Thank you to our ’23-24 Student Digital Champions

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As we bid farewell to our ’23-24 Student Digital Champions, Laurie, Joel, and Noel, we want to thank them for their wonderful contributions over the past year. They have worked tirelessly to encourage students across the university to develop their digital skills and have provided us with valuable insights into what support students need.

Laurie Stevenson
Noel Czempik
Joel Williams

If you haven’t taken a look at their work yet, we’ve a listed a few key highlights below:

  • Digital Skills Profile Series
    • Graduate Digital Skills Profile Series – 8 profiles of recent AU graduates about their use of digital skills in their lives since graduating, and the skills they wish they had developed further before they left Aberystwyth.
    • Employer Digital Skills Profile Series – The champions have also been working on a series of profiles with 8 employers. Keep your eyes peeled on the blog as these will be released next academic year!

Nature at your fingertips: My favourite apps for exploring the outdoors 🍃🌻

Blogpost by Noel Czempik (Student Digital Champion)

With days getting longer and temperatures on the rise, many crave spending more time outdoors. To enhance your outdoor adventures, I’ve compiled a list of my favourite free apps that will hopefully spark your curiosity and deepen your appreciation for nature.


AllTrails is a pocket guide to walking trails, biking routes and nature spots suitable for various activity levels and abilities. The app allows you to plan your next adventure, whether small or big and helps you discover new places or return to your favourite spots!

These are some of my favorite features in the app:

  • Search for trails by location and filter by type of activity, difficulty, accessibility and length.
  • Access detailed trail information, including thorough descriptions of the pathways, current weather and ground conditions, and available facilities.
  • Check out reviews and photos to help you decide if it’s the right trail for you.
  • Save your favourite trails and share them with others in the app.

📲 Download from Google Play 📲 Download from the Apple Store

Seek by iNaturalist

Have you ever seen a plant whilst out walking and wondered what it was? Seek allows you to effortlessly identify species of plants, animals, and fungi on the go. The app does not require registration; simply download it and point it at living things around you!

My favourite features in the app are:

  • You can point the in-app camera at what you’d like to identify or take a picture and upload it to the app later.
  • Learn more about the species’ taxonomy, seasonality, and geographical origin.
  • Being able to engage with a community and share the species that you’ve found with the app. PlantNet is another app that’s useful if you want to be part of a citizen science project on plant biodiversity.

📲 Download from Google Play 📲 Download from the Apple Store

SkyView Lite

The final app I’d like to share with you is SkyView Lite. This app contains an interactive sky map that allows users to recognise stars, planets and other celestial objects. The app is intuitive, accurate and easy to personalise. In Wales, weather can often be unpredictable, and clear skies often come as a surprise. With SkyView at hand, you can take full advantage of spontaneous stargazing!

My favourite things about the app are:

  • It does not require an internet connection or GPS, so it can be used in remote areas.
  • Tap on any celestial object to get a detailed description. Tap again for more information and educational facts.
  • The app works indoors, too, so you can learn anytime, regardless of the weather.

📲 Download from Google Play 📲 Download from the Apple Store

A Juggling Act: Navigating Studies and Job Applications ⚖

Blogpost by Joel Williams (Student Digital Champion)

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For many students, balancing studying for exams, completing coursework, and actively searching for employment opportunities can seem insurmountable. I have found it challenging to stay on top of my studies while trying to find relevant jobs and then completing page after page of applications. Enter platforms like Gradcracker and AberCareers. First introduced to me during the Digital Skills Festival, Gradcracker, like many similar sites, amalgamated many employment opportunities explicitly tailored to my skills. In this blog post, I hope to outline some of the approaches I used to help manage my studies whilst job hunting and signposting several resources available via the University.

Managing your time ⏰

One of the foremost challenges job-hunting students face is time management. With lectures, seminars, and assignments demanding their attention, carving out dedicated time for job applications can be challenging. Truthfully, I found the time required by each job application to be an excellent way to procrastinate on my dissertation, which helped me complete it quickly. However, as my third year continued and other assignments started to loom, I found the best way to stay on top of it all was to give myself an hour or two each week when I would only focus on job application. To meet my self-imposed time limit, I save the URL of any roles I’m interested in and if they are on Gradcracker, I make sure to shortlist them, making them easy to find and highlighting how long I have to apply for the role.

So Much Writing ✍

Another hurdle students encounter is the pressure to stand out in a highly competitive job market. Crafting a compelling CV, writing tailored cover letters, and preparing for interviews are all essential components of the job application process. However, balancing academic achievements and relevant work experience can take time and effort, especially for those juggling multiple commitments simultaneously. The most helpful resource I found when trying to update my CV was to use the daily drop-in sessions offered by the careers service. I found having another pair of eyes check over everything invaluable.

One of the sections of my CV I have always struggled to complete has always been the skills section. This is partially because it can be hard to know what is the most important to list and also because it can often be challenging to come up with a list of skills on the spot. To help complete these sections, I used a combination of module information and the Jisc Digital Discovery Tool, which I used to identify my digital proficiencies.

Example of a Jisc Digital Discovery Tool report

Polishing your Digital Presence 👣

One of the first steps I took early in the job application process was updating and polishing my LinkedIn profile. Spurred on by a session on How to use LinkedIn during the Digital Skills Festival, I revised much of my pre-existing profile and created something that I am now able to use for job applications.

Checking your digital footprint is an often overlooked element of applying for jobs in a digital age. My fellow Digital Champion Noel has written a handy blogpost exploring the steps you can take to protect your digital footprint and ensure that the public and employers can only see what you want them to. The Digital Skills Team have also curated a LinkedIn Learning collection on managing your digital identity.

Career Service 💬

If you’re looking for more specific advice, the careers service is the best people to speak to and details of how best to use this service, which is open to current students and post-graduates, can be found on their webpage.

AU Graduates Digital Skills Profile Series – Week 8 (Manon Rosser)

Today we’re publishing our last digital skill profile with a recent AU graduate! Today we’ll hear from Manon who studied History and Politics at Aberystwyth, and now works as a translator. She shares how useful it had been for her to learn how to use Cysill and Cysgeir whilst at University, but how she wishes she had learnt how to use Excel, as it’s a software she uses regularly for her work.

If you would like to learn more about using Cysill and Cysgeir, and about working in Welsh on your computer more generally, read our recent blogpost. If you also interested in developing your proficiency with Excel, you can view this Excel Tips and Tricks collection from LinkedIn Learning.

Keep your eyes peeled in October 2024 as we’ll be publishing a new Employer Digital Skills Profile Series!

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AU Graduates Digital Skills Profile Series – Week 7 (Jay Cowen)

This week’s profile is from Jay, who has been involved in practical conservation work with the RSPB since graduating from Aberystwyth. They wish they’d invested more time in improving their proficiency with statistical analysis software, and in learning how to use GIS software during their time at Aberystwyth. There are many courses available from LinkedIn Learning if you are interested in also developing these specific skills:

Statistical analysis:

Geographical Information Systems:

Text only:

When did you graduate from AU?

What did you study? – Zoology

What are you doing now professionally since graduating? “The last 6-months I have had a volunteer position at a Scottish RSPB reserve but I’ve just got a 3-month paid seabird surveying position on the Isles of Scilly with the National Trust”.

What digital skills do you use in your job? –

Data and information literacy- “I have done a lot of data entry and work with Excel and also typing up from written notes into spreadsheets. Also report writing with some statistical analysis but this has mainly been done with Excel as well”.

Digital learning – “Working at the RSPB I have had to use Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and I hadn’t used it until I was at the RSPB as it wasn’t part of my course”.

Are there any digital skills you wish you had learnt before you graduated?

“It would have been helpful to have learnt GIS and also maybe some introductory level map making skills and maybe to have different level courses so for beginners, intermediate and advanced for example. I would have also been interested in using image analysis software as this would have been good for my dissertation but also work so for example I could upload an image of a starling cloud and it would automatically count how many birds there are”.

Are there any common weaknesses in digital skills you notice amongst your colleagues?

“Yes statistics, it seemed that for some people it just didn’t click and no more support could be given– just seemed that you need to repeat the procedure. The resources were all there for you to learn which is good”.

AU Graduates Digital Skills Profile Series – Week 6 (Gabriela Arciszewsk)

This week we have the profile of Gabriela who has been studying for a Masters in Biochemistry since her time here at Aberystwyth University. Read how she’s made use of her free access to LinkedIn Learning to develop her skills in R (a programming language) and to develop her photography skills, one of her hobbies.

Visit this webpage to learn more about LinkedIn Learning and how you too can activate your free account.

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AU Graduates Digital Skills Profile Series – Week 5 (Weronika Krzepicka-Kaszuba)

Our first graduate profile of Semester 2 is with Weronika who has great experience with using photo and video editing software, but she wishes she had learnt more about connecting with other professionals on networking sites such LinkedIn before she left Aberystwyth University. If you are also interested in learning how to utilise LinkedIn, take a look at the LinkedIn session with the AU Careers Service at our recent Digital Skills Festival.

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Is there life after social media? – My digital detox month 📵

Blogpost by Noel Czempik (Student Digital Champion)

Have you ever felt like your phone was controlling you more than you were controlling it? That was me, until I hit a breaking point last year. Frustrated by the failed attempts to reduce my screen time and the feeling of being stuck in a digital world, I embarked on a digital detox journey throughout December – you can read about it here.

In this blog post, I’ll share my experience, the highs and lows, and the lessons I learned from reclaiming control over my digital habits.

👍 Positive changes from my detox

  1. Less, not more, loneliness. I never realised how much social media drained my social battery. After some time without it, I found it easier to go out and interact with people, and I certainly didn’t miss the FOMO.
  2. Better emotional awareness. I thought using my phone helped regulate my emotions, but it was just a distraction. After an unpleasant adjustment, I could recognise and process my feelings more healthily.
  3. A new morning routine. I thought I didn’t have one, but my morning routine was using my phone. Once I stopped, I found it easier to do other things, like journaling with a cup of tea.
  4. Effortless productivity & creativity. I could get a lot done in those little moments when I would normally pick up my phone. I also had the headspace to come up with my own solutions rather than seeking them online.
  5. Better rest. The quality of my sleep improved, and I found little breaks throughout the day more restful.
  6. Living in the moment. I found it easier to enjoy the everyday moments, and the time seemingly slowed down.

👎 Some of the downsides and challenges I experienced

  1. My digital habits migrated to other apps. For a while, I found it difficult not to replace social media with YouTube or even scrolling through my photos or messages. I found the ScreenZen app to be very helpful – read my review of the app here.
  2. The adjustment period. For some time, I felt irritable and bored and craved using my phone all the time. I needed to re-learn how to spend my time and be patient.
  3. The inconvenience. I was surprised how much I needed to use my phone to check the time, set the alarm or timer, use two-factor authentication, or pay for things.
  4. Missing out. Many events, such as local gigs or club and society events, are only advertised online. I found out about many opportunities after they happened, and even when searching proactively, most search results took me to social media sites, which often required logging in to access the full content.

My advice for those interested in doing a digital detox

  1. It doesn’t need to be perfect. Even if you need to use devices for work/study or if you slip up in your commitments, not all is lost – you can still majorly benefit from the experience.
  2. Tweak as you go. You may need to adjust your expectations if things don’t exactly go as planned, this isn’t a failure. Celebrate small successes and find what feels good to help you build sustainable habits.
  3. It’s not all bliss, but not all boredom, either. There will be moments when you’ll want to quit and moments when you won’t regret a thing. Your experience and everything you learn about yourself will be unique, perhaps the most valuable thing.

6 Tips for Successful Online Meetings 💻

Blogpost by Noel Czempik (Student Digital Champion)

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In today’s digital age, online meetings have become an integral part of academic and professional life. Whether attending a virtual lecture, collaborating on a group project, or attending a job interview, knowing how to navigate online meetings effectively is crucial for success.

In this blogpost I’m going to share some tips to help you navigate online meetings, and you can also visit this webpage for FAQs and training guidance on using MS Teams.

1) Prepare as you would for an in-person meeting

Online meetings provide the convenience of not needing to leave your house. This comes with the temptation to roll out of bed 5 minutes before the start of the meeting. To give yourself the best chance for success:

  • Dress as you would for an in-person meeting.
  • Give yourself some time to get mentally ready to avoid feeling rushed and get into the right headspace.
  • Take the chance to go over your notes, prepare any questions or gather any files you need to share.

2) Connect early

  • This will give you a chance to resolve any technical issues. Test your software, as it might require updates, causing you to have to restart the app or device.
  • You can use this additional time to ensure that you’re familiar with all the available functions in MS Teams, such as the chat, raise-your-hand, screen sharing and live captions functions.

3) Curate your visuals

Here are the top tips for making a positive, professional impression:

  • Choose a laptop over a phone or a tablet if possible. This can help with image stability, as well as allows you to take notes more freely. If you can’t access a laptop, consider using a device stand.
  • Position your camera at eye level, as this will result in the most natural-looking image.
  • Look at the camera rather than the screen when talking, particularly in group meetings. This is as close as you can get to making an eye contact.
  • Ensure that you have good lighting.
  • Choose the right background. Follow this FAQ for instructions on how to add a virtual background.
Screenshot showing the various virtual background that can be added in MS Teams
Virtual background and effects available in MS Teams

4) Optimise your audio

  • Opt for a carpeted and furnished room, if possible. This will result in a warmer, more natural sound without an echo effect.
  • If possible, use a headset instead of the built-in microphone to help improve with the quality of your audio.
  • Keep your microphone muted when you’re not speaking to prevent any unwanted noise.

5) Minimise distractions

  • Choose private, quiet spaces over communal or public spaces.
  • Silence notifications and inform others not to be disturbed if necessary.
  • There may be times when you need to step away from the meeting (e.g. if someone rings the doorbell), in which case let the people in the meeting know by leaving a brief message in the chat.

6) Mind What You Share

If you need to share your screen during the meeting it’s always better to share a specific window rather than your entire screen, but there may be occasions where this is unavoidable. In which case:

  • Close any irrelevant tabs.
  • Mute or close programs to avoid notifications or other pop-ups. Or alternatively, turn on the do not disturb mode.
  • Move, rename, or delete any sensitive bookmarks or files.
  • Consider deleting your cookies and search history if your browser shows previous searches or uses auto-fill.

Strategies for Creating the Best Workspace

Blogpost by Joel Williams (Student Digital Champion)

The environment you have around you whilst working can significantly impact how efficiently you work and the quality of your work. A good working environment can also reduce stress; you can read more about this here.  

However, it can be challenging to recommend a good working environment as this is subjective and varies from person to person. In this blogpost, I aim to provide some tips and tools that will enable you to find the best working environment. 

Location, Location, Location 📍

Finding the best location to complete your work is often the first hurdle; this space could be a desk in your room or a table in the kitchen; or you could use one of the many spots on campus, such as the Hugh Owen Library or the Arts Centre. Or, perhaps you sometimes prefer to work away from campus in spaces such as the National Library of Wales or a café. It’s also worth considering the noise level of your chosen location, for example the working environment in the Food Hall will be drastically different to that of Level F of the Hugh Owen Library. 

I’ve always preferred a quieter working environment, and I have always struggled working at home. Therefore, Hugh Owen Library has always been my preferred choice; however, I frequently find that different rooms suit my needs better on different days. While equipment can often decide which space I use, the noise almost always influences my decision. 

Making the Most of the Hugh Owen Library 📚 

This interactive map of the Hugh Owen Library makes picking a space to work easier and saves you from getting lost, especially as there are numerous options of where to work within the three floors of the library. Spaces like the Iris de Freitas room on Level E are brilliant for group study but can get reasonably loud, especially when busy. If you’re looking for a quieter space to work from then Level F may be better for you, or if want a more private space for individual or group work, the Library also has bookable rooms; you can reserve these and view their availability online.

The power of sound 🎧

Music and audio can be powerful tools at your disposal to help you when working if used correctly. Personally, I’ve always found I do my best work when listening to music using services like Spotify. However, members of the Digital Skills Team suggested white noise applications like Noisli, which can be used to play weather patterns and even has its own playlists while offering many customisation options.  

Audiobooks are also a popular option and can be accessed using services like Libby or Audible. These are especially useful whilst completing more mundane tasks, especially those requiring much repetition.