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Recreating a classroom environment with Talis Elevate

With a sudden change to the way academics are approaching teaching, it’s important to consider how we empower them to bring elements of the classroom into the online teaching environment to ensure students feel supported, engaged, and can continue to work together.

Discussing resources in class with students can be an important element of teaching and replicating this in a video call, or with an online discussion forum, has its challenges. 

“In the past, students have been sent these resources in a PDF format and have been able to discuss them on a discussion board. One of the things that causes a problem there is that there’s a breakdown between these things. Talis Elevate allows for a more natural, contextualised discussion, it just works more effectively.” Dr Toby Carter, Anglia Ruskin University 

We created Talis Elevate in order to make this approach easier. It does this in several ways:

  1. Students and academics can add comments directly to the resource
  2. Comments can be attached anywhere in the resource, whether it’s a point in a video, somewhere on an image, or by highlighting text in a document 
  3. All content is ‘live’ so that all students and the academic can see the same resource, along with the discussion as it happens

Academics using Talis Elevate have applied this feature in many different and powerful ways with their students:

Share more than just articles

The current digital landscape is a very fragmented one, with different formats and different players offering different experiences of content.

Talis Elevate provides a universal context, which wraps around the content in the same way for every resource type, bringing familiarity and ease of use to academics and students. This allows for academics to share a wider range of resources in Talis Elevate. From images to lecture notes, video and audio files, as well as YouTube content, we are providing the same user experience to students.

We’ve now synced Talis Elevate with our Talis Aspire Copyright Clearance solution too, so your academics can utilise copyright-cleared journal articles, and scanned chapters of books whilst still reporting to the licensing authority on usage.

We’ve seen academics using different resource types in fascinating ways, Dr Toby Carter Principal Lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University recently shared with us some examples of content he was sharing with his communications students, as part of a Masters Degree in Conservation.


Toby shared a series of videos exploring conservation from a film festivals with his students so they could analyse and discuss different methods of communication


This is a video of a speech shared by Toby on the topic of conservation, students were asked to critique his message and approach


Toby shared an infographic with students, asking them to consider its effectiveness as a piece of communication


Catch misunderstandings

When you aren’t in a classroom, it can be easy to miss misunderstandings or misconceptions made by students. By giving them an opportunity to work through content provided to them, they can share their thoughts and ideas and you can get a better understanding of where they are in the course.

“With Talis Elevate now they get to have a brainstorm amongst themselves together by annotating the source directly… I can moderate their comments as well, check in on what they are saying and whether they are grasping it or not, and give them small hints if they need it.” Dr Anna Rich-Abad

“There have been opportunities to spot places where we could do more on a certain topic, or where I’ve realised the students are way ahead of where I thought they were. You always learn a lot about what’s going on with your students with Talis Elevate which makes for a much richer experience.” Dr Toby Carter 

Our academic users regularly feed back that their students’ regularly support each other, in answering points of misunderstanding as well. This changes the role of the academic on the course from responding to all questions, to moderating the guidance given by other students. 


Build confidence

When your peers are no longer by your side, speaking up either via email, or in a webinar can seem daunting and isolating. We’ve heard from students that they worry about coming across badly in front of their peers, or saying an incorrect answer. Georgia Petts, a Talis Elevate user at the University of Lincoln told us that Talis Elevate helped her feel more confident, and that “seeing the comments helped with talking to Jamie and the rest of the class, it was like having a feedback loop but through the resource”.

“I find that they engage a lot and when they come to the seminar and that after having been reading content with Talis Elevate they are much more confident… as they see they are not always wrong or that other people think the same.” Dr Anna Rich-Abad

A student at the University of Sussex talks about feeling more confident with Talis Elevate in the video below:



Anonymity in Talis Elevate is a very powerful feature for many students, giving them a safety net to initiate discussion or ask for support, without the fear of being seen to ask a stupid question. Likewise, on courses where the subject matter can form a sensitive discussion, this can make or break the success of such activity.

“They can now post their points, their questions or discussion ideas without fear of getting it wrong. That seems to underlie a lot of anxiety in traditional methods, the idea of ‘I don’t want to get it wrong so it’s easier not to contribute’. They like being able to gauge their own understanding by seeing what other questions students are raising. It has definitely moved the focus from me to them as being independent learners and able to guide their understanding of the text.” Dr Wendy Garnham


Be more direct

Highlighting, selecting timestamps or dropping pins makes discussions far more clear. Toby gave us an example of a time he uploaded a PDF and asked students to have a discussion about it on a separate online board, but found that this caused issues as it was difficult to specify which section each point referred to, or students were adding discussion posts summarising the whole paper.

“I put the paper on Talis Elevate instead, and it immediately made the discussion around the paper more focussed and more students engaged with it. Students were able to select a paragraph and discuss individual points.” Dr Toby Carter 

Anna told us that this helped her students engage, as they were able to raise issues and doubts ahead of the class in a simpler way:

“Previously, they were doing the study around these sources on their own before coming to class, and they were reluctant to ask questions about them before coming to class. If they asked questions at all before the seminar they had to do so through email. This was very clunky.” Dr Anna Rich-Abad


As well as using the discussion feature in Talis Elevate, academics have shared tips with us on how they’ve been able to add to their teaching approach in other ways with Talis Elevate:


Make the most of face to face time

Although students can commit to attending regular lectures or seminars under usual circumstances, we know that being able to commit to attending video calls during this period is challenging for many. This means that when academics can find precious face-to-face time with students, they want to make the most of it. 

One of the ways academics use Talis Elevate is to flip the classroom. Hope Willard from the University of Lincoln told us “It gave me the opportunity to get to know the students and their work beforehand… Talis Elevate provided a comfortable platform for discussion despite the fact the students and I hadn’t met before”.

Of course, academics have been using this approach long before the shift to online, but it feels more pertinent than ever.

“It means we have more time to work on extending students’ understanding in the seminars rather than going over the exact nature of the reading and any difficulties with it. Students are engaging much more in the seminars” Dr Wendy Garnham

You can an interview with Wendy below where she discusses this approach and getting even the most reluctant students to engage:



Keep an eye on students’ wellbeing

Analytics in Talis Elevate allow you to monitor what students are engaging with, and how much time they are spending on resources. You can view this at a class level, or gain analytical insight per student. We can also enable weekly automated emails with the highlights of analytics to give a snapshot of how students are engaging.  



Dr Renan Petersen-Wagner, an academic and course leader at Leeds Beckett University told us how these emails highlighted to him which students hadn’t engaged at all in his course material, and this motivated him to reach out to them and check if everything was ok.

“The students were really happy to receive my email, and they were grateful for the concern. To them, it means that I care. It felt very personal and allowed me to connect directly. Some students re-engaged with content straight after the email.” Dr Renan Petersen-Wagner

In this case, it opened the lines of communication, and students were able to re-engage. This is a powerful tool for allowing students a way to be supported without being the first to reach out and ask for help, whether it’s falling behind with work or a wider issue.

Although assigning more work during this time may not be appreciated by all students, to some it’s a lifeline.

“There have been students who have told me that they are very grateful for Talis Elevate during this time, it was helping them to keep their sanity – they said that exactly. It has been really nice for them to have this tool at home and keep up with their routine.” Dr Anna Rich-Abad



One of the first Talis Elevate users, Dr Jamie Wood, Principal Lecturer in History in the School of History and Heritage and School Director of Learning and Teaching at the University of Lincoln uses Talis Elevate for assessment.

He uses class discussion to inform seminar activity, and builds assessed activity into weekly reading using Talis Elevate, measuring their participation. This allowed quieter students, who would rarely speak up in class, to show their knowledge and understanding in Talis Elevate, which was useful in understanding where the class was in their learning journey of the module as a whole.

In this video he explains how his students have reacted to it and the key differences he has noticed in his students as a result.



We are really thrilled to hear that so many academics and students have been finding Talis Elevate, especially under the current circumstances. We’ve seen student users doubled, this academic year there have been over 3500 students in 8 institutions across the UK using Talis Elevate, with over 13,000 class comments being made and over 10,000 private notes. 

We are offering a 12-month pilot programme to all of our Talis Aspire universities. If you’d like to find out more about how Talis Elevate could make an impact at your university, get in touch with us at or reach out to your account manager. If you’d like to stay informed about Talis Elevate, sign up to the newsletter here.