All posts by cwe88

So, what is UC Online? What isn’t it? And who is it for?

By Rach Montejo, Programme Manager, UC Online

Tuihono UC |UC Online – you may have heard about it and are wondering what exactly it is?  What makes it different from just any distance offering at UC?  These are great questions – and you’re not alone!   

Almost every university in the world was forced to move much of their learning online during the pandemic – we typically refer to this online shift as ‘emergency online remote teaching.’ However, this type of online teaching is distinctly different to the type of online teaching being proposed by UC Online, and there are two main reasons for this.   

The first is that UC Online is designed for a different student type. UC’s typical classroom learner is a secondary school leaver.  They’ve recently graduated from high school and are ready to dedicate the next few years of their lives to university study.  Typically, this learner is younger and is better suited to the on-campus experience, gaining far more from this experience than just the qualification. 

The UC Online student type is globally referred to as a ‘learner-earner’.  They tend to be over 25 years of age and well into their working career.  They often have a family and are trying to balance the people they care about most while maintaining a consistent income. The flexibility of a fully online programme or course is their only option to upskill or reskill.  For them, re-entering academic life will be quite a juggle!  These learners are likely to be unsure whether they can handle studying around their busy lives.  Their time is precious, and they will want to use it wisely.  They’re not going to be studying during typical work hours because, well, that‘s when they’re working! Instead, they’ll squeeze study into weekends or after the family has gone to bed.  That said, they are likely to be dedicated learners because they know how education can change their lives for the better.  

The second difference between UC Online and emergency online remote teaching is that most of these courses were not specifically created for the UC Online student type . As you know, UC courses were very quickly converted into an online format during the pandemic (we often called these ‘lift and shifts’).  Our amazing community here at UC did this to get courses up fast.  We wanted to help our current students to continue learning despite the emergency – and did an amazing job!  This meant that our usually campus-based learners were able to continue learning, and the starting point was often an in-person lecture, which of course was quite familiar to this group of learners.  UC Online courses are specifically designed for online learners – the ones described above who need flexibility in the way it is offered.  Our team of experienced instructional designers structure courses so that learners can actively engage with learning that fits with their lifestyle, often structured in bite sized chunks of learning that they can do anytime, anywhere and on any device.   

A moment on where it all began… 

UC’s first foray into online education specifically for online learners focused on our production of MOOCs (Mass Online Open Courses) through the edX platform.  These were very short courses, typically free, that leveraged a variety of academic topics delivered by some of UC’s academic experts. UC had some excellent outcomes with these.  Ben Kennedy and Jonathan Davidson won the 2021 edX Prize for exceptional contributions in online teaching and learning for ‘Exploring Volcanoes and their Hazards: Iceland and New Zealand. 

The ‘Mental Health and Nutrition’ MOOC designed and developed by Julia Rucklidge ranked in the top 40 for number of enrolments worldwide across all MOOC platforms – pretty excellent results for our first year in market!  We’re now almost at a milestone of 100,000 learners enrolled in UCx courses – from 190 countries. 

What has UC Online been doing in last 9 months and why? 

The last nine months have been, to say the least, busy! We have been working to set up the foundations for a soft launch at the end of October.  In order to do this, we have had to recruit a team of experts in academic development, student support, marketing, process management, and other areas, to create a university experience that is appropriate for a digital environment.   

We have also needed to stand-up all of the digital platforms required to support this.  To do this quickly, we have adopted new tools to enable: easy on-line enrolment, digital marketing that helps learners become aware of new programmes on the horizon, and a new learning management system (LMS) that is designed for adult professional learners.  It’s still Moodle-based, so we’re building on the excellent platforms already in place.  All of these, of course, need to speak to each other and the digital team is helping us to create fluid data transfers as each fortnight (or ‘sprint’ for us) passes.   

The last, critically important piece that we have been working on is developing our course and programme portfolio.  Most of what we have developed this year are short courses and micro-credentials.  We have worked with the academic community and Future Learning’s team of instructional designers, animators, videographers, and education technologists to identify and create a suite that is needed by professional learners and practitioners.  Our portfolio will always be a work in progress, and we look forward to feedback from learners that will help enhance it with time.   

So, what’s next for UC Online?  

Moving into 2023, UC Online will be focusing on developing larger programmes – certificates and degree level qualifications mostly at post-graduate level.  We’re looking to establish 4-6 flagship programmes to go live in Q3 and Q4 of 2023.  Some of these will be existing programmes, but they will be aimed at a different market so will not impact  on-campus intakes except to have additional online materials that lecturers can  draw on for flipped learning, if they would like.  We are currently working with faculties across UC to determine which are the best programmes to focus on drawing on information about domestic and international demand.  We will continue to pursue MOOCs, short courses and micro-credentials, but they will be limited to those that create pathways into our larger programmes.   

You might be curious what our broader list of programmes in development and on the horizon may be – if so, here is a link to that map! 

And, if you’re keen to see who is a part of the UC Online whānau, check out this page.    

AKO | LEARN Upgrade: A new version of Moodle is on the way!

Moodle 4 was created using feedback from educators and learners, and fixes many of the issues present in the current iteration of Moodle. Some of the big changes include: 

  • A new, clean layout with tabbed navigation 
  • Timeline view for learners, which shows a summary of important tasks to more easily visualise deadlines 
  • Collapsible and expandable content blocks throughout courses 
  • A course index, allowing users to quickly navigate to any section or activity in the course  
  • Smoother and easier drag-and-drop functionality for course creation 
  • Improved screen-reader accessibility options 
  • Generatable reports on a variety of topics 
  • The ability to save and reuse feedback on assessments. 

Additionally, Moodle 4 contains many other improvements for a variety of functions. If you would like to learn more, below are some videos on specific topics: 

Site navigation: Find your way around 

Moodle now hosts a visual indicator showing which content in a course has not been completed. This reduces the likelihood of a student missing an activity.  

Facilitation: Course Editing 

Editing has been streamlined with a simple ‘edit’ toggle that can be activated to manage any course content. A new feature allows course facilitators to send an optional notification to students alerting them of the addition of new course content or a substantial change to existing content.  

Quizzes: Question Bank 

The question bank has been updated with many new functions, including the ability to perform bulk actions on questions, comment on questions, and see question usage and visual statistics. 

Assessments: Assignment 

Assignments now have several new features, including a timing option and a separate section for assignment instructions.  

Activity tracking: Activity Completion 

Activities will now display any necessary student actions under a ‘to do’ header, making it easy to see what is required for course completion. Additionally, colour is used to convey activity completion, with colour indicators turning green when an activity is finished.  

While we’re looking forward to seeing all the positive changes of upgrading to Moodle 4, there is still quite a bit of work to be done before we upgrade to this new version. UC’s Moodle 4 upgrade is currently planned for December 2022. As this date grows closer, we’ll be sharing more Moodle 4 resources, hosting demonstrations and organising feedback workshops. 

If you have any unanswered questions around Moodle 4, contact the Moodle 4 transition team. We can be reached via: 

Pablo Taylor
Poutoko | Educational Technology team lead, Ohu Hoahoa Ako | Learning Design and Technology 

Daniel Grossman
Kairuruku Pūtere | Project Coordinator, Ako Anamata| Future Learning & Development 


Tips for Accessible Course Design

It is estimated that between 20-25% of students at the University have some form of visible or invisible disability (University of Canterbury, 2022). Given the number of students living with disabilities, it is essential that we create inclusive and accessible spaces at UC. One of the ways this could be done, is to focus on creating an accessible online space.  

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a longstanding framework for proactively designing accessible instructional materials across all learning environments (CAST, 2018). UDL, also known as design for all or inclusive design, consists of three guiding principles:  

  1. multiple means of presentation 
  2. action and expression, and  
  3. representation (CAST, 2018).  

These principles encourage academics to use accessible materials, delivery methods, and assessment strategies from the outset of the course. Below are a few tips you can use to make your AKO | LEARN site more inclusive and accessible to students: 

  • Have a clear, consistent and logical AKO | LEARN course layout. This includes following a consistent weekly or topic layout that will be easy for students to follow.  
  • Put key information in an easily accessible location, e.g., create a section for assessment information and assessment.  
  • Create accessible Word documents, PowerPoints and PDFs. Scanned documents cannot be processed by screen readers. Contact the library for support.   
  • Use descriptive hyperlinks when linking to a resource and avoid click here, More and Read more or adding the full hyperlink. E.g., AKO | LEARN vs.  
  • Use headings/paragraphs style available in AKO | LEARN. Headings allow readers to browse content by topical groups and provides context for users working through lengthy content. 


CAST. (2018). The UDL Guidelines. Retrieved from CAST: 

Inclusive and Accessible Course Design. (2022). Retrieved from Victoria University of Wellington | Te Herenga Waka: 

University of Canterbury. (2022). Te Ratonga Whaikaha|Student Accessibility Service. Retrieved from University of Canterbury: 

Ako Anmata: EdTalk on 12 October

Ako Anamata | Future Learning and Development is excited to invite UC staff to the next instalment of our monthly Ako Anamata: EdTalks – which this month will be given by Prof Catherine Moran and Assoc Prof Jane Abbiss.

Date: Tuesday 12 October
Venue: University of Canterbury Club (Ilam Homestead)
Time: 4pm – 6pm

The session includes:

  • 4.00pm: Welcome and introduction – Dr Brad Hurren, Kaiwhakawhanake Akoranga | Academic Developer (Ako Anamata | FL&D)
  •  4.05pm: Updates from the DVCA Office – Professor Catherine Moran, Tumu Tuarua Akoranga | Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic
  • 4.20pm: DLTP Scholar Presentation – Practice-oriented teaching and assessment: Finding relevance and enhancing scholarship – Assoc Prof Jane Abbiss, Ahonuku | Associate Professor (Te Rāngai Ako me te Hauora | Education, Health & Human Development)
  • 4.55pm: Close, followed by networking with colleagues

 Please note that due to the current COVID-19 Alert Level 2, there are safety measures in place at the Ilam Homestead. These are:

  • This event will be treated as a private function;
  • Please wear face coverings when arriving at the venue, and when using the bathrooms;
  • For this event, only the upstairs bar will be staffed and contains the same selection as the downstairs bar, however no tap beers will be available;
  • Purchases can be only be made by card – no cash

 DLTP Scholar Presentation – Practice-oriented teaching and assessment: Finding relevance and enhancing scholarship

One of the challenges in tertiary teaching within professional programmes is to ensure the relevance of teaching and learning while also ensuring high levels of academic scholarship. As an integral part of teaching and learning, assessment needs to be relevant, authentic and based in the scholarship of the field or discipline. This project focuses on assessment as an aspect of tertiary teaching, in particular the possibilities for authentic, practice-oriented assessment in campus-based initial teacher education courses (as opposed to assessment of practice demonstrated during an internship). The starting point is one-year teacher education programmes in the School of Teacher Education, but questions of relevance and authenticity in assessment go beyond professional programmes; authentic assessment may be a goal in non-professional as well as professional programmes.

In this talk, Jane will address the idea of practice-oriented assessment and introduce the DLTP project. Assessment examples will be shared along with learning to date in relation to different forms of practice-oriented assessment, the challenges of undertaking this type of assessment, and suggestions for engaging in authentic assessment within university courses. There will be an opportunity for colleagues to share their own assessment experiences and ideas.

 DLTP monthly talks
Our DLTP (Distributed Leadership in Teaching Programme) Scholars have been successful in applying for the opportunity to secure both time and funding to explore and showcase their interests in teaching and learning. More information on the DLTP can be found here.

These monthly talks provide an exciting opportunity for DLTP scholars to showcase their work, as well as to give you a brief update on what’s happening in the wider teaching and learning areas at UC. The Ako Anamata: EdTalk is also time for colleagues and friends to get together and network in an informal setting. We look forward to seeing you there!

For more information on the DLTP please contact Dr Brad Hurren.

Café Style Workshops

The Academic Development Team are planning to run Café Style Workshops over the coming months.

The plan is that these workshops will be held in cafés (dates and times to be arranged) where we will get a chance to share our experiences of what has worked and not worked in a number of different areas. It may be that after a first workshop relating to a topic, the participants choose to continue meeting into the future.

Suggested topics at this stage are:

  • Technology for engaging students in large lectures
  • Designing effective assessments that are not invigilated exams or tests
  • Engaging distance students in synchronous face-face lectures
  • Creating communities of learners amongst distance students
  • What did we change for delivery during lockdown that we have continued with and why?

If you are interested in any of these topics or have any other suggestions, please contact Trevor Nesbit via so that we can starting putting them in place.

Semester 2 course shells now available in AKO | LEARN

Academic staff can now see their Semester 2 course shells in their course list in LEARN | AKO. Course details (the name of the course, the course description, and assigned teaching staff) are generated through an integration with the course information system (CIS). If this information appears incorrect in AKO | LEARN, it should be updated in the CIS as soon as possible. You may view the CIS entry for your courses by clicking here.

Please follow the step-by-step directions linked below to locate your new course shells in AKO | LEARN and import the content you would like to have for your Semester 2 courses.

Importing Content into AKO | LEARN

Preparing for COVID: Zoom class meetings

While we all hope that COVID alert levels do not rise, we want to make sure you are prepared in case they do. 

One of the tools you might find most helpful if the COVID alert levels were to rise again, would be a Zoom meeting room where you can meet synchronously with your students. When set up through LEARN | AKO recordings of these meetings can be uploaded automatically into the Echo360 block for a chosen course site.

There are instructions for setting this up on this page from the Echo360 support site. If you would prefer to see a demonstration of how this can be set up, you could watch this video.

For any queries regarding this, please log a support request through the Assyst system.

Aropapaki: Online Course Design

Future Learning & Development is supporting the design and development of online courses through a co-design process called Aropapaki. The word “Aropapaki” is based on a Ngāi Tahu whakataukī: Me aropapaki te whiu. It speaks of perseverance to reach goals. Ngāi Tahu explains, “Be unyielding, like the waves that relentlessly hit the shore. A phrase encouraging people to persevere and keep strong.”

During the Aropapaki process, we work with academic staff to co-design an online course. The process begins with a series of three workshops, where you will be joined by a team consisting of learning designers, kaiārahi, Pasifika advisors, subject matter librarians, educational technology consultants, academic developers, and video producers. We’ve worked to make sure everyone will be in the room so that we have the best design possible and you are fully supported through the process. By the end of the three workshops, we will have the storyboard for your course and an action plan so that a learning designer can begin the build of the course in AKO | LEARN.

Following the workshops, we will continue to support you over the next 12 weeks to develop your course. Future Learning and Development will also provide additional resources to support you during the implementation of your online course.
If you have or are planning an online course and would like to engage in Aropapaki, let your Head of Department or Dean know. The call for the next round of Workshops will be going out soon.

First-Generation College Students

What is a first-generation college student? Institutions define “first generation” in various ways.  However, the Center for First-Generation Student Success states that “ultimately, the term “first-generation” implies the possibility that a student may lack the critical cultural capital necessary for college success because their parents did not attend college” (2020).

It is significant to recognize that first-generation students are an important part of our university community and are both driven and tenacious. First-generation students have unique needs. For example, first-generation students tend to struggle more than continuing generation students with:

  • Knowing how and how much to study
  • Understanding implicit faculty expectations
  • Finding time to study
  • Fear of asking questions or hesitance to approach an instructor 

These struggles can be compounded in an online learning environment. However, there are things you can do in your courses to increase the success of first-generation students. You do not need to identify these students specifically. These recommendations can benefit all students. 

What Strategies Can We Implement in Our Courses?

First, be explicit in the expectations you have for your students. Syllabi should include clear statements about what resources are required and that help seeking is expected and encouraged. 

For every assignment you create, consider the task, purpose, and criteria.

  • what, exactly, are you asking students to do (the “task”);
  • why do the students have to do it (the “purpose”);
  • and how the work will be evaluated (the “criteria”).

Then, explain those things to your students.  (Berrett, 2015)

Be familiar with the University of Canterbury’s psycho-social and academic support resources so that you can refer students appropriately. For instance, those listed here: Finding Support.

Provide information on how students can become connected on campus through major-related organizations, honors societies, undergraduate research opportunities, and social events. Students who feel more connected to their university are more likely to graduate, and it is particularly important for first-generation students to build a network that allows them access to information about tertiary education. 

Finally, reach out to the e-Learning Support team for assistance with student-centered course design and engagement in your online, hybrid, and technology enhanced courses.  


Berrett, D. (2015, September 25). The unwritten rules of college. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 62(4). 

Center for First-Generation Student Success (2020). Defining first-generation. Retrieved from:

Acknowledgement: I would like to acknowledge the First Scholars Program at the University of Memphis where I received training and support as a First Generation Faculty Advocate. 


HyFlex Course Design: Reaching Students Face-to-Face and Online

The occurrence of COVID-19 has been a driver for many instructors to adopt new teaching methodologies. While emergency online courses undertaken during a global pandemic should not be confused with best practices in online teaching and learning, we should use this time to reflect on what has worked well and what areas were amiss while trying to deliver content and engage students at a distance. Moving forward, the fluctuating New Zealand COVID-19 Alert System Levels give us further cause to prepare to reach learners face-to-face, online, and in some cases, using both modalities simultaneously.

The structure of teaching face-to-face and online simultaneously is referred to as the HyFlex (Hybrid-Flexible) model and was first introduced at San Francisco State University (SFSU) in 2005 (Beatty, 2006). SFSU defines HyFlex courses as class sessions that allow students to choose whether to attend classes face-to-face or online, synchronously or asynchronously. SF State Academic Senate policy S19-264. The motivation behind the HyFlex model is to support the fundamental values of learner choice, equivalency, reusability, and accessibility (Beatty, 2019). In our case, necessity also drives the adoption of a HyFlex model.

At the University of Canterbury, a HyFlex course modality may be used under Alert Levels 2 and 3, where social distancing is required or attending courses in a face-to-face environment may not be feasible.  HyFlex courses meet synchronously in a face-to-face classroom on campus and online via a web-conferencing platform. The structure of the course must be adapted to meet the needs of face-to-face and online learners and support their engagement with the instructor, peers, and the content. The goal of incorporating this model will be to provide students in fundamentally different environments with equivalent experiences and outcomes (Simonson, 1999). While offering students a choice of modalities is desirable, social distancing restrictions will require a plan for determining the modality a student participates in each class period.

Best Practices

HyFlex courses can vary greatly in delivery. However, there are best practices that can help set you up for success.

  • Distribute lecture slides and handouts before class using LEARN.
  • Create breaks in the course session to engage with all learners and check for questions or comments that are posted online.
  • Collaborative partners and groups should be formed homogenously – either face-to-face or online. (Audio feedback becomes an issue in heterogeneous groups.)
  • Identify a teaching assistant or student volunteer to help monitor the students in the virtual classroom during course sessions.
  • Be sure to repeat questions asked by face-to-face students aloud so that your online students can hear them and read aloud questions posed by online learners for your face-to-face students.
  • In-class assessments should take place online using features in platforms such as LEARN or Qwizdom.
  • Record class sessions so that they can be viewed or reviewed asynchronously.


For more information or help with the development of a HyFlex course, the e-Learning Support team is here to help. We can support you with:

  • Developing courses in LEARN to support a HyFlex course model.
  • Organizing course sessions to effectively meet the needs of students in multiple modalities.
  • Offering tutorials on our web-streaming and web-conferencing platforms (Echo360 and Zoom).
  • Developing knowledge checks and assessments such as polls and quizzes.
  • Usability and concept testing in the TELF Lab.

Click here to contact the e-Learning Support team.

To learn more about the HyFlex model, you can access the book Hybrid-Flexible Course Design: Implementing Student-Directed Hybrid Classes online here.


Beatty, B. (2006), Designing the HyFlex World–Hybrid, Flexible Courses for All Students, Paper presented at the Association for Educational Communications and Technology 2006 Annual International Convention, October 13, 2006.

Beatty, B. (2019) Hybrid-Flexible Course Design: Implementing Student-Centered Hybrid Classes, ed. Brian J. Beatty

Simonson, M. (1999). Equivalency theory and distance education. Techtrends. 43. 5-8. 10.1007/BF02818157.