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How to use Microsoft OneDrive to support large assignment submissions in Moodle

The Bartlett School of Architecture has created a process to support large assignment submission using Moodle and Microsoft OneDrive.

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13 May 2020

Design studio - where students produce a portfolio of their project work - is a core part of architectural education, central to nearly all of our undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.

With the switch to remote teaching and assessment, and a cap on the size of files that can be uploaded to Moodle, a group of teaching staff set out to find a protocol that would allow for the submission and assessment of large portfolios.   

The featured image showcases an example of work created by one of our students, Sonia Margdziarz, MA Architecture.

The group was made up of a small team consisting of:

  • Director of Education, Brent Carnell
  • E-Learning Champion, Bill Hodgson
  • Co-Programme Director for MArch Architecture (ARB/RIBA Part 2), Patrick Weber
  • Co-Programme Director for MLA/MA Landscape Architecture, Laura Allen

How the design studio works

Responding to briefs, students work through multiple iterations of their work with support from staff and their peers.

They may work with:

  • software
  • hand drawing
  • models
  • workshop tools
  • processes, and film

The portfolio is the summation of their work, drawing together multiple projects, and even making a connection to learning in other modules and extracurricular work.

Students spend a great deal of time on the curation of the presentation, and naturally, this can get quite large (both physically and digitally).

Adapting to remote education

Design portfolios have been historically submitted in hard-copy format so that students have a hard copy to show employers, and so that staff and external examiners are able to intimately negotiate the physicality of the work.

The move to remote education as a result of the coronavirus pandemic has allowed us to rethink education across the board, specifically how the design portfolios are submitted and assessed.

The design portfolio is essential to architectural education, as well as other artistic disciplines. I am absolutely delighted by the seamless and generous collaboration between our academic and professional services colleagues that has enabled us to pioneer a submission and marking process that aligns perfectly with UCL’s digital infrastructure.”     

Barbara Campbell-Lange, Director, The Bartlett School of Architecture 

Building on Moodle capability

Moodle allows for 160 MegaByte (MB) files (100MB if using the Turnitin plug-in), yet some portfolios can be upwards of 1 Gigabyte (GB) or larger if especially they contain video files.

Moodle also does not allow for zooming in or blind second marking.

UCL ISD and Digital Education are investigating the feasibility of an increase in the size of submissions for Moodle as part of development work happening over summer 2020.

New process introduced

As a result, we have implemented a new submission process: 

  • students select their unit (or research cluster), which allows the organisation of assessments for large numbers of students, and assigns them to a Moodle 'Group'
     
  • students upload project synopsis and statement of originality proformas as a submission to Moodle (Moodle requires a student to have submitted a file in order to apply marks and feedback to their name)
     
  • students then submit their files via the Microsoft OneDrive Request File link (tailored to their unit or research cluster)
     
  • request drive is a deposit-only feature, so students cannot edit them or even see the back end, once they upload (they can only add more files if they wish)
     
  • the files then appear in the Microsoft One Drive Folder, which the owner can share with colleagues involved in the assessment and external examining process
     
  • assessors can view and zoom in on files online, without the need to download. Each member of staff has 1 Terabyte (TB) of space, with a size limit of 2GB per file
     
  • the first marker assesses using a marking proforma word document, and the second marker uses a separate one (shared on a separate Microsoft One Drive folder)
     
  • when marks are agreed and moderation is complete, the programme director updates the proforma on Moodle with feedback and a grade for release to students. 

How the team decided their approach

We consulted the various options UCL supported (and some others), and agreed the ability to assess within Moodle and GDPR compliance were essential, so this dual system was set up.

UCL ISD's guidance on data storage

View data storage options at UCL. 

Staff guides

Student Guides

Building on existing staff Moodle experience

Several members of the group had the benefit of considerable Moodle, and teaching and assessment experience. Most of the work involved searching through online packages and negotiating the pros and cons of each option.

We created this process after a number of meetings, and testing took place from late March through to early May 2020.

Greater transparency to assessment 

Making the move from physical submission and assessment to online is not always a straightforward move for all parties involved.

There are pros and cons to both, and multiple personalities and preferences to negotiate.

However, on the whole, we are hopeful that the cost savings for students (it should be noted that students have always had the opportunity to only submit digitally via a memory stick) and greater transparency and record-keeping of the assessment process are two benefits.   

There are a number of added benefits to this new process. We’re able to easily share the work between different marking panels and add transparency to the process. Assessing digital submissions on OneDrive is helping our students to save money on printing and contribute to reducing our carbon footprint.”

Julia Backhaus, Co-Programme Director, MArch Architecture ARB/RIBA Part 2, The Bartlett School of Architecture

Allows for late submission

The files are deposited to the one drive, which include dates, so the tutors will be able to see if any files are late.

By default an email is sent to the owner of the folder, as soon as files are uploaded (but this file can be turned off). 

Useful for creative disciplines 

Creative disciplines may wish to adopt a similar protocol to work alongside Moodle and Microsoft OneDrive - It is actually very easy to set up this dual submission.  

Returning to on-campus teaching

When we return to on-campus teaching, we intend to retain some of this process, if simply as a digital archive on Sharepoint, which will support our PSRB revalidation process.

In future, we hope Moodle can accept large files and support second marking in a way that many disciplines require (which would avoid the need for added work offline).

Top tips for getting started

  1. Task one or two colleagues to explore options that will suit unique assessments on your programme and discipline - getting too many people involved at the early stages can cause delays.
  2. Allow others to try to break the system, including someone who is inexperienced with Moodle.
  3. Present a suggested protocol to all stakeholders.
  4. Reach out to UCL Digital Education and the Arena Centre who are available to offer support. Email: vpedu.teaching.continuity@ucl.ac.uk
  5. Revisit and make modifications as necessary.