Blended Practices

Below are some ways in which staff might consider flipping the classroom and the tools that could be used to support those practices.


Core knowledge acquisition is the least interactive element of learning – it is the part of the learning experience where students have to read text, or listen to someone talk, or watch a video. A well-structured learning experience will intersperse engaging activities throughout the core knowledge acquisition process, keeping the passive learning of students to minimum.

Digital Delivery

In order to make the live, synchronous time (both online and particularly in the classroom) as effective as possible, core knowledge acquisition should only take place online under our flipped model. This can be done in a number of ways.


Videos of our lecturers delivering core knowledge acquisition can be recorded and viewed by students ahead of online or on-site face-to-face classes. These can be recorded through ReCap, or recorded using other software (such as Blackboard Collaborate) and then uploaded into ReCap.

Blackboard Collaborate

Where core knowledge acquisition is being kept to very short chunks, interspersed with more engaging activity, delivery through Blackboard Collaborate would be a suitable option. To deliver an hour of a lecture presentation in a synchronous form through Collaborate would not be a good use of staff or student time, but a structured amalgamation of presentation and engaging interaction would be much more effective. For example, the following structure would be an example of good use of Collaborate:

  1. a 10-minute presentation on topic 1 using PowerPoint
  2. a 3-minute poll of the class using Mentimeter
  3. a 15-minute class discussion on the topic polled about
  4. a 2-minute re-poll of the class using Mentimeter
  5. a 5-minute final discussion and summary of the topic
  6. a 5-minute introduction to topic 2 using PowerPoint
  7. a 5-minute ideas-gathering exercise using Padlet
  8. a 10-minute discussion on the Padlet contributions
  9. a 5-minute summary of the session

This example highlights that the core knowledge acquisition elements (activities 1, 6, 9 and latter part of 5) are important elements within the synchronous delivery, but are not the dominant elements.


Setting reading for students would also be considered as an asynchronous core knowledge acquisition activity. Consider the sources you have available, remembering that electronic books, journals etc need to be available through our subscribed library resources, or via free, open licence content. Linking to these in Blackboard Learn is a quick and easy way to get content directly to your students.

Discussion and debate form part of the core of learning and teaching, and also one of the easiest activities to run in a variety of different ways within our blended approach. These span both the on-site face-to-face mode, and in both synchronous and asynchronous digital forms.

On-site: Face to Face

There are normally two distinct approaches to running discussions in-class – they can be run with the whole class, or they can be split into group discussions. Each presents particular challenges under social distancing regulations, revolving predominantly around the reduction in student numbers within the classroom.

Class Discussions

Traditional approaches to class discussions can work fine with smaller classes, but staff need to be prepared for a possible lack of breadth of opinion and limitation on the variety of discussion that could be the result of smaller class sizes. Having different arguments or viewpoints pre-prepared in such cases may be more important than they have previously been.

Smaller class sizes may also mean that you end up with a larger ratio of students that are nervous or unwilling to engage, so it will be important to both get to understand the personalities in your class quickly, and have a range of approaches to coax engagement from the seemingly unengaged.

Consider setting a pre-class digital task, asking the students to find online content (articles, videos, images, for example) about the topic to be discussed, and have them post these to a Padlet. This can then be displayed in each class and used to encourage discussion. The Padlet can then be built upon after class (or later in the semester) to shape discussion leading into a related topic.

Group Discussions

Due to social distancing limitations, it will be difficult to have groups work together in a classroom. Groups will have limited seating and equipment availability. Where possible, have students bring their own devices to class, and use digital collaborative spaces (such as Blackboard WikisPadletWord or PowerPoint documents shared via OneDrive, and OneNote) instead of physical collaboration tools (such as whiteboards or paper).

Digital Delivery

Class Discussions

Discussion amongst all students on your module is likely to only be possible via digital delivery, and there are a variety of options available through which to achieve this.

Classroom-style discussions can be undertaken using Blackboard Collaborate, which provides options for staff to allow open debate between students, while still being able to take control of the discussion if necessary. For example, running a debate where each side of the argument is allowed five minutes to present their case. The student presenting each case can be “given the microphone” by elevating them to be a presenter for their five minute duration, while the option to use the microphone is taken away from the rest of the class. At the end of the five minutes, the presenter is relegated back to the participant role. Once both sides have spoken, microphones can be enabled for all participants and the hand-raise tool can be used to kick off the interactive part of the debate.

Blackboard Discussion Boards are often used for asynchronous forms of discussion, normally over a longer period of time (e.g. a week rather than an hour). Setting a discussion in this way can allow students to take part at more suitable times for them – this benefits students who may be a little behind in their learning to give them time to catch up and learn from their peers.

Discussion Boards can, however, also be used in a synchronous fashion. Consider the model of the #LTHEChat on Twitter. Between 8pm & 9pm every Wednesday night, 5 questions on a specific topic are posted by the organising team, using the #LTHEChat hashtag. Twitter users can then answer those questions and discuss the responses being provided, all using the same hashtag to group the conversation. Discussion Boards can be used in the same way (without the need for a hashtag!). At a specified time, release one or two question threads for your students to read and respond to in real-time. The responses will be posted as replies, and so various threads of discussion should occur. Every 15 minutes (for example) you would post up a new question thread, until you have covered the questions you want to discuss. This provides your students with new discussion material, to avoid the conversation falling flat, but also doesn’t force the conversation around one question to cease, allowing a natural flow of debate and discussion to continue throughout the hour (and possibly beyond).

Group Discussions

Delivering a class discussion (or other activity) via Blackboard Collaborate provides the option to then move your students into Breakout Groups in which they can discuss and collaborate freely. Within these they can share files, or use screen share to display another site or application – for example, they might demonstrate to their group how they used LibrarySearch to find a specific set of journal articles.

Formative assessment can be a good way to both assess students’ understanding while also encouraging engagement. It can also be used to identify areas of content where students may be struggling, allowing staff to develop further supporting content and activities to address such issues.

On-Site: Face to Face

With classroom time limited, it is important that on-site face-to-face formative assessments are as efficient and effective as possible. Planning and setting up the formative assessment as much as possible ahead of time will be crucial to minimise the time taken within class.


A very effective approach, which can also be run quickly in class, is through the use of Mentimeter questions. Mentimeter will allow you to very quickly present your question and with minimal fuss allow your students to answer those questions on any web-enabled device they have with them in-class.

The most popular use of Mentimeter would be to pose a question, provide a multiple choice of answers, and allow students to select what they believe to be the correct answer. When taking this approach, consider what you intend to do if everyone gets the answer correct – has that benefited the students’ learning if the question was too easy or obvious? What happens if a significant number of students provide the same incorrect answer? This potentially signifies a core misunderstanding amongst your group – it might be that re-focusing your class time is best served addressing this, or you might want to follow up with a digital activity to address this later.

There are many options beyond the multiple choice questions, however, that could provide effective formative assessment within the classroom.

The Scales question type can be used to pose a series of statements, perhaps those which provide a variety of viewpoints on the same topic. By asking your students to rate each statement on a numeric scale, you can get an idea of the overall class response, and then use that to pick up on specific results amongst the statements to encourage discussion.

You might also want to consider presenting a series of options for students to rank – you could, for example, have a set of topics to discuss that were highlighted in a recent digital activity, and you could ask your class to rank which they would like to discuss further, from most interested/useful to least.

Digital Delivery:Mentimeter

One of the benefits of using Mentimeter for formative assessment is that the same questions being used in the on-site face-to-face class can also be delivered to students digitally. This will minimise the additional work required by staff, and still allow students being taught in a digital synchronous or asynchronous activity to engage with the same formative assessment. Many of the approaches discussed on using Mentimeter in the on-site face-to-face classroom can also work equally effectively through a Blackboard Collaborate session.

One of the difficulties in working with Mentimeter is the anonymous nature of the results. If you want to provide a digital formative assessment in which you can attribute results to each student, consider the use of the Blackboard Tests tool. This will allow you to run a quiz for your students, with strong analytics on both the individual student’s performance and on the questions themselves, allowing you to identify which question resulted in the greatest number of incorrect answers, for example.

Through all forms of delivery, it is important to consider the human presence of staff within the learning and teaching experience.

Whatever balance of digital and on-site face-to-face teaching is reached, maximising “human presence” – the visibility of the academic to the student, and of the students to one another – is important for retaining a sense of community and to encourage engagement.

A tutor’s digital “presence” needs to strike the right balance between supporting students effectively whilst not being “hyperresponsive” and “on call” 24/7.


Students’ expectations need to be set clearly in regards to the methods and regularity of communications. Consider which methods you will use for different types of communication. Perhaps Discussion Boards will be used for day-to-day queries, while time-sensitive information from staff will be posted on the Announcements area in Blackboard. Will staff respond to direct emails? If so, how long should students wait before a response should be expected?

Make sure that you are keeping in regular contact with your students, particularly during periods of digital engagement, but be careful to take a balanced approach - too much communication (across the programme, not just from one module) can discourage students to engage with ALL communications.

Run regular non-teaching touch points – office hours, social gatherings etc – to help encourage student dialogue and build a sense of community.

Whatever approach you decide upon, this should be clearly communicated in the module handbook, and is also worth re-iterating with your students at the start of teaching.

Visual Representation

One of the key elements of human presence that can be easily lost when teaching the digital elements of your module is the visual connection made between students and their staff, and indeed between one another. How can you address this?


The most obvious approach is through the use of your webcam when running Blackboard Collaborate sessions. This provides an immediate connection similar to that experienced in class. However, it's important to balance this against the overall learning experience. The use of video (in Collaborate, Teams, Zoom and other platforms) significantly increases the bandwidth required to engage effectively with the learning, and this can be detrimental where a student's (or staff member's) internet is slow or patchy.

One suggested approach to address this would be to use your camera during your session introduction, then turn it off when it isn't providing significant benefit, toggling it back on only for those times in which it is needed, and finally having it on for the session summary.

One other point to note is that when your camera is not on, your Collaborate profile picture is visible to the class. By default this is a head-and-shoulders silhouette icon, but you can upload a profile picture of your own choosing to replace this. By doing so, you will continue to have a level of human presence with your students.
(Be aware that students can also upload their own profile picture, so be aware that what they use may not always be representative of who they are, and be prepared to challenge students who use inappropriate images.)


The use of staff video is much less problematic within a ReCap recording, given the asynchronous nature of these viewing activities. As such, it can address the human presence issue significantly by having the video of the academic included in the recording.

If you are uncomfortable having your face (and dining room/study/bedroom/etc) recorded as part of your presentation, consider including a photo of yourself on the title & final slides of your presentation instead. 


Providing students with a reflection activity is normally going to be more effectively handled in a predominantly digital mode.

On-Site: Face to Face

Reflection can take a number of forms when considering it in regards to on-site face-to-face.

Students could be asked to reflect in-class on their previous digital learning, perhaps presenting (from their seat where possible) a short summary of their understanding or their experience of the activity. This can then be used as a catalyst for discussion or other collaborative activity.

If you have asked them to record such a reflection as a digital activity (see below), you might use one or two of those videos in-class (with the student’s permission, of course) instead of asking them to present their reflection live.

Digital Delivery

Reflecting on practice is one of the easier online activities for students to undertake. There are two predominant methods for doing this – written reflection and video reflection (although audio reflection is also possible).

Most students should be able to record a short video using a personal device, so consider asking for them to record a short (3-minutes or less) video reflection on an aspect of their learning. This could be reflection on a recent digital activity, or on an element of professional practice or experience (remind them to consider data protection, particularly if they are reflecting on patients, children or other vulnerable and/or identifiable individuals). The student can then upload this video to ReCap and send you a link to the video – perhaps you can create a Wiki for them to add the link into, building a list of videos for the whole class to watch.

Written reflection could easily be submitted via a Turnitin submission point, if you want the reflection to be private between the student and the tutor. In this form, you might also consider a Blackboard Assignment instead – while this won’t provide the same powerful plagiarism tools as Turnitin, it might be a faster and easier way for your students to engage.

Alternatively, there are tools such as the Blackboard Blog and Journal which would both allow a different way for your students to provide you with their reflection. These have the benefit of being quick to post to via any device, not requiring the student to write a Word document for submission. Multiple reflective posts can be made by the student over a period of time.

If you are already using (or considering using) PebblePad, there are similar powerful blogging options that could make this a really nice introduction to that platform for your students.

You might also be considering allowing students to share their reflections amongst the class. PebblePad, Padlet and the Blackboard Blog and Discussion Forum tools will all allow different opportunities for more open reflections to be posted, with each having different options for commenting, peer review and engagement between the class.




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Last edited: 28/06/2021 15:13:00