Show and Tell: Back to Basics – Designing effective blended courses

Sign Posting. Photo (cc)

Sign-posting is key
Photo (cc)

This session took a ‘back to basics‘ approach, focusing on the fundamentals of great VLE site design and structure and online participation to support face-to-face learning.

12.15-1.45pm – Tue 11 Nov (Wk7) – D/056

For many students, the VLE is the first point of contact they have with lecture materials and seminar activities, perhaps days in advance of the face-to-face session. In addition, the VLE offers a number of ways to continue the taught session outside the lecture hall. This session explored how big ideas or small changes to site design can support students learning and engagement throughout a module.

Presenters showed how their modules have evolved over time in response to student feedback and the positive impact on students’ use of the VLE to support their learning.


The presentations are examples of how modules and activities have been developed over time to improve student learning. Whether formally or informally, they have adopted a reflective development cycle which draws upon student feedback and reflections from the lecturer’s perspective in order to consider the role of online resources and activities within their campus-based taught modules.

Better Structure, Better Learning

Kate Brown, Sharon Grace, Lisa O’Malley; Crime and Criminal Justice programme, Department of Social Policy & Social Work

Kate discussed how she used mid-module student feedback to adapt a long-thin second year module to improve the way the the Yorkshare VLE supported student learning. The changes she made included better structuring of seminar activities, drawing together all the resources for each seminar in a sequential order. This was a change from previous practice which relied on every seminar having reading references and an introduction within a Word document that was circulated at the start of term. The new approach, using Yorkshare, enabled Kate to release information to students as and when it was appropriate, introducing relevant up-to-the-minute resources, as well as leading students through the module in a staged approach rather than providing access to everything up front. In addition, bringing together seminar descriptions (typically an explanation of the intended learning outcomes and preparation task requirements) with links to online readings had a positive impact on students’ perceptions of how useful the VLE was in supporting their learning.

Sharon discussed the role of EARL reading lists and how changing from a single, long list for the module to a broken-down topic-based list has enabled the inclusion of resource lists for topics that are not covered by the module but may be useful for essay-based assessments. In addition, smaller lists were easier to maintain and also allowed space to include descriptions. Such descriptions allow students to understand the role of different resources and provide an insight into the rationale behind the curation of the reading list.

Lisa considered the role of standardisation to support external examiners as well as provide clarity to students over assessment objectives. This was an example of how influences on VLE site design come not just from teaching staff and students, but also from other stakeholders in programme development. The assessment areas that were shown go beyond a simple listing of questions, to relate the assessment to the learning objectives, provide a clear indication of how lecturers will support assessment and how feedback will be provided.

Extending the face to face through online participation

Shirley-Ann Rueschemeyer; Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, Department of Psychology

Shirley-Ann demonstrated the use of Google Sites as a method of engaging students in learning activity beyond the classroom. Students were asked to create a virtual text-book, bringing together their understanding of the lectures with their own research of the literature and explanations of key theories. This activity is a great example of encouraging participation through developing students’ ownership of a learning resource. Whilst there were no formal penalties for non-participation, student groups contributed and received feedback from the lecturer throughout the module as a result. A case study of this learning activity is provided below. Of note is how the principle of the activity has remained the same, but the tool that has been used has changed over time in response to better suited tools becoming available:


If you would like to discuss any of the topics above, please feel free to contact the E-learning Development Team and we can look at your ideas and support your design, delivery and evaluation.

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3 responses to “Show and Tell: Back to Basics – Designing effective blended courses

  1. Pingback: Responding to the IT Survey 2014: taking your views on board | E-Learning Development Team·

  2. Pingback: Lunchtime webinar: Baseline use of Yorkshare | E-Learning Development Team·

  3. Pingback: Responding to the IT Survey 2015: Taking your views on board | E-Learning Development Team·

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