OSCQR – Standard #19RSI Dashboard illustration

OSCQR – Standard #19RSI Dashboard illustration

Instructions are provided and well written.

Review These Explanations

A learner’s academic engagement and success depend on many things. In an online course one element of importance is how well a learner understands what they are supposed to do, when, and how, so that they can meet the expectations and objectives of the activity, and get feedback to improve their understanding and learning, make progress, and complete the course successfully. This standard is intended to ensure that all course instructions are clear, findable, consistent, well written, free of ambiguity or error. Online course instructions are the voice of the instructor and set the tone for course interactions.

Clear instructions help learners to function in the online environment without having to repeatedly ask for clarification. Instructions can be communicated in many different forms in an online course, including orientations, introductions, announcements, guidelines, examples, and rubrics, etc.

Instructions contextualize course content, interaction, activity, and assessment by guiding learners through course materials, activities, interactions and assessments. Well written instructions address what, where, how and when learners need to do, why they need to do it, how it relates to course, module, or program objectives, how they will be assessed, and when they can expect feedback.

Instructions provide learners with the necessary guidance and confidence to successfully complete specific tasks, activities, assignments, interactions, or assessments in the course.

Regular and Substantive Interaction (RSI)

How This Standard Supports RSIRSI Dashboard illustration

Online course instructions can support regular and substantive interaction by providing specific explanations, instructions, and details on how, when, where, and by whom course tasks, assignments, interactions, and assessments will take place. Learner questions can be anticipated in the course instructions by including examples, models, rubrics and associated information, such as how to ask for help, get questions answered, and how and when feedback can be expected. Directing learners to ask questions and interact with the instructor about course instructions, such as in an online discussion forum, further supports RSI, and is a good general practice. Scheduling a specific instructor-facilitated discussion on these topics demonstrates compliance with RSI.

Refresh Your Course with These Ideas

General Suggestions

  • Provide instructions for all assignments, activities, tasks.
  • Review your instructions taking the perspective of the learner. If there are steps to follow, go through each one to be sure they are easy to follow.
  • Create short screen-casted videos (or audio files) that ‘walk learners through’ assignment details and/or showcase exemplary example submissions.
  • Provide a forum or anonymous place to ask questions about course assignments, and make sure that course participants know how and where  to find and engage in this area of the course for this purpose.
  • Create an open discussion forum and link to it from within assignment or activity instructions for learners to connect and communicate any questions or issues they may encounter.
  • Hold “Office hours” (synchronous or asynchronous) devoted to answering questions on upcoming assignments with follow up announcements and/or “FAQs” for all learners on common assignment-related questions and clarifications.
  • Create and automate course announcements reiterating/reinforcing course instructions where appropriate.
  • Include links to troubleshooting or help resources.
  • Write instructions across all assignments using consistent language, format, and fonts for ease of use.
    • Position instructions in consistent locations throughout the course.
    • Use consistent naming conventions for assignments, activities, tasks and provide contextual titles as advanced organizers to convey a summary of the content.
    • Consider how instructions tie back to learning objectives and use consistent language that refers back to those objectives.
  • Provide an estimate of how long the assignment is estimated to complete.
  • When appropriate, provide a link to a rubric, or information on how a learner will be evaluated.
  • When appropriate, provide examples or models of exemplary assignments.

Explore Related Resources

Lorenzetti, J. P. (2008). 14 Ways Faculty Can Improve Online Student Retention. Recruitment & Retention in Higher Education, 22(12), 6-7.

Share What You Know

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.

Discuss this standard in the comments section at the bottom of this page.

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