The PLaCE Team regularly receive emails from MQ colleagues asking about various aspects of learning and teaching. Our usual practice is to discuss these at a team meeting, collate our responses, and send them back to the questioner. This year, we’re thinking to share these Qs – & our As – more widely.

Q Could you share some examples of iLearn designs and elements that could be used to create a more inclusive and engaging space for students? For context, I teach statistics where students have a lot of “statistics anxiety”. Also, a few examples of current iLearn spaces/units I could learn from would be amazing.

Tips for creating a more inclusive online learning space

1. Create a welcome video + graphic syllabus

A welcome video, where you speak to the camera and introduce yourself to students, combined with an image that shows topics or key unit milestones can be very helpful. The video does valuable ‘interpersonal work’ while the graphic syllabus is helpful to visually present key milestones. See this post on humanising online teaching and this post on Graphic syllabus resources which has some templates.

An example of a Graphic Syllabus template – you’ll find more templates to download here.

The Faculty of Science and Engineering found adding a Welcome video was very effective for enhancing student engagement. Find out how they approached the creation of the videos and see how students responded in this post.

For more information on ‘setting the tone’ for your unit, see this post.

2. Icebreaker 

Consider getting students to flag the topics they are most excited about or nervous about at the start (as an in-class activity or an online activity). Not only will it help identify areas of concern for you-as-teacher but it will also help reassure students and normalise the experience of being concerned about particular topics. See a quick 1-min video example here and an example of a class questionnaire  which can be adapted and used to find out more about your students.

3. Use hopeful language

It always helps to phrase things in a positive or hopeful way, e.g. describe requirements and recommendations in terms of what students can do to be successful; for example, “Doing x, y and z will help you succeed in this unit” instead of e.g. “If you do not do x, y and z you are more likely to fail the unit”. Here’s a 38 sec audio in which Dr Jacqueline Mackaway (MQ Sociology) talks about changing the language in her unit.

4. Weekly class drop-ins 

Consider setting aside 30 minutes a week for a Zoom call that anybody can drop in and ask questions. Simply knowing that this time – and you – are available, will help reassure.  

Tips for iLearn design

1. Use the MQ iLearn Template to create a consistent online learning environment

Your iLearn sites should be laid out according to the MQ iLearn Template (following the MQ online learning standards). Here’s some information on how set this up:  5 steps to ensure your unit meets MQ’s online learning standards.

2. Incorporate accessible elements

  • Add alternative text descriptions to images and transcripts to multimedia content such as videos.
  • Use simple, plain language for assessment instructions. Present any process instructions as a numbered list format instead of a solid paragraph of text.
  • Provide opportunities for students to submit work using alternative modalities – e.g. a visual or video response instead of a standard written response.

3. Lay out your iLearn site using iLearn Workbooks

iLearn Workbooks can be used to present content clearly in your iLearn site in a way that engages students. It creates a 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 workbooks).

4. H5P is a great tool for creating engaging learning

You can create learning activities using H5P (short for HTML5 Package) and embed them in your iLearn unit. In this video some MQ staff show how they have been using H5P in their iLearn unit. Refer to these H5P quick guides for instructions on creating interactive content and embedding in iLearn.

5. Get ideas from Open iLearn

You can view the iLearn site for other units across the university by accessing the unit via Open iLearn . You’ll need the unit code for the unit you want to look at. You will also need to have completed the Academic Integrity Module before you will be able to access other units – this shouldn’t take you long though – you just need to ensure you do the Quiz at the end for the system to recognise ‘completion’ of the AI module. In some cases, you may need to contact the Unit Convenor for access to the unit in iLearn.

Here’s a couple of iLearn sites you might like to look at:

Do you know of any interesting iLearn sites that might provide ideas and inspiration for others? If so, please get in touch with us at

Dealing with ‘statistics anxiety’

1. Seek support from MQ’s Numeracy Centre

The Numeracy Centre offer a number of services including a free drop-in service for students, weekly workshops for some first-year courses, bridging programs and preparatory courses at the beginning of each session as well as some on-line resources. Visit the Numeracy Centre iLearn site. Or contact Caroline Kennett

America Obama GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

You can also encourage your students to seek direct support from the Numeracy Centre by providing them with this link to the Numeracy Support website.

2. Observe how other teachers are dealing with ‘statistics anxiety’

I create engaging resources and safe learning spaces to foster transformative learning experiences. I use humour via memes and cartoons, which research shows creates a warm learning environment and actively aids learning.

Alissa Beath (Teaching excellence award winner) teaches statistics to first year psychology students

Alissa Beath (Psychology, FMHHS) and Petra Graham (Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, FSE) co-convene STAT1103 (Introduction to Design and Statistics) for 1st year Psychology students. Here’s how they support students to overcome their fear of statistics:

We use a LOT of encouragement to help students feel more at ease – as well as humour! Having something light (like a humorous image) as the first thing students see on our unit iLearn site helps to break the ice – and images like that are used a lot throughout lectures and tutorials.
Our unit is not very maths-y (compared to many maths/stats units) – it’s very applied. We find that explaining why we present formula to students is helpful in helping their understanding. For example, in a recent Q&A session, we got the standard “do I need to remember X formula for the exam?” question. Our response was that no, you don’t need to memorise or reproduce the formula for assessment tasks. But we then quickly explained that the reason we teach them – and the reason we think it’s important that students learn them – is that the formula help understand the logic of what a particular test is doing when you run it, and where the numbers (that computer software produces) come from.
Explicitly telling students they’re not expected to know everything from the start – and that’s ok – is also useful. Often, first year students get overwhelmed when we throw academic papers and lots of content at them and really struggle when they don’t understand it, and then that can lead to disengagement as it all feels too hard. However, there is a lot of benefit to being exposed to material – even if you just understand some of it. A unit like this provides the foundation of what they learn throughout their whole psychology degree, so when we give them academic journal articles to read – often that contain statistical tests or research designs that are way beyond what they’re learning in the unit – we tell them that they’re not expected to understand it all; we give them concrete instructions for how to read it at a basic/foundation level (ie first yr level) and take away the most important things. And, we tell them that as they progress through first yr, second yr, third yr, they’ll be able to understand more and more.
Our major written assessment task (a research report) is broken into two halves – students write and submit the first half, get feedback, then do the second half. The marking criteria for part 1 explicitly says we are rewarding effort and a decent attempt, not expecting it to be perfect, even for full marks. Part of the criteria for part 2 is rewarding improvement from part 1, – to reiterate that learning from mistakes and making improvement is important.

Want to find out more about the teaching approach in a STAT1103 class? You can register to observe one of Alissa’s classes via the Open for Observation program.

Getting the most out of using MQ online learning technologies

There’s support available to help you effectively use the technologies that can support engaging online learning:

Teaching development opportunities for inclusive learning and teaching

We will soon be launching an online self-paced module Foundations for Inclusive Teaching – which has been co-created with Macquarie staff and students. It is based on these principles: diversity is a strength; inclusive teaching is an ongoing process where students and teachers learn together; inclusive classrooms are accessible, engaging and empowering for all students; and all members of the University community have a role in promoting inclusive teaching.

The module is packed full of practical scholarly advice on creating inclusive and engaging spaces for students. Some suggestions relevant to iLearn design:

Ask yourself: What is one action you can take today to make your teaching more inclusive?

From beyond MQ: more food for thought and action in inclusive online learning

Got a question on learning and teaching for us?

Banner image: Vector by eamesBot on Shutterstock
Graphic syllabus template: Created by Olga Kozar
Kermit GIF: Via Giphy

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.

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