Public E-Learning Platform (PELP) project & UCLeXtend
UCLeXtend is the branded name for a new e-learning platform to support short courses, CPD and taster courses aimed at external audiences – the platform is the main deliverable from the Public E-Learning Portal (PELP) Project. This project was initiated following requests from all three UCL Schools for wider access to Moodle.
Growth of CPD
As UCL’s Moodle has grown in popularity so too has the number of non-traditional (i.e. non credit-bearing) courses that UCL departments want to run. Variously labelled CPD, continuing education and short courses, UCL’s departments were running or planning around 250 such courses in summer 2012. Some courses are based on existing undergraduate or postgraduate modules; others are new courses entirely; CPD in one department may look very different in another.
Over the years E-Learning Environments received many requests to make Moodle available for external audiences to avoid the cost and administrative burden of creating computer accounts for ‘non-UCL people’. Additionally, UCL computer accounts were felt to provide too much access to UCL systems and facilities when often all that is needed is course space to upload some learning materials and collaborative activities for external learners to access.
With this in mind, and in combination with a similar initiative from SLMS, the PELP project was initiated in 2012. It is sponsored by the Vice Provosts Education (Professor Anthony Smith) and Enterprise (Professor Steve Caddick), chaired by Professor Andrew Eder who leads on CPD for the Office of the VP Enterprise. Within ISD the project executive is Fiona Strawbridge and Dominic Black is the project manager.
PELP key technical project activities
- August 2012 - gathered requirements;
- September – reviewed all available platforms;
- October - selected Moodle (hosted by Epic) as the best choice for course delivery, and Course Merchant (from Connected Shopping) for online payments and registration;
- November to February 2013 - planned system design and released a pilot site for testing;
- March - fixed bugs, tweaked performance and prepared the system for going-live;
- April - the first ‘pathfinder’ courses released into the live system.
- May - July – review the initial pathfinder experience and refine the system
Alongside this technical work we have worked closely with course teams to shape their courses for online, as opposed to face-to-face, delivery. E-Learning Environments are developing comprehensive guidance and support to help course teams ensure that their courses work at a distance.
Critically Moodle meets all of the core requirements identified during the user requirements gathering work. Additionally it is already well liked and used in all taught programmes across the institution, and of course academic colleagues are familiar with Moodle and so don’t have to learn a new interface or convert existing Moodle resources for another platform.
Although UCLeXtend is based on Moodle software, it is delivered on totally separate platform and additionally has some visual and functional differences from core UCL Moodle.
Types of courses
The range of courses in the pathfinder phase is diverse as you would expect from UCL. There will be taster/sample courses for bigger Masters-level courses, tiny short courses, extended courses running over 6 months, and courses lasting a few weeks. Some will be fully online and others will complement face-to-face sessions. Some are premium and some are free.
How could it be used?
- External CPD - e.g. short courses; on-going CPD programmes; tiny pay-as-you-go courses
- Pre-enrolment - e.g. Transitions programme; pre-sessional Language Centre courses
- Community support and engagement - e.g. courses for local schools and community groups
- Promotion and outreach - e.g. taster courses; showcase courses; opening a 'shop window'
Types of learners/participants
It’s worth noting those who are on UCLeXtend are not UCL students. No university credit will be issued for courses completed. Participants may be professionals working in a sector who need to develop particular skills or maintain their professional development, individuals wanting to extend their knowledge of an academic discipline, or more casual learners who are just interested in a subject or want to develop new skills. Some participants may be interested in formal study at UCL who are using UCLeXtend taster courses to ‘try before they buy’. People will register with their own email addresses and will not have any direct student affiliation with UCL if they are only on UCLeXtend. They are effectively customers of a service.
Many with their radar pointed towards what’s happening in Higher Education will have probably heard of Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) – certainly the buzzword for 2012 in western HE. UCLeXtend can cater for many diverse needs but has not been engineered to cater for tens of thousands of enrolments for one course. If you are considering the potential of a MOOC then do get in touch – there may be other options.
What’s happening next?
The service go live in mid April with a small number of pathfinder courses to allow the project team to refine and develop the platform for a wider roll-out. The portfolio of courses will grow over summer 2013 and we will be publicising the service and taking on more courses during the autumn and beyond.
Want to develop a course?
There is currently a range of courses being developed for the pathfinder phase. If you have an idea for a course, please get in touch with UCLeXtend via email, and we’ll take it from there.
E-Learning Environments are happy to field queries. Contact us, or find out more from the links below.
email@example.com – most direct way to talk about UCLeXtend
Visit the site
UCLeXtend - or http://extend.ucl.ac.uk