As many universities scramble to get content online and translate face-to-face classes into an online environment, it is timely to pause and reflect on what students say they want in terms of online learning.

The Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education (ASCILITE) has for the past three years been developing a suite of quality standards for designing on-line learning environments.

The Technology Enhanced Learning Accreditation Standards (TELAS) have been conceptualised across four phases of development, including a rigorous and extensive consultation process involving tertiary sector professionals and academics across Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. A desire to include the student voice in the Standards’ development led to the incorporation of student focus groups and student surveys across the development phases to ascertain what students perceived to be important in quality online learning.

The findings from this research, which were presented at the 2018 TEQSA Conference, highlighted the importance students place on assessments. The most important elements for on-line learning according to the students who participated in the TELAS research are:

  1. Details of assessment tasks, their requirements, assessment criteria and how and when feedback will be provided clearly explained
  2. Learning and assessment task instructions clearly stated
  3. Clear expectations and outcomes for learning and assessment tasks
  4. Aims, learning outcomes, assessment task details, schedule of learning and participation expectations are provided
  5. Support and information to answer student questions
  6. Design of the online learning environment is logically sequenced and organised
  7. Learning resources are accessible
  8. There is a single location for important news and announcements

As Michael Sankey pointed out in his article (CMM March 15) “we do not have time to think about meta concepts like design thinking, or great user experience (UX) design, rather in the short-term it’s going to need to be crude, efficient and responsive.” But all the better if we can address these very “suitably simple” elements that students have said are important to them, in our rapid design of online learning.

The TELAS Framework provides a guide to sound on-line learning design principles. In the current state of play these principles could provide a useful resource for enhancing students’ on-line learning experience. Institutions are able to freely access and use the TELAS Framework which is available on the TELAS website to inform the design of their online learning environments.


Dominique Parrish is Professor & Pro Vice-Chancellor (Learning and Teaching) @ Macquarie University. She was the president of ASCILITE 2016-2019 [email protected]

Allan Christie is Vice-President, eLearning, Blackboard APAC. He is a Life Member and former Treasurer of ASCILITE [email protected]

Chris Campbell is a Senior Lecturer in Learning Innovation at Griffith University. She is the current President of ASCILITE [email protected]


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