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
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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

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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?
Hlas, A. C., Schuh, K. L., & Alessi, S. M. (2008). Native and Non-Native Speakers in Online and Face-to-Face Discussions: Leveling the Playing Field. Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 36(4), 337–373. https://doi.org/10.2190/ET.36.4.b

3: Assessment

A silhouette of a head - facing a questionmark, with cog wheels in the brain area.
Reading Time: 4 minutes


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.
Reading Time: 3 minutes


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.

5: Active and Social Learning

A venn diagram, with 3 overlapping circles. Affective, Constructive and teaching. In the intersection of all 3 is educational experience
Reading Time: 4 minutes


Humans are innately social, most people need others to share ideas with, to learn from, and to generally engage with while learning.

Links to the Exemplary Module Framework

Section 7 – Active and Social Learning:  “Make use of online activities and peer interaction to motivate active and social learning supported by the collaborative and communication tools“.

In “Communication we’ve already noted the very close links between this and Section 4 – Communication and Interaction – one is needed to allow the other to happen. Today, therefore, we’ll try to concentrate more on the learning experiences of students.

In Blend Your Module, we looked at different learning types and experiences. Social learning is very much of an experience, so we will particularly focus on these two learning experience types.

Getting to know each other – developing the nascent community

Online icebreakers are sometimes a challenge; it can be hard to find things that work, but do not challenge students to engage with things they may find challenging. For example, a popular activity for some “2 truths and a lie” can be very challenging for others. These are some of the ideas that we know staff are working on around the University.

  • Buddies  – could you get students to buddy with each other (e.g 2nd/3rd years buddying new students, or students forming buddying groups
  • Speed Friending – put students into random groups in Collaborate – give them 5 – 10 minutes to chat, then return to the main room. Repeat as needed. Idea from Stavros Kourtidis, Business School.
  • “Treasure hunts” In the School of Education, they’ve sent out information about the course, student support etc, in advance. Students have to find key facts in that, in groups, in live sessions  – under time limitations.
  • Which Harry Potter character are you? Another idea from the School of Education – introduce yourself as a Harry Potter character, and say why.

And some other ideas

  • Ideas for engagement – A Padlet that was created during a Playful Learning Workshop, do any grab your interest?
  • Community Building Online – this is an ongoing resource of activities to help students develop online communities. It’s curated by Equity Unbound and OneHE – both groups who’re focussed on equity for all in education.
  • Padlet – we now have a site licence for Padlet, what might you do with this to engage students?
  • Miro have shared a number of ideas for icebreakers – most of which don’t need Miro – though the monster activity is probably best done in Miro – could you convert any of the activities into Powerpoint?

Do you have any icebreakers that have worked online – share them with others in the chat!
Or, are there any things you’ve have realised haven’t quite worked – again, let us know. [Remember, you don’t have to give your own name if you prefer not to]

Active learning – the engaged student

Active learning, or student engagement is something that almost all staff have asked CTIL about.
When we ask staff about “what’s engagement”, we usually get a range of answers – answers that include both the measurable “lots of clicks on My Dundee”, and those that are much header to measure “community spirit”. Which, to you as an educator, is the more important?

A key resource covering Engagement is Mary Washington’s Refocus.  As we’ve suggested in other posts, have a look at all their content on the site. In the Engagement area, we’d like to particularly look at the concepts of teaching presence, social presence and cognitive presence.

Teaching presence, the structure and organisation of a module is something we’ve already focussed on in earlier posts. You’ll have structured the module to fit the requirements of the Module framework – which covers much of this aspect.

Social presence, as well as thinking about the community development we mention above, this  is also covered in the Communication posts – and again, supported by the Module Framework.

Cognitive presence. How can we scaffold  the learning activities that we give students to enable them to  construct meaning and understanding of the subject matter. This is the real key to engagement, yet it’s the one that’s the hardest to truly measure.

These 3 presences were developed originally by Anderson et al (1999), and are often represented as a Venn Diagram.

A venn diagram, with 3 overlapping circles. Affective, Constructive and teaching. In the intersection of all 3 is educational experience
Suggested update to the Community of Inquiry venn diagram flickr photo by giulia.forsythe shared using (CC0)

There is a lot of overlap between this, and Siemen’s ideas of connectivism.

From talking to staff around the University, we’ve got several suggestions of what they’ve found has already worked, or things they’re intending to do.

  • Pass the question. Staff in the Medical School get students, once they have answered a question to nominate the next student – who the tutor then asks a question to.
  • Concept Hunt. In Philosophy, students are given some key concepts to hunt for in the material they’re given to read.
  • Cross year peer tutorial groups: In the Dental school, they’re hoping to have students from different years working as a group on a case study.

What activities might you do that would support students developing their own understanding of their learning? If you’re concerned that your students don’t have effective online study habits, LJ Logue (from SSEN/ CTIL) has put together a padlet to support students in developing effective study habits (you’ll may even get some ideas for yourself!)

Accessibility and Legal considerations

As always, you should ensure that activities are accessible by all students, and that you’re not requiring students to share information that may be personal under GDPR. The activities listed on the Equity Unbound site are particularly useful for ideas that should work with all students.


Relevant 101 sessions

Other LearningX series

  • learning footprints – looking at the information you leave online as you progress through your learning

External Resources

Active Learning while Physically Distancing –  Salim, Z. (2020). Active Learning while Physically Distancing 2.0. The Aga Khan University. Licensed under CC-BY-NC-SA. This work is a derivative of Baumgartner, J. et. al. (2020). Active Learning while Physical Distancing. Louisiana State University. Also licensed under CC-BY-NC-SA. 

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 ideas for engaging students with each other. 

Over to you

We’ve not actively asked you to contribute in some of the intermediate posts, but now you’ve read them all, have a look at the ideas you had following the first post. Have your ideas changed? Have you any new ideas?