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Learning online: guidelines, tips and support

learning online guideUse this guide to support your learning in this topic – tips for success when learning online

Site: Flinders Learning Online
Topic: eLearning Gateway (staff support)
Book: Learning online: guidelines, tips and support
Printed by: Guest user
Date: Friday, 20 September 2019, 4:08 PM

Be present onlineBe present online

Connect with your peers and teaching staff in FLO.

Your topic will have an online site in the University's learning platform (in this case, FLO or Flinders Learning Online).

Create your online profile.

Profile and user photoIt is recommended that you complete your personal profile – at least, to add a picture – so that your classmates know who they are studying with. 

It also makes it easier for you to differentiate between postings in a forum and will add a more 'human' feel to topic activities. If you do not wish to use a real photo of yourself, you can use an avatar (representative picture). Check with teaching staff to if you are unsure what to do. Your photo/avatar and profile will only be seen by students enrolled in the topic/s. You only need to do this once, as it will carry across to any other topics you enrol into.  

For a video on how to set your profile and personalise other aspects of FLO, see FLO Help for students > Personalisation (under FLO Basics).

Keep up to date: check your University email account and FLO discussion forums regularly.

Announcements from teaching staff and postings to forums will come through to your university email account. In the topic site, new postings and announcements are also indicated in the Announcements block. You can control how you receive notifications of communications (for instance you can choose an email digest) by visiting 'My profile settings' in the Administration block (toolbar at top of screen). Announcements by teaching staff will come through separately (ie not in a digest).

If you find it time consuming to access more than one email account, you can forward your Flinders emails to a personal email account.

Know where to find key information.

Topic links blockEvery topic will have a Topic links block. Key information in your topic/s might include Topic links (block), Topic information, Statement of Assessment Methods (SAM), Study guide, Readings and Library Resources.

Access and watch videos.

lecture recording iconAt Flinders University, videos of lectures are available for viewing in FLO post-lecture at your convenience. A teacher may also make other videos related to your studies or provide links to videos on the internet.

FLO help for students  (FLO site) :

Take notes whilst watching to reinforce your learning.

You can make notes at any time (for example, whilst watching a video). You could do this in hard copy format or electronic format, whatever method suits you. Electronic formats include word processing software and online tools (eg Evernote, Google Docs and Microsoft OneNote). Choose the method that suits you best depending on convenience, your device (mobile or computer), what you want to include in your notetaking (eg hyperlinks), and how you want to use your notes (eg in assessment). 

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Self-manage your studySelf-manage your study

Use FLO icons and tools to help you navigate your topic site/s. 

The layout of your FLO topics may vary. The module headings may say 'Week 1' or 'Module 1' or be the date of the week. All modules may be closed with a prompt to open or close all. Some items may only become visible after you complete others. However, each topic will have commonalities according to University guidelinese.g. could be 

Search box You can use the Search function (top of screen) to find activities and resources in your topic homepages.

Table of contents

Table of contents

Topic homepages have a table of contents (TOC) at the top of the screen. You can click on the + sign to open the contents, and see the names for modules/weeks in a topic. You can click on a TOC heading to go to that module, so this TOC acts as a navigation tool.  

TOC progressIf the site has completion boxes set up (see below), you can also see your progress in the TOC. 


Favourites tabYou can create a Favourites tab for quick access to selected FLO sites. To set up the tab:

  1. Click on My topics (toolbar below banner at top of page)
  2. From the topic/site list, select the ones you want to make favourites by clicking on the starfavourites star - unselectedwhich will change toFavourites star - selected
  3. Once you have finished, in your FLO homepage you will now have a Favouries tab with your selections in it

Be guided in your learning approach by the teaching staff. 

Teaching staff may specify a particular approach to your learning that determines your study habits and time management. For example:

  • if the approach is inquiry-based, you may need to do some research and make personal choices in your learning pathway
  • if the topic is focused on work-integrated learning (WIL), you may be required to do a placement while studying, or research/participate outside of University boundaries. 

Manage your workload using FLO tools.

Flinders University uses 'units' to provide guidance to students on their study plans. The standard student workload for a 4.5 unit topic is therefore approximately 9 hours per week (meaning the estimated minimum time commitment necessary to achieve an average grade). For more information please refer to Assessment Policy and Procedures - Appendix B.

Topics vary in length but the common length is over a semester (14 weeks). On average, each week will probably include readings, activities and assessment preparation. 

You are advised to generate a 'master plan' of your deadlines and commitments across all topics so that you are able to see where the busy times will be and plan accordingly. 

Calendar block

calendar block iconCalendar block

Your FLO topic should have a Calendar block. You can export Calendar items to your phone or another calendar

upcoming events block iconUpcoming events block

In FLO, you can change when you are notified about upcoming events through the Upcoming events block:

  1. In the Upcoming events block, click on ‘Go to calendar…’
  2. In the Calendar screen, click on the Preferences button
  3. Check the number next to ‘Upcoming events look-ahead’ – in the pull-down menu, you can change it to what you want 

clock block iconClock block

If a Clock block is in your topic/s, all times stated are Adelaide local time – please refer to a time zone calculator to convert to your local time. It is your responsibility to make sure activities/assessment items are submitted by the correct date and time.

Monitor your activities in FLO.

Depending on the activities available in your topic/s and how they are enabled, you may be able to do some/all of the following. Your teacher may explain the purpose of these features and how you can best use them to progress your studies. 

completion boxCompletion box

Some of your topic sites may use completion boxes, meaning that many resources and activities will have associated tick boxes (a small square box  to the right of the activity/resource). There are two types: 

self-completeSelf-complete (tick them off yourself, if you wish). By ticking the completion boxes next to resources/activities you can check how you are tracking. This is a useful way to 'bookmark your place' for when you return.

Auto-complete tick boxAuto-complete (added to activities that must be done). The box will automatically be ticked once you have completed the activity.

block iconProgress bar

progress bar exampleYour topic site/s may also have a progress bar, set up by the topic coordinator. This is a block that shows in the right-hand side of the site, or if you are on a device will be at the bottom of the screen. 

The progress bar is a time management tool. The colour-coded block shows you what you have/haven't done to complete/view required tasks with an expected due date for completion. It also provides shortcuts to the resources/activities represented by the coloured box. 

The topic coordinator decides on the importance of the task and the expected date of completion, using activity completion to trigger success. 

Attendance iconAttendance

If this activity is set up in the topic, you can view your attendance record (eg at lectures or workshops). If this activity relates to a non-graded pass or other assessment value, you will be able to track how you are going.

    grades iconGrades

    Go to Topic links block (right-hand side of screen or bottom of screen if you are using a device) and click on Grades  to check your grades for assessment items and make sure they add up correctly.

    Forum iconForum 

    Profile > MiscellaneousView forum posts: You can view your forum posts across all topics. This may be useful if you want to check on your participation in a topic/s. It might also help you to see what you want to use across topics for an artefact such as an assessment item, or carry forward for other purposes  (eg an eportfolio). Access your posts from your Profile (Miscellaneous > Forum posts/discussions).

    Export to portfolio: Within a specific forum, you can also export your own post ('Export to porfolio' option when you click on your post), useful if you want to use it in an assessment item or carry it forward for other purposes (eg an eportfolio). Content downloads into individual elements (photos, video, text etc).

    quiz iconQuiz

    You can review your quiz responses after the quiz has closed if the quiz allows it. You might want to do this for revision purposes or self-checking. Click on the quiz link (once it is completed). You will see a summary of your previous activities and if you are able to review your quiz attempt/s, you will see a Review hyperlink in the screen, to the right of your attempt.


      Glossary iconGlossary 

      Comments: You can write and view comments (if comments are enabled).

      Ratings: You can add ratings to items, view the total rating you received, view all raw ratings given by individuals, view total ratings that anyone received (if ratings are enabled).

        Database iconDatabase

        Entries: You can write and view entries, and export your own entry.

        Comments: You can write and view comments   (if comments are enabled). 

        Ratings: You can add ratings to items, view the total rating you received, view all raw ratings given by individuals, view total ratings that anyone received (if ratings are enabled). 

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          Communicate and participateCommunicate and participate

          Use FLO tools effectively for communication.

          user options - MessagesEach topic will offer different ways to communicate with teaching staff and other students. Remember that appropriate/acceptable behaviours when using digital technologies ('netiquette') apply whether communication is assessment-related or more informal.  

          You can use the Messages function to message a teacher or other students. In the pull-down user [your name] menu (top toolbar) select Messages and choose someone to message. You can also do a search if the user is not listed.

          There is likely to be a Welcome or Contact block with teaching staff names and links to contact details (email, phone etc). 

          The topic may also have:

          • a Touchpoint surveyTouchpoint survey (feedback activity)that asks you how you are going in the topic
          • a Chat activity Chat icon where you can chat synchronously (in real time) with the teacher/s. This tool is especially useful if you are not meeting face to face
          • a Dialogue activity Dialogue icon which will enable you to initiate conversations with teachers or other students in the topic 

          As well as the Announcements forum, your topic is likely to have other forum activities forum icon where you can discuss topic or non topic-related content with other participants and teachers. The topic coordinator/teacher will check the forum/s periodically, and respond to queries if necessary. 

          Collaborate feedback optionsThe teaching team may also set up a Collaborate virtual classroom session/s for real-time communication. You will be able to use various tools in this session represented by icons (raise hand, laughter, applause etc) to be more present. Collaborate offers a series of Feedback options (Happy, Surprised, Agree/Disagree, Confused etc).

          Work in small groups effectively in FLO or another online space (eg FLO Live).

          You may be required to work in a group/s during your studies. Group work enables the experiences of team members can be shared for the benefit of everyone. Team or group work is considered to be an employability skill. 

          In FLO, you may be randomly assigned to groups by the system, manually put into groups by the teacher, or required to self-select your group using the self selection activity.self selection activity

          Group work in online environments differs from face-to-face environments in that often there are no (or minimal) visual cues. However, these basic guidelines* (adapted) for good practice still apply. 
          Guidelines In FLO/online
          Participate and contribute: to be engaged in the learning process, you need to participate in all group activities and contribute towards completing group objectives. You can check your participation in forums and other activities (Self-manage your study). Make sure you are clear about what is required of you in your study by checking the assessment/activity details.
          Listen/read and reflect: listen accurately to other group members/read their contributions and reflect on what they are saying; one of the objectives of group collaboration is to learn from each other. You may be listening (if real-time, using tools such as Chat or FLO Live ) but you might also be reading (eg a forum post). Use symbol responses such as applause or emoticons (eg smiley faces) to facilitate positive communication and avoid misinterpretation. With a FLO forum post, you have 15 minutes to change your post before it is viewable to others. Read it carefully for mistakes and meaning.
          Explain and clarify: make sure that everyone in the group understands the material – explain and clarify when necessary.
          Depending on what activity you are participating in, there may be various ways to do this. Read/listen carefully, and ask (eg post to the forum) if you are not sure. Be clear with forum post titles and other wording you use in an activity to aid understanding. Check responses from group members regularly and be inclusive of all group members in this process.
          Discuss and reach a consensus: this is likely to be a group outcome, so it is important to discuss your approach/answers before you formalise your responses. Strive to reach a consensus. The teaching team may set up the tool/s that you use – FLO forum, wiki etc. Your group may also choose to use an external tool/s to communicate when not in FLO – Google Docs, Facebook, Skype etc. Your group is likely to have varying availability geographically and time-wise but it's important that group members have 'buy-in' (feel like they have a say/role to play).
          Be tactful if you do not agree with a group member: you may constructively criticise the ideas but not the person.  Be careful not to 'shout at' or 'flame' others. Choose your verbal/textual words carefully. Find out more about discussion forum and social media appropriate/acceptable behaviours.

          When working in groups you need to be sure about what is required of the group and of you as an individual. 'Collusion' involves two or more students working together towards an objective that should have been achieved by students working alone. For more information, visit the Academic integrity for students FLO site. 

            * Lightner, S. Bober, MJ. & Willi, C. 2007, 'Team-based activities to promote engaged learning', College Teaching, vol. 55, no. 1, Winter 2007, pp. 5-18.

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            Reflect and feed forwardReflect and feed forward

            Use feedback on assessment items for future assessment items (feed forward) – this is 'assessment for learning'. 

            Activities leading to assessment are likely to be spread across the weeks for your topic/s, and depending on the activity/assessment item your time on these tasks will vary. See Self-manage your study for more information.

            Understand online assessment. 
            Assignment submission iconAssignment submission (in FLO)

            An assignment is a type of assessment (generally substantial) in which students prepare a body of work, such as an essay, report or presentation. Generally, these types of assessments are submitted through FLO using the Assignment tool (via an assignment/assessment link). Sometimes, the terms assignment and assessment are used interchangeably – don't be confused, the terms do not make any difference to the task.

            At Flinders University, assessments that are generated in electronic format (word-processing, spreadsheets etc) are submitted and returned in an electronic format.  You must keep a copy of the final version of all assignments you submit. FLO also stores your electronically submitted assignment.

            See also:

            Other assessment items 

            Your topic coordinator/teacher will explain the criteria for assessment and how to manage contributions or artefact creations that are situated in FLO or in the public arena. 

            • In FLO: You may be assessed on your participation in discussion forums, quiz completion, wiki or blog contributions etc.
            • External to FLO: You may be assessed on your use of an external tool (eg blog), or participation in external sites (eg forum). If this form of assessment applies in a topic, make sure you communicate in a professional way and remember to keep a copy of your work.

            Assessment extensions

            Your topic and the school/faculty in which it is situated will have a formal process for requesting an extension on an assessment item due date. Please refer to the Statement of Assessment Methods (SAM) in your topic/s for more details.

            Check your feedback and grades.

            Check your assessment feedback and grades (eg feedback files, feedback comments, wiki annotations), and make sure the grades add up correctly (gradebook). If you don’t do this post assignment, you may be graded wrongly (eg if you make a mistake uploading your assignment). Don’t wait until you get your final grade in Student Two! 

            This advice applies to other assessment items also. For example, you can usually review your quiz choices after you have completed the quiz. Depending on how the quiz is set up, you may also be able to view feedback as you go. 

            Ensure that, wherever possible, you take feedback you receive on assessment items forward to other assessment activities. Is there something in the feedback that might apply to other areas of your study at university or even in the workplace? 

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            Be professionalBe professional

            Make sure your communications, outputs (artefacts) and behaviours in the online environment are professional.

            Understand academic integrity.

            Academic integrity means that all work which is presented is produced by the student alone, with all sources and collaboration fully acknowledged (Academic integrity, 2.1).

            This resource provides a tutorial, quiz and text-matching information to support your understanding of academic integrity and use of text-matching software (Turnitin).

            All students and staff have an obligation to understand and respect the rules and practice of academic integrity. It is therefore expected that students and staff will adhere to high standards of academic integrity. You can view the full Flinders University Academic integrity policy under Student-related policies and procedures.

            Please read the the University’s Academic Integrity policy and Information for students webpage (the overview video is a good place to start).

            Avoid plagiarism.

            Plagiarism is the use of another person's words or ideas as if they were one's own (Student Academic Integrity Policy)

            Referencing, a standard convention within the academic and professional communities, is designed to inform the reader of the sources of information used in a piece of written work.

            Understanding how to reference helps you avoid plagiarism. Be guided by the topic coordinator in regards to referencing and referencing styles. Academic integrity, 2.2.1 lists ways you might plagiarise. Referencing links you to referencing systems and resources (Student Learning Centre).

            Use text-matching software for draft assignments.

            Flinders University provides text-matching software (Turnitin) for use by staff and students. 

            University policy allows you to submit drafts of your assignments and view the report. (See the example draft box below.) 

            example of draft Turnitin box

            Your text-based electronically submitted assignments will automatically be submitted to Turnitin as part of the assignment submission process in FLO. Teaching staff will look at those reports when they think plagiarism (either intentional or unintentional) may be present.

            Know how to communicate online. 

            A general rule is to always maintain a respectful online presence when you communicate with others. 

            The University expects professional and respectful behaviour from students when participating in forums. Make sure you read about appropriate/acceptable behaviours when using digital technologies ('netiquette') before commencing your study. 

            Use social media appropriately.

            If you choose to use social media sites outside of FLO for interactions with other students, these are considered personal communication spaces, rather than Flinders learning spaces. If you use Facebook or any other social media, be aware that:

            • There are risks in sharing information in social media as other students may copy your ideas in their assessable work in breach of academic integrity principles. Heavy penalties may apply for breaches.
            • Discussion on social media sites is not monitored by the topic coordinator/tutor and thereby may be misleading or incorrect. Without proper academic supervision, great care must be taken in assuming the accuracy, relevance and reliability of any study-related discussions.

            Under no circumstances should there be defamatory exchanges on social media ('trolling' or 'cyber bullying') – whether pertinent to other students, the University, or to University staff. If the topic coordinator becomes aware of any social media comments that are defamatory, the matter will be referred for legal support to secure retraction and removal of those comments, and action may be taken against the student, if identified. It is strongly suggested that discussion on any forum be of a professional nature and not involve any derogatory statements about individuals, groups or entities.

            You should read about social media appropriate/acceptable behaviours before commencing your study.

            You may be given an authentic activity such as to post to a public blog (eg professional or organisational). Think about your post carefully before submitting it as you will want to create a professional impression, and your post is likely to remain in the blogosphere/other public space for a long time!

            Keep and curate your work.

            As you progress through your degree, you may want to keep 'artefacts' (assessment items etc) as an ongoing reference or for beyond-university purposes (eg employability). Such artefacts may include:

            • Forum posts
            • Presentations
            • Project materials
            • Videos
            • Research

            You might choose to store these items in one convenient location (eg your computer) or disperse them among several locations (eg your computer, a blog, an external storage site such as Google Docs/Dropbox). These artefacts could contribute to an eportfolio that you build and document for your future career/experience. Refer to ePortfolios (eLearning Gateway) > Tool picker > Selecting a cloud storage tool for ePortfolio support for more information.

            Know where to find support.

            • Your Careers Service (Careers and Employer Liaison Centre): 'Assisting you to best prepare for employment and career progression'
            • Horizon Award: 'Formal recognition for extra-curricular activities, programs and experiences that add to your professional skill development'
            • ePortfolios (eLearning Gateway): Teacher-focused with the learner in mind – use the tool picker to find out about possible eportfolio platforms/software you could use for your artefacts

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            Solve problemsSolve problems

            Depending on where you live, you may need to factor in your time zone when seeking help.

            Learning and teaching queries

            For queries about topic content, assessment, activities, participation and grades, contact the appropriate person. This might be the topic coordinator, a mentor or a member of the teaching team (eg your tutor). Check the topic site for this information and if you are not sure post to the forum which will be checked regularly by the teaching team.

            Administrative queries

            topic informationFor help with topic enrolment, study plans, credit, other topic/course management inquiries contact the school your topic is offered through. To find out what school, in the Topic links block (right-hand side of screen or bottom of screen if you are using a device), click on Topic information. Click on your topic (if more than one is listed) – the next screen will tell you the faculty and school.

            Study support

            Technical help

            • Help and support for students: technical help, academic and study skills support, other information for current students
            • FLO help (Flinders University website): FLO help (opening hours etc), How to access FLO, FLO FAQ, Library Search Smart Quiz
            • FLO help for students (FLO site): information and resources for students learning to use FLO (videos, tip sheets and other resources)
            • Student computing: new students, online services, computers on campus, your computer, help and support, information security and guidelines
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