Tools to support your online learning
Online learning involves using a wide range of tools and platforms. You may be familiar with tools such as Minerva and Microsoft Office 365, which are available to all University of Leeds students to support your learning, but others may be new.
Your module leaders will choose different software to suit the tasks you need to do in each module. Take some time to familiarise yourself with the tools used in each of your modules, but don’t worry – nobody expects you to be a tech expert!
If you need more support the IT Service Desk website and the Student IT Induction pages have plenty of advice on how to use different tools and platforms. You can also search online for tips or try YouTube or LinkedIn Learning for training videos and courses. It’s also OK to ask your course mates or your tutor for support and tips on using different tools – you might find others have the same questions you do.
You may also want to explore other tools to support your online learning. Here are some different ways you might enhance your online learning experience.
Make learning easier
Install accessibility software to help you make sense of documents and websites. Find out more about getting support with assistive technology from Disability Services.
Try a screen reader or text-to-speech app to help you navigate documents if you find it difficult to read on a screen, or if you want to listen to your texts while you’re on the go. Microsoft's Immersive Reader is built into Office 365 and is available to all students. NVDA, VoiceOver or TalkBack are all free to use.
Filters and magnifiers
Try installing a colour filter like ColorVeil or use the magnifier built in to your computer or phone if you find it difficult to read documents online.
Change document formats
Minerva has a feature called Blackboard Ally, which allows you to access some documents in different formats, including as a webpage (html), multicoloured text, or an audio file.
Develop your employability and broaden your learning
If you’d like to learn a new skill, explore a completely new topic, or sharpen up your skills for the workplace, you can try some online training videos or short courses.
The University has a subscription to LinkedIn Learning, which has courses to develop your employability, IT and professional skills. You don’t need a LinkedIn profile to access the courses, just use your University username and password.
Sign up for a “MOOC” – a short online course. Look on Futurelearn, Coursera, or EdX to find free online courses designed by universities around the world, covering a huge range of topics from economics to crafts to public health.
Connect with others in your discipline
You can use social media platforms to engage with your academic discipline as well as for entertainment.
Twitter and LinkedIn
Many researchers and professionals use social media, including Twitter and LinkedIn, to connect with others in their subject area, to share knowledge and collaborate. Follow and interact with them to increase your network, and to help you to keep up to date with the big issues and developments in your field.
Start a group chat with the other students on your course, or with specific groups you’re working on projects with. It’s an easy way to connect with your classmates and to carry on conversations outside of your timetabled sessions.
Search for podcasts hosted by academics or practitioners in your field, for another way to keep up to date with key discussions in your areas of interest.
Present and share your learning
Try creative ways to present what you’ve learned. Increasing your familiarity with presentation tools or blogging could come in handy in a future job, or in other areas of your life.
For example, you could:
- try out different ways of making visual presentations, for example Prezi, Microsoft Sway, or Haiku Deck
- create infographics using free tools such as Piktochart or Canva, for easy and quick ways to communicate information visually
- start a blog to reflect on your learning journey using a blogging site such as WordPress, Blogger, or Medium, or start vlogging on YouTube or Vimeo.
It’s important to establish effective working habits such as organising your notes and keeping an online calendar. Choose tools that work well for you and it’ll be easier to stick with them.
Organise your notes
Make a to-do list
Maintain a to-do list and refer to it regularly. Try an app like Google Keep, Microsoft To Do or Trello. Some of these are collaborative, so you can share a to-do list with course mates for a group project.
Back up your files
Keep an online calendar
Keep on top of your timetable and daily life by adding all your classes, assignment deadlines and other appointments to a calendar that you can sync across your devices. You can use the Outlook calendar that comes with your University email address or sync it to a Google or Apple calendar instead.