From University of Edinburgh staff to student: A flipped classroom approach

Credit: Pixabay, rory3822, CC0

In this post, Joanna Fairweather, a HR/OD Partner in the Learning and Development Team, writes about staff members’ experiences as students, and the importance of engaging all members of the University as lifelong learners. The Learning and Development Team are part of Human Resources, and provide development opportunities and courses and resources to enable University staff and leaders achieve success in their current and future roles. Joanna shows how the flipped classroom approach can be of particular benefit to staff members’ learning experience…

The Learning and Development team launched their new learning offer to staff across the University on the 3rd September 2018. We want staff to view themselves as students and be inspired and motivated to invest in their own learning. Here is our story.

We looked at the flipped classroom approach growing within the University of Edinburgh and what other organisations were doing to support their staff learn and develop. We didn’t want to guess or make assumptions about what people wanted so we started to ask questions. We went out to managers and leaders and asked them about their challenges and the areas that they think should be focussed on.

We looked at feedback from the last couple of years and spoke to our suppliers and other stakeholders about what worked well and what we should do differently. We looked at the themes that were coming out through the feedback we received.

Then we went to work using all of that insight to build a new offering based on what people had asked for – access to learning when they needed it, opportunities to network and the chance to practise skills together.

This led to us revising what we offered by developing toolkits in content that would have previously been “taught” to staff and rethinking how we offered courses.


We created 16 toolkits on topics we knew staff wanted to know more about. Each toolkit contains 6-8 carefully chosen resources, the majority from and the Online Development Toolkit. All toolkits are available to University of Edinburgh staff and students. The resources chosen are designed to appeal to different learning styles by using a range of media formats, as shown in the image below:

6 toolkit

  • Something to look at: An infographic or image.
  • Something to watch: An online tutorial or video.
  • Something to read: An article, summary or how to guide.
  • Something to do: eLearning, self-assessment, task or reflection tool.
  • A workshop to attend: Communication, time management, and holding management conversations.
  • Something to listen to: Audio of an interview or an experts top tips.
assertivesness toolkit
An example of a toolkit, now live on our website. Individuals can right click on any of the six icons to open the link in a new tab or download to their PC.



The topics covered are split into two areas: Personal Development and Management. Personal Development includes assertiveness, personal effectiveness and presentation skills. Management includes delegation, giving and receiving feedback, setting objectives and influencing others.

The content can be accessed as and when people want it allowing staff to shape their own learning. People know what their development areas are so people can pick and mix the resources or workshops that will benefit them at that time.

This could be the night before a presentation or helping them prepare when providing a member of staff or student with feedback. Also, by making the management content available to all we want aspiring managers to be able to access content too.



Through feedback we knew that people valued the skills practise and networking gained from attending courses. We therefore revised what we offered and removed the majority of taught content to the toolkits, allowing the courses to focus on practise rather than sitting back and being given content they could access anytime.

Next steps

What we need from people reading this blog is to start accessing the learning resources and courses and sharing as widely as they can. Workshops will be released on a quarterly basis and toolkits will be reviewed then as well. By asking for feedback on topics to cover and continuing to share what we offer we want staff to feel supported in their own development.

Joanna Fairweather

Joanna Fairweather is a HR/OD Partner in the Learning and Development Team, Human Resources. She has worked in private, public and third sector organisations. As a qualified career guidance coach and facilitator, she has experience of supporting individuals achieve their full potential. Her current projects include managing the Introduction to Leadership programme and working with the technician community.

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