Working with Al Holloway I delivered the session ‘Techniques for improving interactions and student engagement within NILE’ on 06 September 2018. 

This covered – techniques that staff can use in their NILE site to improve interactions with students. Covering Discussion Boards, Virtual Classrooms and Self and Peer Assessments. 

When I initially discussed the session design with Learning Designer Julie Usher I had in mind that the session would provide an ABL (Active Blended Learning) experience in which staff acted as students, allowing them to experience NILE tools such as the discussion board, virtual classrooms and Self and Peer assessment tools in quick succession – this was based on my experience of the NILE ‘tools for trainers’ session which was run by Liane Robinson, in which staff engaged with four NILE tools in one hour.  

The broad theme of NILE inclusion would be addressed by staff considering how to effectively present NILE activities to students, in order to develop this I met with Julie Usher who provided ideas on how to plan the session by splitting into the two parts of inclusive design and peer review, and introduced the idea of giving staff roles through which to consider how they may use NILE – an idea that had previously been proposed by Julie Usher and Al Holloway. She also suggested methods of facilitating ABL activities such as ‘think, pair, share,’ these points directly fed into the session planning.  

In a second meeting with Julie and Shirley Bennett we discussed a draft outline, proposed activities and discussed the desired learning outcomes. Shirley mentioned the session could have potential to join the C@N-DO short courses. 

To take the session forward towards a workable lesson plan I worked with fellow Learning Technologist Al Holloway, who helped to refine the plan and defined the different ‘learning types’ as:  

  • Audio or Visual Impairment 
  • Mental Health Condition 
  • Physical Condition 
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder 
  • English as a foreign language 

Al was very successful partner as he helped to form the initial ideas into a workable session plan, by providing valuable expertise into accessibility and effective learning design based on his considerable experience. He also came up with workable ideas on how to simplify the ideas of the course into easy to follow and succinct directions.  

Based on our work together I created a new NILE site which linked to the activities; Discussion Board, Collaborate and Padlet and added the staff as students, I also created hand out cards for the ‘identities’ and self and peer assessment exercise. We then met again to review these materials together, went over the session plan, and checked the facilities in the room Senate 404.  

In the session both Al and myself engaged with the staff, Al led the first activity – Discussions and I led the second – Peer assessments. 

My review of the session is:  

  • The room was very small, but fortunately not all invitees were present 
  • Al provided a very strong introduction by presenting the reasons for the session 
  • Both Al and I were facilitators of activities, and the session was delivered in a ABL method. 
  • All staff found the NILE site easily and worked through the activities. 
  • The quick use of the tools may have been confusing for some staff, however we explained that this was ‘an experience’ rather than a training session. This may have been frustrating for some staff? We could signpost this better in the future. 
  • I am not sure how useful the identities were? We did not have a much discussion of these. (Will need to check the Padlet to see?) 
  • The timings worked well, and the session had pace with staff being active. however we did not get to the end of the second activity so we could have been tighter on this. 
  • Two late attendees were confused but managed to keep up (20 mins late)  
  • At the interval one attendee left, possibly the break was too long and it wasn’t clear what the second activity was so there was little incentive to stay 
  • Conversation drifted to wider a Learning Technology discussion, ideally, we would leave time for these at the end and not allow the session to be taken off track. 
  • Staff seemed interested in Self and Peer Assessment, but staff would want time to work on this.  
  • We could better sign post the structure of the session at the beginning, so staff understood the timings and purpose of the activities. 
  • The end of the session could be better considered with a more considered conclusion. 



Taking this forward Al Holloway has expressed an in working on this short course and developing into a C@n-Do session. 



Kate Exall 

Marco Gundermann 

Nick Maumov 

Ivna Reic 

Dinusha Boteju 

Alistair Sutton 

Marcella Daye 

Anna Poole 

Mary Ritson 

Honor Pacey 

Ahmad Haboub 

Doaa Aljamal 






  • Be very specific with the instructions we provide – e.g. what is the purpose of the discussion board, what are the do’s and don’ts, what particular areas students should focus their comments on, how long these comments should be. 
  • Give the students explicit directions as to how to use them and what your expectations are in terms of length and the time that it takes them 
  • I found that the introduction of Collaborate is best in person so that any technical issues are resolved before the timetabled session commences.  
  • Support students with ‘interacting’ with the discussion on more than one occasion – i.e. that they need to contribute their opinions more than once and that they need to respond to others’ comments. 
  • Give yourself plenty of time to get used to the technology, before the session. 
  • Make sure you consider how all of our students can contribute in an equal manner 
  • Consider using different tools to benefit all students eg some will prefer writing other verbal. 
  • Time needs to spent in preparing the instructions, they need to be clear. 
  • Getting students to engage with any form of Discussion.  Students need to be very clear on what the purpose of the activity 
  • Consider whether there is benefit to using technology or if a face to discussion is best. 
  • In class demonstrations are important because students may be anxious if they are not sure how to use the online tool. 
  • Consider how you can use discussions to build confidence in your students eg. Icebreakers and short activities, and give a vehicle for the less verbally confident students to contribute 
  • Students are able to be included in the discussion even if they’re not physically in the classroom (e.g. accessing from home) 
  • Staff can use notes from discussions in subsequent sessions 





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