Guided Learning in BREO


Guided Learning refers to learning activities which prepare for and support Scheduled Learning sessions. It should be clearly defined (‘Guided’) and time-constrained and – if the material is preparatory – it should be clear to students that it is an expectation that students will complete their Guided Learning tasks in time for the Scheduled session. It is important to note that simply uploading PowerPoint slides before a session would not be adequate as Guided Learning.

It is the responsibility of every member of the course team to work to provide students with guided, structured, monitored learning materials and activities for a significant proportion of the hours designated for the unit (300hrs for a 30-credit unit). You can check what is advertised as being delivered by your course by visiting the Unistats website ( and searching for your course on this public-facing website.

When you establish and maintain a model of providing Guided Learning in structured packages, providing students with access to content before their session and then using the face-to-face session for learning activities leading into active, dialogic face-to-face sessions, students learn the importance of coming to classes prepared to use information, ideas and ask searching questions. When classes are dynamic sessions, where students are expected not just to listen and watch slides for more than a few moments, where they are valued contributors to constructive, collaborative learning, in those classes attendance and retention remain high. Consider using technology in the classroom to engage students and capture their ideas and issues with clickers (KEEpads) and SMS texting (Textwall).

This is one of the reasons why Blackboard units have been structured with a pre-defined set of core areas, of which the third is entitled ‘Guided Learning.’ Guided Learning can be delivered in sequenced steps (preferable for structured, progressive learning) which can be released after pre-set milestones have been successfully completed. This also provides ways to monitor that students are engaging with what you have provided. The nature of packages will differ according to need and functionality. A package offers ways of connecting together tools within Blackboard and there is no reason why you should not mix and match a range of tools to make your own combinations to create your own package(s) to suit the learning you want students to undertake.

Packaging On-line activities – The Blackboard Learning Module

Blackboard provides a tool called Learning Module to bundle together content and activities into a sequential package (see Fig. 1). You can see online examples in a demo BREO unit at by clicking here (new window/tab). Guided Learning activities on-line should be structured to give students:

  1. instruction on how to go about the task,
  2. the associated time requirements,
  3. content in a variety of formats to maintain interest, enthusiasm and meet the needs of our diverse student body and
  4. sequential activity which consolidates the learning through, for example, a discussion or blog post or a quick quiz or lead into an assignment.

What Should I Do?

Plan an activity to take an average student a pre-determined amount of time, say 10 hours (remember, that would be the equivalent of ONE academic credit). It is important that students can clearly see how this contributes to their learning progression, how it meets learning outcomes. A particularly valuable approach would be for preparatory work before a workshop, for example.

Break this down into components

  1. Introduction about the task including rationale, alignment with learning outcome, relevance to assessment, information about time to be spent.
  2. Introductory learning content, in the form of your own writing on the page, images, quotations (properly referenced), etc.
  3. Further learning content on subsequent pages, with embedded audio or video or other Open Educational Resources (OERs).
  4. Link to activity, such as a discussion, a personal journal for reflection, a wiki, a quiz or survey, etc.
  5. Closing content, springboarding the outcome of that activity into the next part of the unit.

To convert this plan into an online package, Blackboard provides the Learning Module tool (see Fig. 1), which works as a virtual binder to collect items together and allow the contents to be presented item by item, complete with a contents list for easy navigation. It’s constructed in just the same way as folders, but the Learning Module tool creates a virtual workbook of pages that helps students work through materials and activity in a structured, sequential way. For guidance, click here.

Fig 1.

Students are used to seeing text on a webpage (rather than clicking to open a separate file) and by using this approach you can create a virtual workbook with text and embedded images and other rich media, together with quizzes, tests, links to discussion, a blog or a wiki.

By using Adaptive Release, you can allow students access content and activities in a controlled way, perhaps by group membership or only after they have achieved a preset level of results in a quiz, or by timing.

In this way, you can monitor students’ performance and progress against the components you have provided for them, using the Blackboard Grade Centre and each unit’s Early Warning System and Performance Dashboard (located in Control Panel > Evaluation). This provides you with an excellent way to monitor students’ engagement and progress very quickly and easily and help you ensure that students are engaged, intervening in good time where you suspect there might be a retention issue.

Directed Reading and Research

Reading and research activities which students are expected to engage with as part of their studies should be specified in their guidance and include set readings, specified journal articles etc. From the start of 2013-14 the University introduced the use of Talis Aspire ( branded as Reading List (a button in every unit’s navigation menu), which makes it possible to provide dynamic online reading lists linked to our collections, straight off the page in Blackboard. Students should be given guidance on how to go about their reading, the associated time requirements and how to best record and consolidate what they have found.

Fig 2. Persistent URLS from the LR Guide

Contact your Academic Liaison Librarian, who will help you find e-reader and e-journal materials and advise on providing access, including integrating them into your Blackboard in BREO unit  ( ). To seek help to integrate and activate the content plug-in for your Blackboard unit, to integrate sections from your reading list into Guided Learning blocks, contact the Learning Technology Team.