Course Planning – Ask Essential Questions

Those who successfully plan for an online course will consider the foundational knowledge and enduring understandings that learners should gain from the course, and then use that as the basis for choosing instructional materials, activities, assignments, and assessments.

Therefore, good course planning starts by asking: what are the essential questions, foundational knowledge, or key skills that students need to know?

What is the most important thing that you want your students to learn or be able to do after taking your course? Imagine getting on an elevator five years from now and encountering a former student. What should that student recall as the one big idea from the course?

One way to approach this is to treat course topics with depth rather than breadth. Students will be left with key takeaways and durable knowledge that will help them support future learning.

Additional Resources:


Consider how you can structure learning activities and interactions within the rhythm of your course. The figure above is one of four rhythm chart examples that you can download as an excel file. These charts show you how an online course can be organized to provide a weekly rhythm and clear expectations for your students. Thank you to Professor Dietram Scheufele and Instructional Designer Kevin Thompson for the above example.