3: Sequence and Layout

A page with the same title and subtitle as example 2. There is a dark shape behind the title which lowers the contrast.


  • Planning the sequence and visual hierarchy of your content.
  • Designing a well-structured and consistent layout.


When planning a lecture, seminar or workshop you consider the sequence of activities and structure of your session in order to optimise the student experience. This thinking can be applied to the design of your learning materials, whether it be the sequence of a video or the layout of an infographic. A well-structured design can allow information to be communicated in a way that is memorable and easy to understand.

Visual Hierarchy

Considering visual hierarchy can help you to communicate a message clearly by highlighting important information and reducing extraneous load. This is particularly important with a set of instructions or a process, but can be applied to any content. The visual hierarchy of a design determines the sequence in which the audience views your content and visually ranks elements in terms of importance. You can use design elements such as scale, colour/contrast, layout and typeface to visually rank your content. Richard Mayer’s Signalling Principle states that “people learn better when cues that highlight the organization of the essential material are added.” (2009a, p. 108) However, this should be done subtly as not to overwhelm.

The examples above show how simple changes in design can affect the visual importance of an element. In example 1 you notice the title first and then the subheading, but at glance neither particularly stand out. In example 2 the title is much more pronounced, particularly the word ‘design’. In example 3 the title and subheading appear more balanced by adding a high contrast shape behind the subtitle. In example 4 the low contrast of the shape behind the title changes the balance so that the subtitle stands out the most. To help you with visual hierarchy ask yourself – which is the most important information? Is the reading order clear? What stands out on the page?


To get you to start thinking about layout, lets have a look at some post-it notes. Post-it notes are designed to organise key segments of information, and these should be clear at a glance for optimum efficiency. If their layout is not carefully considered, and the post-it notes are overlapped, information can be forgotten or disregarded – the same applies to designing the layout of your material. Post-it notes can be a great tool for planning both sequence and layout of your content.

Two photographs comparing a messy layout of post-it notes against an organised one

Planning your Layout

When designing the layout of your content, as well as the sequence of information you should also consider:

  • The balance between text and graphic elements. This will be dependent on your subject and the type of content that you are creating. This summary of Mayer’s Multimedia Learning Principles (2009b) includes some practical advise on the balance of text and images.
  • The alignment of your text and graphic elements. Is your text all left-aligned or does it change throughout? Are your images neatly arranged? Many of the tools you can use to create your content, such as Microsoft office, have built-in alignment tools.
  • Margins and negative space. Is there significant space between the edge of the page and your text/visual elements? Avoid over-crowding your pages or slides as this can be difficult to read and absorb information.
  • Orientation and aspect ratio. Is your page portrait or landscape? Does it have to be A4 or can it be custom? If you are creating a video, the standard aspect ratio is 16:9.
  • Consistency. Remember an element of consistency throughout your layout will improve the usability of your content.

Reviewing your Layout

When you begin to add text and graphic elements to your design you may have to readjust your layout as you go along. Remember that the steps we describe in this Learning X are like stepping stones, they are not one-way, you can go back and forth through the steps until you are happy with your design.

Let’s take a look at how the layout of our ‘Design your Content poster’ changed throughout the design and creation process. First we started with a very simple hand-drawn sketch with block shapes and a rough idea of where the title would be. This sketch was then digitised blocking out the shapes in greyscale. As content was added to the poster the layout changed and was refined until we reached the final design. Notice how the blocks of content are neatly aligned and there is a margin between the content and the edge of the page. Is there anything you would change about this final layout? Does the visual hierarchy flow in a way you would expect? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.


Visual hierarchy can highlight key points in your design to improve the intake of information presented. However, remember that the underlying structure of your documents should also be optimised so that students with visual impairments or mobility needs can navigate the content effectively. You can check the reading order of your PowerPoint slides using the reading order pane and PDFs using Adobe Acrobat’s reading order tool. You may also wish to use a screen-reader tool to check your content.

As highlighted in the University of Dundee guide – creating inclusive teaching materials – Microsoft’s in-built tools can be used to ensure the structure of your content is accessible:

‘Use Styles in MS Word (Heading 1, 2, etc.) to help students navigate the content. In PowerPoint, use the Title box for slide titles and make sure these are unique. This will improve the experience for any student using a screen-reader and will improve readability for all.’

Further Reading


Steppingstone – Day 3: Plan your Layout

Take a few minutes to create a rough plan of the layout or sequence of your content, considering the points mentioned above.  Do not consider the colour scheme or fonts just yet, as these will be covered on the following pages. Here are some ideas of how you could go about this:

For posters, infographics, or PDFs:

  • Create a quick sketch (stick men or rough shapes will do fine)
  • Use sticky notes on an A4 piece of paper
  • Use an interactive whiteboard such as padlet

For videos or presentations:

  • Take inspiration from this Video Sequence Padlet
  • Create a storyboard with rough sketches or photographs
Example of a video storyboard of 6 shots using hand-drawn sketches
Example of a video storyboard of 6 shots using photographs

4: Colour and Contrast


  • Using colour consistently to develop your style and enhance your design.
  • Ensuring accessible use of colour and contrast.


For most of us, colour can have different psychological associations; these can be dependent on context, culture and personal experiences. For example, the colour red can denote anger, pain, danger or conversely could symbolise love, passion or luck. Some of us gravitate towards cooler colours such as blue or warmer colours such as orange. Some of us have colour vision deficiency or low vision which effects the way we see colours.

In the context of educational resources it can be best to keep it simple. Use of colour in a design can help or hinder the clarity and usability of your content. Good use of colour can add visual interest to a design. However, your colour choices and colour placement should be considered carefully to ensure your content is clear and easily perceivable.

Colour Palettes

As discussed in the Style and Consistency section, consistency is key to establishing your own style that your audience can become familiar with.  Choosing a set colour palette for your materials can help with this. You may wish to choose a monochromatic colour palette (different shades of the same colour) or a more complex colour palette. Just remember that you should be mindful about how you use your colours. You can design your colour palette so certain colours have certain ‘jobs’.

Image showing the colour palette used by the University of Dundee branding team

Let’s look at the University of Dundee colour palette as an example. This palette has been designed in four levels:

  1. Core colour – The signature colour that identifies the University
  2. Highlight colours – Vibrant tones that are used sparingly within the system
  3. Block colours – Subtle tones intended for colouring larger flat spaces without overpowering photography
  4. Background colour – A warm alternative to white for backgrounds

Using Colour Conventions

The examples below use the University of Dundee colour palette to demonstrate how different colour choices can affect the usability of your content.  The key elements to note are colour placement, colour contrast and the colour of text. After reading the colour conventions detailed above, which of the examples below do you think works best and why? Let us know in the comments.

Colour Contrast

For your content to be more easily perceivable it is important to consider colour contrast particularly between backgrounds and text. What do we mean by colour contrast? Colour contrast is the difference in luminance between two adjacent or overlapping colours (text against a background, for example). For colours to have sufficient contrast they should not just vary in hue (e.g. blue, red or green), there should be a significant difference in tone. The diagram below demonstrates what we mean by colour hue and tone. Here tone refers to the light or dark value of a colour which is traditionally measured in LRV (light reflectance value).  This scale runs from black (0 LRV) to white (100 LRV).

A series of colour blocks showing the difference between gradients of tone and hue

How to Assess Colour Contrast

There are several tools that can help you assess whether there is sufficient contrast between the colours you use. This could be an online contrast checker tool or an in-built accessibility checker such as the MS Office accessibility checker. If you are uploading your content to My Dundee, you can use Blackboard Ally to pick up any colour contrast issues.

Here are some examples of free online contrast checkers you can try:

More on Colour Contrast

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

Whether it is a recorded lecture, presentation slides or an infographic, much of the content that you deliver is viewed by your audience online or on-screen. Many of the contrast checker tools use formulas specified by the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). A sufficient contrast ratio must be reached to achieve the minimum contrast (AA) or enhanced contrast (AAA) specifications. It is important to note that some colour combinations work well for larger text sizes, but not for small text sizes. This may sound like a complex step, but once you have identified your own colour palette you can reuse it.

Enhanced Contrast Colour Palette

The colour palette pictured below has been created using the Adobe Colour Wheel and checked using the Adobe Contrast Analyzer. For this particular example, we want our colour combinations to achieve enhanced contrast specifications (AAA). The table below shows the results. From this table we can see that the higher contrasting colour combinations, such as the lightest colour ‘Mint’ with the darkest colour ‘Charcoal’, are suitable for larger text (18pt + above), body text (17pt + below) and graphic elements.  Whereas, the colour combination of ‘Teal’ with ‘Grey’ does not provide sufficient contrast and should not be used together. The combinations of ‘Mint’ with ‘Teal’ and ‘Turquoise’ with ‘Grey’ have a sufficient enough contrast to be used for graphic elements, larger text or bold text, but should not be used for body text (17pt + below). Assessing your colours in this way can help you decide which colours to use for which ‘jobs’, as with the University of Dundee colour palette.

Colour palette swatches alongside a table. The table displays the text written above.

Colour Vision Deficiency

Globally, approximately 8% of men and 0.5% of women have a form of colour vision deficiency (RNIB, 2017). Online tools such as Coblis – colour blindness simulator allow you to upload images and test how the colours would appear with different types of colour vision deficiency. Where possible, colour should not be used in isolation to convey information (i.e. colour coding). It is recommended to use a combination of colour, pattern/imagery, or text to signify information.

Created by students Emma Tennant, Emily Turnbull and illustrations by Daisy Hutton

The pie-charts below display some results to the question ‘which is your favourite season?’ Pie-Chart 1 uses a key where only colour is used to denote the four seasons. Although these colours vary in hue, there is a minimal contrast in tone between these four colours. When viewed in greyscale it becomes very challenging to differentiate between the colours. For people with certain types of colour vision deficiency this pie-chart would be meaningless. Whereas, Pie-Chart 2 uses both pattern and colour to mitigate this and make the information more accessible. Can you think of any other ways to make Pie-Chart 1 more accessible? Let us know in the comments.

Further Reading


Steppingstone – Day 3: Choose your Colour Palette

It is time to choose your colour palette! If you already have a well established colour palette, you could check this for any accessibility issues. You may wish to use the tools we have mentioned on this page, or see if you can find your own tools.

We recommend trying out an online tool such Adobe Color – Color Wheel to help you choose your palette. As discussed, you can use the Adobe Color accessibility tools to check colour contrast and if your palette is colour blind safe.

5: Fonts and Typefaces

Examples of more accessible fonts (Arial, Calibri, Verdana and Open Dyslexic) and less accessible fonts (Algerian, , Magnet and Curls MT)


  • The importance of fonts – how they help and hinder your content.
  • Fonts and readability/accessibility.

Fonts and Typefaces

The typeface Baxter Sans alongside the fonts Baxter Sans Regular, Baxter Sans Italic and Baxter Sans Bold

Every day we are confronted with a variety of typefaces and lettering styles, whether it be public information on a noticeboard, an infographic while scrolling on your phone, or a chapter in a textbook. As a University we have access to a variety of typefaces and fonts, but lettering that works well for commercial projects does not always work for educational content. It is vital that the fonts we use to present our information is clear and easy to read.

Consider the fonts you usually use and why you choose them. Are your fonts easy-to-read? Do you use standard, default fonts such as Calibri or something more decorative?

Choosing your Fonts

While adding a personal creative flair to your material is what makes it individual to you, and personable to your audience, there is a danger that content can become difficult to read if an inappropriate font is selected. Ultimately, adding a decorative font may seem like a fun way to engage your audience, but it can have the opposite effect.

Here are two examples of the same text using different fonts. The text comes from the university article ‘Covid-19: How the Pandemic Forged One Dundee’ available here: https://www.dundee.ac.uk/stories/covid-19-how-pandemic-forged-one-dundee.

Out of the two, which font would you consider to be more successful at delivering information?

Image comparing text in two different fonts - Arial and Magneto Bold

Example 1 is Arial, and example 2 is Magneto Bold. As a communicator it is your responsibility to provide information that is easily legible and understandable to the widest audience possible. In example 1 (Arial) the letters stand on their own, and the typography of the characters – the curves and straight lines, for example – are easily distinguishable. In example 2, however, the joint lettering and curves merge the letters together, making them harder to read. The letters are bold (which can be a good way to highlight your information) but in this case, it provides no further legibility.


Perhaps you can read both of the examples above equally well. However, before choosing something that works for you, consider the needs of your audience. People with dyslexia can find certain fonts difficult to read, as letters can be read as shapes. The more distinguishable the character, the easier it is for your audience to intake the information you are presenting. Below are a few examples of fonts to consider. Which fonts would you consider more accessible?

Examples of more accessible fonts (Arial, Calibri, Verdana and Open Dyslexic) and less accessible fonts (Algerian, Kunstler Script, Magnet and Curls MT)

As well as benefiting people with reading disabilities, clear fonts can benefit everyone. Consider an audience whose first language is not English, for example. It is important to engage everyone equally. Using fonts that have good letter spacing and easily distinguishable characters can improve intake of information, and you will find it easier to reach your audience as a whole.

Open dyslexic is an open-source typeface that has been created to increase readability for readers with dyslexia. You can download this font from the open dyslexic website. Please make yourself aware of any licence agreements when downloading fonts. See this complete guide to font licensing for designers for more information.

Further Reading


Steppingstone – Day 5: Choose your Font Family

What are your go-to fonts for your material? After reading this article, would you consider them accessible?

Review your font choice for your selected material and change the font if you think it could be improved.

6: Design Principles in Context

process showing the breakdown of a 2 hour synchronous session into short pre-recorded videos with activities in between


  • Taking a look at some examples of different types of media.
  • Useful resources and software for creating your content.


An infographic can be described as a visual representation of information or data. This may be in the form of an infographic poster or an image within a presentation, for example. Infographics can work really well to explain processes or to simply complex data into something visual (this is also known as data visualisation).

Using infographics

Below are some ways you may wish to use an infographic. Can you think of any more?

  • A visual overview of weekly activities in a module
  • Represent results of an experiment
  • Simplify a complex set of instructions
  • Graphical abstract for a paper

Infographics – Software and Resources

Using MS office, you will find that you can use basic shapes, icons and charts to create infographics for your content. This video by Educational Technologist, James Kieft shows you how to create an infographic in PowerPoint.

There are also many infographic software websites available online including Canva (sign-up required) and Adobe Spark (sign-in with staff email address). These sites offer you a range of templates, in-built tools and media to help you get creative.


We have used presentation slides as examples throughout this Learning X series. In summary, when designing your presentation slides you should consider:

  • Consistency, such as the colours used or the placement of headings
  • Visual hierarchy and layout
  • The balance between text and graphic elements
  • Sufficient negative space and consistent margins
  • Significant contrast between colours (particularly text and background)
  • Simple, clear typefaces and fonts

Design and Accessibility for PowerPoint

PowerPoint Video 1 – Improving Design Accessibility
PowerPoint Video 2 – Accessibility Checker

Presentations – Software and Resources


Check out our Learning X series on Effective Videos for Education for more information!

  1. Planning
  2. Engagement and delivery style
  3. Video ready teaching materials
  4. Recording video for education
  5. Editing video for education
  6. Summary and references


It is worth thinking about files in which your audience cannot easily edit the formatting (for example, a video or PDF). If you provide an additional copy of the original file (for example, a PowerPoint presentation) the text, the colours and the design can be customised by the audience to meet any specific needs they have. Text can be increased in size or the colours changes for any visual or neurological needs. It is still important to keep to professional standards and use a design that is accessible as possible from the get-go.


Steppingstone – Day 6: Finalise your Visuals

By now you should have made some progress with your design and have hopefully started to think about developing your visual style. The next stepping stone is to ‘finalise your visuals’. This will be dependent on the type of content you are creating. It may be creating slides for a pre-recorded lecture or adding text / images to an infographic.

Today’s is mainly about research and discussion. Let us know how you have been getting on so far in the comments. Please reach out with any questions you may have.

7: Conclusion

Final Steps

Steppingstones – Day 7: Final Steps

At this point you may have a draft piece of content, a finished design or you may still want to refine your ideas. Once you have a solid design plan or a first draft you can review what you have created to avoid any mishaps later. Often it can help to have a short break from working on your content and come back to it to review it.

Other than reviewing the design principles we have mentioned, you may also want to consider:

  • Is the piece visually engaging? Is it too visually distracting?
  • Have you communicated your message clearly and concisely?
  • Can you ask a colleague to critique your design?
  • Have you checked for accessibility issues?

Once you are happy with your content it is time to prepare it for delivery and release it to your audience.


We hope you have enjoyed this Learning X and have found it useful. Please do come back to the resources we have provided and feel free to use our stepping stones approach when designing or redesigning your content in the future.

There will be a short Q&A session next week in the EduZone 2.0 channel to carry on the discussion and respond to any questions we have gained (University of Dundee staff only).

Ask us your questions and provide us with feedback anonymously via this mentimeter (<5 mins).

1: What can the Module Template do for you?

2 comments from students. 1:Lack of clear instruction on where to look for resources, assignments and links (i.e. have to go through Teams, email, blackboard constantly to find information with no consistency of where to look) 2: consistency between all tutors on the course as to how they will use VLEs


Welcome! Many of you will have worked through Blend Your Module or attended our workshops, and hopefully have some good ideas for a range of learning activities – but how do we best structure them into our Module to help students find and make the best use of them.

In this series, we’ll extend some of what we have looked at in Blend your Module, and also spend some time examining Dundee’s Exemplary Module Framework, so that you can best present the content to the students.

Dundee Module Baseline

The Dundee Module Baseline was developed in consultation with a team from across the University, to try to ensure a consistent approach and online experience for students. It’s not designed to be a straitjacket, rather a framework that will allow you to structure and organise the content to suit your module. We’d strongly recommend that you spend some time reading through it.

To help you apply the framework to your module,  we have developed a Module Template, on which all modules are based. Some schools and disciplines have slightly different variations of the template, but they’re based on the standard template. This video outlines the key sections of the standard template. [This template, and the baseline, were updated in the Summer of 2021 from the previous Exemplary Module Framework and its associated template]

Student Pulse Survey

You may well have seen some of the feedback from the Student Pulse Survey – having a Module Template helps you to avoid comments like

2 comments from students. 1:Lack of clear instruction on where to look for resources, assignments and links (i.e. have to go through Teams, email, blackboard constantly to find information with no consistency of where to look) 2: consistency between all tutors on the course as to how they will use VLEs
A confused student

Core Information

In the Module Basline there are a number of sections that detail the key information students will need to support and guide their studies – you’ll see from the video that there are placeholders already in your module template for this information.

Section 1 –WelcomeA single Document for you to embed 

Rather than repeating key information, we’ve got a placeholder for you to point to your School’s Organisation, team, OneDrive folder, LearningSpaces site etc. The key thing is that there’s only one location that needs to be updated when information changes – not every single module.

Section 2 – Module Design and Structure: Modules should be structured clearly to help students navigate quickly, understand the sequence of learning events and activities, access information and easily understand the layout of unfamiliar courses.

You’ll have thought about activities and a general structure in Blend Your Module. Ideally, you’ll have worked with other staff teaching the same group of students, so they don’t get confused between different modules.

Section 3 –  Module Orientation Students will have engaged in a School and Programme welcome induction (as in 1 above). As they commence study on each module, help students orientate themselves, especially outlining how they are expected to learn and engage and how they may contact key staff members to get help when they need it.

As well as Induction activities – which are useful for all years, not just new students, you’ll want to welcome your students to your module. Something social is good to break the ice, but try to liaise with others, so that you don’t all have the same activity.

Moving Content round in My Dundee

One issue that several people have commented on, is that it’s not always easy to use your mouse to move items, if you, or the import process has put them in the “wrong” area. It’s possible to use the keyboard controls (designed for those who can’t use a mouse) to move items.

Links to Blend Your Module

In Blend your Module, we looked at the whole process of blending a module. Structuring it well is key to the students experience of their module. We particularly looked at this in

Accessibility and Legal considerations

Sections 8 and 9 in the Exemplary Framework cover key accessibility and legal issues. You’ll probably know that we have to ensure that content is accessible to all students, and that this should be a proactive process, not a reactive one. Helen Booth (ESW) has put together a Wakelet including many links covering aspects of accessibility, in particular, accessibility of learning resources.


Relevant 101 sessions

Other guides


Staff have contributed to recipes demonstrating how they are using online tools to support students

External Resources

  • Refocus online – put together by Mary Washington University to look at the rapid move to online. Though this includes links to their workshops, there’s a lot of content that is useful on the website. You’ll see we refer to this several times, as it’s a wealth of information.
  • Designing a course for online learning – a short video from Sara Wolfson, an OU tutor. It’s on the THES Campus – which is a new service from the THES that it’s worth exploring for more ideas.
  • ALT Resources. The University is a member of ALT (the Association for Learning Technology), so you can join the community using  your Uni email address. It’s worth browsing the content here for ideas that relate to your module/interests.
  • Future Learn has a number of different courses relating to learning and teaching online.
    • Blended and Online Learning – (Leeds / UCL)  Based on the ABC model that we use. It runs every 6 weeks, lasting for 3, so you may well be able to dip in and out.
    • The Online Educator: People & Pedagogy  (The OU)
    • There are also some that are aimed at students, covering how to study online. I’d recommend, however, that you review them carefully yourself, to make sure that the focus they have is the focus you’d like your students to have.

Over to you

Use the comments to share your thoughts on the Exemplary Module Framework – do you think we have missed anything? What about the standard module template (or, your school one, if you have a slightly different one) – again – what suggestions do you have to improve it?

What are your recommendations for other resources – either one covering general points, or something that’s more specific to something you’re interested in?



2: Communication



Communication is, clearly, key to all learning. Very few of us learn effectively without communicating with others – whether they’re experts, peers or critical friends. To support our students, we’ll be looking at ways of supporting effective communication and Interaction.

Links to the Exemplary Module Framework

Section 4 – Communication and InteractionEnsure effective and consistent online communication between and among students and lecturers synchronously or asynchronously.

There are clear links between this and Section 7, Active and Social Learning.

In this post, we will focus primarily on the tools, and the structures to help the students, while in post 5 – Active and Social Learning, we’ll look at the activities. However, these distinctions are inevitably fuzzy.

Links to Blend Your Module

In Blend Your Module, we looked at the whole process of blending a module. Communication plays an important role in it all, but in this post we’ll particularly think about

We also started to think about Netiquette, which is vital when working with students online

Did you look at setting up any guidance to for your students in your particular module?

Communication Statement

In the Exemplary framework, you’ll see that you should have a module level communication statement. You may well also have discipline / school ones, however, for your module you’ll have to think about specifics.

Direct Communications from students

  • Has the school decided if direct messages from students to staff should use BB’s messages or email – or can staff decide / module?

Learning activities

  • Is the material you’re covering is likely to be sensitive / confidential?
  • If it’s audio or video – what is the recording policy for the session / the open discussion?
  • What should students do if they want to participate, but don’t have a private space?
  • If it’s text based, are students able to comment anonymously if they choose?


Video – what guidance do you have with regard to video on/off for students? (look at the comments in that post, as well as the post) One aspect that you might want to think about, as virtual meetings are likely to continue to feature in the workplace in the future – what are the benefits to students of video on as part of the preparation for the workplace? How could you use that to support them get used to it?


infographic - text only version linked to below
Created by Torrey Trust, and shared as Creative Commons
Text only version

Discussions / Conversations in Blackboard

Blackboard has introduced a new tool – the “conversation”. If you have attended Ultra 101 session 7, you’ll have seen its power. You can attach a conversation to just about any item in an Ultra module, to allow students to discuss it.
How might you make best use of both discussion boards and conversations in My Dundee – and, critically, how could you help students see the key differences.

For example, we’ve spoken to some members of staff who’ve suggested

  • Conversations – for students to ask questions / comment on this weeks work.
  • Discussions – for staff to ask targeted questions to help students link different weeks work (or between this module and others)

Would that work for your modules?


The University now has Padlet – which will allow students to share their thoughts anonymously (if you allow them to).


We also have Mentimeter – as well as the poll type questions you may have seen – did you know that you can also use Mentimeter to have a live channel for anonymous questions during a live session. You can set the questions either to show to all participants, or you can moderate them first.

Synchronous / asynchronous

Over the years, there has been research into synchronous (in the past, typically face to face) and asynchronously discussions and students for whom English is an additional language. In many cases, it’s been found that these students are more likely to contribute in an asynchronous way, as they have the time to think about their own comments e.g.. This may be something you want to consider when thinking about the balance overall between synchronous and asynchronous discussions.

Related to this – what do you do if there’s a period of silence in a live session? How do you decide if students are pondering your question, typing furiously, or mystified?

Small groups

  • How will you encourage students to participate in group work?
  • Did you know that if you set up a Blackboard assignment for group work submission, and enable the conversation tool, students can also use Collaborate Ultra in groups?
  • If it’s an assessment group, is process a key part of the assessment – or is it just the outcome you will be marking?
  • Should students select their own tools to discuss (what about students who don’t want to set up an account on …)
  • Should you provide something (will students use it if they know you can look?)

Accessibility and Legal considerations

Make sure you remember to ensure all students can engage in the activities.

  • How could you encourage students to ensure all their communication is accessible to others?
  • What would you do if some forms of communication are the most accessible form to some students, but inaccessible to others?
    • for example, if you have one student with severe hearing loss, and another other with dyslexia?


Relevant 101 sessions

External Resources

Cameras Be Damned A strongly worded view of why cameras should not be made mandatory in teaching

Mary Washington’s Refocus: Part 2 You’ll see items from Mary Washington’s refocus crop up throughout these posts, this one particularly ties to aspects of communication.

Torrey Trust’s Project pages. As well as the Infographic above, Torrey has created a lot of other useful resources, that, though aimed at K-12 teachers, are just as relevant to Higher Education.

Building Communities of Learning – a set of co-created NearPods, during the Winter ALT Conference about creating communities of learning (you could do a similar exercise with Padlet)

  1. How do you currently support your staff and students in communities of learning
  2. What challenges do you have in building up communities
  3. What safe guarding issues are there?

3: Assessment

A silhouette of a head - facing a questionmark, with cog wheels in the brain area.


Assessment is core to all study – all students expect to be assessed on the work that they do. While we aim not to “teach to the test” – teaching to ensure students can succeed is critical.

We’ll be looking today at both formative assessment or, as it’s also called, “assessment for learning”, and summative assessment.

A silhouette of a head - facing a questionmark, with cog wheels in the brain area.

Links to the Exemplary Module Framework

Section 5 – Assessment:  The module orientation/module engagement plan should clearly outline how students will be assessed including submission and feedback information as required and should align with the module descriptor 
There are clear links between this and section 6 – Learning Materials and Resources

Links to Blend Your Module

In Blend Your Module, we looked at the whole process of blending a module. Assessment and Feedback are critical throughout the process – and indeed, there are a lot of overlaps, particularly with Learning Materials (which we will look at in the next post). In this post we’ll particularly think about

Summative Assessment

When asked about Assessment, most staff and students focus on exams / coursework / research projects etc. – those elements that you have linked to the final overall module grade. These will have already been through a series of reviews, so at the point of designing a module,  you should already know what they’re going to be.

In the module template, you have an assessment folder, placeholders for the overall assessment schedule, space to add in assessment briefs and submission points. It’s also a good idea to include guidance to any tools you’ll be using for assessment, whether that’s Turnitin for similarity checking, or a different external tool such as Mobiius

If you’ve read “The Bigger Picture” in Blend your Module, you will already be familiar with ideas of alignment; do the activities in your course make it possible for the learners to succeed in the assessment.

Formative assessment

While you may not have the ability to change the summative assessments for this academic year, you can look at the formative assessments. For many of these, they’re often assessment for learning

In many cases, what’s of real value to students is the feedback, not the grade (though students may think otherwise…)

There are many things that can help with informal assessment – talking to colleagues around the university here are just some of them.

In the class

  • Using Mentimeter to get quick feedback on content
  • Blackboard mobile quizzes
    • We even have staff in the Medical school who create a quiz that students do twice – firstly individually, and then in a group -to discuss the questions. They’re doing it as part of their team based learning
    • Remember, to really make multiple choice quizzes useful for students, don’t just tell them if they’re right or wrong, rather remind them of why the answer was correct (in case it was a lucky guess) and give them hints to point them to the right answer if not.
  • Peer feedback. In DJCAD, students frequently give each other feedback as part of their crits; but it’s also possible to use Turnitin to allow students to give each other feedback on drafts of work. Students often learn as much from others’ work as they do from comments on theirs.
  • Could you get students to create questions, based on this week’s work to be used with the rest of the class? Perhaps you could use Padlet to enable this?
  • How about getting students to co-create part of the assessment criteria?

In their own time

We’ve mentioned quizzes above, and often quizzes are done independently. Other ideas that can be useful for independent activities may include

  • Reflective journals – should you be marking these, or should you encourage students to use them to help draw together aspects of the course; perhaps as a useful talking point in meetings with advisors of study?
  • Using the narration tools in Windows/Office/Mac – can be very powerful to do proof reading for students. It’s often easy when reading your own work to read what you thought you wrote. Hearing it read out loud, even by an automated voice, can show quirks
  • One of Turnitin’s strengths is to allow students to see their similarity report – often students can see where they’re made errors, though they’ll probably need support initially to understand how to rectify the issue.
  • If you use the Padlet LTI tool, to integrate into My Dundee, you can set it to give each student their own (private) padlet – though it might be too soon to add that in as a summative assessment, it could be another way to support student reflection.


Accessibility and Legal considerations

How can you ensure parity in assessment? Will giving students the choice between media to submit content in (e.g. the choice between a podcast, or a reflective essay) ensure that students can focus just on the reflection, rather than the production of it?


Relevant 101 sessions

Other LearningX series

External Resources

Mary Washington Refocus – Assessment

Interesting ways to support online learning(Library login required), This book by Rhona Sharpe has long been a staple of an online tutor. There are many suggestions in here – which you may find useful for formative assessment. 

Edinburgh Reflection Toolkit. If you are asking your students to reflect, you may find some of the ideas in this tool kit invaluable.

Crowd sourcing Technology Enhanced Assessment – this was a session at the ALT summer conference – it’s a video of about 22 minutes.

4: Teaching Materials and Resources

A visual representation of the workflow for a week; including the sections that are synchronous / asynchronous, and how long students should spend on them.


For many staff, a significant part of the preparation for teaching is preparing content – whether that’s pre-recorded videos,  resource lists compiled primarily from library material, material staff have created themselves or OER content that’s relevant. We’ll try to find some pointers to help ease this process, while ensuring the content is engaging.

Links to the Exemplary Module Framework

Section 6 – Teaching Materials and Resources  “Ensure all modules include well labelled internal and external resources.“.

In “Assessment” we’ve already noted the very close links between these two areas. Very little teaching has no aspects of assessment, while feedback usually includes teaching opportunities.

In Blend Your Module, we looked at the whole process of blending a module. While it’s all aimed to support student learning, key aspects that you may wish to revisit are

Content delivery

What’s happening when?

In Module Framework there’s a recommendation made to include a weekly planner for students. It can be very simple – have a look at this one that Sarah Halliday (Geography) created.

A visual representation of the workflow for a week; including the sections that are synchronous / asynchronous, and how long students should spend on them.
Example weekly work flow for students, for a single module

We’ve also got a short podcast, so you can hear Sarah talking about her rationale for developing this workflow.

How are you going to deliver the content?

When we are thinking about content delivery in a blended environment, it’s useful to keep in mind how you’ll be delivering it. Daniel Stanford reminds us to think about the importance of bandwidth – especially low bandwidth.

see link for full information

Have a look at his full blog post, as he covers different aspects and encourages you to think about what’s really important when delivering content. In a similar vein,  Active Learning While Physically Distancing () also takes into account that you may have a group of students, but spread out across the room, making traditional group work difficult.

Breaking content into chunks

A key element of the module framework is to ensure that content is chunked, and that students know roughly how long an activity should take. Clearly, that can be hard to estimate – though Wake Forest University have created a tool to support you in estimating it – but it’s always worth asking students how long something actually took.

  • Videos – if you’re pre-recording content – try to keep them as short as possible. Some would recommend as short as 5 minutes
    • Remember, some students will listen to just the audio track, so make sure you make the original slides available (those without audio embedded, if you were recording directly into Powerpoint), and let students know when you’re moving between slides.
  • Look at the content again – could you be more concise?
  • If you give a reading task – give students key facts to look out for.
    • Philosophy give students a “concept hunt”. Students are asked to find particular concepts in the weeks reading, and then to explain them to each other.  They use the conversation tool in Blackboard.

As Students find note taking difficult, even in the classroom, when it’s online, they may think it’s not as important as it is when they’re in the classroom. In Mary Washington’s “Refocus Online”, there are a number of ideas to help students keep notes, often in a more visual fashion. (See Strategy 5 )

Could you encourage students to keep notes,  perhaps sharing them collectively using OneNote or Word? Or could they create and share sketchnotes?

Accessibility and Legal considerations

Clearly content creation, and accessibility are very closely linked. By the start of teaching, all content should be accessible. Disability services have a wealth of resources, which should be your first port of call. In the Introductory post, we shared Helen’s Wakelet; you might find it useful to revisit.


Relevant 101 sessions

Other LearningX series

  • Searching, Using and Sharing This gives a range of pointers to content you can use with your students, particularly Creative Commons / Open Educational Resources (OERs) that allow re-use, and often (though not always) adaptation to meet your particular needs.

External Resources

Mary Washington Refocus – Content

BC Campus Open Education – a wealth of OpenText books, some albeit with a Canadian slant, but many are useful.

BC Campus – Virtual Lab and Science Resource list – whereas the previous link covers text books, these include science labs that can be used remotely.