Delivering interactive lectures for large student cohorts using Adobe Spark (now Adobe Express)

Introduction to Comparative Politics is a compulsory, introductory, first year module, with a large and diverse student cohort. We have in recent years increasingly embedded active learning techniques in the large lecture settings. This includes polls, peer-to-peer discussions, within-lecture data interpretation, and the use of real-life source materials.

Our goal is to keep students engaged, interested, and learning throughout the lecture. The challenge for us was how to translate these active learning and student participation elements in an online, asynchronous, and remote learning setting.

We used Adobe Spark because it is attractive and simple to use. We made short videos interspersed with a variety of activities for students to engage with, and we broke the lectures into multiple thematic sections to aid navigation and enable them to take breaks at appropriate points – as would happen in a real-life lecture. The activities included adding their thoughts to collective word-clouds, opinion polls, learning-check questions, applying concepts and theories to new examples, and high-level activities such as synthesising material they had learnt across the lecture.

Students engaged well with the Spark pages, and came back to them multiple times, showing the material was an effective learning resource. Students also participated in the activities, with high numbers of responses to polls and other activities that required student input. We can also see from tutorial discussions and assessments that students achieved the learning outcomes of the course.

Click to launch Spark Page example:

Screenshot of Adobe Express resource Introduction to Comparative Politics

Evaluation / Student Feedback

Lectures being split into smaller chunks to enable us to digest the information before we moved on. And there were lots of helpful articles and thought provoking questions within the lectures to further enhance learning. Making it interactive was one of the best things that could have been done as a response to all teaching moving online. I could say that this was my best course unit in this regard.

The lectures were interactive. It wasn’t just about listening to something with your mind wondering off from time to time. Activities throughout the lecture required involvement, which made these lectures the best uni lectures so far for me. I also liked the use of other videos, not just the lecturer’s videos.

Lectures on Adobe Spark have a welcome combination of short videos, short thinking and writing tasks, polls, figures which is much more conducive to learning than an hour-long PowerPoint lecture.

  • High student participation and engagement in asynchronous lectures
  • Retained some collective experience for students and lecturers
  • Easy to design as lecturers and to navigate as a student
  • Spark format allows a greater diversity of content than Blackboard
Top Tips

Use the UoM templates and formatting – this was an easy way to make the pages look uniform even though there were two lecturers putting them together.


School: Social Sciences

Discipline: Politics

Academics: Nicole Martin and Rosalind Shorrocks

Course: POLI10201/2 Introduction to Comparative Politics

Cohort Size: 100 (semester 1); 300 (semester 2)

Themes: Active learning, Online content


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