Nearpod – engaging, interactive and new to @SussexUni

Over the coming academic year Technology Enhanced Learning will be working with colleagues from across the academic schools to evaluate Nearpod, an interactive presentation tool new to the University of Sussex.

So, what is Nearpod?

Nearpod is a tool which allows you to create engaging presentations. You can make your presentations more interactive and enhance student engagement by adding various different  activities including open ended questions, polls, quizzes, ‘Draw it’ slides – a whiteboard feature for annotating images or gathering ideas during discussions, and Collaborate slides – a space for students to pool and share ideas, images and resources in real time. In addition to this you can include text, images, audio and video as well as embedded web pages and PDFs. Read more ›

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Posted in Active learning, Mobile learning

First impressions on Turnitin Feedback Studio from Sussex staff

This week, we provide a summary of first impressions from members of staff at the University of Sussex on Turnitin Feedback Studio.

Between July and September, Technology Enhanced Learning have been busy running a series of workshops at the University of Sussex to introduce staff to the latest changes to Turnitin. The changes have been introduced due to the recent update and rebrand of the Turnitin software to ‘Feedback Studio’. See A first look at Turnitin Feedback Studio for further details.

During this period, we have run a total of 6 workshops and trained over 100 members of staff in using the new look Feedback Studio. The workshops were open to all members of staff and were attended by everyone from course coordinators, curriculum and assessment officers through to associate tutors, teaching fellows, senior lecturers and professors. Our current programme of Feedback Studio workshops has now come to an end, however, due to popular demand, we will be announcing more soon.

As part of the workshop, we included an activity to give participants the opportunity evaluate and share their thoughts on the updates to the new software. After spending 20 minutes using and testing the new software, we asked staff to consider the following questions:

  • How will Feedback Studio be of benefit to you?
  • How will Feedback Studio be of benefit to your students?
  • Can you foresee any issues or challenges?

Over the duration of the workshop programme, staff entered a combined total of 115 comments in response to these questions onto a Padlet wall (an online space for sharing comments). I have summarised the comments below:

How will Feedback Studio be of benefit to you?

  • Improved user experience: the update includes lots of small changes which on the whole add up to make it a more efficient, intuitive and user-friendly for markers using the software.
  • Single interface to combine grading and similarity: the ability to view both the similarity report and feedback comments at the same time provides the marker with a more useful overview of the students work.
  • Commenting tools: for formatting text and adding active web links will allow markers to provide richer feedback and help students to learn independently.

How will Feedback Studio be of benefit to your students?

  • Simplified layout: will help students to access, digest and reflect on their feedback more effectively as it is now more clearly visible and presented.
  • Mobile responsive design: means that students are more likely to engage with their feedback now that Turnitin is available across all smartphones and tablets.
  • Viewing rubric forms: students are much more likely to be able to view and find their rubrics due to the new design.

Can you foresee any issues or challenges?

  • Quality assurance processes: there is still nothing in place to support workflows for blind and double marking, or view useful data e.g. the spread of marks across an assessment.
  • Using rubric forms: a number of members of staff commented that rubrics are still too clunky for markers to use, they are difficult to create and edit once they have been set up.
  • Editorial software: the software has a feel of editorial software rather than something which actively encourages good practice in providing feedback which promotes deeper learning.

In summary, the changes to Turnitin have so far been very positively received by staff during our training sessions. The general feeling seems to be that Turnitin has made a lot of small changes to modernise and improve their software which should provide small efficiencies to improve the workflow for marking and make it easier for students to access and navigate their feedback. Please stay tuned to our website for details of further workshops.

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Posted in feedback, Study Direct

The campus is dead, long live the campus.

Take a moment to think about all spaces in which you learn. Whilst certainly not an exhaustive list, here are a few I could think of:


Formal (on campus) Informal (on campus) Public spaces Home Online
Lecture theatre Cafe Library Office Virtual learning environment (VLE)
Library Bar Bar Living room Massive open online course (MOOC)
Seminar room Park Cafe Kitchen Social Networks
Laboratory Foyers Park Dining table Blogs
Office Corridors Bedroom

Do you have a favourite space? What have I missed?

We must also consider learning spaces from the point of view of our own minds. Are we, at all times in the right ‘headspace’ for learning. What if we are in debt, struggling to pay the bills, have a newborn at home, or have a hangover from the night before? Maslow tells us that in these situations, it would be futile to attempt any of the 4 C’s of modern education; creating, critical thinking, collaborating and communicating. Read more ›

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Posted in Learning Spaces

AI and the future of Higher Education.

One of the most talked about advances occurring around the world at the moment is the rapid rise of AI (artificial intelligence) and machine learning. Some are calling it the biggest technological shift since the industrial revolution. It seems very likely to touch and change every part of our world and society, Stephen Hawking has called AI ‘either the best, or the worst thing, ever to happen to humanity’. This post looks at some ways it is currently being used in education and where it might go next.

To get one of the biggest fears out of the way, it seems very unlikely that AI will replace human educators. A 2017 report predicts only 8.5% of educational jobs in the UK are considered at high risk of automation over the coming years. Rather, AI will enable the role of the educator to evolve into new forms, potentially as guide and facilitator of knowledge. AI could free up educators’ time and resources to pursue more interesting learning outcomes and focus more on deeper learning. Read more ›

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Posted in Technology Enhanced Learning

Creating an Online Induction – Podcast Episode 12

In this episode, Tab Betts talks to Dr. Catherine Pope and Helen Hampson about how they created an online induction for doctoral research students. Our discussion touches on WordPress blogs, consulting learners about their individual needs and microlearning via short videos.

‘New Doctoral Researchers at Sussex’ Online Induction
Dr Catherine Pope (and her blog: The Digital Researcher)
Helen Hampson
Researcher Development Programme

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Posted in Accessibility

Padlet for collaborative learning.

Over the last couple of years we have often mentioned Padlet in our blog posts* and workshops but never devoted a whole blog post to this versatile tool. As there have been some useful updates recently this seems like a good time to have a closer look at Padlet and how it can be used in teaching and learning.

What is Padlet?

Padlet provides a free virtual wall where users can post content and comments. Most types of digital content can be added to a Padlet (directly or as a web link) and the options for layout, access and permissions make it useful in a wide range of settings.

An example of a Padlet showing some of the content that can be posted.

An example of a Padlet showing some of the content that can be posted. Click on the image to see it on Padlet.

How are people using Padlet?

Many staff at the University of Sussex are using Padlet for collaborative work and learning. Two of the first projects using Padlet at the University were outlined in this post on the #altc blog by Professor Lucy Robinson (History) and Dr Rebecca Webb (Education) which show how versatile it can be. Where Lucy and her students were using Padlet to create learning resources, Rebecca’s students used it as a social and reflective space.  

More recently, Dr Wendy Garnham’s Foundation Year Psychology students have been creating a rich mix of digital artefacts during seminars and sharing them to group Padlet walls for others to comment on. Wendy and some of the students presented their use of Padlet at the Sussex Teaching and Learning Conference 2017 and you can hear Wendy talk about Transforming Seminars with Padlet for the Teaching with Tech Podcast. Read more ›

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Posted in App review, Mobile learning

Active Learning, Feedback and Learning Spaces – TEL joins in @SussexUni Away Days

Technology Enhanced Learning are always keen to be involved in school specific events and this year we have been pleased to be invited to contribute at many of the academic schools’ teaching and learning away days. These are sessions which are set aside to both examine current teaching practices within the schools and plan for the year ahead. These events feature a range of talks, workshops and discussions and this year, as in previous years, Learning Technologists within TEL were around to join in these discussions as well as contribute their own talks and workshops around various teaching and learning topics.

This year’s away days featured a range of different themes including ‘Focus on Feedback’ and ‘Delivering Inclusive Teaching Learning and Assessments through TEL’. We have picked out a few key topics that arose across the various schools to discuss, TEL will also be focusing on these, in partnership with schools, throughout the upcoming academic year.

"Feedback" flickr photo by Skley shared under a Creative Commons (BY-ND) license

“Feedback” flickr photo by Skley shared under a Creative Commons (BY-ND) license


Many of the events had a specific focus on assessment and feedback, both formal and informal. Each event looked at identifying best practice for providing feedback to students, for example during the Department of International Relations’ Away Day they emphasised that the need to find a good balance between criticism and encouragement is vital. Meanwhile at the School of Maths and Physical Science’s Away Day, Dr Peter Giesl, Director of Teaching and Learning, focussed on the importance of the way in which feedback is structured as well as the need to enable and support students to put the feedback they receive into practice. This event also featured a presentation from Dr Mick Taylor in which he showed how he uses student response systems to provide two-way feedback to students. Mick uses these tools to firstly allow students to provide feedback to him, for example on the pace of a lecture or topics they would like to cover, and secondly to provide students with real-time feedback during teaching sessions by presenting on-the-fly questions which enable him to highlight areas of understanding and adjust his teaching accordingly.

During a number of the events Dan Axson and Kitty Horne also introduced staff to Mahara as an alternative assessment tool, highlighting how the journaling tool and commenting function in particular can be used to provide students with ongoing feedback.

Learning Spaces

Another key focus was learning spaces, both physical and virtual. During the School of Global Studies’ Away Day Pete Sparkes co-presented a session titled ‘Bodies of Space: Disruption, Comfort and Discomfort in Teaching’ with Dr Thomas Chambers and Dr Beth Mills. During this session Pete focused on the interconnectedness of the virtual space, classroom space and physical outside space and how technology can be used to capture and create learning experiences which transcend and influence the way students can interact within different spaces.

Alongside this, Student Reps from the School of Maths and Physical Sciences presented findings from a student survey that they had carried out which suggested that students, particularly in the first year, can find it daunting to visit staff during their office hours to ask questions and receive feedback. They suggested that technological interventions could remedy this, for example through providing online feedback or virtual spaces, helping to build students’ confidence.

Active Learning

There were many examples of active learning techniques taking place across the university. During the School of Life Sciences’ Away Day there was a focus on the use of student response systems to engage students, with Dr Joanna Richardson and Professor Buge Apampa presenting ‘Poll Everywhere, The Student Voice & Revision’ and Professor Ali Nokhodchi and Dr Mohammed Maniruzzaman introducing ‘Active Learning with KAHOOT’. In addition to this, Mike Pettit demonstrated how Values Exchange can be used for debating ethical dilemmas in an interactive classroom.

At the Business, Management and Economics Away Day there was a focus on making lectures and others forms of large group teaching interactive. Dr David Walker and Tab Betts from TEL delivered a workshop titled ‘Working with large groups/international cohorts’ in which they introduced a range of strategies to help support international students integrate into UK higher education, as well as how Poll Everywhere, Padlet and Google Slides can be used to engage large cohorts.

There was also a lot of interest expressed around the Active Learning Network, particularly during the School of Engineering and Informatics’ Away Day. The Active Learning Network is a staff-led initiative facilitated by Technology Enhanced Learning and is designed to provide a space for staff to share practice and ideas and to support each other in their active learning endeavours. The Active Learning Network meets regularly on campus  and also has an ever-growing online community which is open to both internal and external participants.

Active Learning Network

It is great to have been involved in the discussions around teaching and learning within the academic schools and to have gained further insight into the great work going on across the university. TEL are always keen to be involved in school and department specific events and workshops and are always willing to discuss new initiatives and ideas that both schools and individuals may have around ways of innovating teaching and learning practices within the university. If you would like to discuss any ideas that you have with TEL or if you would like to find out more about the Active Learning Network then please email

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Posted in Active learning, Events, feedback, Learning Spaces

Digital Productivity for work, study and life.

The Technology Enhanced Learning team recently ran a bitesize online course for University of Sussex staff looking at Digital Productivity. This blog post will explore some ideas around that topic.

The course was conceived as a way to introduce staff to ways of working that take advantage of digital technologies to enhance or expand on practices they would previously have carried out manually. These techniques are equally useful for students and for ‘life admin’ for everyone.

It is very tempting to launch into lists of so-called productivity apps – and there are very many lists of that sort on the web – but if you are really going to find new, better ways of working then it is important to spend a little time thinking about where you are now and what you want to achieve. For example:

  • Do you work alone and/or as part of a team?
  • What devices do you have access to (desktop computer, laptop, tablet, smartphone etc.)?
  • How do you currently keep track of tasks and notes, communicate and collaborate?
  • Are there any problems / pain points in your current way of doing things?
  • What would you like to improve?

Once you have an idea of what you might need or want, you can start to explore what is going to be most useful to you and/or your team. Digital productivity can be split roughly into 3 main areas: communication and collaboration; managing and organising tasks; making and organising notes.

Communication and collaboration

During the course we used Slack as a platform for sharing, discussing and supporting participants. If you have not seen Slack before this video will give you a quick overview.

What is Slack? video from Slack on YouTube

Slack would be useful for:

  • Collaborative research projects
  • Students working on group projects
  • Replacing email lists for connecting with team members
  • Community discussions such as the Flipped Learning Slack Community

Slack also integrates with hundreds of other apps (see the Slack App Directory) so if you are already using some of the apps listed in the Slack App Directory there is scope to bring things together in one place.

For University of Sussex staff and students Office 365 which includes OneDrive for storage and OneNote for notemaking and organisation is an obvious choice. With free versions of Microsoft Office for computers and mobile devices it offers an extensive package of collaboration tools and training courses are offered by ITS.

Sussex staff and research students also have access to a Box account which allows you to share and collaborate on files.

Cloud services like this, with mobile apps, allow us to keep track and organise our lives using phones and other mobile devices.

Managing and organising tasks

A previous post, 3 steps to improving your time management with digital tools looked at ways that students and staff can be more organised, and hence productive, with their ‘to-dos’. At the time, we suggested Wunderlist as a useful app, but as Microsoft have taken over Wunderlist and have announced that it ‘will eventually be retired you might want to look at something else – Any.Do and Todoist are both good options that will let you organise all your tasks, from work to ‘life admin’, in one place.  

For a more visual display of tasks Trello is still an excellent choice for individuals and teams (see our previous review of Trello), but MeisterTask now offers similar functionality.

There is very little difference between Trello and MeisterTask, but the latter will let you track time spent on tasks. If the people you work with are already using one or the other it is probably best to choose that one to make sharing tasks possible. If you want to give MeisterTask a try, there are many useful videos on the Meistertask YouTube channel

Making and organising notes

Most of us need to make some sort of notes – for example, a shopping list, notes on reading, ideas for a journal article or reflection on teaching practice. Paper notebooks can be fine, but digital notemaking tools offer the ability to:

  • capture more types of ‘notes’ (images, websites, audio, video etc.)
  • organise notes
  • easily find notes with search tools
  • access, create and edit notes using all your devices
  • share notes with collaborators.

Staff and students at Sussex have free access to OneNote as part of Office 365 and there are many ways it can be used by students, teachers and administrators.

Further Resources and Support

Here are some previous blog posts that you might find useful:

The Technology Enhanced Learning team are happy to advise and support staff at the University of Sussex in developing their digital productivity. You can contact us on

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Posted in digital skills

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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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