The increasing number of external students enrolling at Charles Darwin University has led to the university investing in new technologies to provide better support for students studying online. Many students, however, come from non-traditional backgrounds and lack some of the skills and confidence to participate successfully in an e-learning environment at university. This article discusses the findings of a pilot study conducted in a pre-university tertiary enabling programme. Three e-learning tools were developed for external students to enhance their understanding of the learning materials and create a greater sense of connectedness between students, staff and the learning materials. Academic staff implemented the use of video clips and synchronous online tutorials and also refined their use of discussion groups to facilitate interactive engagement with learning materials. � 2014 � 2014 Association for Tertiary Education Management and the LH Martin Institute for Tertiary Education Leadership and Management.