Online Learning Support and Resources

Teaching online is a complex process that involves the delivery of material, the creation of online activities to engage students, and the practice of assessment. In the local context, teaching online is complicated substantially by unequal access to resources (including devices, internet access and data costs) and accompanying poor levels of digital literacy. Ensuring that you understand your class’ access constraints, related in this instance to internet access, is key for designing how you will enable access to support material. Here is a link to one department’s way of doing this: Questions about tech access. If you’re trying to support student with poor tech access, please look at Strategies for addressing tech access

These pages are intended to support online teaching where lecturers are faced with the challenge of how to teach material to students, and facilitate student engagement with material online in preparation for examinations. They offer an overview of resources and consultations supporting the decisions that lecturers may need to make to deliver teaching online. However, in the local higher education context, supporting learning also requires that we consider other factors that may constrain learning. Please check elsewhere on the CILT website for resources on supporting students with other constraints or challenges.

PLEASE NOTE: this is a static version of a live document which can accessed here.

Delivering material online
  1. Written text
  2. Audio
  3. Teaching videos
    3.1 Using UCT lecture recording service
    3.2 Live lecturing & recording using Adobe Connect
    3.3 Creating recordings from your desktop: narrated presentations, screencasts, webcam videos
    3.4 Sharing videos
  4. Pre-existing Open Educational Resources (OER)
Online activities to engage students
Online assessment
  1. Formative assessment
    1.1 Vula Test and Quizzes tool
    1.2 Google forms
    1.3 Multimodal feedback options
  2. Summative assessment and alternative forms of examination
    2.1 Open book exams (assignments)
    2.2 Timed online exams
    2.3 Online proctoring (ProctorU)

Delivering material online

Online material may be delivered through a range of modalities from text to video. Your choice of modality is shaped by various factors including the content on the presentation, the literacies (textual, academic and digital) of the presenter and participants, and access to the internet. 

  • 1. Written text

    Content, such as explanatory text, images, etc. may be delivered online using various kinds of written texts. These may be transcripts of lectures, summaries of key readings, reading guides, etc. Text is low-tech, low-bandwidth and easy to create, access and use. These documents may be constructed in a word processor and uploaded to a course site, or shared via email, or they may be constructed via a platform such as Google Docs which keeps your documents “live” so you can keep editing as the course proceeds. However, students need to be aware that downloaded versions of the document are static.

    In many cases written text frames the learning experience and provides context for course content (documents, embedded media, etc.). 

    Key Recommendations

    • Ensure that students know where to access this material 
    • Be careful of relying on hyperlinks if students have intermittent connectivity
    • Make sure hyperlinks work
    • Keep in mind the academic literacy and language competencies of your students when constructing these texts
  • 2. Audio

    Audio resources supporting learning may be used to deliver content, supplement content, or offer students feedback on activities. Audio delivery of content through narrated powerpoints, podcasts (audio only, and may be a solo speaker or a conversation / interview) or voice-notes takes less data than video, and offers the connection of the spoken voice. In terms of accessibility, it is also advisable to have a transcript of any audio recordings if there are students in the class that need this.

    However, this form can lead to low levels of engagement, so audio recordings are best used alongside other forms of material such as written text or video. 

    Key Recommendations

    • Use an audio recording where visual material is not essential
    • Segment the audio - keeping it short and specific to a topic. Audio is not searchable in the same way that video is, so keep file names content specific and numbered
    • Do a trial run for your recording - two minutes is a good length for a trial run

    See the overview guide for more information.

  • 3. Videos

    Here are some options for using videos for teaching: lecture recording, live lecturing and recording using Adobe Connect, webcam recordings, screencasts and narrated presentations. In terms of accessibility, if there are students in your class that have hearing disabilities, a transcript is advised.


    3.1 Using UCT lecture recording service

    There is an automated recording service for supported venues across campus, provided the lecture is pre-scheduled through Vula. If you have previously used lecture recording for your course site, you will have access to the Lecture Videos tool on your course Vula site.

    Vula site owners can schedule new recordings via the Schedule link in the Lecture Videos tool. To check upcoming recordings, use the Manage link. If you need assistance with this, please see the video tutorial link. If you encounter a scheduling conflict, please contact the Vula team at If you have not used lecture recording for your course before, please complete a form to request recordings (LR-1 form). For more information, please see how to request recordings.

    Please consider the following before deciding whether Lecture Recording is the right solution for your context:

    • Is hand writing important in your recording?

    We would advise using the document camera in the venue. If you can’t get access to a venue with a document camera, setting up a phone on a tripod to video over your shoulder works quite well too.

    • Will you be writing on the board?

    Use one of these preferred venues for good board visibility in the recording: Lesle Social 2B & 2C, Snape TS 2B, 2C, 3B, 3C, 4B  & 4C, Economics LT, Kramer LT1 and LT3.

    • How do I re-use my previous year’s lecture recordings?

    If you recorded lectures for your course in a previous year, you can make the entire year’s lectures available to your current students. To request for an entire lecture recording series from a previous Vula site, please email

    Alternately, you can upload specific recordings from a previous year’s Vula site. You can download individual recording from your previous Vula site. To share these on your Vula site, upload in Resources (and optionally embed in the Lessons tool in Vula).

    [Vula Help Video tutorial: Self-scheduling and Managing your lecture recordings through Vula]

    [Overview guide: Why use lecture recording]


    3.2 Live lecturing & recording using Adobe Connect

    Adobe Connect is a virtual conferencing tool that allows for live streaming sound, video and slides and includes interactive features such as chat to engage with students. Live sessions can also be recorded and shared with students. UCT lecturers can request an Adobe Connect account to set up live meetings by emailing

    [Overview guide: Using video conferencing for teaching at UCT]


    3.3 Creating recordings from your desktop: narrated presentations, screencasts, webcam videos

    If your teaching venues is not supported for lecture recording, you can create a video using using your computer, see creating recordings from your desktop. Alternatively, you can use mobile devices (e.g. smartphone, tablet) or a camera with audio input to record.

    Such videos can combine a lecturer’s voice and visuals, for example PowerPoint slides and/or webcam footage. While a variety of free tools can be used to create lecture videos, shorter sections are generally better, and also be conscious of file size and format. You may need to look at video conversion software (e.g. MPEG Streamclip or Adapter):

    • File size - Ideally not greater than 250 Mb but this could change depending on your students internet access

    • File format  - MP4 format  (h264 encoding) is more accessible

    For example, one might use a series of three 15-minute lecture videos  as an alternative to a 45-minute lecture.

    [Overview guide: Creating online teaching videos and podcasts]


    3.4 Sharing videos

    There are a number of ways to share videos with your students. You can either upload them to Vula Resources, embed in Lessons in Vula or share via a Google Drive folder. Another option is to upload videos to Youtube and include links.

  • 4. Pre-existing Open Educational Resources (OER)

    Academics from other institutions have shared teaching resources online, which may be called “Open Educational Resources” (OER) or other names such as Open Courseware. Search online to find lectures, open courseware and materials on your course topics to share with students.

    There are many places to find these resources, such as the following platforms:

Online activities to engage students

In traditional residential universities such as UCT, a significant part of the teaching and learning experience takes place through small groups in the face-to-face environment, and individually through private study. Teaching in an online space requires that we plan for and design opportunities for students to engage with content, each other, and the lecturer. The processes we design and the tools that we use need to enable and encourage this range of interactions.

This section is organised based on “the shape of the engagement” - your purpose or goal in the engagement. The list of tools suitable for each purpose typically starts with various Vula options (typically the easiest and least demanding options) and ranges outside the institution to various publicly available, free tools to enable engagement. 


What are my options?

I want all my students to receive the same message from me, online.

  • Email

  • Vula Announcements

  • Whatsapp broadcast

I want to host a discussion online.

  • Vula Discussion Forum

  • Vula Chat

  • Adobe Connect

I want my students to talk to each other in small groups like they might in a tutorial.

  • Vula Discussion Forum

  • Shared google doc

  • Student-initiated Whatsapp groups

I want my students to work collaboratively online on a problem, a task or a text.

  • Shared google doc

  • Wiki-tool in Vula

  • Shared document circulated by email

I want my students to work individually on a problem, a task or a text.

  • Google drive

  • Vula Blogs

  • Word Docs


There is a more detailed form of this table on how to engage with your students online.

* The Activity Design Template on page 99 of the Facilitating Online Handbook may be of interest.

* To add a new tool on your Vula course site, go to Site Setup > Edit Tools

* For specific help on a particular Vula tool, visit the Vula Help Guide.

Online assessment

Assessment becomes particularly challenging to manage in the online context. As in the case of traditional assessment, two forms need consideration: formative assessment and summative assessment. It is best to create opportunities for students to practice assessment activities and receive formative feedback, before engaging in summative assessment activities. Online tools may also allow you to create additional opportunities for formative and summative assessment, or enable examinations to delivered in different ways.

1. Formative Assessment

Formative assessment tools available to you include (but are not limited to):




Design recommendations:

1.1 Vula Test and Quizzes Tool


Navigable from course site

Strong degree of lecturer control

Familiar to students

Requires setting up

Best used for short answer/ MCQ/ extended MCQ materials

1.2 Google forms

Can be linked to from site

Good overview of responses

Can be open (ie students can generate)

Requires setting up

Requires a greater degree of digital literacy

Best used for short answer/ MCQ/ extended MCQ materials

1.3 Multimodal Feedback options

Voice or video feedback supports relationship building.  Makes use of a different modality for learning.

Bandwidth, especially if hosted out of Vula.

Feedback files must be created out of Vula and Imported.

May be unfamiliar to students

Integration into coursework is essential!

Great way to model solving an equation, editing a text etc 


2. Summative Assessment and alternate forms of examination

2.1 Open book exams (Assignments)

Open book exams allow for students to do an exam from where they have internet access, but requires a set start time and end time, e.g. a few hours to a day. They can consult various resources during the exam (‘open book’) provided they submit the exam by the set time. There is no invigilation in this type of exam, but a plagiarism declaration can be added and Turnitin can be enabled in the settings to check for unoriginal material. These settings can be set up in Vula using the Assignments tool.

2.2 Timed online exams

The Tests and Quizzes tool in Vula can be used to schedule online, timed exams. You can also allow for students to upload a file, for example a Word document, if the students will be starting the exam at different times. It is advised that students save regularly.

2.3 Online proctoring (ProctorU)

Sometimes students are unable to attend an exam in person. ProctorU is an online proctoring service which allows students to take exams remotely under supervision. An exam needs to be set up via an institutional account and the exam needs to be hosted in Vula (often a timed online exam).