We identified that a key factor in making collaborative activity work was building effective learning environments for students on collaborative programmes. We broadened our scope to include not only collaborative activity, but also online / distance learning, as many of the lessons learned apply to both contexts.

Making it Work: Building Learning Communities at a Distance


We held Making it Work: Building Learning Communities at a Distance on 19 May 2016. This event gave the Scottish sector an opportunity to consider the challenges of creating effective learning opportunities for students on collaborative, online or distance programmes, and of supporting staff working in these contexts.


Through keynote presentations and case studies, delegates learned how colleagues create effective learning communities across a variety of types of collaborative, online, and distance programmes.


As part of the event, we designed a card sort exercise. The cards allow you to work with groups of staff within your institution to consider the design and delivery of effective collaborative activity. Use the activity and cards as a workshop or team meeting to evaluate your own institutional practice.



Keynote presentations


Building Student Learning Communities at a Distance

Publication Date: 26 May 2016

This case study by Heriot-Watt University focuses on student engagement and the sense of belonging to HWU community/ethos, regardless of the mode of delivery or campus location. This case study relates to the Building learning communities strand of the Focus On Collaborative Activity project.

Author: Heriot-Watt University
Format: PPTX
Size: 13650 KB

Better together - Creating collaborative learning societies

Publication Date: 26 May 2016

This case study by Edinburgh Napier University highlights the provision of transnational education for students and reflects on the different aspects and models at the University. This case study relates to the Building learning communities strand of the Focus On Collaborative Activity project.

Author: Edinburgh Napier University
Format: PPT
Size: 218 KB

Student engagement - the quality of transnational and online distance learning

Publication Date: 24 May 2016

This case study highlights what sparqs, as the national agency for student engagement in quality, is doing to take forward work on engaging students studying transnationally and on online and distance learning courses. This case study relates to the Building learning communities strand of the Focus On Collaborative Activity project.

Author: sparqs
Format: PPTX
Size: 638 KB

Case studies


An innovative approach to international education

Publication Date: 26 May 2016

This case study presentation by the University of St Andrews discusses building learning communities at a distance and discusses the institutional approach, challenges and successes. This case study relates to the Building learning communities strand of the Focus On Collaborative Activity project.

Author: University of St Andrews
Format: PPT
Size: 16882 KB

Attend, engage, learn and build community

Publication Date: 26 May 2016

This case study by the Open University discusses the challenges for part time distance learners, Online staff development and fexible learning. This case study relates to the Building learning communities strand of the Focus On Collaborative Activity project.

Author: Open University
Format: PPTX
Size: 937 KB

Engaging and representing students studying at a distance

Publication Date: 14 Jun 2016

This case study by Robert Gordon University reflects on the support, engagement and motivation requirements for distance learning students. This case study relates to the Building learning communities strand of the Focus On Collaborative Activity project.

Author: Robert Gordon University
Format: PPTX
Size: 2601 KB

GCU and the Caledonian College of Engineering in Oman

Publication Date: 26 May 2016

This case study by Glasgow Caledonian University addresses the challenges of setting up a private venture to fulfil a need for an engineering education in Oman. This case study relates to the Building learning communities strand of the Focus On Collaborative Activity project.

Author: Glasgow Caledonian University
Format: PPTX
Size: 773 KB

Putting the four C's into practice

Publication Date: 26 May 2016

This sharing practice session from the University of Glasgow reflects on the challenges of forming learning communities and the ability to collaborate in distributed corporate settings, across countries, continents and cultures. This case study relates to the Building learning communities strand of the Focus On Collaborative Activity project.

Author: University of Glasgow
Format: PDF
Size: 4350 KB

Student representation for reps at a distance: Support, Community and Inclusion

Publication Date: 26 May 2016

This case study focuses on the collaboratively engagement at the University of Edinburgh and the Edinburgh University Students’ Association to work with a task group of student and staff members to improve the support for online distance learning (ODL) Student Representatives. This case study relates to the Building learning communities strand of the Focus On Collaborative Activity project.

Author: University of Edinburgh
Format: PDF
Size: 902 KB

Supporting student-led communities via virtual campuses

Publication Date: 26 May 2016

This case study reflects on the corporate strategies and innovative approaches in place at the University of the West of Scotland to support student learning communities. This case study relates to the Building learning communities strand of the Focus On Collaborative Activity project.

Author: University of the West of Scotland
Format: PPTX
Size: 2537 KB

Supporting students regardless of distance

Publication Date: 08 Aug 2016

This case study by the University of Dundee discusses feedback in distance learning programmes and how lecturers and staff should create spaces, opportunities, varied times and places students can access the University. This case study relates to the Building learning communities strand of the Focus On Collaborative Activity project.

Author: University of Dundee
Format: PPTX
Size: 17721 KB

Working together to embrace difference

Publication Date: 26 May 2016

This case study by Queen Margaret University discusses the links between professional services, academic departments and staff to embrace difference: acknowledging different cultural, political, philosophical systems with which we work. This case study relates to the Building learning communities strand of the Focus On Collaborative Activity project.

Author: Queen Margaret University
Format: PPT
Size: 13264 KB

Card activity resources


Learning Community Cards

Publication Date: 18 May 2016

These community cards should be used in conjunction with the card activity instructions. This activity encourages participants to explore the characteristics of an effective learning community and consider questions around the design and delivery of effective collaborative activity.

Author: QAA Scotland
Format: PPTX
Size: 47 KB

Card activity instructions

Publication Date: 18 May 2016

These instructions should be used in conjunction with the community cards. This card activity encourages participants to explore the characteristics of an effective learning community and consider questions around the design and delivery of effective collaborative activity.

Author: QAA Scotland
Format: PDF
Size: 306 KB

Online seminars


We also held a series of online seminars aimed at practitioners teaching on collaborative, online, or distance programmes.