Oxplore workshop materials coming your way!

An Oxplore workshop can take many different forms and it can be great fun getting creative with your classes/school groups! To help get you started, here are some free, printable materials with supporting slides that you might like to use with your students…

Firstly, we have ‘How to answer a Big Question’ which gives students the opportunity to create their own questions and plan how they might go about addressing these in a critical and balanced way.

Secondly, we’re excited to share our newly-created workshop focused on the Big Question, ‘Is it OK to ban certain books?’ which uses Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ as a case study.

Ban books graphic

Please feel free to download, edit, share and use these materials with your students. If you have any questions about any of the resources, please don’t hesitate to ask via oxplore@admin.ox.ac.uk. Likewise, if you have your own Oxplore workshop/teaching materials that would be happy to share with others, please let us know and we’d be delighted to share them on your behalf.

Happy Oxploring!

Thoughts from our intern…

charlotte1I’m Charlotte, and I’ve just finished my first year studying English at Brasenose College. I was lucky enough to get the chance to work with Oxplore for three weeks in June and July as their summer intern—here’s my thoughts on what the experience has meant to me, personally as well as professionally.

As someone who has both benefitted from and volunteered at access and outreach events, I was so excited to be able to carry on this work when I was offered my three-week summer internship with Oxplore.

Coming straight from the stressful exam season, it was wonderful to be able to throw myself into something different, creative and most of all, fun! The team put me at ease from the start, and allowed me to be involved with a range of tasks and events, which really helped me to understand the work that goes into widening access to Oxford. Some days were spent in the University Offices, writing engaging and accessible content for the Oxplore website—my favourite of these was for the upcoming Big Question, ‘Is school the best place to learn?’ It involves a list of Top 10 Best and Worst Fictional Teachers, and, for an English student, it was an absolute dream!


The digital aspect of Oxplore was, I must admit, a concern of mine before I began the internship, as I’ve never been the most proficient with technology! However, I soon got the hang of the different programmes and really enjoyed using my creativity to come up with interesting videos and images for the site. This digital element is so important to the future of widening access beyond areas local to Oxford, and I know that I would have been grateful for a resource like Oxplore when I was in secondary school. Due to this internship, I have become more aware of the importance of reaching students at a younger age, and of ensuring a positive, more accurate presentation of Oxford and its people is accessible to everyone, regardless of background.

The internship also allowed me to develop skills outside of the office, including attending video shoots and assisting with outreach activities such as the Undergraduate Open Days and the Target Oxbridge residential. This really helped to cement my passion for access and outreach—I get so much satisfaction from helping young people to overcome the barriers to Oxford I would not have overcome if it weren’t for events like these. Taking an active role in public-facing activities, along with the responsibilities I was given in the office, pushed me out of my comfort zone and helped me to grow my confidence, something which has been—and still is—an important personal goal.

Who uses Oxplore? A top-level view for the school year

At Oxplore, we’re using website analytics alongside other evaluation techniques to gain an insight into the impact the site is having. From a very top level, what can it tell us? The end of the 2018/19 school year seems like a good time to check it out. These observations are based only on our UK users from 1 September 2018 until 21 July 2019. There were 76,778 of them!

UK traffic really starts picking up from 8:00am and remains fairly constant throughout the day before tailing off between 9.00pm and 10.00pm. It is slightly higher during school hours, with the highest numbers at 10.00am and 1.00pm (maybe break and lunchtime?).

More users access the site on mobile and tablet devices (53.09%) compared to desktop computers (46.91%). Mobiles and desktops are much more common than tablets overall. Interestingly, PC use is highest during school hours but drops significantly in the evening, while mobile use is highest in the evening and lower during school hours.

Mobile usage by the hour
Desktop usage by the hour

Our users come overwhelmingly from organic search (69%) – but the search terms relate specifically to the site name, suggesting the majority of users are using search engines as tools to navigate the web. Who needs an address bar?! The next biggest source is people coming direct to oxplore.org and we also get a large number through referrals. The biggest referrer is the University of Oxford’s own website, but there are 302 other referrers, many of which are school’s own VLEs or websites.

mapWithin the UK, our biggest location is unsurprisingly London, but we’ve recorded visits from 882 different locations within the UK. The most northern is Lerwick in the Sherland Islands, the most eastern is Great Yarmouth in Norfolk, the most southern is Penzance in Cornwall and the most eastern is Derry in Northern Ireland.

The average length of time spent on the site by a UK-based user is 3 minutes and 7 seconds. Over 26,500 UK-based users stay on the site for longer than 1 minute (which we use as a benchmark for recording our users on HEAT) – and those in the >1 minute group actually average 9 minutes and 30 seconds. That is plenty of time to delve into our quizzes, articles and videos. We have recorded 119 users who spent over 30 minutes on the site in one go – which is probably longer than I’ve spent on any website!

Oxplore at the Oxford and Cambridge Student Conferences 2019

Oxplore was represented at the Oxford and Cambridge Student Conferences this March – these are designed as travelling open days and offer a great chance for us to meet with large numbers of students and their teachers. Oxplore was represented at many of the events by second-year Geographer, Ben Farmer. We asked him to tell us more about his time meeting students in Swansea, Birmingham, Liverpool and Newcastle:

benfarmerIn March I got a chance to take Oxplore on the road as part of the Oxford and Cambridge Student Conferences. This is an annual series of events across the UK for Year 12 students to come along and hear about uni life at Oxford and Cambridge and how to apply. The Oxplore team including Olly the Otter came along to show teachers and students what Oxplore is all about!

I enjoyed showing students the website and explaining how it could be useful in choosing what subject to study at uni as well as expanding beyond what they’re taught at school. Each day would be a different region and range of students to discover Oxplore. We facilitated a range of debates across the day at the Oxplore stand discussing topics from across Oxplore’s incredible 50 Big Questions. Top highlights included ‘Should we pay everyone the same?’, ‘Does the truth exist?’ And ‘Should we clone humans?’

I really enjoyed the chance to show students Oxplore and use content from the website to start random discussions on an array of topics with a variety of suggestions from students which had me contemplating plenty of Oxplore’s big questions on the train home.

Some of my favourite discussions were around ‘Should healthcare be free?’ including over whether healthcare was a human right, how it should be funded and what happens if someone requires really expensive treatment. ‘Should under 18s be allowed to vote?’ also had plenty of interest with students I spoke to pointing to the current political situation alongside existing opportunities for under 18s like driving or joining the army as top reasons to allow them to vote. Some of the most memorable discussions on this question involved whether we should ‘stop older people voting’ or ‘devise a test before people can vote,’ plenty of controversial ideas that are perhaps worth considering…!

It was also interesting to hear from both teachers and students who are already using Oxplore at school or as an after-school activity. They provided some fab feedback about their favourite big question and what they’d like to see on the Oxplore website. If you’ve got any ideas then do get in touch!

The Oxplore otter and Cam-guru


Micro-intern Develops Future Big Question

We continue to benefit from the Micro-internship programme offered through Career Services here at the University of Oxford.

This term we had Mick join us from Balliol College. During his time with us, he began the outline and recorded two interviews for a future big question (‘Is the internet bad?’), participated in a recording of the Sounds of South Asia live concert with the Faculty of Music, and much more.


Thoughts from the student…

Oxplore sees our intern as a precious resource to the work that we do and here is Mick’s reflections on his time with us.

Working as part of the Oxplore team in the past week has been an absolute dream. How cool is it to do something both intellectually interesting and socially meaningful? Very. My big question was “is the internet bad?” With this as anchor, I got to run with all my curiosities about the structure of the internet, its contributions to global progress but also inequalities, the deep ethical questions about psychological hacking, and the empathy-driven power of human-centred design. I believe my actual work tasks included: researching, writing, liaising with and interviewing academics – but my recall isn’t too clear because all of it was just a blur of fun to me. I believe that Oxplore is doing innovative work. It shows young minds the kind of work being done at a university, but also hopefully instils in them the self-belief that they are capable of higher-order curiosity-driven conceptual thinking as well. It also makes multidisciplinary learning of a complex issue the norm! . – Mick


Happy 50th Big Question!

Pupils take part in a discussion with an Oxford academic

It’s hard to believe that Oxplore now has 50 Big Questions to explore, discuss and debate!

To mark this milestone we embarked on our biggest collaboration yet, working with a student drama production, a college (Lady Margaret Hall) and the University’s Oxford for Oxford programme to create our 50th Big Question, Would you pay everyone the same?

On Thursday February 14, we invited 70 local state school pupils to help us celebrate with academic workshops, college tours and a special performance of the student musical “Made in Dagenham”, all tied into the issues of gender inequality and equal pay.

Pupils attend lectures and workshops as part of the 50th Big Question launch

Year 9 pupils from St Gregory the Great Catholic School, Year 10 pupils from The Oxford Academy and Year 12 pupils from Oxford Spires Academy joined us at 9am for a day of lively debate, activities and learning. The day began with a lecture from Dr Laura Paterson about the history behind the musical, exploring the Dagenham factory workers’ struggles to win equal pay. Pupils then broke into smaller groups for interactive sessions on the representation of women in theatre, feminist approaches to theatre and gender and economics in the Middle Ages – with plenty of lively discussion and even the opportunity to create some art based on Chaucer’s Wife of Bath.

Year 9 pupils created five-minute sketches and word maps based on Chaucer’s Wife of Bath

Next came the official launch of our 50th Big Question, with excited pupils, student ambassadors and outreach officers counting down to the question ‘going live’ at midday! 

After a fantastic lunch in Hall and a tour of the LMH grounds and facilities, pupils headed off to the Oxford Playhouse to finish the day by watching this term’s student musical production “Made in Dagenham”. They enjoyed seeing the issues that they’d learned about and debated throughout the day brought to life by the student performers, and when the actors issued the call to the audience to “stand up” if you believe in equal pay we saw lots of young people jumping to their feet!

The pupils’ visit was supported by the Oxford for Oxford Project, one of the University’s Access initiatives. Oxford for Oxford co-ordinator Vanessa Worthington says:

“I had a wonderful time meeting with the students and teachers of Oxford Academy, Oxford Spires and St Gregory the Great. The lecture and workshops really hit the mark with the students and some very interesting and engaging discussions were had.”

“Made in Dagenham” crew member and Lady Margaret Hall JCR Outreach Officer Laura Wilsmore added that

“We’ve been working with Oxplore and Oxford for Oxford to approach local state schools to get them to come and engage in the new 50th Big Question which we’ve worked on together… I want to show that Oxford doesn’t really have a “type”, it can be for anyone”.

As the content lead for Oxplore, I’ve particularly enjoyed working with current Oxford students to create this Big Question. The cast and crew of Four Seven Two Productions, the student theatre company behind “Made in Dagenham”, created several videos with us and the production’s Outreach Assistant Oliva Webster wrote an article on the history of the Dagenham strikes that now forms part of the Big Question. Meanwhile our winter micro-interns Shona, Daanial and Gabrielle created quizzes, image galleries and articles as well as several more videos featuring academics and fellow students. I’ve been interested to see that equal pay is still very much a ‘live issue’ both for current Oxford students and Oxplore users.

We’d like to thank all our collaborators, as well as the teachers and pupils whose enthusiasm made the day a fantastic experience!

Micro-interns are mega productive!

Oxplore continues to expand our student voice through the University of Oxford’s Micro-internship Programme. In December, we hosted three students (Gabrielle, Shona, and Daanial) from differing disciplines who came together to create web and social media content that will soon be available online.

Meet the micro-interns in this animation created by Gabrielle.

Gabrielle was our Video Development Assistant and visited a number of colleges and departments during her time with us. She filmed items for an upcoming Oxplore marketing campaign, student videos for our Instagram, and developed a number of animations.

Shona and Daanial were our Content Development Assistants for the week. They worked diligently on our upcoming January big question (Would you pay everyone the same?) finding resources and articles for it and even recording two video interviews with Oxford University academics.

Thoughts from the students…

Oxplore sees these interns as an invaluable resource and here are their reflections on their time with us.

I have had a very enjoyable week working as a micro intern at Oxplore. The best bits include interviewing academics and discussing the topic of ‘Would you pay everyone the same?’. These discussions have definitely redefined how I view certain topics, and it is clear to see how Oxplore will spark discussions across the country. The internship has allowed me to develop skills in video creation and editing, and it is clear to see the benefits that the content I created will have for students looking at the website. It was wonderful also, knowing that the output, discussions, and tasks I was undertaking were all in aid of a wider goal of widening access and participation. The internship is something I have certainly valued doing, and the experiences and opportunities gained here have been unparalleled. I believe that Oxplore makes a genuine impact and am grateful to have been a part of developing the Big Questions and being part of the team. – Daanial


This micro-internship has been an immensely rewarding experience for me and has enabled me to develop many new skills that will help me in future communications, marketing and/or outreach positions. It was exciting to have so much freedom over our project and to receive such a positive response from academics at the university when contacted for an interview about their research. The two interviews we conducted with academic staff were a definite highlight for me, as I gained first-hand insight into cutting-edge research and opinion and learned more about other faculties in the university. Using video and audio editing software has been fascinating and enriched my understanding of the process of content creation. Filming for an Oxplore YouTube video with so much creative license over our storyboard and content felt liberating and satisfying as I feel we were able to incorporate lots of our own personality into the clips. I’ve engaged with lots of new people this week, who I hope to continue conversations with over projects lined up as part of my role as President of Oxford First-Gen for this year. It’s also been immeasurably helpful to better understand the inner workings of central university Widening Participation efforts. I definitely think I’ve gained a lot personally from this week, but it’s also fantastic to feel that our efforts will have a positive impact on improving access for prospective applicants in future. – Shona


I have had a fantastic time combining my passion for filmmaking with my dedication to access and outreach while producing fun and accessible videos for Oxplore’s ‘Big Questions’ during my micro-internship. The opportunity to interview students and academics at Oxford, as well as the chance to use professional quality video equipment, has helped me to develop production and editing skills that I will hopefully use in my future career in TV and Film production. Hearing the opinions of amazing individuals at Oxford on questions such as ‘Should We Eat Animals?’ and ‘Could We End Poverty?’ has shown me the benefits of lateral thinking – we can learn so much about the world by approaching topics from diverse academic (and personal) stand-points. A particular highlight of the week for me was learning how to use animation software to create videos which fit the Oxplore house style. I have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to explore big academic questions in new and engaging ways and I hope you will be just as fascinated with our approach to the big question launching in January – ‘Would You Pay Everyone the Same?’ – Gabrielle