5 top Poll Everywhere question types

Poll Everywhere is a fantastic polling tool licensed by the University of Sussex for use by teaching staff. It allows you to pose questions to students, but there’s much more to do then just getting students to write a short form text response. Below are 5 question types you can use in order to utilise the full potential of Poll Everywhere to energise and engage your classroom! 

1. Stick a pin in it with a Clickable Image question

The image tool within Poll Everywhere allows you to upload any image, students can then respond by dropping a pin on part of the image. This can be used in a number of creative ways such as, getting students to identify issues with an image i.e. looking at an image of machinery and getting students to stick a pin in the incorrectly assembled part. You could also use an image of the world and ask students which country they feel had the greatest effect on the world in the 1600’s then move onto a discussion based around what they’ve chosen. Use an image of a heart and ask students to drop a pin on the left ventricle or upload a graph and ask students to drop a pin where they believe a certain valve should be on the chart. These are just some suggested ideas but there is a wide variety of tasks and activities you could create using the Clickable Image activity type.

A Poll Everywhere quiz asking the question “Locate the left ventricle on the heart” below the question there is an image of a heart.

2. Get students to sum up a topic in one word

The word cloud tool allows you to pose a question to students with the answers being turned into a word cloud image. The more the same answer is received the large that word answer will appear on the word cloud. This sort of question type can be used to gather immediate broad feedback from students and then easily interpret the answers visually, such as  getting students to sum up how they are currently feeling about a lecture i.e. “happy”, “confused”, “focused” etc. 

A good tip if you’d like to generate a word cloud that uses more than one word answers is to ask students to put underscores between words i.e. very_happy, that way the word cloud will still recognise and include them as it will see them on a technical level as one word.

Allowing anonymous feedback can allow students to post more honestly and earnestly 

A Poll Everywhere word cloud

3. Gamify your classroom with Competitions

In a similar way to the popular quiz tool Kahoot, Poll Everywhere allows you to gamify your classroom by creating a quiz with a series of questions. Points are awarded for correct answer and speed sothe student with the fastest correct answers gets the most points. This can be a fun way to engage a class through making a series of quiz questions into a competitive game. You can combine any of the other question types into these Competitions.

These competitions don’t have to pit individual students against each other, you can put students into groups with each group then discussing and deciding on the answers together if you wish to make it a more collaborative activity. 

A Poll Everywhere competition leaderboard displaying the current scores of students

4. Questions and Answers 

This option allows you to pose an open question which students can respond to then other students can upvote or downvote the answers. This can be a great way of democratically deciding which topic to cover next within your teaching or testing how popular a certain idea is or which side of an argument they agree with.

This question type also makes it very easy to quickly gather feedback from large groups of students and avoid duplication of answers, as students can simply upvote an answer they agree with rather than writing out a duplicate answer to the question. 

5. Use your polls outside of the classroom with the Survey tool

You don’t just have to use Poll Everywhere within the classroom, you can also create asynchronous polls using the Survey quiz question type. This allows you to create a series of questions that students can answer at any time which can be useful if you want to pose a question to students at the end of a class for them to answer before the next class when you can show the results of the poll. This can also be useful for posing questions to students who for whatever reason are not able to attend a session. 

Resources and support

So as you can see there is a wide variety of question types that you can use with Poll Everywhere, they don’t simply have to be multiple choice questions, hopefully some of the ideas suggested here for how to use these activities within your teaching will be useful and will hopefully inspire you to come up with your own. You can learn more about using Poll Everywhere from Poll Everywhere’s support page  and Sussex TEL’s Poll Everwhere page.
If you need any guidance or help using Poll Everywhere within your teaching then please contact TEL at tel@sussex.ac.uk

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Posted in Polling tools

Feedback options in Turnitin and Canvas SpeedGrader

‘Assessment and Feedback’ is a somewhat notorious category within National Student Survey data, frequently ranked poorly compared to other areas. This trend is present in most UK universities even when ‘Student Satisfaction’ is ranked highly. The 2021 Student Academic Experience Survey from Advance HE and Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) named assessment and feedback as one of the key areas to improve in higher education.

The move to fully digitise assessment in 2020 embraced existing technology that could enhance the submission and feedback process for many teaching staff and students. Pre-pandemic, it was clear that submitting assignments electronically provided many advantages, including faster input of feedback, improved legibility, and long-term storage of assessments. However, it also increases the functionality for a number of formats beyond the standard written text that can improve marking efficiency and enhance students’ experience of receiving feedback. 

This post will guide you through feedback options in Turnitin’s Feedback Studio and Canvas SpeedGrader

Turnitin Feedback Studio

Feedback Studio is the suite of marking and feedback tools for Turnitin submissions. It has several options for providing feedback to students.


QuickMarks is a feature in Turnitin that enables you to insert comment bubbles for common errors such as ‘Awk’ for awkward phrasing or ‘Improper citation’ for referencing errors. Simply drag and drop the comment onto the relevant sentence in the student’s essay. Turnitin provides banks of pre-made comments that you can access by clicking the drop-down menu. You can change the selection of default comments to tailor your feedback, ensuring it is relevant to the assessment in question.

View of the QuickMarks layer within Turnitin Feedback Studio with commonly used comments

In addition, there is the option to create custom comments in QuickMark’s settings. Custom QuickMark comments will save to your account, making these easily accessible every time you mark in Turnitin. Clicking anywhere in the submission will provide shortcut options to QuickMarks, free-text comments (allowing hyperlinks) or inline text comments. The benefits of using QuickMarks allows you to provide more feedback in less time through the use of repeated comments, it helps the student apply specific in-text improvements and, importantly, gives them a stronger understanding of the link between their feedback/grade and the rubric/marking criteria. 

Example essay with QuickMark comments and text

Audio feedback

Generally, teaching staff use the Feedback Summary box in Turnitin to provide written  comments on student essays. However, the option to leave a voice recording is available in Feedback Studio and may provide many benefits. Firstly, it is likely you will be able to provide more feedback in three minutes of talking than you can typing. Secondly, it creates a personalised feel, allowing you to talk as if directly to the student. For time-poor academics who prefer to talk through their critique, this is a viable addition. Simply click on the blue record button to start the feedback recording. You can replay, delete, re-record and save the recording, however you cannot edit. 

Audio recording capability within Turnitin Feedback Studio

Canvas SpeedGrader

If your students are submitting work to a Canvas Online assignment (not Turnitin) you will use SpeedGrader in Canvas for marking and feedback. The functionality is slightly different.


Marking in Canvas SpeedGrader allows annotations to be made on student submissions. You can add point annotations (which can be colour-coded) directly onto the essay and add comments or use strikethrough to cross out words. There are options to highlight a single word or passage of text or use an ‘area annotation’ to create a box around a section of the essay. Finally, ‘free-text’ allows you to write directly anywhere on the page, and ‘free-draw’ is the same principle – especially useful if you are marking using a stylus or touchscreen.   

Example essay with annotations in SpeedGrader

Audio and video feedback 

SpeedGrader gives you the option to record a media comment using either audio or video. You can start the recording directly in Canvas SpeedGrader using your device’s microphone and/or webcam, or upload an audio/video file.

Image showing recording audio and video options within Canvas SpeedGrader

It is important to note that captioning software is not yet built into either Turnitin or Canvas online assessments and therefore a transcript will not be produced automatically. However, speech recognition is integrated into SpeedGrader. This allows you to speak into a headset or microphone to produce a text transcript, which you can then edit how you please. 


Most Schools at Sussex now use marking rubrics for their assessments. This allows students to have a clearer understanding of their feedback and to critically engage with it. It also encourages academics to provide a more well-structured and consistent response to the work. It is important that rubrics are continually critiqued and developed with the students’ module learning objectives and outcomes in mind, especially for non-essay based or alternative assessments such as portfolios and podcasts. Rubrics can be changed both in Turnitin Feedback Studio and Canvas SpeedGrader. The latter allows the attachment of text-based files, which enables relevant articles to be shared as part of the feedback. 


The different options in Turnitin and Canvas allow you to return effective and engaging feedback to students, providing students with multiple forms of feedback which will help to improve the quality of their next assessment. If you would like to explore these options further, please contact: tel@sussex.ac.uk or read our e-Submission Guidance for Staff.  

While low NSS ‘Assessment and Feedback’ scores and a pandemic may have provided the impetus for an overhaul of assessment practice, there is a way to go. The Rethinking Assessment report by Jisc and Emerge Education released in May 2021 pushed for a complete transformation and reimagination of assessment. Whether that’s developing the use of artificial intelligence to support marking or integrating completely automated end-to-end assessment platforms, it is clear that technology will play a prominent role in the future of assessment. 

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Posted in feedback

5 steps to effective formative assessment in Canvas

Good formative assessment throughout a module is key to achieving good student outcomes .It helps students and tutors to gauge how they are progressing and to identify areas to focus on. It also provides opportunities to practice and prepare for summative assessment.

In this post we’ll look at how you can prepare your Canvas site for formative assessment, explore some of the options in Canvas and beyond, and finally look at what we can do to encourage engagement with the activities.

1. The setup

In order for students to achieve the module objectives they first need to know what they are. Over the last couple of years we’ve worked with the schools to develop module templates which standardise where students can find this information. These may differ slightly between Schools but will include a module information page where the main objectives are communicated (for some schools this is listed on the assignment information page) and week/topic pages where more detailed objectives can be listed. Once the students know what the objectives are, they also need a way to measure their progress against them. The templates all include a space in which you can provide rubrics or guidance on what progress looks like. This again varies between schools and may be on the assessment information or module information page.

2. Testing for baseline knowledge

Now that the objectives are established and students have a scale against which to measure their progress, you might want to establish where on that scale students are now. 

This can be done in a number of ways but one simple way would be through a Canvas quiz. Canvas Quizzes are quick to set up and can be self-marking so scale well for larger cohorts. This doesn’t have to be a case of right or wrong either, you could use the quiz more as a survey to gain initial thoughts on a topic.  

3. Peer assessment

Canvas assignments and Canvas discussions provide two routes through which you can facilitate peer learning and peer assessment. In both cases students can post or submit work to be viewed by others. In the case of Discussions this may be more open, allowing students to see a broader range of work and get feedback from a wider pool. Peer assessment in Assignments has the advantage that it is less ‘on show’ and feedback can be anonymous which can encourage some less confident students to engage and be more honest. Peer review activities can refer students back to the rubrics to guide the feedback.

4. Expanding options beyond Canvas

Canvas provides a core set of tools, however, they may not suit every activity so it is worth looking beyond them. Many external tools can be easily incorporated into your modules either via embedding in pages using the embed button, through Learning Tool integrations (LTIs) or simply by linking to them. If you have ideas for an activity but aren’t sure of the best tool for the job I’d recommend you contact TEL@sussex.ac.uk. If you’d rather look on your own, do check out our earlier post on identifying appropriate apps for teaching.

To use embed code from an external app in a Canvas page look for the cloud icon in the Canvas editor, sometimes hidden in the three dots icon.

5. Removing barriers

Planning a great formative activity doesn’t mean that people will do it. One big fear of formative assessment, particularly when it is not grade bearing, is whether the students will do it.

There are some things you can certainly do to help. 

  • Clearly communicate the activity and the expected outputs. This may mean demonstrating it in class but also providing guidance on your Canvas module site. 
  • Include how long you expect the activity to take and define clear deadlines. Students have many things competing for their attention so this can help them to block out time. 
  • Explain how the formative assessments will help them to achieve better results on their contributory assessments.

These are just a few ideas and there are many other ways in which you can plan for and facilitate formative assessments. If you would like to explore the options further please contact tel@sussex.ac.uk

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Posted in feedback

Adding a ‘chat’ backchannel to in-person classes

hands raised to ask questions in lecture

During the pandemic most lectures have been online – either as recordings or as live Zoom sessions. Academics noticed that the ‘chat’ facility in the latter encouraged more questions and discussion than they had experienced during in-person lectures on campus. The ability to ask questions without holding up the progress of the lecture for everyone, allowed more students to engage with lectures and students could help each other. This post will look at some possible ways to retain this aspect of online learning as we move back to lecture theatres.

Some options for a lecture backchannel

There are a few tools that could be used to facilitate questions and discussion online during in-person lectures. Which you choose will depend on the types of engagement you want.

Poll Everywhere

Poll Everywhere is popular across campus for asking students questions during a lecture, to check understanding or gauge opinions, but it could also be used to elicit questions from students. The Vice-Chancellor has used Poll Everywhere like this in his open forums, with an ‘open-ended’ question that participants can post their questions or comments to. 

The results can be displayed in the session, or viewed privately by the lecturer and questions that cannot be answered in the lecture could be addressed in a Canvas Discussion later.


This versatile tool could be used to collect questions and/or comments during a lecture. It has the advantage of allowing everyone to see all the posts and can be saved as a PDF and/or embedded in Canvas. A simple ‘stream’ layout would most closely mimic a Zoom ‘chat’ but with options to reply to each post and/or use ‘reactions’. 

a Padlet using the stream layout
A Padlet using the stream layout.

Alternatively, you could use the ‘shelf’ layout if you wanted to split up posts into categories. Students’ posts to a Padlet will be anonymous so they should feel comfortable asking questions in this format. 

a Padlet using the shelf layout
A Padlet using the shelf layout

You can read more about Padlet on the TEL website. The university has a Padlet Backpack licence and teaching staff can be added by emailing tel@sussex.ac.uk

There are other whiteboard tools that work in a similar way, with free and/or education plans, such as Miro, Mural and Google Jamboard.


If you want a backchannel that uses the basic tools in Canvas you could try using a  Canvas Discussion or Module Chat. The former has more functionality and the latter is simpler. Either could work for a lecture backchannel. 

screenshot of a Canvas Chat
A Canvas Chat

Canvas has the advantage that students should be familiar with it and it meets accessibility standards, but Discussions don’t update automatically so require ‘refreshing’ to see the latest posts. Chat is much more like a messaging app. 

Considerations, resources and support

Whatever tools you choose, remember that not everything will always be accessible to all your students, in which case alternatives will need to be considered. You can learn more about accessibility in the TEL Digital Accessibility Toolkit.

You can read more about some of the tools mentioned here in Communicating with students in Canvas and 4 fantastic uses for Padlet in online teaching. Other tools are listed in the A-Z of Apps.

If you would like to discuss options, what might suit you and your students and how you can get started please contact tel@sussex.ac.uk 

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Posted in Apps and tools, Blended learning, Polling tools

Flexible tools for teaching online and face-to-face

This chameleon can adapt to many environments – can our teaching do the same?

As we start to deliver face-to-face teaching, with some students still not able to make it onto campus, it is a good time to think about teaching tools which can be used online and face-to-face. One inclusive way to think about our teaching is that exercises and tasks that students do in class should also be available for people to do at different times online. For example, a seminar discussion that a tutor initiates in class, should also be initiated within an online space for students present and not present at the seminar itself to engage in. Equally exercises and tasks that tutors ask people to do in class, should be equally possible for students to do online. In this blog post we will be considering some of the tools that you can use for teaching online and face-to-face. For each of the tools we will consider how you will give feedback to those engaging in the asynchronous task.


During a teaching session, you can provide a backchannel for students to discuss and share notes. Think of the Twitter feed of a conference – they are usually at their most active during the sessions and people tweet about what they have learnt. For your teaching, you might not want something as open as Twitter but you can provide a number of other tools, such as the ones I mention below. The backchannel is not limited to the teaching session either. Students can continue to use the backchannel through the period they are studying the topic and further into their studies.

Canvas Discussions

Seminar discussions that you start in the seminar, can also be available for students to contribute to online. One way of doing this is through the Canvas Discussion feature. Because there is no automatic refresh of the page after another person posts, the best way to use Canvas Discussions is after the teaching session. For the most engaging discussions, ask provocative questions, which require personal reflection rather than responses that are right or wrong. The best way to make it work is to be active in the discussion yourself.


Padlet is the institutional online classroom “wall” where students and staff can share text, audio or video comments, links and even drawings. I have seen it used in classrooms, in groups or in solo tasks, to great effect. Depending on how you set the wall up students can leave each other comments and “like” each other’s contributions. Padlet could be used by students in the classroom and remote students at the same time. The Padlet can also be made available to students to do asynchronously in the students’ own time and the best way to do this is by embedding the Padlet within the Canvas site. Remember to leave instructions for the task.


Polleverywhere is the institutional classroom response system. For those of you who don’t know it, it allows you to ask questions of your students and for them to respond on their devices (typically phones but could be a laptop). The student responses are collected by the Polleverywhere system and can be displayed back to the students immediately. This could be used by students in the classroom and remote students at the same time. It can be embedded into your PowerPoint slides too. The teaching spaces on campus should all have the Polleverywhere for PowerPoint plugin installed but it is worth checking before you start your session. If you have one question or wish to use the Polleverywhere Survey question types, the Polleverywhere can be left open and students can respond in their own time. One way to do this would be to include a link question from your Online Study Platform, also known as Canvas.

Shared Documents

Shared documents are online text, slides or spreadsheets, shared with your students. The supported space at Sussex is Microsoft OneDrive, which opens documents in Office 365 applications. Another option is Google Drive and their related Apps. Sussex staff and students have a terabyte of free space on OneDrive and unlimited space on Google Drive if they log in using their Sussex username and password. 

When you set work for students to complete in class, remote students can also contribute to these shared documents which exist online. The contributions to the shared document can be simultaneous but also can be asynchronous and people can contribute at their own pace. You can link online documents from your Canvas page so everyone can contribute.

Giving feedback

During face-to-face teaching sessions you naturally respond and give feedback to student contributions to the session at the time. This can be more difficult when some of your students are face-to-face and others are online. It can be even more time consuming when some of your students are contributing to discussions or completing tasks during the teaching session and others are doing it during the week. The key to making this work is good communication. You should dedicate some time to responding to the online students. If this is going to be later in the week then let them know when you will be doing it. Also, try to activate students to give each other feedback before you do. Student peers are fundamental to student engagement and learning. If you can use them to help each other within either a collaborative or (light-heartedly) competitive environment, this will increase their engagement, motivation and enjoyment for the topic you are teaching.


Many of the online tools can be used to support students in your face-to-face teaching sessions at the same time as students who are accessing remotely and those who cannot attend at the time. Using these tools will not only benefit the remote students. It improves the inclusivity of your teaching so more of your students can engage in your teaching materials. If you would like to discuss options for peer feedback please contact tel@sussex.ac.uk

Posted in Uncategorized

Can I use this app?

A question that regularly pops into the Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) inbox is, ‘can I use this app?’ Assessing the educational potential of a new tool is a core part of the role of a Learning Technologist so this is a question we are very happy to answer. In this post I’m going to detail some of the things we look for when evaluating a new tool. 

1. Suitability 

The first and most important point to consider is, does this tool help you and your students to achieve the learning objectives? If the same objectives can be achieved more quickly and simply in another way, using this tool may not be the best approach.

2. Cost

The next thing we might look at is cost. TEL would usually steer you towards apps that are free as any cost would likely need to be met by your school. On the Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) website we maintain an A-Z of apps and one of the criteria for this list is that the apps have a free version. They may have a tiered pricing model, so check if the feature you require is available in the free tier. It is also always worth checking with TEL that we don’t already have a tool provided centrally that would meet your requirements.

3. Accessibility

This is the practice of making sure students with disabilities are not disadvantaged. At Sussex around 20% of the student population have a registered disability and the majority of those may be hidden disabilities, such as specific learning differences or mental health conditions. If an app is not accessible you may be excluding a large proportion of your cohort so either avoid using it or make sure you also provide a comparable, accessible alternative for those for whom it doesn’t work.

For information on the accessibility of apps many providers supply information on their website. SearchBOX provides a crowd-sourced listing of accessibility statements for different apps. These can often be hard to interpret so do come to TEL if you have questions.

4. Usability 

To a certain extent whether or not something is usable will be a personal judgement but don’t bet on students finding it easier to use than you do. If you want to introduce a tool once for a specific purpose, students need to be able to pick it up intuitively and quickly. If it’s something you intend to use throughout the term you may be able to accept a small learning curve. Either way, it is certainly worth working through things from both the facilitator and the student’s point of view as these can differ. Again TEL can support you here.

5. Privacy 

GDPR is a familiar acronym for anyone storing data online. When using any online tool, we need to be sure that students’ personal identifiable information is protected. This might include things such as images or videos of individuals, their names and emails. This is another good reason for using core university services, where the security and privacy of services have been approved. If you are unsure, see the University’s GDPR guidance.

6. Availability

A big strength of our University is its global reach. However, this can present its own challenges. Many websites and apps are not accessible to students in China or in embargoed countries. It is always worth making sure the app is available to all of your cohort. See our blog post on The Great Firewall of China for some tips.  

7. Lifespan

Things frequently change with apps and online tools. Tools are dropped (a favourite practice of Google), terms and conditions change, and new costs are introduced. This is another reason we often first direct people towards the core services we have at Sussex. They can be relied upon to work for years to come. If the core services don’t meet your needs, it’s worth doing a quick web search to check there aren’t any press releases informing of imminent changes.

8. Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI)

Finally one of the strengths of our particular learning management system, Canvas, is its support for the Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) standard. This provides a means for apps to work more seamlessly with Canvas, removing the requirement for additional logins and linking to the gradebook among the potential benefits. Many popular apps have an LTI. You can find a list of these apps in your module settings in the Canvas app center.  Note, some LTIs may require a paid licence and an administrator to implement so do discuss with your School’s learning technologist.

If you are looking for a new tool to use in your teaching then hopefully these tips will help you to make an informed choice, or Sussex staff can contact tel@sussex.ac.uk and we’d be happy to discuss options.

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Posted in Apps and tools

Canvas ePortfolios

Canvas has a tool called Canvas ePortfolio which allows students to create a series of self contained ePortfolios. Each ePortfolio can be made up of a number of sections, each consisting of pages of content such as text, images, video and other multimedia as well as links to files or resources on the pages.

ePortfolio’s are not tied to a specific Canvas module site but rather are tied to an individual, which means they can be used by students  throughout their University experience and across modules and courses. This is an example of a Canvas ePortfolio page.

Screenshot of a Canvas ePortfolio

ePortfolios can be shared through the use of a unique link, which allows anyone, even those from outside the institution, to access the ePortfolio if the link is shared with them. This makes it very easy to share ePortfolio content broadly if required.

It’s also possible to allow others to comment on an ePortfolio if the correct option is enabled by the ePortfolio’s creator, this means students and instructors can provide comments around ideas and feedback on each other’s ePortfolios.

How could we use the Canvas ePortfolio?

Reflective Journal

If you’d like to encourage students to keep a reflective journal of their learning experience then Canvas ePortfolio can work well for this purpose. Students can create pages for each week or topic they cover, these can then either be kept private and used only by the student or they can be shared with tutors or convenors through the use of the sharing link. This link can even be submitted to a Canvas Assignment if you’d like students to submit them as a non contributory assessment. 

Staff can also use the ePortfolio tool as a reflective journal for CPD purposes around a topic or area or to showcase your work and research.

Weekly assessed ePortfolio 

There is no way to control when students add content to their ePortfolios, this means they are not appropriate for summative/contributory assignments but could be used for formative assignments where students contribute a weekly page to their ePortfolio as they work through their module or course. The student can then allow convenors or tutors  to comment on the pages of their ePortfolio to allow for feedback. 

Student showcase ePortfolio 

Students can use the ePortfolio feature to collect and curate examples of the best work they’ve produced, their submission to assignments can be linked into their ePortfolios and these ePortfolios can be externally shared allowing those from outside the institution to access and view ePortfolios, which could be useful for students looking to showcase their work to external users for any reason.

The contents of an ePortfolio can be exported to a ZIP file, so students can download a copy of their ePortfolio to take with them even after they leave the University.

Other options, resources and support

This  is not an exhaustive list and there may be numerous other ways you can incorporate this tool into your teaching and learning experience. There are also other tools that can work for the purpose of portfolios such as Mahara  and Microsoft OneNote. If you’d like to discuss possibilities and would like any help using the Canvas ePortfolio tool please contact TEL at TEL@sussex.ac.uk


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Posted in Canvas

The tech behind the Online Festival of Learning

The Technology Enhanced Learning team has been core to the Active Learning Network from its creation in 2017. The network is a group of educationalists who share an interest in active approaches to learning. We have a growing number of satellite groups emerging in universities through the UK, as well as involvement from India, Cambodia, China and other countries. The ethos of the group can be expressed through John Dewey’s maxim, “Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn”. The nature of the task we ask students to do should demand deep thinking and learning naturally results.

Online Festival of Learning

When the Active Learning Network set up the Online Festival of Learning we had a number of concerns including:

  • How could we make it work when we could not be face-to-face?
  • How could we make it work for people in different time zones?
  • How could we make it feel like a festival and avoid it feeling like a conference?

One important factor was that we didn’t have a budget, we didn’t want to charge people and so everything needed to be done for free. Consequently, core to our efforts would be the technologies that we put in place to support the festival and these ended up being: FlipGrid, Google apps, Zoom and Wonder.me.


In order for potential session facilitators to propose submissions we created a Google form, which invited people to fill in the relevant information. We recommended formats such as Campfire (storytelling with an opportunity for participants to tell their own stories), Birds of a Feather (sessions without a pre-planned agenda designed to encourage discussion and networking), Solution Rooms (designed to provide peer-supported advice on individuals’ problems) and Hyde Park Corner Debates (a central theme or question where two speakers debate for and against). Once the potential session facilitators had submitted their proposals we reviewed each of them and fed back further ideas of how their session could fit the festival theme and ethos using a shared Google Slide deck.

Festival Itinerary

We put together the festival itinerary bearing in mind that some of the participants might not be in the UK and might be in timezones ahead of us or behind us. The festival lasted a week and we had 9am morning and 5pm evening slots. These times would allow participants from outside the UK to come to at least a morning or evening session each day and participants in the UK could have a full day’s work and be able to relax into our sessions without competing work distractions. We used the Google Slide deck where we had given facilitators feedback to construct the itinerary. It was versatile enough to enable facilitators to respond to reviewers’ questions, add photos and so on. This was a big time saver and provided us with an inclusive and colourful itinerary to be shared with participants. It was also navigable and was easy to find when sessions were and what they were about. 


Given the festival was at either end of the day for people from all over the world to join, it didn’t make sense to have just one slot for introductions so in the spirit of blended learning and flipped classrooms we used an asynchronous introduction space on FlipGrid. The organising committee all made three videos of themselves, one introducing themselves, a second saying what they were excited about and a final one recommending a festival theme song. All festival participants were invited to do the same.

Zoom sessions

In order to deliver the festival activities we used the Zoom platform. The most sessions we ran concurrently was three so we set up three zoom meetings, with no set time and reused them. That made it easy for us to administrate and easy for participants to join. To give it a festival feel we gave each of the three meetings the name of a tent.

Collaborative writing

In the spirit of multiple forms of delivery, we wanted to include a collaborative writing platform and offered participants the opportunity to contribute to our collaborative book by adding a hundred word summary of a short idea for putting active learning into practice. A number of the sessions introduced the idea of collaborative writing and participants were regularly offered the opportunity to submit their ideas.

After hours socials and Festival Spirit Circle

Each evening at the end of the afternoon session we had an after hours social using the wonder.me app. This is a visual app that allows groups of people to easily meet and talk in groups. We closed the week with a festival of learning spirit learning where we all shared what we had got from the festival. We had a shared Google Spreadsheet where we shared thoughts and musings.


The festival of learning was a great success and a great ambassador for, and example of, active learning. We utilised a number of free services to put on an event which was enjoyed by over 300 participants over the week. It was a different sort of event where we all learned a little more about the importance of fun and innovation in teaching for deep and meaningful learning.

Posted in Active learning

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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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