In her recent Spotlight on Practice interview, Kelly Gray (Department of Health Sciences), had so many ideas for learning, we literally couldn’t fit it all into one article.

So, in this post, we focus on Kelly’s tips for using iLearn workbooks.

Dr Kelly Gray, Department of Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, Health & Human Sciences

1. iLearn workbooks – the why

iLearn workbooks are a fantastic tool for asynchronous delivery – such a powerful, immediate feedback tool.  My iLearn workbooks comprise a variety of learning activities and media including:

  • Short videos, including some I make in Moovly
  • Images/ graphs
  • Forums and polls including an embedded Padlet
  • H5P embedded activities
  • JS Timeline and the H5P timelines also create visually impactful experiences.

Using workbooks means I get to open the teaching session with lots of different things – I can have more images, more interaction, mix it up with bits of audio and video content, text and activities. Students tell me they love this variety. They love opening a page and seeing something that looks a bit different to keep them engaged. iLearn workbooks help with this.

[Editors note: At the end of this post there’s a link where you can view examples of Kelly’s workbooks.]

Screenshot of a workbook page with a flip card activity embedded

2. Creating an iLearn workbook

Workbooks take the same sort of attention that we bring to formatting our slides to engage students in face-to-face delivery, and the same sort of scaffolding work that we use in lecture PowerPoint presentations. I look at each chapter of an iLearn workbook as a section, then I take my old PowerPoint slides and I build a workbook page based off each slide.

I’ve always been a PowerPoint and formatting obsessive – you can recognise when something has been formatted beautifully, you don’t have to think about it, it just grabs you.

An example of an opening page in a workbook

3. (really) Helpful for students

Students love the accessible and flexible learning offered through workbooks. They can access the workbooks in their own time after the tute, instead of having to go back, listen to the whole recording, find their notes. They also say that the workbooks are easy to go back to when they’re starting to revise towards the end of session.

I didn’t initially realise that workbooks can be downloaded. Some students figured it out, but others had been screen-grabbing the workbooks, making their own notes, and then telling me how many hours it took! Fortunately, there’s always one tech savvy student in the class – “Why don’t you just click the button in the right-hand corner and download a pdf?!”.

I’ve now made short Zoom videos, for putting at the start of the unit, showing people how to download the workbooks so students can access them in soft or hard copy without having to re visit iLearn each time.

I also discovered that I can just grab the URL for a workbook to refer students to the right material. So for example, if a student emails me with a question about dimensions of health care, I just say “Remember, we covered this in Week 3”, grab the URL, send it to them, and off they go!

I also estimate the time it takes to complete a workbook and put this in brackets in the heading of the workbook. If I think a workbook is too long, I break it into two smaller workbooks or I revisit what I have delivered and see if I can condense my messaging. I release workbooks a week in advance to allow flexibility in access.

4. Helpful for tutors and teaching teams

My tutors love these workbooks. Their own engagement is so much better because they can go through the material for each tutorial at their own pace. I used to have team meetings where I was explaining what I was going to do in the lecture the following week. Now it’s all prepared for tutors in advance in the workbooks. I also now expect tutors to have read the module before our weekly teaching team meeting, so there’s another half hour gained out of every meeting as well. At the moment I’m just stumbling across these sorts of benefits – I don’t think I’ve quite realised the full potential!

5. You can make chapters

Chapters in iLearn workbooks can be used in multiple ways but I like to use them in the same way I would use one PowerPoint slide. I have found these to have enormous benefits when it comes to revising content. I can direct students to a particular chapter rather than sifting back through notes and lecture recordings to find what they were looking for. You can even go to the chapter page, grab the URL to email to students.

I do sometimes get ‘chapter-happy’ which can be daunting for students who open a workbook and see 20 chapters! When I get this feedback, I break the workbook into two, which students report is easier to manage.

Top tip: Try to avoid creating sub chapters.

Within iLearn workbooks you can set up a chapter and then you can link a subchapter. But if you accidentally delete the mother of all the sub-chapters, you lose the lot. I don’t use sub chapters anymore!

The chapters come in automatically with the iLearn workbooks so it’s not something that you even have to think about. When I’m building the workbooks, I think about each chapter having flow. One of the brilliant things you can do in iLearn workbooks is you can move the chapters around the same way you would if you moved your PowerPoint slides when you were devising your content. So if I set everything up, get to the end and think, there’s something in this narrative that isn’t quite working, but if I shift this I can make the narrative work better, so that’s why I still think of them as my PowerPoint slides. The chapters are great for revisiting things quickly.

Top tip: You can build hidden chapters in your iLearn workbooks.

I create a chapter at the end called ‘Next delivery’ that’s hidden from students, and I just drop thoughts, reflections, resources as they come in. Then when the iLearn site is duplicated for next year, I’m not sitting there thinking now a year ago I had an idea and I can’t quite remember what that is. Every single workbook has it, and so it’s all housed so I don’t have to go looking for it. If someone else takes over my unit, the ideas are all there for them.

6. You can add audio

Students were saying, “I miss the old traditional lecture, you know, with the person talking to me.” So we sat down together and discussed what they were really missing; and it was having someone to listen to. So I added audio to every page in the book. All I had to do was go in to the iLearn page, click the audio button (direct recording option), and read out what was on the page, nothing else.

No one misses out if they don’t listen to it, but if they want to hear it rather than read it, they can. I asked for feedback on this and I got emails saying “That fixed my problem, Kelly – I’m back! “I’m attentive again”, “I’m engaged”, “I don’t look at it and think I’ve gotta read all this – all I’ve got to do is just hit a button and let it be read to me.”

It helps with accessibility too, as we have some students who have impairments, and people who prefer audio learning, or who find just looking at material a bit trickier. I’m a visual learner and I think part of me was bringing that bias to teaching. But when I stood back and thought ‘what do the students need?’ it became a different thought process.

It also makes me edit the workbooks better – if you’ve ever listened to yourself reading out something you’ve written, there’s always issues. So then I go fix the page.

It’s become standard practice.

 I also drop in a one-minute paper once or twice a session and ask some broad questions. (Karina, can I credit you for introducing me to those? They are sensational!) So this semester (and completely unprompted) students said – “I like the audio, it stops me skimming, keeps me awake”.

Top tip: Add audio to make it a bit more interactive.

7. Record audio directly in iLearn

I record audio using iLearn options; you only get 3 minutes. And I don’t record it in Zoom because listeners can speed that up, and I don’t think you can absorb much at the faster pace. But it’s also just easier to stay in iLearn, go onto the page, hit the record button, and read out what’s written. Generally, it takes me about 10 to 15 minutes to record the audio for a lecture, because I’ve usually got a mix of videos and activities, the text itself doesn’t take much time.

Another benefit to recording: if I want to change something next year, because I record each page separately, if ten pages of my workbooks stay the same, I don’t have to touch them. But if there’s one page where I’ve updated some data or there is something I think I could deliver a bit better, it’s only updating the audio for that page.

8. Use workbooks to check knowledge

I always embed knowledge checks at the end of key sections in workbooks. I create them using the H5P question set or flashcards. I look at key points, and write questions around these. If I have too many questions, I break these into smaller knowledge checks throughout the workbook. Sometimes, I have them every few pages with just 1-3 questions. And I always include feedback to responses. For me, knowledge checks are another way of learning.

Knowledge checks also force me as teacher to check that I’ve covered everything as well. When I build them, I look at each chapter in the workbook and think what were the key points in this chapter? Then I write a knowledge check. I also use knowledge checks to reinforce something on the same page.

I emphasise to students that knowledge checks are formative, that we aren’t checking scores, and they can take them as many times as they like.  Knowledge checks are now part of my standard practice when developing any content.

Embedding knowledge checks in online learning benefits everyone

Students: Use them as a prompt to go back to parts of the workbook to check things that they didn’t realise they had missed.

Teaching staff: Use them as a quick way to prepare and refresh knowledge and material for tutorials

Unit Convenors: Write knowledge checks that align with learning outcomes –  or use existing knowledge checks to ensure learning outcomes are covered.

The more I write multiple choice questions for knowledge checks, the better I’m getting at writing them. It’s not just about having the knowledge check, it’s about the point I want to make. So, rather than me saying ‘This is a big number,’ or ‘The number of people with heart disease is growing’, I’ll write a knowledge check multiple choice question with little numbers and then one large (correct) number, and that has students walking away thinking “Yes, that’s a large number of people with heart disease!”.

9. Prevent skipping over important material

You can control the way learners move around and access content in different workbooks. I lock people out of things until they’ve completed something else. Sometimes I’ll split a workbook in two and I’ll throw a forum in the middle, and they have to post to the forum before the 2nd workbook unlocks. That might sound harsh, but it’s a really good way to keep up motivation and engagement, and it stops people skipping.

Another thing about knowledge checks is that if students do skip to the end and then they do the knowledge check, it still raises awareness of something they didn’t know and encourages them to go back into the chapter. I don’t know if these tactics will work for everybody, but it’s working for me, for my students and for the content that we’re delivering.

Final word from Kelly

It is a BIG investment to build workbooks. A workbook for a 60-minute lecture takes me 6 to 8 hours to build. However there are ways to make this faster such as increasing the amount of pre-recorded content within the workbook. We are experimenting with this at the moment as a way to transition traditional lectures to workbooks to manage the workload. But for people concerned about the work involved, after you get through that first delivery, you come back the next session, and it’s all there for you, laid out beautifully. It’s the same as revising an ordinary lecture once it’s done.

Workbooks are an enormous amount of work at first, but I’m really starting to see the bang for buck.

Key takeaways:

  • Students appreciate and benefit from the variety of delivery modes available in iLearn workbooks
  • Workbooks help tutors prep and save time in teaching team meetings
  • You can create repositories for ideas for the next delivery of the unit
  • Adding audio is simple, makes for better editing, and increases accessibility
  • Using knowledge checks benefits students and teachers
  • You can prevent learners skipping around in the content

See for yourself how Kelly uses workbooks

Kelly has shared two of her workbooks which you can view in this iLearn site. There’s one called ‘Digital Healthcare’ and another called ‘Consent Workbook’ – in those you’ll find lots of examples of everything she has mentioned above: using chapters, adding audio and video to the page, H5P activities, knowledge checks and more.

In the iLearn site you’ll also find a video Kelly recorded for students to help them navigate around the workbooks which explains how it all comes together for the students.

How to add workbooks and chapters to your iLearn site:

Visit the CONTENT page of the Technologies and Tools website and click on the accordion titled ‘Book – Creating an online book’.

More resources and links

One Minute Paper
Spotlight on practice: Filling condoms with frozen peas… and other ideas for learning – Kelly Gray (TECHE)
MQ guides to adding activities to your iLearn site
MQ guides to creating interactive content for iLearn using H5P
H5P examples and instructions (H5P website)

Banner image: ‘radioro’ on Shutterstock
Photo of Kelly: Mike Catabay
Screenshots provided by Kelly Gray

Posted by L&T Development

The Learning and Teaching Staff Development team works with staff across the University to ensure they are supported to facilitate quality learning for students. This includes offering professional development, contributing to curriculum and assessment design, recognising and rewarding good practice, supporting peer review of teaching, and leading scholarly reflection. Email with questions or requests.


  1. […] basically embed H5P activities in every iLearn workbook. Students have said that they like the information being delivered in different ways to break it up […]


  2. […] See also these TECHE articles: Spotlight on practice: Filling condoms with frozen peas…and other ideas for learning – Kelly Gray and In focus: iLearn workbooks. […]


  3. […] series of chapters and sub-chapters and is easy for students to find and access learning materials.  See this post  about Kelly Gray’s approach (with links at the end to view her […]


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