How do I structure a blended environment? 

How do I structure a blended environment? 

There are many things which will remain the same whether delivered on-campus, online or by a blended approach. This includes the constructive alignment of courses.  

Constructive alignment starts with the notion that a learner constructs his or her own learning through relevant learning activities. The teacher's job is to create a learning environment that supports the learning activities appropriate to achieving the desired learning outcomes. The key is that all components in the teaching system - the curriculum and its intended outcomes, the teaching methods used, the assessment tasks - are aligned to each other and underpin the desired learning outcomes. 

As we move our courses to an unfamiliar mode of delivery, it is essential that we ensure that we maintain close alignment to our learning outcomes. This is also an appropriate time to review courses and to remove any elements that do not enhance the learning opportunities or fit with the course as it is now designed. 


Virtual learning environment organisation

What you can do

It is important to consider how best to construct the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) for your course. For students studying on-campus, the VLE can often act simply a space for hosting lecture slides and sending out course announcements, as its use is heavily supplemented by in-class instruction and the course timetable. For courses designed to be delivered online, however, careful consideration should be given to the structure and organisation of the VLE.  

Things to consider 

  • Creating a short welcome video which introduces students to the course space and provides some guidance on how it is set out and where they can find key documents (remember to include captions for accessibility). 

  • Working with other courses taken by the same cohort of students to agree a standard approach to VLE layout, although this may not always be a possibility where courses are drawn from a number of different schools. 

  • Providing a downloadable document which list all the activities and learning resources for the course and how these are structured.

How to do it 

A good place to start no matter whether your course is delivered on campus, online or blended is the Course Design Guidelines.

In order to create a video of a guided tour of the VLE, open the VLE check that Panopto is set to capture the correct screen, and then “talk and walk” through your course, highlighting the key places they need to navigate to (remember to include captions for accessibility).

MyAberdeen Course Design Guidelines

Please refer to the web pages: Lecture Capture - Frequently Asked Questions for further information.

Indicative Timing

What you can do

The estimation of the time required to complete a course is referred to as notional learning hours. One SCQF Credit Point represents a notional 10 hours of learning. It is relatively easy to convert timetabled hours to notional hours by adding a factor on for the additional time students require to convert what they were introduced to in class to actual learning. This calculation is often called “seat time” for online learning and there are a few things to consider.

When trying to calculate the seat time of your content, you will need to consider the type of activities you've included. For example, if you have integrated a lot of text-based resources, then the seat time would be less than that of a course with many video lectures, given that learners tend to read faster than someone who is speaking in a video lecture. However, it's important to choose your eLearning activities based upon the needs of the learners, rather than just the seat time. For instance, if your course needs to teach learners a new skill, then they would probably benefit more from interactive scenarios or simulations, even though this would take more seat time than just reading the text with the instructions. More interactive elements may require more time, but they also offer greater benefits for the learners.

Things to consider

Remember this is the part which is replacing the traditional lecture, and you will still need to leave enough space for students to think, reflect, and absorb the information you are giving them. Depending on the types of activities that you have included it may be that the deeper learning takes place alongside the imparting of the information or it may be that these are separate.

How to do it

Here is a handy spreadsheet that will help you estimate how long it will take learners to complete a course. Here is a chart which represents guidelines to calculate seat-time equivalencies for assignments and academic activities undertaken in a virtual classroom format.

Reading lists

What you can do

Through our new Library system, Leganto, you can ensure your students have easy access to their reading lists direct from the VLE. In as many cases as possible, the lists will then link directly to online versions of the recommended resources. Creating and sharing lists is straightforward and Library staff are ready to assist in getting all course lists for the first half session ready in time.

All lists in Leganto will be fully accessible, interactive and with functionality to support students in managing their use of learning resources (e.g. by marking things they have read and clustering items into groups to suit their learning).

As course tutor you will be able to annotate items to explain what you need your students to do. The service also makes best use of Library resources by ensuring we can provide access to the items you need your students to use and we will try to make sure as many of these as possible are available online.

Where necessary, and within legal constraints, print items will be scanned to provide online access. It should also be possible to direct students to a purchase option directly from the list if this is the most effective route to the item, or if that is what they prefer.

Other considerations

Making resources accessible is very important. Providing them in digital format helps with this, e.g. by allowing students to access texts using a screen reader.

Where copies of items are being made available, whether of digital objects or by scanning print materials, it is really important to comply with copyright and publisher licences. This service has that process built in so you can be sure that the resources you are supplying are being provided legally and within the terms of our contracts with suppliers.

It is also worth bearing in mind that lists stored in Leganto can be made available in other ways, as well as through the VLE. This means we can offer access to the lists to prospective students, providing them with a greater insight into the courses they are considering and helping them to make a decision on whether Aberdeen is right for them.

How to do it

For more information, please see the Library FAQ (link to come) and contact with any questions.


What you can do

The term ‘storyboard’ comes from movie production, where creators sketch out a film in a series of still images. A course storyboard is the blueprint of the course, like a lesson plan - except a storyboard does not solely describe general content, but rather includes everything else as well, from activities, communication plans, assessment timing and structure. It is a really good way to sequence instruction and show how different elements relate and fit together. It is a great way to help everyone involved in the delivery of a course and/or programme really understand the structure and the scaffolding of the course.

Storyboarding is a useful stage in planning a course for blended delivery. Whilst apparently simple at first sight, going through the process in a systematic manner can aid clarity for both students receiving and staff delivering the course. It can also provide a useful cross-check to ensure that the curriculum isn’t become overloaded with material. 

Things to consider 

It is an important step in the storyboarding process to consider accessibility and inclusivity issues. It can be helpful to have your School’s Equality and Diversity officer/champion be part of this process to help identify any areas you may have overlooked. You may also want to consider having some student input to this stage, such as from AUSA, a class representative or a student who may have taken the course in a previous year. Their insights into what aspects were challenging can really help.  

How to do it 

For information on storyboarding visit this page.

Think Flipped

What you can do 

Flipped learning is a pedagogical approach in which the conventional notion of classroom-based learning is inverted. Students are introduced to the learning material before class (asynchronous) with classroom time (synchronous) then being used to deepen understanding through discussion with peers and problem-solving activities facilitated by tutors. 

In short, in traditional learning students acquire knowledge in a classroom context and are then sent away to synthesise analyse and evaluate this after the class. In the flipped classroom students acquire knowledge before the class and use classroom time to practice and apply concepts and ideas through interaction with peers and teachers. After the class students reflect upon the feedback they have received in class and use this to further their learning.

Proponents of the flipped classroom approach emphasise the ‘deep learning’ or higher-level cognitive skills that it encourages.  

Blended learning lends itself to a flipped classroom approach, whereby the knowledge components of the learning are provided in a format that student will engage with individually then you use the collaborative time (either on-campus or synchronous online) to engage with the application and evaluation stages of learning. 

Things to consider 

By enabling students to undertake the knowledge component of a lesson in their own time, you allow them to work at a speed which suits them. This allows them to take time over the parts that they find more challenging rather than everyone working through the material together at the speed of the ‘average’ student.

It is important to consider accessibility issues and to make sure that all learning materials can be accessed by all students, overwise it become impossible for them to engage with the learning. Things to consider are:

  • Video captioning 
  • Screen readers 
  • Alternative formats for those with internet access issues 

How to do it

Listen to Flipped Learning Pioneer Jon Bergmann as he explains Flipped Learning. The "flip" happens when you flip what happens in the group space verses the individual space. 

Pedagogic Evidence base