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“Any teacher who thinks they can be replaced by Youtube, SHOULD be replaced by Youtube”. This is a statement I heard someone say at a conference years ago (can’t remember which conference or who said it), but I think it has a point to it. To me this phrase implies that designing for blended and online learning is much more than simply providing videos.

I have been teaching both fully online and blended courses for over 10 years now. Before the ONL course, I was familiar with the Community of Inquiry framework, but not with Gilly Salmon’s Five Stage Model. However, I realized that I have intuitively followed Gilly Salmon’s five steps when designing my online courses. I have received a lot of positive student feedback on my online courses over the years and based on that feedback, I’d like to share three best practices that positively affect student experience in online courses.

Ensure that students get to know each other and the teacher right from the beginning. I’ve asked students to upload a brief 1-2 minute introduction video of themselves to the course platform. Of course, my own introduction video has already been up when students first log in. When I first started teaching online courses, I asked students to introduce themselves on a discussion forum, but noticed that students didn’t really react to each other’s introductions. Once I started to do this on video, the introductions became much more personal and students started spontaneously reacting to each other’s introductions. This sets up a great foundation for collaboration later on in the course.

Communicate clearly about what the students are supposed to do. One of the most positively commented features of my online courses are my Monday messages. Although I have clear instructions on the course platform what is required each week, I still send an encouraging message every Monday morning (thus the name “Monday messages”) where I summarize what students need to do that week, why they need to do it, and when and where the work for that week should be submitted.

Be clear about workload! Calculate detailed student workload for each course and make it transparent for students. Also provide a schedule for the entire course, showing every single course deadline. This helps students to plan their time better. Remember that when you calculate student workload, you need to calculate time for much more than just completing assignments! At our university we use this source to calculate student workload.


Karjalainen, A.; Alha K. &  Jutila, S. (2008). Give me time to think: determining student workload in higher education. University of Oulu, Teaching Development Unit.

Salmon, G (2013) The Five Stage Model.

Vaughan, N. D., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Garrison, D. R. (2013). Teaching in blended learning environments: Creating and sustaining communities of inquiry. Edmonton: AU Press. Chapter 1 “The Community of Inquiry Conceptual framework”

Best practices for positive student experience in an online course