Adventures in Technology Enhanced Learning @ UoP

Category: Wellbeing

Wellbeing in difficult times

Festival of Inclusivity & Wellbeing resources with a £100 prize draw for completing a personalised wellbeing reflection tool

With the impact of the global pandemic continuing to dominate the academic year 2020/21, including a variety of lockdowns and restrictions profoundly affecting everyday and working life, it has been an extraordinarily challenging year. How has the year been for you?

As this challenging year draws to a close, take some time to pause, reflect and engage with wellbeing and inclusion resources, and you could win Amazon vouchers worth up to £100.

Complete the Wellbeing in Difficult Times One Year On tool and be eligible for a prize draw.

A small independent University of Portsmouth research group, led by Head of Wellbeing, Dr Denise Meyer, has been investigating how staff and students at the University have been coping during the pandemic.

Staff interviewed about using the original Wellbeing in Difficult Times tool in July 2020 reported finding it interesting and thought-provoking. They particularly valued the personalised feedback they received and felt it helped them better consider their own wellbeing.

By completing the updated personalised wellbeing tool one year on you will:

  • Have an opportunity to pause and reflect on aspects of your own wellbeing, coping strategies and resilience during this challenging year.

  • Get automatic personalised feedback about your answers to the standardised measures one year on, with suggestions for how to maintain or improve your wellbeing.

  • Help to further test the tool for evaluating future interventions to support staff and student wellbeing, such as the Festival of Inclusivity & Wellbeing described below.

  • Be able to enter a prize draw for Amazon vouchers, as a thank you for taking the 20-30 minutes to complete it – with a top prize of £100, 2 x £75, 3 x £50, 4 x £25.

The team would like a wide range of perspectives, and we hope to have good representation from participants with minority identities who can provide feedback about their experiences around inclusion at the University – for example, international students/staff, BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) students/staff, LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning) students/staff, students/staff with neurodiversity, disability or specific learning difficulty.

Your responses will be dealt with anonymously and confidentially. Full information about the development of the survey tool and wider research programme, and about privacy and confidentiality, is provided at the start of the survey before the consent section. The survey has already been shared again with students.

Festival of Inclusivity and Wellbeing

Catch up with the popular keynotes and sessions from the Festival of Inclusivity & Wellbeing

The opening address on ‘Building a sense of belonging in a compassionate, inclusive learning community’ launched our first Festival of Inclusivity and Wellbeing with a hands-on introduction to our unique whole-institution approach to wellbeing and inclusion – the Learning, Teaching and Working Well framework. The framework promotes a compassionate mindset towards self and others which recognises the emotional impact of learning, work and life challenges and the central role of a sense of belonging in helping to meet these challenges and flourish. The rest of the Festival offered sessions aiming to build hands-on skills related to this framework.

Recordings of this and all the other sessions are now available on the Festival website. Staff who were able to attend the Festival on 12 May used words like ‘inspiring’, ‘thought provoking’ and ‘soothing’ for the various keynotes, workshops and wellbeing sessions they attended.

Why not bookmark this Self-care Break page of 5-minute wellbeing taster sessions as a resource to dip into when you need a break during the working day? You can choose from mindfulness, hand massage, chair yoga, laughter, and mindful movement. Or catch up on some of the sessions listed below.

The inspiring keynote by Dr Doyin Atewologun, an internationally recognised expert on leadership, diversity, intersectionality and organisation culture, on ‘Leading the way to a more inclusive university community’ comes highly recommended from those who attended it. Or catch up on other popular sessions like:

There are also sessions for academic and other student-facing staff:

The last day for updating the personalised wellbeing tool is Saturday 31st July 2021.

Another 6 months of working from home – don’t panic!

2020 has been a rollercoaster of a year. With the latest announcements and guidance from the government, plus the extension of working remotely for many of us, it’s inevitably starting to take it’s toll. For some working from home is challenging and can often feel daunting and very isolating. Not everyone is tech-savvy and with the use of more and more new technologies, particularly in higher education to teach, learn and to simply communicate with our colleagues, it can feel quite overwhelming. With the added bonus of the pressures of family life thrown in, it’s important to look out for each other and most importantly take time out for you!

Finding the balance

Working days seem longer since lockdown and our workloads have increased, with ongoing pressures and deadlines, it can feel like we are drowning in constant emails and online meetings. So what can be done? What little things can we do, to take some control back in our lives? How do we find the balance between work and life?

Back at the beginning of lockdown, we put together some Top Tips from TEL to help our followers on social media (and us), adjust to this new way of working. For many of us we will be continuing working from home for the foreseeable future, with this in mind we thought it might be useful to revisit them, before the panic takes over!

Take regular breaksTake regular breaks

It’s important to make sure we take time away from our screens during our busy days (something I’m especially guilty of not doing!). It’s not only good for our mental and physical health but also good for our productivity. It’s better to have shorter breaks more often from your workstation than longer breaks less often. Try to schedule in a short walk, an exercise or a short meditation session.

DEDICATED WORK SPACECreate a dedicated workspace

We’ve become remote workers overnight and it’s often difficult to find ‘space’ in our homes to work. Some of us are fortunate to have a spare room which we can transform into a quiet office space. Others have created a workspace at their dining room tables. It’s important to create a dedicated workspace where you are able to work from home – this way you can feel like you are at work even if you aren’t physically in the office.

Write a to-do listwrite a list

Write a to-do list at the start of every week, this is a must for me. It not only helps you to plan out your week but also to prioritise your tasks. Try and achieve one thing on your list, don’t be surprised if it all goes at the window. At the end of the day reflect on what happened, what went right, think positively. Don’t beat yourself up – tomorrow is another day!

Don't panic if you get disconnectedDon’t panic if you get disconnected

I think we’ve all experienced this when working remotely. Things aren’t working quite like you thought they would and it’s easy to panic – but don’t! All technologies can be glitchy at times. Remember, if you lose connections, maybe a video conference, don’t worry – everyone is in the same boat and we’ll muddle through together.

Don’t lose contact with
your work colleaguesDon't lose contact with work colleagues

As I’ve mentioned above, working from home can often feel isolating. It’s important to keep in contact with our colleagues for our own well-being. Although we are all experiencing this crazy year together, we are all in very different circumstances with very different pressures. Some may be thriving under this new way of working and living, others may be struggling – it’s important to reach out, be kind and support one another.


20-20-20 RuleRemember the 20-20-20 rule

Suffering from headaches and sore eyes since working from home is common, which is often the result of too much screen time. Remember to practice the 20-20-20 rule: 20 minutes on-screen needs a 20-second break during which you should blink 20 times. Give it a go!

Make sure to clock off
and switch offclock off - switch off

Our working days have increased. We are starting work earlier and turning off our computers well into the night. We seem to be working more hours than ever before. It’s important for our mental health and wellbeing that we don’t burn out! Make sure that you try and have regular breaks from your screen throughout the day and log off when your working day is over. Turn off notifications on your phones to make sure that when you do clock off, you also switch off. Work/Life balance is hard to juggle when we are stuck indoors but being mindful to separate both mentally is essential.

learn to deal with distractionsLearn to deal with distractions

There are often distractions with working remotely. However, when the whole family are also thrown into the mix, learning not to be distracted can feel like an impossible task. Try to tackle things in small chunks and if you can’t achieve everything that you set out to in the day, then there’s always the next day. Don’t feel ashamed to call on your colleagues, friends or family to help out if they are able to. Be understanding of one another and take everything one step at a time.

Make time for exercisemake time for exercise

Whatever your go-to exercise, it’s important to factor some into your day. It’s not only good for your body, but it also keeps your mind healthy. Exercise is the miracle cure we’ve always had! If you can’t get to a gym, then there are lots of online videos that can help you carry out home workouts, such as Joe Wicks, the nation’s favourite PE teacher and our own UoP Sport and Recreations Facebook page.

work when you're at your most productiveWork when you’re at your most productive

Nobody rushes through their work from morning to night – your motivation will naturally dip and rise throughout the day. When we are working from home, however, it’s more important to know when those dips and rises will take place and plan your schedule around them. To make the most of productive periods, save your harder tasks for when you know you’ll be in the right headspace for them. Slower points of the day for easier tasks.

Take time out – reflect ontake time out to reflect
how far you’ve come and
how much you’ve achieved!

Take some time out, even if it’s ten minutes in the day, be grateful for the small things in life and reflect on how far you’ve come and how much you’ve achieved this year. You’ll be surprised at how productive you have been!



don't be afraid to ask for help

Don’t be afraid to ask

Lots of new tools and technologies to learn, new terminology, head full of pedagogy, best practice and resources and zero time to do anything – can often feel overwhelming. As a team, TEL, offer lots of useful training sessions to help you get to grips with online teaching, we also offer 1-2-1 sessions and we can be contacted via email, or video call if you have a question – so please don’t be afraid to ask – just contact us!

And most importantly  . . .
Be kind to yourselfbe kind to yourself

One of the most difficult things to practice and that’s putting ourselves first and being kind to ourselves. It’s often hard to schedule some time in the day especially if you have a busy work and family life. However, a bath at the end of the day, meditation, a short exercise session, reading a book, listening to music are all ways we can take time out for ourselves.

It’s been a challenging time for us all and we may find some days are more productive than others. We’ve all had to adapt to a new routine since March, a new way of working and living. Make sure to take time out for yourself and always remember tomorrow is another day. Yes we may have to do this for a little bit longer, but we have shown that we are able to.

You may not think it but you’re doing great!

Into the unknown – part 3

Digifest (#Digifest20) runs across 2 days and provides a wide range of thought provoking sessions to engage and challenge the audience. 

Day 2 started with a keynote from Hayley Mulenda (@hayleymulenda on Twitter) that was one of the most heartfelt and eye opening talks I have ever watched called “The Hidden Filter”. Hayley talked about her experiences at university, her journey through depression and anxiety. How she felt while having to deal with family and friends all the time maintaining the focus on her learning. This is something that I can not do justice to with my attempt to write about it now. Just to say that if you ever get a chance to hear her speak, I would take it. It will demonstrate how many students are facing challenges that (depending on your age and year of study) you may never have even considered. It equally demonstrated to me that there were times in my life where I was depressed and emotionally raw but not realising it because I was in the middle of the situation, it is only when I think back and reflect that I can see the damage I was doing to myself. 

She concluded her talk with the notion that we should not rely on technology in this ‘technology driven world’ (which has become an even bigger issue at the time of writing during the COVID lockdown). We now face an even greater challenge to support each other those who may be isolated, not only literally but figuratively. (I will provide some wellbeing support and guidance at the bottom of this blog for extra reading). It is with the “Hidden Filter” that Hayley addressed that our reliance on presenting a show of permanent strength and happiness in a digital world can ultimately lead to a rise in negative and harmful experiences in the “real” world. My favourite quote of her session was “You don’t need to listen to respond, you need to listen to understand”. 

The second day was just as inspiring as the first, with sessions covering a range of ideas, however the last one, I want to mention for this series of blogs is the one hosted by Michelle Capes and Sean Randall of the Wiltshire College and University Centre. This session was on digital escape rooms and demonstrated how you could use Microsoft OneNote to create pages of questions, restricted by passwords that require you to challenge your students and get them to investigate the material. Creating riddles and puzzles that can be discovered through online research as well as having to work around physical locations to find the information. 

During this session, I was inspired to look at how Moodle may be a potential option in creating ‘Digital Escape Rooms’. I found that it was possible to recreate using a Moodle book to house H5P activities that are all set with restrictions that require a set score from a previous question. It was a quick test I did during the presentation but with more work, the idea could be developed using a range of activities and conditions within Moodle that create more a more in depth experience. What it demonstrated to me was the idea that we are often limited by our own creativity and not the technical limitations. The OneNote option being demostrated was simple but very effective!

What I realised is that often we are all working on creative solutions to problems or have ideas that we don’t elaborate on and this can lead us to the point where we are not always great at sharing those ideas that we have. With that in mind, if you have worked on something in Moodle that is slightly more interesting, or have an idea that you are not sure what to do with, please do get in touch with myself, your Online Course Developer (many of whom have kindly written for the blog) or the TEL team, and we can discuss these ideas and potential solutions. 

To close this post and my experiences of DigiFest 2020, I would recommend to everyone that can attend this event in the future, they do! It is a fantastic example of creative minds and inspiring innovations that demonstrate learning and teaching within the FE and HE sector. It has made me think about things we should be looking at for our institution and what I can personally do to inspire others with the technology we have available. It demonstrated to me that there are more aspects to the life we lead within a university that we might miss from the students perspective (thanks @hayleymulenda). We traditionally work in silos a lot of the time, and it is an easy trap to fall into, but we should be looking at how best we can connect our work with others throughout the university. There is more we can offer, but we might not see the direct value elsewhere or how others might also be able to apply it to their subject. It is a very easy mindset to create, isolating ourselves and not sharing our work or innovations. Often this is not deliberate but just one factor in how we approach what we do in our daily working life. Digifest has shown me we should be singing each other’s praises and looking at ways to connect and integrate our best practice around the university and also what we can offer the wider community (be it learning and teaching practice or what we can offer others who might use our teaching ideas in the outside world). 

Guidance and Support for Wellbeing:

21 day self care challenge – the result

At the beginning of social distancing, I envisaged that lockdown was definitely going to be a challenge for my little family, however I never anticipated how difficult it would get! Trying to work from home, both myself and my husband, homeschooling our 4 year old, whilst trying to entertain our 2 year old  (who is currently in the throws of the ‘tantrum-y terrible twos’), breaking up on-going sibling punch ups, whilst trying to keep some kind of sanity – yep it was going to be tough! Forever the optimist though, and at times, yes it has been super challenging, we managed to juggle through everything and try to remain positive and safe.

As if I didn’t have enough to concentrate on, I decided to take on the 21 day self care challenge (please see my Isolation motivation – are you up for a challengepost for more info). I was looking for that zap of energy, I felt sluggish after being cooped up in the house for 4 weeks and was in need of some isolation motivation – so I accepted the challenge. 

The challenge

The 21 day self care challenge included the following:

I had to choose 2 things to drop from my life over 21 days from the following list.

I choose:

  1.  All white carbs, or bread and,
  2.  Sugar (inc. sweets, chocolate and fruit juice)

And choose to add 2 things into my life over 21 days.

I chose:

  1. Drink 2L of water per day and, 
  2. Extra 2,000 steps a day (try to get above 10,000 a day)

So how did I do? – Focusing on the positives . . .

At the beginning of the self care challenge, I lost someone very close to me to covid and another family member had contracted the virus whilst being in hospital. It was a hard time for me and my family and restrictions around funerals made it even tougher. What we were seeing on the news suddenly became our reality and it was very real for us. Not being able to be with loved ones at such a difficult time was hard.

I’ve always enjoyed exercise and going to the gym. Exercise has helped me in the past to gain focus and control during difficult times in my life and I was keen on getting back into it. I was in the middle of Joe Wick’s 90 day plan before I fell pregnant with my second child, but I was looking for a different type of exercise, ‘not a quick HITT’, something I could escape into. I always enjoyed running at school but hadn’t ran since then. I decided to download the Couch to 5K app and give it a try. To begin with I was anxious about being able to run again but now after 6 weeks using the app – I’m loving it! It’s helped to clear my mind and it’s given me some ‘me-time’ back. Some mornings I wake up and I can’t wait to run, it’s definitely lifted my spirits and helped my mental health.

I am now able to easily get above 10,000 steps and an extra 2,000 a day on my Fitbit. As I’m exercising more I’m also finding that I’m able to drink 2L of water per day. I have more energy and feel fitter in myself.

I’ve found it hard to cut out white carbs and sugar completely, so I eat them occasionally and monitor my food/drink intake – everything in moderation. We are all going to have bad days and slip ups – it’s just remembering to not be too hard on ourselves when we do and know that tomorrow is always another day to reboot and start being good again!

Lessons learned

What I have learnt from the 21 day self care challenge is to make time for me – something that is often hard to do especially when I have a young family. I’ve also dropped another thing from the list which I feel has helped me mentally. I’ve now permanently turned off my work app notifications, this is a huge thing for me as I’m a bit of a workaholic, but my ‘family time’ is no longer interrupted by work notifications on days when I’m not working. When I am working is when I deal with any notifications and only then.

Taking a step back from online chat has helped me to re-focus on my work and what I need to get done during the day. Having a busy and very noisy current working environment, it can often feel overwhelming – it’s full on 24/7.  I’m finding it useful to make to-do lists and preparing as much as I can for each day, it helps me to stay on track with work and homeschooling and it helps the children if we have some kind of routine. If I’m able to tick off one thing on the list then I feel I’ve achieved at least one thing during the day. We are all going through our own rollercoaster of emotions and experiencing very different stresses during this unsettling time. Being kind to one another and being supportive is key to getting through this! 

I’m glad I took on the 21 day self care challenge and I think it’s a useful tool to dip in and out of when you are feeling a bit low, particularly during lockdown and looking for some motivation. It’s helped me to get back on track after a difficult time and become stronger both mentally and physically. Isolating with children, working and homeschooling, all confined to the lounge can feel at times very exhausting and claustrophobic. The 21 day challenge has helped me to remember how crucial it is to take some time out for me, even if it is a short run and breathe!



Image credits:

Photo by Georgia de Lotz on Unsplash

Photo by Emma Simpson on Unsplash

Guest Blogger: Ruth Geddes – Feel Good Fest 2020

A celebration of all things that support us in our quest for wellbeing!

Each year, the Feel Good Fest brings together University staff and students with local artists and organisations to take part in an afternoon of FREE food, fun, and activities.

Together, we celebrate the diversity of what Portsmouth has to offer in supporting, encouraging, and inspiring us all in maintaining our personal wellbeing.

There is a wide range of activities, brought to you by University departments such as UoP Library, UoP Careers, Global, Sports and Rec, our UoP societies and Student Union, as well as local partners such as Highbury College and Southern Domestic Abuse Services. Portsmouth based artists such as Miss Bespoke Papercutting (a UoP alumni) and Hoopshaker also support the event.

Wide range of fun activities

This year, we are also excited to have secured Vidura Fonseka as a speaker and performer at our event.  He speaks about his own journey with depression, and how dancing has provided him with a creative outlet to help manage his mental health and support his recovery and ongoing personal journey.  (

The Festival is based on the Five Ways to Wellbeing – a set of actions proposed in 2008 by a government thinktank, ( to decrease some mental health problems and help people to flourish.

The 5 actions to improve personal wellbeing are:

  • connect
  • be active
  • take notice
  • keep learning
  • give

The Festival therefore attempts to provide activities and performances that link and promote each of these five ways to wellbeing – giving staff and students an opportunity to experience new things and connect with new people, all in a fun and supportive environment.

It was a great, friendly, atmosphere!!

In the past, we have taken over Third Space for the afternoon – this year we have expanded and have also secured The Waterhole space for the afternoon too !!

The performances this year are –

  • UoP Show Choir – opening the festival @ 1pm
  • UoP Capoiera Society – @ 1:30pm
  • Vidura – a speaker and performer with lived experience of Mental Health challenges @ 2pm
  • Individual performance slots of music from two students  – @ 3:15 and 3:30pm

There is also –

  • Free food
  • Drop-in craft activities such as crochet and mug painting
  • Free Massage
  • Get Active sessions from Sports and Rec
  • Lego building
  • Try out static rowing and mini-trampoline’s

Free food was delicious and healthy!!

There will be giveaways and raffle prizes, and wellbeing staff to chat to – all under
one roof!

If, at the event, you need some quiet time away from all the action, The Huddle is the perfect place to have a space of calm.

No need to book – just turn up!

DATE: Wednesday 5th February 2020
TIME: 1.00pm–4.00pm
VENUE: Third Space and The Waterhole, Students’ Union

Follow us on social media for updates on the festival schedule, and if you would like to get involved on the day – get in touch !!

Feel Good Fest Poster



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