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Transitioning to an online format

Let’s look at a classic example of a face-to-face (F2F) activity. You provide a scenario to your students and they have to discuss their opinions on the topic either in large or small groups.


How do we translate this to an online class? Some would say start a discussion board forum and have the students respond there. Some who might have taught online for some time may know of a collaborative app that would work great for this discussion. However, when we try to simply replicate our face-to-face activities into an online setting, we are missing out on the opportunities an online medium can provide. What we need to focus on instead of the activity itself, is the main objective for doing the activity.


Objectives are truly the bread and butter of an activity, a lesson, and even the entire course. When you set an objective, you are essentially stating what you want the students to take away from the course. All activities, lessons, content, and engagement should revolve around the objectives. 

Focus on course objectives

Teaching an online course is different from face-to-face, which means we have to approach content delivery differently. Starting with the objectives will not only make transitioning into online much easier, it will also help you stay focused on the key skills you want your students to take away from the course.


In case you are now curious as to how we would work with the example activity discussed above, I have some options provided below. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but hopefully it will get your imagination flowing as to what you would do with this activity.


Objective: To apply knowledge and critical thinking skills to solve a problem while considering multiple viewpoints on a topic.


  • Provide a flawed scenario (written or video) and instruct students to use their knowledge of the topic to point out mistakes.
  • Place students in virtual teams and have them pose a solution to the problem based on evidence.
  • Have the students create and debate multiple solutions to a problem either individually or in small groups.
  • Let the students pose a secondary scenario to prompt student discussions.
  • Provide a specific case study (written or video) or multiple case studies for students to discuss.
  • Ask students to answer a list of questions regarding the topc and then compare to another student's responses to those same questions.
  • Have students research multiple arguments around a topic and have them choose the one they support based on their knowledge.


Possible deliverables: essay response, discussion board posts, video reflection, synchronous or asynchrounous video debates, presentations (annotated or narrated).

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