Online Education

A Division of the Office for the Advancement of Teaching & Learning

Introduction to Course Design

What does course design entail?

Designing a course, whether online or blended, goes far beyond mere appearance. According to the University of Michigan, “Instructional design is a systematic approach to course development that ensures that specific learning goals are accomplished.” Thus, the person creating an online or blended course site must make several critical decisions well-before the course goes live in order to ensure logic, clarity, and accessibility for their students.

Start by doing some research!

The least effective online instructional design is the “dump truck” model. This is where the instructor simply “dumps” all of her/his materials – lecture notes, PowerPoints, etc. – into the online course site.

Research shows that such courses offer:

  • low student satisfaction,
  • high attrition, and
  • poor student performance.

Course Design is important

  • Because of the nonlinear nature of the internet and…
  • The ways that varying course content interacts with technologies.

Course design is a complex, time intensive procedure most helpful when supported by lots of experts with creative ideas!

  • When we learn on our own, it’s a matter of trial and error a lot of the time.
  • Exams, assignments, and class interaction should be designed specifically for online teaching and learning.

Each course should contain:

  • course learning outcomes,
  • textbook or reading material information,
  • a well-articulated syllabus (using the syllabus tool in Sakai — if only to direct students to the “real” syllabus),
  • a course schedule (including dates of interactive events like discussions or other activities)
  • course communication policies (e.g. Will you respond to course emails within 24 hours on weekdays? 48 hours on weekends?)
  • lesson units or modules, designed to be manageable and digestible.

Begin with deciding the goals and objectives of your potential course.  The University of Central Florida offers a brief explanation of identifying course goals and learning objectives.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with our Course Design Specialist, visit our Course Design Help page.

Once your goals and objectives are clear, you can begin outlining your course.

  • Figure out what previously created content you can use again and what content will need to be made fresh.
  • Try sketching your course out using this rubric from CSU: Chico
  • Divide up the semester based on your learning objectives and tasks you hope to accomplish.
  • Determine how long each objective will take you:
  • Will each topic be learned through reading, discussion, or practice?
  • At what point should assessment take place?
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