Online teaching spaces: Exploring the digital myths

From supporting staff with their Virtual Learning Environment module sites and related teaching tools, I have seen past experiences become barriers. I aim to explore some of the myths heard over my 14 years working in FE & HE across different institutions.

Student skills

We might assume students have the required skills for a task, but they have different learning journeys. You can support students by linking to training resources and referring to the more relevant sections. Doing this as early as possible and signposting during delivery helps students explore these in time. This can also be an opportunity for everyone to refresh their skills. You may also want to consider checking their skills, and How to assess students’ prior knowledge – Eberly Center – Carnegie Mellon University ( includes some ideas to adapt.

Who might benefit?

We shouldn’t assume that additional resources and assistive software only benefit those with additional needs. These should not create an advantage for some students, but be available to the whole group to benefit from. Some students choose not to register their additional learning requirements and others may not know they have them. The ‘support for all’ section in this article ‘We must embrace technology to make education easier, fairer and more inclusive’ | Jisc gives one example.

Including links to support materials or additional reading is not necessarily enough of an incentive for students to visit and read them, as learners have different motivations (as briefly noted in Principles Of Student Engagement In A Virtual Classroom ( Consider where and when those support materials are more relevant. When linking to additional reading, promote in a sentence or two, the resource and its benefit, for example ‘it expands on … and will be of interest to …’.

Online discussions

Setting up discussion boards is not enough of an incentive for students to use them, and this was looked at in one of the team’s posts last year, How to encourage student engagement using Canvas discussion forums. They need a good reason to use spaces that aren’t part of the taught delivery, so why not make them part of this? We might worry that some students might misuse these spaces, but we can help support them on how to manage these, to help develop further skills. This post will also give you some ideas to think about this further, Online Discussion Forums | GSI Teaching & Resource Center (

Final thoughts

Try to debunk the myths. The covid lockdown significantly impacted the learning experience for students. This could have broken habits, changed expectations, and affected the skillsets students have. Asking your students and utilising analytics tools can help get to know your student groups.

I will end with mentioning that Canvas, and other teaching tools, like Panopto and Turnitin, provide analytics for academics (explored in this blog post on How Learning Analytics can aid your teaching). These provide an insight into how students are using resources and identifying gaps and opportunities. The following figures may surprise you. These show the Panopto lecture capture content viewed just across January and February 2023 at the University of Sussex:

  • View and Downloads: 196592
  • Unique viewers: 19026
  • Minutes delivered: 3845161.3

If you would like to talk to us about seeing and reflecting on the figures in your modules, or to discuss any of the above points, please contact your Learning Technologist or email

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