'Online Engagement
'...the most important role of the instructor in online classes is to ensure a high degree of interactivity and participation. This means designing and conducting learning activities that result in engagement with the subject matter and with fellow students.' (Kearsely, 2000)

Moving from a lecture-based model to designing for blended learning and online learning is a great leap for most academics. There is a need for fluency in design and use of technology, clear signposts for students and a sense of learning community. Learner interaction is considered the key to effective online environments with ample opportunities to work with peers and recieve timely feedback for purposeful tasks (Draves, 2000).

UNSW COFA.Online Learning to teach online features a variety of case studies to help you consider the context, strategies and tools for implementing online learning and collaborative environments.

Learning to Teach Online is also available as a UNSW MOOC to help you design your online classes and use educational technologies effectively.


Designing online courses

  • Effective practice in a digital age is guide for academic and professional staff with learning activity designs for institutional and disciple-specific contexts. Readers can select case studies to suit their own situations, such as a preference for simpler technologies or pushing the boundaries in ‘highly resourced environments’. There are also useful examples of how to match learning goals and learning themes with technologies.
  • For sequencing and designing activities, the Curtin Teaching and Learning site outlines Conrad and Donaldson’s framework, which scaffolds the achievement of an online learning environment with four phases: set the tone, build in academic context, build and share knowledge, and ‘learner drives’.
  • The Learning Activity Management System (LAMS) is open source software developed for designing, managing and delivering online collaborative learning activities. LAMS also provides pre-designed learning sequences for reuse.

Developing online communities

Online communities are powerful forms of learning because they 'support peer instruction and exchange where ‘there is a sense of connectedness, of shared passion and a deepening of knowledge to be derived from ongoing interaction’. Gannon-Leary, P., & Fontainha, E. (2007).

The Community of Inquiry (COI) website outlines the three major components of the COI model: teacher presence, social presence and cognitive presence, with links to full text papers by Anderson, Rourke, Garrison and Archer. This helps provide some context for online courses and their potential as more than content repositories.

To help ease students into a sense of community in the online environment, the Curtin Teaching and Learning site has a range of online ice-breaker activities. This resource also includes suggestions for collaborative, reflective and authentic activities.

In All things in Moderation, Gilly Salmon provides advice on how to manage online environments to help guide students’ learning and create an online presence as a facilitator and moderator. This excerpt from Salmon’s book shows how to summarize and weave online conversations and how to form self-managing groups in the online environment.

Flexible learning.net has advice and further resources about online faciltiation and moderation.

Online tools for community building

BlackBoard blogs, wikis and discussion boards. The University of Adelaide describes the pedagogical differences between these tools.


Creating and reusing lecture content

Lectures: Create your own desktop recording:

The following are UQ supported:


Existing Internet content and Open Education Resources can save you ‘reinventing the wheel’. The UQ library are happy to provide assistance to locate resources for your course and have an extensive multimedia collection. Explore sites for content such as TedEx, YouTube, iTunesU, Khan Academy and TeacherTube for reusable resources. Check the copyright permissions on anything you reuse through Creative Commons and the UQ copyright quick guides.

Also see the 'Video for Teaching and Learning' (ITaLI) website for more information on 'Existing collections'.


Content collection and curation

The UQ Social Media for Teaching and Learning website showcases a number of tools such as Facebook, VoiceThread, Twitter, Padlet and Pinterest.

Further examples of other tools for content creation and collaboration:

  • Diigo - a powerful research tool and knowledge-sharing community.
  • Dipity - create an interactive, visually engaging timeline in minutes
  • Delicious - a social bookmarking service.
  • Flickr - online photo management and portfolios.
  • Google Docs - create and share work online and access your documents from anywhere.
  • Picnik - online photo editing for quick and easy edits.
  • Posterous - easy blogging via email.
  • SlideShare - offers users the ability to upload and share publicly or privately PowerPoint presentations, Word documents and Adobe PDF Portfolios.
  • Vimeo - video sharing community
  • Wiggio - free online toolkit that makes it easy to work in groups.
  • Wordle - generates “word clouds” from text.

Harvard digital history showcases student-generated content tools such as Picasa, Omeka, Zeega and Tumblr.

Supporting your students

Your students will not necessarily know how to use the technology you choose. If you plan to use wikis, blogs, discussion tools or other multimedia, provide information for students about why and how to use the tools and the relevance of the activity to the learning objectives. It is worthwhile searching YouTube for instructional videos on use of tools as it is likely that other teaching staff have already produced them. (Note: You can also search for content on YouTube through your Blackboard course).

Ask.IT at the UQ Library has guides, resources and training for students in using Blackboard and other applications.

Resources for creating online engagement

ITALI has produced a comprehensive range of Teaching and Learning quick guides that discuss the pedagogy behind various aspects of teaching online. Also view this tip sheet on Creating Engagement in Flipped Classrooms.

The ITS Teaching and Learning Support team website has a wide range of quick guides that detail how to use much of the software supported by ITS at UQ.

Herrington, T., & Herrington, J. (2006). Authentic Learning Environments in Higher Education. Information Science Publishing. Available from: IGI Global. 701 East Chocolate Avenue Suite 200, Hershey, PA 17033.

Abstract: As greater accountability in higher education grows, authentic learning has found a prominent place in the education agenda. Technology continues to open up possibilities for innovative and effective learning opportunities, and students and teachers are no longer happy to accept familiar classroom-based pedagogies that rely on content delivery and little else. Authentic learning environments have their foundations in situated approaches to learning which advocate that learning is best achieved in circumstances that resemble the real life application of knowledge. "Authentic Learning Environments in Higher Education" provides a coherent description of the principles that guide the development of an authentic learning environment, and gives concrete examples across a wide range of discipline areas. The book helps teachers to reflect on the important elements of an authentic approach, and to use the descriptions of a range of implementations to guide their own design and development of an authentic learning environment.

Laurillard, D. (2008). Digital technologies and their role in achieving our ambitions for education: Institute of Education, University of London.

Abstract: Educational policy aims are very ambitious: from pre-school to lifelong learning they demand improvements in both quantity and quality, which are multiplicative in their effects on teaching workload. It is difficult, therefore, to achieve these aims effectively without rethinking our approach to teaching and learning. Our essentially nineteenth century model of educational institutions does not scale up to the requirements of a twenty-first century society. Despite their potential to contribute to a rethink, digital technologies have usually been used in a technology-driven way to upgrade our existing educational models. There is an alternative: an education-driven approach to the use of digital technologies to achieve our ambitions for education.

Oliver, R. (2001). Developing e-learning environments that support knowledge construction in higher education.

Much of the conventional development of Web-based learning environments the creation of electronic forms of existing print-based materials. In such instances the Web-based courses have tended to display limited evidence of an underpinning learning design and varying degrees of use of the opportunities and affordances of the new technologies. This paper provides an overview of instructional design principles that can guide the creation of Web-based learning materials that support learner engagement and knowledge construction. The paper describes the attributes of constructivist learning settings and provides some examples of explicit learning designs that can be applied in the design of Web-based learning environments. It describes strategies that are currently underway that are looking to provide ways to mainstream effective Web-based learning designs.

Robinson, C. C., & Hullinger, H. (2008). New benchmarks in higher education: Student engagement in online learning. Journal of Education for Business, 84(2), 101-109.

Abstract: The increase in the adoption of Internet-related technologies for online learning has been accompanied by a parallel, but separate, demand for greater accountability in higher education. Measures of student engagement offer valuable indicators of educational quality, yet have been limited to use in on-campus settings. The authors used key engagement dimensions that the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) defined to measure student engagement in online courses from 3 universities. Online students were modestly engaged in selected NSS

Laurillard, D. (2012). Teaching as a Design Science: Building Pedagogical Patterns for Learning and Technology. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group. 7625 Empire Drive, Florence, KY 41042.

Abstract: Teaching is changing. It is no longer simply about passing on knowledge to the next generation. Teachers in the twenty-first century, in all educational sectors, have to cope with an ever-changing cultural and technological environment. Teaching is now a design science. Like other design professionals--architects, engineers, programmers--teachers have to work out creative and evidence-based ways of improving what they do. Yet teaching is not treated as a design profession. Every day, teachers design and test new ways of teaching, using learning technology to help their students. Sadly, their discoveries often remain local. By representing and communicating their best ideas as structured pedagogical patterns, teachers could develop this vital professional knowledge collectively. Teacher professional development has not embedded in the teacher's everyday role the idea that they could discover something worth communicating to other teachers, or build on each others' ideas. Could the culture change? From this unique perspective on the nature of teaching, Diana Laurillard argues that a twenty-first century education system needs teachers who work collaboratively to design effective and innovative teaching.

Antonio, A., Martin, N. & Stagg A.(2012) Engaging higher education students via digital curation

Abstract: The emergence and adoption of freely available digital curation tools has shown a public desire to locate, evaluate and organise web content into manageable, shareable collections. These tools occupy a unique niche, often overlapping with other web tools. This necessitates a clear definition of tools laying claim to this space and suggestion and direction for the use of digital curation to build student engagement. A definition is suggested, as well as a discussion on the emotional design principles and how they build sustained engagement with users.