Skip to main content

Delivery in Online Learning Environments

This guide is aligned to Baseline Standard 1 and the Professional Standards Framework A2. It provides general advice on how you can ensure inclusive delivery in online learning environments.

Allow enough time for engagement and participation 

  • It might take some of your students longer than others to complete certain tasks so consider this in your planning. 
  • Some of your students may have upper body mobility difficulties, visual or hearing impairments. They might need to use assistive technologies such as a foot operated mouse, screen reader, captioning software or may be dependent upon keyboard navigation, etc. Using assistive technologies can be more time consuming to use1. Some of your students may also have Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs) such as dyslexia, or English might be an additional language for them. In those cases, your students may benefit from additional time to read or respond to your instructions. Any students working off campus might have slower internet connection speeds which influence the speed with which they can participate2.
  • Familiarise yourself with information about the types of assistive technologies that your learner might be using. This will enable you to appreciate the ways in which these might impact on their engagement with online activities. More information about assistive technologies can be found on the UoL Assistive Technology Resource site. 

Allow time for familiarisation

  • Avoid assuming your students have prior knowledge of the software or layout of your online environment. The start of each module is often a good opportunity to clarify your planned use of technologies and expectations. 
  • Induct your students into your learning environments. Provide opportunities for them to get familiar with the navigation, content and tools they are required to use during the module. Your students should have the opportunity to ‘have a go’ with tools you require them to use for summative assessment. This helps build their confidence and can avoid excluding those who might take longer to learn how to navigate the space, or need more time to read and process written / verbal instructions. Further advice on gaining feedback from your students about online learning is available through the Digital Practice Team. 
  • Always promote / demonstrate use of your online space in face-to-face sessions where practical. Also provide opportunities for your students to engage with the technology informally before using it for structured sessions3. 
  • Provide opportunities for your students to share about difficulties that they may experience with the technology during the module. This feedback can enable you to resolve issues during the module as well as inform future amendments to your online environment. Consider whether this feedback can be given anonymously or whether it is necessary to know who is giving the feedback, so you can support them better. 

Follow digital accessibility guidelines

  • Your digital content needs to meet Baseline 1: “We will ensure that all learning and teaching practices, activities, and supporting materials, can be used by all students. (Reasonable adjustments may still be required in some circumstances.)”
  • Consider the presentation of your resources in terms of colour scheme and text formatting. Certain colour schemes and text formatting can present barriers for some of your students with SpLDs such as dyslexia or visual impairments4. Further guidance on colour contrast can be found on the Leeds Digital Accessibility website.
  • Avoid dense blocks of text and follow these tip tips for writing content for online learning.
  • Follow guidance for providing ALT (alternative) text for all important visuals including graphical and pictorial content. This will ensure your visually impaired learners can access visual content.
  • Institutionally-supported tools should always be prioritised over external third-party tools. If you choose to use alternative solutions, they may not be accessible for all of your students and some may not want to use them. Students are not able to get technical assistance for external tools that are not supported by the University. For more information on University supported tools visit the Digital Education Systems
  • Identify tools and technologies to use that are accessible to as many of your students as possible. Where technologies are used that are not available to everyone (tools that are not fully compatible with screen readers, for example), alternative solutions will need to be identified for your students who have specific needs.
  • Try to be consistent in where you place information and the formats that you use for online activities. Guidance for setting up Minerva Ultra Course view can be found here.
  • A familiar and regular format for your online space will help support all of your students in navigating your online space, including those with SpLDs like dyslexia or dyspraxia and those who speak English as an additional language5.
  • To learn more about digital accessibility and the legislative requirements we have to meet, please refer to our Digital Accessibility website.

Do your students need to be online at the same time to participate?

  • Consider whether synchronous activities (when all learners are interacting in the online space at the same time), or asynchronous activities (when your learners don’t need to be online at the same time in order to participate),6 are most appropriate for a given learning activity.
  • Consider recording synchronous activities such as workshops or seminars to allow students to listen back in their own time.
  • Your students with caring responsibilities or part-time work might face greater challenges in co-ordinating their timetables, compared to those who do not have similar responsibilities.
  • Further advice about designing synchronous online teaching, and collaborative asynchronous online activities are provided through the Digital Practice website.

Promote inclusivity via your delivery and task instructions

  • Establish guidelines outlining appropriate “netiquette” (online etiquette) for interaction in online interactive situations. For example, encourage your students to virtually raise their hands to speak in group discussions using Blackboard Collaborate and advise your students about the appropriate use / tone of language when posting on discussion boards etc. Such ground rules could be co-created with students at the start of a course to promote ownership and belonging.
  • Provide guidance and establish expectations around the use of cameras and mics for synchronous teaching activities. The University of Liverpool have some useful advice about this.
  • Provide clear advice around the best was to get in touch with you online, which could include offering virtual office hours.
  • As with your face-to-face delivery, clarifying such expectations at the outset might encourage your students to participate in collaborative activities and remain mindful of the personalities, attitudes, values, learning approaches and pace of others in the group. To learn more, please refer to the Small Group Teaching  and Creating Inclusive Learning and Teaching Environments guides on this site.



  1. Grace, S& Gravestock P (2009), Inclusion and Diversity: Meeting the Needs of All Students, Routeledge
  2. Pearson, E.J. and Koppi, T., 2002. Inclusion and online learning opportunities: designing for accessibility. Research in Learning Technology, 10(2).
  3. ALERT – accessibility in learning environments and related technologies (2006) Available at (Accessed: 18 November 2016).
  4. Grace, S & Gravestock P (2009)
  5. ALERT – accessibility in learning environments and related technologies (2006)
  6. ALERT – accessibility in learning environments and related technologies (2006)