As a Learning Designer by trade, I was particularly interested in this topic as intuitive online design to promote student engagement with content, is our primary consideration when designing online courses and qualifications.

In my experience in online teaching and learning – which spans over eight years now – one aspect of both online and blended learning that many lecturers tend to overlook is the role and benefits of using a Learning Management System (LMS). In the past and whilst onboarding and training new lecturers, I experienced a hesitancy on their part to really engage meaningfully with what would ultimately become their online classroom or teaching space. Most times, the LMS was merely used as a repository of sorts – somewhere to store presentation slides, reading materials and less often, lecture videos. However, it’s noteworthy to point out that the LMS itself can provide the educator with a wealth of supplementary tools to engage students with the learning process and the coursework. And most LMSs have similar tools regardless of the type your institution is making use, for example, Moodle, Blackboard, Canvas, Sakai, etc. However, one can only really feel their value if it is organically integrated into one’s everyday teaching. A simple example of this may be in a course where there is both synchronous and asynchronous learning. After hosting a webinar, refer students back to their online classroom for completion of an asynchronous activity that can be completed in their own time, e.g., “Now that you know more about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, post a reflection about the role culture may play in the fulfilment of these needs. This reflection can be posted in the Discussions/Forums tab in your online classroom.” I also feel that terminology is so important here – the phrase “online classroom” reinforces that this space is the same as a physical classroom and can replicate exactly the same activities and experiences one may have in one. Using terminology such as “course site”, “online hub”, etc. may not render the same feelings and results. In the same way that you may have a lecture venue that has informative posters on the walls, reading material on bookshelves, etc. so your online classroom can represent the same. One would not place a Study Guide in front of a learner in class and then make no reference to why it is there. In the same way, lecturers should avoid packing their online space with readings and document uploads and then not explaining why they are there or what students are expected to do with them. This is expanded upon by Simpson (2013) who asserts that historically, distance education providers have focused more on the provision of online teaching materials and at the expense of motivating students to learn. He also coined the term, “distance education deficit” whereby distance education institutions have graduation rates less than a quarter of those practising traditional face-to-face methods.

Regarding redirects to the LMS, these should be plentiful to allow for optimal student engagement. These can also be embedded into the content you are uploading and you can go so far as to even insert the direct hyperlink to the tool within the coursework itself – this allows for ease of access and navigation on behalf of the students. I strongly believe that for each core section/unit of content, there should be at least one reflection prompt. Educators need to consider exploratory pedagogy in their preparation for online delivery – to promote and nurture a community of inquiry (Garrison, et al. 2001) the programme/course should be structured in such a way that co-curricular engagement and other social supports are organically integrated. This can include students voting for a student liaison/class representative for the group, and other social tools such as WhatsApp (or any instant messaging application) for the sharing of information and provision of support. In so doing, an ecosystem of learner supports is co-created between course management, lecturers, and the learners themselves. It is important to support different types of interactions that can be important to the learning process; to recognise learning as both a social and a cognitive process, and not just a matter of the transmission of information (Hodges et al., 2020).

According to Hiltz (1997), many authors and researchers have observed that student retention is lower in an online course than one that utilises traditional teaching (face-to-face) methods. I feel that by better engaging with the possibilities of one’s LMS and online classroom, committing ourselves to co-creating a community of inquiry with our students and by assessing our own fears and prejudices about online teaching, we may better be able to remedy this, as well as improve and assess student retention whilst also enjoying the process!

Source: https://gradecam.com/2018/07/30-inspirational-quotes-for-teachers/


Simpson, O. 2013. Student retention in distance education: are we failing our students? Open Learning, 28(2), 105-119. [Online] Accessed: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02680513.2013.847363

Garrison, R., Anderson, T., and Archer, W. 2001. Critical Inquiry in a Text-Based Environment: Computer Conferencing in Higher Education. The Internet and Higher Education 2(2-3): 87-105. [Online] Accessed: https://operations.du.edu/sites/default/files/2020-05/Garrison_Anderson_Archer_Critical_Inquiry_model.pdf

Hodges, C., Moore, S., Lockee, B., Trust, T., and Bond, A. 2020. The Difference Between Emergency Remote Teaching and Online Learning. EDUCAUSE Review. [Online] Accessed: https://er.educause.edu/articles/2020/3/the-difference-between-emergency-remote-teaching-and-online-learning

Hiltz, S.R. 1997. Impacts of college-level courses via asynchronous learning networks: Some preliminary results. Journal of Asynchronous Learning
Networks, 1(2): 1-19. [Online] Accessed: http://oro.open.ac.uk/57277/1/JPAAP%20weller.pdf

Design for online and blended learning