Teaching & Learning Guides

Moodle Theme and Version Upgrade – Strategies for Effective Teaching

The upgrade of Moodle in terms of version and theme provides the opportunity for effective strategies for teaching via reducing student cognitive load, improving accessibility elements of course design, and enabling audio and video feedback.

This guide expands on the previous two guides:

 It moves from the mechanics of the upgrade to the ways you can utilise the new Moodle format in your course design to have a positive impact on student learning outcomes.

The teaching strategies supported in the new Moodle environment include:

  1. Reducing Cognitive Load
  2. Improving accessibility
  3. Providing audio and video feedback


1. Reducing Cognitive Load for our students

Cognitive Load Theory (CLT) suggests that learning can be impacted if an increased load is placed on the short-term memory (Sweller, van Merrienboer, & Paas 2019). To overcome this increased ‘cognitive load’, teaching needs to be designed to reduce the extraneous and intrinsic load placed on the working memory (Kehrwald & Bentley 2017). This allows the student to focus on the primary task of learning and transfer, and store this newly learned information into their long-term memory.

This theory has been used to generate a wide range of teaching strategies and we will draw on it to propose two strategies below.

1a. Grouping related content under explicit headings

Firstly, the cognitive demand required of a student to navigate and familiarize themselves with an online learning environment should not be underestimated. Therefore, the logical and consistent presentation of online materials is essential to reducing extraneous load on the student’s working memory. It has also been shown to lead to higher student retention (Swan 2001) and higher student satisfaction rates (Scott et al. 2008).

Utilising flexible sections across all courses provides consistency in navigation, ensuring students can easily orientate themselves between courses. However, to further maximise the potential of flexible sections within courses, you can group related content and use explicit titles to identify it.

Some examples include:

  • creating an ‘Assessment’ section with all assessment related content contained within it, or
  • grouping all weekly content together under the straightforward heading ‘Week 1’, or
  • putting all course communication in one section.


See the image below for a suggested course structure.

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Image 1 - Suggested course structure


1b. Chunking information

Secondly, the flexible sections made available as a result of the Moodle upgrade provide a greater ability to ‘chunk’ information. Chunking is the breaking down of large amounts of information into bite-sized pieces that allow the brain to digest the content more easily. Research has shown that if information is chunked, it is more easily remembered and then utilised later in the relevant context (Bodie, Powers & Fitch-Hauser 2006). There are two ways you can chunk information: by content and visually.


Image 2 below provides an example of chunked content.

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Image 2 - An example of chunked content within a topic

The points discussed relate to the numbered elements within the image above.

  • Begin by chunking your content within each section or week (1). Consider whether your weekly content can be broken down further into several topics.
  • In the new Moodle theme, use the subsections within each section to break the weekly content by topic (2).
  • Each topic or sub-section could then include a variety of resources that support each other, in sequence, to assist the student to attain the learning objective. For example, the content could include a short 10-minute topic video (3), followed by a reading (4) that expands on the concept and lastly an activity (5) that asks the student to apply what they have just learnt.


Visually chunking information relates to the presentation of your content. The content should not be visually overwhelming, and you should direct the student’s attention by ensuring enough white space.

For example,

  • if delivering information via PowerPoint, focus the student’s attention by using a lot of white space around the clear and concisely presented content.
  • if presenting learning materials online, break segments of information up into visually manageable chunks of information using Moodle tools (pages, labels), visual tools (line breaks) (see no.1 in the image below) or plugin tools such as H5P.

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Image 3 - An example of visually chunked content


2. Improving accessibility elements of course design

Designing courses to provide equal opportunity for all students to learn is what we should all be striving for. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a set of principles that guide the development of curriculum with equal opportunity in mind (CAST 2021). Refer to an earlier Teaching and Learning Guide on UDL (link below).

Essentially, if we design courses and curriculum to cater for students with diverse needs, research suggests that it will improve the learning outcomes for all students. We will not delve into all the principles of good course design here, however, we do want to draw your attention to the accessibility checker (see no.1 in the image below) within the Atto editor.

This checker reviews the content you have added to the site against accessibility principles and offers suggested changes based on the review (see no.2 in the image below). We suggest that you get in the habit of using it each time you add or enter content to your site.

You will learn something new about making your content accessible each time you use the accessibility checker, and you will be better informed for future course development.

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Image 4 – Accessibility Checker




3. Providing audio and video feedback

The Atto html editor is now the default editor in the updated version of Moodle. One feature now available through the editor, is the ability to record audio or video from within Moodle and save it directly to the site.

Although the Atto editor is not available when grading summative assessments, the video and audio recorder could be useful when providing feedback on formative assessments. If used appropriately, it could improve a student's ability to prepare for their summative assessments.

We know from the literature, that feedback on assessment is valuable to students (Henderson & Phillips 2015). However, for it to be useful, the authors proposed eight principles to follow when giving feedback. The principles are:

  • be timely
  • be clear (unambiguous)
  • be educative (and not just evaluative)
  • be proportionate to criteria/goals
  • locate student performance
  • emphasise task performance
  • be phrased as an ongoing dialogue rather than an end point
  • be sensitive to the individual

Incorporating all eight principles into feedback for each individual student assessment could be time consuming and difficult in traditional text-based feedback. However, providing feedback via video or audio could provide greater opportunity to draw on all eight principles.

In the study conducted by Henderson and Phillips (2015), students reported feeling that the feedback they received via video was more personal and individualised. Further to this, educators felt they were better able to convey words of praise and encouragement and were also able to delve further providing a greater level of detail.

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Image 5 – Audio & Video Recorders



4. Summary

Now that you are familiar with the new look Moodle theme and version, you will be able to consider how the new functionality can be utilised to improve student learning outcomes. In this guide we have discussed several strategies for effective teaching drawing on established research. This has included the reduction in cognitive load by using the flexible section format to distribute and chunk content. We have also discussed the importance of understanding and employing universal design for learning principles to design courses for all students regardless of ability. To do this, we have suggested using the accessibility checker, within the Atto HTML editor, for suggested ways to improve overall course accessibility. We have also highlighted the value of providing audio or video feedback on formative tasks as it

5. Further Support

The Teaching Innovation Unit offers one-to-one (or small group) Online Educational Designer (OED) consultations and group workshops. See Moodle Upgrade Support.

There is also a guide for staff on using the new upgrade and theme located on the learnonline Help staff page.

If you would like to ask online teaching and learning questions related to your course, you can look through our FAQs, write to TIU@unisa.edu.au, have an online consultation with a member of the TIU or complete the online modules as part of Introduction to Engaging Learners Online.

PDF Version: Moodle Theme and Version Upgrade - strategies for effective teaching (1.8 MB)


The TEL team have put together some help resources that are extremely useful.

Moodle Theme and Version Upgrade – The Mechanics

By now you will have noticed that your Moodle course sites have been updated with the new Moodle theme and version.

In this guide we focus on the mechanics of the new theme and Moodle version. For example, ‘How do you set up flexible sections and sub-sections?’ ‘What functionality has changed and how might this be useful?’

If you haven’t yet familiarised yourself with the new look Moodle, perhaps start with our first Teaching and Learning Guide in this series: Moodle Theme and Version Upgrade – Overview.

Then come back to this guide and discover some of the new functionality and how to use it. Once you are familiar with working in the new Moodle, our next guide – Strategies for Effective Teaching, will cover how you can use the technology to enhance your students online learning experience.

This guide explores the following features of the new look Moodle:

  1. Flexible sections
  2. Making navigation easier
  3. Moodle Books
  4. Activity Chooser
  5. Blocks
  6. Atto Editor
  7. Further Support

1. Flexible sections

Flexible sections is the only available course format, so you will need to be familiar with using this layout effectively. When set up thoughtfully, it provides a logical format that can help support your students’ learning (see the notes on chunking information in the Overview guide) and makes course navigation possible on mobile devices and tablets.

1.    Select the ‘Turn Editing On’ button to begin.


2.   Select the Content icon from the Persistent Left Hand menu, then select the top section.


3.   Scroll to the bottom of the page and select ‘Add section’ at the bottom right.


4.   The new section will appear on the Expanded Left Hand Menu.


5.   Click on the edit button next to the section name to assign a title.


6.   To add additional sections, click on the first section and then repeat Step 3.

7.   You can add subsections by selecting ‘Add subsection’ at the bottom right of the section that is currently selected.


Subsections will appear nested under the parent section on the menu, like bullet points in a list.


*Important Note: if you add a subsection without navigating back to the parent section you will create another layer of subsections; we recommend having only one layer!


8.   You can move sections and subsections by clicking the arrow icon


Then click the rectangular icon above the section you want it to appear in


You can click on the yellow Cancel moving... icon if you change your mind


Once you have set up a logical structure for your course you can start adding your content.

*Important note: An important recommendation for working with flexible sections is to add descriptive text as a Label from the Activity Chooser (see section 4 in this Guide), rather than adding it to the Section summary. This way you are less likely to accidentally delete entire sections along with all your content while editing.


2. Making navigation easier

One of the advantages of flexible sections is the ease of navigation. However, there is one quirk of the new Moodle theme, that if not adapted, can make navigating the site a little confusing. In the new theme, if you place an activity or resource within a section, it will appear in the navigation pane on the left. This will include any files such as PowerPoint or Word documents and any activities including all Moodle tools or H5P resources.

As you can see in the image below, depending on the number of activities or resources you add to a section, there is the potential to make the navigation pane long and cumbersome. In addition, students may navigate to these activities and resources using the navigation pane rather than accessing them in the section where you may have added contextual information to support students in using them.


To overcome this quirk, we suggest hiding the resource from the section but then making it available to students:

1.     First turn Moodle editing on using the button in the top right corner of the screen.


2.    Go to the resource and from the drop down ‘Edit’ menu, select ‘Hide’.


3.   Then go to the ‘Edit’ menu once more, for the same resource, and select ‘Make available’.


4.   The resource is now ‘Available’ for students.


Providing access to the hidden but available resource (also known as Moodle Stealth activities)

You may be wondering how students can access the hidden but available resource. There are several ways you can navigate your students to the resource, and these include:

  1. Linking to the resource via a hyperlink
  2. Turning on auto-linking
  3. Embedding the content using an iframe


  1. Linking to the resource or activity via a hyperlink.

In the image below, the bold underlined text of ‘Choice’ is a hyperlink to the tool.


Important Note: If using this method, you need to right click on the resource and select ‘Copy link address’ rather than opening the item and copying the URL from your web browser. Doing it this way will ensure the link will not break when the course rolls over into the next offering.

b. Turning on auto-linking

Auto-linking is when Moodle recognises names of activities, resources, database or glossary entries and automatically hyperlinks to these when the correct words or phrases are entered as text on the site. For example, if auto-linking is turned on, and you have a discussion forum titled ‘Challenges and Opportunities Forum’, if you write Challenges and Opportunities Forum in text on the site, Moodle with automatically create a hyperlink to the forum. To turn auto-linking on, go to Administration > Course Administration > Filters and switch ‘Activity names auto-linking' on.

Important Note: The title of the activity or resource needs to be written exactly as it is on the resource for Moodle to create the hyperlink.

c. Embedding the content using an iframe

Some activities or resources can be embedded using an iframe. For example, you may be familiar with how to embed YouTube videos using an iframe so they display directly on your course site. The image below provides an example of a resource built using H5P (a plugin in for Moodle). H5P resources provide you with an embed code (see the bottom left of the image). You can use the embed code that the resource provides and paste the code into the html section of the Moodle editor. For more on this, you might find the Moodle iframes resource useful (see the Resources section below).


Previously, students would also be able to navigate to all activities and resources via the ‘This course’ drop down menu at the top of the screen.


This function will no longer be available in the new theme. If needed, staff can access all the activities via Administration > Activities. However, students should navigate to the activity or resource in the context in which it sits. As the course coordinator, you can make this happen via any of the methods outlined above.


3. Moodle Books

Moodle books will continue to work as they always have in the new theme. However, if you were using a Moodle book simply to provide an easy way to navigate through volumes of content, you may like to shift that content into a flexible section or sub-section.

Once again, this suggestion aims to ensure consistency in navigation across courses. As mentioned in the previous Moodle Overview guide, the Table of Contents for the book will provide navigation of the book on the left side of the screen. On mobile devices, the Table of Contents will appear at the bottom of the screen meaning students will need to find this menu to navigate rather than using the navigation pane that remains consistent and persistent on the left side of the screen.

If you were using a Moodle book as a simple way for students to access and print content in a useable format, then it might be important to keep the information as a book. Alternatively, you could save the book content as a PDF and make the content accessible to students in this way.


  • Using Books. Follow these instructions to learn how to print a book. If you wish to save the content as a PDF, once you have chosen to print the content of the book, in the print window that appears, select ‘Save as PDF’.

4. Activity Chooser

When adding an activity or resource, you will notice a change in the way the items are displayed.



The benefit of this model is the ability to ‘star’ your favourite activities and resources, reducing the need to sort through infrequently used items when adding content to your site.


Once you have starred several items, this is the first menu that will appear when you click to add a resource or activity.

Another useful addition is the ability to Search for an item within the chooser.

5. Blocks

You may have used blocks in previous versions of Moodle to customise your course site or provide short cuts to important content. In the new version of Moodle, blocks will cease to exist. All content previously displayed on your site in blocks, will still be available on your course site, it just won’t be displayed in a block.

Administration block

As blocks are gone, so is the administration block. You can find most of the content previously displayed in the administration block by clicking on the ‘Administration’ icon in the Persistent Left Hand menu, then ‘Course Administration’ in the Expanded Left Hand Menu.


Navigation block

You guessed it! Blocks are gone and ipso facto, so is the navigation block. The Expanded Left Hand menu takes care of navigating within the course. For all other courses you are associated with, you can use the Dashboard icon in the Persistent Left Hand menu.


Course Essentials Block

The course essentials block pointed students at key course activities and resources and provided a few quick links for course coordinators. You can now find the items below fixed in the Persistent Left Hand menu:

  • The Course Outline
  • Grades
  • Extensions
  • Lecture recordings
  • eReadings
  • Course Administration


Student Help & Support Menu and UniSA Apps Menu in New Moodle

Students can find all other support and applications in the two drop down menus in the top right of the screen.






Detailed information for the Help & Support Menu

Detailed information for the UniSA Apps Menu

mechanics25.png mechanics26.png

The removal of blocks helps to create a consistent look and feel across all courses. All navigation will appear in the persistent and expanded left navigation panels and all content in the content display panel.

6. Fixed Atto HTML Text Editor

Previously, you have had the opportunity to change your text editor preferences. However, in the new theme you will only be able to utilise one text editor, the Atto HTML editor. The Atto HTML editor is designed to streamline the editing process and ensure greater accessibility guidelines are met.


The text editor is a large field where you enter the content you wish to display in your course. This content can include text, links, videos or symbols to name a few. You use the text editor when you want to enter this content in forums, lessons, Moodle books, etc or within the course site itself.

There are several benefits that come with using the Atto HTML editor that we encourage you to utilise. The image below identifies several features.


  • A video recorder. You can record a video through the editor and when you finish recording, the video will embed directly in the course site. This can be useful if you would like to provide video feedback on assessments.
  • A voice recorder. This could also be useful if you would like to record yourself providing feedback to students or if you would like to record your announcements or respond to student questions.
    • Important Note: We suggest only using the video or voice recorder for short announcements or quick feedback. If you wish to record something of considerable length it would be better to use Panopto for recording and storing. This will ensure that your Moodle course site is not slowed down by storing and retrieving large files.
  • Bootstrap grid columns. Put simply, this is much like the table you have always been able to work with in Moodle but it is far more responsive and adaptable. So, if you had given up on using Moodle tables due to their rigidity you may want to try this new functionality.
  • Accessibility checker. Identifies any accessibility issues that may be present for the user.
  • A screen reader helper. Alerts screen readers to styles being used within the content.


Some of the old functionality you may have been using within the text editor of your preference, may no longer be available. The main item that will be missing is:

  • Text colour: you will no longer be able to change the colour of text.
    Why has this been removed? Once again, it is to keep the sites consistent and provide a clean look that doesn’t distract students. Further to this, the removal of this functionality ensures greater accessibility for all students.



7. Further Support

The Teaching Innovation Unit offers one-to-one (or small group) Online Educational Designer (OED) consultations and group workshops. See Moodle Upgrade Support.

There is also a guide for staff on using the new upgrade and theme located on the learnonline Help staff page.

If you would like to ask online teaching and learning questions related to your course, you can look through our FAQs, write to TIU@unisa.edu.au, have an online consultation with a member of the TIU or complete the online modules as part of Introduction to Engaging Learners Online.

PDF Version: Moodle Theme and Version Upgrade - The Mechanics (2.4 MB)



The TEL team have put together some help resources that are extremely useful.

Moodle Theme and Version Upgrade – Overview

UniSA is updating Moodle with a new version and theme for both UniSA Online (7 December 2020) and learnonline (15 December 2020).

The new theme controls the look and feel of course sites and can be thought of as a "skin" applied over the top of existing course content. The new theme gives Moodle a contemporary look and will ensure that navigating course sites is consistent for all UniSA students, by implementing a “flexible sections” approach to navigation.

While there should be minimal impact on your course's teaching and learning content, the upgrade is an excellent opportunity to review the way you use your course site and to potentially find new ways of conceiving your online teaching. The changes to Moodle will be minor for colleagues who operate in UniSA Online.

For learnonline users, this Guide, Moodle theme and version upgrade – an overview, introduces the new Moodle theme and its key features, points you at further help resources, and highlights how the new theme better supports our students in their online learning experiences.

This is the first in a series of Guides on the new theme and version upgrade in Moodle. Subsequent Guides will look at the mechanics of setting up and using flexible sections, and strategies for effective online teaching in the new theme. A final Guide will provide help with troubleshooting in the new Moodle theme.


Key features of the new theme

Flexible sections and navigation

The most notable difference in the new theme is the use of a flexible section format to structure course information and navigation. Previously in learnonline you had the ability to choose from a variety of formats (topics, tab topics, etc). With the new theme and version upgrade these are no longer available and a flexible section format will be applied consistently across all courses. UniSA Online has used the flexible section format since its inception with very positive student feedback.

The image below (Image 1) shows what navigation will look like in the new format. The titles previously used for your topics or tab topics will display as section headers in the expanded left hand navigation panel (e.g. Week 1: Online Engagement and Presence). Sections can split into sub-sections. This allows you to ‘chunk’ your information in a way that makes scanning easier for students and can improve their ability to understand and remember content (e.g. Topic 1.1 - What is Different About Online Teaching).

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Image 1: Content view screenshot


Due to the format change, navigation of course sites will also change. Clicking the ‘Content’ icon in the persistent left hand menu will cause the sections and sub-sections of a course site to appear in the expanded navigation panel.

You can then navigate through the course content using this navigation menu or by using the previous and next buttons within each section to navigate forwards and backwards.

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Image 2: Content navigation screenshot


moodle theme3.png Note:  You will also find that links to the  Student Help & Support and links to University apps windows have moved to the top right of the screen with the removal of the Course Essentials block.




Note that Blocks will no longer be available in the new version of Moodle. This includes:

  • any blocks you may have been using for navigation purposes; for short cuts to important content,
  • Course Essentials block,
  • Administration block, and
  • Navigation block

In the persistent left hand menu, the Administration section contains many fields previously available to you via the Administration Block. These include a new Course administration menu, comprising:

  • "Manage Blocks" for recovering HTML block content, and
  • "This Course" menu for staff with editing access.

The removal of blocks ensures that students can always see and navigate through the entire course structure via the left side of course sites, and this navigation approach is consistent  across all courses. The navigation panel also improves the ability to navigate course sites on mobile devices.

It is important to note that you will not lose content that you have placed in blocks when your site is rolled over to the new theme. Anything that was previously in an HTML block can be found by clicking on Administration and then Block Management (see Image 3). However, you will need to re-consider how you incorporate the block’s content in the new course or navigate students to that content.

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Image 3: Administration view screenshot


For more support on where to find everything in the new theme:


Fixed Text Editor

The text editor is the place you add text, links, videos, resources, etc. to your course site in forums, books, or directly on the course site. The editor contains a panel of buttons that provide you with different functionality including the ability to format text, insert hyperlinks, etc...(see Image 4 below).

Previously, you had the ability to choose your text editor in Moodle. In the new version of Moodle, you will only be able to use the Atto HTML editor. This means some of the buttons may appear to have disappeared from within the editor and there may be some new ones that you are unfamiliar with. Some of the new features can be seen in the image below. (You will find more on using these features in a subsequent teaching and learning guide in this series, on the mechanics of the new Moodle.)

Take some time to familiarise yourself with the functionality available to you from within the new editor to ensure you take full advantage of it.

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Image 4:  Text editor


What you need to know

It is important to know that the change in version and theme merely controls the look and feel of the course site, you have not lost any functionality and can continue to use all the Moodle tools as you always have.

What the new theme does is ensure consistency for students in terms of the look, feel and navigation. This will reduce the cognitive load on students by making their transition between courses easier, allowing them to focus on their learning.


Who to contact if you need help

The Teaching Innovation Unit is offering one on one (or small group) Online Educational Developer Consultations and Group workshops. See Moodle Upgrade Support.

There is also a guide for staff on using the new upgrade and theme located on the learnonline Help staff page.

If you would like to ask online teaching and learning questions related to your course, you can look through our FAQs, write to TIU@unisa.edu.au, have an online consultation with a member of the TIU or complete the online modules as part of Introduction to Engaging Learners Online.

PDF Version: Moodle Theme and Version Upgrade - An Overview (560 KB)

Authentic Learning with Location-based Mobile Learning Games

Location-based mobile learning games (LBMLGs) bring together mobile learning, digital storytelling, gamification and location-based learning to enable learners’ movements through time and space, whether physical or digital, to dynamically shape the learning experience. LBMLGs use storytelling, rich digital media, location-awareness, maps, augmented reality and gamification strategies, to turn learning into a personal, engaging experience. Authentic settings are linked to educational content to enhance and extend the way students learn from the environment and with each other.

This Guide showcases two broad approaches for the design of games used in teaching and learning at UniSA; one where the game is designed by staff and played by students and another where students are both designers and players.

The examples provided have been taken from courses offered by the University. These and other games can be downloaded and played for free, and the designs fairly easily replicated in other UniSA courses using readily accessible platforms.

The LBMLGs showcased below have been developed using a subscription to a commercial online development platform called MyTours. Students play the games on a smartphone or tablet using a companion app called Pedagogy GO, available for free download from either the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.


An overview of LBMLGs

Did you know that location-based games take inspiration from the popularisation of orienteering – games using maps and compasses – in Sweden during the late 1800s? (Geocaching, 2020)

LBMLGs combine and exploit mobility across three levels; the learning devices, the learners, and the learning experiences are all mobile (see Pegrum’s 3 Mobilities Framework, 2019). For Pegrum, the contextual approach of LBMLGs support authentic, personalised and collaborative learning, with mobile devices acting as lenses to ‘focus students’ attention on the learning opportunities in their offline and online contexts, and provide them with the information channels to inform their experiences and the communication channels to record, share and revisit these’ (Pegrum 2019).

Action research conducted at UniSA between 2014 -2017 concluded that LBMLGs designed by staff and played by students can produce active, engaging and authentic educational experiences for students, enhancing opportunities for them to interact with physical locations, rich media, and with each other (Edmonds & Smith, 2017).

Watch the short video below for an overview of LBMLGs and the research findings.

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Video 1 – Roger Edmonds (n.d.) It’s Pedagogy Go, UniSA Panopto <https://unisa.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=8a4f666c-eb0d-4256-b026-ac6e01739a18> (Duration: 1:55 mins)


LBMLG design approach 1: Games designed by staff and played by students

Since 2014, UniSA academic staff have worked collaboratively with online educational designers (OEDs) in the Teaching Innovation Unit to design and develop over 50 LBMLGs for use in their courses. Games have been developed across six UniSA academic units (Business, STEM, Education Futures, Clinical & Health Sciences, Allied Health & Human Performance and Creative). Several are still in use and can be accessed by downloading and installing the free UniSA ‘Pedagogy GO’ app on your phone or tablet. (Some examples are provided below.)

In a typical process of LBMLG design, the course academic first identifies the learning concept or topic around which the game is to be developed, ensuring alignment with the course objectives and the UniSA graduate qualities that the course or tasks support. A design-based methodology (known as ADDIE - analysis, design, development, implementation and evaluation) is then applied to first create a conceptual model of the game - capturing what the game would do, how it should behave, its ‘look and feel’, interaction tasks, gamification style, and identifying the appropriate supporting rich media (quality assured and correctly attributed) that is to be included.

ADDIE is discussed in more detail in the following Guide:

The conceptual model informs the development of a prototype game, which should then be played by multiple players to test and further refine the content, locations, tasks or challenges before making it available for students to play.

Example 1 – The Torrens Walkabout

The Torrens Walkabout LBMLG has been integrated into UniSA’s English for Academic Use in Australia course since 2018. Designers: Dr Jeanne-Marie Viljoen (UniSA Creative) and Roger Edmonds (Teaching Innovation Unit).

International students arrive in Adelaide with varying levels of English language proficiency. Torrens Walkabout integrates multimedia artefacts and tasks to focus on language usage in an authentic real-world setting. At the same time, it helps students get to know Adelaide and each other better. It asks students to traverse city locations and record their impressions of and reactions to the local environment and culture.

The video below takes you on a journey with one class of students as they prepare for and play the LBMLG in and around Adelaide and the Torrens River.

authentic learning2.png

Video 2 – (n.d.) City West – English for Academic Use in Australia, video, UniSA Panopto <https://unisa.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=949ea424-069e-4d41-8597-ac67016eb23d> (Duration: 2m 55s)

Students in this class followed instructions in the mobile game to navigate a trail of 1.5 km, taking them across the City-West campus, around the River Torrens weir, and to central areas of Adelaide.

At key locations along the way students completed tasks triggered by the GPS on their mobile phones. For example, students were asked to take photos at some sites and to upload them to the game along with text-based descriptions. At other locations, they were asked to either listen to descriptions or view historical depictions of the site and to comment on these using figures of speech and less commonly used verbs and adverbs. The mobile activity invited them to discuss how they felt about controversial topics such as graffiti art and to upload short audio texts describing their feelings.

In addition to learning how to use English in an authentic real-world setting, students had the opportunity to get to know some of their classmates better as they cooperated to complete the tasks in the informal, out-of-class context.

authentic learning3.png

Image 1 – Opening screen of the Torrens Walkabout mobile game

After playing the LBMLG, students worked individually to write a descriptive paragraph about an aspect of what they had experienced. They uploaded it to a forum where they received feedback from their peers and the teacher. Their final task was to submit an individual, descriptive text for assessment, building on their previously submitted paragraph and their experience playing the LBMLG.

Additional examples of UniSA staff-designed LBMLGs

The following LBMLGs are available to view and play on the UniSA Pedagogy GO app.




Earth Systems

Beyond the Ice is an interactive walking trail at Hallett Cove to complement a traditional field excursion. “It began 600 million years ago but it didn’t end there!”

authentic learning4.png

Engineering and Environmental Geology

Building Stones of North Terrace takes students on a self-guided field excursion to discover the rocks used in the construction of Adelaide’s major cultural buildings.

authentic learning5.png

Colonial Experiment: Australian History 1788 - 1918

The Mystery of the Colonel’s Ghost is an interactive walking trail around Adelaide to find a ‘secret message’ hidden in its design by the city’s founder, Colonel William Light.

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Colonial Experiment: Australian History 1788 – 1918


Archives & The Digital World

In Todd’s Adelaide students re-discover an Adelaide that our colonial ancestors inhabited and how Sir Charles Todd set the foundations of our use of astronomy, e-communication, astronomy, surveying, meteorology, engineering, the postal system and time standardisation.

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Business & Society

The Colour of Custard is an urban game with the story of businesses in Adelaide's West-End at its base. Students walk along a trail interacting with real world locations exploring different enterprises in the West-End.

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Construction Management: Fire Engineering

In the Eyes of a Fire Fighter students survey four city buildings looking at building characteristics and fire safety systems to identify items that can help them or make their job more difficult.

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Table 1 – LBMLGs designed and developed by the TIU and academic staff


LBMLG approach 2: Students as both game designers and players

As academics we strive to help our students achieve higher order thinking skills. One approach is to stop viewing students as consumers of knowledge, but as creators of their learning. Erica McWilliam suggests that creativity is about making a third ‘thing’ from two existing entities or ideas, rather than making something from scratch (McWilliam & Taylor, 2016, p 31). In other words, creativity is the ability to hold different and even disproportionate ideas together long enough to generate a new or third space or idea. The process of designing LBMLGs enables students to find, evaluate, interpret and synthesise information — and to use these skills to create new content to share with their peers (Edmonds & Smith, 2017).

Academics from a range of UniSA courses have created opportunities for students to design and create their own LBMLGs.

From a sample of LBMLG student designers (n=37), Edmonds & Smith (2017) identified that the majority of students found the design and development process easy and engaging; they enjoyed the opportunity to implement their own ideas and develop mobile games for an authentic audience. It offered them a new way to acquire contemporary digital and online research skills (e.g. managing, operating and applying ICT) as they conceptualized, developed and implemented their design.

Example 2 – Archives in the Digital World

In the UniSA Online course, UO Archives in the Digital World, students use the MyTours online development platform (where no prior programming experience is required) to create and publish an activity in the form of a location-based mobile activity, for themselves and for others to use on a mobile device. In doing this, students learn about the principles of location-based archival content and how it is currently being used in the creative industries by institutions such as galleries, libraries, archives and museums (known as the GLAM sector). They combine theoretical knowledge about archives with a practical online digital application.

Students’ progress through the following steps to produce their LBML activity:

  1. Brainstorm a curatorial theme based on a community of their choice (e.g. an archival history of a local club, religious organisation, or a venue such as a cricket ground, or social/cultural club; an archival history of feminism in South Australia etc).
  2. Research online for relevant archival collections (documents, visual and audio files, material objects etc) to include in their mobile experience.
  3. Play the ‘Todd’s Adelaide’ LBMLG on the Pedagogy GO app and reflect on their experience.
  4. Create their LBML activity in the online MyTours development platform according to their own curatorial vision. They feed the archival sources they have located into the MyTours platform. The activity is then published to the UniSA Pedagogy GO app by the Online Course Facilitator.
  5. Once published, both students and online tutors give and receive feedback to each other on their drafts, particularly refinements related to the archival sources, audience and curatorial theme in the mobile activity to increase its impact.
  6. Make changes (if necessary) to the mobile activity before it is then re-published.

In this course, the student’s mobile activity is then summatively assessed and contributes 40% to their total mark in the course.

Examples of UniSA student-designed LBML experiences

Examples of student-created mobile learning experiences from the course UO Archives in the Digital World are below. These and others can be downloaded and played on the UniSA Pedagogy GO app.



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Join the mobile activity to discover the history of the Threepenny Opera, its writer and composer, the music and characters, the sets and costumes in it and its importance in the development of modern theatre.

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Walking your dog should be a fun and engaging activity but sometimes the motivation to get up and go can be hard to muster. The Walking and Wagging activity will guide you through an easy-to-walk route for your family and pets.

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The Thebarton Theatre is arguably the most iconic building in the West Torrens community. The Thebarton Theatre in all its Glory activity will not only delight you with the structure's interior classical design but also takes you on a journey through its archival history.

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This walking activity through the streets of Port Adelaide will take you to Port Adelaide’s Heritage Pubs. Enjoy a beverage while learning about the history of these drinking establishments and test your knowledge with the different quizzes.

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Ride the wave through a history of Australian women surfers! You Go Girl gives an insight into their accomplishments and hardships dating back to 1915 when the first female Aussie rode a surfboard to our present-day elite women who have dominated the world titles.

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Haunted Historical Brisbane takes you to 8 historical locations through the heart of Brisbane. Stories of the horrific hauntings and crimes and the one-on-one ghost interviews are sure to chill your bones to their very core!

Table 2 – LBML activities and experiences designed & developed by students in the Archives in a Digital World course (permission to publish these LBMLGs in this guide has been granted by the students)


If you would like to ask online teaching and learning questions related to your course, you can look through our FAQs, write to TIU@unisa.edu.au, have an online consultation with a member of the TIU or complete the online modules as part of Introduction to Engaging Learners Online.

For more information on how you can access and use the UniSA online development platform to develop location-based mobile learning activities/games please contact the TIU.

PDF Version: Authentic Learning with LBMLGs (619 KB)


Edmonds, R. & Smith, S., 2016. Location-based mobile learning games: Motivation for and engagement with the learning process. In Proceedings of the 15th International Conference on Mobile and Contextual Learning 2016, Sydney (pp. 72-76).

Edmonds, R. & Smith, S., 2017. From playing to designing: Enhancing educational experiences with location-based mobile learning games. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 33(6), 41-53 https://doi.org/10.14742/ajet.3583.

Geocaching, 2020, Geocaching through the ages: a short history of location-based games, viewed 4 November 2020, https://www.geocaching.com/blog/2020/11/geocaching-through-the-ages-a-short-history-of-location-based-games/.

McWilliam, E. & Taylor, P., 2016. Two cheers for STEM; three cheers for creativity. Access 30(1), 28-35.

Pegrum, M., 2019. Mobile Lenses on Learning: Languages and literacies on the move, Springer Singapore.


Interpreting a Turnitin® Similarity Report

Have you ever wanted to understand the basics of reviewing a Turnitin® (TII) report and interpreting the similarity score?

This Guide outlines the similarity score, common types (or patterns) of text matches, and identifying the sources of text matches – information which contributes to understanding and interpreting a similarity report. It also presents practical strategies for managing the review of TII reports as part of the assessment marking process.

Refer to another Guide in this series, Navigating a Turnitin® Similarity Report, for an overview of how to access and navigate the TII report via learnonline, how to view text matched sources, and how to refine the report outcomes through filters and settings.

Interpreting the Similarity Score

The TII software used at UniSA is a text-matching tool. It compares text-based submissions with an online repository of internet sources and documents to generate a report showing the matches it has identified, along with the percentage similarity (called the similarity or originality score). A similarity report can only tell you whether similar fragments or blocks of text have appeared in the repository, not whether it’s been used correctly or appropriately.

What’s an acceptable similarity score?


This is a common question asked by both staff and students alike. The short answer is... there is no magic number! A number alone is not a reliable indicator of whether plagiarism or other academic misconduct has occurred (see Mphahlele & McKenna 2019). Each assessment is designed for its own unique purpose, with its own criteria and anticipated performance levels. Every TII report will have its own story reflecting a range of contextual factors.

What if the similarity score is very high?

A high similarity score is a flag or indicator that the assignment and the TII report needs careful review. However, a high similarity score doesn’t necessarily indicate plagiarism. It could be generated due to text matches with:

  • Reference lists
  • Direct quotes
  • Templates and headers /footers used by all students in the course
  • Common phrases, series of words and terminology often used
  • Course textbook

The assignment type should also be considered. For example, a creative writing assignment requiring original writing, will usually generate a much lower score than a research report, which is reliant on conversing with and acknowledging a wide range of scholarly sources.

And while a 100% match might look alarming, it could simply indicate that the student has submitted the assignment before as a draft, which has been matched with a previous submission under a different file name.


What if the similarity score is very low?

It’s not accurate to assume that work with a low similarity score is necessarily free from plagiarism.

Bear in mind, the similarity score is a percentage match, so always consider the word length of the assignment. For example, a 10% similarity match of a thesis could represent as much as 40 pages worth!

Once again, the assignment type should be considered. It would be highly unusual for a research report to generate a very low similarity score, so there may be other problems that need to be investigated. For example, text modifications may have been made with the use of hidden characters, etc. as an attempt to disguise plagiarism.


Generating either a high or low similarity index score can indicate a range of factors that should be investigated. Therefore, it’s important to open and examine the TII report in more detail.

Ideally, each TII report should be opened and reviewed. In practice, opening all reports may not be feasible, particularly in courses with large enrolment numbers. At the end of this Guide, we’ll outline one approach that may assist markers to efficiently look at reports across a class for a cursory review, and provide a level of confidence that misconduct has not been overlooked.




Interpreting Matches

The TII report allows you to view in more detail the text in a submission that has been matched with other sources. A simple first step in reviewing is to enter the Match Overview panel of the report and scan the submission for the range and type of different matches.

What are some of the common patterns, or types, of matches to look out for? The examples below have been adapted from (Newcastle University 2013).


Block match

A “word for word” match to an existing source.


Example scenario(s)


A block of text has been cut and pasted from an existing source, without quotation marks or citing the source.


Blocks of matching text may demonstrate deliberate copying or a lack of academic skills.

If the source is another student submission, then more detailed investigation may be warranted.

It may be that one has copied from the other, or that both have drawn from a common, third source, not showing in the database such as a book, textbook, handbook, or even the assessment questions and instructions.

A block of text has been cut and pasted from a legitimate source. The source has been referenced correctly (quotation marks included and an in-text citation to the original source).


TII’s bibliographic filter could be used to exclude quotes and present a more refined similarity score.

Note the filter won’t disregard matches where single quotation marks ‘…’ have been used.

•        Excluding quotes and bibliographic materials, Turnitin®


Scattered word match

Multiple short text strings matched to a single source


Example scenario(s)


A student has made a poor attempt to paraphrase a legitimate source.

Check the source been cited and included in the reference list.

Scattered words with a high overall percentage match to another student submission

Review for the use of common words or terms that might be normally expected to be used.

Check the extent of similarity which may indicate the use of a previous assignment as a template for constructing the submission.


Checkerboard match

Strings of matched text separated by short words or phrases


Example scenario(s)


A student has made a poor attempt to paraphrase a legitimate source.

Check the source been cited and included in the reference list.

Copied text with an attempt to prevent a TII match by replacing selected words and phrases.

Requires a closer investigation of the match.


Bibliography match

Reference matches can contribute to a significant percentage match. Text matches in the reference list commonly show a rainbow of different sources for each entry rather than one specific match.


Example scenario(s)


The reference list the key texts in the discipline, course readings, and articles relevant to the assignment.

Check the validity and relevance of references included for the discipline/assignment. Are any ‘questionable’ references included (eg inappropriate to the topic, discipline, language)?

Use TII’s bibliographic filter to exclude reference lists from text matches.

•     Excluding quotes and bibliographic materials, Turnitin®

Reference list copied from another source (ie single colour text match).

Requires a closer investigation of the match.


Trivial match

Matches to common short phrases or unrelated words


Example scenario


Significant percentage of match to everyday words or phrases common to the discipline.

Use the filters and settings panel to exclude sources less than a number of words, or a certain percentage of words.

Specific sources can also be excluded via the Match Overview or All Sources panels.

•        Navigating a Turnitin® Similarity Report, T&L Guides, TIU, UniSA (pdf)

•        Excluding quotes and bibliographic materials, Turnitin®

•        Excluding sources, Turnitin®


Investigating sources

A key feature of the TII report is the ability to review in detail the specific sources to which the text has been matched. To investigate further, use the All Sources breakdown to navigate through the matches.

Types of matched sources:



Journal article or other internet source

Large matches from a single source, such as a journal article of website, may represent quotations, poor paraphrasing or direct copying.

Has the student used quotation marks to mark direct quotes? Is the source cited appropriately? Scan the reference list and check for acknowledgement of the source.

Student paper at UniSA

If a student has submitted the same material as another UniSA student, the full source of the previous submitted works will be identified by TII.

A 100% match to a student paper usually means that the source is the student’s own work. Submissions of drafts should automatically be excluded from the report but may show be matched if submitted under a different file name. (In that case you can manually exclude that source to recalculate the similarity report.) 

Note that deleting a paper from the assignment box does not remove it from the TII database, so deleted papers (from another class assignment or another student in the same class ) can also show as matched sources on a report.

•        Why is a student paper self-matching?, Turnitin®

•        Viewing excluded sources, Turnitin®

•        Excluding sources, Turnitin®

Student paper at another institution

When matches are associated with a paper submitted at another institution, you will not be able to access the original source (i.e. the student’s work). You can only request that information from TII.

Multiple student paper(s) across institutions

It is common for TII reports to identify text matches with a variety of sources, including submissions from other students in the same class, across the University, or from institutions elsewhere.

Most often this is because students have used the same references and quoted from the same key sources, or incorporated discipline specific terminology and phrasing which might be difficult to uniquely paraphrase. An assignment may have required students to use a common template, or to submit standardised evidence or components (such as a certificate or an equation). Assignment questions or instructions may have been reproduced as part of the submissions.

The same source (eg a course textbook) may have been used across several institutions, with students lifting sentences or passages and incorporating into their own work. In the case of many books or textbooks, TII will identify the matched sources as other papers which contain the same material, rather than show a match with the original source. If you use a course textbook, can you identify the same phrases used throughout the student submissions? Is material appropriately quoted and cited? Or are there examples of poor paraphrasing, or even direct copying?

If you are satisfied that a high proportion of matches relate to acceptable similarities, then these can be considered ‘irrelevant’ matches that are influencing the overall calculation of the similarity index score. Use the filters and settings to refine and recalculate the similarity score.


If, after reviewing the similarity scores, TII report text matches and sources, you suspect that plagiarism or collusion has occurred, refer the matter along with all available information (including the TII report) to an Academic Integrity Officer in your Academic Unit to see if an investigation of academic misconduct is warranted.


A Strategy for Efficiently Reviewing TII Reports

The TII report is an invaluable tool for identifying those assessments that need to be referred for an academic misconduct investigation. When TII reports are considered together, across a cohort, it may also aid teachers in evaluating course design and teaching, particularly in relation to academic skills in referencing or paraphrasing.

Ideally,  each TII report should be opened and reviewed. In practice, opening all reports may not be feasible, particularly in courses with large enrolment numbers. The strategy outlined below can assist markers to efficiently look at reports across a class for a cursory review, and provide a level of confidence that misconduct has not been overlooked.




1. Pre-empt the issue affecting the similarity score

Let’s revisit all the contextual factors which may generate a high similarity number. Pre-empt which of these may be the reason(s) for text matches generated for your assessment.

•        Reference lists

•        Direct quotes

•        Templates and Headers /Footers used by all students in the course

•        Common phrases, series of words and terminology often used

•        Course Textbook

•        Assessment/Text type

2. Sample across high, low, average similarity scores

Once the submissions are uploaded, scroll down the class list and gauge what the average similarity index score for the assignment is.

Take note of any reports that are significantly above and below this score.

Randomly open a few TII reports within the average range to investigate what is generating similarity matches.

In most cases, your findings will confirm your initial expectations. E.g. you requested the students use the same template or there are references to the course textbook, etc.

Once satisfied these are common features appearing in most of the students’ reports, and that misconduct has not occurred, return to any of the reports with high (or low) similarity scores noted earlier.

Now review these reports to investigate further.

3. Review selected submissions

You may wish to flag certain submissions for attention on the basis of the work itself or your knowledge of the students – for example, when marking you noticed that the use of language is nonsensical or confused, the subject and references are off topic, or the performance level is higher than expected.

It is advisable to also look at the reports of students you may have concerns about even if they fall within the average similarity range.


If you would like to ask online teaching and learning questions related to your course, you can look through our FAQs, write to TIU@unisa.edu.au, have an online consultation with a member of the TIU or complete the online modules as part of Introduction to Engaging Learners Online.

PDF Version: Interpreting a TII similarity report (468 KB)


Mphahlele, A. & McKenna, S. (2019) The use of Turnitin in the higher education sector: Decoding the myth. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education vol 44, no. 7, pp 1079-1089. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2019.1573971.

Newcastle University (2013) Using Turnitin More Effectively: Staff Resource Booklet, https://www.newcastle.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/90368/Staff-Turnitin-Resource-Booklet_July2013.pdf

Navigating a Turnitin® Similarity Report

Have you ever wanted to understand the basics of accessing, viewing and navigating a Turnitin® (TII) similarity report?

Whether you are a marker, course coordinator, Academic Integrity Officer, or an Academic Services Officer, this Guide will help you to explore the functionality of a TII report.

It shows you where to find the Turnitin® report, how to understand the originality score, how to navigate the report and view text matched sources, and how to refine the outcomes through filters and settings.

In another Guide in this series, Interpreting Turnitin® Similarity Reports, we’ll look at how to interpret the information provided in a similarity report and look at some teacher strategies for managing large class submissions.

What is Turnitin®?

The TII software used at UniSA is a text-matching tool. It compares text-based submissions with an online repository of internet sources and documents.

TII does not assess whether plagiarism or academic misconduct has occurred (see Mphahlele & McKenna 2019). It does flag some of the signs of potential academic misconduct and is an important source of information and evidence when plagiarism or other academic misconduct is being investigated.

TII is also an important teaching and learning aid. The TII report can be used, for example, as a developmental tool in courses to help students further their understanding of academic literacies and educational integrity (Katkins 2019; Rolfe 2011).

What is a Turnitin® Similarity Report?

Whenever a student submits a text-based assessment via learnonline, TII compares it with millions of other documents in the TII database and on the internet, including other assignment submissions at UniSA and other universities. This process generates a report that summarises the text matches identified.

Accessing a Turnitin® Similarity Report in learnonline

UniSA provides access to Turnitin reports via learnonline. Staff can also sign up to have an account with TII to submit and review reports through the Turnitin website. Most commonly, however, you will access reports via your course learnonline site.

Assessment submissions page

From your course learnonline site, navigate to the relevant Assessment and view the submissions.

The Student (last modified) column contains the file(s) students have submitted for assessment and directly below each you will see a colour graded button showing a similarity score (also called an originality score).

Select this button to open the similarity report in TII.


•        Viewing Turnitin similarity report, learnonline staff help, UniSA

Similarity score colour key

Note the range of colours used to indicate the percentage range of the similarity score. The cooler colours indicate a lower similarity score but as you progress into the warmer shades, such as ‘red’, you’ll notice a much higher index number.







•       Similarity score ranges, Turnitin®


‘View Originality Scores’ page

To view the scores in ranked order, click on the Grading action drop down box and select ‘View Originality Scores’


Review notes

From the Originality Scores page, use the Review notes column to make notes for yourself or to communicate with your teaching team.  Eg: to remind yourself that a high similarity score may be due to the use of a template, or to highlight an assessment which you think may need to be forwarded to an Academic Integrity Officer for investigation.


I can’t see a Similarity Report

It may take 24 hours or more for a report to be generated after submission (or re-submission).

Sometimes, a report is not able to be generated and an error box will appear. This may mean the student has uploaded an unsupported file type. Course coordinators can set assignment settings to only accept the specific file types which TII can generate reports for.

There are a range of other reasons why an error message could appear (see the Turnitin® help pages).




•       File requirements, Turnitin®

•       Why has the Similarity Report not generated?, Turnitin® Support Center


Key Features of a Turnitin® Similarity Report

To review a student’s TII report, simply click on the coloured similarity index score. It will then open the online version of the report, known as Feedback Studio.

See an example report below


 The example above labels elements of the report which will be explored later in this Guide.



Match Overview

Clicking on the Match Overview button provides a breakdown of all the matches that have been found in a paper, ordered by highest similarity match to lowest.

These will be in different colours corresponding with their text matches throughout the assignment.

To find where a matched source appears in the submission simply click on any source listed. Alternatively, locate the source by clicking the red flag at the start of the highlighted text in the paper.

A source box will appear in the submission with the details of where in the matched source the text has been identified.

Click on the book icon  to access the full source text. This will upload in the right panel and will highlight the sections of the original source that match with your student’s submission. If the match is with an internet source, you can click on the URL identified to open another tab and be taken directly to the webpage.




Match Breakdown

To obtain a breakdown with further details about a match, click the arrow to the right of the source in the Match Overview.

This will display a breakdown of all the sources which have some match in similarity.


•        Viewing similarity matches, Turnitin®


All Sources

The graph icon in the right hand panel provides a detailed match breakdown of all the sources identified, sorted by highest percentage match.

Clicking on any source will change the navigation bar at the top of the page, revealing the number of times that source has been matched in the paper.


It will also identify where that match has been found in the assignment.

Use the arrows to navigate to the next or previous match.

Remember, the book icon will reveal the original full source view which will load in the right panel.


•        Viewing sources, Turnitin®



The download button provides three options:

•        Current view (download a pdf version by of the report)

•        Digital receipt

•        Originally submitted file



Refining the Similarity Report

When reviewing reports, you can use the filters and settings to refine the similarity scores. You may wish to exclude sources that have generated a minimal match (according to a threshold set by you), direct quotes and reference lists, or exclude specific sources from the comparison altogether.

When reviewing reports, it is a good idea to scan the reference list and look for direct quotations. Ask yourself questions such as:

  • Are any ‘questionable’ references included (eg inappropriate to the topic, discipline, language)?
  • Do the TII matches in the reference list show a rainbow rather than one specific colour (ie matching to only one source)?
  • Has the student referenced and acknowledged all direct quotes correctly?

If you are satisfied, then these similarities can be considered ‘innocent’ matches that are influencing the overall mathematical calculation of the similarity index score. Matches to the bibliography and quotation can be removed to reveal a more refined similarity score. This may assist you to evaluate whether plagiarism has occurred.






Exclude quotes and bibliography

Check the boxes to exclude matching text between quotation characters (“…”) and the bibliography. Then click ‘Apply Changes’. A revised lower overall similarity score will appear.


•        Excluding quotes and bibliographic materials, Turnitin®

Exclude small sources (by word number or percentage)

Use the filters and settings panel (as above) to exclude sources less than a number of words, or a certain percentage of words.

You can also exclude sources via Match Overview or All Sources panels, as below.


Exclude full sources by Match Breakdown

Review matches in detail by clicking the arrow to the right of the relevant source.

At the bottom of Match Breakdown panel, click the Exclude Sources button.

Use the check boxes to select the source(s) you would like to exclude.

Select the red Exclude button. This will recalculate the originality score.


•        Excluding sources, Turnitin®


Exclude sources by All Sources

At the bottom of All Sources panel, click the Exclude Sources button.

Use the checkboxes to select the sources to exclude.

Select the red Exclude button. This will then recalculate the originality score.

The red button shows a count of the number of sources you have chosen to exclude.

navigating15.png navigating16.png


•        Excluding sources, Turnitin®


Viewing excluded sources

To view the sources you have excluded, select on the Exclude icon in the toolbar.

To restore some of the excluded sources, check the boxes of the sources you wish to have included in the similarity score, then click ‘Restore’. To restore all of the excluded sources, click the ‘Restore All’ button


•        Viewing excluded sources, Turnitin®


Generate a new Similarity Report

If you believe that the TII database has been updated since the report was last generated (eg with another students paper, or a website) you can re-generate the report and update the originality score.

Go to Filters and Settings and select the New Report Button.


•        Generating a new Similarity Report, Turnitin®


If you would like to ask online teaching and learning questions related to your course, you can look through our FAQs, write to TIU@unisa.edu.au, have an online consultation with a member of the TIU or complete the online modules as part of  Introduction to Engaging Learners Online.

PDF Version: Navigating TII reports (2 MB)


Hanbidge A.S., McKenzie A., Scholz K.W., Tin T. (2020) Academic Integrity in the Digital Era: Student Skills for Success Using Mobile Technology. In: Yu S., Ally M., Tsinakos A. (eds) Emerging Technologies and Pedagogies in the Curriculum. Bridging Human and Machine: Future Education with Intelligence. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-15-0618-5_20.

Katkins, L. (2019) Does Turnitin support the development of international students’ academic integrity?. Ethics and Education vol. 14, no. 4, pp 430-448. https://doi.org/10.1080/17449642.2019.1660946.

Mphahlele, A. & McKenna, S. (2019) The use of Turnitin in the higher education sector: Decoding the myth. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education vol 44, no. 7, pp 1079-1089. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2019.1573971.

Rolfe, V. (2011). Can Turnitin® be used to provide instant formative feedback? British Journal of Educational Technology, 42(4), 701–710.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8535.2010.01091.x.



Redesigning Forum Activities

Forums can be used in multiple ways to support students’ learning online through, sharing ideas, reflecting on learning and providing support through feedback or links to additional resources. Moreover, forums as asynchronous tools, allow students to work at their own pace while still benefiting from the contributions of other students (Shank 2007). 

However, in practice, forums can be problematic. The learning in forums happens over a longer time period, which allows more time for consideration and reflection in posts, but which can also be frustrating for learners.  A delay in feedback within a forum can be detrimental to learning – research shows that the shorter the time between student performance and their receiving of feedback, the greater the learning outcome for the student (Miller 2014).

Active student participation in a forum could generate large amounts of information resulting in information overload for students and an exhausting workload for those teaching staff managing the forums. Alternatively, low student participation may result in the intended benefit of the learning activity not being achieved. The presence of more than one facilitated forum activity per week, may mean that students are overloaded and unable to respond meaningfully to all the forums. When students realise that they will not gain any extra benefit from participating in forums they will quickly stop posting to them.

In this Guide we will look at the options available when redesigning forum-based learning activities and the pros and cons of each approach.

Using ADDIE and the Flowchart

Forum activities can be redesigned to be more appropriate learning activities for your students using the ADDIE process. ADDIE is an acronym for Analyse, Design, Develop, Implement and Evaluate and is discussed in more detail in the following Guide:

Analyse and Design

To identify a problem forum, start by analysing the engagement data for the forum which is available through the course Dashboard. More information can be found in this Guide:

Use the flowchart below to explore your options when addressing your problem forum.


To begin the redesign option, consider how the current activity is related to the course objectives – which CO is the activity supporting?

Then determine whether the context around the activity is clear. For this consider where the problem forum is located in the week of study. You would also look at the wording that introduces the activity to ensure that what the students need to do to participate in the forum is absolutely clear and designed to motivate them to participate (e.g. incentives, provocative questions, images). Also consider if there is adequate support for the students to complete the forum-based learning activity including feedback from the teaching team. If you do detect problems with the forum’s context, then you may want to work on improving the placement, wording and support of the forum-based activity to see if this will impact student engagement.


If the context for the forum activity is clear, then the next major question is to consider the purpose of the forum. Consider how the forum is being used. Is it to have students discuss or share perspectives? If so, you can use tools other than the forum for this purpose, including the Moodle feedback tool, the Moodle database tool, Padlet, and the Moodle Q&A forum. Using these tools, allows participants to learn through composing their own submissions and seeing the responses of other students.

Deciding which tool to use will be based on the type of feedback that you will provide.

  • If the purpose of the forum is to respond to a scenario or to answer a question, then you could replace the forum-based activity with one which will give automatic feedback to the students.
  • If it is text-based feedback, then you can use the H5P essay tool, the essay question within Moodle quiz, or the Moodle feedback tool to deliver feedback once the student submits their response.
  • If the feedback is more complicated, then you could use restrictions within the website to reveal the answer once the students’ submission has been uploaded.

The following table lists the pros and cons of each of the alternatives as well as an example of how each has been used in various courses.







Students can see the responses of others even before they post

Broadens the perspective of participants

Challenges assumptions

Asks questions

Can add images, links and videos

Staff facilitation can take time

Making timely responses is demanding for staff

Week 2 discussion forum

Q&A forum

Students cannot see responses of others until they make their own post

Broadens the perspective of participants


Staff need to ask question in forum to kick off each time the course is offered

30 minute delay

Learning Activity: Compliance or Ethics?


Add responses to online board

Feels alive

Can be colourful

Can be embedded in the page

Ability to reinforce others’ comments using stars

Students can add images, links and videos

Inappropriate material needs to be removed

Needs to be set up at the beginning of each offering of the course

Big classes can be an issue

Ethics and health promotion

Feedback – survey-like tool

Model answer is added to ‘Completion message’ in the overview section

Option to ‘show analysis’ to share aggregated input or option to select ‘no analysis’

Use as non-anonymous


Question types include text and multiple choice

Shows histogram of student responses and tables of written comments

Do not need to re-enter model answer each time (set and forget)

Staff can see an overview of what each student has submitted

Text only feedback

Students can write anything to get answer

4.2 Biopsychological factors









Students can’t see responses of others until they make their own post

Can add a model answer which will appear at the top of the list

Great for sharing images

If using a model answer, staff will need to add it each time the course is run

Students can write anything to get answer

Learning activity: The external environment

Moodle Quiz – Essay

The model answer for the question is added to General feedback

Students submit written response and see feedback immediately

Option to use images, videos and links in the feedback

Several clicks to start quiz

Students can write anything to get the model answer

Staff have limited access to quizzes

H5P essay

Key words need to be identified for automatic marking

Can be embedded on the page

Students will need to write something sensible to get a response

Can show model answer

No need to update for each course offering

It can be tricky to get keywords right

Socioeconomic factors

Restrictions – file released when activity completed

Activity completion is turned on, linked to an assignment submission

Students submit work and get an automatic answer.

Staff can provide anything as the model answer – spreadsheet, code, drawings, files etc.

Activity completion needs to be considered for all parts of the website

Practice with Building P on Week 7


Some of the Moodle tools such as the quiz, feedback and database tools, can provide model answers automatically regardless of the quality of the student submission. However, some of these tools also display student submissions (e.g. database, Q&A forum) which may motivate students to think about the quality of their work before they submit it. Another disadvantage that you need to be aware of is whether or not the activity needs to be set up each time the course is rolled over for a new offering (Q&A forum, model answers in database, Padlet), or will it be ready automatically?

Develop, Implement & Evaluate

To develop the change in your course website, first work on any feedback or model answers that you would like to provide to students as well as any instructions for students on how to complete the activity.

Then book an online consultation with a member of the TIU, or another critical friend, to ensure you have the correct settings, placement and wording to achieve what it is that you want to achieve with the learning activity.

Remember to check that the final design of the activity still aligns with the intent of the course objective/s.

Implement your innovation in your course website either while you are teaching the course or in the next offering of the course. Remember that you will need to not only update the activity but often any other parts of the website that refer to the activity, for example the ‘To know/To do’ section of UniSA Online courses. Any other schedules or narratives that might refer to the old forum activity will need to be updated with information about the new activity.

Always let your students know that you are trying something new out and flag that you will be asking them for feedback about the change. Students are generally supportive and see it as a positive sign of good teaching: that you are not satisfied with how part of the course has been going and you are doing something to make it better.

Always take the time to evaluate how the change has impacted student engagement. You can do this informally or by using a feedback tool or by monitoring student interaction with the tool itself using data from the course dashboard.


If you would like to ask online teaching and learning questions related to your course, you can look through our FAQs, write to TIU@unisa.edu.au, have an online consultation with a member of the TIU or complete the online modules as part of  Introduction to Engaging Learners Online.

PDF Version: Redesigning Forum activities (1.6 MB)


Miller M 2014, Minds online: Teaching effectively with technology. Harvard University Press, Massachusetts.

Shank P 2007, The online learning idea book: 95 Proven ways to enhance technology-based and blended learning. Pfieffer, San Francisco.

Storytelling: Engaging ways to present your story

So, you have a great story you want to tell – now what do you do?

There are several ways of presenting your story to capture and engage your learners, especially in an online environment. The University has tools that can help you present your story, whether it be a short story or an overarching story-line that runs across your course, however there are a few things you need to consider before telling your story, such as narrative, point of view or dialogue.

This is the second Guide in this series on storytelling and explores engaging ways you can present your story, the different mechanisms available to you (face-to-face, online, video and audio) and provides further information, examples and templates for you to use.

The first Guide in the series introduced the storytelling process as well as a range of approaches to storytelling.

Face to face recording

The most engaging way of presenting a story, is face-to-face, in its raw simplicity. In an online environment, the best way to capture this experience is to video the storyteller.

You can also use visuals that supplement or enhance the story rather than repeat what has already been said. While your narrative is certainly the most important part of your presentation, visuals are an effective way of enhancing student immersion.

Using basic words, slides and graphic images, can be a captivating method to engage your students. Every word and image presented can help to create a clear mental picture of the story.

Using Technology to record your story

There are three ways to present your storytelling using technology: audio, video of the narrator and video with supplementary images or PowerPoint. You can use the Green Screen studios on your campus to record your story or use Panopto at your desk. You can also use Panopto to record an audio file or record your screen using a PowerPoint or supplementary images.

Below are three examples of the same story captured in three different recording methods. The story is a recounting of an event when a colleague’s presentation didn’t go as planned. The story ‘shows’ the learner what can happen when you are not prepared for a presentation.

Podcast (mp3) audio recording

The podcast is a quick and easy way of conveying a story to your students using your skills as a narrator to make a story come to life. You can use your tone of voice, use accents or emphasis on different words, pause at certain times for suspense or ask questions to engage your students. Listening to a story rather than reading it is one of the ways in which students learn. Click (control + click) on the image below to listen to someone tell a story about a healthy eating presentation that did not go well.


PowerPoint - video

Using a PowerPoint in the story can help your students visualize characters, settings or points of view within the story. Adding a visual element to your story provides students with a visual prompt to go with the narration (audio). Click (control + click) on the image below to open a new browser window and watch the same story about the healthy eating presentation but this time the audio recording is enhanced with images in a PowerPoint format.


Video recording with supplementary images

Creating a video of the narrator of the story, provides students with an instant visual identity of the narrator. The narrator can use their facial expressions, body movements, actions and their voice to tell the story and engage learners. Click (control + click) on the image below to open a new browser window and watch the same story about the healthy eating presentation but this time as a video narrative.


Written narrative

The written narrative for the above example was written by the academic and tweaked by the TIU to provide more of an emotional connection to the characters and their situation.


Sensory details

Another way to immerse students in your story is to provide sensory details that will allow them to see, hear, and feel the different stimuli in your storytelling.

Tip: record your storytelling in front of the camera using the greenscreen. To get the same feel and emotion of the story for students as you would when narrating live, it is recommended that you rehearse the story and not use the teleprompter. Using the greenscreen will also allow you to place images in postproduction to enhance the story.

Using video for a whole course narrative (Overarching Storyline)

One of the courses (Principles of Project Management) in the Graduate Certificate in Project Management, created a story which was recorded in several parts and used throughout the course. The story is about relocating a fictitious Zoo (Mawson Zoo) and by following this fictitious project through its’ lifecycle, the students learn to apply recognised project management processes and techniques.

The video storyline aligns with the weekly learning objectives and activities, to progressively bring to life the core concepts of the subject.

Follow the link to learn more about the Mawson Zoo Relocation Project.


Use this template to start an overarching storyline for your course.


Storytelling requires you to connect with your students, but much of how you captivate them depends on the mode of storytelling you are using. If you are reading a short story to your students, you should bring your gaze off the page every so often to make eye contact with them. Their expressions, questions or gasps of excitement will give you instant feedback as to whether they find the story interesting and if they are captured emotionally.

If you are recording a narrative podcast, you will not have any feedback from students, therefore it is crucial to use your voice to convey the right tone, express emotion and build excitement. If you are using dialogue you could even use different voices or accents for different characters.

The start of your story

When we hear the phrases ‘Once upon a time’ or ‘Let me tell you a story’ or ‘There was a character in a certain place’, our minds are immediately transported to an imaginary scene. Other ‘hooks’ include asking a question or throwing your main character into a tricky situation in the first few lines of the story. Below are several ideas for starting a story presentation.

Start with the unexpected!

Aim for the unusual. Think of how people will be expecting the story to start, then take the plot in another direction. It could be good news – yay, you’ve won the lottery, or bad news, sorry but you are fired, or you could put your main character into an unexpected situation, for example, Ben was walking to work and tripped over a rock, no, it wasn’t a rock it was a dead body!’


Start with an image

They say an image is worth a thousand words. By focusing on sensory detail right at the start — sight, sound, taste, touch, smell — you can engage the reader immediately at the beginning of the story. An image can convey emotion, a situation or event. Sometimes the image can be misconstrued, which can then spark different ideas or directions for the story and lead to debate.


Start with an action

Starting with action in a dramatic first scene is a good way to create impact and can be a really effective opener. For example, you could start with an action scenario that puts your main protagonist into a situation that they have to get themselves out of or it could be an action from another character that impacts upon them. The action doesn’t always have to be anything drastic, it could be something simple, for example, ‘Jane handed me the letter, Oh no, what’s in the letter? Is it going to tell me I’ve lost my job? The letter read, Congratulations, you’ve just won a new car!’


Start with a question

When you start your story with a question, the reader should be looking for an answer. The opening to your story should be a question that can only be answered by reading/watching/listening to the rest of the story. Beginning your story with a question gets your students thinking about a character or an event even before you give them the full context of the story. You can also dispel misconceptions around certain topics by asking a question and then use the story to provide students with the truth/reality.


Start by appealing to curiosity

Humans are curious creatures and a great way to learn is by satisfying our curiosity. Beginning your story by appealing to your learners’ curiosity is a great way to lure them into a story so they want to know more. For example, ‘Dan heard a knock on the door - his new computer had finally arrived. He tore off the wrapping, eager to set it up, but when he opened the box, it wasn’t a computer.’


Narration, Point of View and Dialogue
Narration, point of view and dialogue are important elements to consider when writing your story. They can be used to enhance your story and to engage your students at an emotional level.

Narration is the art of storytelling. Any time you tell a story to a friend or family member about an event or incident in your day, you engage in a form of narration. In addition, a narrative can be fact or fiction.

Point of view refers to who is telling the story. Writers use point of view to express the personal emotions of either themselves or their characters. When writing or narrating your story, you should use the point of view that has the most impact for the reader.

A story can be told (narrated) by a first person point of view (someone in the story is telling the story) or a second person ( the narrator is speaking to the reader) or third person (someone outside the story is telling the story).

Download the points of view resource to find out more.

Dialogue is when two or more characters are talking. Quotation marks are used to tell us when dialogue is taking place. In a novel, dialogue brings a sense of realness and immediacy to scenes by letting readers “eavesdrop” on characters.

When we read dialogue, we are ‘watching’ the story unfold between the characters. You can use dialogue to ‘show’ what is going on in your story rather than ‘telling’ your learners what is going on.

For example:


"The presentation was excellent, Jessica," said Mark.

“Thanks,” Jessica said with a smile. “Let’s hope the new clients think so too!”


Mark thought Jessica’s presentation was excellent and told her so. Jessica was pleased and hoped the new clients liked it as well.

No matter which type of storytelling you choose or which medium you use to tell the story, make sure you always consider your student group.

Additional resources

If you would like to ask online teaching and learning questions related to your course, you can look through our FAQs, write to TIU@unisa.edu.au, have an online consultation with a member of the TIU or complete the online modules as part of  Introduction to Engaging Learners Online.

PDF Version: Storytelling Engaging ways to present your story (1.8 MB)


White, M. (2020) Your Dictionary. Examples of Point of View


Teaching culturally diverse students online

Online teaching allows educators to connect with students and create shared experiences that might otherwise be impossible because of geographical, financial, health, or other constraints.

The convenience of online communication, however, comes at a price. The paucity of non-verbal cues – in synchronous (e.g. Zoom) as well as written communication (such as email and discussion forums) – may give rise to misunderstandings, which in turn can affect teacher-student relationships in the online classroom. The risk of misunderstanding increases when students come from cultural backgrounds that are different from our own and from each other.

This Guide provides a framework to help make sense of intercultural encounters. It suggests ways to maintain positive teacher and social presence in the online classroom and support student learning. It also highlights ways in which we can minimise the risk of mismatched expectations when working online with students from diverse backgrounds.

Understanding culture and behaviour

It is important to first clarify what we mean by ‘culture’ in the context of this Guide. Defining ‘culture’ is not a simple task. Although ethnic background may be the first thing that comes to mind, there are many more subtle axes of cultural variation. For example, communication expert Deborah Tannen (1997) suggests that gender can be considered a sub-culture, and that misunderstandings between men and women can be attributed to different styles of communication that are culture-bound. Online communication tools and environments also come with their own norms and expectations regarding users’ behaviours (Thorne 2003), which when not adhered to can create communication challenges. Likewise, attaining membership in the academic community can itself be challenging to students from lower socio-economic backgrounds who may not have the ‘cultural capital’ (Sullivan 2001) that comes from a family history of academic engagement.

Cultural variation can contribute to a breakdown in communication, as individuals from diverse backgrounds may employ different ‘codes’ and thus make incorrect assumptions and interpretations of other people’s behaviours. Developing awareness of our own cultural frames is the first step toward successful intercultural communication, as we become mindful of bias we might apply when making sense of our interactions with students.

National culture – Hofstede’s 6D Model

International students at Australian universities are drawn from many countries. While national culture is a contested concept in academia, nationality is a common lens through which we understand cultural difference.

Geert Hofstede has developed a 6-dimensional model of national cultures, as one attempt to help enable comparisons between countries. Figure 1, below, shows the ‘scores’ given by Hoftstede to each of the 6 dimensions – for Australia, as well as China, India, and Brazil. (Detailed descriptions of the 6 dimensions can be found on Hofstede’s website.)

The model is intended to help us form hypotheses about the ‘underlying frames’ of reference that shape our students’ assumptions and values, so that we can identify potential sources of miscommunication.

However, this model of culture has limitations. The relationship between values, norms, and behaviours is not a linear one. The same value – for example, showing respect for authority – may be realised through different behaviours. What is ‘respectful’ in one culture may be interpreted as disrespectful in another.

Furthermore, by making assumptions based on national cultural frames, we may fall into the trap of stereotyping.

It is important to keep in mind that:

  • There are often more similarities than differences across groups. Focusing on the differences can lead to separation and conflict, rather than connection and mutual understanding.

  • Individuals often belong to several different groups and their level of identification and compliance with their groups' values and norms may also vary. Therefore, assuming that someone will behave in a certain way just because we identify them as a representative of a particular group can be very misleading.




People’s place within society is socially determined. Consensus is more important than individual choice



People are independent and make their own choices


Low Power Distance

Society is based on egalitarian principles; all people have equal rights and opportunities and should be treated equal


High Power Distance

Everyone accepts that power is distributed unequally and that less powerful people must show respect to higher status



Gender differences are not emphasised; collaboration and mutual support are valued



Gender roles are clearly defined. Competition and some level of aggression are endorsed



Tolerance for ambiguity

Uncertainty and ambiguity do not cause excessive anxiety. Flexibility is a helpful way of dealing with complex problems


Uncertainty avoidance

There are clear truths and rules. Rituals and traditions are highly valued


Short-term orientation

The focus is on the future as society adapts to a world that keeps changing


Long-term orientation

The focus is on the past as a source of wisdom and knowledge. Core principles and truths don’t change



People are allowed to follow their impulses, enjoy life and freedom



People must control their impulses, pay their duties, work hard


Figure 1: Hofstede's dimensions of national culture and scores for Australia, China, India, and Brazil

Inter-cultural – The Somethings Up! Cycle

A useful framework to interpret encounters between cultures is the ‘Something’s up! Cycle’ developed at Norquest College (Apedaile 2015)

The framework can be used whenever we experience confusion, uncertainty, frustration, or other negative or positive emotions in response to another person’s behaviour and we struggle to understand the behaviour from our own perspective.  

  • The first step in the Something’s Up! Cycle (Figure 2) is recognising an incident as a potential cultural misunderstanding and describing the event as well as our experience of it (What happened? How did you feel?)
  • It is important to suspend judgement and be mindful of our first ‘instinctive’ response. In other words, we must avoid jumping to conclusion based on our own interpretations.
  • We can then begin making sense of the event by bringing to awareness our expectations and identifying what it was, exactly, that triggered our emotions.
  • The following step then involves taking action, which may simply mean asking questions to gather the other person’s perspective on the event or changing our own behaviour and/or expectations. In this case, a new cycle will start that would involve evaluation of the effect of these changes.


Dealing with cultural differences in the online classroom

The Something’s Up! Cycle can be used any time a student’s behaviour does not meet our expectations and we suspect this may be due to a cultural misunderstanding. 

To inform the ‘Make Sense’ and ‘Informed Action’ stages, we might refer to Hofstede’s 6 dimensions of national culture. We can also identify other potential sources of misunderstanding. These include:

  • the degree of directness and confrontation that is acceptable in interaction;
  • differences in time orientation and nonverbal communication patterns;
  • attitudes toward silence and interruption in oral conversation; and
  • linear versus circular communication paths.


Figure 2: Something's Up! Cycle (Apedaile 2015)

A summary of the features of these and other cultural orientations is available in the Scene-by-Scene Breakdowns booklet produced as part of Norquest College’s Critical Incidents for Intercultural Communication in the Workplace resource (2015, pp. 44-47).

Ideally, developing our intercultural sensitivity and competence should allow us to prevent many cultural misunderstandings. If we consider a student cohort as a community, it is easy to see how it is important to build a shared understanding of desirable behaviours and expectations. For example, developing netiquette guidelines collaboratively could be one of the first orientation activities for online classes. Rather than provide generic statements (e.g. ‘be respectful’), we could ask students to describe observable actions that are consistent with values and norms (e.g. ‘do not interrupt’), so that any mismatched expectations can be identified and addressed.

Establishing an overall culturally inclusive teaching and learning environment will also develop students’ intercultural sensitivity and competence. Dimitrov and colleagues (2014) suggest adopting 13 strategies for this purpose, reproduced in the table below.

Intercultural Teaching Strategies



1.     Model and encourage perspective taking in the classroom.

For example, recognize when students approach global issues from monocultural/ethnocentric perspectives, and encourage students to consider the same issue from a variety of perspectives by asking questions and expressing a diversity of opinions in class.

2.     Model and encourage non-judgemental approaches to discussing cultural, social, or other types of difference.

For example, encourage students to first describe and interpret cultural differences in gender roles or health-care practices before evaluating them.

3.     Facilitate discussion among students with a variety of communication styles.


For example, recognize differences in turn taking; manage interruptions; and perceive and comprehend high-context and low-context, as well as circular and linear contributions from students.

4.     Create an inclusive learning environment that recognizes the barriers students face in participating.

For example, in some students’ home cultures, women may only speak when the men are finished talking, or students only contribute when they are called upon to do so.

5.     Expect and accept difference and appreciate differences in the relationships between teachers and learners across cultures.

Such differences may include differing expectations regarding the amount of power distance between teachers and students; or differing expectations with respect to learner initiative, as well as differences in students’ orientation to rules and rule following.

6.     Provide feedback across cultures in a variety of ways.

Effective facilitators adjust their feedback style to the needs of learners and recognize the way feedback is offered and received in the learners’ cultures or learning styles.

7.     Tailor messages to audiences with different levels of linguistic ability.

For example limit the use of jargon and colloquialisms that may interfere with a given audience’s understanding.

8.    Explain unspoken assumptions of one’s own culture and discipline to students from different cultural backgrounds, and mentor them during their transition to Canadian academia.

For example, articulate the value of academic integrity and highlight cultural differences in citation and referencing, or create assignments that take into account the discomfort that students from Confucian educational cultures experience when asked to critique the ideas of others.

9.     Design assessments that recognize and validate cultural differences in writing and communication styles.

For example the use of inductive or deductive logic and circular rather than linear reasoning in student essays.

10.  Model tolerance for ambiguity when students with a variety of learning and communication styles contribute to class discussions, and help learners deal with uncertainty.

For example, rephrase circular contributions for linear learners, demonstrate patience with longer or high-context comments in class, and validate student responses.

11.    Identify risk factors for particular types of learners.

Examples of risk factors are loss of face, loss of group identity, conflict avoidance, and risk of self-disclosure related to culture, religion, sexual orientation, and socio-economic background.

12.   Create opportunities for interaction among learners.

that allow them to learn from each other, share different perspectives, and share the wealth of cultural knowledge they bring to class.

13.   Develop an awareness of one’s own culture and cultural identity, how these are perceived by cultural others, and how they influence cross-cultural interactions.

For example, the potential influence of a perceptual lens created by one’s sexual orientation, race/whiteness, privileged socio-economic status, or ability to speak a dominant language.

(Adapted from Dimitrov, Dawson, Olsen, and Meadows 2014, pp. 89-91)


Additional resources

There is a wealth of resources specifically designed to support educators teaching in intercultural contexts and to develop intercultural competence more broadly. Here are a few we recommend:

  • The English Language and Intercultural Learning and Teaching (ELILT) framework and resources were developed at UniSA. The site provides curated materials on how to support students from diverse cultural backgrounds in their learning, including: academic reading and writing, oral communication, critical thinking, group work and research.
  • The International Education Association of Australia has developed a set of Good Practice Principles and Quick Guides for Learning and Teaching Across Cultures (2013). Quick guides are available for each of the following topics:
    • Assessment
    • Curriculum Design
    • Developing English Language Skills
    • Managing Group Work
    • Professional Development
    • Student Services
    • Teaching
  • The section of the Globalization of Learning module developed by the Queen's University at Kingston (Canada) includes sections on ‘Models of Inclusive and Intercultural education’ (including Indigenous), ‘Communication in the Intercultural Classroom’, and ‘Interculturalizing the Curriculum’. Scenarios are also provided which you can use to test your ability to interpret student behaviours that you may find challenging but that could be explained by intercultural differences.
  • The Critical Incidents for Intercultural Communication in the Workplace (2013-2015) set of resources developed at NorQuest College (Canada) offers numerous videos of scenarios representing misunderstandings due to differences in cultural orientations.

If you would like to ask online teaching and learning questions related to your course, you can look through our FAQs, write to TIU@unisa.edu.au, have an online consultation with a member of the TIU or complete the online modules as part of  Introduction to Engaging Learners Online.

PDF Version: Teaching Culturally Diverse Students (276 KB)



Apedaile, S 2015. The Something’s Up! Cycle,  NorQuest Centre for Intercultural Education, < https://www.norquest.ca/NorquestCollege/media/pdf/centres/intercultural/CI/The-Somethings-Up-Cycle-Handout-Apr-2018.pdf >.

Dimitrov, N., Dawson, D.L., Olsen, K. and Meadows, K.N., 2014. Developing the intercultural competence of graduate students. Canadian Journal of Higher Education44(3), p.86.

NorQuest College, 2015. Critical Incidents for Intercultural Communication in the Workplace. Scene-by-Scene Breakdowns, Edmonton. <https://www.norquest.ca/NorquestCollege/media/pdf/centres/intercultural/CI/Critical-Incidents-for-Intercultural-Communication-in-the-Workplace_Scene_by_Scene-Breakdowns.pdf >

Sullivan, A., 2001. Cultural capital and educational attainment. Sociology35(4), pp.893-912.

Tannen, D., 1997. You Just Don’t Understand. Estelle Disch (ed.), pp.186-191.

Thorne, S.L., 2003. Artifacts and cultures-of-use in intercultural communication. Language Learning & Technology, 7(2), pp.38-67.

Enhancing Academic Integrity in Your Course


At UniSA academic integrity (AI) means ‘a commitment to act with honesty, trustworthiness, fairness, respect and responsibility in all academic work’ (APPM 9.1.1).

Academic integrity discussions often focus on students’ cheating behaviors and the prevention and detection of misconduct. These are important issues and align with the need to secure the reputation of the University and its staff, students and credentials. At the same time, however, it is important to foreground the positive values of academic integrity as the intrinsic motivators of ethical academic practice that underpin all aspects of University life (Bretag 2018).

Academic integrity involves the whole University – it is not just a student ‘problem’. Alongside the tasks of securing the integrity of assessment, reducing the opportunities for cheating, and detecting it when it occurs, we play a role as educators in promoting academic integrity and addressing the reasons that students engage in misconduct in the first place.

In this Guide we look at some strategies for promoting AI in your course, whether you are a course coordinator, lecturer, tutor or marker. We will outline some ideas for conversations with your students (and with teaching teams) about academic integrity and academic misconduct and provide some information and resources that you can share or delve into to find out more.

Strategies for promoting AI

To start, you might ask some of the following questions:

  • Do I know my students and the challenges they face as learners?
  • Am I aware of the variety and ubiquity of the opportunities to cheat, both subtle and overt, that students are presented with every day through email, social media and the web?
  • Do my students understand the benefits of completing their own work, in this course and for their future professional life? Have I explained what ethical collaboration looks like in my discipline?
  • Do students understand what is required of them to succeed in my course and do they have access to the supports or skills to enable them to achieve it?
  • Do students know where to find help for their learning or to seek advice about the contract cheating industry?
  • Do my students know how to avoid academic misconduct?
  • Do my students understand what AI is?
  • Do I make AI visible in my course?

To help you respond to these questions, in the  graphic  below we have collated , some ideas and advice from the higher education sector aimed at fostering AI in teaching and learning (see also the reference list at the end of this Guide).


Table 1: Strategies for promoting AI

Above Links:


Promoting Academic Integrity FAQs

Delve into the information and resources below to develop your own awareness and understanding of academic integrity in the contemporary higher education landscape, inform your curriculum design and teaching, and support students and teaching teams to engage in discussions about the positive values of academic integrity and the risks of academic misconduct.

Resources are organized by the following topic focus and questions:

Academic integrity at UniSA:

  • What is academic integrity?
  • What is academic misconduct?
  • What should I do if I suspect academic misconduct?
  • What are the potential outcomes of academic misconduct at UniSA?

Understanding contract cheating:

  • What is contract cheating?
  • So, why is everyone talking about contract cheating?
  • Is contract cheating illegal?
  • What are the risks and impacts of contract cheating?
  • What are some resources I can use to discuss contract cheating with students?
  • What are some resources I can use to discuss contract cheating with my teaching team?

General resources for staff:

  • Academic integrity training
  • Learn more about academic integrity
  • Assessment design and security
  • Plagiarism
  • Turnitin

General resources for students:

  • Academic literacies
  • Assignment help
  • Copyright
  • Referencing
  • Understanding Turnitin
  • Wellbeing & counselling

Academic integrity at UniSA

What is academic integrity?

At UniSA academic integrity (AI) is defined as ‘a commitment to act with honesty, trustworthiness, fairness, respect and responsibility in all academic work’ (APPM 9.1.1).

Assessment Policy and Procedures Manual (APPM)

What is academic misconduct?

Academic misconduct refers to any action that contravenes the principles of academic integrity (APPM 9.2).

By far the most common form of academic misconduct reported at UniSA is plagiarism, which can range from the failure to properly acknowledge or paraphrase sources used in an assignment to passing off third party source material as ones own.

The second most common form of misconduct is third party assistance where a student submits work for assessment as their own that has involved significant assistant from others for all or part of the work (unless collaboration or outsourcing is explicitly allowed). Third party assistance might include collusion (unauthorized collaboration between students), significant assistance from a family member, or the outright purchase of a completed assignment. It can involve ‘family and friends; academic custom writing sites; legitimate learning sites (e.g. file sharing, discussion and microtutoring sites); legitimate non-learning sites (e.g. freelancing sites and online auction sites); paid exam takers; and pre-written essay banks)’ (Ellis, Zucker & Randall 2018, p. 2).

These forms of outsourcing some or all of an assignment have come to be known as contract cheating (Lancaster & Clarke 2016).

Assessment Policy and Procedures Manual (APPM)

What should I do if I suspect academic misconduct?

Students should raise any concerns with their teaching staff.

Staff should refer suspicions in the first instance to an Academic Integrity Officer (AIO) for further investigation.

You can find the AI team email address for your Unit under the Academic Integrity Officers heading on the TIU website.

TIU Academic Integrity

What are the potential outcomes of academic misconduct at UniSA?

An investigation of academic misconduct should be a learning experience ‘from which students can emerge and progress to complete their studies’ (Kitt, Dullaghan & Sutherland-Smith 2020).

If after investigation, an Academic Integrity Officer decides that misconduct has occurred then the case is recorded in the University’s AI database along with the outcome that has been decided upon.

AIOs take a wide variety of factors into account when deciding on outcomes, recognizing for example that academic misconduct sometimes occurs because of a lack of familiarity with academic conventions.

In addition to academic counselling , outcomes for students can include, re-submission of the assessment task with a penalty applied to the mark, and zero for the assessment. More serious outcomes are referred to the Unit’s Executive Dean for Formal Inquiry, such as zero for the course or suspension from enrolment at the University for a period of time. (APPM 9.5.4)

An explanation of APPM Section 9 for students can be found in every course outline and via the SEU Study Help pages.

For students: Section 9 Academic Integrity, SEU


Understanding contract cheating


What is contract cheating?

Contract cheating occurs when students employ or use a third party to undertake their assessed work for them and these third parties may include:

  • Essay writing services
  • Friends, family or other students
  • Private tutors
  • Copy editing services
  • Agency websites
  • ‘reverse classifieds’’ (TEQSA 2017)


TEQSA (2017) Good Practice Note: Addressing contract cheating to safeguard academic integrity

So, why is everyone talking about contract cheating?

Contract cheating has become a focus of attention in higher education nationally and internationally, for a number of reasons:

Globally dispersed, commercial enterprises have grown rapidly. Contract cheating is big business, relentlessly targeting students via social media and online platforms.

Commercial providers can include academic custom writing services, online freelance services, pre-written essay banks, file sharing sites and paid exam takers.

These employ engaging, persuasive and deceptive practices to market ‘academic services’ across a diverse range of fields of expertise (TEQSA 2017).

This form of contract cheating appears to be on the rise in higher education (Newton 2018) with many fearing that COVID 19 and the pivot to online education delivery has exacerbated the situation - academic norms may be unclear for isolated students under pressure, who are at the same time are presented with a wide range of easily accessible temptations and opportunities. (ICAI 2020).

Contract cheating can be hard to detect at the point of assessment submission – many services claim to provide original, plagiarism free work, for example. Marker training and new software detection tools are, however, improving the rates of detection. Eg IP address tracking, webcam identity verification, and writing style tracking (Dawson & Wendy-Sutherland Smith 2019; Lancaster 2020).

Contract cheating highlights the importance of a systemic response to academic integrity involving all stakeholders, rather than focusing on the responsibilities of individuals alone (TEQSA 2017).


Academic integrity toolkit, TEQSA

Is contract cheating illegal?

From 4 September 2020, amendments to the TEQSA Act have made it an offence in Australia to provide or advertise academic cheating services in higher education.

The powers of TEQSA include monitoring, intelligence gathering, investigation and pursuing prosecution of identified cheating service providers (TEQSA 2020). 

The Act targets commercial service providers, rather than users.

TEQSA is, however, empowered to share information with UniSA regarding any UniSA student that has used, or is reasonably suspected of using, an academic cheating service.

Currently, UniSA maintains a list of websites that have been identified as a risk to academic integrity. Access to these sites via the UniSA network, on campus, is blocked by the UniSA firewall.

Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Amendment (Prohibiting Academic Cheating Services) Bill 2019

Higher Education Integrity Unit, TEQSA

Protecting academic integrity, TEQSA

What are the risks and impacts of contract cheating?

There are costs to contract cheating.

  • It undermines learning and learning environments, and damages peer, teacher relationships.
  • Students miss out on learning (with long term consequences for professional life). It places the student, the faculty/teacher, the educational organization, and society at risk with students who will graduate with knowledge gaps and undeserved academic awards (IDoA 2020).
  • Students that behave dishonestly in the studies are also likely to behave dishonestly in their professional careers (Guerroro-Dib, Portales, & Heredia-Escorza, 2020).
  • Evidence is emerging of the blackmail and extortion of clients (York, Cefcik & Veeran-Colton 2020). Students who engage in contract cheating are vulnerable to future exploitation.
  • Consequences at UniSA for student found to have engaged in academic misconduct by contract cheating can include zero for course, suspension from their program for a period of enrolment, or even expulsion from the University.

Yorke, Sefcik & Veeran-Colton (2020) Contract cheating and blackmail, TEQSA (pdf)

What are some additional resources I can use to discuss contract cheating with my teaching team?

Raise awareness of contract cheating as a problem.


Students are not concerned about contract cheating (and we are not talking to them about it) Contract Cheating and Assessment Design project (pdf)

Bretag, T. et al (2018) Contract Cheating and Assessment Design project website

QAA (2020) Contracting to Cheat in Higher Education, 2nd edition, UK (pdf)

Detecting contract cheating.

TEQSA (2020) Substantiating Contract Cheating: A guide for investigators (pdf)

(2018) ‘How to detect contract cheating’ CRADLE suggests… no. 1, CRADLE, Deakin University

Impossible to prove? Substantiating contract cheating, Contract cheating and assessment project (pdf)

See what other university staff are doing at the ICAI’s International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating

International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating, ICAI

ICAI (2020) IDoA Resource Guide (pdf)

(2020) Three more ideas, ICAI (pdf)

What are some additional resources I can use to discuss contract cheating with students?

Raise awareness of contract cheating as a problem, and the potential risks.

Students are also often unclear about when and how they can collaborate with others when it comes to assessment. Is it “cheating” to talk with friends or tutors, look up books and past lectures, or look at the course site?

Ensure class/course time to discuss expectations – as well as the pitfalls of “sharing” behaviours.

Curtis, McNeill, Slade, Tremayne, Harper, Rundle & Greenaway (2021), Moving beyond self-reports to estimate the prevalence of commercial contract cheating: an Australian study

Rundle, K. & Curtis, G. (2020) Beware of ghosts: explaining contract cheating and ghostwriting and why you shouldn’t do it, UWA/TEQSA (video & pdf)

Miron, J & McKenzie, A (2020) Avoiding contract cheating student tip sheet, Academic Integrity Council of Ontario (pdf)

Collaborating with integrity Contract Cheating and Assessment Design project (pdf)


General resources for staff

Resources for staff

Academic integrity training

All UniSA staff can enrol in the Epigeum modules for staff. (5 modules, approx 2.5 hours total)

Epigeum Academic Integrity Learning Modules for staff. Modules 1-5:

  1. What is Academic Integrity?
  2. How do I show Academic Integrity in my preparation?
  3. How do I show Academic Integrity in my work
  4. How can I feel more confident about Academic Integrity?
  5. How do I deal with more complex situations?

Learn more about academic integrity

Academic integrity toolkit, TEQSA

(2019) Guidance note: Academic Integrity, TEQSA

Bretag. T. (ed)  2016, Handbook of Academic Integrity, 1st edition, Springer ebooks.

Assessment design and security

Assessment design and security for online open book exams, TIU

Assessment integrity online, TEQSA

(2020) ‘Academic Integrity, assessment security and digital assessment’, CRADLE suggests… no. 7, CRADLE, Deakin University

Phillip Dawson (2020), The prevention of contract cheating in an online environment, TEQSA


Jude Carroll 2007, A Handbook for deterring plagiarism, 2nd edition, Oxford Brookes University

Jude Carroll & Jon Appleton, 2001, Plagiarism: a good practice guide, JISC & Oxford Brookes University (pdf)

Sarah Elaine Eaton (2017) Academic integrity and plagiarism: Supplementary materials for educator workshops. Calgary: University of Calgary. (pdf)




Tamra Ulpen & Sandra Barker, Interpreting Turnitin reports and identifying signs of potential misconduct, video, TIU (1h 26 min)


General academic resources for students

Resources for students

Academic literacies

Academic Success Literacy Activity (ASLA), SEU

See a Learning Adviser, SEU

Assignment help

Study Support, SEU


Copyright, Library, UniSA


Referencing, Study Help, SEU

Academic Integrity and Referencing, SEU

Understanding Turnitin

Turnitin similarity report, learnonline student help, UniSA

How to use Turnitin, Referencing: Study Help, SEU

Wellbeing & counselling

Counselling, SEU


If you would like to ask teaching and learning questions related to your course, you can look through our FAQs, write to TIU@unisa.edu.au, have an online consultation with a member of the TIU or complete the online modules as part of Introduction to Engaging Learners Online.


Bretag, T. (2018). Academic Integrity’, Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Business and Management, OUP.

Bretag, T, Harper, R et al. (2018). ‘Contract cheating and assessment design: exploring the relationship’, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, online 14 December 2018, Doi: 10.1080/02602938.2018.1527892.

Bretag, T. (ed) (2016) Handbook of Academic Integrity, 1st edition, Springer ebooks.

Curtis, G., McNeill, M., Slade, C., Tremayne, K., Harper, R., Rundle, K., and Greenway, R (2021) Moving beyond self-reports to estimate the prevalence of commercial contract cheating: an Australian Study, Taylor, Francis Online. Doi/full/10.1080/03075079.2021.1972093.

Dawson, P. & Sutherland-Smith, W. (2019). Can software improve marker accuracy at detecting contract cheating? A pilot study of the Turnitin authorship investigate. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education.

Ellis, C., Zucker, I.M., & Randall, D. (2018). The infernal business of contract cheating: Understanding the business processes and models of academic custom writing sites. International Journal for Educational Integrity, 14(1), 1­21. DOI 10.1007/s40979-017-0024-3.

Guerrero-Dib, J., Portales, L., & Heredia-Escorza, Y. (2020). Impact of academic integrity on workplace ethical behaviour. International Journal for Educational Integrity, 16(2), 1-18. Doi.org/10.1007/s40979-020-0051-3.

Harper, R., Bretag, T. & Rundle, K. (2020). ‘Detecting contract cheating: examining the role of assessment type’, Higher Education Research & Development, online 16 Feb, Doi: 10.1080/07294360.2020.1724899.

Khan ZR, Hemnani P , Raheja, S & Joshy, J. 2020, Raising awareness on contract cheating: Lessons learned from running campus-wide campaigns, Journal of Academic Ethics 18(1) pp. 17-33.

Lancaster, T., & Clarke, R. (2016). Contract cheating: The outsourcing of assessed student work. In T. Bretag (Ed.), Handbook of academic integrity (pp. 639-654). Springer-Nature.

Newton, P. (2018). How Common Is Commercial Contract Cheating in Higher Education and Is It Increasing? A Systematic Review. Frontiers in Education 3:67.

Pitt, P., Dullaghan, K. & Sutherland-Smith, W. (2020). Mess, stress and trauma’: students’ experiences of formal contract cheating processes. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education. DOI: 10.1080/02602938.2020.1787332.

Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) (2020). Contracting to cheat in higher education. How to address essay mills and contract cheating (2nd ed). Retrieved from https://www.qaa.ac.uk/docs/qaa/guidance/contracting-to-cheat-in-higher-education-2nd-edition.pdf.

Yorke, J, Sefcik, L & Veeran-Colton T, 2020, Contract cheating and blackmail: a risky business, Studies in Higher Education, online 2 Feb, Doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2020.1730313.

Using Mixed Reality (MR) in Online Learning

Twenty-first century learning environments are technologically advanced places. Mixed Reality (MR) refers to the practical blend of physical and digital environments. It offers the opportunity to significantly increase students’ engagement and learning by re-imagining pedagogical approaches used in traditional educational spaces (such as teacher/learner presence, immediacy and immersion) through the affordances of digital learning.

This Guide explores two types of MR learning experiences especially suited for BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) online environments:

  1. Augmented 360 panoramic views, where Augmented Reality (AR) is used to add context and content to the physical world and a means of interacting with it.
  2. Virtual Reality (VR) experiences that take the learner into a virtual environment, whether fictional or a simulation of reality, and provides opportunities to interact and learn while fully immersed in this virtual space.

In a later guide we explore a logical extension to implementing MR in online learning, that of mobile mixed reality (MMR) which augments a user’s view of the real world with location-specific information in the form of simple text, image, multimedia or 3D graphics.


What is Mixed Reality?

Mixed Reality (MR) is a blend of the real and virtual worlds. The reality-virtuality spectrum (see Figure 1) was first proposed by Milgram and Kishino (1994).  In this model,  ‘Augmented Reality’ (AR) keeps the real world central but enhances it with digital information while ‘Virtual Reality’ (VR) tricks your senses into thinking you’re somewhere else.

Other than the real world (the one we live in!) these are the two most common approaches.

using mixed reality1.png

Integrating MR into the online teaching and learning environment enables traditional pedagogical tools and approaches (viz. presence, immediacy and immersion) to be used in new ways, to enhance student learning outcomes, motivation and engagement even when students are physically separated from one another and their teachers (Bronack, 2011).

Many education MR experiences are currently designed to be viewed via apps on smartphones. This offers institutions a low-cost BYOD environment for students to participate in MR experiences, making their use in online education ubiquitous (can be accessed almost anywhere), self-directed and hands-on.

This Guide will present examples of MR experiences which:

  • deliver authentic learning in an online teaching and learning environment;
  • lead to deeper immersion and student engagement; and
  • can be easily replicated using low-cost hardware and apps.

Using Augmented 360 Panoramic Views in Online Courses

A 360 video or image panorama is a series of videos or images which have been ‘stitched together’ with software to produce a view in multiple directions.

Integrating Augmented Reality with 360 panoramic views can provide both online and on-campus students with learning opportunities that simulate a physical visit to that site (Gheisari et al., 2015).

In an educational setting views are frequently augmented with information related to the content and context of the scene, to make the experience authentic and interactive for the student. The augmented information can be in the form of text, audio, image, video or any other format compatible with web-based technologies.

Augmented 360 panoramic views can be easily created with relatively low-cost hardware and software.


Example 1 – 360 Panorama Images of a House Construction

This example is taken from a UniSA Online Construction course (CIVE 1005). It provides students with an experience of walking through a construction site while at their desk and includes videos with additional information. In conjunction with other online learning activities in the course, students use the annotated panoramas to learn the basic elements, procedures and practices associated with the domestic building and construction industry. They become familiar with the terms and terminology of the industry and conversant with the numerous facets of the construction industry.

The AR experience can be viewed on a computer, tablet or mobile phone but is not available for head-mounted devices (HMD).

Click on the image below to open a new browser window and a 360 panorama showing the timber framing stage in the construction of a domestic house. Use the drop-down menu (top centre) to go back in time to see the different stages of construction and use your mouse to move left and right around the building site and to zoom in and out to see detail. Watch the embedded videos, images and text that augment the panorama to provide a total experience for students.

The high-resolution images used in this example were photographed with a DSLR Camera mounted on a Gigapan™ robotic mount and stitched into the 360 Panoramas using Gigapan™ virtual tour software.

using mixed reality2.png

Figure 2 - Augmented 360 Panoramic Views of Timber Framing

Example 2 –3D Model Geo-tour of Hallett Cove     

This example is drawn from ProjectLIVE (https://projectlive.org.au) a cross-disciplinary initiative at UniSA which uses immersive visualisation technologies to create flexible, interactive and engaging experiential learning exercises.

Hallett Cove is one of the best-known geological sites in Australia and internationally and has been declared a Geological Monument and Heritage Site.

Click on the image below to open a new browser window and experience an annotated 3D model of Hallett Cove. ‘Visit’ the different sites (there are 18) to explore immersive 360 images, interactive 3D outcrop models and deep zoom images of this amazing landscape. Orbit around with a left mouse click on a computer screen or use your finger to rotate the panorama on a mobile device.

If you want to experience most of the MR functionality without visiting every site, be sure to check out Site 11, the Wave-cut platform where the pop-up screen contains links to both 3D scans of rocks and superb 360 views of the surrounding landscape.


The high-resolution images used in this example were photographed with a DSLR Camera mounted on a Gigapan™ robotic mount. 360 images were stitched together in Kuula™ software and 3D models were created from his-res images in Sketchfab™ software.

using mixed reality3.png

Figure 3 – Hallett Cove 3D Model Geotour  (Source: UniSA Project LIVE http://projectlive.org.au)


Example 3 - Virtual Health Hub

This example of a Virtual Health Hub was developed by the Auckland University of Technology Learning Transformation Lab (altLAB) for its online (and on-campus) Health School students to encourage engagement and experience with the health teams with whom they will collaborate in real world situations upon graduation (Cochrane et al. 2018).  AltLAB (https://altlab.aut.ac.nz) is a similar service entity to the UniSA Teaching Innovation Unit.

Click on the image below to open a new browser window and view a 360 panorama of the foyer in the Sir Paul Reeves building at AUT. Use your mouse to pan around the panorama then click on a hot-spot of an associated health discipline to view videos, images, websites and interactive scenarios that simulate the conditions and environment that health students would experience in the real world.

[Note: Not all the hotspots are currently active. Nursing, Physiotherapy and Midwifery are all functioning.]


The images used in this example were recorded with a LG 360 camera and assembled into the 360 Panorama using SeekBeak™ virtual tour software.

using mixed reality4.png

Figure 4 - Virtual Health Hub (Source: Cochrane, et.al. 2018)

Virtual Reality Experiences

Virtual reality (VR) is the term used to describe a three-dimensional, computer generated environment which can be explored and interacted with by a person. That person becomes part of this virtual world or is immersed within this environment and whilst there, is often able to manipulate objects or perform a series of actions to determine what happens in the environment (Virtual Reality Society, 2017).

Viewing a VR simulation on a BYOD can offer online students an inexpensive way to experience situated real-world learning in an authentic context wherever they are located. The focus is not on the need to be in a computer lab where the high-end technology required to display the experience is located, or to use the expensive HMD (head mounted devices) to view it.


Example 4 - Ambulance Simulation

This example like the previous one was developed by the Auckland University of Technology Learning Transformation Lab (altLAB) and shows a VR clinical simulation used in paramedical courses at AUT.

Its aim is to increase the authenticity for educating first responders to the real-world stresses involved in critically analysing environmental factors, patient diagnosis and treatment in paramedicine. The app used to view this simulation is free and it can be made immersive by using a mobile phone and an inexpensive HMD (e.g. Google cardboard goggles). You will need the free WondaVR app (http://wondavr.com) installed on your mobile phone and if possible, a HMD (e.g. Google cardboard) to view it, however it can also be viewed on a mobile phone screen for a less immersive experience.

For more details of the framework used for designing MR-enhanced clinical simulations and results of altLAB’s surveys and biometric studies on the students undertaking the simulation, see Cochrane (2020).


Follow the instructions below to experience the VR simulation.

1.    Download and install the free WondaVR app for either Android or Apple phones.

2.    Open the app and scan the QR code opposite to load the video.

3.    Place your mobile phone into a HMD (e.g. Google goggles) as per instructions for the device (optional).

4.    Ensure you have open space around you (perfect for social distancing!) then look around and stand up.

5.    Choose the appropriate viewing mode in the app (either mobile phone screen or HMD device).

6.    A video will load and begin to play. The initial scenes show a waterfall for 30 seconds. This is to acclimatise you to the VR technology if using a HMD.

7.    In the next stage you will transition to a static 360 panorama of the back of the ambulance including ambient sound. Move around to view the inside of the ambulance. Look up and down. Listen to the sounds and read the incoming message of an accident. To move between scenes, position the white dot, located in the middle of your view, over ‘NEXT’ or ‘BACK’ for three seconds.

8.    By choosing ‘NEXT’, you will transition to a video of an accident scene in a garage with a patient, then to a more detailed scene of the ‘patient’ with your emergency equipment laid out around you.

9.     What is your diagnosis? Which equipment will you use? How will you treat the patient? Does the prognosis given the vital signs look good?

using mixed reality5.png

using mixed reality6.png

Figure 5 – Paramedicine VR (Source: Aiello and Cook, 2019)


Example 5 – High-end VR Immersive Virtual Tour of Hallett Cove

This example, like a previous one, is drawn from ProjectLIVE (https://projectlive.org.au) at UniSA. It is a high-end virtual tour that sees players become immersed in a VR quest to realistically experience Hallett Cove's deep geological secrets. An element of gamification is introduced with challenges, tasks and rewards to unlock as players move between the geo-sites in the adventure. Simple gamification elements such as immediate feedback and earning rewards for completing challenges successfully are strongly influential on increasing the students' drive in engaging in these games either within the walls of a classroom or anywhere as an online learning experience.

To fully experience the Hallett Cove VR Tour you will require high-end hardware and software including a Steam-VR capable HMD (e.g. the Oculus Rift and Rift S, HTC Vive, Pro and Cosmos, Valve Index and Windows Mixed Reality HMDs). Players also need to ensure that Windows Mixed Reality and SteamVR  software is installed on their computer. The VR files can be downloaded from https://bit.ly/hallett_cove.

However, by clicking on the image below you will open a new browser window to experience a less immersive version of the same VR tour on a computer screen or mobile device without a HMD.

using mixed reality7.png
Figure 6 – Hallett Cove VR Virtual Tour
(Source: UniSA Project LIVE

If you would like to ask online teaching and learning questions related to this guide you can look through our FAQs, write to TIU@unisa.edu.au, have an online consultation with a member of the TIU or complete the online modules as part of Introduction to Engaging Learners Online.

PDF Version: Using Mixed Reality in Online Learning (389 KB)


The University of South Australia does not specifically endorse any of the proprietary software used to create the MR experiences described in this guide.


Aiello, S and Cook, S 2019, ‘I see real things – making simulation a realistic experience’, in SoTELNZ 2019 Symposium, University of Technology, Auckland, viewed 8 September 2020.

Bronack, S C, 2011, ‘The Role of Immersive Media in Online Education’, The Journal of Continuing Higher Education, vol. 59, no.2, pp.113-117. 

Cochrane, T, Aiello, S, Cook, S, Stretton, T, Britnell, S, Narayan, V and Aguayo, C, 2018, ‘Designing a Virtual Health Faculty Hub’ in ASCLITE 2018, Towoomba (pp. 82-99).

Cochrane, T, Aiello, S, Cook, Aguayo, C and Wilkinson, N, 2020. MESH360: a framework for designing MMR-enhanced clinical simulations. Research in Learning Technology, vol. 28.

Gheisari M, Sehat, N. and Williams, G., 2015, ‘Using augmented panoramic views as an online course delivery mechanism in MOOCs’, in 51st ASC annual international conference proceedings, pp. 291-297.

Milgram, P and Kishino, F 1994, ‘A taxonomy of mixed reality visual displays’, IEICE TRANSACTIONS on Information and Systems, vol. 77, no. 12, pp. 1321–1329.

Virtual Reality Society 2017, What is Virtual Reality, viewed 8 September 2020, <https://www.vrs.org.uk/virtual-reality/what-is-virtual-reality.html>.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Have you ever used a wheelchair ramp to wheel a pram, suitcase or cart into a building? Ever watched television with closed captions when you’re on the treadmill at the gym? Do you sometimes listen to books because it allows you to get other things done while you get the benefit of the information or entertainment the book provides?

If you can appreciate that innovations designed to serve the specific needs of some people turn out to have significant advantages for the broader population - you understand the core of UDL.

This Guide explains how UDL approach can be used to build an inclusive, engaging, effective course. It first describes UDL and how it is applied before suggesting five simple ways that you can put UDL into practice in your course. If you have already identified some issues that need to be addressed in your course this Guide offers an action plan for getting started.

What is UDL?

UDL is a framework to improve and optimise teaching and learning for all people, based on scientific insights into how people learn. The end goal of UDL is to develop “expert learners” who are

  • purposeful and motivated,
  • resourceful and knowledgeable, and
  • strategic and goal-oriented.

UDL grew out of research into how to use computer technology to enhance learning for children with disabilities. At its core is an important principle – when you consider the needs of people otherwise on the margins, you improve the quality of the learning experience for a far wider audience.

The learning theory behind UDL

UDL’s teaching and learning approach draws on the field of neuroscience for an understanding of how brains learn and applies this using pedagogy and social philosophy principles.

This learning theory forms the organisational structure of UDL.  In broad terms:  incoming sensory information is received and processed by the occipital and temporal lobes of the brain – the recognition networks; it is processed and relayed for meaning in the centre of the brain – the affective networks;  and organised for response and action in the frontal lobes – the strategic networks.


CAST (2018). UDL and the learning brain.


UDL recognises that parts of the brain work together to create learning.  It also keeps in mind – pun intended – that there is no average brain. The different networks and how they work together varies based on a range of psycho-social and physical factors.

Principles of UDL

In recognition of the three networks, UDL outlines three core principles to foster increased opportunities to flexibly meet the diverse needs of individuals These principles can be used to guide the design of learning outcomes, assessments, methods and resources. UDL reflects good teaching; many course coordinators at UniSA already incorporate practices that are well aligned with UDL principles:

  • Engagement: A range of student engagement activities that tap into learners’ interests that challenge and motivate them to learn.
  • Representation: Multiple representation approaches to give learners a variety of ways of accessing information and building knowledge.
  • Action and Expression: Different ways for students to engage in active learning that provide them with alternatives for demonstrating or what they have learned.

UDL Guidelines

The table below supplements the three principles with specific guidelines, including options you can consider building into your learning design. The framework can also act as a guide for reviewing how to improve your courses and assessments.

Links in the table will take you to the respective page in the UDL framework website, which offers concrete examples of how you might implement each guideline or checkpoint in your lecture, learning activity, assessment or course design.





Affective networks



Recognition networks

Action and Expression


Strategic networks


Provide options for Recruiting Interest

Spark excitement and curiosity for learning

·       Optimise individual choice and autonomy

·       Optimise relevance, value and authenticity

·       Minimise threats and distractions

Provide options for Perception

Interact with flexible content that doesn’t depend on a single sense like sight, hearing, movement, or touch.

·       Offer ways of customising the display of information

·       Offer alternatives for auditory information

·       Offer alternatives for video information

Provide options for Physical Action

Interact with accessible materials and tools.

·       Vary the methods for response and navigation

·       Optimise access to tools and assistive technologies


Provide options for Sustaining Effort and Persistence

Tackle challenges with focus and determination.

Heighten salience of goals and objectives

Vary demands and resources to optimise the challenges

·       Foster collaboration and community

·       Increase mastery-oriented feedback

Provide options for Language and Symbols

Communicate through languages that create a shared understanding.

·       Clarify vocabulary and symbols

·       Clarify syntax and structure

·       Support decoding of text, mathematical notation and symbols

·       Promote understanding across languages

·       Illustrate through multiple media

Provide options for Expression and Communication

Compose and share ideas using tools that help attain learning goals.

·       Use multiple media for communications

·       Use multiple tools for construction and composition

·       Build fluencies with graduated levels for practice and performance


Provide options for Self-Regulation

·       Harness the power of emotions and motivation in learning.

·       Promote expectations and beliefs that optimise motivations

·       Facilitate personal coping skills and strategies

·       Develop self-assessment and reflection

Provide options for Comprehension

·       Construct meaning and generate new understandings.

·       Activate or supply background knowledge

·       Highlight patterns, critical features, big ideas and relationships

·       Guide information processing and visualisation

·       Maximise transfer and generalisation

Provide options for Executive Functions

·       Develop and act on plans to make the most out of learning.

·       Guide appropriate goal-setting

·       Support planning and strategy development

·       Facilitate managing information and resources

·       Enhance capacity for monitoring progress


Expert Learners who are

·       Purposeful and motivated

Expert Learners who are

·       Resourceful and knowledgeable

Expert Learners who are

·       Strategic and goal oriented


How do you put UDL into practice?

Applying UDL is an iterative process. You don’t have to dismantle your course, throw out everything you’ve been doing and start from scratch to get the benefit of UDL.

For an existing course, start by looking at issues your students or tutors have already raised as problematic. Do your learning activities all involve the same mechanisms and formats? What variety do you offer in your learning resources and content? Are your tutors always getting the same questions? Do some students indicate they are struggling? What’s engagement like in your course? Have a chat with your team to identify what needs improvement.

Then, use the checkpoints under the guidelines in the table above for suggestions on how you can use UDL to tackle your issues.

If you’re planning a new course, implementing UDL from the start will provide a strong foundation for helping your students achieve both the course learning objectives as well as the incidental or informal learning they’ll need to become effective lifelong learners. Browse the table above for ideas on how to build an inclusive, engaging, effective course.

UDL is more than a problem solving or design tool. It is an inclusive mindset for planning courses, content, activity and assessments. Whether or not you have a specific problem to solve, the suggestions below can get you started.

Five simple ways to get started

Here are five options to make your courses more inclusive. Each suggestion indicates the relevant UDL guidelines that informs it.


  1. Provide multiple “ways in” to knowledge acquisition

University learning can sometimes be reading intensive. For English as a Second Language (ESL) students or those with reading, cognitive or sight impairments, this can be exhausting. It can also be tiring and time-consuming for students juggling family and work commitments with study.

Consider replacing some of the course readings with audio or video content that have optional text supports such as transcripts and closed captions. These supports are essential so that students who can only access text – such as the hearing impaired – won’t miss out. Other students who will benefit are students for whom English is a second or third language, as they will have both text and audio-visual content to enhance their understanding. Sight-impaired students will get a break from robotic screen readers. And time-poor students can listen to podcasts as they commute or can watch and listen to videos while on a treadmill or doing household tasks.

Remember, you don’t have to create audio and video content. UniSA’s digital librarians and the information available on the UniSA library site for teachers (https://www.library.unisa.edu.au/teaching/course-materials/ ) can help you curate rather than create media rich resources that are engaging and relevant for your course.

UDL Guidelines: Perception, Language and Symbols, Expression and Communication, Recruiting Interest


  1. Provide optional supports for foundation knowledge

When learning new terms or concepts, some students require repeated exposure to understand them. In learnonline, the Moodle’s Glossary has auto-linking functionality which highlights specific words or concepts in a course. By clicking on the words or phrases the definition will appear in a pop-up.

Another option is to consider foundational knowledge videos from online sources such as Khan Academy or LinkedIn Learning. You can provide links to these as optional resources.

Not only will this help students who need repeated exposure to new concepts or foundational knowledge, but it will also save your teaching team countless hours in answering FAQs or having to use tutorial time to cover the basics repeatedly.

UDL Guidelines: Recruiting Interest, Language and Symbols, Comprehension


  1. Answer the “Why” for students

Many learners don’t recognise that they are making progress. This causes them to lose interest and motivation and become less engaged with learning. It is important that learners develop metacognition, build self-regulation, and better understand and use the strategies and tools that strengthen and support their executive functions.

Explain to students why you recommend or require a reading, explain what they will achieve by completing a learning activity which will not be assessed, discuss why you’ve structured the course as you have, and tell them what completing the assessment will achieve beyond a grade.

Providing a rationale for these course elements not only creates “buy in” for students, it also gives them a context for their learning so they can more effectively and efficiently work through the course materials.

UDL Guidelines: Self-Regulation, Executive Function


  1. Vary learning activities

UniSA students come from a wide range of cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds. Some students are confident writers, others express themselves more confidently when speaking, others through creating visuals or demonstrating something they’ve built. Think about what is authentic for your discipline and topic area and the level of technical expertise required for creation as well as what feedback can be provided and how quickly, then offer options that make sense for your context.

Students will benefit from having activities where their strengths shine as well as developing a variety of communications skills they’ll need in their future workplaces. You may find this variety helps your course to more richly reflect the UniSA graduate qualities and course learning objectives.

UDL Guidelines:  Physical Action, Expression and Communication


  1. Explain your charts, diagrams and visuals

Whether you are in front of a classroom, recording a video or creating text-based content – if you include a graph, chart or diagram which is essential to understanding the content, you need to explain it. Explain both the individual elements that make up the visual – the axes, the data points or curves, the arrows or symbols and flow arrows - and the story they are telling of trends, processes or relationships.

Doing so will not only aid students with sight, cognitive or language challenges (and those seated in the back of your classroom), it will also help students learn how to read and interpret commonly found visuals in research documents, on government websites and business documents. This contributes to students’ information literacy, critical thinking and analysis skills.

UDL Guidelines: Comprehension, Language and Symbols, Perception


Develop a plan

Once you’ve evaluated what you’d like to improve in your course, create an action plan.

  1. Use the UDL Guidelines to explore the suggestions made in the checkpoints as a starting point. http://udlguidelines.cast.org/

  2. If you’re not sure what’s possible technically or policy-wise, take advantage of the TIU Zoom drop-in sessions https://lo.unisa.edu.au/course/view.php?id=20251 with Academic Developers and Online Education Designers to ask questions, find out what’s possible and identify any gaps in your skills; or browse through the support resources created by the Technology Enhanced Learning Team  https://lo.unisa.edu.au/course/view.php?id=49

  3. Scope the work involved. Prioritise the changes you’d like to make and implement them as time permits. As you create new content or learning activities, start with the learning objectives in mind then visit the UDL Guidelines page http://udlguidelines.cast.org/ and consider how you can make your content as accessible as possible.

Support and resources

  • The main UDL website is a treasure trove of resources for helping teachers, tutors and course designers learn how to implement the principles in course design – face to face or online. http://udlguidelines.cast.org/

  • There is also a UDL on Campus website http://udloncampus.cast.org/home. This site explicitly targets academics and course designers in higher education. It includes case studies, examples, interviews and a wide range of resources on how to plan and write learning goals and how to develop courses, learning materials, activities and assessments that are as inclusive and engaging as possible. It also includes advice on how to take a UDL approach to data analytics and feedback.

  • The UniSA Library offers a range of services and resources to help you diversify your content and resources. https://www.library.unisa.edu.au/teaching/course-materials/


If you would like to ask online teaching and learning questions related to your course, you can look through our FAQs, write to TIU@unisa.edu.au, have an online consultation with a member of the TIU or complete the online modules as part of  Introduction to Engaging Learners Online.

PDF Version: Universal Design for Learning final (1.9MB)

Introducing something new into your course

Inspiration can sometimes be hard to find. The TIU’s weekly Teaching and Learning Guide series may have prompted a few ideas for innovations to try out in your own course or teaching. So, how do you act on these fresh ideas and update your course to support student learning? Sometimes you just need a plan or a guide to point you in the right direction.

This Guide supports you with getting started on the design (or redesign) and development of an element in your course. The main goal of this Guide is to save you time and effort when bringing change to fruition.

The process of innovating your teaching has many parallels with other research experiences you may have had – involving strategic planning, budgets and deliverables, implementation and evaluation. You will need to be mindful of your key stakeholders – your students and the University - and take appropriate steps to minimise their risk. If you would like to share your work beyond the University, you will often need to get human ethics approval.

This Guide describes ADDIE as one example of a systematic design process that can inform and guide you in planning and developing a new element for your course so that it meets the University’s focus on learners, learning outcomes, learning activity, and learning experience.

ADDIE involves the analysis of learning needs and outcomes, and the development of a delivery system to meet those needs. It is a five-stage development process that offers a streamlined, and focused approach that provides feedback for continuous improvement (Morrison, 2010).

introducing something.png

For the purposes of this Guide, we will be looking at these aspects of ADDIE:

  • Analysis–determine the needs of learners.
  • Design–establish intended outcomes, the sequencing and structuring of learning, methods of assessment, and technologies to be employed
  • Development–work out the details, draft, and build the course component (for example, within learnonline), ensuring that it all is in alignment with the results of the analysis and design.
  • Implementation–the actual teaching of the course
  • Evaluation–review learning to determine the effectiveness of the course component you’ve added; revising and redesigning as needed.

In this Guide we’ll provide you with a detailed example of the ADDIE process in action, using as a model, the introduction of a new online formative assessment activity into a hypothetical course, Business Maths 101.

Firstly, let’s review a number of key strategies you should keep in mind.

Tip 1: Review data from multiple sources to inform your design

When redesigning an existing course element, you have an opportunity to gather information from previous course offerings to inform the process. You might start with the evaluation phase of the ADDIE cycle – to review what information you already have on your course as well as what you know about your course. For example, the ineffectiveness of a course element might be demonstrated by poor student performance, lower grades or pass rates, negative comments on student course evaluations, peer input on your curriculum or learnonline site, or frequent questions and confusion on the part of students.

Such information helps you develop a rationale for the change you are proposing – change based on evidence, rather than change for the sake of change!

You might consult some of the following sources of information about your course:

  • Student evaluations: It may be confronting but take note of less positive scores and comments left by students in their course evaluations to help you rethink your design.
  • Peer observations: Pay attention to comments and suggestions provided by your peers in observations of your course (for example, via UniSA's Peer Partnerships scheme, or the Summative Peer Review of Teaching [SPRT]).
  • Student grades (individual and/or final assessments): Evaluate student grades for individual assignments and for the overall course. Consider whether an assignment may have been too easy or difficult, has instructions that need clarifying, or whether it needs a formative element.
  • Your own notes and records from your previous experience teaching the course: Keeping detailed notes while teaching is valuable for the review process; you can keep track of ideas you may want to try later, tweaks that you added to the course while you were teaching and intended integrating in future offerings, unexpected issues that came up, etc. Did you get many questions about the wording of your Course Outline or about the Reading List, for example? Did an assignment not go according to plan? Are there discussion questions that worked well, or not so well?

It is important to consider data from more than one source. Multiple data sources will help you to clarify, confirm, or even challenge what you have learned from an initial analysis of a single set of data. The use of multiple sources can assist you in identifying patterns and inconsistencies across the student evaluation feedback on your course. It can increase your confidence in the soundness of one set of findings by referring to other, different pieces of information regarding your course element and help you to develop a more comprehensive picture of the component you wish to change or add.

Tip 2: Test smaller components first!

Many initial ideas have a large vision that will be unmanageable for the average time-poor academic and therefore risky. To make the addition of the new component easier, instead of making large scale additions, see if a smaller subset of the idea can be trialled in a safe and efficient manner. This not only makes it less risky to the course overall, it makes it quicker to implement and with the data that you gain from the pilot trial, you can adjust the next phase of using the component.

Start with your broad idea and then see if you can break it down. Is there a way that a smaller aspect of the initial idea can be introduced? How can you break the big idea into small actions that you can enact, using iterative cycles of development?

Tip 3: Seek feedback

The next step would to be talk to a ‘critical friend’. This could be a colleague in your Unit, or someone from the Teaching Innovation Unit. Their role would be to hear your ideas while they are still forming and help shape them into something that is manageable and sustainable for you and your students. Be clear on the amount of time that you are prepared to put into the development before you start.


An Example:  Modelling the ADDIE process

The table below describes the prompting questions and actions undertaken in response, while following an ADDIE process to introduce a new online formative assessment activity in a hypothetical course, Business Maths 101.


1. Analysis &planning

Understand the BIG picture and identify what you want to preserve and transform in your course element redesign



What would you like to transform? You may find evidence or direction from myCourseExperience or learning analytics data, peer feedback etc.

I have looked at the MyCourseExperience survey results for last study period and the data indicates room for improvement in the area of feedback and clarity about the assessment. Come to think of it, when I was marking the assessment, I found it an area that students consistently performed poorly in. I know this because I had to write the same feedback over and over!

If you are putting a new course component in, what are you taking out?

Nothing – perhaps I’ll review the assessment instructions

What do you want to preserve from your existing course component?  (e.g. learning outcomes, assessment, site, media, resources etc)?

All of the instructions, marking criteria, and the rubric

What are the characteristics of your students? (number of students, year level, demographics)

There are 250 students enrolled in the course; 40% male and 60 % female; last year 50% of the students were International

Analysis of the course context: where does it fit in the program sequence, is it delivered F2F, online or in blended mode?

It’s a 2nd year course which is taught in blended mode (F2F and online)

Do you need specific skills, learning design advice or support to help achieve the new component?

I might need to bounce some ideas around with an academic developer and ask an online educational developer for advice and/or training.

·       Advice on innovation - TIU Consultations


2. Design 

Identify the learning outcomes for the new component, teaching activities, assessment, key topics, and online components for your course



What do you want your students to know or do when they have engaged with or completed the new course component?


I will need to go back to the course objectives that are being assessed in the assessment and think about what could be done to ensure that this outcome is well-demonstrated in the new component. Looking at the course objectives will  reduce the likelihood that I will create irrelevant activities that aren’t related to the desired outcomes for the course.

Teaching involves developing challenging and engaging learning activities. What type of learning activity will you design for your new component?

I automate feedback by using online tools to introduce more feedback opportunities, and move beyond knowledge checking, or I could use peer feedback.

The next step is selecting a tool to support my design. In Moodle there are tools such as Moodle Quizzes, Moodle Lessons and a powerful group of tools called H5P interactive content. Not all H5P provide feedback – some provide excellent ways to present information using multimedia, which can also support learning.

·       Advice  on learnonline resources – H5P content types, quizzes etc TIU Consultations

·       Advice on innovation - TIU Consultations

What will count as evidence of learning once your students have completed the new component? How will the new component align with the learning outcomes? How will you provide feedback to students?

Students will act on the formative feedback, by identifying where they need to revise or improve on what they’ve done.

What are your expectations for student participation? What impact will your changes make on student workload?

Students will need to complete this activity before submitting their assignment and demonstrate in their assignment how they have acted on the formative feedback.

What tools in learnonline will you use (e.g. discussion form, quiz, journal, blog, wiki, etc) to enable interaction, collaboration, reflection and learning?

I’ll probably use an online quiz or H5P.

What resources and instructions will you need to provide in the site to enable students to engage with the new component?

I will need to make clear to students why the formative feedback activity has been included, how they’re meant to engage with it and that they will need to demonstrate that they have acted on the feedback.

Have you planned the structure of the new component to ensure ease-of-use for students?

The new component will be a learning activity titled ‘Formative feedback task’ the students will have a rationale for doing it, a learning outcome, instructions for how to engage with the component as well as a Q&A forum in case they need help/assistance

Have you applied backward design to the new course component?

Yes: I identified the:

·       learning outcome: acting on formative feedback

·       the activity will occur in H5P

·       the feedback they’ll get

·       what they need to do with the feedback


3. Development
Create the learning component (learning activity, assessment, content for your course)



What existing resources can you use for your new component (e.g. readings, exercises, websites, video resources)?

I will use the current resources on the site.

Have you developed the new component?

I have selected H5P as the tool to use and develop the formative feedback in it.

I have found help resources to learn the basics of the Moodle tools, and in addition, H5P have a great website with demonstrations of the capabilities of each of the content types in relation to feedback and multimedia, as well as tutorials on how to use each them.

I will put the activity/challenge into one field, have a way to collect the student performance, through a choice, decision or an extended response, and then I’ll need to populate the various feedback fields to represent what I would have said if I had been there in person.

I will work in the course that I’m teaching by creating a hidden section, or selecting the resource to be hidden, or I could organise for a course copy to be made and start working in the website for the next delivery of my course.

I will get IT to check that the H5P tool is displaying correctly in the student view.

Have you checked the settings and availability dates of any quizzes, assignment submissions, etc.?

I will make the settings/dates open so that students can do this anytime that suits them


4. Implement

The actual component delivery



Have you communicated the new course component design expectations to your students (e.g. learnonline, learning guide, in-class explanation, etc).

I will implement the formative assessment task that I designed by getting my students to work with it in learnonline. I will test it on the fly with current students to help me think about how it can be used with a future cohort.

I will write a narrative to introduce the activity and also send a course announcement closer to the activity. I could use the weekly overviews and schedules in the website to list what activities are happening each week (e.g. update the ‘to knows and to dos).

I may also need to adjust my teacher’s notes in relation to the new component to ensure that students know that the new formative assessment is there. The aim is to make sure that everything flows well together.

I will let students know it’s happening, based on previous feedback - as well as in the course outline.

What support do you have in place to help students engage with the new component?

A Q&A forum.

Some students may be unfamiliar with using technology. What steps can you take to assist students to become familiar with the technology used in the new component? If students need help with technology in your course, how will you provide support?

I am pretty good at using learnonline so I will advise my students and also point them at the learnonline Help for Students .


5. Evaluate & Improvement

Determine the effectiveness of the new component, make changes for yourself and your students, and disseminate the results



What kind of evaluation processes are you planning to use to evaluate the effectiveness of your new course component as well as any adjustments needed and inform its continuing improvement (e.g. survey questions embedded in myCourseExperience, peer review of materials used in learnonline, focus group, minute papers etc)?

To evaluate the impact of the new formative assessment component on my students I will take a few different approaches to evaluation:

I will use the:

·       Feedback tool in learnonline to collect information specifically about students’ experiences with the new the new formative assessment component, and I could use the  end-of-course feedback in case something was mentioned there.

·       the learning analytics associated with the new component (in the report section in Moodle) to see who engaged with it, when and in what way.

·       forum and create a thread asking for student’s impressions while interacting with the new formative assessment and ask for any suggestions about how it can be improved.

·       assessment results and see if students are getting better outcomes than previous cohorts for the concept I’m are addressing.

Once I’ve read through the evaluation data I will close the feedback loop by writing a paragraph in the Course Outline for next Study period’s cohort.

Human ethics approval

I will apply for Ethics approval before I start surveying students because I am contemplating publishing my results beyond UniSA.


If you would like to ask online teaching and learning questions related to your course, you can look through our FAQs, write to TIU@unisa.edu.au, have an online consultation with a member of the TIU or complete the online modules as part of  Introduction to Engaging Learners Online.

PDF Version: Introducing something new to your course (2.5 MB)



Morrison, Gary R. Designing Effective Instruction, 6th Edition. John Wiley & Sons, 2010.

Storytelling: concepts and frameworks

When were your students last captivated by your teaching, connected with the concepts you introduced, or deeply motivated to act on the learning experiences you designed?

Storytelling is one of the most effective ways of engaging and communicating with learners because it provides meaning and context to enhance learning. Stories encourage students to connect with content emotionally so that concepts stay with them much longer than facts or statistics. Even when students have had little experience with the content being taught, telling a story gives a sequence to information and makes it easier to understand and learn. Excellent storytelling will ensure that any concept you teach will be remembered for years to come.

Take advantage of the power of storytelling in your online teaching. This Guide introduces the storytelling process, as well as a range of approaches to storytelling. Subsequent Guides in the Storytelling series will provide a worked example of storytelling as well as a template to design and present your own story.

Why use storytelling?

Everyone loves a good story. That’s why using storytelling techniques in your teaching is so effective—your learners can’t help but pay attention!

Stories bring information, knowledge, and truth to life. Weaving stories into your courses connects with your learners emotionally and brings you a step closer to them believing in the value of your content; you are motivating them to want to learn even more.



How do I go about storytelling?

Below are some storytelling tips that can help you strengthen your narratives and engage your students:

The key rule of telling stories

Give your students an emotional experience. Purposeful stories that reach their hearts and minds are those that move them to action. Experts say that the most effective and efficient way to do that is through metaphor and analogy. These linguistic devices are key components of the way we think and are the building blocks for the structure of knowledge. They can be used to evoke images and engage memory through rich sensory and emotional associations, which bring the learner into the story, cognitively and emotionally, as an active participant.

Stories don’t have to be long

Stories don’t have to be lengthy – shorter snippets catch a learner’s attention more easily. When teaching, you often use scenarios, anecdotal evidence or an experience you once had to get your message across to students. These are forms of storytelling and engage students more fully by putting ideas or concepts into a real-world context.

Remember the main elements of storytelling

Every good story has a curve, where you introduce the characters or scenario, followed by the problem or conflict, which leads to the resolution. Your storyline also involves a plot that develops throughout the narrative, to connect your learners emotionally to the content. This encourages students to be immersed within the story so that it becomes an effective learning tool.

Choose a clear central message

A great story usually progresses towards a central moral or message. When crafting a story, you need to have a definite idea of what you’re building toward. If your story has a strong moral component, you’ll want to guide students to that message. If you’re telling a funny story, you might build toward a twist that will leave your students in stitches. If you’re telling an engaging story, try to increase the dramatic tension and suspense right up to the climax of your narrative. Regardless of what type of story you are telling, it’s important to be very clear on the central theme, knowledge or plot point that you are building your story around.

Know your ending before you begin

Before you tell a story, know the ending. Know where you are going so your story doesn’t ramble and confuse students. Good storytellers start at the end and work backwards when they begin to formulate their story. As you prepare your story, pick the ending first. Write it at the end of a timeline and work backwards. Make sure that each part of the story is essential to the ending. Each character, point, or principle must somehow relate to the main point you are trying to get across to your students.

Keep it simple

The details in the story need to contribute to the overall point. Any details outside of that can dilute the lesson. Keep sentences short and concise, so they are easy to follow. Keep the story short so it is easily read, viewed or heard.

Take advantage of the power of conflict

The biggest element of a story is conflict. Conflict is dramatic. At its core, a story is about a conflict between our expectations and cold reality. A story is about imbalance, opposing forces or a problem that must be worked out.

Have a clear structure

There are many ways to structure a story, but the three ingredients a story must have are a beginning, a middle, and an end. On a more granular level, a successful story will start with a provocative incident, lead to rising action, build to a climax, and ultimately settle into a satisfying resolution.

How do I incorporate stories in my teaching?

Now that you are aware of some of the main tips, have a look at the four different storytelling frameworks outlined below and choose one to begin your storytelling teaching strategy:


Framework 1: You create the story

This story-format has a beginning, middle and end. The conflict builds to a climax and a resolution is reached at the end.

You could use the story to introduce a topic, as an example to support a topic, or to sum up a topic. The story could be used at the start of a lecture where you advise your students that at the end of the lecture you will ask them to explain how the story illustrates an aspect of the lecture content just covered. This encourages active listening and critical thinking skills.



The Concept: The concept tells us what the story is about—the core idea of the story. It should include the main person or characters in the story, the setting, a hook and the basic conflict.

The Beginning

The Middle

The End

The human element. Create a hook at the beginning of your story

The hook:
Start your story by creating a problem or incident to engage your learners. This is where you introduce the character(s) they can relate to, and the context of your story.

Rising conflict and tension:
The tension should set up the central conflict of the story and the main character(s) who accept the call to action.

A series of events or complications need to occur, leading to an increase in tension. This is also where the characters change and grow as they deal with the conflicts they face. You need to build the tension and bring them to a point of no return.  Some of the minor crises could be temporarily resolved, but the story continues in the direction of the major crisis, or climax.

The story develops through a series of complications and obstacles, each leading to the climax

The climax:
This is the main conflict or the highest point of tension in your story. It needs to be the most difficult moment for your character, so make it count. It is the moment the action of the story turns toward the conclusion.

The falling action:
The conflict slowly but surely moves towards a resolution. Your character takes a course of action towards the identified goal. This is where you further flesh out your core message, describing how it helps resolve the problem(s) you introduced early on.

Make your ending strong with an important take away point

The resolution (the takeaway point):
After building the conflict, offer your students a reprieve by providing a satisfying resolution.

When the problem or conflict is resolved, it usually leads to the personal growth of one or more characters.

The ending is the final point your students will hear. This is where you give the answer to your story’s main question, thus resolving the conflict and bringing the story to a satisfying close. Whatever points and/or principles are most important, put them at the end, as your takeaway message - to drive the point home.


Framework 2: The student decides the ending

This story-format has a beginning and a middle but your students are expected to develop the ending or resolution.

This activity could be done individually or as a group activity. It encourages students to explain the connections between the story and the teaching content.



The Concept: The concept tells us what a story is about—the core idea of the story. It should include the main person or characters in the story, the setting, a hook and the basic conflict.

The Beginning

The Middle

The End

The human element. Create a hook at the beginning of your story

The hook:
Start your story by creating a problem or incident that immediately engages the students. This is where you introduce the character(s) that your learners can relate to, and the context of your story.

Rising conflict and tension:
The tension sets up the central conflict of the story and the main character(s) who accept the call to action.

A series of events or complications then occur, leading to an increase in tension. This is also where the characters change and grow as they deal with the conflicts they face. You need to build the tension and bring it to a point of no return.  Some of the minor crises could be resolved along the way, but the story continues in the direction of the major crisis, or climax.

The story develops through a series of complications and obstacles, each leading to a climax

The climax:
This is the main conflict or the highest point of tension in your story. It needs to be the most difficult moment for your character/s, so make it count. It is the moment when the action of the story turns toward the conclusion.

The falling action:
The conflict slowly but surely moves towards a resolution. Your character takes a course of action towards the identified goal. This is where you flesh out your core message, describing how it helps resolve the problem(s) you introduced earlier.

Provide your students with hints as to what the ending could or should be

The resolution (the takeaway point) created by the students:

The problem or conflict is resolved, usually leading to the personal growth of one or more characters.

The ending is what your students are expected to develop. You will know the answer to your story’s main question or conflict. Hopefully your students will come to the same conclusion, resolve the conflict and bring the story to a satisfying close. However, don’t be surprised if your students come up with an unexpected ending! You could finish the learning experience by introducing several ‘how’ or ‘why’ questions about the story. This could also be part of the learning activity.

Framework 3: Overarching storyline

This story-format has a beginning, a middle and an end but is used as an overarching storyline for the entire course.

It could be aligned with weekly concepts, topics and learning.

This framework will need more planning, but it can incorporate shorter narratives for each week that contribute to the overarching storyline. You may require videos or audio to enhance this larger narrative structure.



The Concept: The concept in this story-format tells an overarching story that runs throughout the course incorporating weekly sub-concepts. The story will have a beginning, middle and an end or resolution, but in this format, the story’s conflict/crises will branch out and sub-plots introduced. These could incorporate the weekly concepts that align with learning activities.

The Beginning

The Middle

The End

The human element. Create a hook at the beginning of your story.

The hook:

Start your story by creating a problem or incident that immediately engages your students. Introduce character(s) your students can relate to, and the context of your story.
Rising conflict and tension:
The tension should set up the central conflict of the story and the main character(s) who accept the call to action.

A series of events or complications need to occur, leading to an increase in tension. This is where the characters change and grow as they deal with the conflicts they face. You need to build in the tension and bring them to a point of no return.  Some of the minor crises could be resolved along the way, but the story continues in the direction of the major crisis, or climax.

The story develops through a series of complications and obstacles.

The body of the story:
The bulk part of the story has many conflicts and crises (sub-plots) that align with the course’s weekly topics. They are the sub-sections to the main story and could be combined with the weekly learning activities

The falling action:
The conflict slowly but surely moves towards resolution. Your character(s) take a course of action towards the identified goal.  This is where you further flesh out your core message, describing how it resolves the problems you introduced earlier.

The resolution to the story

The resolution (take away point):
After building the conflict over many weeks, offer your students some reprieve by giving them a satisfying ending to the overarching storyline (you should also do this with the sub-plots you have created along the way).

The problem or conflict is resolved near the end of the course. The ending might not need a take-away message, but rather a resolution or finality to the story.

Framework 4: The students tell the story

The story-type still has a beginning, a middle and an end but the story is created by students.

Storytelling can offer opportunities for collaborative group work, the group acting as the storyteller of key concepts. It gives students the opportunity to reflect on content and to think about its application. It will encourage students to move from being individual learners to seeing themselves a part of a community of learners and will encourage them to collaborate and unpack the concepts being taught.



The Concept: The concept in this format is the weekly topic, concepts or information you have presented in your lecture for that week. You ask students to create their own story using the concepts/information you have given them to demonstrate their knowledge and put it into a working scenario. Below are elements you can introduce to your students to use in their story.

The Beginning

The Middle

The End

The human element. Create a hook at the start of your story

The hook:
Start your story by creating a problem or incident that immediately engages the learners. This is where you introduce the character(s) that your students can relate to, and the context of your story.

Rising conflict and tension:
The tension sets up the central conflict of the story and the main character(s) who accept the call to action.

A series of events or complications occur, leading to an increase in the tension. This is where the characters change and grow as they deal with the conflicts they face. You need to build the tension and bring it to a point of no return.  Some of the minor crises could be resolved along the way, but the story continues in the direction of a major crisis, or climax.

The story develops through a series of complications and obstacles

The climax:
This is the main conflict or the highest point of tension in the story. It should be the most difficult moment for any character, so make it count. It is the moment when the action of the story turns toward the conclusion.

The falling action:
The conflict slowly but surely moves towards a resolution. Your character(s) take a course of action towards the identified goal. This is where you flesh out your core message, describing how it helps resolve the problem(s) you introduced earlier.

The resolution to the story

The resolution (take away point):
After building the conflict, you should provide a satisfying resolution. The problem or conflict is resolved, usually leading to the personal growth of one or more characters.

The ending is where you give the answer to your story’s main question or resolve the conflict and bring the story to a satisfying close. Whatever points and/or principles are most important, put them at the end, as your takeaway message - to drive the point home.


Help and support

If you would like to ask online teaching and learning questions related to your course, you can look through our FAQs, write to TIU@unisa.edu.au, have an online consultation with a member of the TIU or complete the online modules as part of  Introduction to Engaging Learners Online.

PDF Version: Storytelling concepts and frameworks (1.3 MB)

Using OnTask+ to Improve Student Engagement

OnTask+ is a communication tool designed to improve the academic experience of students through the delivery of timely, targeted, and actionable student feedback throughout their participation in a course (Pardo et al, 2018). This tool is available to staff at UniSA and is available through the teaching dashboard for your course.

NOTE: OnTask+ is a different tool to the original OnTask that was added to your course site as an external tool.

OnTask+ sources student data from your learnonline course site and matches it with course enrolment data. This enables you to send purposeful tailored email messages[1] to the students enrolled in your courses based on their interaction with resources and activities on your course site.

Used in this way, you can tailor messaging to different sub-sets of students based on how they are interacting with the course site or performing in activities/assessments.

OnTask+ can be used for both on-campus and fully online teaching. Given it links with several university databases, much of the data are auto populated from your course enrolments and your course site. This does not mean that your face-to-face teaching experiences are precluded, however in the current version of OnTask+, additional external data (e.g., class attendance) cannot be added. The more robust your course site design, the richer your dataset.    

This Guide will explain what OnTask+ can do to improve the effectiveness of your communication with individual students – and what it can’t. We will also touch on the need for planning how you’ll use the tool and where you can go for additional support and information!

[1] NOTE: Guidelines on Electronic Communications with Students

What is OnTask+ and what can it do?

OnTask+ allows for targeted communication and feedback to be given to students about how they are tracking in your course and is often promoted as being particularly useful for interacting with larger cohorts, where providing personalised and meaningful feedback can be tricky. This is not to say the tool cannot be used in smaller cohorts, you’d just need to weigh up the time cost involved in setting up the tool against the time it may take you to interact with your ‘smaller’ group in other ways.

In terms of where this tool sits in the suite of available tools for communicating with students, OnTask+ is somewhere between the catch-all announcement/Q&A forums and individual private messages.

This tool also sits somewhere in the middle in terms of the level of staff input required to use it. The graphic below shows a few examples of tools available for providing feedback to students and is arranged in order of ongoing involvement from teaching staff for providing students with feedback. Ideally, you’ll want a mix of these tools to balance out teaching workload, supporting students’ learning strategy development, and students sense of connection with the teaching team.

using ontask1.png









OnTask+ enables you to send messages to different sub-sets or groups of students, such as those who have or have not accessed a key resource. Or perhaps those who have performed particularly well in an assessment as compared to those who have done moderately well, or those who have struggled.

Staff who currently use OnTask+ in their courses report that a key benefit of this tool is that they are not only able to contact and support those students who are struggling but can also reach out to those doing well to encourage them to keep doing what they are doing!

Before you start…

Like any new tool or technology, when using it for the first time, take some time to consider what you want to achieve and how this tool will enable you to do this: Pedagogy before technology.

While this tool can be a time saver for communicating with your students once set up, careful planning and consideration needs to be given before you start including:

  • how the tool might be used in your course (is it the best tool for the job?),
  • when are the best times to message your students would be (where are your sticking points or times students would really benefit?), and 
  • what needs to go into your message to get students moving in the direction you want (what data/metrics can you use and what behaviours/strategies do you want to encourage?)

OnTask+ should be integrated into your overall course feedback and communication strategy. This tool is not a solution for every challenge you have, but when used in a strategic and targeted manner, OnTask+ can be very powerful!

Some examples of how staff are currently using OnTask+ in their course include:

  • Reminding students to complete assessment tasks (e.g. quizzes) and congratulating those who already have completed the task;
  • Providing targeted support resources for sub-groups of students based on their performance in particular sections of assessments;
  • Encouraging particular learning strategies or patterns of engagement with the course materials that are clearly related to students’ learning outcomes (e.g. activity participation when central to the learning for that topic).

Creating your email messages

There are currently two message types available with OnTask+, including Basic Email and Simple Activity. The two types of messages vary on what data are available for filtering, and incorporating into, your intended messages. As shown in the screenshot below, Basic emails only use student name and course name data, while Simple Activities will allow you to target your messages to different student groups based on their interaction or performance in a range of resources from your course site, for example, Moodle activities and assessments, or Panopto videos. 












There are a few stages to creating your email messages to students in OnTask+.











  1. You need to determine whether OnTask+ is capturing the data you need, and that the data is presented/made available to you in a way you can use. You may need to explore this by setting up an email and clicking the Preview button to see what data appears.

  2. If the data is available and usable, you then need to consider how you will use that data to create the ‘rules’ (or email groups) that are used by OnTask+ to determine which students get what message.
    Are you looking at completion of a task (so a yes/no situation)? Or grouping students into bands/categories (high/med/low)?

  3. Create your email message and consider whether you want to email all students but separated into different groups* relating to a task or category; e.g., “Remember, the quiz is due on Friday!” OR “Great work completing the quiz with plenty of time to spare”, OR targeting only one group within your cohort; e.g., students who are repeating the course.

NOTE: If you are wanting to email all students separated into groups, you will need to create a separate email message for each group. If you are wanting to alter only a small part of the message for each group, we recommend planning and creating your message texts in a separate document, and copy/pasting relevant parts into your OnTask+ message for each group.

Below are a few screenshot examples of email messages sent to students. 

Example #1

In this first example, the message is shown in the OnTask+ editor. Students are grouped based on whether they have submitted their assessment or not. Each student will only belong to one group and so will only receive ONE of the messages shown below. In the examples below you will see containing text that is common to both messages that all students receive, while the sections specific to that group are indicated in a green box.





























Example #2

This example has only two options; students passed their quiz or they didn’t. Rather than just restate the grades though, this message is used to invite students to reach out for more support.



I just wanted to email you to say congratulations for passing {ASSESSMENT_NAME}! It's a testament to your hard work to pass the quiz, and this puts you in good stead for the rest of the course. Well done. 

As always, feel free to contact me at anytime if you'd like to discuss your progress in the course.



Note - The data used to inform this email was last updated at {DATA_LAST_UPDATED}

Not Passed:


I just wanted to email you to see how you're going with the course? I've had a look at your results for {ASSESSMENT_NAME} and I can see that you haven't done too well. This topic is fundamental to developing a good foundation in this course. 

Can I encourage you to contact me so we can arrange a time to chat, so I can give you some feedback on where you're struggling? You can reply to this email if you'd like.



Note - The data used to inform this email was last updated at {DATA_LAST_UPDATED}

Example #3

Our final example shows how the repeat/not repeat filter can be used to send a targeted message to any students who may be returning to your course after an unsuccessful prior attempt. This message will only go to those students who are flagged as repeating.


A quick email to say welcome back to {COURSE_LINK}. You're getting this email as, according to our records, you are repeating {COURSE_NAME} this study period. 

I wanted to take the opportunity to reach out and invite you to book a time to come have a chat with me about your past experiences learning in this course, and how we might set you up for success this time around!

Please reply to this email and we'll find a time to chat!



Check the help resources (link at end of guide) for more detailed instructions.

Tips for using OnTask+

Your placement of OnTask+ messages across your course is important. We live on email, but our students often don’t. You’ll want to save these messages for the information that is really important, so students engage when messages arrive! Be targeted and strategic around those key sticking points in your course where targeted communications would really benefit students – don’t overdo it on the messaging.

When writing your OnTask+ email messages, consider the following points:

  • Write for your audience – these are your students, not another academic or journal article. Keep your messages conversational, brief and to the point.
  • Invite conversation – ask questions, make suggestions, congratulate good learning strategies/performance, let students know how to contact you or other supports.
  • Include a call to action – be specific about what students should do next and why it’s important that they do. Reminders about assessments are pretty obvious (you can hyperlink direct to the page if you want), however when encouraging changes in learning strategies or behaviours it’s important you articulate why students should do what you’re suggesting beyond ‘it will help you learn’.

What can't OnTask+ do?

Importantly, OnTask+ cannot allow you to comment on students’ learning behaviours that you don’t have data on. This seems obvious, but a common mistake people make when using learning analytics data is extrapolating too far from what the data can actually tell you (additional information available in earlier learning guides on Online Student Engagement).

For example, let’s consider students’ log in data as a metric for “engagement with the course”. Student A may only log in once a week, while Student B logs in several times a day. It’s easy to assume that Student B is more engaged as they are logging in more regularly, however what isn’t captured in this engagement metric is that Student A only needs to log in once.

Student A downloads all resources, works through at their own pace, is engaged and the course design allows them to have this pattern of online behaviour and still succeed. On the other hand, Student B logs in several times a day because they forget where they’ve saved their files, is anxious they’re missing something, and doesn’t necessarily do much on the course site when they’re logged in.

Can you imagine then sending a message to these two students where Student A is told they aren’t doing enough and will struggle (even though they’re doing great) while Student B is told they’re doing great and engaging (even though they’re disorganised and freaking out!)?

The design of your course will help you to determine whether logging in once a week is enough, or whether students should be logging in more regularly. Context is important when interpreting what your course data is telling you.

So, what do students think?

When OnTask+ is used effectively and integrated into a course to support students at key times in their learning, the feedback from students is very positive (Lim et al, 2020). Many existing users at UniSA have reported that students regularly reply to these OnTask+ email messages thanking them for the reminders and/or the ‘high-fives’ where success is acknowledged. 

Help and support

If you’re keen on learning more about the tool and how it might fit into your course and interactions with your students, check out the existing staff help resources available on the learnonline OnTask+ help.

Ask learnonline help - OnTask+

If you would like to ask online teaching and learning questions related to your course, you can visit our Teaching Innovation website or write to TIU@unisa.edu.au, book an online consultation with a member of the TIU or complete the online modules as part of your ongoing Professional Development as a teacher at UniSA.


Lim, L-A, Dawson, S, Gašević, D, Joksimović, S, Pardo, A, Fudge, A & Gentili, S 2020, 'Students’ perceptions of, and emotional responses to, personalised learning analytics-based feedback: an exploratory study of four courses', Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, pp. 1–21.

Pardo, A, Bartimote, K, Buckingham Shum, S, Dawson, S, Gao, J, Gašević, D, Leichtweis, S, Liu, D, Martínez-Maldonado, R, Mirriahi, N, Moskal, ACM, Schulte, J, Siemens, G & Vigentini, L 2018, 'OnTask: Delivering data-informed, personalized learning support actions', Journal of Learning Analytics, vol. 5, no. 3, 12/11, pp. 235–249.




Evaluating Quiz Questions

Quizzes are a commonly used online assessment tool – but how do you know if your questions are fair, are able to differentiate strongly-performing students from weaker students and are measuring what you need them to measure?

Writing effective quiz questions can be challenging. Ensuring validity and reliability, as well as controlling for students’ cognitive load, requires thoughtful consideration of what and how we are assessing.

Quizzes provide evidence of students’ development toward learning outcomes. As such, they are data collection instruments, like surveys used for research purposes. Therefore, we must ensure that they are evaluated and refined before they are administered and on an ongoing basis when they are used to assess students’ learning.

In this Guide, we discuss quiz evaluation techniques that can be used before a quiz is presented to students as well as what is available after the quiz is completed through the standard quiz reports in learnonline.


evaluating quiz questions1.png

Online quizzes can be evaluated at various times, some of which we have addressed in earlier Guides as depicted in the image above. The validity and cognitive load of questions can be evaluated as you write the questions and peer review of the quiz is conducted before the quiz is administered, and a post analysis of the student results happens once the students have completed the quiz.

Pre-Administration Quiz Review

Some of the critical checks that need to be performed before the quiz is administered include:

1. Content

  • All questions are designed to assess knowledge at the appropriate level, i.e. they are aligned with verbs in course objectives
  • The quiz assesses all relevant course objectives and content areas

A useful tool to enable these checks is a simple matrix that shows content focus and knowledge level for each question included in the quiz. A sample overview matrix for a quiz assessing course objectives at 4 levels of knowledge and 4 topics is provided in the table below.

Knowledge Level

Topic 1

Topic 2

Topic 3

Topic 4

Total items

% of quiz




































2. Question Writing and Presentation

  • MCQ Stems are written in clear, accessible language and do not contain extraneous information
  • MCQ Keys are the only correct options and are indisputably correct
  • MCQ Distractors are plausible
  • No ‘cuing’ is provided in MCQ options
  • Questions are presented in ways that capitalise on online affordances without creating unnecessary cognitive load for students (e.g. consider screen layout, use of images, etc.)
  • Sufficient time is allocated for completing the quiz. A useful strategy is to time yourself or a colleague from your discipline when completing the quiz and multiplying this time by 3 or 4 to predict how long it might take a competent student. Another rough measurement is to allocate one minute for each simple MCQ, keeping in mind that more complex questions will take longer.

Once you have performed your own checks, it is important to seek feedback on a quiz draft. Colleagues from your discipline can be very helpful as ‘critical friends’. If possible, a pilot test should also be conducted by administering the quiz to non-experts, i.e. people who have a similar level of knowledge as your students.

Analysis of Quiz Results

Once the quiz has been administered, either as part of a pilot test or for student assessment, you can use the results to measure the quiz effectiveness. Moodle provides a range of statistical measures in the Quiz Statistics Report that summarises how students interacted with the quiz.

The report is accessed from the Administration section (or gear menu) of the quiz itself:

evaluating quiz questions2.png

It has several components – a summary of the whole quiz in Quiz information, then a Quiz structure analysis table providing an analysis of each question (problems highlighted in red) as shown below. Note, when there are random questions, the results for each question in the category are presented.

evaluating quiz questions3.png

Finally, there is a Statistics for question positions graph of two evaluation tools, the Facility index and the Discriminative efficiency index, as shown below for a 7-question quiz.

evaluating quiz questions4.png

Investigating Facility Index together with Discrimination efficiency index provides useful data to evaluate each question and can help you to identify questions that need to be modified to provide all students with a fair grade (Gamage et al, 2019).

Facility Index

As the name suggests, the facility index is a measure of how easy a question was for students. It is simply the percentage of students who answered a question correctly.

If less than 5% of the students answered the question correctly, the question is either extremely difficult or there is something wrong with it – for example, it is worded in a way that makes it difficult for students to understand the question.

Conversely, if over 95% of your students have answered it correctly, it is too easy and does not discriminate between successful and unsuccessful learners. However, there may be times when it is appropriate to have a facility score of 95%. An example would be when there is a critical concept that all students must acquire; in all other cases, we should aim for no more than 75% for 4-item MCQs (Parkes & Zimmaro 2016).

If a question records a facility index lower than 30%, it should be reviewed to identify whether it is attached to a concept that has not been appropriately scaffolded in the course or whether there are any issues in the way the question is presented to students.

The Facility index, as well as the other measures discussed in this Guide, can also be used to ensure that alternative questions in randomised quizzes are of comparable difficulty. In other words, if one question is randomly selected out of two equivalent items for inclusion in a quiz, then the Facility indexes for the two possible questions should be similar.

Discrimination Efficiency Index

The main idea behind the Discrimination Efficiency Index is that students who perform well on the quiz overall will tend to answer other questions correctly as well. In other words, it is a correlation measure.

A low discrimination efficiency index indicates that students’ answers on a specific question are out of pattern – for example, student A answered 10 questions incorrectly but got question X correct, whereas other students who did well overall answered question X incorrectly.

Questions that have a discrimination efficiency index lower than 0.20 or 20% should be discarded (Parkes & Zimmaro 2016).

Internal Consistency

Consistency is measured on the whole quiz as opposed to individual items and is reported in the Quiz information section of the report. The coefficient of internal consistency of a quiz measures to what degree individual items correlate with each other and it is a score ranging from 0 to 1. This data is available in the quiz information section of the statistics report.

High-stakes, standardised tests should achieve an internal consistency above 0.9. However, for course assessments, an internal consistency index of 0.6 or above is acceptable (Parkes & Zimmaro 2016).

Analysis of Distractors

Ideally, distractors should only be selected by students who have not mastered the content you are assessing. If a distractor is selected by many students, it may indicate that the question or options are not clear. Similarly, if a distractor is never or very rarely selected, then it is probably implausible and should be discarded.

To check whether the distractors are working the way they are intended, we can inspect a frequency table that shows which options were selected by high-performing versus low-performing students. An example of this process is provided in Parkes and Zimmaro (2016).

You can access the detail on which answer options students selected in learnonline by selecting the question from the Quiz structure analysis table.


Writing a quiz is only the beginning in a process of continuous improvement. Item and quiz analysis can provide valuable information not only about the quiz validity and reliability, but also on the effectiveness of the learning process. If an item is excessively difficult, this may indicate that the concept it is assessing has not been appropriately scaffolded. Therefore, a quiz can be a valuable measure of teaching effectiveness, as well as student learning.

If you would like to ask online teaching and learning questions related to your course, you can look through our FAQs, write to TIU@unisa.edu.au, have an online consultation with a member of the TIU or complete the online modules as part of Introduction to Engaging Learners Online.

PDF Version: Evaluating Quiz Questions (512 KB)


Gamage, SHPW, Ayres, JR, Behrend, MB & Smith, EJ 2019, ‘Optimising Moodle quizzes for online assessments’, International Journal of STEM Education, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 1–14.

Parkes J & Zimmaro D 2016, Learning and assessing with multiple-choice questions in college classrooms, Routledge.

Writing Effective Quiz Questions


Online quizzes can be an efficient tool for assessing your students learning. Writing effective questions, however, is a learned art that requires thoughtful consideration of several factors.

Two main concerns when it comes to writing effective quiz questions are validity and cognitive load (Parkes & Zimmaro, 2016). A quiz and each individual question are valid when they measure what they aim to measure and not some other extraneous variable. Cognitive load is related to validity: if students have to spend too much time and effort understanding how the quiz is organised, and what they are being asked to do, then this limits their ability to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of concepts, which is what we really want to assess.

In this Guide  we explore ways we can take advantage of the convenience offered by online quizzes, while at the same time maintaining rigour in the assessment of our students’ learning.  Firstly, we discuss validity and how to ensure that we are indeed assessing what we should. We then suggest strategies for writing effective multiple choice questions (MCQs) and present suggestions for presenting quiz questions online to ensure that cognitive load is minimised and validity is upheld.

What are we assessing?

The first step in quiz writing is to identify the learning outcomes that will be assessed. Start by revisiting your course objectives and look at the verbs through which they are expressed: are students expected to describe, apply, analyse, or evaluate? These verbs indicate different levels of ‘knowledge’ and should guide you in writing your questions. 

There are several taxonomies of learning that show levels of knowledge and the types of actions that are typically associated with them. Among the most popular cognitive learning taxonomies are Bloom’s (1956), Krathwohl’s (2002), and Bigg’s SOLO.) Table 1 provides examples of action verbs that can be used to assess learning at each level of the three taxonomies:

Table 1: Levels of ‘knowledge’, question examples and types

Taxonomy level:

Bloom’s = (B)

Krathwohl = (K)

Biggs’ SOLO = (S)

What’s involved

Example questions

What ‘solving a problem’ at this level entails

Example Moodle question types

Knowledge (B)

Remember (K)

Unistructural (S)

Recognising and recalling Retrieving  knowledge in the same format it was originally accessed.


·  List the steps in process X (list of steps given in textbook)

·  Who led the battle of [place] in [year]?

·  Label the components of [machine]


Answering the quiz question involves retrieving information (i.e. a solution) that students have memorised.

Answering correctly does not require understanding the problem.

Students have seen the exact same problem previously.



Missing words;

Multiple-choice question (MCQ)

Comprehension (B)

Understand (K)

Multistructural (S)

Explaining, summarising, estimating, predicting effects or consequence, translating e.g. data to words, providing examples.

·  Interpret charts or graphs (i.e. ‘read’ a chart)

·  Write mathematical formula for word problem (e.g. write as a formula: “The difference between A and B is 30”)

·  Explain procedure

·  Give examples of X

·  Paraphrase

Students restate the problem, e.g. by paraphrasing it or translating it using mathematical notation.
Students verbally describe a table or chart displaying problem data.

The problem may be one that students have previously encountered or a very similar one.

Does not require making connections across content areas or recognising broader implications.



Missing words;


Short answer;


Application (B)

Apply (K)

Multistructural (S)

Using learned material in a new situation where the parameters are specified (i.e. students don’t have to analyse the situation). Executing, implementing.

·  Apply concepts, principles, laws or formulae to new situation, e.g. “If the train travels at 100 k/h, how long will it take to reach a place 200 k away?”

·  Demonstrate the correct procedure to follow in a given context

Students implement a tried-and-tested approach to solve an unseen but familiar, simple problem.

The parameters around the problem (i.e. constraints, contextual information, premises) are clearly described to students.

There is one ‘correct’ or ‘best’ approach to solve the problem; students do not need to evaluate alternatives.



Missing words;


Short answer;



Analysis (B)

Analyze (K)

Relational (S)

Identifying components, relationships between parts, organizational principles or structure. Recognising assumptions, misconceptions, facts v inferences. Differentiating, organising.


·  Compare, contrast, differentiate between X and Y

·  Describe the structure of [text]

·  Identify the main components of [object, system]

·  Identify the relationship between X and Y

Students analyse an unseen problem to identify its constraints and requirements.

For example, they may break a complex problem into steps or parts that can be tackled by using tried-and-tested methods.


Missing words;


Short answer;



Evaluation (B)

Evaluate (K)

Relational (S)

Critiquing, judging the value of X for a specific purpose and with reference to specified criteria. Criteria can be given or created by students.

·  Critique X and justify your views

·  Appraise, evaluate X according to criteria Y and Z

·  Given context X, is solution Y or Z more effective/appropriate? Why?

Given a complex problem, students consider a variety of solutions, identify what they think is the best one, and justify their choice by constructing a convincing argument and/or by providing supporting evidence.



Short answer

Synthesis (B) 

Create (K)

Extended Abstract (S)

Integrating ideas, parts to form a new whole. Creating new solutions, text, artwork, etc. Generating, planning.

·  What is the missing piece in system X?

·  What is the bigger picture? What does X really mean?

·  What conclusion can we draw by putting the parts together?

·  Solve a problem by integrating learning from different areas.

·  Create new story, design, system, etc.

·  Devising ways of testing a hypothesis.

Students are given (or draw on) a variety of data points and information regarding a complex problem. Students integrate this information to produce or recommend a solution.

Students generate a new method or approach for solving the problem.


Essay (possibly in combination with other question types in a multi-part question)




It is important to note that every subsequent level in a learning taxonomy implies all preceding ones. For example, to be able to synthesise, students must be able to apply; to be able to apply, they must be able to comprehend, and so forth.

One way of shifting a question toward higher-order thinking is to ask ‘why’ or ‘how’ questions, rather than ‘what’.  Using scenarios, vignettes, graphs, tables or graphics as contexts for sets of questions can be very effective; for example, a case study can be followed by MCQs that require students to infer, interpret, apply, analyse, synthesise, etc. Alternatively, a set of closed questions could be followed by one open question that asks students to explain or justify their answers.

Online quizzes are especially suited for this type of input, as scenarios can be presented using multimedia or software applications that recreate the authenticity of professional settings (Cramp et al. 2019). If you write questions that involve higher-order thinking, however, keep in mind that students will need more time to form a response, compared to quizzes that involve simple recall or application.

Writing effective MCQs

MCQs tend to be among the most popular format of quiz questions. They offer the convenience of automated marking, but as we have seen they can be written to assess higher-order thinking. Therefore, MCQs can be an effective and efficient way of assessing learning outcomes. MCQs have a two-part structure:

  • A stem, which can be a question or a statement and
  • A set of options that answer or complete the stem. One of these options is the key, or the correct option; the other options are called distractors.

Writing effective MCQs can be challenging. There are many resources that list the do’s and don’ts of MCQ writing, some of which are listed in this guide. The two principles of assessment, validity and cognitive load that were introduced at the outset of this guide provide a helpful framework for MCQ writing, as discussed in Jay Parks and Dawn Zimmaro’s book, Learning and Assessing with Multiple-Choice Questions in College Classrooms:

  1. Language should be only as verbose and/or complex as it needs to be. If a learning objective is that students will be able to discriminate between relevant and irrelevant information, then having information that students must ‘weed out’ would be a valid choice. Similarly, if students must be able to use professional terms, then having these terms in the question would support assessment validity. What we want to avoid, however, is if students are unable to demonstrate their knowledge because of the way the question was worded. For example, they didn’t understand the language used in the question, or the question was so long that they got lost in it. As a rule of thumb, the stem should only include information that students need in order to select the correct option.
  2. Avoid negative statements if possible as they are cognitively more demanding than positive statements and can affect validity. If a student selects an incorrect answer it could very well be because they didn’t notice the negative form. If negatives must be used, then students’ attention should be drawn to them (e.g. using bold typeface or adding a warning).
  3. The key must be ‘unambiguously correct’ and ‘represent some consensus of the field’ (Parkes & Zimmaro, 2016, p. 26). We must be able to offer evidence (e.g. from the textbook or relevant resources from our discipline) that it is indeed correct, and not just what we think is correct. However, it is possible to have keys that are the best option rather than the only one that’s correct. In the best option approach, the distractors may not be completely incorrect, but they are not as effective as the best option. If this approach is used, students should be made aware of it.
  4. Direct questions are best in terms of minimizing cognitive load and are therefore preferred. Incomplete statements are acceptable, but they work best when the gap is at the end of the sentence rather than in the middle, as the gap in the middle is cognitively more demanding. If, however, having the gap at the end of the stem causes a lot of repetition in the options, then it’s best to have a gap in the middle and eliminate the repetition.
  5. The number of options should be between 3 and 5. If we want MCQs to be valid, the distractors must be plausible, i.e. students who haven’t studied the material properly must think a distractor could indeed be correct. If we cannot find more than two plausible distractors, it’s best to keep to 3 options (one key, two distractors) rather than creating an extra distractor that no sensible test-taker would think of as correct.
  6. Avoid using ‘all of the above’ or ‘none of the above’. These options introduce threats to validity in different ways; they make it easier for students to guess the correct answer and do not truly test learning objectives.
  7. Avoid other forms of ‘cueing’, e.g. sentence length, sequencing, or category of options. The key often contains more detail and therefore tends to be longer. If students identify this as a pattern, they will be able to guess the correct answers without necessarily knowing the content. Similarly, quiz writers tend to avoid placing the key as first or last option. The Moodle quiz tool can be set to randomize the order of the options, so that this issue can be avoided. Finally, if one of the distractors is in a different category group (e.g. a feline where all other options are canines), then this is a clear cue that there is something special about it.

You can find annotated examples of well and poorly written MCQs, as well as examples of how MCQs can be used to assess higher-order thinking, in the following resources:

Presenting quiz questions online

Once you have decided on the content and form of your quiz questions, the next step is thinking about how questions are going to be organised and displayed on the screen. Students interact with online quizzes in a fundamentally different way to paper-based ones (Macedo-Rouet et al. 2009), which must be considered to ensure that cognitive load is minimised and validity is upheld. Our goal is to eliminate extraneous content, logically and aesthetically format content, and focus student’s attention with visual signals (Gillmor, Poggio, & Embretson 2015). But what do these strategies look like in practice? Let’s consider a couple of common examples.

In quizzes that contain sets of questions relating to a scenario or that require students to access a formula sheet or similar information source, consider providing this information in advance so that students can download it before the quiz opens or at the start of the quiz. This way, students can have documents side-by-side on the computer screen or have a printout. This reduces the volume of information that needs to be in their working memory, thus increasing their capacity to process the question/answer.

When drafting a question that involves a significant amount of context, also consider visually separating out the context from the question, such that the question is more obvious (i.e. stands out) to students. If the question asks students to demonstrate more than one thing (e.g. list two factors, describe their importance and provide your underlying rationale) consider structuring this is a list rather than a sentence, such that the deliverables can be gleaned at a glance.

If your quiz contains a collection of related questions in a multi-part set, all questions should be visible on the screen together.  This enables students to see their mutual connections and enables you to make explicit links between questions. On the other hand, when questions are not related to one another, displaying one question at a time helps students focus without distractions.

Be sure to communicate to students the marking allocation for sub questions and alter the size of the text field (for essay questions) to guide the length and coverage of their response. In addition, ensure that you don’t over rely on text formatting to draw student attention. Use one option only e.g. bold and use it consistently across all questions.


Well-designed online quizzes can be very effective in supporting both teaching and learning. Ensuring that core assessment principles are considered is paramount; validity and cognitive load are especially relevant to quiz writing and can guide us in this process. In a separate Online Teaching and Learning Guide, we will look at evaluating existing quizzes to ensure that these principles are upheld and to identify any changes that might be required.

If you would like to ask online teaching and learning questions related to your course, you can look through our FAQs, write to TIU@unisa.edu.au, have an online consultation with a member of the TIU or complete the online modules as part of  Introduction to Engaging Learners Online.  

PDF Version: Writing Effective Quiz Questions (223 KB)

Further Resources from the TIU


Bloom BS.; Engelhart MD; Furst EJ, Hill WH; Krathwohl DR 1956, Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals. Handbook I: Cognitive domain. David McKay Company, New York.

Chiavaroli N 2017, Negatively-worded Multiple Choice Questions: An Avoidable Threat to Validity, Practical Assessment, Research and Evaluation, vol. 22, no. 3, pp. 1-14.

Cramp J, Medlin JF, Lake P & Sharp C 2019, Lessons learned from implementing remotely invigilated online exams, Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice, vol. 16, no. 1, pp. 1-20.

Gillmor SC, Poggio J & Embretson S 2015, Effects of Reducing the Cognitive Load of Mathematics Test Items on Student Performance. Numeracy, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 1-20.

Krathwohl DR 2002, A revision of Bloom's taxonomy: An overview. Theory into Practice, vol. 41, no. 1, pp. 212-218.

Macedo-Rouet M, Ney M, Charles S & Lallich-Boidin G 2009, Students’ performance and satisfaction with Web vs. paper-based practice quizzes and lecture notes. Computers & Education, vol. 53, no. 2, pp. 375–384.

Morrison S & Free K 2001, Writing multiple-choice test items that promote and measure critical thinking. Journal of Nursing Education, vol. 40, no. 1, pp. 17-24.

Parkes J & Zimmaro D 2016, Learning and assessing with multiple-choice questions in college classrooms, Routledge.

Scully, D 2017, Constructing Multiple-Choice Items to Measure Higher-Order Thinking, Practical Assessment, Research, and Evaluation, vol. 22, no. 4, pp. 1-14.


Teaching Linguistically Diverse Students Online

Linguistic diversity contributes to the richness of UniSA’s learning and teaching environment. Language proficiency is central to students’ learning, academic achievement and preparation for professional life, so it is important that our programs support its development (UniSA 2019).

Online students can come from anywhere. Although English as an Additional Language/Dialect (EALD) students can be present in our face-to-face classrooms, this diversity increases as the number of online students increase. So, what does all this diversity mean for the teacher? How does having EALD students impact the way that you teach, particularly when you are teaching online?

This Guide provides advice on how to develop your teaching approach, content, activities and assessment to better support students develop English language expertise when they are learning in our online courses.

Learning Community

Learning is a social activity, so it is important that you make all your students feel welcome and part of a learning community at the beginning of the course. Display a genuine interest in your students and their progress by starting one-on-one conversations with them using Dialogue. Encourage students to learn each other’s names using a Forum-based activity in the first week (e.g. Arrival forum) and by updating their learnonline profiles. You can also find out more about your students before class starts by running an anonymous survey using the Feedback tool in Moodle or using a Poll in Zoom.

To maintain an online learning community a teacher needs to be ‘present’ in the website – that is, displaying a balance of cognitive, teaching and social presence (Anderson 2008, p 343-365) through their interactions with students. Cognitive presence relates to the critical thinking in relation to discipline-specific knowledge; teaching presence relates to a knowledge of the learning activities and what students need to do; and social presence is what is done to create a safe and supportive environment where students are motivated to engage in their learning with their peers. By being present, you encourage and support EALD students to engage linguistically in the course.

Delivery of online content

EALD students will have different levels of English language proficiency. For some, the pace of online lecture delivery in software such as Zoom may be challenging. Ideally, EALD students need to be able to see the words written as they are being spoken. We therefore recommend that you create key concept presentations of your content using PowerPoint with notes, then record and caption using Panopto and create a slides and notes handout for students as a printable document.

In addition, you can add comprehension questions into your Panopto recording so students can test their understanding as they go.

However, if you do need to give a Zoom-based lecture presentation:

  • Where possible, post PowerPoint slides prior to scheduled class
  • Record your session (with permission) and share the recording by uploading to the course’s Panopto folder
  • Begin your session with an outline of what will be covered
  • Speak at a pace that allows time for notetaking and comprehension of content
  • Use plain English and refrain from using idioms or slang
  • Where possible, use visuals/diagrams to communicate key ideas
  • Where possible, use breakout rooms to stimulate student discussion on a given topic/statement (pairs/groups)
  • Allow students to ask questions using Chat during the session (if your class size is large, nominate another person (e.g. tutor or a strong student) to monitor the Chat for you and use the microphone to summarise their questions)
  • Conclude by recapping key ideas and directing students to relevant resources.

Website-based EALD supports

There are several tools that you can use to support EALD students in their learning of content, that are based in the website – including communication tools, glossaries of key terms, quizzes and other interactive activities.

Ensure that students are aware that they can ask questions about the content by using tools such as Forum or Dialogue. This helps all learners to clarify any concepts that are not clear. If class sizes are large, then remember to break the groups up into smaller ones (15-20 per group) to minimise the amount of forum reading required of students.

Creating a glossary of key terms for a topic is another way to help EALD students increase their vocabulary. Although this can be simply an uploaded word document or webpage in your website, you can also create a glossary using the Moodle Glossary tool or use tools such as the Accordion in H5P to present key terms.

For example, in the short course Engaging Learners Online, a H5P accordion is used to reveal the definitions of key words by clicking on the term. You can add links (but not images) to your definition to your term in addition to text.

Teaching EALD1.png

To support EALD students build a robust vocabulary, they also need to be able to regularly self-test their comprehension and receive formative feedback on their performance. This allows them to detect and rectify any miscomprehensions. Therefore, for each concept being presented, create a ‘low stakes’ related learning activity with embedded feedback to support students’ self-testing of their learning and understanding of the course-related discourse.

There are some tools available in H5P that specifically support the development of language-related activities. For example, Speak the words is a H5P interactive content type where students need to answer a question using speech.  The marking happens via Google’s speech recognition engine. Also, Dictation is a H5P interactive content type where teachers record audio that students need to listen to and type in the words. To create a H5P, select Add Activity/Resource > Interactive content and select the H5P content type you would like to add.

You can also require students to communicate using speech in tools such as forums. The Atto toolbar allows students to record audio and/or video directly within a forum. To switch your html editor to Atto you need to access your Preferences > Editor preferences > Atto HTML editor

Then the audio and video recording buttons will appear in your toolbar when working in learnonline (e.g. in forums, wikis, databases).

Teaching EALD2.png

Select either audio or video and make a recording (limit 2 minutes), check your work and then add the recording directly to your forum post.

If you need to make longer recordings, the Audio Recorder is a H5P interactive content type that can be embedded into the course website for students (and teachers) to quickly record speech that can be downloaded as an audio file.  The Audio recorder can be coupled with a forum or database activity where students can compare their speech with model answers provided by you and with their peers.


Some EALD students may find reading challenging and so additional support is often required when teaching online.  To develop reading capability the teacher needs to help students to become strategic in their reading by supporting them before, during and after they do a reading.

For example, to prepare students for a complex reading, you could record audio of yourself identifying key concepts that will be presented in the reading. You can support EALD students during a reading by showing them how to read strategically – emphasising that they do not always need to read cover to cover. After the reading, you can offer opportunities for students to test their understanding and activities to test comprehension using tools such as H5P. For more examples see Strategies for developing reading capability guide.

Another strategy to support EALD students to read and understand the content is to source related material in their primary language.

Try to pace assigned readings evenly throughout the study period so that EALD students can keep up with the volume and time it takes to comprehend and respond to complex readings. Some course and program mapping tools for readings are available in the ELILT website.


The addition of linguistically diverse students in your online classroom is an opportunity to develop and improve your course website. In particular, online content, readings, assessment and learning activities can be incorporated to support students developing language skills required to be a successful professional. Creating a community of inquiry is an important first step in the process of getting students to engage. These changes will support all students to improve their learning outcomes.

If you would like to ask online teaching and learning questions related to your course, you can look through our FAQs, write to TIU@unisa.edu.au, have an online consultation with a member of the TIU or complete the online modules as part of Introduction to Engaging Learners Online.

PDF Version: Teaching EALD students (227 KB)


UniSA 2019. The English Language and Intercultural Learning and Teaching Framework, University of South Australia, <https://lo.unisa.edu.au/course/view.php?id=17391#LL> Accessed 18 August 2020. 

Anderson, T 2008, Teaching in an online learning context, In Theory and Practice of Online Learning, 2nd Ed., Edmonton: AU Press, pp 343-365.

Online Student Engagement: Reports on Individual Students

Generally, students enrol into programs, not courses. This means that a student can be studying multiple courses simultaneously and/or have a study history of completed/attempted courses.

As a program director, you may need to advise or counsel individual students on their academic performance and engagement with different courses in your program.  To support you in this important role, the UniSA Teaching dashboard provides automatically collated data reports that provide an overview of an individual student's engagement in all courses within their program. 

The reports present:

  • an individual student’s engagement with the online environments of different courses in your program, compared to the course average for each engagement activity
  • the individual student’s learning outcomes in the form of a Grade.

This Online Teaching and Learning Guide is the fourth in this series on learning analytics and describes how to access reports on individual students enrolled in multiple courses in a program, and how these reports can be used.

The first Guide in the series provided

  • an overview of the range of analytic reports that are automatically available via the Dashboard and
  • discussed some issues related to interpreting student engagement data.

The second Guide discussed course analytics from learnonline including

  • Student course site visits (first time log in and weekly/daily visits)
  • Student learnonline engagement and
  • the practicality of using these reports.

The third Guide discussed reports from other systems, namely

  • The video management system, Panopto
  • The eReading system, eReserve.

Student analytics across courses

It is possible to examine individual student performance across multiple courses. Their current performance can also be compared to performances in previous courses. This might be useful if the student has performed poorly in an early assessment in a current course and you want to know whether this is typical for the student or not.

To access these data, first go to the Students tab in the Teaching Dashboard and locate the student of interest using the search tool.

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If more than one student is returned from your search, select the Student ID number corresponding to the student required.

A new list of tabs will appear. Select the tab called ‘Student engagement’ to access the data reports.

online student(4)2.png


The default display will be a table with a row for each assessment for all the current courses in which the student is enrolled.

Selecting the ‘Show assessments for previous courses’ link will display an academic history for each assessment in each course that the student has been enrolled.

online student(4)3.png

Course engagement summary

If you scroll further down the page you will see the student engagement report in a graphic format that collates the current grade and several key learning analytics reports with the course average for each engagement activity (last log in, number of logins, forum contributions, lecture time watched) as in this example from a student studying learnonline courses.

online student(4)4.png

In a similar way as the Assessments Report above, you can elect to display data from previous courses by clicking on the ‘Show previous courses’ link, as shown in this example from a student studying UniSA Online courses.

online student(4)5.png

Note - past performance is not indicative of future results.

Caveats on Using Student Engagement Data

Because digital student engagement covers so much ground, it can be overwhelming to analyse and track all dimensions of student online activity. There are a few caveats to be made around the use of engagement data reports.

Firstly, engagement data is useful as a guide for and not as a measure of, academic success.

Secondly, although student generated data provides a potentially rich set of data, you need to be aware that the data is incomplete, that it is a snapshot, not an exhaustive set of data. Most of the data provides anonymised aggregate trends, collected over a 24 period and then presented as 24 hour, weekly or monthly blocks of data. Also, the reports don’t take into consideration how students are engaging with their learning outside of UniSA systems (printed material, publisher resources, YouTube etc.).

Thirdly, the collected data does not present the socio-demographic characteristics of the student. You will need to investigate these characteristics separately to provide context to the student’s performance data in the program.

Fourthly, it is important that you critically evaluate the course analytics by asking probing questions such as:

  • What is meaningful data for this student?
  • What assumptions are being made with each report?
  • Is there enough data to deduce meaning, and if so to what degree of accuracy?
  • How do you ensure the reports are meaningful?

This means that to get the most from the data collected about individual students on a programmatic basis, it would be beneficial to plan for and identify the purpose for accessing the student engagement reports on the Dashboard.

Lastly, the reports contain sensitive information as referenced by Policy A-46.12 Confidentiality of students’ personal information. Before you can download a report, you will need to acknowledge this confidentiality.

If you would like to ask online teaching and learning questions related to your course, you can look through our FAQs, write to TIU@unisa.edu.au, have an online consultation with a member of the TIU or complete the online modules as part of  Introduction to Engaging Learners Online.

PDF Version: Online student engagement: across courses (372 KB)

Online Student Engagement: Reports from Other Systems

How do you know if your students are using online resources on your learnonline site? You may have created a website, recorded videos or assigned readings, but how do you know whether, and how, students are using these resources?

Learning analytics reports can help you identify which of your online students are at risk of falling behind so that you can provide them with mechanisms to get back on track. In a similar way, learning analytics reports can help you identify resources that are popular and those that are not, allowing you to consider the quality and placement of these resources in the website.

This Guide is the third in this series on learning analytics and focuses on analytics reports that reflect student behaviour using Panopto and eReserve resources. It demonstrates how to access these reports and discusses how they can be used.

The first Guide in the series provided

  • an overview of all the analytic reports that are automatically available via the Dashboard and
  • discussed some issues related to interpreting student engagement data.

The second Guide discussed course analytics from learnonline including

  • Student course site visits (first time log in and weekly/daily visits)
  • Student learnonline engagement
  • And the practicality of using these reports.

The fourth and final Guide in this series on learning analytics will look at individual student engagement across multiple courses.


Accessing Analytics

The Dashboard is the access point to detailed learning analytics reports via the Analytics tab. More specifically it is the gateway to the Recording and Reading List Reports. .

online student(3)1.png

Recording Reports

Recording Reports can provide insight to how often your students watch course recordings and for how long. The Recording Reports tool can only display analytics on videos available in your course Panopto folder.

From the categories of Analytics available, select Recording reports

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The reports available here are:

Recording – Student time watched

Recording – Time watched

Recording – Views

Recording – Views by timeline


The Recording - Student time watched report illustrates the total time per student that the recordings have been watched for the course offering. This data can be sorted by students who have watched most or least and can help you to identify which students are using the recordings and which are not. By selecting the bar for an individual student, you can see the viewing profile of that student – what videos they watched and for how long (the Individual Student recording time watched report).


Another way to view this data is to view the Recording – Views report which shows a list of the recordings, the recording length, the total video time played by all students and the number of views along the recording timeline as a percentage of the video.

online student(3)3.png

By clicking on the timeline itself, you access another report called Student Viewing Behaviour – by recording. This returns a heat map for the selected video, showing which parts of the video were watched most by which students, and which parts were watched least. If the heatmap shares many similarities amongst many students, this information can be useful when critiquing the videos available in the course website.

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By selecting the heatmap bar for one student, you will access another report, the Student Viewing Behaviour – by Student report, which displays the percentage watched for each video in the course for an individual student, the total minutes viewed and a heat map to represent the student’s engagement.

online student(3)5.png


You may be disappointed at the learning analytics report for your Panopto videos due to low or non-existent viewing data. When reviewing your recording reports, consider whether

  • there are other options for students to gain the same information other than the video
  • there is a printable equivalent of the video
  • the topic is covered in a textbook or other resource

As teachers, we support the learning preferences of student cohorts from diverse learning backgrounds by providing an array of learning resources for students to choose from. This is good practice and will engage more of your student cohort. However, this calls for a more critical interpretation of these focused data sets. You may also need to consider in parallel which resources students are accessing via other sources, such as eReserve.


Reading List Reports

The newest reports available to course coordinators are the reading list reports that come from the Library’s eReserve system. If you are using eReserve, you will find live reading reports displayed in the top right-hand corner of your learnonline site. In the example below, there has been 476 downloads of the selected eReading (note that students do not see this datum).

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By accessing the Analytics section of the course dashboard, you can ascertain more detail about student use of eReadings. From the categories of Analytics available, select Reading List Reports.

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There are three reports available

  • eReading Item Views
  • Student eReading Views (Chart)
  • Student eReading Views (Tabular)


The eReading Item Views report lists all the eReadings in the course (sorted alphabetically by first name, or by total number of views by selecting that column’s header). You can then view in detail which students have accessed a resource and how many times, by selecting the View Detail chart or table. The image below lists the students on the left, and the bar graph represents the total views per student for a given eReserve item.

online student(3)8.png

An overview of the number of eReadings read by students is available through the Student eReadings Views. This report illustrates the total number of times that individual students have accessed all the eReading items for the offering. Again, you can sort by student name or highest or lowest views to tailor the report to your needs.


When interpreting Reading list reports, look for those readings that are the most popular and those which are not. Remember that accessing an eReading is not the same as reading an eReading. Consider the placement of the eReading in the website and the narrative framing the eReading. Ask yourself the following questions: Are there sufficient reasons for students to access an eReading? Do they know why the eReading is important and what they are to do with the knowledge gained from the reading? By asking questions such as these you can determine which of your readings have the most impact and why. 


Using Student Engagement Data

Student interactions within learnonline are used as a proxy for engagement. At best learning analytics measures the behaviour of learners and are indicators of student behaviour but don’t explain that behaviour. Consequently, the analysis and interpretation of learning analytics data needs to be done with care.

Consult the first Guide in this series Online Student Engagement: An Overview to review the use of student engagement data reports including:

  • engagement data is useful as a guide and not as a measure of academic success.
  • student generated data although potentially rich is incomplete
  • reports don’t consider how students are engaging with their learning outside of learnonline.
  • the collected data is not specifically contextualized for your course, student cohort, your teaching approach or disciplinary cognitive development.
  • that you critically review the data reports for your course.
  • that reports contain sensitive information as referenced by Policy A-46.12 Confidentiality of students’ personal information.

If you would like to ask online teaching and learning questions related to your course, you can look through our FAQs, write to TIU@unisa.edu.au, have an online consultation with a member of the TIU or complete the online modules as part of  Introduction to Engaging Learners Online.

PDF Version: Online student engagement: other system reports (438 KB)

Online Student Engagement: Reports from learnonline

In an online class you don’t receive feedback from your students in the same way that you do in a face-to-face class, so how can you tell whether your students are engaged – and what can you do if they’re not?

Accessing and analysing data is incredibly important to the success of an online course! It can help you to identify students who are falling behind and provide them with mechanisms to get back on track.

This Guide focuses on several engagement analytics reports that reflect student behaviour in learnonline and discusses how they may be used.

It is the second in the series of Guides on using learning analytics.

The first Guide in the series provided

  • an overview of the analytic reports that are automatically available
  • focused on how to access the reports via the Dashboard and
  • discussed some issues related to interpreting student engagement data.

Subsequent Guides will look at analytic reports from other systems (e.g. Panopto, and eReserve) and individual student engagement across multiple courses.

Course Analytics Reports from learnonline

The detailed reports from learnonline course site use will be found under the Analytics tab.

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The reports are arranged into categories:

  1. Popular Reports
  2. learnonline Course Site Reports
  3. learnonline Assessment Reports
  4. Lecture Recording Reports
  5. Reading List Reports

online student(2)2.png

Click the drop-down arrow in each category to select the required report. These reports are refreshed every 24hrs with data from learnonline. The question mark icon is used throughout the analytics reports and provides further information about each section.


Popular Reports

Clicking the drop-down arrow for this category lists the most popular reports for the week. Different reports are displayed depending on where you are in the Study Period. For example, at the beginning of the Study Period most academics are interested in the report on first time logins. Toward the end of the Study Period the topic of interest may be the report on their Course Evaluation Response Rate or the report on their Course Grade Distribution. Visit this section regularly to stay abreast with the important data sets from your course.

learnonline Course Site Reports


The available automated course site reports are listed below. We will look at two in particular (asterisks) and explore their use to assess student engagement.

Course Need to Know/ Do Completion (UniSA Online courses only)

Course Site Visits (Month/Study period)

Forum engagement

Forum engagement (Tabular)

learnonline Activities and Resources

Student course site visits

*Student course site visits (first time log in and weekly/daily visits)

Student Course site visits (Tabular)

Student enrolments / Withdrawals

*Student learnonline engagement

Student learnonline engagement (Ratio)

Student Need to Know/Do completion (UniSA Online courses only)

Student Summary


Student course site visits (first time log in and weekly/daily visits) provides a heat map of student engagement, with the intensity of blue representing the amount of engagement. It is a good indicator of students who struggle as it will flag those students who are late to join (the green line indicates first log in) or have yet to log in (students names appear in red).

online student(2)3.png

This report is a good candidate for a simple OnTask campaign to help pull late attending students up to the class level or provide justification for the creation of a remedial resource.


However, this report can raise more questions than it answers. Why exactly, for example, does late arrival pose such a risk? Will it correlate with their overall grades? Is late arrival a problem that is best tackled at the program level? Keep these in mind as you analyse student engagement in your courses.


Student learnonline engagement report illustrates the average student activity engagement per student within the course offering. This can be useful for a Course Coordinator to identify students that are not engaged in the learnonline course site.


You can use filters to focus in on specific areas in this report by selecting the activity and engagement method. For example, by selecting only the data from the quiz, and changing the Engagement Method to ‘view and contribute’, you can identify those students who struggle (they don’t engage much or at all), but it doesn’t give you much sense about the successful students. Perhaps it would, if ‘contribute’ was the filter rather than ‘view and contribute’.

online student(2)4a.png

online student(2)4b.png

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In a similar way, this report can be tailored to show Forum engagement, using the Engagement Method filter to be Contribute only. Forum contributions have been well correlated with the upper end of student results and can be used to identify ‘champion’ students early and establish forums around them (as one of many options).


It is important to remember that these reports are only telling us part of the picture. If you are finding that, for example, quiz engagement was a persistent problem, then do not just blame the students, but also question the current learning design. For example, you could investigate if quiz participation is correlated with final grades. This can be undertaken on a question by question basis, using the approach documented at the Carnegie Mellon Datalab. If there is a strong correlation, then let the students know. If it is weak, then question the need for the quiz at all! Alternatively, you could swap to a more engaging teaching method such as Team-based Learning (TBL) or Mazur’s Peer Learning approach to counteract an overall lack of engagement.


Using Student Engagement Data

Student interactions within learnonline are used as a proxy for engagement. When viewing student engagement data, it is important to consider the many ways that students may engage with learnonline, for example, reading a document online compared to downloading the document and reading offline.

Consult the first Guide in this series Online Student Engagement: An Overview to review use of student engagement data reports including:


  • engagement data is useful as a guide and not as a measure of academic success.
  • student-generated data, although potentially rich, is incomplete
  • reports don’t consider how students are engaging with their learning outside of learnonline.
  • the collected data is not specifically contextualized for your course, student cohort, your teaching approach or disciplinary cognitive development.
  • that you critically review the data reports for your course.
  • that reports contain sensitive information as referenced by Policy A-46.12 Confidentiality of students’ personal information.

If you would like to ask online teaching and learning questions related to your course, you can look through our FAQs, write to TIU@unisa.edu.au, have an online consultation with a member of the TIU or complete the online modules as part of  Introduction to Engaging Learners Online.

PDF Version: Online student engagement: reports from learnonline (480 KB)


Carnegie Mellon University 2016, Datalab, <https://www.cmu.edu/datalab/  (Accessed 21 July 2020)

Clark et al., 2018, ‘Off to On: Best Practices for Online Team-Based LearningTM’, White paper presented at the Team-Based LearningTM Collaborative Conference, San Diego, CA, pp. 1-36, viewed 21 July 2020, <http://www.teambasedlearning.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Off-to-On_OnlineTBL_WhitePaper_ClarkEtal2018_V3.pdf>.

Serious Science 2014, Peer Instruction for Active Learning – Eric Mazur, video, YouTube, 18 June 2014, viewed 20 July 2020, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9orbxoRofI>.

University of South Australia 2020, Policy No: A-46.12 Confidentiality of students' personal information, University of South Australia, viewed 15 July 2020, <https://i.unisa.edu.au/siteassets/policies-and-procedures/docs/academic/a-46-confidentiality-of-students.pdf>.



Online Student Engagement: An Overview

When you teach on-campus, it is easy to address the question, ‘are your students engaged?’ because you can see the students who are present and (for the most part) you can see what they are doing. However, during periods of exclusive online learning, the ability to measure student engagement with course content and learning activities becomes increasingly important. But how to do it?

Measuring online student engagement at UniSA is a straightforward activity because all the hard work of pulling the data together has been done for you. Student engagement drives the various analytic reports that are provided on your course dashboard. These reports help you to identify those students who may be having trouble staying connected with their studies, peers and teaching staff when studying online, so that interventions can be made to re-connect them. It can also help you to determine which resources students are engaging with – and which they are not – helping to enhance your course website design.

Although student engagement with online learning platforms has been proven to correlate with better academic performance (Rodgers, 2008) a student may still perform well in a course without actively using the course website. Therefore, the data reports of student engagement are best used to provide additional insights into student engagement behaviour or used as a meaningful starting point for an informed dialogue with students on learning behaviours they need to adjust to improve their success in their studies.

This Guide provides an overview of the analytic reports that are automatically available in learnonline and focuses on how to access the reports via the Dashboard. It also discusses some issues related to interpreting student engagement data. It is the first of a series of Guides on using learning analytics. Subsequent Guides will look at analytic reports from learnonline, other systems (e.g. Panopto, and eReserve) and individual student engagement across multiple courses.


What is student engagement and how is it measured?

Digital engagement encompasses all the touchpoints you have setup for your students in learnonline. Essentially, it can be anything and everything that involves an online interaction, ranging from opening and clicking links to forums, quizzes and video recordings. Probably the most widely used definition for engagement is one offered by Kuh et al. who state that “Student engagement represents both the time and energy students invest in educationally purposeful activities and the effort institutions devote to using effective educational practices.” (2008, p. 542).

So how can you tell whether your students are engaged online– and what can you do if they’re not?

At UniSA there are three basic types of analytic reports:

  • those focused on all students use of learnonline activities,
  • those focused on all students use of activities in other systems (such as video recordings, reading lists and Panopto recordings)
  • and reports on any individual student’s activity across multiple course websites in a program.


Teaching Dashboard

All the above reports can be accessed via the Teaching Dashboard for your course.

online student1.png

Once you know which reports are most helpful for your course, you can customise the Dashboard for a quick visual representation of student interaction with your learnonline site.


Analytics Reports

The Analytics tab on your course Dashboard provides access to detailed learnonline reports as well as engagement reports for other systems (e.g. video recordings, reading lists and Panopto recordings). It also offers you the capacity to drill down to engagement data sets for individual students.

online student2.png

The available automated course analytic reports relating to learnonline activities include:

  • Course Need to Know/ Do Completion (UniSA Online courses only)
  • Course Site Visits (Month/Study period)
  • Forum engagement
  • Forum engagement (Tabular)
  • learnonline Activities and Resources
  • Student course site visits
  • Student course site visits (first time log in and weekly/daily visits)
  • Student Course site visits (Tabular)
  • Student enrolments / Withdrawals
  • Student learnonline engagement
  • Student learnonline engagement (Ratio)
  • Student Need to Know/Do completion (UniSA Online courses only)
  • Student Summary

The learnonline Assessment Reports include:

  • Assessment Grade Distribution
  • Course Grade Distribution
  • Final Grade Distribution
  • Student Late Submissions
  • Date vs Grades
  • Turnitin Similarity

The analytic reports relating to other system activities include:

  • Recording reports
  • Reading list reports
  • Panopto video analytics

The automated analytic report relating to an individual student’s activities covers:

  • Individual assessments for all current and previous courses the student is/was enrolled in
  • an engagement report in a graphic format that collates the current grades and key learning analytics reports for that individual student.


Caveats on Using Student Engagement Data

Because digital student engagement covers so much ground, it can be overwhelming to analyse and track all dimensions of student online activity. There are a few caveats to be made around the use of engagement data reports.

Firstly, engagement data is useful as a guide for, and not as a measure of, academic success. There is no mechanism for ensuring that a whole cohort will engage with your learnonline site.

Secondly, student generated data provides a potentially rich set of data, however, you need to be aware that the data is incomplete, that it is a snapshot, not an exhaustive set of data. Most of the data provides anonymised aggregate trends, collected over a 24 period and then presented as 24 hour, weekly or monthly blocks of data. Also, the reports don’t take into consideration how students are engaging with their learning outside of UniSA systems (printed material, publisher resources, YouTube etc.).

Thirdly, the collected data is not specifically contextualised for your course, nor does it take into consideration the characteristics of your cohort, the specifics of your teaching approach or the disciplinary cognitive development you intended.

Fourthly, it is important then that you cast a critical eye over the data reports for your course. You need to critically evaluate the course analytics by asking probing questions such as:

  • What is meaningful data for my course?
  • What assumptions are being made with each report?
  • Is there enough data to deduce meaning, and if so to what degree of accuracy?
  • How do I ensure the reports are meaningful?

This means that to get the most from the data collected about your course it would be beneficial to plan for and identify the purpose for accessing the reports on the Dashboard.

Finally, the reports contain sensitive information as referenced by Policy A-46.12 Confidentiality of students’ personal information. Before you can download a report, you need to acknowledge this confidentiality by ticking a box as displayed in the image below

online student3.png

This Guide has provided an overview of the different types of student engagement reports that are available. The next Guide in this series will look at student engagement reports specifically from learnonline and what you can do in response to poor engagement.  

If you would like to ask online teaching and learning questions related to your course, you can look through our FAQs, write to TIU@unisa.edu.au, have an online consultation with a member of the TIU or complete the online modules as part of Introduction to Engaging Learners Online.

PDF Version: Online student engagement : Overview (267 KB)



Kuh, G, Cruce, T, Shoup, R, Kinzie, J & Gonyea, R 2008, Unmasking the effects of student engagement on first year college grades and persistence, Journal of Higher Education, vol.79, no. 5, pp. 540–563. <https://doi.org/10.1080/00221546.2008.11772116>

Rodgers, T 2008, Student engagement in the e-learning process and  the impact on their grades. International Journal of Cyber Society and Education, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 143-156, <http://academic-pub.org/ojs/index.php/IJCSE/article/view/519>.

University of South Australia 2020, Policy No: A-46.12 Confidentiality of students' personal information, University of South Australia, viewed 15 July 2020, <https://i.unisa.edu.au/siteassets/policies-and-procedures/docs/academic/a-46-confidentiality-of-students.pdf>.

Self-Regulation and Online Learning

Self-regulation is the thinking, emotion and behaviour that a learner uses to achieve their personal goals. It includes strategies such as planning, effort regulation, time management, metacognition, elaboration, critical thinking, help seeking, concentration and reflection (Burns, 2020). Different self-regulation strategies are used before, during and after each learning event (Zimmerman, 2002).


Figure based on Zimmerman, 2002, Figure 1, p67

On campus we have a range of structures that help students to be motivated to self-regulate their learning. For example, we have fixed times for lectures and tutorials etc., when students are expected to front up and engage with the content and with the teaching team. Also, there are peer associations on campus, in and out of the classroom, where students can observe and discuss what others are doing in the course, indirectly helping them to stay on track with their learning.

When learning moves online, several of these self-regulation structures are missing and this may be why students can flounder when studying online. If students can self-regulate when studying online or in blended environments, this improves their achievement and success (Broadbent 2017).

So, what can we do in course websites to help students self-regulate their learning? There are several design strategies and learnonline tools that can be used to help students develop a mental picture of what is required to be successful in a course and motivate themselves to engage with these within the appropriate timeframes. However, it can sometimes be a challenge for teachers to start thinking about student self-regulation as their headsets are focused on what they need to do as a teacher, rather than what students need to do as learners.


Checklists are one of the simplest strategies that can be implemented to support student self-regulation before, during and after the learning process. One of the tools available within UniSA Online courses, that is not yet included in learnonline courses, is the learning planner, which generates weekly checklists for students of what they need to know and need to do. Each element on these lists is additionally linked to the course objective that is being developed. The ‘Need to know’ and ‘Need to do’ checklist example that follows is from Week 3 of the course, UO Business and Society.  As the students complete each component, they can check it off and the system will remember their progress.

Although the learning planner is not yet in learnonline, you are able to develop something similar using word or excel that students can print and tick off as they complete each activity. A good example of an excel-created checklist, which also includes time predictions, is available in Burns (2020; Figure 3).


Completion Progress Block

A self-regulation tool that is available in learnonline, but not in UniSA Online, is the time-management tool called the Completion progress block. This tool visually shows which activities the student needs to engage with and has a colour coding system showing where they are up to, so it supports self-regulation before, during and after the learning. As a bonus, there is also an Overview function for teachers that displays the progress of all students on one screen.

This is an example of the student and staff view of the progress block taken from the short course Engaging Learners Online. As you move your mouse over the coloured boxes, the activity associated with each box (e.g. peer review of staff home page), appears, as well as its status with respect to completion.

self3.png self4.png

By selecting the Overview button, the teacher can review everyone’s progress.


To use the Completion progress block, you must first have Activity completion functionality turned on (Course website > Edit settings > Activity Completion > On) and then define which activities need to be completed, and to what extent. Once Activity completion is set up, you then need to add the Completion progress block to your website and use the Block settings to select which activities the block will monitor, as shown below:


Assessment exemplars and rubrics

Assessment is often the focus of students’ learning behaviour. Assessment exemplars provide models of desired performance before the learning activity while well-developed rubrics with clear criteria and detailed performance levels, promote self-regulation before, during and after the learning process.


Time budget

Another strategy that is used in several programs to support online students’ self-regulation is the time budget. Time budgets are a visual map of all the student needs to do, week by week through the study period (Quinn and Wedding, 2012). Below is an example of a time budget from the OUA course Sustainable Engineering Practice ENR 112.


Time budgets are useful for students to self-regulate before they start studying to help plan what they need to do, but time budgets are also good during the learning process. For example, if students are finding that they are taking more time on an activity than what was allocated in the time budget, they can be advised to change their study approach and switch to help-seeking behaviours. In an ideal world, students should be preparing their own time budgets using a study planner, but with the new-found freedom and flexibility of online study, it is good to set clear and high expectations for students of what is involved in being successful learner in a course using tools such as the time budget.

Supporting Help-seeking

The next strategy to help students self-regulate when studying online is to ensure that help-seeking behaviours are supported. Help seeking is an important self-regulation behaviour during the learning process. In addition to your lecture or tutorial Zoom sessions, you can create a regular Zoom consultation time (Drop-in session) where the agenda is open and students can ask any questions they have. You can also add a dedicated Question and Answer Forum in your website for this purpose which all students can benefit from, and at a time that suits them. Another strategy is to use the Dialogue tool to initiate one-on-one conversations with each student in the course. The bonus of using a tool such as Dialogue (instead of email) is that it keeps communication about the course within the course.


Another strategy that is useful for supporting student self-regulation during the learning process is self-testing using formative assessment. If students can test themselves on how well they understand concepts and receive fast feedback, then they are able to adjust their approach to learning as a result.  By using Quizzes and feedback-rich H5P interactive content, you can improve the frequency and timeliness of feedback on performance and support students to self-regulate their learning.

Teaching strategies

The teaching strategies can have an impact on how students regulate their learning. For example, if you incorporate group work as a part of the student learning experience, you bring peers back into the learning space which will support students’ self-regulation during the learning process. There are many tools to support online group work that we have covered in an earlier Guide.

Another teaching strategy that is useful for supporting self-regulation is the use of regular reflection on learning strategies. This can be done in a forum or an individual wiki can be used as an online journaling tool to support reflection. As a teacher you can visit and review student’s journals if you need to.

  • Learnonline help - Forum
  • Learnonline help - Wiki


Developing students’ self-regulation skills will support their success when studying online. Making the shift to thinking about what the student does to learn something, rather than what the teacher needs to do to teach something, is a key first step in the process. For this reason, creating the checklists or a time budget is a good place to start improving the support you provide students for self-regulation when studying online.

If you would like to ask online teaching and learning questions related to your course, you can look through our FAQs, write to TIU@unisa.edu.au, have an online consultation with a member of the TIU or complete the online modules as part of  Introduction to Engaging Learners Online.

PDF Version: Self-Regulation and Online Learning (856 KB)


Broadbent, J 2017, Comparing online and blended learner's self-regulated learning strategies and academic performance, The Internet and Higher Education., vol. 33, pp. 24–32. <https://doi-org.access.library.unisa.edu.au/10.1016/j.iheduc.2017.01.004>

Burns, M 2020, Self-Regulation in Online Learning, in Turning On, Tuning In, And Dropping Out, March 19,  eLearning Industry, <https://elearningindustry.com/self-regulation-in-online-learning> accessed 10 July 2020

Quinn, D & Wedding B, 2012, Responding to diversification: Preparing naïve learners for university study using Time Budgets, In M Brown, M Hartnett & T Stewart (eds), Future challenges, sustainable futures. Proceedings ascilite Wellington 2012. (pp. 743-747) <https://www.ascilite.org/conferences/Wellington12/2012/images/custom/quinn,_diana_-_responding_to.pdf>

Zimmerman BJ 2002, Becoming a Self-Regulated Learner: An Overview, Theory Into Practice, 41:2, 64-70, <https://doi.org/10.1207/s15430421tip4102_2>.

Fast feedback for online learners

Rapid feedback on performance is one of the principles for best practice in undergraduate education (Chickering & Gamson, 1987). Timely feedback helps students to self-regulate their learning as they balance their goals with the reality gleaned from feedback on their performance (Ambrose et al., 2010). On campus we provide feedback to students in class and when we mark assessments, but when teaching online, there are several different ways that rapid feedback can be provided to online learners. This is helpful, as student learning outcomes are enhanced when the time between performance and receiving feedback is minimised (van der Kleig et al., 2012).

In the Guide, we will look at what effective feedback is and consider a range of online tools that provide rapid feedback to students with minimal ongoing facilitation requirements for the teaching team.

Feedback and Learning

Fast feedback1.png

The Feedback Cycle (based on Ambrose et al., 2010, pp 126)

The purpose of feedback is to identify and minimise the discrepancies between students’ performance and the desired goals, which are the course objectives. Ideally, students then use this feedback to adjust their approach to learning. Effective feedback has three elements - it feeds up, by discussing the course objectives, feeds back by discussing their performance in achieving the course objectives (or related criteria) and feeds forward by recommending what should be done next to improve their performance (Hatttie & Timperley, 2007).

Online tools that support feedback

Many online tools are available in learnonline that integrate feedback on student performance to replicate the type of learning conversations that teachers and students would normally have in the classroom. Tools can either allow students to select an answer option from a list before receiving feedback, make decisions and experience the consequences as feedback, or require students to provide extended responses before receiving feedback, as outlined in the table below.

Answer options

Decision making

Extended Response

·  Moodle Quiz

·  H5P Quiz set


·  Moodle Lesson

·  H5P Branching scenario

·  H5P Essay

·  Moodle Feedback

·  Activity completion with restrictions


Answer options – Moodle Quiz

Moodle quiz has a large number of question types and offers different feedback fields that allow teachers to provide effective feedback.

One field, called General feedback, is available in most question types. General feedback is presented to the student after they have made their attempt at the question, irrespective of their performance. General feedback is the best place for the teacher to ‘feed up’, that is, to describe the principle being assessed by the question and emphasise its link to the course objectives.

Other feedback fields in quizzes are called Specific feedback (and the related Combined feedback). These are the ideal places to provide ‘feed back’ to correct common misconceptions. Specific feedback is associated with each answer option and will be returned to the student when they select that answer option. In a similar way, Combined feedback will return the same response for any correct or incorrect answer option selected.

The last type of feedback in Moodle quizzes is called Overall feedback – which is returned to the students after they have completed all the questions in the quiz. The feedback is dependent on the grade received and is the ideal place to ‘feed forward’, that is, to help the student to identify what they need to do to get a better result next time.

You can control when feedback is presented to students using the Question behaviour and Review options section of the Moodle Quiz settings. The settings that are best for fast feedback are Quiz settings > Question behaviour > How questions behave > Immediate feedback.

Fast feedback2.png

And just underneath that, all Review options selected.

Fast feedback3.png

Answer options – H5P Interactive Content – Quiz Set

Another tool that provides feedback to students based on the answer option they select is H5P. H5P is a new activity type that is available in learnonline that is listed as ‘Interactive content’.

Fast feedback4.png

H5P creates HTML5 content - so it works well in a browser and on mobile devices. It is visually attractive, and is easy to embed directly onto the web page – both attributes which can help catch students’ attention and engage them in the learning activity.

There are many different types of H5P interactive content, but not all types give feedback.  Some H5P content types give general, specific and/or overall feedback in a similar way to Moodle quizzes. Use the chart below to find out what each H5P type can do in relation to providing feedback, using the traffic light colour-coding as a guide.

H5P activities are formative, rather than summative, and are therefore ideal to replace the learning conversations that you would normally have with students in and around your face to face teaching. H5P activities remain a part of your course website going forward, providing future students a blended learning experience that will require little to no ongoing maintenance or facilitation from the teaching team.

Decision Making

The next group of online tools (Moodle Lessons and H5P Branching scenario) are focused on providing students with rapid feedback based on their decision-making. Typically, a scenario is used in which students are introduced to a problem and then are required to make a decision based on several available options. That decision impacts which part of the scenario they see next, so the feedback is the sequelae of their decision. These experiences can be designed to be an online form of work-integrated learning as this next example demonstrates

The planning and resources required to develop this type of online learning experience are considerable and you are advised to connect with a member of the Teaching Innovation Unit if you wish to develop something like this in your own course.

Extended Response

The online tools that we have discussed so far have focused on providing students with feedback based on students’ selection of an answer option. But how can you provide automated feedback if it makes more sense for your students to be writing an extended response? There are three commonly used options in online courses that you can consider: H5P Essay, Moodle Feedback and Activity completion with restrictions.

The H5P Essay content type allows students to receive instant feedback to text that they have composed. Teachers define a set of keywords (and variations) that will trigger feedback if they are found, or missing in the submitted text, as this example from the short course Engaging Learners Online shows:

Fast feedback5.png

The Moodle Feedback tool is normally used to collect information from students, but it can be adapted to return a model answer as feedback to students who submit an extended piece of writing.

For example, students can be presented with a scenario and then asked to respond to questions using the Feedback tool, with a single text response field provided for them to add their response. Once they make their submission, they see a model answer that they can compare with what they wrote. Student responses can be logged with their name and the tutor is able to see student work at a glance, as all the responses appear as a list on one page (i.e. no clicking to see each students’ response). This is how teachers know which students have been using the activity appropriately and which are just entering gibberish to get the model answer!

To make the Feedback tool return a model answer, the following settings need to be made:

  1. Feedback > Settings > Question and submission settings > Record user names > User’s names will be logged and shown with answers.
  2. Allow multiple submissions > Yes
  3. After submission > Completion message > Enter your model answer here.

This tool is not perfect, but it does offer a way for online students to practice writing extended responses and compare their work to that of an expert.

Another commonly used approach to providing model answers as feedback is to use Activity completion and restrictions. In brief, students submit a file as a formative assignment (any type of file), and once they do so, the model answer appears. The benefit of using this approach is that you are not limited to text but can use any file type as the submission.

To do this, activity completion must be first turned on in your website. Course > Administration Block > Edit settings > Completion tracking > Enable completion tracking > Yes.

You will then need to describe the activity and add a formative Assignment to the website to receive the responses. You then need to define completion of the activity as submitting to the activity: Assignment > Edit settings > Activity completion> Students must submit to this activity to complete it.

Fast feedback6.png

You can then generate the model answer and upload the file to the website, immediately underneath the assignment submission.

You then apply a restriction to the model answer such that it is not available to students unless they have completed the assignment submission activity above. File > Edit settings > Restrict access > Activity completion > Choose activity that must be completed.

Fast feedback7.png

Note that the eye icon on the right of the restriction can be toggled to either show or hide the existence of the model answer (and its restrictions) to students as they work on this activity.

Teachers can monitor the submissions to verify that students are attempting the activity before collecting the model answer, however, they will need to click on each students’ submission to see what was actually submitted.

Conclusion and further direction

Including more automated feedback in your courses is a worthwhile investment of time that pays dividends for many years to come. But where do you start? Experienced teachers know that there are certain mistakes or misconceptions that regularly occur each time the course’s content is taught which means the same feedback needs to be repeatedly delivered to many students. These topics are the ideal ones to start your improving feedback project.

If you would like to ask online teaching and learning questions related to your course, you can look through our FAQs, write to TIU@unisa.edu.au, have an online consultation with a member of the TIU or complete the online modules as part of Introduction to Engaging Learners Online.

PDF Version: Fast feedback for online learners (483 KB)



Ambrose, S.A., Bridges, M.W., DiPietro, M., Lovett, M.C. and Norman, M.K., 2010. What kinds of Practice and Feedback Enhance Learning? in How learning works: Seven research-based principles for smart teaching. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated, 2010. ProQuest Ebook Central, <https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/unisa/reader.action?docID=529947&ppg=147 >.

Chickering, A W, & Gamson, Z F 1987, Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. AAHE Bulletin, March, pp. 3-7. <https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED282491.pdf>.

Hattie J & Timperley H 2007, The Power of Feedback, Review of Educational Research, 77(1), pp. 81–112. <https://doi.org/10.3102/003465430298487>.

Van Der Kleij, FM, Eggen, TJ, Timmers, CF & Veldkamp, BP 2012, Effects of feedback in a computer-based assessment for learning. Computers & Education, 58(1) 263-272. <https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2011.07.020>.



Working with large classes online

When class sizes get large, an important role for the teacher is to ensure that each student still feels connected to the group. On campus, we generally divide large groups into smaller ones and assign a tutor, so that students can get to know a teacher and a manageable subset of the cohort to support their learning. In addition to this, there are often peer mentoring or buddy systems employed for large courses that have more intimate group sizes, with these student-to-student meetings taking place outside of the classroom. The aim of these strategies is the same: to get more individual feedback to students from teachers and their peers so they can improve their learning.

When online classes get large, similar adjustments need to be made or students will be overwhelmed with the number of forum posts and feel distanced from their teacher and their peers, which can result in declining student satisfaction and higher attrition (HESP, 2017). The good news is that the online environment can allow students to learn in groups of various sizes online; both with teachers and with peers. In addition, the online environment allows students to work individually, receiving automatic feedback through a range of interactive tools that can replace some of the key learning conversations that would normally happen in a course.

In this Guide, we explore ways that large cohorts can be restructured and supported to allow students to feel well-connected to their peers and the teaching team. In a subsequent Guide, we will look at automating feedback to support autonomous and self-regulated learning.


Tutorial Groups

Tutorial groups are automatically made as part of any face to face course when students select their preferred tutorial times. These groups were probably used by you recently to run the Zoom sessions for online tutorials. In addition, you may want to set up a forum for only these tutorial group members to discuss the content with just their tutor and the other members of the tutorial group. This strategy keeps the number of messages that students need to read and engage with within forums to a manageable level.

To do this, you need to:

working with large1.png

Let’s start by accessing the Groups area of your course website. To do this, in learnonline, go to the Administration block > Users > Groups, in UniSA Online, it’s Administration Cogs > More > Users > Groups.

The example below is from the Groups page of an on-campus course, showing a large class of 366 which has tutorial groups created via student enrolment information. Only four of the 12 tutorial groups associated with this course are shown. The number at the beginning of each line is the class number.

working with large2.png

To create a grouping for these tutorial groups, we would go to the Groupings tab > Create Grouping > Grouping name = Tutorial Groups > Save changes.

To add Tutorial groups to this newly created Grouping you need to go to the Edit area and select the people icon on the right.

working with large3.png

Then select and highlight all the Tutorial groups (hold down the shift button while you click on all the Tutorial groups) and add them to the grouping by selecting the < Add button.

Next, you need to go to the course website and select an appropriate location to add the forum that is just for the tutorial groups. Add a standard Forum (use a name such as Tutorial group forum), but in the Common module settings area of the forum, select the Group Mode to be Separate groups and the Grouping to be Tutorial Groups.

Now students in each tutorial group will only see one forum, called Tutorial group forum, but the teachers will see a selector which will allow them to move between the forum for each of the tutorial groups. The teacher presence in Tutorial group forums would be high to improve student participation and success (Stone, 2017).


Smaller Groups

Breaking up a larger cohort into even smaller working groups (3-5 students) can provide learning environments where students can collaborate on assessment. This could be setting up project groups, which we discussed in an earlier Guide. Ideally, students should be given agency and allowed to select their own groups using the Group selector tool and provided with a private forum, wiki and access to Zoom. The teacher presence in this type of group would be low, with students provided a mechanism to contact a teacher if there are issues, such as Dialogue or email.


Study Groups

Study groups of students provide an opportunity to improve inter-student relationships, with the aim of increased participation, engagement and feedback. These smaller groups are ideally led by students and only supported by a tutor who can be called on when issues arise. Therefore, the teaching presence in peer groups is ideally nil, however, teachers need to work at the beginning of the course to encourage students to form these groups.

Use the Group self-selector for students to form their own study groups to ensure only those who want this level of support join a group.

Provide additional online infrastructure for students to use in their study groups, using the Common module settings to make these spaces private. Consider a private wiki where a peer mentor could provide their contact details and record meeting times, a private forum to share notes asynchronously, as well as a link to zoom (unisa.zoom.us) so they can have their own real-time meetings. It’s important to appreciate that students have a wide range of other social networks for collaboration and some of these tools will be preferred. For this reason, it is probably best not to be too prescriptive as to how the study group will work, but provide the basic tools and encourage students to form these groups - perhaps with some testimonies from previous students as to how peer study groups have helped them with their study motivation and success.

In conclusion, when your course size is large, it doesn’t mean that your students have to feel either lost in the herd and overwhelmed by other student voices. By using a range of different groups and group settings, it is possible to create online spaces for students where they can work with you, your tutors and their peers.

If you would like to ask online teaching and learning questions related to your course, you can look through our FAQs, write to TIU@unisa.edu.au, have an online consultation with a member of the TIU or complete the online modules as part of Introduction to Engaging Learners Online.

PDF Version: Working with large classes online (237 KB)



Stone C 2017, Opportunity through online learning: improving student access, participation and success in higher education, Report, National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education, Curtin University, March 2017, <https://apo.org.au/sites/default/files/resource-files/2017-03/apo-nid94591.pdf>, Accessed 2 July 2020.

Higher Education Standards Panel 2017, Improving retention, completion and success in higher education, Discussion paper, June 2017 <https://docs.education.gov.au/system/files/doc/other/final_discussion_paper.pdf> Accessed 2 July 2020.

How does my work compare to that of my peers?


If you ask a new online student what they are missing from their face-to-face classes, they will invariably say something about contact with their peers and teaching/academic staff. Contact with peers is very important, as meaningful learning occurs when learners are engaged in social activities (Kim, 2012). What is also valued, and often missing, is the ability for the learner to know how they are performing relative to their peers. This type of rich feedback motivates students to improve their competence (Wlodkowski, 2008) and builds their skills in evaluative judgement (Tai, et al, 2018). In your face to face teaching, this exchange might have happened in and around tutorial and seminar sessions, or in project fair days, but without these types of gatherings, opportunities for students to review the work of other students have become limited.

Take a minute to reflect on your current online course – what opportunities are there for students to review and compare the work of their peers?

In this Guide, we will discuss several ideas to help learners know where they are in relation to their peers in the online classroom and provide links to the related learnonline help resources to support you to include some of these in your online courses.

Peer assessment

Peer assessment is when students, upon submitting a piece of work for assessment, are asked to assess several of their peers’ work in the same assessment. Peer assessment positively impacts on the academic performance of the student marker as well as the student being evaluated (Double, McGane & Hopfenbeck 2020) as they are able to compare their performance to the work of their peers.

Peer assessment can be performed online using the moodle tool Workshop. The teacher supports the Workshop by providing a marking rubric for students to use. They also prepare example submissions which students can use to practise their marking as well as compare their scores with how the teacher grades the same piece of work. Workshops can be conducted over a period of time as it moves through its 4 phases: Submission, Assessment (peer grading), Evaluation and Close. Students receive two different automatically-calculated marks from participating in Workshop, an averaged grade for their submission and a grade that represents how well they performed as a marker, which is statistically calculated.

Note - Workshop cannot be linked to the Course Outline, so it is used for formative assessment only – if you would like this changed, then suggest this as an enhancement to leanonline.


Assessment Results

Students are often keen to know how they performed in an assessment relative to their peers. But before any grade lists are displayed, students’ privacy needs to be considered.

UniSA’s Assessment Policy and Procedures Manual,- section 1.6.1:

In accordance with the University’s Privacy Policy, the University will take reasonable steps to protect students’ personal information against loss, unauthorised access, use, modification or disclosure, and misuse. This includes assessment processes, submission of assessment tasks including cover sheets, and providing results and feedback to students.

And 1.6.3 b.

vi) test/exam results may only be displayed in public if the student ID and result are the only information displayed. A student’s name and ID must not be visibly linked in the public domain.

Your course website is not in the public domain, however, students may take information from the course website and place it in the public domain, so it is important to anonymise personal data when sharing class assessment results.

Also, you will need to provide adequate support for students when sharing assessment results. For example, it is not enough to let students know that they are performing poorly, without providing some way forward for them to address the problem!

Now that we have that covered, let’s look at some of the ways that assessment results from the class can be shared with students.

If you use quizzes in your course, you can access an automatic histogram of results that can be captured and shared with students. To do this, access the Quiz administration > Grades and scroll to the bottom of the page.  Use a tool such as the Snipping tool to capture the graph as an image and share this in one of your regular Announcement posts, as shown below, explaining that 80% students have performed well in this quiz, and those who have not need to take (specific steps) to improve their performance in the next assessment.

How does my work1.png

Another way to get similar information for all your assignments is to use the Assessment grade distribution tool within your teaching dashboard (Course dashboard > Analytics > learnonline Assessment Reports > Assessment Grade Distribution). You can then use the selector to view the results for individual assessments, such as the learning journal assessment in the example below.

How does my work2.png

Sharing this information within the course forum can provide learners, who already know their grade, with an insight to where they sit in relation to their peers and reflect on what they need to do next to prepare for their next assessment.


Learning Analytics

In some courses, online engagement forms part of the assessment. A report that lets you do this is within the course dashboard (Course dashboard > Analytics > learnonline Course Site Reports > Student Online Engagement).

You are able to use a filter to select particular activities or resources that are included in the tally, as well as the engagement method (that is, are students just viewing, or are they contributing to the activities?).

The example below is from the course UO Construction Communication where a small amount of the course grade (2.5%) is associated with engagement in the course, with student engagement data being collected in the middle and at the end of the course. The teachers share with students a screengrab of the data and name the top 10 performing students in a course forum post.

How does my work3.png

Large group activities

Large group activities can also be used to allow students to compare their work to those of their peers. In an online context, this means the use of the activities such as Forums, Database, Feedback and Wiki.

A particular forum type that is good for this is called the Q&A forum. After the teacher posts a question, students are able to reply. Once they make their response, they will be able to see the posts of other students and be able to compare their work with those of their peers.

The Database can be used in a similar way. The database tool allows you to create a form for students to add an entry to a database. The settings can be adjusted so that students need to submit their entry before they  can see the submission of others. For those working with visual artefacts, the display of submitted images in databases on one page is relatively user friendly.

Feedback is another tool that can be used to share student responses. In Feedback, the teacher prepares a form with fields for students to complete (text fields, MCQ, etc.). If allowed in the settings, students can see the aggregated results of the submissions after they make their submission (Feedback Settings > After submission > Show analysis page > Yes).

Wiki is a tool that allows students to produce a webpage on the course website. Whether wikis have been created individually (an Individual wiki), or for small groups (a Collaborative wiki), you can allow students to see the wikis of others (e.g. at the end of a project) by changing the Group mode in the wiki to Visible groups (Wiki Settings > Common module settings > Group mode > Visible groups).

Are there other ways you can think of to add peer review or extend peer review opportunities in your online course, while still maintaining students’ privacy?

Remember that it is important, to not only help students to identify where they are academically in the cohort, but also to support poorer performing students with resources to improve their performance.


If you would like to ask online teaching and learning questions related to your course, you can look through our FAQs, write to TIU@unisa.edu.au or have an online consultation with a member of the TIU.

PDF Version:  How does my work compare to that of my peers (456 KB)



Double K, McGrane, J & Hopfenbeck T 2020, The Impact of Peer Assessment on Academic Performance: A Meta-analysis of Control Group Studies. Educ Psychol Rev 32, 481–509 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-019-09510-3

Kim B 2012, Social Constructivism, in M. Orey (ed.) Emerging Perspectives in Learning, Teaching and Technology, < https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/3e04/5182c2d623505cf3dca0c1c5846d68e5368b.pdf> (Accessed: 24 June 2020)

Tai J, Ajjawi R, Boud D, Dawson P, & Panadero E 2018. Developing evaluative judgement: enabling students to make decisions about the quality of work. High Educ 76, 467–481 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-017-0220-3

Wlodkowski R 2008, Enhancing Adult Motivation to Learn: A Comprehensive Guide for Teaching All Adults. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass (The Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education Series). Available at: https://search-ebscohost-com.access.library.unisa.edu.au/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=309355&site=ehost-live (Accessed: 24 June 2020).

Supporting group work online

Being able to work collaboratively is an important skill for our graduates, which is encapsulated in UniSA’sGraduate Quality 4:

A graduate of the University of South Australia can work both autonomously and collaboratively as a professional.

As such, group projects and teamwork have been embedded into our programs within selected courses. In this Guide, we explore how group work can be enabled, supported and assessed as we move towards more flexible online teaching environments.


Stages of Group Work

Group work has been described as going through a series of stages: forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning (Tuckman 1965; Tuckman & Jensen 1977). Each of these stages can be supported when students are studying online. To help illustrate how to support online group work in this Guide, we would like to use a case study of a three-member group project as an assessment item within a course, with students self-selecting their groups. The output of the Project is a collaborative report and a class presentation. Students will receive feedback on their development of Graduate Quality 4.



The first stage of group development is forming – where the groups are formed and common goals are specified.

In learnonline, group formation can be created by the teacher manually or automatically (random), or students can self-select which team they would like to work in.

In our Group Project example, we would like to let students self-select their own groups, so we will use the Group self-selection tool.

To do this, we would need to know how many students there are, divide that by the desired number of members in each group (e.g. 3) and then manually create enough empty groups to hold all the students (e.g. Group A, Group B, Group C). We then need to create a Grouping (e.g. Project Groups), and add all of our manually-created groups into that Grouping. (Note: Groups and Grouping details are copied over when the course is copied over so you only have to do this once!). Then we can add the Group self-selection activity to the website for students to use.

When students access the Group self-selection tool, they are able to see the available groups, who are in these groups and can act to join their preferred group.

Group self-selection tool

If allowed in the settings, students can also re-name their groups, add more groups, leave groups and even set passwords for groups.



The next stages in the group work process are Storming, where conflicts are discussed and solutions negotiated and then Norming, where a consensus is reached and the group is clear about how it will function (Tuckman 1965).

To work through these stages, students need a place to meet in real-time. At UniSA, all students have access to a corporate Zoom account so can set up their group meetings to discuss who is going to do what and when. You don’t need to add a Zoom room to the course website to do this – just instruct students to log into https://unisa.zoom.us/ to schedule and hold their own real-time meetings.

It is also possible to add group tools (e.g. forums, wikis) to our learnonline website so students can use these spaces to support their group work.

In our example, we would like students to have a Private discussion forum for our groups to communicate what they would like to achieve from their project and share communication preferences.  To do this, a discussion forum would need to be added to the learnonline site and the Common module settings for the forum be adjusted so that the Grouping is Project groups and Group mode to Separate groups. 

In our example, we would also like students to record their meeting agendas and notes in a shared spot so we add a Collaborative wiki called Agenda and Meeting Notes to the course website. Again, we would adjust the Common module settings for the wiki to Grouping: Project groups and Group mode: Separate groups. Each member of that group would then be able to read and edit the wiki page in the website.

When these settings are made, students only see their group’s forum or wiki, but teaching staff will see a group selector so they are able to monitor the activity of each group.

Teacher view of group activity



The next stage of the group process is performing where students have found the balance between conforming and deviance and are working on their project and drafting their report (Tuckman 1965).  

In our example, we want to support the performing part of the group work with another wiki in the course website, called Project report.

Students can collaboratively edit this wiki page to create their report. If they use headings in their writing, the wiki tool automatically creates a linked table of contents for their page. Another unique feature of the wiki tool is that the history of each page, showing who contributed to which component, is available and students can view and restore previous versions. Students can also output wiki work as a PDF document.

There are many other collaboration options available to students outside the learnonline website, such as One Drive, Google Docs and Facebook that students may prefer to use, and in some instances it is appropriate to let students decide their preferred collaboration environment.



The final stage of the group process according to Tuckman and Jensen (1977) is adjourning, where feedback is given and the group is dispersed.

When supporting group work in our courses this can be when work is presented, assessed and feedback is provided.

Students will need to create a PDF version of their report from their wiki and submit this document for assessment. The assignment upload tool for this submission is adjusted so that students can submit in groups.

In our example, we want students to present their findings in two ways, sharing their final report and presenting their work to the class.

To allow the students to see the project reports from the other teams we will change the Common Module Setting - Group mode for the Project report wiki from Separate groups to Visible groups. The student will now see a selector on their wiki that allows them to see the wiki work of the other groups.  

Instead of the class presentation, when working online we will ask students to record their group presentation using Zoom and submit the resulting mp4 file for assessment. The assignment upload submission type is therefore changed to Video assignment.

Alternatively, you could ask students to upload their MP4 file to YouTube, adjust the security to be unlisted and submit the URL of the video as online text. This method makes the marking process faster as there is less time wasted downloading videos before you can play them as YouTube streams media. The drawback is that students will need to have or create a Google account to do this.

We would also like students to see each others’ videos. When we do this in our face to face classes it can be a very long (and tedious) process for staff and a stressful time for the students. The good news is that learnonline has a great tool that allows students to peer review and give feedback on each others’ work called Workshop.  When students submit their video (or video URL) they are then allocated five of their peer’s videos to watch and using a rubric, give them feedback. The teacher then evaluates the grading process and releases the marks – one mark for their video, and another mark for how well the did on their grading (a statistical comparison of the multiple grades given).


Online options for assessing group work

Finally, we would like the students to reflect on their group processes as a way to foster the development of Graduate Quality 4.

One option is to ask individual students to submit a 3 part written reflection that asks them to reflect on what their level of collaboration skills was at the beginning of the course and what they wanted to focus on in this group learning activity (e.g. leadership skills, time management etc.). Then they need to illustrate what happened during the course and provide evidence (forum posts, wiki extracts/links, meeting notes etc) to back up their claims. Thirdly they need to look at what all this means for them after the course and their plans for further development of their collaboration skills. A moodle tool that can help with this is an Individual wiki (Wiki mode: Individual wiki rather than Collaborative and Group mode: Separate) with students encouraged to write in the wiki regularly much like an online journal. The history of the individual wiki edits will help you to ensure that students are journalling when they are supposed to, rather than generating a work of fiction the night before the journal submission is due!

Another option is to seek feedback from each of the group members using the Feedback tool and moderate the students’ final grade based on this. (Note: If you want to do this moderation process, then you will need students to not submit their work in groups as described above, but ask them to submit individually).

 After specifying which students are in their group, students can be asked, using Feedback, to relatively rate themselves and their group members for skills such as facilitating a team environment, amount of work done for the team, communication skills etc. and justify the ratings they gave.

Feedback tool in learnonline

Some academic units will have access to a more sophisticated way of achieving self and peer assessment and feedback using the program SPARKPLUS.

This next image shows what the website might look like for the students in our case study to support them to complete their group work online, using online journing and a reflection as the basis for assessing and giving feedback on the development of Graduate Quality 4.

Example of group work view in learnonline

If you would like to ask online teaching and learning questions related to your course, you can look through our FAQs, write to TIU@unisa.edu.au, have an online consultation with a member of the TIU.

PDF Version: Supporting group work online (408 KB)



Tuckman, B, 1965. Developmental sequence in small groups, Psychological Bulletin 63(6) 384–399. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0022100

Tuckman, B.W. and Jensen, M.A.C., 1977. Stages of small-group development revisited. Group & Organization Studies, 2(4), pp.419-427.

Using cloud-based documents in your teaching

Cloud-based documents refer to documents, such as Powerpoint slides or Excel spreadsheets, that are stored in the cloud (e.g., OneDrive). There are many different ways you might choose to utilise cloud-based documents in your teaching, ranging from student collaboration in a tutorial to a space for students to prepare their assessments. One of the great benefits of their use in teaching is that these documents can be edited in real-time by students and teachers who may all be on separate devices, as well as being accessed asynchronously if need be.

This learning guide will explore in more depth how you might use cloud-based documents in tutorials (either face-to-face, online, or hybrid) to support student collaboration and teacher facilitation.

In any engaging tutorial, ideally there would be opportunities for students to collaborate, discuss, and work together in small groups answering questions and preparing responses to different tasks they are set. In an online tutorial, you can use the features of Zoom to send students into smaller breakout rooms for these discussions. However, unlike in a face-to-face tutorial, once you put them into breakout rooms the students become invisible to the teacher! Where in a face-to-face classroom you might hang back and watch the room, intervening only when needed, the online space presents some new challenges in monitoring how groups are going. This is one situation where cloud-based documents can help.

As seen in the below screenshot of a cloud-based Powerpoint document, students from each group can navigate to their assigned slide and add text, images, and drawings to document their group’s discussions. These additions are immediately visible to all group members, as well as the tutor and students in other groups.

The tutor can keep an eye on the whole document as an indicator of a group’s activity, using this information to determine who is on task, which groups may need prompting or extension, what trends are emerging across groups’ responses, etc. The document thereby enables the tutor to support and interact with groups in a targeted and timely way.

Before you start…

Like any new tool or technology, when using it for the first time, take some time to consider what you want to achieve and how this tool will enable you to do this: Pedagogy before technology.

Note that you will also need to teach students how to use cloud-based documents in your course, meaning that there are some short-term costs for potential long-term gains in your tutorials.

Before the tutorial…

1. Create a document in the Office 365 suite (e.g., Powerpoint slides, Excel spreadsheet, Word document).

* All UniSA staff and students have access to the Office 365 suite, making this an accessible option for all students.

* Include instructions at the top of the document to remind students of what you expect them to do and how to use the document.

* Copy sections as appropriate for your anticipated number of groups.

2. Save the document to the cloud (UniSA OneDrive).

* All UniSA staff and students have allocated storage on OneDrive, making this an accessible option for all students.

3. Create a shareable link to the file.

* Click on the file then click ‘Share’. Adjust the settings to ensure it works for “People in UniSA with the link” and “Allow editing”. Copy link.

* You can use a service like TinyURL.com to shorten and customise the link (e.g., “tinyurl.com/2p9xhpn” rather than “mymailunisaedu.my.sharepoint.com/:p/g/…YtW0PT….pud…”)

4. Keep the link somewhere you will remember it and can use it in the tutorial.

* For example, you may include it on your tutorial slides or lesson plan, or post it on your learnonline site. Some staff have shared their links on course forums.

Note: If you want to use the same activity across multiple tutorial classes, you will need to create duplicates of the document in the cloud with separate shareable links for each tutorial.

During the tutorial…

1. Explain the activity to the students and give them the link to the cloud-based document.

* Posting the link in the chat or on the course learnonline site enables students to easily click through to the document.

* Consider sharing your screen with the document open to point out explicitly what you expect students to do, and how they are to use the document, before you send them to their groups.

2. Send students into groups (e.g., at their table, or into breakout rooms).

3. While students work on their assigned section in their groups, you can monitor their progress by looking at the document. You can use this to prioritise which groups you join, for example:

* A group with no or few additions to their section may be having technical difficulties; they may be off-task; or they may be having a rich discussion that they haven’t yet started documenting. Join the group to prompt and support on-task actions.

* A group with interesting additions to their section may be having a deep and relevant conversation. Join the group to listen in and extend their discussion.

4. When the group time finishes (e.g., breakout rooms close and everyone comes back to the main room), you can share ideas with the whole class as appropriate for the activity. For example,

* A student from each group can share their most important point.

* The tutor can pick out common ideas or points of difference across groups/the whole class.

After the tutorial…

Students will continue to have access to the shared document after the tutorial. You may like to encourage them to peruse other groups’ sections, to see how others responded to the prompt.

You may choose to summarise common ideas or points of difference across groups or the cohort (e.g., pulling from multiple tutorials’ documents) and share these through a forum on the course’s learnonline site.

Help and support

If you would like to ask teaching and learning questions related to your course, you can visit our Teaching Innovation Unit website or write to TIU@unisa.edu.au, have an online consultation with a member of the TIU or complete the online modules as part of your ongoing Professional Development as a teacher at UniSA!


Key concept presentations

No doubt you are contemplating how best to manage your SP5 courses with our rapid shift to online teaching and wondering how you will balance your face to face time with your online teaching time! We predict that most courses will be using the flipped classroom model of teaching, where students are exposed to key concepts out of class by watching videos and doing online activities. Only then do they come to class to practice applying these new concepts under the supervision of their teacher, maximising the value of their face-to-face learning time. After class, more time is spent checking understanding and extending learning.

Flipped classroom model

Online lecture videos will, therefore, become a key component of the brave new world of university education. But not all video types are equal in terms of student engagement. In an empirical study of 6.9 million views of videos by students studying online courses, enthusiastic and personal videos of less than 6 minutes long, that occasionally showed the instructors head, were found to be the most engaging (Guo, Kim & Rubin, 2014). We call these short engaging videos - key concept presentations and in this Guide, we take you through how you can make your own concise, focussed key concept presentations that are accessible and easy to navigate using Panopto.


Identifying the key concepts

Start by looking at what is being presented in your lectures. The standard lecture can be a journey through the facts, developing a story that leads to a dramatic conclusion – but on closer examination, you will generally see a series of key concepts that are linked to the learning objectives for the course.

Identifying key conceptsIf you are using a slide deck, split your slides into these key concepts by saving your file as 1.1, 1.2 etc. and then deleting the excess slides to make discrete slide decks. Remember that the key concept presentation doesn’t have to be everything – there are also other online resources (links, videos, articles etc.) that students can draw upon that can be provided using eReserve.


Providing a hook for your key concept

Key concept progress modelKnowledge is built progressively and it is important for students to link their new learning into what they already know. Look more closely at each concept in your new key concept slide decks and consider how the concept is being introduced. Can you link it to everyday knowledge through an analogy or metaphor or build on existing knowledge? If so, note this down.

Next, consider how students might apply this key concept focussing on professional contexts.

Consider if there is a way that you can challenge or provoke students with this key concept, perhaps using a focus question or a call to action?


Prepare the narrative

Next, you need to prepare the narrative for the presentation – which is generally less than 1000 words – that will lead the students through the key concept, setting the boundaries for what is included in the concept. This will be the audio for the presentation. Polish it until it reads well, aiming to say a lot with a little. Once you have your words refined, you can then use PowerPoint and Panopto to create the video.


Create new slides

Download this UniSA-branded PowerPoint template (2.7 MB) which is in the 16:9 layout which is best for watching on mobile phones. Importantly, this template uses slide headings appropriately - which are used by Panopto to automatically create a table of contents in the video.   

Duplicate the appropriate slides in the template, and delete any excess slides. Then add the headings for each part of your narrative. Put the corresponding narrative into the notes section of the PowerPoint slide.

Read the title and narrative for each slide - what image does it conjure? Enter that name into a google image search selecting the usage rights to labelled for non-commercial use. Select one that supports your point, and insert it on your slide. Also, attribute the image on the slide and note the web address of the image in the slide notes.

Read the slides narrative and identify any key narrative words to add to the slide. Add these as dot points – limit yourself to 3 words to a point and no more than 5 points. If there are more points – split the content of the slide over more slides.

Review the structure of the presentation to ensure it has a title and ending slide as well as an overview and summary – remembering to integrate your hooks to stimulate or provoke the learner. A copyright slide should be included at the end – however, this is primarily for the printable slides and notes version of the video that is generated using PowerPoint (Panopto automatically adds a copyright notice to the beginning of the video).


Using images

Using images within your presentation is encouraged as well-chosen images helps with memory recall and the understanding of concepts. Your images need to comply with copyright laws and include alternative descriptions to comply with accessibility guidelines. Although these image descriptions are not evident in the Panopto presentation, they are visible to screen readers in the slides and notes handout produced from PowerPoint.

More information is available through Copyright at UniSA

There are graphical tools within PowerPoint to help with adding images. For example, the online image search within PowerPoint is only for CC images (although you still need to find the web address). There is a SmartArt tool in PowerPoint that turns dot points into accessible graphics as well as built-in icons that work well with SmartArt.


Timeless and independent

Although it may not always be possible – attempt to make your key concept presentations timeless, by this we mean avoid using items that will need to be updated, for example, references to textbooks or Standards. If you have to include these details, put this detail on the slide, but not in the narrative as it is easier to update a slide in Panopto than it is to update the audio. Keep a separate spreadsheet that catalogues where these references are so when the inevitable next edition occurs, you know which concepts and slides need to be updated.

It is also a good idea to keep your presentations independent. By this we mean do not include statements like – ‘last week we did this’ or ‘next week we will look at that’ as chances are you will be re-ordering the content sometime in the future and this will need to be re-recorded.

Other tips to increase the longevity and multi-purposing of your key concept presentations is to avoid using the course code in your slides as well as week or concept numbers (although you can include these details within file names).



The next step is recording. You must have a good quality microphone that is correctly positioned and a quiet environment to do this. Always do a test recording and check the audio after your first recording before attempting to record others. The voice-over studio on the sixth floor of the Jeffery Smart building is ideal and has a radio-quality microphone and soundproofing on the walls.

Use Panopto to record your slides, selecting to capture the PowerPoint slides as the video stream. Consider also using a webcam as an additional stream in your video that students can choose to watch or not. Be as enthusiastic as you can, conveying your personality as you present.

Example Panopto recording on your computer

Once you have made your recording, you then need to edit out any stumbles, adjust the security and add your key concept presentations to your website.


Creating accessible video equivalents

For those students who are unable to access the video (e.g. those with hearing impairment) it is best practice to include slides and notes as a PDF. To do this in PowerPoint, go to File > Export > Create Handouts > Notes next to (or below) slides.

How to create handouts in Powerpoint

PowerPoint then builds a word document with slides and notes. This can then be saved as a PDF and uploaded into learnonline.


If you would like to ask online teaching and learning questions related to your course, you can look through our FAQs, write to TIU@unisa.edu.au  or have an online consultation with a member of the TIU.

PDF Version: Key concept presentations (285 KB)



Guo, P. J., J. Kim, and R. Rubin. 2014. How video production affects student engagement: An empirical study of MOOC videos. Paper presented at L@S 2014, March 4–5, 2014, Atlanta, Georgia, USA, <https://dl.acm.org/doi/pdf/10.1145/2556325.2566239>.

Zoom Activity Ideas

Looking to build some interactivity into your zoom sessions? We have some ideas, ranging from the simple, but effective, to the more adventurous. These ideas let your students play a more active role as we know this can enhance their learning and increase peer-to-peer engagement.

Let’s start with some guiding principles.

  • Your course objectives drive everything. What you do in a zoom class should help students achieve these.
  • Students don’t expect perfect. If something doesn’t work, move on.
  • Give students time to think, to catch-up with what you’re teaching.
  • Don’t talk at them – instead ask, probe, challenge.
  • Have a plan – see Lesson plans for interactive virtual classrooms

I would so like to improve engagement in my VC's. I have found that it is truly

exhausting trying to teach to a whole lot of little black squares!


Those “little black squares” are students with their webcams off. It can be hard to build engagement without that visual connection so some of these ideas work well when students have their web cams on.

OK now for some ideas…

Don’t under-estimate the Chat

Add a question to the chat before students arrive linked to the current week/topic. Think “Before we start, share your most interesting insight/biggest challenge from ….”, or something like “If there is one thing you want me to cover again what would it be?”.

Then thank everyone for sharing and debrief based on their responses.

Let them think

Share a power point slide with an emotive image but no words. Ask them to think about it from some perspective. Give them time to think about it. Then start a sharing whiteboard and invite students to simply add words that reflect their thoughts. Again, debrief afterwards.

Put them centre-stage

Students prepare a presentation and deliver this during the session. Make sure they keep it short, around 5 minutes, and encourage the class to ask questions afterwards.

Break them up

Break-out rooms – they’re a hit! They can resemble the small group discussions typical in classroom tutorials with students often being more active in these smaller groups. Remember to set them a task first, including what you expect after the break-out groups finish.

Bring a guest

A guest speaker is possibly easier in a virtual classroom because the world is unlimited. Always wanted your students to hear from that renowned expert in London?  Well at least with some good-will around time zone differences. But don’t make it like a lecture; instead interview your guest and have students add their own questions to the chat.

Pop a padlet in

Students will need to have a split screen for this but it’s not too hard. Make a padlet with a task for students to respond to – perhaps post an article, an image or have a debate. This takes place in padlet in real time. The trick here is you are also ‘live-streaming’ the padlet by sharing it through the zoom. It turns an asynchronous activity (the padlet) into a live bulletin board.

You could do the same with any shared file like google docs or a mind map.

Scavenger Hunt

Set students a task to search the web for some information and bring it back to the class. Make it fun and challenging. For example, “Find evidence of what you think is the greatest engineering feat of all time” and come back and tell us why. Be prepared to share what you found. Set a time limit, perhaps 10 minutes. Use the whiteboard for students to post their answers then encourage a lively discussion.

Let them teach

Each student (or pair of students) chooses one learning outcome and gives a 5 minute talk on what they have learned and why they thought it important to share. Set the task a week before and have them submit a couple of written paragraphs to you before the zoom session. Explain this will ensure everyone’s original thoughts are captured before they hear from everyone else.

End with action

Create a poll with a list of possible actions you expect students should do between now and the next session, or assessment etc. The options are contextual to your course but could include doing the practice quiz, begin the essay plan, summarise the reading etc.

Ask students to respond with what they think they are most likely to do and then share the results, concluding with some words of advice.

More ideas….


We found this table (Finkelstein, 2006) irresistible for its analogy and for its ideas.

Table 5.1. Being a "Good Host" in Synchronous Sessions

Dinner Party Axiom

Live Online Learning Guidance

Prepare for your guests' arrival

Have the resources that you plan to use ready in advance so that you can begin on time. When learners arrive, you want to be able to focus on them and on the content and collaboration at hand.

Welcome guests warmly

As people login, welcome each person by name if possible. In addition to being a warm way to begin, it sets a tone and reminds learners that you know they are present and that their participation will be expected.

Frequently assess the mood in the room; don't wait until the end to ask guests if they need anything

Periodically gauge comprehension and mood by asking quick poll questions, soliciting emoticon use, or cold-calling on learners for feedback. Waiting until the last few minutes leaves lithe opportunity for adjustment.

Have more food (for thought) than you need

Prepare more activities than you think are needed for the time allotted. It is better to have a few planned activities left over for next time than to be short of things to do together as a group, thereby causing learners to question why they needed to carve the same hour out of their day.

Make everyone feel included

Try to recognize and solicit contributions from as many participants as possible, and refer to comments made by the name of the person who shared them. This is even more important online than offline, where multiple voices can be heard at once and some can be lost in the mix.

Facilitate connections and conversation, but don't dominate every discussion

Use your role as facilitator to foster an environment where learners are exchanging ideas with others, and seeing their peers as resources for ongoing learning. If a lecture is needed, consider recording it and posting it to a course site for anytime viewing rather than doing it live.

Offer guests something to take home with them

In combination with a transcript or recording of a live online session, post handouts, slides, or the results of group activities as on-demand resources within a course site. These convenient take-aways help reinforce new knowledge constructed or shared during the experience.

Know when to say good night; leave everyone wanting more

End on a high point. Don't cram too much into a live session or preside over unnecessarily long goodbyes. If a session peters out, participant attention will diminish quickly and goodwill can suffer. Conclude at a high-energy level to propel learners to do their follow-up work and keep them excited about the next live session.

Finkelstein, JE 2006, Learning in Real Time: Synchronous Teaching and Learning Online, John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated, Hoboken. Available from: ProQuest Ebook Central. [26 May 2020]. https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/unisa/reader.action?ppg=83&docID=469387&tm=1540878658114#ppg=5


If you would like to ask questions about online teaching and learning related to your course, you can look through the Preparing for online exams website write to TIU@unisa.edu.au, have an online consultation with a member of the TIU.

PDF Version: Zoom Activity Ideas (184 KB)

How do you peer review online examinations?

Assessment is the focus of study for many students, so it is important to get exam processes correct as we move online. To ensure that this happens, we need to continue using the peer review of exam processes that are outlined in the Assessment Policy and Procedures Manual (APPM):

1.1.8 Assessment methods should be valid, reliable and consistent

Quality assurance of assessment is an integral component of assessment design. Assessment methods and judgements must be valid and reliable, and regularly subjected to peer review, discussion and consensus. The setting and marking of assessment tasks should be subject to moderation processes to improve their validity and reliability. External benchmarking should be included where appropriate.

and adapt them for when exams are delivered using online quizzes.

This Guide is for course coordinators and peer reviewers and takes you through what is involved in the peer review of an online exam that is being delivered using the quiz tool.



It is not usually possible for academics to directly access a quiz from a URL to conduct a peer review unless they are associated with the course through Medici/PCMS. This is due to the security associated with learnonline. For this reason, it is best to set up an online meeting in Zoom with your reviewer to work through your online exam.

Once your exam is ready, contact the person who has been selected to be your reviewer (this maybe someone who has been mandated by your Unit as reviewer). Make a time to meet with them in Zoom to demonstrate how your online exam will work. Share your screen displaying the quiz with your reviewer.

Learnonline help – Sharing screens in Zoom


Peer review of online exams process

There are four major stages of the peer review process for online exams delivered using the quiz tool – three that you may be familiar with and a fourth that checks/ensures that the exam is effectively delivered in the online environment.

The 4 stages of peer reviewing online exams

Exam Questions

The first review point is in relation to the exam questions themselves.

  • Do they address the course objectives that they are linked to in the course outline?
  • Are they at the appropriate level for this cohort of students?
  • Do they compare well with, and are they distinct from, questions asked in previous offerings?

These exam question-based review points will need to be addressed by a subject matter expert.


The next main review point is fairness in relation to the amount of questions that need to be answered within the allocated timeframe.

  • Has an appropriate number of questions been asked?
  • Has enough time been allowed?
  • Are the marks allocated to each question appropriate?

Even though students have been given an extra hour to complete online exams, it is important that this time has not been filled with extra questions!

Again, these fairness-related review points will need to be performed by a subject matter expert.


The presentation of the online exam needs to ensure that there is no ambiguity in the questions presented to students. Review questions asked at this stage include:

  • Are the questions and instructions clearly worded?
  • Are the questions and instructions free of typographical errors?

Presentation-related review points do not necessarily need to be performed by a subject matter expert. In fact, it may be better if this is not done by a subject matter expert as “fresh” eyes can pick up things not seen by those close to the subject.

Online delivery

The final review point is related to online delivery and this area has several new technical requirements that are important to get right.

These include:

  • scheduling the quiz to open and close in line with the exam timetables provided by SAS.
  • restricting the number of attempts to 1
  • removing all review options to stop the quiz from giving feedback which is not allowed in an exam
  • the layout of the exam questions (1-2 questions per page)
  • location of the quiz in the course website (see recommended text)
  • the description field of the quiz contains recommended text.

This online delivery component of the peer review does not necessarily need to be performed by a content expert.

Once you have determined who will be performing the reviews there is a 5-step process to complete.

5 step process to completing exam

  1. Quiz Settings 

    To review this portion of the online exam you will need to first access the Quiz and then select Edit settings (located in the Administration block in learnonline, and behind the three cogs on the top right-hand corner in UniSA Online). The table below outlines the settings that need to be checked.  

    Open/close time

    Check that the open and close time follows the scheduled time from SAS

    Time limit

    Set the open and close times to the correct duration, including an extra “COVID-19 hour”

    Attempts allowed

    Set to 1



    Review options

    All review options unticked

    Review options unticked in learnonline quiz settings

  2. Layout and Marks

    To review the layout of the quiz questions you will need to access another area of the Quiz called Edit Quiz. To do this, first access the Quiz and then select Edit Quiz (located in the Administration block in learnonline, and behind the three cogs on the top right-hand corner in UniSA Online).

    When reviewing the Edit quiz section, you need to consider
    - Are the questions laid out as one or two questions per page?
    - Are the marks correct for the question?

    Displaying 1 to 2 questions per page is recommended to ensure student work is periodically saved while doing the quiz. If this layout does not make sense for a group of questions, then more questions can be added to a page, but in general, we are asking people to set questions out as one or two questions per page.

    If you need to shift the questions around the crosshairs tool on the left of the question can be used to achieve this.

    This is also the best place to review (and, if necessary, adjust) the marks allocated for each question in the online exam. The default is 1 point per question – but for essay questions, the point value is generally higher. Use the pencil next to the question to edit the value of the question.

    The example below is from an upcoming exam which has a Section A with multiple choice questions and a Section B with short answer questions (essay-type) that are laid out as three or four questions (and a description) per page of the quiz-based exam. It would be better to split page 3 into two pages.  Also, note that all of the questions are scored as worth one mark, which is likely to be an error.Example quiz in learnonline
  3. Questions and Answers 

    From the Edit quiz page you are able to preview each of the questions in the quiz by selecting the magnifying glass icon on the right of the question.

    Preview of quiz question on learnonline
    This Preview Question pop-up allows you to read through the question for clarity and appropriateness. You are able to see the correct response(s) by selecting the Fill in correct button on the Preview Question pop-up,Preview question in online exam > Fill in correct response
    which automatically highlights the correct response(s) for the reviewer.

    Example highlight of correct answer in online quizOnce you are happy with the questions and answers, you can go onto step 5, unless you have a quiz that contains randomised questions.
  4. Randomised question pools 

    If the quiz is set up to utilise the random question feature you will see a question type that has a small dice icon in the Edit quiz screen.
    For each random question, there is a link that says (See questions) that goes to the category holding the random questions that the quiz will select from. See category that random question will pull from in online quiz.
    You will then see all the possible questions in the category. You can use the magnifying glass here to preview each of the possible questions as before in the Preview Question pop-up.
    Random question selection > all possible questions in category
  5. Student view

    The final check is to review the online exam as the student will experience it.
    Go to the course website and see where the quiz is located.
    - Is it visible to students?
    - Is it introduced using the recommended text?
    - When you select the quiz do you see the recommended text?

    Use the quiz Preview tool (Quiz > Administration > Preview in learnonline; or Quiz > Triple cogs > Preview in UniSA Online) and then Start Attempt. Then go through the questions, moving back and forth to check that the navigation is free for students. Make random selections and submit these at the end.
    - Was there any feedback received? (there shouldn’t be for an exam)

    If all is okay, then the online exam is ready to go!


Investing the time in peer review of quizzes used for online exams will help to ensure that assessments at UniSA are both valid and reliable.


If you would like to ask questions about online teaching and learning related to your course, you can look through the Preparing for online exams website write to TIU@unisa.edu.au, have an online consultation with a member of the TIU.

PDF Version: Peer reviewing your online exam (512 KB)

Communicating in Zoom

Communicating online using tools such as Zoom can be very demanding – exhausting even!

Besides using the technology itself, part of the reason why you may befeeling so tired from Zooming is that there are several inter-related dimensions to the teaching role that need to be presented when working online. This has been described as sharing your social, cognitive and teaching presence (Anderson et al., 2001).

Educational experience diagram

In this guide, we will look at each of these in turn and see how they apply to Zoom sessions and what you can do to maximise the educational experience for students.


Social presence

According to Anderson, social presence is the effort the teacher puts into creating a ‘degree of comfort and safety’ for students, such that they can take the risk to participate in discussions. Your communication in your Zoom classrooms should foster care, connection and community.

Incorporate pastoral care at the beginning of your Zoom sessions; a short “check-in” with students. You can take an anonymous poll on how students are doing (see the earlier Guide, Taking the temperature of your online classroom), or move them in to small breakout rooms just to chat, giving a sense of the on-campus tutorial. Sometimes your voice can be “silent”; creating an environment for student voices to emerge.

Remember a student may have lost their job, be struggling to pay rent, worried about their health or just coping with ‘cabin fever’ like all of us. And now they’re trying to learn online whilst for some of us we’re trying to teach online for the first time. We may have never had so much in common with our students! You can use this shared experience to build empathy and belonging, creating an attachment to UniSA – something that will survive beyond the current times.


Cognitive presence

The next presence described by Anderson and colleagues is cognitive presence. Cognitive presence is what you do as a teacher to help students develop critical thinking skills related to the study of the content of your course.

During your Zoom sessions, you can use your discipline expertise to guide student learning; remember what your experience was like when you were learning and help them be better learners, not content regurgitators. A key strategy to do this is to ask questions of students that will encourage them to dig deeper – and leave a space for students to answer (avoid answering your own questions – if no response, ask a related question). Cheri Toledo has some great examples of critical thinking questions that seek clarification, challenge assumptions, ask for evidence, change viewpoints and examine consequences that were devised for use in forums but that can be also used in the Zoom virtual classroom (Toledo 2006).


Teaching presence

The third type of presence that helps to build a ‘community of inquiry’ in online classrooms is teaching presence. Teaching presence involves ‘devising and implementing activities to encourage discourse between and among students, between the teacher and the student, and between individual students, groups of students, and content resources’ (Anderson et al. 2008, p345).

Some points to remember:

  • You are in control – students will look to you for leadership – have clear instructions on what it is you want students to do in the session
  • Use a calm and conversational tone
  • Be concise with your words but don’t use acronyms unless your students are familiar with them
  • Check you’re not speaking too fast, take breathing pauses
  • If you’re running out of time don’t rush at the end as this will undo your good work

For more ideas about how to create opportunities for students to interact within the Zoom virtual classroom, please see our earlier Guide, Lesson plans for virtual classrooms (Zoom).

It’s also important to be in a room where your voice can be easily heard and there are no unfiltered noises. Using a good quality headset with a microphone is ideal if your environment is a little noisy. Most Unit offices will have information about obtaining one of these headsets if you don’t have one.


If you would like to ask questions about online teaching and learning related to your course, you can look through the Preparing for online exams website write to TIU@unisa.edu.au, have an online consultation with a member of the TIU.

PDF Version: Communicating in Zoom (422 KB)



Anderson, T 2008, Teaching in an online learning context, In Theory and Practice of Online Learning, 2nd Ed., Edmonton: AU Press, pp 343-365.

Toledo, Cheri 2006, "Does your dog bite?": creating good questions for online discussions, International Journal on Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 18, 2, pp. 150-154.


Making videos interactive with Panopto quizzes

Instead of interactive face-to-face classrooms, many students are now watching videos as they study online. Watching videos, particularly long ones, can be difficult for students as they struggle to remain focussed 

However, the addition of interactivity to videos, such as short comprehension quizzes, can improve completion rates and increase viewing times of long and short videos by about 20% (Geri et al., 2017) 

UniSA uses Panopto which allows you to add interactivity to videos in several ways, such as adding webpages, embedding YouTube videos attaching PDFs, and the focus of this Guide - adding a quiz.  

A few facts about Panopto in-video quizzes 

  • You can add a quiz to a Panopto video at any point 
  • You can add one quiz or many quizzes to the video 
  • The video will pause for the quiz 
  • You can control if students can or cant skip the quiz 
  • You can control if retakes are allowed 
  • You can also add feedback that appears after the student makes their selection 
  • You can review students quiz score and responses in Panopto 
  • Currently, the scores are not imported in Gradebook

There are four types of quiz questions 

  • True false 
  • Multiple choice 
  • Multiple response (MCQ where more than one answer is correct) 
  • Fill in the blank

This video from Panopto provides technical support in how to add and monitor quizzes inside your Panopto videos https://howtovideos.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Embed.aspx?id=cbad1dc0-c549-4ca8-b753-ab6601256f10  

An example of the use of all four question types in a Panopto quiz can be seen at the 1:24 minute mark, and at the close of this 5 minute video from the short course Engaging Learners Online 


The results from this quiz in Panopto look like this.:

Example of quizzes in Panopto


If you would like to ask questions about online teaching and learning related to your course, you can look through the Preparing for online exams website write to TIU@unisa.edu.au, have an online consultation with a member of the TIU or complete the online modules (separately or all at once) in Introduction to Engaging Learners Online.

PDF Version: Making video interactive (206 KB)



Geri, N., Winer, A. and Zaks, B., 2017. Challenging the six-minute myth of online video lectures: Can interactivity expand the attention span of learners. Online Journal of Applied Knowledge Management, 5(1), pp.101-111.

How do you look online?

You would probably agree that the way you present yourself to your students in class has an impact on their engagement with you and, as a result, their learning. In a similar way, how you present yourself online also impacts on how connected your students are to you, and their online learning.

So how do you present yourself online?

The first presentation consideration, and the focus of this Guide, is your learnonline profile. If yours looks like this – it is time to update.

Generic profile imageYour profile contains the basic information about you. The good news is this profile is independent of courses, so if you update for one course, it will update in all.

Updating is relatively easy, but you will first need to find a square (Instagram-like) photo of yourself to include. 


Making a square image

Windows users can make a square image using a program like Paint.net that is included in most UniSA computers. If you can’t find Paint.net in your programs, you can install it through the software center.

Paint.net for Windows


To make a square image with Paint.net open your image and select the rectangular select tool.

Paint - select Rectangle tool


Then place the crosshairs on one corner of the image and drag across holding down the shift key at the same time. This makes a square selection. When it is the right size, let go, and you should see a square of marching white ants (well that is what it looks like).

Paint - hover over area to snip from


Then go to Image in the toolbar and select, Crop to Selection.

Paint - Select image, then 'Crop to Selection'


Now save the file with a new name (File > Save As…). Something like David Lloyd – square, will work.

You can find out more things that you can do with Paint.net to edit images https://www.getpaint.net/doc/latest/


Updating your profile

To update your profile first log into any course website that you are associated with and go to the top right-hand corner where you see your name and click on it.

learnonline navigation, top right-hand corner


Using the menu that pops-up, select Preferences and Edit profile.

learnonline > Select preferences > Edit profile


Scroll down to the section called User picture and attach your new square-shaped image file by using the Add file button (top left) or dragging the file onto the blue arrow.

Upload image to learnonline


Add your name in the box called Picture description.

You can also add some text about yourself in the Description field, but remember your profile is the same in all the courses in which you teach.

Finish by selecting the Update profile at the bottom of the screen.

Update profile button in learnonline


Now you have updated your profile – what happens? You will see that every time that you post something to a forum, dialogue, chat in your course website - not only will your name display to students, but allow a small image of you. This will help improve your presence in the website for students. You can also encourage students to do the same with their learnonline profiles, helping their online class members get to know each other a little better.


If you would like to ask questions about online teaching and learning related to your course, you can look through the Preparing for online exams website write to TIU@unisa.edu.au, have an online consultation with a member of the TIU or complete the online modules (separately or all at once) in Introduction to Engaging Learners Online.

PDF Version: How do you look online? (506 KB)

Planning online exams using the quiz tool to minimise plagiarism (and promote learning)

The quiz tool in learnonline can be used as an online exam tool and when well-designed is also a powerful learning tool that minimises plagiarism. To be able to make good decisions about your quiz design, you need to understand a few fundamentals. In this Guide, we will introduce you to key quiz concepts, show how randomisation is used to present a unique but equivalent quiz to each student and demonstrate how embedded feedback can be used to provide automated learning conversations with your students while studying online.


Learning Objectives

The first step in planning quizzes is to be clear on the learning objectives that are to be assessed using the online examination.

Start by visiting your course outline and locating your assessment summary table that identifies the course objectives that are associated with your summative assessment. Are there any sub-objectives that need to be assessed? Make a list of these objectives and sub-objectives as these will form the organisational structure for your question bank.


Understanding the quiz creation process

There are several steps to creating a summative quiz as shown in this diagram. 

Steps for creating summative quiz


Quiz logistics

You will need to make decisions about how long the quiz will be open for, remembering that for COVID-19 examination adjustments, an extra hour needs to be added onto the previous examination time. The details for your online exam must be coordinated through SAS to minimise clashes. Generally, for exams, the quiz needs to be set for only one attempt and students are not able to review results, only receive grades (APPM 8.1.8).

This information is entered into the Quiz settings on your learnonline site Add activity > Quiz > Adjust settings as per table below with modifications to suit your circumstances > Save (Quiz help in learnonline: Adding a quiz).




Online Examination (4 hours; Exam Week; 40%)


An extra hour has been allowed for this online version of your examination.

Who to contact for support

IT Helpdesk: If you experience any technical issues while completing your exam contact the IT Helpdesk, this may include internet connection issues or computer performance which has impacted on your ability to complete your exam. Please note the specific details of the technical issue, including time and any screen shots or other evidence to support your request. IT Helpdesk can be contacted on

  • Local: (08) 8302 5000
  • Interstate & Country: 1300 558 654 (cost of a local call)
  • International: (+61 8) 8302 5000 (we can call you back to minimise your call costs)

Please do not hang up even if you are on hold as a service ticket will be raised once the call is answered. This service ticket will be your evidence of an issue occurring.

Course Coordinator: If you require clarification of any question in the exam, you should contact your Course Coordinator via email. Ensure you do this in a new web browser window or a dedicated email client to ensure you are not logged out of the exam. This can occur at any time during the exam period.

Open the quiz

21 June 2020 13 00

Close the quiz

21 June 2020 17 00

Time limit enabled

4 hours

When time expires

Open attempts are submitted automatically

> Attempts allowed


> New Page

Every 2 questions (this layout decreases load on learnonline, minimising the risk of server overload. You can still group more questions later on if this makes sense for your exam).

> Navigational method


Question behaviour
> Shuffle within questions


Question behaviour
> How questions behave

Deferred feedback

Review options

All unchecked

Common module settings
> Availability

Show on course home page

Although it is possible to add Browser security to a quiz to reduce students’ ability to copy and paste while doing an online exam (Extra restrictions on attempts > Browser security > Full screen pop-up with some Javascript securityremember that students can also use another device to access information. 


Create categories

The next step in planning for a summative quiz is to create the categories used to organise your quiz questions. Students don’t see categories – they are for your eyes only. The category can be as simple as ‘Final Exam’, or detailed as a category for each concept being assessed. If you are planning to use randomisation of quiz questions so each student gets a unique set of equivalent questions for their online exam, then you will need fine grained categorisation of your question bank.

As an example, the course MATH 1063 uses randomisation (see below). A category was created for each of 6 tests, and within that, sub-categories were created for each question in the test. The sub-categories are linked to sections of the textbook, with at least 3 questions in each category. Random questions are drawn from each of these sub-categories to make unique quizzes for students.

Example of quiz categories in MATH 1063

(Quiz help in learnonline: Create and edit quiz categories)


Write questions

Writing good, clear questions is not easy. As your questions are for an open book examination, please refrain from using many questions that require recall, but instead draft questions that assess comprehension, applied knowledge, analysis and evaluation. Do not use textbook MCQ question sets as these are in the public domain (try Googling them and you will see why this is not a good idea). Ask your peers for feedback on your questions to ensure they are optimal.

Most people are familiar with multiple choice questions (MCQs), so if you had them in your original examination, they will translate well to online. Extra benefits of using online MCQs include:

  • They are automatically marked
  • You can include media to your questions and response options (e.g. videos and images)
  • MCQs written in a special format (Aiken format) can be drafted in a word document and uploaded in bulk into the question bank.
  • They can provide feedback to students when they get they get a question right, wrong or both.

If you are writing MCQs for randomisation, try to make all of the questions in the category that the questions are selected from, address the same topic. You can select to have one or more random questions being selected from a category.

(Resource: Hints and tips for writing multiple choice questions).

The essay question type in learnonline will be great for many of your short and long answer questions. Features of essay questions include

  • You can add a template to the response field (e.g. a table)
  • You can set the submission to be a text field, a file upload or both
  • When you mark essay questions, you will mark one question at a time, i.e. all question 1 responses, then all question 2 responses.
  • You can include information for graders (markers) as to how you would like the question graded.

The description question type is not really a question but a label that allows you to add contextual information to support your questions, such as ‘Section A’.

Be careful when copying and pasting text into learnonline to ensure you are not importing code as well as your text.

When creating equivalent questions for randomisation in your quiz, write your first question and then duplicate it to make 2 or more replicate questions of the same value and edit the new question to ensure that it is assessing the same content area.

This example from the question bank in MATH 1063 shows how three replicates of questions assessing summation of vectors were created using duplication tool.

Example question bank from MATH 1063

Consider taking your current exam paper to a TIU consult with an Online Educational Designer (OED) to get advice on how it can work as an online quiz.

(Quiz help in learnonline Adding questions to a bank)


How many questions?

The general rule used is one MCQ question per minute. Complete your online exam yourself (or ask a peer) and double (or some say triple) the time it takes you to do the exam and that is the time students will need. There still needs to be an additional hour available for students taking online examinations. So, for a normal 3 hour exam, you should be able to do it in about an hour to an hour and a half, but your students will be allowed 4 hours.


Populate quiz

The next step in the process of creating an online quiz is putting the questions into the quiz and finalising the layout and values of the questions in the quiz. Go to the quiz you have created and select Edit quiz > Add > from question bank. Browse your categories, select the questions and then select Add selected questions to quiz.

If using randomisation, go to the quiz and select Edit quiz > Add > a random question and identify the category that you wish the random question to be selected from.

This is also a great time to check the value of your questions is correct. Using the pencil tool you can quickly adjust the value of the questions to be appropriate.Editing the question value

Finally reorganise the question order to make sense for your students using the cross hairs on the left.  To minimise plagiarism, separate the questions onto separate pages using the double headed arrows on the left, but check to make sure the question layout makes sense.

(Quiz help in learnonline Add a question from a bank).


Link quiz

To get your online exam to input directly into gradebook you need to link the quiz into the course outline. If you have already linked an assignment upload to your course outline, you will need to first delete the existing assessment placeholder.

Delete assessment placeholder

You then need to link in the new quiz as the examination in your course outline.

(Quiz help in learnonline Creating a summative assessment).


Importance of feedback

One of the strengths of quizzes is that they can provide feedback – however in online exams, this feedback will not be released to students.  Feedback greatly supports learning, and this is enhanced when the time between the performance and feedback is minimised – such as in an online quiz. As you are unlikely to use this quiz as an online exam in future, take time to add in supportive feedback for learners so the questions can be re-used for formative purposes later.

When you are ready to make your quiz formative, the quiz setting that maximises feedback is Quiz settings > How questions behave > Immediate feedback. You can also change the number of attempts to Unlimited.

The main types of feedback in quiz questions are:

  • General feedback – this is always presented to the student after they have attempted the question. It is a good place to write the main point that you are trying to make by asking the question.
  • Specific feedback – this feedback is associated with each answer option in a question. If the student selects that particular answer option, the specific feedback for that option will be displayed. Specific feedback is very useful for correcting common misconceptions.
  • Combined feedback – this option gives one response for every correct response, partially correct response and incorrect response.

An example can be seen in MATH 1063 quizzes where combined feedback is used to deliver immediate feedback in a 2-attempt quiz.

Combined feedback example in MATH 1063

By incorporating rich developmental feedback into your quizzes, you can automate many of the learning conversations that you would have indirectly had with students while you were teaching face-to-face and promote better learning outcomes (Quinn & Aarao, 2020).


If you would like to ask questions about online teaching and learning related to your course, you can look through the Preparing for online exams website write to TIU@unisa.edu.au, have an online consultation with a member of the TIU or complete the online modules (separately or all at once) in Introduction to Engaging Learners Online.

PDF Version: Planning online exams using the quiz tool (627 KB)



Quinn D and Aarao J (2020). Blended learning in first year engineering mathematics, ZDM Mathematics Education, DOI :10.1007/s11858-020-01160-y <https://rdcu.be/b3QAY>.


Taking the temperature of your online classroom

Have you been thinking – how are my students doing online? Are they learning what was intended? What are they struggling with?

You could ask students these questions directly, however some students are reluctant to respond as their responses can be linked to their name, immortalising them as ‘the person who did not know’. However, you can use learnonline in ways that allows students to anonymously respond to your questions.

In this Guide, we will run through a few ways that you can ‘take the temperature’ of your online classroom to determine how your students are going with their learning.


Establishing knowledge

When starting a new topic, it is good practice to try to link the new knowledge to something that students already know (Ambrose et al., 2010). To find out what that is, you would generally ask questions of the students, such as:

  • What did you get out of the reading?
  • Have you ever been in this situation?
  • What do you think about …?

Students’ responses to these questions can help you tailor your lesson to your audience, making the learning experience more effective.

An example can be seen in the course JUST 2011 where they use the feedback tool in learnonline to find out what assumptions student bring to the course about corrections, offenders and offending in Week 1.

The results from the anonymous poll are summarised the following week by the teacher and are posted to the course forum.

Feedback tool example


With feedback, you can ask various question types such as multiple choice, numeric, short answer and longer text responses.

You can also ask students about their incoming knowledge using Zoom by setting up a Zoom poll. By ticking the option anonymous, you can gather information from your Zoom participants without their details being recorded.

Zoom poll example


Minute paper/ Muddiest point

Many of you would have heard of ‘minute papers’ or ‘muddiest points’ (Angelo & Cross, 1993), which are quick surveys held at the end of a lesson that asks students to anonymously respond to one, or both of the following questions:

  • what was the most important thing you learnt?
  • what questions do you still have unanswered?

The teacher then collects and collates the work and responds to the students at the beginning of the next lesson about what came out from the survey. It is a great way to find out what students are actually learning and what they are struggling with!

An example of an online program that regularly uses muddiest points is UO Construction Management.

The feedback tool in learnonline is used at the end of each week, in each course, and students are invited to anonymously respond to the question by Sunday night:

What was the muddiest point for this topic? Did you work through it? If so, how? If not, what further clarification do you need?

Feedbacl tool example of Muddiest point


The teacher then reviews this feedback on Monday mornings, and prepares a forum post to all students that explains any identified issues. They then can take action to redress the problem for current and future cohorts.

This strategy is great to use when an online course is offered for the first few times to flush out any gaps in the course, but eventually the responses will drop off as the course gets updated to address any problem areas.

You can see an in-course example (although you will not be able to see data) im BUIL 1026.


How do I set up anonymous responses to questions in my course?

Instructions on how to set up the feedback tool in learnonline.

Instructions on how to set up Poll tool in Zoom.


If you would like to ask online teaching and learning questions related to your course, you can look through our FAQs, write to TIU@unisa.edu.au, have an online consultation with a member of the TIU or complete the online modules (separately or all at once) in Introduction to Engaging Learners Online.

PDF Version: Taking the temperature of your online classroom (267 KB)



Ambrose S, Bridges M, DiPietro, Lovett M, & Norman M 2010, How Does Students’ Prior Knowledge Affect Their Learning? In How Learning Works: 7 Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching, Jossey Bass, San Francisco, pp 10-39.

Angelo T & Cross K 1993, Classroom Assessment Techniques 2nd Ed, Jossey Bass, San Francisco, pp 148-158.



Lesson plans for interactive virtual classrooms (Zoom) 

Lesson plans are a strategy used by educators to map out the intentions and structure of a learning activity. In ordinary circumstances experienced educators teaching in their discipline don’t need lesson plans. But these are not ordinary circumstances. You may be teaching in the virtual classroom (VC) for the first time or even teaching outside your specialty – this is when lesson planning can benefit you and your students. 


What is a Lesson Plan? 

The lesson plan is a statement of the aims and objectives of the session, and then a table with columns that describe the activity, the time allocationresources required and any notes.  

Example Lesson Plan



Ask yourself what do you want your students to achieve from participating in the VC?

It is also important to consider if there are alternative ways to achieve the same outcome?  At any time, but especially now, everyone’s time is precious, and heads are full of coping with a new way of living. There's no point running a VC if you are just conveying your learning content – do that in a pre-recorded video that can be watched whenever it suits your learners. Save your VC time for when it is important for your class to be together in the same room at the same time - so it can be a social learning activity. Using a lesson plan for your VC sessions really helps here as you can make sure you are not filling the time with ‘teacher talk’, but also allowing your students to speak. Remember this may be the only time that students can talk to each other, and they will be really missing that experience.


Before the virtual classroom

  • Consider whether student microphones and/or webcams should be on or off. This can vary across the VC, sometimes starting with them all off, then allowing students to have them on for certain parts. Make a note of this in each section of your lesson plan.
  • Add everything you want to share in the session (links, files etc) on your lesson plan.
  • Will you be recording the VC? Add a reminder in your plan to turn this on (it is surprisingly easy to forget)!
  • Clarify your expectations for the VC as part of the invitation/email to students. What do they need to do before the VC? What is the agenda for the meeting? For example, let students know if they will be in breakout rooms to discuss a topic and then reporting back before the session starts and they will be more likely to be prepared and willing to engage.
  • You may find that you need to allow more time than you would in a face-to-face class to complete activities and perhaps include less activities than usual.


During the VC

  • Start with some pastoral care (this is a challenging time for everybody)
  • Move on to the VC agenda as a quick reminder
  • Don’t dominate the conversation – build in student talk time, with you and peer-to-peer discussions using the breakout tool.
  • If you are using breakout sessions – schedule them for the second half of the session as it may be hard to include late-comers
  • Pauses are great – build these into your plan to allow students to catch up their thoughts with yours
  • Have a clear closing activity and action for what students should do next


After the VC

  • Check attendance
  • Upload the recording to Panopto
  • Add a summary of the VC in a forum, with a link to the recording/chat and reminders of what students should be doing next


Interaction in a VC

  • The body language cues in a face-to-face class can be replaced with the status icons in zoom. When you want students to react, plan for this by giving instructions to use the status icons.
  • At least initially, as you and students adjust to online, slow the pace of the VC and don’t try to cover too much in a single session.
  • Silence truly is golden. Let students think!


Interaction ideas

  • Polls - great for quick questions, opinions, ideas
  • Annotate shared files/whiteboard - encourage collaboration through shared notes
  • Brainstorm ideas- Use the chat and ask students to type their responses to a question or challenge. The chat can be used to summarise and follow-up in a forum on the learnonline site after the VC.
  • Small group discussion and report back– using the breakout functionality. Here you can broadcast messages to the groups and visit students as they are working.
  • Record a video demonstration for students to watch prior to the VC and then during the class ask pre-prepared questions where different groups think-pair-share real-world examples of what was demonstrated.

Remember, lesson plans are a guide that will help you get the most learning from your VC sessions – but they also may need to be adjusted on the fly when things don’t go as expected.  


If you would like to ask online teaching and learning questions related to your course, you can look through our FAQs, write to TIU@unisa.edu.au, have an online consultation with a member of the TIU or complete the online modules (separately or all at once) in Introduction to Engaging Learners Online.

PDF Version: Lesson plans for interactive virtual classrooms (Zoom) (275 KB)



Finkelstein, JE 2006, Learning in Real Time: Synchronous Teaching and Learning Online., 1st ed. <https://find.library.unisa.edu.au/permalink/f/14gpir7/TN_pq_ebook_centralEBC469387>

How to check attendance in a VC https://lo.unisa.edu.au/mod/page/view.php?id=2002283

Breakout session https://lo.unisa.edu.au/mod/page/view.php?id=1815880


Example Study Plans

Reduce marking time with online rubrics 

Marking online can be tedious, but it is possible to improve the efficiency of marking and effectiveness of feedback by using online rubrics in learnonline.

In fact, it is possible to at least halve your marking time, as Anglin and colleagues found:

Results suggest that the computer-assisted grading rubrics were almost 200% faster than traditional hand grading without rubrics, more than 300% faster than hand grading with rubrics, and nearly 350% faster than typing the feedback into a Learning Content Management System. (Anglin et al., 2008)


What is a rubric?

Rubrics allow you to do criterion-based assessment, where a number is allocated to each level of performance for a given criterion.

Well-designed rubrics improve communication with students, teachers, and even professional bodies about what is important and expected in assessment pieces.


What are online rubrics in learnonline?

Online rubrics are an Advanced grading setting within the Assignment submission activity. Instead of the usual Simple direct grading, the grading method is set to Rubric (with override mark).

Adding a rubric in learnonline

The reason marking time is reduced by using online rubrics is that the marker only needs to select a box to provide the bulk of the feedback and grades are automatically calculated and added to the gradebook.

Example use of marking with online rubric


Rubrics generate a mark based on your selections, but you can override these scores and enter your own by selecting Rubrics (with override mark) as your grading method.

You are still able to provide written feedback for each criterion to explain the selection made, as well as overall feedback to explain what the student needs to work on to get a better grade next time, by selecting these options when you create the rubric.

Rubric options in learnonline


Other benefits of online rubrics

Well-designed rubrics also standardise the marking process, which is highly beneficial when there are multiple markers. As with standard rubrics, online rubrics clearly articulate what criteria are valued and can be the centrepiece of teaching team discussions about how to approach marking.

Online rubrics can also be used for off-line assessments – such as examination papers. Here rubrics help improve the consistency and speed of marking and can also remove adding up errors on annotated artefacts as the system does all the maths for you and puts the totals straight into gradebook!

Online rubrics also improves record keeping associated with marking and feedback, as all the assessment results, against each criterion, are automatically recorded within learnonline. This could be useful for evaluating how an intervention (such as an extra workshop for students) impacted not only the outcome of a course assessment, but how it impacted a key criterion of that assessment.

The faster turnaround time for online rubric marking is appreciated by students and generally results in improved MyCourseExperience scores for feedback.


How do I create an online rubric?

Designing a rubric is the first and often the most challenging part of creating an online rubric.

There is an optional module in the short course Engaging Learners Online that goes through the design and creation of online rubrics, including a planning document that provides several examples.

Once you have developed a rubric, there are also help pages that explain the mechanics of building the rubric in learnonline:

Rubrics can be saved and reused. So, a rubric for a report that you built in one course, can be copied and applied (with adjustments) to another of your courses that also uses a report.

The time spent designing and setting up an online rubric will be an investment for your course that will continue to pay dividends for many years to come.


If you would like to ask online teaching and learning questions related to your course, you can look through our FAQs, write to TIU@unisa.edu.au, have an online consultation with a member of the TIU or complete the online modules (separately or all at once) in Introduction to Engaging Learners Online.

PDF Version: Reduce marking time with online rubrics (206 KB)

Switching to online assessments

This isn’t about quizzes; ok we do mention quizzes, but when you think ‘online assessment’ it’s more than multiple choice questions. Having said that you do have multiple choices to make when moving your assessments online.

What we’ll cover:


Changing your assessment

Assessment infographic and help

Under UniSA’s summative assessment framework, all approved assessments are recorded in PCMS (Program and Course Management System). The information in PCMS feeds into Course Outline which is then connected to your assessments in learnonline. This is how you make your assessments summative so they can be graded and ultimately released to Result Entry.

You can select the infographic on the right to see this process in full and find links to further help.

When it comes to creating assessments, marking and releasing grades in learnonline, we’re going to refer to this simply as ‘Gradebook’.


If you want to change your assessment(s) you can. There is extensive support and information on our Process for changes to assessment related to COVID-19 response website.


Let’s look at why….

We always advocate that you design your assessment in a way that best extracts the learning that students have developed, which should be based on your course objectives (Biggs 1996).

Now you might choose not to link your assessment to the course outline if you are more familiar with grading offline using spreadsheets and entering the final marks directly into Result Entry. You can still do this, but there are a few benefits if you do link your assessments to the Course Outline.


Assessment narrative

Think about your lectures and tutorials. How much information, and encouragement, did you provide to help students understand the assessment requirements?

This ‘voice’ needs to be present in your online course now and/or replicated in any zoom sessions. We call this a ‘narrative’; it’s the teaching moments you gave students, not what they learned from readings or power points.

It can be hard to replicate this narrative in a written form so make a short video about the assessment as if you were in the lecture or tutorial.


Face-to-face assessment, just through a screen

A classic face-to-face assessment is a group in-class presentation.

Or is it? Social distancing aside for the moment, intrepid students have found ways they can still record their group presentation online. Some have used a virtual room (yes, Zoom can be used as to record together at the same time or individually record their part of the presentation and then ‘stitch’ them all together in a video. Either way, the resulting video can be submitted, assessed and grades/feedback returned to the students without ever having come face-to-face. And the video can be shared in your learnonline course for other students to view. Although you may want to do this after the assessment due date once all students have submitted their own.

What if you have an assessment that students need to do in a laboratory? Let’s complicate it more and say they can’t get to a laboratory right now (true). So now they don’t have the physical elements to conduct the work needed to demonstrate their learning. Can you find an online laboratory like this electrical circuit simulator? This isn’t a quick solution because such alternatives need to be evaluated against your discipline’s criteria and assessment policy criteria. But you get the idea. Start looking now for alternatives that, given time to evaluate, may become online alternatives in the future.


Did we mention (summative) quizzes?

That’s a true/false question if ever we saw one. There is so much more you can utilise than multiple choice and true/false questions in a quiz.

Let’s start with quiz design. You want to design questions that are suited to your discipline and year level. For example, in an Anatomy 1 course questions that require knowledge recall is actually pretty good design. In a Marketing course though you probably want more of a scenario type question.

Quizzes are self-marking on a number of question types, at least where the answer is definitive. Answers for questions like the scenario one for Marketing can also be made definitive, but a word of caution. Test these with others from your discipline to see if they can find an alternative answer because, if they do, you’ll need to adapt your question.

For higher order thinking you could have an oral question, like a viva. Students can record their answer on their phone, save and upload the video. There are some things to consider here, but it’s worth getting in touch with us if you are keen to know more.

And create a bank of questions (e.g. 100) and use the quiz settings to randomly select questions (maybe 30) for each student so no quiz is the same.

Here is the link to the learnonline help resource for Quizzes.


Technology choices

There’s a ‘golden rule’ – design your assessment first, then ask how it can be done online.

Here’s our ‘silver rule’ – use technology that is supported by UniSA wherever possible. Why? Because we will have already tested and validated its effectiveness, evaluated its accessibility, ensured there are no major security flaws and often will have integrated it as part of learnonline.

And it means if you, or your students, need support, the Help Desk know the technology and can work through (most) problems.

Within learnonline (besides quizzes) there are Wikis, ePortfolios, H5P, Lesson and Workshop activities that could be used for summative assessment. Using these will need some planning so get in touch if you’d like to explore these alternatives.

See the Matrix of online tools for converting traditional face-to-face assessment to an online environment.


What you can do in Gradebook

learnonline Gradebook has undergone significant enhancement to enable UniSA requirements for assessment submission, marking and return. Staff and students can both manage assignment submission and return through a common software interface. The text comparison software Turnitin is seamlessly integrated with Gradebook and all text based assignments are automatically submitted to Turnitin. The Turnitin similarity report is published to Gradebook and can be accessed by staff and students.

With online assessments in Gradebook you can:

  • create links for students to submit assignments electronically
  • download submissions
  • mark submissions
  • record grades for manual submissions
  • send files to Document Services for printing
  • add feedback forms
  • return submissions with feedback
  • publish results to students
  • send results to Result Entry


Other considerations

There are things we haven’t covered because they each warrant their own guide. We’re either working on these or have already added them to the TIU Support during COVID-19 website.

  • online exams – there’ll be an update on exams on 27th April
  • academic integrity – goes without saying really
  • staff workload to review, recreate and mark new assessments
  • feedback, online rubrics and marking guides

You can probably think of assessments that don’t translate easily into an online alternative. Well, we love a challenge. Get in touch with us through any of the suggested methods below.


If you would like to ask online teaching and learning questions related to your course, you can look through our FAQs, write to TIU@unisa.edu.au, have an online consultation with a member of the TIU, attend a Zoom workshop or sign up for the 1-week course, Introduction to Engaging Learners Online. 

PDF Version:

Switching to online assessments (216 KB)

Summative assessments online infographic (91.0 KB)



Biggs, J.B. (1996). Enhancing teaching through constructive alignment. Higher Education, 32, 1-18.

Zoom and Panopto – What to use when 

Zoom or Panopto, which should you use for online teaching? They are both used to support learning at UniSAThey have similar featuresbut different strengths so they can be used to meet different needs when teaching online. In most cases, Zoom would replace tutorial/practical tasks and Panopto would be used as a lecture replacement. 


Zoom is a meeting tool that provides video conferencing and screen sharing capabilities. Its features focus on interactivity and engagement during the meeting session itself. Zoom can record meetings to your local computer and to share the Zoom recording with your class, you will need to upload it to Panopto. Advanced features of Zoom include the ability to share applications, conduct polls and split the session into breakout rooms. 

For further information and instructions, please see the Zoom help resource. 


Panopto is designed for lecture capture, its features focus on creating a long-term, easy-to-view recording that integrates smoothly with learnonline. Panopto can record audio, webcam, PowerPoint slides, and the computer screen. Your recording will then be uploaded to the Panopto server and can be shared directly or embedded in learnonline. Captions are automatically generated. As viewers, students can take notes, search the video captions, place bookmarks, and comment on your recording. Advanced features of Panopto include the ability to conduct a prepared quiz during the display of a video. 

For further information and instructions, please see the Panopto help resource.

Feature Comparison 




Interactive discussions 

Yes. Zoom is designed for interactive discussions 

Panopto is not designed for interactive discussions 

Easy sharing of recordings 

Upload a copy of your recorded Zoom session to Panopto 

Panopto recordings can be shared in learnonline or Panopto. 


  • Presenter’s computer screen 
  • Presenter’s talking head 
  • View both talking head and computer screen simultaneously 
  • Presenter’s computer screen 
  • Presenter’s talking head 
  • View both talking head and computer screen simultaneously 

User view 

Active speaker view (default) 

Gallery view, where all meeting participants visible simultaneously 

Students can view two sources (e.g. PPT/webcam). Users can choose which source is larger, or display a full screen of one source. 


Each user can post a question or comment during the meeting to everyone in the meeting or to an individual participant. This chat conversation can be saved to the local computer when the meeting ends. 

  • Users can post questions and make comments via the viewer window during live broadcast. 
  • Viewers can also take public and private notes during broadcast. 
  • Questions, comments and notes are stored after the broadcast. 

Breakout rooms 

Yes, subgroups of students can work collaboratively at the same time. Teachers can move from room to room. 


Mobile friendly 

Yes, download the Zoom mobile app. 

Yes, download the Panopto mobile app. 

Students can schedule and start study sessions 



Editable recording 

Recordings are editable once uploaded to Panopto 



An example of how Zoom and Panopto have been used in the online course CURR 3021 which, as a staff member, you can explore. 

Example of Zoom and Panopto use

Another example of how Zoom and Panopto have been used in the online course BUSS 1060 which, as a staff member, you can explore. 

Example 2 of Zoom and Panopto use

Why should I use Panopto rather than YouTube? 

Many online courses at UniSA have used YouTube in their websites to deliver content, rather than Panopto, as they had created these videos before UniSA had a licence with PanoptoSome of the reasons why it is preferable to use Panopto to deliver UniSA content nowrather than YouTube are: 

  • Panopto is UniSA branded – sending the right messages to students 
  • No advertisements in Panopto, while there can be in YouTube 
  • Panopto videos can be searched by students in a way that YouTube can not 
  • UniSA controls the videos, rather than YouTube  

Why should I use Zoom rather than Adobe Connect? 

Many online courses have adopted the use of Adobe Connect as a virtual classroom tool as UniSA previously supported this virtual classroom software. UniSA is now switching their support to Zoom rather than Adobe Connect because of licensing requirements which meant that only a certain number of staff could have Adobe Connect licensesWith our current license with Zoom, all staff and students have corporate licensesThe functionality of Zoom closely resembles the functionality of Adobe Connect, except for the use of layouts to organise pods. The ability for students to schedule, run and record their own online meetings in Zoom, to support their project work and to make recordings of presentations, is a powerful benefit for our students studying online. 


If you would like to ask online teaching and learning questions related to your course, you can look through our FAQs, write to TIU@unisa.edu.au, have an online consultation with a member of the TIU, attend a Zoom workshop or sign up for the 1-week course, Introduction to Engaging Learners Online. 

PDF Version: Zoom and Panopto  (327 KB)

Keyboard Shortcuts

Did you know that you can bookmark a webpage in any browser using the keystroke Ctrl+D (or CMd+D for Macs)? 

Other useful keyboard shortcuts are 

  • Find Windows: Ctrl+F   Mac: Cmd+F 

Using the browser or in programs or in file explorer, this shortcut helps you find a word. A box will open for you to add the word you are looking for and then select enter. Select enter again to find all the instances of your search word. 

You will find this useful to locate material in your learnonline site, but first remember to turn editing on so the whole website will open in the browser to be searched.  

  • Cycle through open applications  Windows: Alt+Tab   Mac Cmd+Tab 

Perhaps you don’t have as many screens at home as you have at work, so you need to adjust to working with layers of programs open on your computer. Using this keyboard shortcut will show all the open programs with an extra box around the one that is selected to display on top. By pressing the tab button repeatedly, you can cycle through the different windows. There are other ways of doing this. 

  • Automatic split screen – drag floating window to edge of screen 

Not strictly a keyboard shortcut, but a simple way for windows users to get your windows organised so you can work on multiple windows on one screen. First make your window float by pressing the pages button on the top right of your window 

Page icons

Then drag that floating window to the left of the screen so that you push it completely off. The window will then automatically display on 50% of your screen. You can do the same on the right-hand side as well and perfectly display two windows on one screen.


If you would like to ask online teaching and learning questions related to your course, you can look through our FAQs, write to TIU@unisa.edu.au, have an online consultation with a member of the TIU, attend a Zoom workshop or complete the online modules as part of Introduction to Engaging Learners Online.

PDF Version: Keyboard shortcuts (147 KB)

Communicating expectations with students 

Students are likely to be nervous about making a transition to fully online learning, so it is important that you take time to set the expectations and boundaries in your new online learning environments as soon as possible.  

Don’t be afraid to set expectations high – but you will need to be as clear as possible about what it is that you require your students to do (Scully & Kerr, 2014). 

A good way to communicate your expectations is via an Announcementforum post each Monday morning that explains what students need to be doing for that week.  

Topics covered in such a post might be 

  • Concepts being introduced 
  • Activities they need to complete 
  • Zoom meeting times 
  • Assessment progress – what students should be doing this week to complete their assessments on time 
  • Your online office hours - when you will be online during the week and attending to that course 
  • Public holidays – and how they impact the course 
  • How they are to communicate – when to use a forum and when to use email.  
  • When they can expect a reply from you (e.g. within 24 hours). 

If the text starts to get too long, you can break it up with bolded headings to make the post easier to read.  

These regular posts will help build rhythm and structure within your course and will settle your students.  

Another common way to convey expectations is to list the Need tknow and Need to do for each week in a table at the beginning of each week in the course websiteThe ‘Need to knows’ are the new concepts being introduced and the ‘Need to dos’ are the activities and assessment expectations for that week. These lists become mental organisers for students to check their progress and reassure them that they are not missing anything.  

This example comes from the SCEDS 90004 course: 

Need to Know 

Need to Do 

  • Learner life worlds and implications 
  • Pedagogical justice and its implications 
  • Watch - Toward pedagogical justice 
  • Watch - Defining culturally responsive pedagogy (interview) 
  • Learning activity 4.1 - Enactments of culturally responsive pedagogy 
  • Read-Two journal articles 
  • Submit Assessment 2 


Realistic expectations 

Be mindful of what you are asking students to do and how long it would take them to do each activity.  

Time budgets (Quinn & Wedding, 2012)which map out in a table what students need to be doing each week, and how long they should spend on it, can be a helpful way to concisely communicate your expectations to students (example in a course) 

Colour coding can be used to convey if the activity is asynchronous or synchronous, if specialist software required, or if the activity is related to an assessment.  

Remember to include time for reading as part of your calculations and that the reading type impacts reading speed (Lockwood 2005). 

  • ‘easy’ 100 words per minute 
  • ‘moderate’ 70 words per minute 
  • ‘difficult’ 40 words per minute. 

An online tool that can help with these calculations is word to time. 


Communicating expectations with the teaching team 

You will also need to communicate well with the members of your teaching team.  

Many online courses create a hidden part of their website called Teacher’s notes that provides weekly guidance to the teaching team and what is expected of each member of the teaching team.  

Copies of the planned forum posts can be stored in the Teacher’s notes part of the website to be recycled for use with the next cohort. 

You can see an example of Teacher’s notes in the short course Engaging Learners Online in the UniSA Online environment (flexible sections), 

Blog 0103_Example of teacher's notes

or using the book tool in learnonline in the course ENR101. 

Example of book tool in LO


It is also a great idea to schedule regular meeting times in Zoom with the teaching team so that you are all on the same page for the week’s activities.


If you would like to ask online teaching and learning questions related to your course, you can look through our FAQs, write to TIU@unisa.edu.au, have an online consultation with a member of the TIU, attend a Zoom workshop or complete the online modules as part of  Introduction to Engaging Learners Online.

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