Tips for Designing an Online Learning Experience Using the 5 Es Instructional Model

Covid 19 has educators and educational institutions worried about and preparing for possible school closures. What happens if students have to stay home for days or even weeks? How can we keep them learning remotely? What strategies and technology tools can teachers leverage to take their traditional classes online?

I have fielded multiple questions about the best ways to engage students and leverage online learning tools if schools close for a period of time. Despite the fear and anxiety that accompanies a health emergency or a natural disaster, both of which have the potential to close schools, learning does not have to stop because kids are at home.

Everyone is in a different place when it comes to lesson design and navigating technology. I have recorded a video overview for each stage of Roger Bybee’s 5 Es instructional model for teachers who need additional support in designing an online learning experience. I also include quick introductions to some of the technology tools that pair nicely with each stage of the 5 Es.

Below is a template that teachers can use to create their online learning experience using the 5 Es instructional model. I encourage teachers to visit the Hyperdoc website and check out the templates and already-created hyperdocs available for teachers. Lisa Highfill, Kelly Hilton, and Sarah Landis are the authors of The Hyperdoc Handbook and have created a website full of free resources for teachers.

The beauty of building an online learning experience using a Google document, like the one pictured above, is that teachers can create different versions of the same learning experience. This allows them to subtly differentiate the content for learners at different levels. Readings, videos, and activities can be customized or personalized, and the various versions can be shared quickly via Google Classroom.

As teachers face uncertainty, I encourage them to leverage the power of technology to keep students engaged in inquiry, collaboration and learning online. However, it is important to note that a 5 Es learning experience will likely span days and weeks depending on the scope of each task. Students learning remotely are juggling many different assignments and responsibilities, negotiating shared spaces with family members, and dealing with the emotional and mental impacts of being socially isolated. As educators, we must take these factors into consideration as we design learning experiences and be sure to give students plenty of time to complete the work we are assigning.

Teachers interested in learning more about the 5Es instructional model should check out…

The BSCS 5E Instructional Model: Creating Teachable Moments by Rodger Bybee

Teaching Science for All Children: An Inquiry Approach (5th Edition) by Ralph Martin, Colleen Sexton, Teresa Franklin, Jack Gerlovich and Dennis McElroy

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35 Responses to Tips for Designing an Online Learning Experience Using the 5 Es Instructional Model

  1. Stephanie Graber says:

    Some out of state school districts have taken their weekly workshop hours and implemented a training for teachers to review how to teach on-line should schools be closed for a length of time. Perhaps training can be given to the students too. Has this been considered?

  2. Erik Nelson says:

    “Elaborate” makes me think the teacher is required to “explain further”, would offer words like “exercise” or “employ” for your use of that stage as application & implementation

    • Hi Erik,

      That makes sense to me, but this is not my model. I did not come up with these names 🙂


    • Rick Perkins says:

      My understanding of elaborate is that the teacher will develop ways for students to apply new knowledge/skills through projects, hands-on work, writing, lab
      experiment, independent practice. This then can lead into the next “E” evaluate, which is assessment.

  3. Debbie Lairson says:

    Thank you so much for this wonderful resource!!!!

  4. Nancy Florio says:

    Hi Catlin,
    I’m a research librarian and love this post to support teachers as most schools move to online learning. I’d love to embed your videos in a resource guide I’m creating for our teachers, as well as add a link back to this page. Thanks for considering and for a wonderful blog!

    • You are absolutely welcome to embed my videos in your resource guide, Nancy! Thank you for asking. I hope they help other educators.

      Take care.

      • Harvey Wilson says:

        Hi Catlin,
        Thanks for this great resource. I am the Head Teacher at a Distance Education School in NSW, Australia. This year we have begun teaching our lessons lives – but also posting the videos on our eLearning Site for those students who can’t attend. Your tutorials are great – sensible and easy to follow and implement. Would you mind if I use them as a reference source for our staff locally as well as across NSW as staff prepare to go online?

  5. Goi says:

    Thanks for sharing this great resource! It is indeed useful and helpful for us educators in this time of uncertainty where there is school closure.

  6. Linda says:

    This is very helpful. I would like suggestions for kids who have no internet. Thanks

  7. Dr. Teresa Franklin says:

    So interesting to see this as this is the lesson design in the textbook that I wrote with Dr. Ralph Martin and Dr. Colleen Sexton – “Teaching Science for All Children” editions 1-5. We have used this for years with K-12 teachers of science and mathematics.

    • Hi Dr. Franklin,

      I’ve heard about science teachers use the 5Es instructional model for years, but it seemed a great way to design an engaging inquiry-based online lesson too. My online work is grounded in the Community of Inquiry Model and this approach to designing a lesson is a great fit. I started using the 5Es to create online lessons after reading the Hyperdoc Handbook, but I will add a note to the bottom of this post directing teachers to your work as well! If they want to dive into the model in more depth, they may want to check out your books.


  8. Chloe Nicholson says:

    Is this for one day or for a weeks worth of assignments?

  9. Kathryn Saussy says:


    Thank you so much for this resource. I feel like I can handle distance learning. I feel like this will be an amazing thing!

    I’m a high school science (Biology and Env & Climate Sci) teacher at a school for kids who learn differently. We all want to make sure that families know we’ve got their kids’ best interest. Right? But how to do that remotely? This is the big, underlying question. How do you make those connections?

    My colleagues and I have continued to make our positive connections this past week, but your post is EXACTLY what I was searching for. I teach the 5E model, but was really stumped 🤔 on how to translate it to tech. Regardless of my colleagues teaching 5E or not, I’m definitely passing this to them & to our school’s IT Dept (for Lower and Upper Schools), which has created a Classroom page for useful resources.

    Feeling less anxious. Like, WAAAAAAAAAY less anxious. I’m very confident now that I can keep on making those connections with my awesome teenagers. Thanks so much again.

    Looking forward,
    Kathryn Saussy, San Francisco

    • Hi Kathryn,

      I am thrilled this resource has given you more confidence approaching online learning. I was hoping it would support other educators during this tough time.

      Good luck navigating the next few weeks. I hope you and your students stay safe and healthy.

      Take care.

  10. Jamie Vought says:

    I think it is important to clarify that it is the 5E Instructional Model, not 5E lesson plan tempate. It represents a learning cycle that is meant to take a minimum of 2 weeks. The 5Es is not meant to be a daily lesson plan template. “The optimal use of the model is a unit of two to three weeks where each phase is used as the basis for one or more lessons (with the exception of the engage phase, which should be a less than a lesson).” The BSCS 5E Instructional Model: Personal Reflections and Contemporary Implications by Rodger W. Bybee as shared in Science and Children, April/May 2014.

    • Thank you for taking the time to post this comment, Jaime. This is an important clarification. I think my use of the word “lesson” was misleading for teachers who associate lesson with a single day. I did not mean to suggest this would happen in a day or even a week. The length of time a teacher dedicates to a learning experience like this will depend largely on the scale and scope of each part of the cycle. In an effort to clarify that point, I have removed the word lesson and replaced it with “learning experience.”

      I have also added a note encouraging teachers to be aware of the volume of work they assign during school closures because students are juggling so much mentally and emotionally. They are also negotiating shared spaces with their families, which may complicate their ability to focus and work for long stretches of time.

      Thank you again for taking the time to post a comment!

      Take care.

  11. Leigh-Anne Aller says:

    Love this! Would you be willing to share that Google Form Exit Ticket you showed in the last video? I’m on our school’s Instructional Leadership Team and that would be a REALLY good template for PD, especially with the closures!

  12. Krystle Dunn says:

    Hello Catlin,

    Thanks for the resource! I am going to share and use this to plan lessons.

    I would like to pick your brain about setting up assignments. I teach 134 students. Only have 2 preps of biology (honors and on level) divided into 6 periods. Would you set up a padlet for each class period or one large one for all students?


    • Hi Krystle,

      I would probably divide your classes into two or three groups and create a wall for each group. One large wall will feel like a lot to manage or read through if everyone is posting there.


  13. Nina Silitch says:

    Thank you! Great Videos and so user friendly.

  14. Horace Magwood, III says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this valuable resource during these confined times! My team is putting together linked websites of vetted resources to share with our teachers. My colleague and I were raving over the videos and how easy it is to follow them.

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