or withdraw from their studies permanently or temporarily, are automatically un-enrolled from their Moodle courses. Usually, this is desirable when students change/drop modules within the first few weeks of term. However, if Portico un-enrols students after they have been awarded any grades, these grades become inaccessible, which can be very problematic.

Note: the ‘inaccessible’ grades, submissions and logged activity are not deleted, and can be accessed again if the student is re-enrolled manually. But, when a student is no longer enrolled on a course, there is just no way to view their content.

Why deactivate Portico enrolments?

To reduce the likelihood of this particular ‘inaccessible/missing grades’ problem occurring, Portico enrolments are de-activated globally in Moodle, six weeks from the start of each term.

Can I re-activate Portico enrolments on my course(s)?

Yes. However, please assess whether you risk losing access to some students’ grades before you do this. See instructions on re-activating Portico enrolments

Note: Portico enrolments can be ‘deactivated’ within the course at any time by anyone with Course Administrator or Tutor access, thereby stopping any updates to the list of enrolled users on the Moodle course.