Careful planning of the contact between staff and students is a key area of module design. As contact points may only represent the minority of total student learning hours on a module, it is important that these are considered carefully in order to optimise student learning.
Students will likely spend a significant amount of their learning hours in independent study and work, outside of contact hours. It is important that there is clarity about what independent study may involve for each module to support students to develop effective approaches and study habits.
Independent study and contact time should be considered together rather than as separate elements. Blended learning designs, which integrate substantial elements of both online and in-person teaching and learning, can provide a useful way of focusing on the relationship between these elements.
An effective blended learning design sets out to create a symbiotic relationship between student work and staff-student contact so that:
Asynchronous activities and resources can support student work so that:
This can also do much to increase flexibility and inclusion by providing a framework for students to engage in different ways at different times.
At its simplest level, blended learning may involve designing the bulk of staff-student contact to take place in-person on campus with online elements consisting predominantly of resources provided to support independent study.
Where this is the case, the resources that you provide online should be designed to complement the in-person teaching.
At a fundamental level this will be provision of materials used in the teaching session online in advance to enable students to familiarise themselves with the content.
Likewise, directing students to online resources during and after the session creates a stronger link, implies value, and motivates students to utilise additional resources as they are explicitly connected to the module’s learning activities.
Independent study could involve preparatory work for contact time (eg targeted reading; preparing a presentation); contact points can also be used to guide or clarify independent study tasks.
The relationships between elements are designed to maximise the benefits of both, and this is made clear to students.
Where you wish to include online activities as a core component of the module design rather than to provide additional or supplementary resources for independent study, this further planning must be done to support students’ independent work through specific activity, access to resources or use of online tools.
This may involve asynchronous staff-student contact (eg staff feedback on responses made by students to online tasks in a discussion board post or a Padlet) as well as synchronous (eg a teaching session).