Office Mix in university tutorials

This is a guest post from Hélène Fyffe, an undergraduate starting her final year at Edinburgh Napier University, having spent a year on placement with Microsoft UK Education as part of her course.


Tutorials are dedicated for students to explore learnings from their lectures in a practical social environment, which research has proven is highly efficient for improving the learning experience. As most courses are set around theory, students have to develop the skills to be able to make sense of academics’ ideas and critique them which can be really challenging when a theory is complex or ambiguous.

It is therefore really useful when tutors help break down theories in tutorials and provide students with the opportunity to critique and apply them to a case study or made up example, so that they can get feedback. However, arguably one of the main challenges for tutors is making this theory-application process engaging – it’s an unwritten understanding that many students have ‘more important commitments’ than attending tutorials particularly in the first year of university, which tutors are increasingly being pressured to reduce. Attendance rates are often used as measurement strategies for courses, so it’s becoming more and more important to be able to make a tutorial valuable enough to make students want to leave bed to turn up.

So how can tutors make their classes more engaging?

Office Mix could be a really nifty tool for tutors. The solution is effectively a vamped up remix of PowerPoint that makes the learning experience more engaging and visually stimulating by enabling teachers to integrate online content such as videos, websites and apps. These technologies are a core part of young people’s lives which hopefully conveys why Office Mix can help students to relate better with old-fashioned theories and concepts, as it enables you to teach them in a modern and familiar environment. There are a number of ways Office Mix could be used by professors in tutorials:

1. Online visual illustrations

Focusing on the teaching of theoretical concepts, Office Mix would let you break down a theory visually, illustrating a concept with imagery from the web. For example the Ohm’s Law Office Mix created by James Mickens of Microsoft Research below which explains the relationship between voltage, resistance and current, contextualises the concept by annotating a photo of a torch. It’s simple and easy to picture, bringing the concept to life. This method could be really applicable to scientific concepts and frameworks. For intangible theories such as Keller’s Brand Equity Pyramid in business, it would be more the case of integrating a picture of the framework and then adding your own examples into it with the annotation capabilities.


(James Mickens, Microsoft Research)

2. Video illustrations

To spice up a concept, you can also integrate video illustrations that the students will really connect with. For example, to help the Physics students understand Ohm’s theory in context, the professor who created the Office Mix illustrated what can happen when voltage, current and resistance aren’t balanced by featuring a short YouTube clip (watch from 2 mins) of a student exploding a toaster. Sums up the theory quite nicely really!


(James Mickens, Microsoft Research)

3. Problem solving in practice

Furthermore, you can integrate practical opportunities into your slides for students to put a concept into practice, using apps such as quizzes or problems to solve. By working in groups on the problem, students will have an interactive collaborative experience to better their understanding of the concept, which they wouldn’t benefit from by staying at home and watching the slides online at a later date. Office Mix is flexible enough to let you decide how much time to give the students to solve the problem, and even lets you track their interpretations.


(James Mickens, Microsoft Research)


Sharing is caring

One final little incentive for students to come to your tutorials could be the promise of sharing your Office Mix slides at the end of class. It’s really easy to upload them to the Office Mix website and simply point out the right link to your students.

These are just a few examples of the benefits Office Mix could bring to professors and lecturers conducting tutorials at university, but for more information, you can browse through other people’s slides and have a look at the Ohm’s Law Office Mix video below:

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