eLearning design for the faint hearted

Are your students engaged in learning?

What do people learn when you provide them with 100% reading material?

If you answered ‘knowledge’, you are correct.

How can we give them the skills to be competent when they are learning online?

Step 1: Let’s start at the very beginning…

… it’s a very good place to start!

Before you start designing your online course, let’s look at what is important and what isn’t.

  • Knowledge tasks are fine as a starting point, but if we stay at the knowledge level, surface learning may result. Don’t get bogged down with written material. Adult learners are smart and savvy, they don’t want information pushed onto them!
  • Knowledge tasks may be necessary, but they are never sufficient. We must avoid ‘rote learning’ of facts and procedures
  • Deep learning, in contrast to surface learning, requires higher order tasks than knowledge
  • The higher the task the more likely deep learning will result

The content you use isn’t as important as the learning activity you build round it. For more ideas of eLearning strategies, look at the options on the following link. This information can be used to start planning the learning ‘experience’ for your students.


So let’s just say you If you selected an eBook chapter from the Swinburne library for students to read or a Teacher Tube or YouTube video. What then? What do they need to do with this information? How will you instruct your students on what to do? This is just as important in eLearning as it is in the classroom.

Step 2: Designing the activities around the assessment tasks

Goal = Assessment Start with your goal/assessment

  1. What does your student need to DO to reach competency?
  2. Now figure out what the student needs to KNOW in order to do that activity
  3. What would you LIKE your student to know? This is the ‘extra reading or links to further research. This is the information which often overwhelms students and isn’t necessary for them to be competent.

Here is an example- The goal for this student is to complete a risk assessment

  1. What do they need to do?
  2. Complete a risk assessment at a standard as described in the performance criteria
  3. What do they need to know in order to do this? They need to know the steps to take to complete a risk assessment and what risk is.
  4. What would you like the to know? You might like students to look at the history of risk

Step 3: Using a design plan…

A design plan might sound boring but it’s the most important part of preparing to put your course online. To make it easier for you, there is a template available which can be developed for each unit of study.

To begin completing it, you will find pre-populated areas and areas which need to be filled in such as the assessment tasks, nominal hours, aims of the unit and a learner analysis. This will provide you with the basis to begin your design.

You can add all of your instructions, introductions, links to resources and material on here.

Our newly developed school template, which has been created for all new Blackboard shells has pre-populated areas and areas which you can edit. Accessibility laws have been considered in the design as well as a user friendly format for students and teachers.

Each week has the same format which can be altered to suit your needs and populated with your links to learning activities.

The ID plan has the same format… so you can add your weekly learning material ready for uploading into Blackboard and work collaboratively with your collegues until you are in agreement about what will go into your course area.

Step 4: Ready to roll!

Once you have collected all of your resources, you are ready to develop your course.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Don’t forget to add a ‘teacher voice’. That doesn’t mean you have to record yourself, it means that you need to instruct your students the same way you would in the classroom. For example, you’ve given them a YouTube video… what do you want them to do after they watch it? Why are they watching it? What should they consider? All of this information should be in your instructional design plan., including discussion topics and other activities.

You can watch the YouTube version here if you prefer…

You may also find the following posts useful:

Learner centred eLearning

The importance of online facilitation


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Filed under E-learning tips, Teaching and learning tips

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