Adventures in Technology Enhanced Learning @ UoP

Tag: academic

S02E03 – Aron Truss – BAL Digital

S02E03 - Aron Truss - BAL Digital

In the third episode of Season 2 of the TEL Tales podcast, we discuss with Aron Truss the BAL Digital team at Portsmouth University.  Aron speaks about the work his team does in the faculty of Buisness and Law and discusses the importance of building trust with academic staff to try new teaching technologies.  Aron speaks about the impact of the pandemic on teaching and learning and how the team are breaking down barriers in teaching and learning with digital technology.  Below are links to some of the resources that Aron spoke about within this podcast… 

BAL Digital site –

Rapidmooc –

Got a story to share? If you’d like to appear on the podcast, please do get in touch with us via our social media channels.

You can subscribe to the TEL Tales podcasts on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or listen directly through the TEL Tales website

Original audio created by Chris Wood for use with the TEL Tales podcast. 

Guest Bloggers: Julian Ingles & Stuart Sims – RISE Online Student Journal

We’re pleased to announce the launch of RISE, a new online journal to showcase students’ work. RISE has been developed as a platform for publishing and sharing the exciting work of our students, from all disciplines, with a wider audience. 

Across the University, our students are engaged in exciting and innovative work, which ranges from disciplinary research as part of their course to their own artistic and creative endeavours. Our editorial team is keen to showcase these efforts (their work?). Particularly during the pandemic, when opportunities for students to feel as if they belong to a learning community might be few and far between, RISE provides a platform for sharing and engaging with others.

There are many benefits for students in getting their work published. Not least of which is to have your achievements celebrated in a public forum. RISE is designed to showcase what our students are doing so that it goes beyond the world of assessment and is appreciated by everyone at the University. 

While we’re open to a range of different media and formats for publication, in terms of research, there is an imperative to disseminate original work: 

“Every university graduate should understand that no idea is fully formed until it can be communicated and that the organisation required for writing and speaking is part of the thought process that enables one to understand material fully. Dissemination of results is an essential and integral part of the research process.” (Boyer Commission, 1998:24 in Walkington, 2015)

Most students’ research at the taught level ends in assessment; students are therefore missing out on a key aspect of developing as a researcher. This is an opportunity for students to experience disseminating their work, exposing them to the processes of academic publication as well as the wider attention and scrutiny that this brings. At the very least, it is an interesting line on the CV for anyone to say they were published in the University journal!

Four boxes setting out the ways taking part in the RISE Journal offers opportunities. The under them a paragraph showing how it meets the Portsmouth Hallmarks

Our website gives further guidance on how and what students can submit. If you teach undergraduate or taught postgraduate students, please share this with them. If you are aware of particular students who have done an interesting piece of original work, please recommend they publish with us or contact the RISE team to discuss – we’d love to hear about it. We are very open to creative, interactive and original pieces as well as written articles.

The current deadline for submissions is May 14th, 2021 at 5 pm. Please send any queries to

Guest Blogger: Catherine Murgatroyd – Introduction to Tel Tales

Hello, my name is Catherine Murgatroyd (SFHEA) and I am delighted to occupy the post of Principle Lecturer for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion within Academic Development. I would describe myself as a socially progressive, not quite perfect vegan who enjoys fitness, sunshine and my 2 pet cats.

I have arrived at UoP after 4 years at the University of Winchester where I was a Programme Lead for the BSc Social Work and equally undertook a range of activities with diverse programme teams to ensure that social justice and sustainability were prominent themes within socially responsible education.

Prior to this I enjoyed a career in Social Work which very much centred around social justice, tackling inequality, and championing human rights whether that was in the criminal justice system, safeguarding children or statutory quality assurance.

Behind my friendly exterior I spend a large part of my waking life somewhat outraged by widening global inequalities which motivates me to take any action I can, personally and professionally, to tackle this. I believe that equality of opportunity and a more equal society benefits everyone and that by confronting structural barriers head on we can effect change. Universities are well placed to tackle social inequality and to take action to mitigate structural disadvantage that impacts upon students’ participation and progression. It is a real privilege to be able to target my passion for social justice towards accessible, inclusive and supportive education that is co-created, diverse and decolonised, and affords all students the opportunity to succeed. One strand of my role will be focusing on reducing awarding gaps across the student body so that all students embody ambition and meet their full potential.

Starting a new job in the midst of a pandemic has felt quite surreal at times, but I am grateful for the fantastic welcome and support given by everyone I have encountered so far.

Please do contact me to find out more or to introduce yourself and say Hi.

Credit Image: Photo by Matteo Paganelli on Unsplash

Guest Blogger: Emma Cripps – Digital Resources for Research Students

Hi! My name is Emma Cripps and I am the eLearning Coordinator in the Graduate School. When asking a colleague what I should write my first TEL Tales blog post about, the response was “something you are interested in”. There are a lot of aspects of my job that interest me, but at the moment there is one topic that I am particularly focussed on – the way in which online learning resources are created. 

Having worked with undergraduate, and some postgraduate taught courses for over 8 years, my move to the Graduate School in 2019 required me to approach online learning from a completely different viewpoint. Having previously worked with academics to develop online resources that mostly supplemented face-to-face courses, I am now presented with the challenge of creating fully online, standalone, self-paced learning modules. The Graduate School, through the Graduate School Development Programme (GSDP), usually delivers over 150 face-to-face workshops a year that support postgraduate research (PGR) students at key doctoral milestones, helping them to become independent researchers and employable graduates. Part of my role is to develop some of these face-to-face workshops into online learning modules, that any PGR student can complete at any given time. Whilst to some, this type of online content may be seen as more suitable for distance learners, the content I create is intended for all research degree students. The most popular workshops we run as part of the GSDP can be repeated up to five times in any given academic year, but for students who are busy undertaking research, working on their personal and professional development, teaching, and trying to maintain their wellbeing, along with any of the other daily tasks required of them, it can be difficult for them to commit to attending one of these workshops. And, given the current situation, the online versions of our workshops are now crucially important to our PGR students.

Online resources, now more than ever, play such a huge role in research students’ development. The ability to log on at any time, from anywhere (with an internet connection) and choose what it is they want to learn, allows research students the flexibility to fit their development around their other commitments. With this idea underpinning the work I do, I have not only continued to develop our online workshops, but have worked with colleagues in the Graduate School to curate resources from many different sources, such as LinkedIn Learning, Future Learn, SAGE Research Methods and many more, to ensure that every topic we cover in our face-to-face workshops has at a minimum, one good quality online resource. However, online resources may not always be full workshops or additional resources from other providers. Within the Graduate, we have been able to record aspects of some of our workshops, which we have been doing for over 4 years now, and provide these, along with additional resources from the face-to-face workshops via our Moodle sites. This results in our online provision being quite varied, engaging, and interesting for PGR students.

When thinking about the content I create, manage and recommend to PGR students, I have always used the following considerations as my starting point. In the current situation, and knowing that I will need to develop even more online resources in the future, I believe these are still some of the best questions to ask at the outset when developing online content: 

  1. Is the content actually needed?
    What is it that I am looking to develop, and is it suitable to be created in an online format? Is there an alternative option that already exists, and if there is, does it meet the learning outcomes, the students’ needs, and is it a high-quality resource? There are some workshops that we would not develop into an online format, such as our “Mini Motivation Boost” workshop. This workshop aims to give PGR students some space and time to reflect on their journey so far, and with the support of the workshop tutor, and other PGR students, consider strategies to get back on track with their research. This workshop works so well because of the interaction between research students, their ability to share their challenges, and discuss ways in which they can overcome them. Unfortunately, this would be particularly difficult to capture as an online learning course, and would not give students the same, supportive experience. Going forward, we would look to deliver this type of session as a live, or synchronous, session, but with additional resources to support it, such as a toolkit of resources, Apps, activities and ways to keep in touch that participants can access alongside the synchronous session.

  2. Is the content accessible?
    The next thing I have to consider is the accessibility of the content I am creating or recommending. I recently participated in a webinar hosted by a large North American company who provide software that’s used to create digital artefacts. The title of the webinar was something along the lines of “creative ways to turn PowerPoints into online courses”. Great! A lot of the content I work with starts off as a PowerPoint, so this would give me some really creative ideas for content development. How disappointed I was when the first 20 minutes of the webinar was spent demonstrating how a PowerPoint can be saved as individual image files and uploaded as an image gallery! Not only does this create a completely inaccessible item for those using screen readers and other assistive technology, but it is also not very interesting for learners to engage with! What I am trying to say here is, I think we still have some work to do in how we develop online content that is both interesting to engage with and accessible, but it is possible to do both, it might just take a little more imagination and creativity! 

  3. Is the content usable?
    The term usability describes the “ease of use” (Church, 2015) of a product, and is an aspect of user experience, as is accessibility. When thinking about the usability of online resources, it is important for me to remember that PGR students are going to have to navigate and find this content, with little or no help. Whilst we provide guidance, videos, quick links and more, there will be times when PGR students don’t know exactly what it is they are looking for, or even if it exists at all! Because of this, everything related to the Graduate School’s online learning content must be easily found, easy to navigate, easy to interact with, and work across all devices and systems that students may be using. Not only that, but the actual content needs to be useful (see point 1!), interactive and engaging. There is certainly more I can be doing in this area, but for now, I am working to reduce the amount of searching PGR students have to do to find what they are looking for, and ensuring that there is a consistent experience with all of the online content that we create.

  4. Do I have the knowledge and skills to develop or evaluate the content?
    This final consideration is actually a really important one. I have been working in online learning for almost 10 years now, and the online environments and content that I create have changed so much in that time, as have my skills and knowledge! What hasn’t changed though is the supportive community of online course developers, educational technologists, enthusiastic academics, and engaging professional service staff. One thing I have had to do a lot more in the last year though is network with subject matter experts (SMEs). SMEs have knowledge or skills in a specific topic (“What’s a”, n.d.), and can be a really helpful source of information, feedback and experience. The relationship with SMEs in the Graduate School makes up the foundation of our development programme, and we are always so grateful to the staff who give up their time to support us. I certainly would not be able to create content for the Graduate School without the input and feedback from staff who have a greater knowledge in complex areas of researcher development, and in aspects of online content creation that I am less familiar with.

Whilst this blog post has been written in the context of postgraduate researcher development, and the work that the Graduate School undertakes, I believe that the considerations I have outlined above, and the approach I take to online content creation can be applied across all levels and courses at the University. One additional thing I would like to add is that with the provision of online resources, the number of PGR students attending Graduate School workshops has not decreased, and we were able to support over 2,600 students in our workshops in the 2018/19 academic year. That being said, with over half the PGR students at the University of Portsmouth undertaking their research degree part-time, our online provision is an important support mechanism for any and all research degree students. Given the uncertain future we are currently facing, the provision of online resources will continue to be of massive importance, and you will find me hard at work reviewing, collating, creating and checking all the online content we provide to our PGR students to ensure that it continues to support them in their research, academic, professional and personal development.


Church, S. (2015). Usability and user experience. Retrieved from

What’s a Subject Matter Expert (SME)? (n.d.). Retrieved from Articulate website:  

The Graduate School supports a community of over 1,000 research degree students from across the University, including MRes, Professional Doctorate and PhD students. We offer bespoke training and professional development workshops that allow our research degree students to grow their personal, professional and research skills and career aspirations. We are also the first port of call for Research Supervisors, offering guidance, support, and development events. Find out more on the Graduate School webpages.

Credit Image: The feature image is from the Marketing Portal, and is “Free for use” and “Available for Third Party”. It shows ‘imaging phantoms’ which have been created and used by one of our PhD students, and were showcased at our 2019 Doctoral Festival of Research.

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 

Engaging students with online assessment feedback

An Exploration Project

Technology Enhanced Learning and Academic Development are leading an exploration project centered around engaging students with online assessment feedback. We’re specifically exploring an assessment platform called Edword.

It’s worth mentioning that we’re taking a more scientific approach to this project, you could almost imagine it as an education lab experiment. 

Academics and educational technologists within our team have evaluated the functionality and advanced workflows that Edword offers. We think that it offers some real tangible benefits to students and staff. The platform has been designed based on some pedagogically sound principles, that’s really what’s most exciting about it. I’ll demonstrate some examples of these in action later in this post.

It’s not enough that we’re excited about a new assessment tool though. We need to explore and test whether our students and staff actually do experience a benefit from using Edword when compared to one of our existing assessment platforms such as Turnitin or the Moodle assignment.

In order for me to explain what Edword allows us to do, I need to explain what’s missing from our existing assessment systems. 

Current feedback workflow

Turnitin / Moodle assignment

Assessment graded, student sees grade, end of workflow

When an online assignment is handed back to a student via Moodle or Turnitin students see their grade immediately, before they’ve had a chance to read any inline or summary  feedback added by their lecturer. The grade is often seen by students as the end point within their assessment, their grade is a students entry point to the next stage of their course. What we actually want students to engage with is the meaningful and constructive feedback their academics have produced for them. This will help students improve their next piece of work. Unfortunately many students don’t read their assessment feedback and miss out on the benefits to them.

Edword has a ‘lock grade’ feature which means students can’t see their grade until after they’ve read their feedback and potentially also submitted a reflection on how they will put their feedback into practise. In this way, Edword supports the feed forward model of good academic practise.

The Edword workflow looks more like this:

Edword workflow

Assignment is graded, student reads feedback, student writes reflection on feedback, student sees grade, student improves on next assignment

We also hope the feedback provided within Edword will be more engaging. Academics can enrich inline feedback with learning objects such as videos or H5P interactive learning objects. Rather than the flat text based feedback comments within Turnitin and Moodle, feedback in Edword helps students understand the mistakes they are making along with an immediate way to re-test their knowledge. The platform supports assessment for learning concepts.


A h5p learning activity embedded into assessment feedback for a student

A H5P interactive learning object within feedback in Edword

Edword records how long a student spends engaging with their feedback and allows students to rate the usefulness of the feedback they receive. These metrics are presented to staff as a way to evaluate how engaged students are and which feedback comments could be improved from a student perspective. 

We will make Edword available to staff and students during teaching block two with an on-boarding event for staff happening in early February. If you would like to take part in the project or ask some questions, please get in contact:

Mike Wilson

Ext. 3194

A video introduction to Edword can be found here

Guest Blogger: Stuart Sims – Introduction for Tel Tales

Hello! My name is Stuart Sims and I’m a relatively recent addition to DCQE in the Academic Development team. I’m a Senior Lecturer in Higher Education with responsibility for Staff-Student Co-creation and the Academic Professional Apprenticeship (both of which I’ll explain shortly). I joined Portsmouth a few months ago from the University of Winchester where I worked as an Educational Developer and Head of Student Engagement.

Portsmouth CoCreate

One of my main activities in DCQE is to develop Portsmouth CoCreate, an ambitious attempt to promote and embed staff-student partnership in the co-development of the curriculum cross institutionally. Co-creation has grown as an agenda for many universities in recent years, not least of all because it can operate as a way forward from a more transactional relationship with students. Many of us are familiar with the well-trodden arguments about students as customers and consumers which have emerged since the introduction of and increases in tuition fees (for those who aren’t, this article from Molesworth, Nixon and Scullion from 2009 is a good starting point). To cut a long story short, if students are paying an eye-watering amount to study with us they may have changed expectations about what that means. The principles of co-creation are not about giving more student choice (as you may expect in a market-driven system) but rather giving students more responsibility and investment to mutually develop or agree the nature of their learning with staff.

An essential part of this work is to discover and highlight what is being done already in this area here. In a relatively short time I have discovered a wide range of innovative practices at Portsmouth ranging from co-developing assessments to collaborative peer mentoring schemes. In the coming months we will be profiling effective practices from Portsmouth and beyond to support others in taking a co-created approach with their students.

We are taking a multi-faceted approach to developing co-creation, this includes training and support for course teams to apply these principles in their context (including in line with the new annual monitoring processes) and the development of a new cross-intuitional module around co-creation.

Academic Professional Apprenticeship

The other half of my role is teaching on our new Academic Professional Apprenticeship (and PgCert). This is a course aimed at staff new to Higher Education and is part of our institutional shift to prioritise Degree Apprenticeships. A new standard in the sector, we are one of the first institutions to develop a course for new lecturers around this apprenticeship model.

The course is mapped to the UKPSF and course members not only receive a qualification, but Fellowship of the HEA upon completion. This course therefore provides an alternative and complementary approach to the APEX programme to support colleagues in achieving this internationally recognised award.

Our first cohort of around 50 course members are just completing their first year and about to progress on to the Research Informed Teaching module which I lead. This module is focused around the conduct of an enhancement or research project which the course members have developed in the first year. The taught elements relate to Educational Research Methods and key learning theories to support this. As well as supporting the development of colleagues, this will lead to a huge range of innovative practice in learning and teaching emerging across the institution. 

Stuart Sims is based in Mercantile with AcDev and the Tel team.

Welcome to the team, Stuart! We look forward to hearing more about your projects in the not so distant future on Tel Tales.

Credit image:  Photo by The Climate Reality Project on Unsplash

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

Guest Blogger: Julian Ingle – The Green Zone Rabbit

In the Green Zone, a safe area where politicians live, Hajjar and his friend are hiding in a villa preparing for an attack. To pass the time, Hajjar is looking after a rabbit. When he goes to clean the hutch one morning the rabbit appears to have laid an egg. Absurd events like these run alongside moments of horror and violence in Hassan Blasim’s collection of short stories about Iraq called The Corpse Exhibition.

These stories of the everyday devastation of people’s lives caught in war zones became reality at a recent talk about the work of The Council for At-Risk Academics (CARA) by its director, Stephen Wordsworth. The talk was part of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences’ Learning and Teaching day and was, without doubt, the most moving event I’ve been to at this kind of conference. I’ve just joined the University of Portsmouth and have been fortunate that it’s the conference season. I’ve seen interesting work, met lots of people, who’ve been welcoming and friendly and been to some excellent talks.

What stands out were the accounts of their recent lives by three academics who were supported by CARA ( Each of them talked about how their academic careers were closed down by the war in Syria. CARA helped them to escape, got them visas and has found them work at the University of Portsmouth so that they could continue their careers as academics until such time as they can return to their country. Their families and friends remain in Syria.

There has been more debate recently about academic freedom in UK HE, often raising concerns about the introduction of the ’Prevent duty’ in 2015. Under threat was academics’ right ‘to question and test received wisdom and to put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions without placing themselves in jeopardy of losing their jobs or the privileges they may have’ (1988 Education Reform Act). Hearing the stories of these three people, their struggle to survive and to pursue their careers in higher education, put some of these debates – and our privileged position – into perspective.

Julian Ingle has just joined the University of Portsmouth as the new Deputy Head of ASK. Prior to this he worked at Queen Mary University of London as part of the Thinking Writing initiative, and as an educational developer and lecturer at several London universities.

Image credits: Photo by Gary Bendig 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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