Creating a learning community for distance and online students

This two day event comprised of a series of workshops and seminars over two days focusing on creating learning communities for students who do not regularly meet face to face.

[ When


o Where

Learning Lab, An Lòchran, Inverness Campus or online using Blackboard Collaborate.

8 Remote access

Not available

£ Cost


É Contact

Aimee Harvey

à Add to Calendar

vCal    iCal

Learning and Teaching Enhancement Values

This event mapped to the following values:
  • Providing a connected learning experience
  • Active and creative use of technology
  • Integrated and sustainable teaching practices




Thursday 14 June



Presentation of resource on engaging online distance learning students: Simon Varwell, sparqs

UHI is among a number of institutions that has contributed over the past two years to the development of sparqs’ new resource on engaging online distance (ODL) students in shaping the quality of their learning experience. From representative structures and training to feedback tools and institutional strategy, the challenges and opportunities for ODL engagement are diverse and distinct, but cannot be ignored. sparqs' resource, based on learning from and supporting participating institutions in a variety of activities, aims to help staff and students to work in partnership to develop effective practice. This session will involve the presentation of this brand new resource, plus a chance for participants to discuss how its content might help in engaging ODL students in shaping their learning.


The role of student societies in building communities of online and distance learners: Dr Eilidh MacPhail, Lews Castle College UHI

Student Societies can play a role in helping to build communities of online learners. The Sustainable Rural Development Student Society has been organising voluntary residential weekends for its students for over 10 years, with help and support from the BSc Sustainable Development Programme Team, LCC and HISA (and formerly UHISA). This session will consider student and staff experiences of involvement in the society and the residential events, in terms of relationship building, support and networking, and will highlight some logistical and practical considerations involved in their organisation.



Extreme distance learning: Elizabeth McFarlane, Argyll College UHI

Argyll College UHI is one of the most geographically dispersed of the University’s academic partners, with VC and online teaching typically involving students from at least five separate locations. Elizabeth MacFarlane is a tutor in business and will use this session to reflect on the challenges of teaching at this ‘extreme’. Participants will get a whistle stop tour of the many different methods that she has used to engage students (both successfully and unsuccessfully!). As well as telling her own story, Elizabeth will also draw on the experiences of her colleagues.

  • Session recording


Closing remarks

Close of day 1



Friday 15 June



Building on current practice: peer learning, peer mentoring and peer support

The potential for student peers to provide both academic and pastoral support is widely acknowledged within educational research and practice. In this session we will hear from two speakers, before exploring how peers might be used within the UHI context to assist in students' learning and wellbeing:

  • Current practice in 'peer' learning and support: Dr Heather Fotheringham: Learning and Teaching Academy, University of the Highlands and IslandsHeather will set the context for this session by providing some background from the academic literature and introducing examples of successful practice within UK higher education of peer assisted study and peer mentoring.
  • Peer mentoring at the University of the Highlands and Islands: Kevin Sinclair, Student Engagement Manager, University of the Highlands and IslandsKevin will talk about the University's peer mentoring scheme before introducing resources that have been produced to help students who would like to create more informal peer support networks.

Using student reps to increase engagement, HISA

The University’s student association, HISA is currently creating a vision for an improved Class Representative System. In this interactive session, participants are asked to input into this process, particularly considering the needs of online and distance learning students. We will address the following questions:

  • How do we ensure that our system will work for them?
  • What methods can we use to engage with and gather feedback from this group of students? 





Closing remarks

Close of day 2




Please read our policy on how we treat any personal information collected in relation to our events:
Data Protection Statement for Events