Online Activities

Through participating in various online activities, students can gain knowledge and skills from multiple sources — the instructor, the learning content, and their peers. Effective learning activities are those that not only drive students to learn, but also engage them in the learning.

Start with an overview about student engagement online (video).

To achieve this goal, instructors are recommended to incorporate Active Learning principles that may guide them through the design of learning activities.

Active Learning is an emerging learning theory that promotes student engagement in, and interaction with, learning content. Active Learning is the opposite of traditional learning, which is usually depicted as instructors lecturing and students listening. When Active Learning is integrated, students would interact with learning content in ways that stimulate cognitive thinking and authentic learning.

How to apply Active Learning in designing activities

When designing online activities for either an online class or a blended course, strive to follow the guidelines below:

  • incorporate activities that would elicit student input in diverse ways and through various modes of communication (e.g., writing, performing, discussing, etc.)
  • create opportunities for students to apply learned content in meaningful context
  • design authentic learning experience that students can connect with
  • integrate motivational elements to make activities fun and engaging

For any activity you plan to incorporate into your course, it is recommended that the following elements about the activity are provided to the students:

  • The purpose of an activity — how it will benefit students and move them towards the attainment of course and personal goals.
  • The requirements of the activity due dates, grading guidelines (rubrics), required resources, estimated time to complete, where and how to access materials and submit assignments.

What are some frequently employed online activities?

Review online activities with examples at the University of Illinois Online Instructional Activities Index.

Student Interaction with Instructional Content


Break content down into digestible units to help students process it more easily and to quickly return to discrete topics for review. For example, instead of providing one long video containing multiple topics, create multiple short videos (no more than six minutes) by topic.

If possible, present the same content using multiple types of media (e.g., text, video, presentation slides), to accommodate students with different learning styles.


  • read articles
  • review (specific portions of) websites
  • read book chapters
  • watch a brief video lecture from the instructor; ensure you follow best practices when developing instructional videos (PDF)
  • view PowerPoint slides with narration or narrative notes
  • watch videos from Cook Library’s digital collection

Communication: Online Discussions


Online discussions are often most effective if used with small groups of students. Use best practices in designing online discussions (DOC). Ensure you provide specific instruction and grading criteria related to students expectations. Describe student responsibilities and roles. 

Design rigorous online discussions (video).

Towson faculty discuss ways to connect with students in this video.


  • participate in online discussions or debates
  • conduct peer reviews
  • participate in case studies



Timely feedback is essential for student success. Schedule time to respond to assessments quickly. When appropriate for the content, tools that provide instant feedback to students should be considered adopting first.

Towson faculty discuss their approaches to assessment in this video.


  • complete a quiz
  • design a portfolio
  • create a video or movie
  • write a paper