Learning online: guidelines, tips and support

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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