Designing e-tivities

The term e-tivity was coined by Gilly Salmon and it means "task online"; it is a framework for learning something in a dynamic and interactive way.

E-tivity is a simple exercise initiated by a moderator, requiring some sort of interaction among the participants. It should take into account the difficulties/limitations typical for a particular stage of a course, as well as involve learners and help them to achieve a specific learning outcome. They can be reused, so if you have a good idea and prepare it well, recycling will require only small adaptations resulting from, e.g. individual characteristics of learners, a specific context or obtaining new information. E-tivities are suitable for fully online programmes as well as for blended activities supported by e-learning.

In each e-tivity there should be an element of interaction with the other participants, e.g. through asking for feedback on the tasks completed by other participants (assignments, posts etc.). It creates the feeling of participation and involvement, which is an essential element of exercises based on group work.

As your experience in facilitating and designing online exercises grows, you can develop and diversify your e-tivities by adding multimedia, experimenting with various tools, and changing the form of communication. When technology becomes truly invisible for you and your learners, focusing on the outcomes will become engaging and motivating for everyone.

There are five crucial ingredients of an e-tivity:

1. “a spark”: a challenge, problem, inspiration or incentive;
2. online activity: learners must perform a certain activity, do “something”;
3. an element of participation: learners must start interacting with each other, for example by providing feedback;
4. a summary, evaluation, feedback, assessment, analysis: from the facilitator or from the group;
5. instruction and invitation to participate in the exercise.

Don’t expect straight away that you will manage to design an e-tivity which will engage all course participants. Carefully observe and draw conclusions (reflective notes will be very helpful), so that your subsequent attempts are increasingly better. Use the help of others, test your ideas on people from the outside, look for inspiration and don’t be afraid to be criticised.

E-tivities table

The table provided below covers all important elements for designing an online activity, so you can use it as aid for designing your e-tivities. In the right column there are explanations provided by facilitators, based on an example of the videoconference activity from Module 3.

Name of e-tivity

e.g. Different forms of e-learning - videoconference discussion

Learning outcome (for more information read chapter “Learning outcomes”)

identify various forms of e-learning in the context of VET

getting acquainted with videoconferencing tools (Flashmeeting)

Experience / attitudes

Discuss and interacting synchronously via videoconference tool, relate the examples to own VET context.

Reflect on the developtment of each competence throughout the course.

Result /outcome

Understanding different forms of e-learning


incentive to initiate e-tivity, e.g. (1) analysis of two examples of e-learning courses from the angle of designing and facilitating  according to the guidelines prepared by the facilitators; (2) facilitator’s introduction

Number of participants

e.g. in videoconference maximum of ten plus two facilitators.


Important for asynchorous e-tivities: usually the optimal size of a group is 12-20 people

Structure (what will happen in e-tivity)

e.g. (1) welcoming participants; (2) defining outcomes and principles of the meeting; (3) moderated discussion; (4) summary

Duration (the time that passes between the beginning and the end of an e-tivity)

in the case of a videoconference it is the same as the time for the participant. In the case of some other e-tivities, this time is significantly longer

Time for the facilitator (the amount of work hours, which they have to invest)

e.g. two and a half hours on preparation and two hours on facilitating the videoconference

Facilitator’s actions

specific actions performed by the facilitator, e.g. (1) preparation of the meeting’s outline; (2) organisation: setting the dates, communication by e-mail, technical preparations; (3) facilitation of the conference (welcome, moderation, technical support, summary)

Participant workload (the amount of work hours which they have to invest)

e.g. two hours

Participant’s actions (specific actions performed by a participant)

e.g. (1) getting acquainted with and testing the Flashmeeting tool, (2) analysis of courses prepared by facilitators, (3) participation in videoconference

Tool used in this activity

Videoconference - Flashmeeting

Methods and criteria of evaluation

e.g. Lack of measurable assessment. Feedback in the form of a general summary that will take into account the following issues: technical (e.g. showing the technical source of problems), content-related (e.g. analysis of the usual arguments, attempts to overcome controversies) and interpersonal (e.g. motivational potential of simultaneous communication)

Time: 20 min

Last modified: Friday, 13 June 2014, 12:15 PM