The 3rd of January marks the Festival of Sleep, an unofficial calendar event that encourages everyone to rest after the busy holiday period.
Given this, and that it is a new year, I thought that it would be a good time to highlight the importance of sleep. More specifically, the role that sleeping plays in being a successful student. As well as giving you all some top tips on how to improve your sleep.
Why is sleeping so important for your studies?
Here are 4 reasons why students should make getting a good night’s sleep a priority:
1. Sleep gives you energy
This is definitely the most obvious reason, but when we don’t get enough sleep, we don’t have enough energy to get through the day. In turn, we might not have enough energy to attend our lectures or study. If this happens frequently, then it’s easy to see how this could impact our academic performance as we would miss out on course content.
2. Mental and Physical Health
Sleeping plays a vital part in our body and brain functioning properly. When we are deprived of our sleep, we are more at risk to both physical and mental illness (Norbury & Evans, 2018; Harvard Summer School, 2022). It is clear to see why this would also impact our studies. When you don’t feel the best in your body, you don’t always perform as well in day-to-day activities.
Poor sleep also leaves us more likely to have low mood. This includes being more irritable and easily stressed (Harvard Medical School & WGBH Educational Foundation, 2007; Harvard Summer School, 2022). When studying, you need to be able to manage the stress that comes with your workload. This links back to your mental health as continually missing sleep will have a big impact on your mood and mental wellbeing.
4. Problem solving
According to Cappello (2020), sleeping can improve our ability to solve problems and our critical thinking skills. Both of these skills are useful for our university studies.
5. Consolidation of memory
This is potentially one of the most important ways that sleep supports academic success. When we sleep, new information that we have learned in the day is consolidated and made into a solid memory (Harvard Medical School & WGBH Educational Foundation, 2007). When studying, you will learn a lot of new information on a daily basis. Getting the right amount of sleep, as well as revising, will help you to memorise what you have learnt (Cappello, 2020). This is best summarised below:
“When we sleep, brain oscillations help new vocabulary to become better integrated with our existing knowledge. This means that when we wake up, we have stronger and more useful memories of the new material.”
(Gaskell & Henderson, n.d.)
Improving your sleep
Given all the information above, you can see how sleep plays a big role in our studies. If we do not get the right amount of sleep or if it is poor quality, then there are negative consequences that we can be susceptible to. It is clear that we need to make sleeping one of our top priorities.
However, this is often easier said than done. Sometimes it can seem impossible to make good sleep a priority, especially when there are factors beyond our control that impact our sleep (Harvard Summer School, 2021). For example, your mattress may be poor quality, you may live in a noisy area or you may have pre-existing health conditions (Harvard Summer School, 2021). Unfortunately, there are a lot of factors that can stop us from getting the sleep that we need. But, there are still small steps that we can take to ensure we are doing the most that we can to get good quality sleep.
1. Know how much sleep you need
There is a lot of information online regarding how much rest we need. The recommended amount varies depending on your age group. According to Harvard Summer School (2021), people aged between 18-25 need 7-9 hours of sleep a day. With anything under 7 hours a night leaving us “chronically sleep deprived” (Norbury & Evans, 2018:2). While this may give us some guidance on how much sleep to get, it’s not specific to individuals.
While researching this blog, I found some advice that may help you find out how much sleep you need. All you need to do is ask yourself, ‘how long do I sleep for when I don’t have to get up?’ (Harvard Summer School, 2021). For example, on a weekend do you get a couple hours extra in bed than you do during the week?. This is a great way to start the the journey of making sleep one of your priorities.
2. Limit your caffeine intake
If you’re anything like me, you love a good brew throughout the day. I know that I usually have an extra coffee if I am feeling particularly tired and have low energy. But, consuming too much caffeine, especially near bedtime, can be detrimental to your sleep (National Health Service [NHS], 2021). It can be particularly bad if you get yourself into the routine of not being able to sleep, consuming caffeine to give you the energy you need and then not being able to sleep again. One way to combat this is to limit your caffeine intake or swap to decaffeinated beverages near bedtime (NHS, 2021).
3. Be consistent
If you want to improve your sleep hygiene, you need to be consistent (Chandler, 2019). It’s not ideal to try and ‘catch-up’ on the rest that you have missed by sleeping for extended periods of time on a weekend or by napping (Harvard Summer School, 2021). Rather, you need to be consistent in your sleep routine, including when you go to bed and when you wake up. I know this isn’t always possible with the demands of your studies, work, family and student life, but you should at least try to make your sleep routine a priority.
4. Relax before bed
Part of every bedtime routine should be a wind-down period, where you relax before sleeping. Reading a good book or evening using an app for guided meditation are some ways that I like to unwind before sleeping. This time is important so that you can do something you enjoy and help you to forget about the stresses from your day. Don’t forget that you can always check out the Library’s Leisure Collection for your nighttime reading!
Another way to help you see your bed as a relaxing space is to minimise what else you do in your bedroom (Harvard Summer School, 2021). This is particularly important for students that study and rest in one room. If this is the case, you need to be able to separate your space into work zone and a relaxation zone. Although it might seem comfortable to sit and do your studying in your bed, it is best that you use your desk as your work zone. You could also work in the Library if you live near campus or in a local coffee shop whenever possible so that your bedroom is solely a place for relaxation. You can read more about the importance of your study environment in our SkillsGuides.
5. Don’t forfeit your sleep
Sometimes you may feel like the only way you can keep up with the demands of your studies is by pulling an all-nighter (Harvard Summer School, 2021). Maybe you need to cram in some revision for an exam the next day or you have an essay deadline that is fast approaching. But, forfeiting your sleep is the last thing you want to do. As mentioned, sleeping is essential for strengthening your memory and recalling information, as well as being able to concentrate (Cappello, 2020). So, you actually need to get your rest before any form of examination.
Being able to manage your time is an extremely important skill for all students to learn. Hopefully, by planning your schedule, you won’t have to sacrifice your sleep to keep up with your studies. An easy way to start this is by looking at your modules and writing all your assignment deadlines and exam dates in your diary. That way, you know what you need to study for and focus on first. You can also plan the time you will spend on reading, revising, working and doing things you enjoy. In doing this, you should be able to avoid cramming in your revision last minute and staying up all night. To learn more about time management, check out our SkillsGuide for more tips.
Catching your zzz’s
If you have learnt anything from this blog, it’s that sleeping is super important. Not only does it play a huge part in keeping us physically and mentally well, it also helps us succeed as students. So, make your sleep routine a priority this year.
Norbury, R. & Evans, S. (2018) Time to think: Subjective sleep quality, trait anxiety and university start time. PsyArXiv. Available online: https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/9eaqr [Accessed 01/01/2023].
Disclaimer- This blog will discuss the topic of mental health. The writers of this post are not professionals, but former students who want to help current students know what is available to them at the University.
The 10th of October marks World Mental Health Day. The theme for this year is ‘Make mental health and wellbeing for all a global priority’.
To highlight the importance of this day, Jess and Nat (two former students and now, interns at the University) have come together to write this blog. Here we will promote the resources that are available to students (and staff) across the University campus to promote good mental health. We want to show that mental health and wellbeing is a priority!
We have also included a list of resources including apps, books and podcasts that we have found useful for promoting our own wellbeing as students.
The Library is the hub of the University. Here you can find many resources and facilities to promote student wellbeing. When I studied at Hull University, I didn’t know about all of the support available to students in the Library. So, my aim here to share these in hopes that you can make the most out of what is available to you.
Reading Well Collection
The Reading Well collection is a good place to start. It is a small collection of material that are available to staff and students at the University. The topics covered in the collection include mental health and young people’s mental health, as well as long-term health conditions.
The books in the Reading Well collection are there to help you understand your own feelings, as well as to offer guidance on how to cope with them. They are a form of self-help, but can also be used alongside professional support.
You can find the Reading Well collection in the Reading Room on the 1st Floor of the Library. It is in a quiet corner where you can sit, read and reflect.
Here at the Library, we think that taking a break from your studies and having a work life balance is really important for your mental wellbeing. That is why we have a list of ways in which you can switch-off from your academic endeavours and make time for yourself.
Taking a break from your studies
One of the best ways to take a break from your work in the Library is to visit the Café. Here you can give your eyes a break from staring at your screen and enjoy a nice coffee. You can also find a range of cold drinks, sandwiches and snacks which are perfect to fuel you for a day of studying. You’re welcome to eat your own food in the Library Café and make yourself a cuppa in the Student Kitchen on the ground floor.
Similarly, the Library is trialling a Student Kitchen which can also be found on the ground floor. This is perfect for those who like to study late at night or over the weekend. Here you can warm up your food, make a cuppa and take a seat away from your desk.
Another way in which you can promote your wellbeing is by enjoying the Art Gallery and Exhibition Space on the ground floor. This is free and open to everyone. You can visit the gallery with your friends, family or by yourself. Once again, this is a great way to have a rest away from your workload and do something a little bit different.
You can also find the Leisure Reading Collection in the Reading Room on the first floor. Here you can borrow a selection of books to enjoy in your spare time outside of your studies. Du Sautoy (2021) notes that reading for pleasure can help to prevent or reduce mental health issues, improve your ability to cope with external pressures or situations and improve your sleep to name a few benefits. So, don’t forget to check out the Leisure Reading Collection and make time to do things that you enjoy.
The Reading Room is also the home of the Spotlight On display. This is a reading list created by the Library Team each month. It is a small collection related to one theme. The current theme for October is Black History Month. Previous themes have included: Mental Health Awareness, Halloween and Books vs Film. The Spotlight On collection is great way to get inspiration for your leisure reading.
You can find other suggestions on how to switch-off here.
The Skills Team offer online and on-campus support for students and academic staff. We know from personal experience how looming assessment deadlines can quickly make us feel worried and stressed. I think that it is important recognise that you are not alone in these feelings and that there is support for you. The Skills Team can help provide academic support and in turn, reduce the stress that students may experience when it comes to their assignments.
The SkillsGuides are free online self-help guides that cover many areas of study.
One of the most helpful SkillGuides is on time management. This is essential to help prevent or minimise the stress and worry you can feel around assessment deadlines.
One of the easiest ways to manage your time is to use a diary or a calendar. This way you know what you have to prioritise- your lectures, child-care, work. With this in place, you know what time you have left to make social plans and take time to relax and do what you enjoy.
It is also useful to look when your assessment deadlines are in advance. Do this for each module you are doing so that you can prioritise your tasks and make your workload more manageable. You don’t want to have three deadlines within the space of a week and not realise this until last minute.
Tools like the Eisenhower Matrix can also help you manage your workload and avoid stress and burnout.
Other SkillGuides include help when it comes to referencing, essay structure, how to revise effectively and many more! Having these resources is great for when you’re studying late at night or want to find an answer for a quick question you may have. Once again, this is can help to reduce the stress that can come with academic study as there is support available whenever you need it.
For even more help with your studies, you can book online and on-campus appointments with a member of the Skills Team. This is good for your peace of mind as there is support available to you should you need it.
Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. In the Library, you can ask to see a Mental Health First Aider who will support you in getting the care that you require.
You can talk to any Library staff member at the Welcome Desk or message us via the Library Live Chat on our website. We offer out of hours support on weeknights and weekends, so you can come see us and we can direct you to the right support services if you’re not sure where to start.
I work in the Mental Health and Well-being department, but it wasn’t until I started working at the university that I realised how much I had neglected these services as a student.
Throughout my time at University, I struggled a lot with my mental health, only turning to support in that split-second moment when things were at rock bottom. I had a few sporadic appointments with the team but never saw anything through, often ignoring follow-up appointments.
Now that I’m working and seeing things from the other side, I really regret not utilising them more. The team are committed and there’s so much support available. If I had taken my mental wellbeing seriously, then I think my uni experience could have been a lot different. As it’s Mental Health Awareness day, I really want to stress that although mental illness is out of our control, there are things that we can control to help us manage.
Finding the right pathway for you
There are a few different pathways to support here at uni so I’m going to outline them all here so you can choose which route is best for you.
Firstly, there’s a small team of trained mental health practitioners here on campus. Their aim is to help you to develop your confidence and independence in managing the challenges that you face during your student journey. They work with a variety students who experience all kinds of different mental health and wellbeing difficulties. Students or applicants can access the team by completing this self-referral form, this helps give an overview of your current situation. Once you’ve completed the form, the team will respond within 3 working days so keep an eye on your portal. But don’t stop reading as there is more immediate support that we mention a little further down too.
Bringing up mental health with someone you suspect is struggling can be difficult, if you notice one of your friends or fellow students is suffering you can raise a concern for a student form here to let us know.
Student Assistance Programme
The university has recently partnered with the company Health Assured, to provide the students of Hull uni with the Student Assistance Programme (or SAP because we love an abbreviation.) Health Assured are the UK and Ireland’s most trusted independent health and wellbeing provider, making a positive difference to over 15 million lives.
One service we found particularly helpful was their financial support. It’s good to know that you’re not alone with your financial worries!
SAP also cover a range of other topics that may be impacting your mental health. You can find out more on their website. Also remember that SAP is a 24 hour support service, so you can get in touch with them whenever you need to.
My Healthy Advantage
Health Assured has an app called ‘My Healthy Advantage’ which is free for every student at The University of Hull to download, when you’ve downloaded it via the app store you just type in the unique code: MHA148306.
The app has a 24/7, 365 helpline, with calls answered by experienced in-house counsellors, and legal and financial specialists.
I’ve been trying out the app for the last few weeks and I’ve really been enjoying it. It reminds me of the Headspace or the Deliciously Ella app that I’ve previously paid a lot for. My Healthy Advantage has all the same content; meditations, recipes, workouts and breathwork – the catch? This one is entirely free! It gives personalised wellbeing content, including videos, webinars, mini-health checks and health coaching. It’s like having my own mini-guide in my pocket, reminding me to breathe, move my body and stop being so hard on myself. I struggle with sleep, so I signed up for their 4-week get better sleep course and I’ve already noticed such a difference.
Even if you’re not struggling now, I would recommend downloading it because the information is so accessible and helpful. If you have a spare few minutes in-between lectures, have a read-through and you never know if you’ll stumble across a piece of information or advice that could really help you out at some point down the line.
The other day, I had to do a presentation to a big group and because I’d stayed consistent with my breathing and meditation exercises, I was able to calm myself down beforehand. I’ve linked one of their articles for looking after yourself here.
Moving your body to help your mind
When I was in the pits of my depression, the most annoying thing people said to me was ‘have you tried exercising?’, the answer was always ‘no’. I didn’t feel like doing anything, let alone going to the gym. But, although it pains me to admit it, exercise has been one of my biggest saviours.
I’m not saying you need to do a load of burpees – unless you enjoy them, which I firmly do not. For me it was walking. I started with a short walk and gradually increased it. Now I walk for hours a day, and I’ll listen to a podcast to keep my brain stimulated from anxious thoughts. It can be any form of movement, if you hate walking that’s fine, maybe you like swimming or throwing your limbs around to your favourite songs – the key thing is that you enjoy it. This is time carved out of the day just for you, that sends the message to your mind that you matter.
Active Wellbeing Programme
If you don’t know where to start, you can contact any member of staff about the Active Wellbeing Programme over in the uni gym. The Active Wellbeing Programme is a five or ten-week sport and fitness programme for students at the University of Hull who need a little support to improve their mental wellbeing. Our team will provide one-on-one support throughout the programme, attending sports and fitness sessions and offering guidance throughout.
Here are just some of the benefits –
Integration into University life
Improved mental health and confidence
Meeting new people
Strength and conditioning coaching
Coaching and session delivery
The programme is designed to meet your individual needs and is based on your interests and availability. For more information or to enrol, email firstname.lastname@example.org or find their website here.
But, don’t just take our word for it. As 100 per cent of previous participants would recommend the Active Wellbeing Programme to others!
Starting uni can be really daunting, especially when you don’t know anyone. The Hull University Students Union is a great way to meet new people and make friends. They have plenty of societies for you to join and meet people with similar interests. This can help combat feelings of loneliness and isolation, so check out what societies are out there!
Sort out your socials
In an ever-increasing digital world, it’s easy to get swept up in all the bad news. Or to look down your social media feeds and people posting the perfect, most presentable parts of themselves. That’s why its important to sort out your socials and use it in the right way.
I would always complain about Instagram making me feel bad but the only thing making me feel bad was the accounts I followed. It’s easy to spend hours scrolling and comparing your life to these unrealistic. But the chances are that you won’t feel great afterwards. If you make your feed a space for things that spark joy and inspiration, like cat videos or relaxing cooking content then that’s a step in the right direction.
This advice isn’t necessarily related to the University, but I think that everyone can benefit from it.
Here is a list of apps, books and podcasts that we have complied. These resources have helped our mental health and wellbeing during our studies and now!
It’s good to fill your devices with apps that add to your mental wellbeing. Many apps offer guided meditation and other mindful resources, help you stay on top of your fitness and just give you enjoyment.
Our most-used apps:
My Healthy Advantage– Free for every student at The University of Hull to download, just type in the unique code: MHA148306. The app has a 24/7, 365 helplines, with calls answered by experienced in-house counsellors, and legal and financial specialists.
5 Minute Journal App– A way to make sure you have your journal with you wherever you go at whatever time. This app can help you have a more positive outlook on life by reflecting on each day.
Audible– A great place to find thousands of audiobooks and podcasts. After a free trial, it is currently £7.99 a month. It may be a good option for those who like to listen to their books when they’re on the go.
Or for a free alternative, search the Library which will give you free access to audiobooks, music and films.
Find audio recordings (including audiobooks and music) here.
Find films, tv and radio here. We recommend Kanopy to all students!
Flow, Clue and other menstrual cycle tracking apps- These help you to keep on track of your menstrual cycle and stay in tune with your body.
Headspace: Mindful Meditation, Calm and other meditation apps – Guided meditation to help you sleep better and relieve some of your stress and worry. The Calm app is similar to Headspace. You can try a free trial for them both and see if they work for you.
Medisafe– A free app where you can input the medication you take and set reminders so you remember to take them. You can also share your schedule with those that you trust so that they can remind you to take your medication should you forget.
As we mentioned earlier, reading can be great for your mental health and wellbeing. Whether you like to read self-help books to understand yourself a little better, or like to snuggle up and relax with a good piece of fiction, there’s a book out there for everyone.
Don’t forget to check out the Library’s collections
Dr Russ Harries suggests that we get caught in ‘The Happiness Trap’, which makes us unhappy in the long run . Mindfulness is Harris’ way of escaping this trap. Here we learn how to reduce stresss, manage our feelings and remove doubt from our lives.
Haig is University of Hull alumni. In this memoir he recounts his experience with depression and how he overcame his illness.
We love to have a balance between funny and educational podcasts, there’s only so much self-help information you can take before it becomes all-consuming and overwhelming. Sometimes the best thing for your mind is listening or watching something for the pure enjoyment of it. Science has proven that listening to, or watching comedy shows makes us happier people who take life less seriously.
Our favourite feel-good podcasts:
Deliciously Ella – Ella breaks down the latest wellness trends and advice with special guests in the industry, separating the myths from the facts so you know what habits are worth starting.
How to fail – Elizabeth Day interviews a range of celebrities, writers, actors, and comedians about three times they’ve failed in life, it’s really reassuring to know that even your fave celebs fail.
Happy Place – There’s something about Fearne Cotton that is just so comforting, she interviews everyone from professional athletes, entrepreneurs, monks, motivational speakers, great thinkers and celebrities, and the conversations are heartfelt and candid. The Dave Grohl one is Nat’s absolute favourite!
Off-Menu– Combining food and comedy, need we say more? Comedians James Acaster and Ed Gamble invite a celebrity guest to share their dream menu, listen with caution as you’re sure to laugh out loud.
The Sleepy Bookshelf– This podcast series is perfect for those who need a little extra help getting a good night’s sleep. Here you can listen to classic literature in a calm and soothing voice, which will help you relax and drift-off.
The Psychology of your 20s– Jemma Sbeg is an informal, chatty host who discusses different topics each week. These include: imposter syndrome, grief, social media and more. We found that this podcast makes us feel not so alone when it comes to big life changes and common feelings that can make us feel isolated.
Who to contact
If you need urgent help to stay safe between 9 & 5 pm, let the team at Central Hub know. Out of hours, you can use SAP which will help you access NHS support. You can also contact the NHS using the emergency numbers 999 or 111. Here’s a useful page on the NHS website about mental health.
Having an online portfolio is a unique way to showcase your work and let others know about yourself. It’s one of the best ways to express your personality, experience, and capabilities. The portfolio will usually include samples of your best work, including articles, reports, PowerPoint presentations, and links to blog entries. Portfolios are especially useful for work that can be presented visually, like photography, illustrations, and ad campaigns.
Why showcasing your work is useful?
You may be wondering why do I need to showcase my work online? While it may not be relevant for some jobs for any job that requires creative ability a place to show employers what you’ve done will be most beneficial. So, once you leave university and it’s time to begin job searching you can have a platform to display perhaps a project or presentation you created. People are usually more impressed when they can see your achievements visually than just written on your CV.
Here are just a few reasons why you should showcase your work:
It’s a great first impression for employers
If an employer sees your website link in your signature or on your resume, they’ll likely click on it to see what you’ve built. Seeing you’ve taken the time to build a website featuring work samples, recommendations, previous presentations and more will be a killer first impression.
Increases Your Visibility And Online Presence
When an employer Googles your name, your professional portfolio will be one of the first search results that come up.
Its flexibiliy allows you to showcase your personality
You’re able to show your personality by choosing a design, layout and the copy you write. With the click of a button, you can change content, videos, copy and pictures on your online portfolio. You can also constantly create new content to show your continuous learning process.
Where can I showcase my work?
PebblePad is the university’s electronic portfolio (ePortfolio) tool. It allows you to create an online, digital collection of your work including text, files, multimedia and links. This allows you to showcase your skills and knowledge to potential employers. The University of Hull provides all students with access to PebblePad. When you graduate, you can take your portfolio with you with the free alumni account. Any portfolio you create is private to you, but you have the option to share it with others.
LinkedIn is a social networking website focused on professional and business-oriented networking. It allows users to maintain an online profile similar to a résumé or CV. You can list your skills and gain endorsements and recommendations from peers. This makes LinkedIn a useful website for showcasing your work, qualifications and experience. It also allows you to share details of projects you have taken part in, publications and other forms of portfolio. Recruiters often use LinkedIn as a platform for sharing job advertisements, managing part of the recruitment process and for approaching individuals about a specific job role.
SlideShare is a slide hosting service that lets users upload PowerPoint, PDF, Keynote and OpenDocument presentations. Uploaded presentations can be kept private or shared publicly to allow users to view, rate, comment and share the uploaded presentation. Slideshare is a great way to showcase your presentations to future employers and it is a particularly useful platform for sharing conference presentations.
ResearchGate is a social networking site that enables researchers to share papers, ask and answer questions, and find collaborators. As well as the regular profile and messaging tools, it offers researchers the ability to follow research interests, share their data, comment and view access stats. The website features a proprietary metric to measure scientific reputation. It is called the RG Score and it works by analysing how “your research is received by your peers”
SoundCloud is an online audio distribution platform that enables its users to upload, record, promote, and share their originally-created sounds. This makes SoundCloud a great platform for sharing any audio-based creative work, particularly useful for drama and music students to share their work. It accepts most common audio file forms and also lets users record directly via the website. Anything you upload can be made available for streaming, sharing, embedding and download, giving creators multiple ways to share their content.
GitHub is the largest open source community in the world. If you’re technically minded, it lets you contribute to software and technology projects. GitHub will track your contributions making it a great way to not only build a profile in the open-source community but to also demonstrate technical capabilities. The site has several communication tools to let developers collaborate, making it a perfect place to host your own projects too.
These are just a few examples but there are many more discussed in the skills guide linked below.
As a student, you may not have considered your digital employability a great deal, but it is important to think about how you present yourself online. This is because some aspects of what you post online could affect your future employability. Employers are more frequently looking through search engines and social networks as a form of pre-screening candidates. This means potential employers could be checking out what you are doing online and how you present yourself. This screening is done as early as the application phase before candidates are interviewed and most employers perform this screening post-interview and before the appointment. This makes your online presence very important for your employability.
If you have any inappropriate content on your social media or anything that portrays you in a negative light it can really affect your job prospects.
What should I look out for when it comes to my digital employability?
Below you can see a list of things you should avoid when it comes to digital employability. While some may seem obvious you may have overlooked some issues or made a subtle mistake. You might say well I know I haven’t posted anything inappropriate but maybe someone you know has tagged you in a potentially embarrassing photo or comment. It is important to remember that even though you may be responsible online, others may not.
What should I avoid sharing?
Do you share too much online? Employers may be concerned you lack discretion. Inappropriate comments about your current or former colleagues, bosses and employers is always inadvisable. You should be careful what you share online and who you share it with.
Some employers won’t like to see the use of profanity or inappropriate language. If you know that you post such language publicly then either stop using it and consider removing it from previous posts. If you want to use that language, only use it in private chats as your employer may be concerned it will happen in the workplace too.
This depends on the organisation, as the occasional post about an alcoholic may not be a concern. You do need to think carefully think what public image these posts portray could portray about you. If you regularly post about drinking and hangovers after heavy nights out, then you may seriously damage your employability. This doesn’t mean you can never post anything like this, but you should check your privacy settings and make sure you’re not telling everyone.
This is similar to alcohol-related posts as pictures of student nights, fancy dress parties and crazy nights out are fun while you are a student. However, you need to be aware of who can see them. For photos and posts like this, you should ensure you need to give permission to be tagged in them. As you probably don’t want your future boss seeing that photo of you dressed like Super Man? As well as this you should make sure any pictures of yourself on professional profiles like LinkedIn are sensible and smart.
Everyone has their opinion on politics or their own spiritual views, you just need to be careful who you share them with. Depending on your career you may have to be careful about sharing such beliefs. Civil Servants for example must be apolitical so any posts about politics are career-threatening. You should also be careful about sharing anything that could be compromising.
Anything that looks like you are harassing or bullying others is never acceptable. Even if it was a joke between friends if any potential employers see anything they would consider bullying you are incredibly unlikely to be considered for the job. While this may seem obvious, you need to consider how inside jokes between your friends may look to an outsider. If something can be misinterpreted, then make sure you remove it. This includes things that you have not written but are posted onto your profile/wall. If you leave such things there, you are in effect endorsing it so be careful about what you leave there.
Make sure you provide the same information across all the different social media and websites you use. Inconsistency with details like qualifications and education may concern some employers, especially if your online profiles contradict your C.V. This also includes exaggerating; it may be tempting to embellish your experiences you may think I’ll just say my trip to France was actually an exchange they’ll never know. I know we want to make ourselves look as employable as possible but if you go too far your employers will probably find out and it won’t be good for you.
This one should be obvious, but this is certainly something your future employer and colleagues do not need to know about. Be careful what you post on public networks and keep your private life private. You should always avoid sharing intimate pictures or videos either publicly or privately. You could easily lose control of such media and it can be very damaging to your reputation – let alone the potential embarrassment involved.
This is another one that is similar to alcohol as references to drugs also can negatively impact people’s perception of you. What you think about drugs is a different issue, but most employers would not find this appropriate.
Keep the shorthand and text speak to texts. If you are posting anything publicly, think about how it represents you. The same principle applies to any form of professional communication. If potential employers see poor spelling and grammar on your online profiles, it raises questions about your language abilities.
Last week we looked at managing your social media/network but what do we mean by learning through social media? Online social networks provide a whole host of tools to help you learn, share resources and connect with other students. This can be useful as university study has an ever-increasing focus on communal learning. Social media can also greatly assist in your career prospects.
Social media tools for learning
You may remember we covered podcasts in a previous article on Vlogs and Podcasts. So I’ll just give you a quick refresher, Podcasts and vodcasts are episodic programs distributed over the internet. Podcasts are audio-based (music or talk) programs and vodcasts are video-based programs. The ‘cast’ part of the term refers to the ability of a user to subscribe to future episodes and download them when available. There are thousands of Podcasts and Vodcasts available and they can be music, talk, or a mixture of both. There are many podcasts and vodcasts that focus on academic or work-based topics, we recommend checking out:
Cloud-based calendars and organisational tools are brilliant for group projects. They allow you to share events, deadlines, files and notes with other people in your group. The university provides a guide on working in the cloud for more information.
If you need to complete group work with other students but are not able to get together, there are lots of tools that can enable you to collaborate.
Google Docs allows you to simultaneously edit a single file at the same time as other users. You can also annotate and comment on the document which is useful for peer review. These tools can also be useful if you are in the same room but need to edit something at the same time.
Learn through online videos
There are thousands of videos available online to watch for free. Though some of these videos are more useful than others and cover a whole range of topics, there are also very useful explanations of academic/work concepts. If you are struggling to understand something or want to develop or learn a skill you may be able to find useful explanations on sites such as these:
Pinterest is a visual social network that allows users to create photographic pinboards. As it is purely visual media, Pinterest works well as a source of inspiration. It not only allows you to share interests, but you can find lots of different study or career tips presented in a visual format as you can see below.
Build a professional community
LinkedIncan be used to find the right job or internship, connect and strengthen professional relationships, and learn the skills you need to succeed in your future career.
Twitter can also be a useful way to build a professional community through:
Joining in Twitter Chats – these are when a group of people agree to go on Twitter at a regular time (say once a week) and discuss a topic (usually by answering a set of questions). The tweets are linked by including a particular hashtag. Good ones to check out include #LTHEChat
I’m sure most of you already know what social networks are so I’ll just go over this briefly. Social networks and/or social media services allow you to network with people who share interests, professions, hobbies, backgrounds, or real-life connections. These services are based online and often have mobile apps to allow users to access the service on the go. If you don’t know much about social networks you can check out our SkillsGuide on social media.
How to manage your social network?
Managing your social network websites can feel like a massive task if not done efficiently and correctly. This is especially the case if you are using multiple social networks and communication apps. The volume of information from social network sites can overwhelm people and make it easy to miss valuable messages and notifications. This can have major consequences if someone posts something inappropriate on your profile or you miss an important message from a potential employer on a professional network. We will be discussing what would be considered inappropriate for your social media when we look into digital employability. Below we have some useful oh wait…..
Now as I was saying here are some tips and tools to help you master social networking, so distractions like this don’t get in the way.
Avoid signing up for email alerts. While useful, these will quickly take over your email inbox.
Some of you may need more accounts for various reasons but if you know you don’t really use some of them perhaps consider deleting them.
Think about what you really need to post. Unless your posts add unique value or stands out in some manner, it may go unnoticed.
If This Then That (IFTTT)
IFTTT is an internet service that allows users to create chains of simple conditional statements, called “recipes”, which are triggered based on changes to other web services such as Twitter and Facebook. An example recipe might consist of sending an e-mail message if the IFTTT user tweets using a certain hashtag. There are also Android and iOS apps that enable phone or tablet changes to trigger other activities.
There is also a new companion app called ‘Do’ that can automate tasks on the press of a button. You can use this to automate a lot of your social media management. For example, if you post something to Twitter, you can also get it posted to your Facebook or Google+ account. These kinds of recipes can save you a lot of time. IFTTT also works with productivity apps like calendars, Evernote and OneNote so you can trigger events based on activity on social networks.
Buffer is a software application designed to manage social networks, by enabling you to schedule posts to social networks including Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter. With tools like Buffer, you can limit the need to log in to your social networks by scheduling posts ahead of time.
Pocket is a save-for-later service. The service allows users to save interesting articles, videos and more from the web and other apps for later enjoyment. This means that when you see something you want to view or read later, you can save it into Pocket. This allows you to glance quickly through social networks, apps and websites and save items to read properly later.
Social network for work/bussiness
Now we have looked at managing your social network in your day to day life and as a student. However, if you are interested in managing your social network from a business point of view this is a good video for you.
Data literacy is all about how you handle data as a special form of information. Data is used in many ways from monitoring key performance indicators to generating new theories. Our own data – personal and organisational – can also be used, sometimes in ways, we might not want. We all need a basic understanding of legal, ethical, and security issues when we handle data and good habits of personal data security.
Jisc defines data literacy as:
The capacity to collate, manage, access and use digital data in spreadsheets, databases and other formats, and to interpret data by running queries, data analyses and reports. The practices of personal data security.
An understanding of: how data is used in professional and public life; legal, ethical and security guidelines in data collection and use; the nature of algorithms; of how personal data may be collected and used.
Jisc, Data Literacy
Data is a bit like marmite it is usually either loved or hated. Data is, however, an important aspect of most job roles or courses of study. The importance of data goes beyond just work and studies. In our daily lives, we are often presented with data on a regular basis. Data literacy is important whether you are comparing data for bills you have to pay, your student loan repayments, or looking at figures related to the coronavirus pandemic.
When considering data in the context of digital literacy, the focus is often on data management, analysis and visualisation.
Things to consider when using data
Data can be very difficult to make accessible particularly if it is raw data (essentially just a series of numbers or information). For accessibility purposes, the focus has to be on interpreting, presenting, and summarising data. Just a hint the gif below is not a good way to make your data accessible or as you will see below the best way to store it.
This may not be as much of an issue as a student but can be incredibly important in the working world. Whenever we create, use, or produce data we need to consider where it is stored. There are many legal, ethical, and security issues in how data is stored, accessed, and shared. These dimensions of data management are driven based on the type of data you are working with, and whether it contains any personal, sensitive, or commercially sensitive data. If you do have any sensitive information, make sure it is protected by a password or stored in a safe place. Here are some useful ways you can store data.
Often, data is poorly communicated. The diagram on the left well represents the difference between raw data, and data that has been sorted, arranged, presented, and explained. We will now look through a few useful software tools to present and communicate your data.
Software tools to aid your data literacy
Here are a few useful tools for handling data with some links to tutorials and downloads. (Tutorials and guides are linked on the left and download links are on the right)
Microsoft Excel is a spreadsheet developed by Microsoft for Windows, macOS, Android and iOS. It features calculation, graphing tools, pivot tables, and a programming language called Visual Basic for Applications. With a Microsoft 365 account, you can install Microsoft Excel on all your devices.
NVivo is a qualitative data analysis computer software produced by QSR International. It is designed for qualitative researchers working with very rich text-based and/or multimedia information, where deep levels of analysis on small or large volumes of data are required.
Access is probably the least well-known application in the MS Office suite. However, it is incredibly useful for a small number of student/staff researchers who need to store and manage large amounts of related data. You may use Access when the program you are using to keep track of something gradually becomes less fit for the task.
ArcGIS is a system used to make maps and for geographic information. It can create and use maps, compile geographic data, analyze mapped information, share and discover geographic information, use maps and geographic information in a range of applications, and manage geographic information in a database.
Power BI is a collection of software services, apps, and connectors that work together to turn your unrelated sources of data into coherent, visually immersive, and interactive insights. Power BI lets you easily connect to your data sources, visualize and discover what’s important, and share that with anyone or everyone you want.
R is a programming language and free software environment for statistical computing and graphics supported by the R Foundation for Statistical Computing. The R language is widely used among statisticians and data miners for developing statistical software and data analysis.
MOOCs are free online courses that provide an affordable and flexible way to learn new skills, advance your career and receive quality educational experiences. The courses are normally delivered asynchronously so you can complete them when you have time available. They often include activities such as discussions and peer assessment where you communicate with others. MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course:
Massive because enrolments are almost unlimited
Open because anyone can enrol, there is no admission process.
Online because they are delivered, you guessed it online
Course because they are designed to teach you a specific subject.
How do they work?
Many of the courses can be started at any time while others start at regular intervals every few weeks or months. Although some may be less frequent and maybe only offered once. Some MOOCs are self-paced so you can choose how you progress throughout while others run on a schedule but are still somewhat flexible.
All the course material may not be available from the beginning. Instead, it’s released in fragments each week, allowing you to pace yourself.
Assessments may have deadlines, preventing learners from lagging behind.
They often range in length from 1 to 16 weeks. Most provide an estimate of the weekly time commitment, although this time scale may vary depending on the learner.
MOOCs can include:
Auto-graded quizzes – quizzes that are automatically graded upon submission, such as multiple-choice questions.
Peer-feedback assignments – assignments that are graded by other learners according to specific rules.
Your performance on these assignments then determines your overall course grade.
Especially as a student, you may have to take into account the costs, though a vast amount are free some courses may have components hidden behind a paywall. For example, graded assignments.
MOOCs often offer two enrollment options:
Free Auditing – which gives you access to videos, readings, and forums for free.
Paid Enrolment – which gives you access to all the content, including paywalled elements such as the certificate of completion.
A small number of courses are pay-only. Also, when you finish a MOOC you may earn a certificate of completion. Sometimes, the certificate is free, but often, you may have to pay for it. A Paid certificate often requires ID verification, which involves sending a picture of yourself and a form of ID like a driver’s license.
MOOCs the considerations
These are some questions you should ask yourself when considering why you want to take a MOOC.
Do you want to become better at a particular skill?
Are you looking to improve your job prospects?
Are you considering changing your goals or career path?
Is it just for the pleasure of learning?
Then you should also consider the more logistical considerations
Do you want to take the full MOOC or just part of it?
How much time can you dedicate to the course weekly?
Are you looking for an introductory, intermediate, or advanced course?
The MOOC listing usually contains information to help you decide if the course matches your goals, such as potential prerequisites, course content, difficulty, and expected time commitment.
Having a good work environment is incredibly helpful for your studies as well as in your future employment. Customising your digital work environment is also an important aspect of managing your Identity. This page will introduce some of the ways in which you customise your Microsoft 365 and Windows experience. Your identity is also about your preferences. You want to make both the Windows operating system and the software you use as quick and easy to use as possible. This guide is designed to help you get started.
Maximising your use of large screens or multiple monitors
As a student, you may often be using a laptop but when going into the workplace you are likely to either be working with one large monitor, or a multi/dual-screen set-up. This section is all about making the most of your setup.
The main benefit of a dual monitor setup is productivity. Research has shown an increase in productivity and a reduction in the time it takes to complete tasks. A study by Jon Peddie Research found a 42% increase in productivity when using multiple displays. For example when moving from one window to another on a single screen laptop or desktop not only do you need to take time to find the right tab or window to open, but you need more time to access the information. This can interrupt your flow and consequently make you lose your concentration.
However, when working with two screens we get a more natural flow and concentration levels remain high. Over a long period, this can add up to a significant amount of time. Consider how many times you use the process of switching between windows every day and it is probably quite a lot.
What if my digital work environment is just a laptop?
You might not know that you can actually split your screen which can greatly increase your productivity. It allows you much like dual monitors to look at two different programs or screens at the same time. You could have a web page open for reference on one side of your screen and a word document open for making notes on the other. This video explains how to go about splitting your screen on a Windows computer or you can visit here for instructions on a MAC.
This may seem obvious but keep your laptop/computer updated. Many of us often ignore updating our computer for days, weeks, or even months before actually updating the software that our laptop is recommending to us. Software updates are recommended for good reason. They not only ensure that you’re working with the most up-to-date and best quality version of the software that you need to complete your work, but they help your laptop to run as fast and as well as possible too.
I thought it would also be useful just to finish things up with a few handy shortcuts to help increase your productivity. Practice these, and you’ll be a Windows ninja in no time:
Alt+Tab: Open task switcher.
Windows+Tab: Open Task View.
Windows+Down Arrow: Minimize window.
Windows+Up Arrow: Maximize window.
Windows+M: Minimize all windows.
Windows+D: Display desktop.
Windows+Home: Minimize all windows except the active one.
Windows+Shift+M: Restore all minimized windows.
Windows+Shift+Up Arrow: Stretch window to the top and bottom of the screen.
Windows+Left: Snap current window to the left side of the screen.
Windows+Right: Snap current window the the right side of the screen.
Windows+Up: Snap current window to the top of the screen.
Windows+Down: Snap current window to the bottom of the screen.
Windows+Shift+Left or Right Arrow: Move a window from one monitor to another.
As a student, you may not have considered accessible content and adapting your work to make it accessible to everyone. However, this issue will likely become much more important when you enter the working world but even as a student, I think it’s still important to consider this. Perhaps you are making a presentation, you may want to consider if it’s easily accessible for everyone in the audience. Also, if you get in the habit of doing this now it will not only help in your future it will help those who view your work such as fellow students or tutors, especially those with disabilities or impairments. If the content isn’t accessible to everyone some viewers may be confused like this.
Over 1 billion people have some form of accessibility requirement. So, the added bonus of ensuring that your content supports these individuals is that the changes will benefit everyone. Using Microsoft Office, Canvas, Teams, and other apps or software correctlydirectly benefits both you and the person reading them.
Accessible technology benefits everyone, including people with:
Permanent disabilities like those listed below
Temporary impairments like cataracts or a broken arm
Situational impairments like working hands-free and eyes-free while driving
Common types of inaccessible content
Some types of content are more accessible than others. Below are some examples of types of content that can prevent people from understanding the information being conveyed and how to make them accessible. Don’t worry as a student you won’t be marked down for not including these in any assignments though it would be useful for those with impairments who may view your work. Again, it is more likely you will have to think more about this in the working world.
Images – Won’t be accessible to people with visual impairments so you need to provide meaningful alternative text.
Tables – Those who use screen readers cannot read tables in the same way that sighted users can. This assistive technology relies on the table being coded with HTML tags which can then be applied to the table headers.
Videos and audio files – To ensure accessibility to everyone, you need to include transcripts or captions. Remember to include descriptions of images included in video content. Captions will help those with hearing impairments to understand the video. Whereas for those with visual impairments transcripts can be read by a screen reader.
Links – You need descriptive, explanatory text to help those who use screen readers to be able to distinguish between one link and another.
Microsoft 365 tools for accessible content
Immersive Reader is a tool that lets you remove clutter and adjust the font, colours and spacing to aid reading comprehension. This can help all readers but can be particularly useful for anyone with dyslexia or visual stress. The video below tells you how to get started! You’ll find the Immersive Reader button in most Microsoft Office programs and on University Canvas pages too!
Magnifier and read aloud
This tells you how to use Windows 10 Magnifierread aloud & text cursor indicator. These are new Windows 10 Accessibility updates. Magnifier now has Read Aloud from anywhere, and there is an easy way to change your text cursor indicator colour and size
Office Lens captures notes and information from projectors, whiteboards, documents, books, handwritten memos, or anything with a lot of text. It can also remove shadows and odd angles so that images are easier to read. You can upload document and whiteboard images to Word, PowerPoint, OneNote, OneDrive, and you can save them as PDFs or send them in email.
Here is a useful step-by-step tutorial that shows you how to use the built-in Dictation in Word, OneNote, PowerPoint as well as Windows 10. Dictation (speech to text) especially helps those studying or working from home that need this inclusive capability.
How to create accessible content?
You may be wondering “so how do I know what I should or shouldn’t include to make my content more accessible?”. Well, the university has designed a very useful poster that guides you through what you should include or avoid to make your content more accessible. You can view it below or go to this link for a PDF copy.