Can I design higher order online learning activities?

Along with rethinking assessment in online teaching, you are hopefully also thinking about your students’ learning activities and what their learning experience is like. The Flinders Learning and Teaching Principles underpin all our teaching, with student experience at the centre. In the face-to-face classroom we use a multitude of very creative learning activities but some won’t translate well to the online environment or require access to specific technology to be successful (e.g. small group discussions require technology such as Collaborate to be used).

Facilitating a good student experience can be challenging in a teaching environment we may not be all that comfortable in.

Digital technologies offer many opportunities to design creative, meaningful and authentic learning experiences for students.  The article on creative online assessment explores a variety of ways to include meaningful digital assessment and many of those ideas can be used simply as ungraded learning activities or formative (ungraded) assessments.

So how do you make online learning activities meaningful and authentic?

  1. Revisit the learning outcomes for your topic
    What do the students need to be able to do on completion? Look at the in-class activities and assess which of them will easily translate to the online space and remain effective. You may already have a few online activities making this task simpler. Then consider what other activities the students may have to participate in to achieve these learning outcomes.
  2. Look at your assessment
    This should be aligned with the learning outcomes and any changes to assessment should already be made. But have you considered what learning activities are needed to scaffold the students toward the assessments (and thus achievement of the learning outcomes)? What steps are needed to support the students toward successful completion of their assessments?
  3. Review Blooms’ taxonomy
    Bloom’s taxonomy is a method of categorising levels of reasoning in learning. Each of the six levels requires an increasingly higher level of abstraction. In higher education, our goal is to move students up the levels from a minimum of ‘application’.
  4. Explore the tools available to you in FLO
    Consider how you can use these to encourage higher order learning in your students.

The Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy (see infographic) is helpful in translating our learning outcomes into activities compatible with the online environment.

Infographic Credit: Ron Carranza

Here are some examples of higher order online learning activities you could adapt for your own students:


  • Research organizational problems in industry and make recommendations for solutions. Include online concept mapping and a final Collaborate
  • Create a blog that integrates evidence-based information about a chronic condition and strategies for its self-management.


  • Interpret data from the National Pollutant Inventory online database in the context of a specific environmental pollution scenario and evaluate the extent of likely environmental damage. Present information via a wiki.
  • Students collaborate (via Collaborate or another online tool) to evaluate social and infrastructure issues impacting on housing development in a remote area. A video is created as the final product.


  • Analyse an Emergency Department patient presentation to determine likely causation for symptoms. Students must research the answer using digital resources and present an evidence-based care response.
  • Compare and contrast two (or more) images or videos of a workspace to determine which would have a better workflow. Include justification.


  • Choose an online physical activity assessment tool to analyse their own physical activity data.
  • Look at a range of policy networks. Give an example of one type of network from the media, or your personal experience and explain how the example fits the policy type. Use a discussion forum to share views.

There are so many options for making the most of students’ online learning experience. Contact your college’s academic development support or your local eLearning team to discuss options. They are there to help!


Bloom, B. S. (ed.). (1956). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Vol. 1: Cognitive Domain. New York: McKay.

Sneed, O. (2016). Integrating Technology with Bloom’s Taxonomy, Arizona State University <> viewed 2nd April 2020


Written by Cassandra Hood
Academic Developer – CILT

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