Online learning platforms can be used solely as information repositories. However, even in learning journeys where the majority of interactions are face-to-face rather than online, platforms can be effectively and efficiently leveraged to enhance teaching and learning.

Instead of lecture-based modules centred around knowledge transfer, Aula is designed to enable learning experiences which include

• evidence-based best practices in online learning;

• High Impact Practices; and

• active, social and applied principles.

These three pillars support learners to increase their engagement (affectively, behaviourally and intellectually) and therefore to be more motivated, satisfied and to achieve improved grades (Kuh et al; HEA).

Here, we will dive into how these practices and principles can be applied to a module.

This diagram outlines a section of an example learning flow - these stages can be repeated multiple times throughout the module:

6 part flow.png

Below is a more granular breakdown of these six stages, alongside examples from Aula. The exemplars below should be used as guidance rather than cookie-cutter templates; they demonstrate one of many potential versions of a high-impact design, delivery and structure.

👉 Orientate:


This image is of the Orientate stage which includes

🔵 An introduction, where the module leader delivers a recorded summary of what will be covered this week (topics and outcomes) and a summary of what learners will do (via video)

🔵 A bullet point ‘to do’ list for the week (via text)

🔵 A welcome post in the Community to welcome learners to the week and prompt them to start the learning (via text)

Tip: When working out what to include in the learning flow, look at your outcome(s), plus the skills and behaviours you want learners to practice, demonstrate and test. Then, define a challenge: what do students need to do and produce in order to achieve this outcome?

Tip: Only include the content required to meet the outcome(s) and resolve the challenge for that week. Typically, modules contain lots of content. Add any non-core but relevant resources to a dedicated Resources area to decrease the cognitive load.

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👉 Learn & Embed

Learn & Embed.png

This image is of the Learn & Embed stage which includes

🔵 A short lesson, where the academic introduces key concepts and topics to lay foundational knowledge (via a dual coded video)

🔵 A check for understanding, where learners are asked to complete a solo activity to embed their learning and build their confidence. Learners can do this by responding to an elaborative question which requires them to recall and then explore a topic by thinking about how or why things work - for instance, by answering ‘Why is leadership a contested concept?’ instead of ‘What is leadership?’. (via text)

🔵 A walk-through of the answer to the check for understanding. This may also involve a walk-through a similar/ more complex question on the same topic to deepen learning and support mastery (via audio or video).

Tip: Think - what are the best means of delivery for the content in question? Sometimes narrated visuals are essential, for instance for the understanding of complex technical concepts. For less technical concepts, audio - especially 'in conversation' audio between experts who might, for example, provide a varied perspective on the same question's topic - can be a highly effective way to deliver content.

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👉 Apply & Produce

Apply and Produce.png

The image is of the Apply & Produce stage, which includes

🔵 A short introduction to an application activity which requires learners to apply what they have learned and embedded (via a dual coded video). Here, deliberate practice has been leveraged - elaboration or concrete examples are other possible options:

  • Deliberate Practice: students learn through doing or practising what they have learned about. Use when modules and outcomes are applied / practical. Examples: build an algorithm, write a marketing communications plan, sketch a building, write an equation, do a short research project.
  • Elaboration / Exploration Question: ‘why and how’ elaborative questioning to support learning through research, analysis, critical thinking and reflection. Use when outcomes relate to understanding, analysing and articulating content, theories and concepts. Example: ‘Why would Shakespeare have Macbeth say that he thought he heard a voice cry out ‘Sleep no more!’?”
  • Concrete Examples + Commentary: ask learners to provide an example of something in action and explain its meaning and significance. Use for a range of disciplines - it is particularly powerful for creative topics and those which benefit from visuals. It’s also great for outcomes which require students to interrogate, research, explore, analyse and explain. Example: “Search the internet and find an example of Brutalist architecture. Annotate the image, explaining Brutalist features and influences.”

🔵 A summary of the activity and a bullet point ‘to do’ list including clear actions for learners to a) complete the activity and then b) share their output on the feed and provide feedback to peers’ work (via text)

🔵 A resource area containing a collection of a couple of select resources, which support the completion of the ‘apply’ activity’ (via text)

Tip: If you have a large quantity of content, separate it into short chunks to avoid cognitive overload, weaving activities between the 'chunks' to embed learning for each chunk and to keep the experience active and engaging

Tip: if the module outcomes include ‘social skills’, e.g. communication, leadership, influencing skills, make this a group activity. Where possible, decide whether you use small groups or the whole class based on class size.

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👉 Share & Compare

Share & Compare.png

The image is of the Share and Compare stage, which includes

🔵 Students’ output on the feed (via text, video or audio)

🔵 Students feedback on their peers’ work

Tip: In all activities, include some sort of social, share and compare element; this helps with student motivation, builds accountability and supports peer to peer learning (social learning). The latter can be a helpful way of maintaining presence and connection when the staff-student ratio is challenging.

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👉 Analyse & Explore

Analyse & Explore.png

The image is of the Analyse and Explore stage, which includes:

🔵 An overview of the live session (via text)

• Logistics: what, where, how to join (Zoom link)

• Schedule: what will happen and what to prepare in advance

🔵 A live session during which the educator embeds learning, explore the outputs produced during the week and support mastery through an additional ‘Apply’ activity (via Zoom or face-to-face)

Tip: The analysis, exploration and feedback stage of the experience is where live or synchronous contact is at its most valuable. Don't use live sessions to dump content. Instead, use live or synchronous time to explore and analyse learning or outputs, tackle any challenges and push learning further, e.g. through small group activities.

Tip: This stage is a great opportunity to build connection among students, e.g. through peer feedback, peer teaching and synchronous group work.

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👉 Round-Up


The image is of the Round-Up stage, which includes:

🔵 An Office Hour, where the educator fills any gaps in knowledge identified during the week and responds to Q&A tagged questions on the feed (via video)

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👉 This structure can then be replicated across subsequent chunks of learning

We've also shared some ideas on actionable examples of active, social and applied teaching on Aula.

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