A reflection on my time as a Student Digital Champion

Written by Olivia Muggleton, Student Digital Champion

Olivia Muggleton

I began my role as a Student Digital Champion (SDC) in the Summer of 2021. Having recently returned from my much needed post exam holiday, I was re-energised and raring to start making some changes to our digital learning experience as students at the University of Bristol. Since then, I am proud to say that I have provided the DEO with a number of insights, resources and other miscellaneous contributions which I feel will prove useful, not only for current and future students, but also for the DEO in helping them understand what it is that works for us. Beyond this, however, I have also received an immeasurably valuable experience thanks to the DEO, as it has pushed me to develop my skills and confidence in a way that I could not have imagined prior to that Summer of 2021.   

As it was an entirely remotely based role, being an SDC enabled me to gain valuable work experience despite living at my home in South Wales for my final two years of study. Although I was wholly inexperienced in working remotely, I soon discovered that organisation, time management and the ability to work productively and efficiently with minimal supervision, were going to be key to adapting successfully to this new style of work (at the time I had also started Peer Mentoring so this lesson was learnt doubly as fast!). As I was afforded great freedom to select and complete my tasks and projects in my own time, the SDC role really enhanced my skills in all the aforementioned areas, especially as it was a role that I undertook alongside my fulltime studies – Self motivation and drive are essential! As a result, I am now confident not only in my ability to adapt to new modes of working, but also in my ability to produce high quality work in a timely and efficient manner, by setting my own deadlines and keeping a thorough log of my hours. 

Desk with a laptop and lamp. Photo by Rich Tervet on Unsplash

Being able to work autonomously in this sense was not, however, the only skill that I developed thanks to my work as an SDC. The ability to communicate and work well in a team was also a central requirement for this role. Thanks to the highly collaborative and open minded environment that the DEO and other SDCs have created, this is an ability which I feel I have strengthened tenfold. I now feel that I can better appreciate the value and insight that can be gained by encouraging individuals from diverse backgrounds and circumstances to share their ideas and perspectives, as these will inevitably lead to more effective problem solving and an all-round more supportive (and subsequently productive) workplace – From accessibility requirements and culture to professional background, everyone has a unique perspective which can enable you to see the bigger picture when trying to creatively solve problems and overcome particular challenges. In the same vein, the SDC role provided me with an opportunity to focus on the areas of my communication skills which I felt least confident in – For instance, I was able to coordinate and lead two presentations which portrayed the student voice to university staff and academics within and beyond the University of Bristol. This has increased my confidence in presenting and orally communicating my ideas to my team members and audiences in a formal, presentational setting. It has also improved my confidence in taking the lead on projects, a confidence subsequently demonstrated by taking the lead in creating the student digital glossary and keyboard shortcut guide. 

While I would love to elaborate on all the interesting projects and tasks that I had the pleasure of working on during my time as a SDC (and all the skills that I subsequently developed in relation to these projects), I believe it is sufficient to say that this was an incredible opportunity, for which I owe a great deal to the DEO. Accordingly, I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the following individuals who made working as an SDC such a valuable and enjoyable experience. Firstly, I cannot convey enough thanks to Naomi (Nay), my first port of call when I needed any guidance in this role – From the beginning Nay has always been in touch and eager to put our ideas into practice, she really cares about our progression as SDCs and what we get out of the role, not simply how we can benefit the DEO. She works incredibly hard and is generally a lovely person who always made me feel comfortable in expressing any thoughts or feedback and regularly encouraged me to pursue the things that I cared about most. I would also like to thank the rest of the DEO team – Every one of them truly respect and actively seek out the student perspective, going out of their way to do it justice. It was nice to be treated as an equal in a professional environment where my input was highly valued, and I have the upmost confidence that the team will continue to work hard to shape their work around the needs and concerns of the students at the university long into the future. Last but not least I would like to thank my fellow SDCs – Although I have seen many come and go due to my extended time within the role, each one of them has inspired me with their ideas and passion, enlightened me and opened my eyes to perspectives and challenges which I may never have even considered without their contributions. Everyone has always been friendly and eager to help each other to be successful, which made for a very easy environment to collaborate and work productively as a team, so thank you!  

Person walking on a beach. Photo by José M. Reyes on Unsplash

I think my three extensions make it quite clear that I would happily go on to continue my work as a SDC, but unfortunately I could not do the role justice as I am no longer a student! So where do I go from here? As of July I have completed my LLB Law with The University of Bristol and cannot wait to get stuck into the legal world in practice. It is fair to say that this role has set me up incredibly well and provided me with a level of confidence in many skills which will prove highly transferable when I commence my next role. From team working and communication (written and oral) to problem solving and even remote working (time management, minimal supervision, organisation), working as an SDC has enabled me to leave university feeling prepared and ready to tackle the next phase in my life, but it has also provided me with some treasured friends which I know will help me on that journey.  

Girl looking over hills. Photo by Vlad Bagacian on Unsplash

All that is remaining for me to say (in case I have not made it clear enough) is that I highly recommend that you apply to become an SDC – It is more than a source of extra income, it is an opportunity to shape the digital learning experience that is provided by The University of Bristol (and perhaps beyond) while gaining valuable experience and friendships along the way.  

Thank you 

Diolch 

Olivia 

Meet Jack – Bristol Futures student mentor

Have you already taken one or more of the Bristol Futures Open courses? Ever thought about what it’s like to be a Bristol Futures mentor? Applications are open until the 7 September via MyCareer.

In this Digitalk blog, we hear from Jack about his experience as a student mentor on the Bristol Futures Sustainable Futures course in academic year 2021/22.

Profile photo of Jack, student mentor smiling.

The Sustainable Futures course first came to my attention when I was completing it as part of the Bristol PLUS Award. During the 4 weeks, I was impressed with the various aspects of sustainability that were exposed in such a short period. Throughout every step of the course, I was intellectually stimulated, giving me the opportunity to level up my skillset. The opportunity to explore sustainability with an online community of users and mentors made the whole experience more interesting and enjoyable.

With the wish to relive the experience, I further completed the other two courses that the Bristol Futures Team had to offer – I was hooked!  With a lingering sense of euphoria after the courses, I eagerly watched (stalked) the careers website praying that an opportunity to join the team would appear… and it did!

The beginnings

Trained and prepped, I was ready for my first run on The Sustainable Futures course. Working alongside me was a friendly close-knit team from all diverse backgrounds, some experienced some new. As the floodgates opened, users rushed in, brimming with new and fresh ideas. You could feel the positive energy through the screen, people from all walks of life joining together to discuss one of the most important issues of our time – it was incredible!

The week progressed smoothly, with topics of happiness and purpose being discussed throughout the week. Towards the end of the week, we began to highlight any key themes which were present for the lead educators to produce end of week feedback. When the week finished, I was taken aback a bit. I could not believe how enjoyable this was – I felt like I was learning not working.

The peak

The next two weeks flew by, with the topics of food waste and microplastics being a hit with many users. As we journeyed through these weeks, we monitored the chat, stimulated meaningful discussion, and promoted social learning. This was achieved through researching and sharing information which we had found relevant and interesting to the discussion in hand.

Watching the progression of users throughout the course is exciting, as they become more comfortable in expressing their thoughts on each topic. On occasions I got a bit carried away reading about other’s experiences and lessons they had learnt, from nurses to retired miners, they were all willing to share their wealth of knowledge that made it difficult to stop reading.

Halfway through our journey we were given the opportunity to share Bristol-specific events, societies, and local organisations that deserved promotion. This was an amazing chance to do some extra research (and try them out in person) to find out what is being done within Bristol, stumbling upon new start-ups, apps, and initiatives all looking to become more sustainable.

The goodbyes

From the personal, to the local to the global and finally back to the personal, we come to the final week of the course. Often neglected topics were covered throughout the week including mental health where many users shared the difficulties they had faced, how they overcame them and the lessons they learnt. Being part of an online community where people are comfortable enough to share their issues is truly amazing.

One of my favourite aspects about being a mentor on the course is seeing the impact we have had as a team through reflections from users at the end of the course. Here are some examples of user reflections.

From Changing views on sustainability:

‘I always thought people who made content sustainability where toothless in their approaches.  However, after completing this course, it changed my mind.’

To helping people, seek comfort:

‘It was enough for me to ease my climate change anxiety and helped me to have new and different perspectives to do things about it.’

To inspiring:

‘What I got from the course was learning about FoodCycle – I had my first volunteering session with them on Saturday and I enjoyed it so much, as it encapsulated what I enjoy doing most.’

The course had unfortunately come to an end, however for a Bristol Future Mentor the journey has just began. I have just finished mentoring on my third course, and it gets better each time. Each course stretches over 4 weeks, with 3 course runs (with mentors) each year, starting at the beginning of each term and after the summer exams. With the ability work flexible hours, you can ensure that can prioritise your studies when necessary. This makes it a perfect part-time job. If you get the opportunity to take part, grab it with both hands you will not regret it.

Interested in becoming a Bristol Futures mentor?

To apply, see the full role description and link to the application form due by the 15 September 2022 via MyCareer.

Further information on the Bristol Futures Open courses can be found on the Bristol Futures website.

If you have any further questions, you can e-mail the Bristol Futures team on uob-bristolfutures@bristol.ac.uk

Appinions – Gaming

Appinions banner

A great app will keep you glued to your device. Whether it’s lifestyle, social media, utility, gaming, productivity or news; apps are an essential part of student life.
Each month we challenge our Student Digital Champions to delve into a new category, delivering fresh perspectives and making proclamations for essential applications. Which features are dumb? What should be at the tip of your thumb?

Written by Georgie Pitts, Kexin Li and Leah Parker: Student Digital Champions.

Georgie PittsKexin LiLeah Parker

August 2022- Gaming

The age-old battle for control of the gaming industry has been waged between console and PC. Improvements in mobile technology, 5G networks and AV/VR integration could see mobile gaming closing the gap.

Unlike their rivals, mobile game developers often adopt a freemium business model, where games are available for free (or very little cost) and users are encouraged to make in-game purchases known as microtransactions.

Powernode

Powernode icon

Powernode is a puzzle game which requires you to “combine numbers to create energy sources and feed the network”. Essentially, power stations are numbered, and when numbered nodes pop up, you need to sustain them using these power stations. For example, you can use two “3” power stations to sustain a “6” node.

However, if you connect a power station to multiple nodes, it becomes less efficient, so you need to consider how you’re organising your board!

When you open the app, there are two game play options: Zen or Rush. I believe Zen is a slower version, whilst Rush is more fast-paced (although this isn’t explained).

Pros

  • It’s a very aesthetically pleasing game
  • It is challenging, which can be a good thing if you enjoy a challenge
  • Requires you to multitask and plan ahead
  • There is a global leader board, and as its a relatively new game, there are only 2000 people on it, so you could work your way up quite quickly

Cons

  • I couldn’t locate the “How to Play” section. Whilst there was a brief introduction, this was not enough to fully teach the game rules, so it was hard to get the hang of it!
  • It is challenging, which can also be frustrating if you’re looking for an easy game
  • Whilst there are two different modes of game play, there are no levels, so the only way to track progress is using your score

The aesthetic of the game is great. It claims to be very “zen”, and I would agree.

It is not an easy game to get the hang of and was actually quite frustrating at first! However, once you get the hang of the game, it is fun and challenging.

It is definitely a game you could spend hours playing, and I do get better every time I play it. At first I was unsure, but now I would definitely recommend if you like to be challenged, and enjoy focusing on different things at once.

Reviewer: Georgie Pitts

Download links:

Google play icon. Link to appapp store link

Brawl Stars

Brawl stars app icon

Brawl Stars is a mobile e-sports game from Supercell. The game is a multiplayer shooter where players battle each other in multiple competitive modes with different goals, from being the last brawler to collecting the most diamonds. Brawl Stars will display many different events as the player’s experience value increases such as Bounty, Gem Grab, Heist, and showdown, Brawl Ball, and Boss Fight. Brawl Stars’ gameplay takes the basic logic of MOBA games and cuts it down to the bare minimum — there’s no equipment, no pre-development time, and mostly you’re just waiting for wave after wave of group battles. The match time of about three minutes is also in line with the characteristics of mobile games. It makes full use of people’s fragmented time. Even if you lose the match, the frustration will become very small because of the short match time.

Pros

  • You can team up with friends for game battles
  • No advertisement
  • The game takes very little time, allowing players to start a game anytime, anywhere
  • Compared to other competitive games, the game is low in difficulty and very friendly to newcomers
  • The game design and the characters are very cute

Cons

  • Communication between teammates is difficult and can only be communicated through emojis
  • You need to pay for gems to buy boxes, skins and other things from the shop
  • Some players reported bugs in the game

I personally like this game very much, it makes me feel very relaxed and fun. It doesn’t require me to have any game skills, and I can adapt to the game very quickly. I often play this game in groups with my friends, and we discuss strategy or chat together during the game, which makes the game more interesting. My favorite event is the Showdown, its logic is the same as PUBG, which is to get the final victory by shooting the enemy, but this game is very easy to play, and I don’t need to spend a long time to finish a game. Besides, the game’s characters(Brawlers) are very cute that I’m tempted to spend more time in the game to collect them.

Reviewer: Kexin Li

Download links:

Google Play linkapp store link

Luminosity

luminosity app logoBrain training app aimed to improve your cognitive skills including memory, attention, reasoning, flexibility, processing speed and problem-solving, using a variety of exercises. Lumosity claims it takes research from labs and has converted this into over 50 fun minigame-type exercises, using your performance score form to provide you with feedback on how your mind works.

Lumosity sets you a daily brain workout, consisting of multiple tasks that aim to improve your performance in one the training modules mentioned. If completed daily, this feature will allow you to track your progress on these exercises over time, providing you with information about your game strengths and weaknesses. Analysis of your game play is used to help understand your cognitive patterns and set up braining training habits, and subsequently used to curate a programme personally tailored to the individual.

Pros

  • Basic version is free on iOS and Android
  • Easy to navigate around the app
  • Unique and fun minigames

Cons

  • The free version only allows for three minigames in three training modules each day, meaning you’ll need to upgrade to the paid version to get extra features.
  • Insights, including game progress report and game strength profile, remain locked on the free version.
  • Subscription only, cannot buy game outright.

Overall, I liked the features of Lumosity and found it quite fun to do the daily fitness workout games and see how I was improving over time. However, with the free version you are fairly limited in what you can do on the app. A lot of the cool features I was excited about, including progress reports and all the games, can only be accessed on the premium version of the app. As such I did the premium free trial, and I would definitely say the premium features make the experience a lot better and more exciting, so the quality of brain training may depend on your subscription. All in all, the free version is still fun and challenging as modules and games are alternated each day, so it is an app I am definitely going to continue using.

Reviewer: Leah Parker

Download links:

Google Play linkapp store link

Bad North: Jotunn Edition

Bad north app iconBad North is a strategy game in which you and your troops defend islands, travelling along the map and avoiding defeat.

You open the app and begin a campaign (you’re able to have 5 at once on different accounts), choosing your commanders and deciding on an “easy”, “normal” or “hard” option. Then, the game begins and you’re deployed to an island. The enemy approaches on boats, and if you defeat them, you get coins.

Your troops are replenished when the next level begins if they died on the previous island, but if your commanders (and all your troops) die, then it’s game over for that campaign, and you must restart it again from the beginning. However, you can recruit new troops if you win a battle on an island they already live on.

If your troops are low health, you can replenish them in a house on the island, but be careful if there are enemies approaching as you’ll need to fight them.

You can even upgrade your troops with different classes, skills, items and traits. For example, equipping them with bows and arrows and developing that skill until they’re veterans.

Pros

  • Option to restart the level midway through or flee if the battle seems lost
  • It is very simple to understand the rules
  • You can unlock different achievements which is great way to track progress and keeps you engaged
  • Easy, medium and hard options for the campaign
  • Good variety within the map in terms of islands you defend
  • Can have 5 campaigns going on at once

Cons

  • It is a bit frustrating that once your commanders die, it is game over and the campaign is lost
  • I didn’t realise that the shadow gradually covering the map was Vikings taking over the islands, and accidentally allowed them to take over mine, meaning it was game over
  • It is £3.49

I really enjoyed this game. It is different to the puzzle games I normally play, and requires different skills. However, it was really simple to understand the basics, although some elements required trial and error to get right.

I really enjoy the look and feel of the game; it has a minimalist feel which is effective and feels modern. It appears to be a rather simple strategy game that looks easy, but does require you to plan ahead and can be challenging. Like any good game though, you get better every time you play. The little troops are fun and easy to move around, and it’s easy to gather coins to upgrade them as the game goes on.

You’ll need to be good at planning and strategizing, thinking ahead and multitasking!

After beginning on the “normal” mode, I’d probably recommend starting on “easy”, unless you’re accustomed to games like this!

Reviewer: Georgie Pitts

Download links:

Google Play linkapp store link

Stumble Guys

Stumble Guys app icon Stumble Guys is a knockout game where players can use different methods on different maps to pass levels. This game consists of 32 players competing against each other on random maps, either individually or in teams until a champion is determined. During this process, players need to pay attention to the traps in the level. If you accidentally drop a trap of the level, you will probably be left behind by other players. Each time has three levels and only one player can win the final game. This game is very similar to the current popular game Fall Guys, no matter the game name or the game design, but this is the version of the mobile game, so players can play the game anytime, anywhere. This game is very interesting and challenging, and players need to try repeatedly to get a certain level of winning skills.

Pros

  • Players can get skins, gems, and tokens by watching advertisements
  • This game is very simple and suitable for all game players
  • You can team up with friends to play this game and compete together for the championship
  • Each game is short and doesn’t take a lot of time.
  • This game takes up a relatively small amount of phone memory, only 512MB

Cons

  • The maps will not be updated regularly, so players may get tired of playing a map quickly, resulting in low game stickiness.
  • Players are often paired with robots in order to quickly fill rooms or levels
  • The lack of changes and new features in this game compared to the Fall Guys has raised questions about plagiarism.

This game was very challenging for me, I played for half a month and only got the final victory once. I need to play a map many times before I get used to the tricks. This game is friendly to Apple users. Fall Guys is a platform battle royal game, available on Steam and can only be downloaded by Windows users. Stumble Guys can be downloaded by both Android and Apple users, so this game satisfies my curiosity about Fall Guys to some extent. However, I’m not very satisfied that you need to watch ads to get extra skins. Players have four chances to watch advertisements for lottery draws every day, but these advertisements take a long time, which worsens my overall impression of the game. In addition, this game will not unlock new maps (like they do in Brawl Stars). I always play the same scene over and over again, which makes me less eager to keep playing.

Reviewer: Kexin Li

Download links:

Google Play linkapp store link

Elevate

elevate app iconElevate is a brain training program designed to help you speak more articulately and concisely, improve your writing abilities, increase your reading speed, process written information more quickly, improve your focus while reading and listening, perform day-to-day math equations, and more.

Elevate’s games are supported by research and designed in collaboration with experts. Each day, you are provided with a personalized training program that adjusts over time to maximise your brain training results. Upon completion, you are able to measure your performance on these exercises and compare them across the skill groups.

Pros

  • Basic version is free on iOS and Android
  • Enjoyable and fun minigames
  • Weekly performance reports and content reviews available on free version

Cons

  • Need to upgrade to Elevate membership to access all features
  • Game play instructions quite vague

Similarly to Lumosity, I really enjoyed my daily workout, as I was able to play a variety of different minigames which were both fun and mentally stimulating. The app was easy to navigate and being able to my own detailed performance report which tracked my progress did motivate me to keep playing each day. The app was very easy to navigate but occasionally game instructions, and games themselves, were a bit vague. Again, like Lumosity, with the free version I was limited to what I could achieve on the app. Despite this however, I will definitely keep using the app as I did find the games challenging and motivating. I would recommend it to anyone looking for subtle ways to improve their reading and writing skills.

Reviewer: Leah Parker

Download links:

Google Play linkapp store link

These apps aren’t supported or managed by the University of Bristol. Don’t forget to think about what data you are adding to these apps if you decide to download and use them. Our Online Identity video highlights some of the factors you may want to think about when you are online.

Next month: Utility

Appinions – Travel

Appinions banner

A great app will keep you glued to your device. Whether it’s lifestyle, social media, utility, gaming, productivity or news; apps are an essential part of student life.
Each month we challenge our Student Digital Champions to delve into a new category, delivering fresh perspectives and making proclamations for essential applications. Which features are dumb? What should be at the tip of your thumb?

Written by Polly Davis, Leah Parker, and Kexin Li: Student Digital Champions.

Polly Davis  Leah Parker  Kexin Li

June 2022: Travel

The travel industry has taken a battering over the last few years. Staffing cuts in aviation have led to recent flight cancellations, whilst providing proof of negative covid tests have once again been dashing plans at the last minute. However we intend to spend our well deserved time off, somebody has inevitably found a way to enhance the experience using a mobile app. But are they any good?

Step: Your world

app icon Step is a new travel app based on a public, interactive map where everyone can pin their favourite places of culture, drink, health, shopping, stay, and food. With Step, you create your own profile with your own specific tags of places where you are from and where you mostly visit- this does not limit where you can pin, the map covers the world! By simply searching a place you have visited, you can create a recommendation by pinning this on the map. Scrolling around, you will be able to see so many recommendations around you which really helps to get a feel for the culture and life of the community of the place you are in. Even more so, following your favourite Culture Creators and accounts allows you to see their own personal recommendations. This has been extremely helpful whenever I have been in London visiting friends and we are lost as to where to go- each pin is attached with pictures, the website of the business, opening hours, address, and phone number, with additional comments from users. I have found so many places around me that I would not have taken a second look at if I was using Google or even my own eyes.

 

Pros

  • Interactive map with the ability to comment
  • Create your own profile
  • Follow other creators
  • Can add photos
  • Can build up a following

Cons

  • Relatively new app so pins are fairly limited to popular places
  • Cannot specify what type of establishment you are looking for, such as filtering by the nationality of the food
  • Pins are not reviewed by any critics, therefore recommendations are subjective
  • Not available to download via Google Play

Reviewer: Polly Davis

Download link:

app store link

My Travel Tracker

app icon

I love travelling, and I have always been tempted to make a travel blog- but I have also always been quite intimidated by that large and scary environment. My Travel Tracker is a way to document your travels into categorised trips that are displayed on your own personal map. Each trip can be pinned with photographs and geolocations and descriptions to give an in-depth feel to your itinerary. These trips can be viewed by others as it is also a social networking app where you can take inspiration from other travellers and interact by commenting, liking posts, and sharing. Like Instagram, there is a community page where you can view recent travel posts from other creators and view their own Bucket Lists. Even more, there is a section where you can post short films of different places around the world- this is especially helpful if you are stuck on what place to travel next to, get a grasp of the environment, or to simply reminisce on your own time there. Some travellers decide to categorise their posts by the best places to eat, drink, visit or stay in an area which can be searched for in the community section if you need guidance when you are visiting an area!
This app creates a safe and friendly community full of creators with the same passions of adventure and curiosity about the world!

 

Pros

  • Can create a profile area with a colour map that highlights the countries you have visited
  • You are free to post in whatever format you would like, whether it be a blog, tip list or just pictures
  • Can follow other travellers and interact with their posts which will appear on your timeline

Cons

  • Not every place in the world has been posted so popular tourist locations have more posts attached with them
  • The community page is ordered in terms of popularity of a post or profile
  • All communication with other creators is public

Reviewer: Polly Davis

Download link:

app store link

 

Bristol Guide

Bristol guide app icon

This app provides a distinctive guide to Bristol, pointing new visitors wanting to explore the city to an exciting array of attractions, or perhaps even helping residents discover new places they were not previously aware of. This app aims to encompass a full Bristolian experience to the user.

This app allows you to locate the nearest attractions and sites around you for you to go and  visit. Or, if you prefer, you are able to look at places to visit in a specific category you are interested in. These categories include events and festivals, parks and greenspaces, pubs and bars, and restaurants and sport, to name a few. By pressing on the event you are interested in, it provides a brief overview of the site, including contact and website details if you would like to learn more, and its exact location.

Pros

  • Free
  • Simple to use
  • Range of categories containing a wide variety of sites and events, including popular and lesser known ones.

Cons

  • Some categories lack essential information – e.g. the events and festivals tab has no information on the dates and times
  • Would be nice to see some reviews of the places shown
  • Includes some pictures but would say it definitely needs more!
  • Not available to download via Google Play

 

Overall, I really like the idea of the app! I think it includes a wide range of sites and attractions to visit, which would be useful for not only first-time visitors, but also residents wanting to explore more of the unknown parts of the city. Through using the app, I was able to discover lots of green spaces I did not know existed just right near me which was amazing. However, I would say it’s clear this app needs an update, as there is some information lacking which would be useful, such as dates of festivals and events. I also think more pictures would really benefit the app, as it only contains a single image for each listing, which does not always truly represent the beautiful appearance of these sites. Overall, I do like the app and would definitely recommend it to those living in Bristol over the summer so they can go and explore the city.

Reviewer: Leah Parker

Download link:

app store link

Voi

Voi app icon

Voi is a new, innovative way of travelling round the city. This app provides a new mode of transport, aiming to cut down our emissions while still getting to places quickly. Voi scooters are bright red, and operate simply through twisting the handle to accelerate, and pressing down bike-like brakes at the front to stop. They are now equipped with indicators as well, which you can use to signal when you are turning left or right.

The way it works is you first download the app, and set up your Voi account on the app by scanning your driver’s license. The app then allows you to find your nearest Voi parking spot, where you can also see the number of Vois available. You simply scan the QR code on the Voi and once you’re ready you can unlock it and begin voing! When you’ve reached your destination, you then park your Voi in the closest parking spot and are asked to take a picture upon completion.

Voi offers regular users the opportunity to buy Voi passes, whether this be just for the day, or a month. There are designated parking spots, discounted parking spots, and also marked slow zones and no Voi zones. Voi scooters also stop working past a certain time and have installed a software aimed to test your reaction skills to promote safe use.

 

Pros

  • Passes are relatively cheap.
  • Quite fun way of getting round.
  • Especially round Bristol, quite easy to find and locate Voi parking spots.
  • The app allows you to locate Voi parking spots and places you can find Vois
  • Voi prevents you riding on the pavements, ensuring the safety of pedestrians

Cons

  • Have to find a designated parking spot to put your Voi in – If travelling to a new destination it may be difficult to determine where exactly to find these.
  • Potentially scary particularly if you are not a licenced driver, or the weather conditions are harsh.
  • The Voi may run out of battery in particularly inconvenient locations.
  • Only accessible in certain cities.

 

Overall, I love the idea of Voi as a way of travelling, especially in a busy city such as Bristol, where bringing your cars may not be feasible due to the lack of car park spaces, or if you’re like me and you just can’t drive! I find it particularly useful when the buses may be unreliable or I need to get somewhere quite quickly if I am running late. Yet, I will admit, I have suffered a fair few scary instances with Voi, and so I personally do not use them often unless I am on quiet, residential roads. I would definitely recommend learning your road rules before attempting to ride a Voi, and definitely practice before heading to the main roads. I think with a careful and responsible user, Vois can be quite fun and provide a cost effective way of travelling to places, and not to mention they are much more environmentally friendly than other modes of transport. I would definitely recommend using Vois opposed to a car when you can, but just as with any mode of transport, make sure you do your research before riding them and learn your road rules!

Reviewer: Leah Parker

Download link:

app store link

 

Google Translate

Google translate icon

One of the biggest problems you may face while travelling is probably the language barrier. Google Translate will be your best aid for basic daily communication in most countries! Google Translate is a free translation service, which provides instant translation between 133 languages, and supports the translation of words, sentences, and web pages between any two languages. The interface of the app is very concise, with only three pages: Home, Saved, and Settings. In addition to inputting text for translation, you can also directly translate the text in the photo through the camera. For tourists, the instant translation of conversations and the transcription function provide great convenience. You can record your voice directly, and Google Translate will automatically translate it into the target language and read it aloud.

Pros

  • All features are free
  • The translation speed is fast, and the communication can be translated instantly
  • Very simple and convenient to use

Cons

  • There may be translation errors leading to misunderstandings, and grammar and structure errors occur frequently
  • The choice of languages is limited. “Conversation mode” is available in 71 languages; “Transcription mode” is only available in 10 languages
  • Accents may lead to inaccurate voice input

 

I personally think Google Translate is the most frequently used and helpful app for travellers, and it helped me immensely when I travelled to Turkey last week. When I was communicating with my Turkish host, we used Google Translate the entire time, making our conversation smooth and pleasant. Google Translate solves all the problems related to language barriers to the greatest extent possible with simple functions, which I think is amazing. Although there may be grammatical errors due to machine translation, I think it has no impact on the communication between tourists and local people, so it is a very excellent app for me in general.

Reviewer: Kexin Li

Download link:

app store link

 

App in the Air

App in the air icon

If you have frequent flight needs and are easily troubled by problems such as flight information changes, App in the Air can effectively help with air-related problems to ensure you travel smoothly! The main function of App in the Air is to help you manage your hotel and flight reservation and give timely notifications and relevant information so you can optimize your travel experience. Different from other OTA (online travel agency) apps, App in the Air is more like a personal travel assistant, because you can not only book air tickets and hotels from this app, but also manually import your flight number and hotel reservation, and it will give you all relevant information and suggestions. Beyond that, it acts as a memoir by collecting statistics on all the flights you’ve ever taken and competing on the global leader board. You can also invite your friends and compete on the friend list for flight stats.

Pros

  • Convenient and easy to use. The app design is very concise and straightforward
  • Helping you record flight statistics and keeping track of your accomplishments during your trips
  • You can add your loyalty programmes to track status and bonuses
  • Providing very detailed information and tips for travellers

Cons

  • There is a fee for membership, and regular users only have a 14-day free trial
    • £9.99/year for Basic.
    • £29.49/year for Pro.
    • £44.99/lifetime
  • The functions of this app are not unique, and most of them can be replaced by other free apps
  • Users have complained about bugs in the app and incorrect flight information being provided
  • Hotel and flight information booked on other platforms require manual input

 

I personally think this app is more useful for regular travellers, but it is not very attractive to me as a student. It can effectively help travellers to manage all reservations and plan your trip, and its notification function can greatly help you to avoid missed flights and other problems during the trip. However, as far as I am concerned, all this travel information can be found on free platforms, and I do not need to spend extra money to obtain such information. This app can only provide flight information, but not bus or train related information, so the frequency of use for me is very low. Also, all the hotel and flight information I booked from other platforms have to be entered manually rather than displayed automatically, which makes the function of recording travel statistics a little troublesome.

Reviewer: Kexin Li

Download link:

app store link

These apps aren’t supported or managed by the University of Bristol. Don’t forget to think about what data you are adding to these apps if you decide to download and use them. Our Online Identity video highlights some of the factors you may want to think about when you are online.

Next month: Security

Kick start your summer with Bristol Futures Open Courses

Congratulations on coming to the end of your summer assessments for 2021/22!

A picture containing tree, grass, outdoor, person throwing papers in the air in celebration.
Photo credit: Ketut Subiyant

While some of you may be ready to not look at a book or a screen for the next 3 months, some of you may find the transition from the academic year to the summer quite unnerving. To help you ease into the summer months, Bristol Futures Open Courses is a great option for you to learn outside of your usual degree subject for free!

You can join the courses starting on the 13 June 2022 on one or more of the following themes:

  • Innovation and Enterprise
  • Sustainable Futures
  • Global Citizenship

The courses run over four-weeks and take approximately 3 hours a week.

Who can learn?

Exactly what it says on the tin, the Bristol Futures open courses are open to all! The courses are aimed primarily for University of Bristol students, but in fact students, staff, and alumni from all around the world can sign up and engage in the courses. This gives you, as the learner, a unique opportunity to gain a wider perspective on the theme.

Who are the mentors?

The Bristol Futures Open courses starting on the 13 June 2022 will be mentored run. This means that your learning and engagement will be further supported by trained student mentors from the University of Bristol.

How you can join

As a current University of Bristol student, you can join for free via the Open Courses tab on Blackboard.  You can sign up for a course up to 6 weeks after it has started. But you will benefit most from the mentor support if you sign up before the start of the next course run on the 13 June 2022.

A picture containing the word summer in scrabble letters on some sand.
Photo credit: Ylanite Koppens

We hope to see you on one or more the Bristol Futures Open courses over the summer. Otherwise, from all of us in the Digital Education Office, we wish you a very well-deserved summer break – whatever you decide to do!

Find your digital balance on University Mental Health day

Written by Souwoon Cho, Digital Education Developer and new team member of the Digital Education Office.

If you haven’t heard this phrase recently, here it is: ‘Unprecedented times’. Of course, this was the go-to phrase to try and describe the impact of the pandemic on a global and personal level. A lot has changed since 2020 including more teaching and social events taking place in-person. However, the dilemma we face trying to manage the digital world and our wellbeing remains.  

You may hear of some approaches to this such as getting rid of your smartphone, deleting all social media, and not looking at e-mails for an extended period. But these approaches to eliminate screen time are not realistic for a student navigating day-to-day university life.  

So, what digital tools can help you achieve digital balance on University Mental Health Day and beyond? 

Man looking at his phone
Man looking at his phone

Digital tools for focus and motivation.

Do you ever feel distracted and constantly switching between different screens and digital tools? You are not alone! Rather than making you feel less productive, there are digital tools and apps available to help you focus on the task at hand. The list of great apps to help student’s focus and motivation by AbilityNet is a great summary of some of the tools for you to try.  

Dark mode for a better nights sleep.

Student Minds recommends avoiding your use of screen devices at least an hour before you intend to sleep as one of their tips to improve your sleep. This can be easier said than done. Another approach to ease your transition from screen to pillow is to reduce the blue light being emitted from your screens.   

You can set your screens to night or dark mode a few hours before you intend to go to sleep. Steps on how to set your display for night time mode are available for Windows and Mac. Most smartphone will also have this mode available, so check your phone’s user manual for further information.  

Image of lit up laptop in a dark room
Image of lit up laptop in a dark room

Free Yoga, HIIT, and Meditation.

Cat stretching
Cat stretching

Being physically active is one of the NHS’s 5 steps to wellbeing, but going for a run or attending an online dance class can seem like a lot of effort despite the obvious benefits. Fitness apps such as Downdog offer guided Yoga, HIIT, Meditation and even Ballet Barre sessions at your convenience. You can set the time, level and intensity of the session which gives you control to fit it around your schedule. Even a 5-minute session of chair yoga is better than nothing right? Since the pandemic, Downdog has been and is currently still available free for students. Of course, there are other similar apps available, so if this isn’t for you, explore different apps or digital tools until you find one that works for you.  

Looking after the mental health of university students and staff is not a conversation just for University Mental health day. We hope these tips will help you create ongoing positive change to the future of your mental health.  

If you have any comments or further tips to share. Post them in the comments below! We would love to hear from you.  

Further support and resources
Whether you are a staff member or student, if you feel like you are struggling, it is always good to tell someone about how you are feeling. If you don’t feel able to do this, the University has wellbeing support for staff and students. We’ve also listed some further resources below.

Student minds mental health day poster