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Course Design Blueprint

Active Blended Learning

The University's Learning, Teaching and Assessment Strategy states:

All students will be supported to become actively engaged in their learning, to participate in stimulating and meaningful contact sessions and be guided to reflect on their learning, so that they can take the lead on further enhancing and deepening their understanding beyond the classroom. Students will experience a diverse range of learning activities in contact sessions that provide opportunities to construct their own knowledge, understanding, skills and attributes, facilitated by academic staff.

Above is our iconic question mark, places at the entrance to our Waterfront building.  It is also very useful in the context of course design and delivery as we need to ask


  • Why are we using the approach we are?
  • Why are we structuring the course the way we are?
  • Why are we using the tools we are using?

We need to be thinking about 'Intentional Design', a great resource is the presentation given by Dr Alexandra Mihai at our 2020 Learning and Teaching Day available in Brightspace.

Thinking of Intentional Design and the delivery through Active Blended learning (ABL) is not the same as online learning. ABL sees design, development and delivery of integrated elements of synchronous and asynchronous learning activities and resources.  ABL allows more flexibility in the learning trajectory but still requires both tutor and students to be physically together at certain points. Effective ABL is ensuring that both a variety of synchronous and asynchronous activities are combined to facilitate optimal student engagement but also student-paced and student-directed learning in an environment (on-campus or online) best suited for the activity.  


You should not think of ABL as a blend of on-campus and online, we must consider the blend as synchronous and asynchronous

In the University’s approach to ABL, we expect the following kinds of activities and resources to be adopted. This ensures that students have a full learning experience and are not disadvantaged if they are unable to attend live delivery on campus. Note: some of the ideas listed below might be considered online learning materials, but together with face-to-face delivery on campus create a fully blended learning activity.  

An example model for use in designing ABL content is given below:  

What makes ABL Active Blended Learning?

  • Close interaction with tutors, small group teaching and team work
  • Activities that reflect the workplace and accommodate learner needs
  • A future-focused, digitally rich learning environment
  • An impressive range of accessible and up-to-date online resources and materials across all subject areas
  • Access to information and resources that is straightforward, consistent and reassuring
  • A supportive culture of motivation to progress and succeed, with students’ personal tutors playing a key role
  • A focus on academic and social belonging opportunities, including mentoring and peer support mechanisms

Active Blended Learning IS Active Blended Learning Is NOT
learner-centered and interaction-heavy, with a mix of learner-lecturer, learner-learner and learner-content interactions. one way transmission of knowledge
students having access to a range of media, constructing their own understanding of the subject knowledge students simply receiving information
students turning up to a session having engaged with the learning materials and tools, ready to be collaborative and productive in the session students turning up to a session in order to be taught
students having the opportunity to be guided by their lecturers and peers as they apply their subject knowledge to real-world problems and scenarios students only working independently for the more cognitively-demanding tasks, such as problem solving
using Brightspace to create an engaging module, with narrative and flow, so that students can move seamlessly from topic to topic and use a range of tools. using Brightspace as a content dump or file repository
using Brightspace as an integral part of how the learning is delivered using the online content as a bolt on
something that you develop in conjunction with your course team and the support available to you from Digital Learning Designers, Academic Skills Advisors and Learning & Teaching Librarians. something you come up with on your own
is tweaked and enhanced in response to feedback from students and the engagement data built once and left alone
understanding that face-to-face tuition is just one small part of how we can help learners to progress and develop. If we use the full range of tools available to us, they can make progress just as well (and ideally better) than before. completely reliant on face-to-face tuition


Principles for the use of ‘learning session capture’ technology at the University of Suffolk

The University is committed to providing students with a flexible and supportive learning experience. This includes the use of Virtual Classroom (Bongo, VC) for the delivery of lectures, and on occasion seminars/workshops. The University recognises that this will enable students to engage with live synchronous delivery, but to also revisit learning post live delivery or if, exceptionally, engagement with live delivery is not possible. 

Full guidance on the use of technology in teaching spaces is published in rooms. In addition, guidance is online at 

Guiding Principles

The use of recorded sessions (learning session capture) is based on the following guiding principles: 

  1. All lectures should be delivered using Bongo VC, and should, normally, be live-streamed, recorded and posted to the Brightspace module / unit folder.
  2. Where appropriate, all seminars/workshops should normally be delivered using VC, and should, normally, be recorded and posted to the Brightspace module/unit folder.
  3. If the learning session is delivered on campus, the use of ‘capture technology’ (audio/video capture for teaching space – including the OWL), should normally be used, guidance for using OWLs is available at: 
  4. Where sensitive topics are delivered and discussed using VC there may be a rationale for not recording or live-streaming the learning session, or for stopping and then restarting (pausing) the recording/live-streaming. The decision to not record should be:
    1. determined as part of the course design process ahead of the scheduled delivery date,
    2. discussed between the tutor delivering the learning session, and either the Course Leader or Associate Dean of Learning Teaching and Student Experience, with a clear rationale provided,
    3. notified to the students as part of the timetabling or module introduction,
    4. be replaced by additional learning resources such as slides, video, readings or discussion boards within the module / unit of content in Brightspace.
  5. Where the chat function is used as part of delivery, this will be included in the uploaded recorded learning session. In exceptional circumstances, the entire chat may be removed from the recorded, by the Learning Design team, through a manual process. 
  6. Recorded learning sessions are made available for the duration of the academic year but will not form part of the content rolled across academic years. 

Use of Recordings

  1. Recorded learning sessions are for educational purposes and are not used as part of performance management by the tutor’s line manager or course team. 
  2. Recorded learning sessions may be used as part of the University Peer Review and Enhancement of Learning and Teaching policy and procedure to encourage practice of individual staff members or course teams. 
  3. Recordings are to be used as an educational aid to study only. Any breach will be subject to disciplinary action as detailed in the General Regulations for Students. Para 114(xii). 

Technical Settings

There are a number of ‘technical’ settings which should be used in the set up and delivery of VC. These are included in set up instructions as produced by the Learning Design team in the Directorate for Learning and Teaching, and include:

1.    setting student cameras to be ‘off’ by default,
2.    setting student microphones to be ‘off’ by default with the option to enable them during the delivery, 
3.    publishing of a ‘non-public’ URL within the module / unit content area of Brightspace

Exemplar Case Studies


Everyday Psychology

Dr Rachel Grenfell-Essam, School of Social Sciences and Humanities


Dissertation Module

Dr Sam Epps, East Coast College



Below are links to a number of resources that can support your development of Active Blended Learning:

Hear from Professor Gilly Salmon about her 5 Stage module to make online delivery more effective:


Exemplary Accomplished (baseline) Promising Incomplete

Course materials are produced in a variety of formats to enable student access at different times and occasions, and in different formats.


All key course materials (such as lecture slides and associated notes and handouts) are provided in advance and in flexible formats to allow all students to access them effectively.

Where appropriate, sessions involving stakeholders and students are recorded and shared for the benefit of current and future students’ learning.

Module guides all specify how indicated reading and resources are aligned to planned delivery and learning activity schedules, and the value of these resources towards the students’ learning, enabling students to plan and manage their guided and independent learning time effectively.  

Key course materials are made available in a timely manner on the online learning environment.

Resources signposted for students are of a variety of types, include contemporaneous materials, and are readily accessible.

Some tutors signpost students to identified reading aligned with the scheduled content delivery and planned student learning experience.

Students are able to access most course materials such as lecture slides online.

Reading and resource lists are reviewed annually and provided by the start of each module’s delivery.

Students are directed to resources that are suited to the level at which they are studying, and the nature of the subject matter and learning outcomes.

The team actively seek to build and share new resources in partnership with students and stakeholders.

Students and tutors take joint responsibility for sourcing and sharing resources within a community of learners, highlighting both personal and professional points of view, contexts and outlooks.

Student facing course materials are carefully curated to ensure a balanced exploration of local, national and international scenarios and cultures, and to avoid the unintentional characterisation of particular identities.

The exploration, discussion and debate of multiple points of view are integral to the delivery of the course, making explicit the need for students to consider and form and justify personal opinions.

Delivery incorporates case studies, examples, and issues that reflect a variety of cultures and personal identities.

Course/module resources, particularly at higher levels, include opportunities for students to explore many different voices and points of view, often of a contradictory nature.


Students are signposted to opportunities to explore alternative points of view, and to review case studies and testimonies that place theory into practice.