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Engaging students with online learning

Not all 'online learning' means a fully online course. Instead, it is often integrated in a mixed programme of study including online, offline, face to face and distance - i.e. your sofa or another country!

We do know, however, that study at UCL does increasingly make use of online tools and environments, such as Moodle. Students may be familiar with the concepts of online learning and others might be less so. Engaging students who are enrolled on distance, blended or even only just a little bit of online learning can also be in employment, face high commitment demands of work, life and family in addition to their study. Some of your students may need support, they may need guidance and motivation to access and use online resources, to interact and exchange information online and to engage in knowledge-building tasks.

The guidance provided is necessarily general and obviously there will need to be differences in approach for small classes and large classes. Provision of class materials (notes, slides, recordings) are appreciated by students whatever the cohort size. However the use of Moodle for activities may need more thought if you have a very large cohort. For instance, unless you are part of a large teaching team you may not be able to respond to every student query but you could consider asking them to answer each other’s questions, or you could split the students into groups to discuss a topic and ask them to summarise the discussion for the rest of the cohort. A quiz, if carefully designed, can be an effective way of providing formative feedback for large groups and can also be used for summative (credit-bearing) assessments.

The most important thing is to ensure your course is well structured, have clear direction and is consistent. This will help to ensure it provides everything a student needs to do well in their studies. 

Baseline use of Moodle

Because Moodle can be so varied in it's usage within courses, we have defined a minimum benchmark for academics to align towards, called the UCL E-Learning Baseline - this should be helpful when designing and updating courses throughout the years:

  • Students are provided with orientation materials which explain how the use of Moodle will assist in their studies and how to work with the online resources.
  • The course handbook or other introductory materials provide guidance on time to be spent working online.
  • Tutors and students use their Moodle profiles to share information about themselves. (You can access and edit your profile by clicking on your name in the top right part of the Moodle window)
  • Students are informed of activity logging reports.

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Enhanced use of Moodle

  • Induction into online learning is built into the activities, for example a ‘low-stakes’ task given for the first forum discussion.
  • Students are encouraged to feed back time actually spent to ensure that expectations are reasonable.
  • Students are given clear guidance about how to work with the online activities – especially those which may be unfamiliar such as collaborative tools (Wikis, Databases) and how much time to spend on each activity.
  • Guidance is given on privacy, copyright, IPR for students creating online content.

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