Accessibility statement

Planning staff-student contact and student work

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:

  • Staff-student contact operates as the foundation that provides students with the skills, knowledge and abilities to take ownership of their learning on the module as a whole
  • Student work is appropriately structured through activities and supporting resources for students to engage in outside of staff-student contact.  This aims to maximise the  benefit of student work and to inform, extend or otherwise complement learning from contact with staff.

Asynchronous activities and resources can support student work so that:

  • Appropriate scaffolding is provided to support independent work and help students to develop towards the module and programme learning outcomes.
  • Students are guided towards content and ways of working with that content that are most likely to support their development and help them manage their workload, especially early on in their university career.
  • There are opportunities for interaction between students and content, students and peers, and students and staff. These provide opportunities for students to calibrate their efforts, monitor and receive feedback on their progress, and compare their efforts with peers in the light of module outcomes and assessment criteria.
  • Teaching staff are afforded greater insights into how their students are getting on and are able to provide feedback and respond to student needs more effectively in a time efficient way, either through asynchronous communication (eg VLE announcements, summarising discussion board postings, or Padlets) or by using these insights to shape synchronous sessions.

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).