Teaching & Learning


UCL Connected Learning, 2020-21

Connected Learning is UCL's distinctive approach to online, socially distanced or blended teaching, learning support and assessment during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In advance of next academic session we are now preparing for Connected Learning, our distinctive approach to online, socially distanced or blended teaching, learning support and assessment.

Connected Learning will move us beyond the largely successful emergency response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw the rapid move of teaching and assessment online as simply as possible, to a more sophisticated approach focusing more firmly on a quality learner experience.

Connected Learning can take place online and face-to-face and supports rich, active and effective modes of learning as well as addressing the wider aspects of the student experience. At its heart is the principle that students are active participants in the learning process rather than passive recipients of information.

The focus is on the adaptation of existing modules for delivery in an alternative context and securing student engagement online, with the assumption that face-to-face lectures and large-class teaching will not take place in Term 1.

The approach, which builds on UCL’s Connected Curriculum, provides a basis for a consistent digital pedagogy, where students connect with:

  • people (peers, teachers, postgraduate teaching assistants, and other online UCL communities);
  • knowledge and research (carefully curated resources);
  • the wider world.

Connected Learning Principles

For every Connected Learning experience, we must make sure:

  1. the context of the module underpins learning design;

  2. a positive student learning experience through clear and consistent course structure, participatory expectations, and indication of workload;

  3. a strong sense of community and regular and active engagement through clear communication of expectations

  4. students are active participants in their learning rather than passive recipients of information.

  5. assessment is linked to learning outcomes and activities: see our Assessment and feedback resources.

Supporting you to deliver Connected Learning

Designing for online connected learning represents a significant challenge for teaching staff. The Teaching and Assessment working group, led by Professor Norbert Pachler, are developing training a support infrastructure, resources and tools for teaching and teaching support staff, details of which can be found on these Education Planning, 2020-21 pages.  

Staff development

Connected Learning Essentials: This new programme addresses the basics of teaching in a Connected Learning context, helping colleagues to adapt and build materials for a move into an online environment. The programme can also be offered at Faculty Level, where it will be possible to tailor core content to discipline-specific considerations. Faculty Education teams are invited to talk to their Arena Teaching Fellow or Digital Education Advisor to arrange this. See the programme outline and details on how to enrol

Arena Centre Connected Learning Live events: Arena Centre Connected Learning Live events are 40-60 minute sessions that explore selected areas in more depth including: managing group dynamics online;  interactive teaching tools; online labs; remote assessment; online research methods and fieldwork; alternative field trips.

Resources and guidance

Programme Readiness Toolkit for programme and module leads: This toolkit supports programme and module leads to prepare and monitor readiness for online and socially-distanced teaching in 2020-21. With ‘top tips’ and a small number of hyperlinks to key resources to help colleagues to access support easily, guidance and resources as they develop and adapt their programmes and modules for a good education experience. Access the toolkit

Moodle Baseline: The UCL Connected Learning Baseline is a guide for staff on how best to structure and design online learning resources and activities in Moodle, UCL’s virtual learning environment. Ancillary resources include an exemplar Moodle course, a new template Moodle course, a Baseline Checklist, UCL Moodle Miniguides for specific tasks - all on the Connected Learning Baseline page of the Teaching and Learning Portal.

Assessment planning: In view of ongoing COVID-19 constraints, we need to plan for the probability that next year we will not be able to deliver face-to-face invigilated exams (central or locally organised). We are building a resource hub for developing alternative, online assessments.

Alternative labs and practice-based teaching: An information hub for labs and practice-based teaching is being developed on the Teaching and Learning portal. We are collecting and highlighting good/best practice, novel solutions, online strategies and other resources, as well as giving guidance to help staff address potential issues in time for Term 1.

Tools and platforms

Moodle is at the heart of the online learning environment, and its capacity is being increased to prepare for much heavier patterns of use.

We continue to recommend Lecturecast for pre-recording lectures (you can upload other recordings into Lecturecast).

Blackboard Collaborate remains the recommended platform for any live classes, but we know that some students in China experience problems connecting to it so we will be providing a licence for Zoom to support classes affected by this. Mentimeter, an online student response tool that can be using in online and face-to-face teaching will be available from July for all staff and students.

Tools like Reflect (educational blogging platform), MyPortfolio (for student-led portfolio and reflective work) and the wealth of Office365 tools can support student-led learning activities.

In direct response to the need to teach online ISD is also investigating how to provide online access to cluster room applications; how to support remote practical, lab and studio work; and options for online social spaces for students; and running welcome, induction and informal events.

Find out more about UCL-supported tools and platforms


Education Planning Support teams: A network of staff across faculties, departments and central support has been established, with Faculty Education Teams led by Vice-Deans Education and supported by Learning Technologists, and departmental teams including Connected Learning Leads, e-learning champions and Covid-19 Education Mitigation Coordinators. Find out more about your Education Planning support team.

In addition, funding is available to support the following roles:

Online Module Tutors: Online teaching involves a new relationship between students, lecturers and course materials. This presents an opportunity for a new role for postgraduate research students at UCL. In large modules with cohorts greater than 80 students, funding will be available for a additional Postgraduate Teaching Assistants (PGTAs) to take on the role of Online Module Tutor. An outline job description will shortly be shared, along with details of Faculty/departmental allocation. We recommend the roles are recruited via the newly launched PGTA Hub. PGTAs recruited to the role will receive training through UCL Arena One, coupled with local departmental support.

Student Content Developers: Funding is also available to engage students this summer to work with module leads on developing online learning materials and activities. Arrangements for allocation of this funding are still being finalised and will be shared soon.  

Connected Learning Internships: To support the changes required with moving activities online for 2020/21, and to support an excellent UCL student experience, UCL ChangeMakers and UCL Careers are offering around 25 ‘Connected Learning Internships’ for UCL students. These are fully-funded opportunities of 2 weeks (full-time) or 3 weeks (part-time) duration. All departments across UCL – academic and professional services – can propose an internship. The deadline for proposals has passed. 

Campus and timetabling

The limitations on the teaching estate are significant and we are working hard to understand how much face to face (F2) teaching we can safely accommodate on campus.. We currently estimate a reduction in capacity in rooms of up to 85%, coupled with many challenges to the safe movement of students and staff around the estate; entering, moving around and exiting buildings; and using facilities such as toilets under social distancing.

The Covid-19 pandemic has meant that we have had to completely rethink our approach to timetabling - for example to try to minimise unnecessary movements to and across campus - and rooming this year and we are acutely aware that departments need clarity about what teaching, and how much, can be delivered F2F and what the timetabling process will be for 2020/21.

Given the scale of the challenge, an Emergency Timetabling Policy and revised Timetabling Process have now been approved by the Crisis Management Team. The Policy and Process, together with some FAQs that provide some further granularity about how the Temporary Operating Model will operate in practice will be published here shortly. 

The Central Timetabling Team will be working with closely faculties and departments over the coming weeks as we put this in to practice.

Education Town Halls and FAQs

Education-related Town Halls have been run since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, and more are planned. Access the recordings and FAQs arising from previous Town Halls.