Megan Pitts


Megan Pitts, B.Ed, B.Sp.Ed


Cape Breton University and Memorial University of Newfoundland



This paper contains resources to help teachers who find themselves thrown into the online learning environment for the foreseeable future navigate with greater ease. As a student completing my master’s degree in Educational Technology, I am learning from an Instructional Designer and I will share what I have learned with you, the reader. In this paper, you will read about the importance of using a design model, course design based on your audience, and the importance of working as a team. We are not alone in this, even though we are physically distanced. Following the pointers I make in this paper, you will be able to create and use online learning with ease. For this paper, I have researched sources from both within my Instructional Design course and through my university’s online library.


Online learning, technology, Instructional Design, ID, alternate forms of teaching and learning, mobile learning.


Click the link that follows to access the video resourcesCreating Education Online (02:55)


Many of us who are facing this pandemic are unsure what the world will bring. Will schools open before the end of the school year? Will they be closed for 18 months? With all these questions arises another: how do I transition my face-to-face learning environment into an online form?

Literature Review

Below, you will find resources I have looked at and deemed helpful to creating a successful online learning environment. I have focused on three areas in particular: learning theories, technologies, and instructional design principles.

Learning Theories

When designing an online learning environment, you first need to learn more about learning itself. There are many learning theories out there, and good resources to read in order to narrow down your view.

Culatta (2020) has constructed a website full of learning theories that can help with instructional design. Each theory has its own page in which you will find an overview about the theory, the application of the theory, examples, principles and references to the books that provided the information. There are also related websites included to do more research into a particular theory of interest.

Sudhirtiwari et al., (2020) created a website that takes an in-depth look at learning theories as well. Their website contains specific pages for each of the many learning theories, like Culatta’s website. Each page lists the contributors of the theory, key concepts, and additional resources and references from which the information was found.


Luckily, today most of us have technology readily available at our fingertips in many different forms.

Dron et al., (2011) talks about the different types of technologies, both hard and soft. It was intended for use in immersive spaces but also provides information that may be useful to educators in online learning environments. They explain the difference between soft and hard technologies (not to be confused with software and hardware, but more around creativity and efficiency). They show an example using a game titled Second Life. The article talks about how to modify the world as an educator in order to make educating easier and on your own terms. Second Life and other virtual worlds like Minecraft Education Edition are wonderful ways to get your students learning online. They could be used as a group project or, as the article states, in self-guided learning.

Minecraft Education Edition (a soft technology) uses the classic Socio-constructivist theory in which students learn through doing with others. Students get to explore pre-made worlds that teachers can access through the website: . You can download worlds, import them into your account, share with your students or have them join you in yours. Students for the most part already have some experience with Minecraft, so they are motivated to learn using this software. The possibilities with this platform are endless and school boards in Newfoundland and Labrador have purchased board-wide licences for their students and staff, making this platform free to use. Kuhn (2017) explores Minecraft: Education Edition and describes the technological features, pedagogical features, and gives tips for educators such as spending time within the Minecraft universe in order to better understand and navigate the platform.

Google classroom (more of a hard technology) is essentially a pre-made virtual classroom where (primarily older) students can chat; find, complete, and submit assignments; receive grades; view lessons; and even take tests. Iftakhar (2016) talks about the key points of Google Classroom in case this platform is new to you. They provide perspectives from both teachers and students and provide suggestions for better use.

Instructional Design Principles

These principles that Instructional Designers use will be an asset for anyone in education embarking on developing online learning tailored to their students’ needs.

Elias’ (2011) work “Universal Instructional Design Principles for Mobile Learning” looks at eight of the principles that more so focus on distance education. In the work, Elias describes the challenges and opportunities of online learning, provides Instructional Design recommendations for online learning, and lists in a very clear and concise table the principles and recommendations for online learning. This work is an amazing resource for those of you beginning setting up your online education journeys!

Cook (2006) takes these principles a step further and imagines them aiding in science education. She states that “visual representations are essential for communicating” however, “the design of such representations is not always beneficial for learners” (p. 1073). In the trying time we are in, it is best to be concise and reduce “unnecessary cognitive load”, which is one of the learning theories that focus the “load on working memory during instruction” (David L (2014)). In this article, Cook talks about different theories and takes instructional design into consideration when finding how best to teach science to students. She also includes a table of Instructional Design and provides a rationale for each consideration.


After looking at these resources, it is time to apply the knowledge to create an online learning environment for your class. This needs to be learner-specific and developmentally appropriate, so students can follow along and learn.

Using your knowledge of learning theories, technologies, and Instructional Design principles develop a learning environment for your students. Choose at least one technology to best-suit your learner and teaching needs. This can be flexible and intertwining, as you can use Twitter, Minecraft, email, and Google Classroom or Moodle with your students. Follow the Instructional Design principles; mainly, using a community of support. We are all working together toward a common goal of educating learners in unpredictable times and each of us has strengths and knowledge that others could avail of. If you get stuck, talk to someone and they can help.


Hopefully this literature review will provide educators with resources and knowledge they need to navigate through these uncertain times with more confidence. Make sure to think about how children learn, look at the many options for technology in online learning, and keep the Instructional Design principles at the forefront to design the best possible course for your specific set of students. We are all navigating this together and will get through this. Who knows, maybe when we go back to face-to-face learning, you will want to continue these online learning practices with your students.


Cook, M. P. (2006). Visual representations in science education: The influence of prior knowledge and cognitive load theory on instructional design principles. Science education, 90(6), 1073-1091.

Culatta (2020).

David L. (2014, July 16).  Cognitive Load Theory of Multimedia Learning (Sweller). [Web page]. Learning Theories.   Available from

Dron, J., Reiners, T., & Gregory, S. (2011, October). Manifestations of hard and soft technologies in immersive spaces. In E-Learn: World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education (pp. 1895-1904). Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).

Elias, T. (2011). Universal instructional design principles for mobile learning. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 12(2), 143-156.

Iftakhar, S. (2016). Google classroom: what works and how. Journal of Education and Social Sciences, 3(1), 12-18.

Kuhn, J. (2017). Minecraft: Education Edition. Calico Journal, 35(2), 214-223.

Minecraft: Education Edition. [Web page].  Retrieved from

Sudhirtiwari et al. (2020). Learning Theories. [Web page].


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