top of page

Transitioning to Online Instructional Design: A Primer for Online Learning

 (10 hours total: five 2-hour Modules)


If you have recently made the shift to online learning and want to improve your practice, this PD will cover the pedagogy, effective strategies and best practices from the fields of instructional design and learning science to help you keep online learning meaningful and engaging.

This is an immersive PD that puts you directly into the seat of a virtual classroom, moving you from a passive attendee to an engaged collaborator, modeling the best practices of online learning to provide you with an authentic experience as a learner.


Module 1 - Organizing and Differentiating Curriculum for Online Learners

Delivering content online requires careful consideration for differentiation of content to learners which may require schedule modifications, implementations of peer-groups and regular one-on-one meetings. This module will guide teachers through re-thinking how to provide individualized instruction for online learning


  1. Pedagogical mind-shifts need for online learning

    • Approaching education as a means of developing the latent potential that is already inside of our students

    • Shifting from an instructional based teaching approach to a learning experience designer and facilitator of learning approach

  2. Weekly schedule

    • Synchronous class time

    • Asynchronous class time

    • Peer groups study time

    • Individual check-ins

  3. Increasing or decreasing content knowledge for a single lesson

    • Modeling how to modify the content knowledge in a lesson

    • Practice modifying content in a given lesson

    • How to help students who are struggling if the content is difficult

  4. Using PBL to differentiate

    • What is PBL and what are the benefits?

    • Giving students voice and choice in their learning

    • Connecting to real-life scenarios 

    • Developing project lessons

  5. Differentiation with free resources

    • Open Education Resources (OER)

    • What other schools have successfully used

    • Creating a differentiated content repository four your classroom

Module 2 - Facilitating Engaging Online Lessons

Engaging students in an online environment may prove to be difficult and sometimes overwhelming. This module will share strategies, activities and resources to engage students, manage time and will focus on ways to facilitate learning rather than traditional direct instruction.


  1. Set the tone and be personal

    • Set expectations and define the purpose of the online space

    • Share personal stories and let students share as well

  2. Flipped Learning

    • Consider what content is vital for virtual classroom space and what can be done independently

    • Resources for flipped learning

    • Design and create your own videos

  3. Strategies for engaging students

    • Weekly challenges

    • Virtual collaboration technologies

    • Back-channel communication

  4. Pedagogy of Play

    • Characteristics and benefits of play

    • Increasing opportunities for play

    • Playful discussion


Module 3 - Peer to Peer Online Learning

While students are isolated at home, they are missing the vital social interactions that are necessary for learning. This module will share strategies to safely implement peer to peer learning with protocols where students share and reflect on their assignments using critical dialogue.


  1. Forming peer groups

    • Expectations and rules for peer communication

    • Guidelines for student online communication

  2. Protocols - Critical Friends 

    • Modeling how to give and receive criticism

    • Critical dialogue and vocabulary “I like and I wonder…”

    • Documenting and sharing critical friends discussions

    • Supporting a positive culture with shared constructive criticism

  3. Peer to Peer Study Buddies

    • Effective and courteous communication

    • Conflict resolution and de-escalation

  4. Using a Fishbowl Approach

    • Modeling best practices for active listening

    • Reflection and observation note-taking

    • Whole-group debriefs


 Module 4 - Assessment, Feedback and Review for Online Learning 

Learn to use rubrics, informal assessment strategies and formative grading techniques to assess your students’ work online. Review several examples and discuss appropriate ways that you can assess student learning without using only traditional quizzes and tests.


  1. Singlepoint rubrics 

    • Developing criteria for assessment. What’s really important?

    • Including students in the assessment process.

    • Keeping expectations transparent

  2. Check for understanding

    • One-on-one time with students

    • Student demonstration videos

    • Show me what you learned any way you want

  3. Making Learning Visible 

    • Thinking routines and how to facilitate 

    • Assessing student work with personal feedback

    • Assessment for feedback instead of judgement

  4. Review and Reflection - What is working and what isn’t?

    • Virtual town-hall meetings

    • Teacher feedback

    • Develop a continuous improvement plan


 Module 5 - Communicating and Supporting Parents for Online Learning

Parents will be your best ally in these times, and an open communication channel with them is vital. Learn to develop strategies and best practices for communicating with and supporting parents who have learners at home. Learn about task management, screen time management and gamified behavior tracking for positive reinforcement to help parents through online learning challenges.


  1. Communicating with parents

    • Virtual Meet the Teacher Night

    • Open and responsive channels of communication and tools

    • Periodic check-ins for effective communication

    • Singular source of information for parents

  2. Student-parent meetings

    • Planning and holding virtual student-parent conferences

    • Debriefing and team meetings to share with other teachers 

  3. Parents as allies in online learning

    • Screen-time and school-work schedule and management plan

    • Resources to help parents monitor and support online learning

  4. Resources to share with parents

    • Tips and tricks for managing students at home

    • Social emotional recommendations for parents

    • Tools and technologies to track and manage learners at home

Please contact to
if you would like to offer this course for your faculty.



Mark Barnett is passionate about Project-Based Learning and teaching students to create with technology. With 14 years of experience in STEAM and maker education and online teaching, he has consulted with teachers and administrators all over the world to set up and design impactful learning experiences with makerspaces and related education themes. He has also been teaching teachers how to transition to virtual, self-paced and digital instruction, modeling on best practices from experts all over the globe.


Mark also speaks internationally about equity and access to STEAM and maker education, most notably at the Stanford FabLearn Conference, MIT Libre Learn Lab, SXSWedu, EARCOS in Bangkok, UNESCO in India and at 21st Century Learning in Hong Kong. Mark spends his free time travelling and learning with his family while working on a PhD in Computer Engineering to study how students construct and relate to new knowledge.

bottom of page