Tips and Tricks: Learning Design

Your Task

  • Evaluate the tips and tricks from P2PU's Friendly Learning Lead, Vanessa.
  • Select a tip or a trick you plan to use for your course.

We know starting and running a course can seem daunting. Apart from the learning design you walked through in the first Task, here are some other pieces of wisdom we've gleaned about peer learning.


When you start your course, ask people for more context than "Hi, I'm Stan." I like to ask them to create a project, i.e. "Find your favorite poem on the web and tell us what makes it great." You could also ask them to link to their portfolio, their favorite dataset, their favorite song--something that builds social presence, gives them impression of "butts in seats" and makes the individuals more memorable to each other.

There's some evidence that building social bonds helps combat poor behavior in online courses. So I like to ask folks to be a little vulnerable to each other and share some relevant personal story.

Content Modules

  • Length: when you are designing content modules, aim for an hour (or less) per module. This builds a pedagogical rhythm so learners know what to expect next and how to plan for their time.

  • Cohesion: take a look at how all the tasks hang together. Are the learning activities clear, with one rolling smoothly into the next? Are there too many intellectual jumps from one module to another?


Online course facilitation is both an art and a science. If you are facilitating for the first time, I highly recommend this suite of facilitation guidelines (culled from Berge, info below).

  • Have Clear Objectives. Participants must believe their online interactions is time well spent.
  • Maintain as Much Flexibility as You Can. Because of the individuality of the learners, courses need to remain flexible and the instructor needs to support this. Rather than presenting an elaborate seminar agenda at the outset and a complex process for students to fulfill, follow the flow of the conversation, while guiding it toward the subject.
  • Encourage Participation. The use of various learning options can stimulate learner participation and interaction--small group discussion, are some of the activities to use when encouraging participation.
  • Maintain a Non-authoritarian Style. It is usually better to avoid the "authority figure" role when teaching online, especially with adults.
  • Be Objective. Before generalizing to the conference about a contribution, consider such things as the tone and content of the posting, the author and his/her skills, knowledge and attitudes that you may know about from prior postings, and time of the posting in relation to the conference thread.
  • Find Unifying Threads. Instructors can weave several strands of conversation into a summarization that may prompt people to pursue the topic further.
  • Use Simple Assignments. Group assignments are appropriate to this media, but an over-complicated design in them is not.
  • Make The Material Relevant. Develop questions and activities for learners that relate to the students' experiences.
  • Request Responses. The instructor may ask particular learners for comments on a topic or question, then give them time to respond, for instance "by tomorrow."

Your Task

Which tip or trick do you plan to use in your course? Go ahead and post it below.


Berge, Z. L. (1995). Facilitating Computer Conferencing: Recommendations From the Field. Educational Technology. 35(1) 22-30.


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