An example of how to design online learning activities

Online learning activities should be designed to take advantage of technology, but be based on learning theories which promote authentic learning. Instructors cannot be effective purveyors of knowledge just by taking one of their classroom courses and uploading it to an online platform. While face-to-face learning has some advantages, online learning has the potential to create networks of collaboration, connectivism, and meet the needs of andragogical based learning. Constructivist learning theory is often applied to online learning, where the idea of building or constructing knowledge is a key element (Pruitt, 2011). Everyone comes to the table of learning with some experience from which to build more knowledge. However, not everyone has the same background, and therefore I propose that learning theory must include guidance to diminish cognitive overload. The power of examples is monumental, and provides stepping stone to guide the learner. While plagiarism is always a concern, the educational field is becoming more open, sharing of information and collaboration are the tools to build and construct greater knowledge.

For this assignment, I must design five online learning activities based on a theme. The course will be described as "Successful Blog Writing" and include five authentic learning activities based on guided constructivist learning theory and experiential learning theory. It will utilize constructivist learning theory where learners will construct knowledge by performing authentic learning tasks ((Bannan-Ritland & Dabbagh, 2005). This course will also focus on experiential learning.  Videos will be used for each module to help students see the changes that produce good writing. Then they will be shown examples of poor writing and the needed corrections to make it good. This will take into account guided learning, where they can see and read good examples before trying to do it on their own. Feedback will be ongoing to encourage student and instructor collaboration. These interactive discussions will take place on discussion forums or video chats.


Successful Blog Writing


This course is about how to produce a blog that others will want to read. Businesses are encouraged to start website blogs to add dynamic dialogue to their site. They may have a product that is continually updated, or they may want to promote their products. Today, anyone can launch a website, an online magazine, or how-to site. While this opens the door to anyone creative enough to jump in and start writing, not everyone who blogs writes engaging words that bring visitors repeatedly to their site. There numerous blogs on the Internet, but some are better than others. This course will aim to help bloggers become better writers and make their posts more interesting and readable.

Who will want to take this course? Who is this for?

This course is for anyone who wants to write well. It is for all ages and levels.  However, it will be presented in English and students that speak English as a second language may find it more difficult. Learners for this course will probably have some knowledge of the Internet and online blogs. But it will be helpful to anyone that is already blogging and may need more polished writing skills. It will also be helpful to anyone just starting out.

The goals of this course:

The overarching goal is to assist learners in becoming better writers and designers for personal, business, or educational blogs. In the words of Peggy Noonan, journalist and speech writer for U.S. President, Ronald Reagan everyone thinks they are a writer, "which is understandable because everyone is. Everyone writes letters home to Mom or keeps a diary in weight-loss class on What Food Means to Me. Not everyone plays the piano so most people don't claim to be pianists, but everyone is a writer... (What I saw at the Revolution, p. 76).

Objectives will be broken down into individual activities, making it easy for students to see the goals for each section. Rethink your writing process.


Each activity can be spread over one week. I have found that Coursera.org and Canvas.net have easy to use platforms for online courses. Students have access to all the activities, announcements, course syllabus, discussion forums, video lectures, quizzes, exercises, and the weekly modules on the navigation panel of every page. Clarity in an online course is as important as the content. 

This is an example from one of their courses:

Activity 1:

 Discussion board – Post your blog if you have one. Then tell us what you think makes good writing – what makes it work. List one of your favorite blogs.

This activity will encourage students to connect in peer-to-peer learning, where they can learn from each other and discuss the content of this course as it applies to their own writing (Herrington, Oliver, & Herrington, 2007). Collaboration in discussion will engage the participants in an effort to solve a problem and share ideas. While the process may result in individual products (such as a personal blog), the final products will have been influenced by collaborative interactions via discussion forums. This is especially important for online courses where students will not be meeting in a brick and mortar classroom.

Create your own mind maps at MindMeister

Activity 2:

Watch the two video presentations with examples of bad writing and how to fix it. This type of activity falls in the category of a physical demonstration and is an absorb activity as identified by Horton (2011). One of the advantages of online learning is that it gives the learner control. Everyone learns differently and enters a course at various levels of previous knowledge. 

With a video, students can stop the lecture presentation and go back, review and play it as many times as they need to. Plus the instructor is presenting the information in three formats: visual which include images and words, auditory, and text which can be read which addresses the learning needs of individuals (Herrington, n.d.).  

Students are then given a “do” activity early in the presentation to initiate real-life situations where they must use the new tools that have been just presented (Guy, 2009).  Learners will have the opportunity to improve their writing by fixing sentences that do not work, applying the techniques of Bloom’s taxonomy of learning: remember, learn, apply (Overbaugh, n.d.). This activity also encourages students to analyze and evaluate their writing. Reflection is an important aspect of an authentic learning activity that prompts change and knowledge construction that is useful (Gearhart, 2012).

Learning Activity

Learning Objective

Write in Active Voice

Slide presentation with voice-over: examples of active and passive voice sentences.
1) Ten sentences in the passive voice and students must change to active voice. Answers immediately follow.
2)Quiz – identify if a sentence is passive or active. Answers immediately follow.
Write a 300 word paragraph using active voice. 
To write in active voice.

Cut Unnecessary Words
Slide presentation with voice-over: First review of parts of speech – adverbs, prepositions. Student can skip if needed.
Examples of sentences with unnecessary words, and then how to streamline the sentences and remove extra words. Look at extra adverbs, long phrases, jargon, needless prepositions, negatives, and avoiding “there is” and “there are”
1) Ten sentences that need editing and students correct. Answers immediately follow.
Correct a 300 word essay and look for unnecessary words.
To write with more clarity and ease of reading.

Write with Strong Verbs
Slide presentation with voice-over. First a review of nouns and verbs, can be skipped. Next examples of nouns that should be verbs: “obtain estimates versus “estimate.”
Ten sentences with needed corrections, students correct them, answers follow.
 Correct a 300 word essay.

To write with more emphasis on action.

Improve Punctuation
Slide presentation with voice-over. Review of em dash, parenthesis, semi-colon, phrases.
Write ten sentences with these forms of punctuation.
 Write a 300 word essay with these four punctuations.
To use and understand the correct use of em dash, parenthesis, semi-colon, and phrases

Use Parallelism
Slide presentation with voice-over. Show examples of sentences with parallelism and those that are not constructed that way.
Correct ten sentences that need parallelism.
 Correct a 300 word essay, using parallelism.
To improve readability of whole texts by using parallel structure in sentences.

Activity 3:

Blog writing is different than what you learned in school. Short, more like a conversation. Students will follow links to successful blogs and try to analyze why they work. They will add to the discussion forum what they like and provide links for students to follow and read as well. Then they will be asked to find writing that does not work and analyze why. While everyone writes, the ability to communicate through writing is a skill that can be learned and improved. Even within the academic community, higher education often prescribes a type of academic writing that is not clear and even not that well-written (Zinsser, 2006).

Read the following links about blog length:

Link 1
Link 2
Link 3

And now go to the discussion forum and add one or two of your favorite examples of a short, precise, to the point blog post. Also, take a look at what your classmates have posted and comment on at least one of them. Create feedback.

Check out Seth Godin's blog and see how short you can write:

Seth Godin

Activity 4:

Choose an interesting subject that you know about. Write about what you know. Keep your subject tight, keep your words to about 300. You can write about anything, but choose to write about your passion, because then you will have more ideas and your enthusiasm will come through in your writing.

How to Create Great Blog Content -- Problogger

Penelope Trunk

Activity 5:

Images communicate. Choose those that help convey your message. Avoid copyright infringement. One of the best ways to avoid any copyright problems is to take your own photos. Here are two examples of blogs where the author takes all her own photos:

Pinch of Yum
Pioneer Woman

Listen to one blogger explain how taking her own photos made her blogging better:

Let's look at the copyright laws and the newer, Creative Commons option. Take a look at this short video about copyrights:

Where to find images that are in the public domain:

Public Domain Images
Stock Free Images

Now, look at some sources for creative commons sharing, where you can find images to share by giving credit to the author:

Wikimedia Commons

Check out this site, to learn how to use the Creative Commons:

Creative Commons

Next, go to the discussion forums and add one more source of images that are in the public domain or have the creative commons license.


Gearhart, D. (2012). Authentic learning in online courses:  A Course Design Model. Interactivity in E-Learning. USA: Troy University

Guy, R. (2009). The Evolution of Mobile Teaching and Learning. Santa Rosa, CA: Informing Science Press

Herrington, J., Oliver, R., & Herrington, A. (2007). Authentic learning on the web:  Guidelines for course design. Universtiy of Wollongong Research Online.  Retrieved from:  http://community.education.ufl.edu/community/file/download/97286

Horton, W. (2012). E-Learning by Design. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer

Overbaugh, R. & Schultz, L. (n.d.). Bloom’s Taxonomy. Retrieved fromhttp://ww2.odu.edu/educ/roverbau/Bloom/blooms_taxonomy.htm

Pruitt, R. A. (2011). The Application of Cognitive-Developmental or Mediated Cognitive Learning Strategies in Online College Coursework. Teaching Theology & Religion14(3), 226-246. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9647.2011.00712.x

Zinsser, W. (2006). Writing Well. New York, NY: Harper Collins

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