Empowering learners through inclusive, cross-disciplinary projects – Podcast Episode 9

How can we empower students to become creators of meaningful content? How can we promote interdisciplinarity, inclusive learning and digital skills development?

In this episode, we interview Dan Axson, who is the ICT Coordinator at St. John’s School and College in Brighton. St. John’s is a special educational needs (SEN) school and specialist college that provides education, care and medical therapy to young people aged 7 to 25. The discussion in this episode focuses on how Dan and his colleagues at St John’s have used inclusive teaching methods and technology to empower learners as creators. We talk about how technology can promote inclusive learning with apps such as Book Creator, how teachers can engage learners with inclusive, cross-disciplinary projects and how a technology-enhanced interactive theatre space is being used to create something extraordinary called The Jumblies Project (inspired by Edward Lear’s poem: The Jumblies).

Dan Axson
St. John’s School and College
Book Creator
The Jumblies Project
‘The Jumblies’ poem by Edward Lear
Donate to the Jumblies Project


Dan Axson:

Dan Axson

St. John’s School and College:

The OptiMusic-enhanced theatre at St. John’s School and College:

Handheld reflector used to break the coloured light beams, which in turn triggers sound effects or music:

Interactive floor which animates as you step on it:

Software used for controlling the OptiMusic technology:

Video of Dan Axson demonstrating the OptiMusic-enhanced theatre space at St. John’s.

Trailer for The Jumblies Project:


Posted in Accessibility, Podcast

MUGSE at Sussex, April 25th 2017

In a previous post, Antony Coombs wrote about ‘Portfolios, assessment and Mahara at Sussex’ outlining how the Mahara e-portfolio system has been introduced at the University.

We are now pleased to be hosting the spring meeting of the Mahara Users Group South East (MUGSE) on 25th April 2017.

All users of Mahara are welcome and there is no charge to attend, but numbers are limited so please book a place.

What is planned for the meeting?

The day will begin with coffee and networking from 11am, move on to presentations and discussions from noon, and finish at 3.30pm. A sandwich lunch is very kindly being provided by Catalyst.

We already have some presenters lined up:

  • Antony Coombs (University of Sussex) will present an overview of the HEFCE-funded Advanced Analytics project.
  • Members of the eLearning team from the University of Brighton will discuss their work with Mahara. Including: supporting nursing revalidation ePortfolios, work-based competencies and other applications.
  • Joey Murison from Catalyst will give an overview of the 17.04 platform and discuss other projects underway.

There are also opportunities for participants to share with the group in either a 5-minute lightning talk or a short (15 minutes) presentation.

Book your place now

Please complete this short form to book a place and let us know if you want to offer a presentation.

We look forward to welcoming the MUGSE community to Sussex.


Posted in External events, Marking and assessment, Technology Enhanced Learning

Electronic submission and feedback at Sussex – the story so far

Infinite Loop by Faruk Ateş

Infinite Loop” by Faruk Ateş, used under a CC BY-NC 2.0 licence (Original cropped and retouched)

This summer will see the graduation of the first student cohort to have experienced electronic submission and feedback throughout their time studying at Sussex. To mark this significant milestone, this blog post reflects on the story so far.

Starting in 2014, members of staff from across many Schools and Professional Services have been working on the University’s e-submission and e-feedback (ESEF) project. This is a major university-wide initiative, delivering a step change in the systems and processes supporting assessment, marking and feedback. Formed as an active response to messages coming from students through the National Student Survey (NSS) and Students’ Union, the project recognised the need to transform and improve the quality and methods used for assessment and feedback. Three years later, Sussex is one of only a few universities1 to have established a fully automated end-to-end solution to facilitate the submission of student work, tutor marking, moderation of work (internal and external) and return of feedback. Read more ›

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Posted in Marking and assessment, Study Direct

Developing students’ discipline-specific vocabulary.

Every discipline has its own specialist terms and concepts. As students progress in their studies they learn the relevant language, but when they begin their studies there are lots of words that they are unsure about. Developing students’ fluency in the language associated with their discipline will put them in a better position to understand course materials and discussions and to express themselves in writing, so it is well worth introducing some activities to scaffold that aspect of their learning.

"Shakespeare's words" flickr photo by Calamity Meg https://flickr.com/photos/disowned/1158260369 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

“Shakespeare’s words” flickr photo by Calamity Meg https://flickr.com/photos/disowned/1158260369 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

Some ideas for using learning technologies to develop vocabulary.

  • Polling vocabulary and key concepts. You can check understanding of key concepts in lecture settings using response systems such as Poll Everywhere. This could be by asking students which terms they feel confident about, or testing them on the definition of a new concept introduced in the previous lecture.
  • Flashcards. There are a number of mobile apps and online tools for creating flashcards (such as StudyBlue and Quizlet). Students could research key terms and create cards before a seminar then test each other.
  • Sorting activities on the SMARTboard. Using an interactive whiteboard, list terms or concepts and definitions that can be moved around and matched up.  
  • Online quizzes. A Study Direct quiz with multiple choice or true/false questions could be used to let students test their understanding of key terms.

Read more ›

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Posted in Learning Design, Polling tools, Study Direct

Gamification using Poll Everywhere’s Segmented Responses

Gamification in education is a pedagogical approach in which elements of games are incorporated into teaching sessions and/or online delivery, with the aim of increasing student engagement. This could be achieved by introducing a competitive element (through, for example, the use of teams), by incorporating the idea that students can ‘level up’ by achieving certain milestones or aims, or by including elements of video games.

"wordle_03" flickr photo by 4RealRose https://flickr.com/photos/lalie_mslee/8270056883 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

“wordle_03” flickr photo by 4RealRose https://flickr.com/photos/lalie_mslee/8270056883 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

One way to start incorporating gamification into your teaching sessions could be to use the ‘segment responses’ option in Poll Everywhere, the student response system used at Sussex. This option allows you to pose an initial question to your students, for example ‘Which team are you in?’. Answering this question then assigns students to a certain team, so students who answered A will be assigned to Team A while students who answered B will be assigned to Team B. Poll Everywhere then tracks the responses to the questions that follow, grouping the different teams’ responses and displaying charts of the answers, introducing a competitive element between the teams which can encourage students to engage with the activity and respond to each question. Poll Everywhere have made a useful step-by-step video which takes you through the process of setting up your polls, gathering responses and generating reports. Read more ›

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Posted in App review, Mobile learning, Polling tools

Portfolios, assessment and Mahara

We have recently introduced the Mahara e-portfolio system at the University of Sussex, as part of our integrated e-submission and e-feedback solution (ESEF), electronically managing assessment from assignment brief to moderated marks. The primary aim of adding Mahara to our suite of applications was to broaden the range of assignment types available for electronic submission, both allowing our students to submit a more diverse range of media types and also capturing the more complex relationships between assignment elements that characterise portfolio submissions.

ePortfolios have a wide range of differing conceptions and purposes, leading to a certain level of ambiguity in definitions and terminology (see Hughes, 2008, Grant, 2005). Our initial implementation, paying particular attention to the role of the portfolio in presenting selected content for assessment, therefore represents only a section of the possibilities for learning and personal development, but more on that later. Read more ›

Posted in Marking and assessment, Study Direct

Podcast Episode 8 – A Space Beyond the Room – Using a blogging platform to support learners


Podcast Episode 8 – A Space Beyond the Room – Using a blogging platform to support learners

In this episode, Sally Burr talks to Dr Rebecca Webb, Lecturer in Early Years and Primary Education at the University of Sussex, and a group of Doctoral and Early Career Researchers, who have started using WordPress as a tool for developing their writing in a blog called Writing into Meaning. In this podcast the learners show how the blog has proved to be a motivational platform to share their successes, a trigger for further experimental writing and a place where they can share their concerns as learners and writers.


Writing into Meaning Blog
Guide to Getting Started with WordPress
Sussex Blogs (WordPress)
Guide to Using Blogs in Higher Education
Using Blogging as a Learning Tool
Using Blogs in Learning and Teaching 

Subscribe to the podcast using our RSS feed.

Posted in Mobile learning, Podcast, Social media

Tech for active learning in large groups.

How can we promote and manage active learning during lectures? How can we measure student understanding and make sure that students are engaging with material?

In 1972, Donald Bligh (1) undertook an extensive study on the use of the lecture as an educational format. He found that it was effective but not more effective than other methods used for transmitting information and that it is relatively ineffective for many other aspects of education including the promotion of higher order thinking. Bligh also observed that concentration levels of students typically drop after 10 – 15 minutes of passively listening to a lecture. Since these studies took place, technology has provided us with an increasingly sophisticated, interactive and accessible range of formats for transmitting information and facilitating active learning. This article looks at a few tried and tested strategies for using technology to enhance learning for teaching large groups of students.

"Bristol ~ Wales ~ Cardigan ~ Do Lectures ~ London - April 2013" flickr photo by Samantha_Bell https://flickr.com/photos/samanthabell/8737957816 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

flickr photo by Samantha_Bell https://flickr.com/photos/samanthabell/8737957816 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

The ‘flipped’ classroom

This model changes the dynamic of learning and teaching to enable more active learning and can be applied to both small and large group teaching across a range of disciplines. The basic premise of this model is that pre-class independent study is typically focussed on transmission of knowledge, whilst time in class is spent on active learning to provide opportunities to apply concepts and reinforce understanding. This approach is commonly used in conjunction with the peer-instruction and team-based learning methods mentioned in this article. 7 things you should know about flipped classroom provides a useful introductory guide.

We have recently set-up a flipped learning group for staff at University of Sussex, please see our webpages for details if you would like to be involved. Read more ›

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Posted in Learning Design, Polling tools

About our blog

We are the Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) team at the University of Sussex. We publish posts each week on using technology to support teaching and learning. Read more about us.

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