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Self-paced learning materials rapid review tool

Design for Delivery

Due to Covid19 we have all used many more online, self-paced, learning materials over the past year. How do we ensure that the materials we use are relevant, accessible, and add value for students, and are not simply an overload of YouTube videos and similar materials? 

The Rapid Review Tool gives a framework for academics to conduct rapid reviews of such material and present their findings back to module staff in a standardised format.  


  • It can assist those developing new material or reviewing existing material to adapt to the new hybrid way of working  
  • Module leaders get recommendations for improving their materials 
  • PGRs can deepen their understanding of teaching methods and materials 
  • Students receive the best self-paced materials possible. 

What did you do?  Why did you do it?

Joanna Townend (Teaching Fellow, LUBS) asked me to review self-paced learning materials for a couple of her undergraduate modules whilst I was shadowing her teaching as a PGR. She wanted to ensure high standards for the content, accessibility and mode of delivery for the materials, many of which had been pulled together at short notice in light of the move to online teaching in 2020. 

It soon became apparent that there was limited guidance on what made a good set of online, self-paced, learning material. There was research into digital methods, and plenty into university teaching more generally. I found several useful articles and books that referred to good practice, and a useful tool developed by Penn State University. However, I didn’t find anything simple, quick and easy to use that covered both quality of the material and the ease of student access. 

Building on the existing material, I developed an approach/tool to review Joanna's material in a more effective and structured manner. The tool asks 20 questions, in 5 key areas: 

  1. Aims and objectives. Do the materials support the learning outcomes and reflect the values of the University of Leeds? 
  2. Learning Styles and Pedagogy. Are the materials interesting, relevant and learner centric, whilst reflecting different ways of learning? 
  3. Relevance. Are the materials up to date and relevant to students. Are the materials chosen with a clear purpose? 
  4. Accessibility and Inclusivity. If some students cannot access the materials effectively or cannot relate to them it does not matter how good they are. Are the materials easily accessed by all students, and do they reflect a diverse set of views? 
  5. Feedback and Communication. Are there opportunities for students to receive feedback, discuss the course with other students and with module staff, and see examples of high-quality answers to key questions? 

Screen shot of the tool showing questions C.1. and C.2.

Each question is accompanied by a brief description as well as examples of what to look for and where it may be found.  Asking questions encourages a reflection on the nature, quality, and purpose of the material and how to best present it to the students for optimised usage. 

What was the impact of your practice and how have you evaluated it?

Feedback so far has been positive and that the tool has informed selection and development of materials for use on a number of modules:

I found the review really useful and it has informed the development of these materials ready for next year's run.

The tool allowed a systematic and swift review against indicators of good quality materials and helped ensure we provided students with materials that were well written, accessible and had a clear purpose.

To evaluate further, and to develop and refine the tool, I intend to engage with a broader community of teaching staff, and source colleagues willing to apply the tool to a review of materials.  Questions I will look to explore are:

  • How could the tool be improved?
  • How could this tool be used in your area?
  • Could undertaking a rapid review become part of PGR teaching shadowing?
  • How does a tool such as this fit with more formal module reviews?
  • How best could it be used in peer-to-peer feedback, professional development, module team development etc?
  • As far as you know, are there similar tools in use inside and/or outside the university that could help with the development of this tool?

How could others benefit from this example? 

I hope others will use and develop the tool to assist with their own area of interest.

The tool is intended to aid the rapid review of a module’s self-paced materials. It is not a replacement for in depth quality assurance. It can be used by anyone involved in teaching but may be particularly useful for: 

  • self-review by module authors and staff,  
  • peer reviewing,  
  • for PGRs to increase understanding of teaching methods,  
  • module team development activities, and  
  • to provide a quick independent review for consideration by module staff. 


Justin Partridge,, PGR, LUBS.

Many thanks to Joanna Townend for the support and encouragement to develop this tool. 

Do you have an example of your practice to share?

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