0 : Welcome

Hamlet by William Shakespeare


This is an online course about teaching online courses — a play within a play, so to speak. 

Those of you who have studied, seen performed, or taught Shakespeare’s Hamlet will recall that Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark (and the eponymous main character) commissions a group of travelling players to perform at Elsinore castle as a way to see how or whether members of the royal court would respond to a performance that mimicked a tragic event that had actually happened at the castle (no spoiler alerts here!). Gillian Woods (2016) writes, 

The play Hamlet commissions the travelling players to enact gives his obsession with performance a specifically theatrical focus. Staged at the Globe in 1601, Hamlet was originally produced at a time when professional theatre was a relatively new medium (the first playhouse opened in 1567). Renaissance plays are particularly self-conscious about their own theatricality, as their writers explored the technical possibilities and ethical implications of the form. The play staged at Elsinore gave audiences at the Globe an opportunity to reflect on the nature of the entertainment they had paid to view. What kind of truth can be told through theatre? What sort of impact do plays have on those who watch them? These were questions that moralists and playwrights debated endlessly. 

Four hundred years in the future, do you think that historians will look back on the time of the emergence of this educational medium and write similar things? Will they write that online course designers and teachers in 2020 were self-conscious about the theatricality of their work; that they were obsessed with the technical possibilities and ethical implications of the form; concerned about the impact of this medium on learning, on learners, and on the enterprise of schooling?

I have no crystal ball, but I am pretty certain that these will factor among their conclusions (among others) about this moment. As teachers, we are concerned about the technicalities of this medium. We are concerned about the ethics and the impacts of this medium on our students. We are concerned about our presence as teachers in these virtual classroom spaces — spaces that allow us to overcome the boundaries of time and space, but that can also overwhelm us.

Given the global COVID-19 pandemic that has already shifted our lives so quickly, and in directions we never could have anticipated, we know that online learning has enabled a certain continuity of schooling for many children globally. The rapid pivot to online schooling also, however, created nearly impossible conditions for families as they have tried to navigate the complexities of pandemic life. Families have faced incredible challenges — job losses, working from home or having to leave home without childcare to perform essential services, illness, isolation from family — all while also helping their children keep up with schoolwork. So, although researchers have documented many successes during this time (Ferdig, Baumgartner, Hartshorne, Kaplan-Rakowski & Mouza, 2020) the challenges of this time — including the mental health challenges for families, children and teens — have also been significant (Hospital for Sick Children, 2020).

With a little time to breathe now, it is important that systems of schooling find balanced, and realistic solutions that keep children, families and communities safe while also enabling children to socialize, and regain connections to ideas and to one another. Looking ahead to the 2020-2021 academic year without a COVID-19 vaccine, school boards are working to develop plans that ensure children return to bricks and mortar classrooms where they can play and laugh, and where they can see and be seen by their peers and their teachers. At the same time, the online classroom will need to remain a viable option as public health officials continually assess the spread of COVID-19 in communities and the related risks of face-to-face schooling.

The world is topsy turvy right now, but this course is designed to help you navigate what Hamlet, himself, might have called a “sea of troubles”. This course offers evidence-based anchors for your online course designs and pedagogical methods. It is here to guide your decision-making and inform your teaching choices; it is meant to shine a light on priorities that will enable you — despite the turmoil of this moment — to do the most good.

What is Module 0?

Module 0 is the introduction to the course, the place where we provide all of the relevant details about what you will learn, how the course is organized, how the pacing of the course will work, and how to find all of the essential information you need. Module 0 is as an important online teaching practice. In bricks-and-mortar classrooms, the first day of school always includes a welcome and an introduction to expectations and to systems. Students need to know “the rules” so to speak. This helps them to manage their choices and behaviours and to make the classroom environment feel predictable. Module 0 is meant to do this for you.

In the next section, we review:

  • Important norms for participating in ethical, professional ways, and in ways that enable all participants to connect with ideas and with this learning community;
  • The Learning Objectives for the course;
  • The List of learning activities designed to help every course participant to consolidate their understandings of key ideas in each module.

To get started, you might like to watch this short introductory screencast.

Course Norms: Care, Respect, Trust and Integrity

This is an open educational resource developed to support pre-service teachers at the Faculty of Education at the University of Ottawa. As such, and in alignment with professional standards for ethics established by the Ontario College of Teachers, our norms for participation in this course include care, respect, trust and integrity. 

Care: Means that each member of this learning community is expected to care for the interests of other learners and participants in the community. Care looks like: using words, and a tone in written and verbal contexts of communication that are considerate of others’ perspectives; demonstrating interest in learning that will support students’ needs; generosity of spirit; collaboration and sharing of ideas in constructive ways.

Respect: Means that as human beings entering an open learning environment, our activities are first and foremost grounded in the foundations of human dignity, social justice and inclusion. We respect the spiritual and cultural orientations of our members; we act and use language that shows our shared respect for all gender identities, sexual orientations. We create space for and honour the contributions of members with non-dominant identities and lived experiences. We also take advice constructively from professors, peers, and from supervisors in our professional contexts. The social context in which this course is situated includes the need to call out anti-black racism in all of its forms and to revise systems of schooling framed by oppressive, colonial ideologies. In this course, respect includes finding ways to design online learning that addresses the 94 Calls to Action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and that aligns with the work of #blacklivesmatter, organizations such as the NAACP and the United Nations, which has named the decade from 2015-2024 the Decade for People of African Descent.

Trust: Means that in this course, we trust that we all enter into this community to learn to teach students online. We engage honestly in this work, we model fairness and transparency in our thinking. This looks like sharing insights openly in discussions; considering a balance of perspectives before posting, and trusting that others’ intentions are the same.  

Integrity: Means that we respect intellectual property rights, reflect on the ethics of our actions, and the moral implications of our choices in digital contexts. We support one another in the development of integrity in digital activities. This looks like considering how to model integrity online with our students; learning to use digital texts in ways that follow copyright regulations; citing ideas, images, videos, and texts appropriately; sharing reflections on how to maintain the standard of integrity in our online work. 

Because this is an open educational resource that could, potentially, be of interest to people around the world (and not just at uOttawa) we encourage you to practice the ethics of care, respect, trust and integrity in conversations about the course content on Twitter using the hashtag #OTL4K12 (which stands for Online Teaching & Learning for K-12).

If you have never used Twitter or a hashtag before, it’s easy. When you compose your Tweet, you include #OTL4K12 somewhere in your tweet (often, at the end). This allows people to search for tweets related to this course because you have “hashtagged” your message with this special code that can be found by Twitter search or by special programs that curate Tweets.

Learning Objectives for this Course

By the end of this course, students will…


  • Why it is so important to design for relationship building and social presence when teaching online;
  • About synchronous and asynchronous approaches to online course activities and when to use these approaches;
  • About accessibility standards for online courses;
  • Important theories of learning that can inform the design of online courses for K-12 students (Universal Design, TPACK)
  • Current research that can be used to inform instructional approaches online for K-12 students;
  • Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) expectations for the use of videoconferencing and social media platforms for professional purposes.


  • Cultivate meaningful, authentic relationships with learners in online course environments using a range of strategies;
  • Prioritize social justice-oriented teaching practices, and create accessible, safe, psychological spaces for non-dominant, racialized, or traditionally marginalized learners in online courses; 
  • Design and set up predictable, well-structured learning modules for K-12 students using learning management systems;
  • Assess and evaluate learning in digital contexts;
  • Use a range of digital tools (e.g., screencasts, infographics, games, interactive messaging applications) to support student learning for a range of purposes (e.g., collaboration, multimodal writing, problem-solving, practice of particular skills);
  • Model respectful, effective communications for K-12 learners in online environments;
  • Decide when to use synchronous or asynchronous methods of instruction;
  • Navigate professional boundaries in digital environments;
  • Find high-quality resources to inform online instruction;
  • Set up workflows for online teaching that are easy to maintain.


  • Aware of the ways that issues of digital equity may impact student learning online; 
  • More confident in their use of digital tools to teach a range of topics using evidence-informed teaching practices;
  • Better prepared for success in online practica during the 2020-2021 academic year. 

How the Course is Organized

There are Six Modules in this Course. Each module is designed around a central theme, practice, or idea. Generally, each module takes about two hours to complete. Estimated reading, reflection and practice times are provided at the start of modules 1-6.

The course is run as a self-paced learning experience. This means that all content is made available to anyone online and students can work through the content at their own pace, asychronously. Students at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Education (for whom this course is designed) may use the Practice and Reflection elements of each module as part of their B.Ed. coursework.
Certainly, B.Ed. students are encouraged to document their thinking on their professional digital portfolios and to bring relevant points of discussion into their PED3150 or PED3151 classes.

  • Think Big : In these sections, students read, watch, listen, and explore the module’s big topics. This is the “lecture” section of each module. 
  • Reflect: In these sections, students are encouraged to take a few minutes to consider the implications of the big ideas presented in the “Think Big” section. They are encouraged to make connections to their own experiences and think ahead to their own teaching practices in light of what they have just read. Reflections can be shared at #OL4K12
  • Practice : In these sections, students are encouraged to practice particular skills using a range of digital tools and/or strategies. This part of the course involves active participation, creation, and problem-solving so that students complete the course with new skills. Practice work can be shared at #OL4K12

Whose voice am I reading?

Finally, you will notice that we use the pronoun ‘I’ to create a personal presence and tone in the modules. Sometimes, this voice is Michelle’s and sometimes the voice is Hugh’s. Michelle wrote modules 0,1,2,4,6 — so it’s her voice you are hearing in those modules. Hugh wrote modules 3 and 5 so it is his voice you are hearing there. We both reviewed and co-edited all modules, but we wanted to be clear about whose voice you are reading where so that if you need to create a mental image of the author as you read, you can 🙂

Ready to get started?

Proceed to Module 1 to begin learning about the importance of care and relationship building in online learning environments.


Ferdig, R.E., Baumgartner, E., Hartshorne, R., Kaplan-Rakowski, R. & Mouza, C. (2020). Teaching, Technology, and Teacher Education during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Stories from the Field. Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). Retrieved June 28, 2020 from https://www.learntechlib.org/p/216903/.

Hospital for Sick Children (2020, July). Sick-kids led group of experts proposes latest guidance for school reopening. https://www.sickkids.ca/AboutSickKids/Newsroom/Past-News/2020/covid19-school-guidance.html

Woods, G. (2016). Hamlet: The play within the play. British Library. Retrieved from https://www.bl.uk/shakespeare/articles/hamlet-the-play-within-the-play