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ALT Conference 2016

ALT winners 2007-20016

ALT conference 2016 – ALT Awards

We are proud sponsors and exhibitors of the ALT Conference 2016 for another year.

Toby Yeung ALT Conference 2016

This years conference was the 10th year of running. Which focused on the themes of connecting, collaboration and creating.

Our own Toby Yeung was giving the awards out with two  Key Note representers to some great winners. Overall winners were Daniel Scott from Barnsley College and Learning Technology and Innovation team, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

Key Messages

A number of key messages came from the ALT Conference 2016:

This included that Learning Analytics are unique and personal, whilst data use rights and benefits were at the forefront of everyone’s mind. JISC got several commended mentions on how they have supported universities in particular in understanding data.

Another area was the level of reflection that everyone as professionals using learning technology has started to adopt. Gathering feedback and improving on our own performance is equally as important as empowering others in use of learning technology tools.

I also liked the focus on copyright within courses and the level of risk associated with both the tools we use and the content we reuse. This started an interesting discussion that the main responsibilities for the tools are the the university service owners whilst it is the course authors responsibility to make sure they use correct content.

Finally a growing trend within institutions has been to put the user experience first on the tools that are used and developed. This appears to be a growing trend in both software development and in curriculum design, of which I hope to see a continuing growth.



User research focused service design

Bloom Banner

University of London have recently created a brand new team that is focusing on research and development around its Moodle based services Bloom. This team are working on improvements to these services and will be making regular updates on progress from its user research programme.

So far we have interviewed over 30 different roles at various colleges and universities about their experience around Moodle generally. These roles have included a mix of lecturers, students, administrators and learning technologists. We have also surveyed over 190 students on their main activities in Moodle and why they use it. We will be continuing to increase the sample size over the coming months whilst also targeting lecturers needs.

Key Findings

59% of students say they use Moodle everyday, largely on laptops and phones.

Students main pain points in the user research were uploading work, viewing grades and accessing course materials. Students find it difficult to find their assignment submission boxes and access grades as links to them are not always in the same place. They also find it difficult to find content is relevant to them when they click into a course and would like a consistent design across all courses and modules they complete.


From the initial research the R&D team have created a number of personas that help identify groups of needs for users. These have included the two below as well as personas for distance learning students, higher education lecturers, further education lecturers, administrators and learning technologists.


Additional personas will be added as we continue to adapt and conduct further user research.

User Workflow

As most of the research to date has focused on students, the R&D team will be focusing on improving the student experience for viewing grades, uploading work and accessing course materials. Initial workflows have been created and are available for view in the attached slide deck. This deck covers the first release goal.

What we Prioritised

From the research so far we have found that the following targeted areas are best suited for our first release:

  • Improving Accessing Grades
  • Improving Uploading Work
  • UX Focused Default Moodle Theme
  • Demo Site
  • Disabling unpopular Plugins
  • Course Creation Tool*

*Still to be determined.

We will also do the following if we have time:

  • Improving Accessing Course Materials
  • New Agenda Schedule view of the Calendar.
  • Increase Moodle Message Outputs to include social apps e.g. WhatsApp, Facebook etc.


Moodle Moot MOOTIEUK16

Moodle Moot

It was fantastic to see Moodle Moot mootieuk16 come back to London, after a four year break.This was the first UK IE Moodle Moot that was officially supported by Moodle HQ, and this shown by the sheer amount of HQ presenters.

There were a number of takeaways that I took from the 3 day event that are listed below.

One Page Assignment

Moodle HQ presented that they are working on better grading and feedback user experiences. This has included working on a new prototype that allows for inline comments and grading on the same page. A prototype of this is available from the  site (screenshot below).

One Page Assignment

This won’t be available right away but will be released in a future version of Moodle. This is welcomed news as it looks like it could rival some of the functionality offered by both Canvas Speed Grader and Turnitin Grademark.

External System Integrations

Moodle HQ have prioritised working on a number of external integration tools and hope to be releasing better Google Apps integration in the future, alongside the existing Office365 integration’s. This is great news and will align Moodle with it’s competitors.

Mobile Learning

Moodle HQ also mentioned ongoing work on the Moodle Mobile App and recent efforts to make sure more activity and resource types available offline. This includes book, file, folder, label, page, grades, completion, scorm, forum, assign and quiz alongside others. A full list of features is available here:

User Experience

Moodle HQ are concentrating on improving the user experience in a number of areas. One direct move they are making is that from Moodle 3.1, the default theme will have no blocks. This should directly improve the ability for users to navigate around a site and concentrate on course content. It should also be noted that the way blocks display content on pages may also be rewritten in the future to stop the ‘cluttered’ interfaces that sometimes appear on sites. This need was echoed by Florearm’s presentation about Home Learning College, and how they spoke about a number of plugins to remove the Moodle feel to Moodle. This included, a custom course format, a resume button, progress bars, book visuals and quiz layouts.

Another move that has been made is to include the ability to have clean or human readable URL’s in core from Moodle 3.1 (MDL-28030). This is a great move and will help with not only the user experience but also with reporting on use.

Moodle Academy

Moodle HQ announced that a new Moodle based Mooc platform called Moodle Academy will be released in the next few months. A number of universities have been involved in early piloting including Dublin City University, and it will be opened up to a wider audience.

Moodle Schools

Moodle HQ also announced that they will be offering a schools focused service that allows a skinned version of Moodle specifically for schools at a flat fee. This is not intended to be a competitor for Moodle Partners who host large complex setups for customers but a way for the small educational establishment to have a standard Moodle install (with no support) available to them with higher limits than the current Moodle Cloud free setup.

Grades and Feedback

Jess Gramp from UCL presented about further work they have done on their ‘My Feedback’ report that is available in the Moodle Plugins repository:

This plugin allows grades and feedback to be viewed across courses for a particular student. A number of universities mentioned they are / were developing similar plugins such as Queen Mary University and University of Strathclyde. Queen Mary University noted that theirs was focusing on benchmarking students against their peers whilst Strathclyde followed a similar mode to UCL.

It appeared to be a interesting topic for a large portion of the audience wanting a more holistic way for students and instructors to see grades and feedback.

Moodle Mobile App Voting

Gavin Henrick used the Moodle Mobile App within most of his presentations to deliver a vote based activity. This worked really well, especially for those who had already downloaded and logged into the App prior to the conference. Users would up the app, go to the appropriate course and click a choice activity then their choice. Gavin then had a live poll (via web services) the votes into his PowerPoint slides.

Moodle Competency Framework

Moodle HQ mentioned that a new competency framework has been created that will allow institutions to use competencies within their courses. This is particularly useful for vocational based education such as Further Education courses. More information is available here:

Learning Analytics Specification

Moodle HQ has been working on a specification for creating a Learning Analytics API for Moodle. This started from the output of a US Moodle Moot workshop and has grown into a wider specification for development.

This is particularly useful as it allows a standardised API to be used across Moodle as a consistent source of data.

For more information please see:

There were many other worthy mentions but these were my main takes.

Double Blind Marking in Moodle


A requirement for UK Higher Education for some time in Moodle has been to facilitate double blind marking and moderation.

This can be seen in the recent research work that is being undertaken by Jisc sector wide:

We have been working with a number of university partners to develop a tool, including University of Plymouth, Royal Veterinary College, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a few others (so thank you for funding).

Current double blind marking features include:

  • Integration with Turnitin
  • Use of Moodle’s core grading methods
  • Blind Marking (Instructors do not know who they are marking)
  • Blind Feedback (Students do not know who marked their submission)
  • Bulk download of submissions
  • Bulk upload of annotated files
  • Bulk submission of grades through a grading worksheet
  • Support for up to 3 markers
  • Control over who sees feedback and grades at each stage
  • Automatic marker allocation rules
  • Group submissions

A video showing the workflow and allocation in the Coursework activity is shown below:

We hope to make an open source release available in the coming months but in the mean time, if you would like to know more please contact us.

[Edit: We have made an open source first release which is available here]


ALT Awards

LT Awards

ULCC has the pleasure of sponsoring the ALT Learning Technology Awards again this year. ALT is the Association of Learning Technology and is the UK’s leading member organization in the learning technology field.

Awards are offered on the basis of making a large impact in the use of learning technology and the awards up for grabs this year, are Learning Technology Team of the Year and Learning Technologist of the Year. The panel for 2015 is made up of experienced professionals across the sector including Professor Diana Laurillard (IOE, UCL), Bryan Mathers (City & Guilds), James Pickering (University of Leeds), Rebecca Garrod-Waters (Ufi Charitable Trust) and Richard Havinga (ULCC).

Winners receive a small cash prize and individual winners are asked to be a judging panel member the following year. It has been particularly competitive selection process this time round and winners of the awards will be announced at the ALT conference in September.

Enhanced Availability Services Available

ULCC have recently redefined and reorganised services so that there should be a service for every request that you as a customer may wish to make of us.

As part of this redefinition we have created a number of Enhanced Availability Services which are listed below.

Enhanced Availability Service

The Bloom Enhanced Availability Service extends the guarantees of availability provided by the Bloom service so that they apply 24 hours a day, 365 (or 366) days a year. The standard Bloom service aims for 99.9%, 24/7/365 availability but only offers service credits when the availability during standard Business Hours (8:30-17:30 Mon-Fri) falls below the target. With the addition of the Enhanced Availability service, the target remains at 99.9% availability but service credits apply to availability measured 24/7/365. Please see the separate service level agreement for more information.

Enhanced Availability+ Service

The Enhanced Availability Plus service further extends the Enhanced Availability service by offering a limited support allowance for use out-of-hours (OOH). Where availability may or may not be directly affected but urgent assistance is required to help with an OOH or emergency event, a communication channel is provided such that issues can be registered and Bloom support staff can assist promptly, regardless of when the assistance is required. Please see the separate service level agreement for more information.

Out of Hours Call Service

The Bloom Out of Hours (OOH) Call Centre service extends the guarantees of availability provided by the Bloom service so that they apply 24 hours a day, 365 (or 366) days a year. The standard Bloom service aims for 99.9%, 24/7/365 availability but only offers service credits when the availability during standard Business Hours (8:30-17:30 Mon-Fri) falls below the target. With the addition of the OOH Call Centre service, the target remains at 99.9% availability but service credits apply to availability measured 24/7/365.

Where availability may or may not be directly affected but urgent assistance is required to help with an OOH or emergency event, a manned telephone call centre is provided such that issues can be registered and Bloom support staff can assist promptly, regardless of when the assistance is required. Please see the separate service level agreement for more information.

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(Re)defining our Moodle service – Part II (What is Bloom?)

Over the past eight years ULCC has grown as an e-learning service provider from a handful of institutions, to over 150 across the educational sector. Traditionally we have provided bespoke solutions to each customer, leading to sometimes competing service needs, and a lack of direction from ULCC as a service provider. We are now re-defining our e-learning service under the product and service name of Bloom (working title). This allows a community led platform to be in place, from an in-sector provider, giving you the ability to shape its direction whilst having a reliable and sustainable service.

Our aim is for continuous development of new features to be funded as part of the service, allowing for sustainable new features – that are not provided in core Moodle – to be developed according to the ULCC Moodle community needs without one institution having to take the full funding risk of sustainability.

The Bloom product and service take the best that Moodle has to offer and combine it with the best community, third-party and ULCC-developed plugins to create a beneficial e-learning environment. Bloom is complemented by a range of additional services for those institutions that wish to use a Moodle-based VLE with the added assurances of enterprise-class service levels. The Bloom range of services supports institutions that wish to take Moodle and Bloom in a unique direction that differentiates their institution whilst still retaining the benefits of a service hosted and supported by an experienced service provider.


•    Hosted in a UK data centre.
•    Implemented by qualified project managers.
•    Support facilitated by experienced Moodle administrators.
•    Integrates with student record systems.
•    Incorporates the best community, supplier and ULCC plugins.
•    Contains user configurable themes.
•    Facilitates personalised learning through Individual learning plans.
•    Includes an administration toolbox to make system tasks easier.
•    Advanced reporting included for monitoring use and progress.
•    Regular Bloom releases to keep you up to date.
•    No Bandwidth Cap.

More information, including the plugins expected to be available as part of the product, can be found in the attached draft Bloom Production Definition.

Aston Uni Lakeside

Turnitin User Group

turnitin_logo2The latest Turnitin user group was held in Birmingham at Aston University. It gave Turnitin an opportunity to outline changes to their service, as well as address recent outages and communication issues.

The sessions started off with an outline from Chris Caren (Turnitin CEO and Chairman),who stated that the recent outages felt from the Turnitin service were due to human error, from misconfiguration of a database behind the product.

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Release Notes: eILP Mango 2013 (Internal Release)

ULCCSince our eILP Focus Group earlier this year, we have been working closely with a select few customers – special thanks to College of West Anglia who helped test the latest release – and are happy to announce that eILP Mango is now available.

The new features & bug fixes have been developed as direct consultation from the focus group of ULCC supported institutions.

The Mango release will be compatible with Moodle 2.4 and above. The decision was taken to take advantage of performance improvements only made available in Moodle 2.4.

How to get eILP Mango

You can request an upgrade to the new eILP release if you are an existing eILP supported institution by logging a request to upgrade with the Service Desk at: or by calling 020 7863 8111.

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ULCC Customer Webinar Series Annual Rollover

It seems that annual rollovers are one of those things that we could think of a million things we’d rather be doing.  Why is it we never pay it much attention until it’s too late, and it causes so much distress?

Rollover ImageThe second webinar in our ULCC Customer Series saw an extremely good turnout with 30+ delegates.  Richard Havinga charted the route through some dangerous territory, and navigating us through the various pitfalls that this recurring problem of the ‘annual rollover’ presents.  The obvious benefits on offer were to collectively define and share good practice, whilst hopefully reducing significantly the stress and resulting support calls that ULCC gets for this area.

Some interesting results from the registration questionnaire showed two thirds of delegates answered that they not only had a ‘system’ but they felt pretty confident about implementing it.  It was nice to think that we have a potential rich seam to mine when we come to sharing good practice!  The rest either don’t have a recognisable system or don’t feel confident.  In any event, we have a clear requirement to facilitate easier communication where customers can ‘self-help’ (on this and a number of other issues).

As part of the introduction, we asked delegates who they thought should be involved with an annual rollover process.  This could be a trick question which could provide an interesting discussion topic in itself.  After some consideration, the majority chose the option for ‘everyone’ to have some role, whilst a few (who may perhaps come from smaller institutions) answered that it was the role of the VLE Admin, or other individuals.  Maybe this represents the a distinct difference in approach – the simple ‘technical’ exercise of backing up data, or a wider institutional ‘housekeeping’ exercise.   So what constitutes an ‘annual rollover’ – Richard took us through some answers…

Getting this question right goes a long way towards implementing a system that everyone can understand and participate in.  Getting it wrong can bring about nasty consequences for the unwary who might become prey of the many pitfalls.  Richard started by asking what you thought the key risks in getting things wrong, and with little hesitation, almost all unanimously expressed the fear of losing critical data.  For others, what to do with old accounts populating new courses offered the biggest headache.

The recording of the Webinar is available here:

The Slides for the webinar are available here: