For the ODFL experience to be effective, it is important that there is a strong alignment between the intended learning outcomes and the activities that will help develop students’ achievement of these outcomes. As a teacher, you can adapt many active learning strategies to the ODFL courses. The activities you incorporate in your courses can provide new ways for students to interact, participate, and collaborate.

Furthermore, students need much more support and feedback in the online environment than in a traditional course to prevent them from feeling alienated in the Virtual Classroom. Using effective feedback strategies will enable the instructor to identify and meet individual student needs as well as encourage students to participate. Clear and constructive feedback can propel a student’s growth, providing opportunities for reflection while sharpening critical thinking skills.

Student success often relies on how appropriate the activity, feedback, and the chosen technology are for the learning context, and how well they are integrated into the learning process. However, before embarking on learning activities and feedback using the appropriate technology, as teachers, you may want to consider the importance of considering pedagogy before technology.

Theories for Online Learning Activities

Designing an effective online learning environment requires strong pedagogical grounding. In simple words, pedagogy is the soul and technology is the vehicle for transacting learning in an online environment.

In this section we take a closer look at some of the principles behind pedagogical aspects of online learning activities which are being admired by both the learners and the educators. It will also provide some insights into how the online course designers create a well-structured online learning environment.

To complement the resources above on learning theories and further broaden your knowledge, watch the following video on the application of learning theories in ODFL courses (14 mins).

By Tony Bates

Engaging students through active learning techniques

Learner Contributions and Feedback

You can provide learners with regular check-ins to evaluate their performance and communicate feedback. This allows learners to assess their progress, identify areas for improvement, and celebrate achievements.

Examples include:

  • Providing weekly self-diagnostic or diversified assessments that give immediate and detailed formative feedback on learner performance
  • Responding substantively to learner contributions in discussion forums or other dialogue tools
  • Providing weekly summaries of general class performance through video or other media-rich formats
  • Sharing topical or weekly introductions through video or other media-rich formats
  • Maintaining regular and accessible virtual office hours for learners to communicate with you

If you have discussed a particular topic in previous courses, you may be able to predict learner responses. Plan to use these expected responses to challenge learners to think deeper or differently about a topic.

Enhanced learner contribution.png

What makes feedback effective?

In education, feedback plays a critical role in student development, motivation, and satisfaction. However, not all feedback is effective in promoting learning. When providing feedback, consider the following elements:

  • Content of feedback: Include explicit information about what aspects of students’ knowledge or performance did not meet the success criteria. Inform students how they can adjust their current knowledge or performance to reach the desired goal.
  • Amount of feedback: Avoid overwhelming students with too many comments and prioritise feedback to important matters so students can understand where they should focus their future efforts.
  • Timing of feedback: Choose appropriate timing of feedback (how soon and how often; immediate vs. delayed) based on the learning goals, activity/assessment types and difficulty levels, and learner needs. Feedback is most effective when delivered as quickly as possible.
  • Revision opportunities: Provide opportunities for students to reflect and use feedback. Students should have opportunities to incorporate feedback into subsequent assignments or their final product.

Ideas for communicating feedback online

The principles of effective feedback remain the same regardless of educational settings, but the ways you communicate and provide feedback may need to be adapted for the online environment. Here are some ideas of how feedback (formal or informal) for different types of activities and assessments can be communicated to students asynchronously or synchronously.


Asynchronous Options

Synchronous Options

Informal feedback to whole class

Broadcast via announcement tool.

Announce during regular synchronous sessions. 

Informal feedback for an individual student or a specific group

Send a message.

Meet an individual student or a group of students during virtual office hours.

Formal feedback on individual or group assignments

For assignments submitted via the online assignment tool, you can leave feedback in many different formats. A rubric can also be added to an assignment tool and can be used in grading process. 

Synchronous options are more suitable for informal, in-person feedback on the progress of student work. 

Non-graded or low-stake quizzes

Consider providing automated feedback. Feedback can include details about answer choices and additional information about the topic assessed by the question. 

Use the participation tools like hand-raising, chat functions, and polling deliberately to check students’ understanding and engagement during synchronous sessions and provide immediate feedback. 

Informal peer feedback

Create student groups and have students use group discussions. 

Use apps like Zoom, Google Meet and BigBlueButton for class feedback groups. Create rooms so students can enter as moderators.

Formal peer feedback

Use the Peer review app option in assignments.

Use the breakout room feature in Collaborate or Zoom.

Pedagogy is at the heart of teaching and learning, and it provides the right direction in structuring relevant learning activities and feedback. Active learning techniques engage students by fostering understanding and giving them more control of their learning. Feedback also plays a vital role by allowing learners to assess their learning progress. Effective communication between you and your online learner facilitates timely and accurate feedback. A communication plan helps you streamline your communication strategy.