Creating a Connected Online Classroom

While we might have thought we’d be back to some sort of “normal” and back to campus-based teaching and learning in the new year 2021, we find ourselves in a familiar situation where there is a great deal of uncertainty around potential timescales for return, a great deal of pressure on our work-life balance, and our focus firmly fixed on continued online teaching, learning and assessment.

Considering the many lessons learned during 2020, student feedback received, good practice shared, and reflections gathered about improving the student experience, we have pulled together an updated list of 5 top tips for teaching online in Semester 2.

Top 5 Considerations   for Teaching Online


Set out clear expectations and communicate effectively

Now more than ever, it is important to protect your own time, and to provide students with clear information. Where possible, set out clear, reasonable and manageable expectations of how you want students to engage in live sessions, what tasks they need to complete from week to week, when feedback will be available, and when you will be available for individual support, group support or whole class Q&As for example. Communication is key in any online environment, but particularly when students miss out on those unplanned opportunities to ask you a quick question in person, or to wait at the end of class for clarification.


Balance Synchronous & Asynchronous Teaching and Learning

Reflect on your curriculum and your learning outcomes and consider the best way to balance synchronous (live) sessions alongside asynchronous (any time) learning activities. There are some new features available in Microsoft Teams to support you in designing more varied, engaging synchronous sessions (such as breakout rooms). However, remember that interactive synchronous sessions require access to technology, solid internet connections and bandwidth in order for students to take part effectively, so it is worthwhile spending a bit of time preparing asynchronous learning activities for students to complete in their own time, incorporating a range of active online learning strategies. 


Build Online Communities

What has come through most strongly in terms of student feedback (both anecdotal and formal) is their need for connection (both student-to-student and student-teacher) and to be part of an engaged learning community. One student in the Digital Experience Insights Survey 2020-2021, commented that they wanted the University to “…make the lectures more interactive if possible, include some social activities if possible as well to help reduce feelings of isolation…”. 

Have a look at
this detailed guidance on building online communities with ideas on how you can get to your know students online, allow them to get to know you, and foster better online relationships and partnerships in your own context. 


A question included in the 2020-21 Digital Experience Insights Student Survey, asked students to indicate agreement with the following statement: “I feel that I am connected with other learners in my classes” 

  • Strongly agree
  • Agree
  • Neutral
  • Disagree
  • Strongly disagree


Consider Assessment

With a decision made by the University that no face-to-face exams will take place in Semester 2 (unless accrediting bodies require in person assessments), it is important to consider your end of year summative assessments and how they might need to be translated, transformed, adapted or re-designed for the online environment. Please review the updated guidance on Canvas for Assessment in Semester 2 and guidance on open book assessments designed to support you in making any changes.


Design Accessible & Inclusive Content

To comply with new regulations on digital accessibilityand to incorporate Universal Design for Learning strategies, it is important that your online learning is as accessible and inclusive as possible in order to meet the needs of an ever-increasingly diverse student population. Offering flexibility and choice to students can have a huge impact on their learning and engagement with activities and assessmentsYou can now view an accessibility report for all of your Canvas courses (through the new Blackboard Ally feature).

Also, why not take a look at the new Accessibility Toolkit to support you in making small changes to your practice that can make a big difference to enhance accessibility for all learners.