Online intensives techniques and tools

There are lots of techniques and tools you can use to facilitate intensive teaching and learning sessions. Refer to the Educational design principles for online intensives resource for key educational principles and tips for teaching intensives within an online learning space.

Here are some of the techniques and tools used and recommended by SCU colleagues to facilitate different kinds of intensives.


Sourced from several Health and Human Sciences units

Most laboratory classes are delivered via Blackboard Collaborate. Keeping to the regular timetable has provided good attendance online. To provide flexibility, students are encouraged to attend their scheduled campus class times where possible, but are also permitted to attend any other online time offering that suits them if needed.

Examples and tips

  • Some staff teams live stream the laboratories from campus to demonstrate skills, the correct use of equipment, using mannequins etc. Where possible, technical teams distributed practice kits to students before border closures.
  • Nursing skills and simulation case studies are filmed prior to the laboratory class. MP4 videos and YouTube videos are uploaded into the unit Blackboard site for students to watch during class. Students leave Collaborate to watch videos due to bandwidth restrictions, then return to Collaborate to discuss.
  • Nursing staff who have previously recorded videos with the Digital Resources team have accessed these files recently to re-purpose for online activities.
  • To encourage student interaction, include more activities. Use polls to see how many students have watched the lectures prior to class. This technique has encouraged student engagement when compared to face-to-face class readiness.
  • To monitor the Chat conversations, include multiple tutors in each class to assist the main tutor leading the activities.
  • Photographs of laboratory models are placed into PowerPoint™ slides, then converted to PDFs due to bandwidth. Laboratory topics include a PDF with relevant labelled and unlabelled details for students to draw on the slides using the Pen tool or type a label into the text box.
  • Some staff include workbook activities to assist student learning.
  • Skills assessments are often verbal assessments. Some group assessments are now required as individual presentations or reports. To provide student choice of delivery, activities are either presented live via Collaborate or uploaded as a recorded presentation.
  • Students complete exams at the same time. A timed exam (previously invigilated) with no backtracking requires students to spend a minute per question (suggested timing displayed). For flexibility, exams are offered on the same day at two different times. Students who missed the exam were instructed to apply for Special Consideration where a third exam version will be held at a later date.

Field Trip

Environmental Science and Engineering

The face-to-face bus farming field trip for students quickly became an online residential for the new first year unit, Farming Systems (AGRC1002).

The two day online residential started with a guest lecturer panel including filmmaker Damon Gameau author of 2040: A Handbook for the Regeneration, and grazier Charles Massy author of Call of the Reed Warbler: A New Agriculture – A New Earth. Following the panel, Lorraine Gordon Director of Strategic Projects, Office of the Vice President (Engagement) discussed the degree and agriculture in general.

Just before the COVID-19 pandemic isolation, videos of farmers were taken and produced by Digital Resources. The videos included site visits and farmer interviews with the unit assessor. Before the online residential, students viewed the videos located in the unit’s online residential folder. During the residential, a one hour Q&A session was held with each of the three farmers via Zoom where students (74) had the opportunity to ask questions from what they had seen in the videos. These activities achieved high student engagement.

The second residential day involved students working on their portfolios with the unit teachers in Collaborate Ultra. Students were asked to upload a photo to encourage interactions should video streaming not be possible. Breakout rooms and whiteboards were used in small groups to facilitate discussions. The online residential ended in the main Collaborate group space with a Complexity Thinking workshop facilitated by Ph.D. student Shae Brown. Here the students mapped out the goals of the farmers where they highlighted any factors influencing these goals. Post-residential, students continued working on their portfolios within their teams with weekly progress checks by the teaching team.

To cater for student interaction and wellbeing throughout the online residential, scheduled mini-breaks encouraged students to have a five-minute stretch or time away from the screen.

To help facilitate the first year students to meet online and network as many students did not have existing networks and support in place, ongoing Collaborate breakout rooms were created based on student location for students to meet online outside of class to go for a study walk, exercise, talk about learnings, etc. This has helped students to build their networks and manage feelings of isolation.


Health and Human Sciences - Nursing Online Preparation for Placement (PEP) briefings

Online Preparation for Placement (PEP) briefings are scheduled prior to all placements, approximately 6-8 weeks before. Using Blackboard Collaborate, two session times scheduled for student accessibility. One session is recorded for any students who cannot attend and made available on the relevant unit Blackboard site.

Additional information sessions have been held for each year (1st, 2nd, 3rd years) as each year has a different level of information needed. Alongside the scheduled sessions, these sessions are open forum with coverage of academic staff for the theoretical components of the degree and the PEP component specifically providing updates on the status of placement capacity, the current COVID-19 situation and impact at that time etc. Staff have found these sessions have significantly reduced email traffic and enquiries, and has allowed staff to be completely transparent with students about what the situation is, and what staff are doing to maintain or improve it.

Due to requirements from governing bodies, all placement requirements are as per usual and no alternatives are an option, E.g. simulation does not replace placement hours. Placement procedures are largely the same as before COVID-19. However students need to complete an extra Commonwealth COVID-19 Statutory Declaration due the nature of the placement and declare any potential exposure in their employment etc.

Capacity has reduced in some placements, some students are either without a placement or have part of a placement. Staff are working towards sourcing additional hours at a later date. Due to requirements from governing bodies, all placement requirements are as per usual and no alternatives are an option. E.g. Simulation does not replace placement hours.

Business and Tourism – Internship Placements (Work Integrated Learning)

There are a range of solutions for students on placement in businesses who can no longer work within the organisation. Students have been asked to continue to complete assessments, plus either:

  • Move to working from home to continue with the operational work or a project for the business. Staff communicated early and often with industry supervisors for this to happen. The following resources and tips from the University of Waterloo were shared with students and supervisors to support this process:
  • Complete experiential learning online with a team based problem solving project with third party provider, Practera.

Additionally, students were encouraged to participate in activities offered by SCU’s Careers & Employability team including the Virtual Careers Fair from the Bright Futures Mentoring Program.

Assessments have been modified for Tourism students who have a community engaged learning (CEL) component to their assessment. This includes students who are normally required to visit a restaurant, hotel or club to evaluate an actual event. The information gained through the onsite visit is now sourced via online resources. For example, students who were required to conduct an onsite physical ‘walk through’ now complete the assessment by attending a similar business walk-through delivered on YouTube.

To provide an online virtual placement for some students for Session 2, the Community Engagement Project (COM30001) unit from the School of Arts and Social Sciences will be used. This unit provides a work integrated experience using Live Ideas projects for students to work with community partners.


Residential schools are longer intensives normally held over a few days. Consider pre-recording some of the activities for students to complete prior to the intensive session.

Law and Justice Studies - Summer School Residential

Early in 2020 due to fires, the face-to-face residential switched to online over a very tight timeframe. After initial conversations with the Unit Assessor, the professor based in Italy with help from her IT support recorded four Blackboard Collaborate sessions for students to view at their own time. After viewing the online recordings, three non-compulsory Zoom sessions were held with the professor. The assessment was changed to three short-answer questions posted after each lecture.

This format worked really well for the student cohort to watch the lectures asynchronously at their own time as many students were working and had families. Although there were time difference issues, the students who were able to participate at the 7pm Zoom sessions were able to ask questions of the professor and performed better in the assessment. Future residential schools may follow the same format to cater for student flexibility of viewing learning resources at preferred times. Variations may include several shorter recordings and if time differences allow, some guest lecturers may deliver a live synchronous lecture.

Arts and Social Sciences – Master of Social Work (Professional Qualifying) Online Residential

In Session 1 2020, a team of four unit assessors turned two face-to-face postgraduate intensive residentials previously held over a week into an online residential program for first and second year students. During the intensives, students develop a range of skills such as group work, clinical skills, community development, and foundational theoretical knowledge for skills and practise. The team used the technology supported tools of Blackboard Collaborate for teaching delivery (main platform), Zoom for student interviews, and OneDrive for students to upload assessment files.

Time spent in preparation and the connection across the teaching team was key to holding the online program delivered to 60 first year and 70 second year students. Hours of preparation beforehand paid off from the student skills observed, and the positive feedback received from students.

Several key strategies helped the residential to be a success:

  • Planning, preparing and identifying outcomes: Time to create a consistent look and feel for students when navigating between the first year units. The same approach was used for units in the second year intensive. Time discussing and identifying the minimum levels of specific outcomes students needed to achieve, and tailoring the program to suit these levels.

  • Establishing student connections: Staff spent some time to allay the fears of students’ who had initial reservations about how they were going to manage the online program with family responsibilities, and what to do if their Internet connections didn’t work. Students were able to contact the Technology Service Desk for help when needed. To cater for flexibility, the content was repeated at different times. Students also used their own forms of social media (Facetime™, WhatsApp™, etc.) to connect alongside and outside of the online program with peers.

  • Building technology skills: Staff appreciated and found invaluable the daily Live Support Collaborate drop-in and Friday Free-for-all sessions to ask questions on how best to use a tool. However, these sessions were not enough. Time was invested in investigating the capacity of Zoom and testing to enable both faces to appear on the screen when the student interviews were recorded. Tip sheets were developed to guide students to set up their Zoom accounts and how to record, and how to upload files to OneDrive.

  • Providing mixed activities and pre-recorded sessions: To prepare students, the program agenda outlined the times required to participate online and when to work independently. Different techniques were used to suit the teaching. To encourage and maintain interest, some lecture material was pre-recorded for students to watch ahead of time. Guest presenters pre-recorded their presentations for students to watch in their own time which was followed by a scheduled live Q&A with the presenter. Students watched clinical skills videos before meeting online and used Zoom to practise telehealth interviews.

  • Setting expectations and moments of gratitude: Setting expectations from the start of the online program helped the teachers to set the tone for this experience. Acknowledging that this situation was unique and that it was also okay should the technology not always work. As social work content may be challenging at times, the team regularly checked in on students and asked students to let the teachers know when to change the content focus if needed. The team spoke of ‘moments of gratitude’ for all to acknowledge that they were connected throughout the online program during this time of COVID-19. Activities ranged from asking students to stretch or to run on the spot to keep energy levels up, or to draw pictures on the whiteboard to show how they were feeling.

  • Facilitating active participation: To encourage participation online, students were randomly assigned to Blackboard breakout rooms for group work, then moved back into the main room for group presentations and whiteboard brainstorms. Two units involved students interviewing each other for counselling interview practise using Zoom where twenty breakout groups were established with teachers coming in and out of rooms as needed during the practise times. Teachers did not enter the rooms for the final assessment due to recording where students later uploaded the files to OneDrive for marking. For the group assessments, students also used creative ways to present and analyse photos, and where appropriate added music for support.

Future online residential program tips

  • Make sure there is a comfortable number of students within a breakout group activity. Three to four students’ worked well for group dynamics.
  • Ensure pop-up approvals within browsers are enabled for a consistent Internet connection. Technology Services were able to assist students when locked out due to pop-up screens.
  • Include additional tutors to move between the breakout rooms to assist facilitation.
  • Ensure another tutor is present to manage the chat space to clarify any points or to include hyperlinks on what is being discussed at the time.
  • As final assessments were recorded, teachers did not enter the breakout rooms. For marking, ensure either a teacher remains in the room or can watch the recording after.
  • The team is considering changing the future online residential program format to match the class time. This would require switching to a dedicated online program of 4 hours per week over 12 weeks.


Thanks to all the staff who contributed practical tips and strategies used in this resource.