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Exemplary Module Framework

The Dundee Exemplary Module Framework supports the transition to online and blended delivery of 20/21 teaching at the University of Dundee. It aims to ensure consistency and inform the delivery of a high quality online and blended learning experience for students across all modules.

The module framework is designed to be practical and flexible and is informed by knowledge of how people learn and how to support learning. CTIL have put in place a series of supportive approaches to help our academic community adopt and apply the framework to their 20/21 modules.

  • The Blend your Module Learning X series to help lecturers think about the transition from campus-based teaching to blended learning and the design of online learning which can be worked through individually or as a teams and accompanied by CTIL workshops.
  • The Blackboard Ultra module templates designed for 20/21 modules to help lecturers structure and organise their modules to align with the framework. Each 20/21 module also includes notes and links to guides for lecturers.
  • A series of twice daily Ultra 101 training sessions covering the functionality of Blackboard and our wider digital education tool kit.
  • A forthcoming Learning X series on building your module coupled with access to exemplar modules to demonstrate the flexibility of the framework and its application to different disciplinary teaching approaches
  • An exemplary framework checklist to help support either self-review of your modules or peer review by a colleague.

Adopting this module framework enables us to ensure consistency across modules which will aid student and staff ‘movement’ into and through modules within the digital platform. It also assures our commitment to provide inclusive and accessible teaching that supports the diverse needs of our student community and complies with legal requirements. As we reflect both on our collective experience of delivering more online learning and the feedback from students we will review the framework and adopt an agile and iterative approach to its development and implementation. This will help us maintain and protect our reputation for excellence in student experience.

The Framework

The exemplary module framework includes nine elements that outline how to structure and present your module in My Dundee (Blackboard) and make it easy to navigate, how to help students get the most from your module, approach and manage communications together with some key messages on legal compliance issues.

1 – School and Programme Information

A single point of information that is relevant to all students enrolled on a programme or a School to help reduce the need to update content in multiple places and reduce the risk of inconsistent information across modules needs to be provided.

1.1       Use My Dundee (Blackboard or Moodle) Organisations to present core School and Programme content and enrol students and teaching staff on to these.

1.2       Deliver an online welcome to students via My Dundee Organisations  (Blackboard or Moodle) and use to present essential information to students. This could include a welcome video from the Dean and the Student School President.

1.3       Provide links to institutional policies.

2 – Module Design and Structure

Module design addresses elements of learning design and in this framework, module design includes the structure of the module, learning objectives, content organisation and learning strategies.

Modules should be structured clearly to help students navigate quickly, understand the sequence of learning events and activities, access information and easily understand the layout of unfamiliar courses.

2.1       Provide clearly written learning goals and objectives, appropriate for the course level and aligned to the desired learning outcomes and module descriptors.

2.2       Present learning activities and resources in a meaningful, consistent and clearly structured and sequenced way. Adopt a week by week study planner approach providing a topic title for each week and present content in ‘chunked’ manageable segments.

2.3       Structure topics consistently to improve usability through familiarity. Use headings and include short overviews of each section or topic.

2.4       Guide students through the sequence of learning activities and tasks that need to be completed. Release content sequentially, for example on specific dates, or making use of conditional (staged) release based on completion of previous tasks.

3 – Module Orientation

Students will have engaged in a School and Programme welcome induction (as in 1 above). As they commence study on each module, help students orientate themselves, especially outlining how they are expected to learn and engage and how they may contact key staff members to get help when they need it.

3.1           Include a short module welcome message for your students to help them make a successful start to the module. This could provide an explanation of any introductory content and activities that are required to be completed to get students started. This welcome could be presented as a video or audio message, or an initial online Blackboard Collaborate session.

3.2       Include a more detailed introduction or orientation section at the start of the module explaining the module learning participation requirements. This can take the form of a “module engagement” or “learning engagement” plan outlining the key touch points where students will engage with content and their tutors and a week by week overview which can form a module map and link to the timetable.

  • Outline how students are expected to engage with My Dundee (Blackboard or Moodle)
  • Explicitly signpost all online and face-to-face activities and how they interrelate
  • Consider detailing indicative times to complete activities and the balance of activities, ie the total directed study time required, length of videos or podcasts
  • Explain how students are expected to use UoD and external learning tools and link to instructions and guides for these tools where needed.
  • Explain what digital devices and software students are expected to provide for themselves where appropriate.

3.3       Make details of module leads and key teaching staff and School Administrators easy to find. Include names, positions, telephone, email and drop-in hours as appropriate. Posting photographs can also be helpful.

3.4       Ensure that students are made aware of all students support services and other support available from the University and School, e.g. Academic Skills Centre, LLC Digital Skills Team.

4 – Communication and Interaction

Ensure effective and consistent online communication between and among students and lecturers synchronously or asynchronously. Consider and select the appropriate technologies from UoD’s online learning environment to facilitate communication.

4.1       Provide a communication statement describing how students and staff will communicate for different purposes (e.g. using My Dundee discussion boards for module-related enquiries and email for personal matters). It is important to set expectations from the outset so it is helpful to include expected staff response times to emails and discussion board posts. This could form part of the module engagement plan.

4.2       Use announcements in My Dundee (Blackboard or Moodle) and options such as emailing all students to share important news, key dates and events.

4.3       Encourage students to post questions through Q&A discussion boards for lecturers and/or students to pose and answer questions.

4.4       Encourage staff and students to upload profile pictures as this will help personalise the online environment and allow online discussions between collaborators to be more easily followed.

4.4       Make the purpose of every discussion board clear. State how and when students are expected to engage and how often staff will check and reply to posts.

4.5       Provide opportunities for synchronous communication, real-time teaching, class and peer interaction and drop-ins. Make use of Blackboard Collaborate and record sessions and make them available for students who are unable to attend.

4.6       Ensure communication regarding assessments is clear and timely, and that students have opportunities to clarify questions through both synchronous and asynchronous channels.

4.7       Use communication and collaborative tools in learning activities to build a sense of community.

5 – Assessment

The module orientation/module engagement plan should clearly outline how students will be assessed including submission and feedback information as required and should align with the module descriptor.

5.1       Each module should include an assessment section which provides a clear description of the module assessment, what learning objectives assessments cover together with the schedule, criteria and submission details.

5.2       Provide formative and summative online assessment submission points so that students can submit electronic documents online through Turnitin or Blackboard Assignments. There should be clear guidance for students on how to submit and receive feedback on their work.

5.3       Provide links to tools, guides and information on referencing and how to ensure academic integrity and allow students to check their work prior to submission.

5.4       Where appropriate, provide opportunities for formative and learner self-assessment Blackboard quizzes which include constructive and meaningful feedback. In-class polling tools can also be used to support formative assessment opportunities (more information in Appendix 1)

5.5       Consider using wikis, blogs, presentations, videos, podcasts and other outputs to support both formative and summative assessments (more information in Appendix 1)

6 – Learning Materials and Resources

Ensure all modules include well labelled internal and external resources.

6.1       Provide descriptive titles for all resources and consider displaying a short description to help students understand the importance and purpose of the resource and how it relates to learning activities.

6.2       Provide a module reading and resource list using the Library Resource Lists and detailing which readings and resources are compulsory and which are optional (more information in Appendix 1)

6.3       Provide presentation slides, notes and handouts and use a consistent descriptive naming convention. (e.g. Lecture X – + title)

6.4       Make use of Yuja to deliver video content as this integrates with each module in My Dundee. Microsoft stream and other video tools can also be used to make short video or audio recordings to introduce topics and teaching on key principles and concepts and then uploaded to Yuja.

6.5       Regularly check that all resources are up to date and fix or remove broken links.

6.6       Make use of UoD Library and Archive collections, external resources and open educational resources.

  • Link to external sources such as case studies, image libraries, multimedia
  • Embed videos and other media from YouTube, Vimeo, Box of Broadcasts (UK access only), Yuja
  • Include dynamic content from the wider web e.g. Twitter feeds, RSS newsfeeds
  • Signpost to LinkedIn Learning courses.

6.7       Consider file formats, avoid niche proprietary technologies which do not work across all devices and platforms, for example avoid wmv video files and flash. Compress large files, particularly to help students viewing them on mobile devices or in areas of low bandwidth.

7 – Active and Social Learning

Make use of online activities and peer interaction to motivate active and social learning supported by the collaborative and communication tools in the UoD online learning environment (Digital Campus).

7.1       An essential component of the online blended learning experience for 20/21 will be student interaction. Students will be expected to participate in online learning activities and group activities as outlined in the module engagement plan.

7.2       Encourage students to interact with each other and participate in online activities and highlight where engagement will be monitored and contributions may be measured or count towards assessment. Design learning activities that help to build a sense of community and support collaborative learning and provide guidance on participation including the purpose of the activity, learning outcomes, key instructions and netiquette.

7.3       Be mindful that where sensitive topics and issues are being discussed and debated that face-to-face sessions or synchronous Collaborate sessions may be more appropriate than discussion boards. Where these sessions are run in Collaborate they should not be recorded. Tools that anonymise student comments may also help here, e.g. Mentimeter.

7.4       Check learner engagement weekly. Track student participation and send reminders to those who have not yet contributed or engaged.

7.5       Encourage and motivate inactive students.

Provide an inclusive learning experience with accessible learning resources by following a few simple rules for the benefit of all students and observe accessibility, copyright and data protection legislation.

8.1       Accessible course content makes it easier for everyone to read and access module information and learning materials and can help improve overall quality and usability. There are many low-effort adjustments you can make to start creating more accessible content. Provide more accessible learning content by ensuring

  • That layout is clear, with good spacing
  • Navigation is consistent between modules
  • Graphics have alternative text
  • Fonts are sans serif and large enough to read
  • Coloured text has high contrast against backgrounds – avoid red, green and pink text.
  • Links are descriptive (avoiding ‘click here’)
  • Ensure that colour is not the only way of conveying information
  • PowerPoint/presentation slides are provided on My Dundee in advance of face-to-face sessions.

The UoD Disability Services “Inclusive Learning Quick Start Guide” provides help information and support on producing accessible learning and further resources can be found in the eLearning resources for staff organisation in My Dundee. There is also more practical help to be found on the Alternative Formats Service Blog.

8.2       Check links open in a consistent manner. Recommend that links open in the same window.

8.3       Provide a brief, course-level accessibility statement containing any additional guidance and indicating who to contact (e.g. module leader, administrator) to request an alternative format for any resource.

8.4       My Dundee includes Blackboard Ally, a tool that helps ensure digital teaching material is accessible to all students. Once a resource is uploaded to Blackboard, it automatically generates several alternative formats to allow students to select which is most compatible with their learning needs. Microsoft Office Word and PowerPoint also include an Accessibility Checker which can check the accessibility of your resources. Like Blackboard Ally, it will make suggestions on how to improve the accessibility of your materials.

8.5       Check third party learning tools for usability and accessibility.

8.6       Ensure that you observe intellectual property and copyright legislation. Make use of Reading Lists and LLC services to ensure that resources are used legally. Rather than copying text, link out to external websites.  Where possible make use of openly licensed and creative commons images or copyright-cleared images.

8.7       Communicate any potential data protection issues when students are asked to use non-UoD systems. Students are not obliged to use external services and alternative options should be provided where a student does not wish to register with an external service.

8.8       Ensure that student generated content and artefacts are stored on a password protected system. Non-password protected sites and public facing sites on Learning Spaces, should only be used if students are aware that their work is publicly available and maybe viewed by anyone and they understand and are happy with the implications of this.

9 – Quality Assurance

Enable staff and students to evaluate online and blended learning provision to help enhance the learning experience year on year.

9.1       Students can evaluate the module anonymously via an end of module evaluation questionnaire.

9.2       All stakeholders, including lecturers, administrators and support staff can contribute to the module evaluation.

9.3       Module leads are encouraged to engage with peer review of their My Dundee modules. Peer review can help provide invaluable feedback on module usability and also inform module enhancements as well as ongoing personal development. You can use the module framework checklist to support the peer review process.

Download a PDF Version of the Exemplary Module Framework


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

It builds upon the UCL eLearning Baseline which was published under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License