12 Apps of Christmas: Office apps

Office apps

Not sure there is much to say on this one really – you can download the Office apps onto your phone or tablet.

Android: Office Apps

iOSOffice apps

Online apps

Alternatively, you can log into your Office 365 account and use the online apps (the ones you have access to may vary from those shown here).


Desktop applications

And don’t forget that you can also download the full version of Office onto your desktop computer (PC or Mac)


See Microsoft Office for free


12 Apps of Christmas: Vision/Blackboard Mobile

bbappToday’s app is Blackboard Mobile Learn. It allows you to access Vision on-the-go using any Android or iOS phone or tablet.

It’s free, easy to use and gives you the best viewing experience on a range of devices.

Features of the app include:

  • Announcements – keep updated from all your courses and modules
  • Content – access learning materials and course information
  • Discussions – read and post to discussions
  • Grades – view grades
  • More – access to tests, blogs, wikis and journals when active in a course.

To get the app search for Blackboard Mobile Learn in the app store, or follow the links below:

Android: Blackboard Learn

iOS: Blackboard Learn


12 Apps of Christmas: Instapaper

Welcome to our countdown to Christmas!

From now until the end of semester we’ll be posting about a different app every weekday. The apps have been selected from thousands that are available and are ones that you might find useful for study, revision or just student life in general.

If you have an app that you think we should feature let us know – otherwise we’ll suggest ones that we think you might like to take a look at.

Come back and investigate what’s new every day, or save the webpages to look at later using our first app!


instapaperInstapaper allows you to save webpages from your computer or mobile device to read offline later. It’s available as a browser bookmark, Chrome extension and app for Android and iOS. It’s owned by Pinterest and as of 1 November all premium features were made available to all users, including:

  • Full text searching of articles you’ve saved
  • The option of saving as text-only reading
  • Add notes to your saved articles
  • Send to Kindle option

For more information, go to: https://www.instapaper.com/

To download, go to:


Skype, Phones and Videoconferencing

Our successful transition earlier this year from on-campus email, calendars and address-books to Microsoft’s cloud-based Office365 system was intended to ensure that these critical services are available to HWU students and staff globally, from any device, 24 x 365.

Additionally, access to web-based versions of Word, Excel and Powerpoint, and the right to install full versions of these on our own devices, ensures that all HWU students and staff can create, view and share documents globally. See our Summer 2016 Power Hours programme for more information about getting the best from these applications.

New applications are also bundled into Office365, with new additions planned by Microsoft all the time – see http://fasttrack.microsoft.com/roadmap  for details. The application which has seen the fastest take-up across HWU is Skype-for-Business, an enterprise-strength version of the free application we’ve used for years to keep in touch with distant friends and relatives.

Skype-for-Business’s potential for learning, teaching, research and administration across our global University is immense, but there are practical limits which emerge most commonly when communicating with people who are not on HWU campuses, with their high-speed connections to the Internet.

Internet Links June 2016

We find that each device in a Skype-for-Business videoconference needs at least 1mb/s of download and upload bandwidth to each and every other device in the call. This is particularly challenging for mobile phones, whether on 3G/4G or shared WIFI connections, and even more so when more than 2 nodes are connected.

Skype bandwidth 2

I’ve just checked the download and upload bandwidth available to my mobile phone, sitting in the Edinburgh Campus Library, out of Semester on a sunny Friday afternoon:

Mobile Bandwidth

As you can see, participating in more than a 1:1 videoconference would be impossible, and even that is marginal.

Turning on my phone’s WIFI and connecting to the global Eduroam service, with very few people about I can get 37mb/s download and 7mb/s upload, so I could potentially participate in the following teleconference:

Skype bandwidth 3

However, new devices connecting to WIFI near to me, or additional participants joining the meeting, would reduce (and could exhaust) the bandwidth available to me,  causing me problems.

Please note that these practical limits are nothing to do with Office365 or Skype-for-Business. Whichever software you use to videoconference between PCs, tablets and mobile phones, you’ll need these amounts of bandwidth available for reliable participation. As mentioned above, problems between on-campus participants are relatively rare.

So, what can you do to ensure that videoconferences using Skype-for-Business are always successful and productive?

  • Use wired connections rather than WIFI whenever possible, but if impossible, use WIFI rather than 3G/4G mobile broadband.
  • Prepare and practise well before any crucial conference:
    • Ensure that all participants have the correct software installed, have read its instructions and practised making calls and being called
    • Check that all participants have Internet connections that are reliable and fast enough.
    • Check that every camera, microphone and loudspeaker (or headset) are correctly adjusted
  • Work out your “Plan B” in advance, and share it with all participants. This might include:
    • Agreeing to blank cameras and mute microphones whenever possible if network capacity is problematic for any participant.
    • Having a conventional telephone/speakerphone available, with its dial-in number known to all.
    • Sharing all participant email addresses to allow asynchronous communication and content sharing.
  • Speak to the Information Services Audio Visual team who, with many years of videoconferencing experience, will be able to give you expert advice on getting the best possible results.

Revision looming – picture your notes in a Mind Map

Many people find mind maps are a very useful tool when doing exam revision. They can act as a powerful memory aid in an examination because they are visual. Mind maps show the relationships between component topics within an overall subject area.

revision mindmap

The key points to remember when creating your mind map are: –

  • Create your map from the centre and work outwards
  • Keep your points brief – use key words, authors, theories or processes
  • Use lines to show connections between things
  • Be prepared to re-work the map until you are happy with the organization (using software to create your maps makes this quick and easy)
  • Include colour, symbols and pictures to make it more memorable

You can create mind maps by hand – drawing them out on paper – or you can use software.  There are two applications – MindGenius and Inspiration – available on the HWU Student Desktop.

There are also apps available for both applications – see Mind Mapping Apps

You can also get your own personal copy of MindGenius – free – see our Software page for details.

Free download – Vision (VLE) App – Blackboard mobile

bb1Use Blackboard Mobile to access your courses from your mobile devices.

It’s free, easy to use – and gives you the best viewing experience on a range of devices.

You’ll find all the information you  need to download the app and get started at the Blackboard Mobile Resource Center.


Advent Apps 12 Sunrise calendar

Sunrise is a free calendar app made for Google Calendar, iCloud and Exchange

A great design and works offline so can work anywhere


Advent Apps 11 Flipboard

Flipboard is a social media aggregation magazine-format mobile app which collects news content from social media and websites.
There are lots of different categories including News, Shopping, Sport, Travel, and Style.

It’s available for iPhone, Android and Windows


Advent Apps 10: Pinterest

Pinterest is like a social network of stuff, a place to “pin” things that interest you on themed boards.
You can use it to ‘pin’ images from the web that you want to share of places, food, furniture, collectables etc.
It easily integrates with your browser for fast pinning, and you can view the pins of others for added inspiration.

It’s available for iOS, Android and Windows devices



Advent Apps 9: Weather

Check out the weather with the Yahoo Weather App.
The app combines stunning photos with accurate and detailed forecasts.
Add your favourite locations.  Interactive radar, satellite, heat and wind maps plus sunrise / sunset times.

Winner of Apple Design Award 2013




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