Adventures in Technology Enhanced Learning @ UoP

Author: Tom Cripps (Page 1 of 2)

The road to Moodle 4.0

The Technology Enhanced Learning team, probably to a fault, doesn’t usually talk much about our in-house development of Moodle. A new version appears around the same time each year, bringing with it improvements either in performance, security or interface, or sometimes all of those. We also understand that these updates can occasionally be unwelcome, especially if things that worked before are now different for seemingly no reason. Those changes can be frustrating, to say the least.

What I’d like to do here is lift the lid a little on the Moodle development process, to highlight some of the work that goes into these yearly updates at the University, and also explain some of the choices we have had to make this year in order to improve the experience for as many of Moodle’s users as possible.

TEL’s input into Moodle

Moodle comes as a complete off-the-shelf system. It’s a working system from the moment it’s installed, containing many useful features and a serviceable visual appearance. Why, then, does the University need to do anything to Moodle before it gets used for learning?

The work we do to the off-the-shelf version of Moodle can broadly be categorised into three areas:

    • Reliability – Ensuring the system is available for use by students and staff at all times, with as little disruption as possible. This involves working with IS on the database solution and making sure we can respond quickly to surveillance of various systems in order to prevent system downtime (this is especially beneficial around exam time).
    • Usability – Ensuring the system meets all the legal and ethical requirements placed on the University. We want to provide a system that is accessible and usable to all. This means we include features such as a branded visual theme, provide various developments around accessibility, and tweak the interface based on feedback from users in the prior year.
    • Suitability – Installing plugins and developing bespoke features that are either
      • Expected (where similar features have existed on the VLE in the past and removing them would cause an unreasonable burden on staff);
      • Desired (new features or services that will enhance existing teaching or perhaps provide new opportunities); or
      • Required (perhaps because a feature has become integral to teaching or is a requirement of a course, school, or professional body).

The development timeline

The TEL team first started discussing Moodle 4.0 slightly before the software was initially scheduled to be released, in December 2021.

Unfortunately, the initial, stable, version of Moodle 4.0 was not released until 9 May 2022. As you can imagine this delay was far from ideal. Whilst we could start some development on early code, the platform changed often – and sometimes drastically – so we held off as long as we could. This five-month delay was enough for us to question whether we would have to stay on the last version of Moodle for another year.

Normally a May–August development window would not worry us too much, but Moodle 4.0 had changed enough from the previous version that we wanted to look at our own theme, plugins and all the extras that we had added to Moodle over the years and give it all a review and refresh. We knew all of this would take time, so we were keen to get going as soon as we reasonably could.

We made the choice to develop a new theme, removing any technical debt from previous years. We also decided to review all plugins/extra features that we have added over the years: we wanted to know whether the requirement for them still existed, and in some cases whether a better solution existed. After all, if Moodle itself was getting an overhaul it seemed timely for us to review our own work!

Additions by TEL for the UoP Moodle 4.0 release

After several discussions we identified what we needed to develop over the standard Moodle release in the 4.0 upgrade. These developments included:

1. New branded visual theme

To make the most of the new interface in Moodle 4.0 we needed a new theme. The theme is what you see when you log in to Moodle – and for many people this is what they think of when they think of Moodle.

This was to be a brand new start. Rather than starting with the old theme and undoing things we did not want, useful features in the old theme would be brought over to the new theme. Many of the other features listed below also required development in the theme to support them: the feedback and accessibility tools are good examples of this.

2. Improved tabbed site navigation

We identified that some of our help and support pages could be improved, and they were less visible than they should be, so we decided to overhaul them. The first part of this work was to put our existing support resources in their own tab and then create more directed support, depending on whether the user was a student or a member of staff.

Moodle users will also notice that links to useful resources are now also on a page of their own, rather than being available via a dropdown. We made this change because we felt it was necessary to provide some context around the links – previously, it was not always obvious what resources the links were sending users to. We hope this new layout will encourage users to explore some of the great resources we have available.

In addition to these tabs, we are also working on an additional feature that gives users insight into their use of Moodle. The “My Activity” tab will give facts, figures and insight into a user’s own data, so they can more easily see how they engage with the platform. This feature is currently still being developed but should be ready around the start of term.

3. Direct in-Moodle user support/feedback feature

We identified the need to implement a way for users to view contextualised help, report problems or make suggestions from within Moodle itself.

Such a feature would help us in three ways:

    • First, to make it easier for users to access self-help while using Moodle through a bank of context-sensitive frequently asked questions. Many queries in Moodle are similar, so if users can find answers to their questions immediately then it will improve their experience (as well as reducing the burden on us, where we repeatedly provide the same information).
    • Second, to gather information directly from users at the time of the problem occurring. This allows users to log issues in a more frictionless way and also allows problems to be identified and resolved in a more timely manner.
    • Third, a solution such as this allows us to automatically take the context of the user (name, role, department etc) and the page they were on (url), and submit it with the support ticket and their description of the issue. This will help to reduce the amount of time that our support helpdesk has to spend gathering that contextual information around a problem, reduce the usual to-and-fro with end users, and allow tickets to be investigated and resolved much more efficiently.

After analysing the problem, we developed a system whereby a user can click the help button from anywhere in Moodle, fill in a few simple details, and have a Servicedesk ticket logged and assigned to the correct team within seconds. Furthermore, all of the details of where the user was and what they were doing at the time are logged and included in the ticket. There will no longer be uncertainty about which module is not working or which page resource is missing crucial links.

4. Develop Moodle for personalised learning

The Dashboard is an area that, up until Moodle 4.0, was primarily for the display of enrolled modules and courses. Moodle 4.0 introduces a separate courses page, which frees up a lot of room on the dashboard to provide more information and insight into the content and resources a user has available to them. The focus of the dashboard is now on personalised learning, offering insights that aim to improve a student’s engagement – for example, showing a student a list of resources they haven’t viewed that are currently popular with others in their cohort. We have introduced or developed several other widgets that aim to achieve a similar level of personalisation, and intend to introduce more as the year progresses.

We have developed and integrated a new user bookmarking system. This allows any user to simply “star” any resource or page in Moodle, where it will be added to their personal bookmarks list, accessible from almost anywhere in the system. We hope users will employ this feature both as a way to keep track of useful pages in the long term, and also highlight resources they wish to look at later in the short term.

This year we are providing space to add system notices to the dashboard, and have made it easier for our student survey links to be added (in past years this was a process that involved some manual work; it is now a form on the site admin section in Moodle). Students will be able to see links to the SITS ‘Student View’ system to view their timetable and other personal information.

These features combine to increase the usefulness of the space to users. We have also changed the layout from a single column to an adjustable grid, which should allow more flexibility when users choose what items they want to see on this page.

5. Enhanced accessibility tools

The existing off-the-shelf accessibility tools were now several years old and we identified the need to improve the offering. After looking at the Moodle plugins available for these types of tools it became clear that the best experience for users would be if we developed something in-house, as these types of tools benefit from being closely tied in with the Moodle theme. We have therefore been able to create and add the following features this year:

    • Three colour schemes: a light, dark and a dark high contrast theme
    • The ability to remove problematic motion from the interface
    • The ability to revert to non-brand fonts if required
    • The ability to force underline all links in the course content
    • The ability to alter the interface for more accessible controls (affix the in course menu to the top of the screen when scrolling).

These features are all created specifically for the University of Portsmouth Moodle and they work because of the custom theme we have produced. The way these have been developed will also allow for easy expansion and improvement of these features based on any feedback we receive during the course of the next year.

6. Moodle Baseline tabbed block

Moodle Baseline has continued to provide a standard for all Moodle modules and, following the introduction of the in-course or secondary menu in Moodle 4.0, we decided that this would be the best place to house the Moodle Baseline options. Users will now find reading lists, assessment information and the rest of the content from the tabbed block in this secondary menu. Moving the information to separate tabs allows the course content to come first, with administrative information still easily available, but not taking up screen space all the time.

7. Module level accessibility statements

In 2018 the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations were introduced. As part of this legislation we were charged with providing a site-wide accessibility statement to communicate which areas of our website are fully accessible, which areas need work and, most importantly, what work we were doing to improve the areas that did not meet the standards set.

Supporting this statement in a virtual learning environment, which contains largely user-generated content, has proven to be extremely difficult for all universities. Although we provide advice and training, we have a challenge in publicly stating that all of our content meets any specific standard and, without checking every site every day, we simply are not in a position to know whether we are meeting specific standards.

This is where the module level statements come in: this year, in addition to the platform-level statement, we have provided an accessibility statement for each module, editable from within the module settings by those who are producing the content itself. This will allow content producers to communicate which areas of their content are accessible, which aren’t, and how users can gain accessible versions of any content that they are unable to access.

It is important to note that in the 2022–23 academic year there is no expectation that these statements will be modified by staff. If staff do want to modify the statement then they can certainly do so, and we would encourage them to make the statements as useful as possible for users.

8. Add the ability for TEL to show user notices to Moodle users

When the pandemic hit in 2020, we found we lacked ways to easily communicate more than a few words to Moodle users via Moodle itself. The implementation of a more robust notification system was essential. We now have the ability to post notices:

    • On the front page (login page) of Moodle (x1)
    • On the dashboard (x2)
    • In an ‘emergency’ news banner notification either only on the dashboard or site wide (an option that is most often used if Turnitin or other assessment platforms experience an outage that affects submissions)

9. Updated and revised rollover mechanism

Many of you will be familiar with the rollover mechanism. This is a bespoke development by the TEL team to allow administrators to rollover modules for the new academic year with the click of a button. This feature had to be updated to take into account the changes from last year to this year, including changes in course formats and the offering of a different set of options for non-standard modules.

The rollover mechanism now includes a new “Quick roll” feature, which allows Online Course Developers to roll-over large numbers of modules in a single batch, with minimal manual input required. Not only is it quicker than before, but by interfacing more closely with SITS the mechanism also ensures data is more accurate, meaning fewer enrolment queries at the start of term.

That’s not all!

I have not mentioned every addition – we have made many little adjustments, from adding header images to the top of course pages to ensuring Moodle communicates with our student systems correctly. This means the Moodle you see and use has been created for you as much as possible.

Inevitably, some people will be unhappy with how Moodle now behaves or how certain things have been implemented: Moodle has to work for everyone, which in turn means it is probably no one’s perfect system. Nevertheless, although we shall concentrate on bug fixes for the next few weeks, development of all of these features will be ongoing and you can expect to see new functionality throughout the year. Please keep feeding back to us on your experience of Moodle. We can – and do – make changes based on your feedback.

Moodle Baseline Launch

Technology Enhanced Learning, Academic Development and DSAA are proud to announce the launch of the Moodle Baseline. The Moodle Baseline is a template and set of best practice advice for Moodle module pages. The release is the culmination of a six month feedback exercise with staff from all faculties along with a pilot with students on Nursing degree programmes.

The Moodle Baseline template features five tabs: welcome, module overview, learning outcomes, reading lists (to launch in the next few weeks) and assessments. Some of these tabs will be automatically populated with data after July 14th in time for the start of the new academic year. The Baseline template will be added automatically when modules are rolled-over or created.

The Moodle Baseline addresses repeated student feedback for more consistency in the layout and content of Moodle modules and makes it easier for students to find key information and assessments.

We hope students and staff find the Moodle Baseline to be a useful tool. Help and guidance information can be found on the following dedicated website. If you have any questions please contact your local Online Course Developers or

Thinking about accessibility

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about accessibility and Moodle recently as we move the Moodle Baseline project into the pilot stage. It’s become clear that many of us don’t make our responsibility to create accessible content a top priority when all that’s needed is a small amount of extra time to ensure a vast improvement in the ability of differently abled users to consume your Moodle content. I’m not going to call any specific Moodle sites out here, but some of the most prevalent bad practice that somewhat surprisingly still seems to exist includes using HTML tables for navigation & layout, and using images for headings or navigation.

Both of these issues become problematic to users who use screen readers. Whilst it is true that screen reader support for tables has improved, they should still not be used for navigation or layout. Every time the screen reader box enters a table cell, the screen reader will tell the user which cell they are in. You can easily see how this is not a good user experience if you have to work your way through a four by five table, with a link (or more than one link) in each cell. Using something more appropriate such as an HTML list for this navigation properly give the nav role in the html, as well as a more streamlined experience, a screen reader can also use this information to offer it’s user the option to skip the navigation and go straight to page content, or not. for some more information on this have a look at the W3 Schools page detailing the nav role.

Using an image for heading isn’t automatically a terrible thing. If it’s used in conjunction with either HTML alt text, or if at all possible an ARIA attribute to notify to a screen reader how the image is being used. Using CSS to replace a text link with an image, which will also allow the image to be seen by those browsing visually, but also mean the HTML text link is visible to those with a screen reader It just so happens that Bootstrap 4 has an easy way to do this which everyone can use after the Moodle upgrade in August. Bootstrap also offers ways to totally hide elements in your HTML content from everyone except those using screen readers, so you can really go the extra mile to offer content that’s easier to digest audibly.

There are reasons why you’d need to use a custom navigation, there are also times however that the topic jump list should be more than sufficient for navigating between topics on a Moodle site. If you find that this is almost good enough – but not quite – please talk to us and we’ll try and make it totally good enough for you to use. If you’d like to find out more about accessibility I would heartily recommend the Digital Accessibility MOOC on FutureLearn, it really opened my eyes to accessibility issues I’d never considered – it made me realise what I thought I was doing to enable differently abled people to read my content, wasn’t in fact enough.

I’ll leave you with this from our Moodle content guide which will arrived with the new theme after the upgrade in the summer:

Accessibility for Moodle content means that your content is available to be consumed by all users, regardless of their ability. Creating accessible learning content is the responsibility of us all – It’s not something that should be left until later, or for us to think that it’s the responsibility of someone else.

Using motion to improve the user experience

The use of animation in user interface (UI) design, and the effect it has on the user experience (UX), is something I’ve become interested in recently — especially now we have started to redesign the Moodle interface.

What started me thinking about this was reading the endlessly fascinating Google Material Design Guidelines. These are extremely easy to read, and provide a comprehensive background to Google’s look and feel across it’s many products and services.

Incidentally, if you’re that way inclined, read it! It’s full of ‘I didn’t realise that, but it makes so much sense’ moments. For example, did you realise that there are rules governing what elements look like as they overlap?

Motion provides meaning

Material Design is a good place to start when trying to work out what effect motion has on the overall UX of a given product. Material Design specifies motion to be able to offer:

  • Guided focus between views
  • Hints at what will happen if a user completes a gesture
  • Hierarchical and spatial relationships between elements
  • Distraction from what’s happening behind the scenes (such as fetching content or loading the next view)
  • Character, polish, and delight

(Material Design, 2018)

Some of these have been used long before this specification was written; loading indicators, for instance, have existed in many forms — almost always as a “distraction from what is happening…”. Often they are simply a single repeating animation to help users pass the time, and to communicate that the waiting time will be finite, i.e. something will eventually happen.

Many of these points have been created as a result of the rise of mobile design and the necessity to tie together the various screens of an app with some sort of visual metaphor so the user is aware that the screen they are currently looking at relates to one they were just using — but can no longer see.

Retaining user engagement across page transitions

Let’s look at that last scenario — moving from one page of a mobile app to the next — in a little more detail. Google aims to maintain user engagement across page loads by maintaining elements on screen between those pages, and animating the change. A user’s eye is intended to follow elements that exist in both pages: the elements don’t disappear and reload in a new position; instead they animate and move to their new position.

The overall aim of this — and I think it works — is to start with the user looking at the new page from a position of engagement. The user already knows what content they expect to see, because they know why the page has appeared (it’s the result of the action they performed earlier, e.g a tap on a button), and what relationship the new information on the page has to the information on the previous page.

(Material Design, 2018)

The image above is from a video illustrating the approach to maintaining shared elements across a screen change (in this case a card expanding to provide more information). Click the link beneath the screenshot to watch the video in full.

Material Design provides this advice for pages with different amounts of shared content:

  • If all content elements are shared
    While a surface is expanding, a significant number of elements should remain visible during the transition.
  • Few content elements are shared
    While expanding a surface, if only a single element will be present after the transition, that element should be the focal point of the transition, controlling all other elements.
  • No content elements are shared
    If there are no shared elements between views, anchor all crossfading elements to the surface’s vertical movement. The surface crops the content within.

These rules ensure that no transition becomes too complex and overwhelming to the user.

I’ve really only touched the surface with this topic. I hope to expand on this further by looking at some other ways that motion is employed in UI design to create a satisfying UX.

Case Study – Gill Wray

The Shorthand Units

Gill Wray, an academic member of staff in the School of Social Historical and Literary Studies within the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences is responsible amongst other things, for the Journalism Shorthand units. I’ve been talking to her about some of the interesting elements of her units that she has implemented for students with the help of the Faculty’s Online Course Developers, Scott, Joe and Daren.

Journalism Shorthand units run in the first and second years as a core requirement aiming to teach shorthand to those taking a Journalism course. As part of her teaching Jill has been involved with the development of some interesting interactive elements on her Moodle site.

I think this sort of work is worth highlighting to others as it shows how Moodle can be much more than just a repository for work, and handouts. Moodle allows an incredible amount of flexibility in terms of what content you can make available for students – it doesn’t just have to be downloadable PDF revision sheets!

The Test Your Shorthand WebApp

The ‘Test Your Shorthand’ app for practicing shorthand knowledge has been around for a while, though due to problems with audio playing on an older version, has recently been rebuilt as a responsive web app to remain functional on various devices across a variety of screen sizes.

The app, which you can see in the screenshots here, gives a student three different difficulty levels to test a student’s shorthand knowledge. Choosing one of these gives a short multiple choice shorthand quiz tuned to the difficulty of the option the student selected. The app also provides a series of shorthand ‘outlines’ (the squiggles that form the core part of journalistic shorthand) as revision aid, as well as 10 different voice recordings to practice note taking on. The audio is offered in 100, 110 and 120 words a minute format, perfect for a student learning to record what they hear.

The app is available as part of the Shorthand Year One Moodle site, and is offered as a supplement to the existing course content, which includes videos that are timed to release to students each week, and also other more traditional worksheet activities.

Digraph Train

Gill’s Shorthand site also includes The Digraph Train. When I asked her why she had added this interactivity to her Moodle site she said:

“One of the main challenges has been the inability of some students to recognise that digraphs ‘sh’, ‘ch’, ‘th’ and ‘wh’ make specific sounds.  We therefore produced a very simple ‘early learning’ style visual in the form of a moving train with carriages adding letters one at a time. There is audio as each carriage joins the train. This helps students understand how two letters come together to make a particular sound.”

The Digraph Train was produced by Gill, with the help of the Online Course Developers in the School, using a software package called Articulate Storyline. When I spoke with Joe Wright, who was responsible for the project, about why he chose Storyline he said:

“I chose to use Storyline because I found it gave me all the tools that would fulfil the task in hand. It is a great e-learning package which you can use to create unique projects using triggers and timing. It’s simple to use as it uses an interface similar to the Microsoft packages which makes it very easy to navigate, to add animations, images and sound to the project. Gill told me that the students found the end result to be very engaging”.

It’s worth mentioning, that both these projects took time, and required skills that are not reflected across every faculty. If you have an idea for something you want to create, but don’t know where to start, visit your Online Course Developers first more often than not they’ll be happy to help. If you think your idea might benefit students (or staff) in a faculty other than your own Technology Enhanced Learning would also be happy to work with you to get your idea off the ground.

Highlighting your own creative and innovative use of Moodle is a difficult thing. There is no University wide platform, no place a member of staff can go and say ‘hey! I helped make this and I think it’s good!’ Case studies like this are our way of putting good work out there for people to see. Currently both of these projects are available only to students studying the Shorthand units on Journalism courses.

Day 11: Nearpod

What is Nearpod?

Nearpod is a fantastic collaboration tool for staff and students, which is available on iOS, Android and the Web. The app allows a class leader (whether that’s a student or staff member) to create an interactive presentation for display on other people’s individual devices – phones, tablets or computers.

It’s quick and easy to create this interactive content, and the material can range from simple presentations with questions to full-blown quizzes with corresponding feedback. Nearpod allows real-time feedback from the group to the class leader. For example, teachers can present the results of a group survey immediately to the whole class with the tap of a button.

What does the app look like and how do I use it?

There are two aspects to Nearpod: the creation of presentations and the viewing of those presentations.

In order to be able to create presentations a teacher will first need to sign up for a free licence. (We also have some paid licences available, which allow for more than the 30-connected-device limit that exists on the free licence. The paid tier also unlocks various extra features, which you can read about in more detail on the Nearpod website.) To build a presentation you use Nearpod in your internet browser. You can use an existing PowerPoint presentation as a starting point or you can choose to create new PowerPoint files specifically for use in Nearpod.

Nearpod Promo image

When you want to present to an audience, you simply upload the relevant file, ensuring that you have added any extra interactions that you want to include, then publish the presentation and run it in the classroom.

The viewing app is free from both Google Play and the Apple App Store, or you can access Nearpod on the web at Each member of the audience will need a device with access to the app or to the website. When the presenter begins the session he/she will be shown a code, to be given to the audience. An audience member connects to the presenter’s Nearpod by entering this code. It’s as simple as that.

How could this app help me?

Nearpod can help bridge the gap between teacher and student, and turn what could be a passive session into a dynamic one. Any input made by a student or teacher can be shown in real-time to everyone else in the class who has a connected device – a teacher can therefore tweak sessions as needed, perhaps going into more detail in areas suggested by the class or filling gaps in knowledge as identified by quizzes. The use of Nearpod can be a good way to shake up a normal lecture or seminar, and might even prompt a teacher to rethink their approach to a particular teaching session.

Ideas for using Nearpod:

  • Students and staff can use their own preferred device to interact with lectures, not something you’re unfamiliar with!
  • Students can work digitally in groups without having to use a main screen.
  • Receive instant feedback from in-class quizzes, and tailor the class according to its results.
  • Staff can enhance presentations with interactivity.
  • Encourages all members of a group to engage with the topic being discussed.

Keep an eye out on Tel Tales for more info on Nearpod in early 2018!

Day 10: Slack

What is Slack?

Today we’re looking at Slack — a messaging app that aims to reduce the amount of email sent between people working in teams. The app is available for iOS, Android, Windows and MacOS. Although it’s aimed primarily for teams of people in the workplace, it’s applicable to teams working together on any project. The benefits of Slack will vary depending on how you and those you work with communicate: if you chat a lot, share files and thoughts, and like the fact that everything is searchable, then Slack might just be for you. We use it in the 12Apps office and we love it!

What does the app look like and how do I use it?

Slack requires you (or someone in your group) to take the lead and set up your team. This will be the place all of your communication is stored. Once you’ve done that you’ll need to invite the people you want to work with.

Slack organizes messages into what it calls channels. You’ll start off with some default channels, but it’s best to take the time to set up some of your own. Think of these as topics of conversation — in the 12Apps team we tend to set up a new channel for each project we are working on; this helps keep our chat on-topic and focused. Of course we all need a break so it’s also a good idea to create a channel for general off-topic chat, and perhaps even the occasional animated gif!

Notifications are extremely customisable in Slack. You can be notified for all messages, if you wish, but since that might become overwhelming there are options to reduce the amount of pop-ups you receive. You can instead choose to be notified only when your name is mentioned; or, which is what many of us in the 12Apps team do, you can enter keywords that notify you when they are used in messages by others. For example, if you were working on part of project that involved the use of Moodle, you could enter the keyword ‘Moodle’ and it would notify you when someone mentioned it. It’s a clever way of reducing the distractions that endless notifications can provide.

What’s crucial is that the app keeps everything up to date across all of your devices — that obviously includes your messages, but also the notification settings we have just looked at. These are all adjustable on one device and then they populate across to the other devices on which you have Slack installed.

How could this app help me?

Setting up open channels to discuss projects (or distinct parts of projects) has meant our team has been able to share much more of what we are working on with each other; this has helped us contribute ideas and thoughts to projects that we wouldn’t necessarily have been involved with before.

Having all your ideas about a project in one place proves to be convenient when you realise you need to search through your chat history for a specific exchange or file you sent to another team member a some time ago. Slack’s aim is that you spend less time searching for files and content, and spend more time creating — hence it’s tagline: ‘Be less busy’.

This is one of those apps where you get out what you put in — so if there’s a group of you who need to work together, give it a go!

Ideas for using the app:

  • Students can use the app to collaborate with other team members on their group work.
  • Staff could use the app to set up a team for a unit or subject area, to share ideas or work.
  • Really anything you need to communicate on, you could use Slack.

To find out more about Slack, check out how the TEL team are using Slack in ‘Is your team ‘slack’ing when it comes to communication ? ‘

Day 9: Duolingo

What is Duolingo?

Duolingo is a free language-learning app that works on iOS, Android and Windows mobile devices as well as the web. With the help of Duolingo you can attempt to learn around fourteen different languages, including most of the main European languages such as French, German and Spanish. The selection of languages available on Duolingo continues to increase, so you’re sure to find one you’d like to have a go at! The video embedded below gives you an overview of what the app aims to do.

What does the app look like and how do I use it?

Duolingo is a brightly coloured app that’s fun and simple to use. Once you’ve signed up for an account you choose the language you’d like to learn, and then proceed through a series of lessons of increasing difficulty. Repetition is encouraged – if you don’t grasp something straight away, the app will suggest you spend more time on that specific area.

Screenshot of the duolingo interface

Duolingo is brightly coloured and engaging

In terms of lesson style, Duolingo makes heavy use of gamification. Each lesson consists of a variety of challenges – filling in missing text, choosing the correct meaning of words, translating spoken words or even pronouncing words or phrases into your microphone. All of these challenges are instantly graded, so you get immediate feedback on what you got correct and what you got wrong. If you get an answer incorrect you’ll lose a heart, and once you’re out of hearts you have to start over again – just like a game. The app gives you hints on what to work on, based on your scores.

To keep you coming back day after day, Duolingo records how many days in a row you spend learning your chosen language(s). This ‘streak’ keeps increasing until you miss a day, so make sure you don’t!

How could this app help me?

Whether you need to learn the basics of a new language for work or leisure, hope to get more out of your summer holiday, or want to get a head start on your IWLP course – Duolingo is a fun (and free) way to begin.
Ideas for Duolingo:

  • Teach yourself a new language in time for your summer holiday.
  • Learn an uncommon language for fun.
  • Brush up on that half-remembered French from school – and turn it into something you can put on your CV.

If you’d like to learn more about Duolingo visit their website – and have a go!

Day 8:

What is is a website designed to help you gain new skills in a variety of different subjects. As well as supporting your own learning it is possible to share courses, create playlists, embed courses into Moodle, all making it easy to support the learning of students and staff. All staff and students at the University of Portsmouth, have unlimited access to which contains a library of high-quality instructional videos covering a vast range of skills.

What does look like and how do I use it? homepage imageWith more than 5,000 courses taught by industry experts – and more added every week – is designed for all levels of learners, and it’s available whenever you’re ready to learn. You can access from, directly from or you can view courses on your mobile device by downloading the app.

Searching for a course in is as easy as using the search bar to find a specific course, or you can browse through categories if you aren’t looking for a course on a specific topic. You can then watch the lesson that you’re after.

As mentioned above, a app for iOS and Android is also available, and this enables you to learn on the go, it’s perfect for using that train journey to learn something new, or even refresh a topic you’ve learnt in the past.

Across the University, students and staff have accessed and viewed nearly 2000 hours of learning so far. Content from has been embedded into Moodle as part of provision by the Graduate School, it has also been used in the Enterprise toolkit. Many students are using to support their studies, for example the top course in Creative and Cultural Industries is for 3DS Max, animation software directly relevant to some of the courses. In Science statistics tools such as SPSS are popular, while general skills such as Excel and Time Management are popular overall.

How could help me?

You can use to access learning at anytime on any device to support your learning, professional development or teaching. It is possible to share courses, create playlists, embed courses into Moodle, all making it easy to support the learning of students and staff.

With you’ll get:

  • Unlimited access – Choose from more than 5,000 video tutorials covering business, creative and technology topics.
  • Relevant recommendations – Explore the most in-demand skills based on your interests.
  • Expert instructors – Learn from industry leaders, all in one place.
  • Convenient learning – Access courses on your schedule, from any desktop or mobile device.
  • Helpful resources – Reinforce new knowledge with quizzes, exercise files and coding practice windows.
  • Relevant content – Map content to support the learning of your students and staff.
  • Link certificates of completion to online profiles like LinkedIn.

To find out more and log into, visit

Please also join our Google Community, keep up to date, get ideas and it would be great to share how you’ve used in your own learning and to support others

Check out ‘ – Online training for everyone‘ written by our very own guru – Adrian Sharkey.

Day 7: H5P

What is H5P?

Today we’re looking at something new for this year, H5P. H5P is a content creation app available on the web and in Moodle at the University of Portsmouth. H5P allows you to create interesting and varied interactive content like Video Quizzes, Flashcards, Picture Sliders, Memory Games, and more! You can do all this really quickly through an easy to understand interface – with no coding knowledge required.

What does the app look like and how do I use it?

H5P content picker screenshotThe H5P website allows you to sign up for an account and save created interactive elements online. If you use the app within Moodle you don’t have to sign up, and you create your content directly inside the familiar Moodle user interface.

H5P gives you a variety of options when it comes to creating content. While we won’t go into the whole list here, a selection of the most interesting options include:

  • Multiple choice questions – create flexible multiple choice questions.
  • Course Presentations – create a presentation with flexible slides.
  • Interactive Video – create videos with questions for your audience to answer as they are watching.
  • Drag and Drop – create drag and drop tasks with images.
  • Flashcards – create stylish and modern flashcards.
  • Agamotto (Image blender) – create a series of overlaid images which fade in and out over each other.

H5P takes you through setting up whichever type of content you choose, with varying degrees of success. Some content types are easier to get to grips with than others, though to mitigate some of this complexity there is an active community forum, whose members are more than willing to help experienced and new users alike. Of course in addition to this, our own elearn team offer training and assistance for staff who want to get to grips with H5P.

Each content type has pre-made examples for you to try out, this helps you visualise whether a certain content type fits what you are trying to accomplish, though as always we’ve found that the best way to explore all the options that H5P offers is to sign up for an account and have a have a go with the different tools yourself.

Whilst creating content on the H5P site is excellent for embedding it a variety of places, the Moodle integration is really good if you want to record the scores students get in each of the activities, as H5P will record them in the Moodle gradebook, using H5P from the website won’t do this.

It’s worth noting that you’ll find that the tools that are offered on the main H5P website may differ from those that are available in Moodle directly.

How could this app help me?

H5P is an excellent way to create new and interesting types of course content for students. It’s easy to get stuck creating the same sorts of activities for students over and over, so H5P offers a simple way to expand what you can offer students studying your course.

It’s also really useful for students who want to create website content for their projects really quickly and easily.

If you’d like some more information on H5P and what it can do for you, contact elearn and ask about our training programme.

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