draw.io (https://www.draw.io/) is a quick and simple web-based app to create:

  • diagrams
  • charts
  • layouts
  • mind-maps
  • network diagrams
  • venn diagrams
  • room layouts

…and much more.

an example of a draw.io diagram

Diagrams can be saved directly to your Google or One Drive as HTML files to keep the file size small and exported to your desktop as a .png, .jpg .pdf or .svg file.

You can also embed your diagrams directly in to your Blackboard site using the <iframe> function.

Creating diagrams couldn’t be easier.

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Rip to Zip

Have you ever received a PowerPoint presentation, .ppt, .pptx, or show, .ppsx or similar and not been able to listen to the embedded audio? This is usually due to the codecs needed to play the file(s) not being installed on your PC.

The quick, easy way, to access the audio files is to extract them from the presentation and play them separately.

To do this, rename the extension on the file to .zip

Image of a PowerPoint file

The extension is the three or four letters after the full-stop at the end of the file name, for example – PowerPoint Presentation.pptx

In this example change the .pptx to .zip

From: PowerPoint Presentation.pptx to PowerPoint Presentation.zip

You will be asked if you want to rename the extension, click on Yes. The Icon will usually change to a folder with a Z (for zip) on the right-hand side.

Image of a ZIP folder

Double click on this folder to open it and drag the ppt folder within on to your desktop.

PowerPoint folder

The file structure of a zip folder

Open this folder and you will see a media folder. Within should be a set of files, images used in the presentation along with the audio files. You can click on each audio files to play them.

Structure of the PowerPoint folderMedia files within the PowerPoint


To convert the zip folder back in to a PowerPoint just change the extension back to its original extension and you can view the presentation as before.

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Designing for dyslexia

When creating resources it’s important that the content is accessible to all learners. This article in Design Week has some useful insights in designing for dyslexia.

The style guide (below) is a good starting point.

British Dyslexia Association: Style Guide 2018Creating Dyslexia Friendly Content

All students and staff have access to Acrobat Pro via ‘AppsAnywhere’, the shortcut is on every university desktop.

Acrobat Pro, unlike the normal Acrobat reader which launches automatically when you click on a PDF gives you added functionality which can allow users to re-format documents.

Users can save PDFs as Word Documents to re-format documents to suit their needs if necessary. The Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software also found in Acrobat Pro allows users to convert ‘scanned’ pages back in to text and saved as a Word document. Depending on the quality of the scan the software will do a reasonable job to convert the graphical text in to editable text, which can then be tidied up if necessary.

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YouTube Voice

So you’ve decided to make a short vlog to introduce your module or deliver some content.
You’ve sourced a camera/phone/iPod/iPad and microphone* and selected a location to shoot it. You’ve created a rough storyboard and know what you have to say; but will it engage your users?

This article in the Atlantic outlines the ‘YouTube Voice’, and may give you some ideas on how to present to engage with your users.

The Linguistics of ‘YouTube Voice’

*Available from the TEL team.

We have podcasting kits, iPod, lavalier mic and Gorillapod stand to allow you to create your own content.

We are also able to assist when your product requires higher production values and advise on technology and techniques to get the most from your equipment when recording.

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Serious Gaming

Wouldn’t it be useful for employability if students could have experience of running a business before leaving university and having to do it for real?

‘Serious Gaming’ is filling that gap; allowing students to learn from their mistakes in a safe, virtual environment.

“There are challenges, but these challenges are great because…they help you improve. …There are going to be failures…paperwork…numbers that will confuse you, but thanks to …HOTS we can understand and learn these elements, which will help us to find a solution, which would therefore help us in our career”  Brian Gnanapragasm (student)

Michael Papaioannou is using an online simulation game called HOTS with level 6 students on the International Hotel & Resort Management module.

HOTS allows students to run a hotel property. They work in teams and make decisions on Human Resources, Marketing, Operations Management & Finance. They get regular feedback on their decisions, including comments from the ‘HOTS Reviewer’ that mimics Tripadvisor.

Learning simulation games are categorised as ‘serious gaming’ – ‘gaming’ because they have elements of fun and competition between teams, and ‘serious’ because participants are consolidating their learning through making decisions and getting feedback in the game.

HOTS is used by industry leaders like Marriott hotels to train their staff in
decision making.

“One of the great benefits of using HOTS is that we can put into action what we have been theoretically learning in the last three years of university.” Brian Gnanapragasm

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Using video

Barry Lyndon released in 1975 show-cased Stanley Kubric’s mastery of cinematography. Shooting scenes by candlelight required special attention.

Kubric acquired three Carl Zeiss Planar 50mm f0.7 lenses from Zeiss, lenses designed and built for NASA’s Apollo lunar programme to film these scenes.

Technology has come a long way since 1975 but it can only go so far. Modern cameras can film in very low light but they are not miracle workers. Often when watching television or films we can see the capability of this technology, but cameras used in these environments can cost upwards of £200,000. The consumer camcorders we use in the university can’t compare.

The visual aspect is one part, audio is a whole other field. Whereas a CCD or CMOS sensor will capture part of the scene, no matter how dark it is a microphone’s drop-off is like a cliff edge. Many are also omni-directional so any sound from around the camera, including itself will be picked up, so it is important to position your camera so that both audio and visual aspects are captured.

Click here to see some guides that will you get the most from a video camera.

Of course, if you want to hire Kubric’s lenses to film your presentation click here.

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Mobile Technology – digital sketchbooks

Stiudium do Ostatniej Wieczerzy

‘Study for the Last Supper” , Leonardo da Vinci, 1495-97

We all have in our pockets more technology and processing power than people had 10 years ago, even myself who decided to join the 21st century and finally invest in a smart phone.

The average car has more computing power than was used to send Apollo 11 to the moon, smartphones even more, so what can the devices in our pocket do?

I’m not suggesting that students should develop and design an entire space programme to populate Mars, but if they want to be as entreprenerual as Elon Musk I wouldn’t stop them. I have to admit, seeing a Falcon Heavy departing from the top of Stoddart would be impressive.

But having access to a wide range of technology on the move opens up a range of opportunities never seen before. I’m not suggesting students should use their phones as their primary source of learning, screen size, environment and resources all contribute to how people learn. These devices however are great for allowing users to create, record and collate information, think of them as a digital scrap/sketchbook, to take photos, short videos, pieces to camera, take notes, record audio, all of which can be downloaded as a reference for essays and reports or as artefacts to be added to a portfolio.

They can also be used to collect primary data using services such as Google Forms and Qualtrics out in the field, or to interview people. The uses are endless, it just needs a little creativity.

So I would encourage your students reconsider their devices, yes that are great tools for communication but they are also so much more.

The draftsman with thread grid and squared paper

Der Zeichner mit Fadengitter und quadriertem Papier
(The draftsman with thread grid and squared paper)

Albrecht Dürer- 1525

Even the best artists throughout history have made use of the latest technology to help improve their practice. Dürer illustrates how a drawing grid can be employed to get the proportion on a foreshortened figure right.


Making a video using your phone:


Photography on the move:


12 Mobile Photography Tips Every Photographer Should Know

Note taking ‘apps’:


Recording audio:


10 best voice recorder apps for Android

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Teach Yourself

Encourage your students to be more creative with technology

We have created a variety of items which you can copy onto any SBS Blackboard site to encourage and enable students to teach themselves different technological skills. Students may want to learn these skills in relation to a module or assignment task, or to aid their own professional development.

As a business school it is important we encourage students to use different technologies which can be useful in the workplace. Learning new software can often be expected during placements or graduate jobs from complex telephone systems to advanced data collection techniques. Students and graduates won’t be expected to have prior knowledge on how to use every piece of technology, but a basic understanding and willingness to learn is advantageous. Learning new technologies is a fundamental skill which is unavoidable in the current job market.

Understanding the practical uses of technology can help our graduates stand out during the recruitment processes or when working in industry,  pitching themselves, a product, or an idea to senior staff.

While PowerPoint is an acceptable way to present information it is predictable and can be repetitive. Using alternative technology to demonstrate ideas in a more relevant or meaningful way can help the audience to see the presenters vision more clearly. Combining different technologies with PowerPoint will no doubt give our graduates the edge while working in industry.

By including these sections on Blackboard to encourage students to learn at their own pace and ability, it will help them build the skills employers look for. Most of the technologies displayed in the Teach Yourself resource are easy to use while maintaining a professional look and feel. This will be ideal for most students who have limited knowledge and time but want to upskill and create effective resources. For students wishing to advance their technological skill further there is information on lynda.com and AppsAnywhere. To read more about lynda.com click here.

The Teach Yourself resource includes information on how to make videos, infographics, websites, posters and more abstract resources such as animations and comic strips. For each tool there is an example and a link to some online guidance to help them to get started and learn the basics. We are encouraging students to independently problem solve using different tools such as Google and YouTube when using these new tools.

For access to the Teach Yourself resource ask a member of the TEL team.

Teach Yourself

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Turning Point Updates

Students voting using the Turning Point appTurning Point is a voting software we have access to at SHU for use in lectures or seminars to engage students and identify any misunderstanding or gaps in knowledge. PowerPoint presentations can be imported into Turning Point to enable the user to easily add interactive questions to existing lectures. To respond to the questions the students can either use clickers or the Turning Point app downloaded on their personal devices.

Recently Turning Point has undergone an update at SHU from Version 5 to Version 8. Although this hasn’t involved too many changes, there are a few differences both students and staff need to be aware of.

Student Changes – There are no changes for students using the clickers but if a student has the old Responseware app this will need to be uninstalled and replaced with the new Turning Point app. Also the students need to be aware that the server has moved from North America to Europe which will need to be correct in the app settings. Click here to download a user guide.

Staff Changes – To deliver a lecture or seminar with Turning Point questions the presenter will need to login to Turning Point via AppsAnywhere on a computer on campus.  Previously a presenter would only need to login to Turning Point if they wanted the students to respond using the app. To login to Turning Point, SHU staff need to contact IT for an account. Click here to download a user guide.

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Padlet is often used in The Sheffield Business School to allow students to ask questions about a module or to add topical information e.g. newspaper articles, links to relevant Twitter accounts or websites. This is a really great way to use Padlet but is this all that the tool can be used for?

Padlet has been marketed as a collaborative tool, however almost anyone who has ever used the tool will have experienced a Padlet crisis. Either the wall has become cluttered with too many posts or too many people have been posting at once causing the posts to dance around the page and become unreadable. To prevent this Padlet have increased the number of templates you can use. Alongside the traditional Padlet wall you can now create a Padlet canvas, stream, grid and shelf.

Increasing the variety of templates has increased the pedagogical benefits and possibilities of using Padlet for learning. There are a number of ways students and teaching staff can use Padlet; either collaboratively, for independent learning or to visually show understanding of a theory or concept.

A Padlet can be exported as an image, PDF, CSV file, or Excel spreadsheet enabling a finished Padlet to be shared, giving the user more flexibility. The resource could be used within an assignment or shared amongst a group as revision notes. For assignments using PebblePad or a WordPress blog, a Padlet resource can be embedded within the page. Remind the students to keep this as read only access if it is public facing to avoid others adding, editing or deleting information. Listed below are the different types of Padlet template and some pedagogical inspiration.

Wall example

As mentioned above the Padlet wall is often used as a collaborative tool. This is great as it saves automatically and can be made visible to all users, but can become overwhelming if many people are using the same wall – particularly at once. For large scale collaborations it would be beneficial to use either the stream or grid templates. So what could the traditional Padlet wall be used for? Walls could be set up by students themselves for group collaboration during a seminar task or group assignment. Padlet recommend the wall template for creating a mood board. Educationally speaking, students could use the mood board style to gather lecture notes, topical stories or to plan an assignment.

Canvas example

A canvas can be used to create a mind map or hierarchy of information. Posts can easily be connected together via an arrow or colour coordinated to visually show how they relate. If lucky enough to be timetabled into a SCALE UP room, a seminar tutor could design a task where each group of students create a Padlet canvas to visually demonstrate their understanding of the concept. The downside to using a canvas Padlet is that posts are always connected via an arrow. There is no way to link the posts without suggesting one leads to another.

Stream example

A stream is the least flexible way of using Padlet but is a great way to display FAQ’s. The posts are stacked vertically but can be reordered easily by drag and drop. As this only uses the middle of the Padlet space it makes the text easy to read and the space seems less cluttered. One downside to this is that if there are many FAQ’s it may take a while to scroll through the responses. If using a stream for FAQ’s it is recommended that the admin regularly checks Padlet to answer any questions, keep the relevant questions at the top of the page and delete any questions which are no longer necessary.

Grid example

When using this template the posts are snapped into a grid formation to enable each post to be visible and clear to the reader. This more structured approach doesn’t allow for much creativity (unlike the traditional wall) but is beneficial for larger collaborations. This template would be best used in a conference for participants to add ideas, external links and key points to a topic or could be embedded into a Blackboard site for students to do the same. For instructions on how to embed within Blackboard, click here.

Shelf example

Similar to a grid, the shelf template structures the posts in a clear layout to the reader. Headings are created at the top of the Padlet page then posts are added into the different columns. As this is a structured template it would also be recommended for large collaborations to prevent posts from getting buried. Specific to the Business School a Padlet shelf could be used as a structure for a collaborative SWOT analysis. It could also be embedded or linked to an assignment.

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