Shifting to e-teaching: 1- Principles of Online Session Design

Dieser Beitrag wurde von Herrn Ezzedeen Shahada von der Fakultät Gesellschaft und Ökonomie verfasst, der kürzlich folgende Tipps zum Aufbau eines Onlinekurses veröffentlicht hat. An dieser Stelle möchten wir uns ganz herzlich für die Möglichkeit bedanken, die Tipps hier abbilden zu dürfen. Wenn auch Sie Tipps zur Online-Lehre oder Best-Practice-Beispiele haben, würden wir uns freuen, diese auch hier abbilden zu können. Bitte schreiben Sie uns eine Mail an

Even though there is no official decision on shifting to online teaching in the summer semester, 2020, it is still wise to prepare well in advance. Online teaching and learning is not a complex science! But, it might be challenging for both instructors and students, especially if they are not used to it. What we are trying to do now is to adapt own teaching plans and styles to fit quickly into e-teaching. Absolutely, it is not the right time for us and for our students to implement untested techniques or use complicated tools. Therefore, the focus is on utilizing what is currently available for us at the university to smoothly move to e-teaching.

In regard, I recommend working on Moodle to create full online units or sessions. This practice differs from just uploading digital materials on Moodle in support of face-to-face seminars. In the absence of the seminars, the Moodle sessions are to be designed to fulfil requirements of self-learning environments. In simple words, students should be able to learn everything from there by themselves using various learning activities (recorded PowerPoint Slides, reading tasks, quizzes, etc.). In these environments, teachers give extra guidance virtually and be ready to solve unexpected problems.

In this Post, I would like to share with you the four fundamental principles for designing a good online session on Moodle: (Instructions for Use, Content Presentation, Knowledge Testing, and Engagement).

1 Instructions for Use

  • Write at the beginning of each session a brief description of the topic (it is good to link it with a previous session- if applicable)
  • Clarify the learning goals
  • Mention the approximate total period of time required to complete the whole session (including reading tasks, videos, quizzes, participation, etc.)
  • Provide the students with a TO-DO-LIST. This guides them to accomplish the session step by step. Here, you support them on staying organized. Not everyone is self-regulated during virtual learning!
  • Consider CHECKLISTS (at the end of each session). Checklists help students with self-evaluation and self-improvement. They can check if they have fulfilled all learning requirements. (E.g. Have I done all obligatory tasks in the recommended order? Have I watched the video? Am I able to define …? Have I played back the video when I did not understand the concept of …? Have I read the text again when I ….?)
  • Set other rules clearly.

Always, write instructions in an easy language.

2 Content Presentation

  • Identify clear learning objectives
  • Prepare consistent and structured content
  • Simplify what you explain or show. If you think it is simple, simplify it more! This ensures that participants get your messages despite their diverse backgrounds (individual differences)
  • Use various types of learning activities and digital materials (e.g. audio, short video, slide-show, PDF, text, link to a website, etc.)
  • Employ the right material for the right context (e.g. sometimes reading a file is better than listening to an audio)
  • Make the materials accessible for online and offline uses (even if you taught something live online, consider recording it and making it accessible)

3 Knowledge Testing

  • Create tasks for the students to assess their own learning (quizzes)
  • Make sure that the tasks are relevant to the content and the learning objectives
  • Provide feedback (e.g. immediate automatic feedback)

4 Engagement

  • Communicate with your students more often than you do in seminars (E.g. regular emails and reminders)
  • Promote teacher-student and student-student interactions
  • Personalize your profile (on Moodle). Upload a profile picture. Write something about yourself. Advise your students to do the same! This creates a friendly online environment. It makes students feel that they are in fun interactive settings (as in social media platforms, which they like)
  • Encourage students to build up virtual study groups to support each other
  • Consider feedback exchange

How to put these principles into practice? You will find the answer in coming articles. For now, please check this course on Moodle. It is an example for an online session/course. It was prepared as an extra curriculum activity. Therefore, it lacks details about methods of communicating with the teacher and students (principles 4 – Engagement above). However, it gives an idea how an online session is designed on Moodle.

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