Currently viewing the tag: "Student Experience"

There are a range of tools available for new and existing enrolled students to contribute towards development of digital capability. The three listed below are key starting points. A video introduction to this posting is also available.

1) Rate your digital fitness

This will provide a quick overview of your digital strengths and areas for development. A personal report will be generated which will allow you to track improvements over time. For more details see –

2) The “Student Introduction to NILE (Ultra)” site on the Organisations tab on NILE

NILE (Northampton Integrated Learning Environment) is a online base for most of your course. This site provides a basic introduction to NILE. You will find the site listed in the “Organisations” area after logging into NILE.

Image showing location of the Introduction to NILE resource

3) LinkedIn for Learning Resources

LinkedIn Learning will be a resource that you will return to regularly over your student journey. It will help you develop the generic skills that will improve your ability to produce academic level assignments as well as develop digital skills specific to your chosen field. We believe the sooner you get familiar with using LinkedIn Learning the quicker you will be able to produce high quality work. For more details see

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One of our course advocate students on Events Management has kindly collated some reflections on the student’s experiences of online learning.

“I know you are all trying to make our learning experience the best you possibly can in this situation and we are very thankful for that. So to support this, I am reaching out to communicate feedback that I received from my course mates. We will all be stuck with online lectures, probably until we graduate, so I think it is in all our interest to make this the best we possibly can, rather sooner than later.”

Group work

The questions asked were: where are the problems? what would you like to be changed? & are you happy with everything?

There were two different opinions about group work and break out rooms:

  1. Students feel a lot more confident and comfortable contributing when they know the other person, or at least recognise the name of people in the group.
    This leads to group work where no one is speaking with each other at all and work isn’t being done so it’s ultimately a waste of time.
    —> so the goal here would be to be able to choose your partners yourself, as you would in F2F lectures.
  2. On the other hand there are students raising their concerns about this as it can be super isolating for new and anxious students, who may not know anyone personally, and don’t want to be “pushed away”.

One of the suggestions around group work is to set up groups being named as “Camera & Mic”, “Mic”, & “Chat”, so that students can choose the way of group work they feel most comfortable with. Another idea would be to integrate more verbal engagements.

Some of the above suggestions echo those covered in in other guidance on groupwork from Inside Higher Education

Interactive sessions

“Students have more than one lecture where they are physically just spoken to for two hours straight and are watching a PowerPoint. Often not even referenced, this feels pointless.”

Lectures could do with being more interactive, if possible. Many students have mentioned the way other tutors incorporates polls in their lectures to find out about our opinions, then afterwards he asks about the reasons for the answers. This engages students! They are then able to have verbal and written discussions on the chat.


There is currently a discussion underway about whether cameras should be left on or turned off in online sessions. Some students and tutors are valuing the social interaction which is encouraged when they are able to see other participants in the room. Others emphasise with articles such as “Reasons Why You Should Reconsider Requiring Students to Turn on Their Zoom Cameras During Class” and suggest that this should be optional.

For more information on strategies see previous blog postings from Learntech, Mark Allenby’s suggestions on group work and suggestions from Kaltura

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In addition to the excellent range of resources which are available for students to help with NILE, a new Organisational resource has just been released on the platform for those who are new to NILE. This 20 minute mini-course will provide a basic introduction to NILE including navigation and useful tools such as the calendar, activity stream and the Blackboard app.

The course will supplement information and resources provided by tutors and provide a springboard into NILE usage.

New students will be able to view the course by clicking onto the Organisations link after logging into NILE and then click onto the link for “Student Introduction to NILE”:

It is then possible to access all the material in the course. A printable / downloadable confirmation page is available for those who complete all materials.

Staff wishing to preview the material for their own use/reference should follow the guidance for enrolling on Organisations (click on “Add Organisation to Workload”) and search for “Stu-Intro-NILE-staffview”

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Are you struggling to use NILE? Do you want some help getting started with Word, Excel or PowerPoint? Do you know how to access LinkedIn Learning to get loads of technical help and support?
The Learning Technology Team are hosting a series of student drop in sessions to help with basic NILE and Microsoft Office problems.

Click here to find out more

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What are the factors that encourage and inhibit student engagement in online activities, such as e-tivities? This was the question that URBAN project run by Elizabeth Palmer, Sylvie Lomer, Laura Wood and Iveline Bashliyska sought to answer. This blog post outlines some of their findings.

Much research has been done into what makes a ‘good’ e-tivity (Swan, 2001; Sims et al., 2002; Lim et al., 2007; Salmon, 2013; Clark & Mayer, 2011; University of Leicester, n.d.):

  • clear instructions and design,
  • purposeful,
  • perceived relevance,
  • practice opportunities,
  • interactive,
  • structured pathways and sequencing,
  • effective feedback
  • interactions with the tutor

An amalgamation of tips gleaned from this research, such as Gilly Salmon’s “E-tivities: The Key to Active Online Learning” (available from the University library), and the experience of various University of Northampton staff who have been trialling e-tivities over the past year or so is available here: Tips for etivities and blended learning (PDF) It is not by any means definitive but might be helpful!

The Learning Development team (formally known as the Centre for Achievement and Performance: CfAP) offer a range of transferable cognitive and academic skills development opportunities for students, through both face-to-face and online delivery.  Workshops delivered are embedded in subject courses and modules, on request from lecturers and module leaders. In the last year Learning Development has been modifying its delivery of workshops from a solely face-to-face model to a blended model of delivery in accordance with the University’s new pedagogical model. (See the Learning & Teaching Plan   and information about Waterside for more detail). The aim of this approach was to provide online activities that  would offer scalable opportunities for personalised, independent online learning that provide low pressure opportunities for students to practice academic skills  and to maximize the impact of face to face time with students.

A variety of different approaches have been taken to this new blended delivery including; opportunities for structured writing practice; opportunities to shape the content of face-to- face workshops; discussion boards based around students’ concerns with academic and cognitive skills; preparatory writing exercises; interactive activities developing and modelling specific skills such as synthesis and  formative individual feedback on written tasks. However, even when following good e-tivity design principles, student engagement with Learning Development designed e-tivities has varied markedly. For this reason a research project in LLS was undertaken to uncover more detail from students about their engagement with e-tivities. The project adopted qualitative methodologies involving students as co-researchers in order to uncover the causes and factors underpinning this variation, focus groups were conducted with staff and students involved in some of the blended learning activities at UoN.

The first finding was that students did not differentiate between CfAP activities and those of their module tutor. As a consequence it is possible to generalise the results as applicable to blended learning activities regardless of the tutor responsible for setting the activities.

The results can be seen to belong to one of two categories: ‘conditions’ for blended learning and ‘factors’ for student engagement. ‘Conditions’ are necessary and universal for all students; if the conditions cannot be met, successful engagement with blended learning through online activities is highly unlikely. Responsibility for conditions lies with staff and institutional policies and engagement. In contrast, the factors affecting student engagement are individual, personal and particular to the student, cohort and discipline. They do not lie entirely within the control of staff; that said they can be supported and bettered through effective educational practices. For example, a student may have low resilience for challenging activities and although staff can support the student in developing better resilience they cannot create resilience for the student; this constitutes a factor. Conversely, staff can establish accessible e-tivities and effectively communicate their purpose and how to complete them; this constitutes a condition.

The conditions and factors are as follows:

Fundamental conditions for Blended Learning:

  1. Staff engagement and student-staff relationship: This condition highlights the significance of staff motivations, beliefs and approaches to blended learning and relationships with student. Students nearly always mirror the staff’s views.
  2. Communication: This condition pertains to the requirement that communication between staff and students, around the purpose, pedagogical rationale and instructions for tasks, be fully transparent.
  3. Well designed VLE and online learning: This condition pertains to issues of design, navigation, layout etc.

Factors impacting engagement with blended learning:

  1. Student digital literacy and technology preferences: This factor indicates the extent to which individual student engagement with technology impacts variance in student engagement.
  2. Student beliefs and motivations about and for learning: This factor indicates the way that inherited beliefs about learning in general, and specifically in relation to each individual students patterns of learning, impacts their engagement with blended learning
  3. Student capacity for self-management: This factor pertains to variance in individuals ability to self-manage their learning and the impact this has on engagement with blended learning.

Initial findings were disseminated at this year’s LLS conference at the University of Northampton and the research team are now in the process of writing these results up for  publication in the coming months. For the LLS conference presentation please visit:

For further information on these, please contact Elizabeth Palmer and Sylvie Lomer.

See also Julie Usher’s post on Getting Started with Blended Learning: 


Digival-vs-AnalogueAs Learning Designers, my colleagues Rob, Julie and myself are always looking for ways to help staff with the transition to Waterside and in (re-)designing their modules and programmes to take account of new ways of learning and teaching. To this end, there are a number of posts here on the flipped classroom, or on de-mystifying the CAIeRO for example, that aim to take away some of the apprehensions that we know exist.

What does teaching mean to you?

Another recent initiative has been a series of activities designed to help staff begin the process of reconceptualising how they teach and articulating their individual teaching style. In the midst of discussions around whether or not we are going to be a fully-online University (definitely ‘not’), or what the ‘new model’ for learning and teaching is going to be (the decision is for you and your team to determine- within certain parameters), it is easy to lose sight of the value of what staff do each and every day in the classroom – our face-to-face contact time (for an understanding of what we mean by ‘contact time’, including face-to-face and online, click here – sign in required).  Through conversations with ILT generally and Shirley Bennett, our Head of Academic Practice, we hope to help our staff identify what it is that they value about their face-to-face contact time, and then use technology to help them do more of what they value in the classroom. In starting from this perspective, the aim is to conceptualise technology as an enabler, of excellence in learning and teaching rather than a driver.

In response to the question What do you value about your face-to-face teaching? staff have produced some interesting and sometimes unexpected visual metaphors that will be the subject of a later blog. The workshop/Away Day was also used to set a challenge around learning and teaching innovations through reflectiong on past innovations (to you) and sharing ideas with colleagues.

A 21st Century Learning and Teaching SWOT Analysis

The direction of learning and teaching at the University of NorthamptonOur Institute for Learning and Teaching have recently produced a short video that many staff may have already seen, showing the general direction of travel for the 2015-2020 learning and teaching plan. It is important to stress that this model is only one approach – if you have an alternative that is more appropriate to your teaching style and your discipline, then there is no reason for you not to explore how that might look in practice.

The key part of this arrow is the second stage – learning activities that help students to make sense of the content. These can be either online or face-to-face depending on tutors’ individual pedagogy and subject discipline. What works for one subject, might be wholly unsuitable for another – and this is why we are keen to help staff articulate their pedagogical preferences and continue the process of enhancing their own practice and, as a result, the student experience, rather than simply focussing on the latest piece of technology. As a way in to exploring some of these issues, we facilitated a ’21st Century Learning and Teaching SWOT Analysis’. By 21st century learning and teaching, we mean looking at how we prepare our students for employment in the 21st century, where technology is ubiquitous and constantly evolving, and how we use technology ourselves to enhance our learning and teaching. Identifying individual strengths and weaknesses concerning technology-enhanced learning, and highlighting some of the opportunities and threats these new ways of learning and teaching bring helped staff to begin the process of development and provides indicators of individual training needs.

Determining your blend

We also began the process of looking at how to determine what must be taught face-to-face (content or skills) and what could be taught online. Really, this is about thinking what you want your ‘blend’ to look like and builds on the earlier notions of using technology to enable you to do more of what you value in the classroom. Expressing this in terms of what and how students are learning and not solely in terms of what the tutor is teaching can be tricky but we have activities that can help with this. We can also help you to begin to see how this might look in NILE.

Many course teams and individuals have been engaging in various forms of blended learning within their practice for a long time. Determining how you might need to develop your own practices is not something that you need to do in isolation – as Learning Designers, we are here to help and there is also your School Learning Technologist you can draw on, as well as your colleagues.

Packing your Suitcase for Waterside

The day concluded with asking to staff to select what they would need to pack in their suitcases in order to get them from where they are today to where they have identified that they would like to be. This tongue-in-cheek exercise involved selecting from a collection of icons and images of things that you might take on holiday and can include, but is not limited to the following: a bucket and spade (to help you build something new); your Kindle to read while sun-bathing on the beach (mobile content creation and delivery); paracetamol (to help get rid of your headache); lifeguard and buoyancy aid (peer support, learn tech training etc); towel to reserve your (deck)chair (desk) and so on.

On a more serious note, the underlying premise is to identify your training needs, and other ways in which staff can take steps to ‘get ready for Waterside’ and look at what you might do to respond to the challenges of 21st century learning and teaching or the implementation of Changemaker in the Curriculum.

If you or your subject team would like us to facilitate any or all of these activities at an upcoming Staff Development session or Away Day, or to help you design your teaching to enable you to do more of what you value, please email You know where we are!