Using PebblePad to support transition to Hybrid Active Learning

by Scott Farrow


Using PebblePad to support transition to Hybrid Active Learning

~ Customer Stories ~

NOVEMBER 9th 2020· by Scott Farrow


With most Higher Education Institutions being required to prepare for a different delivery method for semester one of the 20/21 academic year, we at the University of Liverpool Centre for Innovation in Education thought it may be beneficial for others if we share our approach to supporting staff with learning delivery and our increased use of PebblePad. 


In the lead up to September, as with other Universities, a number of options were considered when determining our approach to teaching for semester one. The University of Liverpool decided to take a Hybrid Active Learning (HAL) approach, using a mixture of the three learning types available: face-to-face teaching on campus, online asynchronous and online synchronous learning. From these three modes of teaching we’re asking staff to consider what they value from the face-to-face that can be successfully transferred to online asynchronous and online synchronous.

To support staff with this we have developed a fully asynchronous resource on our Canvas site which all staff are enrolled into. We’ll also be running our usual staff development sessions synchronously to support specific pedagogic areas – an example being ‘Digital Reflection, Portfolio Creation and Collaborative Group Work in PebblePad’. The Hybrid Active Learning support site includes details of the high-level principles, development process, an explanation of the hybrid teaching modes, our underpinning learning design model (ABC Learning Design), as well as digital tools for teaching and accessibility.

Our PebblePad section falls within the digital tools for teaching and, as with all of the other topics, includes a vast array of case studies and examples for the three modes of teaching. As it's time sensitive for staff to redevelop their teaching and assessment we took a ‘show us what it looks like in practice’ approach. Not only does this give real-world examples of how the tool is being used in practice, but it also connects staff members to other colleagues already using similar tools for similar problems.

Additional support for staff is available through an interactive discussion area and we are also running regular online drop-in sessions. Additionally, each section has a contact link at the end so staff can talk ideas through with a relevant team member who is experienced in that tool.

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The University of Liverpool decided to take a Hybrid Active Learning (HAL) approach, using a mixture of the three learning types available: face-to-face teaching on campus, online asynchronous and online synchronous learning. 

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Each section of the HAL Support site delves into the three hybrid teaching modes mentioned earlier (face-to-face, online asynchronous and online synchronous) in a modular, usable format. We’ve also underpinned this using the ABC Learning Design types and added where these might apply to each of the examples given

  • Acquisition
  • Collaboration
  • Discussion
  • Investigation
  • Practice
  • Production

Below are a few examples from each of the teaching models of our HAL approach, which may help you or your colleagues with ideas as to how PebblePad can support teaching during this testing time.

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Evidencing Competencies
Building a collection of evidence (files, images etc.) through collections, workbooks or portfolios can be a great way to ask students to demonstrate competencies or meet certain criteria for assessment, affiliations, awards or placement requirements. This can also be done through collecting evidence offline whilst on placement, and uploading later. All of the above can be set as an individual or as a group task, open to feedback from tutors or peers. Examples of this have been particularly popular with lab-based assessment for demonstration of lab safety by using walk-through's and also in healthcare settings for simulation models.

Tutorials, meetings and group work planning
Personal tutorial meetings can also be recorded and evidenced directly within PebblePad. Previously recorded meeting notes can be used as a basis for the next discussion to help structure individual tutorials -  online or face to face. Also extremely useful for postgraduate supervision.

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Of course PebblePad lends itself best to the asynchronous online delivery mode, so there may be a lot here you’re already using PebblePad for, but hopefully there are a few suggestions you may find useful.

Portfolio creation
Content production can be facilitated easily within PebblePad, either individually or as part of a group project. Learning artefacts, such as content-based portfolios, are a great tool for articulating understanding and also learning through production. These portfolios, which can be shared to the web and viewed much like a website, can then be assessed, shared with subject experts for comment or peer assessed if required. Individual portfolios created in this way can also be a great tool to evidence a student’s learning journey and understanding of a subject. Also a great asset for students to keep as alumni too.

A blog is an online journal that consists of unique entries or "posts" added on a regular basis. Each user can set up a blog on any topic ranging from personal interests, to projects, placements or personal life. Authors can choose to keep a blog private, publish it to the web or just share it with specified friends, family or academics.

Information and data collection
Information and data for projects or placements can be collected within PebblePad. Templates can be set up as questionnaires, or placeholders for learners to add their own content can be added to workbooks for data collection.

PebblePad offers the opportunity for reflection to be built in to an assigned workbook as part of an assessment with feedback, but also provides pre-populated reflective templates which students can access directly from their personal space to be used stand-alone or added to portfolios or workbooks. Templates can also be easily copied and amended if certain elements aren’t relevant, without the need to start from a blank document.

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As with face to face contexts, PebblePad can be used in an online synchronous delivery mode to support meetings and tutorials.

Another great ready-made template in PebblePad is the action plan template. Used similarly to the 'Meetings' section (described above) during group work discussions to create evidenced actions.

Synchronous feedback
Synchronous feedback can be provided on any ATLAS-submitted template or worksheet in PebblePad. Providing synchronous feedback as students complete tasks provides a greater opportunity for two-way feedback and allows feedback to become more of a conversation. PebblePad manages this through its dynamic link, and different staff and student sides of the system.

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Chemistry: Research Internship Module. Reflective logs (Gita Sedghi)
“PebblePad was used on this module for a weekly reflective log and skills audit during a six-week placement abroad. The format has been adopted from the School of Life Sciences. The resource delivers the students an introduction to the reflective log and skills audit, assessment information and a pre-departure form for them to include contact details etc. before separating their 6 weekly skills audits and reflective logs.” Further information about this case study can be found in our Curriculum 2021 case study.

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We hope that our HAL Canvas course brings some guidance and support to our staff during this difficult period. Our hope is that sharing our practice may spark ideas for you and your colleagues of how you may utilise PebblePad further through online or hybrid delivery. Let us know if you’re already using some of the suggestions provided, or if there are further examples we could include in the support site.

Stay safe.
Scott (@scottfarrow88 on Twitter)

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If you'd like to read more on the approaches, pedagogies and practices seen as being most vital by those directly supporting teaching, learning and assessment activities, PebblePad's Global Ambitions in Higher Eduation publication draws on the responses from close to 200 educators and designers of educational experiences from across the globe.

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Scott works as an Educational Developer at the University of Liverpool, within the Centre for Innovation in Education (CIE). He works with programme teams across the university to support them with innovation in learning, teaching and assessment to enhance and develop their curriculum. Having worked as a Learning Technologist and within Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) roles over the past 5 years, his specialities are in supporting staff with the pedagogical use of technology. He has a specific interest in how distance learning is supported, building digital capabilities of both staff and students as well as developing other graduate attributes to improve employability.