7.3 How to support online students

A multifaceted approach

In order to engage students successfully they require:

  • Pastoral support
  • Technical assistance
  • A managed approach
  • And expert knowledge
Key to success is identifying the students’ needs and ensuring your interactions with students meet those needs.


  • Design a set of guidelines for engagement at the beginning of the course, and obtain students’ agreement for those guidelines, or better yet design the guidelines with your students.
  • Keep to your guidelines and respond to students in a timely fashion.

  Digital Literacy

  • Assess your students’ digital literacy skills.
  • Provide links to institutional supports for commonly used tools.
  • Create short screencasts on how to use the additional tools you adopt for use in the course.

  Monitor Progress

  • Monitor student progress and contact students who are falling behind.
  • Remember that online students may have many competing interests such as work and family.
  • Flexibility is important, in so far as it can be achieved within the confines of the course.

  Appropriate technology

  • Use appropriate technology to support the learning activities.
  • For example, use collaborative tools, such as Google Docs and collaborative mind maps, for collaborative activities.

  Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

In order to meet the different needs of students, online courses often embed the three Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles
(link opens in a new window).

You can echo these principles by providing multiple means of:

  1. Engagement
    – For example, include activities that allow different levels of engagement through goal setting.
  2. Representation
    – For example, explicitly link new concepts to prior learning.
  3. Action and expression
    – For example, allow students to upload assignments in their choice of media.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

#Openteach: professional development for open online educators Copyright © 2021 by #Openteach project is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book


Comments are closed.