OSCQR – Standard #12

OSCQR – Standard #12

Technical skills required for participation in course learning activities scaffold in a timely manner (orientation, practice, and application – where appropriate).

Review These Explanations

According to Sharma and Hannafin (2007) scaffolding refers to supporting learning from novice to expertise. In the context of supporting technical skill competency in an online course, scaffolding is necessary to move learners through mastery levels. This is done through a process of orientation, practice and application.

If learners are required to use technology (hardware or software) they need ample time to orient themselves to the tools and features that they will be expected to use, and have time to practice using those features before they are assessed using those tools.

Technology should not get in the way of learning, and that includes content delivery, interaction, and assessment components of an online course. Learners need time to orient themselves to a new technology tool or feature and practice using it as they will be required to in the course (Hogan, Pressley 1997).

Pace the orientation, practice, and application exercises in your course so that learners have time to build their skills and troubleshoot any issues that may arise. If they are required to master any technology at the very start of the course, be sure to include low-stakes practice assignments, so that learners can become comfortable and confident in their skill level.


Hogan, K., & Pressley, M. (1997). Scaffolding scientific competencies within classroom communities of inquiry. In K. Hogan & M. Pressley (Eds.), Scaffolding student learning: Instructional approaches and issues (pp. 74 – 107). Cambridge, MA: Brookline Books.

Sharma, P. p., & Hannafin, M. J. (2007). Scaffolding in technology-enhanced learning environments. Interactive Learning Environments, 15(1), 27-46.

Refresh Your Course with These Ideas

General Suggestions

  • Create a technology orientation module that includes how-to videos, documentation, and practice assignments. Require that learners complete this module before moving on in the course.
  • Create an infographic poster that details out the specific skills and associated mastery levels that learners will have to demonstrate using that technology.
  • Post a video orientation in the course welcome area, along with several practice assignments for learners to complete for extra credit.
  • Include related “tips and tricks” related to the required technology in each module, building on the skills and features shared in previous modules.
  • Have learners who are highly skilled in the required technology serve as a skills tutor for other learners in the course.
  • Set mastery milestones and distribute digital course badges to learners who reach specific mastery levels as the course progresses.

Explore More Refreshing Ideas from the Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository (TOPR) at the University of Central Florida (UCF)

This Pedagogical Practice from TOPR explores the purpose and benefits of using digital badges to promote learner success. Exploring this strategy can guide a practice of scaffolding learning – helping learners achieve mastery, and rewarding that mastery.

Use Digital Badges to Promote Positive Learner Behaviors
Digital badges are visual indicators of the satisfaction of an instructor-defined goal. When the goals are linked to behaviors that promote success, badges can serve as feedback systems to promote those behaviors (e.g., a badge for submitting an assignment early that meets a pre-defined grade threshold supports timeliness without sacrificing quality). (Read more …)

Explore Related Resources

Beckford, M. M. (2015). The Online Learning Orientation Session. Distance Learning, 12(4), 43-50.
Chernish, W. N., DeFranco, A. L., Lindner, J. R., & Dooley, K. E. (2009). Does it matter? The perfect online course: Best practices for designing and teaching (pp. 23–35). Charlotte, NC: Information Age.
Reiser, B. R. (2004). Scaffolding Complex Learning: The Mechanisms of Structuring and Problematizing Student Work. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 13(3), 273-304.

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OSCQR has been developed by a community of online practitioners interested in quality course design. There are numerous opportunities for community members to offer suggestions, donate resources, and help with future development.

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