Let's Go Online:
Principles of Designing and Implementing Quality Online Lessons

Teaching staff play a pivotal role in designing and implementing quality online lessons to facilitate student learning during university closure. This part discusses the principles and issues of designing and implementing quality online lessons for teaching staff.

Remark: The resource links are from various universities and organizations around the world. They include blog posts, teaching tips and strategies to address the following questions by teaching staff:


How could we design quality online lessons?

Consider digital access

A lack of digital access by students is the biggest hurdle in preparing for online learning. Do consider the digital access that is available to your students:

  • No bandwidth: If there is no internet access for students, consider paper-based teaching and learning resources that could be supplemented by SMS and telephone communication. The paper-based teaching and learning resources could be delivered to students or students could go to the nearest Internet cafes to download the resources and print them out.

  • Low bandwidth: If students have a device with limited internet access, students download the digital resources when Wi-Fi is available. Communication between teaching staff and students, or among students could be facilitated by online instant messaging applications such as Whatsapp, Wechat, Telegram, or LINE.

  • High bandwidth: For students with an Internet enabled mobile device with access to stable and high broadband, teaching staff could consider a wider range of online teaching and learning tasks and activities (that will otherwise be more limited in a no or low bandwidth context).

Focus on the teaching and learning tasks and activities, not just the online platforms and applications

Instead of struggling with which online platforms or applications to adopt, teaching staff should first focus on what you are teaching and how you could support student learning. You can start to think about which of your face-to-face classroom-teaching strategies can run well on the online setting, which may not, and what kinds of new approaches you may incorporate when you move online.

Adopt backward course design

Before seeking out resources and technology for transition to online teaching and learning, take the time to review your curriculum, learning outcomes and planned teaching and learning tasks, activities and assessments. Consider how students could be supported in the online learning environment to complete the learning tasks and assessments so as to achieve the learning outcomes.

Search the Internet and find relevant resources for your course

You can search and find a variety of resources accessible on the Internet. Instead of creating from scratch, you may start thinking about what kinds of resources could be adopted for your online learning activities.

How could we implement quality online lessons?


Provide manageable and achievable goals to work on each week

  • Keep your online teaching and learning simple

  • Break the whole 2- or 3-hour lecture video into bite-sized short video clips by topics/intended learning outcomes

Distribute course materials and readings

  • Make sure students know when new material is posted

  • Keep materials and readings mobile friendly

Communicate early and often

  • Set clear expectations for online lessons and participation

Listen to and provide feedback

  • Communicate with your students more often through virtual meetings, or live chats

  • Provide prompt feedback through online knowledge checks, comments on collaborative documents and chat to keep students motivated and moving forward

Create interactive learning activities

  • Surface questions that learners have around the material

  • Use polls to get a sense of the aggregate “temperature” of the room

  • Invite students to respond to particular questions

  • Allocate students to small “buzz group” to generate discussions

Conduct assessment

  • Compile and organize assessment tasks in one location

  • Adopt formative assessment and feedback

  • Administer short quizzes to understand student learning needs

  • Move beyond simple facts

  • Consider alternative assessment to written examinations