Distance Learning


Distance Learning (also known as Online Learning) could be used for an entire programme, a specific module, or a type of lesson (such as lead lectures) to increase learners' flexibility and enable opportunities not suited to traditional delivery. 

Distance learning, whilst delivered 100% online, is still tutor-led and comprised of a mixture of synchronous and asynchronous activities and interactions in which to engage with a more diverse student population.   

All instances of distance learning will need prior agreement from AQSS.

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Areas to consider

Distance learning should not be seen as a quick, cheap or easy way to access more students. Distance programmes, modules, or classes, need to be designed specifically with distance learners in mind in order to enhance the student experience. 

Redesigning the curriculum

Online learning isn’t just a matter of translating established techniques onto new platforms without altering delivery – it requires real transformation. Where institutions are already modifying their pedagogies and methods of delivery for online learning, they report good engagement from learners (van Ameijde, Weller and Cross, 2018, p.41-50). We equally need to consider what our students will need in the future. Today’s students will have to respond with agility over their lifetimes to shifting labour market requirements and fast-changing developments in technology. The TEL Team can support you with digital pedagogies and learning theories suitable for online delivery.

Learning theories

Various educational models and theories can inform curriculum design. Course design teams may engage deeply with particular models or may find those which suit their subject discipline well. Some models or educational approaches suit the use of specific types of technologies.

  • Behaviourist approaches (Instructivism)
  • Constructivist approaches (Collaboration and sharing)
  • Situated Learning approaches (Problem, project or inquiry-based learning)
  • Collaborative approaches (Social interaction, social networking)
  • Connectivist approaches (Developing connections, rhizomatic learning)
  • Gamification (badges, progress markers, ranking, simulation)

Building a community

The development of a sense of community is an effective and efficient way to help ensure the success of the distance education program and can directly address the challenge of distance education attrition. By developing a sense of community, an instructor can create an environment that is conducive to student success. (Moore, 2014, p.20) 

The TEL Team can support you to design a learning environment which allows students to develop their own social presence.

Tools for delivering successful distance learning

Moodle and Teams

When planning the delivery of distance learning, we advise that you utilise the benefits of both Moodle and Microsoft Teams. These two systems can integrate seamlessly with each other enabling an excellent platform which support both asynchronous and synchronous delivery. 

Learning online can be just as personal, engaging and socially connected as learning in a classroom. Students and tutors can stay in touch and help each other using conversations, and can feel like they are meeting in person using live meetings. Tutors can track student engagement using Insights. No one needs to feel out of touch. Many students who learn online say they feel they have more of a voice, and they feel more connected to their educators and peers than they did in the classroom. And, just like in a classroom, tutors can use the apps and functions of Teams to support how they work best.

Microsoft Teams is a digital hub that brings synchronous activities such as conversations, live lectures, chats, noticeboards/discussions, file sharing and collaboration, letting tutors create vibrant learning environments and social spaces. 


Setting up the distance learning experience

  • Moodle: Your distance course will automatically get a Moodle page, on which you can build the course information (as described by the Moodle Minimum Standards) and asynchronous learning activities such as assignment submission, H5P content

  • Teams: The TEL Team can help you to manually set up a Microsoft Teams site for your online programme. 

    • You can link your Moodle page to your Teams site and your Team site to your Moodle page for easy access

    • Create channels for specific topics or weeks (and private channels for group working or privately collaborating with colleagues)

    • Set up channels to encourage student social activities. Allow the students to take ownership of these areas once they are active

    • Consider how to set up file areas; you can create different places to store learning content (students can only view) and collaborative content (students can all edit the resource synchronously) 

    • Familiarise yourself with Teams apps, such as MS Forms (for surveys, polls, quizzes and word clouds) and MS Whiteboard (for collaborative pin-boards, brainstorming, problem-solving, games, etc)

Designing the learning experience

Here are some questions it will be important for you to ask when preparing for a distance learning course. Make sure that the answers are shared with AQSS and everyone who is working on and supporting the programme to ensure consistency.

1. Planning

  • What opportunities does online distant delivery offer you and your students?

  • What are the risks of delivering fully at distance?

  • How will delivering fully online impact the working patterns of faculty and support staff?

  • Who is responsible for writing the course material?

  • Who is responsible for designing and building the course material?

2. The style of delivery

  • How is the student journey designed specifically with distance learning in mind?

  • How will you make the best use of synchronous and asynchronous delivery?

  • How will tutors make sure that students don’t feel isolated?

  • How will tutors introduce social elements, in order to build community outside of the scheduled timetable?

  • How will tutors keep track of student engagement and attainment to make sure issues are highlighted quickly?

3. Support

  • Will there be set hours for tutor contact?

  • Will there be out-of-hours support, such as a help desk?

  • Are participants (including the teaching staff) clearly directed to support for a variety of issues? (Academic support, administrative support, IT issues, wellbeing, financial support)

  • Will the content be delivered in a single or multiple languages?

  • Are all online tools available globally? Do they need to be?

  • Are all library resources available online and globally?

  • Are all tools and resources supported by the university?

4. Policies and procedures

5. Skills and requirements

  • Are all tutors familiar with online pedagogies and learning/teaching theories?

  • Have all teaching staff had experience with, or completed training on, the required tools?

  • Do all staff and students have the hardware and software required for delivery?

  • Do all staff and students have the required home internet connection?

  • How will prospective student digital skills be assessed?

Online Assessment

  • Use Moodle for the submission of written and video/multimedia assignments. Written submissions will be checked for originality via Turnitin
  • Use Microsoft Teams for the delivery of live presentations/performance assignments.

Student support

We've set up a help page that you can share with your distance learning students







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