Overview of Module

 Where to start?

  1. Read theIntroduction to this module.This pictures shows a rocket taking off to represent the start of the module
  2. Get a Student Perspective on online learning.
  3. Learn how the three Universal Design for Learning Principles applied to this module will make your online courses more accessible.
  4. Familiarize yourself with three globally utilized Quality Standards you can apply to the design of your online courses.
  5. Choose any of the three Module Options to deepen your learning.
  6. Complete the suggested activities in your Module option to design important elements for your online teaching.
  7. Share your resource(s) for feedback and reflect on its usefulness for your course in our collaborative Module discussion forum.

1. Intro: Online Don’t Come Easy

Owing to shifts in the student population and its greater demand for flexibility, online course and program offerings had already started to increase in many universities across Canada and the US in the decade before the Covid-19 pandemic forced us all to shift to the online modality for work and life. (Bates, 2019; Seaman et al, 2018)

Researchers who have investigated the impact and effect of past online learning experiences found no great differences between online and more traditional on-campus learning, granted competent planning and skilled facilitation were at play in both settings. (Bernard et al, 2004; Bennet, et al, 2019; Manning-Quellet & Black, 2017; Means et al, 2013; Ochs, 2017; Roddy et al, 2017; Unal & Unal, 2017; McLaren, 2004, Zhao et al, 2005)

Since you most likely have not made the deliberate decision to teach online, but were forced into it by the current circumstances, you might find this sudden move out of your face-to-face classrooms into online environments rather challenging and maybe also somewhat discomforting. This is only natural and should not come as a surprise because the parameters for both settings are indeed distinct from each other, and therefore require different approaches to make teaching and learning work for you and your students. (Ní Shé et al, 2019)

We would like to assure you that online teaching is an iterative process, even in the best of case of all scenarios. Taking a few specific development steps every time will allow you to slowly compose increasingly enhanced learning and teaching experiences for you and your students. A focused approach grounded in attainable course development goals will help you create the space for academic growth and building of  digital competencies for teaching and learning in digital times. (Redecker & Punie, 2017)

Much like you the newly turned online educator, many of your students will not have made a conscious choice to take online classes during their time in university. It is therefore to be expected that your students, now being forced to learn online, will possess varying skill sets and experience relating to managing their studies in that delivery mode. As research investigating student success has shown, learner history is an important predictor of persistence in online programs. In other words, the less exposure students have previously had to online learning, the more support they will still need to build skills in time management, self-directed learning, and navigation of unfamiliar virtual environments and technology. (Hung et al, 2010; Li et al, 2016)

Four pillars have been identified as crucial to successful student performance in online courses or programs, including an orientation at the start, online-friendly academic resources, adequate technical scaffolding, health/ well-being support and a sense of belonging to the fully online cohort. (Roddy et al, 2017)

Being in the midst of a global crisis puts unprecedented stress on you and your students. The pivot from campus-based to online delivery at such short notice will most likely be a novel and somewhat daunting experience for you and your students, especially considering the fact that unexpected responsibilities may arise and sudden shifts in priorities might impede with their ability to produce consistent academic work.

We know generic advice isn’t great practice at the best of times, and it just isn’t going to cut it right now. The resources and research we presented here are intended as a pool of tested lifelines and rafts from which you can draw to invite those students brave enough to continue learning in these challenging times.

This module will engage you in planning your course orientation, assessing the accessibility of your teaching resources and designing scaffolds to guide student learning.

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2. Student Perspectives (~20 mins)

Video 1: What is Student Learning Like in Online Programs?

A good starting point for those among you who have little online teaching experience can be to listen to students who’ve enrolled in online programs/ courses and can therefore share what they consider important in online education.

In the video below, Janson Hews is sharing his perspective regarding some of the factors that have positively shaped his online learning experience. He discusses issues of access, open learning, workload, digital literacy and the need for educators to adopt more carefully considered, technologically supported teaching strategies.

You can enlarge the video by pressing the icon on the far bottom right. Note this video contains questions that guide or check your understanding.

UDL: Alternatively to viewing the video, you can read the Transcript for Youtube Video Learning Online from Student Perspective (word document).

Video 2: An Invitation and a Challenge: a Student Asks us to Reimagine Education.

Lily Rose Fitzmaurice has just graduated from the University of Warwick. She was a student at the Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning (IATL). In the following video, you can hear her speak  about her reflections on being a student in general and during the Covid pandemic especially. Listening to what she would like to say to a group of educators and learners gathered together in community, might have you re-consider your own perspective on higher education today and the your role you are playing within in it.

UDL: Alternatively to viewing the video, you can read the Transcript Teaching and Learning Online (Fitzmaurice) (word document).

  • What questions does this video raise for you?
  • What ideas or possibilities does it present?  
  • What aspects mentioned would you like to address in your own online courses?

cohortOptional:  If you are in this course for the cohort experience, we’d like to invite you to share your responses to the student video in our Working with the Online Learner Module Forum.


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3. Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Like other sections in our FitFOL course, this module is designed with Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles undergirding all of its parts. This is done to demonstrate proactive ways of creating interactions with learners, so they do not have to ask for special accommodations, regardless of the barriers they may face – time, connectivity, or disability.

Rooted in Universal Design (UD), UDL expands efforts that guarantee access rights to people with physical challenges to also include ethnic, gender, socioeconomic, and ability-based diversity in the design of educational environments, resources and interactions. (Tobin & Behling, 2018) Given the current circumstances, it is unrealistic for educators making such a sudden shift to the online teaching delivery to implement the full suite of accessibility standards in their online courses. However, a certain familiarity with the concepts and the rationale for why you would want to apply certain proactive design strategies will be of great benefit to a broader palette of your students.

Historically, students had to find ways to document specific needs in order to request accommodations, but in the last decade more people in higher education have moved away from the medical model to a more social approach that works with a proactive quality learning design for many. The understanding how UDL can help expand the reach and efficacy of learning and has therefore led to the more common adoption of the research-based set of UDL principles by many academics and educational staff, who now use it to plan the design of teaching and research, continuous professional learning, workforce development, and online publishing. (CAST, 2018)

Each of the three UDL principles come with a set of concrete suggestions that incorporate multiple means of:

  1. engaging with content and people
  2. representing information, and
  3. expressing skills and knowledge

1. Engagement is shown through the variety of ways in which you can interact with the materials, your peers and the instructors.

2. The Representation of Information  in this module is demonstrated through content in multiple formats, including text, visual prompts, video and audio.

3. The principle of Action and Expression in FitFOL happens through a variety of options to inspire, demonstrate and self-evaluate your learning.

Listen to or download this overview in audio format by clicking on this link here.

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4. Quality Standards for Online Teaching

The design of the Module: Working with the Online Learner has been informed by the following three frameworks for quality standards in online teaching. The choice for these three different frameworks from three reputed quality assurance bodies was very deliberate since they are tools that effectively guided the design process through critical questions and comprehensive criteria for academic rigour relating to the topic of the module.

The intention is that these critical questions will be answered to the satisfaction of learners, instructors and those reviewing the experience and outcomes of this module in the short term, but also inform online design and evaluation on  the course and program levels going forward. At this critical junction, our university community will soon need to agree on specific quality assurance functions that guide our educators in their online teaching and ensure high-quality online learning experiences for our students.

this pictures shows a lense to illustrate the reflective nature of the task. Focus:  As you browse the quality rubrics below, reflect on the items that you consider important for your own online teaching and which ones should become common standards for online teaching at our university.

  1. Dublin City University DCU. (2020). Quality Design Checklist: Questions for Designing and Delivering Online Courses. https://ni4dl.files.wordpress.com/2020/03/dcu-quality-checklist-online-courses.pdf
  2. Open Suny Online Teaching, & Online Learning Consortium. (n.d.). OSCQR – Open SUNY Course Quality Review Rubric: Quality Scorecard Suit: OSCQR 3.1. Retrieved April 8, 2020, from https://oscqr.suny.edu/
  3. TELAS + ASCILITE. (2020). ASCILITE Technology-Enhanced Learning Accreditation Scheme. https://www.telas.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/TELAS-Framework-1-July-2020.pdf

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5. Three Module Options

As briefly laid out in the Introduction above, there are several distinct elements you can weave into your online course to make it a truly inclusive space that is welcoming, accessible and equitable to all learners alike.

  1. Orientating Students to an Online Course
  2. Designing for Diverse Students
  3. Managing Student Behaviour and Conflict

To decide which of the three options above you’d like to work on, you can read up on the resources, activities and course products by clicking on the green information (=i) icons in the cake picture below.

You are completely free to take/ do only as much as you need.

The German in me wishes you ‘Guten Appetit’ and hopes the module of your choice will be ‘a piece of cake’ for you!

UDL: Alternatively to viewing the picture information, you can access the module options in the attached word document here: Descriptions of the 3 module options Working with the Online Learner

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Bates, T. (2019, November 19). Results for 2019 survey of online learning in Canadian post-secondary institutions now available | Tony Bates. Retrieved December 1, 2019, from https://www.tonybates.ca/2019/11/19/results-for-2019-survey-of-online-learning-in-canadian-post-secondary-institutions-now-available/

Bennett, D., McCarty, C., & Carter, S. (2019). Teaching Graduate Economics: Online Vs. Traditional Classroom Instruction. Journal for Economic Educators, 11(2), 1–11. Retrieved from https://libjournals.mtsu.edu/index.php/jfee/article/view/1478

Bernard, R. M., Abrami, P. C., Lou, Y., Borokhovski, E., Wade, A., Wozney, L., Wallet, P. A., Fiset, M., and Huang, B. 2004. “How Does Distance Education Compare with Classroom Instruction? A Meta-analysis of the Empirical Literature.” Review of Educational Research 74 (3): 379–439.

CAST (2018). Universal design for learning guidelines version 2.2 [graphic organizer]. Wakefield, MA: Author. Retrieved from http://udlguidelines.cast.org/more/downloads

Hung, M.-L., Chou, C., Chen, C.-H., & Own, Z.-Y. (2010). Learner readiness for online learning: Scale development and student perceptions. Computers & Education, 55(3), 1080–1090. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2010.05.004

Learning online from a student perspective. (2014, July 20). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nwx_UDaCMxc

Li, N., Marsh, V., & Rienties, B. (2016). Modelling and Managing Learner Satisfaction: Use of Learner Feedback to Enhance Blended and Online Learning Experience. Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education, 14(2), 216–242. https://doi.org/10.1111/dsji.12096

Manning-Ouellette, A., & Black, K. (2017). Learning Leadership: A Qualitative Study on the Differences of Student Learning in Online versus Traditional Courses in a Leadership Studies Program. Journal of Leadership Education, 59–79. Retrieved from https://lib.dr.iastate.edu/leadership_pubs/3/

McLaren, C. H. (2004). A Comparison of Student Persistence and Performance in Online and Classroom Business Statistics Experiences. Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education, 2(1), 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0011-7315.2004.00015.x

Means, B., Toyama, Y., Murphy, R., and Baki, M. 2013. “The Effectiveness of Online and Blended Learning: A Meta-Analysis of the Empirical Literature.” Teachers College Record 115 (3): 1–47.

Ní Shé, C., Farrell, O., Brunton, J., Costello, E., Donlon, E., Trevaskis, S., Eccles, S. (2019). Teaching online is different: critical perspectives from the literature. Dublin: Dublin City University. Doi: 10.5281/zenodo.3479402 Retrieved from https://openteach.ie/publications/

Ochs, J. H. (2017). Online or In-Class: Evaluating an Alternative Online Pedagogy for Teaching Transcultural Nursing. Journal of Nursing Education, 56(6), 368–372. https://doi.org/10.3928/01484834-20170518-10

Ottawa University Teaching and Learning Support Service (TLSS). (n.d.). Blended Learning Course Quality Rubric. https://tlss.uottawa.ca/site/files/docs/TLSS/blended_funding/2017/TLSSQARubric.pdf](https://tlss.uottawa.ca/site/files/docs/TLSS/blended_funding/2017/TLSSQARubric.pdf

Redecker, C., & Punie, Y. (2017, November 20). European Framework for the Digital Competence of Educators: DigCompEdu [Text]. EU Science Hub – European Commission. https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/publication/eur-scientific-and-technical-research-reports/european-framework-digital-competence-educators-digcompedu

Roddy, C., Amiet, D. L., Chung, J., Holt, C., Shaw, L., McKenzie, S., Garivaldis, F., Lodge, J. M., & Mundy, M. E. (2017). Applying Best Practice Online Learning, Teaching, and Support to Intensive Online Environments: An Integrative Review. Frontiers in Education, 2. https://doi.org/10.3389/feduc.2017.00059

Seaman, J., Allan, E., & Seaman, J. (2018). 2018 Report: Grade Increase: Tracking Distance Education in the United States. ICDE. https://www.icde.org/knowledge-hub/grade-increase-tracking-distance-education-in-the-united-states

Tobin, T. J., & Behling, K. (2018). Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone: Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education: Vol. First edition. West Virginia University Press. http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=1936511&site=ehost-live&scope=site

Unal, Z., & Unal, A. (2017). Comparison of Student Performance, Student Perception, and Teacher Satisfaction with Traditional versus Flipped Classroom Models. International Journal of Instruction, 10(4), 145–164. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1155632.pdf

Zhao, Y., Lei, J., Yan, B., Lai, C., and Tan, H. S. 2005. “What Makes the Difference? A Practical Analysis of Research on the Effectiveness of Distance Education.” Teachers College Record 107 (8): 1836


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Fit for Online Learning by U of L Teaching Centre: Jördis Weilandt, Erin Reid, Kristi Thomas, Brandy Old, and Jeff Meadows is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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