Responsive Blended Learning

Responsive Blended Learning (RBL) combines active, supported online learning with contextually appropriate face-to-face learning opportunities, responding dynamically to the changing external context. This approach enables students to proceed with their studies alongside their peers, whatever pandemic-related restrictions are lifted or imposed in specific contexts.

RBL: Our principles

  • Prioritise the wellbeing of staff and students.
  • Support students to thrive as part of global learning communities.
  • Value our staff and their skills, knowledge and passion for their subject that underpins the HWU learning experience.
  • Build on our strengths as a global, multi-sited university.
  • Blend online and face-to-face learning in a way that is pedagogically appropriate and practically deliverable.
  • Ensure identical academic standards across learning contexts.
  • Maintain our commitment to Inspiring Learning.
Heriot-Watt Learning Commons

At the heart of the RBL approach is our Heriot-Watt global learning community, our students and our staff collaborating together to inspire learning.

Use the sections below to access a range of resources to support the delivery of and engagement with Responsive Blended Learning.

Alternatively, download the list of RBL resources for quick access to topics of interest to you.


This guide is an introduction to the Responsive Blended Learning approach adopted by Heriot-Watt University in response to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Open the Introduction to Responsive Blended Learning guide.

These seven themed conversations will help frame course team planning, encourage innovation in learning and teaching to meet the challenges of the current context, and across the academic year.

Download the Preparing for Responsive Blended Learning: A starting point for course teams guide.

Download the Responsive Blended Learning Action Template and use to record your Course Team discussions and plans for AY2020-21.

The terms used in technology enhanced learning and Responsive Blended Learning may be new to some people. This glossary outlines key terms which you will come across and the definition of those terms used by Heriot-Watt University.

Access the glossary of technology enhanced learning terms.

Use this tool in your Course Team to map out, week-by-week, the learning students will engage in.

Download the Course Team Mapping Tool.

  1. Download the ‘Practice based activities: Labs, studios and fieldwork’ guide for advice and links to resources to help staff develop online and blended alternatives to labs, studios and fieldwork.
  2. Download the ‘Practice based activities: Guidance and case studies’ guide for case studies and practical examples of developing online alternatives for labs, field trips and studios.

Effective online teaching is an extension of good teaching practice, just in a different learning space.

Download the ‘Fundamentals of effective online teaching practice’ to find out more about how to create an effective and inclusive learning environment.

Download the ‘RBL top tips for teaching in physically distanced contexts’ for ideas on how to teaching in a physically distanced space and how to blend your online and on-campus activities to foster community across your Course.

Download the ‘Managing your virtual classroom’ for practical advice on managing conduct in a virtual classroom.

Download the ‘Teaching online and on-campus simultaneously’ guide for practical advice on choosing whether to teach live online and on-campus at the same time.

Over the summer the RBL team are facilitating a series of sessions are for staff who want to focus on a particular aspect of Responsive Blended Learning. The sessions provide a space to share and develop learning and teaching practice. The recordings of the sessions are available to Heriot-Watt staff via the links below (Heriot-Watt login required):

Our resources for students explain what Responsive Blended Learning will be like for students and also provide support to use the key tools needed to engage in Responsive Blended Learning during AY20/21.

Access the RBL guides for students and the RBL student induction guides 20/21.

Introducing Responsive Blended Learning module

The Introducing Responsive Blended Learning module is open to colleagues across Heriot-Watt University who will be teaching or supporting students in AY20/21 through a Responsive Blended Learning approach.

It can be studied as a linear module, worked through from beginning to end. Alternatively you can dip in and engage with specific resources as and when you need them. Either way, we hope that you’ll find it useful for the immediate transition to Responsive Blended Learning and in developing your practice more broadly.

Heriot-Watt staff (if logging in with their Heriot-Watt ID) can:

Open the Supporting Student Learning Online Toolkit
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