Keith's Blog

Apps for Teaching - Learning - Research

SEDA Magazine

📥  App Factory, App-Store, Mobile, student, Technology, Uncategorized

My first SEDA article, copy just received in the post. This is Issue 16.1 of the Magazine 'Educational Developments'. Thank-you SEDA: I've received emails from people at other universities who are looking at a similar student app ecosystem at their university, or possibly a national system for HE. Who knows where this might lead...


SEDA Magazine March2015



App-Factory in the Media

📥  App Factory

Not only has the App-Factory been mentioned in the Times Higher, but was selected as a case-study for the JISC Mobile Learning Infokit 2015 released last week:

The JISC Mobile Learning Infokit is on:, and the App-Factory can be found under Pedagogy>Content Creation

The following is the extract from the THE:


Many thanks to my department - Pharmacy and Pharmacology, the Teaching Development Fund and the University of Bath Alumni Fund for supporting my work.

Image by @franckreporter


PAL Apps Student Evaluation

📥  Apps, Mobile, Peer Assisted Learning, student

Student Evaluation of 4 Peer Assisted Learning Apps



The evaluation results for four Peer-Assisted Learning (PAL) apps have now been collected. Undergraduates in my department were able to download and install the apps on their Android and iOS devices from October onwards, and many have used the apps for revision prior to their January exams.

These apps were created by two final year students after graduation in 2014, and tackle specific areas in the syllabus that had been identified as difficult for students. These really are apps by students for students.

For me, the evaluation results are overwhelmingly positive and indicate that apps seem to strike a chord with students in a big way. It was beyond my expectations:

Taking an overview of the student surveys across all 4 PAL apps, there is a broad consistency:

  • 90% want to use their phones or tablets for teaching and learning
  • Almost 100% find the PAL app(s) useful
  • Almost 100% find the PAL app(s) easy-to-use
  • The PAL apps were predominantly used for Private Study or Revision

The free text student responses are shown below. These are in response to the question 'Please write any feedback you have about the app'.

Obviously there are one or two issues related to quality-control that we need to check and rectify, but overall this is really positive outcome.  Given this data-set, all I can say, is that apps for teaching and learning do seem to have a lot of untapped potential!

Individual Student Responses

Kidney and Diuretics App

  • Brilliant app, good lectures and videos, quizzes brilliant to bring g all the learning together, brilliant app for the unit!
  • Very easy to use
  • Was very good but I think there was a mistake with one of the questions
  • It's perfect
  • It's really good and should be used for other units as well
  • Good to see the notes written differently to the lecture notes
  • Very concise and easy to read through the topics - quiz was also a useful aspect!
  • It was so simple to use, nicely divided into appropriate sections, with clear diagrams and speaking. It was good to have the video at the end as well, and I felt it progressed at a good speed. On the loop diuretics quiz, the 'Loop diuretics act by inhibiting the:' answer does not match the information given previously nor does the 'The overall effect of potassium-sparing diuretics leads to:' answer on the potassium-sparing drugs quiz. I used the web app.
  • Very easy to use
  • Simple and easy to use. Used most on journeys when laptops are just too big.
  • Quite interactive, good how there are quizzes to do as well.
  • would like more interactive activities and more exam style questions
  • More quiz questions and more challenges. Create different levels like a game to make it more interesting.
  • I like the animations and the quizzes. Could be improved by including more academic content.
  • There is a problem with an answer in the loop-diuretic quiz. Loop diuretics act by inhibiting the luminal Na+/K+/2Cl-cotransporter, yet the answer given is different. (Q7) Otherwise, great app!
  •  I liked how the topic was broken down into appropriate subsections and how clear and concise the information was. Being a visual learner, I found that the video and animations really enhanced my understanding of the topic.
  • Good content, forced to answer quiz in 1 go, randomise question order, app fits the full window of phone
  • I like how it is clear and easy to use, and supplements lecture notes when doing revision. Easily accessed at home
  • I like that it has lots of animation, it enables you to visualise things easier.
  • Nice and colourful. Sometimes in the slides, the back button in the top right hand corner covers some content which can be annoying.
  • i felt the quizzes was too easy or maybe that's just me Q7 I think is wrong on the loop diuretics quiz I believe it acts on luminal na/k/2cl cotransporters

Clinical Quiz App

  • Really good app especially as a revision aid
  • The app covers a lot of topics, and the questions are very reasonable. Nice layout and colours too.
  • really really good, like the quizzes, very useful for revision, might have been nice if all the right answers had an explanation about why it was right, but not completely necessary, also nice design and easy to use
  • I like that you can also do the quizzes on the computer. They are much better than normal Moodle quizzes because they are faster and don't have loading times. The feedback underneath the question is also useful.
  • Very good, quick quizzes
  • I think the App is really really good, and it's such a good opportunity to test your knowledge when you have a spare few minutes - wherever you are! The only way to improve it would be to add more questions,
  • Really like the app, lots of topics and questions.
  • I like that all of the topics covered in the PA30243 module are in the app and separated out in an easy to find format. The quizzes are hard but that is good as it pushes you to learn more around your topic.
  • I like the app but there could be more questions similar to the actual exam, and maybe a few clinical cases to study
  • Really useful practice for the exam
  • Really helpful app especially for revision. Would be useful to have more explanations under the options once you have chosen your answer.
  • The questions can focus less on number memorizing stuff, for eg what is the normal range of albumin. Instead more questions can be asked on the application of clinical knowledge

Digoxin App

  • Good content which is easily displayed and useful for revision
  • Easy to use and very good for revision
  • Very good
  • It wad very easy to follow and topic was easier rob understand
  • Good to consolidate facts learnt from the lectures
  • I enjoyed using the web app on my laptop. It split up the topic well and there was a good use of diagrams and videos. I think it would be good to include the reason why an increased calcium concentration is beneficial in the video or prior to it.
  • Easy to use and work through the different sections. On phones the screen size isn't great, only small when phone held vertical and then if turned on side the app doesn't fit the screen properly - could be something to adjust
  • Very easy to use, very clear information given
  • Good to use to sum up the different lectures in which digoxin is associated with.
  • It's just great that there if all the information needed without the hassle of opening Web pages, logging in etc.
  • Animations are excellent. Could be improved by adding more quizzes to test your knowledge.
  • Fit phone video, randomise question order
  • I like the extra detail which enhances understanding of the drugs which helps with revision.
  • I like the animation

OTC Remedies App

  • I really liked this app and was really easy to use. good revision aid
  • Simple to use and helps test my knowledge. The layout and colours are nice too.
  • the design wasn't as neat as it could have been , didn't work particularly well on phone screen, but overall not a massive problem. they were very good for RTS exam revision, particularly for journeys or times when it's not possible to have notes with you.
  • Questions are too easy
  • More questions please, very helpful!
  • I think the app has been really useful as I could use it as a boost to my revision before the test and I learnt things from it that I hadn't previously known about.
  • The app is good but I dislike the layout of the teaching note - they are in an unnecessary presentation format. However the questions are quite useful. Maybe a few more topics could be included?
  • The back button in the top left corner covers some of the writing in the quizzes. Not really necessary for the info parts to be videos but would make more sense just to read the text. But very useful revision too

Response Rates

Finally, the response rates for each survey:

Kidney and Diuretics App - 23%

34 students out of a total of 151

Clinical Quiz App - 15%

18 students out of a total of 117

Digoxin App - 14%

21 students out of a total of 151

OTC Remedies App - 16 %

19 students out of a total of 117


Alumni Funding for App Factory

📥  Alumni Assisted Learning, App Factory, App-Store, Apps, Peer Assisted Learning, student


We've secured funding from the Alumni Fund to further develop and roll-out a student-driven app ecosystem. This builds on previous work that was funded by two Teaching Development Fund (TDF) grants that have resulted in the prototype App-Factory software, which is at the heart of the ecosystem.

The aim is to exploit the increasing familiarity and popularity of apps to enable undergraduates, postgraduates, staff and alumni to create and share apps. These can be used to support Peer Assisted Learning (PAL), Peer Mentoring (PM), Alumni-Assisted Learning (AAL) and for a whole range of other purposes such as apps for research, clubs, societies, bus timetables, fresher’s guides or anything else that enhances creativity, life and learning at the university.

Undergraduates already create and share digital material such as collections of multiple-choice questions for revision, notes taken during a lecture, and simple animations. Students have indicated that the creation of such items in itself is a good way of learning, and, apart from simply sharing resources with peers, small groups of students often congregate for informal learning such as an exam simulation using past-papers. It seems that there is plenty happening which is possibly unknown or off-radar to academics, yet should be encouraged and supported by the university.

Previous grants from the TDF have created a working prototype of an app authoring system (App-Factory), and an alpha version of a distribution facility (App-Centre) which is currently used by students solely within Pharmacy & Pharmacology. The grant from the Alumni Fund means that we can:

  • Develop app sharing facilities for students
  • Expand the distribution capacity of the system to the wider University with the addition of further hardware and software resources
  • Create a number of student-authored exemplar apps that showcase the capabilities of the system
  • Publicise and promote this system which has recently been selected as a case-study for the JISC Mobile Learning Infokit 2015

Alumni-Assisted Learning (AAL):

PAL and PM are the corner-stones of the project, and we intend to enhance current activities and introduce the concept of Alumni-Assisted Learning (AAL) for final year students. Currently, only final year students are lacking a peer support group and there is an opportunity for recent graduates to participate by remotely creating apps (using the App-Factory) for final year students

Cristina Dumitru, recent alumni and winner of the Chancellors Prize in 2014, has already created apps for her peers and wishes to develop AAL apps for areas that final year students find problematic. One of the motivating factors for alumni is that these types of activities are valid for Continuing Professional Development (CPD), and can be used in their official CPD professional portfolio.

Project Leader:

Keith Brown, eLearning Co-ordinator, Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology

Deputy Leaders:

Julie Letchford, Senior Teaching Fellow and Department Lead for Peer Mentoring and Peer Assisted Learning

Cristina Dumitru, Recent Alumni and Royal Pharmaceutical Society Student of the Year 2014



Survey of Microbiology App

📥  Apps, Mobile, student

I have recently collected the survey results for the Microbiology App released at the end of October (previous post). We had an amazing 30% response rate to the survey by our first year students.  So that was 54 out of a total of 177 undergraduates studying Pharmacy or Pharmacology.  Previously, I have considered a 10% response rate as doing very well, but this completely surpasses any survey that I have done before.

In addition, the actual data is staggeringly positive:

  • 100% find the app useful
  • 96% find the app easy-to-use or very easy-to-use
  • 83% would use the app for private study
  • 85% would use the app for revision
  • 46% would use the app prior to a lecture

It seems that native apps really do strike a chord with students!

Also, in terms of where the students would use the app:

  • On campus - 83%
  • At home - 76%
  • On a journey - 65%

And here are all the free text responses from students, in response to the question 'Please write any feedback you have about the app':

  • Far more useful than I had originally anticipated.
  • The app makes it extremely easy to access lecture notes wherever you are. Its definitely the future of leaning tools.
  • Good, easy to use, useful addition to the course. Especially the quizzes. Quiz apps should be more widely available in subjects.
  • I find it very easy to use and it is useful to have especially when the lecture slides are not available on Moodle before the lecture so then I can just use the app instead.
  • I think it is very helpful as I can go through microbiology notes anytime with my phone
  • It's acts a very convenient means of accessing lecture notes quickly. This is especially useful if there's a small point that you want to look up.
  • I love how easy it is to access, the design is simple. The only thing I wish was there would be Panopto recording.
  • The app is easy to use and navigate, unlike moodle. The layout is a little odd as some pages are only half screen and this can make them difficult to read. It's nice to be able to have access to power points and quizzes, even when on the move.
  • It would be useful to have pages from textbook included in the app.
  • Really easy to use and very helpful during lectures and to aid revision.
  • Sometimes accidently click on the arrow on the top rhs corner which is annoying as it boots me out of the PowerPoint I'm viewing. Perhaps only make the arrow available when you touch the screen.
  • great I love it!
  • It has been a great tool that I have been able to use to prepare myself for lectures whilst on the move, easy and helpful to use whilst on bus journeys too!

It is a fantastic result. I also note that there were a total of 98 installations (iOS and Android combined) of the Microbiology app, which includes installations by both staff and students.


The App Awards

📥  Apps, Awards, Prospective Students, student


The App Awards have been announced. The overall aim is to encourage creativity and incorporate the best student-generated content into apps that are suitable for distribution on the main app-stores.

The App Awards comprise of three separate competitions that are being trialled in the following departments at the University of Bath:

Pharmacy & Pharmacology

In total, there are £1500 in prizes to be won by students. Although the rules vary slightly between department, each is looking to create an app that is suitable for 6th Formers who might be considering applying to the University of Bath  No programming skills are required - all entries are submitted as Powerpoint files or YouTube videos. The winning entries will be incorporated into iOS and Android apps, and evaluated with year 12 and year 13 students in local schools, in collaboration with the Widening Participation Office.

The project builds upon a pilot app for year 12 and 13 students:  At the request of theDean of Science, both myself and Fran Laughton from Physics developed an app suitable for prospective students.  The app was trialled with about 25 students from Ralph Allen school, who were introduced to the app as part of an organised day. Informal evaluation indicated that the students liked the idea of accessing information in this way. The following is a brief summary of the main issues arising from this study:

  • The content of the app was appropriate for this type of user.
  • Expectations for quality of content are high
  • Expectation of a unique experience over information already available on the web-site

A summary of the evaluation data is here:



Digoxin App

📥  App Factory, App-Store, Apps, Mobile, Peer Assisted Learning, student

I'm pleased to announce another Peer-Assisted Learning app for Pharmacy and Pharmacology undergraduates...


This is a small app about the drug Digoxin, which is covered in the second year programme unit 'PA20016 : Cardiovascular, Renal and PNS Pharmacology'. It is now available to students to install on their Android and iOS devices. Although we are mainly aiming for students to use this as a native app, a web-app (a mobile web-site) is also available if required.

It is yet another triumph for recent alumni Cristina Dumitru who created most of the material shortly after graduation in the summer. Although Cristina is now in her pre-registration year, somehow she managed to find the time to finish this over the last few months. Thank-you Cristina! The first app for Alumni-Assisted Learning perhaps?

The material includes an animation, slide-shows and a quiz, and was created using the App-Factory.

A big thanks to Dr Sergey Smirnov for feedback and assistance with the app.


App for Prospective Students - Preview Version

📥  App Factory, App-Store, Apps, Mobile, student

Yesterday I created an app for prospective students using the App-Factory. It uses exactly the same powerpoint and video materials from an app that I manually-coded in 2013. The main difference is that this time it took ten minutes to create the app and about ten minutes to provision it in the App-Centre.  The process is getting more-and-more automated, and quicker-and-quicker. Compare this to several hours that I spent last year to achieve the same thing.


The app is a preview available internally at the University of Bath, and has been provided as a reference for the 'App Awards' competition that I will be running in a couple of weeks, where students will have the opportunity to submit materials for inclusion in apps designed to appeal to 6th Formers. Eventually, the apps will be made available in the public app stores, so it was important to include appropriate branding and visual identity. In this case, it is for the Physics department which is represented by the dark blue areas at the top and right of the screens, as shown below.

The plan is that the finished apps will be evaluated in local colleges in collaboration with the Widening Participation Office.

physics-landscape1 physics-landscape2


Responsive Design Hits Academia!

📥  Mobile, Responsive Design

Most web designers will be familiar with the concept of Responsive Design to display content correctly for a range of screen-sizes for phone/tablet/desktop.  It is standard practice and done for obvious reasons.

This is in stark contrast to academic lecture material such as lecture slides which are often designed on and for delivery on a desktop computer. This makes perfect sense when delivered by a projector in a lecture theatre, but is useless when students download the Powerpoint file and try to view this file on a mobile phone. Often the text and diagrams are far small to be legible.

Yet, in a recent survey it was found that there are almost as many students with a smart-phone as with a desktop (92% v 99%) [1] This is a compelling reason to consider future-proofing lecture slides for viewing on a range of devices. Especially for phones, which students carry on their person, are able to use at any time and anywhere. It could be argued that we are not currently maximising the opportunities for learning.

As part of one of my projects, I ended-up reformatting the Powerpoint lecture slides for the PA10282 unit. This involved changing the format from an old-fashioned 4:3 aspect ratio to wide-screen, and making the font bigger so that it is legible on a phone. Sometimes it was necessary to split content onto more than one slide.  The actual content remains the same across all devices.

This is a very simple form of Responsive Design and works well.  If the students chooses to download the Powerpoint files from our VLE, these also display well on tablets and phones:

It is easy to reformat Powerpoint slides for delivery on all devices

It is easy to reformat Powerpoint slides for delivery on all devices

So, come on all academics, this is a golden opportunity to raise your game and update your materials to maximise the potential for learning.  Let the students learn where and how they want. It is time that Responsive Design hit Academia!

[1] MeLT All Student Survey November 2013


Microbiology App Released

📥  App Factory, App-Store, Apps, student

The second version of the PA10282 Microbiology app is released. Last year, a similar app was trialled with a small number of students with encouraging evaluation results (see previous blog). On this basis it was decided to roll-out a revised app to our entire first year cohort starting in October 2014. It is now available in the App-Centre, which allows our students to install apps directly onto iOS or Android devices:-


The Microbiology app shown in the App Centre

It took just ten minutes for Dr. Julie Letchford, the course convenor, to create the Microbiology app using an early version of the App-Factory  (see recent blog).

I'm hoping that apps can be a viable delivery method for teaching and learning.  Every year, the student cohort seem to be increasingly savvy and comfortable using apps on their devices. The same is probably not true of academics. It will be interesting to find out how the app is received by both.