eLearning, Instructional Design

Using an Orientation Board for Your Online Classes

3 min read | Jul 8, 2014
Using an Orientation Board for Your Online Classes cover image

Create a practical starting point before every lesson for your students.

If you have ever had experience with sailing, or know someone who has, you may have heard about or experienced first-hand the sense of freedom that comes with it. Being out on the open water with nothing but the wind and the tide to guide you along can be soothing, calming, and relaxing. Unless there is a storm, of course, but that is a story for another day.


Along the way though, there will be instances when the boat captain may decide that it is appropriate to drop anchor and stay in a particular spot for a set amount of time. The anchor keeps the boat firmly in place, allowing it to sway and rock to and fro along with the waves, without a cause for panic amongst the boat’s passengers. Once the time is right and the conditions are ideal, the boat’s captain will decide when to pull up anchor and continue to sail to another rendez-vous point along the way back home…or perhaps somewhere else nowhere near home at all!

Regardless of the conditions or the reasons, the captain of the boat is responsible for the safety, security, and best interests of the passengers. He or she must also make sure that passengers are enjoying themselves and having a good time out on the open water. But through it all, the captain is the one guiding the boat’s passengers on their tour, and is the one person ultimately responsible for getting them to where they have expected to go. As the teacher and facilitator of your course, you are the captain of your student’s boat, and an orientation board is your anchor.


An orientation board can be virtual (posted online) or literal (presented in-class), but in practical use it can be incredibly useful to you and especially important for your online students. Typically, an orientation board is an outline written onto a blackboard, whiteboard, or SMART Board just before teaching a lesson, and it includes:

1) date

2) teacher’s name

3) length of time to be spent on the lesson

4) method of learning confirmation at the end of the lesson (i.e. oral quiz, small test, group activity, class discussion, etc.)

5) lesson title

6) lesson number designation (if it is part of numbered series of lessons in your curriculum), and most importantly,

7) list of teaching points that will be covered during the lesson.

Some educators may refer to this type of outline as an “agenda,” but it really is so much more than that. As the anchor for your students’ “tour” through your online lesson, the orientation board is the source of security that allows the ebb and flow of discussion in your eClass to move freely without restraint, yet maintains a locked position to keep the online class on-target and more importantly, on-topic. Adolescent students can be easily distracted from a lesson, but adult conversation can digress into a tangent just as easily! But the presence of an orientation board for every class, and introduced at the beginning of every class, gives your students a very clear sense of routine that they can expect and look forward to for each of your lessons with them.

It helps to keep them engage with the lesson because it gives them something tangible to “buy into,” since they can see for themselves in advance what goals you are setting out for them to achieve and learn that day (See this blog post on the importance of giving your students a good understanding of the “big picture”). As well, it gives you a clear indication of where you want your students to be content retention-wise before and after every online lesson.

This kind of knowledge will help you make the necessary adjustments required if you see that your students need to catch-up (if you do not manage to cover all of your teaching points in a particular class), or if you are free to take your time and go a little further in-depth with another teaching point (if you find yourself ahead in a lesson). For further exploration into the benefits of an orientation board, please read the next blog article, Anchoring the Lesson for Your Class – Part II.

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