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Do 'Typical' Lessons Work in Online Learning?

Recently, I read a post about there being a gap in standard lesson plans. To Learn, Students Need to DO Something by Jennifer Gonzalez. The blog focused on the absence of doing 'activities' in the classroom. In the blog, they laid out the typical lesson plan format as such:

  1. Anticipatory set: This is where we get learners interested in the lesson and set objectives for the day.

  2. Direct instruction: Facts, concepts, and skills are delivered via lecture, video, reading—some way of getting the information into learners’ heads.

  3. Guided practice and application: With the support of the teacher, learners apply what they have just been taught.

  4. Independent practice and application: Learners apply the learning on their own.

  5. Assessment: The teacher measures how well learners have met the objectives.

While the blog was looking at elementary school or middle school, it made me think about these concepts in the online classroom. While online learning can sometimes be difficult to design and develop, it made me think about if we are doing the same steps as above in our own online setting. I want to break down each step and how it can work in the online classroom.

Lesson Planning

Anticipatory set: This can be done by creating a weekly overview video or announcement. I believe this step is especially important for instructors to help bridge the gap from the previous module and how it ties in to the next module. For this step, the instructor must make sure to prep and get the learners excited and interested in the next lesson or module.

Direct instruction: In an acts, concepts, and skills are delivered via lecture, video, reading—some way of getting the information into learners’ heads. In an online setting - lectures are somewhat frowned upon. If they are done, they should be conducted in bite-sized pieces so learners can absorb the information (uploading a 40 minute video lecture is not conducive to learning). In our courses, we typically have a video with readings for students to get the information they need.

Guided practice and application: In online courses - this is typically done through discussion forums. Students are to take what they learned from the readings and then discuss and apply what they have learned. Discussion forums should be set up in a way that is structured where students are able to apply the concepts they just learned about. Instructors should make sure the discussions are aligned with the readings or videos. This is not a time during the course where new information or different topics should be introduced.

Independent practice and application - Assessment: Here is where I think online courses struggle. I do not think online courses are set up in a way where students can individually practice what they have learned. We typically skip the independent practice and go straight into the assessment piece. While it is not intentional, I think we skip over the 'practice' piece due to the tight time frame that sometimes occurs in shortened online courses. Some could argue that the independent practice piece could be combined with the discussion forum. But this then turns in the independent piece into a "requirement" piece. Others may argue that adding in extra practice resources may not be used by students. This "extra" practice piece may resolve this issue of not having areas where learners can practice topics or concept individually.


As we explore the idea of having "independent practice and application" - how can we add elements into courses to help with this idea? Please note - these elements may already be included in some online courses. It is just my opinion that these could be worked on and included in more courses. First, as mentioned above, an instructor could add in extra practice resources. These could be worksheets, case studies, additional questions to consider, wikis, SCORM practice quizzes or mini-tests, etc.

Secondly, you could provide opportunities for students to create job aids or graphic organizers for each week. By the end of the course, students would have a handy take-away element from the course.

Third, extra credit opportunities. Some programs have working adults who may only be motivated to complete tasks that are directly related to their grades, which are directly related to their degree, which is directly related to a potential promotion or new job. When you look at the courses from this viewpoint, extra credit practice elements may be the best motivator for these independent practice and applications.


When you design your own online courses - which format do you take when developing your lessons? Do you use a similar format as listed out above or do you have some other method to create and develop alignment with learning objectives? I'd love to hear more about how others develop lessons particularly for online courses.

Until next week ,


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