*OSCQR – Standard #2RSI Dashboard illustration

*OSCQR – Standard #2RSI Dashboard illustration

Course provides an overall orientation or overview, as well as module-level overviews to make course content, activities, assignments, due dates, interactions, and assessments, predictable and easy to navigate/find.

Review These Explanations

Adult learners benefit from knowing what they are about to learn, as well as the scope of work and time commitment expected from them. Providing an overview of the online course will prepare learners for what, when, where and why they will be learning, and an overview of each course module will provide information on, in advance, what content, interaction, and assessment will take place within a specific period of time.

These “advance organizers” will help learners plan around conflicting priorities (school, family, children, work) and better manage their time.

The overall course orientation and/or overview should relay the same type of information that would be provided in a face-to-face class, including information from the syllabus, such as:

  • Course objectives
  • Required readings
  • Interaction Guidelines
  • Expectations
  • Due dates

The module orientation should include at least a short introduction to the module topic, and indicate what materials need to be reviewed, and what activities and assignments need to be completed. Remember to include due dates for every assignment and activity included in the module. This will help your learners stay on track!

Taylor, Dunn, and Winn (2015) write that ensuring that learners feel comfortable within the online course setting – knowing how to navigate, and what is expected – will set learners up for success. Providing course and module overviews provide learners with a means to navigate the course so that they can stay on track and succeed in their learning.


Taylor, J. M., Dunn, M., & Winn, S. K. (2015). Innovative Orientation Leads to Improved Success in Online Courses. Online Learning, 19(4).

Regular and Substantive Interaction (RSI)

How This Standard Supports RSIRSI Dashboard illustration

Online course and module overviews support regular and substantive interaction by including specific explanations, instructions, and details on how, when, where, and by whom online course communications, interactions, discussions, asking for help, getting questions answered, feedback, etc., will take place. Directing learners to ask questions and interact with the instructor about these topics, 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

  1. Anticipate the questions learners might ask about the course (access, navigation, learning materials, due dates) and address them within the orientation/overview.
  2. Provide a discussion forum where learners can ask course or module-level questions g,et clarification, or ask for help from the instructor.
  3. Schedule a specific time frame for interaction with the instructor for learners to get clarification or ask course- and module-level questions.
    1. This could be documented in the course calendar, and sent out as an announcement.
    2. Announcements can be set up in advance and scheduled to be released in conjunction with the course start, and subsequent module starts.
  4. Use learner-centered language, and address what the learner will experience.
  5. Address a single learner. Use second person singular, e.g., “You will learn…” vs. “Course participants will learn…”


Course Overviews

  • Provide a detailed written description of the types of learning activities learners will engage in, including all content, interaction, and assessment types included in the course.
  • Be sure to include the expected time required to participate and engage fully in the course each week throughout the term (e.g., “Please expect nine hours per week…”).
  • Create a short video introductory overview tour of your course within the LMS using a screen casting tool (e.g., screencast-o-matic, SnagIt, Captivate, Screencastify). This can help learners better navigate the course space, by letting them see the structure of learning modules and how to locate and access all course materials.
  • Create a course map or calendar to visualize the sequence of course modules, types of learning activities, anticipated duration of each activity, and indications of when assignments are due.
  • Bring attention to the most important elements of the online class, such as learning objectives, communication channels, required outside resources, and due dates.

Module Overviews

For module overviews, provide a more detailed description of learning content, activities, and assessments, including:

  • An introductory paragraph about the topics to be covered within the module, and how they fit within the scope of the full subject being covered in the course.
  • A list of module-specific learning objectives.
  • A list and/or explanation of key concepts that will be covered.
  • Assigned readings and associated resources to review, including dates that learners should expect to have completed each readings and/or resources.
  • Due dates for all assignments, even if stated elsewhere. These reminders will help learners stay on track.
  • A link back to the overall course schedule and/or course map.

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

These Pedagogical Practices from TOPR explore the purpose and benefits of creating a course orientation module and advance organizers for your online course, including links to example artifacts and scholarly references:

Course Orientation Module
A Course Orientation Module serves as the orientation to an online course. Creating an Orientation Module is very similar to the events that can occur in first night of a face-to-face class. The purpose of this module is to help learners master the course routine, expectations, and organization as well as ensure that learners are familiar with the LMS and have all of the hardware/software required for the course. Providing this online orientation will provide learner support by helping learners become familiar with your course. (Read more …)
Advance Organizer
An advance organizer is relevant introductory materials presented in advance in any format of text, graphics, or hypermedia (Ausubel, 1968). Instructors may use an advance organizer to present a framework for module content. Ausubel’s idea of an “advance organizer” is to relate what a learner already knows to the new content to be learned and thus increase retention. Advance organizers should be at a higher level of abstraction, generality, and inclusiveness than the content to be presented. (Read more …)
Use Scavenger Hunts to Orient Learners
A scavenger hunt can be used to help orient learners to an online course at the beginning of the term (Chen, H-L and Staber, G., n.d.). This activity works like a traditional scavenger hunt, as one gives the learners specific instructions as to what they are to look for in the course. By completing the activities, learners navigate through the online classroom and become comfortable with where things are located. One might also give learners instructions for locating institutional resources or student services. (Read more …)

Explore Related Resources

Beckford, M. M. (2015). The Online Learning Orientation Session. Distance Learning, 12(4), 43-50.
Candy, P. C. (1991). Self-direction for lifelong learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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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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