Adventures in Technology Enhanced Learning @ UoP

Tag: Student Engagement (Page 2 of 2)

Lockdown Learning Fatigue – How can we re-engage drifting students

Amy Barlow, National Teaching Fellow and Head of Academic Development reflects on how in TB2 ‘Connection and Belonging’ should be the priority curriculum activities 

Universities first went online in lockdown, March 2020; webcams were fired up, adrenaline was high and we were all navigating teaching from a place of unfamiliarity and novelty while the sun shone outside. Our pets and children became part of the daily Zoom on-screen family as tails hovered across the screen and toys were passed to Mum or Dad during calls. ‘You’re on Mute’ became the unspoken mantra of the working day. Restricted trousers and heels were replaced by comfortable joggers and leggings – it was academia Jim but not as we knew it.

Fast forward to February 2021 and the prolonged need to teach online, during another lockdown (in Winter this time) has resulted in a sense of fatigue for many staff and students. It’s been months since some of our students have been physically on campus and seen their peers and tutors. The ebb and flow of each semester starting and beginning haven’t been felt. They have not experienced the celebratory feel on campus when their assignments are finally all handed in and they have not revelled in the social buzz of navigating their new timetable as teaching resumes and new exciting subjects take centre stage. Lockdown learning fatigue has settled heavily on the shoulders of many and there is a growing concern for their progress when attendance is minimal and much of the well designed self-directed learning is missed, or engaged with, out of sequence. The blend of online tools and the skillset of colleagues, to deliver distance learning is at an all-time high – but how can we bridge the disconnect that seems so apparent for some lecturers staring at empty discussion boards and sitting patiently in silent Zoom rooms?

Studying has become a lonely activity and the multiple ways students orientated their studies previously have stopped. Although on the plus side lockdown has taken away many distractions and time pressures, it has also brought with it a learning environment that has many new barriers especially in terms of mental health and wellbeing. Staying on track week to week and navigating multiple module pages in the VLE is a new method of time management required from students.  In terms of community, the face-to-face interaction and ‘get to know you’ activity which scaffolds peer groups and support structures for students have been diminished. For example, the chats walking out of lectures, the informal opportunity to meet over coffee and a safe space to ask their friends questions are no longer a learning resource available to them. It’s this period of orientation to new modules which is so crucial to the curriculum gaining momentum and to students staying on track. 

Over time, withdrawal from study may escalate into missing a week, or weeks of teaching and then feeling that re-engaging, or attending the Zoom taught session is too much to face. A student, for example, may feel overwhelmed. Some may just feel uncomfortable studying in bedrooms and attending online classes in this private space. Ironically, they are disengaged from the one shared learning experience and readily available support structure which may help them. If they get out of sync with their peers and the module content, it is understandable that they may not want to join in,  feeling embarrassed for not completing the prep work they may have been set. Logging into Moodle may seem daunting when done sporadically – all of sudden there are new posts, everyone is chatting and answering questions and it’s a confusing picture.  This Learning Well resource is useful to help students understand why they may find it hard to concentrate when they are feeling anxious and overwhelmed. It’s on our course and department pages but is a good tool to bridge the subject with them.  Many courses saw at the end of TB1 that all of these factors had resulted in a last-minute assignment panic for many. This was seen when views of recorded sessions spiked in the days prior to deadlines and demand for one-to-one catch up sessions increased. 

Meeting the needs of this students group is new territory for teachers everywhere, who are also battling with their own lockdown fatigue and the challenges of home working. 

So, how can we re-engage students during a time of lockdown learning fatigue?

View our top tips to Re-Engage here.

There is no quick fix. There are, however, some simple steps that can be taken to bring students back into the online learning space. To re-engage and help them all to feel on track – but most importantly relaxed about their studies so they can learn. They need to understand that everyone (including their lecturers)  are sharing the same struggles and anxieties as they are. It’s safe to speak up and share that they feel a bit lost – no one will judge them, they can catch up – it’s all there on Moodle if they feel able to work through the scaffolded learning activities that are set in small chunks. Importantly, they work together as a team to help each other succeed in a difficult time. 

A key recommendation is focusing on the first, three weeks of the module being fun, accessible and social-based around fascinating disciplinary content. This time is make or break in terms of engagement. Then bring in further social, low-pressure activities as the module progresses. Students may not want to keep their videos on during zoom sessions, that’s fine – perhaps a quick wave at the start and a commitment from everyone to communicate with the chat function would help the group to get to know each other. Informal drop-in sessions have been successful in our Faculty of Business and Law to create a social online space to ask the questions that may otherwise seem stupid. For example, setting clear expectations about participation is key, but don’t just tell the students what you expect, ask them to discuss what they think is fair:

Would they like to use their videos during calls? 

Would they expect to contribute to the VLE activities every week or every few days? Are they happy to be part of a group chat (e.g. Whatsapp) just for this group? 

Should all sessions be recorded and available for those who didn’t attend? 

What should they agree to do if they feel they are falling behind?

How will they hold each other to account?

What will the group do if they are confused or have missed content?

Icebreaking and ‘Get to Know You’ activities could feature at the start of each week not just at the start of the module. Many small steps early on can make a big difference – 

Read more at our Re-Engage resources 

Are you struggling with engagement on your module and could use some fresh eyes or advice? Contact your Academic Development Liaison for support :

Faculty of Science –

Faculty of Technology –

Faculty of Business and Law –

Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries –

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences – 


Credit Image: Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

Audiovisual in Education – A general discussion about a topic that is more relevant than ever

My colleague Tom Langston recently visited a session hosted by Learning on Screen, The British Universities and Colleges Film and Video Council ( and it reminded me of a previous visit I undertook a few years ago (before Instagram!) which I thought I’d use to form the basis of this blog. One of the great things about escaping the university is the possibility to network and have discussions with professionals from other institutions and companies. Spanning business and education, it is amazing how views match or differ and hearing a different take on modern university life is insightful.

Technology is a “new” problem

A concept I encounter on a near daily basis is the trouble of meeting the modern demands of the student with technology as it has progressed at such a rate of knots, that we are struggling to keep up. Interestingly, the minutes from the council’s meeting in 1954 were shared with the attendees and the main themes and issues raised were assessing our own pedagogy, how to use new mediums in education and the advancement of technology. Issues that are very topical even in 2019.

A concept also levied at us is that the “modern student” has never been so technologically advanced. They were raised in the age of the internet and the school years were entwined with handheld device usage. They have not necessarily needed to phone up Uncle Ray or another assigned family expert to ask him about 17th century monarchs as they can “google” it. This Generation Z or iGen, as they may be referred to, use and naturally access technology in a very different way to their predecessors or their more ancient educators.

However with this is a common misconception about levels of understanding. Just because a student can use an iPhone and access film, does not mean they “know” or are experts in it. 

Access does not automatically equal knowledge 

Are these digital natives as savvy as we think they are? Or is it a gross assumption based on our observations of them accessing technology. HE Institutions (as well as our team) are looking closer at digital capabilities and providing support for those who need it, but do we as educators need to consider assessing the digital needs of the students rather than naturally assuming that they would want VR tours and interacting with embedded H5P content. 

It draws me to the constructivist approach when teaching Primary Science in my previous life, where you would have your topic but it’s ultimately the students who govern how they are going to learn and find out things and it can result in an outcome at a far greater depth due to their immersion in the process.

A tension between form and context

Visual Literacy and the use of audiovisual also opens up an array of issues to consider. Take for example the BBC , which has an unbelievable bank of resources. The issue of copyright and ownership is a topic we have had blogs about in the past. There is a view that we need to have some buy in from the broadcasters and content owners to serve education. This would open up the concept of not just reusing sources but being creative beyond the content’s initial use. The idea of repurposing the material, taking an old thing a part and making something new with it. The BBC Archive, was created to be used by film-makers and was not necessarily intended for public consumption. It opens up a can of worms that perhaps material that looks fairly inconspicuous today, can have a massive impact in the future. This is evident due to the scandals raised by historical tweets being uncovered and the use of archived film footage in investigations into high profile court cases about abuse.

There has to be some education for students about not just the technology and media we use but the context around it.

Final Thoughts

The more we look to bring audiovisual into our teaching, the more we are going to have to look at ourselves and change how we teach. The idea that people sit in blacked out rooms watching films is an old school pedagogic view, just as the days of students being sat down talked at are no more.

There is an element of Audiovisual that gets their eyes off of their screens and onto the intended one at the front. We can use technology and platforms such as Twitter to allow students to engage on an individual basis. We must ensure that it is not a passive viewing experience but allows students to research, reference and back up their own point of view, offering the stimulus for a voice that otherwise may have stayed quiet.

The final thing to consider is the danger that if we spend too long of today worrying and focusing on “how to use technology and film” and it prevents trial, implementation and reflection, in ten years time those concerns will be obsolete and new issues will have replaced them.

Images from:

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash


Digital Badges

This blog post links, indirectly, to my previous post on gamification. While gamification can help promote learning and engagement in a ‘fun’ way, digital badges can be used to reward and encourage learning. So – what are digital badges?

Digital badges are an excellent way to recognise student achievement and engagement. Badges can be awarded via Moodle on completion of an activity, for example, or after the attainment of a specific grade/mark in a quiz. Upon graduation, students can take their badges with them via Open Badges and export them to a ‘backpack’ service such as Badgr. The badges can also be linked to LinkedIn.

In the words of Dr Joanne Brindley (Senior Lecturer in Education): “The Academic Professional Apprenticeship is delivered via blended learning. As such, it was important to me that I was able to effectively monitor the engagement and development of the course members, on an individual basis. Digital badges were an obvious choice, as they would enable the course members to have the flexibility  and autonomy to focus and work on tasks that met their individual learning needs, in a structured way, whilst also providing the course member and myself with an opportunity to gauge their personal progression.

The other benefit, was the ability to identify and set the criteria for each badge. In this instance, the badges were designed to reflect the values, knowledge and areas of activity in the UK Professional Skills Framework (UKPSF). By using this approach I can be assured, that upon completion, the course members have engaged with the dimensions of the framework required for Fellowship.”

For those new to digital badges here’s a quick ‘how to..’

Before issuing a badge you first have to create it. A variety of tools are available to do this such as Adobe Illustrator or sites such as Accredible Badge Creator (  and ( both of which are free to use, is the better of the two.

User interface for creating badges in

Figure 1 – user interface for creating badges in

Figure 2 - Moodle Badge created using Open Badges

Once a badge has been created, you will need to download it so it can be uploaded to Moodle for issuing to students.


Figure 2 – Moodle badge created using Open badges


In Moodle badges are added via the ‘Administration’ menu, which is available by clicking on the cog icon on the top-right of your Moodle page, then clicking on More to access the Badges section (see Figure 3 below) which will allow you to manage and add new badges.

Figure 3 - shows what you'll see in the administrative area in Moodle to create new badges and manage the badges

Figure 3 – Moodle badge manager

In the Badges section, choose ‘Add a new badge’. This will allow you to upload the image for the badge and set various basic details such as a description, issuer and badge expiry date. You can manage your badges here as well

Once the badge has been added, you will need to set up the criteria for the awarding of the badge. To do this, click on ‘Manage badges’.

You can award badges according to one of three criteria: manual by role; course completion; activity completion. (Note: for activity completion you will need to make sure this is enabled via Course settings).

Badges are automatically issued once the set criterion (for example, achieving a certain grade in a selected quiz) has been met. Students can view the badges they have been awarded on the Moodle course page. You will just need to add a Latest Badges block from the ‘Add a block’ menu.

The Mozilla Backpack, which allowed badge recipients to ‘store’ their badges online has now been replaced by badgr ( Students would need to download their badges from Moodle and then upload them to badgr. The reason for doing this is so any earned badges can be shared with an employer for example. At the moment badgr is not linked to Moodle but hopefully it will be added in the near future.

Students can view their badges via the ‘Latest Badges’ block in Moodle (this can be added by anyone with editing rights on your Moodle Unit/Course page).

Figure 4 badge details accessed via latest badges block. This images shows student details

Clicking on the badge icon in the Latest Badges block opens up full details of the badge such as recipient and Issuer. From here the student can download the badge to add to their online backpack which will be badgr. It is hoped that once badgr is integrated students will be able to add it to the backpack directly from Moodle.

So, are badges worth having?

One concern often raised regarding the use of digital badges is that, well, aren’t they just a bit inappropriate at university level? Will university students take them seriously?

To overcome the possible scepticism of students it is important to be clear what the badges are being used for. If badges form an element of gamification and/or are linked to assessment then the badges are more likely to be seen as something worth acquiring as argued by Samuel Abramovich (Abramovich, S 2016). The badges can be linked to the acquisition of specific skills required as part of an assessment or awarded based on the achievement of a certain grade. Greater value can be placed on the badges if they are relatively difficult to obtain: there needs to be an element of genuine challenge before a badge can be earned. Badges can also be awarded for completion of a task – however, the effectiveness of this approach is something that would seem to need further research. A project carried out by the University of Southampton (Harvey, F.2017), whereby Geography students were awarded badges as they completed course milestones, found that only 25% of students actually claimed badges as they progressed. The reason for this relatively low take up was not clear.

Outside education, digital badges are now being used by companies such as Dell as part of their assessment programme (see The more digital badges are recognised by major employers, the more likely students are to view badges as worthwhile. Indeed, a recent case study (Anderson, L. et al (2017) Open Badges in the Scottish HE Sector: The use of technology and online resources to support student transitions. Project Report July 2017. Universities of Dundee, Aberdeen and Abertay) found that that 40% of students would value digital badges if employability were to be enhanced by their use. For lots more useful information on digital badges visit


Abramovich, S Understanding digital badges in higher education through assessment, On the Horizon, Vol. 24 Issue: 1, pp.126-131 2016,

Harvey, F Journal of Educational Innovation, Partnership and Change, Vol 3, No 1, 2017

Photo by Melinda Martin-Khan on Unsplash

Melinda Martin-Khan

Augmented Reality as an Educational Tool


My first dealings of Augmented Reality within an educational context came with an attempt to engage 4-year-old boys with their first steps in writing. To anyone who has worked within an open plan early years environment containing 90 children, trying to get boys – who would much rather be running around outside – to pick up a writing tool to mark make, is similar to herding cats! Using the Quiver app, children were able to choose a picture from a selection and colour it in how they liked. The app then showed an augmented reality animation of their picture, showing their specific markings. This gave the children ownership and allowed them to buy into the creative process.

Earlier in the year I was fortunate enough to attend the ‘Working with Technology Enhanced Learning’ networking event in association with Southern University Libraries. Debbie Holley from Bournemouth University gave an inspiring and practical presentation demonstrating Aurasma and told us about her experiences researching it in collaboration with Anglia Ruskin University. You can visit Augmented@ARU for further user guides, blogs and some useful resources to use to demonstrate  the app.

What is Aurasma?

Aurasma states that it is the world’s leading augmented reality platform, is currently used across a wide range of sectors and is beginning to filter into higher education. Aurasma allows the user, with the use of a mobile device, to combine a real time/real world view of an object (such as a poster, book, brochure or item of equipment) with an overlay that plays sound, displays an image or even a short video.

It works by using the mobile device’s camera to ‘find’ the image, which then links to the given media that the user has associated with it. Because it is essentially trying to match the image, the subject needs to be static and something that is unlikely to change over time – I’ve tried this out using numerous face images and decided that people or moving objects don’t really work! The ‘Auras’ that the user creates can be stored and used on the device, or uploaded to Aurasma and made public for anyone to find. This YouTube video shows how Aurasma can be used:

Aurasma in action

Aurasma is relatively easy to use. Depending on their device, users can download the Aurasma app from the relevant Apple or Android store. On downloading you are prompted to create a free account, though free ‘Auras’ are limited in their accessibility to followers of the creator.

There are enhanced ‘Pro’ accounts available at a cost that allow access to a wider range of media content that allows the creation of ‘Auras’ that can be accessed by the general public.  

This makes sense as it allows Aurasma to police the amount of open Auras created, as well as limiting it to high end advertising campaigns of companies that can afford the high cost of this service. While this limits the average user in terms of creation, it does help provide a number of high quality Aura’s that really show the possibilities and the power of Augmented Reality. (I would particularly recommend the Frozen, Star Wars and Mike’s Hard Lemonade as examples of how marketing campaigns have used Aurasma to incorporate video, animation and interactivity with their users.)

You will also need to consider your device’s Wi-Fi connection. Though it can use a phone’s 3G/4G data allowance, do bear in mind that most Aura’s link to video, animations or music, so it will be dependent on this.

Aurasma requires the user to capture a trigger image within the parameters of the viewfinder, namely an indicated rectangle on the screen. When an Aura has been discovered the 7 dots change to a pulsing circle animation to inform the user that content has been found and is loading. The speed of this is dependent on both the speed of the device’s internet connection and the size of the download. Factors such as light and stability of the camera shot can create difficulties in the app ‘finding’ the Aura. Equally, trying to use an Aura displayed on a computer/television screen seems to take longer than when finding a real life object, possibly due to reflection or glare from the screen’s brightness.

Discovering and finding content is great fun given the variety and ingenuity of the Auras on offer. Within the app or website there is an opportunity to search for terms, and most Auras have various hashtags to help you.

It should also be an educator’s first port of call when wishing to add augmented content to their lectures and resources, as there is no need to reinvent the wheel by creating content that already exists, and the eclectic range gives a good scope of possibilities. Should you not find exactly what you were after, it is quite easy to create your own Aura with the user placing an overlay over an image. The overlay can be one of the animations provided by Aurasma’s default library. You can use existing video, audio and images up to a 20Mb limit on your portable device within the app.

Alternatively you can download Aurasma Studio, which is a free desktop application available from the website allowing up to 100Mb overlays, so if you want to have video of a higher resolution, this may be the method for you.

Creating an Aura is very straightforward and user-friendly and there is a nice feature of quality control on the image capture, which grades your Aura by contrast from red (insufficient) to green (good image quality). The overlay image can be positioned simply by dragging, and intuitively uses all of the finger gestures of a portable device for resizing and rotating objects. Once created, the user can publish it to a ‘public’ channel that followers can access on the Aurasma app.

Final thoughts

I think the use of augmented reality can only help engage students further into the subject they are studying. The advantage of using Aurasma is it’s ease of use, the ability to use it on a variety of devices and platforms, as well as being free and actively encouraging users to create their own content.

The drawbacks come with a limited choice of templates and a cap on the amount of data you can use, but as a ‘gateway’ for encouraging educators to use augmented reality in their session, it is excellent. It’s ability to provide information and weblinks give much wider usage – from interactive university maps during induction of new students, to historical views of monuments on field trips – that mean higher education has numerous and unlimited possibilities for its usage.


Images from:

Featured Image:

Photo by Patrick Schneider on Unsplash


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