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 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).

Learning experiences benefit from the inclusion of evidence-based best practices in online learning, such as:

  • Concrete examples / case studies - support understanding by illustrating ideas/concepts via applied examples that learners can easily grasp
  • Dual coding (video)- the integration of words with images which is proven to support engagement, understanding and retention
  • Elaborative questioning - proven to support engagement and understanding
  • Retrieval practice - have learners test what they remember to support retention
  • Spaced practice - delay interval periods between practice tests and increase difficulty to develop understanding and support mastery over time
  • Interactive feedback - proven to impact positively on student understanding and achievement

Compared with the lecture-based approach, the learning experience can include more High Impact Practices which are proven to impact positively on student engagement, satisfaction scores and grades (Kuh et al; NSSE). These practices include:

• Active learning

• Teacher presence and teacher to student contact

• Learner presence and peer to peer contact and collaboration

• Frequent, contextualised and interactive feedback

Below are some tips on how to implement social, active and applied principles of learning on Aula. We've also shared some ideas on how to design using these principles on more of a macro level.

Active learning

What? As a learner, I actively participate in the learning experience and learn through doing, exploring and analysing rather than passively receiving information, for example via a 'sage on the stage' lecture.

Why? Active learning can enable affective, behavioural and intellectual engagement. This means students are more likely to be motivated and satisfied. It also yields feedback on student understanding and therefore more reactive teaching.


Ensure learners are as active as possible and actually doing something - reading, watching and listening aren't activities. Place emphasis on active review or exploration of what’s been learned and encourage mastery by doing and producing even more. Here are some actionable examples:

  • Problem or challenge-based learning - set learners problems to explore, discuss and resolve. For example, ask students to review a micro-lecture and complete a challenge before sharing an output with peers. Then, ask students to critique and refine their work and share it at a live session. In the live session, push learning even further by repeating a similar but more challenging activity within more restricted timeframes
  • Research activities - for example, have students conduct research projects and lead the teaching process
  • Questions - for example, provide prompt questions before a short lecture or piece of content to ensure learners actively engage with the content as they receive it. Set prompt questions and problems for students to solve as they watch / listen / read. Consider using methods like the Cornell lecture notes taking system to ensure active engagement with content. Build-in opportunities for peer to peer and educator to peer questioning, exploration and critique.

Tip - To help ensure engagement and accountability as well as to help embed learning, make learner actions visible and public. For example: do X and then share with X and agree on X.

Tip - To ensure accountability, provide timelines and ensure students are meeting them

Social learning

What? As a learner, I have contact with my peers and my tutor on both an academically purposeful and more social level. While I may do solo work, I am known and seen by my tutor and my peers and have multiple opportunities for synchronous as well as live and asynchronous contact and collaboration.

Why? Social learning can enable meaningful engagement with peers and educators, and thereby increase satisfaction and motivation.


Maximise opportunities for learner and teacher presence and contact - both formal and informal. Here are some actionable examples:

  • Introductory activities - build in time and space to enable learners to connect and share on a social as well as academic level. For example, ask them to share something about themselves and a photo that captures something they’re interested in
  • Group tasks or projects - create opportunities for learners to problem solve and produce together as a class or in small groups. Ask learners to share what they do and produce with peers and to comment, ask questions and challenge one another. Group work can include smaller weekly group outputs and summative ‘capstone’ group projects
  • Buddies - create buddies / pairs who can work together and support one another through the experience - this can be particularly helpful when the teacher : student ratio is low
  • Teacher presence - build tutor-learner connection through the presence of the teacher, both sync in live classes and async by being present on the feed, in group chats and via 'teacher present' async content delivery, e.g. face to camera video
  • Quasi-social spaces - create common rooms or screening rooms, where students can connect and share things of interest (for example, where they can pin their work or resources of interest to the common room wall)

Applied learning

What? As a learner, my learning journey provides experiences which intentionally require me to develop and refine skills that I can apply in the real world.

Why? In contrast to abstract and theoretical learning experiences which aim to develop knowledge and skills only through a study of theory, the applied approach is intentionally more immersive and experiential, which increases engagement and develops important skills.


Active learning is what a flight simulator is for pilots, but for all knowledge and skills development - it's about providing real or close to real conditions to develop real, applicable skills. Here are some actionable examples:

  • Real-world problems - draw on real or close to real problems, challenges and case studies for learners to tackle
  • Real-world outputs - have learners produce 'real world' outputs rather than academic outputs. For instance, students create a marketing portfolio rather than an essay on marketing, and instead of attending a lecture on 'The Principles of Project Management' they create a Project Initiation Document as they would if they were a real project manager
  • Real-world assets - use real assets. For example, if you're working on a module about Project Initiation Documents, provide real examples from real projects
  • Industry feedback - bring in industry experts to feedback on learners' outputs and steer their development.

Tip - For each week / chunk of the learning journey, look at your outcome(s) and define a challenge: what do students need to do and produce in order to achieve this outcome? When defining your challenge, keep skills and behaviours in mind. What are the skills and behaviours we want our learners to develop and how can we enable them to practice, demo and test these skills during this challenge?

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