Adding Requirements & Prerequisites in your Canvas modules.


Tutors can develop their use of the Units area in a Canvas module by making use of the Requirements and Prerequisites tools. These tools allow you to further guide your students through your module, directing them through the resources and requiring them to complete certain elements.

What are Requirements?

Requirements are a series of actions that you require your students to carry out before they ‘Complete’ that section of content. This is set up in the Units area of your site.

Depending on the type of activity or resource you have added to your Unit you can require students to:

  • View an item
  • Mark an item as ‘done’
  • Contribute to a page or discussion
  • Submit an assignment or quiz
  • Score a certain mark or above in an assignment or quiz

Your requirements for each Unit can include one or more of the above requirements. As well as allowing you to guide your students through your module content, these requirements will also help students to manage their studies and track their progress throughout a module.

Screenshot of Requirements in Canvas Units

Requirements in Canvas Units

  • Step 1: Go to Units and click the three vertical dots icon to the right of your Unit.
  • Step 2: Click the Edit option in the menu that appears.
  • Step 3: Click +Add requirement and define your requirements (see How do I add requirements to a module? for more explanation of the different requirement options). Adding activities, such as Quizzes, will add more requirements options. Repeat this step to add multiple requirements.
  • Step 4: Click Update unit.

What are Prerequisites?

Prerequisites take this a step further by stopping students from viewing a Unit until they have completed the requirements of the previous Unit. This allows you to lock content until certain actions have been completed. This could help to encourage students to engage with activities and content, highlighting activities that are particularly important or will feed into students’ studies later on in the module or are required for in-class activities.

Sreenshot of Prerequisites in Canvas Units

Prerequisites in Canvas Units

  • Step 1: Go to Units and click +Unit (or click the three vertical dots icon next to an existing Unit).
  • Step 2: Give your new Unit a name and then click +Add prerequisite.
  • Step 3: In the dropdown menu that appears, select one of your other Units (it is only possible to set prerequisite Units that come before a specific Unit).
  • Step 4: Click Add unit (or Update unit if you are editing an existing Unit).

Why use these tools?

Adding requirements and prerequisites to the Units within your Canvas module sites has benefits to both you and your students. It allows you to encourage students to engage with required activities, stopping them from progressing until they have done so, whilst also enabling students to manage their studies by tracking their progress and easily picking up where they have left off. Setting up your requirements and prerequisites for each week before the start of term could also save you time later on as you will not have to publish content weekly, instead it is students’ progress that releases weekly content.

For further information about how to set up requirements and prerequisites in your modules take a look at these FAQs:

If you have any questions about using these tools in your teaching or any other features of Canvas that you would like to explore contact

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Posted in Canvas, Learning Design

Custard, empathy and the challenges of teaching: new case studies

The TEL team recently interviewed staff at the University of Sussex from Education, Economics and Law. They spoke to us about how they have been using technology to innovate their teaching practices.

The topics they spoke to use about ranged from using technology to observe group-work during workshops; engaging students in practical skills during large-group teaching and creating a dialogue with students during lectures.

Observing experiments with Padlet

Joan Williams, Teaching Fellow in Education from the University of Sussex discussed her approach to using Padlet. During a class for trainee science teachers, Joan required her students to work in groups to undertake experiments. In order to monitor their work and provide feedback, a student from each group took photos and wrote short reflections of their results and progress using a mobile app called Padlet.

Padlet is an app for creating virtual bulletin boards which makes it easy for students to share notes and digital content. This software is licensed by the University of Sussex and premium accounts are available to all members of staff and students on request from TEL. The Padlet Backpack for staff and students article from our blog provides a useful introduction to Padlet and examples of different use cases for anyone who’s considering using it in their teaching.

Problem-solving with the Document Camera

Dr C. Rashaad Shabab (Teaching Fellow in Economics) has been using the Document Camera in lecture theatres on a module with over 700 students as a way to engage and involve students in the process of solving algebraic models. Rashaad recognised that empathy with his students was a key factor in motivating them to engage with algebra.

The Document Camera enables teachers to capture and present a live camera feed onto the projector screen and is available in teaching spaces across campus. If you’re considering using this in your teaching, we suggest checking the Room Facilities page to see the range of audio-visual equipment available in our teaching spaces. The Document Camera (or equivalent) is labelled under the ‘visualiser’ column.

Interactive lectures with Poll Everywhere

Dr Amir Paz-Fuchs (Senior Lecturer in Law) has been using Poll Everywhere on the Employment Law module as a way to facilitate interactive teaching, and to create a dialogue with students during class time in large group lectures.

Poll Everywhere is a student response system which provides an efficient way for teaching staff to pose questions (multiple choice, open ended questions and clickable images, among others), collect responses and share back to class. The software is licensed by the University of Sussex and available to all members of staff (on request from TEL) and in all teaching spaces across campus.

Where can I find out more about teaching innovation at Sussex?

The Technology Enhanced Learning team regularly collect short interviews and case studies from members of staff who have been using technology to innovate in their teaching. You can view our growing collection from the Case Studies section of our website. We also organise ‘Show and TEL’ once each term. A networking event where staff are invited to share practice and learn about the use of technology in teaching across different schools.

If you have examples of your own that you would like to contribute, or would like to discuss ideas or seek support to help you successfully integrate technology effectively into your teaching practice then get in touch with your school learning technologist or contact

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Posted in Active learning, Case Study, Learning Technologies

Preparing for the assessment period and Spring teaching term? Staff development opportunities from TEL

decorative image of person using computer, smartphone and highlighting notes

To celebrate the new year, we are pleased to announce the launch of a new programme of workshops and webinars taking place over January.

What is this and who is it for?

Technology Enhanced Learning provide advice, training and guidance to staff at the University of Sussex in the effective use of technology to enhance teaching, learning, assessment and the student experience. Throughout the year, we provide continued professional development (CPD) opportunities which are free to attend and open to all staff at the university.

Our training sessions are designed and delivered by our team of learning technologists to help staff meet the ambitions and goals of the university. To coincide with the assessment period and start of term, our programme for January has a focus on using the tools to mark assessments online, preparing your Canvas module sites and using the presentation equipment in teaching spaces.

Details of the programme, including fuller descriptions, dates and booking information are available on the Workshops and events page of the Technology Enhanced Learning website.

Here are some of the highlights and recommendations from our programme.

Extend your use of technology in your teaching practice

  • Integrating the best of the web into your Canvas site – find and embed high quality, interactive tools into your online site.
  • Canvas Quizzes – Quizzes can be great for concept checking, revision and assessment.

Recommended for new or returning members of staff

  • Canvas Fundamentals – an introduction to the University’s new online study platform. This session provides attendees with an overview of the new platform and an opportunity to start working on existing course content.
  • Technology in Teaching Spaces – a practical, hands-on session to introduce you to the technology in seminar rooms and lecture theatres across campus.
  • Marking with Turnitin – learn how to use the various features of Turnitin for producing marks, feedback and checking similarity with text-based assessments.

Introducing TEL webinars: bite-sized online learning for staff

This year we are introducing webinars to complement our offering of face-to-face workshops. Webinars are designed to provide a more flexible, bite-sized and accessible offering for those who cannot attend scheduled times or commit to longer sessions.

Sessions are delivered online and include a short presentation followed by a discussion. If you book for a webinar you can participate live or catch up with a recording after the session. Each session lasts roughly 30 minutes and will be delivered during lunchtime. Themes for January include Canvas peer assessment, Canvas groups, Poll Everywhere and the Canvas app.

What’s next?

We are in the process of organising a new programme to run throughout teaching term 2 with a focus on accessibility, emerging technologies and innovative assessment. This programme is set to be announced close to the start of February. Please subscribe to our blog (menu on the right-hand side) to receive email updates.

If you (or your department) would like more bespoke training on any aspects of technology enhanced learning which are not covered by our programme then please get in touch with

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Posted in Events

What’s New in Canvas? (December 2018)

The new Canvas release for December has just been rolled out across the University, this will bring a few helpful changes to Canvas that will enhance your day to day experience. Two of the biggest changes are the ability to reorder the Card View and an update to the Media Recorder which will make it easier to use, please find information on both these changes below: 

Card View Module Ordering

On the Card View Dashboard, module cards can now be rearranged into any order, this means you can organise your display

To do this your dashboard must first be set to Card View.

Once you are in your dashboard there are two ways to move module cards. The first option is to select the vertical ellipses on the card you’d like to move.  

Image of a module card with the more options button being highlighted

A module card with the ‘more options’ icon indicated.

This will bring up the options menu, from here select the Move option, this will then give you the option to move the card Top, Ahead, Behind or Bottom of its current order.

An arrow highlights that the Move option can be found in the top right of the move menu

The ‘move’ menu for a module card.

The second option to change the order is to manually click and drag a card to a new position then drop it into the new position

An image showing the drag and drop functionality

Moving a card with drag and drop.

HTML5 Media Recorder

HTML5 is now used instead of Flash for recording within the Rich Content Editor in Firefox and Chrome browsers, this means recording media content directly into Canvas will be quicker and seamless. This recorder can be used anywhere the Rich Content Editor is enabled (Announcements, Assignments, Discussions, Pages, Quizzes, or Syllabus).

Please note that Internet Explorer and Safari browsers do not support this functionality.

To use the new Media recorder within the Rich Content Editor locate and click the Record/Upload Media button

Screenshot of Rich Content Editor showing the record media icon.

The record media icon can be found on the Rich Content Editor toolbar

This will open up the Record/upload media comment menu, (please note at this point you may be asked by your browser to allow access to your computer’s microphone and camera, you must allow this access in order to use the Media Recorder).

There are three main options to be aware of within the Media Recorder:

An image showing the Record/upload media menu highlighting the three key buttons, the Mic, the Start recording and Webcam button

The Record/upload media menu with the Mic, Start recording and Webcam buttons.

  1. Clicking the Mic option will allow you to choose which of your computers microphones you’d like to use.
  2. The red button labelled ‘Start recording’ will begin a 3 second countdown when pressed, after which the Media Recorder will start to record, pressing the same button whilst recording will finish the recording.
  3. The Webcam option will allow you to choose which of your computers microphones you’d like to use. It’s also possible to choose to have no webcam enabled in which case the Media Recorder will only record audio from your microphone, this is useful if you want to make a purely audio recording.

Once you recording is finished you’ll be presented with the below screen: 

Image showing the Record/Upload media menu after media has been recorded, highlighting where key areas can be found.

Record/Upload media menu after media has been recorded.

  1. You’ll find a preview of your recording here, click the play icon to watch through the preview recording.
  2. You can give your recording a name in order to identify it later.
  3. Clicking the save button will save and insert the recording into the Rich Content Editor.
  4. Clicking the Start over button will delete your recording and let you start a new media recording.

Please note you can also upload captions onto media recordings, please see the Canvas help page for more information

To see a full list of all changes made in the update please see the Canvas Release notes here:

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Posted in Canvas

Digital tools for reflective practice – an update

woman with computer code reflected in her spectacles

Back in 2015 I wrote a post for this blog on digital tools for reflective practice, and it has proved to be one of our most-viewed posts, but things move fast in the world of digital tools, so it seemed that an update could be useful.

What is reflective practice and why use digital tools?

Anyone involved in teaching will have encountered the concept of reflective practice. It is also key to many other professions and integral to much Continuing Professional Development (CPD) so it is a professional skill that will benefit students as well as tutors.

For those teaching in Higher Education, the Higher Education Authority (now part of AdvanceHE) has published a guide entitled ‘Reflective practice: some notes on the development of the notion of professional reflection’. The guide explores ‘how reflection – in which searching questions are asked about experience – might be conceptualised, why it can be viewed as rather more than “thinking about teaching” and why a consideration of reflective practice itself might be helpful to both the beginning and the experienced teacher’.

Unfortunately, reflection can easily be overlooked when time is short, which is why any digital tools that can make it easier can bring benefits for learning and professional development. Using digital tools for reflection can also enhance more general digital capabilities, which are increasingly valued in the workplace.

Digital documents, notebooks and journals

Traditionally, people would have used paper notebooks or journals to record their reflections and plans, so let’s start by looking at the digital equivalents of a paper journal.


Starting with the most basic way of reflecting digitally, Microsoft Word or Google Docs could be used to create one or more files where you can write your reflections, add images and links. University of Sussex staff and students are each entitled to install Microsoft Office on up to 10 devices and store up to 1TB of files in OneDrive with Office 365 so using Word on laptops, smartphones and/or tablets is an option.

Digital notebooks

Digital note-making platforms such as Evernote, OneNote and Google Keep go beyond journalling and offer possibilities for handling notes in all areas of your life. Meeting/lecture notes, shopping lists, recipes, reminders and scanned receipts – all the things you once did in a paper notebook and more. With these tools you can add audio, images and clip websites and as they sync across all your devices you can always have your virtual notebook with you.

Microsoft OneNote combines well with Microsoft 365 (see above), storing your notebooks in your OneDrive account. If you want something separate from your Sussex accounts then Evernote which has a range of free and paid options would be a good choice. Google Keep is another option, though it has slightly fewer features than the others it is very easy to make quick text or audio notes.

If you are not sure whether OneNote, Evernote or Google Keep would suit you best, this brief comparison chart might help.

If you are already using one of these tools for your digital note-making, why not add a notebook or tag for your reflections on learning/teaching?

Online diaries

There are a few online diary options such as Penzu, Journalate or Diaro (which uses Dropbox to store and sync your diary). These let you sort your entries by folder, tag them with keywords, search entries and sync across mobile devices and the web. Most of them let you add photos and some allow attaching files. On the whole, though, these have fewer options than digital notebooks (above).

Audio and video journalling

As most of us use smartphones with built-in audio and video recording functionality it is often as quick to make a short recording as it is to type up notes. Audio and video are not as easy to search as text, but if you attach your audio or video files to a digital notebook (see above) you can add tags to help you find things later.

Reflective blogging and podcasting

Some people prefer to do their reflecting in public and blogs are great for that – but you can also create private posts in most blogging platforms so you can choose what you share with the world. WordPress and Blogger are the most well known platforms and you can add images, audio and/or video to your blog. This comparison of blogging platforms might help you choose which is best for you.

If you prefer your public reflections to be entirely video or audio then YouTube will allow you to record or broadcast live from your desktop or mobile device and is the quick and easy podcasting tool that we use for our TEL podcast.

University of Sussex staff can get help in using any of these digital tools for reflecting on their own practice, or to encourage reflection in students, by contacting

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Posted in digital skills

Canvas Know-How: Using the Accessibility Checker

Decorative image of title.When developing your teaching materials in Canvas, it is important to consider online standards of accessibility to ensure that your content is inclusive of as many individual students as possible. This is important to ensure that equal access and opportunity is provided to all students including consideration for those who may diverse levels of ability for processing information. To support you in this, Canvas has a built in Accessibility checker feature in the Rich Content Editor that will help you to do this.

The accessibility checker will check for 11 different accessibility errors in total:

  • Table captions: Tables should include a caption describing the contents of the table.
  • Table header scope: Table headers should specify scope and the appropriate structure.
  • Table header: Tables should include at least one header.
  • Sequential headings: Heading levels should not be skipped (e.g. H2 to H4). However, the tool does not check if the first header starts with H2 or whether the headings are sequential with the rest of the content in the page. Tables do not begin with H1, which is designated for the page title.
  • Heading paragraphs: Headings should not contain more than 120 characters.
  • Image alt text: Images should include an alt attribute describing the image content.
  • Image alt filename: Image filenames should not be used as the alt attribute describing the image content. Currently, files uploaded directly to Canvas create a redirect that does not properly verify image filenames.
  • Image alt length: Alt attribute text should not contain more than 120 characters.
  • Adjacent links: Adjacent links with the same URL should be a single link. This rule verifies link errors where the link text may include spaces and break the link into multiple links.
  • Large text contrast: Text larger than 18pt (or bold 14pt) should display a minimum contrast ratio of 3:1.
  • Small text contrast: Text smaller than 18pt (or bold 14pt) should display a minimum contrast ratio of 4.5:1.

The Accessibility checker is a feature within the Rich Content Editor, which is used for editing all pages and descriptive text within your Canvas modules. It can be used for checking accessibility of specific pieces of content that you editing.

Select the button from the Rich Content Editor toolbar to begin a check.

Illustrative image - the accessibility checker button is positioned as the last button on the Rich Content Editor toolbar

The accessibility checker button is positioned as the last button on the Rich Content Editor toolbar.

After selecting the icon the Accessibility checker menu will appear on the right hand sign of the screen. If any accessibility errors are detected then they will be highlighted in a blue overlay.

Illustrative image - text highlights indicating errors appear within the Rich Content Editor content preview after a check has run.

Text highlights indicating errors appear within the Rich Content Editor content preview after a check has run.

Where issues are detected, the Accessibility checker menu will explain the nature of the issue encountered and offer guidance on how to correct each issue.

Illustrative image - The accessibility checker has displayed a box allowing the text colour within the blue overlay to be altered.

The accessibility checker has displayed a box allowing the text colour within the blue overlay to be altered.

In the example above the text header colour has a contrast ratio that is too low against the page background colour. This means that students, especially those with visual impairments may find it hard to read the text due to the difference in colour between the text and the background. As a result, the Accessibility checker has detected this and offered the option of changing the text to a more accessible colour.

Illustrative image - An image of the Accessibility checker showing the option to alter the text colour.

An image of the Accessibility checker showing the option to alter the text colour.

Once it has detected that an appropriate colour has been chosen it will allow you to click apply and resolve the issue.

Illustrative image - The Accessibility checker changes can be applied by clicking the Apply button that appears in the bottom right hand corner.

The Accessibility checker changes can be applied by clicking the Apply button that appears in the bottom right hand corner.

If there are any other issues detected the checker will then move onto them, once all detected issues have been corrected the below screen will be displayed. This screen will also display if the Accessibility checker is used and no issues are detected.

Illustrative image - The Accessibility checker menu displays three balloons floating and showing text saying that no accessibility issues were detected.

The Accessibility checker menu displays three balloons floating and showing text saying that no accessibility issues were detected.

Please note that whilst the Accessibility checker does check for a range of accessibility issues it is not fully comprehensive and only acts as an supplemental aid in making your site more accessible.  

Please see the Accessibility within Canvas and General Accessibility Design Guidelines pages for more information on Accessibility within Canvas.

For more general information on web content accessibility guidelines please see the WCAG overview page.

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Posted in Accessibility, Canvas

Daily Digest of Digital Discovery Week.

Each day we wrap up with some highlights in podcast form. Check out each micro-episode below.

Digital Discovery Week is a week of workshops, seminars and online opportunities to enable students and staff to experiment with new technologies, showcase examples of innovations in teaching and research at Sussex, and horizon-scan for emerging technologies which will impact our sector. Find our more at the website here:


Listen on Anchor here:—Monday-e2hgq2

Listen on Spotify here:


Listen on Anchor here:—Tuesday-e2hnh5

Listen on Spotify here:


Listen on Anchor here:—Wednesday-e2ht6b

Listen on Spotify here:


Listen on Anchor here:—Thursday-e2i3f6

Listen on Spotify here:


Listen on Anchor here:—Friday-e2ibh4

Listen on Spotify here: (link coming soon)


Sussex Digital Futures

If you missed the opening panel session then you can watch it back below.

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Posted in Podcast

5 ways to make groupwork work in your teaching

Learning from academics is important to students’ learning, but so is working with their peers. The types of communication that peer-to-peer work requires provokes forms of motivation, reflection and criticality that cannot be generated any other way.

Furthermore, the main stream cohort of students may engage in topic-based discussions within their own social groups quite naturally, but those on the periphery of the cohort (such as part-time students, those with caring responsibilities, mature students and others) may not get the same opportunities. Getting peers to work in inclusive groups can help redress this.

Canvas gives student groups a space of their own, where the participants have the ability to create their own pages, discussions, collaborations and even online conferences. ‘Groups’  is a very strong feature of Canvas, but the success of any group work is likely to be dependent on the tutors’ involvement, because although some groups just work, many don’t -sometimes the group doesn’t gel or the participants do not see the point.

As educators who are concerned with inclusivity and equality, we need to be concerned about those groups and give every opportunity for them to work. So what can we do to encourage group work?

1. Align the group work objectives with the module learning objectives

Students are more likely to get involved if they know what they will get out of their participation. If tutors signpost how group activity will contribute to their module learning objectives and their final assessment, this will be a great motivator in getting students to work together.

Designing assessments to include a reflective element where  students discuss what they learnt during their group work is one way to meet this aim.

2. Embed group work in face-to-face teaching

In order to get group work to happen outside of the classrooms it is useful to get the group familiar with one another inside the classroom. Whilst it is not desirable to get all work done in the same group, it is recommended that your group does at least one task together during a seminar or face-to-face teaching session, either as a starter activity or as a concluding activity to a piece of work they have done outside class.

For different types of group work see 4.

3. Pre-empt challenges in group work

Working in groups is not easy. Some people dominate discussion and others do not get involved at all. Sometimes there are disagreements or personality clashes. In order to reduce these types of problems, there are a number of things to consider:

  • What is the group’s purpose? What will learners get out of contributing to the group? It is useful if you can define an outcome. For example, in reading groups the outcome could be the production of a group summary of core points in the readings.
  • Is the group size right? Four or five students is usually the ideal size for most group work.
  • What is the lifespan of the group? A clear lifespan for the group will give students a goal to work towards.
  • Will group members have different roles? Giving each member a different role, such as secretary, leader and researcher, can help prevent conflicts.
  • Are the students proficient in working in a group? You can introduce learners to concepts which enable better group working such as active listening and methods for giving and receiving criticism.
  • What should students do when there are conflicts? Be prepared to help students to resolve conflicts and make their groups work.

It would be nice to imagine that students will continue to contribute to group work with or without our involvement, but it is recommended that you regularly monitor group work and iron out any issues before they get too serious. You could set up a regular written or verbal report or submission from individuals or the group as a whole.

4. Expect your group to engage in a variety of activities

Group should work together on a number of activities so the members become familiar with one another and they are able to communicate with more confidence. When they are able to communicate more freely with the group their motivation to achieve the group objectives should grow and they will have more opportunities to critically analyse the subject matter and reflect on their understanding.

There are countless activities that you can expect the students to do. Usually they will include a group-based element which they can do in their own time and an element that includes the rest of the cohort.

There are some activities that you should with the students during face-to-face teaching time. These would include:

  • Discussing what it means to “actively listen”,
  • Setting the expectations they have for one another of giving and receiving feedback
  • Setting objectives for the week ahead
  • Giving each other roles

There are other group work activities that have elements that the groups can do outside of face-to-face teaching time such as:

  • Think, pair, share is an activity where the tutor gives the group questions based on a theory or an academic reading and expect them to think about it on their own and then discuss their potential response with the group (or at least a peer). Finally when the group is with the rest of the cohort they share their analysis with the rest of the students and tutor.
  • Jigsaw is a group exercise where a group already exists and you create temporary groups based on a theory or an academic reading around the seminar room which group members join. Members of the temporary group become experts on the topic and then return to their own group to explain what they have learnt.
  • Snowball is a group exercise where the tutor asks a group to compile a list based on a theory or an academic reading by thinking on their own and then coming together with the group to share their list ideas. Again when the group is back together with the rest of the cohort they share their list with the rest of the students and tutor.
  • Rainbow is a group exercise where each group member has their own colour  and the tutor gives them an open question based on a theory or an academic reading to discuss. Group members with the same colour as members in other groups get together to share what their group had discussed

Whatever the group seminar activity it should be clear how it contributes to the learning objectives of the module and how they will finally be assessed.

5. Evaluate the groups’ performance

Like all of us, students respond best when they think their effort is valued. In Higher Education, value of student effort is usually measured by their achievement in assessments. If students do not see the value in group work they may decide that they are not going to get involved. However, if the objectives of group tasks are aligned with the learning objectives of the module, engagement in group work will improve the depth of students’ understanding and should therefore contribute to improving their assessment grade.

In summary, group work can improve students’ depth of understanding. Some of your students will get the opportunity to work in informal groups by dint of the fact they have friends in the cohort, but some will not unless you set up opportunities for them to do so.

Setting group work during face-to-face teaching and using Canvas groups to continue their work is one way to provide this opportunity. We know it can be challenging to get students to engage with groups so I hope this post has provided some strategies to help them work.

If you’re interested in using group work in your teaching feel free to contact the TEL team. Please also have a look at our blog post highlighting the Groups feature in Canvas.

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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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