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Digital Education team blog


Ideas and reflections from UCL's Digital Education team


Countdown to Moodle 4

By Aurelie, Eliot Hoving and Jason R Norton, on 20 March 2023

Previewing our new UCL Moodle, ahead of the summer upgrade. 

Hello and welcome to the new fortnightly news release for our upcoming Moodle 4 Upgrade. 

As announced by Jason Norton, Head of Virtual Learning Environments, in the Moodle 4 Upgrade Summer 2023 blog post on 6th March 2023, the UCL main instance of Moodle will be upgraded this July from Moodle 3.11 to Moodle 4.2. 

In this series of blogs, we aim to keep you up to date with what our team is working on each Sprint (fortnight) and to highlight a new Moodle 4 feature, in more detail. 

What are we working on? 

This week we wanted to share with you our progress with the dashboard redesign for Moodle 4. 

The new dashboard aims to improve the students’ experience with course updates including a timeline of activities, featured current and future course activities, and a ‘Recently accessed by Peers’ section to keep up-to-date and provide quick access to popular activities and resources. The clear buttons and fresh page layout aim to make managing deadlines, learning and signposting of support easier for our learners. 

screenshot of Moodle 4 dashboard redesign

Moodle 4 dashboard redesign

As well as the dashboard, the new “My courses” area introduces a central point where students can access all their available modules and courses, and allows searching and filtering of these courses in the overview section. 

What’s new in Moodle 4? 

Gradebook user experience improvements 

A better user experience (UX) has been a key focus for numerous Moodle 4 developments.  

One such change is that UX improvements have made the Gradebook easier to navigate, which allows graders to analyse the success of formative and summative assessments, and inform improvements to course design.  

In this new version of Moodle, a ‘Grades summary’ page has been added to provide a summary report of the grade averages for each course activity. This Grades summary report can be filtered by activity. 

Grade Summary page in Moodle gradebook

Grade Summary page in Moodle gradebook

There is now also an improved ‘User report’ with a more modern design and collapsible categories. 

Searchable and flexible user report in Moodle gradebook

Searchable and flexible user report in Moodle gradebook

The grader report has an improved search function with dropdown menus. There is also an option to open external assessment tools from the gradebook and add grade letters if needed. 

A ‘Single view report’ with improved design and a new search make it easier to review class and specific user grades. Graders can now search by user, group, or grade item. 


It’s now also easier to import/export gradebook elements. 

Have Questions? 

If you have questions, please do get in touch with the Digital Education team.


We’ll be back in a fortnight with further news and updates for you. In the meantime, happy moodling!
The Virtual Learning Environments team 


TechQual+ Survey at UCL

By Moira Wright, on 13 October 2017

In early 2016, ISD (Information Services Division) carried out the first Staff and Student IT Survey using TechQual+. Over 1,000 of you completed the survey, and over the past 16 months we have been working hard to improve our services in response to your comments.

Below are just a few examples of changes that have been made as a result of the feedback received from the TechQual+ survey run in 2016:

Wi-Fi                        Three speech bubbles

A substantial investment in replacing and upgrading our Wi-Fi technology infrastructure

Service Desk

We’ve invested in staffing, tools and training to speed up response times and improve quality.

We’ve partnered with an external organisation and altered shift patterns to provide additional out of hours’ support.


We’ve rolled out 170+ additional printers over the past 18 months, targeting the busiest areas. This takes the current total to 660 printers. In areas of high usage, we’ve introduced new high capacity printers.


We have invested in storage and now all staff and students can store 100GB for free.


We are continuing to invest in additional cluster PCs, and loan laptops where there isn’t space for desktops. We added a further 550 desktops and 60 laptops by September 2017.
We operate one of the largest laptop loan services across UK universities – 266 laptops across 12 locations – and this year a further 60 laptops were added.


We delivered 221 courses last academic year, that’s nearly 1000 hours of training with about 3000 people attending.  We are working hard to publicise the courses we offer.

Audio Visual

In 2016 ISD invested £2.5m into improving the technology in teaching facilities. Approximately 70 centrally bookable spaces had their facilities updated; this included bringing 43 spaces in 20 Bedford Way up to the standard spec including installation of Lecturecast in approx. 30 spaces.  Lecturecast was also installed at 22 Gordon Street and Canary Wharf (3 spaces each).  We also refreshed the Lecturecast hardware in 12 rooms.

Drawing of a tablet with 5 stars

Based on the findings of focus groups at participating institutions, the TechQual+ project has articulated a set of generalised IT service outcomes that are expected of IT organizations by faculty, students, and staff within higher education. The TechQual+ core survey contains 13 items designed to measure the performance of the following three core commitments: 1) Connectivity and Access, 2)Technology and Collaboration Services, and 3) Support and Training.

The TechQual+ survey will be run again at UCL in December 2017 and we’ll be asking for your help to advertise it to your students, encouraging them (and you!) to complete it. All respondents will be entered into a prize draw with a chance to win some great prizes!

We’ll be providing more information and communications about the survey closer to the opening date.


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 – Digital Stories and Why buttons go bad

By Matt Jenner, on 28 March 2011

Dominic Furniss and Rachel Benedyk explained in this weeks Teaching and Learning Network how their use of Digital Stories have been used with their HCI students during induction week.

What is a Digital Story?
Pictures + audio + narrative = digital story

Think of a narrated set of images, but with the potential to demonstrate a high level of understanding of a topic mixed in with a visual and narrative forms to explain a topic or concept. A digital story is designed to show this and Dominic and Rachel’s students did this brilliantly.

After taking part in a session at another university, Dominic wanted to bring the idea of Digital Stories to UCL. He realised they can be used as a short exercise with students and can be a very effective learning tool. Creating a digital story brings out many transferable skills such as emphasising students working together, communicating a message and synthesising their understanding.

The HCI students worked in groups to create a digital story in a half-day workshop. Set during induction week and working in groups the students did not yet know one another, nor did they know at what level to be aiming for. Each group shared their creation in a class-wide presentation session. After this the groups were asked to peer review each submission which proved a useful exercise for gaining skills in marking and criticising each other’s work. In addition, the feedback from the students gave a multifaceted view on group work, settling in and understanding the context. The teaching staff noted during the year that the students were more tuned into the subject and willing to work in groups – however this would need deeper research to ascertain how linked it may have been to this induction exercise.

Value in creation
Something Dominic and Rachel hadn’t envisaged was the quality of the digital stories created. One excellent example is below, entitled Why buttons go bad, which shows clearly how students fresh to UCL have arrived at good academic pace:

This video has since been used by UCL TV and on the UCLIC website for public engagement across the campus and beyond.

The idea of creating a Digital Story is so simple that it may pass you by, but their application can be widely-adopted. Think replacing a conference poster, a summary of what your students have learned during the year or the outline of a proposed paper. Creating a story takes only half a day, and if you’re interested the LTSS or Dominic and Rachel would be very happy to talk to you about it some more.

More information on the TLN programme page for this event.

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TLN – Round the lighthouse and back in time for …Casablanca! – Using feature films in the classroom – Melvyn Stokes

By Matt Jenner, on 7 March 2011

This week the Teaching and Learning Network are lucky to have Melvin Stokes who talked about using feature films in the classroon.

Melvyn begins by introducing the history of american cinema, including newsreal shots of black protesters being hit by american enforceMelvyn Stokesments with a water canon or Thomas Canby in the early 1900’s. After this, technical developments made the feature film possible. The first major feature films were on 4, 5 and 6 reals. In addition were developments in editing and special effects. Cinema attendance soared in the 20, 30 and 40’s as telling stories on the screen.

But the question is, how can this be introduced into teaching?

Melvyn uses a pre film text to read which also acts as an introduction to the film itself and questions such as how does [the film] shed lights on the cultural issues in which the context it will be introduced?

Melvyn then goes onto show us clips and how they were influential to American cinema and perhaps revolutionised a way of thinking into the audiences that went to go and watch them. He shows clips from, The Birth of a Nation, So Red the Rose, The Searchers, Hester Street, The Grapes of Wrath and finally Casablanca.

Popcorn!It’s well worth noting that we had more popcorn than we were able to eat, next time we hope you can come along too.

More information on the TLN programme page for this event.

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TLN – Jenny Marie & Pam Houston – Supporting personal tutors in supporting key skills

By Matt Jenner, on 16 February 2011

Today’s Teaching and Learning Network presenters are Jenny Marie from CALT and Pam Houston from the Division of Biosciences and they were talking about the key skills programme and personal tutors. This included information for those at UCL for key skills and in particular, how Life Sciences are using the personal tutorial system to help develop key skills and visa versa.

Why would we develop key skills?

Jennie Marie presentingJenny Marie starts by introducing key skills. In a recent session between the LTSS and academics, key skills came out top for academics in terms of the institutional priorities. Key skills underlines so much at UCL, including the transition process into the institution and recording the skills a student has obtained when they leave. A student’s academic life also flows into their employability and life skills.

In addition, some great resources are around to help out, Skills4Work, a Moodle course, MyPortfolio, Key Skills Grid and the Key Skills Website which pulls all these resources together and provides more general information and links to other sites and resources. Links below.

Student key skills is managed all within Portico, if a personal tutor logs in they can view their student’s profiles, history and reports. Students must produce evidence for a key skill and some are using MyPortfolio as a blogging tool and to upload evidence for their tutor to view.

Pam Houston – Biosciences tutorial scheme

Pam houston - presentingPre-transition programme they made their own mentoring scheme, but since the transitions programme was running they have supported and recruited mentors to settle new starters into the university. There is one second / third year mentor for eight first year students, most of whom have had some mentoring experience before.

The students had a personal tutor but as students can take modules from all over the faculty, picking a tutor is not that obvious or clear. By implementing the new tutoring system the students received a much more structured tutoring programme. This included a platform for key skills awareness and training which was married with an established a link with their personal tutor, which stayed the same throughout the years of study. This helped the employability of the student as the tutor could write a better statement about the student and make them more employable.

Biosciences wanted to identify student skills and find some common skills development for the department. The also wanted some materials customised for the department, so they seemed more relevant. They ended up grouping key skills into four sections, academic, self management, communication and interpersonal. This was conducted over a ten week period which covered essay writing, invigilated essay writing, feedback on the essay, key skills development, Turnitin submission, feedback on their submission, the Originality Report produced and how to critique a scientific paper. The module was branded as PHOL1001. It was noted as a not very expensive course to run after the first initial setup.

The outcomes included students being were more engaged and found they could prove where their obtained their key skills from UCL. From a tutor’s perspective; they got to know their students a lot better and as their student’s employability shot up, the number of letters of recommendation came down.


More information on the TLN programme page for this event.

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