Adventures in Technology Enhanced Learning @ UoP

Author: Tom Langston (Page 2 of 3)

Into the unknown – part 3

Digifest (#Digifest20) runs across 2 days and provides a wide range of thought provoking sessions to engage and challenge the audience. 

Day 2 started with a keynote from Hayley Mulenda (@hayleymulenda on Twitter) that was one of the most heartfelt and eye opening talks I have ever watched called “The Hidden Filter”. Hayley talked about her experiences at university, her journey through depression and anxiety. How she felt while having to deal with family and friends all the time maintaining the focus on her learning. This is something that I can not do justice to with my attempt to write about it now. Just to say that if you ever get a chance to hear her speak, I would take it. It will demonstrate how many students are facing challenges that (depending on your age and year of study) you may never have even considered. It equally demonstrated to me that there were times in my life where I was depressed and emotionally raw but not realising it because I was in the middle of the situation, it is only when I think back and reflect that I can see the damage I was doing to myself. 

She concluded her talk with the notion that we should not rely on technology in this ‘technology driven world’ (which has become an even bigger issue at the time of writing during the COVID lockdown). We now face an even greater challenge to support each other those who may be isolated, not only literally but figuratively. (I will provide some wellbeing support and guidance at the bottom of this blog for extra reading). It is with the “Hidden Filter” that Hayley addressed that our reliance on presenting a show of permanent strength and happiness in a digital world can ultimately lead to a rise in negative and harmful experiences in the “real” world. My favourite quote of her session was “You don’t need to listen to respond, you need to listen to understand”. 

The second day was just as inspiring as the first, with sessions covering a range of ideas, however the last one, I want to mention for this series of blogs is the one hosted by Michelle Capes and Sean Randall of the Wiltshire College and University Centre. This session was on digital escape rooms and demonstrated how you could use Microsoft OneNote to create pages of questions, restricted by passwords that require you to challenge your students and get them to investigate the material. Creating riddles and puzzles that can be discovered through online research as well as having to work around physical locations to find the information. 

During this session, I was inspired to look at how Moodle may be a potential option in creating ‘Digital Escape Rooms’. I found that it was possible to recreate using a Moodle book to house H5P activities that are all set with restrictions that require a set score from a previous question. It was a quick test I did during the presentation but with more work, the idea could be developed using a range of activities and conditions within Moodle that create more a more in depth experience. What it demonstrated to me was the idea that we are often limited by our own creativity and not the technical limitations. The OneNote option being demostrated was simple but very effective!

What I realised is that often we are all working on creative solutions to problems or have ideas that we don’t elaborate on and this can lead us to the point where we are not always great at sharing those ideas that we have. With that in mind, if you have worked on something in Moodle that is slightly more interesting, or have an idea that you are not sure what to do with, please do get in touch with myself, your Online Course Developer (many of whom have kindly written for the blog) or the TEL team, and we can discuss these ideas and potential solutions. 

To close this post and my experiences of DigiFest 2020, I would recommend to everyone that can attend this event in the future, they do! It is a fantastic example of creative minds and inspiring innovations that demonstrate learning and teaching within the FE and HE sector. It has made me think about things we should be looking at for our institution and what I can personally do to inspire others with the technology we have available. It demonstrated to me that there are more aspects to the life we lead within a university that we might miss from the students perspective (thanks @hayleymulenda). We traditionally work in silos a lot of the time, and it is an easy trap to fall into, but we should be looking at how best we can connect our work with others throughout the university. There is more we can offer, but we might not see the direct value elsewhere or how others might also be able to apply it to their subject. It is a very easy mindset to create, isolating ourselves and not sharing our work or innovations. Often this is not deliberate but just one factor in how we approach what we do in our daily working life. Digifest has shown me we should be singing each other’s praises and looking at ways to connect and integrate our best practice around the university and also what we can offer the wider community (be it learning and teaching practice or what we can offer others who might use our teaching ideas in the outside world). 

Guidance and Support for Wellbeing:

Into the unknown – part 2

Digifest (#digifest20) as a conference is awe inspiring, Jisc really know how to create that wow factor on entering the central auditorium. It was an area divided between trade stands, a village green and a futuristic stage. Next to it housed a massive screen that projected holographic messages signposting exhibits like AR, as well as when sessions were due to start. 

The first two sessions of Digifest were thought provoking and relevant to what we are all facing, a greater need to work online and provide a digital solution to our traditional working practices. Unsurprisingly enough, this is even more relevant now! Since I wrote part 1, we have gone through a seismic shift in learning and teaching, and had to adapt at a rapid pace to the new ways of working. 

This ties nicely to the third session that I attended called Digital Imposter Syndrome in Pracademia. We are all now facing a new way to interact with colleagues, students and our families. The fact that in the not so distant past, people would shy away from attempting new ways of using technology, yet are now being forced to change and adapt. This session had the perfect message for our current working environments. 

Just give it a go! It might fail. If it does … so what? 

We are a diverse community of practitioners and academics that are rallying, more than ever, to provide support and resources for each other and our students. 

The previous worry and the point I would have made, had I written this when Digifest was fresh in my mind, was that our students know more than us. That might well be true in certain technological areas, but actually, this is also a challenging time for them too. We are in a prime situation for students to give us their feedback, which can only benefit us and them in collaborating going forward.  This idea of digital support and digital co-creation is something that the TEL team are happy to discuss so please let us know if this is something you are doing or want to know more about (you can start with me or the general help email ).

At the time I made this tweet, it summed up nicely where we stand today. At the moment quick wins are the name of the game, being adaptable and using new tools to try something new. 

Back to the wider Digifest angle, and each session I attended, offered new and creative ideas for teaching. Harlow College provides their students with an iPad for their studies and with it they are creating digital scrapbooks to help with dementia patients in the community, writing and directing drama performances for the community around evocative subjects like cyber-bullying. It lets the students’ creativity flow through all their studies and is not fixed to traditional technical subjects. This is key when thinking that ‘they’ know more than we do. We, as academics, understand that the generations surrounding us have different skills to offer, and to ignore that is only going to slow innovation. If we develop why we want to use the technology and think about the pedagogic rationale, maybe the students can run with the theme and ideas and inspire us in how we work, assess and challenge our previous norms. 

Digifest was an amazing space to share ideas and hear about innovations in teaching that are surprisingly easy to implement. So far I have written only around day 1, day 2 was equally fruitful. The final blog post in the series will look at the highlights of day 2 and what we can do going forward with the enforced digital revolution that we are all now part of.

Into the unknown – part 1

Just like Elsa being called by unseen voices into an adventure as yet undefined (for those that don’t know, this is a reference to Frozen 2 and Elsa’s new and improved version of Let it go), Digifest 2020 or #digifest20, if you want to track it on social media, opens its doors and I step into the unknown, exciting event hosted by Jisc. Digifest is new to me, but to those that have been before it offers innovation, inspiration and opportunity. 

This two day conference that Jisc organise every year at the Birmingham ICC is a window into the latest ideas that help create and shape fantastic innovations in learning and teaching. 

The conference opened with, what would turn out to be, a controversial keynote from Jonah Stillman (@jonah.stillman on instagram), firstly outlining how the generations were categorised and then with a look into Gen Z and their approach to learning. It was an interesting insight into how Gen Z are not like the Millenials (who started in 1980!) and are being told they are winners and losers, it’s not about the taking part anymore, it’s about the winning. This, he argues, will be a potential hurdle through their learning and into the world of work as they are not able to collaborate (while admitting this was a wide generalisation). 

For me the biggest take away was that you can’t wow Gen Z with technology. They quickly investigate and analyse a tool and quickly decide if it is useful or redundant. Where the older generations would see themselves as technology inept and the problem is with them, the Gen Z learner sees it as a problem with the product and that it either works for them or doesn’t. 

We are all at that point where we have technology or using technology in some way as part of our lives, but for Gen Z there is the expectation it is there. It should be integrated and seamless to their experiences. Jonah Stillman expanded on this with the concept of Weconomists. The simplest example of this is Uber, but it is the shared economy. If you need something there will be someone available that can offer that service. How that fits educationally is going to be the next big sticking point. At worst we have the idea of buying essays, but how can we turn this into a positive? How can the shared economy of learning be expanded? 

For me it fits into the idea that was presented by Rachel Hall (@rachela_hall on Twitter) at the next panel “Changing the world of work in the digital age” and how The Guardian has focused their future on the digital output of their journalists. They have looked at how people access the news depending on the time of the day. Headlines in the morning, just short sharp bite sized pieces of information that people can choose to discover on their commute to work. At lunch a more in depth article that expands on their day while they have a larger chunk of time to be critical of the stories that hold the most interest to them. By the evening they are looking at more lighthearted content that relates to their social experiences and lifestyle. This for me presents one potential solution to the shared economy, where students can share their stories and knowledge. They each process that information differently but if they can help interpret that to their fellow learners they will adapt the material and help reframe learning in a way that makes it accessible to everyone. 

Just from the two opening sessions of this year’s Digifest, I feel inspired to think about my own practice and how as an educator I am trying to predict what is going to be useful for students in their learning. I am now more aware than ever that I am using technology in such a different way to that of the students at the university. The change we are seeing should not be seen as a problem. It should be seen as an opportunity, while we are taking a step into the unknown (just like Elsa!). We can take the challenge and channel our current students desire to learn and look at how we facilitate that desire in a way that may not be comfortable to us. 

Stay tuned for Part 2, when I will focus on academics who are facing this challenge of a student body that potentially knows more than they do in terms of technology!

All the notes taken at #digifest20 can be found on Twitter @TelPortsmouth

Peermark – a tool for group feedback.

Recently Coventry University released a new plugin for Moodle around the idea of group and peer feedback. A colleague highlighted the new tool to me and at first glance I thought it looked like a promising solution to one of the requirements many academics have while running group work: the ability for students to score the contribution of individuals within the group and provide either public or anonymous feedback to group members.

Currently Moodle provides various options to support group work and peer learning, because Moodle HQ realises that these approaches hold an important place in the arsenal of many academics. Firstly, Moodle provides a generic framework for creating groups – these can then be allocated to an activity (such as discussion boards, wikis or group assignment submissions).

Secondly, and with a greater focus on the use of peer learning, Moodle provides the Workshop tool.

While groups can be Moodle Workshop screenshotadded and used within the Workshop, the idea is predominantly that students add a submission. The submission is then allocated to a specified number of their peers, who then grade and provide feedback on it.

If you haven’t used the Workshop tool in anger, here is a quick overview of how to use it as a peer-assessment tool:

  1. All students submit their work (traditionally this will be an essay, but it could be work in some other format).
  2. The work is allocated to the other students. This can be scheduled and automated if required.
  3. Every student marks the assessments they have been given (academics can also provide feedback, although this is not a requirement).
  4. Each student receives a final grade for the submission and a grade for their ability to assess the work (academics can overwrite grades should they feel the process has proven unfair).

This tool provides students a fantastic opportunity to reflect on their own writing and work while comparing it to that of their peers. However, it does not allow for a group to provide anonymous feedback to their peers on projects. To do this academics currently have to find solutions outside of Moodle. The most notable option for this is TeamMates. TeamMates allows groups to feedback on the overall project work and then score the engagement of the rest of the team throughout the project.

We now have a new Moodle-based solution! Peerwork, created by Coventry University, is an integration with Moodle that provides a peer feedback option for group work. You can learn more about this approach from the video they have produced:

While working through Peermark, I was really impressed with its simplicity of set-up and use. I created the framework as an academic, but also completed the process as a student. Using multiple test accounts, I was able to understand how the process would work from both sides and see how you can adjust the overall grade given to a group though the peer reviews on the work.

The only criticism was really just my understanding of what the tool did (so not really a criticism of the system). When I uploaded a document as a student it cascaded it to each other members of the group. Each student does not need to upload a file, it is targeting the students for feedback on their peers and how the group worked throughout a project. The upload was almost a secondary consideration to the process.

Peermark is not the Workshop reimagined. They are two very different tools that serve a specific purpose.

The Workshop facilitates a student writing a piece of work, submitting it and other students provide feedback and evaluation of that work.

Peermark allows groups to discuss, rank and analyse how the entire team worked together over the course of the project. The work is created by the team for evaluation by the academic but the feedback given by the group on each other member will directly affect the shared grade of the team.

Peermark is currently on a test installation of Moodle.

If you would like a demonstration to see whether it would fit your need, please contact

Image taken from Unsplash :John Schnobrich
John Schnobrich

Moodle 3.7 – New Features

Each year, over the summer, the University upgrades Moodle to ensure staff and students have access to all the new features and fixes.

In this post I’ll give an outline of the new features in Moodle 3.7 that are most relevant to the University.

  • New Theme updates.

The new theme provides a new look to the dashboard. The courses are displayed by default in ‘card’ view. This can be changed in the drop down menu to either a list or summary view. Courses/Modules can be starred and filtered so that the most frequently used ones are easily accessible. The Timeline block on the dashboard page shows upcoming events from all your sites. This can be demonstrated by viewing the Moodle tour. Reset a tour by clicking the icon at the top of a page. Tour Icon

There is now an in-line reply box, making it quicker to respond to a post. Important discussions can be ‘starred’ at an individual level. This will sort your favourite posts to the top of your list (under any pinned posts). Discussions can also be sorted by reply, latest post or creation date.

There is a new personal messaging space, that allows conversation between users. Conversations can be ‘starred’ and filtered according to importance. The tool also allows for live chat to take place similar to GChat in Google.

When undertaking a quiz, the student is able to clear their choice and change their answer.

If a page has been hidden in a book, it will now display to an academic even with editing turned off. It will appear greyed out, showing that it is not visible to a student.


Wikipedia – A positive force for learning

Wikipedia is in the crosshairs for many academics – but is it worthy of a student’s time? There is a concern over the academic relevance of websites that are available for the world to edit, as they may not be completely factually accurate.

Wikipedia understands its failings and has implemented the Wiki Education Foundation that is designed to combat misinformation. It is staffed by volunteer editors that help maintain the integrity of the stories and facts presented on the website. Episode 14 of Reply All (14 mins 37 seconds in) looks at one of the people who work hard to change just a small part of something on Wikipedia on a daily basis.

On the 22nd February 2017, an article was published on the NPR website ( entitled What Students Can Learn By Writing for Wikipedia . I found it a very creative and a useful insight into changing the assessments in which students take part in.

To summarise the article, it suggests that a student becomes an editor of Wikipedia. They choose their subject, research it and add it to the already developed pages of Wikipedia. The findings from the academics already employing Wikipedia as a means of assessment, have found that students engage at a more in-depth level because “they feel there is a higher stake than the difference between a B and an A-minus”. The fact that an article has the potential to be read by millions of people globally gives  students a real reason to do well at the task.

The article concludes that while Wikipedia can be a positive force for student development, it should still be held as a starting point to any research (especially at a university level) and never as ‘a footnoted source’.  With this in mind, getting a student to actively participate in learning activities can be a problem for many academics. Students often ask, “Is this part of the assessment?” or “Why do I need to do this?”. When using Wikipedia as part of a summative assessment, it seems to engage students in a way that more traditional assessments may not.

The workflow that students would be engaging with is very different to that of the traditional written essay. The framework that Wikipedia provides is open and offers public scrutiny. All those involved in Wikipedia are taking part and collaborating and checking the information for relevance and suitability. This appears to develop the students’ sense of pride and achievement in their work, and offers no place to hide. Rushing the essay or using quickly researched and poorly checked sources becomes much harder to do. There is no using Wikipedia to quickly paraphrase sections that are to be part of the essay; you are contributing to the narrative that Wikipedia provides.

Empowering a student into the traditional research methods of using ‘actual books’ (obviously there is now the world of an e-book but the principal is still the same). Checking internet hearsay for facts and truth, perception of a specific reality in the ever-changing nature of the world. Some parts of Wikipedia have been written and are essentially ‘finished’. Certain points in history are now not going to change drastically (although the interpretation of facts and data can heavily influence how the narrative of events is told). There is a wealth of knowledge and information pouring from our computer screens that needs to be verified, researched and potentially debunked or praised as genuine truth.

A geographer at the University of Portsmouth has been doing just this with his first-year students and in 2014 won the UK Educational Institution of the Year award, presented by Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales. Professor Humphrey Southall assigned his students a very small and limited Wikipedia entry for an English village (outside of the Portsmouth physical boundaries), which the students then had to research digitally. They were unable to use Wikipedia and had to focus their research on other institutions and organisations. The assignment required them to write a 1000-word entry on the location. A fine example is the entry for Sawley in South Yorkshire that now provides a comprehensive look at the village.

Throughout this style of assessment the students are developing key research skills which they can take into their second and third years. Providing them with a strong research ethic for their future projects.

Echoing the opening of the NPR article, we are surrounded by ‘fake’ and invented news at worst or just poor journalistic standards at best. Wikipedia is attempting to tighten its own editorial process and hold the content of the site to a higher standard. This can only ever be a good thing for those starting research, but the bottom line is always to remember that Wikipedia can be edited by anyone. It may be the first website you visit when starting research, but it should not be your final source of information.Wikipedia is best used as a stepping stone to both online and offline literature, and even better a starting point for creating a different style of assessment.

Image courtesy of :

Edwin Andrade

Copyright for a Digital Age

Copyright is a complex subject. It is also not a particularly exciting subject. It is, however, an important subject. In this post I am going to break it down into three sections that will hopefully get you to understand a little bit about why we all need to worry about copyright material. The three questions are:

  1. Why should I bother with copyright?
  2. What am I really after?
  3. How can I achieve my aims while adhering to the rules?

Firstly, before I answer these questions, I’d like to direct your attention to David Sherren’s article on copyright. David is the University copyright guru and should be able to offer advice and guidance for all specific questions on the subject. So onto the first question.

  1. Why should I bother with copyright?

I can think of at least two good answers. Firstly, how would you like it if someone stole from you and infringed your copyright? Secondly, there’s a chance of suffering financial loss.

A. How would you like it?

Suppose you have worked hard on something (an article, a piece of creative writing or audio/visual project perhaps) or you have simply uploaded a photo onto a social media platform. That piece of work is yours. If someone takes your work and uses it without permission, that would surely strike you as a little unfair. What if they then made money from your source materia

B. Financial loss.

If you take other’s work and use it the original authors might consider themselves entitled to payment for the reproduction of their work. Many times I hear the response “but it’s for educational purposes”. This argument only holds true in a limited number of situations and areas. The problem comes down to the wording of “educational use”. Education use generally allows any image to be used as part of a lecture or seminar; however, if the image is in a PowerPoint presentation that is then placed into Moodle or the web as a file (native or PDF) then this is classed as distribution and is no longer covered by the educational licence. This is a terribly grey area, as the British Library highlight with their explanation of fair use of works.

A statutory definition for fair dealing does not exist; it will always be a matter of fact, degree and interpretation in every fair use case. Nor is there a percentage or quantitative measure to determine fair dealing.”

Essentially, as the user responsible for infringing copyright, would you take the risk of being the person financially liable for infringement?

For further information around real-world copyright cases and why it is important to maintain copyright please refer to the cases listed below.

  1.  German school sued for copyright
  2.  5 Famous copyright infringement cases
  3.  List of copyright cases
  4.  Exceptions to copyright within education
  5.  Further details on fair use of copyright material

2. What am I really after?

When I run my training session on copyright I pose the question of specificity: how specific does your search need to be? If you are really after a particular photo from the Pontiac Correctional Center 1978 riot then you might be unable to find something that is copyright cleared. However, if you really just need a photo to illustrate the police or a prison maybe even the situation following a riot these can all be found using a Creative Commons or royalty free image database.

      3. How can I achieve my aims while adhering to the rules?

This can be a tricky question. I suggest that the first step is just to ask yourself: “Should I really be using this resource?” If you are unsure of the answer then contact myself or, for a more comprehensive answer, David Sherren. We will attempt to clarify if you are able to use the material. It helps if you can provide us with all the information of where, when, and how you acquired the material.

Tips on copyright

  • Keep a Google Drive folder that contains all of the material and as Spreadsheet with all the information needed to demonstrate the nature of the copyright.
  • Use a search facility that provides royalty free and copyright clear material. (Flickr, Unsplash and Creative Commons) Remember to filter Flickr searches to be creative commons otherwise some of the images may not be royalty free and infringing someone else’s work.
  • Linking to material directly rather than downloading it.
  • Refer to the Library materials on copyright.
  • Refer to the Library catalogue for relevant databases of useable material.
  • Find legitimate streaming services for streaming TV programs.
  • Remember, there are a lot of myths that need debunking around copyright.
  • If you have an image that you are trying to find the source for, use something like TinEye.
  • If you are ever unsure – just ask.

Image credit.

Luana Azevedo

Scenario Based Learning

What is scenario based learning?

Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger, in their influential book Situated Learning (Lave and Wenger, 1991) argued that learning is most effective when it occurs within the context in which it is going to be used. Scenario based learning (SBL) is rooted in this idea. SBL, according to the definition provided by Massey University, “uses interactive scenarios to support active learning strategies such as problem-based and case-based learning”. The course developer creates a narrative – typically based on a complex, real-world problem – that the student works through and solves. SBL thus provides a safe yet realistic environment for the student to demonstrate their subject-specific knowledge and problem-solving skills. Furthermore, because SBL is often non-linear, it can provide numerous feedback opportunities to students, based on the decisions they make at each stage of the narrative.

I’m a course developer. When should I use scenario based learning?

Sometimes – in cases, for example, where students are required to make decisions and display critical thinking in complex situations – it can be difficult to provide realistic practice opportunities within the confines of a traditional course. In these cases, SBL comes into its own. Amongst countless other examples, SBL has been used successfully in engineering, nursing and business studies. It can be used to support both formative and summative assessment – but note that, for routine tasks that don’t require decision-making or critical thinking, there are more appropriate methods of assessment.

What tools can help me develop scenario based learning?

Moodle contains several tools that can be used to develop an SBL approach. The four tools I’d suggest can be used to build a learning narrative are: Database, Workshop, Forum and Lesson. (This is only a suggestion. The most important thing is to connect various activities and reinforce student learning.)

Below is one model that would permit the assessment process to become a wider, more holistic approach over the duration of a course. A range of short, targeted activities would give the students time to research their next task and help them develop their own learning profile.

Database -> Workshop -> Forum -> Lesson

  1. The student writes a short essay, based on their own experiences relating to a given task, and submits to the Database tool. Then, from these submissions, the academic allocates each student a different piece of work to mark/analyse.
  2. After assessing their assigned piece of work, each student submits their analysis to the Workshop tool (following criteria defined by the academic). The Workshop tool allows students to peer assess the submissions and get a final grade based on both their submission and their ability to assess others’ work.
  3. Once all this is finished, the Forum is used to get the students to discuss their experiences of the subject and how they could each improve certain aspects of their work.
  4. Lastly, the Lesson tool presents a high-risk situation to the student. The lesson can be developed to provide a realistic yet safe environment to explore the situation. The Lesson tool allows for either a branching or a linear format.

Each phase offers the student the chance to reflect on what they have learned and offers them ideas on what they should now do with the new information and theory they have researched as part of the unit.

These various elements could be done one straight after the other, or spaced out over the course of a unit. My recommendation would be to allow time between each assessment, which would give students the chance to develop and learn from what they have previously done.

If you are considering SBL as a means of assessment but would like to have a discussion about how you can implement within your teaching the TEL team runs a training session called “Facilitating Scenario Based Learning” or you can contact me


Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991) Situated Learning. Cambridge: CUP.

Image credits: Photo by Fancycrave on Unsplash


New Features of Moodle 3.5

Each year, over the summer, the University upgrades Moodle to ensure staff and students have access to all the new features and fixes.

This year there has been a big improvement to the look and feel of Moodle, and a new theme has been put in place. You can read about that work here:

New Moodle theme

In this post I’ll give an outline of the new features in Moodle 3.5 that are most relevant to the University.

Using icons from Font Awesome provides clearer accessible icons.

Anywhere you have the Atto editor you’ll find two new icons (Microphone and Webcam) that allow you to quickly and easily record up to two minutes of audio or video directly into the section you are developing.

This update allows you to share the results of the choice with the students. It can be set up so that the results are available at a specified time and you can decide whether the results are anonymous.

If you are using badges as a reward system within a module, you now have the ability to release a badge depending on the completion of other badges. As you can see from the image in the link above, the three basic badges are: “Super Staters”, “Marvellous Mains” and “Delicious Desserts”. When these are finished the overall category badge called “Vegetarian Cook” is awarded.

Questions can now be tagged. This means a question may sit within one category but be tagged with key terms that could cross over to other categories. The question is then searchable from with the parent category according to any given tag.

  • Essay questions within a quiz – restrictions on file types

Should a file be uploaded to an essay question within a quiz, a range of options are available to define which file types may or may not be allowed.


Some thoughts on Nearpod

Nearpod is a service that uses audience interaction during presentations to enhance almost any form of teaching.

Before we get into why I like Nearpod, I’d like to point out that I am not employed by Nearpod, I have no affiliation with them, I just really like their product! It’s easy to talk positively about something that you actually believe has benefits.

Nearpod is fantastic at changing the focus of a presentation from a big screen at the front of a room, to that of the person presenting and, of course, the device you have in front of you. The presenter can become a part of the audience, moving around the room and engaging specific members of the audience the room, but at the same time lead and direct the session without being tied to a PC at the front of the class.

Nearpod has 4 licences that start at nothing for a Silver licence right up to a District licence for larger organisations.

pricing structure





Taken from

There is an increase in connections and file storage between each level. I think that the basic interactions on the Silver licence are great for getting information from students and making the class interactive.

The basic features that the Silver licence offers are:

  • Text fill response box
  • Quizzes
  • Poll
  • Draw tool

The Premium features that are available with the Gold licence, and above, allow for:

  • Embedding video and web content
  • Game interactions
  • Allowing note taking on each slide for the student (School licence)

If you can’t see the Nearpod presentation below, please check for any ad or pop up blockers that may stop it displaying.

The Nearpod presentation above started life as a set of standard PowerPoint slides,  which I have then added some interactivity too. In this case, the slide’s interaction adds a collection of images and then I have added a question. Adding questions throughout the presentation allows the presenter to get information about the class; this could be good to gauge how well the audience has understood the lesson so far. It also contains BBC Worldwide content that is accessible directly within Nearpod as well as the ability to embed a live webpage within the presentation and a poll to gain feedback from the audience.

The more expensive licences allow you to set ‘homework’, which provides a version of the presentation to the audience to access outside of the classroom. They can then look through it at their own pace, either before the class, so they are prepared for the lesson ahead, or afterwards.  The presentation that has been embedded in this article has been done using the homework mode feature. It can be added directly within a VLE or a link given to be emailed to the student.

Nearpod also has a marketplace where you can purchase a range of presentations on a variety of topics. Whilst this is a nice addition, many of the materials are aimed at younger children and are therefore not directly appropriate for HE level education. Additionally, much of the content is provided for the North American market so you may not have a huge amount of ready-made content to choose from.

Sometimes, students get embarrassed when they don’t understand a concept or aspect of a lesson and everyone else seems to. It’s happened to me, and it’s probably happened to you. Using Nearpod for audience response could remove some of that worry. Audience responses are anonymous to all but the person presenting – the presenter can focus on improving that person’s knowledge, without bringing it up in front of the whole class.

For all the great features that Nearpod offers, there are a few negatives to the system that some of the academics have reported, for example:

  1. Students can feel “over Nearpoded”
  2. Transferring an existing PowerPoint presentation directly into Nearpod, then adding interactions, can dramatically extend the length of your teaching session

So to the first point. Some academics have said that if you turn every lecture into a Nearpod session, the students start to lose interest in the interactions. This can also be the case when too many are added to one session. The drop off of the initial engagement can be high and you lose their desire to be part of the process.  A few interactions per session inside of a “normal” PowerPoint seems to be the best plan until you find what works for you and your teaching using the software. The other initial workflow might be that not every session needs to be delivered in that manner if you are finding this issue.

The second point relates to the first in as much as it’s not a good idea to take existing PowerPoint presentations, add them into Nearpod and then add further interactions. Academics that have tried this so far have run out of time to deliver the entire lecture. Interactions add time to the normal flow of the lecture and while they are useful tools, it will take a rethink of the content you are trying to deliver in each session. It is a good excuse to look at older PowerPoints and think about how they can be improved either inside or outside of Nearpod. An addition to this is that Nearpod now allows you to continue a previous session using the same code for a period of 14 days after the first presentation. This means if you are tight for time you can carry on where you left off next time around.

The system has maintained a high user base within the University. However, be aware that if the student experience is not monitored it can affect an individuals feelings towards the system and process, which may taint the continued engagement with the product.

If you are curious about Nearpod, I would suggest you sign up for an account and have a go yourself. Give the free version a try and you may even find that it alone will be enough to suit your needs. Within the University we have access to the full licence so please email to be added to the account.

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