Online students need different learning support to campus-based learners. They are likely to be part-time and accessing learning outside normal office hours.
They may already be effective self-directed learners who need little direction or structure, but may not have had previous online learning experience. They may be able to use a range of technologies to support their learning, but your institution can’t assume this.
Online learners may require support to learn in English if it’s not their first language.
Accessible courses and technologies
When students register for online courses, they need clear advice and guidance on the technologies that they will need to use – your institution may need to offer introductory modules or sessions on getting the best out of online learning.
Your institution should design courses with the differing needs of online students in mind, making sure that technologies are accessible and easy to use, that assessments are designed appropriately, and that students have a clear understanding and capacity to learn online.
Our digital literacies guides can help your institution support online learners to use technologies for learning:
- Developing students' digital literacy
- Enhancing the student digital experience: a strategic approach
- Enhancing the student digital experience: cards activity
- Postcards on enhancing the digital student experience
- Our report, Digital Student: Further Education
- Digital student experience benchmarking tool
- An updated enhancing the student digital experience guide, with new FE content and case studies.
Digital literacy initiative examples
The following examples from educational institutions offer some useful ideas:
- Digital English for international students (University of Glasgow)
- Stepping up to postgraduate study in the arts (Birkbeck College)
- Digital support for essay-writing skills (The Open University)
- Online induction for distance learning (University of South Wales)
- Students get clued up at LMU (London Metropolitan University)
- Skills for life online (The Open University)
- Recording demonstrations for inclusive learning in design (University of Greenwich)
- Making it happen, embedding digital technologies in curriculum activities (South Eastern Regional College)
- Opening up opportunities for learning with digital technologies (Lewisham Southwark College)
- NTSSPass: North east tutor and student passport (NETSpass) (Gateshead Council)
- Engaging students and staff in online activities (East Berkshire College)
|Barriers||What you can do|
|Online students may need support across time-zones||Encourage students to support each other|
|Facilitate support for students from alumni|
|Facilitate student support from external experts|
|Difficulties identifying what support online students need||Conduct student surveys|
Help students to input into course design
|Ongoing evaluation and review|