Innovation to mainstream: a 21st Century campus designed for Active Blended Learning

This is my second post about the SOAS Learning and Teaching Development conference. Prof. Alejandro Armenilli from The University of Northampton started by presenting a video – A vision of students today, which, whilst made in the USA in 2007, is still depressingly relevant to the UK Higher Education sector today. Armenilli suggested that Higher Education establishments need to change the way they interact with students in order to make learning more active and reduce failure.

He went on to give an overview of what the University of Northampton is doing to change the way they encourage student development. The key element was Active Blended Learning, which is based on the following ideas:

  • student-centred
  • learning is interaction
  • face-to-face activities linked to those outside of class
  • don’t separate online and campus learning
  • has a social content encouraging students to become ‘Changemakers
Diagram showing structure of Active Blended Learning. Based on Online and Face to face provision
Active Blended Learning (adapted from Coulson and Armellini, 2017)

None of the concepts presented were radically innovative in their own right. However, the way the University of Northampton is aiming to “bake them in” rather than “bolt them on” is. It helps they’ve been able to facilitate this process through the development of their new campus, which is due to open at the end of this year. As a result, the learning spaces have been designed for a more informal and interactive style of teaching. Nonetheless, Armenilli was relatively candid about the challenges faced in the process of staff development enabling them to institute Active Blended Learning.

It was certainly inspiring to see the potential for change when pedagogy is put at the heart of an institution’s organisation and design. I look forward to seeing more details on how students and staff experience Active Blended Learning, and how the new campus works in practice.


Coulson, K. and Armellini, A. (2017) Active Blended Learning: Northampton’s Stance on a new normal in Higher Education. Available at: (Accessed: 17 August 2018).






Link to materials


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *