Keeping learners SAFE online

online learning

As we prepare to enter the new academic year, lessons from the pandemic inspired rush to go online must be learned.  For many Business Schools, this will need a focus, not on the technology but on online TEACHING.

In a traditional classroom or lecture hall, students feel relatively sheltered.  They know from many years at primary and secondary school that they can be:

  • Confident that they know what is going to happen,
  • Familiar with the environment and the peer group,
  • Sure that they will not be picked out in front of their peers and have their lack of preparation exposed,
  • Assured that whatever content is delivered, it can be revised before the exam.


So, online learning needs students to be SAFE – yes, another mnemonic.  Students need to feel:
  • Secure – in the environment and the technology,
  • Acknowledged – where peers and the session facilitator (teacher) note their presence,
  • Forewarned –  clear about what the session will deliver and what is expected of them,
  • Engaged – by the subject matter, the interaction, the response opportunities – basically by anything that keeps them focused.

Each of these features warrants a whole blog to itself, but let me offer some “quick wins”:

Secure learners are familiar with the technology, or at least with the basics of etiquette, camera and audio control (and do not assume that Gen Z knows these things innately).  Advances come later as teachers introduce breakout rooms, whiteboard sharing and group chats – so build into your practice a steady introduction of new features.  Also, it is simplest to stick to one platform or tool, rather than switch between different ones.  There may need to be compromises, such as the variety of question types offered in polling but the modern systems that support mobile users have huge possibilities.

Acknowledged learners feel part of the process, rather than being observers.  It may eat into “lecturing time” but an informal welcoming of students by name as they enter the “room” can pay dividends.  Early opportunities for learners to hear their own voice in class can also be engineered. Set a question or research task prior to the class and ask if anyone has an answer.  For larger classes polling using WordClouds is a good substitute.

WordCloud - benefits of online

Online learning benefits WordCloud (generated using

Forewarned learners feel more confident and secure, and so a brief agenda of how the session will work is an important part of the process.  It is often said jokingly, but some very important parts of longer workshop sessions are the breaks – always allow for breaks, even if this eats into the “lecturing time”.  Actually, this is the same advice as for Face to Face teaching but even more important as part of the inclusion of all participants online.

Finally, Engaged learners are the chief aim of any online teaching good practice.  Engagement must be planned into synchronous sessions through the use of pre-reading, preparation, polling, discussions, and “chunking” of the more didactic elements of teaching.  Using a variety of interaction and delivery methods in a class should start simple and build up during the course.

The EFMD Online Learning Community is committed to enhancing digital education and seeks to share best practices through its webinars and workshops.

Join us at the next EOCCS Symposium on 23-24 September 2021 to learn more.