2015 Horizon Report – what are the six key trends in E-Learning?

nmc_itunesu.HR2015-170x170Every year the NMC Horizon Report examines emerging technologies for their potential impact on and use in teaching, learning, and ‘creative inquiry’ within the environment of higher education. The report, downloadable in PDF, is compiled by an international body of experts and provides a useful checklist trends, challenges and technologies in the field and provides a useful benchmark of what is most talked about at the moment.

The key trends identified in the in the short term are

  • Increasing use of blended learning
  • Redesigning learning spaces

Longer term trends are: growing focus on measuring learning, proliferation of open learning resources, advancing cultures of change and innovation and increasing cross-institution collaboration.

Key ‘solvable’ challenges are

  • Blending formal and informal learning
  • Improving digital literacy

More difficult challenges are; personalising learning, teaching complex thinking and the ‘wicked’ ones are competing models of education and the old chestnut, rewarding teaching.

The important developments in educational technology they identify are in the short term are

  • Bring your own device (BYOD) 
  • Flipped classroom – same as last year

Longer-term innovations are; makerspaces, wearable technology, adaptive learning technologies and the ‘Internet of Things’.

As usual there are useful commentaries and links throughout. Encouraging that many of these ideas are already being implemented, trialed and discussed here at UCL.

UCL Arena Digital – new online course starts 2 March

Improve your Moodle skills and enhance your online/blended teaching by taking part in UCL Arena Digital.

UCL Arena Digital is a free online course for all staff at UCL.

The course is fully online and will take only 2-3 hours of your week. The course is made up of three Units. Each unit will last 2 weeks and there will be breaks in between Units. Each fortnight will end with a live online webinar where you can share your experiences with your colleagues on the course.

The course is designed so you can take all three Units, or simply pop in for the Units that especially interest you.

  • Unit 1: multimedia – find out how to create and embed media and interactive tools in Moodle to enliven the online environment for your students.
  • Unit 2: communication – discover ways of using tools inside and outside of Moodle you can use to communicate with students and support their collaboration with each other.
  • Unit 3: assessment and feedback – explore ways of using the online environment to create new kinds of assessment and give feedback to students.

Unit 1 starts Monday 2nd March 2015 and lasts for 2 weeks.

Enrol now at https://moodle.ucl.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=29477

Log on using your UCL username and password

Unit 2 will launch in early April 2015 – look out for further announcements.

Online learning at research-intensive universities Part 2

The LERU paper published last year has clearly had some impact. At the LERU seminarlast week Adam Tyson, Head of the Unit for Higher Education at the European Commission’s DG Education and Culture noted that EU universities did not have a clear public presence or strategy in online learning, especially in comparison where the US where much high-profile activity is based on just two platforms. Although Futurelearn has emerged as the front-runner in the UK, Spain, France and Germany all run incompatible systems and overall activity remains quite low. Universities should take advantage of funding such as Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020 and emerging notions such as the ‘digital single market’ to engage and form strategic partnerships – but no more platforms!

Prof Sally Mapstone and some of the LERU recommendations.

Prof Sally Mapstone, PVC Education at the University of Oxford and one of the report authors emphasised that universities should develop proactive and strategic leadership in the form of mainstream policies for online learning, based on global horizon scanning and local experimentation. Online learning is both here to stay and changing rapidly – a challenge for even the most agile university.

She noted however an increasingly mature and reflective approach to online learning across the sector. Prof Mapstone cited Kristin Ingolfsdottir’s Nov 2014 IEEE report Impact of MOOCs and Other Forms of Online Education, Philip Hunter’s Jan 15 EMBO report The virtual university and with a focus on quality and brand Chris Parr’s July 14 THE article ‘Reputations at risk as platforms fail to screen Moocs’ about quality (a recurring theme of the debate) and Stephen Jackson’s (Director of quality assurance, QAA) follow up letter. Other key discussion papers were the Oct 14 EU report New modes of learning and teaching in HE, and the OU Innovating Pedagogy 2014 report. Some really interesting questions are arising, such as who ‘owns’ the data in data analytics.

Oxford has launched a digital strategy and established working group including representatives from its museums and hospitals to promote high quality and encourage an evidence-based approach (i.e. comparing different modes). As she said “the technology tail should not wag the educational dog”; quality is essential but likewise we must not stifle creativity.

Prof Dirk Van Damme, Head of the Innovation and Measuring Progress Division (IMEP) at the OECD Directorate for Education and Skills approached online learning from the perspective of productivity. He discussed a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article The MOOC Hype Fades, in 3 Charts and pointed out that rising costs – a major worry – could be addressed by the very approaches said to be ‘fading’. He raised lot of fascinating issues that I may return to in a later post.

As if to counter the ‘fading interest’ narrative, the morning session was completed by Prof Simone Buitendijk, Vice Rector-Magnificus of Leiden University. Leiden has run five Coursera MOOCs, with others in preparation. She was very positive, for her MOOCs had changed the perception of what Leiden can do with online learning. Some of these issues reflected a post MOOCs as metaphors I wrote nearly two years ago.  Leiden had targeted research and teaching areas where the university wanted global impact. The experience had encouraged evidence-based innovation, internationalisation of the classroom, impact and outreach but had also improved the experience, motivation and retention of on-campus students. They recently produced a report on this activity. The university has also established a Teachers Academy enabling teachers and practitioners to research their own work.

The afternoon session was dedicated to a fascinating set of case studies and again they may have to wait for another posting.

Online learning at research-intensive universities Part 1

leru-211x300One conspicuous aspect of the advance of online learning in higher education has been the leading role of research-intensive universities (RIUs).

Blended learning; lecture capture and media use; online and peer marking; exercises, online discussion and quizzes in the VLE. Once the preserve only of e-learning enthusiasts such approaches have become unexpectedly mainstream. Many RIUs continue to be active in the MOOC phenomenon, due in part to the purposefully ‘elitist’ recruitment of partners by the main platform providers. Others focus more on SPOCs (small private online courses) for CPD and distance learning. Online learning seems to have been an opportunity for RUIs to publicly refocus or restate a commitment to innovation in teaching as well as research.

Last summer the League of European Research Universities (LERU) published an excellent hype-free report Online learning at research-intensive universities and the group met last week to discuss its finding and impact. LERU is an invitation-only members association of 21 RIUs of which UCL is an active member.

The paper had recognised that the technology associated with online learning, its “capacity to communicate knowledge widely and quickly and its capacity for innovation and creativity” often resonated with a RUIs’ research mission, increasingly measured by dissemination and impact. The global outreach potential of MOOCs, open resources and approaches, and SPOCs they considered irrefutable for both teaching and research.

The paper recommended that universities assess strategically (e.g. by scenario planning) the extent to which they wish their existing on-campus learning experiences to involve online delivery and digital materials and how much to extend their online learning opportunities to learners or co-enquirers outside their university.

Such an approach would have to consider the extent to which universities wish to work collaboratively with other institutions, or with commercial partners, how to sustain investments in financial and human capital and of course identify the reputational advantages and risksfor their institution’s brand.

The follow-up LERU seminar last will be discussed further in my next post.

E-Learning – 6 new things to explore!

provostsA handout we prepared for the UCL Institute of Education Provost’s Welcome event yesterday. Might be of wider interest!

  1. Lynda com A huge range of high quality video tutorials supporting learning in software, creative and business skills – all free to UCL staff, and currently enrolled students
  1. Box of Broadcasts (BoB) an online TV and radio recording service free to UCL staff and students that enables you to choose and record any broadcast programme from 60+ TV and radio channels. The recorded programmes are then kept indefinitely and added to a media archive that currently holds more than one million programmes. You can also schedule recordings in advance, edit programmes into clips and create playlists. Login with your UCL user credentials and start watching.
  1. MyPortfolio (Mahara) UCL’s e-portfolio is actually a number of tools rolled into one. It has the blogging capability of WordPress or Tumblr (though in MyPortfolio they are called ‘Journals’); CV resources similar to LinkedIn; and networking elements familiar to Facebook users. The key advantage over all these tools, though, is that it’s an institutional resource with the added security and privacy controls that that offers. Login with your standard UCL user credentials. On the homepage you will also find a user guide and resources.
  1. UCL Wiki offers users an online space where they can share information and update and edit each other’s contributions. All staff and students have access to the system. Just log in to open your Wiki page. and a personal space will automatically be created. You can then post text, add video and images and embed social media feeds.
  1. E-learning Environments blog – regular updates on developments at UCL, links and events as well as case studies and personal experiences. You have found it  already!
  1. UCL eXtend – an externally-facing Moodle space to help you deliver CPD to an audience beyond UCL. Contact ELE if you would like to develop a course or resource.


CMALT 2015 – UCL’s popular portfolio in e-learning

Association for Learning Technology logo

Do you use Moodle, Turnitin, Lecturecast, Opinio, My Portfolio, the UCL Wiki? Do you use Email, text, Facebook to contact students, do you read or contribute to blogs or Twitter etc. or use other technologies to support the student learning experience?

If so, why not try UCL UCL’s professional portfolio in e-learning? 

Now in its fourth year at UCL, CMALT is a chance to learn about, share and implement good practice in the wide range of technologies that support our students’ teaching and learning.

Working together with colleagues from across UCL was helpful in terms of discovering and developing good practice”.

CMALT is a national peer-based professional accreditation scheme developed by the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) and an opportunity to certify your growing skills and experience in learning technology.

Why not join us and work towards a CMALT certificate?

Please see our  flyer for more information.

There will be a lunch time meeting with Liz Wyatt from ALT to provide further information for prospective participants on Wednesday 21st January 2015 from 12pm-1pm in Chandler House, room 118.

All staff are welcome, although we recommend that UCL CMALT candidates have been working for one academic year, or have relevant previous experience. Please email a.gilry@ucl.ac.uk

If you are interested in CMALT but unable to attend this meeting please contact a.gilry@ucl.ac.uk

Learning design tools and processes – notes


Curriculum design in higher education is not a formal activity and there is little support, formal or informal, provided in most higher education institutions to help academics become better at designing learning activities, modules and courses.” (Nicol 2012). OUcoursemap

Converting conventional face-to-face teaching to online distance learning formats has long been recognised as a dauntingly challenging task for academics and learning technologists alike.  The classroom and the computer environment are both complex, subtle and surprisingly hard to describe, so translating from one mode into the another very different one is fraught with pitfalls, especially for academics with little experience of online course formats. As UCL moves to more blended and distance forms of delivery, these hard issues are coming up for us, too.

Academics in departments are keen to develop distance learning modules and programmes but need a lot of personal input from ELE and CALT to guide them. We recognise this is not scalable so we need a framework and and process that provides checklists to help UCL, timings, contingency, developers identify critical initial questions around market analysis, finances resourcing, staffing, learner profiles, assessment, editing, copyright and so on.

UCL has already developed some resources and there are a number of models specific to UK HE out there, some deriving from the JISC Institutional approaches to curriculum design programme (2008-2011).

Pedagogical background

I’ll put some more stuff in here!

Netskills concise guide Using technology to improve curriculum design (Sarah Knight 2013) is based on findings from the 2008-2012 Jisc programme on Institutional Approaches to Curriculum Design.

Pedagogical templates for e-learning http://eprints.ioe.ac.uk/960/ Magdalena Jara and Fitri Mohamad, London Knowledge Lab, Institute of Education. “A series of pedagogic templates for the integration of technology into teaching and learning,derived from a consideration of present Institute of Education, London (IoE) practice and a selective literature review.”

Designing Courses: the practice  http://labspace.open.ac.uk/file.php/2946/h850_pk4c2.pdf Graham Gibbs (used by CALT)

Chickering and Gamson’s Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education (1987) – a widely used US review checklist.

Institutional perspectives

Stephen Brown’s stakeholder ladder of engagement table  http://jiscdesignstudio.pbworks.com/w/file/40574607/t-sparcengagementladder.jpg

A collection of tools for mapping specific pedagogic ideas/activities/approaches to specific digital tools or resources created by Helen Beetham from responses to a post by Tom Franklin on the ALT discussion list, June 2014. http://jiscdesignstudio.pbworks.com/w/page/82564897/Mapping%20tools

Relevant resources available from the Design Studio recommended by Stephen Brown include:

Transforming curriculum design

Current UCL tools and approaches

Models from the JISC programme

  • OULDI (Open University Learning Design Initiative) currently used by the Open University. Cards > diamond with priorities at the top.
  • Viewpoints (University of Ulster) works at module-level or lower (down to the level of the individual assessment). 1h30m workshop for teaching team. Hand out cards with broad concept and (on the other side) the particular activities. Have duplicates of eg ‘Develop self-assessment & reflection. Note that there is a working upper limit of 12 concepts. They arrange the cards as a timeline including induction, first few weeks, mid-term, final phase.
  • London Pedagogy Planner (LKL)
  • Phoebe Pedagogy Planner.

Other models

Other interesting resources

The Food and Agriculture Orginization of the UN (FAO)  “E-Learning Methodologies” (2011) is a 140pp guide for designing and developing e-learning courses, based on a ‘traditional’ ADDIE approach. It is really very good, quite detailed, theoretically grounded and in an easy-to-read bullet point format. The summary of instructional methods and formats on p53 well worth a look. Would recommend this as a primer to anyone doing Storyline/Instructional Design type development.

I used the first edition of William Horton’s E-Learning by Design (2011, Second Edition) as the course book for a successful online e-learning design course some years ago.The e learning courses and sample lessons examples on his site (Storyline-style and web) are pretty good examples of clear design.

Hype vs hope in e-learning

Across higher education there is a genuine feeling we are at some kind of tipping point in the use of e- learning. On the other hand practitioners are wary of the risk of over-hyping and point to the recent feverish marketing of MOOCs.

At the Association for Learning Technology Conference earlier this week, for me one of the most thought-provoking sessions was the opening keynote from Jeff Haywood, University of Edinburgh. Jeff is both Professor of Education & Technology and VP Knowledge Management and has among many other things led Edinburgh’s pioneering initiative with MOOCs.

The talk put the hype in perspective and looked forward to where higher education might be in the next decade, but Jeff was conscious of Terry Mayes’ notion of e-learning’s Groundhog Dayphenomenon “the cycle of raised expectation followed by disappointment” (e.g. Groundhog Day again?, 2007)

Looking back he concluded that although change was inevitably slow in universities, it was definitely occurring.  As an example he suggested much of students learning was nowadays facilitated by devices and applications not provided by the institution. General attitudes to online teaching and learning were also becoming more positive as students and staff were getting more familiar with them, the “socialisation of technology”, and many universities were seeing online delivery as a ‘worthwhile’ business supplement to existing residential provision.

He suggested however universities had been using technology to improve the quality of what we currently do, rather than increase the efficiency of the underlying economics. One thing MOOCs had shown was that a reasonably effective learning experience can be delivered economically at a scale hitherto unimagined.  This raises  – though so far in my view doesn’t yet answer – the question of whether we can increase productivity while maintaining quality.

Jeff asked if we use purposefully use technology to help students break out from the timetabled pacing of learning or enable staff to teach some parts of the programme to many more students.

So what could higher education look like in ten years? Jeff’s person list was; on demand, self-paced, location-flexible, relevant to life/career now and in the future, global and local, personalised, affordable, high value added and covering a wide range of subjects.

This vision is not about technology per se, but is unachievable without technology.Some kind of vision is necessary but we know universities as big complex organisations transform slowly so the vision must be combined with patience and persistence. To keep momentum and direction over a decade we therefore need a road map made up of systematically planned ‘modest, purposeful’ steps. These steps must be at the same time ‘agile’ and be adaptable to emergent change or evidence.

An interesting and ambitious vision for the increasingly ‘off-campus’ University of Edinburgh was laid out. He suggested their 50 fully online Masters degrees and the well-subscribed continuing education programmes may be a better indicator of future core business direction than the 15 MOOCs currently running. He saw ‘on-campus’ and ‘off-campus’  provision becoming more integrated and balanced, “nobody would graduate from the university in any degree who had not taken one core fully online course” and that “all our teaching staff would have some experience of teaching online”. At Masters level he foresaw a 50:50 split of on/off campus students, with a steady blurring of the distinction at programme level. Continuing education would be enriched by technology and Edinburgh would continue to develop its ‘open’ components to increase the reach of and global/local engagement with the university – open will therefore become a “core part of the business’.

To get there Edinburgh suggested a series of systematic ‘serious experiments’ in key areas (e.g as derived for example from the Horizon reports) which not just for local use but always with a view from the beginning of how to scale to an institutional level. This will introduce the key technical and digital literacy elements needed to achieve the University’s vision.

MOOCs, e-learning and beyond!


The archive for this year’s excellent Bartlett Pedagogy conference, MOOCs, e-learning and beyond: Exploring the future of virtual built environment teaching, held on 1 July 2014 at UCL’s Bloomsbury Campus is now open.

Videos of the keynotes and presentations / audio files of the speakers can be accessed at bit.ly/bartlettmoocs.  “This exciting conference brought together over 70 participants from across the UK, Europe, Australia and the US, both professionals interested in E-learning and MOOCs and architects/built environment teaching staff interested in the future of pedagogy”.

Although the focus was on built environment teaching and learning, participants saw a wide range of interesting and often inspirational ideas that will be of interest to everyone who teaches and is interested in the future of learning.