Adventures in Technology Enhanced Learning @ UoP

Category: Apps

Google in a time of lockdown

2020 marks the fifteenth anniversary of the beta version of Gmail, Google’s first move beyond being just a search engine. Since then Google has created an extensive suite of applications many of which are extremely useful for teaching and learning. In this blog I’ll be looking at some of, what I think, are the most useful apps and why, during the current lockdown, Google can be useful in helping deliver online learning.

Possibly the most useful change Google has made in light of the lockdown was to extend video conferencing (Hangouts Meet)  to all GSuite accounts allowing up to 250 participants in any online meeting. Setting up an online meeting using Hangouts Meet can be done via the Google calendar thus notifying participants automatically. While this particular app lacks some of the functionality of Webex, it is useful for hosting and running a simple meeting or online seminar.

In this time of distributive learning, collaboration can still be facilitated and Google provides tools such as jamboard that will allow students to contribute to online tasks and discussions. Jamboard provides a pin-board style interface onto which students can pin their ideas and contributions to group tasks. While apps such as Google docs do clearly provide opportunities for online collaboration, jamboard provides a tool for more focused tasks with a clear and easy to read interface.

On the Degree Apprenticeship programme, we make major use of G Suite including Shared Drives and Google Docs, indeed without these, it would be difficult to see how we could manage some of the required administrative tasks. The ability to enhance the functionality of some Google products such as sheets, also means that they can be tailored to best meet the needs of our students. For example, all degree apprenticeship students are required to keep a log of their off the job training activities, such as their weekly University sessions, to help them complete these logs we use Google forms linked to Google sheets. Being able to add a script to the sheets means that emails can automatically be sent out allowing course administrators to more easily monitor log entries.

In terms of teaching and learning, one of the most useful Google products, and certainly the most ubiquitous in terms of videos, is YouTube, bought by Google back in 2006. By virtue of having a Google account, all members of the University automatically have a YouTube account. This, combined with the unlimited storage offered by Google, provides staff and students with an invaluable teaching and learning platform. Google’s screen capture app, Screencastify, integrates nicely with Youtube allowing users to edit and then upload directly to their YouTube channel.

So, out of the range of apps, Google provides, which ones are my favourites?

Having worked with apprenticeship students in the Business faculty for over two years, helping them with their ePortfolios, I’ve become a convert to Google Sites. I found the old version while having plenty of functionality, a bit clunky and not that user-friendly, often having to write HTML to achieve what I wanted. A downside of New Google Sites was the lack of template functionality, but this issue is being addressed as the addition of templates is currently in development.

But, on a day to day level, Google docs and Shared Drives have pretty much transformed the way I work, simplifying working collaboratively with colleagues and students. 

The pace of development of Google products is also impressive and I’m looking forward to making use of Smart Compose ( and neural grammar correction, currently in beta. While Word does ship with far greater functionality and even slightly complicated Word documents do not convert well to Google, for the majority of users, the tools available with Docs are generally more than enough and thinglink ( is great for those new to Docs. Google has also made it slightly easier to share documents with non-Google account holders, users can now use their existing email address to set themselves up with Google to enable access to shared Google docs, Sites etc. while a PIN verification system, currently in beta, will remove the need to set up any kind of Google account at all.

The current situation has thrown up considerable challenges in continuing to provide engaging and high quality teaching and learning especially in terms of students working collaboratively, Google clearly does not provide all the solutions required, but its suite of apps are certainly a good starting point.

Image by Saveliy Morozov  from Pixabay

Three Useful Apps for Teaching/Learning

In this blog, I want to introduce a couple of apps that could be very useful additions to any lecturers’ teaching toolbox.


The first is Screencastify.  Screencastify is a lightweight screen recorder that can be used to capture your desktop and webcam allowing you to create videos that can be uploaded directly to YouTube and, at the same time, saved to your Google Drive. Being a Chrome extension means that there is no heavy weight software to download and it can also be used offline. There is a free version that limits the number of videos you can make to 50 per month with a maximum length of 10 minutes per video. However, you can upgrade to a paid for version, approximately £20 (it comes priced in dollars), which has no such limits.

Anyway, enough reading, here is a short demo of Screencastify in action

It does lack the functionality of a product like Camtasia, but if all you need is a quick easy screen recording it is well worth a go. You can also keep the videos on YouTube private by setting them to unlisted so they cannot be found in searches or as recommendations, students would just need the URL which can be made available via your Moodle pages.

Once you’ve made your video using Screencastify, you can have it as a stand alone resource available via YouTube or you could use it to produce an enhanced learning object by combining it with Adobe Spark.

I can see this having a variety of uses from giving video/audio feedback to forming part of a set of flipped learning sessions.


An alternative to Screencastify is Screencast-O-Matic. As with Screencastify, this app also comes in free and licensed versions. The free version of Screencast-O-Mantic will record videos of 15 minutes which can then be saved as MP4 files, this version also comes with some limited editing functionality but does require a software download and does not work quite as seamlessly with YouTube or Google Drive.


The third app, useful as a revision aid, is Brainscape . Brainscape is an online flashcard system, you can either create your own flashcards or use a pre-made set. Unlike other ready made flashcard systems I’ve seen, Brainscape does have resources suitable for HE and not just in traditional academic disciplines. This system is free (though you can pay to release a larger number of cards) and can be accessed through your Google account.

As students work through the set of cards, they can rate how confident they are in their knowledge and understanding. Staff can create classes to which they can invite students, thus allowing you to view how many cards the students used and how they themselves rate their learning.

Brainscape says that its system is grounded in proven techniques that help improve learning and understanding. Not having used this particular platform myself with learners I can’t comment on the veracity of the claims made but as flashcards are a popular learning technique this online system is worth looking at, especially given the range of topics it covers.

Credit Image: Photo by Rob Hampson on Unsplash

Technology and our mental health and wellbeing

I am very fortunate that I get to walk to work daily (okay, except on really rainy days, then maybe I’m not so fortunate!) and I am obsessed with listening to podcasts on my journey. On my walk in this morning I stumbled across a podcast episode from Ctrl Alt Delete with Emma Gannon who was talking with Dr Megan Jones Bell, the Chief Science Officer at Headspace.

Headspace, in case you haven’t heard of it, is an app that promotes positive mental health and wellbeing through the practice of mindfulness. The app takes users through guided meditations and shares techniques in dealing with, for example, a busy, overthinking/negative-thinking, mind – a state that can impact on sleep, performance and relationships, which of course can in turn lead to feelings of stress, anxiety and depression… basically all of the things preventing you from being your best self!

Dr Megan Jones Bell was, interestingly, talking about how businesses are buying into meditation apps such as Headspace for their employees, because employers are starting to recognise the value of nurturing a sense of positive mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

Listening to this got me to thinking about our students and colleagues University-wide, as I have recently been working closely with personal tutors and support services at the University. Through these encounters I have heard first hand how mental health issues are a real concern, and they appear to be on the rise. I’m sure this is not just an issue within our institution.

Our University freely provides staff and students with software licenses and accounts, such as, for free online training to develop our academic and professional skills. However, knowing what we know about the current situation regarding mental health and wellbeing, I wonder whether we are doing enough in this area? Is it time for Portsmouth and other institutions to invest more in access to products such as Headspace (and other apps are available – I’m using this just as an example), which encourage self-care and have a more preventative approach to mental health and wellbeing? In other words, should employers be helping to embed practices such as mindfulness and meditation, potentially via apps, into people’s daily lives so that we are all armed with tools to deal with difficult and challenging experiences when they arise? Surely this can only be a good thing for staff and students? What are your thoughts?

Note: I am by no means forgetting that mental health and wellbeing is a very complex subject and that apps alone cannot ‘fix’ things in times of crisis! If you or a student are experiencing any mental health issues please seek support from either Occupational Health or refer students to the Student Wellbeing Service.


Brown, D. & Triggle, N. (4 December, 2018). BBC News. Mental health: 10 charts on the scale of the problem. Available at:

Economides, M., Martman, J., Bell, M.J.  & Sanderson, B. (2008). Improvements in Stress, Affect, and Irritability Following Brief Use of a Mindfulness-based Smartphone App: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Available at:

Mental health and wellbeing apps:

Emma Gannon (2019). Ctrl Alt Delete. #189: Dr Megan Jones-Bell: How To Invest In Yourself (California Innovation Tour #2). 3, April. Available at:


Some thoughts on Nearpod

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

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

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

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

pricing structure





Taken from

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

The basic features that the Silver licence offers are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Case Study – Gill Wray

The Shorthand Units

Gill Wray, an academic member of staff in the School of Social Historical and Literary Studies within the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences is responsible amongst other things, for the Journalism Shorthand units. I’ve been talking to her about some of the interesting elements of her units that she has implemented for students with the help of the Faculty’s Online Course Developers, Scott, Joe and Daren.

Journalism Shorthand units run in the first and second years as a core requirement aiming to teach shorthand to those taking a Journalism course. As part of her teaching Jill has been involved with the development of some interesting interactive elements on her Moodle site.

I think this sort of work is worth highlighting to others as it shows how Moodle can be much more than just a repository for work, and handouts. Moodle allows an incredible amount of flexibility in terms of what content you can make available for students – it doesn’t just have to be downloadable PDF revision sheets!

The Test Your Shorthand WebApp

The ‘Test Your Shorthand’ app for practicing shorthand knowledge has been around for a while, though due to problems with audio playing on an older version, has recently been rebuilt as a responsive web app to remain functional on various devices across a variety of screen sizes.

The app, which you can see in the screenshots here, gives a student three different difficulty levels to test a student’s shorthand knowledge. Choosing one of these gives a short multiple choice shorthand quiz tuned to the difficulty of the option the student selected. The app also provides a series of shorthand ‘outlines’ (the squiggles that form the core part of journalistic shorthand) as revision aid, as well as 10 different voice recordings to practice note taking on. The audio is offered in 100, 110 and 120 words a minute format, perfect for a student learning to record what they hear.

The app is available as part of the Shorthand Year One Moodle site, and is offered as a supplement to the existing course content, which includes videos that are timed to release to students each week, and also other more traditional worksheet activities.

Digraph Train

Gill’s Shorthand site also includes The Digraph Train. When I asked her why she had added this interactivity to her Moodle site she said:

“One of the main challenges has been the inability of some students to recognise that digraphs ‘sh’, ‘ch’, ‘th’ and ‘wh’ make specific sounds.  We therefore produced a very simple ‘early learning’ style visual in the form of a moving train with carriages adding letters one at a time. There is audio as each carriage joins the train. This helps students understand how two letters come together to make a particular sound.”

The Digraph Train was produced by Gill, with the help of the Online Course Developers in the School, using a software package called Articulate Storyline. When I spoke with Joe Wright, who was responsible for the project, about why he chose Storyline he said:

“I chose to use Storyline because I found it gave me all the tools that would fulfil the task in hand. It is a great e-learning package which you can use to create unique projects using triggers and timing. It’s simple to use as it uses an interface similar to the Microsoft packages which makes it very easy to navigate, to add animations, images and sound to the project. Gill told me that the students found the end result to be very engaging”.

It’s worth mentioning, that both these projects took time, and required skills that are not reflected across every faculty. If you have an idea for something you want to create, but don’t know where to start, visit your Online Course Developers first more often than not they’ll be happy to help. If you think your idea might benefit students (or staff) in a faculty other than your own Technology Enhanced Learning would also be happy to work with you to get your idea off the ground.

Highlighting your own creative and innovative use of Moodle is a difficult thing. There is no University wide platform, no place a member of staff can go and say ‘hey! I helped make this and I think it’s good!’ Case studies like this are our way of putting good work out there for people to see. Currently both of these projects are available only to students studying the Shorthand units on Journalism courses.

Hold – A rewarding app

What is it?

Hold is an app aimed at students that discourages them from using their mobile phone. Hold works by presenting a timer on screen that awards points every 20 mins. If you do exit the app, you receive a warning, and then if you don’t go back the timer resets to zero and you have to start again. The points that you earn can be converted into real-world prizes, such as; Amazon vouchers, coffee shop vouchers, and cinema treats.

The app certainly caught our eye in the TEL office after the BBC published an interesting article about it.

Hold App

Why use it?

Hold is clearly targeted at students who need a way to counter an addiction to using their phones, and is trying to help those students to focus on their lectures, reading or revision. It’s particularly popular in Norway where 40% of students are using Hold to help focus on learning and break their addiction.

What next?

Smart phones have changed how we interact with the world, they provide 24/7 social interaction that is now the norm for many of us, especially young people who have never known any different. Yet some experts are already highlighting how this new lifestyle may not be healthy, so perhaps any way to gain a little more control over our digital lives should be seen as a good thing.

If the amount of users of the app increases it could be a fantastic way to focus the attention of those students who are easily distracted both in and outside of the classroom.

We are living in a digital age, many academics are using phones and tablets as part of their teaching. It could be seen as sending a mixed message if you simultaneously ask students to put away their devices, as they prevent them from concentrating, and also ask them to use mobile technology to learn in class.

It is more than likely that the creators of this app, and those like it, are hoping to tackle the issues of those students who struggle to focus their time on learning. It is not meant to destabilise any attempts at implementing new and innovative teaching tools in the classroom.

Apps like Hold do however raise the wider issue of how much a university is expecting the student to provide their own device for learning interactions. Should more money be put into providing each student with a learning device? Where once it was expected the student brings a pen and paper, should that expectation now be that they have a tablet or PC/Chromebook that they use for their note taking and/or classroom interactions?

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


Is your team ‘slack’ing when it comes to communication?

So we all know that good communication is a pretty important element of any productive team – why, then, is it so hard to get it right?

One of the most frustrating points about communication at work can either be the lack of it … or, possibly, too much of it in the form of hundreds of back-and-forth emails with threads as long as your arm, all talking about the same topic!

Well, the TEL team were definitely feeling this pain! So we came up with a plan to investigate a new method of communication. As a team it was very important that whatever form this took it wouldn’t be invasive to our workflow – it had to fit in with us as a team and as an individual.

So, after a little window shopping we found the Slack app!

So what is it? In very simple terms Slack is a messaging app for teams. It is available to view on iOS and Android mobile devices, and from your Mac & Windows Desktop. The platform allows you to create Channels (groups) which you and other team members can join and contribute to.

Slack interface

Slack, as with most packages, offers a free service. However, it is limited compared to the paid fee package. The TEL team is a fairly small team and we find that the free service is enough for us. The free package is also unlimited unlike so many others where you only get to trial for a short period of time and then have to buy in!

So how do we use Slack? Just to give you an example, we have a news and announcement channel which is used by the whole team; it’s here that we can all view and share information that is important across the team. Then we have project channels which are used by those working on a specific projects – the really useful thing about this is that if you come in late to work on a project you can view all previous dialogue and associated documentation from when the channel was created – Instantly (pretty much) in the loop! It’s also worth mentioning that if you are working on something confidential than it is possible to set up a private channel. My advice would to avoid using private channels unless really necessary as it can create barriers to collaboration and the sharing of ideas and knowledge.

However, Slack isn’t just about messaging! You can upload and share files and it also has some fantastic integrations both practical and fun!

Add media options

Lastly, no one wants to be distracted at work. There are a couple of ways to overcome this issue. First, get your notifications set up! There are loads of options on how and when to get notified! Second, set up a social channel for general chit-chat (and the overuse of /giphy!) … this should prevent work-related channels drifting off topic!

I’m not afraid to say I’m a big fan of Slack. In fact I love it, as it’s so easy and simple to setup and use! Personally I think it’s enhanced our ability to collaborate more freely and its facilitated us in being able to support team members because we are now much more aware of what is happening within the team.

If this sounds like something your team could benefit from using then why not check it out – See

SoloLearn – Learning where you want, when you want


We all learn in different ways and personally I’m a hands on learner. I need to be learning and doing at the same time, otherwise it’s not going to stick.

Currently I have dipped my toe into the world of coding. This is something I’ve tried my hand at over the years but each time I pick it up, without practise I lose what I’ve learnt. So I started to search for apps that could help me learn and practise basic HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) throughout my typical day.

So what did you find?

After a few clicks and swipes I came across SoloLearn – a free mobile social platform that offers coding courses which can be completed via the Web on iOS, Android or Windows.

The aim of the game with SoloLearn is to learn through playing. The courses consist of bite-size guides and quizzes to keep you engaged and your progress is saved each time you reach a ‘checkpoint’. To practise and play with what you have learned, there is the ‘Code Playground’ where learners can experiment with what they have learned so far and save for future reference. This is excellent for when life gets in the way and you need to put the app to one side for a while, making for a easy return when you pick it back up. Another benefit is regardless of what platform you happen to be using, Sololearn will sync up, so you can access your course in a range of situations via your mobile device and the app will know where you left off from.

A very important part of SoloLearn is that although their name suggests otherwise, you are in by no means ‘solo’ in your learning. On each course there is a space for comments at the bottom of each page from the global SoloLearn community to ask questions or find handy tips from other learners taking part in their course. Many learners also share code they have written to be used by others for practise.

This is all well and good, but why should I learn to code at all?

Many people wouldn’t bat an eyelid at being told by a friend that they might be learning a spoken language such as French, but telling them you’re learning a digital language? That can get you a few funny looks. Although a genuine interest in the first place doesn’t hurt, there’s no harm in learning a new skill and adding another string to your bow. There’s no escaping that we live in a digital age and learning to code can only benefit you in the long run. Having a basic knowledge of HTML and CSS can help your career, such as being able to improve your employer’s website, or quickly publish your own content on your own website or digital platform.

You can find out more and join up by visiting SoloLearn here.

Image credits:  https://pexels-photo-9204.jpeg

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