The 6th Social Media for Learning in Higher Education Event #SocMedHE20

This year things are a little different but the annual Social Media for Learning in Higher Education event will take place! This year it is led by the Universities of Strathclyde and Glasgow and will be online as a Tweetposium taking place on Twitter using the hashtag #SocMedHE20. The date of the event is 17th December 2020. Do follow @SocMedHE for ongoing updates.

The call for participation is asking presenters to submit 5 tweets which can include links, images or even videos, screencasts or podcasts up to 10 minutes long in total. Deadline for submissions is 15th November 2020. The theme for the event is:

Using social media to build community, care and compassion

This will be the 6th event. The inaugural Social Media for Learning in Higher Education Conference took place in 2015 at Sheffield Hallam University and was hosted there for a further two years before passing on the baton to Nottingham Trent University and then Edge Hill University.  The original website can be accessed here and maintains links to each event between 2015-2020. Thanks always goes back to Dr Graham Holden, Director of Learning and Teaching at Sheffield Hallam, who supported the idea for this event in the summer of 2015, and to Dr Alison Purvis and Helen Rodger as together we made an idea come to life. As with any event there is always an organizing team that makes it happen, and I have loved being a part of this every single year.

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Suggestions to help prepare for using online breakout rooms as learning activities

video conferencing

Groupwork is a valuable part of a student’s experience as it gives them the opportunity to work with peers and develop more confident teamwork and communication skills (amongst many other skills). In the classroom this activity can take place by asking the students to sit together in groups or if in a lecture theatre type classroom form groups of pairs by row and then one pair turn around to form a four with the pair behind. You might ask the groups to find a space of their own and return to the classroom after a set time. In these smaller groups students can be asked to work on a problem, engage in discussions, or any other activity they can work on collaboratively.

However when teaching online the use of video conferencing at first glance may not appear to be conducive of groupwork. It will depend on the space you are using but there are some that offer breakout rooms. The two examples I have experienced are Blackboard Collaborate and Zoom. At the time of writing I understand MS Teams are also developing this feature. For now there are some workarounds using other approaches like adding additional channels within a team. There could be others too.

Within Collaborate and Zoom the tutor leading the online class can choose to self select or randomly select groups of students. The feature allows them to send each group of students to a separate online room. The tutor can also visit those rooms to check on progress, and can bring the students back to the main room when they wish to. Once in the breakout room, participants have full audio, video, and screen share capabilities.

It is a different experience to being in the physical classroom and the aim of this post is to provide a number of tips that can help both tutors and students prepare for this activity.

  1. Provide clear instructions for the breakout activity that students can access prior to and during the activity. Once in the breakout room they will need to refer back to these! This will avoid the “What are we supposed to be doing” once in the breakout room.
  2. Have a practice run using this feature for the first time with your students. It may also be the first time for you, so let the students know this.
  3. Tell the students how long they will expect to be in the breakout room to work on the activity you are setting. You may also want to consider adding an additional bonus task to stretch those students who might finish before other groups. It’s helpful to give them a 2-5 minute warning so they can wrap things up.
  4. You can monitor progress by visiting each of the breakout rooms and checking on the students, but this can become time consuming where you have larger numbers of groups. One solution might be to assign a Google Doc to each group which students are asked to add notes/solutions to, and then have these open in different tabs on a different screen/device for you to view. It will highlight how they are doing and you can focus on visiting the groups that may need support.
  5. Once the allocated time for the activity is up, it can be useful to ask for each group to feedback what they have done. Warning the groups in advance and either asking for or assigning a notetaker and spokesperson, can help prepare the students.
  6. By asking the students to make notes in a collaborative document, they will have a record they can refer back to later. This may be helpful to feed into other activities or even assignments further down the line.

Prior to the online class

  • Create the detailed instructions for the activity that you will go through in the class and make this accessible to the students to refer back to.
  • Set up a Google Doc for each group, transferring the key requirements / questions to this working document and title by group number. This will form the working collaborative document the students can use to gather notes whilst in the breakout room. Having these as bullet points will help the students keep on task.
  • Provide the students a link to the Google Doc and make sure you adjust the settings so that it is set to editable, so that they can add information.
  • You will need to decide if you plan to manually create groups or opt for randomly create based on the number per group you wish them to work in.

During the online class

  • Go through the breakout activity brief and respond to any questions.
  • Ensure all students can access the master brief and the group Google Doc (GD) they will use in the breakout room.
  • It can be useful to assign or establish a volunteer note taker and person to feedback for each group, prior to sending them to the breakout room. If you plan to use this feature for future activities these roles could be rotated so all students experience.
  • Be clear everyone needs to contribute to the activity.
  • Where students will continue to work in the same groups, the working group GD could be used for future connected breakout activities, thus keeping the notes in one place.

In addition to sending students to breakout groups for groupwork activities, you can also use this function to send individual students. This can be useful if they are working independently on an activity and need some help, as they can share their screen with a tutor once in the breakout room.

The example of the collaborative working space given is a Google Doc. You could replace this with a link to a Padlet board, collaborative mind map or whiteboard tool, Google Slides, shared Trello board and more. I’d love to hear how you have developed activities for your students.

The infographic below is a summary of the points discussed. This was created using Piktochart.

Tips on how to prepare for online breakout room learning activities

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Using Wakelet collections and spaces to curate personal and collaborative compilations

Wakelet logo on a laptop

Wakelet is a free tool that enables the user to curate information from social networks to build social stories, bringing together a variety of different media that is scattered across the Web. It provides a space to then add an additional layer by adding a narrative and enables the user to create a multimedia digital narrative that is interactive and social. By using Wakelet, it’s possible to cite content from others who are part of an online discussion or at the spot of an actual event while adding further text to provide clarifications and context from your end.

Essentially there are three key steps to create a Wakelet Collection:

  1. Search
    Select a social network and search for social media content.
  2. Add content
    Drag the best elements into your story and add your own narrative.
  3. Share
    Via your chosen social networks or by sharing the URL or as a PDF.

Wakelet sharing options

A new feature just released is Wakelet Spaces:

  1. On the left side of your homepage, you can find the small ‘+’ icon. Click this to add a new space!
  2. Choose a name for your space and an image. You can choose to set your space as public or private by clicking Profile Visibility.
  3. Now it’s time to populate it with collections. You can either:
    1. Create a brand new collection from within the space.
    2. Transfer a collection from your home profile to your new space. To do this, go to where your collection currently is, click the three dots ‘…’, click ‘Move collection’, and select which space you want to move it to.
  4. Invite collaborators to your space. Once you’ve created your space, click Members on the side-panel on the left side of your home screen. From here you can access an invite code and QR code to share with your chosen invitees. They can use the code to access your space, by clicking ‘Got a code? Join a space‘, which appears once they’ve clicked the ‘+’ button mentioned in step one.

Benefits of using Wakelet

  • Each story can be shared as a URL link
  • Each element of the story can also be individually shared
  • It is a useful way to amplify the voices of the originators
  • Helps develop better web searching skills
  • Incorporate multimedia (video, photos, tweets, online sources) with original writing

Here are some examples of how you can use Wakelet:

Using Wakelet to capture events

  • Curate tweets shared during a conference
  • Aggregate a timeline of events
  • Reactions to important stories and breaking news
  • Live tweeting and eye witness reports
  • Gather social media responses about an event
  • Curate the history of a given event as a timeline
  • Create a narrative that can help readers makes sense of an event

Here’s one of my favourites examples where Wakelet was used to capture tweets celebrating Professor Phil Race’s retirement and 75th Birthday at the 2019 SOLSTICE Conference at Edge Hill University.

This is your Life Professor Phil Race (PDF) or via Wakelet

Student uses for Wakelet 

  • Curate resources for a research project.
  • Develop an annotated bibliography.
  • Capture key points from a lecture by note taking using Twitter and gathering as a story.
  • Build a digital CV.
  • Use Spaces with peers to create a shared collaborative set of collections.

Teacher uses for Wakelet

  • Create a digital hand-out of readings or videos with questions to respond to.
  • Curate a collection of videos you want to play during a class.
  • Raise a question on Twitter and curate the responses as a story.
  • Hold a Q&A tweetchat and curate the dialogue.
  • Develop a class plan.
  • Create multimedia how to guides.

Wakelet resources

How to videos:

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Building a taxonomy for digital learning

online learning

The QAA have published this useful article Building a taxonomy for digital learning that aims to build a common language to describe digital approaches of teaching and learning.

Building a Taxonomy for Digital Learning defines and assesses the most common terms that providers use to describe the ways in which they and their students engage with digital teaching and learning, helping those providers to evaluate the appropriateness of their own terminology. Achieving a consistency between terms such as ‘distance’ or ‘remote’ learning, ‘blended’ or ‘hybrid’ learning, ‘campus’ or ‘onsite’ delivery is important to ensure a better understanding of the learning experiences on offer.

It begins with the definitions of terms used by educators and highlights the differences between some of these that are used interchangeably but have nuanced differences. For example online vs virtual vs digital; blended vs hybrid; distance vs remote; and one that has been quite contentious during Covid19 for many is social distancing vs physical distancing. Many called for the term social distancing to be replaced by physical to emphasise that during this time being able to engage in social interaction online was ever more important as a way to engage with family, friends, peers and in the context of learning and teaching our students.

In section 2 it goes on to provide a taxonomy of students’ digital experiences. These include:

  • Passive digital engagement/experience:
    Where little or no aspect of the learning and teaching activity on offer is designed to be
    delivered digitally.
  • Supportive digital engagement/experience:
    Where some of the learning and teaching activities developed by a provider are supported by digital support materials.
  • Augmented digital engagement/experience:
    Where learning and teaching activities developed by a provider are designed with digital learning aspects as a core part of the engagement, intended to enhance students’
    experience of onsite learning.
  • Interactive digital engagement/experience:
    Where digital learning and teaching activities are designed by a provider as the primary way in which students will engage, both with the programme and with each other.
  • Immersive digital engagement/experience:
    Where digital learning and teaching activities are designed by a provider as the only way in which students will engage, both with the programme and with each other.

The 3rd section provides a comprehensive glossary of terms and definitions. Whilst this is not an exhaustive list, it spans 6 pages and goes some way to demonstrate the terms we are using. With this in mind it is important that we make sure we clearly explain what these mean to our students who may not be familiar with them.

You can read the complete QAA report below.

Click to access building-a-taxonomy-for-digital-learning.pdf

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Getting started on Zoom and some tips on using it for teaching

Zoom on a mobile phone

For many Zoom video conferencing has been the go to tool for online meetings. Users using the free version have a 40 minute window. The Pro version allows you to sign in using your work credentials (user name and password).  It is quick and easy to set up a meeting and you simply share the link. This post is aimed at those who may not have had the opportunity to try it out.

A new word to enter the dictionary of 2020 is likely to be ‘zoombombing’. This is where uninvited guests enter meetings. It has also been referred to as Zoom raiding. It is important therefore to understand how to adjust the settings and to only share a link with those you know. You can opt to add a password and create a waiting room.  Recent updates have made this a default setting.

In addition to being a video conferencing tool, within Zoom you can set up polls, whiteboards and breakout rooms. At the bottom of the post are links to useful support pages for how to set these up. If you have never used Zoom before this Getting Started on Zoom guide is helpful.

Click to access Education%20Guide%20-%20Getting%20Started%20on%20Zoom.pdf


Educating on Zoom

Zoom have also put together a useful Tips and Tricks PDF for Teachers using Zoom.

Click to access Tips%20and%20Tricks%20for%20Teachers%20Educating%20on%20Zoom.pdf



These are some of the links from the document above:

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Digital accessibility health check: points to consider

digital health check

At least 1 in 5 people in the UK have a long term illness, impairment or disability. Many more have a temporary disability ( Making a website accessible means making sure it can be used by as many people as possible.

Web accessibility means that websites, tools, and technologies are designed and developed so that people with disabilities can use them. You can read more detailed information about accessibility principles from the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI).

It is also important to consider accessibility when writing a blog. WordPress offer a helpful accessibility support page.

As a starting point here is a very useful collection of posters from the UK Home Office to help you design for accessibility. They consider designing for users:

  • on the autistic spectrum
  • of screen readers
  • with low vision
  • with dyslexia
  • with physical or motor disabilities
  • who hard deaf or hard of hearing
  • with anxiety

Click to access accessibility-posters.pdf


The website includes the following best practices for accessible digital content:

  • Do not rely on colour as a navigational tool or as the sole way to differentiate items
  • Images should include Alt text in the markup/code. This is alternative text to describe your image to people who can’t see it.
  • Complex images should have more extensive descriptions near the image (perhaps as a caption or descriptive summary).
  • Provide transcripts for podcasts.
  • If you have a video on your site, provide visual access to the audio information through in-sync captioning.

On 23 September 2018 new regulations on the accessibility of websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies came into force in the UK.

Posted in Accessibility, Blogs | 1 Comment

Things you may find useful when using Twitter that you might have slipped past you!

Bird tweeting

As the old saying goes “Every day’s a learning day’.  Social Media including Twitter seems to be always changing things. Whilst introducing new features in the main can be useful, they sometimes pass you by.  For me it was saving a draft of a Tweet. How did I miss that?! This post highlights some tips that I hope you will find useful. For keyboard shortcut fans there are a list of commands towards the end of the post.

The basics

To create a Tweet you type your Tweet (up to 280 characters) into the compose box at the top of your Home timeline, or click the Tweet button in the navigation bar. You then have the option to include up to 4 photos, a GIF, or a video in your Tweet. To send, click the Tweet button to post the Tweet to your profile.

How to save a draft of a Tweet

There may be times when you are part way composing a Tweet and then something interrupts you finishing it. You can save a draft of your Tweet by clicking the X icon in the top left corner of the compose box, then click Save. To access your draft Tweets, click on Unsent Tweets from the Tweet compose box.

unsent tweet



From here you can  choose to edit the Tweet prior to sending or to delete the Tweet.

unsent tweet options


How to schedule a Tweet

You may want to write a Tweet but not send it immediately. To schedule your Tweet to be sent at a later date/time, click on the calendar icon at the bottom of the compose box and make your schedule selections, then click Confirm.  To access your scheduled Tweets, click on Unsent Tweets from the Tweet compose box.

schedule a tweet




Here you can the options available for scheduling the tweet. You need to select the date and time you want your Tweet to be released. There is also an option to choose an alternative timezone. The default should be where you are in the world.

tweet schedule options





How to delete a Tweet

  1. Visit your Profile page.
  2. Locate the Tweet you want to delete.
  3. Click the  down arrow located top right of your tweet.
  4. Click Delete Tweet.

You can only delete your own Tweets. Whilst you cannot delete Tweets which were posted by other accounts you can unfollow, block or mute accounts whose Tweets you do not want to receive.

To delete or undo a Retweet you’ve made, click on the highlighted Retweet icon in the Tweet. This will remove the Retweet from your timeline, but will not delete the original Tweet.

How to pin a Tweet to your Profile

This will pin a Tweet that you have Tweeted at the top of your Profile page.  Once pinned you will see above the Tweet ‘Pinned Tweet’

  1. Visit your Profile page.
  2. Locate the Tweet you want to delete.
  3. Click the  down arrow located top right of your tweet.
  4. Click Pin to your Profile.

To unpin the Tweet follow the above 3 steps and the Click Unpin from Profile.

Keyboard shortcuts

The following are a list of keyboard shortcuts that can be used via your browser on from your Home page. To get to Home, click on the blue birdhouse icon.


  • n  =  new Tweet
  • l  =  like
  • r  =  reply
  • t  =  Retweet
  • m  =  Direct Message
  • u  =  mute account
  • b  =  block account
  • enter  =  open Tweet details
  • o   =  expand photo
  • /  =  search
  • cmd-enter | ctrl-enter  =  send Tweet


  • ?  =  full keyboard menu
  • j  =  next Tweet
  • k  =  previous Tweet
  • space  =  page down
  • .  =  load new Tweets


  • g and h  =  Home timeline
  • g and o  =  Moments
  • g and n  =  Notifications tab
  • g and r  =  Mentions
  • g and p  =  profile
  • g and l  =  likes tab
  • g and i  =  lists tab
  • g and m  =  Direct Messages
  • g and s  =  Settings and privacy
  • g and u  =  go to someone’s profile
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Guest post 2: A Remote Learning Guide written by Students for Students: How to ensure your remote learning experience is effective, supportive and fun. #shuSMASH

A remote learning guide

This is a second guest post written for students by students Matty Trueman, Kai Ackroyd, Curtis Alexis-Jones, Gagan Warinch and Eimantus Lukocius. We are final year students at Sheffield Hallam University.


The way students learn remotely is becoming more and more important as universities transition to online teaching. With many students facing a number of challenges during this current time, it’s important that there are answers to some of the questions that might have arisen. This blog post aims to provide an informative guide on how students can improve their remote learning experience, with the following questions being answered: how to stay motivated, how are other students learning, how to support your peers and how to be more social.


With most of us now transitioned to online learning, it is important to stay on track with the routine we normally carry whilst at university, work or social spaces. For many, a sudden change to a normal daily routine is a shock and can take a toll on your productivity and most importantly – your mental wellbeing. More now, than ever before it is essential to identify the methods that will help you complete your work and succeed. It is important to understand that tips for motivation isn’t a one size fits all approach and hence, why it is so crucial that you identify what works for YOU.

Here, we present some of the tips that can help you stay motivated, keep on track with your assignment work, and keep you sane during the lockdown!

  • Designate a specific workspace you will use to complete your work. It is a very important first step in ensuring you have a distraction-free space that will allow you to concentrate.
  • Get up in the morning at your routine time, dress, have breakfast and start by reflecting on what you did the previous day (or week) then progress onto the tasks for the day.
  • Don’t forget to take regular breaks and allow time to relax by managing your time accordingly (go for a short exercise outside, listen to your favourite podcast, play games or do any other activity you enjoy).
  • Maintain your regular routine/schedule and set realistic expectations for the week ahead by prioritising the tasks you think will take you the longest to complete.
  • Consider using Notion which is a great app  available on Windows, MacOS, iOS and Android. Notion helps you to stay on track by providing an all-round solution to organise your notes, schedule, budget, reading list for specific module, grades calculator and more.

Download for iOS         Download for Android 

  Notion iOs QR code            Notion for Android QR code


Adapting to online learning can be difficult, especially if you have moved back home as there can be a lot of distractions! However there are some really useful tools that can assist you with all your learning needs. 

These are some examples of what has worked really well for us and we recommend you share with your tutors:

Blackboard Collaborate: Breakout Groups

This tool works really well with a large group of students, it splits you up into groups of around 3-4 (depending on how many people are in the session). Once you are in the breakout group you can speak with the group members through voice/ video and also through messaging in your own group chat. You also have the option to send messages in the overall chat if you have any questions. It’s really useful as you can discuss your ideas and also communicate with your peers. The tutor(s) can drop in and out of the breakout groups to check on how you are doing and answer any questions (if you have any).

Padlet: Share and Discussion

Padlet is an effective tool to share ideas, as anyone can add a post to the board (with the link your tutor/ peer gives you, or that you share out). E.g. Working in groups on a practice exam question. Firstly we used Blackboard Collaborate (mentioned above) to discuss our ideas), once we had got all of our ideas together for each section we posted them onto the Padlet board. This is an effective way to learn as you can share your ideas and also see everyone else’s ideas, so you get an in depth understanding around the topic. It is also easy for the lectures to go through and discuss with the individual groups as it is all in one place.

 Zoom: Scheduled Session

Zoom is a video conferencing tool that allows you to create meetings/ attend meetings that have been set up by your tutors. Tutors will initially send an email telling you the date and time of the meeting and a link that will direct you to the meeting.  All you need to do is click on the link. If this is your first time it will ask you to install the Zoom video conferencing software, wait for the creator of the meeting to connect and then your meeting will be in progress. If you aren’t familiar with Zoom and want to know more here is a useful guide written by the Digital Learning  Team as Hallam.

 Zoom: Open Time Slot

Another effective use of Zoom is having an open session. For example having a drop in session for assignments and any questions you have. This is useful as your tutor gives you a link to go to that you can access at any time on the day that they state. It allows you to ask anything that you need in regards to your assignment. The only issue is it’s an open session so anyone that the tutor sends the link to can join.

Peer support 

It’s important we look out for each other and consider peers that may be living alone away from family. Whether it’s through a video conferencing tool like Zoom or via other social media, there are a number of ways to stay in touch.

Ways to keep in touch

Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook are just some of the many ways that you can use to stay in contact with your fellow peers and friends from University. 

Using online tools and social media can help to make you feel less isolated whilst looking out for your friends. For those who are stuck in their accommodation and away from their family, using Messenger and WhatsApp are highly beneficial tools that can help to deal with isolation and the physical barriers of seeing people. It’s important during this difficult time that people are staying well connected online to aid people’s mental health and isolation fears.

Zoom Screen Share and Remote Mouse Access

Zoom is a video conferencing tool that allows for video calls to be made over the internet, it also has some useful features that can be beneficial when working on group projects together. The first feature is the ability to share your screen so that everyone on the call can see what you’re working on. The second feature allows users to take over the mouse control of the screen that’s being shared, this is very useful if someone needs to change something during the call.

How to Guide (Screen Share)

Share screen

  1. Click the Share Screen button located in your meeting controls.
  2. Select the screen you want to share. You can also choose an individual application that is already open on your computer, the desktop, a whiteboard, or an iPhone/iPad.

select screen

Tip: If the participant is on iOS or Android, they can remote control your screen using their mobile device.

How to Guide (Remote Mouse Access)

  1. While screen sharing, click Remote Control and select the participant you want to give control to.
    remote mouse access
  2. The participant can click anywhere on their screen to start control. To regain control, click anywhere on your screen. The other user can still restart remote control by clicking on their screen.

Tip: You can also click Stop Share to regain control and not allow the other participant to start remote control again.


Given the current circumstances of being off school/college/university or even work. It is highly important to switch off and enjoy some downtime. You may have exhausted your Netflix options or maybe you’re sick of playing online. Don’t worry as there are other options you can keep yourself occupied with. 

Don’t let being stuck inside be the reason for you to avoid exercise 

Get creative, stimulate your mind!    

 Download the ‘Houseparty’ app on your smartphone, tablet or computer

  • Completely free app
  • Unlike Skype or Facetime video calls, the Houseparty app splits the screen between you and the person you are video chatting in your ‘room’
  • Eight users can be in a room at one time and the screen will be split 8 ways so everyone can see each other
  • It also includes mini games, compete and challenge each other 

Get involved on Instagram

 Instagram nominations (tag your friends and nominate them to participate in the challenge you have set)

  • Riddle challenge 
  • 30-day challenges 
  •  Throwback baby pictures
  • Kick up challenge


We hope you found these tips useful. Please share with other students!

Stay well and keep on studying.

Matty, Kai, Curtis, Gagan and Eimantus
BSc IT with Business Studies and BSc Business and ICT students at Sheffield Hallam University

P. S. You may also be interested in our previous post A student toolkit to help you tackle remote learning written by students for students


PPS #shuSMASH is an acronym for Sheffield Hallam University (SHU) and Social Media for Academic Studies at Hallam (SMASH) – a students as partners project.



Posted in Collaboration tools, Communication tools, Social Learning | Tagged | 1 Comment

Guest post: A student toolkit to help you tackle remote learning written by students for students



This is a guest post written for students by students Matty Trueman, Kai Ackroyd, Curtis Alexis-Jones and Gagan Warinch to highlight the free collaboration tools available and how they can support remote learning. We are final year students at Sheffield Hallam University.

Our blog post will look at how you as a student can: plan tasks, share work online, schedule and run online meetings whilst staying digitally connected through messaging services. In addition, tools to help with managing time and staying motivated during times of difficulty will also be shared.

Planning tasks 

Project planning tools such as Trello and Slack are useful for planning tasks and organising work. These can help your group capture all the tasks that need doing and track what has been done.

Trello allows you to work collaboratively by using task boards, lists and cards to organise and prioritise your work. Trello integrates with many other apps such as Slack, Dropbox and Google Drive to name a few. Trello can be accessed on the go via a mobile app or through the browser allowing users to update projects with ease. 

Slack is also another powerful tool that can be downloaded as an app or accessed through the browser. Slack allows you to communicate and collaborate in one place by organising different chat channels (groups). Within the channels files can be shared and face to face video meetings can be arranged through Zoom and Google Drive platform integrations which allows work to be shared via video. Each channel can be split down for different projects and groups to help organise your work. Slack also integrates with Trello and 2000 other apps to support your work.

Collaborative work spaces for group work 

Collaborative work spaces such as OneDrive & Google Drive are the perfect tools to work on individual and group projects in challenging times. You can access your files everywhere, no matter where you are as long as you are able to access the internet.

You can also share your files with your friends with just a few simple clicks. You can set the permission where your friends can either view, edit, comment on your stuff, or all of them. And thirdly they can encourage open discussion. You can create and reply to comments to get feedback and make files more collaborative, it can be done by commenting directly on the files.

Scheduling meetings 

These tools can provide a quick way to find the best time slot for groups to meet online, without the need for back and forth emails or messages. 

Online meetings 

Online meeting platforms including Zoom, Skype and Google Hangouts are effective for learning when you have group work/ assignments and for contacting peers/ tutors for any support during this trying time. 

Zoom is  an easy, reliable cloud platform for video and audio meetings across mobile devices, desktops, telephones, and room systems. Key features are (free plan):

  1. One-on-one meetings: Host unlimited one-on-one meetings with peers/ tutors.
  2. Group video conferences: Allows you to host video meetings for up to 40 minutes and up to 100 participants.
  3. Screen sharing: Meet one-on-one or with large groups and share your screen with them so they can see what you see. 

Skype is accessed online and works across multiple devices; mobile, PC, Xbox and Alexa. Skype messaging and HD voice and video calling will help you share your findings/ideas and get group work done with others. Key features are:

  1. Individual conversations: Host individual audio/ video with peers/ tutors.
  2. Group conversations: Allows you to have audio/ video calls and meetings with up to 50 participants.
  3. It’s free to use: To send messages and have audio and video calls with groups.

Google Hangouts is a communications platform which facilitates messaging, video chatting and phone calls. You can access it via web browser or mobile devices (IOS/ Android).There is also a Google Chrome extension for this platform. Key features are:

  1. Individual/ Group conversations: Conversations can include up to 150 people.
  2. Individual/ Group video calls: Video calls can include up to 10 (Gmail, G Suite Basic) or 25 (Business, Education) people.
  3. Phone calls/ text messages: Make phone calls using Wi-Fi or data and send text messages with your Google Voice or Google Fi phone number.


Studying alone can help you focus but it can also be isolating. Make use of chat to check in on peers and see how they are. Use group chat to keep everyone in your group informed and to take stock of your progress towards forthcoming assignments. 

You may be familiar with apps like WhatsApp, Messenger and Twitter for keeping in touch socially with friends and they are also a good to use for group work.

Discord allows users to chat via text, voice or video call from anywhere. It can be downloaded to mobile, desktop or be used in a browser and instantly allows for voice communication. Users can create their own chat groups and invite others to it and you can see when others are online in the chat and instantly join in to speak. Users have the ability to have their profile appear as online, busy or idle to ensure others know their availability. It is widely used in the gaming community, but easily applied to students for group work or for effective communication. 

Self motivation / Time tracking

Carve out some space for study time. This will be harder if you are doing this at home or in halls where there may be multiple distractions. Here are some tools to keep you on track:

Toggl allows users to track the number of hours they’ve spent on a project across multiple devices (phone app, chrome extension, desktop app & website). With Toggl you can start timers, integrate it with over 100 online apps and add your hours to a calendar to keep track of what you’ve been working on. It will also identify any idle time so you can decide what to do with it later to keep you motivated.

Pomotodo is a great tool to help keep you motivated and driven to achieve your tasks and goals when not in the classroom environment. The Pomodoro technique is a time management strategy. The user will create and prioritise a list of all the things you need to accomplish. The smart system will limit distractions, schedule breaks and increases accountability.

Other resources

Check your university website for student support guidance and resources. The library web pages are always a rich resource to help you with things like referencing and academic skills. 

It is also important we all look after both our physical and mental wellbeing.  Reach out to friends you have not heard from and check they are ok. 

Student Minds

Big White Wall

Fika – Mental Fitness 


We hope this has been useful. Stay well and keep on studying.

Matty, Kai, Curtis and Gagan
BSc IT with Business Studies and BSc Business and ICT students at Sheffield Hallam University

Posted in Collaboration tools, Communication tools | Tagged | 12 Comments

The Global Digital Stat Report 2019 by WeAreSocial and Hootsuite

Digital Statshot Oct 2019

As we near the close of 2019 the Global Digital Statshot Q4 October 2019 is a fascinating slide deck to look at. Of the 7.7 billion total population more than 50% are active social media users and use their mobile devices to do so.

The full Global Digital Report 2019 can be found here and allows you to segment by country/region.

Posted in Social Media, Technology | Leave a comment