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Teaching online guidebook

Site: Flinders Learning Online
Topic: eLearning Gateway (staff support)
Book: Teaching online guidebook
Printed by: Guest user
Date: Thursday, 19 September 2019, 10:35 AM

About this guidebook

If you decide to use this book to your topic create a hyperlink to it (URL) and hide it – this means that students won't be able to see it but users with a Teacher or Tutor role will. 

Image courtesy of Robert S Donovan this FLO book as your main reference point for teaching online. Revisit it to refresh your memory about your role as an online teacher.

Where relevant, a 'How to' section links you to technical instructions for the activity/tool you and your students will be using.

About the weekly teaching notes

All weeks in the topic have hidden 'teaching notes' at the bottom of the module/week. These notes (a FLO page) are hidden from students but viewable to teaching staff.

It is a good idea to check these notes at the beginning of each week or earlier. They are prompts only – you will tailor your teaching in the topic according to 'just in time' and other online events/cues.

The weekly notes are deliberately brief to encourage you to add to them while you are teaching, specific to the content and your/students' experiences in the topic right now. For example, you might:

  • evaluate the topic as you go (eg observations, insights, what worked, what didn't)
  • notice a particular problem with content that keeps recurring and may require scaffolding in future topic development 
  • notice a content gap
  • think of a useful tip for teaching in that week
  • think of a useful activity that scaffolds or extends the scope for that week.

Your active teaching applied to/recorded in the notes will make them a rich resource for sharing with present and future teaching staff in this online topic. 

Be an active teacher

Image by percuss ( teaching is important whether you are teaching face to face or online. However, the online environment is more challenging as students can't interact with you in a physical space. (This is why social presence is key to teaching online.)

Active teaching supports the four characteristics of online learning: personal, structured, active, connective.

In your topic, you could use the weekly features 'Key ideas', 'What you need to do this week' and/or 'Recap the key points from last week' as a structure to support your teaching in the topic. These prompts will help you give students a consistent message about learning activities, and guide them to stay on task and actively engaged.

Explore your role

Roles for teachers provides ideas and approaches to teaching online. 'Meddler in the middle' is a role suggested for teachers, but whatever role you choose it is likely to change over the course of the topic depending on student needs, and the online activities you engage in with them. 

Promote social learning

Students can and should learn from others, and there are plenty of opportunities to do this in the topics (forum, live chat, private feedback etc – the tools in the Communication area). So that students don't become isolationist (and therefore at risk of attrition), encourage them to participate in the topic wherever and whenever they can. Relate their participation to assessment and how they will be advantaged. Thread it throughout your own participation in the topic. Teachers are social learners too! Refer students to the Course guide for more information about social learning.

Look for 'teachable moments' (a just-in-time approach)

By being socially present in the topic site, you will be able to notice what students need, when they need it. 

  • Is it obvious that students clearly don't understand a concept (this might be a threshold concept or muddy point)?
  • Do a few students seem to have a similar issue/s?

You could use tools such as the live chat or a relevant forum to directly address these. You might choose to add a resource (self created or link to an external one), or encourage students to find a resource themselves and share with everyone. Your approach will depend on the situation and your teaching role in that moment.

Be responsive

Listen to student feedback, monitor their progress, and use your learnings to 'shape' the topic from beginning to end, by making sense of what's happening 'behind the scenes'. This might mean providing a resource as a scaffold around a threshold concept or muddy point, or adding a section (eg extra activity) in a week that helps students to find/respond to materials more easily. A key word here is timely – quick to respond to posts, queries, assessment etc.

Evaluate the topic (ongoing)

By checking on student activity in the topic and using tools such as the Touchpoint survey, you can evaluate as you go. This approach is active and will provide quantitative and qualitative data for future topic development.

What active teaching looks like to a student

  • Welcome and other teacher-created video/s
  • Announcements
  • Regular posts or post responses
  • Lively live chat (high-level facilitation)
  • Prompt feedback on assignments (could include audio/video) 
  • Just-in-time resources and other support 
  • Participation (in the same activities as them)
  • Listening (eg to feedback)
  • Up-to-date and relevant resources (readings, videos etc)
  • Amendments/adjustments

Be socially present

"Social Red" by Daniel Tenerife - Own work. Licensed under GFDL via Wikimedia Commons - key purpose in teaching online is to create a teaching presence, and encourage students to create a student presence. Teaching presence + student presence = social presence, which:

  • keeps students on track/task (high attrition in online topics/courses is common)
  • helps students learn – through interacting with the teacher and other students
  • fosters a sense of community. 

Social presence is closely aligned with active teaching and supports social learning.

What social presence looks like to a student
  • A photo of the teacher (and other students)
  • Information about teacher – background, teaching interests etc (and other students) 
  • Welcome, teacher/student expectations
  • Accessible (teacher contact details)
  • Friendly, personable, interested
  • Visibly online (frequently, at key times) – announcements, forums, video
  • Responsive ('just in time')
  • Stimulating – through challenging questions, inquiry
  • Constructive feedback and feed forward (for assignments)
  • Supportive – guiding, encouraging, asking how they are going

Communicate with students

communicateCommunicating is a key aspect of social learning and social presence in the online environment, so make sure you are active in the tools that enable interaction between students and teachers.

Another aspect of communication (and active teaching) is monitoring student activity in the topic. If a student is not engaging with the activities/resources, it is important to contact them to find out why. Your best approach is probably to email them, or send them a message in FLO (but if they are not logging into FLO this will not be effective). Your prompt and personal response will be appreciated by the student. At the same time, you may find out information that is useful for evaluating the topic.

What tools are available in FLO to communicate with students, for what purpose? (eLearning Gateway)

Make announcements

Announcements are a way of generating social presence in the FLO topic.

Look for the discussion forum icon forum icon and the link to the forum.

  • This forum is one-way communication only – teacher to students (students can't see the 'Add new topic' button). Any posts you make will appear in the Latest announcements block in the RH side of the topic screen. 
  • Announcements are handy for all important information (eg live chat times/changes, assessment reminders). Remind students to check their emails regularly: a copy of the announcement (and a link to any attachments) will be sent to their Flinders email account. 

It will depend on your role in the topic as to what announcements you make (eg the topic coordinator will probably make announcements about grades being available).

Find out more about Announcements.

See Manage a discussion forum for two-way forums (teacher-student, student-teacher, student-student).

What you could say

You could post an announcement at the beginning of each week. If you do this consistently, students will come to expect it. You could follow this format:

  • 1st announcement for the topic – the week students have access (prior to week 1)
  • Announcement every week (week 1 on) at the beginning of the week (ie early Monday)

Try to keep your announcements succinct/to the point (they are a resource for students), but at the same time help them get to know you by being personal and friendly.

1st announcement 

One week prior to topic commencement:

  • Welcome students to the topic, encourage them to explore the site (videos, key features)
  • Refer students to the topic information resources 
  • Promote social learning and encourage them to engage with you and other students – remind them of the tools available for this
  • Provide (learning) tips on how to be successful in the topic 
  • Whatever else…

Weekly announcements
  • Prompt students to access eReadings, start tasks, or review material
  • Remind students to track their time (time on task).
  • Encourage communication with you and other students.
  • Whatever else…

How to

Manage a discussion forum

Discussion forums are a great way to create and encourage social presence between teacher and students (student/teacher, student/student). They are asynchronous, meaning that students and teachers can post at whatever time suits them. 

Forums that don't relate to specific content are usually found at the top of the topic site. Other forums may be located in each week of the topic and are specific to the content for that week. A forum/s may be assessed.

You are advised to check these forums regularly (eg every 2 days) to monitor posts (for netiquette, issues, teachable moments).

Look for the discussion forum icon forum icon in the relevant week.

General discussion forum 
  • Ask students how they are going with the videos/readings – note taking, understanding/learning content etc.
  • Encourage students to share learning techniques and tips.
  • Look for tips in improving the topic site/resources over time (eg next teaching semester).

Weekly, task or subject-specific discussion forums

Model the thinking you want to see in your students through your own forum posts

  • Use for teachable moments around topic content for that week
  • Start with a trigger question to encourage participation 
    • What are the tricky concepts, the ones that are contestable, the misconceptions, the debates, the threshold concepts?
  • Use a personal perspective and tap into something interesting or topical to provoke conversation
  • Discuss key ideas that will help students with their assessments
  • Encourage students to practice ideas, be wrong, get feedback, try out an opinion (if not assessable)
  • Begin the forum discussion by posting something provocative yourself…a conversation starter. 
  • Invite or trigger discussion around a muddy point
  • Start with a question or other prompt (eg 'This week we will look closely at…', 'What is your experience of…?', 'This forum focuses on…').

Provide a 'hook' – aim to make your forum posts enticing and relevant to students (from their point of view), and guide their posts in challenging directions. 

How to

Facilitate a live chat session

Chat sessions are a great way to actively teach and encourage social presence. Chats are synchronous, meaning that students and teachers post messages in real time. Past chat sessions are also saved. If a student can't attend a live chat, they can review the chat at a later time.

When you have chosen a suitable chat time, post it as an announcement so students will be alerted by email, and set the chat session schedule. 

To access, look for the chat icon chat icon and the link to the chat room 

Facilitating live chat

Duration: 1 hour (for example)

Use the chat space to communicate synchronously with students at a designated time. You can use this time to explore the content deeply, identify student issues/misunderstandings, and any other concerns.

You can also think of a chat room as an online office that has its door open at certain times. 

You might also identify some teachable moments which you could follow up by creating or providing a link to a resource (eg external), as well as through the usual communications channels (forums/announcements).

If something is raised that cannot be addressed in real time, or is not suitable for a shared communication space,it can be addressed later, perhaps through:

  • the current/following week's forum 
  • an announcement (teacher to all students)
  • private communication with the student/s who raised the issue (either through messaging or email)

How to

Support and mark assessments

scaffoldAssessment is a key focus for students and therefore a focus for activities and teaching in the topic. Refer to the sub-chapters for the assessment tool that supports these assessment types.

Supporting assessment activity
  • Students will benefit from you sharing tips for effective study habits and encouraging students to share theirs (eg time management, breaking down the tasks into manageable chunks). Whilst there is nothing like personal experience, you may want to refer students to the relevant study and writing guides provided by the Student Learning Centre, or encourage them to share resources they find useful
  • Use announcements, forums and chat rooms to support (scaffold) student preparation of assignments and other assessment tasks.


How you mark the assessment will depend on the assessment type (post/s in a forum, quiz answers, file submission via the assignment dropbox, other).

Assess discussion forum activity

Look for the discussion forum icon forum icon and the link to the forum in the relevant week.

In the topic there may be overall assessment of weekly forums, or a one-off forum assessment. Criteria for marking may include posts, posts and responses, or documents/other materials posted to the forum. 

Teaching staff may be able to rate students' posts (if the forum is set up to do this). 

How to

Assess quizzes

Look for the quiz iconquiz iconand the link to the quiz in the relevant week.

You could post an announcement or post to the general discussion forum (which might sit in a Communications area) to provide tips about preparing for a quiz.

Encourage students to ask for help if they need it  you or other students  through the Communications area tools.

Quizzes are not always set up for assessment; sometimes they are knowledge checks. The topic may have a practice quiz (optional) that prepares students for an assessment quiz.

Help students prepare for the quiz 

Prior to the quiz opening, you could post an announcement or post to the general discussion forum to provide tips about preparing for the quiz:

  • encourage students to ask for help if they need it – from you or other students – using the Communications area tools, in the live chat or weekly forum
  • remind them about the scope of content for a quiz and what to expect (types of questions etc) – refer them to the Topic guide/information
  • keep the quiz in their minds by referring to it in the lead-up time, in terms of learning content, important focus points etc
  • preview the quiz yourself – you will see what they will experience when they do the quiz (eg movement from one question to another, time setting), and will be able to advise them on how much time to spend on a question, and other aspects related to the quiz settings and content

When the quiz opens

You may want to post an announcement reminding students that they can now do the quiz, and the timeframe they have for that (ie how many days it is open).

You can view student responses to the quiz while the quiz is still open (eg see how many students have attempted the quiz, how long it has taken them, what their responses to individual questions are). What you will view depends on the quiz purpose and subsequent settings (eg how many attempts, whether it is timed). and question type.

When the quiz closes

Once set up, the quiz is automatically added to the Gradebook. Click on Administration > Gradebook setup to view the results for student quiz submissions.

Quiz settings (when the quiz is set up) provide students with results and feedback once the quiz is closed.

Mark short answer questions (once the quiz is closed)

If quiz questions require short answers (eg there might be a mix of multiple choice and short answers), you will need to mark them in FLO. To do this you need to access the manual grading report.

View quiz results (once the quiz is closed)

Four quiz reports are available in FLO. These reports not only tell you students' results (if automatically graded by FLO) but also whether there were common errors/misunderstandings that you can use as a teachable moment. If some questions require manual grading, quiz grades won't be available until you have marked these questions.

How to

Specific reports
  • Grades report (shows student quiz attempts, overall grade, a summary of correct/incorrect answers)
    • You can re-grade quiz attempts in this report (a form of moderation)
  • Responses report (shows student responses but not grades – you can compare students' responses)
  • Manual grading report (how to mark questions that are short answer)

The Statistics report gives a statistical (psychometric) analysis of the quiz and the questions within it. Teaching staff might look at this report to analyse individual questions and question behaviours in preparation for the next reiteration of the topic.

Assignments (via the dropbox)

Look for the Assignment dropbox icon assignment dropbox icon and the link to the assignment (assessment) in the relevant week.

These types of assessment may include an essay, report, business case or any other type of assessment that requires students to submit a file (eg Word, PDF) via the Assignment dropbox.

Support the assessment task/s 

You could post an announcement or post to the general discussion forum (which may sit in a Communications area) to provide tips about preparing for:

  • assessments via the Assignment dropbox (link in the relevant week):
    • encourage them to discuss their ideas and share their strategies in the forums
    • ask them how they are going with assessment preparation in the chat room
    • refer then to support resources (particularly helpful to students during the submission phase):
      • the FLO Student Helpdesk should they have any problems (contact details and opening hours). This may affect when they submit their assignments – for immediate help, they must phone or email the Helpdesk during opening hours
      • the Support materials for students FLO site (particularly Assignments), linked in the Help and support pull-down menu in the grey toolbar in FLO. This site has videos and text documents that explain how to use FLO. As a teacher, it is worth knowing what is in this site so you can field student questions. However, you can also refer them to the Student Helpdesk. 

Manage assignment submissions

If students are submitting to Turnitin (text matching software)

This is a separate tool to the Assignment tool, so students will need to submit a draft to Turnitin (there will be a link for them to do this) and then the final version to the Assignment dropbox.

If students request an extension

The Assignment extension tool will be available in the topic (but may be hidden – you will need to unhide it to use it), for students to apply for an extension electronically. If your role allows (depending on how the tool has been set up), you will receive an email if a student has requested an extension. You can then go into the tool to manage the extension request, and the student will receive an email notification re whether the extension has been granted, and the new closing date for assignment submission (if applicable). FLO will automatically change the due date for the assignment for that student, so they can still submit via the Assignment dropbox.

The topic coordinator will advise you on the process for assignment extensions.

Mark assignments

Depending on how the assignment is set up by the topic coordinator and the requirements for student submission, you may mark in Word or PDF, or in an online marking guide, rubric or checklist within FLO. Most likely though, you will mark in Word or PDF.

  • If annotating (marking) in Word/PDF offline, you are most likely to either:
    • Mark students one by one, requiring you to download each submission, mark it and then upload it into the student grading screen (if small number of students)
    • Download all student submissions, mark offline, then upload to return to all students (if large number of students)
  • You could also annotate (mark) student assignments online (in FLO) in Word/PDF.

For the process of marking and managing assignments, see Assignment – main entry. The topic coordinator will provide guidance on marking methods you could use for assessment items.

How to

External tools (if applicable)

Integrated with FLO

FLO has some external tools that are not in FLO (Moodle) but integrate with FLO, for example:

  • Statement of Assessment Methods (SAM)
  • eReadings List
  • Cengage Learning
  • Collaborate. 
  • Studiosity
  • eReadings (Leganto)
  • Assignment Extension
  • Past Exam Papers

You can access these using the External tool option (Add an activity or resource).

Not integrated with FLO

Some assessments may require students to use external tools (ie tools outside of FLO, available via the internet). An example is Padlet, a web-based communications wall. Assessments using external tools are usually 'low-stakes', as students are not 'in the system'. When students use an external tool, they may not be easily identifiable. Ask them to use their FLO name somewhere in the tool so you can view their activity.

In these cases, a new assessment item can be added manually to the Gradebook (eg Padlet wall introduction), and you will be able to mark the student by viewing their contribution for assessment in the tool and putting the mark (or non-graded pass) directly into the Gradebook:

  • To access the Gradebook, go to Administration > Gradebook setup
  • To put the mark into Gradebook, in the View tab click in the column for the assessment item next to the student's name

How to

See Gradebook – main entry for all information about this tool (how-tos).

Monitor student activity in FLO

A range of reports in FLO can tell you how often a resource has been accessed, what students have accessed or participated in, and more.

Questions you may want to ask/answer:

  • What do you want your students to do? 
  • What are you looking for when you monitor student actions in FLO? 
  • How will you action what you see (strategies)? 

It is a good idea to check at the end of week 1 to make sure that students have been active in the site. After week 1, you could either check either randomly or regularly (eg weeks 2, 4, 6 / 3, 6, 9). If students are not active by week 3, you are advised to contact them. What you find out might be worth recording in the weekly teaching notes for ongoing evaluation of the topic.

ALL LOGS: Graphic display of a particular student's participation pattern 

This report displays a graph of the students' activity since the topic start date. The report records all 'touches' for a particular day. The actual items are listed below the graph.

  • Great for getting a quick visual indication of how often a student is visiting the FLO site, and how active they are overall (ie how many touches are recorded on the system)

How to: Go to Topic Links block / Participants / (name of participant) / Reports section: All logs. 

OUTLINE REPORT: Overview of a particular student's actions 

This report tells a quick story on what a student has 'touched' within the topic. All items are sequenced as per the FLO site. 

  • Great for quantitatively assessing a student's progress, in terms of what they have touched. For instance, have they looked at all the resources provided? 
  • If you run this report at different times, you will get a different 'story' about the student (bluntly told). For instance, are they looking at things ahead of time? 

How to: Go to Topic Links block / Participants / (name of participant) / Reports section: Outline Report.Scroll down to see what items the student has accessed and when. 

COMPLETE REPORT: Particular student's work all in one place 

This report lets you see the contents of a student's contribution for all items in the FLO site (eg their forum posts for a particular week). The report is organised as per the overview report (above) but with the actual items included

  • Great for qualitatively assessing a student's progress, especially if marking a student's work formatively

How to: Go to Topic Links block / Participants / (name of participant) / Reports section: Complete Report. Scroll down to see what items the student has accessed and when, plus their actual work displayed inline. 

ACTIVITY COMPLETION: Progress by cohort 

If activity completions are used in the topic, this report will give you an overview of all items in the site that have had completion applied – both manual completions (unbroken line boxes) and conditional completions (dotted line boxes). These are displayed in the order that they occur in the FLO site or the date the item is due (if this option is selected). The student list will be cross-referenced against the boxes with manual ticks and conditional ticks displayed. 

  • Great for getting an overview of the cohort's progress overall
  • Especially useful for checking that students have completed conditional actions by the expected due date 
However, the manual completions may not have been ticked by the student – it is up to them to use this self-management strategy. Use one of the other reports if you want to see a more reliable report of their 'touches' in the site. 

How to: Go to Administration / Reports / Activity completion. Scroll across to see all items. 

(ACTIVITY) LOGS: Activity in a particular item (activity or resource) 

This report gives you the details of actions for a particular item in FLO. 

  • Great for getting an idea of how an item has been used. For instance, how many have clicked on that video? Are people viewing the forum and then coming back and posting into it later? 

How to: 

  • Go to Administration / Reports / Topic participation. Choose item from the drop-down menu to view actions for that item. You can filter by date or action, etc. Great if you are running multiple reports.


  • Go to the actual item in FLO / with editing on, click on the settings icon (cog wheel) / Administration / Logs. Great if you are just checking one item. 

How to

Reports – main entry (for all types of reports)

Evaluate the topic (ongoing)

checkboxesYour teaching experiences in the topic will help determine future topic design. You could make notes about your observations, insights and strategies in the weekly teaching notes, as they occur (evaluate as you go). 

How are your students going? Are they actively engaged in the topic? If you would like extra 'evidence' beyond what you are getting from forum participation, and for an overall sense of what your students are doing, or how activities/resources are being used, you could generate a FLO report

With each activity/tool, keep in mind the implications for a future topic. Might the activity/assessment require some adjustment? Do the tools that support activities/assessment function well or do they need more scaffolding/reconsideration? 


Which forums did students actively engage in, or not? How might they work better?


During and post topic, student responses to surveys can contribute to considerations for adaptation in the next reiteration of the topic, as well as adjustments to the current topic.

  • Touchpoint survey (if used)

Although this survey is placed early in the topic you can use it in whatever week you want (Turn editing on, and use the Move resource icon Move resource icon to drag it to where you want). However, it is particularly useful for early analysis of the topic's functioning. The survey uses the feedback tool to find out how students are going and is intended as an active teaching quality tool.

As it is optional, you will need to promote its use using an announcement or in a forum/s. The results will tell you whether student require more support or you need to make adjustments to the topic, or that the topic is working really well just as it is! Students will appreciate any changes initiated, or just an acknowledgement of their feedback (if no adjustments are required).

  • Student evaluation of teaching (SET) 

The SET is an end-of-topic online survey, containing likert and open ended (text response) questions, which evaluates and delivers student feedback on the topic and teacher/sMore information about SET (access, FAQs for staff and students, training and support)


The Statistics report gives a statistical (psychometric) analysis of the quiz and the questions within it. Teachers might look at this report to analyse individual questions and question behaviours in preparation for the next reiteration of the topic.

Live chat

How effective was this engagement tool? Were there any difficulties?

Help and support

If you have a problem in FLO, contact your local eLearning support team in the first instance. If no-one is available and the problem is urgent, contact (central support). 

A common problem is that FLO is not supported well by your browser. See browser requirements recommended for using systems applications at Flinders University (including FLO). Google Chrome or Firefox are recommended.

If students have a technical problem in FLO, refer them to FLO Help for students (you can link to this site from the Help and support pull-down menu in the grey toolbar in FLO). This site will also link them to a Helpdesk phone service.


The Learning online guidebook helps students understand the FLO interface and use its tools effectively for their studies (be an active learner). You can link to this resource for students from your topic.

How to

eLearning Gateway (for all things elearning)
  • Topic design basics – for ideas around social presence, active strategies, connectivity, constructive alignment, assessment, narrative etc