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Archive for August, 2013

What happens in a ‘Moodling’ session?

Caroline E Wood29 August 2013

BCT Taxonomy Student Moodle site

Designing learning activities in Moodle

On Friday 16th August, my student (Harveen Kaur) and I (Caroline Wood) met with one of our ELDG mentors (Vicki Dale) and Moodle expert Mira Vogel, E-Learning Facilitator, for a Moodling session. Mira has developed a site in Moodle for UCL users called An Elf’s Lair, and this, alongside the Moodle Features Demo by Rod Digges and colleagues, provided a focus for discussions about what is technically possible in Moodle as well as what is pedagogically advisable.

We are using Moodle to design an interactive, online resource as part of undergraduate teaching about the Behavioural Change Technique taxonomy (BCT). Students will be asked to review some introductory material on the Moodle site before exploring core theoretical foundations in two lectures. After the lecture, they will be expected to explore BCTs in action and build their skills on the Moodle site.

Mira encouraged us to think about what students will see when they first log on. As well as the site being visually stimulating and engaging, students need to be informed about learning objectives and other introductory information about how the resource fits into their programme. That is quite a lot on one page already, so we discussed how we might alternatively store some of this information as a course handbook or a downloadable file and just have the link to it available on the home page.

We also discussed different options for displaying content (text or other media) in pages, books and lessons. Pages are useful for displaying short sections of information. Books are useful for displaying information in a linear page-turning way. Lessons facilitate a non-linear experience; they can be used in the traditional ‘programmed learning’ sense where students’ progression is limited by their ability to complete tasks or questions successfully, or to offer a ‘Choose your own adventure’ experience to allow students to explore the ramifications of their actions in relation to a case simulation.

We also explored the possibility of controlled release of material in Moodle, and decided that the interactive components should be made available on the day of the lectures so that students can immediately apply theory to practice. On the Moodle site, students will be guided through a relevant example of a behaviour change intervention – the development of effective study habits. Throughout each of the exercises, students will be encouraged to revisit elements of the BCT Taxonomy framework; this will be facilitated by use of the Glossary tool.

One of our key discussions was how we could use quizzes for the interactive components. Our complete training programme, on which the Moodle site will based , involves a lot of discussion and opportunities for trainees to ask experts to explain anything they do not understand. This can be difficult to simulate online due to the fact that there are often no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answers. Although students will be able to ask questions during the lecture, detailed feedback in the online quizzes is essential to further student understanding and clarify misunderstandings during independent learning. There are several ways in which we could do this. One solution might be to incorporate graphs of student responses from a previous face-to-face workshop, so that students can compare their own answers to those of a larger cohort.

Handy tips we picked up from our session included:

  • Tip #1: The ‘Paste from Word’ icon strips out unnecessary formatting when copying content into Moodle from any of the MS Office applications.
  • Tip #2: You can switch between teacher and student views of the course by going to the settings tab on the left hand side of the screen.
  • Tip #3: We could have entries from our glossary appear on the right hand side of the main screen to highlight definitions for different BCTs in the taxonomy.

We will be experimenting with the different features in Moodle and mapping out our content over the next couple of weeks before starting to commit to particular activities. We would really welcome useful suggestions and other handy tips, so please feel free to comment on which features you have found most useful in Moodle!

We are tweeting! @UCLTaxonomy

Student-produced e-learning videos – which tools should we use?

Vicki Dale19 August 2013

Domi Sinclair and I have met twice with Dr Adrien Desjardins, of the Department of Medical Physics and Bioengineering, to discuss options for a project funded under the E-Learning Developments Grant (ELDG) initiative. Adrien – who is also the recent recipient of a Provost’s Teaching Award – successfully bid for an ELDG for the second year in a row, for his project ‘Development of an iterative framework for e-learning video creation’. This involves students creating instructional videos in small groups, and then peer-reviewing other students’ videos, with a view to critiquing them intellectually, pedagogically and technically. The students then revise their own presentations in response to peer feedback, and then a postgraduate student appointed as an e-learning coordinator refines the presentations for subsequent upload to YouTube. An example of Adrien’s former students’ videos can be viewed on the UCL Medical Physics YouTube channel.

Previously, the students used PowerPoint to design their presentations, and then would use the Camtasia screen capture system to record a voice-over track to add value to the presentation and convert it to video format. However, this creates a very static resource which is difficult to subsequently edit, should the e-learning coordinator wish to make revisions. This year, Adrien has been exploring alternative options such as Prezi and PowToon. Prezi is free for educators and offers the advantage of a more creative, non-linear presentation. It also allows presenters to record or import an individual audio track for each frame; however, although presentations can be made available online, they cannot be exported to video formats. PowToon is another commercial, creative presentation tool which facilitates some impressive animations including its hallmark ‘handwriting’ animation, where the presenter writes some text and when the frame is played, a hand appears to write the text in real time (see Domi’s example PowToon). A limited version of PowToon is free but its features are limited. These can be unlocked for a modest annual subscription for educators. However, although PowToon files can be exported to video formats, it currently only permits one audio track per presentation.

Our experiences of exploring potential tools raise some important issues for educators (and their students) wishing to create online learning resources. While third-party software can be very appealing in terms of the opportunities for increased functionality, flexibility and creativity, there is the risk of relying on an external system where the data is stored ‘in the cloud’ and where the future existence of the tool is not guaranteed. Some tools like Prezi are increasingly becoming embedded in higher education and are therefore less risky; however, there is a danger that other tools which are new are being produced by small, independent companies who have yet to establish a foothold. At the same time, there is the need to equip students with digital literacies , which means knowing how to use emerging tools in addition to standard office applications. Other considerations include how ‘high stakes’ the materials are (for example, if they contribute to summative assessment) as well as how important it is that materials can be edited and re-purposed in the future. We have not made a decision yet; whether we go for PowerPoint, Prezi, PowToon or another presentation tool, we need to ensure that student learning is not compromised but enhanced.

How Badges Can Motivate Students Online Learning

Sonja M Van Praag19 August 2013

Authors: Magdalena Krön (Teaching Assistant & Project Manager) and Liem Phan (UCL Student)

Jane Burns, Senior Teaching Fellow in Marketing, is leading an e-learning pilot for the module ‘Introduction to Marketing’ within the Management Science & Innovation Department at UCL. The project, which has been developed over the summer, adopts innovative new tools to aid the online learning experience. This post will provide some background to the project and discuss how to motivate students online engagement through the implementation of Mozilla Badges and a leader board.


With growing student numbers and expectation from students to have learning materials accessible, the pilot project has been developed to explore new ways in which teaching can be delivered within UCL.

The pilot implements new sophisticated features within Moodle as well as it includes access to Pearson Education’s e-learning platform, MyMarketing Lab. Within MyMarketing Lab the core text book will be provided as an e-text, eliminating the physical need for the book.

How to Encourage Online Learning

With the decision to flip the teaching to an online environment the learning process are facing certain challenges. Delivering lectures and assessments online requires specific methods to motivate and encourage engagement from students. It is therefore essential to implement triggers to promote specific behaviour, e.g. motivation to go through readings, into the learning material.

During this summer, five UCL students has supported the planning and production of online material for the “new” marketing module. Tools to encourage online engagement has been implemented, including Mozilla Badges and a supporting leader board.

Badges and the Leader board

Mozilla Badges is built on the same behavioural concept used by the scouts. Learning and development of new skills are rewarded and recognised through receiving a badge.

Badges provide feedback to identify and encourage positive behaviours that benefits the individual and the overall community. They are great in showcasing the individual feat of accomplishments, however they lack the scope and exposure to the people with the same objectives.This is where a leader board comes in to unite these participants within the community. Leader boards highlight the individual accomplishments in addition to offering visual motivation.

An online leader board, built by Liem Phan a student from the Management Science & Innovation Department, are looking to add motivation and act as a trigger supporting students learning.


The concept of the leader board is simple. To motivate students to explore the online learning material, the badges are hidden in readings and exercises and are collected through a treasure hunt. Badges earn you points and the person with more points gets ranked higher. If the points are equal, the person who earned it first gets the advantage. The simple notion of being a leader of something or being ahead of others can be a powerful motivating tool in itself.


polar bear owl wolf

Examples of the Badges that student can collect

However, there is a danger that the feeling of supremacy can stagnate and actually discourage participation if there is little fluctuation in the rankings. To prevent this and influence positive behaviour a few basic components are added such as rank change indicator and weekly views.

The rank change indicator can be an effective call-to-action for the user. If they see that red downwards arrow next to their name, it tells them that they have been slacking and lost their rank. The green up arrow adds to the sense of accomplishment, letting them know that their effort to earn the badges has been recognised by moving up in the ranks.

How This Will Change the Learning Process

The collection of badges and the use of the leader board will have a direct impact on the students learning process and the feedback teaching staff will have access to.

Weekly views make it possible to dissect all the information at hand and to reflect from it. This provides more insight towards students consistency of performance, level of engagement, and room for improvement. There is a lot of power in understanding how active and engaged students are, how they are progressing and then take action accordingly.

The badges and the leader board will be implemented in the ‘Introduction to Marketing‘ module starting January 2014 and the feedback received through this pilot will help to improve online learning at UCL further.

Changing behaviour online with Caroline Wood’s ELDG grant

Matt Jenner8 August 2013

As mentors for an e-learning project in the Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, Vicki Dale and I met with Caroline Wood, a recipient of an E-Learning Development Grant. Caroline’s ELDG project aims to develop an independent learning resource designed around a the Behaviour Change Technique Taxonomy (BCT v1) to provide guidance and support around the reporting and evaluation of behaviour change interventions, such as smoking cessation or increased physical activity.

The BCT taxonomy is one example of a framework that prompts intervention designers to report the individual techniques that they have used. There has been a significant amount of interest amongst professionals wanting to integrate this approach within their own research and practice and in turn, a high demand for training has been generated in their accurate application. The new e-learning resource will address this demand.

We were delighted to fund this project as it is covering a lot of ground for a potentially varied audience. The outcome of building an e-learning resource from a research department means a high level of engagement with teaching and learning for a group traditionally more focused on their research. By incorporating established e-learning techniques, the resource will serve to disseminate this research to a wider audience. The resource will be made for both internal and external audiences, resulting in applications of use beyond the institution.

Following an initial meeting with Caroline to discuss early ideas for the project and how it may work as an e-learning resource, Vicki and I met with Caroline and one of her PhD students, Harveen Kaur, who will be working on the project alongside fellow PhD student Elena Panagiotopoulou. In this second session we explored the existing materials and talked about how their value may be maximised harnessing the potential for interactivity offered by Moodle. While it was not assumed that Moodle would serve as the sole platform, there were requirements which kept aligning to the tools in Moodle. Unsurprisingly, a tool built for teaching and learning can have a habit of doing that!

The discussion lead to a brainstorming session about behaviour therapy and approaches for e-learning development. We captured the outcomes of the session via a whiteboard:

Caroline and Harveen capturing ideas

Caroline and Harveen capturing ideas

Here’s a closer view:

Caroline and Harveen capturing ideas

Caroline and Harveen capturing ideas

Generally speaking, the best ideas arise from regular meetings and discussion. We spent about two hours on this occasion talking about the existing materials, how they might be translated to the e-learning platform and considering how we might add value to the resource. At this stage the team now have a mutual understanding about the development of the online resource, with Caroline and her colleagues keen to learn more about Moodle, and Vicki and myself finding more out about behaviour change interventions!

Additional sessions are required to develop the new BCT e-learning resource. First of all Caroline, Harveen and Elena need a space in Moodle to try out new approaches, having barely used it before. Alongside this, we can spend time developing a storyboard or map of the e-learning resource around defined learning outcomes. This will define the structure which will guide future development and evaluation.