Catholic Education South Australia

Designing online learning

With the CESA Learning Statement as a foundation, this page has been developed to provide guidance, advice and resources for designing online learning to support teachers to plan for digital remote learning.

To every child in a Catholic School:
We are committed to knowing you deeply. We value you as a capable and competent learner and will support your active engagement in the learning process. In partnership with you and your family we commit to high expectations for your learning progress, wellbeing and achievement. You matter to us.

This advice has been broken down into six categories: Expectations, Learning, Collaboration, Key Capabilities, Diversity and Resources.

Each category provides prompts and guidance for teachers. Designing Online Learning is an evolving space. Be open to new learning, mistakes and evolution. Innovation comes from improving and deepening technologies.

  • Reset your expectations and then clearly specify these expectations
  • Give explicit instructions
  • Communicate consistently
  • Clearly specify task requirement and length
  • Be intentional and identify clear learning objectives and assessment outcomes
  • Planning and learning for Key Capabilities remains a focus. Students can use the Key Capabilities Continua as a resource for this
  • Be empathetic. Assign a reasonable workload, encourage students to balance online with offline and connect with one another 
  • Even though students are learning at a distance, this does not mean that they need to be online all day, every day
  • Simplicity is key and less is more! Assessments are likely to take twice as long to complete at home because of different factors. Therefore, prioritise and be realistic. 
  • Schools’ responsibility to teach, assess and report remain a priority and a requirement.  As challenging as it may be, teachers need to adhere to the usual requirements in relation to reporting on student progress and attainment, including the provision of A-E grades in the mid- and end-of-year report.

  • Establish your digital learning home base. Be clear about the platform you are using and provide learning around this if it is new 
  • Provide a mixture of asynchronous learning and synchronous learning. Synchronous is when students learn at the same time. This allows for real time communication, engagement and for instant feedback and clarification. Asynchronous is when students learn at different times. This allows for more flexibility and allows students to work at their own pace
  • Explore the possibility of co-teaching where one teacher may be presenting a new idea or explaining a task while the other teacher can be monitoring the chat stream and clarifying any misunderstandings
  • Think about what you are asking students to do in between the online, face-to-face experiences. Can you curate resources and develop a resource hub for students to access?
  • Design learning that is sequential and provide opportunities to feel a sense of achievement and agency
  • Provide opportunities for students to direct their learning
  • Make learning interactive and purposeful. Consider how you are going to ensure learning growth and interactivity in this new digital world 
  • It is best, when possible, to provide readings like resources in PDF format so that students can easily open them on various devices 
  • Design learning that allows for students to do the thinking and empowers student voice and agency. Students can use the Key Capabilities Continua as a resource for this
  • Design learning that has numerous entry and exit points
  • Provide variety in the style of delivery and ways of engaging with learning. Curate multimedia materials to enhance engagement and use digital tools to create interactive lessons
  • Design and deliver learning in small chunks.
  • Aim to design learning which requires collaboration and creativity. Provide opportunities, wherever possible for online collaboration, exploration and problem solving
  • Provide opportunities to interact socially with peers as this will help children maintain connections and create a sense of belonging
  • Consider ways of including parents and care givers in the learning
  • Provide opportunities for students to use their agency and articulate their development in their Key Capabilities in a collaborative way. Students can use the Key Capabilities Continua as a resource for this
  • Provide individual touch points to continue connection. These touch points can be through your learner management system, email or comments on shared documents etc. Create a structure for this and a purpose
  • Continually seek student feedback about their workload, engagement, wellbeing, learning preferences and learning pace. 
  • With children and young people learning at home, there are many opportunities for reflecting and growing in their capabilities
  • As well as this, teachers can provide further opportunities in their learning design. For example, throughout online class meetings, shared prayer experiences, collaborating through various electronic mediums
  • See the Key Capabilities FAQ and resources for further examples of how the Key Capabilities Continua can be used.
  • Be mindful that parents have the capacity to help their children regardless of their background and parents are experts on their children.
  • Students may have access to mobile phones more than computers, and tasks (especially if they are created for the computer) may be difficult to complete on phones.
  • Video conference calls (observing safety protocols) can be an effective tool, but they require more data. Encourage students who can’t use data to call using the audio feature; describe what’s happening on the screen so that students can still feel included.
  • Key Capabilities are for all children and young people and provide opportunities to celebrate personal growth. Students can use the Key Capabilities Continua as a resource for this.
  • Do not assume that parents will be able to support EAL learners with the English language and literacy requirements of the tasks. This may provide an opportunity to draw on the home environment for development of the home language, concepts and content knowledge. Encourage students to use their home language with family members in order to seek clarification and develop conceptual understanding and alternative perspectives on issues and experiences.
  • Use Microsoft Translator or Google Translate to support effective communication with families. 
  • Microsoft Learning Tools (within Office 365) provides free features which enable students to access reading and writing tasks in Word, OneNote, Outlook and Microsoft Edge. Learning Tools Immersive Reader is helpful for students who find reading and comprehending text difficult. Students can also edit their writing using the Dictation tool.
  • Help students organise their thoughts when reading or preparing writing tasks by providing graphic organisers for different purposes . Popplet is an excellent digital mind mapping tool and Padlet is useful for group collaboration around a task.
  • Provide concise instructions that are broken down into small steps  
  • Try not to be text heavy; try to provide instructions via a pre-recorded video message or with a graphic overview. This is preferable for EAL learners for whom ‘message abundancy’ - the information presented in more than one mode: ie graphically, gesturally, verbally, written etc. - is supportive of comprehension.
  • Prepare students for reading or viewing tasks by providing a brief overview or summary (graphically or verbally) of the ‘text’ beforehand, as well as key vocabulary.
  • Before presenting the tasks, consider what language structures and vocabulary students will need to understand and produce. Pre-teach this, then ensure opportunities to use the language in a purposeful way. The same applies for prior experiences and cultural knowledge that is assumed within the online resources that you use. A lack of relevant experiences can make it challenging to complete independent study tasks (for example, identifying relevant issues for a research inquiry) without teacher scaffolding and pre-teaching.
  • Provide templates to support students' writing such as those found at The Literacy Place . Consider allowing students to record their ideas as dot points.
  • Add links to online dictionaries and/or insert hyperlinks for technical or abstract words that take the learner to an explanation, definition or an appropriate image that illustrates the concept.
  • Undertaking research requires developed information literacy skills, including knowledge of and access to information sources, and relatively advanced reading skills that may be beyond the language proficiency levels of EAL/D students. Students may not be proficient in analysing the veracity or appropriateness of sources. Specific direction is advised in the initial stages of inquiry.
  • During this time of distance learning, students may feel isolated or lonely especially if they don’t have internet access. Utilise specialist staff, e.g. EAL/D focus teacher and ESOs to maintain regular contact - by email, comments on their work or phone.
  • When planning for students with a disability, consider the students PPL and the adjustments that you make in the classroom to ensure students can access and participate in their learning. How can you ensure students have the adjustments they require while working at home? 
  • Be creative and consider how students can access the intervention groups or personalised learning they require.
  • Consult with parents about how they can maintain communication with staff about the effectiveness of the adjustments in place to provide an opportunity for monitoring, reviewing and working as a team.
  • During this time of distance learning, students with a disability may require individual and small group scaffolding, as they access in class. Utilise specialist staff, especially staff they have a relationship including ESOs, inclusive education coordinators or leaders of learning.

Resources for designing online learning


UNESCO have created a list of educational applications, platforms and resources aimed to help parents, teachers, schools and school administrators facilitate student learning and provide social care and interaction during periods of school closure.

Pivot have created support documents for leaders, teachers, students and families for distance learning.

If you have a question regarding Learning Online, please email