Digital tools for learning and studying
Core digital tools that you are likely to use as a student for learning and other activities.
There are many digital tools that you will use during your studies, both for your core learning activities such as lectures and group discussions, and for other activities such as storing documents, planning, and keeping in touch with fellow students. While the tools that you use for your studies will vary from programme to programme, there are four core tools that most students are likely to use at some stage.
If you want a more general overview of the main IT and learning technology services at the University, take a look at this recording of our Making the Most of IT for New Students presentation. This provides an introduction to essentials such as the MyEd portal, Office 365, file storage, printing and wireless network access.
Core tools for learning
1) Virtual learning environment (VLE): Blackboard Learn
Online resources for most courses are centred in our virtual learning environments (VLEs), the heart of teaching for your course. Our main VLEs are Blackboard Learn (usually just called ‘Learn’) and Moodle, with the vast majority of courses using Learn. Before teaching starts, log in to your course on the VLE and explore the different features.
Guidance: Using Learn as a student
Learn Ultra is being rolled out in 2023-2024. It provides a more modern and intuitive VLE and an improved digital outreach. Some of your courses will be available in Learn Ultra, your course tutor will explain how to find them.
2) Virtual classrooms for seminars and group work: Blackboard Collaborate and Zoom
Blackboard Collaborate and Zoom are online classroom spaces that you can access via your courses in Learn. Collaborate or Zoom may be used by your lecturers and tutors to run seminars and tutorials and to present, discuss and debate topics.
3) Lecture recording: Media Hopper Replay
Media Hopper Replay is the University’s lecture recording service. Tutors can use it to publish lectures online for you to access.
4) Media management and short video creation: Media Hopper Create
Media Hopper Create is the University’s media management service. You and your tutors can use it to make, share and manage a range of video and audio assets. As a student you are provided with an account through which you can upload media to your personal space and publish it to various channels. There’s also a Desktop Recorder that you can use to record presentations, screencasts, and web-cam content from your computer.
Guidance: Media Hopper Create guides and support
Extra tools for studying and general activities
Online meetings and collaboration: Blackboard Collaborate, Teams, Zoom, SharePoint and Planner
The University provides you with various tools for online meetings (e.g. Collaborate, Teams and Zoom) and collaboration (e.g. SharePoint and Planner). To find out more about Collaborate, Teams and Zoom and how to use them to run meetings , book on to our 45-minute Online Meeting Tools for Students webinar.
Collaborate is available to students to run online meetings, so you can use it to meet and collaborate with your fellow students on group projects. Your tutor may create seminar groups for you as part of your course. However if you wish to set up your own group, or if the people in your group aren't all on the same course and so don't have access to the same Collaborate space via Learn, you can do this by accessing Collaborate using the MyEd portal.
Microsoft Teams is a collaboration platform that you can use to chat by text, hold meetings and upload and collaborate on files. You can use it to communicate with both students and staff. Teams integrates with the University address book in Outlook so you can easily find contacts. It's also linked to your Calendar, so meetings automatically appear there, and with other Office 365 apps like Planner, Word, Excel, OneNote and more.
Guidance: Teams information, guidance and training
Zoom offers students and staff an alternative communication and collaboration platform. It’s used for teaching, research and non-confidential meetings. The version of Zoom used at the University has extra security measures over and above a basic Zoom account, and you sign in to it with your University login.
Guidance: Zoom information, guidance and training
You might be familiar with using services such as Dropbox and Facebook Messenger for online document sharing and collaboration outside of the University, but within the University SharePoint Online is a fantastic tool for these purposes. As everyone accesses SharePoint using their University login, all materials created and shared are password protected and accounted for. As a student, you could use SharePoint to create a ‘Team site’ for group work on a course assessment, create a ‘Communication site’ to display a presentation, or use a ‘Team site’ for society committee work.
If you’re looking for an easy but organised way to manage a group project, delegate tasks and track progress you can use Planner - a task management app that’s part of Office 365. You can also use it to plan personal tasks and manage your workload.
Managing and storing your files and notes: OneDrive and OneNote
OneDrive is a cloud-based document library and as a student you have an account with 1TB of free storage. You can use this space to store your University work, as a secure cloud back-up of files saved on your personal computer, and to share work with other students or tutors.
Another brilliant tool that comes with our Office 365 package is OneNote - a digital notebook that allows you to organise your study notes and course content, enabling you to keep track of every assignment and flash of inspiration. You can access and edit your OneNote notebooks from anywhere, across devices, and turn your notes into live documents with digital ink, handwritten text, sketch diagrams, videos, pictures, and more.
Email and diary: Outlook
Your student email account is part of Office 365, as is your Outlook calendar.
Guidance: Email and calendar
Creating documents and presentations, and working with data: Word, Excel, PowerPoint
During your time at university you will need to create documents, presentations and work with data. Office 365 provides core tools for all of these.
FAQs: Office 365 FAQs
Developing your digital skills
Having good digital skills is important for learning and studying, but also for life after University. To improve your digital skills during your time as a student you can:
- Evaluate your digital skills, plan your development journey and search for learning resources using the Digital Skills Framework,
- Develop foundation level skills on our Digital Skills Awareness course,
- Use our Digital Skills Development Journey toolkits, designed specifically for undergraduates, to give an overview of the activities you will perform at different stages of your studies, and highlight resources to develop the digital skills required to successfully complete these activities,
- Get free access to the LinkedIn Learning online skills development service,
- Sign up for live webinars through the University's Digital Skills Programme.
Digital safety and wellbeing are more important than ever, and we have resources and guidance on building digital resilience and preventing fraud, as well as digital self-care and video conferencing etiquette tips.