Learning Path

Digital Teaching: Beginner

Digital Teaching: Beginner

Digital Teaching: Beginner

This learning pathway provides an initial introduction to the field of online teaching and learning. It is suitable for anyone with little or no experience of using digital technologies in teaching. In the pathway, you’ll learn about methods, formats, and tools for online teaching that will help you expand your repertoire. 


How to Design an Online Lecture

Topic: Prepare an online lecture    Time: 20 min

How to Design a Good Online Lecture

Having a clear objective is central to effective eLearning – you need to know what you want to achieve. You also need to understand how incorporating eLearning will affect your course. Consider broad questions such as: How will you adapt your content? How will it change your interaction with the students as well the students' interaction with each other? Then there are more specific questions relating to assessment, quality control, and collaboration. Successful eLearning is based on good design and there are already many resources available to help you develop your eLearning strategy.

Effective eLearning begins with a very clear idea of its purpose – without having a clear idea of what you want to achieve it is very difficult to come up with a good design and plan. You also need to take into account what it means to adopt eLearning into your course offer and the impact this will have in many practical ways. How will you adapt your course content? What about interaction between you and your students and amongst students themselves? There are also questions to be answered in terms of assessment, quality control, collaboration, etc. Getting it right starts with good design and a sound overall approach: eLearning has come a long way in recent years, there are a lot of resources available to help you design your eLearning strategy.

While all of the sound pedagogical strategies that you have utilised in your face-to-face teaching still apply when moving online, eLearning brings its own considerations that you will need to take into account. First of all ‘There are many ways to get it right online. ‘Best Practice’ neglects context.‘ Indeed, while there are several common considerations when designing your own eLearning intervention, ‘no one size fits all’. Just because a design or approach works for one set of learning activities, there is no guarantee it will work in another context, it is always best to start anew when designing eLearning. Secondly, ‘text has been troubled; many modes matter in representing academic knowledge‘. Take a long hard look at the resources you want to adapt for online teaching to help you share the underlying knowledge that is at the heart of your course and consider how it can be represented in modes other than text. And finally, ‘Aesthetics matter; interface design shapes learning‘. Don’t underestimate the look, feel and functionality of every online artefact, tool, resource or service – it can make the difference to the overall success of your work.

How to begin when re-designing a course into an Online Intervention:

Define the purpose, scope, and goals of your eLearning intervention

  • What do you want to achieve with this eLearning intervention, including the relevant learning goals broken down into manageable elements?
  • What are your measurable objectives linked to these goals?

Understand your students and their readiness to take part in your eLearning intervention

  • Who are your students and what is their experience with eLearning?
  • What are they expecting from this module?
  • What technical resources do they have available?
  • What technical support is available to your students?

Review and adapt the content of your course

  • What are the building blocks of the course in terms of materials, resources and activities?
  • How can these building blocks be adapted for online delivery?
  • Who will be responsible for this adaptation? Do you have the resources to implement it?
  • Who else will be involved in this process?
  • How will you facilitate teacher/student and student/student interaction?

Plan access and assessment

  • How will students access the course building blocks?
  • Are you planning to track student activities online and if yes, then how?
  • How will you facilitate assessment of this module?
REFERENCE + LICENSE: The text “Design your own eLearning Intervention” by EduHack Consortium, Knowledge Innovation Centre, via https://eduhack.eu/course/area-2/activity-1/, is licensed under CC BY 4.0, edited and shortened by SEA-EU.

In the following video, Michael Wesch shares his 10 tips for designing good online teaching.

License: not freely licensed

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Topic: Prepare an online lecture    Time: 10 min

Toolkit for Teaching Online

There are various forms of online lectures and teaching. For example, it can be synchronous or asynchronous, and preparation should vary accordingly. This tool can help you organise your online teaching, be it for live delivery in an online classroom or a file uploaded to a forum or virtual learning platform.

License: The work "Developing your teaching voice online. Communication at a distance" by School of Languages and Applied Linguistics, The Open University, via https://www.open.edu/openlearncreate/pluginfile.php/525025/mod_resource/content/1/HelpSheet3_TeachingVoice.pdf is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0

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Topic: Conduct a course as a video conference    Time: 5 min

Prepare a Video Conference

Careful preparation is key to actively engaging learners in a synchronous course delivered via videoconference. Structuring the course and its contents will also help it run smoothly. This video introduces the first steps from preparing yourself and your students to organising the content and getting to know the technology.

License: The video "01 Videokonferenz - erste Schritte" by contactnorth, translated and distributed by LLZ (Zentrum für multimediales Lehren und Lernen), Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gXDzwu96R_g is licensed under CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0.

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Topic: Conduct a course as a video conference    Time: 5 min

Set Framework Conditions of a Video Conference

It is important to set the basic guidelines for the videoconference in advance to ensure a positive and productive atmosphere. This includes preparing students and guiding them through the process. The following video gives advice on how to facilitate cooperation for example by them getting to know each other and the platform, or setting the rules.

License: The video "02 Videokonferenz - Studierende vorbereiten" by contactnorth, translated and distributed by LLZ (Zentrum für multimediales Lehren und Lernen), Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tl99vIaHqtE is licensed under CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0.

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Topic: Conduct a course as a video conference    Time: 15 min

How to Teach in a Video Conference

Synchronous teaching can engage learners and foster a sense of community in your online courses. In a synchronous course, you use a videoconferencing system (for example Zoom) and invite learners to log in at a scheduled time.

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Topic: Conduct a course as a video conference    Time: 10 min

Camera Use in Videoconferences

A frequently discussed topic in online teaching is the use of cameras. Instructors tend to want students to have their cameras on, yet many students prefer to leave them off. The following guide offers reasons and strategies for both options and will help you decide which is right for your course.

REFERENCE + LICENSE: The guide "camera use in zoom" by Lindsay Masland is licensed under a CC BY-NC 4.0.

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Methods and Formats for Online Teaching

Topic: Knowing how digital group work functions    Time: 15 min

Implementing Group Work in the (Online) Classroom

Group work can be an effective way to motivate students, encourage active learning, and develop key critical-thinking, communication, and decision-making skills. However, it can be frustrating for students and instructors or feel like a waste of time if not planned and carried out carefully. Use these suggestions to help successfully implement group work in your classroom.

Preparing for group work

  • Think carefully about how students will be arranged in groups. Will it be easy for groups to form and for all students to be comfortable?
  • Insist on professional, civil conduct between and among students to respect people’s differences and create an inclusive environment.
  • Talk to students about their past experiences with group work and allow them to establish some ground rules for successful collaboration.

Designing the group activity

  • Identify the instructional objectives. Determine what you want to achieve through the small group activity, both academically (e.g., knowledge of a topic) and socially (e.g., listening skills). The activity should relate closely to the course objectives and class content and must be designed to help students learn, not simply to occupy their time. Roberson and Franchini (2014) emphasize that for group learning to be effective, students need a clear sense that group work is "serving the stated learning goals and disciplinary thinking goals" of the course (280). When deciding whether or not to use group work for a specific task, consider these questions: What is the objective of the activity? How will that objective be furthered by asking students to work in groups? Is the activity challenging or complex enough that it requires group work? Will the project require true collaboration? Is there any reason why the assignment should not be collaborative?
  • Make the task challenging. Consider giving a relatively easy task early in the term to arouse students’ interest in group work and encourage their progress. In most cases collaborative exercises should be stimulating and challenging. By pooling their resources and dealing with differences of opinion that arise, groups of students can develop a more sophisticated product than they could as individuals. 
  • Assign group tasks that encourage involvement, interdependence, and a fair division of labour. All group members should feel a sense of personal responsibility for the success of their teammates and realize that their individual success depends on the group’s success. Johnson, Johnson, and Smith (2014) refer to this as positive interdependence and argue that this type of cooperative learning tends to result in learners promoting each other's success. Knowing that peers are relying on you is a powerful motivator for group work.
    • Allocate essential resources across the group so that group members are required to share information. Or, to come up with a consensus, randomly select one person to speak for the group, or assign different roles to group members so that they are all involved in the process (e.g., recorder, spokesperson, summarizer, checker, skeptic, organizer, observer, timekeeper, conflict resolver, liaison to other groups).
    • Another strategy for promoting interdependence is specifying common rewards for the group, such as a group mark.
  • Decide on group size. The size you choose will depend on the number of students, the variety of voices needed within a group, and the task assigned. Groups of four-five tend to balance the needs for diversity, productivity, active participation, and cohesion. The less skillful the group members, the smaller the groups should be (Gross Davis, 1993).
  • Decide how you will divide students into groups. Division based on proximity or students’ choice is quickest, especially for large and cramped classes, but this often means that students end up working together with friends or with the same people.
    • To vary group composition and increase diversity within groups, randomly assign students to groups by counting off and grouping them according to number.
    • For some group tasks, the diversity within a group (e.g., gender, ethnicity, level of preparation) is especially important, and you might want to assign students to groups yourself before class. Collect a data card from each student on the first day of class to glean important information about their backgrounds, knowledge, and interests. Alternately, ask students to express a preference (e.g., list three students with whom they would most like to work or two topics they would most like to study), and keep their preferences in mind as you assign groups.
  • Allow sufficient time for group work. Recognize that you won't be able to cover as much material as you could if you lectured for the whole class period. Cut back on the content you want to present in order to give groups time to work. Estimate the amount of time that subgroups need to complete the activity. Also plan for a plenary session in which groups’ results can be presented or general issues and questions can be discussed.
  • Try to predict students’ answers. You won’t be able to expect the unexpected, but by having some idea about what students will come up with, you will be better prepared to answer their questions and tie together the group work during the plenary session.
  • Design collaborative work in multiple forms: pairs, small groups, large groups, online synchronously, online asynchronously, etc. Some students might be better at contributing after they have had time to digest material, while others might be better at thinking on the spot. Other students will defer to others in large groups but actively contribute in pairs. All roles should be valued and included.

Introducing the group activity

  • Share your rationale for using group work. Students must understand the benefits of collaborative learning. Don't assume that students know what the pedagogical purpose is. Explicitly connect these activities to larger class themes and learning outcomes whenever possible. 
  • Have students form groups before you give them instructions. If you try to give instructions first, students may be too preoccupied with deciding on group membership to listen to you. 
  • Facilitate some form of group cohesion. Students work best together if they know or trust each other, at least to some extent. Even for brief group activities, have students introduce themselves to their group members before attending to their task. For longer periods of group work, consider introducing an icebreaker or an activity designed specifically to build a sense of teamwork.
  • Explain the task clearly. This means both telling students exactly what they have to do and describing what the final product of their group work will look like. Explaining the big picture or final goal is important, especially when the group work will take place in steps. Prepare written or visual instructions (e.g., charts, sequential diagrams) for students. Remember to include time estimations for activities. 
  • Set ground rules for group interaction. Especially for extended periods of group work, establish how group members should interact with one another, including principles such as respect, active listening, and methods for decision making. 
  • Let students ask questions. Even if you believe your instructions are crystal clear, students may have legitimate questions about the activity. Give them time to ask questions before they get to work.

Monitoring the group task

  • Monitor the groups but do not hover. As students do their work, circulate among the groups and answer any questions raised. Avoid interfering with group functioning — allow time for students to solve their own problems before getting involved.
  • Expect a lot from your students. Assume that they do know, and can do, a great deal (Brookfield & Preskill, 1999). Express your confidence in them as you circulate between them.
  • Be slow to share what you know. If you come upon a group that is experiencing uncertainty or disagreement, avoid the natural tendency to give the answers or resolve the disagreement. If necessary, clarify your instructions, but let students struggle — within reason — to accomplish the task (Race, 2000).
  • Clarify your role as facilitator. If students criticize you for not contributing enough to their work, consider whether you have communicated clearly enough your role as facilitator.

Ending the group task

  • Provide closure to the group activities. Students tend to want to see how their work in small groups was useful to them and/or contributed to the development of the topic. You can end with a plenary session in which students do group reporting. Effective group reporting “can make the difference between students’ feeling that they are just going through their paces and the sense that they are engaged in a powerful exchange of ideas” (Brookfield & Preskill, 1999, p. 107).
    • Oral reports: Have each group give one idea and rotate through the groups until no new ideas arise. Or have each group give their most surprising or illuminating insights or their most challenging question. You can record ideas raised to validate their value.
    • Written reports: Have each group record their ideas and either present them yourself or have a group member do so. One variation on this is to have groups record their conclusions. Students then read each other’s answers and add their own comments in response.
  • Model how you want students to participate. When responding to students’ answers, model the respect and sensitivity that you want the students to display towards their classmates. Be ready to acknowledge and value opinions different from your own. Be willing to share your own stories, critique your work, and summarize what has been said.
  • Connect the ideas raised to course content and objectives. Recognize that groups might not come up with the ideas you intended them to, so be willing to make your lecture plans flexible. Wherever possible, look for a connection between group conclusions and the course topic. However, be aware that misconceptions or inaccurate responses need to be clarified and corrected either by you or by other students.
  • Don’t provide too much closure. Although the plenary session should wrap up the group work, feel free to leave some questions unanswered for further research or for the next class period. This openness reflects the nature of knowledge.
  • Ask students to reflect on the group work process. They may do so either orally or in writing. This reflection helps them discover what they learned and how they functioned in the group. It also gives you a sense of their response to group work.
Brookfield, S.D., & Preskill, S. (1999). Discussion as a Way of Teaching: Tools and Techniques for Democratic Classrooms. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
Gross Davis, B. (1993). Tools for Teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
Johnson, D. W., Johnson, R. T., & Smith, K. A. (2014). Cooperative learning: Improving university instruction by basing practice on validated theory. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 25(3&4), 85-118.
Race, P. (2000). 500 Tips on Group Learning. London: Kogan Page.
Roberson, B., & Franchini, B. (2014). Effective task design for the TBL classroom. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 25(3&4), 275-302.

The text “Implementing Group Work in the Classroom” by Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo via https://uwaterloo.ca/centre-for-teaching-excellence/teaching-resources/teaching-tips/alternatives-lecturing/group-work/implementing-group-work-classroom, is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0, rephrased and shortened by SEA-EU.

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Topic: Knowing how digital group work functions    Time: 15 min

Group Work in Digital Learning Settings

Why should you use group work in digital learning settings? What factors should you consider and what types of groupwork are possible? The linked page provides advice on designing, managing, and assessing group activities in digital- and blended learning environments. It covers both synchronous and asynchronous group work.

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Topic: Giving a (online) presentation    Time: 15 min

How to Make an Educational Video

Videos can make learning material really accessible to students. The key to creating an entertaining and informative educational video is preparation and planning. Technical standards and certain rules must also be considered. Click on the link to read Columbia University's tips on developing educational videos, generating ideas, and advice on how to make your videos clear and memorable.

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Topic: Using podcasts in higher education    Time: 20 min

The Beginner’s Guide to Educational Podcasting

Podcasts are a fantastic way of presenting factual content in an entertaining and informative way. As they can be accessed anytime and anywhere, they're a great alternative to synchronous classes for students. The link below takes you to a starter guide for podcasters, giving you specific and practical advice on how to develop your own.

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Topic: Consider the concept of copyright and understand what is meant by "fair use"    Time: 10 min

Copyright Law – Overview

Many original works, such as articles, pictures, or videos are protected by law as intellectual property. What is copyright? What do you need to be aware of when a work is copyrighted? Are there any exemptions when the work is used for teaching? The video answers all of these questions - just click on the link.

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Topic: Why student feedback is important and how to solicit it    Time: 15 min

Guidance for Gathering Feedback

When you decide to survey your students, it's a good idea to put together a plan and work step by step. Click on the link for an example of a model.

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Topic: Why teacher feedback is important and ways of providing it    Time: 60 min

Providing Feedback to Students

Giving students feedback is central to teaching. Regardless of what you're teaching, your feedback can confirm, correct, and challenge your students' practices and progress. However, reflecting accurately on your students' learning process can also be complex. This video details different pedagogical strategies and technical tips on how to provide feedback in your online course.

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Remote Exams

Topic: How to create exams for distance learners    Time: 15 min

Guide for Online Exams

Online assessment plays a key role if you are teaching in a distance learning setting. You will need to design and conduct assessments whether in the form of a mid-semester interim test or a final exam. The accompanying link leads to an overview and explanation of what to keep in mind in this process and how to prepare your learners for online assessments.

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Topic: How to create exams for distance learners    Time: 20 min

Creating Online Exams

The development of online tests depends on the kind of assessment required. The assessment's purpose dictates how it should be constructed and what factors should be considered in this process. The following page (see link) summarises these and advises on suitable tools to develop online examinations.

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