Adventures in Technology Enhanced Learning @ UoP

Tag: development (Page 2 of 3)

AR/VR in Education

In July 2019 I attended the TED Global Conference in Edinburgh. One of the most exciting talks at the conference included a live demonstration of volumetric video – a technological development that will surely change the nature of cinematic storytelling, sports viewing, and much else besides. The technology also has huge potential in education: one can imagine using it for field trips and virtual lectures. That educational potential, however, is unlikely to be realised in the short-to-medium term: most universities don’t have the skills, equipment or financial resources to build these immersive environments. But what universities can do – and increasingly are doing – is to investigate the educational potential of established augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technology.

In early September 2019 the ALT mailing list was bombarded with “me too” responses to a post explaining how pockets of interest in AR/VR were spread across a particular institution and that it would be good to be able to somehow share that practice. UoP represents one of those “me too” responses. We know of people across the University who are exploring the potential of AR/VR for learning and for skills development. It would be great if we could bring those pockets of expertise together, in order to share tips and tricks and experience. In the first instance, a group of us from TEL and Sports Science have met to discuss this – and we hope to develop a definite proposal for how this might work over the next few weeks. Watch out for news of this. In the meantime, if you have an interest in the educational aspects of AR/VR (or volumetric video) – please drop us a line. 

Image Credit: Photo by Martin Sanchez on Unsplash

TEL Training Sessions – Update

Can’t spare 2 hours (let alone 3 hours) to attend TEL Training sessions, but would like to . . . . . well you can now!  

We’ve reviewed our sessions and have been able to reduce the running times of our longest sessions to make them easier to fit into the already busy working day. We’d like as many of you as possible to be able to attend our sessions, so in reducing the running times (in some cases by 50%) by keeping content relevant but concise, we hope more of you will be able to join our sessions in the future.

How do I find more information on TEL Training Sessions?

You’ll find our calendar with all our new times and full description on the sessions we run by going to the Department of Curriculum and Quality Enhancement (DCQE) website and clicking on the TEL Training Calendar.

Where else can I book onto the sessions?

The calendar on our blog pages also indicates the training sessions with a dot underneath the date, just click on the dot and the session information will appear. You can also book yourself onto a session here; just click the button at the bottom. Feel free to switch through the months to see what training sessions are coming up.

Who are your training sessions for?

Primarily, the workshops are for lecturers and PHD Students, but they can be adapted for professional service members of staff too. If you’re not available at the times of our training events, or if the programme does not cover a specific area you’re interested in, we can offer a 1-2-1 session tailored to your needs. In addition, if there’s a group of people in your department who would like a session to update their knowledge in a certain area, we can also arrange that.  We have a meeting room here in Mercantile House, but we can always come to you. To arrange these bespoke sessions, firstly complete the Bespoke Training Request form, click here give us a brief outline into which areas you’d like the training to cover and for how many people, someone will then contact you to discuss your requirements.

So if you’ll looking to embark on a project involving technology, or if you would simply like some support or advice on how to use the various elearning tools available at the University, the TEL team are here to help.

We look forward to welcoming you at one of our training events in the near future.



Software developers and user interface designers often use storytelling techniques to help them make sense of different features of their system and to help them communicate and explain their work to others. Software developers, for example, write “user stories”: descriptions of system features written from the perspective of an end user of the system. User interface designers often develop “personas” – a written description of a fictional character who represents a particular type of end user.

Jisc, in trying to understand what Education 4.0 might mean, have adopted a similar approach. They have created a fictional character, called Natalie_4.0, who represents a student taking a university course in geography in October 2029. What might a typical study day look like for Natalie_4.0? What opportunities will technology open up for her? By writing a story – “A day in the life of Natalie_4.0” – we can try to get a feel for what the future of educational might be like. Our story would not say that is is how education will turn out; but it can say how education might turn out.    

The twist here is that Jisc have written Natalie’s story not in the form of a written story, as is usual in the software development and UI world, but in the form of a virtual reality experience. I checked out the Natalie_4.0 VR experience at the recent Digifest conference. So – what was it like?

Well, the first thing to say is that the VR technology itself is improving at a rapid rate. Increasing numbers of VR content developers are entering the market and the hardware is getting cheaper and better. The Natalie_4.0 VR experience itself builds on this foundation: it is immersive, and while you are sharing Natalie’s day it is easy to imagine how VR technology could have real educational benefits. (Personally, I don’t believe that those benefits extend to all subject areas. Indeed, in many cases I believe the introduction of VR would be detrimental – it would be a gimmick. Nevertheless, in some niche areas I can see how VR could deliver tremendous benefits.)   

But what about the story itself? Does Natalie_4.0 provide a reasonable guess as to what the student of 2029 might experience? Well, of course we won’t know definitively for another ten years. But for what it’s worth I believe that some guesses will likely prove accurate; others won’t.

The influence of AI on daily life is one aspect of Natalie_4.0 that will, I think, come to pass. The story suggests that Natalie will have access to a personal AI that will help her throughout her day – in her learning as well as in her everyday life. But other aspects of the story seemed to me less convincing. For example, Natalie’s AI organises a live feedback session with her (human) tutor. Well, it will be terrific if turns out that every student has access to a personal tutor; if every student can sit down with a teacher and have a one-on-one session to discuss a piece of work. But how is such a thing possible in a mass education system? Most universities can’t offer that luxury now – why should that change in the future? (It might be that Jisc have underestimated the rate of progress of artificial intelligence; perhaps Natalie’s personal AI will be able to play the role of tutor as well as general assistant?)  

Another AI-related thought struck me as I sat through Natalie_4.0. In the feedback session mentioned above, the tutor uses some gee-whiz technology to provide feedback on … a written essay. Well, technology has already reached the stage where an AI can generate reasonable text in a variety of styles; in ten years time I’m sure Natalie would be able to get an AI system to write an essay for her. (Who knows. Perhaps AI systems will be able to mark essays. Why not cut out the middle-man and have an AI write an essay and a different AI mark it! All untouched by human hands!) In such a world, authentic forms of assessment will become crucial: tutors will need to assess skills that are uniquely human – judgement, creativity, leadership, teamwork, communication. That is the main thing I took from the Natalie_4.0 experience.

Image credits: Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Education 4.0

On 5 February a group of us met with representatives from Jisc. The main focus of the meeting was to discuss the Jisc Digital Insights service (which allows institutions to better understand the digital experience of staff and students) and the Jisc Discoverer service (which allows staff and students to reflect on their digital capability and, where necessary, access relevant support material). Future blog posts will talk more about how to access these services. In this post, I’d like to reflect briefly on a comment made during the meeting by Stuart Masters, Jisc’s Chief Technology Officer. Steve mentioned that one important focus for him, and for Jisc as an organisation, is to understand what “Education 4.0” might look like.    

You will probably have heard of the phrase “Industry 4.0” – or the closely related phrase “Fourth Industrial Revolution”. This idea refers to a gathering of emerging technologies – AI, biotechnology, cloud computing, internet of things, nanotechnology, quantum computing, robotics, 3D printing, 5G wireless – that blur the distinction between the physical, digital and biological. (For reference, the First Industrial Revolution occurred in the 18th/19th centuries and involved the development of the iron and textile industries, plus steam power; society began to shift from rural to urban, agrarian to industrial. The Second Industrial Revolution is often dated 1870–1914, and saw the creation of new industries – oil, steel, electricity – and the rise of mass production. The Third Industrial Revolution – the change from analog to digital devices – began in the 1980s and we are still living through its consequences.) Some of you, no doubt, will feel there is an element of hype to the phrase “Industry 4.0”; after all, how many times has “the next big thing” turned out to be an unusable piece of kit that people use briefly then throw away once the novelty has worn off? This time, though, there really are indications that this fusion of new technological developments – the Fourth Industrial Revolution – will alter society and the world of work.

If that is the case, how should universities respond? Jisc’s suggestion is that, in order to prepare students for a world transformed by Industry 4.0, we need to be thinking about Education 4.0. That’s fine – but what should Education 4.0 look like?

In a recent blog post on this subject, Sarah Davies of Jisc looked at some tentative steps towards Education 4.0 being taken by institutions. Ensuring that students have strong digital capabilities will of course be important (and, as mentioned above, a future post will discuss work taking place here at Portsmouth in this area) but Sarah also mentioned the importance of:

  • rethinking staff and student roles;
  • reimagining learning environments;
  • giving students the opportunity to create and communicate knowledge; and
  • focusing on student wellbeing.

These are all topics that we might well want to consider in Education 4.0, but Sarah also posts a link to a presentation by Martin Hamilton (Jisc’s resident futurist) to the Education Select Committee Inquiry on Industry 4.0. In that presentation, Martin pointed out that 33% of Key Stage Two pupils fail to meet expected standards of literacy and numeracy; 66% of secondary schools have inadequate digital infrastructure. Delivering Education 4.0 will be made even harder if we can’t even get the basics right.

It’s an interesting question, though. What do you think Education 4.0 should look like?  

Feature image title: Industry_4.0.png by Christoph Roser is licensed under CC BY2.0


Using motion to improve the user experience

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

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

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

Motion provides meaning

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

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

(Material Design, 2018)

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

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

Retaining user engagement across page transitions

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

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

(Material Design, 2018)

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

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

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

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

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

Digital Skills Certificate

Earlier in the year I went to Digifest 2018, the biggest conference for Education Technology in the UK. As well as a chance to meet fellow professionals the conference presents a wide range of inspirational, thought provoking ideas. These can be from large solutions like an Augmented Reality band from Edinburgh playing live on stage with an orchestra in Birmingham, that tests the limits of the Janet Network, to suggestions on simple teaching techniques.

One of the presentations I saw was from the IT Training Team at the University of Lancaster, who set up a ‘Digital Skills Certificate’ for students and staff mapped to the Jisc Digital Capability Framework, it offered online courses in a range of topics under the six elements of digital capability. When participants completed the course it gave them a ‘certificate’ that could be posted on LinkedIn, for students it also went on their Higher Education Achievement Record (HEAR) transcript. It’s a great way for students and staff to develop digital and employability skills and also be able to clearly demonstrate those skills to potential employers for placements and work beyond university.

I like to think I know a good idea when I see one and began thinking how this could be adapted for use at the University of Portsmouth. The Jisc Framework is a great tool to use in order to develop student and staff Digital Capability. In the last year we have also implemented, an online resource of over 10,000 courses. The University of Portsmouth version of the Digital Skills Certificate combines the use of these tools.

Click on this link to see the video.

The University of Portsmouth Digital Skills Certificate is on Moodle and available for both students and staff to self register onto. Participants choose at least one course from each element of the Framework:

  • IT Proficiency – Word, Excel, Google Drive, SPSS
  • Information, Data and Media Literacies – Excel Statistics, Data Driven Presentations with Excel and PowerPoint, SPSS for Academic Research
  • Digital Creation, Innovation and Scholarship – PowerPoint: Designing Better Slides, Introduction to Screencasting, Google Sites
  • Communication, Collaboration and Partnership – GMail, Twitter, Webex
  • Digital Learning and Self Development – complete the Jisc Digital Discovery Tool
  • Digital Identity and Well Being – Computer Security and Internet Safety, LinkedIn for Students, Digital Citizenship

The courses are from and can be completed at participants’ own pace, anytime, anywhere. Once the course is completed, Lynda provides a certificate of completion that can be added to LinkedIn, it also needs to be uploaded as a PDF to the Moodle assignment for that section. The next step is to complete a quiz based on the topic that has just been studied and if passed a certificate for that element of the framework is issued.

Participants can study as many of the courses as they like, but one from each element is required. When all six have been completed an overall ‘Digital Skills Certificate’ is issued, for students this will be shown on their HEAR transcript.

For further information go to:



Guest Blogger: Lucy Sharp – Sleeping your way to a good degree

This may not be what you think it is, at least I hope not!

Humans and animals all need to sleep, how much, when and where will vary but the constant is that sleep is an essential part to living and learning. The quality and quantity of our sleep is a major indicator of our overall health and wellbeing.

We spend up to a third of lives asleep and most of us know that getting a good night’s sleep is important, but too few make the recommended 8 hours between the sheets. This can lead to having a sleep debt and forgetting the feeling of being truly rested. This third of our life is far from unproductive as it plays a direct role in how energetic and successful the other two thirds of our life can be.

When we’re asleep the body re-energises cells, clears the brain of waste, and supports learning and memory; two pretty important factors when you’re a student. It also affects the way we look, behave, perform and impacts on our overall quality of life. At different ages we need different amounts of sleep. Typically teenagers need at least 8 hours—and on average 9¼ hours—a night of uninterrupted sleep to leave their bodies and minds time to be rejuvenated for the next day. If sleep is cut short or disturbed the body doesn’t have time to complete all of the phases needed for muscle repair and memory consolidation, neither does the brain have time for its complex clean-up operation (brain cleaning). The effect is that we wake up less prepared to concentrate, make decisions, or engage fully in the learning experience.

The sleep cycle follows a pattern of NREM (non-rapid eye movement) and REM (rapid eye movement), throughout a typical night the pattern repeats itself every 90 minutes. In the NREM phase one, we begin to transition from being awake to falling asleep. In stage two the onset of sleep begins where we disengage from our surroundings, heart rate and breathing becomes regular and body temperature drops. Stage three is our deep and restorative sleep: muscles are relaxed, tissue growth and repair takes place along with the release of growth hormones and our energy is restored. After about 90 minutes we enter the REM phase, this is when we dream, our brains are active and our eyes dart back and forth and our body is immobile and fully relaxed as our muscles are turned off.

So there’s a lot going on when you tuck yourself in at night, but of course in reality we don’t always get a full and restful night’s sleep and the impact is far reaching. The effect of a poor night’s sleep may stay with you for about 48 hours. Other impacts are more immediate, such as feeling groggy, irritable and the urge to consume sugary drinks, food and extra carbohydrates. Therefore, if your weight is increasing, try spending an extra hour in bed!

As well as the health reasons for getting a good night’s sleep, there are also the physiological and psychological reasons why sleeping well will help you to study and learn.

Physiologically, a sleepy brain has to work harder and isn’t as efficient as a rested brain. This is due to diverting more energy to the prefrontal cortex to stave off tiredness. The effect when we’re learning is that our short and long term memory is shot. This means the brain holds a smaller amount of information for a shorter period of time. The impact is that we go round in circles trying to remember what we’ve learnt, and we find it difficult to perform complex tasks and sometimes even simple tasks, such as reading text. The common example is reading a body of text and not remembering what has been read, or simply reading the same sentence over and over again. This isn’t a great state to be in when you’re studying at a higher level.

A healthy amount of sleep is needed for the plasticity of brain which is a vital component of our ability to adapt to input. If we sleep too little then our ability to process information is lessened, as is the process of remembering what we have learnt and then recalling it in the future, such as in exam settings.

Psychologically, lack of sleep may be the culprit if you’re feeling low in mood, less enthusiastic about activities you used to enjoy and it can chip away at your happiness. In a nutshell, not getting enough good quality sleep heavily influences your outlook on life, energy levels and emotions. 

A regular sleep pattern is the foundation needed to enjoy life and engage fully with the learning experience. Without it, it can affect health, wellbeing and the learning process, the ability to perform at your best in exams and presentations, and achieve those high marks you know you’re capable of reaching.

Tips on how to get a good night’s sleep:

  • Sleep at regular times this allows the body to get into a routine.
  • Make your bedroom sleep-friendly by keeping it dark, clean and tidy. Your bedroom is for two things; sleep and sex.
  • Wind down before going to bed, switch off the TV and electronic devices. The blue screen tricks your brain into thinking it’s daytime. Install software that enables your computer’s display adapt to the time of day, such as f.lux
  • Calm your body and mind (Mindfulness Exercises for Everyday Life).
  • Try not to spend the night in the library revising and studying. Nighttime activity disrupts the circadian rhythm. This is your body clock, this responds to environmental cues such light and temperature.
  • Avoid caffeine and energy drinks 46 hours before heading to bed.
  • Read University Health Service SLEEP HYGIENE.
  • and Skills for sleep at UoP for more advice.

Image Credits:  Photo by Toa Heftiba and Cassandra Hamer on Unsplash


Continue reading

Lynda online learning – user survey

User survey

Since August 2017 all students and staff at University of Portsmouth have had access to, an online, on-demand learning resource designed to help users gain new technical, business and creative skills. can be used in numerous ways. A student, for example, might use it as part of their course, or to learn additional skills such as Excel. A member of staff might use it for personal development, or to embed its resources into Moodle, create playlists and support students. We’d really like to learn about your experience of using Lynda since it was launched – so please take a couple of minutes to complete our user survey. Results from the survey will go towards improving and tailoring our provision of digital resources.

University of Portsmouth User Survey

Never heard of

If you still haven’t used you’ve been missing out! Nearly 3,500 staff and students have used it since we launched, accumulating over 4,000 hours of instructional time. is available anytime, on any device, and as well as supporting your own learning it is possible to share courses, create playlists, and embed courses into Moodle – all helping to support the learning of students and staff.

With you get:

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

For further information:

Online Training for everyone –


Digital Capability Discovery Tool

In a previous blog post we looked at Digital Capability – what it is and why it’s important. The work that Government and organisations such as Jisc have carried out highlights the fact that digital capabilities are relevant to all areas of university business. Supporting the development of digital capabilities is vital in meeting the vision, ambitions and expectations of all HE institutions, and it is ingrained in our University and Education Strategies. In order for students and staff to evolve with changing technology, to live and work in a digital society and to meet new challenges, competencies in a number of areas need to be developed.

Digital Capabilities Framework

Although the term ‘digital capabilities’ includes the notion of being proficient in IT skills, it is far broader than this. It includes being able to manage information, recognise ‘fake news’, evaluate sources, present ideas in a variety of different digital formats, analyse information, and manage one’s online identity and safety.  All these areas are explained in the Digital Capabilities Framework.

Digital Discovery Tool

The Jisc Digital Discovery Tool – which is now available for use – is designed to help all staff realise their digital potential. (A student discovery tool will be available soon.) The tool asks for department and role, and there should be a category to suit all members of staff – everyone needs to be aware of their digital capability. After all, at the very least staff need to use digital tools to book leave, check payslips, take part in the University community, and communicate with other staff and students.

The Discovery Tool asks quiz-style questions in a non-judgemental way, and provides realistic examples. The process of answering the questions should make staff aware of their digital confidence and provide ideas for new skills to develop.

Once they have completed the form, staff get a comprehensive profile of their digital competencies. The report includes practical suggestions for ‘next steps’ with links to great resources. Individual data is not shared, and the tool is not designed to monitor individuals, but potentially the results could be used in a number of ways:

  • Departments could use overall data to assess which areas of digital capability need developing.
  • Individuals, by becoming more aware of digital capabilities, could use the feedback for personal development and CPD.
  • The report could be used to inform the PDR process.

Completing the Discovery Tool

  1. Login to the DIgital Discovery Tool.
  2. When you log in for the first time you need to sign up.
  3. Create a password, the code needed is dcap17!
  4. Select ‘University of Portsmouth’ as the organisation.
  5. Choose a Department and then an appropriate role.
  6. Answer the questionnaire.

Once the Discovery Tool has been completed a report is generated and can be downloaded as a pdf. If any further help or consultancy is required please contact any of the following;

Amy Barlow

Adrian Sharkey

Stephen Webb


TEL Training Sessions

Some of you may have noticed that the way TEL (Technology Enhanced Learning) training sessions are advertised has changed, you no longer receive a weekly email from Staff Essentials on a Friday afternoon. Our training sessions can now be found at the bottom of the Monday’s Staff News Update email. To see our sessions you’ll need to scroll down to ‘More news’ and look under the section ‘Staff Development’.

We’ve been amalgamated under the Learning and Teaching heading, but there’s nothing there to differentiate our sessions, we can only advertised three  sessions per week in this format.

To see more of our sessions you’ll need to scroll down and click on the banner which says More Staff Development, this takes you to the Staff Development page.  Published on this page are the sessions on the Staff News along with a few more training sessions from across the University, but again there is nothing to distinguish which ones are our training sessions.

Where to find our training sessions

We have added our training sessions to the calendar, here on our blog page.  Training sessions are indicated with a dot underneath the date, just click on the dot and the session information will appear. You can book yourself onto the session here, just click the button at the bottom. Feel free to switch through the months to see what training sessions are coming up.  During August 2017 we’ll be without our training room, but please contact us to arrange a 1-2-1 sessions or group training session tailored to your needs in your place of work.

Another place to find our training information is to go to the Department of Curriculum and Quality Enhancement (DCQE) website and click on the TEL Training Calendar here you’ll find our calendar with dates, times and full description on the sessions we run in this department.

Who are the training sessions for

Primarily, the workshops are for lecturers, but they can be adapted for professionally service members of staff. If you’re not available at the times of our training events, or if the programme does not cover a specific area you’re interested in, we can offer a 1-2-1 session tailored to your needs. In addition, if there’s a group of people in your department who would like a session to update their knowledge in a certain area, we can also arrange that too.  We have a meetings room here in Mercantile House, but we can always come to you.  To arrange these bespoke sessions, firstly contact elearn on either extension: 3355 or, giving us a brief outline into which areas you’d like the training to cover and for how many people, someone will then contact you to discuss your requirements. So if you’ll looking to embark on a project involving technology, or if you would simply like some support or advice on how to use the various elearning tools available at the University, the TEL team are here to help.

We look forward to welcoming you at one of our training events in the near future.

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