Block 4 > Supporting learning > Wednesday


Supporting learners is a key area in the provision of a ‘quality’ educational experience. Successful support has a marked and positive impact on retention, progression, completion rates and overall student satisfaction – this can be even more so for learners studying at a distance. However too much support and not enough challenge for learners can lead to a dependency relationship. Blakey (2012) refers to balancing challenge with support as the ‘loving boot’:

Within this topic, you will have the opportunity to explore a variety of contemporary approaches to online facilitation to engage and empower learners. You will consider effective practice in the support of flexible, blended and online learning, in particular focusing on:

  • balancing challenge with support to empower learners
  • scaffolding a supportive online learning environment
  • supporting learners’ understanding of your pedagogical processes to enhance engagement


Scenario (as an animation text and audio)

“I write all that stuff on my blog, what I am learning on my course, but I can’t see anybody commenting. Is anybody actually visiting my blog and reading my reflections and work? I can’t tell. I am really spending a lot of time putting everything together so that it looks nice and I use images and videos too to lighten it up a bit and make my blog more interesting and while I do it for me as all this helps me learn, it would be nice, I have to admit, if some people would stop by and let me know what they think. Do they agree, disagree with what I say? Is any of this stuff of value for others? I am just writing this for myself? If I do, why does it need to be online? I could just type away in a Word document.. we have been asked to keep this blog for my course but just writing into a black hole? Where are my peers and is my tutor not going to give me any feedback at all before the end of the semester?”

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of this unit, you will have had the opportunity to

  1. discuss supporting learners, approaches and challenges
  2. reflect on supporting learners in your own practice
  3. design a shareable top 10 list for effective strategies to support learning

Pick ‘n’ mix activities

Definitely do one of the following activities! If you are learning within a group, consider carrying out one of the below as a collaborative task. We encourage you to share and ask questions on Twitter using #FOS201 or in our AdvanceHE community space

  1. Responding: Create a response to the scenario on your own or with others based on the discoveries you made through investigating this. Remember, you might find the FISh model useful (ilo-1). Share your response in our AdvanceHE community space


2. Reflecting: Reflect on your current practice, the following questions may help…

  •       Where are your challenges and opportunities in supporting learning? 
  •       How do you balance support and challenge to provide the ‘loving boot’? 
  •       How has technology changed the way you support learners? (ilo-2)

Share your reflections in our AdvanceHE community space 


3. Making: Create a collaborative poster by adding to this Padlet – sharing useful tips and reminders to self and others about how to support learning effectively (ilo-3). Remember you can add text, images, video, audio and more so feel free to experiment with this tool! We would also encourage you to comment on each other’s posts to share and deepen your thinking.



Suggested resources

  1. Explore these slides or watch the webinar recording which explores using coaching techniques to support and challenge learners (in this case academics). If you want to find out more about a coaching approach to academic development, read this reflection on practice
  2. Watch Gilly Salmon’s video where she introduces a five-stage-model to scaffold a structured and paced programme of e-activities
  3. Read or listen to this podcast about critical digital pedagogy


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