Meet Sally

This week, we’d like you to meet Sally Swaine, the University’s IT and Digital Skills Coordinator. Sally is based in Innovation and Technology Solutions (formerly IT Services). In this short video, she talks about the two big IT training projects that you might not be aware of. The first one is the re-location of the IT Training Room, completed earlier this year,  and the second is the migration from to LinkedIn Learning (scheduled to take place this Summer).

The University has subscribed to for a few years now. It provides us with a vast, and ever-growing library of instructional video courses. The courses cover a wide variety of topics. This includes a lot of learning content on popular IT software packages like Microsoft Office (Word, Excel and PowerPoint) and the Adobe suite of creative applications, such as Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. There is also a wealth of material on creativity, entrepreneurship, project management and social media marketing. All of the courses are taught by industry insiders. Best of all, this service is FREE to all students and staff currently studying or working at the University of Essex.

Check out the video courses on now.  Go to the organisational login page, then type “” into the box and press the “Continue” button. You will then be able to sign in using your  usual Essex ID and password.

In 2015, was bought out by LinkedIn, the world’s most popular professional social networking site. (Subsequently, LinkedIn was acquired by Microsoft in 2016 for more than 26 billion dollars.) Over the last two years, the website has been further integrated into the LinkedIn network and re-branded as “LinkedIn Learning”.

The University will be upgrading to LinkedIn Learning this Summer (the specific date has yet to be decided). All of the content currently on will still be there, along with a whole host of new features. This will include an improved user interface and personalised course recommendations related to your profession. You can take a sneak peak at the new platform on the LinkedIn Learning website now.

For those of you that don’t already know, IT Training provide classroom-based training as well as online instruction. They specialise in teaching you new ways to improve your day-to-day use of IT. The team can help you manage a busy inbox in Outlook, or create intelligent application forms in Word. The team offer intermediate Excel training, perfect for anyone wanting to get to grips with PivotTables. You can also polish your digital presentations skills by attending a PowerPoint training session.

Usually, face-to-face sessions are based at our Colchester campus, although training at Southend or Loughton can be arranged if there is enough demand. You can browse a full list of available courses on the Staff Directory. Most sessions can be booked through HR Organiser. However, a few are available on Proficio (some of these courses may require payment).

The IT Training team can also provide bespoke training sessions for small groups and teams. Contact IT Training for more information.

Happy 30th Birthday Stonewall!

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the foundation of Stonewall. The charity was formed in response to Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988. The legislation dealt with the “prohibition on promoting homosexuality by teaching or by publishing material” and was backed by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government of the time.

The controversial clause effectively banned teachers from discussing same-sex relationships with their students. Libraries were also prohibited from stocking books that contained gay or lesbian themes. And local authorities were explicitly prevented from publishing “any material with the intention of promoting homosexuality”.

A small group of middle-class Londoners decided that this was unacceptable. They got together to fight the homophobic legislation. One founding member was Shakespearean actor Ian McKellen. He was deeply troubled by the new law. So much so, he came out publicly for the first time in order to lend his voice to the chorus of opposition.

Sir Ian McKellan, founding member of Stonewall. Better known for his role as megalomaniac mutant Magneto in the X-Men films. You might also recognised him as Gandalf, the Wandering Wizard from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogy. Photo Credit: Southbanksteve from Flickr.

30 years on, Stonewall is now the leading LGBT+ charity in the UK. It promotes “acceptance without exception” and works with institutions like the University of Essex to create inclusive cultures. With help and support from Stonewall, the University is helping LGBT+ students and staff lead authentic lives.

The not-for-profit organisation takes its name from the Stonewall riots that took place on June 28th, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village area of Manhattan. At the time, this mafia-owned establishment was the only gay bar in New York City that allowed dancing. The riots were sparked by an early morning police raid that quickly got out of hand, leading to violence on the streets that lasted two days.

A black and white picture of the Stonewall Inn in New York.
The Stonewall Inn, site of the 1969 Stonewall riots, New York City, USA. The sign on the window reads: We homosexuals plead with our people to please help maintain peaceful and quiet conduct on the streets of the Village—Mattachine. Photo Credit: Diana Davies, New York Public Library (CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons).

The Stonewall Riots are widely regarded as a pivotal turning point in the history of the gay liberation movement. They also paved the way for future improvements in LGBT+ rights in the United States and beyond.

In January of this year, the University broke into the top 100 employers in the country for equality, as measured by Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index. This achievement recognises the efforts taken to create an inclusive workplace for all. It also demonstrates our continuing commitment to LGBT+ equality. At Essex, we want everyone to feel part of our living and learning community. We believe that a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity should never prevent them from achieving their full potential. As Stonewall say, “People perform better when they can be themselves.”

Earlier this week, we hosted the regional Stonewall Awards. As a prominent member of Stonewall in the Eastern region, we were delighted to organise and run this event. There were 445 submissions to the index this year, from 20 different work sectors. That’s a total of 3,721,121 employees!

The awards were presented by Yassine Senghor, who works as a Client Account Manager for Stonewall. Yassine also spoke to the assembled group about the importance of bi inclusion. Her presentation included information on understanding bi identities, biphobia and bi discrimination, and how to build bi inclusive workplaces.

Yassine Senghor presenting the 2019 Stonewall Event. Photo Credit: University of Essex.

See more photos from the event.

There were five awards given out during the event. Ally Supporters of the Year was won by Hertfordshire Partnership University Foundation Trust. Network Group of the Year was awarded to Hertfordshire Constabulary LGBT+ Network, Hertfordshire Constabulary (with special recognition given to Inspector Steven Alison). Senior Champion of the Year was won by Joanna Ruffle, Southend-On-Sea Borough Council. Role Model of the Year was awarded to Jon Tilley of Thurrock Council. And, last but not least, the University of Essex won the Top Regional Employer award.

We collected thoughts and ideas on LGBT+ inclusion at the event using a Rainbow Wall constructed out of 180 post-it notes.

A rainbow wall made out of post-it notes. Photo Credit: University of Essex.

Although we’re very pleased that the University won Top Regional Employer, we understand that there is always more to do.

Celebrate this great achievement with us by adding a message to our online Rainbow Wall. Please post any thoughts or ideas you have about how we can make the University of Essex a more welcoming and inclusive environment for all. For information about becoming an LGBT+ ally, or joining our other networks, please get in touch with the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion team.

Made with Padlet

Preparing for an important meeting

If you work at the University, chances are you get invited to, or organise, a lot of meetings. A meeting can be an uncomfortable and even embarrassing experience , especially if people ask you difficult or awkward questions. The way to avoid having a bad meeting is to prepare yourself ahead of time.

In this 10-minute talk, Stewart Theobald—an experienced communications skills coach—will teach you a few simple techniques to help you get more out of meetings.

Stewart has been coaching people in communication skills since 1992. In that time, he’s worked with actors, broadcasters, politicians, barristers and hundreds of University lecturers. He currently contributes to our leadership and management training programmes.

Meet Elanor

This week, we’d like you to meet Elanor Marsh, who works for Library Services. In this short video, she talks about the Learning Hour, a project to encourage to to take part in self development activities.

For more information about this and the many useful services that the Library offer, please visit the Library website.

Peer Review Blogging

In this short video, Dr Katy Wheeler explains how she used a discussion forum in Moodle to improve student engagement, and introduce her students to a new and novel form of assessment.

Katy recently returned to the University of Essex, after spending three years teaching at the Open University. While at the OU, she played a leading role in the development of a new interdisciplinary module called Investigating the Social World. Katy also spent a considerable amount of time teaching within a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). She was keen to put this experience to good use at Essex, and decided to combine online learning activities with face-to-face teaching—a technique commonly known as blended learning.

Katy used the forum feature available in Moodle to simulate the act of publishing a blog post online. This was done to reflect the fact that more and more information is consumed in this way, instead of through traditional media outlets, such as television and print. The task also provided her students with an invaluable opportunity to improve their digital skills.

Rather than use a site like WordPress, Moodle was selected because it provides a safe space for experimentation, and does not require students to post content to a publicly-available platform. Using Moodle in this way also allowed Katy to oversee the process, and intervene if and when required.

Students were asked to write a short blog post, 600 to 800 words in length. They were instructed to write an article on the production or consumption of a commodity of their choice. Each student posted their article to the forum in Moodle, so that their work could be shared with a small group of their peers (approximately four students were in each group). Students were then given a week to give and receive feedback on the shared articles. Once this had happened, everyone had another week to revise, redraft and improve their blog article. The entire process took a total of three weeks.

The students enjoyed the task and learnt how to communicate ideas in a concise manner. The activity also helped them understand how to make complex ideas more accessible to the general public. Key benefits of the activity included improved student participation, engagement and enjoyment. The activity also helped Katy’s students improve their digital skills and, by extension, their employability.

Through the task, students learnt how to write content suitable for the web. This included developing an understanding of hyperlinks, and how to incorporate visual content into an online article. The group work element of the task also encouraged collaboration, the development of strong team working skills and, most importantly, taught the students how to give and receive constructive criticism. The structure of the task also taught Katy’s students about the importance of drafting, and the process of review, when trying to improve the quality of a piece of written work.

Katy believes that experimenting with a blended learning environment has enriched the teaching and learning process for her students. The activities in Moodle allowed her to extend the learning process beyond the confines of the physical classroom. This encouraged her students to engage with the learning content beyond the timetabled teaching sessions each week.

Katy’s work in Moodle was so successful, she received an EEA (Excellence in Education Award) in July 2018, along with a prize of £1000.

If you want to learn more about Peer Review Blogging, you can attending Katy’s upcoming Education Insights session (book a place via HR Organiser). The session will cover some of the possibilities and challenges of using Technology-Enhanced Learning (TEL) for student engagement and assessment.

If you need help and support using Moodle with your students, please contact the Technology-Enhanced Learning (TEL) Team.

Meet Erkan

This week we’d like you to meet Erkan Ibrahim. Erkan is the University’s new Inclusion Manager. In this short video, he provides a brief overview of the services provided by the Student Wellbeing and Inclusivity Service (SWIS). Note: This is the new name for Student Support.

SWIS is based in the Student Services Hub in the Silberrad Student Centre. The Student Services Hub provides a friendly and welcoming service for student enquiries. Staff can also contact the Student Services Hub for advice and guidance about any student causing concern. Alternatively, you can report a concern online.

More information about student support services can be found on the Student Support team web page.