Co-funded by the Erasmus+ Program of the European Union
Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the National Agency. Neither the European Union nor National Agency can be held responsible for them.

Setting up an online learning environment is not a trivial task. This environment must be able to provide a home for the learning journey by hosting materials, activities and discussion spaces.

How can we diversify the learning environment? According to Means, Bakia, & Murphy (2014), there are many variables to take into account when designing an online course. They formulate a list of elements that may be more or less under the control of the lecturer or instructional designer. The most relevant to the learning environment, for the scope of this course, are:

Student Role Online

It is possible to think of the learner as a person who merely listens and/or reads, but of course, there is much more: a learner may be called upon to complete tasks and solve problems, answering questions that as we have seen in the previous modules have great relevance from a Backward Design perspective. At a more advanced level, it is possible to propose exploring simulations and other interactive resources or collaborating with peers to produce a shared artefact.

Online Communication Synchrony

Online communication between teacher and students, or among students, can be asynchronous only - via forums or other similar means, like social networking sites - or synchronous only - via face-to-face or online meetings in realtime. Most of the time, a learning environment features a bit of both: realtime meetings can be recorded and accessed later, forum discussions extend into personal instant messaging channels, etc.

Differentiation in this area means mixing the synchronous and asynchronous, in presence and online. This benefits the variability of learners in the sense that it makes it easier for them to work at their own pace, investing their cognitive resources in what needs more effort.

Source of Feedback

Another way to differentiate the learning environment is again related to feedback, a component we have addressed in Module 3. Feedback can be automated - when it comes directly from the activities proposed to students, like tests and quizzes - but it can also come from human interaction, from the teacher or from the peers.


Means, B., Bakia, M., Murphy, R. Learning Online: What Research Tells Us About Whether, When and How. Taylor and Francis, 2014

© 2024 InDO. All rights reserved.