Engaging Learners – Starting with the End in Mind


Borich, M. (2018). Tour de Ozarks [Photo]. Retrieved from Flickr.com.

To ensure that learners are truly engaged in 21st Century Learning, our faculty need to strengthen the sense of community in the online course.

Workshop: Creating Community in Online Learning.

The Understanding by Design “1-Page Template with Design Questions for Teachers” allows us to plan course development, beginning with the desired results, and working backward through development of appropriate activities and experiences that will allow learners to attain the desired goals and outcomes.

Stage 1: Desired Results

Learners will develop strategies and activities to enhance the sense of community students will feel in their online courses.

Established Goals:
LO1.            Establish a sense of presence in the online learning environment LO2.            Compare/contrast journaling, blogs, wikis and other forms of online interaction that can be used to enhance online learning
LO3.            Examine methods for evaluation of student work in a collaborative environment LO4.            Create and integrate effective communication and community-building methods into online teaching environments
Essential Questions

  • How can we create a sense of instructor presence in a fully online course?
  • What is a learning community?
  • What is the relevance of a learning community in the online learning environment?
  • How can we inspire learner engagement, collaboration, and interaction to create a sense of community in the online environment?

Learners will understand:

  • current trends in higher education with regard to online learning.
  • attitudes of learners with regard to online learning.
  • what is a community of learners, and what are the benefits of developing a sense of community in the online learning environment.
  • how to synthesise learning experiences that encourage and promote learner interaction and collaboration.
What key knowledge and skills will learners acquire as a result of this workshop?
Learners will know

  • current trends and practices in online learning
  • how they can establish a strong sense of instructor presence in the learning environment
Learners will be able to

  • develop activities and experiences that encourage and promote learner collaboration
Stage 2: Determine Acceptable Evidence
Performance Tasks:

Learners will participate in discussion forums in Learning Management System (LMS) and through Social Media

Learners will participate in Reflective Journaling Activities in LMS

Learners will participate in information sharing through Blog posts in LMS, in ePortfolio outside of LMS

Contribute to Wiki repository of resources in LMS

Participate in Synchronous Discussion using Collaborate


Other Evidence:

Blackboard quiz, over getting started strategies (similar to a syllabus quiz)

Participants will develop a Course Communication Policy (submitted via LMS Assignment Dropbox)







Opportunity for Self-Assessment and Reflection

Throughout the workshop, learners will engage in a variety of hands on activities using tools and technology available to them inside of the LMS, and outside of the LMS. These hands-on activities will help them to envision how they can use them to engage with their students in their courses. Learners will develop engaging activities to incorporate into their courses for their students, and will reflect on the processes and strategies used throughout.

Stage 3: Plan Learning Experiences
Learning Activities

Readings (links to PDFs on changing trends in Online Learning provided in module, communication policies, strategies to increase engagement, etc.)

Reading (Links to articles, and PDF readings)

Engagement Activities (Group Activity and Course Wiki, Social Media, Synchronous Meeting through Collaborate)

Reflection (Journal)

Though similarities exist between Fink’s 3 Column Table and the UbD Template (both encourage focus on design with the end in mind), I found that the UbD Template allows the educator to go further into the planning and development process, linking learning strategies, activities and experiences to expected outcomes and goals.

The process I use when planning out a course is more along the lines of the UbD Template; I think of Fink’s 3 Column Table as a good starting place, but UbD Template encourages the instructor to really think about expected/desired outcomes, and how to help learners attain those outcomes. Structuring questions throughout the template helps the instructor to plan learning experiences and activities for assessment.

For Texas institutions of higher education, course outcomes are prescribed by The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB). For most courses, instructors are not required to construct their own course outcomes. However, instructors are required to ensure that their course materials, activities and experiences provide learners the tools they need to successfuly acheive those outcomes. With tools like the UbD Template and Fink’s 3 Column Table, we can ensure that we keep expected or desired outcomes front of mind as we are planning out a course. I like to see this taken a step further, encouraging the instructor to think about the timeframe for each course or workshop, and map out a schedule as they are developing their plan.


Borich, M. (2018). Tour de Ozarks [Photo]. Retrieved from Flickr.com

Fink, D., (2003) Creating significant learning experiences: An integrated approach to designing college courses. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2017). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: Association of Supervisors and Curriculum Development.


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