Entering the world of digital learning as a mature student

Written by Laura Kennedy, Student Digital Champion.

Laura Kennedy

Returning to education after any length of time can feel quite daunting. As a mature student, not only are you adjusting to a new routine, a new city and a major new life goal– you may well find that technology and the tools available for learning have developed quite a bit since you last used them.

Not to show my age too much, but when I started school the extent of the digital tools on offer was a room with Windows 98 PCs, equipped with MS Paint and Word-Art – big favourites when it came to decorating a piece of creative writing.  

Word art
Image from pcbooks.ik

For GCSEs and A-Levels, all my note taking was by hand, and although online resources for revision were becoming more popular (anyone remember the BBC bitesize fish? No? Just me?) the bulk of my learning still came directly from the classroom and textbooks.

Returning to Education

Fast-forward to 2021 when, after a considerable amount of time spent working, I began my degree at Bristol. A lot had changed, including a pandemic which catapulted us all into new ways of working online, and I quickly realised my old technique of writing everything by hand would need updating if I was going to keep up with the workload. There seemed to be so many options out there, it was difficult to know where to begin! 

In this post, I’d like to share with you some advice for making the change from traditional study methods to involving digital tools in your study toolkit, getting involved in online sessions, and some of the useful resources available from the university. 

Photo of laptop by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Combining ‘analogue’ and digital note-taking

Making the leap from one style of notetaking to another can feel a bit daunting – if like me you enjoy putting pen to paper but also enjoy the convenience and organisation of digital notetaking tools such as OneNote. Why not try combining the two?

Generally, I type my notes up with MS Word, but for some topics with a lot of interconnected themes, I’ll take my notebook and sketch out diagrams, bullet points and mind maps by hand.

Then, using the ‘document scan’ feature of the notes app on my phone, I can scan my pages and insert them into OneNote alongside my word documents– this makes the text in the hand-written document searchable, meaning I can easily refer back to the notes just by searching for that topic. You can also use Office Lens.

Image of how OneNote looks online

This was a real game-changer for me as it meant I could still enjoy sketching and writing out my ideas, but still have everything in one place on my laptop for revision – plus all the required apps are free, or already installed on most devices which is a bonus!

Goodnotes has similar handwriting-search capabilities, so you could give them a try and see which one works best for you, or have a think about other ways you might be able to integrate your current study approach with new digital resources.

Digital Flashcards

I’ve never been able to stick with making hand-written flashcards. I always started with the best of intentions but found that writing out card after card was just too time-consuming.  This changed when I discovered the digital flashcard apps and programmes – Anki is my personal favourite, but other students I’ve spoken to on my course enjoy using Quizlet too.  

A big advantage of these tools is that you can use your pre-made notes to create the flashcards, which is a huge time-saver.  

Photo of woman reading her tablet on her bed. Photo by Tetiana SHYSHKINA on Unsplash

These apps and programmes are cleverly designed, with algorithms ensuring that the cards you’re shown first are the ones you’re due a memory-refresh of, meaning you don’t waste study time looking over topics you’re already familiar with – an easy trap to fall into with traditional flashcards.  

ANKI has a bit more of a learning curve than Quizlet, but there are plenty of easy-to-follow tutorials online, and I found that once I was up and running, I could quickly turn my lecture notes into flashcards that I actually wanted to use. A benefit of Quizlet is that it allows you collaborate with other students on your course, which leads me on to my next tip… 

Don’t be afraid to get involved in online sessions!

Initially, it can feel strange sitting at home and being asked to type your thoughts into Mentimeter, PointSolutions, or Padlet in order to contribute to the conversation – especially when you’re used to being in the same room as classmates or colleagues and just speaking to your neighbour!

But these tools are so useful, taking Padlet as an example; I find it invaluable to have access to questions and answers from my fellow students and our lecturers – very often I’ll check a Padlet and find someone has asked a question I hadn’t thought to ask at the time but I’m keen to know the answer to, so it’s great to have the information there to refer back to – something that just wasn’t possible before tools like this existed. 

Image showing a padlet example

Every course will be slightly different in terms of the platforms they use, but they all offer the chance to work collaboratively online, a skill which is useful for university and beyond. I recommend spending some time getting to know which ones your lecturers use, and familiarising yourself so you’re ready to contribute and get the most out of online sessions. When working remotely, it really helps to actively take part online – you definitely get out what you put in. 

Final thoughts

Overall, my top tip as a mature student is to stay open-minded about the vast array of digital tools available – it can be tempting to stick with what you know, especially if you’re returning to education after a long break, but there are lots of ways to adapt and update your approach to find what works best for you.  

I hope my suggestions have been useful and given you a starting point for developing your own study style – remember, everyone is different and what works for others might not work for you, but if you give new tools a try, I think there’s a good chance you’ll discover at least one that makes you wonder how you studied without it!  

For more information, the Digital Education Office’s Digitally Ready course is a great place to start – I completed the course in my first year and I found it so useful to help me transition into the world of online learning. 

Other resources:

Meet our new Student Digital Champions for 2024

We are excited to announce that the DEO have recruited a new group of Student Digital Champions to work with the team for the next year to help us improve students’ digital experience whilst at University. You can find out more about them here. If you’re a student and want to get in touch with them, get in contact with your Course Rep who will be able to put you in touch.

Vaibhav Kumar Singh

Final Year, MSc Management

Vaibhav Kumar Singh

Tell us something about yourself (interesting or not!)

Hey there! I’m Vaibhav Kumar Singh, currently navigating the vibrant streets of Bristol as a Management student at the University of Bristol. Hailing from a background in Mechanical Engineering, I’ve clocked in some serious hours as a Senior Engineer in the automotive industry, dabbling in design, project management, and everything in between.
Before my UK adventures, I was a Senior Engineer at Bestec Systems in India, I was the maestro of automobile lighting components and interior trims, wielding CAD software like a wizard. I’ve led teams, managed budgets, and even jetted off to Hungary for some international engineering escapades.
When I’m not immersed in the world of management and engineering, you’ll find me on the cricket pitch and Table tennis room. I’m not just about business though; I’ve got a soft spot for Marvel movies, love exploring new places, and can whip up a mean dinner for my friends. Life’s all about the right mix of strategy, fun, and a good cup of coffee! ☕🏏✨

What is your favourite keyboard shortcut?

Alt+Tab (Switches between open application)

What’s your favourite emoji to use in online sessions?

Smile Smile

Is there a University acronym or term you’ve still never worked out what it means?

Honestly, there are times I feel like universities have their own secret language! One term that’s been a perpetual head-scratcher for me is “PLUS” in Bristol PLUS 2020. I’ve figured out it’s related to some extra-curricular award scheme, but the mystery of what PLUS exactly stands for remains unsolved in my university acronym dictionary. Bristol Plus Award.

What are you most looking forward to being involved with in the Digital Education Office?

One thing I’m really looking forward to is being part of the process that enhances the student experience.
Also I am looking for involvement in Digital Assessment.

Mahanum Rafiq Panjwani

2nd Year, studying Education Studies.

Mahanum Rafiq Panjwa

Tell us something about yourself (interesting or not!)

I am currently enrolled in 5 roles including Student Digital Champions.

What is your favourite keyboard shortcut?

Ctrl + S (Save as)

What’s your favourite emoji to use in online sessions?

😊 (smiling face with smiling eyes)

Is there a University acronym or term you’ve still never worked out what it means?

GRE: Graduate Record Examination

What are you most looking forward to being involved with in the Digital Education Office?

I am excited about the opportunities that the Digital Education Office presents, particularly in leveraging the power of AI to enhance teaching and learning experiences. Embracing artificial intelligence can revolutionize educational methodologies, providing personalized learning experiences tailored to individual needs.  Through the integration of cutting-edge technologies, we have the potential to elevate the overall quality of education and empower both educators and learners on their educational journeys.

Upendra Shahi

First Year, MSc (Public Policy)

Upendra Shahi

Tell us something about yourself (interesting or not!)

I am interested in politics, government and societal well-being; kind of explains quite a lot why I am pursuing public policy. Another thing is I didn’t know was that almost all British people (at least the ones I have had conversation with) adore Nepal, the country I am from.

What is your favourite keyboard shortcut?

The most important one CTRL+C (copy!)

What’s your favourite emoji to use in online sessions?

😊. The happy face. I guess I use it to express my agreement with a smile most of the time.

Is there a University acronym or term you’ve still never worked out what it means?

Not yet!

What are you most looking forward to being involved with in the Digital Education Office?

I hope to grow professionally and learn more about technology.

Conor Macdonald

3rd Year, studying Philosophy and Economics. Conor has been a Student Digital Champion since January 2023.


Tell us something about yourself (interesting or not!)

I can speak Welsh.

What is your favourite keyboard shortcut?

Command + Tab (switches between open apps)

What’s your favourite emoji to use in online sessions?

Probably the humble thumbs up 👍

Is there a University acronym or term you’ve still never worked out what it means?

MOOC (although I’ve now found out it means Massive Open Online Course)

What are you most looking forward to being involved with in the Digital Education Office?

I’m looking forward to encouraging students to use tools which can help them in a personal and academic capacity.

Emma Yi Kwan Lau

4th Year, studying Veterinary Science. Emma has been a Student Digital Champion since January 2023.

Emma Yi Kwan Lau

Tell us something about yourself (interesting or not!)

Hello! I often get asked by people that what is my favourite animal and I used to can’t pinpoint the exact animal I like the most. But after the last year volunteering in an aquarium, I can confidently tell you that my favourite animal is a porcupine pufferfish, especially the one called Piper in Bristol Aquarium!

What is your favourite keyboard shortcut?

Ctrl+Z. Sometimes I accidentally delete what I have written. However, with this shortcut, I can easily recover the sentence or paragraph I was writing!

What’s your favourite emoji to use in online sessions?

👍 A thumbs up!

Is there a University acronym or term you’ve still never worked out what it means?

Not at the moment but I don’t think I know DEO stands for Digital Education Office until I started working with the team last year!

What are you most looking forward to being involved with in the Digital Education Office?

It is my second year working with the DEO and I am very excited to start again. I really enjoy writing blog posts or guides for students to help improve their digital experiences. This year I particularly want to focus on students as content creators. As my course progresses, I realise how important this skill is and this aspect does not seem to be covered as part of the syllabus so I am hoping to create more blog posts for all of you to help with from your society promotion posts to your presentation for classes/ conferences!

Gen Kawaguchi

3rd Year. Studying Aerospace Engineering. Gen has been a Student Digital Champion since January 2023.

Gen Kawaguchi

Tell us something about yourself (interesting or not!)

I’m a big fan of aeroplanes!

What is your favourite keyboard shortcut?

Shift+Ctrl+N (create new folder), I often use it to organise files in OneDrive.

What’s your favourite emoji to use in online sessions?

Thumb up 👍

Is there a University acronym or term you’ve still never worked out what it means?

CADE (School of Civil, Aerospace and Design Engineering)  There is a new structure in the Faculty of Engineering which means new acronyms!

What are you most looking forward to being involved with in the Digital Education Office?

Looking forward to working with the teams to implement the students’ feedback on the online learning tools, especially Blackboard!

Laura Kennedy

3rd Year Veterinary Science

Laura Kennedy

Tell us something about yourself (interesting or not!)

My favourite type of dog is the Greyhound (as you can probably tell from my photo)!
Despite their speedy reputations they’re actually quite lazy, and make wonderful companions – I’m always talking about retired racing Greyhounds to anyone who will listen.

What is your favourite keyboard shortcut?

CTRL+F, especially when searching through my (long) lecture notes – I’ve used it so much over the past couple of years that now I find I miss it when I’m reading a physical textbook.

What’s your favourite emoji to use in online sessions?

I’m a big fan of the happy cat emoji 😸

Is there a University acronym or term you’ve still never worked out what it means?

It took me a while to get used to ‘DSE’ – (Directed Self Education) – but now it’s had a name change back to ‘coursework’! (Unhelpfully, DSE also stands for display screen equipment!)

What are you most looking forward to being involved with in the Digital Education Office?

I started my degree in 2021 as a mature student, and having spent a lot of time in work and out of education, I found I needed to adapt to a new style of learning quite quickly, with a lot of the resources being digital/online.

I’m looking forward to using this experience to help other students make the most of all the digital resources on offer, and I love writing and all things creative, so my aim is to incorporate all of these things into my role as a Student Digital Champion!

Nia Burkinshaw,

3rd Year, studying Law. Nia has been a Student Digital Champion since January 2023.


Tell us something about yourself (interesting or not!)

When I’m older, I really want pet goats. Don’t ask me why, I just really like the idea of it 😂

What is your favourite keyboard shortcut?

Ctrl+ Shift + Windows allows you to snip copies of part of your screen, super helpful for quotes on a PowerPoint

What’s your favourite emoji to use in online sessions?

❤️A heart for when I finally understand what is going on.

Is there a University acronym or term you’ve still never worked out what it means?

It took me quite a while to learn what LLB (my course title is LLB law) actually means. Turns out it’s just a bachelors of law, in my defence the actual acronym is short for the Latin ‘Legum Baccalaureus’.

What are you most looking forward to being involved with in the Digital Education Office?

As part of the team last year, I was able to discover the breadth of the work that the digital education office does. This year I would love to continue expanding my skills, getting involved and contributing my ideas in a really broad range of projects.

Olly Dodd

1st Year, History

Olly Dodd

Tell us something about yourself (interesting or not!)

Petrified of heights – shouldn’t be a problem in the DEO I hope!

What is your favourite keyboard shortcut?

Control + Z. I am indebted to whoever bought this out and I refuse to believe there is a limit on how many times you can use it!

What’s your favourite emoji to use in online sessions?

Has to be the crying face emoji – underrated, basic but effective. Usable in all online calls I’ve been in as well!

Is there a University acronym or term you’ve still never worked out what it means?

Erasmus+ – sounds cool but quite wide as well.

What are you most looking forward to being involved with in the Digital Education Office?

I’m most looking forward to making a noticeable difference to technology through the DEO at the University. It’s basic but it is not only a great experience for me but will hopefully make a positive difference to how students and staff alike interact with technology.

Hannah Webb

2nd year, Geography

Hannah Webb

Tell us something about yourself (interesting or not!)

I love to travel, and explore new cultures, cuisines and countries!

What is your favourite keyboard shortcut?

My favourite keyboard shortcut is print screen,to quickly copy across a diagram, or slide, during lectures.

What’s your favourite emoji to use in online sessions?

I love to use the clapping emoji, or the love heart, as it’s simple and shows your support and that you are engaged with the speaker on the call, as it can feel very isolated and like talking in to the abyss when you’re online. The clapping hands is a simple but wholesome way to engage.

Is there a University acronym or term you’ve still never worked out what it means?

Not as of yet!

What are you most looking forward to being involved with in the Digital Education Office?

As someone who is dyslexic, and struggles to quickly process and read through large amounts of text and information, I’m looking forward to being actively involved in communicating and exploring ways to best help the whole student population best use the technology and digital support available to help with the workload. Also, with the increasing prevalence of AI in our everyday lives, it is interesting to see and explore how best to academically use the software to ethically benefit university study.

Samantha Travers-Spencer

3rd Year, studying Veterinary Science. Samantha has been a Student Digital Champion since January 2023.


Tell us something about yourself (interesting or not!)

My favourite animals are donkeys!

What is your favourite keyboard shortcut?

Ctrl/Cmd+F is definitely my new favourite shortcut. (Searching for text within a document).

What’s your favourite emoji to use in online sessions?

Still the classic thumbs up! 👍

Is there a University acronym or term you’ve still never worked out what it means?

You could probably fill an entire blog post with all the University acronyms that I still haven’t worked out!

What are you most looking forward to being involved with in the Digital Education Office?

Like before, I am looking forward to working with a diverse team and continuing to learn new digital skills. This year, I really hope that I can help to develop digital accessibility and inclusivity within the UoB community!

Jodie Tang

2nd Year studying Biochemistry.

Jodie Tang

Tell us something about yourself (interesting or not!)

I love to send my friends cat memes.

What is your favourite keyboard shortcut?

Ctrl + C 🙂

What’s your favourite emoji to use in online sessions?

A heart ❤️

Is there a University acronym or term you’ve still never worked out what it means?


What are you most looking forward to being involved with in the Digital Education Office?

I’m excited about recording podcasts on digital learning to offer dynamic discussions with students. I am also excited about creating animations to simplify complex concepts to create an inclusive and effective resources.

Useful links

You can find out more about the Student Digital Champions, and see some of the work they have created on the following pages.

Take part in our Digital Insights Survey!

Our Digital Insights survey is now open! Responses are anonymous but play a huge part in the development of our digital development. This year it’s more important than ever to have your say, as the University is looking at the Digital Learning Environment in order to make tangible improvements to your learning. The Jisc Digital Experience Insights Survey aids us in our work to continuously enhance the student experience. As well as looking at our own data, we will be able to compare our results with other education providers and benchmarking data across institutions. Find a link to complete the survey here, it takes ten minutes to complete: Digital Insights Survey.

Person sat working on a laptop
Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

The Digital Education Office are hiring!

Following on from the great work of our Student Digital Champions, we are keen to hire some more students to work with us again starting in January 2024.

Student Digital Champion 

The UoB Digital Education Office (DEO) are looking for passionate students to work with us to ensure that all students can get the most out of their digital and blended learning experiences at Bristol. As a Student Digital Champion, you will be talking to students, course reps and staff members to hear what is or isn’t working in our online learning environments, and identify good practice in teaching and assessment. You will be working as a team, with the DEO and other Student Digital Champions, to identify and address key challenges the student body are facing when learning in an online, blended or hybrid environment, and then propose, pilot and implement practical solutions. In addition, you’ll be adding your own personal experiences and feedback to the work of the DEO, and helping us shape the work we do in real time. To apply for this role, you need to be a current student at the University of Bristol. You’ll be working an average of 3 hours per week spanning from January to December. 

You can read more about how our previous students have found the role in our past blog posts.

Getting back into studying after the summer break. A message from a returning international student

Written by Emma Yi Kwan Lau, Student Digital Champion.


The start of November means we are fully on our way into term! As the dust settles on freshers, it’s time for all of us to start preparing ourselves for our studies and continue with our learning. Academic work at the university requires us to be competent and confident at our digital skills. These skills may be a bit rusty to us as returners after a long summer break. They may also be entirely new to all our freshers. The comprehensive list of digital skills is long, however, I would like to take this opportunity to share my experiences studying at the Bristol and the top skills that I find useful for my learning.

Chalkboard reading Back to School. Photo by Deleece Cook on Unsplash

Experiences as an international  student

Some of you may be in the same boat as me – coming abroad to the UK for higher education. It may be your first time leaving home and living on your own. It may be your first time to use English as the only teaching language. Everything may seem a bit daunting and overwhelming. If you are a new student, everything is probably new and unfamiliar to you. There are some tips that I would like to share with you and hopefully that may help to relieve your nerves. Even if you are a returning student, you may still experience a shock after a long summer break so the following tips can also be helpful to you.

A lot of us would have heard of cultural shock. However, what exactly is cultural shock? It refers to feelings of uncertainty, confusion, or anxiety that people may experience when moving to new country or surroundings.  

Image showing the cultural show graph.
Image from Verto Education

Everything in the UK can be very different from home if it is your first time moving away from your home country. To minimise cultural shock, it is crucial to keep yourself busy. Joining societies is a great way to mingle with people and keep yourself away from experiencing cultural shock. There are many cultural societies which offer platforms to meet students from your home country or those with similar cultural backgrounds.

Other than extracurricular activities, it is also worth considering engaging in different job opportunities offered by the university. Not only will you make friends, but it’s also is a fantastic opportunity to boost your CV and gain skills to be ready for your future career.

Regardless of our cultural backgrounds, all students face the same difficulties in transitioning from college or high school to university. Firstly, higher education requires more independent learning. Therefore, self-discipline and time management become more important. Also, there are more online components in the university’s teaching syllabus. This is why the university offers a range of support to freshers to help with the transition.

This shock is also applicable to our returners. After a long summer break, it may take a while for us to resettle in. In addition, the content becomes more difficult as we progress to senior years (year 2/3/4/5). Therefore, I would like to introduce the five skills to our returners too. 

Digital Notetaking

As the new academic year starts, a lot of us may start trialling new note taking methods by using a different apps. Three popular note taking platforms are called Notion, OneNote and Evernote. They all have their pros and cons. However, the key consideration in digital note taking is not exactly about the application we use, it’s more about considering how we use it, and does it fit into the way we work. I highly recommend my peers to do research on the application they decide to use to ensure it suits them.

Selecting Digital tools

Speaking of us picking new note taking applications, we should also think about selecting other digital tools. An example of  a digital tool is  a digital note taking platform that we mentioned above. Other aspects that digital tools help with include networking, blogging, and timetabling. As we may be aware, independent learning is an important part of studying whilst at the university. Learning how to select the right apps will be vital for us. I would also recommend having a look at the Appinion series on DigiTalk where me and other students share experiences of using various digital tools.

Office 365

Speaking of digital tools, we must not forget about Microsoft 365. It is a service that provides access to a suite of Microsoft Office applications and other productivity services. It includes popular applications such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook, as well as other services such as OneDrive, SharePoint, and Microsoft Teams.  

As a student at the University of Bristol, we have free access to all features of Microsoft 365. To explore all functions of Microsoft 365 and how to install, have a read of the resource below offered by the DEO – Microsoft 365 Support – Office 365 help (sharepoint.com) 


Blackboard is the main platform where all teaching materials are uploaded and delivered if the session is asynchronous or live online. It may all be familiar to our returners. It would be worth both our freshers and returners having a look at Digitally Ready course to familiarise the layout and functions of Blackboard.

Making the most of the services offered at the University

We have mentioned various applications we can use to maximise our digital learning experiences whilst at the university. It is also worth noting that the importance of utilising other university services online. These include the Study skill services, Library services, Disability services and IT services. Many resources are available online and you can navigate to relevant webpages through Blackboard. There is also a section in Digitally Ready course where you can explore the roles of study skill and library services, as well as how to reach out for help.

Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

Working as a Student Digital Champion

One of the job opportunities offered by the university is  a Student Digital Champion. This year I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to be part of the student worker team at the Digital Education Office (DEO).

Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, my first year of teaching was altered into a blended learning method with majority of the teaching online and pre-recorded. There were occasions in which our cohort faced difficulties in accessing the teaching resources. This experience made me realised the importance of digital experiences at University. Therefore, when the opportunity to work with the DEO came up earlier this year, I applied to the job instantly I saw it on the career portal.

My job is to help improve students’ digital experiences by raising awareness through blogs and interacting with staff members at DEO. Very often, my job only requires me to work online and have regular online meetings with the staff. However, there were also in-person opportunities for me to interact with teaching staff to give students’ perspectives at staff meetings. My communication skills, both written and verbal, have improved significantly throughout this year with all the opportunities I was offered. I also learnt to be more proactive and take the initiative to create new projects to enhance students’ experiences whilst at university. These are all important skills employers are looking for when we apply for jobs. Therefore, I will definitely recommend my peers to join the team. It is a meaningful job and which you will be able to sharpen your skills.

Useful resources 

Updates and Information on your Digital Learning Environments.

Welcome (back) to all students from the Digital Education Office. Over the summer, we have been working to improve your digital learning environment and continue to ensure you are ready and able to work with the various online tools we support. 

  • Are you Digitally Ready?: If you are new to the university or need a helping hand with the wide array of digital tools and environments we use, take a look at our Digitally Ready course. It is designed to equip you with the tools and competencies you need to engage with digital learning at the university. 
  • Blackboard’s new look: Over the summer, Blackboard was upgraded to a newer version called, “Ultra Base Navigation”, or UBN for short. It is intuitive to navigate, but you can look here for a guide on how to use it. The most important thing to know is that the submission systems haven’t changed, so you can confidently approach your assessment knowing it should be familiar to you. 
  • Recorded Lectures available within 24hrs: We’ve greatly improved the speed at which lecture recordings become available in Re/Play, with most now being ready for you to view within 24 hours of their being recorded.  

Good luck with starting or resuming your studies and we all hope you enjoy the winter term! 

Cybersecurity: Top tips from a Student Digital Champion

Written by Hannah  Harrison, Student Digital Champion


In this digital age, where our lives are intertwined with technology, it’s crucial to arm yourself with the knowledge and skills to safeguard your online presence. From browsing securely and using multifactor authentication, to spicing up your passwords and staying updated, the tips in this blog post will empower you to navigate the digital landscape with confidence. So, without further ado, let’s get to it.

Keep tabs on your browsing

Whether researching for an assignment, browsing news articles, or just looking for a recipe to make for dinner, most of us visit many websites every day, but how often do you check the search bar?

The content you look at on the web, the links you click and even the order in which you visit websites can provide information about you, and your interests, that is best not shared. To ensure that all your communications are protected from eavesdropping as they travel between your browser and the websites you visit, it is important to check that all of the sites you are using use ‘HTTPS’ (secure HTTP) rather than just plain ‘HTTP’. Many browsers indicate that a site is secure by displaying a padlock on the left hand side of the search bar, and so quickly checking for this when you enter a new website can really help to keep your information safe. Luckily, most browsers (such as Google Chrome and Safari) will warn you not to enter an insecure web page which asks for personal information such as passwords, as data in unsecured web traffic can be easily nosed into. Of course, using HTTPS only ensures that your web communications are encrypted and so doesn’t provide you with complete protection, but it does make your information much harder to decipher.

Use MFA (Multi-factor authentication)

I’m sure we’ve all experienced the groan after you’ve sat down at your desk, opened up some work only to be prompted to use the authenticator on your phone which is inconveniently on the other side of the room. Maybe this has you wondering whether it’s really worth having at all. However, data provided by Microsoft and Statista indicates that MFA has the power to prevent up to 99.9% of automated cyber-attacks, decrease the number of phishing attempts by 75%, and reduce rates of unauthorized access by 56%1 – so it’s definitely worth the extra bit of time and effort to keep your details safe! You can find more information on setting up MFA on the University website.

Image of the MFA screen

Spice up your passwords 

I’m sure many of us are guilty of using the same, or variations of the same passwords for different accounts to save forgetting them. However, the foundation of your cybersecurity relies on having strong and unique passwords. In particular, making sure that your passwords aren’t made up of information that can be found online such as pets names and birthdates can make your passwords less guess-able. If you’re worried about forgetting passwords if they are all different, then it’s definitely worth considering using a password manager such as NordPass, which securely stores all of your passwords in one place.  

Lock up when you go

Taking a break from work to grab a snack from the vending machine or take a quick stroll can be great for your mental health and productivity, but leaving your computer unlocked whilst you’re away can be dangerous. Although it’s unlikely that someone is lying in wait for you to leave your account open, leaving your device unlocked can give anyone the chance to snoop on your files, mess with your settings or even install malicious software to spy on you, and so it is always better safe than sorry! Even if the result is just one of your friends using your account to post on social media as a joke, there can sometimes be undesirable consequences to having something that you wouldn’t have said under your name online, and it can be difficult to truly delete something once it’s been posted. Locking your laptop or computer whilst you’re away can be done in a few seconds using the shortcut Windows+L  on Windows or  Control+Command+Q on a Mac, and stops anyone from entering your account without a password.

Padlock with blue background. Photo by Muhammad Zaqy Al Fattah on Unsplash

Keep an eye on your emails

One of the most common types of cyber-crime is phishing. This is where an attacker poses as a legitimate organisation and attempts to persuade the victim to divulge personal information. This type of attack is so common because it is one of the cheapest and easiest attacks for criminals to deploy, and with so much information available about individuals on social media, it is possible to make phishing attempts highly targeted (sometimes known as spear phishing). To keep yourself safe, it is important to trust your instincts regarding suspicious emails; would your lecturer really have sent you a link to a textbook in the middle of the night? Would your bank really ask you to suddenly verify your information via email? According to Proofpoint’s Annual Human Factor Report2 (a paper based on 18 months of their customers’ data), up to 99% of phishing attacks rely on the victim clicking on a link, and so the number one thing you should keep in mind when considering a suspicious email is; don’t click anything! You can also look out for spelling mistakes, check that the sender address matches the one listed on their website and be sceptical of surprising offers. As the common saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Social Media Privacy

Having personal information available online gives criminals the opportunity to make much more sophisticated and compelling attacks, as putting you at risk of identity theft. Although sharing online can be fun, it is important to take control of your social media privacy settings to limit the amount of personal information visible to others, and consider only sharing personal posts with friends and family. It can even be a good idea to have separate accounts or profiles for sharing your life, engaging with strangers, and sharing thoughts publicly so that you can still do everything you want to on the internet without giving away too much information.

Phone showing social media icons. Photo by Adem AY on Unsplash

Back up your data

Regularly backing up your important files and documents to an external hard drive or cloud storage provider such as OneDrive protects your data from unexpected events like hardware failures or accidental deletion, as well as ransomware attacks. A ransomware attack is a type of malicious software that threatens to publish the victim’s data or permanently block access to it unless a ransom is paid off. These attacks are often targeted at universities, and it is estimated that around a third of UK universities have been targeted with ransomware within the last 10 years3. Therefore having additional copies of your files can be a lifeline if you become a target.

Stay up to date

One cybersecurity tip that is often overlooked is regularly updating your software, web browsers and operating systems. Updates often patch over security concerns and vulnerabilities identified by the developers, and attackers can exploit these weaknesses. These kinds of attacks have affected companies as large as Facebook and Amazon, and so allowing update notifications and installing them as soon as you can is vital for keeping your information safe.

Laptop screen showing a system update

Digital practices and software are ever evolving and so there are always new avenues for attackers to exploit. While you can never be 100% safe from cybercrime, keeping these 8 tips in mind can significantly decrease your risk, while you navigate the digital landscape with confidence and peace of mind. 

Useful links


Gitnux. (n.d.). The Most Surprising Multifactor Authentication Statistics And Trends in 2023. Retrieved from Gitnux: https://blog.gitnux.com/multifactor-authentication-statistics/#:~:text=The%20statistics%20presented%20in%20this,unauthorized%20access%20rates%20by%2056%25. 

Network, U. (2023). A Third of UK Unis Hit By Ransomware In Last 10 Years. Retrieved from Urban Network: https://www.urbannetwork.co.uk/a-third-of-uk-unis-hit-by-ransomware-in-last-10-years/ 

Proofpoint. (2023). Human factor report 2023. Retrieved from Proofpoint: https://www.proofpoint.com/us/resources/threat-reports/human-factor 

Blackboard’s Look and Navigation is Changing, Wednesday July 5, 3.45pm – 6pm

On July 5, we’re updating Blackboard to use the new Ultra Base Navigation. This update will give Blackboard a modern look and feel and provide easier access to important information.

Ultra Base Navigation has a modern, intuitive navigation menu that sits outside of courses and is always available.

Your courses will not change, and you can submit work just as you are used to. They will look and operate exactly as they do now.

The benefits of Ultra Base Navigation include:

  • A modern, intuitive user experience.
  • Improved accessibility.
  • It works well on mobile devices. This navigation is designed to work well regardless of what device you’re using.
  • Just one click away. No matter where you are, UBN provides clearer paths to where you want to go, minimizing clicks and saving time.

To enable Ultra Base Navigation, Blackboard will be unavailable for a short time on the afternoon of July 5, between 3.45 pm and 6 pm. After this, you will see a redesigned login page for Blackboard and can use the new navigation as soon as you log in.

You can find more information, with screenshots, on the project webpage: Blackboard Ultra Base Navigation.

International students – Take part in our Digital Insights Survey!

Have you got time to tell us about your experiences of digital teaching and learning within the University’s online environments? This month we are running the International Students’ Digital Experience survey to gain a better understanding of the digital experiences and expectations of international students, and the survey is now open!

Image of person sat at a laptop
Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

Responses are anonymous but play a huge part in the development of our digital development. This year it’s more important than ever to have your say, as the University is looking at the Digital Learning Environment in order to make tangible improvements to your learning. The Jisc International Students’ Digital Experience Insights Survey aids us in our work to continuously enhance the student experience. As well as looking at our own data, we will be able to compare our results with other education providers and benchmarking data across institutions. This survey is designed to be answered by students who have travelled from other countries to study in the UK.

Find a link to complete the survey here, it takes ten minutes to complete: International Students’ Digital Experience Survey.

The deadline to complete the survey is the 30th June.



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