Tracey Pepper’s online summer course, UCOR 1440: The European Witch Hunts is a great example of an instructor contextualizing the work students are asked to do. Tracey included a walk through of her syllabus in a narrated video. She added video commentary at the beginning and end of each week to capture what had happened during the discussions and she always provided questions the students should think about as they read the texts.
She also had a terrific way of assessing all of the discussions that went on during the week. Instead of grading the discussions Tracey asked students to summarize the discussions, cite specific contributions made by their classmates, explain their own contributions and analyze the conclusions the class came to. These discussion analyses could be done as one-page papers or short video presentations. Here are Tracey Pepper's Discussion Reflection Guidelines.