TLHP TEL unit pivot to fully online (and back a bit)

Jane Williams and Mike Cameron redesigned the TEL unit of the TLHP to work online. Two full days of teaching become two half-day workshops with four additional shorter events. The move to digital delivery over 6 weeks allowed learners to reflect on what it means to be an online learner, while building community with peers and teachers. For the assessment, students develop, critique and present an online learning intervention during the course. The standard of work produced by student was high.

Tools used: Blackboard, Blackboard Collaborate, Sway, Mentimeter, Padlet, Blackboard journal, shared Blackboard blog, Blackboard discussion board

Full story

The TEL unit had run successfully in a similar format for several years – 2 full day workshops (face-to-face) blended with propriety online work followed by a presentation of the final assignment.. The teaching was discursive and interactive with an emphasis on community, peer learning and practical hands on application of theory. 

COVID dictated a move online. While the delivery would be physically distant, we wanted to maintain the level of synchronous teaching with its social and practical elements. While the traditional format had certain efficiencies (students find it easier to book days out, and teachers could focus delivery), webinar learning for 6 or 7 hours in one day seemed ineffective. Through Blackboard Collaborate we delivered more, shorter sessions, over a longer period (6 weeks in total). Two half-day sessions were combined with 90 minute weekly sessions. The longer engagement allowed us to both give students a better opportunity to reflect on their experience, and build relationships and understanding. We could also increase the TEL tools and approaches employed.

Changes made to pivot online

  • We converted the handbook to Microsoft Sway and added some interactivity (with a Microsoft Form and a video)
  • We reformatted pre-task and preparation tasks for individual sessions to appear effectively in Blackboard
  • Students began with an online icebreaker ahead of the first workshop, in which they introduced themselves through a Padlet
  • We used Blackboard Collaborate for synchronous teaching. The initial half-day workshop began with another icebreaker, and involved activities using votes, the chat feature and breakout groups
  • Between sessions, students reflected privately on their learning in a Blackboard journal and shared through blogs and discussion boards
  • We made opportunities for students to get experience with a range of tools
  • We offered individual tutorials

Course outline


The course appeared to run successfully overall. Informal feedback has been positive and the projects students developed were of a high standard. We learned lessons, and while we plan to return to some classroom teaching, we will run half the course in an online format, including the increased number of shorter sessions.

Lessons learned

  • Don’t be afraid of the silence during synchronous sessions
  • Give people time to think about a topic before breakout activities or other contributions they need to make
  • Plan to manage your breakout groups and warn students before you start them
  • Mute mics when not needed
  • It is important to remember some students may not be confident with online tools. We learned to give students advance notice of the tools we would use in advance of using them
  • When learners are at a distance, better structure of information and communication are required

Planned changes for next delivery

  • We will have one face-to-face full day at the beginning of the course to build community. This will also allow us to show the utility of technology in the classroom
  • The following sessions will be online, one as a half-day workshop and others as shorter workshops. We aim to give students that experience as an online learner and through a similar range of tools
  • Whilst Blackboard and Blackboard Collaborate worked well for us, we may consider using Teams for both synchronous teaching and ongoing collaboration, alongside the core tools


The following are examples from the course



Made with Padlet

Guides and help