Advice for online and flexible learning

The below key elements are important to consider when delivering online or in dual delivery. These fundamentals of delivering an online subject are relatively easy to adopt.

1. Clear interaction and engagement with regular communications

The degree of interaction and engagement in online classes and with the online material, particularly between staff and students, but also between students, and students’ dynamic interaction with digital, discipline-based content.

As students and staff may not be coming together face-to-face on campus it is really important that staff keep up the communication with students and other staff. Of course, many staff would already do this online with their existing campus-based subjects. A couple of the fundamentals are:

  • Have an ‘announcements’ area where you can regularly broadcast messages to all students.
  • Build person-to-person interaction into your subject design through discussions lists or group work (see below).

An important component of clear communications is being very particular about instructions provided to students about the learning and assessment activities they are required to undertake. While, again, academic staff would do this as a matter of course, teaching in an entirely online mode tends to place more pressure on these instructions as they are sometimes easy to misinterpret without face-to-face clarification.

Resources to improve interaction and engagement

2. Academic staff presence

This is closely related to interaction and engagement but refers specifically to the high visibility, availability and approachability of lead academic(s) within the subject. It refers to teaching staff extensively communicating with students about how they are going and how the subject is progressing in general.

Resources to improve academic staff presence

The implementing online learning quality resources page includes further initiatives to directly support ways to enhance interaction and engagement and includes opportunities for increasing academic staff presence in subject sites.

3. Clarity in LMS site structure

The clarity of the structures for subjects and the sequence, relationships and logic of the curriculum and its materials. This includes the clarity and thoroughness of the explanations and advice to students on what is required of them and how they can most effectively and successfully participate, remembering that the modes of remote teaching and learning are still quite new to most of the University’s students.

It is important to provide:

  • A welcome to the subject. This can be just a text-based message on your LMS subject site, but might include audio or video.
  • A layout that is coherent, consistent and logically sequenced and organised.
  • A list of teaching staff, their contact information and availability.
  • An overview of how the subject will generally work over the weeks of the semester.
  • A ‘subject guide’ describing:
    • Learning outcomes
    • Subject description
    • Overview of assessment tasks
    • Schedule of learning events
    • Expectations for subject participation.

Resources to support clear LMS subject site structures

4. Coherent learning resources

The backbone of any online subject is the learning resources provided by staff to students.

Learning resources refer to the digital learning materials (readings, slides, images, websites, audio, videos) provided to students as well as the learning and assessment tasks designed for students (in effect what they do with the materials) over the weeks of the subject.

The critical thing to keep in mind when it comes to learning resources is that they are coherently organised for students over the weeks of the course. That is, there needs to be a coherent logic or narrative to what materials are introduced when, and what individual or team-based activities go with what resources. It is also important that these materials and activities are aligned with the learning outcomes of the course.

There is no need to adopt an overly technological approach to the development and use of learning resources. Many of the most effective online subjects are supported by relatively modest digital resources but the learning design and assessment design are exceptional (e.g. student-centred learning designs such as using problem-based learning tasks, or project work, or authentic tasks, or simulations, or collaborative writing tasks).

Promoting interaction among students is key and this can be done effectively using simple mechanisms such as online discussion boards which can be used to promote both student-to-student and/or student-to-teacher interactions.

LMS showcase examples

Looking to enhance the design of your LMS subject? View examples and resources will show you what’s possible in an LMS subject design.

Lecture recordings for online learning

The practice of re-using lecture videos from previous years

In general, it is preferred practice within the University to create new lecture videos for each new delivery of your subject, rather than re-use previously recorded video lectures. This will help ensure the contemporary nature and relevance of the teaching and learning materials provides a quality student experience.

However, it is recognised that many staff put extensive effort and time into creating high quality video lectures. In these circumstances video lectures might be re-used judiciously. If the learning objectives and the lecture content remains current and these lectures were very well-received by students previously, then consideration might be given to re-using these recordings. But care needs to be exercised here. Ultimately the quality of the learning of this year’s students must be the key criterion.

Note that it generally would be inappropriate to re-use lectures recorded in the current subject featuring a staff member who is not involved in teaching the current subject.

Staff should not re-use lecture-capture recordings from 2019 or earlier.

Visit how do I deliver my lecture online? for more information on delivering lectures online.

Overview of support resources for interaction, engagement and academic presence

Weekly virtual office hours Academic staff presence
Weekly video 'mail bag' Academic staff presence
Discussion list – moderated general Interaction and engagement
Discussion list – moderated in discipline area Academic staff presence
Interaction and engagement
Fortnightly synchronous Q&A session Academic staff presence
Interaction and engagement
Fortnightly synchronous interactive seminar Academic staff presence
Interaction and engagement
Embedded quizzes/assessment in video Interaction and engagement
Tri-weekly formative, developmental quizzes/assessment Interaction and engagement

Staff support

The primary ways in which staff can access support for online teaching and learning are:

Student support

Support for the student community during the current outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19).

This page was last updated on 16 Dec 2022.

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