Academy Forum 2: Designing Blended Learning

Our next Academy Forum will be taking place online on Thursday 2nd December, 10am-11.30am. In this Academy Forum, participants will be sharing their experiences and approaches to designing blended learning.

In response to the pandemic, many of us had to adapt our teaching practices considerably. For most, this relied on an increase in the use of technology and online activities for students to undertake in their own time asynchronously. Blended Learning design looks at how you might approach or integrate online interactions with face-to-face teaching.

Participants will be reflecting on their current approaches to teaching and how they design online and face to face activities. We’ll be looking at some frameworks that will be helpful in planning for blended learning and be thinking about strategies for successfully and gracefully integrating online teaching into face to face interactions, and face to face interactions into online teaching.

Take a look at our overview of forthcoming Academy Forums and book your place online.

If you have any questions, then please contact us:

Academy Forums 2021-22

As the start of term kicks off, we’d like to invite you to the forthcoming Academy Forums over the next academic year. Our academy forums take place around a particular topic or theme relevant to learning and teaching. They’re an informal space to reflect on and share teaching practice, build connections with colleagues from other disciplines, and keep up to date with debates in the HE sector.

Based on feedback from our successful sessions last year, we’ve extended our Academy Forums to 90 minutes.

Our first session is taking place on 2nd November, 11am-12.30pm. In this session, we’ll be taking a look at the results from the Digital Insights survey. The survey is run by JISC and asks students about their digital learning experiences. For the academic 2020-21, we had over a thousand responses. Come along to this session if you want to hear about the findings and also think about ways in which you can build the results into your digital teaching.

Second up, on the 2nd December (10am-11.30am), we’ll be thinking about designing blended learning. Over the past eighteen months, colleagues have delivered purely online, purely face to face, and also Hyflex teaching activities for students. If you want to consider how to blend the online teaching activities with in person teaching activities, then come along to this session. You’ll be able to reflect on the resources that you’ve produced and how you might go about tweaking them for the current teaching context.

Following the winter vacation period, our third Academy Forum session will be taking place on 10th February (10am-11.30am). This session will take a look at strategies for designing authentic assessments. JISC outline, in their paper The Future of Assessment: five principles, five targets for 2025, that one of the key tenets of assessment design is to make it authentic. Participants will be given the opportunity to enhance an existing assessment or design a new one from scratch.

Into spring now, and our fourth Academy Forum of the year will be looking at peer feedback opportunities. Students develop greater cognitive processing through being given the opportunity to work with their peers – from paraphrasing complex theories, through to sensitively critiquing other students’ work, peer feedback activities can be used to great effect. This Academy Forum will be taking place on the 3rd March, 11am-12.30am. 

Our final academy forum will be looking at Students as Partners on 27th April, 11am-12.30pm. There are different approaches that can be used for Students as Partners projects. We’ll be looking at these – from student co-design to enhancement projects. In LTEU, we’ve worked on a number of student as partners initiatives and will be sharing our projects as well as giving you opportunities to establish you own project at session, module, course, or departmental level. 

For now, our Academy Forums will be taking place online. Book your place on our Course Booking site. Hope to see you there.

Mini-Fest: Assessment – 17th May – 21st May

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The Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit is pleased to announce its first mini-festival. The aim of the mini-fest is to bring together training sessions and workshops offered by LTEU around a particular topic with an external speaker. For this first mini-fest, we’ll be looking specifically at assessment. The mini fest will run from Monday 17th May until Friday 21st May and will be taking place online via Teams. Please book on the sessions that you wish to attend on our online booking system.

We are going to be joined by Professors Sally Brown and Kay Sambell to talk about assessment design post covid on Monday 17th May for a 2-hour workshop at 10.30am. Their paper Writing Better Assignments in the post Covid19 Era has been widely discussed across the sector since last summer:

Improving assessment and feedback processes post-pandemic: authentic approaches to improve student learning and engagement.

This workshop is designed to build on lessons learned during the complex transitions academics made last year when face-to-face on-campus assessment became impossible. A whole range of approaches were used by academics globally not only to cope with the contingency but also to streamline assessment and more fully align it with learning.

We now have an important opportunity to change assessment and feedback practices for good by boosting the authenticity of our designs to ensure they are future-fit.  Drawing on their work undertaken throughout 2020, the facilitators of this workshop Professor Kay Sambell and Professor Sally Brown will argue that we can’t ever go back to former ways of assessment and will propose practical, manageable approaches that fully integrate assessment and feedback with learning, leading to improved outcomes and longer-term learning for students.

Professor Kay Sambell is an Independent Consultant widely known internationally for her contributions to the Assessment for Learning (AfL) movement in higher education. A 2002 National Teaching Fellow (NTF) and Principal Fellow Higher Education Academy (PFHEA), she is President of the vibrant Assessment in Higher Education (AHE) conference series, ( and Visiting Professor of Assessment for Learning at the University of Sunderland and the University of Cumbria. Kay has held personal chairs in Learning and Teaching at Northumbria University, where she co-led one of the UK Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning which specialised in AfL, and, more recently, at Edinburgh Napier University.


Professor Sally Brown is an Independent Consultant in Learning, Teaching and Assessment and Emerita Professor at Leeds Beckett University where she was, until 2010, Pro-Vice-Chancellor. She is also Visiting Professor at Edge Hill University and formerly at the Universities of Plymouth, Robert Gordon, South Wales and Liverpool John Moores and at Australian universities James Cook Central Queensland and the Sunshine Coast. She is a PFHEA, a Staff and Educational Development Association (SEDA) Senior Fellow and an NTF. She is widely published on learning, teaching and particularly assessment and enjoys working with institutions and teams on improving the student learning experience.


In addition to Sally’s and Kay’s workshop, LTEU will be offering sessions and workshops over the course of the week:

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Reflections from Academy Forum: How can I make my teaching more inclusive?

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Last week’s Academy Forum on inclusivity was one of the best-attended sessions this year. It was great to see so much interest and commitment in developing more inclusive teaching. This session was delivered in partnership with Student Support Services. Accessibility Advisor Nicky Cashman provided staff with information on demographics at AU as well as support available to students.  

The session started from a broad question of ‘what does inclusivity means to you’ (see the word cloud we created above). After Nicky’s introduction, we moved onto a scenario-based activity. Each group was given one scenario to work with. Every few minutes each group received and an additional piece of information providing them with a broader perspective of the situation.

The scenarios can be found at the bottom of the post.

The activity was followed by a whole-group discussion. Staff talked about a ‘duty of care’ towards their students and the extent to which they are expected and should be monitoring their students. We also talked about the balance between taking care of individual students and the needs of the entire cohort. The group looking at scenario one rightly pointed out that more inclusive practice would be to ensure that students are pre-assigned to groups, to avoid situations when someone is excluded. A discussion on when alternative assessments are appropriate and where additional support in completing existing assessments would be more suitable. Finally, the importance of establishing trust with students as well as checking in with students who may show early signs of difficulties was discussed.

We are very grateful to Nicky and all staff who attended and contributed to this session.

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Academy Forums 2020/21

The Academy Forum provides a platform for sharing good practice in learning and teaching. The Forum is open to members of the University community: teaching staff, postgraduate tutors, support staff, and students are all welcome. All forums will be held online for the year 2020/21 and you can book your place on the Staff Training Website.

The two Academy Forums running in the next few months are:

27.01.2021 (15:00-16:30): How can I plan online and in-person activities?

    In this session, we will discuss differences in designing and conducting sessions in three different formats: online, in-person and blended. As part of the session, attendees will be required to work with their colleagues in designing an activity for one type of delivery. The group work will be followed by reflecting on and discussing different approaches taken and their suitability regarding various sessions’ formats. We will collectively identify factors essential for effective teaching in an online, in-person and blended design.

19.02.2021 (10:00-11:30): How can I make my teaching more inclusive?

    In this session, we will discuss the benefits and challenges of making teaching more inclusive at university and we will explore these ideas through a series of group-based scenarios. We will also be joined by a member of the Student Support team who will give a brief overview of the student demographic at the University; strategies that are in place to deal with issues relating to inclusivity; and some practical tips on how you could make your teaching more inclusive.  

We will also be running other Academy Forums throughout the rest of the academic year, including:

24.04.2021 (14:00-15:30): How can I embed wellbeing into the curriculum?
28.04.2021 (14:00-15:30): Preparing students for assessments
24.05.2021 (14:00-16:00): Reflections on this year’s Academy Forum

We hope that you will be able to attend these forums. Please contact us with any questions (

Motivation strategies for online engagement – reflections from the last Academy Forum in Semester One

For the last Academy Forum in Semester One we chose one of the most common topics raised by teaching staff; how to motivate students, particularly when it comes to online learning?

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The first part of the session was a general discussion which started from reflection on when we feel most motivated and it revealed factors such as:

  • When there is external pressure (deadline) 
  • When it is enjoyable
  • When it involves other people 
  • When the tasks are not that difficult, important or multifaceted
  • When you receive positive feedback

Attendees also shared their strategies for keeping themselves motivated:

  • Switching between tasks
  • Breaking big projects into smaller tasks
  • Asking yourself why do you need to do it?
  • Completing a smaller, manageable task and using the ‘success high’ and motivation that comes with it to work on something else
  • Complaining less about having to do it and just getting on with it
  • Using lists and being able to cross things off
  • Setting realistic targets 
  • Looking after yourself (trying to see work in perspective)

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Why and how to help students to reflect on their learning?

In the next Academy Forum this year we explored the why and how of helping students to reflect on their learning. Our discussion started from the attempt to define what reflection is.  Using the polling software we gathered initial thoughts from the attendees which touched upon different aspects of reflection including learning, challenging assumptions, noticing, evaluating and thinking about an action.

What is reflection? learning, self-actualisation, challenging assumptions, developing, thinking about an action, mindfulness, evaluating, noticing, thinking, making sense, pondering, process, evaluating

“Put simply, reflection is about maximising deep and minimising surface approaches to learning.” (Hinett, 2002 as cited in Philip, 2006, p. 37). Students who adopt a more surface approach to learning and students who have little interest in the topic are more likely to view any assessment as a means to an end. However, students who adopt a deep approach, committed to understanding the topic, and those who take the time to think about feedback are much more likely to improve their future performance. The difference between the two approaches (surface and deep) is that the ‘deep’ learner reflects on experience. Reflection is also a way of getting students to realise that learning is about drawing on life experiences, not just something that takes place in the lecture theatre. It helps students to think about what, why and how they learn and to understand that this impacts on how well they do (Philip, 2006).

As reiterated by Race (2002 as cited in Philip, 2006, p.37): “Reflection deepens learning. The act of reflecting is one which causes us to make sense of what we’ve learned, why we learned it, and how that particular increment of learning took place. Moreover, reflection is about linking one increment of learning to the wider perspective of learning – heading towards seeing the bigger picture. Reflection is equally useful when our learning has been unsuccessful – in such cases indeed reflection can often give us insights into what may have gone wrong with our learning, and how on a future occasion we might avoid now-known pitfalls. Most of all, however, it is increasingly recognised that reflection is an important transferable skill, and is much valued by all around us, in employment, as well as in life in general.”

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Using Podcasts for Teaching

The second Academy Forum session this year focused on creating podcasts in Panopto. The discussion emphasised podcasts’ unique potential for facilitating a sense of connection. Usually based on informal monologues, interviews and discussions podcasts provide their users with opportunities to listen in to unconstructed reflections and conversations. As explained by Street (2014) audio storytelling creates a ‘partnership between imagination and memory’ triggering a unique and personal reaction to it (as cited in McHugh, 2014, p.143). Podcasts can provide us with company; unlike with videos or written texts, we can listen to them during other daily activities.

These unique properties of podcasts hold great potential for its use in education. University of Cambridge created a collection of short podcasts from various subject areas. Podcasts are also used by individual educators, Ian Wilson, a Senior Lecturer in Education at York St John University Ian Wilson created a series of podcasts aimed at supporting learners on placements. His podcast focused on providing students with instructions on what the students should be doing the following week, answering any of their questions and providing some motivational advice. Although podcasting may not necessarily be the best solution for delivering the key learning material, as discussed during the Academy Forum session, it can complement your current teaching practice by fostering reflection, increasing learner’s engagement and foster a sense of community.

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Academy Forums 2020/21

The Academy Forum provides a platform for sharing good practice in learning and teaching. The Forum is open to members of the University community: teaching staff, postgraduate tutors, support staff, and students are all welcome. All forums will be held online for the year 2020/21 and you can click here to book your place.

The Academy Forums for the year 2020/21 are:

07.10.2020 (14:00-15:30): Creating a Learning and Teaching Community

19.10.2020 (11:00-12:30): Creating Podcasts in Panopto

19.11.2020 (10:00-11:30): Why and how to help students to reflect on their learning?

30.11.2020 (14:00-15:30): Motivation strategies for Online Learning Engagement

27.01.2021 (15:00-16:30): How can I plan online and in person activities?

19.02.2021 (10:00-11:30): How can I make my teaching more inclusive?

We hope that you will be able to attend these forums. Please contact us with any questions (

Additional Distance Learning Forum

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Following feedback, we have added an additional Distance Learning Forum.

Supervising at a Distance

Date: 11.03.2020

Time: 14:00-15:30

Location: E3, E-learning Training Room

This forum is an opportunity to discuss to the good practice happening around the university on a variety of distance learning schemes and modules.  For those of you who are already supervising at a distance, we hope you will be able to bring your expertise and knowledge to those who are newer to this process. 

Book your place online: