To experience this website in full, please enable JavaScript or upgrade your browser.

Guest Post – UnituHack Review

The following is posted on behalf of Mark Ormesher, Unitu. 

On Saturday 8th November our very first UnituHack took place in central London. We brought university developers, students and staff together for a one-day hackathon to create solutions for the problems they saw in their universities. The results were far beyond what we had expected.

Unitu: A Little Background

Unitu is an edu-tech start up, working to raise the standards of higher education, using technology to close the feedback loop in universities, empowering the student voice and making staff more accountable, ultimately ensuring that issues are noticed, addressed and resolved as quickly as possible. Our platform is currently being piloted in several UK universities and is already solving problems for students and staff.


The day started with opening talks from our sponsors and a few members of the Unitu team, including our very own hackathon-guru Fares Alaboud. After a light-hearted ice-breaker event involving cocoa submarines, an angry fridge and a chewing-gum limousine dispenser, the team-building exercise began.

People with ideas were invited to deliver a 30-second pitch, after which their idea were summarised in a few words on paper and posted to the wall. Armed with post-it notes and marker pens, everyone was asked to mark the ideas that interested them, and teams were formed from there. All teams included at least one staff member, developer and non-developer student.


The Hack

We had 9 teams of around 4-5 members (and one solo-hacker), hacking away for 8 hours on a diverse selection of projects, tackling issues ranging from representation of knowledge to student nutrition. Throughout the day teams were able to pick the brains of our very capable team of mentors and Unitu staff members.

Our attendees were spoilt for choice when seeking advice from our experts from a wide range of disciplines, including:

  • Web Front-End Developers
  • Back-End Developers,
  • Education Specialists,
  • Business Brains,
  • Mobile Developers (iOS & Android),
  • Teachers

At the end of a fairly short hacking sprint, we were truly amazed by what our attendees had produced, especially considering that most teams only had one or two experienced developers. We saw fully functioning websites, mobile apps and even a few smartwatch apps, but even more encouragingly we saw several non-developers starting to experiment with their very first lines of code.

As a keen technology advocate, this was the highlight of my day.

You can watch my timelapse of the whole day, start to end via YouTube. Keep an eye out for Princess, the Innovation Warehouse cat.


Presentations & Prizes

When all was said and done (and coded), it was time for our teams to take to the stage and show off what they had produced. This is when we all started to realise just how thoroughly our expectations had been shattered. The UnituHack website has information on each of the teams and their projects, but honourable mentions must go to Federico and his innovative system for the representation of knowledge, and to UniCook for their brilliantly simple solution to a problem I have personally faced.

Presentations ranged from live demos and videos to passionate speeches (more on that later) and we were impressed by every single one of them. Each team was watched by all attendees and judged by our panel of industry experts:

  • Paul Bailey – Senior Co-design Manager at Jisc (EdTech)
  • Martin Ruskov – Co-founder of Lexcium
  • Mischa Dohler – Head of the Centre for Telecommunications Research at King’s College London University
  • Klaus Bravenboer – Founder of Hackhumanity
  • Rebecca Rochon – Senior Lecturer in Education & Academic Development at Bucks New University

With over £2,000 of prizes – including vouchers, smartwatches and other tech – our winning teams were well-rewarded for their achievements. My favourite prize was awarded not for the hack, but for the quality of the pitch itself. Like many good ideas it was created out of necessity and named for the man who inspired it. We plan to make it a part of our tradition, and at future UnituHack events* we will be proud to award The Federico Prize: Most Passionate Pitch.

(* You didn’t think we’d stop at one, did you?)

“Don’t stop what you’re doing – go ahead. Build your ideas, they can make a difference!”

Fares Alaboud – iOS Developer at Unitu and Hackathon Aficionado, speaking at the closing of UnituHack 2014.

The Verdict

UnituHack was, in my opinion, a resounding success. Students, staff and developers fully engaged in their projects and brought to life ideas that truly impressed our mentors and judges. Some great products were created, and two senior members of staff offered to help all teams by trialling and developing their ideas inside their own classrooms.

The Unitu team were amazed by what the teams had created and proud of them for doing so. We are all very excited to run the next UnituHack as soon as possible and we hope to continue empowering students and staff to work together to improve their entire academic experience.


Guest Post – Unituhack

The following is posted on behalf of Ignacio Willats & Leon Achilleos who took part in the FOTE14 pitchfest.

Unituhack: The Hackers That Want Source Codes, Not Sort Codes!

Try to imagine a hacker hacking. The notion might conjure up images of an anonymous cyber-criminal, sitting in a dark room, typing lines of green code with the malicious intent of stealing your identity and personal information.

Whilst this image is still a valid one, the concept of a hacker has an entirely different meaning for the new generation of budding young techies. They might conceptualise a hacker in a completely different light. How about this definition:

Hacker — An individual who can use the power of computing and associated tools to create solutions to difficult problems.

Indeed, hackers are the people who designed your PC, created the software behind your Smartphones and Tablets, and even created those complex algorithms which run your favourite apps. Indeed, hackers make up some of the most influential entrepreneurs of our modern age: Mark Zuckerberg—the founder of Facebook—started off as a hacker, as did Bill Gates.

What is Unitu’s Hackathon?

A hackathon is an event which brings together a large group of people, sometimes from different social demographics, to engage in collaborative computer programming. It gives hackers and non-hackers alike the chance to bounce around ideas and cooperate in the development of exciting new software projects. Hackers bring exciting ideas into fruition, but they need exciting ideas first. That is where you come in.

On the 8th of November, Unituhack is bringing together three groups of people to collaborate on “hacking” together innovative solutions to problems faced in education. In association with Jisc, our hackathon is a one day event in which programmers, teachers and students come together for one sole reason, to hack and create solutions to the problems they see in their immediate academic surroundings.

At its essence Unituhack aims to make everyone a hacker, even if you’ve never typed a line of code in your life!

Teachers, We Want You!
On the day, we will be inviting:

30 Students
15 Staff members
15 Techies

We know from our own experience the amazing pace of creation that happens when you put innovators and skilled techies together. We also know, the power of co-creation. Our measurement of success on the day will be how many teams go back to their universities with a working prototype that they can start to implement in their very own departments.

And what’s more, there will be some fantastic prizes for those who we think have performed particularly well at the event. For more information about the event and to see what amazing tech and prizes we have in store for you, head over to our website at:

There’s no need fto hesitate, come and join us for the one day only Unituhack. All you need to bring is some creative flair, a good idea, and an optimistic attitude.

We look forward to seeing you all on the day!

FOTE14 Pitchfest Finalist: Fluency

Fluency is a digital skills learning platform that helps young people get into work in the digital industry. We believe that digital skills are job skills and that every young person, no matter what their background, has the potential to be digitally fluent and take their place in the economy. We teach our learners skills that small businesses, agencies and startups need such as web design, search engine optimisation and email marketing. Our learners put their skills to the test with real-world digital challenges. Insight from our platform allows us to match-make young people to employers and freelance opportunities effectively.

Our vision is to build a global social business that uses technology to give access to decent work opportunities and changes the lives of people in need. As a company with a social mission, we want to help some of the 75 million unemployed young people around the world into work. We passionately believe that young people all over the world need access to decently paid, work opportunities whether they live in the wilds of Scotland, the south of Spain or the Sudan. With the growth in internet penetration and falling prices of computing devices across the world, we think that digital skills and online work can be the deliverer of this vision.



FOTE14 Pitchfest Finalist: Keywords English

Keywords English is a female-led, EdTech startup at the intersection of technology and education. We harness mobile technology to deliver a personalised learning experience for each student, irrespective of their socio-economic background, learning ability, or location of the school. Such innovation is conducted in partnership with proven research-based practices in order to deliver core deliverables for the student, teacher, school and parent.

Since 2000, research carried out by the OECD highlight the challenge young populations in industrialised economics face in the area of literacy, maths and science. Demands on individual teachers to meet the learning need of each child, is immense. The textbook model of education is no longer fit for purpose. There is also a shortage of research based mobile learning solutions to support the growing number of mobile devices entering the education space.

The Keywords English app is the result of a 3-year research study carried out by Professor David Little and his team of language and literacy specialists at Trinity College, Dublin. They identified the exact language young people need to know for each subject in each school. Validated by 200 teachers in 85 Irish schools, their materials were subsequently used by teachers in 110 countries, demonstrating potential scale. The Keywords English app takes this methodology as the starting point. Additional research from Harvard University, which demonstrates that reading on a mobile device supports struggling readers, particularly those with dyslexia, has been added. Incorporating all this data into a mobile app, with functionality for students who speak English as a second language, along with gaming and collaborative learning features, makes the Keywords English app the first inclusive 21st century learning tool and ideally placed to take advantage of the 8% growth in mobile education in 2015 alone.

Founder & CEO: Joanna Norton



Twitter: @keywordsenglish


FOTE14 Pitchfest Shortlist

We had some great responses to our first ever start-up pitchfest and are very excited to share with you the names of the 10 that made the shortlist. Each start-up will have 3min to pitch to our audience, before being grilled – Dragons’ Den Style – by our two judges, Maren Deeepwell, Chief Executive of ALT and Nicola Yeeles, representing our Media Sponsor, Education Technology.

Once all 10 pitches have been delivered, we will let the audience (at the venue and remote attendees) vote for a winner and runner-up.

We are looking forward to the elevator pitches and can not wait to find out who of the 10 will be the audience favourite.


Dr Maren Deepwell (BA, MA, PhD) is the Association for Learning Technology (ALT)’s Chief Executive. ALT is the UK’s leading membership organisation in the learning technology field. Maren’s work is focused on working with the ALT community, researchers, practitioners and policy makers and to provide overall leadership for the Association. She works to develop ALT’s understanding of the community and ensures that ALT’s work aligns with the demands of the rapidly developing learning landscape.

Follow Maren on Twitter: @MarenDeepwell

NEW_Nicola Yeeles 2Nicola Yeeles is a trained journalist specialising in education, writing regularly for magazines like Education Technology and University Business, as well as on cutting edge topics for organisations such as the education technology charity Jisc and the international research consortium the Knowledge Exchange.

Nicola has an MA in English from UCL, and a degree in the same subject from the University of Bristol. In a previous life, she taught English abroad; memorable students include a Portuguese nun and Chinese two year olds. She is passionate about lifelong learning and has enjoyed online courses as diverse as the history of rock music and digital storytelling.

Education Technology can be found online at and in bi-monthly printed and interactive digital editions.

Nicola tweets from @nyeeles and her online home is

FOTE14 Pitchfest Finalist: Reframed

Reframed is re-inventing the way we consume video. Our mission is to make video truly social. You can create contextual conversations with time-specific comments in video, share them with deep links, follow users and favourite comments. It’s about using video content as a discussion point and building a community, moment by moment.

The comments can be private, to make personal notes, or public to encourage conversations and debate. Each of these comments can be shared via link or social media, which brings people into the exact moment in the video that is relevant. allows anyone to discuss video content publicly and our embeddable player enables it to be added any video on any website with full moderation tools – to drive and control the conversation.


FOTE14 Pitchfest Finalist: evaloop ed tech


“We will focus on: improving teaching quality and![…] maintaining student satisfaction levels in relation to the academic experience.”

“Focus on frequent and effective communication with students through our website and keep abreast of future technologies.”

London School of Economics Strategic Plan 2011 – 2016

How it works

  • evaloop is a mobile app, which provides students a quick and easy way to convey personal feedback.
  • evaloop is very flexible in breadth, scope and scale.
  • evaloop directly solicits feedback by sending push notifications.
  • evaloop creates personalized reports and analytics for benchmarking at various levels.



Twitter: @evaloop

FOTE14 Pitchfest Finalist: Pod Academy

Pod Academy is an online public gateway to academic research; producing and broadcasting lively, entertaining podcasts about the latest research across disciplines. Combining high level radio production skills with the expertise of leading academics, our podcasts are an excellent learning resource for university staff and students, as well as the general public, and can also inform and support the work of voluntary organisations, businesses and public bodies by giving them access to high quality research.

Pod Academy is unique. Most academic podcasting takes the form of recorded lectures. We are determined to leap over the walls of the Academy and make journalistic pieces which are clear, well produced and intellectually rigorous.

Twitter: @podacademy



FOTE14 Pitchfest Finalist: MyCQs

MyCQs is an innovative e-learning platform that encourages students to create, practice and share Multiple Choice Question (MCQ) tests with each other.

Originally developed by two medical students, James Gupta and Omair Vaiyani, as a learning-aid for people on their course, MyCQs rapidly amassed thousands of users from across the world, and now boasts over 500,000 user-generated questions ranging from cardiovascular anatomy to aviation to children’s numeracy.

Having secured funding and support from The University of Leeds and national education technology charity Jisc, James and Omair have been working on a complete overhaul of MyCQs, developing a solid infrastructure, website and mobile app with the vision of transforming it from a side project into a leading educational platform.

When it is released later this month, the core features of MyCQs will be available for free, with a ‘premium’ subscription tier for users who want access to advanced features such as advanced analytics, tailored learning and premium tests. This will allow, for example, medical students to access verified tests which have been written specifically for their course, and MyCQs will help to develop a tailored learning plan based on their own performance over time.


FOTE14 Pitchfest Finalist: Unitu

Unitu is an intelligent way for universities to listen to students’ feedback and improve student satisfaction through online academic networks.

Unitu builds online collaboration hubs for students to interact with peers. This creates an active environment in which students can easily provide reps and staff with individual or collective feedback.

We provide a simple way for universities to collect, organise and resolve feedback provided by the student voice. This facilitates more informed decision making supported by Unitu’s unique analytics features.

Unitu is a flexible and cost effective solution to providing an organised platform for the student voice.