The Online Learning Exchange
Connect | Share | Adopt

Connect | Share | Adopt

Welcome the Online Learning Exchange



Sample Page


The CSU Online Learning Model

Version 2


The Online Learning Model (OLM) consists of a set of elements designed to increase student engagement, retention and overall satisfaction. The Transforming Online Learning (TOL) Learning Experience Framework (LEF) incorporates the OLM with a particular priority on flexibility, responsiveness and student support.

The Online Learning Model consists of a set of elements designed to increase student engagement, retention and overall satisfaction. The model builds on Moore’s (1989) model which incorporates learner-teacher, learner-learner and learner-content interaction. The model broadens Moore’s notion of interactivity to one of engagement and adds learner-community engagement as a key component of professional courses, as well as learner-institution engagement to ensure a connected student experience.

This then leads to five categories of student engagement:

  • learner-teacher engagement
  • learner-learner engagement
  • learner-content engagement
  • learner-community engagement, and
  • learner-institution engagement.

Each of the seven elements of the Online Learning Model are designed to increase one or more types of engagement. The elements, which are outlined in the following sections, are designed to be combined together in varying degrees of intensity within the subjects making up a course.

The following video provides an overview of the model and each of the elements.

A summary document is available to download:


A central element of Moore’s transactional distance theory was the conception of the three categories of interaction in distance education:

  • Learner-Content Interaction – “the process of intellectually interacting with content that results in changes in the learner’s understanding, the learner’s perspective, or the cognitive structures of the learner’s mind” (Moore, 1989, p. 2);
  • Learner-Instructor Interaction – which involves various steps including: stimulating student engagement, presenting material, organising the application of the material, evaluating students, making adjustments to student learning as well as counselling and encouraging students; and
  • Learner-Learner Interaction – which involves students interacting in groups with or without the presence of the teacher.

Moore’s notion of interaction has been argued to be central to student engagement in a distance or online learning context (Wallace, 2003; Yates, 2014). Consistent with this connection between interaction and engagement, in developing the Online Learning Model, Moore’s focus on interaction has been extended to a focus on engagement, with each of the seven elements of the model aiming to increase one or more of the five identified categories of student engagement. The term engagement has been used in a number of different ways in the research literature, including a focus on students’ psychological investment in the learning process (Axelson & Flick, 2010; F. Newmann et al., 1992) or a greater focus on student behaviour (Collins & O’Brien, 2011; Dykstra Steinbrenner & Watson, 2015; Zepke, 2014).

In defining the notion of engagement that underpins the Online Learning Model, we, like Tinto (2006), see a close relationship to the earlier notion of involvement, defined by Astin (1984, p.518) as “the amount of physical and psychological energy that the student devotes to the academic experience”. However, as alluded to by Carini, Kuh and Klein (2006), we see in the more recent notion of engagement, a greater emphasis on the kinds of learning tasks that students involve themselves in, leading to definitions like “the time and energy students devote to educationally sound activities” (Kuh, 2003, p.25). This definition of engagement as encompassing not just involvement of any kind but involvement in particular kinds of learning activities, is important in linking engagement to learning achievement rather than just to resilience or persistence. Obviously such a definition leaves unexplained what the nature of educationally sound activities might be, however we believe that it is helpful in clarifying what we mean by the various kinds of engagement that underpin the Online Learning Model. For example learner-learner engagement can be understood to be the time and energy students devote to interaction with their peers as part of educationally sound learning activities, and similarly for learner-teacher engagement, learner-content engagement and so on.

The association of engagement with increased persistence, improved student learning outcomes and achievement (Hoskins, 2012; Leach & Zepke, 2011; Sinatra, Heddy, & Lombardi, 2015), reduced drop out (Sinatra et al., 2015), and increased retention rates (Hoskins, 2012; Leach & Zepke, 2011; Tinto, 2006) have led to the claim that it is the “holy grail of learning” (Sinatra et al., 2015, p. 1). While some researchers have suggested that the relationship between engagement and learning outcomes is still unclear (Axelson & Flick, 2010, p. 42) and some others have found that the strength of the relationship varies with student ability levels and stages of study (Carini, Kuh & Klein, 2006), many researchers have argued that there are unequivocal links between engagement and student success, learning and achievement (Kahn, 2014; F. Newmann, Wehlage, & Lamborn, 1992; F. M. Newmann, 1992; Zepke, 2014). The link between engagement and student retention is particularly important in a distance education or online learning context where high attrition has been a consistent problem (Carr, 2000; Tresman, 2002). In Australia a focus on engagement as part of broader strategies to enhance student transition into university and retention within their course has been a key element of a number of national projects and commissioned reviews (see, for example, Scott, 2008; Kift, 2009).

The definition of engagement that we have adopted here, which encompasses the time and energy devoted by students to a range of different kinds of educationally sound activities, is consistent with the implicit definition which underpins major survey instruments such as the United States’ National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) (Axelson & Flick, 2010; Kahu, 2013). In Australia, the national Australasian Survey of Student Engagement (AUSSE), University Experience Survey (UES) and the more recent Student Experience Survey all have similar conceptual underpinnings to the NSSE instrument. Due to this alignment between the notion of engagement as measured by the UES and the notion which underpins the Online Learning Model, we are expecting that the implementation of the model across CSU’s online/distance courses will lead to improved institutional performance on the UES instrument.


Astin, A. W. (1984). Student involvement: A developmental theory for higher education. Journal of college student personnel 25(4), 297-308.

Axelson, R. D., & Flick, A. (2010). Defining Student Engagement. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 43(1), 38-43. doi: 10.1080/00091383.2011.533096.

Carini, R. M., Kuh, G. D., & Klein, S. P. (2006). Student engagement and student learning: Testing the linkages. Research in higher education 47(1), 1-32.

Carr, S. (2000). As distance education comes of age, the challenge is keeping the students. Chronicle of higher education, 46(23).

Collins, J. W., & O’Brien, N. P. (2011). Greenwood Dictionary of Education, The : Second Edition Retrieved from http://CSUAU.eblib.com/patron/FullRecord.aspx?p=729876

Hoskins, B. J. (2012). Connections, Engagement, and Presence. The Journal of Continuing Higher Education, 60(1), 51-53. doi: 10.1080/07377363.2012.650573.

Kahn, P. E. (2014). Theorising student engagement in higher education. British Educational Research Journal, 40(6), 1005-1018. doi: 10.1002/berj.3121

Kahu, E. R. (2013). Framing student engagement in higher education. Studies in Higher Education, 38(5), 758–773.

Kift, S. (2009). Articulating a transition pedagogy to scaffold and to enhance the first year student learning experience in Australian higher education: Final report for ALTC senior fellowship program. Strawberry Hills, NSW: Australian Learning and Teaching Council.

Kuh, G. D. (2003). What we’re learning about student engagement from NSSE: Benchmarks for effective educational practices. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 35(2), 24-32.

Leach, L., & Zepke, N. (2011). Engaging students in learning: a review of a conceptual organiser. Higher Education Research & Development, 30(2), 193-204. doi: 10.1080/07294360.2010.509761.

Moore, M. G. (1989). Editorial: Three types of interaction. American Journal of Distance Education, 3(2), 1-7. doi: 10.1080/08923648909526659

Moore, M. G. (2007). The Theory of Transactional Distance. In M.G.Moore (Ed.),The Handbook of Distance Education. Second Edition (pp. 89–108): Mahwah, N.J..Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Moore, M. G. (2009). Editorial: Three types of interaction. American Journal of Distance Education, 3(2), 1-7. doi: 10.1080/08923648909526659

Moore, M. G., & Kearsley, M. (1996). Distance Education A Systems View (2nd ed.). Waqshington: Wadsworth Publishing Company.

Newmann, F., Wehlage, G., & Lamborn, S. (1992). The Significance and Sources of Student Engagement. In F. Newman (Ed.), Student Engagement and Achievement in American Secondary Schools (pp. 11-39). New York and London: Teachers College, Columbia University.

Newmann, F. M. (1992). Student engagement and achievement in American secondary schools. (0807731838). ERIC Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED371047.pdf.

Scott, G. (2008). University student engagement and satisfaction with learning and teaching. Review of Australian Higher Education, Commissioned Request for Research and Analysis.

Sinatra, G. M., Heddy, B. C., & Lombardi, D. (2015). The Challenges of Defining and Measuring Student Engagement in Science. Educational Psychologist, 50(1), 1-13. doi: 10.1080/00461520.2014.1002924.

Tinto, V. (2006). Research and practice of student retention: what next?. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice, 8(1), 1-19.

Tresman, S. (2002). Towards a strategy for improved student retention in programmes of open, distance education: A case study from the Open University UK. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 3(1).

Wallace, R. M. (2003). Online Learning in Higher Education: a review of research on interactions among teachers and students. Education, Communication & Information, 3(2), 241-280. doi: 10.1080/14636310303143

Yates, J. (2014). Synchronous online CPD: empirical support for the value of webinars in career settings. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 42(3), 245-260. doi: 10.1080/03069885.2014.880829

Zepke, N. (2014). Student engagement research in higher education: questioning an academic orthodoxy. Teaching in Higher Education, 19(6), 697-708. doi: 10.1080/13562517.2014.901956

Sample Page

This is an example page. It’s different from a blog post because it will stay in one place and will show up in your site navigation (in most themes). Most people start with an About page that introduces them to potential site visitors. It might say something like this:

Hi there! I’m a bike messenger by day, aspiring actor by night, and this is my website. I live in Los Angeles, have a great dog named Jack, and I like piña coladas. (And gettin’ caught in the rain.)

…or something like this:

The XYZ Doohickey Company was founded in 1971, and has been providing quality doohickeys to the public ever since. Located in Gotham City, XYZ employs over 2,000 people and does all kinds of awesome things for the Gotham community.

As a new WordPress user, you should go to your dashboard to delete this page and create new pages for your content. Have fun!