This post includes some of the useful resources I came across when researching the topic of online learner support.
One recurrent advice for effective online learner support is the inclusion of collaboration in the learning design so that students learn to rely on one another and feel a part of a community of practice.
For example, in her article “Rethinking Learner Support: the challenge of collaborative online learning” (p. 114), Mary Thorpe emphasises the importance of group learning and collaboration as part of learner support in online environments:
“The availability of learners to each other and to the tutor asynchronously and well as synchronously has the potential to overturn the emphasis in distance education as an individualised form of learning. The potential to create extensive dialogues and interchange electronically means that online teaching is often prioritising the learning group as a chief resource for learners and the focus for the tutor, rather than the needs of each individual learner, though these too can be accommodated in the pedagogical design supports that.”
This webpage provides a list of practical steps that teachers can take to facilitate learning in a culturally and ethnically diverse student body. A number of these steps will also apply to instructional design for online contexts.
This book by J.E. Brindley, C. Walti & O. Zawacki-Richter (eds.) includes a selection of papers on various aspects of online learner support.
This article by Ivan L. Harrell II provides a usefully concise description of learner support in online environments with an extensive reference list.
On the importance of scaffolding in online learning design see this article by Stacey Ludwig-Hardman and Joanna C. Dunlap.
This useful resource by Catherine McLoughlin discusses a possible model for learner support in an online environment.