Learning activities

Designing cohesive learning activities supports active student engagement. This applies for both on-campus and online. A simple approach is to make sure you have these characteristics:

  • an activator (something to get them interested and engaged so they want to do this)

  • an activity that links to the content/learning (something that the students are going to do)

  • a clear objective (so they know why they are doing it)

  • a link to the assessment (so they have a motivation to do it).

The literature about online teaching and learning provides some examples of frameworks that have been tested in adult learning environments. We have chosen Salmon's model to demonstrate effective design of learning activities. We also offer the idea of 'the hook' to help you structure your activities in an engaging way.

Salmon's e-tivities

Gilly Salmon has written two books about elearning design - E-moderating (2011) and E-tivities (2013). Her website provides a great overview and advice, including her work about the five-stage model for elearning.  

She writes:

'E-tivities are frameworks for enabling active and participative online learning by individuals and groups. E-tivities are important for the online teaching and learning world because they deploy useful, well-rehearsed principles and pedagogies for learning as well as your choice of networked technologies. They focus on the learners - the people I call the participants, who are contributing, providing, reworking, interpreting, combining most of the knowledge. They overturn the idea that learning depends on one big expert and his/her conveying of knowledge. They are based on the strong idea that knowledge is constructed by learners through and with others.'

The basic principle of e-tivities is to have a structure that facilitates the students 'doing'. The diagram from her E-tivities book provides a summary.

E-tivities Framework - Extract from E_tivities, The Key to Active Online Learning (2ndEdition)

The hook

Similar to Salmon's model is a technique used in business known as the 'hook'.  What this suggests is that a consumer goes through the process as they interact with (and purchase) a particular product or idea. It includes: 

  • trigger

  • action

  • variable/reward

  • investment.

The concept comes from Nir Eyal's book Hooked: How to build habit-forming products. Online learning author and blogger Debbie Morrison wrote this blog making the connection between hook and education.


Eyal, N. (2014) Hooked: How to build habit-forming products. Penguin.

Salmon, G. (2013). E-tivities: The key to active online learning (2nd ed.). London and New York: Routledge.

Salmon, G. (2011). E-moderating: The key to teaching and learning online (3rd ed.). New York: Routledge.

(Please note - it's better to refer to the Online version rather than export, as it's always up to date)