Adventures in Technology Enhanced Learning @ UoP

Author: Ankur Shah

Guest Blogger: Ankur Shah – Are we ready to deliver Online Learning?


With COVID-19, teaching delivery has had an impact across the higher education sector. With the unknown of lockdown being lifted, higher education across the UK faces a challenge of delivering courses online for the new academic year. This post considers options, suggestions from the University of Portsmouth perspective and identifies how the university can be ready to deliver online teaching.


Everyone across the university had to change the way they deliver teaching when the lockdown or closure of university premises was implemented. Academic members have had to not only figure out what technology to use, but have also needed to think about how the technology they use fits in with the pedagogy for their modules.

The second challenge was to think about the implications on  assessments and exams and how they would be conducted online.

There was a requirement to provide essential training or tools to our academic colleagues for delivering teaching online and also a concern over student engagement due to the suspension of face to face teaching.

How did we overcome the challenges?

BAL Staff Help Pages

In order to ensure teaching can be delivered and support can be provided to both staff/students, there was an initiative to design a one stop support page defining all the necessary tools, technology and pedagogical approaches academics can use to deliver their teaching. We directed staff to our faculty support page and also TEL’s elearning tool site. Within our faculty we started email communication everyday highlighting key tools/technology and training guidance to academic members to make this period as smooth as possible for them. 

There was also constant communication with the students on a regular basis to reassure them in this pandemic period. Support teams across the university worked really hard to ensure that staff/students can access the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) Moodle without any issues.

From an academic perspective there were some very good practices noticed within our faculty in terms of using the technology to integrate with the pedagogy of learning. Recording tools (Camtasia, Screencastify, PowerPoint Recording) were used extensively to create short recordings followed by longer ones for the lecture/seminar – examples can be found on the BAL Good Examples – Modules on Moodle. Video conferencing applications (Webex and Google Meet) were used in high demand to conduct live sessions, record student presentations for assessments, seminars etc.

Looking forward

Being the uncertainty of the country, due to COVID-19, no one knows when face-to-face teaching will resume and there are plans for the university to consider delivering online teaching for the new academic year.

If we look back on how the university approached this before Easter when the lockdown was implemented, we can argue that quite a lot of things were done on the fly such as using Google meet for sessions, recording using Powerpoint recorder if no access to Camtasia or recording software, or finding other tools that are not supported but still did the job in terms of delivering teaching.

However going forward this can’t be the case, for the new academic year if the plan is to deliver online teaching then we need to consider the following…

  1. A robust lecture capture solution with the capability of captioning to ensure recordings are fit from the accessibility side of things as well (this can be beneficial for distance learning and on campus delivery).
  2. Provide essential training to academic members to deliver their teaching smoothly.
  3. Identify the preferred application to deliver live sessions that can integrate easily with Moodle (Webex or Google Meet). 
  4. Implement a standard structure across Moodle pages to keep consistency.
  5. Identify how students engage with the content on Moodle pages (i.e. thinking about specifying time a student might require to complete an activity or read an resource).
  6. With regards to online submissions of coursework, have a standard deadline time across the university.
  7. Consider the communication channel you will use with the students (emails, forums on Moodle, video chat etc.).
  8. Think about how attendance can be monitored during the interim period of online teaching.
  9. Ensure all the materials uploaded on Moodle pages are easily accessible for the students.


Based on the consideration made above and also from experience, the university needs to take action on this rapidly, as there is less time to act on the changes mentioned above. Once the academic year starts, students attending, whether on or off campus, will have expectations to get value for their money. There is also a potential expectation on a lecturer to design their materials fit for online, so stating the requirements to them as early as possible could prove beneficial.

Ankur Shah

Ankuh working remotely.

Credit image: Photo by

Guest Blogger: Ankur Shah – Moodle Module Test (MOT)

How to ensure your Moodle pages are consistent and easy to access for student


Within the Faculty of Business and Law there has always been a push for implementing a consistent approach for the Moodle pages that students use for assessing their learning materials.

Current approach

Over the years, we have put in place, design and navigation standards document which informs academics on the approach they need to take for their Moodle pages. Overall,  this has been a beneficial exercise as it has provided academics to gauge an understanding of what is considered as best practice, however the long term goal is to ensure that consistency across the Moodle pages is maintained year on year.

Hightlighed words and key paragraphs

The first block that you see on a module page in Moodle is a Baseline which is 5 tabs which supply information about the moduleMoodle Announcement & Q&A discussion board

Here’s the link to the page: BAL Best Practice

What is on the horizon?

One of the key points to take out from the 2030 vision, and also from the new strategy, is the push towards innovation through digital technologies and the learning environment can be crucial for this. Hence, having a process in place that can work as the enabler for this within the faculty and across the university is essential.

Moodle Module Test (MOT)

The Moodle Module Test (MOT) process is designed to inform and allow academics to rate their module pages in the form of a traffic light system. In order to make the process more robust, the initial proposal is to undertake the module MOT via subject group meetings, and face-to-face consultations. As that will allow us to gather feedback in terms of what works and what doesn’t work.

We have also assembled a checklist and guidance on hand for academics, that can help them rate their module using the traffic lights (from red to green)

A diagram showing the traffic light system and what actions are required to get a green light

What is involved and how long will the MOT take?

As this is a new process to encourage best practice in the faculty and potentially across the University, the plan is to conduct this exercise by my team first and consult academics based on the findings we have acquired for their respective module. The aim is to respond back within a working week with the rating and additional notes to advise academics on the steps forward.

How often will the MOT be conducted?

In order to implement a consistent approach and also help the faculty in adopting a best practice approach towards online learning, the recommendation is to carry out this exercise quarterly with the respective academic to ensure they are improving on the suggestions made to have consistency on their module. This will allow academics and us in the faculty to understand what are the key areas that need more attention and help in making a leaner approach.

If you would like to discuss more about this or any other Moodle related issues, please email

Credit Image: Photo by Harshal Desai on Unsplash 

Guest Blogger: Ankur Shah – How to engage students with interactive presentations

Ankur Shah
Technical Manager – Faculty of Business and Law (BAL), UoP

Tech vs Powerpoint

Over the years within Higher Education we have seen many applications and tools introduced that have had an impact on how students engage in a seminar or a lecture session. For academics every year this is a new challenge, not only to keep the content of teaching fresh, but also to try to make it interactive in way that will engage more students.

Now, any academic could argue that the best way to deliver a session is just to have a set of Powerpoint slides projected in the lecture or seminar room, where the students would also have a copy of the same in the form of printed material to make any necessary notes. We could argue that in the 21st century and in an age where digital learning is a key to gauge a student’s understanding on the topic taught, it has kind of become necessary to make presentations more interactive using a range of tools to make that change easy for academics.

How can an academic go about this?

There are many tools that can enable an academic to make their presentations more interactive with minimal effort To list a few:

  1. Prezi – this allows you to add motion, zoom and also gives an option to spatial relationships, for this you have to design a presentation within this tool
  2. NearPod – this allows you to add quizzes, flashcards, videos, polls etc to your existing Powerpoint slides – the University has a license for this tool
  3. Studio 360 within the Articulate suite – this is a tool that allows a user to design interactive presentations in a way where students cannot proceed to the next section without meeting the requirements set and also gives the user an option to c import into Moodle

With the changing technology, the above tools are not set in stone, but are what I would recommend to start with when using these advanced tools. But for this blog I will be looking at Nearpod, as that is something I worked on with an academic to get their presentation slides more interactive.

Why Nearpod?

I recently had an academic wanting to ‘up’ the way in which he delivers his presentations so that his students are more engaged in the session – as sometimes delivering a session on rather dry topics can be a bit boring, but just adding an interactive element can liven things up.

So, as the academic wanted to use a tool as simple as possible and in a short space of time, I suggested using Nearpod.The good part of Nearpod is you don’t have to work on multiple presentations, instead you can just upload  your Powerpoint slides to Nearpod and then within an app or web version you can add different elements to your slides.

The other good part of Nearpod is that the instructor will have full control over their slides and students can only begin the session if they are given the access code. This also allows the instructor to add if needed, polls or quizzes in-between the sessions to test how students are engaging with it.

Nearpod also gives the option to instructors for making their Powerpoint presentations available with the interactivity with the student-paced option. With this option instructors can just give the code to the students for their slides and then students can go through these according to their requirements and also use it for revision purposes.

The session was conducted with around 160 students in a lecture theatre where there were no problems – all the students logged-in fine and also the session had more engagement compared to the previous week. Some students even asked to have more sessions like this as it was helping them understand the concept or topic very well.

Other options that Nearpod offers are:

  1. Virtual Reality – you can have an image and the students can interact with the image in a Virtual mode, within the app
  2. Simulation activity
  3. Drawing questions – this allows students to draw using the tools available in Nearpod
  4. Open Ended questions
  5. Polls and many more

Finally, to wrap this post I am not suggesting that Nearpod is the only tool that can help with student engagement or make your slides interactive, but it is a tool which is easy to use compared to others already available in the University, and is certainly the one which works on all smart devices. Along with that it also offers various different things you can add to your existing Powerpoint slides and also it allows you to track your student progress. I would like to say anyone who is interested in knowing more about this tool, or any other tool, to please email and we will be happy to help you with your request.

Image credits: Photo by Lilly Rum on Unsplash

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