Using Nearpod to Enhance Interactivity in Lectures

For some time now I have been using the audience response system, Nearpod to promote active learning with bioscience students. A short case study has now been published on how we have implemented the tool at Ulster University.

Stephen McClean, William Crowe; Making room for interactivity: using the cloud-based audience response system Nearpod to enhance engagement in lectures. FEMS Microbiol Lett 2017; 364 (6): fnx052. doi: 10.1093/femsle/fnx052

The abstract of the paper follows:

Active and collaborative learning provides distinct advantages for students in higher education, yet can often be hampered by the barrier of large class sizes. Solutions that combine a ‘bring your own device culture’ with cloud-based technologies may facilitate a more interactive learning experience. In this pilot study, we describe the use of one such technology, Nearpod, to enhance interactivity in lectures delivered to pharmacy and bioscience students at Ulster University. Existing material in PowerPoint or Keynote format is uploaded to the instructor area of Nearpod, interactive elements are added, and the lecture is then broadcasted via the internet to student devices. The lecturer may choose to share polling responses or examples of submissions from the drawing tool or open-ended questions, thereby providing instant feedback on learning. Students commented favourably on the interactivity and engagement afforded by Nearpod. Most students were happy to use their own electronic devices (smartphones, tablets and laptops) for such activities with a minority expressing concern over problems with connecting to the institutional Wi-Fi. Nearpod and similar products represent a new class of feature-rich audience response systems that have potential to transform learning even in large classes.



Some of the advantages of using Tweetdeck… (reblog)

I find following a hashtag (#) is a lot easier using Tweetdeck. It also has the added bonus that you can add more than one column to follow more than one hashtag. Additionally, you can interact with a Tweet in the same way as you would in Twitter, so you can Like, Retweet or Reply […]

via #249 Follow a hashtag using Tweetdeck #awesome — #1minuteCPD

Reflections on “”: An Online Video-Sharing Platform To Engage Students with Chemistry Laboratory Classes – Journal of Chemical Education


It has been almost eight years since we introduced the “YouTestTube” video sharing initiative to bioscience students at Ulster University. This paper describes how the project has developed over that time and is now an embedded feature of chemistry laboratory classes. The abstract follows:

This paper describes the construction and development of, a YouTube clone website to facilitate video-sharing, social networking, and reflections of chemistry laboratory classes for year one students within the School of Biomedical Sciences at Ulster University. The practice was first introduced in the 2008/09 academic year and has developed until the present time. We reflect on our findings with regard to the production and sharing of short student-generated video documentaries on laboratory experiments, and attendant social networking. We found that students enjoyed the process of viewing, rating, and commenting upon colleagues’ videos but that social networking did not happen spontaneously or organically. Students did find that learning and networking happened effectively when working in small groups to produce the final version of the video. The use of some of the videos as peer-generated learning objects was reported to be useful in helping engage year one, semester one students in their early days in tertiary education.

Source: Reflections on “”: An Online Video-Sharing Platform To Engage Students with Chemistry Laboratory Classes – Journal of Chemical Education (ACS Publications)

Beyond Clickers, Next Generation Classroom Response Systems for Organic Chemistry – Journal of Chemical Education (ACS Publications)

This article describes the “next generation” in audience response systems that can be put to good use in learning chemistry and other STEMM subjects.  The author concludes:

“Next generation classroom response systems are a potentially valuable tool for instructors looking to build on previous use of clickers or to engage students in this manner for the first time. They foster active learning through peer instruction and enable students to answer questions authentically, using structural pictures and drawings like actual chemists.”


Source: Beyond Clickers, Next Generation Classroom Response Systems for Organic Chemistry – Journal of Chemical Education (ACS Publications)

Using PeerWise to engage students

Figure03.JPGI have just implemented PeerWise again with my cohort of Biochemistry students this semester.  For those not familiar with it PeerWise is a free-to-use online collaborative tool where students create and share multiple choice questions relevant to their course of study. Students may answer, rate and comment on questions set by peers and follow authors who make high quality contributions. As students interact with PeerWise they build up a reputation score and earn badges thus providing an incentive for engagement in the activity.

I used PeerWise for the first time in 2013/14 in a year one Biochemistry module with 195 students enrolled. By the end of the teaching period 2,411 questions had been created by 194 out of the 195 students on the module; 28,239 answers had been provided and 9,275 comments posted, evidencing a high level of engagement. Module feedback indicated that students appreciated PeerWise as a revision tool and some requested its use be extended to other modules of study. The Wordle above was derived from the free responses of students when asked in the module survey “What did you feel was particularly good about this module?”

In our hands PeerWise has proved to be an excellent tool for collaborative peer-learning and support on a relatively large module of study.

A peer-reviewed case study of our use of PeerWise at Ulster is available from the Ulster Institutional Repository or from ResearchGate.

Dr Pedro Barra, Kingston University is thanked for assistance in implementing the PeerWise project at Ulster and for supplying user guides. He also obtained a grant from the Higher Education Academy to help with collaboration between Ulster and Kingston.


The OUP Bioscience Education Summit at Ulster University

The Jordanstown campus of Ulster University was the venue in September for the national Bioscience Education Summit, an annual two day event that draws together academic teaching practitioners in the bioscience discipline from various institutions throughout the UK.  This year there were delegates from 23 UK universities in attendance along with representatives from the Higher Education Academy and Oxford University Press.

The Summit included a presentation from the most recent recipient of the national Bioscience Teacher of the Year Award (Dr Mark Clements from University of Westminster) and there were short “swap shop” sessions for sharing of practice. This combined with discussion around topical issues in learning and teaching in the biosciences made for a stimulating event.

A Storify of the event is available from this link.

The Summit was originally a forum for academic departmental representatives of the Higher Education Academy UK Centre for Bioscience. The yearly meeting was an opportunity for colleagues to hear about the work of the Centre, to share best practice, and to benefit from networking within a supportive and collegiate environment.

With the demise of the HEA Subject Centres the bioscience community has made efforts to maintain this network of teaching practitioners and has sought to continue hosting the annual September event; rebranded as the Bioscience Education Summit.

The organising committee are very grateful to the support from Oxford University Press that has made this year’s event possible. They also thank the School of Biomedical Sciences and the Centre for Higher Education Research and Practice (CHERP) at Ulster University for their valuable support.

Getting Started with Screencast Video Feedback for Students

A short guide to getting started with screencast video feedback for students.  Further resources are available at the following site,



Screen Captured Video Feedback to Enhance Engagement with Laboratory Practical Work #HEASTEM14

I recently took part in the Higher Education Academy STEM conference on 30th April 2014 in Edinburgh. Here is a screencast of the Pecha Kucha presentation I have on the day on screencast video feedback to students.

Printing PDF Documents: More Than One Page Per Sheet!

I was recently asked about how to print an A4 PDF document so that there are multiple pages on one sheet.  This reduces the amount of paper required.  The embedded video below shows how this is done.  Another tip to make life easy!

Event: Student Engagement, Flexible Learning and Attendance

Student Engagement, Flexible Learning and Attendance

Date: 8 Mar 2013

Start Time: 10:00 am

Location/venue: Room 8K14 (Boardroom) Jordanstown Campus University of Ulster

This event is being hosted as part of the Higher Education Academy’s Workshop and Seminar Series 2012/2013
The use of information and communication technologies is increasingly adapted to support flexible learning in Higher Education institutions. The adaptation of more sophisticated technologies offers a broad range of facilities for communication and resource sharing, thereby creating a flexible learning environment that facilitates and even encourages students not to physically attend classes. However this emerging trend seems to contradict class attendance requirements within Universities, inevitably leading to a dilemma between amending traditional regulations and creating new policies for the higher education institutions.

This workshop will bring together educators, researchers and practitioners from the academic society to present the latest advances on technology enhanced learning and new methodologies of measuring student engagement in a technology enhanced learning environment.

It provides participants with a forum to discuss the impact of new technologies on flexible learning and debate the major issues arising from linking flexible learning with class attendance and attainments.
The workshop will contribute to understanding the impact of flexible leaning on attendance and attainments and provide quantitative evidence for determining regulation amendment and development of new policies in addition to addressing practical challenges in the wider deployment of new technology to support flexible learning.

There is no charge to attend the seminar, but a place must be reserved.

To Register please email

30 places available on first-come, first-served basis.

Full details on the HEA Website. The text above is taken directly from the website linked above.

Provision programme is available here.