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As we return to the on-campus experience it is important that we learn from the experiences of the online pivot and embrace the practices that enhance student learning experiences and encourages engagement and collaboration.

The diagram below provides definitions of modes of delivery at Ulster University and has been informed by Advance HE's Practice guide on Modes of Learning.

Modes of Learning at Ulster University

Modes of Learning Diagram - if you need more information contact
Modes of Learning Ulster University, for further information contact

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Impact of Various Pedagogies

Embracing flipped and blended pedagogies may impact on student workload and contact hours, guidance and clarify around this is available in the sections below.

Further guidance  on module design can be found on the Integrated Curriculum Design Framework SharePoint Site.

  • Student Workload

    The total amount of time students will spend studying each week. This constitutes time spent in scheduled learning and teaching sessions, time spent engaged in directed learning activities and time spent on independent study.

    1 credit point equates to 10 notional study/learning hours.

    20 credit module = 200 learning hours

    ‘Contact Hours’

    You can describe the nature of student contact hours with staff in the context of their learning and teaching activities. You may wish to consider:

    • The method of learning, including an indication of teaching group size,
    • The location of learning activities i.e., on-campus or online etc.
    • The intended purpose of the contact time
    • Who students engage with during the contact time
    • Whether or not activities are scheduled/timetabled, or directed

    Contact time relates to the opportunities for in-person interaction or correspondence with members of staff (and students). These opportunities will appear in different forms, both formal and informal e.g., lectures, seminars, workshops, tutorials, receiving feedback etc. Contact time may also take a virtual form using e.g., online discussions, video lectures, guided BBL activity or even emails. It can also take place in a work-based setting.

    Where students are undertaking study independently, they must be signposted to appropriate study resources and sources of support.

    When planning the student workload for a module (e.g., 200 hours per 20 credit module), you may consider:

    • No hours of scheduled learning activities e.g., lectures, workshops, tutorials etc (In-person or online).
    • No hours of tutor-directed study (which may be supported online) to include formative tasks, reflection and focussed preparation for lectures/workshops.
    • No hours of independent study to include accessing the library, journals, case studies and textbooks for background reading around the core subject, and for formative self-assessment.
    • No hours preparing/compiling an assessment artefact or revising for an exam.

    Here are two hypothetical examples of a 20-credit module broken down into constituent study hours:

    Example 1: Flipped Classroom approach:

    L&T Activity

    Scheduled Sessions


    Total Hours

    Lecture (online)


    30 minutes




    2 hours




    2 hours




    1 hour


    Directed online study


    20 hours


    Independent Study

    Assessment prep


    110 hours

    40 hours






    Example 2: Fully on-campus approach:

    L&T Activity

    Scheduled Sessions


    Total Hours



    1 hour




    2 hours




    1 hour




    0.5 hours


    Directed study (pre reading)


    20 hours


    Independent Study

    Assessment prep


    107 hours

    40 hours







    The number of contact hours is just one of several factors that measure quality of learning. These factors include:
    • access to learning spaces and resources such as libraries, laboratories or design studios
    • the availability of Information and Communications Technology as an aid to learning
    • the transparency of assessment criteria, allowing students to understand what is expected of them
    • the quantity, quality and timeliness of feedback on assessed work
    • support for individuals' needs and entitlements
    • the extent to which the institution takes account of students' feedback in making continual improvements to existing provision
  • Assessment Workload

    When designing assessment tasks, it is important to consider student workload within a given module and across parallel modules within a programme of study. Assessment workload should be broadly equivalent across modules with the same credit value and students should be informed about what is expected of them to achieve this academic credit.

    Student workload is measured by notional hours of effort, so it is helpful to establish a framework by which to ensure consistency in the workload required across a variety of different assessment methods. Based on a review of practice from across the sector, a 20-credit assessment task (e.g., 4000-word assignment) roughly equates to 40 hours of student effort.

    Planning appropriate contact hours when delivering online

    Although we typically consider‘contact hours’ in a face-to-face context, it may also take a virtual form through email, VLEs and other technology-aided means (QAA, 2011)

    Example ‘contact hours’ online:

    • Multimedia lecture or seminar
    • Online tutorial
    • Online project supervision
    • Online demonstration of a practical technique/skill
    • Facilitated learning activity package e.g.:
    • Assigned reading/case study or signposting to website/video etc. with tutor-led follow-up review
    • Online activity with tutor e.g., discussion forum
    • Post-activity self-assessment quiz with tutor-led group review

    Typically, contact hours will vary from module to module and across disciplines and will be dependent on assessment method, but as a rough guide, 20%-35% of total study hours (200h for a 20c module) will be allocated as ‘contact hours’. Modules with supervised projects may have 50%+ contact hours.

    The following table simply provides an approximation of time spent on activities within the online environment to help you plan online activities week by week without under or overloading students (and yourself).

    Example of weekly activities within a module:


    Activity details

    Time on Task

    15 min multimedia lecture (theme 1)

    15 min multimedia lecture (theme 2)

    15 min multimedia lecture (theme 3)

    Includes viewing and review of content, and exploration of embedded weblinks

    90 mins

    Assigned reading

    (relating to lecture content/themes)

    Reading** and note-taking

    120 mins

    Self-assessment quiz

    30 seconds per true-false item

    60 seconds per multi-choice item

    120 seconds per short answer item

    10-15 minutes per long answer question

    5 to 10 minutes to review the work

    e.g., 20 mins

    (for a 10 item MCQ)

    Discussion forum (asynchronous)

    Includes engagement requirements e.g., reflect, post, reply to posts, respond to replies etc.

    120 mins

    Break-out group activity

    Work collaboratively on an activity to produce an output (e.g., wiki page)

    60 mins

    Preparatory work for assigned coursework

    Focussed literature-searching, planning, drafting Q&A activity etc.

    60 mins


    Approx. 8 hours

    Note, activities will obviously vary from week to week, and some may be reduced over time as a module progresses over the weeks.

    It is also important to initially schedule some time to allow students to familiarise themselves with the layout of each module site, with guidance provided on how to navigate the site and perhaps the code of conduct for discussion forums etc. This is particularly important in the first year of study if students are unfamiliar with the VLE.

    * Contact time, within the online context, may be defined as scheduled activity / directed learning

    **reading rates inevitably vary depending on the nature and complexity of the content. For example:

    Reading Purpose

    Words per minute







    (Reading rates adapted from Beer, 2019)

  • A-Z of Assessment Methods

    Assessment Types



    (K, MI)

    Write an abstract of a research article within a specified work limit

    Annotated bibliography

    (K, MI)

    Produce a list of primary sources/sites on a topic and using a referencing convention. List is annotated with commentary including an evaluation of what they have read

    Articles for different audiences

    (K, CT, MI, Co)

    Write a particular topic to an agreed length in a specific style e.g., journal, newspaper, magazine

    Assessment stations (OSCE)

    (K, PT, CT, Co) 

    Students move around testing stations being assessed on different learning outcomes, each for a fixed period of time.

    Book, website, journal article review

    (K, CT)

    Review designated articles or websites or TV/radio programme, including an evaluative element to demonstrate depth of understanding

    Case study or care plan

    (K, CT, MI) 

    Work through a case study/care plan to identify problems and offer solutions. Good for linking theory to practice

    Concept map

    (K, PS) 

    Students map out their understanding of a particular concept. A quick way to provide feedback to staff on students’ understanding

    Critical incident/journal/blog

    (SD, PT)

    Maintaining a diary/journal/blog (on placement) to record experiences. Write about a critical incident in terms of context, what happened, outcomes, underpinning theory and action plan


    (CT, Co, PT)

    A formal discussion around a proposed topic. This enables students to respond rapidly to challenging questions, and articulate their responses clearly and in a professional manner.

    Designing learning materials/leaflet

    (K, MI, PT, Cr, Co)

    Prepare a learning package for a particular audience e.g., public, school children etc. on an agreed topic


    (K, CT, MI,)

    A large/extended critical essay underpinned by an extensive programme of reading and original research. The learner determines the focus and direction of their work

    ‘Doing it’ exam

    (K, CT, PS, MI)  

    An exam which requires students to do something like read an article, analyse and interpret data etc.


    (K, CT, IM,)

    A piece of writing on a particular subject within given parameters e.g., word count, use of different literature sources etc.

    Essay plan

    (K, PT)

    Produce a plan demonstrating their preparation, planning and reading on a specific topic. Useful for formative and peer assessment


    (Cr, Co)

    Producing displays of artefacts (posters, art etc.) as an effective way of disseminating findings and ideas

    Field report

    (CT, PS, PT)

    Produce a written or oral report relating to a field/site visit

    Grant application

    (K,CT, PS, MI, PT)

    Use real/adapted versions of different grant application forms to plan a research project. Could be assessed using the published criteria as a basis for marking criteria

    Instant reports

    (K, CT, PS)  

    Submit a report as students leave a lab. Could be used with a pre-designed pro-forma to speed up marking and feedback provision to students.

    In-tray exercises

    (K, CT, PS, PT, MI) 

    Students receive a dossier of papers to read, prioritise and work on with a variety of tasks and new information given at intervals throughout the assessment period. This simulates real practice.

    Lab books/reports

    (K, CT, PS) 

    Write a report for a sample of, or all practicals undertaken within a single lab book. Lab books could be collected each week to mark reports done in previous weeks (to ensure books are kept up to date). A designated sample of reports would contribute to the assessment mark.

    Learning contracts

    (SD, PT)

    Enable students to set their own learning goals. They include 4 stages: entry profiling, needs analysis, action planning, evaluation. Levels of relevant competence are set out at the start of the course. Students agree upon how best to develop these to satisfy these outcomes.

    Learning logs

    (SD, PT)

    List of activities, competencies and outcomes which students check off during a period of learning during placement.

    Make/design something

    (Cr, PT)

    Make or design something e.g., a radio broadcast, video clip, web page, clothing etc. Also an opportunity for group work.

    Media profile

    (CR, Co, PT)

    Use pictures or headlines from newspapers or magazines to illustrate the public perception/profile of a particular aspect of the subject area – good for group work


    (K, PT, CT)

    A series of mini practical sessions conducted under timed conditions which creates potential for assessing a wide range of practical, analytical and interpretative skills



    Useful for diagnostic and formative assessment in addition to summative. Well-designed questions can assess more factual recall information.


    Being observed whilst undertaking some form of ‘performance’ or skills-based task.

    Online discussion boards           (Co, PT)

    Contributing to an online discussion, with peers, hosted on a virtual learning environment.

    Open book exams

    (K, CT, MI, PT)

    Exam with an opportunity to use any or specified resources to help answer a set of questions under time constraints. This removes the over reliance on memory and recall.

    Oral presentations

    (K, CT, PS, Cr, PT, Co)

    An oral presentation on a particular topic for a specified length of time. Associated resources e.g., handouts may also be required. Often undertaken as a small group

    Part-written practical reports

    (K, CT, PS)

    Lab sheets given to students provide some of the write up but leave sections such as error analysis, theoretical explanation etc. for students to complete

    Patchwork texts

    (K, CT, MI, PT, SD)

    Small pieces of work (patches) are completed over a period of time which are later ‘stitched’ together in a reflective commentary. The patches are discrete and complete entities in their own right but can help contribute to an holistic understanding of the module content/outcomes.


    (Cr, PT, SD, Co)

    e.g., concert, play, dance etc.


    (PT, SD)

    Provide evidence of achievement of learning outcome which commonly incorporate a reflective commentary (can be competency-based or a collection of artefacts)


    (K, MI, PT, Cr, Co)

    Poster is produced as real size or as a PowerPoint file on a particular topic. The poster may form part of an oral presentation or Q&A session. Can be individual or group work.

    Problem sheets

    (K, CT, PS, MI, PT, SD)

    Problem sheets completed on e.g., a weekly basis. Can provide students with regular formative feedback on their work for self or peer assessment.

    Question banks

    (K, CT, MI, PT)

    Produce a number of questions on a topic which contribute to the bank (e.g., PeerWise). Good for formative quizzes to help students gauge their own understanding.

    Reflective diaries/journals

    (SD, PT, Co)

    Recording learning over a period of time, interspersing narrative with a reflective commentary which could support development of an action plan. Paper based or online

    Research projects/group projects

    (K, CT, PS, MI, Cr)

    Potential for sampling wide range of practical, analytical and interpretative and problem-solving skills. Can assess wide application of knowledge, understanding and skills.

    Role play

    (Cr, Co, PT) 

    Write or give an oral presentation whilst taking on a particular role e.g., journal reviewer, editor, consultant, critic etc.

    Seen exams


    Exam questions which are to be answered in a time constrained context are given to students in advance. Alternatively, the exam topics are given in advanced whilst the precise questions remain unseen.

    Selective reports/sampling reports

    (K, CT, PS)

    Write up particular sections of a report each week e.g methods section or results section. Alternatively, students are required to write practical reports in full but are told in advance that only a percentage of the reports will be assessed.

    Short answer questions


    Undertaken in an unseen, time constrained context. Useful to assess a wide range of knowledge across a module.


    (K, CT, PS, PT)

    Text or virtual computer-based simulations are provided for students who are then required to answer questions, resolve problems, perform tasks etc. according to changing circumstances in the simulation. Can assess a wide range of skills, knowledge and competencies.


    (K, Cr, PT, SD) 

    An individual blog (web-based diary) is maintained to record progress on a project. Alternatively, a Wiki (students collaboratively modify content on website) can be used as a group exercise/project


    (Cr, PT, SD)

    Video and audio assignments can replace conventional written assignments or presentations e.g., 10-minute radio broadcast instead of a written essay or traditional presentation. They can allow for the assessment of a wider range of skills (e.g., developing digital literacy)

    Viva Voce/Oral

    (K, PT, Co)

    Verbally responding to questions on a wide range of topics. Can be used for borderline cases/classifications.

    Take-home exam 

    (K, CT, PS, MI)

    A non-invigilated exam question paper that a student completes off campus (e.g., at home), with an extended time-limit (a few days). Questions tend to be essay-based or problem based and/or prompt analysis of data.


    K - knowledge and understanding: recalling, describing, reporting, recounting, recognising, identifying, relating, interrelating

    CT - critical thinking: developing arguments, reflecting, evaluating, assessing, judging

    PS - problem solving and planning: identifying, posing/defining problems, analysing data, reviewing, designing experiments, planning, applying information

    MI - managing information: researching, investigating, interpreting, organising, reviewing and paraphrasing, collecting data, observing,

    Cr-creativity: imagining, visualising, designing, producing, creating, innovating, performing

    PT-procedures and techniques: using specific tools/methods working cooperatively or independently, being self-directed, managing time, organising

    SD- self-development: reflection including recalling, describing, reporting, recognising, relating/interrelating, action planning

    Co- communicating: one/two-way, group, verbal, written, non-verbal, arguing, describing, advocating, interviewing, negotiating, presenting

    (Adapted from University of Reading)


  • Brown, G (2001). Assessment: A Guide for Lecturers. Assessment Series, LTSN, York.
  • Brown, S & Smith, B (1997). Getting to Grips with Assessment. SEDA, Birmingham.
  • Gibbs, G (1992). Assessing More Students. The Teaching More Students Project. Oxonion Rewley Press, Oxford.
  • Habeshaw, S, Gibbs, G & Habeshaw, T (1993). 53 Interesting Ways to Assess your Students. Cromwell Press Ltd, Trowbridge.
  • HEA Centre for Bioscience Assessment Brie ng (2009) * Knight, P (2001). A Brie ng on Key Concepts. Assessment Series, LTSN, York.