With online learning, because the teacher is not physically present with the students “It is thus essential that the eTeacher provides a clear course structure and makes assessment guidelines explicit, as well as giving regular feedback to the eStudents to enable them to track learning progress.” (Lai and Pratt, 2020)

This sounds like an obvious question, but how do your online students know what to do?

Do you have an outline, that covers a block of learning (be it a week, a fortnight, or longer)?

If so, is it accessible?

Let’s pull apart that word accessible.

  • Firstly, is your outline easy to find within three clicks or less? If I’m a student how easily can I find it in your class community? If it is buried and too hard to find, students are less likely to engage with it regularly.
  • Is it accessible in terms of using plain language? Online learning can be quite overwhelming for some students, Clear, direct language is really important.
  • And is it accessible in terms of multi-modal ways of sharing information? Recently I have been making short videos on Loom to go with the instructions. I’ve found this to be powerful for a couple of reasons. I can model how something works if we are using a new tool or doing something that students may find challenging. I can also see how many times my video has been viewed in Loom’s analytics, which gives me a picture of how students are engaging with the work over the week.

However your course is structured, there are a few things you should try to cover in our outlines:

The Why

  • The objectives (these might be developed with or by the students)
  • An overview/explanation of the work. (Students are more likely to engage in the learning and engage more deeply if they have a clear picture of the purpose of it)

The How and When

  • The tasks to be completed (choices could be available in how or what students do)
  • Supporting resources (students could also find and share resources)
  • Some assessment of/for learning (this could be informal and synchronous e.g. a discussion in the next Zoom meeting or asynchronous e.g. sharing of work in a Google Doc or Slide with feedback using comments. This need not be teacher assessed. Peer assessment or meta reflection can be powerful)


This module of learning below clearly outlines the reasons for the tasks, what is expected; while giving opportunities for student agency, collaboration and emerging ideas. There is a clear connection to what has come previously and a clear focus for students.

Lai, K. W., & Pratt, K. (2020). Affordances and Barriers of the VLN Classes User Experience and Perception. https://drive.google.com/file/d/17euqZrqnPs4RK0ILC0-bjqpLkAPob3ow/view?usp=sharing

By Philippa Mallinson