Adding clarity to your course

Clarity graphic

Writing clearly will enable your students to focus on their studies without having to worry about whether they have interpreted the activity correctly. This post gives some practical advice on building clarity into your course. 

Barriers to learning  

This is a broad area to consider! Here are just some examples of the barriers online students could face, and suggestions for mitigating these.  

Limited technical knowledge– keep things simple and intuitive. Do not ask students to use lots of different types of software and make sure that the technology you use is configured to be as user friendly as possible. 

Disabilities- refer to your institution’s inclusive practice policy to make sure you are meeting the required standards. You may want to refer to our inclusive practice guide for making sure your content is accessible. 

Different devices- students could access their course materials on smart phones, tablets, laptops or desktops. Test out your content on different devices before releasing to students. 

Intermittent internet access– if you include videos, allow downloads so students are not relying on streaming. You could consider audio only alternatives to video lectures as these are less data-heavy.  

Full time jobs and/or living in different time zones– make sure that you offer live video tutorial timeslots at different times of the day, and different days of the week. Ideally, include weekend slots as well as weekday. Make sure live video tutorials are recorded for those who cannot attend.  

Tell students clearly what you expect of them. Provide examples, explanations and context. 

Try not to give vague directions such as “reflect on this reading” or “write a case study”, instead, include direct prompts so that students know what they should be focussing on. If you are asking students to investigate something, give specific information as to what you want them to find out and where to find it.  

We have collected a few examples of how we have done this in our online courses. 

In our Consumer Behaviour module, we use targeted questions to scaffold students in their reflections on an ad campaign.  

In our Healthcare Systems modulestudents are given clear search criteria to help them to conduct independent research.  

In our Business to Business Marketing module, we ask students to choose a real business’s website to identify and record specific characteristics. 

In our Healthcare Systems module, we include interviews from industry expertsadding real-life context and meaning to the course materials. 

We hope these examples will be useful to you when you are writing your own online activities! 

Further reading 

Athabasca University (2019) Barriers to online learning and how to overcome them 

informED (2014) How To Make Learning Relevant To Your Students (And Why It’s Crucial To Their Success) 

The Edtech Podcast (2019) SEND and Inclusion