Both students and teachers need to be clear about the learning objectives throughout.
Teachers creating the course need to be clear as to what the objectives are while designing the course.
They must make sure that each activity clearly serves the objectives.
If students are clear as to what the learning objectives are, and how activities relate to them, the activities will seem more relevant.
Objectives “ we are telling the students exactly how they will demonstrate that learning has taken place on an assessment” http://academics.georgiasouthern.edu/col/id/bloom.php
Assessment should be critical part of the design of course from the very start ; not an add-on .
If students are clear from the start as to how they'll be assessed, they'll focus more on how they're going to use what they learn - especially if the assessment is closely linked to real-life activities!
Assessment criteria “ Design that assessment first. Then design the instruction that leads to that goal.” http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/739/nuts-and-bolts-the-10-minute-instructional-design-degree “ [authentic assessment] tasks are either replicas of or analogous to the kinds of problems faced by adult citizens and consumers or professionals in the field." http://jfmueller.faculty.noctrl.edu/toolbox/whatisit.htm
Without the non-verbal clues found in face-to-face communication, guidelines for online courses need clarity more than ever.
Don't overwhelm students by giving them all the guidelines at once; give them the guidelines they need, when they need them.
Even apparently simple instructions can be misunderstood !
Using a self-test to check understanding of the instructions can build student confidence and highlight misunderstandings early, when they can still easily be rectified .
Simplicity Instructions “ If instructions are clear and guidelines are specific to the learning task, students are more likely to prepare.” http://academics.georgiasouthern.edu/col/id/guiding_learning.php
Allow students different learning paths ...
… but always make sure that the route – and the final destination – are clear.
(You can't ensure that the course will always be used in the way and the order that you intended.)