The Digital Tool Buffet to Cultivate Your Online Courses

In today’s society, relationships and socialization matter in learning! Connectedness and collaboration are important for many students’ learning experiences. However, online learning tends to rely on text-based content and does not contain the community-based experience that may be available. How can online instructors maximize the power of digital tools to cultivate an engaging online learning experience? In this session, we will peruse the digital tool buffet and sample a collection of tools just right for cultivating your online course! We will start with an “appetizer” of general strategies, move to an “entree” of digital tools, and end with sweet “dessert” application to our own online courses.


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  • Set clear expectations and be consistent throughout your course.
  • Be present in the course in some way throughout the week. Don't be a robot.
  • Model the behaviors/strategies you expect students to demonstrate.
  • Call students by name when possible.
  • Don't try to be perfect. We are all human and make mistakes.
  • Give regular and specific feedback on assignments. Think "feed forward."
  • Share your stories.
  • Represent the most important information in multiple ways with UDL principles: text, image, and video.
  • Be clear about how you wish to be contacted and how quickly you will respond.
  • Track student log-ins using your dashboard.
  • Create a checklist for items that may need to be changed when you teach the course again.
  • Create a document based on student questions/comments/concerns. Refer to it before teaching course again.


  • When you make a change to the course, notify students by making an announcement.
  • Use the "announcements" feature to send an email to students.
  • Give students to option to receive course notifications in alternative ways.
  • Infuse images into your course as much as possible (announcements, content, presentations).
  • Create an interactive syllabus.
  • Create introductory videos (course navigation, introduction of you, introduction of content).
  • Provide feedback with video or voice to make your message more meaningful and reduce the chance of it being misunderstood (Ice, Curtis, Phillips & Wells, 2007). Students will be able to hear your intonation.
  • Follow Section 508 ADA regulations and Include captions or transcripts alongside videos.
  • Create an informal class lounge area.
  • Model best practices by utilizing technology tools throughout your course.


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Who are your students?

What do I need to know about my students?

What behaviors or strategies do I need to implement?

How can I use the technology tools to meet my learning outcomes?

What steps will I take to use these tools to cultivate my own online course(s)?